St Kilda: 85th anniversary marked with diarist’s arrival

Archive shot from: 'Photographs. Outer Hebrides and St Kilda''National Trust for Scotland.
Archive shot from: 'Photographs. Outer Hebrides and St Kilda''National Trust for Scotland.

As the 85th anniversary of the evacuation of St Kilda approaches later this month, the National Trust for Scotland has published a first-hand account of the arrival of a new resident on the island.

School teacher Alice MacLachlan and her husband Peter, a minister, arrived in the remote community in August 1906, 24 years before the islanders would depart for good.

Conservation charity, the National Trust for Scotland, has been publishing extracts from Alice’s diary since January this year. In January 1906, she discovered that her husband and she were being posted to St Kilda. The Trust has shared monthly updates from her diary as she prepared for this huge move. Her diaries have proved very popular, attracting thousands of online readers from around the world. Read the latest instalment at:

In the latest instalment, Alice has now arrived on St Kilda, to a good deal of curiosity it seems. She wrote: “The men and quite a lot of the girls were on the pier and all escorted us up to the gate of the manse where Kate [the manse servant] was waiting.”

Her entries throughout August detail how she and her husband met as many of the islanders as possible, got involved in the harvesting of the fulmars and endured their first few days of wild weather.

Property manager for St Kilda, Susan Bain, said: “At the moment, the diaries are a very straightforward account of life on St Kilda, as Alice settles in to this new life. In many ways, her experience doesn’t differ greatly from anyone moving house and job. It is all about getting unpacked and getting to know her new neighbours. However, there are a few hints that life on St Kilda might be a bit different.”

Alice lived on St Kilda from 1906 – 1909.

Susan continued:“It is interesting to contrast this with some of the very evocative and emotional reports we read of the St Kildans who were evacuated from the island in 1930.”

One departing St Kildan famously described looking back at the island from the ship carrying them away and reflecting that it looked like “an open grave.” When Alice and her family arrived in 1906 the community was still viable, with around 80 inhabitants of all ages

The St Kilda archipelago has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1957. It is the UK’s only natural and cultural World Heritage Site and is the remotest outpost of the British Isles, lying 41 miles (66 km) west of Benbecula. Marking the end of thousands of years of human occupation, St Kilda’s remaining population of 36 was evacuated to the mainland at their own request on August 29, 1930.

The archipelago was allocated World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1986 in recognition of its natural heritage, exceptional natural beauty and for the significant natural habitats that it supports. In July 2004 this was extended to include the surrounding marine environment and in 2005, recognition was also given to St Kilda’s unique cultural landscape.

It is one of Europe’s most important seabird colonies including the UK’s largest puffin colony.