The Life and Death of St. Kilda by Tom Steel

The Life and Death of St. Kilda

The Life and Death of St. Kilda tells the history of a small archipelago off the North West coast of Scotland. Inhabited since prehistoric times, this is the story of the people who lived there and why they eventually had to leave.

The Life and Death of St. Kilda starts with the evacuation of the last residents of Hirta in 1930. It then looks at what life was like in the archipelago and considers the factors that led to the evacuation, many of which were as a result of the attitudes of people on the mainland. It looks at what happened to the residents after they had moved to the mainland, what has happened to the islands since that time, and what is likely to happen now.

The Life and Death of St. Kilda is not an easy read from some points of view.  There were aspects that made me angry, others that made me sad. Life on Hirta, the main island of the archipelago, was hard but the people were content. For centuries they had no money, but they didn’t need it. They looked out for each other because that was the way to ensure they survived. Then outsiders got involved and it’s the unthinking actions of the outsiders that made me angry. The islanders were Christian, but their Christianity didn’t conform to the religion of the mainland. They couldn’t read or write, but they didn’t need to. What the islanders needed was help to improve what little land was available for growing crops, and help to improve their livestock. What they got was a church, a minister who was a zealot and, eventually, a school.The Life and Death of St. Kilda is well worth reading. It’s an eye-opener and thought-provoking. Fans of Star Trek will be aware of the Prime Directive regarding non-interference with a culture. It’s a pity such reasoning wasn’t applied to St. Kilda. The one hope for the islands is their status as a World Heritage Site. That means British government must take care of them. They will be cared for. It’s a pity the islanders weren’t.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *