Monday, 7 September 2009

The Evacuation of St Kilda

After seventy five years, you came back. On June 6, 2005 you stood on the shore and stared out at the empty sea, thinking of the night they rowed your pregnant mother out to the lighthouse ship; how she waved, trying to make things well.

But her death ended it all: the struggle your people had waged on the isolated St Kilda archipelago since the Bronze Age; scaling the high cliffs for seabird eggs; tending the scraggy sheep. Your people knew how to survive in that harsh environment.

Somehow the thing that made life unravel was people trying to help: the missionaries who came and told you how to live; the do-gooders with their charity; the tourists who bought your tweeds but treated you as curiosities, stealing your self esteem. When the military base was built for the First World War the twentieth century finally broke through. You had contact with the Scottish mainland 160km away and nothing seemed the same. Many of you left. For the last thirty six, it took until that night in 1930 when Mary died for you to decide to evacuate for an easier life.

Does it comfort you to know the grey seal breeds now, on the shores where you once played?