29th August 1930

St Kilda is abandoned

“Good-bye to St Kilda,” said the Leeds Mercury on 29 August 1930. “The inhabitants of the island stood about in little groups, the children naturally excited at the prospect of sailing across the sea to the mainland. The adults conversed in their native tongue – Gaelic – but they were too absorbed in their own thought to be either capable or willing to say much.”

Belongings packed

They had spent the last day packing their belongings onto the steamer, the Dunara Castle, and the Admiralty sloop Harebell, which would carry them away from the archipelago they called home. “The owner of the island, Sir Reginald Macleod, has intimated that it is unlikely that people will ever be allowed to live there again,” the Leeds Mercury continued.

Around 1000 years of island records were loaded onto the boats, and Dunara Castle took all of the livestock.

Difficult economic circumstances

“Thus was closed a melancholy chapter in the history of the Western Isles,” wrote The Scotsman the following day. “In the middle of the last century thirty-six of the islanders were courageous enough to emigrate. Those remaining have had to contend with increasingly difficult economic circumstances. They have now made the decision to emigrate, with the assistance of the Government. They have taken a last look upon the abodes which were their father’s and their fathers’ fathers’, and cut themselves off from the existence to which time and tradition had accustomed them.”

Population dwindled

The archipelago of St Kilda lies around 40 miles (65km) west north-west of North Uist and is reckoned never to have had more than 200 inhabitants at any one time. By 1930 that population had been reduced to fewer than 40, which made the community’s continued existence economically unviable.

Lady Grange had been imprisoned on St Kilda following her abduction in 1732. She eventually died in Skye, having never regained her freedom. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.



Other events that occured in August

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