Rewriting St Kilda
New Views on Old Ideas
Edited by Bob Chambers
The world-wide fascination with the deserted islands of St Kilda shows no sign of waning, and we all share certain conventional assumptions about and stereotypical images of the islands – remoteness, dramatic landscape and bird-life, a distinctive ‘primitive’ community, the St Kilda Parliament, the mailboat, the strict teachings of the Church, an economy uniquely dependent on sea-birds, and the sad decline and eventual evacuation of the remaining inhabitants at their own request in 1930.
It is a remarkable fact that of the over 700 books and articles written about St Kilda – on which our images overwhelmingly are based – almost all were written by visitors to the islands, often on the basis of pre-conceptions and very little first hand knowledge. It is not surprising therefore that many myths have developed, and been repeated. The voice of the Gaelic speaking native people has been largely lost or overlooked.
In August 2010 the Islands Book Trust held a major conference in Benbecula to look behind the myths and re-examine some of the conventional wisdom; the fascinating results are published here in this book.