Wednesday, 28 April 2010

St Kilda

his year, it will be 80 years ago since the islanders of St Kilda (Hiort) were evacuated to the Scottish mainland at their own request. It was on 29th August 1930 that the culture of St Kilda died with the passing to other shores of its inhabitants. This evening, Monty Halls in his Hebridean Hideaway visited the islands. The scenery was absolutely stunning. But otherwise, there was nothing there. There are no permanent residents left, the houses are ruinous, with a few exceptions, and the storage huts (cleits) stand empty and derelict. In other words, St Kilda is dead.

Monty Halls, who stayed in North Uist for six months from July 2009 onwards, got involved with the controversy surrounding the location of the St Kilda Centre. It will be a point where the culture and people of St Kilda will be celebrated and kept alive. The strife was bitter, and already reflected in Monty's programme. The other contestants were Mangersta (Lewis) and Leverburgh (Harris). Cleitraval (North Uist) is a hilltop location near Sollas, where a plaque sits on the hill, pointing out where St Kilda can be seen, 41 miles (70 km) away to the west.

In the end, the St Kilda Centre was allocated to Lewis, and will be erected off the road between Mangersta and Islivig, overlooking the cliffs of Mangersta to be reminiscent of the St Kilda clifftops. (This link will take you to the location courtesy Google Streetview). The people of Harris and North Uist are deeply upset over losing out over the centre. It will obviously bring tourists to the location involved, and Uig (in which Mangersta lies) can very well do with the revenue.

Some people in these islands have voiced misgivings over having a St Kilda Centre in the first place. I can have some sympathy with those who say it is not right to make money off people who were cruelly neglected by the Government of the day - and neglected they were. Conversely though, nothing will bring them back, and it is a way of keeping their memory and the memory of their culture alive.

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