Saturday, 29 August 2009

Latha Hiort - St Kilda Day

I had the pleasure the other week of heading to St Kilda. It's easy to get to: straight out the old Roman road from London, the A12, until you reach the River Orwell in Suffolk. Then follow the river down the coast, past the house of Roy Keane, Ipswich Town's new manager, and you come to Chelmondiston.

That's where you'll find "St Kilda", the home of Norman John Gillies, the last of the islanders to have left in 1930 who can still tell the story of the evacuation and what happened next.

Now in his 85th year, fit and healthy, the delightful Mr Gillies is the last man standing of the 36 islanders who left St Kilda 79 years ago today.

I interviewed Norman John in today's Herald for the first St Kilda Day, which will be marked with a series of events across Scotland. If I can find it I'll post the story of the voyage we both took to the island a few years ago.

St Kilda has captured the global imagination - in books, songs, even opera - and the St Kilda Day will tap into that intuitive connection we all make with one of the remote places in Britain and the ancient sense of community it came to symbolise.

Malcolm MacLean, of the Gaelic Arts Project which is staging the day, hopes the event will grow to be an annual celebration of islands, which oddly as an island nation, we do not do.

Next year will be the big one, 80 years on, and among projects I've already suggested to Malcolm is that the connection between St Kilda and Lochaline , where the islanders arrived on the mainland, be marked with the planting of a forest of 36 trees. Those familiar with the evacuation will recall that the islanders, people who had never seen trees before, spent the rest of their lives planting for the Forestry Commission.

1 comment:

  1. Just watched a gaelic programme on BBC2 this evening about this wonderful man.Very moving it was to watch and listen to someone who had been born there...
    Thanks for the article :)