Tobar an Dualchais - Kist O Riches

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The voices of the past ... brought to life through the latest technology - The speik o a bygane age ... gien new virr wi fantoosh technology
This website contains over 34,000 oral recordings made in Scotland and further afield, from the 1930s onwards.
The items you can listen to include stories, songs, music, poetry and factual information.

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The Street, St Kilda- Joe Gough

St Kilda lies 110 miles west of mainland Scotland. It is believed to have been inhabited for at least 2,000 years, from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. It is estimated that the population of the island reached around 180 at its peak.

Conditions on St Kilda were challenging for the islanders. They kept sheep and a few cattle and were able to grow a limited amount of food crops such as barley and potatoes. The mainstay of their diet consisted of birds, especially gannet and fulmar. These they harvested as eggs and young birds and ate, both fresh and cured.

Due to its remoteness and adversities of weather, communication was difficult and, even in the late 19th century, the two main ways of contacting the outside world was by lighting a bonfire on the summit of Conachair and hoping a passing ship might see it, or by using the "St Kilda mailboat". The islanders would put a message in a tin or small bottle inside a piece of wood shaped like a boat, and attached to a bladder made of sheepskin. It would be launched when the wind came from the north-west in the hope of it reaching the west coast of Scotland.

After WWI most of the young men left the island and the population had fallen to 37 by 1928. Life on the island became unsustainable due to a succession of crop failures in the 1920s which led to constant threats of starvation. Severe weather and the lack of resistance to disease also played a factor in the inhabitants’ decision to send a letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland in May 1930 requesting to be evacuated. They left the island on 29 August 1930.

The island is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986, awarded for its natural, marine and cultural qualities.

The song ‘Mo Ghaol Òigear a' Chùil Duinn’ is a love song by a woman in St Kilda, in which she tells of her love for a young Campbell nobleman from Islay. It is sung by Ishabel T MacDonald of South Uist, who is a Gaelic cataloguer for Tobar an Dualchais.

Listen to 'Mo Ghaol Òigear a' Chùil Duinn'

Browse all recordings of Ishabel T MacDonald

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About the Website

Julie Fowlis and Chris Wright were Tobar an Dualchais' Artists in Residence in 2012

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