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History Great Britain

The Truth About St Kilda

An Islander's Memoir

by (author) Donald John Gillies

edited by John Randall

Birlinn Ltd.
Initial publish date
Oct 2014
Great Britain
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2010
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2014
    List Price

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Based on seven handwritten notebooks written by the Rev. Donald Gillies, The Truth About St Kilda is a unique record of the way of life on St Kilda—a remote chain of islands near Scotland that was home to an isolated community—in the early part of the 20th century. It contains reminiscences of his childhood on the island of Hirta, providing a firsthand account of the living conditions, social structure, and economy of the community in the early 1900s, before the evacuation of the remaining residents in 1930. The memoir describes in some detail the St Kildans’ way of life, including religious life and the islanders’ diet. The puritanical form of religion practiced on St Kilda has often been interpreted by outsiders as austere and draconian, but Gillies’s account of the religious practices makes clear the important role that these had in reinforcing the spiritual stamina of the community. This book is a lasting tribute to the adaptability and courage of a small Gaelic-speaking society which endured through two millennia on a remote cluster of islands, until its way of life could no longer be sustained.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Donald John Gillies was a reverend and a former inhabitant of St Kilda. John Randall has been chairman of the Islands Book Trust since 2002 and has edited and published many books on the history of Scottish islands, including St Kilda. He is a coauthor of St Kilda—Myth and Reality.

Editorial Reviews

"A remarkable document."  —Herald