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St. Kilda, Past and Present
Chapter IV. - Local Incidents since the beginning of the Seventeenth Century


IT will not be considered strange that I should be unable to refer to many events in the history of the distant isle. From a letter addressed by Sir Roderick Macleod, alias “Rory More,” to Lord Binning, and dated “Dunvegane, 18th of June 1615,” it appears that a raid was made on St Kilda towards the beginning of that year, by a certain Coll Macgillespick, son of Sir James Macdonald (of the family of Colonsay), and father of Alister Macdonald, lieutenant to the Marquis of Montrose during the civil wars. The adventurous invader was popularly called “Coll Keitach,” or Left-handed Coll, from. which his son Alister took the designation of “McColl Keitach,” abridged to Colkitto. After referring to an accident which he met with at Stirling, in the month of April, during a visit to the south of Scotland, Sir Roderick informs his correspondent' that, “in the mean tyme of my absence, Coill Makgillespick and his companie come (from Islay) to the north illes, and stopped the first night at the yle of Carnis (Canna?), and thereafter passed directlie to North Wyest, Donald Gorme his lands, where he was reseat (received), and his men enter-teaned; and Mackintoshe’s dochtor, Donald Gorme’s wyff, beeing for the tyme in that countrey, togidder with young Donald Gorme, Makkenyee’s good-brother, send to the said Coill, being scant of vivers, four horse lead (load) of meat, in the witche there wes two swyne, one salted and one unsalted; and the said Coill and his com-panie wes perswaded, moved, and requested by the said Donald Gorme’s wyff and young Donald and clann Neill vaine, the special tenants of North Wyest, to pass to a yle of myne called Zirta, a day and a night sailing from the rest of the north yles, far out in the ocean sea, and to that effect directed two of the tenants of North Wyest to be there guyd and pylat there, for they wer unknowen thameselves there. And coming to the ylle, they slew all the bestiall of the ylle, both cowes, and horses and sheep, and took away all the spoolyee of the yle, onlie reserved the lyves of the enhabitants thereof. And when all wes done, they returned to North Wyest againe, where they randered there guyde and pyllats againe, and gave to the enhabitants thereof all and whole the spoyle of my yle. And afore my comeing to the yles, the said Coill Mak-gillespick passed away south to I la againe."

The letter concludes with a commendation of Lord Binning “ to God’s most holie tuition,” and is signed “ Zor lo. homble servitor at powar, Sr Rorie Makcleud.”

It is not a little singular that, twenty-six years later (1641), the same Coll Macgillespick again found his way to St Kilda, in the capacity of a refugee, “having made himself obnoxious to the law.” In briefly alluding to the circumstance, Macaulay speaks of him as “ Colonel ” instead of Coll Macdonald. The event, however, is more fully described by Buchan, who informs us that “ Coll Macdonald alias Ketoch being defeat in battle, losing his right hand, and his army, which he had raised for the Popish interest, routed, was forced with a few to flee for his life; and getting his foot in a vessel, comes to land in St Kilda, whom, when the inhabitants saw, they run away from him and his men into a cave in some remote corner of the island, where they thought they might be most safe from him, whom they thought to be an enemy come to destroy them; but he sending some few of his men after them, told them of his friendly designs, and he himself, advancing gradually, enforces what his men had said, by telling them he had no hostile design against them, and that though he had, he was not in condition to effect it, since he wanted the right hand (showing them the stump); so pulling out his mull, and giving them a snuff, with which, and some other significations of kindness, they came to be delivered of their former fears; so that he lived in safety and quietness with them for the space of three quarters of a year.” It further appears that on his finding that the inhabitants were not properly instructed in the Lord’s Prayer, Decalogue, and Creed, Coll rebuked the priest, whom his flock wished to depose; but when the matter was referred to Coll for his adjudication, he solemnly declared that he had never heard of a priest being deposed for ignorance!

In alluding to the hospitality of the natives of St Kilda, Martin mentions the wreck of “a company of French and Spaniards” at Rokol in the year 1686. It appears that they came in a pinnace to St Kilda, where they were plentifully supplied with barley-bread, butter, cheese, solan geese, eggs, etc. “Both seamen and inhabitants were barbarians one to another, the inhabitants speaking only the Irish tongue, to which the French and Spaniards were altogether strangers. Upon their landing, they pointed to the west, naming Rokol to the inhabitants; and after that they pointed downward with their finger, signifying the sinking and perishing of their vessel; and they showed them Rokol in the sea-map, far west off St Kilda. This, and much more, the masters of these ships told to a priest in the west island, who understood French.” The author further states that the pinnace which carried the seamen from Rokol was so low that the crew added a foot of canvas all round, and began to work at it on Sunday, much to the annoyance of the inhabitants, who plucked the hatchets and other instruments out of their hands, and did not restore them till Monday morning.

The same year (1686) there was an earthquake on the island of Borrera, which lasted only a few minutes, and “was very amazing to the poor people, who never felt any such commotion before or since.”

About the year 1695, “a cock-boat came from a ship for water, being favoured with a perfect calm.” The crew discovered an endless number of eggs upon one of the adjacent islets; and, having secured a liberal supply, one of the seamen was “so careful as to put them into his breeches, which he put off on purpose for this use! Some of the inhabitants of St Kilda happened to be in the isle that day. A parcel of them were spectators of this diversion, and were offended at it, being done without their consent; therefore they devised an expedient which at once robbed the seamen of their eggs and breeches. They found a few loose stones in the superficies of the rock, some of which they let fall down perpendicularly above the seamen, the terror of which obliged them quickly to remove, abandoning both breeches and eggs for their safety; and those tarpaulin breeches were no small ornament there, where all wore girded plaids! ”

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, a native of St Kilda, called Roderick, pretended to have been commissioned by John the Baptist “with new revelations and discoveries.” Immediately after landing, on-the 1st of June 1697, Martin and his companion, the minister of Harris, proceeded to examine the inhabitants regarding the doings of the false prophet; and one and all of them expressed their abhorrence of the miserable delusions and immoral deeds which he had practised for several years. Martin describes him as “a comely, well-proportioned fellow, red-haired, and exceeding all the inhabitants of St Kilda in strength, climbing, etc.;” and although, like the rest, “illiterate,” he had the reputatipn of being a poet, and of being endowed with the faculty of second-sight Besides a very strict fast on Fridays, he imposed a number of extraordinary penances upon the simple-minded inhabitants; commanded every family to slaughter a sheep upon the threshold of their houses; forbade the use of the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments; and privately taught the women a “devout hymn,” assuring them that if they fully complied with the new revelation they would be carried to heaven upon white horses! His villanous designs were at length discovered by the ground-officer’s wife, and ultimately his influence entirely disappeared. In due course he was carried off by Martin and the minister of Harris to that island, and afterwards removed to Skye, where he made a public confession of his false teaching and wicked acts.

About the year 1724 a “contagious distemper” swept away the greater part of the inhabitants of St Kilda. According to Macaulay, the distemper in question was smallpox, by which one of the islanders was seized during a visit to Harris, where he died. “Unluckily one of his friends carried his clothes away next year, and these, it is thought, communicated the infection at Hirta.” He further informs us that very few escaped the visitation, only four adults surviving out of twenty-four families, with the burden of twenty - six orphans. Their lives appear to have been providentially spared, in consequence of their having gone to one of the adjacent islands for the purpose of catching gannets; and owing to the “universal confusion and mortality ” which ensued at home, and their boat having been brought back to St Kilda before the distemper assumed an epidemic form, the fowlers were obliged to be absent from about the middle of August till the following Whitsunday. Macaulay states that smallpox had never previously visited St Kilda; and up to the publication of his work in 1764 the disease had not again appeared in the island.

The most painfully interesting event connected with the history of St Kilda is doubtless the story of Lady Grange’s enforced confinement on the lonely rock. It is embraced in a comparatively recent communication to the Society of Scottish Antiquaries by Dr David Laing, who enumerates the principal accounts of the abduction. Rachel Cheisley, daughter of the assassin of Sir George Lockhart of Camwath, Lord President of the Court of Session, and sister of Major Cheisley of Dairy, near Edinburgh, married, about the year 1709, the Hon. James Erskine of Grange, second son of Charles, tenth Earl of Mar, who in 1707 was raised to the Scottish bench under the title of Lord Grange, and became Lord Justice-Clerk three years afterwards. After a matrimonial career of upwards of twenty years, resulting in a family of eight children, they agreed to live apart; and shortly afterwards, on the plea that she might prove a dangerous spy upon his proceedings, Lord Grange resolved upon his wife’s removal from Edinburgh. As usually happens in such cases, there appear to have been faults upon both sides; and as, in those primitive days, discordant couples were unable to resort to the peaceful procedure of the Divorce Court, the suspicious husband took the law into his own hands, and, with the aid of a party of Highlanders, he succeeded in getting the poor woman carried off in a most brutal manner, a little before midnight of the 22d of January 1732. It is generally believed that the notorious Lord Lovat was a party to the transaction, although he boldly denies having been concerned in it, in a curious letter from which an extract was given by Dr Laing. She was transported, by successive night journeys, to the island of Hesker, near Skye, where she was detained for two years. In 1734 she was conveyed to the still more remote island of St Kilda, and after spending about eight years in that desolate region, was removed, through the instrumentality of her friends, to Assynt, in the county of Sutherland, and thence to the island of Skye, where she ended her unhappy life in May 1745. Dr Laing’s paper was illustrated by several autographs, of which the most curious is a letter addressed by the unfortunate woman to the Lord Advocate (Charles Erskine), afterwards Lord Tinwald and Lord Justice-Clerk, dated “St Kilda, Jan. 20, 1738,”'in which she gives an account of her treatment. A facsimile of a portion of the letter, embracing the date and signature, accompanies Dr Laing’s original communication. At a still more recent date (May 14, 1877), Dr Laing favoured the Society of Antiquaries with a notice of another original letter, addressed by Lady Grange to her husband, in July 1730, in which she meekly says: “Since you are angry with me, and will not live with me, I promise that if you’ll allow me a hundred pounds yearly, . . . and if you’ll drop the process of separation you have raised against me, ... I will retire and live by myself for five years from the date hereof.”

Mr John Lane Buchanan erroneously asserts that Lady Grange terminated her miserable life at St Kilda. He states that a poor old woman told him that when she served her there “ her whole time was devoted to weeping, and wrapping up letters round pieces of cork, bound up with yarn, to try if any favourable wave would waft them to some Christian, to inform some humane person where she resided, in expectation of carrying tidings to her friends at Edinburgh.” He also mentions that her detention at St Kilda would never have been heard of had Lady Grange not prevailed on the minister’s wife to go to Glenelg for the purpose of posting a letter concealed under her clothes, which thus found its way to her friends.

A more recent writer (Mr L. Maclean) informs us that on the occasion of his visit to St Kilda in 1838, he inspected the ruins of the hut occupied by Lady Grange, accompanied by the grandson of Finlay M‘Donald, who attended her in her exile. It measured about twenty feet by ten, and, like the rest of the cottages, was divided in the centre by a partition of rude loose stone. “In one of these apartments sat Finlay M‘Donald every night for seven years, and Lady Grange in the other,—for she never slept at night. . . . She had acquired the Gaelic tolerably well, and took pleasure in listening to the native tales and romances of Finlay. Through the day she slept, except when she took a solitary ramble to converse with grief and the roaring ocean. Finlay had made for her a seat of twisted straw—a luxury in St Kilda. This seat she carried with her when she went, leaving twelve shillings with Finlay in lieu of it." Contrary to the statement of Mr Maclean, which he makes on the authority of his guide, Mr Sands says that she never learned Gaelic. He adds that the house in which she lived was demolished a few years ago, that it belonged to the steward, and was exactly like the existing old cottages, but a little larger. “ A dearth happened to prevail during the whole time she remained on the island ; but she got an ample share of what little food there was. The best turf was provided for her fire, and the spot where it was got is still called the Lady’s Pool.”

My friend Captain Thomas has recently sent me a poetical “Epistle from Lady Grange (under the name of “Matilda”) to Edward D-, Esq., written during her confinement in the island of St Kilda,” and published in Edinburgh in 1799. In the “advertisement” prefixed to the poem—which extends to nearly 350 lines—the author states that the “hint” on which the epistle is founded occurs in the reference to Lady Grange’s exile in Boswell’s ‘Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides/ and that “ the additional circumstances introduced are mere fictions of the imagination.” The general tone of the epistle is very warm and passionate. The simple and guileless maidens of St Kilda remind the unhappy exile of the bright scenes of her childhood; and in the pathetic allusions to her later career, she introduces the “unpitying father,” the “reluctant wife,” and the “fell tyrant,” to whose tender mercies she had been heartlessly consigned. The following allusion to her sea-girt prison, and the avocations of the islanders, occurs towards the middle of the poem. The “rocky plain" the “straggling ivy,” and the “cormorant’s downy nest,” are good examples of the “fictions of the imagination.”

“Far from the crimes and follies that I trace,
Kind Nature holds me ’midst her favourite race.
—Escaped the severed world by happy stealth,
A skiff their navy, and a rock their wealth,
Rough as the stormy element they brave,
Fearless they ride upon the heaving wave.
For them the ocean rears her finny store,
And rustling legions cloud the darkening shore :
Pure from the rock the dimpling fountains play,
And wind and glitter to the orient ray;
Nor haughty Wealth, with proud contemptuous sneer,
Nor Poverty, the child of Wealth, is here.
When now the morning trembles o’er the main,
Brown Labour calls them to the rocky plain;
With patient toil each tills his little spot,
And Freedom pours contentment on their lot.
O’er the steep rock, with straggling ivy drest,
Clambering, they seek the cormorant’s downy nest.
As up the fractured crevices they wind,
They mark their dwindled partners far behind.
When the sun, sinking in the western deep,
Resigns the world to night and balmy sleep,
O’er the high cliff their dangerous trade they urge,
Below, tremendous roars the boiling surge;
As pendent from the straining cord they play,
I mark their slow-descending form decay.
The solan birds are hushed in deep repose,
Fearless of danger from their hovering foes.
The sentinel betrayed, no signals fly,
And the death-fated squadrons gasp and die.
Till scared, the remnant start with hollow croak,
And, wildly wheeling, mourn their plundered rock.
When gathering clouds the blackening sky deform,
And sweeping whirlwinds swell the heaving storm,
While far at sea their solitary skiff,
The faithful matrons climb the shelving cliff;
With tears of love and anguish heaven implore,
To guide the labouring bark to Kilda’s shore.
Each marks her shroudless husband, pale aghast,
Rise from the deep, and ride the driving blast.
—The storm is hushed, the prospering breezes play,
They mark the whitening canvas far away:
With faithful hearts (the only wealth they boast),
They hail the storm-tossed nation to the coast.
Up springs the jovial dance, the festive lay,
And night repays the labours of the day.”

After the departure of Lady Grange about the year 1742, a wide gap seems to occur in the annals of St Kilda; at least I am unable to record any event of the smallest importance during the long period of eighty-five years. The day after my return from St Kilda (3d July 1877) I had an interview at Obbe with Donald M'Kinnon, precentor in the parish church of Harris, who is a native of St Kilda, and whose brother still resides on the island. He is an intelligent man of about sixty years of age, and, inter alia, he related the two following incidents :—

Somewhere about fifty years ago (1827), the “ Laird of Islay” landed at St Kilda from his yacht, and falling in love with a girl called Marion Morison, promised to return, for the purpose of marrying her, in the course of a year. This he duly did in a vessel carrying a few small guns, the sight of which so alarmed the inhabitants that they took refuge among the rocks, and the faithful suitor, like “Young Mivins” of ‘Bon Gualtier,’ was obliged to depart, a disappointed bachelor! The girl composed a “Lament” in commemoration of the event, the tune of which the precentor hummed. He heard her sing the air, and distinctly remembers her appearance, and her “ long, flowing hair.” A somewhat similar occurrence is said to have taken place very recently; and at the present moment, something more than a tendresse is believed to exist between the latest male sojourner in St Kilda, and one of its comely, fair-haired maidens, whose name I must forbear to disclose.

About Christmas 1839, the “Charlotte” of Hull, Captain John Bremman (?), was wrecked on the islet of “Rockhall,” about 200 miles due west of St Kilda, to which reference has already been made in connection with a previous catastrophe of the same kind. Eighteen of the crew found their way in a boat to a cave in the west bay of St Kilda, where they remained for two days and nights, and were ultimately discovered by a herd-boy who happened to notice the boat in the neighbourhood of the cave from the summit of an adjacent cliff. M'Kinnon descended with the aid of a rope, and brought up the mariners one by one, after which they were taken round by the natives, in their own boat, to the village on the east bay, where they were clothed, housed, and fed by the islanders. After remaining on St Kilda for eleven days, M'Kinnon accompanied them in their boat to the island of Pabbay, in the Sound of Harris, whence they went to Portree. They left their boat with M'Kinnon, who sold it for about £g, and returned to St Kilda in another. The captain promised to see that the St Kildans1 should be liberally remunerated for their hospitality and assistance, but they never received a farthing! This is probably the same event which is referred to by Mrs M'Vean of Killin, in her ‘ Reminiscences of St Kilda.’1 She states that “ a party of English sailors were once shipwrecked on the uninhabited part of the island, .where they remained for a whole day and night without discovering that it was peopled. At last they saw a woman coming across the hill to the glen in which they were; and as soon as she observed the strangers, she rushed away in the greatest alarm. She did not fail, however, to send some men to ascertain who they were, when it was discovered that one of the poor fellows had broken his leg, and was in great pain. He was carried, as gently as possible, to the nearest hut and lowered into one of the odious wall-beds. The poor sailor afterwards told the minister that ‘ he thought the savages were lowering him into a well! ’ Fortunately, Mr M'Kenzie was able to set the broken limb, having previously had a good deal of experience in surgical cases, connected with accidents in fowling expeditions.”

Mrs M'Vean alludes to the impression produced upon the islanders by the first appearance of a steamboat.

Roma. I have occasionally met with St Kildaites, but never with St Kildese, which the phraseology of a celebrated southern island might seem to justify,—Malta—Maltese.

Greatly alarmed by the unwonted sight, they rushed into the manse to inform the minister that “a ship on fire” was approaching their shores! Their terror and amazement was not a little increased by the music of a brass band on board the vessel; and when the passengers landed, all the inhabitants fled to the rocks, except a few of the bravest of the male sex, who anxiously watched the movements of the strangers.

During the last twenty years, the remote island has been occasionally visited by Government steamers, private yachts, and other vessels. In July 1860, the Duke of Athole and Mr Hall Maxwell accompanied Captain (afterwards Admiral) Otter in H.M.S. “ Porcupine,” and remained two days on the island. It is said that the Duke partook of the “ brew” made from the flesh of the fulmar, and that he slept on the floor of one of the cottages, which is still pointed out as his place of shelter. About a fortnight after the Duke’s sojourn, Captain and Mrs Thomas visited St Kilda in the same vessel, and were three days on shore. Shortly after the departure of the “ Porcupine,” Mr John E. Morgan, author of the article in ‘Macmillan’s Magazine ’ already referred to, touched at St Kilda in the “Falcon” cutter yacht of 25 tons, and, along with a friend, spent six hours on the island.

In June 1861 (and in the same month ten years later), the census of St Kilda was taken by Mr Alexander Grigor, lately Examiner of Registers for the Northern District of Scotland. On the former occasion he was conveyed to the island in the “ Porcupine,” and in 1871 in the “Jackal” gunboat.

In the summer of 1863, Mrs Thomas again accompanied Captain Otter to St Kilda in the gunboat “Seagull,” and spent about twenty hours on shore. Not many weeks before their visit, an event occurred which spread a painful gloom over the little island. In the year 1861, a fine large boat, fully equipped, and which cost about £60, was sent to St Kilda, with the view of encouraging the inhabitants to extend their fishing operations. This boat was named the “Dargavel,” in honour of Mr Hall Maxwell’s visit to the island the previous year. Early in April 1863, the boat left St Kilda in a favourable wind, with seven men and one woman on board, and when last seen from the heights of the island, was careering onward at a rapid speed. Towards night the wind changed to the south, blowing very hard, and it was supposed that the little craft must have gone out of its course, several miles to the north of the Sound of Harris. Nothing more was known regarding the lamentable occurrence, except the loss of the boat and all its occupants, as was supposed to be clearly indicated by certain articles of clothing cast ashore at Maelsta, on the west coast of Lewis. The sad intelligence was conveyed to the islanders by three London smacks, about a month after the disappearance of the boat; and it is unnecessary to add that the sorrow produced among the surviving friends by the announcement was of no ordinary kind. Mr Sands mentions that the three skippers came on shore, where they played “quoits” with flat stones, and mocked the poor natives when they gave expression to their grief. The catechist (Mr Kennedy) did not think of noting the names of the smacks; but the islanders assert that the crews belonged to London, and that one of their number could speak Gaelic. Towards the end of May, some of the clothes of the missing men, “torn as if in a scuffle,” were brought to St Kilda by the factor (Mr M'Raild), who informed the inhabitants that they “ had been found in a cave in Lewis; ” and on the occasion of his first visit, Mr Sands heard some of the St Kildans express their belief that the lost crew had been murdered. At the time of the occurrence, however, Sir John Macleod, then proprietor of the island, caused an investigation to be made in Lewis, but without eliciting any information. Three of the seven men were married, and besides their widows, left seven children. The other four were skilful fowlers, in the prime of life, and were survived by mothers, sisters, and other dependent relatives. The boat contained cloth, salt-fish, and other native produce to the value of upwards of £80, as well as some money in notes, which the owners wished to exchange for gold. The solitary female passenger was Betty Scott, wife of Malcolm M‘Donald, and a native of Lochinver, in Sutherlandshire, who went to the island as servant to the Rev. Neil Mackenzie. With the exception of Mr Kennedy, the catechist, she was the only islander who could speak English; and being in other respects intelligent and superior, was sometimes called the “Queen of St Kilda.” Unlike the Orcadians, the St Kildans are not good sailors, and the want of nautical skill was probably the chief cause of the disaster. A crew of about the same number visited the “ Long Island ” the previous year in the same boat, and were nearly lost in the neighbourhood of Balranald, North Uist. On that occasion also they had a good deal of produce, which they sold to advantage.

A remarkable circumstance connected with the loss of the “Dargavel’’ has lately caused a considerable amount of excitement both in St Kilda and the “Long Island.” Towards the end of 1875 a letter was received by the minister of Harris from a firm in the Transvaal Republic, in which it was stated that Donald M'Kinnon, supposed to be one of the missing crew, had recently died of fever, at Pilgrim’s Rest, Lydenburg gold-fields, leaving property amounting to about £40, which it appears has been lodged in a bank at Stornoway. If the deceased was really the Donald M'Kinnon of the “ Dargavel,” it certainly seems strange that he should never have written to acquaint his father and other relatives in St Kilda of his fate. On the assumption that he actually survived till 1875, it is of course quite possible that others of the crew may be still alive; and possibly the question relative to the identification of the deceased may require to be settled by the law courts. It is, however, reported that it has now been proved, to the satisfaction of the authorities in South Africa, that the Donald M'Kinnon who died at Pilgrim’s Rest was a native of Lewis, and not of St Kilda.

On the night of 7th April 1864, after beating about for several days in very dense fog, the ship “Janet Cowan” of Greenock, 831 tons burthen—Captain James M'Kirdy —on her passage from Calcutta to Dundee with a cargo of jute, was wrecked on the rocks of St Kilda. Encouraged by the calmness of their captain, the entire crew contrived to leave the disabled vessel in their boats; but owing to the darkness of the night, and the heaviness of the surf, they were compelled to lie off the island till the following morning. At daybreak only the poop of the vessel was to be seen; and as no landing-place could be discovered near the wreck, the crew rowed round the island, and about ten o’clock found a point on the northeast side, where they managed to land and to haul up their boats. None of the inhabitants being visible, they resolved to traverse the island in detached parties in hopes of finding some of the natives, which they succeeded in doing in the course of the day. They afterwards made more than one attempt to recover something from the wreck, but all that could be saved was a cask containing a few pieces of meat, from the forward part of the ship. The gale continued for several days, and on the 10th the captain observed from one of the cliffs that only the bow remained upon the rocks. After being seven days on the island, although it was still blowing fresh, feeling that he and his crew were proving a heavy burden on the supplies of the islanders, Captain M'Kirdy resolved to make an attempt to reach the mainland; and having procured the loan of an open fishing-boat, the shipwrecked mariners embarked, at 5 a.m. of the 14th April, some in the borrowed boat, and the rest in one of the ship’s boats, and steered for Lewis, the wind being from the south. When about half-way across, as the ship’s boat seemed likely to be swamped by the heavy sea which the captain was obliged to take the fishing-boat, and to cut being towed astern. About the island of Scarp, off nd re-embarking next h Tarbert in Harris, .nd made their way to course of the summer inhabitants a supply of :fs, along with a purse and crew, besides pay-hing-boat to the island,  I may mention Mr Bouverie Primrose, secretary to the Board for Manufactures, etc.; Mr Walker of Bowland, Chairman of the Board of Supervision; the Rev. Eric J. Findlater of Lochearnhead, on three different occasions; Captain Macdonald of the Fishery cruiser “Vigilant;” the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses in the “Pharos;” Sir William and Lady Baillie of Polkemmet, with the late Mr Baird of Cambusdoon, in August 1874; Sir Patrick-Keith Murray in his yacht “Crusader,” in July 1875 ; Dr Murchison of Harris, on two occasions, during the same year; Lord and Lady Macdonald, in the yacht “Lady of the Isles,” accompanied by Miss Macleod of Macleod, the Rev Archibald M'Neill, minister of Sleat, and Mr Macdonald, Tormore, on the 15th of June 1877; and the pleasant party, of which I had the good fortune to form one, in the s.s. “Dunara Castle,” 245 tons, on the 2d of July 1877. Probably the longest sojourner in St Kilda, with the exception of Lady Grange and the various ministers and catechists, is Mr John Sands of Ormiston, who first spent seven weeks on the island in 1875—from 3d June to 19th July, when he was taken off in the yacht “Crusader;” and, secondly, eight months in 1876-77—from 21 st June to 2 2d February, when he got a passage in the gunboat “ Jackal,” as afterwards mentioned. Towards the beginning of the present year, the captain and eight of the crew of the Austrian barque “Peti Dubrovacki,” 880 tons, en route from Glasgow to New York, spent about five weeks in St Kilda, at the close of Mr Sands’s second sojourn. On the 17th of January, Mr Sands was startled by the appearance of a boat in the bay. Accompanied by some of the natives, he hastened to the shore, and at a certain point of the rocks where there seemed to be less surf than elsewhere, the islanders threw ropes to the occupants of the boat, who, however, declined to be drawn ashore. Putting about his craft, the captain made for the shore in front of the village, and the foreigners forthwith leapt into the water and swam to land, where they were received by the natives. In the course of a few minutes the boat was dashed to pieces on the rocks. The disabled vessel lay on her beam-ends, about eight miles west of St Kilda. She was not visible the day following, and doubtless went to the bottom with the seven members of the crew who had remained on board. The rescued mariners were billeted among the islanders, the minister taking charge of the captain, and were most hospitably treated. An attachment is said to have sprung up between one of the foreigners and a damsel of St Kilda, and although neither understood the language of the other, they both fully comprehended the signs and tokens of love. The scene at parting was of the most affecting character. On the 30th of January, a life-buoy belonging to the lost ship, with a small sail and bottle containing a letter attached to it, was launched from the island, in the hope of its reaching some civilised portion of the kingdom. With the aid of the Gulf Stream it drifted to Birsay in Orkney, and was forwarded to Lloyd’s agent in Stromness on the 8th of February. On the 17th of February—a month after the shipwreck—the Austrian skipper made a bargain with the natives to be taken along with Mr Sands, in their own boat, to Harris. While they were patiently awaiting the advent of settled weather, H.M.S. “Jackal”appeared in the bay, on the morning of the 22d, having been despatched in consequence of the tidings received at Stromness; and the Austrians and Mr Sands were forthwith conveyed to Greenock. Within ten days of their arrival, the Austro-Hungarian vice-consul at Glasgow published the following letter from the captain of the lost barque; and a subsequent representation to his Government resulted in the transmission of ;£ioo from Vienna to the Board of Trade, for behoof of the “warm-hearted islanders:”—

“Captain Chersonaz, on behalf of himself and the other survivors of the ill-fated vessel *Peti Dubrovacki,* lately wrecked near the island of St Kilda, wishes to express, in this the only way that lies in his power, his warmest thanks to the inhabitants of that island for the gallant manner in which they afforded immediate assistance to them in their distressed condition, and for the generous hospitality displayed towards them. Even when provisions became scarce, the natives shared what they had, and did everything in their power to make their enforced stay comfortable.

“Captain Chersonaz also begs to acknowledge, with deepest gratitude, the humanity and promptitude of the Government in despatching the steamer “Jackal” to their rescue; and desires to convey to the commander, officers, and crew of that steamer his keen sense of the very kind and hospitable treatment he and his companions received at their hands whilst on board. This was all the more welcome in consequence of the destitute condition in which they were found, having lost everything with the exception of the clothes they had on.

Signed “Basilio Chersonaz,
“Late captain of the Austro-Hungarian barque

The facts relative to the ecclesiastical history of St Kilda will be found in a subsequent chapter.


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