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Last inhabitants on St Kilda revealed

Published: 3 Mar 2016 00:01

Records name the 16 households left on St Kilda before the evacuation of the island in 1930

The last inhabitants of the remote island community of St Kilda are listed among more than 2.5 million Scots digitally captured in the latest release of Valuation Rolls on ScotlandsPeople, the government's family history website.

In August 1930 the government evacuated the population of St Kilda, which had shrunk to 36 islanders. The 1930 Valuation Roll lists the names of the tenants occupying the sixteen houses in Britain's remotest settlement, which lay over 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides off Scotland's north-west coast. All the islanders rented their single storey houses from the landowner, Norman Macleod of Macleod, who lived at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye.

By 1930 six of the sixteen houses were in fact empty. Of those still living there in house no. 1 was Norman MacKinnon, who was married with five sons and three daughters. His was the largest family on the island and suffered the most in the lean winter of 1929-30. At no. 5 lived Neil Ferguson, who acted as ground officer for the laird and ran the post office from a tin shed next to his house. Finlay Gillies, was the oldest islander at the age of 72, and lived in house no. 7 with his widowed daughter-in-law Catherine and two grandsons aged about 11 and 9. Catherine's bachelor brother Ewen lived at no. 16 with their widowed mother Rachel MacDonald, the oldest female islander. A sign of the dwindling population was the fact that three of the listed tenants were widows and three other evacuees in 1930 were also widows.

The decision to evacuate the island archipelago was taken because life there was becoming untenable. So many islanders had left that the traditional livelihoods of raising sheep for wool, spinning tweed, fishing and harvesting of seabird eggs and oil was much harder to sustain. The health and well-being of the St Kildans had long been a concern, and recent illnesses and deaths underlined the islanders' remoteness from adequate medical facilities. The islanders continued to suffer as weather conditions usually prevented vital food supplies from being delivered between autumn and spring. In May 1930 twenty islanders petitioned the government for resettlement on the mainland, and it responded by making the arrangements to evacuate the 36 islanders and their 1,500 sheep, and to find places for all the families to live, mainly near Oban, and others in Ross-shire and Fife.

The newly-released Valuation Rolls include 2,550,479 indexed names and addresses for every owner, tenant and occupier of property, and a record of its annual valued rent, throughout Scotland. By comparison there are just over 1 million in the first rolls in 1855 and 2.1 million names in 1925. Between 1855 and 1930 Scotland's population grew from over 3 million to over 4.8 million.

Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said:

"I welcome the latest addition to the amazing resources that National Records of Scotland makes available so that people across the world can discover more about Scotland's story through the history of families and communities."

Tim Ellis, Registrar General and Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said:

"The sixteen householders listed on St Kilda in 1930 are just a few among more than 2.5 million names, but they stand for a traditional way of life that was about to end when the remaining islanders were evacuated. The Valuation Rolls we are putting online now span three quarters of a century from the earliest in 1855 and allow people to discover more about Scots almost twenty years after the Census of 1911. They are an invaluable resource for researchers to explore when investigating family and local history. The latest release is part of the commitment by National Records of Scotland to progressively improve access to the key records that researchers want."

Notes to editors

On Thursday 3 March, 2,550,479 names and addresses will be added to ScotlandsPeople, the family history website of the National Records of Scotland. The 1930 rolls join nine previous releases on the site, enabling anyone worldwide to find property owners, tenants and occupiers across Scotland for the 75 years between 1855 and 1930.

The new records bring the current total of index entries on the ScotlandsPeople website to over 108 million. The 1930 Valuation Rolls will be available on the ScotlandsPeople website www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, and at local family history centres in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Hawick, Inverness and Alloa.

National Records of Scotland & ScotlandsPeople

National Records of Scotland is a Non-Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government. It holds and gives access to the nation's archives, oversees the registration of births, marriages and deaths, produces statistics on Scotland's population and conducts the Scottish Census. It is a centre of expertise on data handling, record keeping and archives.

ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk, the official genealogy website for Scottish ancestry, is a partnership between National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon, enabled by Find My Past.