A classic and vivid overview of the history and culture of St Kilda up to the time of the evacuation in 1930. Includes detailed treatment of the population and families, their homes, shielings, bothies and storehouses, domestic life, pastoral and arable farming, fowling and fishing, customs and beliefs, stories and songs, religion, education and health, and communications. 338pp hardback, including many diagrams and illustrations.
240 x 162 mm 352pp 32 b/w plates ISBN: 978 1 899272 03 7
On 29 August 1930 the remaining 36 inhabitants of this bleak but spectacular island off Scotland’s western coast took ship for the mainland. A community that had survived alone for centuries finally succumbed to the ravages that resulted from mainland contact. What their lives had been like century after century, why they left, and what happened to them afterwards is the subject of this fascinating book. It is the story of a way of life unlike any other, told here in words and pictures, and of how the impact of twentieth-century civilisation led to its death.
This 297 page paperback by Tom Steel is one of the most popular books about St Kilda and is a highly recommended read. It contains numerous old photos.
A vast canon of literature has been produced over the years on St Kilda, most of which has focussed on the resilient people who have lived there, but before now none have focussed on the natural history of the island, nor has such a book been written by a native resident.
In 1697 Martin Martin, a Gaelic-speaking scholar from Skye, travelled to St Kilda to study the island’s flora and fauna and to learn about the now extinct great auk. Much of the information that he gathered during this expedition was relayed to him by the islanders. Naturalists from Martin down to Robert Atkinson in 1938, not only witnessed the people’s way of life but also the wildlife around them, both priceless assets that have recently won for St Kilda dual World Heritage Site status.
A Natural History of St Kilda is a synthesis of what these naturalists and scientists experienced and gives evidence that shows just how important wildlife was to the survival of the islanders. Much of this information has lain for years in little known private diaries, files, reports or obscure scientific journals. John Love puts background and personalities to the names whilst describing the natural features of the islands of St Kilda, creating a fascinating and insightful account which will appeal not only to naturalists, but to all who are fascinated by the St Kilda, by its human history and by islands in general. Its remoteness and inaccessibility are notorious but one need not have set foot on St Kilda to enjoy this book.
ISBN-10: 1841587974 ISBN-13: 978-1841587974
Donald S Murray’s new collection of poetry is called Praising the Guga. It is a stunning series of poems that examines the world of the guga and its place in the culture and cuisine of Donald’s native Ness in the Isle of Lewis.
Guga is the name given to the young gannets harvested annually from Sulasgeir, 40 miles north east of the Butt of Lewis. The birds form a traditional part of the diet in Ness, and it is a tradition that continues to this day.
The pamphlet is being launched alongside Donald’s book The Guga Hunters (Birlinn), a brilliant account of the world of the guga. Together these works tell a unique and fascinating story of a community, a way of life, and their relationship with the beautiful and enigmatic gannet.
Sheep are seriously underestimated creatures when it comes to spirituality and religious feeling. For the first time, this book recognises their huge potential and offers every ovine student of Buddhism the opportunity to focus their skills and follow the path to enlightenment.
ISBN : 9780091807542 Hardback
This is the remarkable – and bestselling – story of one of the Second World War’s most unusual animal heroes – a 14-stone St Bernard dog who became global mascot for the Royal Norwegian Forces and a symbol of freedom and inspiration for Allied troops throughout Europe.
ISBN: 9781841588490 Paperback
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the torrent of information about environmental catastrophes the world over. In Soil and Soul, Scottish writer and campaigning academic Alastair McIntosh shows how it is still possible for individuals and communities to take on the might of corporate power and emerge victorious.
Alastair’s beliefs are rooted in his upbringing on the Isle of Lewis. The first part of his book explores how the old way of life in the Hebrides was threatened with extinction by global capitalism. He does not advocate returning to a preindustrial golden age, but balances the gains of modernity against what has been lost. In particular, he demonstrates how the rise of the modern era undermined communities governed by a sense of reverence and mutual responsibility. But right relationship can be restored, he suggests, by learning from the bardic tradition to create a new harmony of soil, soul and society. The second part of the book demonstrates how such principles of community empowerment can be successfully applied. As a founder of the Isle of Eigg Trust, Alastair helped the beleaguered residents of Eigg to become the first Scottish community ever to clear their laird from his own estate. In a campaign that earned worldwide renoun, the islanders raised sufficient funds to oust their landlord , very much against his will, and successfully galvanized political demands for land reform in Scotland. Similarly, plans to turn a majestic Hebridean mountain into a roadstone “superquarry” were overturned after Alastair persuaded Native American War Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney to visit the Isle of Harris and testify at the government inquiry.
This extraordinary book weaves together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new yet ancient philosophy of community, Spirit and place. His daring and imaginative responses to the destruction of the natural world make this an uplifting, inspirational and often richly humorous read.
ISBN: 978-1-85410-942-2 Paperbook
After Alastair McIntosh’s success with Soil and Soul which sold more than 10,000 copies, Birlinn Limited is pleased to introduce a major new work which critically examines climate change citing Scotland’s ecosystem as a microcosm for wider global effects.
ISBN: 9781841586229 Paperback
Louis MacNeice provides a unique insight into Hebridean culture of the late 1930s. This is a fascinating social historical document of what Scottish rural life was like in these times.
ISBN: 9781846970146 Paperback
In 1779, driven out of his home, Calum McDonald set sail from the Scottish highlands with his extensive family. After a long, terrible journey, Calum settles his family in “the land of the trees” until they become a separate Nova Scotian clan, with its own identity and history. From the greatest living Canadian novelist, this novel is a true classic.
ISBN: 9780099283928 272 pages Paperback
Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published, the story of Gavin Maxwell’s life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man’s relationship with the natural world. Introduced by John Lister-Kaye.
On the ten-hour sailing west from the Hebrides to the islands of St Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil MacKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil’s journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie – bright, beautiful and devoted – this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. She is sure only of her loyalty and love for her husband, but everything that happens from now on will challenge all her certainties. As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and subsist on a diet of seabirds, and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage – and their sanity – is threatened. Is Lizzie a willful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil’s zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops? Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, Island of Wings is more than just an account of a marriage in peril – it is also a richly imagined novel about two people struggling to keep their love, and their family, alive in a place of terrible hardship and tumultuous beauty.
A new collection of poems including Poems from the Hebrides by James Knox Whittet.
A quietly amazing collection of poetry – Pauline Stainer.
ISBN 978-0-9565725-2-3 Published by Iron Press 2012