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A Story of Extremes
on 19 December 2012
This is a biography of extremes - extreme setting, extreme weather, extreme hardship and an extreme people who were eventually defeated by it all. The St. Kildans, inhabiting the most westerly part of the UK, 100 miles from their nearest neighbours in the middle of the Atlantic, lived on oily, semi-raw sea birds which required scaling extreme peaks to catch, dodging up to 140 mph winds and waves which swept over the tops of the nearby stacs where the birds nested.
The often half starved, bare foot island children who survived shared living space in the tiny dwellings with their animals in winter while the parents wove shawls and blankets for the feudal Lord who was the owner of the island. They spoke their own Gaelic dialect, making communication difficult until the Christian missionaries started a school.
The late Tom Steel writes a lively, often heartbreaking account, which does not end when the last of the islanders were split up and evacuated (at their own expence!) to the mainland. This version was updated recently to follow events on the island since the inhabitants left. It is enthralling, up-put-downable and left this reader just a little obsessed with St. Kilda!