After seventy five years, you came back.

On 6 June 2005, Norman John Gillies, you stood on the shore, staring out at the empty sea, thinking of the night they rowed your pregnant mother to the lightship; how she waved, trying to make things well. 

But her death ended it all, the struggle your people had waged since the Bronze Age on the isolated archipelago, scaling the high cliffs for seabird eggs and tending the scraggy sheep. Each generation taught the next how to survive in that harsh environment. 

Somehow the thing that made life unravel on St Kilda was outsiders trying to help: the missionaries who told you how to live; the do-gooders; the tourists who bought your tweeds and treated you as curiosities, stealing your self esteem. 

When the military base was built in the First World War, the twentieth century finally broke through. With direct contact to the Scottish mainland one hundred miles away, nothing seemed the same. Your young people could see no reason to stay. 

For the last thirty six, it took until that night in 1930 when Mary died for you to decide the time had come to leave. 

Does it comfort you to know the grey seal breeds now, on the shores where you once played? 

St Kilda

Alex Harvie

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