Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The St Kilda mailboat

St Kilda is an island (actually a small archipelago) out in the Atlantic way west of Scotland. It was abandoned in 1930 when the way of life become unsustainable for the remaining 36 inhabitants. It's now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and one of the best ways to visit the island (and one of the only ways to spend more than a few hours there) is to take part in one of their work parties. So far it hasn't been feasible for me to do this, but one day I will.

Until their evacuation, the residents of St Kilda lived in almost complete isolation. The only way they had of communicating with the outside world was with the aid of a St Kilda mailboat. These mailboats were small wooden boxes in which letters and money for a stamp would be placed. They'd be sealed up, an inflated sheep's bladder would be attached as a float and the mailboat would be launched. They usually landed in Scotland or Scandinavia where the finder would hopefully post the letter inside.

Today I saw an article on the National Trust for Scotland's website about a mailboat launched by one of last summer's work parties being found in Norway. Although there are other means of communication now, each work party launches a mailboat as a way of re-enacting the tradition. Until I saw this article I hadn't realised they did this.

I wonder who'll find the one I launch when I eventually join a work party there?

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