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Sending a postcard

Few times we tried to go to the post offices here on the islands to sent post cards. Not always have we succeeded. Some were shut on certain days, some did not open till the afternoon, or few days later. Yet, we got to one yesterday, and fortunately with much less effort than others before us. Lots of people know St Kilda and how remote it is from the mainland. It almost sounds like the inhabitants there had a romantic, yet very reclusive existence. I am not sure they saw it that way, but the truth is, there wasn’t something like a post office in those days. The Kilda mail sent in bottles is famous, and in a museum in Uig we found one of the Kilda mail boats. Which was made when they were running out of food providing for ten Austrian sailors, who were saved from their aground ship. In the message they asked for provisions to be sent to them. Later after the sailors returned home the Kildians were rewarded £100 pounds by the Austrian government.

There are other forms of how islanders tried to deal with the fact that post office wasn’t always available. We paddled past Scarp, just west from Huisinish Point, there in 1934 a german, Herr Zucker, tried to launch a packed by a rocket across the sound. The rocket exploded and “thousands of letters addressed to King and Queen, members of Parliament, and private citizens from Stornoway to Sydney were scattered over the beach like a snowstorm”.

Monach Isles also didn’t have post office, not even post box, which cost life two lighthouse keepers from Shillay. In 1936 a tragedy occurred, when two of them died crossing the ford between Shillay and Heiskeir to post their letters.

Isle of Eigg was fortunate in having post office, it’s still inhabited and still has the service. How fortunate for its neighbouring island, Muck. If someone on Muck was sent a telegram a whole process was started. It got to Eigg ok. Only then a fire had to be lit on its south coast to let people on Muck know, that an important message awaits. A ferry boat was then sent and the ferryman had to pick up the message, not only by crossing the sound but also by walking four miles to and from the post office situated in the middle of the island.

(Dundee Courier, 19th Jul 1938)

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