The craggy archipelago of St. Kilda, with its jagged cliffs and boiling seas, is the most remote island outpost of Great Britain; 52 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. Inhabited for over a thousand years, this windswept group of rocks yields up a scant living. There was one asset, however, that St Kilda possessed in extraordinary abundance: seabirds. Three-quarters of a million of them came every year to nest on the islands and on the sea stacs: gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins, great skua, razorbills, guillemots and petrels. The St Kildans lived on these birds, catching them by lowering themselves on ropes from the clifftops or climbing up the sea stacs from boats. The men became expert climbers, learning their skills as children. The community of once over 180 exceptionally lively and musical people dwindled over time. The last hearty handful of inhabitants were evacuated in 1930. Since that time much of the music of St. Kilda has been lost.
Flash forward to 2008, Edinburgh. A grizzled man in a nursing home delicately caresses a piano as if in a trance. His music is haunting, elegiac, unknown, and yet strangely familiar. Seventy-year-old Trevor Morrison, as it turned out, studied piano as a young boy with one of the last evacuees of St. Kilda. Fortunately for us, Trevor’s friend and computer guru, Stuart McKenzie, facilitated the recording of these gems, nearly lost in time.
Each of these five tunes are named after parts of the islands. Hirta makes up the main part of the islands, where the bay and old settlements can still be visited. Dùn and Soay are close islands. Green slopes can nurture a hearty breed of sheep. Stac Levenish and Stac Lee are basically rocks jutting up out of the ocean. These cliffs were once a rich food source for the islanders. St. Kilda is now a wildlife preserve.
Stac Lee p. 8