The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
Child of St Kilda
Publisher: Child’s Play
Norman John Gillies was born on Hirta, the largest of the islands making up St Kilda, in 1925. The island was considered “at the edge of the world” by some.
Hirta was a very isolated place to live, and is exposed to the worst of the wild Atlantic weather. Yet the community was very close knit, everyone helped each other, and there was little to no crime. Norman’s family and their neighbours ate sea birds such as fulmars and puffins and the grown-ups scaled the cliffs for eggs. The children went to school in one small, cold schoolroom and the adults dug peat to be dried and burned, kept cows and sheep for milk and wool as well as growing vegetables.
By 1930, there were only 36 people living on the island, and illness and bad weather had reduced living conditions to the point where the islanders decided that they should leave. It has remained deserted ever since.
This remarkable illustrated story of the people of St Kilda illuminates a little-known community which will fascinate children and adults alike. Reminiscent of William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey, Waters’ depiction of a real life experience brings the rest of her research to life with her vivid illustration.