Artists mark 90th anniversary of St Kilda evacuation

Creagan Fhiodha/CliffsOfTimber by Rhona NicDhughaill.

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A local art project is marking the evening 90 years ago when the final 36 St Kildans were evacuated from their island and arrived in Lochaline and Oban.

A group of artists are taking the events of August 29, 1930, as inspiration for a series of new artworks and creative writing exploring the echoes of the St Kildan evacuation and how it still resonates nine decades on.

Instigated by independent producer Rhona Dougall from Oban, the project, entitled Fàgail Hiort/Leaving St Kilda, has brought together a group of artists, writers and musicians from Morvern and the Oban area and given them a platform to create and share new work.

Sùilean Sheudair/Cedar Eyes by Sheila Quillin.

Contributors include sculptor Sheila Quillin and musician Riona Whyte, both from Morvern, as well as Oban writers Kirsty Macdonald and Mara Dougall, and visual artist Katie Harris-MacLeod from Kilchrenan, currently in Australia, which also has its own St Kilda connection.

The project also explores archive recordings and photographs. Producer Rhona Dougall, whose photography is also featured in the project, said: ‘I wanted to create a space where people could respond creatively to the local links with the St Kilda story, and also their own personal connections to the themes it brings up: migration, loss, and new beginnings, among many others.

‘Sheila and Riona have quite a direct connection, having grown up in Morvern where most of the St Kildans settled, while those of us from the Oban side all have island migration stories in our own families.

Cluas Mara/Sea Ear by Katie Harris MacLeod.

‘Kirsty’s family left Heisker around the same time as the St Kilda evacuation, and that island has similarly remained unpopulated. My own grandfather left Eriskay around the that time as well, with the family eventually settling in Oban. Katie has a Skye connection through her grandmother, and being in Australia at the moment has led her to explore that part of the St Kilda story as well.’

Due to the current restrictions around Covid-19 the work will be exhibited online initially, with live events planned for the future.

Rhona added: ‘We want to share these artworks, stories and songs with the people living in and around Morvern and Oban today, as well as with those further afield, and to hear what memories or stories it provokes in them.

I think it’s important, now more than ever, to take the opportunity to explore our local history and where we come from, and find creative ways to connect to that – it helps to give us a sense of place and meaning.

‘We live in such a beautiful part of the world with such a rich history, it’s been a joy to spend time getting to know a different side of it.’

The project, which has received support from Carraig Gheal Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund and Ardtornish Estate Hydro Community fund, can be accessed online at www.fagailhiort.com from August 28.

Also see this week’s Morvern Lines on our heritage pages.