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St. Kilda - Britain's Loneliest Isle (1923/28)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

[c. 1928] "First voyage to St. Kilda after nine months isolation. Loading "SS Hebrides" at Glasgow. St. Kilda needs food." Shots on deck and of supplies being loaded. The crew, including John McKinnon the Captain, and George Blair the Purser. Shots of passengers, including Hugh Young, a partner in John McCallum and Company. "Leaving Glasgow." Shots on deck and of vessel as it moves away from the Broomielaw.

"Oban. Gateway to the Western Isles." Pan round Oban bay and shots of town from the steamer. "Tobermory Bay. The haunt of treasure seekers. Over the sea to Skye. Carbost, famous for its liquid treasure." Shot of the 'SS Hebrides' at the pier. General views of village. Typical island kiddies at Pooltiel. Shots of children and two adults. "Dunvegan. The castle is the oldest inhabited in Scotland and the home of MacLeod of MacLeod". Shots of shore from steamer as it pulls into pier. Passengers disembark. Castle and view from battlements. General views of castle and steamer. "Loch Eport. Island of Uist. The islanders were aboard early disposing of their homespun tweeds." Islanders on deck displaying their tweeds. They row away in smalll boats. "Lochboisdale. Over 300 Hebridean emigrants recently sailed from here to Canada." Village and people on quay. "My ain wee hoose - what the crofter clings to." General views of croft and children outside. "Castle Bay, Barra. During the herring fishing as many as 700 boats fish from here." Shots of the village from steamer as it nears the bay.

"West of the Outer Hebrides - now for the Atlantic." Shots of vessel in heavy seas passing Stac Lee. Cutaway to helmsman at wheel [1923?]. "St. Kilda in sight, the last bit of land between Scotland and America." Long shot of Boreray from Hirta. "They saw us first. What's the news?" Islanders row out to the 'SS Hebrides', ferry passengers to pier. "Landing." Passengers are rowed ashore to pier. "Timid - they never saw a movie cameraman before." Children run behind beached dinghy and hide their faces. "Also timid - but strong." Woman walks past, bent double under the heavy weight she carries on her back. "The natives have a sweet tooth." Sweets are distributed to the islanders. "Main Street, St. Kilda. 'Keep to the left'". Long shot down main street. "Sauchiehall Street looks quiet in comparison." Shot from moving tram of Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street. "Cleets built of stone for storing peat are scattered all over the island." General views of island. "The islanders at their various occupations. There is no 'burroo' here." [Posed] shot of Anne Gillies outside her door spinning, watched by a group of passengers. Close-up of woman and spinning-wheel. Malcolm MacDonald with cow on rope tether. Woman milking a cow. "Margaret Macdonald - the oldest inhabitant." Shot of an old lady muttering to herself, sitting talking to passengers. shots of the Post Office and lady posting a letter [clearly under instructions from cameraman] assisted by a small boy. "The nurse and doctor who look after the welfare of the natives." Shots of doctor and nurse walking down village street.

"Did you ever go bird catching? Watch this!" Visitors walk up past An Lag enclosures. St. Kilda men at 'The Gap' go over cliff-top on ropes [but only as a demonstration for the camera]. Long shot from Oiseval of three men at cliff-top and two or three halfway down on ropes. Giddy? Long shot panning right and diwn with two men just visible below. Fowler with a fulmar caught in snare. Close-up, high angle. Fowler takes snared fulmar and kills it against a rock. "Bird-catching is not a pastime, but an industry." Three men at cliff-top, one lighting a cigarette, one coiling a rope. The third man with a fulmar at his belt throws it to second man, who hands it back again.

"We showed the St. Kildans their first moving pictures. 'Going to the show'." Shots of nurse walking with two girls. Two mothers carrying infants. Mother standing with infant. "The show was free, but the girls were shy." Two visitors "walking" a girl past the camera as she tries to hide her face. Group of about twenty people walking past the factor's house with five dogs, en route to the filmshow in the schoolhouse. View of the party approaching the church from above with ships in the background. "The machine puzzled them." Children watch the operator demonstrating a "Brunette" cine projector. "A last look at the lone isle before re-embarking on board the good ship 'SS Hebrides'" Pan right past the ruined factor's store and schoolhouse, "Hebrides" in the bay. Strip cultivation of dug patches and rigs below houses, running towards the sea between walls. "Good-bye St. Kilda." Shots of Hirta and Stac Lee as the steamer pulls away.