Highlands & Islands

Last surviving St Kildan Rachel Johnson dies

Rachel Johnson, third from right, with other St Kildans during an anniversary visit to Hirta in 1980 Image copyright NTS
Image caption Rachel Johnson, third from right, with other St Kildans during an anniversary visit to Hirta in 1980

The last surviving resident of St Kilda, a remote Scottish archipelago which was evacuated in 1930, has died.

Rachel Johnson was born on the main island of Hirta in July 1922 and was eight years old when she, her family and other islanders left the isle.

She settled in Clydebank and she lived there until she died this week.

St Kilda, which lies 40 miles (64km) west of North Uist in the Western Isles, was evacuated after life there became too difficult.

The National Trust for Scotland, which helps to manage St Kilda, said her death was "an end of an era".

The last 36 St Kildans were evacuated from the archipelago in August 1930, ending thousands of years of continuous habitation of the islands.

Life had become unsustainable and its residents found that they were increasingly having to rely on supplies from the mainland.

Image copyright NTS
Image caption Rachel Johnson, seen middle facing downwards, when she was a young girl on St Kilda in 1928 or 1929
Image copyright Bob Kerr
Image caption The last 36 islanders were taken off St Kilda in August 1930

Alexander Bennett, of the National Trust for Scotland, said: "It is a sad day and truly the end of an era to learn that the last of the native St Kildans has passed away.

"I was privileged enough to have met Rachel on a number of occasions. She was intensely private but extremely kindly.

"On behalf of the National Trust for Scotland and all who care for St Kilda, we offer our condolences to her family and many friends."

For centuries, St Kilda was part of a farm with another island, Pabbay, and the islanders paid rent to the chiefs of the Clan Macleod.

St Kildans grew crops and raised cattle and sheep. They also famously harvested seabirds for their meat, feathers and eggs from cliffs and sea stacks, such as 196m (643ft) Stac an Armin.

Since 1957, people have lived on the main island of Hirta on a temporary basis to operate a military radar station.

Hirta is also busy during the summer months with researchers, volunteers and tourists.

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