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St Kilda, The Lonely Islands (clip)

Historical documentary from the 1960s about St Kilda

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The island of Hirta, St Kilda - its birdlife and the restoration work by the National Trust for Scotland. This clip tries to reconstruct the lost way of life on St Kilda and features a dramatic reconstruction of a young man re-enacting the famous St Kilda courtship ritual on the tip of “Lovers Rock”, balancing on one heel, leaning out over the sea far below. This ritual was supposed to ensure that he would make a good fowler (birdcatcher) and therefore be able to provide for his wife and family. This was the first film that Films of Scotland produced for television.

Questions & Activities


  • How many hours of sermons does the film say people listened to each week?
  • Did the St Kildan's have a priest and if not who gave the sermons?
  • Who is the woman in the film and what role did the women play on the island?
  • How does the use of editing and shot types add to the tension?
  • What do you think it would feel like to live in a place where you only heard the news once a year?
  • Why do you think St Kilda was made into a World Heritage site?


Citizenship / PSE: Show the the clip of the "lovers Rock" initiation to the class without the sound, and ask what they think is happenning. What examples of initiation ceremonies and rites of passage can you think of, in our modern culture and others around the world?

English / Creative Writing: Write a letter from the perspective of the nurse when she first arrived on St Kilda.

Geography: Research Scotland's World Heritage sites and why they are so significant.

Geography / Rivers and Coasts / Social History: Research on the internet into life on St Kilda, where the people came from, how they lived, how they divided their activities and why the population declined.

English / Creative Writing: Why did the visitors want a St Kilda postmark? Ask the class to research the curious history of the St Kilda post and to write a story about it.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-153-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 0911
Date 1967
Genre Documentary, Tv Doc, Historical, Drama Doc, Sponsored
School Subject Religious and Moral Education, Geography, English, Physical Education, Social History
Subject Matter Social Education, Rivers and Coasts
Who Christopher Mylne (director), Films of Scotland (production company), National Trust for Scotland (sponsor)
Where St Kilda
Event Festival
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 4:10
Film Length 37:22