Islanders and Highlanders ~ Gillies’ & Lefebvrist’s

Last glimpse of a St Kildan’s way of life
The Times, January 15, 2008

For most people, St Kilda is remote and mysterious, a windswept outcrop in the North Atlantic which against all odds supported human habitation for more than 4,000 years. But for Norman John Gillies, the last survivor of its tiny population, a new edition of a black-and-white film offers a glimpse of a lost way of life that was once familiar to him.
Britain’s Loneliest Isle was shot in summer, 1928, two years before St Kilda island was evacuated. This unique 16-minute documentary has been incorporated in The Island Tapes, a DVD which mixes archive footage with music in an evocation of Hebridean life.
When the original film was made, the islanders still clung to the hope that St Kilda – cut off from the Scottish mainland for nine months a year – had a viable future, eked from their few cattle, and the woollen goods the islanders made. Most movingly, for Mr Gillies, 82, it includes footage of his own mother at a spinning wheel, her shawl wrapped around her head against the fierce wind.
Mary Gillies’s death, in February 1930, would be the catalyst for the departure of the last 36 inhabitants. She fell ill while she was pregnant but storms prevented her leaving for a few days, and by the time she was finally taken from St Kilda her fate was sealed. She and her baby daughter died at Glasgow’s Stobhill hospital.
“I remember that well, as if it happened yesterday. Me standing down at the seashore and waving to her as she was rowed out in a boat with her shawl on and her waving back,” said Mr Gillies, who has lived with his wife in a village near Ipswich for the last 60 years.
His mother’s death had far-reaching consequences for the islanders. “They realised that they were in a hopeless position if anybody took really ill. That was one of the things. All households had to sign that they would leave St Kilda. That happened on 29 August, 1930,” said Mr Gillies.
“For the younger people it was an opportunity to do things which would help their entire lives. To the older inhabitants it was almost as if they had cut off their right hands, to have left their island home. I remember being on the boat and recall some of the older ones at the rear of HMS Hairbell, which took us of. Them waving to the island, until is was out of sight.”
Though only five when the island was evacuated, the last St Kildan still has evocative memories. “I can remember when I used to go into the church with my parents and how I used to be carried by my grandmother on her back when she went milking in the glen. One of my most treasured memories is of my mother calling me home to dinner, when I was playing at one end of the island or the other,” he said.
Mr Gillies left Morvern to join the Royal Navy in 1943, serving on torpedo boats which were based at Felixstowe. One Sunday, he accepted the invitation of a Free Church minister to attend a service in a nearby village. It was there he met his wife, Ivy: “That’s how I came to settle here, a St Kildan in Suffolk.”
In the film a series of images show women with weather-beaten faces staring into the camera, children hiding behind a rowing boat and men plucking sea birds from the cliffs to eat.
The original silent movie is scripted through a series of cards which adopt an ever more patronising tone as the Glaswegian filmmakers take in the realities of St Kildan life. In one sequence after a make shift picture house is installed in one of the cottages the film describes the villager’s reactions. “We showed the St Kildans their first moving pictures”, “The show was free, but the girls were shy”, “The machine puzzled them”.
After they left, many of the islanders settled near Lochaline, Morvern. “It was very hard and difficult for the older people. St Kilda had been their way of life. They’d found it hard – but everyone had to knuckle down and get on with it,” said Mr Gillies.

Anne leaves her stamp on Skye
Tuesday 15 December 2009 Morningstar
Britain’s longest-serving sub-postmistress will stamp her last parcel this month after a career spanning seven decades.
Mail was still delivered by horse-drawn carriage and telegrams were at the height of their popularity when Anne Gillies began serving customers on the Isle of Skye in 1948.
Now, after 61 years at Staffin Post Office, the 84-year-old will retire at the end of December.
She will hand over the reins to her daughter Fiona MacDonald, who has been helping her run the store in the past few months.
Ms Gillies said she had taken the postal industry’s many technological advances in her stride.
“The computer was just something else to learn,” she said.
“I didn’t think too much about it. You just get on with it.
“At the end of the day, you’re just providing a service to people.
“The Post Office is just as important here as it was in 1948.
“It’s still just as important to the local community.”

Thanks for inspirational tale
Sunday 20 December 2009 letters page Morningstar

I’d like to thank the Morning Star team for bringing us the article Anne Gillies leaves her stamp on Skye (M Star December 16).
It is a beautiful story which I found inspiring to my own workplace role of service to a community.
Stefan Gillies Witham

27-August-2012 — Catholic News Agency
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND, August 24 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A traditionalist religious order that used to be part of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X has received formal recognition as a diocesan institute within the Catholic Church.

Official Statement from the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

On this festive solemnity of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God body and soul into Heaven our spiritual joy and fraternal rejoicing is great indeed: Beneath Her mantle and on this occasion of Her solemn feast, today, 15 August, 2012, our community, The Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, has been granted canonical recognition as a Clerical Institute of Diocesan Right by His Lordship the Right Reverend Dom Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen.

We invite you to rejoice with us on this solemn feast of Our Lady through Whose Perpetual Succour, we have received a great favour from Our Lord.

We also announce the community’s public profession of vows that will take place in Our Lady’s Chapel (at the head of the pier) Stronsay, on 22 August, feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 18.15 (6.15 p.m.).

The profession will be celebrated by His Lordship, the Right Reverend Dom Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen.

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