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Today we are going to visit St Kilda. St Kilda is a small group of islands in the north Atlantic, far to the west of Scotland. It is the home of tens of thousands of sea birds. In fact, St Kilda is one of the most important places for sea birds anywhere in the world. And for thousands of years, people lived on St Kilda, but they do not live there any more, as I will explain.
The traditional way of life on St Kilda was simple and hard. The people kept sheep and grew a few crops like barley. They hunted sea-birds for food. They did some fishing, but the sea around St Kilda is often very bad and fishing was dangerous. The people of St Kilda had little contact with the outside world. Once a year the representative of the landlord visited the island to collect rents. If the islanders needed help, they would light a big fire on the top of the main island, and hope that a passing ship would see it. Sometimes, they wrote messages and put the message inside a piece of wood. They threw the wood into the sea, and several weeks later someone walking on the shore in Scotland might find it.
Some big changes happened in the 19th century. A school opened on the island, where the children learned Gaelic (which was their own language), and English (which was a foreign language for them) and arithmetic. Small numbers of tourists started to visit the islands during the summer. The tourist boats brought things which the islanders needed, and the islanders made simple souvenirs to sell to the tourists. Some of the islanders left the islands, to go to Australia, and later another group emigrated to Canada. The number of people on St Kilda had never been more than about 180. By the end of the 19th century, the number had fallen to less than 100.
During the First World War, the British Navy had a wireless station on St Kilda, and on one exciting day a German submarine arrived and shelled the island. No-one was killed, but the Navy’s wireless station was destroyed. The Navy base on St Kilda made communication with the outside world easy, and Navy ships were able to bring supplies to the island. But when the war ended, the Navy base closed and life for the people of St Kilda became hard again. There were shortages of food in some years, and there was no way to get seriously ill people to hospital. By 1930, there were only 36 people left on St Kilda. They all signed a letter to the government saying that they wanted to leave before the winter storms made it impossible for a ship to reach St Kilda. And on 29 August 1930, they all left and went to mainland Scotland, and their houses, and the tiny church and school were empty.
Today, the National Trust for Scotland owns St Kilda. During the summer, a warden and volunteers carry out conservation work on the old houses. You can visit St Kilda during the summer by boat from Scotland. The trip takes 14 hours, or longer in bad weather, and sometimes the boat cannot reach St Kilda at all. When you get there you will find no cafes or restaurants, no cars or tourist coaches, no public toilets or souvenir shops, just the ruins of the houses where the St Kilda people used to live, and sheep, and thousands and thousands of sea birds. The islands of St Kilda are still the islands on the edge of the world.
Источник подкаста: listen-to-english.