round stone walls gather in the valley of Village bay, St Kilda

St Kilda: of mice and wren

above image Gunnie Moberg: Stone sheep enclosures, St Kilda 1982

Gunnie Moberg made her home in the islands of Orkney. Gunnie’s love of islands was exhibited in the images she made of Orkney and Shetland and Faroe – the subjects of the last show she toured,  ‘Three Island Groups’.

For Gunnie one island group held a particular fascination, a remote place with tall sea cliffs and small native mice. It is the 17th of  July 1982 and Gunnie is realising an ambition as she boards the MV Hirta in Stromness harbour bound for Hirta, St Kilda. In extracts from her write up in The Orcadian (2 Dec. 1982) we can join Gunnie on that journey. We pick up MV Hirta as she leaves Scalpay.

‘Early the next morning we come through the narrow sound of Harris and there 60 miles ahead lay St Kilda. Sails were put up to keep the 50 feet Hirta steady and the mist kept coming an going in sheets. There was great excitment as the island group appeared on the radar screen. But even without radar you would have known you were getting near by the many seabirds starting to congregate around us. The lovliest of these were the skeins of gannets flying overhead.

We sailed into Village Bay on Wednesday July 21 in the late afternoon. It was an unforgettable sight, with the 900 feet peaks of Hirta, while to the western side of the bay, the island of Dun, which is separated by a narrow channel, rises to over 570 feet.’

a view of Village bay, Hirsta, St Kilda, showing the stone walls and the dip of the valley leading to the sea and the shelter of stacs

image Gunnie Moberg: Village Bay, Hirta, St Kilda 1982

Gunnie spent a memorable seven days on St Kilda. We are looking forward to coming across the other images she made of that trip. Particularly the belly down cliff top St Kilda wren portraits she describes in the article.

‘Climbing the hill east of Conachair I came across a succession of vertigo inducing views. Lying on my stomach, I watched the cliffs come alive with birds. Though the sun rose a vivid red out of the sea, Boreray remained wrapped in its own shroud. I managed however to shoot a film of young St Kilda wrens playing only yards in front of me.’

On her way back from St Kilda Gunnie left the group and the MV Hirta at Stornaway and made for Ulapool then Applecross where she was on a photographic assignment. The job was to take stills on the set of the film ‘Ill fares the land’ the adaptation of Tom Steel’s book ‘The Life and Times of St Kilda’.

below film stills Gunnie Moberg ‘Ill fares the land’ 1982
An old man and a young boy are silhoutted against a broody sky and shimmering sea

A man and boy stand together, the boy has a rope for being lowered down the cliffs around his waist

Ill Fares the Land  was directed by Bill Bryden. The cast included Fulton Mackay as Finlay Gillies.

One thought on “St Kilda: of mice and wren

  1. Pingback: First bat ever seen on St Kilda island | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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