Quantities and Value of Commodities Exported from St Kilda, 1875


In the winter of 1876 a journalist, John Sands, was stranded on the island of St Kilda.

He had also visited the archipelago in the previous year and wrote an account of his experiences, Out of this World; or Life in St Kilda, which was published by MacLachlan & Stewart in 1888.

On page 59 of this book Sands provides figures for various items produced by the St Kildans in 1875 and I have used these to calculate the values that follow:


Cloth: 227 yards (Of 47 inches and thumb) at 2s 3d = £ 25 10s 9d

Blankets: 403 at 1s 10d = £ 36 18s 10d

Fulmar oil: 906 pints (each pint equal to 5 pints Imperial) at 1s = 906s = £ 45 6s 0d

Tallow: 17stones 6 pounds (each stone containing 24 lbs.) at 6s 6d = £ 5 12s 1½d

Black feathers: 87 stones 15 pounds (24lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 26 5s 9d

Grey feathers: 69 stones 19 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 5s = £ 17 8s 11½d

Cheese: 38 stones 6 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 11 9s 6d

Fish: 1080 “marketable” at 7d each = 7560d = 630s = £ 31 10s 0d


Total £200 1s 11d


These goods were produced by the seventy-five souls living in St Kilda in 1875, giving a per capita income of £2 13s 6d. which we may equate to about £1,650 today.


There were 18 households recorded in the 1871 census, suggesting an average household income of £11 2s 2d, or about £6,870 in today’s money.


Whilst not a vast sum of money, it is nevertheless indicative of the degree to which the people of St Kilda were participating in the wider economy at this time, and also of the prodigious quantities of birds that they were processing. The fact that they sold over 1000 fish in a singly year is, however, perhaps the biggest surprise?


An extract from Sands account account of being stranded may be read online: http://www.widegrin.com/vicmisc/st_kilda.htm


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