Child of St Kilda


Norman John Gillies’ family are not to know their baby will be one of the last born a ‘Child of St Kilda‘. Hirta, the largest island of St Kilda, is an inhospitable environment, yet the council and the islanders adhere to long-held traditions and roles. As communication becomes more reliable and visitors bring news of a more tolerable way of life, will the islanders maintain their community? Will fierce weather, disastrous crops and their poor resistance to disease compel them to quit St Kilda for lives elsewhere?

Beth Waters travels to St Kilda to realise the area’s landscape, situation and history. From a sketchbook revealed at the back of the book, she engages readers about this little known area. She shares her research with us through the experience of Norman John Gillies. What was life like? Who were the islanders? How did they learn? What did they eat? How did they worship? What were the rules? What were the deprivations and privileges in living on St Kilda island?

‘Child of St Kilda‘ is an informative, fascinating, beautiful book. From its suggestive endpapers, through empathetic pictures and engaging information, we learn and understand so much about this area and its inhabitants. Bookwagon recommends ‘Child of St Kilda’ to readers of all ages.


Child of St Kilda

Beth Waters

(Child’s Play International)– hardback

Norman John Gillies is the ‘Child of St Kilda‘, born on Hirta, the largest island of St Kilda on 1925. He was one of the last babies to be born in St Kilda.
Beth Waters researched island life at the time of Norman John’s birth. She visited the island to immerse herself in its landscape and conditions. She spoke with Norman John’s family. What was Hirta like? Where is Hirta? Why are there no families living there now? How was a life on St Kilda different from other areas of Scotland, or Britain, at that time?
Through compartmentalising her information into sections, such as ‘School’, ‘Church’, ‘What People Did’, ‘Families’, ‘Visitors’, readers are able to have a sense of St Kilda’s life. A picture book format allows the writer to extend our information through her sketches, colour palette and empathetic scene setting. We have similar glimpses in a work like The Bird Within Me
‘Child of St Kilda‘ is a fascinating account of a different way of life, in a different time within a very isolated community. The wealth of information and variety in the visual storytelling are compelling. Bookwagon is proud to recommend ‘Child of St Kilda’.

Highly commended  in the UKLA Book Awards


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