Ganmars, Fulnets and Green Sea-Going Chickens

In the early summer of 2018, my good friend Malcolm and I were lucky enough to be selected to take part in a NTS work party to carry out maintenance and conservation work on St Kilda.

The work party consisted of a team leader, a cook, and ten volunteers, and we would stay on the main island of Hirta for two weeks, living in the cottages once inhabited by the St Kildan people prior to their evacuation to the mainland in 1930.

Cottages Nos 4, 3, 2 and 1

To visit the archipelago of St Kilda is an amazing experience. But to stay there for two weeks takes it to whole new level. The remoteness and wildness of the islands got under our skin and in a very short space of time we became quite possessive of our new home. When visitors arrived on day trips to the island, it felt like they were intruders, and we were grateful come evening time when they left and we once again had the place to ourselves.

Village Bay on Hirta

Staying in the islander’s old stone cottages in Village Bay had the effect of immersing us in the amazing history of St Kilda. It gave us just a sense of what life might have been like to live there permanently. We were all completely smitten with the place.

Between painting, cleaning out field drains, beach cleaning, general maintenance and repairs, we had time to explore the spectacular topography of the island. Hirta sports the highest sea cliffs in the UK and, surrounded as it is by the Atlantic Ocean, it is home to enormous colonies of sea birds.

Sea cliffs on Hirta (for scale there are 3 people near the skyline)

Everyone on the work party had understandably come armed with cameras to record our time on the island. With this in mind we set ourselves that challenge of recreating an image of three islanders returning from the cliffs with a catch of fulmars. Sea birds formed a significant part of the islanders’ diet and the way they harvested the fulmars, gannets and puffins from the precipitous cliffs of the archipelago became the stuff of legend.

My friend Malcolm concocted a plan of how and where this photograph could be taken. He would need three of the men to play the part of the islanders and three of the ladies to play the part of the sea birds.

Taking our places for the photo shoot

The final image (Copyright Malcolm Lind)

I tracked Malcolm down to Cottage No5 which is used as the tool store and workshop. I interrupted his hard work and asked him to explained how he planned turn the ladies into Fulnets and Ganmars, two now extinct species of sea bird that were apparently related to Green Sea Chickens, once found on St Kilda.


Green Sea-Going Chickens arriving at St Kilda

The following link will explain all you need to know about Ganmars, Fulnets and Green Sea-Going Chickens. It will also illustrate the strange effects living on an isolated island out in the Atlantic Ocean can have on your mind.

Ganmars, Fulnets and Green Sea-Going Chickens

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