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MARYCLARE WRITES TO US FROM UIST, 1730/Deena Linett St KMa (old Gaelic name, Hirta) is a group offour islands 110 miles west of mainland Scotland in the Atlantic Ocean, about fifty-five miles west ofHarris, in the Outer Hebrides. It was evacuated at the behest of its inhabitants on 29 August 1930, after more than four thousand years ofhabitation. Readers might need to know that a stac is a rocky outcrop in the ocean. We have word of a bad time on Hirta. You remember winter two years back the year of the pox and storms. With her husband my sister Mary Rose had seven children—two thrived. One of those, my nephew Martin and his pa and other men and boys were rowed out to Stac an Armin to take razorbills and gannets, puffins and guillemots. Then came the pox and laid low all the men who could handle the boats. They haven't got a proper harbor so in stormy weather and in winter they must take the boats out of the water. The men were on the stac, or sick the women as well, so no one could go out to bring them back. The gales are fierce off the Atlantic. I saw a map once, four years back. It hasn't got her island or the stac. Even fine cartography on vellum The Missouri Review · 237 doesn't show the way the land faUs when you round a curve or how white stone marks your way home from a dance under the moon. They stayed the winter on that stac. I think about that when I'm warm by my fire, the wind and the waves grinding it to crumbs of stone beneath them and the wind going day and night. They tied the boys to the men so they wouldn't blow into the ocean. Galey days songs argued with the wind and rain and heartened them a bit. Then skies would clear but there was nothing to eat, only birds and eggs, not a berry or a bit of green all the year long. Sometimes they fancied saUs. It must have been hard to see it was just the fog moving off and not a body for mUes. Next year the boat came round to Hirta and found so many had died, and were told about the journey. They went to pick them off that stac and bring them home. Mary Rose says they decided then, her man and the boys, to come to us at Uist. I make her fruit pies, fancy lace and suchUke. She takes a little interest 138 · The Missouri Review Deena Linett in the garden but they are not at home. They miss the sea as it looks when light pools on your own green voe and the waves are stiU. They miss walking up the hill to the cairns that mark the spot their bairns are buried. You come to know the waves from your own island. Now the boys fight. The older cut his brother with a glass. Mary Rose says she'd go back right enough but who knows how they could live so far out now. Deena Linett The MISSOURI REVIEW · 239 ALMA ROSE WRITES FROM ST KILDA, 1884/Deena Linett On the carriage on my way, blots of dark on the hills —not cloud, though they contend and sweep whole ranges at their whim—heather before it wakes, which being strange to hills like these and far from home, I didn't recognize. Not a little Ul, I fell asleep and dreamed a woman at a weU, a bad sign that, they tell me, but I so ill it didn't matter. I did not fear to die that day. At sea I was much sicker yet; it took more than a day to get here, if ifs a day while light remains. Thank God for eyes: I fancy that they do not want to rest, but everywhere they seek detail —and all the weathers colour rock: clear days the stone is grey or blue, like seas stopped and quite beautiful, but in the mist—a sight most common here—it's almost...


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