Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The St. Kilda Connection

We’ve probably mentioned before somewhere that there was once a field in Stalmine called ‘All Carr Furlong’. It appeared in the following grant, recorded in ‘The Royal Forest of Lancaster’ by R. Cunliffe Shaw: “All Carr furlong between Keldbreckwell and the ditch of Stalmine grange with the meadow belonging was given by Henry of Stalmine son of William Beaufort.”
Actually, All Carr Furlong isn’t the important bit here, but, just for the record, it was probably the field highlighted in blue on the map below. (Yes, we know it’s not an accurate Ordnance survey map…but we didn’t want to break any copyrights here so we drew up our own.)


No…what we’re interested in is the ‘Keldbreckwell’, which almost certainly got its name from the fact that it was a well and it stood on the breck (the Norse word for hillside) near our potential keeill platform.

Possibly…

That would make it a holy well, because of its connection to the potential keeill, which is where the St. Kilda in the title of this article comes in. You see Keldbreckwell might be a corruption of ‘The Well on Kilda’s Breck’; St. Kilda being the saint to whom the keeill was possibly dedicated…the well bit on the end being…well…the well. So, you’re probably asking: “Who exactly was St. Kilda and what has she/he got to do with the Wyre?”
We’re glad you asked, otherwise this would have been a very short article. (Bet you wish you hadn’t now.)
Here’s what Dr. M. F. Brewster’s informative thesis on ‘Gildas the Wise, St. Kilda, and Dumbarton’s Neglected Saint’ has to say: “Most people in Scotland will tell you that there was no such person and that the name applies only to a remote island group to the northwest of the Outer Hebrides.”

That buggers that up then. However, on closer inspection, there is a connection between St. Kilda (as in the group of Scottish islands at any rate) and the Wyre after all.
This is St. Kilda, the island group:


(Yes…correct again. That’s a drawing, not a photograph. The original photograph we had was taken from some tourist brochure or other, and copyright infringement was rearing its ugly head once again so we had to redraw it.)

Anyhow, at least, that’s a bit of St. Kilda.
Looks like something out of Tolkien, don’t you think? If it seems familiar, then think no further than the delicious Kate Humble and her recent television series about the place.
(Yes…I know I’m being a bit sad referring to Kate Humble as delicious…but let’s face it, anybody who sits next to Bill Oddie all day is bound to look attractive by comparison.)
As imposing and uninhabitable as the place appears, believe it or not, St. Kilda was once inhabited.
The first account of the island can be found in 1697, written by Martin Martin (who was obviously christened by a vicar with a stutter) who said that the island was called St. Kilda by the seamen visiting it, but was called Hirt by the residents on it.
There was also: a “very large well near the town” which was, of course, called St. Kilder’s well.
Then there’s this description of the island’s lively community, by George Mackenzie in 1675: “The exercise they affect the most is climbing of steep rocks. He is the prettiest man who ventures upon the most inaccessible, though all they gain is the eggs of the fowls and the honour to die, as many of their ancestors, by breaking their necks.


Yes, life on St. Kilda was fun, especially during the Victorian period when the inhabitants were starving to death.
In fact, by 1930 the last of the locals had given up the fight and were evacuated, and the whole place has been a ghost-rock ever since, populated by empty cleits (the stone built cottages) and grateful seabirds.

Which is all well and fine…but what has it got to do with the Wyre? Well, here’s the thing. During those years of habitation, the islands themselves were considered so remote, so dangerous to visit, so destitute and pointless, that nobody, but nobody, ever wanted to go anywhere near the place.
Nobody, that is, apart from Fleetwood trawler men.
Fleetwood trawler men are a breed apart. They laugh in the face of danger and tweek the nose of deadly nor’ westers and even deadlier rocks. Besides, there was good hake fishing off St. Kilda, and if there’s something that Fleetwood was good at, it was catching and selling hake.
As a result, our local Fleetwood heroes would deliver letters to the islands, sometimes taking them food parcels and other exciting presents as well (most of which, no doubt, stank of fish, but beggars can’t be choosers).
Before the Fleetwood trawler men took up their delivery positions, the mail at St. Kilda was conducted by considerably more primitive methods. A small, wooden boat (no larger than a toy suitable for bath time really) was attached to a buoy, and then left to drift in the current all the way to the mainland. Exactly how successful this service proved to be it’s hard to tell, but the Fleetwood trawler men probably had a better track record on the whole.
Not that the going was easy, of course, as the photograph below, showing one of the many Fleetwood trawlers (on this occasion the Spinningdale) that met their ends on St. Kilda’s rocks, demonstrates:


(Yes, yes, alright, it’s another drawing. More potential copyright problems.)
However, as fascinating as all of this no doubt is, we seemed to have wandered from our original point, that being the well at Stalmine and it’s St. Kilda connection.
The local name for St. Kilda, as we mentioned before, was Hirt, which, by a coincidence, is a Norse word, meaning ‘well’. And, apparently (although it’s difficult to see how one could possibly transform into the other, but this is what the experts reckon) the name that the offshore visitors gave the islands (i.e. St. Kilda) is a corruption of said ‘Hirt’. (Yes…we couldn’t figure that one out either, despite putting on our best Scottish accents.)
Therefore, if the well in Stalmine, that is Keldbreckwell, is a corruption of Kilda-breck-well, then the Kilda itself is a corruption of Hirt, which, of course, means ‘well’, so the name of the Stalmine well becomes the well on the breck of the well.
(Actually, there's a much greater chance that Keldreckwell is a corruption of 'Killbreckwell' which means 'the well belonging to the grain drying kiln on the slope of a hill', which, taking into account our current archaeological excavations at the Grange Farm watermill, makes a lot more sense than a keeill standing on the platform.)
Ever get the feeling you’re going round in decreasing circles?
Same here, which might explain why I’m getting dizzy, so I reckon it’s time I stopped.

52 comments:

Andrew said...

I am now well educated about the name of the street where I live and I thank you.

Brian Hughes said...

Andrew,

You're welcome. (I thought it might interest you, to be honest.)

RVB said...

St Kilda does look like it came out of one of JR Tolkein's novels...except there's druggies, prostitutes, delinquents and a really trashy theme park cunningly disguised as a relic.

Jayne said...

Poor old St Gildas (with a silent S)!

Brian Hughes said...

That'd be the Australian St. Kilda then, Reuben. The one in Scotland's populated only by seabirds and Kate Humble's film crew nowadays.

Jayne,

I don't know...the idea of only existing in people's imaginations sounds quite good fun to me.

John said...

Excellent post, truly, although I feel a bit dizzy myself. Maybe next time don't bother wasting time explaining the illustrations and draw a diagram explaining your translations! By the time we got to 'the well belonging to the grain drying kiln on the slope of a hill', I forgot what it was we were discussing. :0)


Now I've gone back through weeks of posts trying to figure out where we are talking about, and just tried my patience instead. Is this the same well that exists opposite your current excavation, and if so,then where is the excavation on this map? And where did the keill platform come from? Did I miss something?

I'm not a local, so it would be great if you can explain these things a bit more. I really am trying to follow along with everything, but it's always morning here when you post these things!

Maybe this will all make sense after some coffee and hobnobs?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John

"Is this the same well that exists opposite your current excavation?"

That's the one.

"...where is the excavation on this map?"

Opposite the well. (Actually, it's the place we've got marked as a 'possible keeill platform'. We like to recycle sites round these parts.)

"And where did the keill platform come from?"

You mean 'from where did the keeill platform etc.'? To be honest, it was one of the suggestions put forward concerning the various possibilities behind the platform before we began digging. It seems highly unlikely now, of course, but the trouble is I write these things way in advance, forget they're on my hard drive, suddenly remember them after several months, decide to post them and...well...this is the result.

"I'm not a local, so it would be great if you can explain these things a bit more."

I write them, and half the time I don't understand them myself.

Anyhow, happy birthday y' bad tempered old git. (Not exactly sure what day it's on, but it must be sometime around now.) Stick a candle on that Hobnob and make a wish: "Please birthday angel, tell that drunken old sot in the Wyre stop drivelling so much and get to the point."

John said...

"Please birthday angel, tell that drunken old sot in the Wyre stop drivelling so much and get to the point."

Brian,
Actually, I'll wish for a MINI cooper... that wish has a chance of coming true. :0)

Just kidding... you don't ramble all that much, but it can be distracting during those posts where one needs to really, really pay attention.

As for the Keill platform, I don't recall the details of this particular one... is it in the History of the Wyre book? I'm sure you had a reason to believe there were a Keill here, and there may have been one. As your quick to point out, people tended to build on top of otherwise occupied sites, as those sites were probably good places to build.

And 'Keld' could have been a bastardization of the word Keill, as much as of the word Kilda. Or even both, correct? The meaning could easily have changed over time, given different dialects, etc.

Now I'm rambling. I really should have that cuppa before attempting your site. :0)


It's the 16th, by the way, and yours is the 28th, or thereabouts, right?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

John said...

PS Have you explored this well of which you speak? I can't remember, so can I ask if this is actually a spring, or truly a dug well? I wonder because it is on a hillside, which seems a funy place to dig a well... meaning, digging at the bottom of the slope may actually tap the same water supply and save some digging. Also, how long ago were wells actually dug, so a spring may have popped out of the hillside a long time ago.

And didn't you mention a stream or river running nearby the old mill,so again, why dig a well?

So many questions... or am I just confused?

Cheers, JOHn :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John

"As for the Keill platform, I don't recall the details of this particular one..."

It's highly possible that I haven't actually mentioned it anywhere, either in print or on this site, before. I vaguely recall talking about it at one of the Wyre Archaeology meetings, but other than that...who knows? I'm old and I get confused easily.

"I'm sure you had a reason to believe there were a Keill here..."

So do I, but I'm buggered if I can remember what it was now.

"And 'Keld' could have been a bastardization of the word Keill, as much as of the word Kilda. Or even both, correct? "

Correct...or possibly neither. Which is why we're digging the platform up I suppose.

"...yours is the 28th, or thereabouts, right?"

Something like that. I prefer not to think about it.

"Have you explored this well of which you speak?"

Sort of. It's a bit overgrown at the moment so we couldn't actually find it. We'll have another look when winter draws in properly. (We should still be digging this platform by then, I reckon.)

"I ask if this is actually a spring, or truly a dug well?"

Haven't got a clue unless one of us accidentally falls down it.

"Also, how long ago were wells actually dug, so a spring may have popped out of the hillside a long time ago."

Wells have been dug since before the Roman invasion up to almost present day, so it's highly likely.

"...didn't you mention a stream or river running nearby the old mill,so again, why dig a well?"

You haven't seen the state of the water in the stream.

"So many questions... or am I just confused?"

Dot com. Sorry, that was a reference to something on the telly, so now you really will be confused dot com.

Anyway, happy birthday next Tuesday and if you're buying Mini Coopers I'll have one as well.

John said...

How could you haul your digging, surveying and excavating equipment in a MINI? Nah... you need an old green pickup truck named Betsy that kind of makes a clankety clank noise even with the engine off, but that handles the off-road without a complaint.

Thanks for answering me questions! Look forward to this ever expanding expedition!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

I wouldn't use it for hauling equpiment about in. I'd use it for buggering off on holiday in. (Note to self: Preposition overload. Must seek liquid refreshment.)

John said...

Me again,

it just occured to me that as a part of the historical landscape, especially a landscape in which there are many possibilities, should you not be exploring the well as well?

I mean, wells are usefull, and it's location to the dig site could be a clue as to what has occured there and by whom.

My opinion is that no rock should be lewft unturned in your search for clues! Of course, I don't mean that literally... if you tried to turn the rocks at Stonehenge, you may hurt yourself... or get in trouble.

Get a team out there, and report back. We're all anxiously awaiting the next development!

Cheers, again, JOHN :0)

Next time I'm in the UK would be a good time for you to take a jolly Holiday. We can meet halfway. :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

The well's on the other side of the road...which means it's on land not currently allocated for investigation, although that might be remedied at some point. All the same, we'd have to find it first, and that side of the road's a bit of a jungle at the moment.

As for a holiday...that's something that happens to other, more fortunate people I'm afraid.

Ozfemme said...

I'm so confused by the comments that I forgot how confused I was by the post. I think I have to start from scratch. That is all.

Brian Hughes said...

Bella,

Personally I reckon I'll have a good scratch, and then restart myself.

Jayne said...

St Gildas is real I tell you!
Everytime I click my ruby red slippers he appears and proves his existence....

Yes, kettle is on...

Brian Hughes said...

No Jayne...you're thinking of St. Hilda, who wears red stilhettos and is the patron saint of transvestites. (Make mine an Irish coffee, will y'?)

John said...

Brian,

How's this for a coincidence?

I was watching Smallville tonight, and I nearly fell off my chair when Lex Luthor said the song "I'll be in Scotland before ye" was actually named "The Birds (or Birches) of St. Kilda's". I thought I misheard him, but he went on to explain that St. Kilda's is a small little island off the west coast of Scotland, and that there's nothing there now but a bird sanctuary!

Also, for fans of the show, the Luthor Castle was originally on St, Kilda's, and moved stone by stone to America.

They refer to St. Kilda's as being Scottish, but beside that, your post has been verified by American television.

How about that?!?!

JOHN :0)

PS Gotta run, ;lex is on his way to St. Kilda's... which will probably be played by Catalina Island off the coast of California. :0)

Feral Beast said...

I like.

Brian Hughes said...

John,

He'll probably run into Kate Humble there.

Mr. Beast,

Excellent. I must be doing something right then...

Jayne said...

Who is this Kate Humble and why is Bill Oddie not singing Funky Chicken?

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

Kate Humble is Bill Oddie's sidekick on Spring Watch and Autumn Watch.

And surely you mean the Funky Gibbon...although you might be right when I think about it.

Jayne said...

That's the one, knew it was something that reminded me of a garden variety politician.

Brian Hughes said...

The Goodies finest hour. I almost bought that record when it first came out...then I realised that 25 pence worth of gobstoppers was an infinitely more mature and practical thing to purchase.

Andrew said...

Oh god, The Goodies. Wondered what you and Jayne were banging on about. My street and the suburb of St Kilda were named after a ship called the The Lady of St Kilda. I don't think it was built in your St Kilda though, most unlikely.

Brian Hughes said...

Andrew,

It might not have been built there, but it might well have travelled there on a regular basis. There used to be a steamboat ran from Fleetwood to Douglas called the Lady of Man for the same reason. Wouldn't it be a weird coincidence if your area was named after a Fleetwood trawler?

The Actor said...

My dog is called Lex

Brian Hughes said...

Martyn,

They named a Science Fiction programme after your dog?

The Actor said...

No, silly, his full name is Alexander Lughnassad Herne. It's a spiritual thing. :)

Brian Hughes said...

Named after Mrs. Merton then?

Jayne said...

Andrew, St Kilda in Melb was named after the ship which got it's name from the island what Brian was yakking about in (the original) post.
So in a roundabout way, that's the Melb connection to the island St Kilda.

Ozfemme said...

So do they have lovely cake shops on the island then?

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

But why was the ship named after the islands in the first place? And what was it doing in Melbourne?

Bella,

You might find a few rock cakes.

John said...

I wish I could remember the original post at this point. There must be someting special about this island, besides the Lex Luthor connection. It's inaccesability (now that's a tough word to spell first thing in the morning)... it's difficulty in getting to would make it a great secret base... or a place to hide secrets.

Anyways, it's funny that we're really talking about Keldbreckwell, which may have nothing to do with the island or the saint. If WA ever crosses the road, the well may provide some important clues.

Who knows? Maybe Keldbreckwell is just "Old Brick Wall" in the local dialect?

JOHN :0)

PS Keep this post alive! We're going for the record!

Andrew said...

Yes Jayne, why was the ship named after St Kilda? Oh bugger it, you are an invalid now. I will search myself.

Brian Hughes said...

John,

St Kilda's just a big base for puffins and BBC ornathological documentary makers nowadays. And I see what you mean about 'going for the record'. Pity it's going to drop off the bottom of the board in a few days time.

Andrew,

Jayne can still visit Google if she types with her nose.

John said...

Brian,
I'm pretty sure the last record was 38 comments, so in saying that, we may have achieved the record itself.

Call Guinness! Drink Guinness!

Heck, let's all raise a Guinness for this site, and all those who keep these posts alive with intelligent discussion and credible theories and talk about Australia!

Hear, hear, and cheers, JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

The Lady of St Kilda was named after the island coz the owners' missus liked the cut of the jib of St Kilda after she popped in for a spot of afternoon tea in 1810.
Info HERE.

Jayne said...

Sorry forgot to add the ship popped in for a visit in 1841 when the first land sales were happening.
What I'd give for a TARDIS to go back to those land sales and scoop up a few choice bush blocks....

Brian Hughes said...

John,

We're currently halfway to the number of daily comments left on the 'Garibaldi Biscuit Tribute Blog'. It's a fine achievement.

Jayne,

Cheers for that. I learn something new every day. (Mainly because I forget whatever I learned the day before after twenty-four hours.)

John said...

"Mainly because I forget whatever I learned the day before after twenty-four hours."

Well said, Brian, but haven't you said that before?

Just kidding. Having a poor memory does have some benefits, though... you can read the same book over and over, and enjoy it just the same... as long as you don't remember the ending.


Jayne, nice link! Interesting that St. Kilda may be derived from the norse for "Holy Well", as Brian derived. So could the well near the excavation also be a Holy Well, and have nothing to do with the island except for a common lingual lineage?

Food for thought, JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

I can state that the only Holy Well near the Melbourne-based St Kilda would have been the spitoon in Bojangles night club near the sea baths.
(waiting for Andrew's memories to kick in now)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

Having a poor memory also has its drawbacks, such as re-reading a Harry Potter book because you've forgotten how awful it was.

Jayne,

I've forgotten what I was going to say now.

John said...

Brian,
Don't go starting in about Harry Potter now! Some of us like those books, y' know. And just because 90% of the ideas presented in the Potter books have apperaed elsewhere, does not mean they were stolen. Elves, goblins, etc are in th public domain and the public consciousness. Show me something substantial before making plagiarism claims, will ya?

The ideas are old, but she presents them in a new and fresh way, and captured the hearts of young readers in teh process. Actually, she created 10's of thousands of young readers. I'm sure that childhood literacy has dropped since the Potter books ended, although there is a plethora of copycats and wannabes out there in the bookstores now.

Hey, this post is still going! Call Guinness!

JOHN ;0)

Brian Hughes said...

"Hey, this post is still going! Call Guinness!"

Nah...I'd rather drink one. Here's to J.K., Hogwarts and their rival school St. Custards.

John said...

Brian,
I'll buy you a Guinness when I get to the Wyre... in exchange for a magical history tour, of course.

Where's St. Custard's? is that in Terry Pratchett's world? Speaking of wytch, why don't you do a post about the connections between those books and the Wyre and any archeological significance?

There must be a good post in there somewheres? Maybe you can have something for us by Hogswatch?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

"...why don't you do a post about the connections between those books and the Wyre?"

Might do at some point John, although not right at the moment. Got lots on right now. As for St. Custards, it's Nigel Molesworth's school...now there's a series of books worth reading.

John said...

"Nigel Molesworth's school"

Ne'er herd of 'em, Brian. Tell me more!

Brian Hughes said...

John,

If I had the time I would. Unfortunately I'm absolutely bogged down with excavation reports right now...so here's a link instead:


http://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Nigel_Molesworth

Ann oDyne said...

poor John, to not have The Curse Of St.Custards to worship through his schooldays.

Brian Hughes said...

Annie,

I suspect, like so many people nowadays, John attended the rival school of Hogwarts...