St Kilda Mailboat
West Highland Museum

By the late 1890s, a unique system of mail dispatch had developed on the remote Scottish archipelago of St Kilda.

Letters were enclosed in a waterproof receptacle, usually a sheep’s bladder, attached to a homemade buoy, and launched into the sea in the hope that they would wash ashore on the mainland. It was hoped that whoever happened upon them would pass the letters to the intended recipients. The mail was sent with the intention of finding land in the Outer Hebrides Isle of Lewis, but, depending on the current, it could take weeks or months for letters to reach their destination. There are records of mailboats even washing ashore as far afield as Norway.

Life of these remote islands was harsh and in August 1930 the island was evacuated on the request of the islanders and the archipelago was abandoned. This mailboat came into the museum’s care sometime before 1938.

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Date: 1890s
Materials : Leather, Wood
Size : 30cm

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