, , , , ,


One of the first nature and bird photographers were brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton. Their adventures in the Outer Hebrides, and St Kilda were described in probably their finest book, written in 1897, With Nature And A Camera.

Richard started to write articles on nature and soon he wanted to illustrate these articles with his own photos of animals living free in nature. He “invented” the camouflage tent and discovered that birds are oblivious of other animals such as cows, horses or sheep. Which is why his first camouflage tent resembled a cow – The Stuffed Ox! 

Cherry became the world’s first professional nature photographer, and travelled the globe as a prolific film cameraman and producer. In 1910 with his brother in-law William Coates, he travelled to Kenya to photograph natives and wildlife and made an early documentary of Roosevelt in Africa. He created a Masai warrior lion hunt scene on film, the first of its kind.

Numerous natural history photographers have proclaimed them as founding fathers of their discipline; none, however, of the thirty-odd volumes published in their lifetimes is now in print. Therefore. I’d thoroughly recommend clicking on the link to With Nature And A Camera which will lead you to an online E-book of their St Kilda experience. There are almost 200 photographs to see as well as valuable insights into the St Kildeans and their way of life.


All the houses in St Kilda, excepting one of which more hereafter, are substantial one-storey stone structures with zinc roofs securely fastened down by iron bands. They contain two rooms, each of which is lighted by a small four-pane window. Although they have fair-sized chimneys, some of which are even surmounted by earthenware pots, they are generally full of smoke for some reason or other, which is, I think, to be sought in the peculiar conformation of the hills around them. They are far ahead in point of comfort and conveniences of nearly all the crofters’ dwellings I have been into in Harris, Uist, and other Hebridean Isles.

As the stranger walks along the path in front of the houses, he is struck by three things – the strong smell of Fulmar oil, the plenitude of birds’ wings and feathers on the midden heaps, and the numbers of birds’ eggs that adorn nearly every window.

image from source document

Whether they mistrust each other in Hirta or not I do not know, but I was somewhat surprised to find that in a community where crime is unknown they had ingeniously-constructed wooden locks on all their cow-house doors. The fact that the cowhouses were once dwelt in by the people themselves cannot be accepted as a satisfactory explanation, inasmuch as they have – instead of utilising the old locks for their dwelling-houses – made new ones, although oak and other kinds of hard wood are particularly scarce on the island.

The locks and keys are made entirely of wood, save for the two or three nails holding together the parts of the former. I bought one as a curiosity, and the illustrations above will to some extent explain its construction. A small piece of hard wood working up and down a perpendicular kind of box inside the lock drops into a mortise in the bolt, and effectually prevents it from being withdrawn until the hidden perpendicular bolt, for such it may be described, has been raised by the key, which is fashioned so as to fit into a part of it.


Truly wonderful stuff.