Farewell to Hirta

for piano

Francis Pott

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for piano

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Composer Francis Pott
Year of Composition 1985
Duration ca.7'
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-fp1fth1


Hirta is not a person, but an island; more properly several. The archipelago of St Kilda (Hirta in Gaelic) lies some fifty miles west of the Outer Hebrides. Beyond lies only Rockall. On the main island of this otherwise ‘ultima thule’ lived for centuries a uniquely interbred and self-supporting community of seldom more than two hundred. St Kilda boasts the highest sea cliffs in Great Britain, its summit rising fourteen hundred feet sheer out of the Atlantic. The islands present one of the most awesome sights in the world when approached in rough weather, and form a fitting backdrop to the human tragedy with which they are linked. With the encroachment of ocean-going tourism in the late nineteenth century the islanders experienced humiliation by creatures as from another world. They succumbed mortally to the newly imported common cold , they discovered the meaning of material wealth, and with it envy, they lost their dignity and innocence, and their young began to leave for the mainland and beyond. Survival had depended upon an astoundingly perilous harvesting of seabirds from the vertiginous cliffs using primitive abseiling techniques. As the able-bodied began to set their faces towards the wider world beyond, so gradually died a ‘perfect’ microcosm society such as our generation may possibly ignore at its peril. In 1930, with infinite sorrow but at their own request, the remaining thirty-six islanders were evacuated to the Scottish mainland, where, with a pragmatism entirely typical of remote, centralized British government, these people who had never before beheld a tree were mostly given employment in the Forestry Department. From 1957 until very recently a small army presence on St Kilda monitored missile firing from Benbecula. The roofless stone houses of the solitary village, kept by the National Trust for Scotland in defiance of immense elemental odds, stand as a memorial to a time that is gone.

A simplified, abridged version of Farewell to Hirta is also available on Composers Edition.