As excuses for the late return of a library book go, Clare Henderson’s was one of the best.
When the archaeologist was contacted about her overdue book – The Buildings of St Kilda – she apologetically explained she couldn’t return it.
Why? She was repairing the buildings of St Kilda, 112 miles from the mainland.
Ms Henderson, 41, borrowed the book from the AK Bell Library in Perth when she was applying for the St Kilda job, and after she got the post, asked if she could have it for a bit longer.
‘Can I return it in October?’
But lockdown then caused her trip to be postponed, and libraries to shut. They were still closed in April when she embarked upon her delayed posting.
She said: “I kept thinking, ‘I don’t know what to do with the book, I still want to take it with me’. You can renew them twice, but it’s obviously only for a month at a time.
“The library then reopened and I started getting emails saying we will be asking people to return library books, so I emailed them with what might have been a strange reason to say why I couldn’t return it – and can I return it in October?”
St Kilda, Scotland’s only double Unesco World Heritage Site, is more than 40 miles from the Western Isles and was abandoned by its 36 islanders in 1930.
Ms Henderson is working there with National Trust for Scotland ranger Sue Loughran and seabird and marine ranger Craig Nisbet.
Her job is to inspect the 1,200 cleits – stone storage huts unique to the islands, which were originally used for everything from preserving sea birds to eat in winter to drying turf for fuel – and other buildings on the islands, to ensure they are maintained in the state they were left in when the island was evacuated.
Ms Henderson has found the islands a captivating place to live and work.
‘Looking out across miles of wild Atlantic’
She said: “It’s literally a place like no other.
“We have an office, it is set up with Wi-Fi, so you can have days where you are sitting at the computer, but then – however wild the weather – you get up in the evening and go for a walk out somewhere and you are just looking out across miles of wild Atlantic.”
Culture Perth and Kinross said: “We were delighted to hear from Clare and sympathetic to her predicament about returning a library book whilst on St Kilda.
“We were very willing to help her out and extend the loan until a time she would be off the island and able to visit her local library.”