Soay Sheep, Songs and Sheet Music from St. Kilda

Those of us who raise Soay sheep pretty much have our hands full tending to their basic needs – food, water, shelter, protection – but especially during the short winter days we find time to contemplate what life was like for the St. Kilda’s human inhabitants. For example, what music was sung or played on Hirta?

Soay in the mist beyond Hirta. (photo by Stuart McKenzie)

We know from the voluminous written record of life on St. Kilda that there was precious little music for long periods of time, forbidden by the strict preachers sent from the mainland to tend to their parishioners’ souls. But there is almost no mention of singing, and not a word about a piano or other keyboard being taken to the islands.

Now, thanks to a 10-year tale of serendipity and just plain luck, there is an intriguing hint about music on St. Kilda in the form of a single CD issued in 2016. Entitled “The Long Songs of St. Kilda,” the CD includes eight melodies with piano accompaniment said to have come directly from the islands, remembered by a young man who was part of the 1930 evacuation and later transmitted by him to one of his piano students on the Scottish mainland in the 1950s.

You can read this intriguing tale and get details on how to listen to the songs and play them yourself by going to Priscilla’s blog post. There you will begin to learn the story and also find links to more detailed accounts of how the songs went from the memory of a resident of an old people’s home in Edinburgh to a best-selling CD to the written page.

To what extent the songs actually originated on St Kilda is an open question that joins the many layers of mystery surrounding life on St. Kilda. What is certain is the beauty of the melodies and how powerfully they evoke the remote islands that are the ancestral home of all Soay sheep.

You can have tan and white spotted lambs just this cute!

Waitlist Reservations for 2021 Lambs

As of January 2021, all the ewe lambs we forecast to arrive this spring are spoken for. Depending on the gender split, there is a chance we will be able to put together one more starter flock or have at least one or two more ewe and ram lambs to sell. Please go to our Current Availability page for details and then give us a call if you would like to be on our wait list.

Not Quite Ready to Start Now? Consider Starting Your Flock with Pre-Bred Ewes Next Year

Keverne & Seaford

Next fall (2021) we hope to once again offer the opportunity to purchase two or more bred ewes who will lamb on your farm the following spring (2022) without you having to invest in a breeding ram and go through the hassle of making a separate living area for rams until you are sure you want to breed on an ongoing basis. We will sell you two of the ewes we plan to breed next fall and keep them here breeding until the end of December, at which time you will take them home, before they reach late gestation, expecting lambs on your farm in April or early May 2022.

Our farm is in southwest Oregon, close to Medford. If you live within a half-day’s drive, you can pick up your ewes mid-day and be home that evening. Please contact us for details.

Overton & Stowe

There is no extra boarding charge or stud fee; our rams cheerfully work for free. But you will have to purchase the ewes in advance at our normal price of $400 each, plus $200 per ewe for a lamb or lambs she should be carrying. The reduced price for the lamb reflects the risk you will be taking that the ewe might not lamb, and the risk we will be taking that the she might twin, in which case you get three sheep for the price of 1 and 1/2, more or less. If you live outside Oregon, you will need interstate travel papers. Our vet will inspect your ewes and prepare the paperwork, and you will reimburse us for her charges.

Although we cannot, of course, guarantee the ewes will have conceived, our track record is excellent. We bred 74 yearling ewes (a year and a half old when bred) in our first eleven years, and 70 of them lambed. That's 95%. Let us know if you are interested in this option.

Small Sheep for Small Acreage

Rural lifestyle amidst amenable creatures Many of us who have chosen to live in a rural setting with a few acres of green pastures, some trees, clean air, perhaps an outbuilding or two, tranquility and so on made our choice in part because we wanted to be able to keep animals of one sort or another, or will come around to the notion sooner or later. Odds are you already have thought about Soay sheep, or you would not be here reading these words. You are on Read more … ► the right track. These small, gentle, easily kept heritage sheep can enrich your life and improve your land.

Historic Ranch, Historic Sheep

Old Saltmarsh Barn The old Saltmarsh Ranch is nestled at two thousand feet among the northern foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon, astride the Little Applegate River. Arthur B. Saltmarsh, the original homesteader who settled in the 1880’s, built the barn and several other outbuildings still in use. He and his heirs lived here for almost a century.

Weavers feeding sheep Soay sheep have a much longer history. They are descendants of a feral population of primitive sheep living for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in complete isolation on the island of Soay in the St. Kilda archipelago located off the northwestern coast of Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 4581 miles from here.

Today’s Soay sheep at Saltmarsh Ranch provide us with many satisfactions, foremost among them the rare opportunity to help preserve an endangered variety of attractive small sheep.

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Keeping Sheep as a Lifestyle

Paulina in tall grass Our city friends ask us all the time, “Why on earth do you live way out in the country and burden yourselves with a big flock of Soay sheep?” The answers could fill a book, but we think the following thoughts put to paper thirty years ago by a In the words of Mme Benoit …► renowned Canadian food writer, editor, chef, and shepherd capture the essence of the matter better than we can express it anew.

Choosing your Soay Sheep

Blue Mountain Astro

read more ►Thinking about getting a flock of Soay, but feeling a bit bewildered? Here is a guide to the common types of Soay sheep flocks we and other breeders have put together to meet our varying goals.

Soay Sheep Husbandry

Husbandry Pages ► We continue to add pages on how we keep our Soay sheep. We write them as we go forward on the Soay Calendar, scrambling to get our thoughts together enough in advance so that you may may find them useful as the seasons progress.