The first immigrants from the original St Kilda, out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,
arrived in Melbourne in 1852 to find, strangely, that there was already a suburb named after their birthplace.

How did this happen, and why?

Where does the name ‘St Kilda’ come from, given that there never was a Saint called Kilda?

During trips to the Outer Hebrides in January 2018 and January 2019,
we visited the legendary archipelago of St Kilda. And like many before us,
we became fascinated by its story – the story of its people, its society
and the much-discussed evacuation of the entire population in 1930.

What we didn’t know was that the first inhabitants to permanently leave St Kilda were a group of 36 people (nearly one third of the islands’ population) who migrated to Port Phillip in 1852. In effect, this was the beginning of the end of their society.

In this exhibition, we present photos from these trips to the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda, and try to explain what we learned.

Literally thousands of books and articles have been written about St Kilda – some whimsical, some factual, some inaccurate, and many containing contradictory information. As a result, the information presented here is only a fraction of the St Kilda story.

Given that nearly every tale you hear from the region starts with “so, the story goes…” we can only hope that this exhibition gives you some semblance of the truth!

Thank you to everyone who saw the show

From St Kilda to St Kilda exhibition is now closed.
The works can still be viewed online here and prints can be purchased by contacting

Thank you to everyone who joined us to celebrate the exhibition opening on
Thursday 19 September 2019 or saw the show during its month-long showing at the
Carlisle Street Art Space in St Kilda, Victoria.

Special thanks to MP Martin Foley for launching the show and to the team
at City of Port Phillip for their hard work.

About the Artists

David Downie and Libby Niven are based in Melbourne, Australia with the suburb of St Kilda over their back fence.

David was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Migrating to Australia in 1966 his family became passionate St Kilda FC supporters due to the link with the St Kilda islands in the Outer Hebrides. Exactly how close a parallel the need for maintaining fortitude in the face of suffering wasn’t immediately apparent but spending the early 1980s in the outer at Moorabbin Oval proved excellent training for the two winters living on an island in the Northern Sea this project required.
David is a graduate of the Advanced Diploma program at the Photography Studies College.

Growing up in Middle Park in a family of musicians and artists, Libby has carried a lifelong love of painting and photography into her career.  With her photography and illustrations published in multiple publications since the 1980s, Libby is also an accomplished visual designer.
A passionate St Kilda FC supporter and with family ties back to the first waves of emmigration from Scotland to Australia, her research on life on St Kilda island was the genesis of this project.