St. Kilda After The Evacuation
In 1931, several months after the inhabitants had left St. Kilda, the archipelago's owner MacLeod of MacLeod sold the islands to the Earl of Dumfries who later inherited the title of 5th Marquess of Bute. He was a keen ornithologist and was worried that the deserted island which was no longer being grazed by the islanders domestic sheep would become too overgrown for some species of birds. Beginning in the summer of 1932 he arranged for all remaining stray domestic sheep to be cleared and then commissioned former St. Kildan men to return to organize the capture and transfer 107 Soay sheep from Soay Island to Hirta. This became the foundation of a second feral flock on the archipelago. The Hirta flock thrived and by 1952 it had grown to 1114 individuals. Upon his death in 1956 the islands and their sheep were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland who took ownership in 1957 and who continues to own the islands and the sheep today.
Just before his death the Marquess of Bute agreed to lease a small area of land on Hirta to the Ministry of Defence as a radar tracking station for its missile range on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. Today this base is manned year round by a small civilian staff.