William Welstead
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Writing wildness
The Soay sheep of St Kilda
in Writing on sheep
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Most sheep are domesticated, but much discourse about these creatures is based on the distinction between wild and domestic. The second chapter explores the main differences between wild and domestic, in terms of how humans construct their relationship across the species boundary. The St Kilda archipelago is the most remote part of the British Isles. Hirta was the only island to be inhabited until 1930, but in that year this community left for good. In 1932, 107 sheep were relocated from Soay to Hirta and left to become wild. The population ecology of this wild population is of great interest to ecologists and has been intensively researched, first from 1959 to 1967 and since 1985 through the Soay Sheep Project. The sheep on Hirta have the potential to inform discussion by ecocritics of issues such as the difference between wild and domestic, the ethics of watching populations starve and crash without intervention and the overall impact on biodiversity of this strategy of knowing all, but not intervening. The chapter considers the prose writing of Kathleen Jamie and the poetry of Donald S. Murray and New Zealand poet Cilla McQueen, whose ancestors left Hirta in 1851.

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Writing on sheep

Ecology, the animal turn and sheep in poetry


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