ONE of the last native inhabitants of Britain's most remote archi­pelago has died.

Norman John Gillies, who passed away after suffering a heart attack, was five years old when residents of St Kilda petitioned the UK Government to bring them to the mainland in 1930.

He was among the 36 ­inhabitants of Hirte - the only inhabited island - who boarded a ship in August that year to travel to the mainland, where they were met by a crowd at Lochaline in Argyll.

Mr Gillies, who loved to tell stories about the archipelago, later moved south of the Border and lived in a house called "St Kilda" in a village near Ipswich, Suffolk. He died in hospital in Cambridge, aged 88.

Susan Bain, who manages St Kilda on behalf of its owners the National Trust for Scotland, said: "We are obviously saddened at Norman's death but grateful that he shared his memories of St Kilda with us while he was alive - and was enthusiastic in doing so.

"He loved telling people about life on the island. Without him doing that we would not have such a rich knowledge of life on the islands and what exactly it was like."

The only other living St Kildan is Rachel Johnson, who is 91, and lives in a nursing home in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire. She was eight when she left the island.

It was the death of Mr Gillies's mother, at a hospital in Glasgow, that helped to convince the residents of St Kilda to leave the islands, which lies 41 miles west of the Outer Hebrides.

In a BBC interview, Mr Gillies said: "My mother was pregnant at the time and she also had appendicitis. They first of all had to get a message out by a trawler to say there was somebody ill on St Kilda.

"So they got the lighthouse ship to come in to the bay, and my sad little memory is seeing my mother being rowed in the boat and her waving to me. And me waving back. That was the last time I saw my mother."

Just a few months later, on August 29, 1930, the 36 inhabitants of Hirte boarded the Harebell ship.

Mr Gillies said he remembered the older inhabitants waving to the island until it went out of sight, but he said leaving had been a great opportunity for younger residents.

"I can still recall the crowds on the pier. You've never seen so many people," said Mr Gillies. "They were probably expecting to see some strange inhabitants arriving."

It was the first time he had ever seen a motor car - and a tree.

Mr Gillies returned to the islands of St Kilda several times in recent years and took part in a National Trust for Scotland work party in 1976, helping to renovate the stone houses in which his family and neighbours had lived.

He also understood and welcomed the fact St Kilda con­tinues to fascinate so many people. "Seeing the films, and reading stories in the different books that have been written, has really caught their imagination," said Mr Gillies.

"They'd really like to set foot on St Kilda and say 'I've been there. I've seen the island they call the island at the edge of the world'.

"And it is a delightful little island, which everyone ought to see. And which I'm sure they will enjoy."

The remote archipelago of St Kilda is a double Unesco World Heritage Site. The only regular inhabitants now are a handful of conservation workers and just over a dozen defence workers. It has also become a popular destination for visiting cruise ships, with more than 5000 visitors last year.