Stornoway, 14 October 1912 - Isabella Burns

12,686. (Chairman.) Where is Crossbost ?
—It is on the north side of Loch Erisort.

12,687. You are the wife of the schoolmaster at Fidigary, Crossbost, Stornoway ?

12,688. The people in your district make their living mostly by crofting and fishing ?

12,689. Do they make more money out of their fishing out of their crofting ?

12,690. The erofts are very small ?
—Yes, and they are subdivided. There are sometimes as many as five houses on one croft. I know of one that is divided into five.

12,691. Is it divided between the four sons ?
—No, they are brothers. Beside the crofter there are two brothers, and then there is a married sister who lives on the croft also I think it is that sister’s daughter who got married and went into the croft also. These people are really the best-off people in my district; they are the wealthiest people. That shows that the fishing pays.

12,692. These people have no interest in the croft ?
—None whatever. They have a little bit where they grow potatoes. They all keep a cow.

12,693. That is to say, there are five families living on this one croft ?

12,694. The crofter gives them a house and fire and milk and that sort of thing ?

12,695. Then they get their money from fishing ?

12,696. The men go fishing, do they, all round the coast, —to Shetland and Fraserborough and Lowestoft and these places?

12,697. Do the women go too ?

12,698. How many on an average go from each house? Two from each house ?
—I think about that.

12,699. Or more than that ?
—I would not like to say. I can say this, that in the village of Ranish this last summer there was only one girl over fifteen left in the township. All the rest were away engaged on the East Coast at gutting.

12,700. The population of Ranish is 468 ?

12,701. How long does a girl remain away from home?
—From six to eight weeks, and sometimes more. She comes home and then goes back again to the English fishing. They left for the English fishing about a fortnight ago. They will come home about the end of November

12,702. That is about twelve weeks ?
—They are away for fully that period.

12,703. They live at home all the rest of the year ?

12,704. Do many of the girls go as domestic servants from your district ?
—Very few.

12,705 I suppose they get better pay as fishcurers ?
—Yes. They use all their family in the spring-time for peat-cutting and digging on the croft.

12,706. Do the women dig the croft ?

12,707. And dig the peat too ?

12,708. What do they do ?
—I have never known a girl from this district, engaged at the gutting, to marry any
but a Lewis man, nor yet of a man marrying a girl except a Lewis girl.

12,709. Is there much intermarrying—cousins, and that sort?

12,710. The doctor’s fee for a visit to your district is about 7s. 6d. ?

12,711 You say while they are able to pay the doctor’s fees, they are not able to pay an adequate fee for the doctor attending them, especially in a serious illness ?
—Yes. What I would like to emphasise is this, that if a doctor pays a visit, that is 7s. 6d., but you cannot call one visit medical attendance. He comes and probably tells them what medicine they have to get, and they have to go to Keose and get the medicine, and he does not come back and see them again unless he is sent for specially, which means another 7s. 6d. You cannot say that the case is medically attended that way. I can give you instances.

12,712. The district of Crossbost has about 2000 people in it—Luirbost, Crossbost, Ranish, and Grimashader. The nearest point to the doctor is five miles and the furthest is ten miles ?
—There are some towns with a population of not much more than that. Some poor people have to pay 7s. 6d. for a visit of the doctor, and they then get no further medical attention.

12,713. If a means could be devised whereby a patient who was ten miles away could have a visit from the doctor at the same charge as the patient next door to the doctor, do you think that would result in a considerable improvement in the medical service?
—I don’t look upon it altogether in the paying way ; I would like more frequent visits.

12,714. How would you expect that could be managed?
—I think the south side of Loch Erisort requires a doctor, because the north side would fully occupy the doctor’s time. Unless that was done we would require fully trained nurses.

12,715. How are you off for a nurse ?
—On the north side we have one nurse with maternity training.

12,716. There is a maternity nurse now ?
—Yes. These nurses have only a few months’ training in a maternity hospital. Besides that, these nurses that are sent for training are not always persons who are suited for hospital training.

12,717. Is the nurse you have a native of the district ?
—Yes. There was one appointed just lately.

12,718. Is she a native girl ?

12,719. You don’t think the training is sufficient ?

12,720. How far are you from Stornoway?
—Eleven miles.

12,721. You are ten miles from a doctor?
—About nine miles.

12,722. It is as near for you to go to Stornoway for your medicine as to your own doctor ?
—Yes. It is a long walk for the people for medicines ; it is eighteen miles altogether. Not only that, but they have a few graveyards to pass, and Lewis people are very much afraid of graveyards.

12,723. What are your rates? They are very high ?
—Yes. I cannot say what they are.

12,724. (Mr Orrock.) The rates were 19s. 8¼d., less 5 per cent.?

12,725. (Chairman.) Have you any further information to give us about the nurses ?
—A trained nurse would be greatly appreciated here. Last winter I received an object lesson on how much a nurse was valued. A lady missionary sent here from Edinburgh conducted a class in the neighbourhood. It became known that she knew something about nursing, and every night of her class I saw people waiting for her to get attention or to urge her to visit houses where there was sickness. With one doctor for the whole parish and one nurse, and that only a maternity nurse, the medical and nursing provision in the district is quite inadequate for the north side of Lochs, looking to its extent and population.

12,726. What are your general suggestions as to the improvement of medical service in the Highlands and Islands ?
—I have considered this matter from time to time, and I offer the following suggestions for consideration:
(1) That the parish doctor should call at two or three centres weekly or otherwise for consultation and dispensing;
(2) The appointing of more than one nurse;
(3) The training in each township of any size of a respectable person in the township—a widow by preference—to act as midwife in that township. Her remuneration to consist of her fees. If a qualified midwife were within easy reach of each township, then one fully trained nurse might manage the district;
(4) The charge for vaccination might be lowered; at present it is 2s. 6d. This means that a patient has to carry her child to a centre which may be two miles away, on a day fixed by the doctor. She has also, of course, to make a second journey a week after, for certification. Seeing this is compulsory and that in towns where the ability to pay is greater vaccination is done for a 1s., a charge of 2s. 6d. here seems excessive.

12,727. Within your knowledge, do many people apply for exemption ?
—Not any. Just last Saturday the doctor told some women to come back next Saturday. They came back at one o’clock, and shortly afterwards there was a wire from the doctor saying he could not be there that day ; that he would be there on Monday, and they had to carry these heavy children back home on their backs and come back again on the Monday to get their certificates signed.

12,728. You suggest in No. 5 (Information Sheet No. II.) that “There is great necessity for lectures on first—aid, simple treatment, etc. There is much need in this district for general instruction as to sick-room treatment and cookery. A small effort was made in this direction in a continuation class here for young women, and was greatly appreciated, and I have no hesitation in saying it was productive of immediate practical good”?

12,729. Does your husband do anything in the way of teaching hygiene in the school; are there any special classes ?

12,730. Does he teach the children in the ordinary classes ?
—There is a little done in all the classes—the laws of health.

12,731. Are the houses in your district as bad as they are in other districts ?
—They are very bad. I think that the village of Ranish will be one of the worst in Lewis. It is very difficult for men to build white houses.

12,732. Are there cattle in most of the houses ?

12,733. Has there been any improvement lately? Have there been any new ones built?
—A few, but they cannot get stones carted. There is no road, and it takes a long time to cart the stones in small hand-barrows.

12,734. Do many of them improve them by putting the cattle out of the house ?
—No ; very few.

12,735. Do you think they would do it if they had any inducement ?
—I think they would. Some time ago they got a notice to put up a partition in the house, between the cattle and themselves. In this way, they enclosed the area supposed to be their living-room, and the smoke was then kept in the kitchen; otherwise when there was no partition up the smoke could get down through the byre. I have heard one or two complain that since they have put up the partition the house is not nearly so healthy. Even although they put that partition up, very few make a separate entrance for their cattle. I think that the cows in the country should be examined.

12,736. Is there much tuberculosis among the cows in the district ?
—I could not say; but I cannot understand how the cows can be free from it when the refuse of the house is thrown into the byre for the cows to lie on.

12,737. Is milk difficult to get in your district ?
—Very difficult.

12,738. Don’t the crofters keep cows ?
—Yes, but they don’t feed them properly, and they don’t have a big supply of milk.

12,739. Never at any time ?
—Only for two months in the summer is there a plentiful supply of milk. After that you cannot get milk for money.

12,740. Do you keep one ?
—Yes ; for the sake of the family.

12,741. Is it a Highland cow ?
—No, it is a shorthorn.

12,742. How are the children fed in your district ?
—Before they come to school in the morning they have tea and a biscuit very often.

12,743. They prefer that to eating oat-cake or scones ?
—Yes, very few children care for oat-cake. It is only when they are compelled to eat it that they do eat it.

12,744. Is there any Indian meal used here ?
—Not that I know of.

12,745. What have they for dinner ? They go to school, and have nothing till they go home ?
—Yes, and some of them don’t get home till between four and five o'clock.

12,746. Don’t they bring a piece with them ?
—Very very few. I must say that when we went to Fidigary School none of them brought a piece. If one child brought a piece the others would laugh at the child. We did everything we could to induce them to bring pieces. One year I boiled potatoes in the school and gave them to the children, and when the children went in for the potatoes the others used to call after them, “There go the old age pensioners.” It was the year that the old age pensions were given.

12,747. Have the School Board not organised a system of cooking for the children in the middle of the day?
—No. The people are quite willing to give their children the pieces, but the children won’t take them. I don’t understand it at all.

12,748. Do they eat much fish ?
—Yes, when they can get it.

12,749. Do they get much butter ?
—They make their own in the summer.

12,750. Do they make enough to last them during the winter ?
—No. They buy butter, and when they buy it they buy the best they can get. They don’t go in much for margarine.

12,751. They use a lot of tea ?
—Yes, and they boil it.

12,752. I believe in Ireland they use the best tea?
—That is not the kind they get here ; it is small tea. They get it because it makes a nice black liquid. I know that that is the kind of tea that is preferred.

12,753. (Lady Tullibardine.) What do the children get when they go home ?
—Those who can go home at one o’clock get porridge and milk. The reason they get it then is that the people don’t rise early enough to make porridge in the morning before they go to school, and the breakfast in a Lewis house is never until between ten and eleven o’clock.

12,754. Is there porridge ?
—Yes, and the children who go home then get the porridge kept for them till one o'clock The dinner again is between three and four o'clock.

12,755. Do the children come in for the tail-end of the dinner when they go home at night ?
—Yes. They have potatoes and fish if they have fish.

12,756. You talk about the local authority requiring people to put partitions up between the cattle and themselves : was there anything ever said as to their having the window made so that they could open it ?

12,757. Would that not be a good way of getting rid of the surplus smoke ?
—Yes, I think so; but these people have done a good deal. Some of them have taken out the little holes of windows and made deeper holes. In the room they don’t have a window that will open. They would never think of opening a window for a sick person; they say they would get the cold.

12,758. You spoke of the people paying 7s. 6d. for a doctor to go to them. Do you think that they would not think it a benefit if they had some sort of club system by which the head of a household would pay, say, 5s. a year, which would rovide medical attendance for himself and his wife and his amily, withapossible small check fee per visit just to safeguard the doctor against trivial calls. Do you think that suggestion would work?
—I think that the people would like it, but I don’t see how it would work for the doctor.

12,759. How it would give enough money for the doctor, you mean ?

12,760. That is not the question at the moment. Do you think taking the people’s point of view, that they would look upon that as an advantage ?
—I think they would.

12,761. Does the doctor go to most of the houses in Ranish in the year ?
—To the most of them.

12,762. So that there would not be many people who would not pay 7s. 6d. a year for his services ?
—Yes. The people as a rule are healthy.

12,763. Would there be any fear of the healthy saying that there was not much chance of their needing the services of the doctor‘, and that the 5s. contribution would be a nuisance ?
—No, I don’t think so.

12,764. They would not look upon it as an addition to the rates if it was made compulsory .?
—I don’t think so. I think they would be willing to pay it, but there must be some compulsion. A voluntary system would never do. When the fishing was bad you would not get it, and even when the fishing was good they might not be inclined to pay it.

12,765. Do you think they could afford 5s. a year?
—All the fishermen could, but I don’t think the people who are only crofters could. If it was taken when they came home with the money from the fishing it would be better there is such a lot for them to pay then. When the springtime comes there is generally not enough money left to take the men to the fishing.  Sometimes when a man puts in his seed, the crop is sold before it has grown.

12,766. Is that in order to let him get away to the fishing again ?
—Yes, in many cases.

12,767. Do the men not belong to the Militia or the Naval Reserve ?

12,768. That brings them in a little money ?
—Yes. I think if the money was taken from the householder, that the girls who go to the fishing should pay. They are quite able to pay, and not only able, but I think they would be willing to pay. If there could be any means of taking it off their wages at the East Coast or when they came back, that would be an advantage.

12,769. Are they not compulsorily insured ?
—They have not all been this year at any rate.

12,770. (Mr Grierson.) I thought an insurance society had been started for these girls?
—There are a few societies.

12,771. (Lady Tullibardine.) Suppose they were being insured under the Act, do you think that‘ the parents living on the croft would not be able to pay the 5s. without the help of the son and the daughter who go to the fishing?
—I don’t think so. It is the sons and daughters who keep the croft. Instead of the croft keeping the people, they sometimes have to buy stuff to feed the cows.

12,772. Do the people who don’t go to the fishing represent a large proportion of the total population ?
—Not in the district I am talking of. In the west end of Lochs—in Balallan and that district—there are not many who go to the fishing, but in the Crossbost district almost
all go.

12,773. You spoke about the desirability of having a fully trained nurse in your district, and you said you would much prefer a fully trained nurse to a certificated maternity nurse ?

12,774. Do you not think there would be scope for a certificated. maternity nurse in maternity cases alone ?
—Yes, I do.

12,775. And then a fully trained nurse might be attending to the other cases ?

12,776. You have no objection to a maternity nurse for maternity cases ?
—None whatever. I think they are doing splendid work. I don’t think it is fair to say we have got a nurse when we have only a maternity nurse. Now, the number of babies in a year in our district should be about forty. One maternity nurse attends to these cases; she does very well. Often if there was a trained nurse it would leave the maternity nurse more time for giving advice about the bringing-up of some of these children.

12,777. Do you think the two could be worked together? You know, of course, that a fully certificated nurse requires a higher salary than a maternity nurse ?

12,778. And if the maternity cases represent a large proportion of the cases in the district, it is perhaps unnecessary to have a fully certificated nurse for them ?
—I think that the doctor requires a fully trained nurse with him in this district. I put in my statement that our hospital provision was the Stornoway hospital. We have no hospiItal facilities at all. We very seldom have a case in Stornoway hospital. I cannot explain it; I cannot explain why it is we don’t get cases into the Stornoway hospital. We have had several cases lately requiring hospital treatment.

12,779. Have you had any refused ?
—l think Dr Cameron has had cases that he could not get in. I know not very far from my own house at present of one or two cases that ought to be in the hospital.

12,780. Do you think that if there could be a couple of spare rooms, say in the nurse’s house—a fully certificated nurse—do you think that would be a boon to the people ?
—I think it would.

12,781. Do you think they would be ready to go to such a house?
—l think that rooms like that are absolutely necessary for the doctor for some of the cases he has. It is impossible for a doctor to perform satisfactorily anything like even a small surgical operation in the room of a black house. Now, that is done. I can give a case of a little girl whois not better yet—a little girl of  eight —and I think she has necrosis of the bone in her leg. Her leg was opened up. She had no anaesthetic. A small bit of bone was taken out and tubes were put in. This was all done in a black house while the smoke was going round. She had nothing at all, and,the nurse was present with the doctor, and the girl’s uncle was holding her on the table. That occurred almost a year ago. Now, the little girl’s leg is still very bad. I thought that case should have been taken to the hospital. I have a letter in my pocket from the little girl’s aunt, which I got just the other day. She had heard that a new nurse had come, and knowing I was the only person near her who was on the Association, she wrote to me saying that she had not seen the doctor, and she said she would not see the doctor unless she sent for him. She said there were eleven holes in the little girl’s leg, and she was afraid the joint would be affected. I quote that case to show that we really need hospital facilities.

12,782. You think that the people would go to some sort of small hospital, if situated in the neighbourhood? One witness told us that he did not think they would go to a hospital unless they were going away from home?
—If the people had confidence in the doctor and the nurse and had respect for them they would go, but they would need to have confidence in the nurse who was to attend to them. It spoils a district when there is a nurse in the district that the people have no respect for.

12,783. I hope you have not had experience of that ?
—Yes, we have had experience of that.

12,784. You say something about training widows in maternity cases ?
—Yes. I believe that would be quite illegal. Of course, it would not be illegal if they had a full training. In Lewis they still act as midwives without any training. The midwife in Luirbost is an old age pensioner. The charge is 6s. She just attends the case and leaves the house the next morning. She does not go back at all.

12,785. If one of those maternity nurses, who, I understand, charges 5s. for a case, were available, the people would give up sending for the old age pensioner ?
—Not very readily. Old customs die hard. You understand they have an idea—although it is dying out now —that when they see a nurse coming in uniform she is what you would call a swell, and they think that they would require to have things better for her. I have tried to get that idea out of their heads, to tell them it did not matter who was with them. I think that an efficient maternity nurse would be liked.

12,786. If some patients had been treated in the nurse’s house, others might be more ready to have a nurse?
—Yes, but not for maternity cases.

12,787. You think they would not leave their own homes for maternity cases?
—No ; unless, of course, they were told it was to be a very bad case. I mean, for an ordinary maternity case they would not leave their own house.

12,788. For other cases you think they would be ready to go ?
—Yes, surgical cases, or such cases as that little girl’s leg. Lewis people are very kind to each other in such cases, but they are very much afraid of tuberculous cases now. They are afraid of infection. In some cases of consumption they don’t call in the doctor until it is of no use. I have heard them say, “It is no use ; our son died with it, and the doctor did not do any good, and it is no use having him this time.” I know one man between thirty and forty who died from consumption and the doctor never saw him, just because his brother had died several years before with that disease.

12,789 (Chairman) The medicine in your district is dispensed by the doctor ?

12,790. And he brings it with him, I suppose, or sends it ?
—No. The people have to go for it.

12,791. Do you keep a few medicines yourself ?

12,792. And do you give the people the benefit of them occasionally ?
—Yes ; they come in and borrow occasionally. I am very glad when I have things in the house that will benefit them.

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