Stornoway, 14 October 1912 - Kenneth Mckinnon
12,549. (Chairman.) You reside at Balallan ?
12,550. There is no motor service there yet ?
12,551. You are a merchant ?
12,552. Are you a crofter also ?
—Yes. We are all crofters in that district.
12,553. The people. in your district are crofters and fishermen ?
—They are mostly crofters.
12,554. You are too far away from the sea. to have many fishermen ?
12,555. Do the people in your district manage to make a living off their crofts ?
12,556. What do they work at besides ?
—For the last fifteen or twenty years they have been working at the tweed industry.
12,557. Do the men and women both work at it?
12,558. Does that apply to the whole Balallan district?
12,559. What is the population of Balallan ?
—Between 400 and 500. .
12,560. Are they fairly well off?
—Yes, but this tweed industry has not been so successful during the last two years.
12,561. What sort of income will come into a crofter’s house with you ?
—It is a hard question. The most of them are paid in kind—in goods.
12,562. They don’t make much off their crofts.?
—Nothing, except potatoes.
12,563. They get milk, I suppose ?
12,564. They have sheep too ?
12,565. They get little or no money off their crofts ?
—There is very little money in our district.
12,566. And the ready money they get must come from the tweed industry ?
12,567. That cannot be very much ?
—There is what they call the Crofter’s Agency, and the local dealers as a rule give them goods in exchange for their tweed.
12,568. They barter their goods ?
12,569. Is there a Home Industries Association ?
—Yes, a Crofters’ Agency.
12,570. Is that Mrs Mackenzie of Seaforth’s Association?
12,571. She buys the goods ?
—Yes, she pays cash.
12,572. Do the men not go away to work at anything ?
—Yes, they do go away South.
12,573. Are there any yachtsmen ?
12,574. What do they do South ?
—The young men go to Glasgow to any kind of work, and the married men go to any part of Scotland from May to September, till the harvest comes forward.
12,575. They will make very little off that ?
—Yes, very little.
12,576. How does a crofter live? Can you give us any indication of the menu of a crofter as for himself and his family? What will the children get in the morning ?
—Porridge and milk, potatoes and fish.
12,577. They get fish ?
12,578. There is plenty of it, I suppose ?
—Not for a long time. For the last twenty years the fishing has been a failure altogether.
12,579. What do they get for dinner? Much the same sort of thing, I suppose ?
—Yes. Just now they will have some mutton of their own.
12,580. Salted mutton ?
—Yes, they generally salt the mutton.
12,581. The people, I suppose, are pretty poor in your district?
—No, they are much on a par with the rest of Lewis.
12,582. Even although they have not fishing ?
—Well, with this tweed industry, they have been as well off as the crofters on the coast. It is all through this tweed industry that they are so well off.
12,583. Do any of the young people go fish-curing ?
—No, not from our district. In some of the townships theremay be half a dozen or a dozen young men go to the fishing.
12,584. Do the young women go ?
—No. They go to service in the South.
12,585. Do they stay away a good deal ?
12,586. Are there many emigrate ?
—Yes, a good deal. All our people are away just now. Only the weaklings who have no heart are at home.
12,587. Is the medical attendance good in your district?
—Yes, it is good in our district. It is because we are near the doctor.
12,588. Over the whole parish, the parish of Lochs ?
—The northem side of our parish is pretty well attended to. We want nursing.
12,589. The medical attendance is fairly satisfactory ?
—Yes, on our side.
12,590. Are the people able to pay fees for a doctor ?
—They are able to pay moderate fees. I cannot say that they are able to pay fees.
12,591. They are not able to pay an adequate fee, a sufficient fee, for the services the doctor renders ?
—No. There is not much money current among them. They are willing to pay him if they have it.
12,592. There is no club system in your district ?
—None. In my day there was a sort of club system, and so much was taken from each family, but some did not require the doctor and they did not pay.
12,593. What sum were they expected to pay ?
—The males paid 2s. 6d., and the females 1s. each.
12,594 A man and his wife would pay 3s. 6d.?
—No, I don't think it was put like that. Everyone that was working; young men who were working were supposed to pay 2s. 6d., and the young women who went to service and to the summer fishing were supposed to pay 1s. each.
12,595. It was for the young people ?
—Yes, because the crofters, especially the old people, don’t have much money.
12,596. The money was paid by the young people who went out to work ?
12,597. It broke down, you say ?
12,598. Was that because, as you say, the people who never needed the doctor were rather unwilling to pay ?
—I rather think so.
12,599. Don’t you think they are the ones who should pay ; they are better able to pay than the ones who require the doctor ?
—The better class people take better care of themselves. It is the poorest that require the doctor the
12,600. Do you think, supposing such a system was made compulsory, the people would object ?—No, I don’t think so.
12,601. Do you think in your district if a fee was fixed that everyone had to pay, whether they had a doctor or not, it would be a success?
—Yes, unless it was exorbitant.
12,602. What sum do you think a crofter could pay? Would 5s. be too much ?
—Well, yes, in some houses.
12,603. For the whole family ?
—It is like this : the old people may be in houses by themselves, and the young people may be in another house. The old people are not able to pay and the young people are able to pay.
12,604. Does that apply to a great many ?
—Yes. I would say that the people who are earning money should pay about 2s. 6d., even for the women and the young men. The women are as able to pay 2s. 6d. as the young men, and are quite as willing.
12,605. You think 5s. is too much ?
—Yes, I would say so.
12,606. Suppose there were two young men living in one house, that would be 5s. ?
—Yes, If they were working men that would be fair enough.
12,607. The proportion of people who are old people and women is very high ?
12,608. You think there is between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. of the people in your parish who never receive medical attendance ?
—I think so. I may put it this way: if they have no money at hand, and unless the case appears to be very dangerous, they don’t want to send for a doctor, and when they do send, the doctor is not of any use.
12,609. We want to try and prevent that if we can, because there is a good deal of that in the Highlands. Supposing everybody had a right to send for the doctor at a normal fee—either ls. or 2s. 6d.—don’t you think that for a bene?t of that kind the district would be willing to pay 5s. a family or to raise it in some way ?
—I could not say. They would do it on the average, but I would not say they could all do it.
12,610. If it was to be paid by the average, and some people were to be exempted altogether, that would suit ?
—I would not exempt them altogether. I would make them pay 1s.
12,611. You say here that they don’t send for the doctor because they feel that they might be running up a bill that they are not able to pay ?
12,612. Do you think if they had the right to send for the doctor and get free medical service, or service at a very small fee, that they would send unnecessarily ?
—No, not unnecessarily. They don’t believe in that.
12,613. Some of the doctors in other places have told us that they sometimes are sent for as it is for very trivial causes, gumboils, toothache, or something of that kind. Do you think if they had free medical service that that would not increase ?
—No. I don’t think the doctors would attend in a case of that kind.
12,614. At the same time, people who really need a doctor would send more readily than they do now ?
—Yes, they would.
12,615. You are very much pleased with the service of the nurses who are in your district ?
—There are none in my district.
12,616. Is there work for one there ?
—Plenty—as much as there is in any place.
12,617. You have never been able to get one in your district?
12,618. You think one doctor has a little too much to do in your parish ?
—Too much to do in the way of attending the people. There are no facilities for him to attend them.
12,619. He cannot get over the ground ?
—That is my opinion.
12,620. There is work for another doctor ?
—I believe there is plenty.
12,621.. Of course there is no money for him to make a living ?
—That is so.
12,622. There is a great want of roads in your parish, on the south ?
—Yes, in the half of it. The parish is divided by an arm of the sea. We have a north side and a south side, and the north side is perfectly well attended to, but I would not like to live on the south side, as far as medical attendance is concerned.
12,623. You are making some roads there ?
—Yes, there is one made.
12,624. And when these roads are completed, will not it be fairly good ?
—Well, unless there is more than the present road, I would not say it would. The present one is of very little use for the most of the south side.
12,625. We may put it like this, that in your opinion a very great improvement of the medical service would be rendered if you had a proper supply of roads ?
—Yes, and a ferry boat.
12,626. You have not a proper ferry boat ?
—No. Coming from the south side of the parish, they have to travel about seven miles of moorland and then they are at the mercy of the crofters on this side for getting a boat there to ferry them for the doctor. The day or the night may be coarse, and they have no way of getting across that loch by these small skiffs.
12,627. It is not a proper ferry boat ?
—No ; they are just at the mercy of the crofters as to whether they will get a boat to ferry them to the doctor, and if the doctor is not at home they have to go back without a doctor and come back again. I am a parishioner and I know the parish.
12,628. Whose business is it to see about the ferry boat? Is it the County Council’s ?
—I think so.
12,629. If a man arrives at the south side of this ferry has he to shout across for a boat ?
—No, he must procure a boat there.
12,630. Is it not always possible for him to get a boat there ?
—As a rule, I suppose it is. They will do their best, especially when the doctor is needed.
12,631. You suggest that the medical areas should be limited? I suppose you mean re-arranged?
—Yes, to give the south side the same advantages as we have on the north.
12,632. What is the population of the whole place—2000, is not it ?
—It is more.
12,633. 4,700. But in the parish up at Ness the doctor looks after 7000 ?
—Yes, but there is a road through the whole parish.
12,634. The means of communication on the south side of the island is so bad that the doctor cannot give them proper attendance ?
—I think not.
12,635. Is there a nurse on the south side ?
—Yes, I think there is.
12,636. What sort of telegraph service have you ?
—A pretty good service,
12,637. You have a telegraph on the south side ?
12,638. It is a telegraph, not a telephone ?
—It is a telegraph.
12,639. You very properly suggest here that there should be a good deal of teaching in the way of hygiene and first aid, and so on ?
12,640. What are the houses like in your district; are they something like at Barvas and Borve ?
—We consider we are just as advanced as any of them.
12,641. Have they got cattle in the houses ?
12,642. They don’t need much teaching to know that that is wrong?
—That is so.
12,643. Have any new houses of that kind been built ?
—No, all the new houses are altogether different.
12,644. Has there been no case in your district of a house of the old type being built lately ?
12,645. When was the last one built ?
—They have not built any of that kind for a long time. There may have been young people getting married and being out of sorts with the old people, and they may have gone into a barn, or that sort of thing.
12,646. Then, they might get a cow in afterwards ?
—Yes, after putting an addition to the barn.
12,646a. We heard to-day from another witness that within the last two years there was at least one house built with cattle inside ?
—I never heard of any—not in our place.
12,647. The houses are improving ?
12,648. Where is the money coming from ?
—From America—from the young people.
12,649. Could you give us an idea of what fee the doctor charges in your neighbourhood ?
—As far as I can understand, it is about 6s. 6d. for a round.
12,650. Is that for each house that he visits on the round ?
—For each house that calls him.
12,651. Is that the fee that about 70 per cent. of the people in your district can pay ?
—Yes, if they get time.
12,652. You mean if they don’t have to call him in too often in the year ?
12,653. If you take the case of a man with a wife and a young family, don’t you think that the family might need attendance and his wife might need attendance in the year? Don’t you think he would be much better if he had 5s. to pay at the beginning of the year and got a doctor afterwards at perhaps 1s. a visit or 2s. 6d. for the first visit? Don’t you think the father would be better off in that way ?
—In my district, I consider that it is very seldom that the doctor is called into a. house like that more than
once a year.
12,654. Are there no houses where the doctor never calls in a year ?
12,655. Can you give us any idea of the proportion?
—I know he seldom comes to Balallan. The principal cases are maternity cases. The doctor might charge £1 for such is case, and one of -the local women might do it for 2s. 6d.
12,656. Is that about what they charge ?
—Yes. Of course they may get something in kind along with it.
12,657. Is that what they are charging still?
—Yes, because there is not a trained nurse there. .
12,658. How many days would she come for that 2s. 6d.?
—As many (lays as she is required. She may be there three or four days. Of course, she gets her food.
12,659. Have none of the people in Balallan had a nurse for a confinement ?
—No. There is no nurse nearer than ten or twelve miles from Balallan.
12,660. Have they heard about the nurses in the nearest districts ?
12,661. Would they like to have nurses at Balallan?
—Yes, they are very much needed.
12,662. Would they be ready to pay 5s. for for her?
—I should say so, especially when they would have to pay £1 for a doctor.
12,663. Going back to the doctor’s fees, do you think that when the doctor comes to Balallan, that at one time of the year or the other he goes into most of the houses?
12,664. In that case it seems to me that the people of Balallan would be much better off if they paid 5s. at the beginning of the year to cover themselves and their family?
—I am afraid they would not be pleased to pay that. In most cases when the doctor is there and they know he is in the township, if there is a person ill in their house they will send for him. If there is anything at which they think the doctor would be necessary or useful they send for him. They will call him when he comes to that place. I don’t think he charges anything but a normal fee what he comes.
12,665. What would it be ?
—Perhaps ls. or 1s. 6d. ;
12,666. Do you think the people of Balallan instead of having this club system would rather—supposing it were possible to get financial help from outside—have the doctor’s fee fixed at a low sum, so that he could attend everybody in the district at the same price ?
—I am of the opinion that they would like to have the doctor among them. They would not be against that.
12,667. If there was a club system he would be compelled to attend people who were ill just as he is compelled to attend the paupers just now ?
12,668. If it was a system of the doctor charging by fee the doctor could not come unless they sent for him?
—If it was a fixed fee he might be called to more cases, he would be sure of his fee.
12,669. Have you ever known of any case where the doctor did not attend to the people ?
12,670. I see you suggest at the end of your statement that it would be a good thing if there could be a hospital and a sanatorium in each parish ?
12,671. You know, of course, that a hospital in the strict sense of the word is rather an expensive thing to provide?
12,672. Would one or two rooms in an ordinary house, say the house where the nurse lives, meet the case, do think? You see there is a hospital here in Stornoway which cost thousands of pounds. You would not want such an elaborate thing in every parish. Would an ordinary house of two or three rooms suit your case?
—I don't think so.
12,673. There would be proper medical attendance. It would not be a hospital in the strict sense of the word?—I am doubtful about that.
12,674. Have you any idea how these hospitals that you want should be paid for ?
—No. That is a thing I have not made up my mind about. It should come from outside.
12,675. Do you think that the people would not go into a little cottage hospital ?
—I am very doubtful about that.
12,676. Would they prefer being nursed in their own house ?
—I think so.
12,677. (Lady Tullibardine.) Do they mind going to the Stornoway hospital ?
—When the doctor advises them they go.
12,678. You think the people would not like these small hospitals?
—I am sure if there was a proper hospital the same as there is in Stornoway, where they could get proper medical attendance, they would like to go. One doctor in a parish could not give them proper attention.
12,679. I mean for cases that require constant care and attendance ?
—In some cases there have been no beds for them in Stornoway.
12,680. (Mr Grierson.) You mean to say that the people would object to go into a small hospital?
—That is my opinion.
12,681. I mean if they were suffering from anything that required surgical attendance regularly they would
rather have that in their own house than go into a small hospital?
—They would sooner be in their own house if it was their own doctor who was attending them.
12,682. Are the people in your district what you would call good payers ? Do they pay their accounts regularly? The doctors are always complaining about never getting their accounts paid ?
—I think our parish is doing well with the doctors—I mean the district I am in.
12,683. You have no difficulty in collecting your debts?
—I think the doctors, as far as the people are able to get it, are paid.
12,684. You think the doctors get it as well as you do yourself?
—Yes, undoubtedly. For myself, I would rather pay the doctor than anybody else. I am not of the opinion
that the doctors are over-paid at all in our island.
12,685. How many ministers have you in your parish, or how many churches ?
—There are three United Free Churches and three Free Churches and one Established Church. There are seven churches altogether.
12,685A. Are there seven ministers? There will be some missionaries ?
—There are four ministers.
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