Stornoway, 14 October 1912 - Rev Allan Mackenzie

12,850. (Chairman) You reside in the parish of Uig?

12,851. Where is your manse; is it at Garynahine ?
—It is twenty miles from Garynahine.

12,852. That is where the population is, I suppose ?
—Yes. Of course the parish extends beyond Garynahine as well, but I don’t work it.

12,853. Is there another parish church ?
—No ; we have but this one.

12,854. The population consists of crofters and fishermen and so on ?

12,855. You heard what Mr Morrison said about fishing?
—Yes. On the side I am on the women don’t go to the fishing. It makes a big difference in the income, but I am very. pleased that they don’t go.

12,856. What do they do in your district ?
—A number of them work at the Harris tweed industry when the men go away .

12,857. They go to the Naval Reserve and to the fishing. Do they fish much ?
—A number of the young men do go to the fishing. Mr Morrison answered exactly as I would with regard to the Naval Reserve. Some few years ago they were not taking them from our side, because they were so far away from the town. Now they are taking them. I got Dr M‘Clymont to make representations to the Admiralty.

12,858. You say that the people are fairly well able to pay doctor’s fees ?
—I only say that they are able to pay 5s. per family. Sometimes they are not able to pay because the doctor is too far away from them. For the past few years some of them have had to pay for the motor-car from Garynahine, twenty-four miles and twenty-seven miles, and the account ran up very speedily, and they had great difficulty in sending for the doctor under these circumstances. I would not say that they are people who are able to pay very well. They have no industry really, only what these young men get from the fishing. I calculated that, taking them all together, at 5s. per family—I mean by that cottars as well as crofters, or, as they say in Skye, "per smoke,”—that would work very well.

12,859. While you say they are able to pay a fee of 5s. a family, they are not able to pay the fee that is needed to bring a doctor twenty miles ?
—It is absolutely impossible for them to do it, especially if they happen to be in arrears.

12,860. You evidently indicate here that you would approve of such a proposal as has been suggested to us, to spread the cost of the doctor more evenly over the people, so that the people who are furthest away from the doctor will receive the doctor at the same fee as the people who are near him ; that there should be a uniform charge for every family over the parish ?
—Yes ; I say that the people should pay for the medicines.

12,861. And maternity cases and operations you would charge extra for ?

12,862. Of course, in the case of an operation, there are many things needed that the doctor might have to charge them for ?

12,863. Do you think your people could afford to pay 5s. a family quite easily ?
—Yes, I think they could if it were paid half-yearly. I know how they do in Skye. I think if they were compelled to pay half-yearly 2s. 6d. there is not a family but would be able to pay that. There are certain families, of course, that would have to be excused, as they are excused from paying poor rates.

12,864. You think it woul need to be made compulsory ?
—Yes, I am afraid so.

12,865. What have you to say about an hospital ?
—My idea was that cases of consumption might be taken in, because last spring we had what looked like an epidemic of consumption in one particular spot, and four died there.

12,866. Were they all in one house?
—No. I think that consumption cases are more suitable for an hospital like that.

12,867. That is a subject that is dealt with specially. You would need one hospital and one sanatorium ?
—I am not so particular about getting hospitals for any other trouble. It would be very serviceable, but it is not so necessary as the other.

12,868. Are your houses much the same as the houses we have seen ?
—I am sorry to say they are.

12,869. It seems to me that with houses of that kind a hospital is a special necessity. As Mr Morrison pointed out, it must be a great relief to both the doctor and the family to get a chronic invalid taken away ?
—Yes. It occurred to me that there might be a place of that kind at the nurse’s home.

12,870. Yes, that is what I mean. Have you a nurse in your district ?
—Yes, an excellent nurse.

12,871. If she had a small hospital attached to her house with a few beds in it, do you think the people would take advantage of it ?
—I think so.

12,872. You say, and I think you are pretty near the mark when you say it, that quite three-fourths of the people in your district don’t get adequate medical attention ?
—I don’t think I have overstated the matter when putting it in that form. I think it is pretty near it.

12,873. It is physically impossible for the doctor to attend them ?

12,874. And they cannot afford to pay the doctor anything like an adequate fee?
—I daresay you know why the doctor is at Garynahine.

12,875. Yes ?
—He could not get a house in the centre of the parish.

12,876. Yes. You think it would be suitable if he had an assistant. You say the reason why so many of them are unattended is on account of the distance they reside from the doctor ?

12,877. In your own experience you have known cases where patients have had to wait several days before the doctor could reach them ?

12,878. You appreciate the benefit of the nurse ?
—Yes; only she is overworked. She broke down last year. My idea is that if the Association in Edinburgh was made up of representatives of all the churches and they paid a part of
the salary, if not the whole of it, that it would be a benefit.

12,879. This is a United Free nurse ?
—Yes. I think it would be still better if all the churches combined.

12,880. Has not your church got an association like this ?
—No. There is a lady in our place just now sent by the Association in Edinburgh, but she is not a qualified nurse ; she is more what you would call a Bible woman.

12,881. You agree it is necessary to have another doctor in your parish?
—I don’t think there is any place in the Highlands like it.

12,882. Of course, there is not a living for two doctors in the parish. The money must be provided elsewhere?
—Yes, but with this proposal of charging 5s. per family per year, it should help very much.

12,883. You cannot expect your Parish Council to do any more ?
—They are paying a large sum just now.

12,884. Then your rates are very high ?
—They are far too high.

12,885. There is nothing else like them in the kingdom?

12,886. The medical service is absolutely inadequate, you say. Do you think that a maternity nurse without any hospital training is sufficient for the wants of the district ?
—I would not have a maternity nurse more than the one we have.

12,887. The nurse you have at present is only a maternity nurse ?
—No, she is more than that. She has been trained in an asylum. The Bernera one is a maternity nurse, but that kind of nurse would never do in our district.

12,888. In your statement you make a suggestion which has occurred to us very often. What are your general suggestions. as to the improvement of the medical service in the Highlands and Islands ?
—I would tax every family, say, at the rate of 5s. a year; increase the Government grants; have a medical man in the centre of the parish or district, not at its outskirts, and empower Parish Councils to build doctors’ dwelling-houses. I am of the opinion that for consumption we might have local hospitals. Sanatoria do not meet all cases. There are certain periods of the year when consumption breaks out like an epidemic and should be grappled with locally. The district nurse might live in the local hospital and work out from it. I submit that the parish of Uig should either be reduced in area or provided with two medical men. The re-distribution of the parishes of Lewis seems to be a desideratum. Sanitation in crofter townships should be medically carried into immediate practice.

12,889. In regard to the rearrangement of the parishes does it occur to you that the doctors might be more evenly distributed if the authority that controlled them was the District Committee instead of the Parish Council?
—It occurred to me that we might have three doctors, one at Barvas, another at Carloway. and a third at our own side, if you reduced our parish, say, to the west side of Garynahine.

12,890. It would be necessary to reduce the parish, and the area of the doctor’s practice ?
—Yes, that is so.

12,891. (Mr Grierson.) It was suggested that both doctors should be available for Bernera.

12,892. (Chairman.) What have you to say in regard to the sanitation in crofters’ townships ?
—I made a proposal some years ago, and perhaps I might repeat it again. I would compel the people to build byres, and if a family would sign a declaration that it was impossible for them to do so without assistance, I would expect that a grant of £8 would put every house in Lewis in a proper condition. I am afraid that a loan would not be suitable. If a grant of £8 could be got,.you could put the Act into operation and compel them to renew the house they have and build new byres. It is not necessary that they should build new houses.

12,893. What would £8 do ?
—It would enable them to get some material.

12,894. What would you estimate it would take to build a suitable byre ?
—£5 would build a byre, but I had in view the alterations on the house. They would be taken in as well, and they would be done under the direction of some official.

12,895. It struck me in looking at these houses that besides the houses being bad, the site is usually the worst one they could choose ?
—The worst thing is the drainage. Going through some of the places where I live, it is  very bad.

12,896. You mean to say instead of building a new house they should build a byre. It seems to me that in the most of the cases a new house would be better and they could use the present house as a byre. What does it cost to build a new crofter’s house ?
—I dont know. In Skye the men can build them cheap, because they do the work themselves. Down at llochs I think they can build them for £20, but it depends on the material they put into them. I would not spend £100 on a crofter’s house.

12,897. It seems to me that there should not only be a but and a hen, but a place where they could keep their food ?
—Yes. There is the case of the new settlement The people did not build proper houses yet, and they are living with the cattle. They wish to have two or three years in order to build houses. I don’t think they contemplate taking a grant of £100; I think the idea is to take a grant of about £20.

12,898. (Lady Tulltbardine.) Is your objection to a loan for building that the people would find it very difficult to repay it ?
—Yes. They find it hard enough in these new settlements to pay the rent, and if they add say, £5 a year or so to the present rent, I think it would be fatal. I don’t believe they will be able to meet it. £1 or £2 at the most would be quite enough for people of that kind.

12,899. You told us that you thought that the people in your parish could afford a subscription of say 5s a year to a club ?
—It depends on how we might use the word “afford.” I think they would make a fair effort to scrape the mone together in order to pay the doctor. They would find the money, I think.

12,900. We have had evidence from doctors, that under a system of this kind the people are sometimes apt to call the doctor out for rather trivial reasons. Would there be any fear of that in your neighbourhood ?
—I know that the doctor takes that view as it is, but I don’t suppose if they had to pay for medicines extra that there would be more danger than there is at present. Some people do send for a doctor when he is really not required but I don’t think it makes very much difference. I don't agree with the doctor on that point.

12,901. It was not the doctor in your neighbourhood who said that ?
—He has told me that.

12,902. We have been considering in the enquiry that possibility of getting a system of a small check fee of say 1s. a visit, or a check fee for the first visit only in an illness. Do you think your people could afford any such check fee in addition to the club subscription?
—I am afraid not. I am afraid if they had to pay 5s. some of them would find it rather difficult.

12,903. Do you think they would object to this system of a club subscription ?
—I have been sounding some of them on that point, and they agreed with me.

12,904. Were these people who had had a good deal of illness in their families ?
—No; even some who had not. Some of them had not even had a doctor in for years.

12,905. Do you think your people are in much the same sort of circumstances as the other people in Lewis?
—Well, our people have not much money coming into their houses. They are not poorer on that account. They have not ready money.

12,906. They have as little ready money as the people in any part ?
—They have less ready money, because the women don’t go to the fishing.

12,907. What they make from the tweeds is not equal to what they make from the fishing ?
—They used to make a  good deal from the tweeds until recently, and now there is a glut on the market and the tweeds are not doing so well. If it revives it will bring money into all our townships.

12,908. If the tweed industry were doing well, would it be as lucrative as fishing ?
—Well, it would be more regular

12,909. (Mr Lindsay.) I. gathered from your answer to Sir John Dewar’s question, that you think it would be better to stimulate the people into action than to demoralise them by a grant of money to build houses ?
—Yes, if we could really do it. I have been trying everything I could to get them to improve their houses. I hope my preaching otherwise is more effective than my preaching with with regard to these houses. I think we had better call in the law with  regard to such a matter.

12,910. With regard to those byres, you spoke of a grant being given of £8 for building a byre. Don’t you think it is a lot for a byre such as we saw at the end of the houses?
—I would give the grant for the house and the byre. I would give the grant for the house, and I would compel the person to build a byre as he likes himself.

12,911. The point I had in view was the question of giving these grants to the people, which seemed to be demoralising the people to some extent. You think it would be better to stimulate these people into action and educate them rather than slackening the individuals by giving them grants ?
—I am very much afraid that although we put forth all the possible efforts in Lewis to get the people to build better houses, and put the cattle out of their present houses, that we could not succeed unless the law was put into operation.

12,912. What I understood you to say was not that you were to give a grant for the rebuilding of a house, but that you were to give part of the cost ?
—Yes, and only to those who were able to sign a declaration that they were not able to pay it themselves. I look to members of families who are away in Glasgow and other places to send home assistance to build better houses, but the thing must be put into operation somehow to get them to do that.

12,913. I suppose you have been preaching cleanliness along with godliness?
—I have been doing that more in private.

12,914. Along with that you would call in the aid of the Local Authority ?

12,915. How often does the sanitary inspector visit your district?
—I am afraid he does not visit some parts of it at all. If there is an epidemic I suppose he does turn up.

12,916. Does he not come to the district at all ?
—He comes to the district. We have townships near us, but I don't think he visits these townships. I don’t think he visits the worst dwellings.

12,917. When was he there ?
—After I made a tremendous row three years ago with the Local Government Board they sent to the Lewis District Committee to see into it. We had measles in the district, and I was wanting the doctor and the inspector to come, but they were slow in doing so, so I wrote to the Local Government Board and they set the wheels in motion in Stornoway here, and the inspector went then and these cases were attended to, and, as far as I know, I have not seen the inspector there since. He is the inspector of roads as well. He is often there with regard to the roads, but not with regard to sanitation, I think.

12,918. You say that the medical service is inadequate?

12,919. There is a statement made by the medical men in Lewis here which says that the number of medical men already practising in Lewis is sufficient ?
—It may be from a medical point of view, but I could state on oath if required that it is absolutely impossible for the medical men to attend to the cases on our side. I think that is quite evident.

12,920. Of course, what we have heard to-day and on other days confirms your views that there is a doctor required on the other side of the island there ?

12,921. You have never had any friction between the Parish Council and the doctor in your district ?
—No, I don't think so.

12,922. The relations have always been pleasant and cordial?
—I think so. I think in my time the Parish Council itself had friction; those on our side wished to have the doctor to our side and those on the Garynahine side wished to have the doctor on their side.

12,923 (Mr Grierson.) You are not a member of the Parish Council, I suppose?
—I was elected, but our Parish Council is composed of a number of teachers who wished to meet every Saturday and I could not go on Saturdays and I had to resign

12,924. You are not a member now ?

12,925 Were you a member five or six years ago ?
—No, I was appointed only at the last election.

12,926. During the time that you remained on the Parish Council, did you represent your Parish Council on the District Committee ?

12,927. It would have been interesting if we could have got evidence why the Public Health Act should not be put into force in Lewis the same as it is done in the Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands and other counties. Could you give us any reason ?
—There would be a hardship inflicted upon some very poor families who had not money. Some families could not produce £1.

12,928. You mean to tell me that you have families in Lewis, with all the money that is coming in from the fishing and the weaving of the tweed and the Naval Reserve and from abroad and all the different sources, who are not in a position to do anything towards the improvement of their houses ?
—Yes, there are a few families like that, and if you put the Act into operation these are the families that would suffer.

12,929. A few must suffer always ?
—I feel that I would come to the assistance of these people.

12,930. Your idea was that you would give a grant to everybody?
— No. I think I said if they would sign a declaration that they could not pay and had no friends to help them, they would be helped.

12,931. If you left it to themselves to sign this declaration the number that would not require assistance would eventually come down to a small percentage ?
—I am not quite sure.

12,932. You think that probably there would be more than 5 per cent. of the insanitary houses that would require assistance ?
—I could not answer that question right off.

12,933. Could you not give us some idea, with your knowledge of the means of livelihood of the Lewis people, what percentage of the insanitary houses would require assistance ?
—I am not able to answer that. I would like really to inquire into it.

12,934. You consider a doctor necessary. We had it from your own doctor that he was really only busy for three months in the year, and that for the remainder of the year he was at his wit’s end to know what to do. Don’t you think if he got an assistant, through the Parish Council or otherwise, that that would meet the case ?
—Not at all. We would need a permanent doctor where we are.

12,935. Even, notwithstanding what your doctor said?
—Yes. If there was an assistant all the year round living at our side it would be all right.

12,936. You would need that before you had adequate medical service ?

12,937. And a trained nurse would not take the place of that assistant ?

12,938. And an assistant for a few months would not be any use ?
—No use at all. They don’t send for the doctor because they cannot pay his expenses.

12,939. Then you would have an assistant there living the whole year round to meet your case ?
—Yes, or a doctor.

12,940. That would cut into the expenses of a doctor. Do you think they could keep them both? Supposing Dr Ross had a motor-car, would he then be able to meet your side ?
—Yes ; if it would not add to his charges.

12,941. I am speaking of it as coming out of a grant. Do you think if he had a grant for a motor-car that that would meet the case ?
—It would be a help.

12,942. It still would not give adequate medical service for your side ?
—That is so. It would not put the matter on a permanent and satisfactory footing. It would only be a temporary arrangement to give him a motor-car. I don’t think it would work out properly.

12,943. You think you have a population sufficient there to keep another doctor fully occupied ?

12,944. You think that the necessity for a doctor would remain in your district even if you had removed this sore that there is in the condition of your dwelling-houses?
—Yes, because the claims on the doctor in the district of Carloway are very great.

12,945. Although they have better houses ?

12,946. (Mr Orrock.) If you had an additional doctor put on your side of the parish, do you think that the parish could stand the taxation if his salary had to be paid out
of the rates ?
—No, it could not. It could not stand further taxation.

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