Stornoway, 14 October 1912 - Rev Donald H Morrison

12,793. (Chairman.) You reside at the United Free Church Manse, Barvas ?

12,794. You are the United Free Church minister of Barvas?

12,795. How far is Barvas from Stornoway ?
—Twelve miles.

12,796. You are in the parish of Barvas ?

12,797. Where does the doctor live ?
—At Borve.

12,798. How far is it ?
—Six miles.

12,799. The population consists of crofters and fishermen?
—There are more crofters than fishermen, because on that particular part of the island there is no fishing going on now. The coast is very shallow and they cannot get out and in.

12,800. Are there not as many of them employed at the fishing as there used to be ?
—No ; there used to be some boats fishing out as they do at Carloway. I don’t think there is a line or a net between Brue and Borve.

12,801. Any income they get from fishing is what comes from the coast ?

12,802. What proportion of the population are fishermen ; about half of them ?
—Barely that. It is very different on the west side from what it is on the east side. On the west side they depend more upon stock. There are more fishermen at Barvas, Shader, and Borve who remain at home than there are on the other side of the island.

12,803. We are told that the crofts don’t yield them much return in the way of cash?
—That is so.

12,804. How do these men earn money outside their crofts? The croft is not enough to keep a family, I suppose ?
—They derive a good deal of their sustenance for the year off the stock, and any money they make is by selling their stock and what they get at the fishing. They are able to sell a few sheep in the year. They have their rent and taxes. If they don’t get any money out of their stock they have no other means of making it.

12,805. Are there Naval Reserve men in your district?

12,806. And Militia men too ?
—Yes. The younger boys usually go to the Militia, and after they have been in the Militia for a while they prefer to go into the Naval Reserve.

12,807. We have been told more than once that practically every able-bodied man has been trained in some form, either in the Militia or in the Naval Reserve ?
—I could not say that it is absolutely the case, but there is a very small percentage who have not been. trained. If there is anything wrong with a man’s eyes or with his hearing it might prevent him from being trained. There are very few who are not trained in one thing or another.

12,808. We are told that compulsory military service would make very little difference in Lewis ?
—I suppose that is true.

12,809. If the men in your district are not fishermen they will be rather badly off as a rule ?
—Yes. I said in making up my statement that a certain proportion go to other works in Glasgow, Kinlochleven, and other places. They go sometimes to the naval base and to Glasgow and to different places, and they stay away there perhaps as long as, if not longer than, the people who are at the fishing.

12,810. They won’t be able to bring back much from that ?
—No. Those who are married men have to send money home to support their families.

12,811. After they deduct the cost of keeping themselves while away, and the cost of going and coming back, most of them will have very little ?
—Yes, very little.

12,812. You say that the average ability to pay doctor’s fees is good; you say that the majority might be able to pay for medical attendance, but there is an unfortunate credit system, with the result that 50 per cent. do not pay at all. What does that mean ?
—Well, I mean that many of them are willing to pay when they need the doctor. The custom has been in these islands—I don’t know whether it is in any other place or not—during the present doctor’s father’s time that he never pressed them for a year or so, and the people after their health was restored were not so ready to pay the doctor’s fees, and the doctor found it very dif?cult to collect them. If the doctor sent in his bill the day he attended them it would be better.

12,813. You say 50 per cent. don’t pay at all. The doctor told us something like that ?
—Yes. I asked his father once what proportion of his earnings he was getting, and he said he was not getting 50 per cent. lt would have been easier for the present doctor to get his fees if he had succeeded somebody else.

12,814. It strikes me he is a man who might practice anywhere else with success ?

12,815. Your nearest hospital is the hospital at Stornoway?

12,816. Do the people take advantage of that hospital ?
—Just for cases that the doctor cannot handle himself ; cases where it is absolutely necessary for them to be sent to the hospital. It is sometimes difficult for them to get admission into Stornoway; sometimes the hospital is full.

12,817. It struck me, when I saw many of the houses, that almost every case should be taken out of the house when it turns ill and taken to a hospital ?
—Yes, I know that Dr Ross has applied to get cases in and could not get them in, and sometimes he has to send them South.

12,818. In your experience, are there many cases of serious illness which don’t get the service of a doctor at all when they are ill ?
—I don’t think there are any of what you might call serious cases.

12,819. Do you know of cases of illness where the doctor was not sent for in time ; that is to say where the people were a little dilatory? What is the reason ; is it carelessness ?
—I don’t know that it is carelessness. They have a certain amount of con?dence in their own local methods first of all before they want to risk running up a bill. They don’t want to go to the expense of getting a doctor until they have tried all their own remedies. Of course, that does not apply to every case. In some cases they send for the doctor right away, when they consider that the case is serious. I think in most cases where there is no medical attendance they are generally cases that are somewhat chronic. Perhaps the doctor has seen the case before and has prescribed, and it has not done them much good.

12,820. Among the local remedies, are there any remedies that are the remnants of old witchcraft?
—I don’t think there is anything of that kind. I am not very sure that it is quite extinct. I think in some parts of the island it is worse than it is in the parish of Barvas. There is a kind of disease called King’s Evil, for which they used to have something of that thing as a cure. The seventh son or the seventh daughter had to put her hand on it to. cure it. They don’t have that now. 

12,821. About nursing, how are you off for that?
—We have two nurses. There is a special nurse at Ness.

12,822. Is she a catechist—a missionary ?
—She is a  trained nurse. At one time she was a certificated teacher She does some work in connection with the church. .

12,823. She is not one of the Ladies’ Nursing Association?
—No. Her money is guaranteed by some person in  Edinburgh for a period of three or five years. She attends to cases of illness requiring the dressing of wounds, and that sort of thing. I don’t think she attends to maternity cases. There are two regular nurses, one at each end of the parish.

12,824. They are of great value ?

12,825. It is a very large parish, and a very large population-something like 6500 ?

12,826. Do you think that one doctor is physically able to give sufficient attention to almost 7000 people?
—Well, he resides about the centre of the district, and now that he has improved means of transit I should think he is quite fit to overtake a case either at Shawbost on the one hand, or at Ness on the other. His father used to overtake it with a horse and gig. Now, with the improved means of travelling, I think he can do it very well.

12,827. He has got a motor ?
—Yes, a motor bicycle One of these districts would be quite enough for him if he had to drive about.

12,828. Do you think you could profitably employ more nurses ?
—Yes, I have no doubt about that, especially in the centre of the parish. The west end is provided for, but the townships in the centre between Borve and Brue—there are four or five townships there—never see a nurse.

12,829. Do you want more nurses of the kind you have got ?—that is to say, maternity nurses ; or would you like some fully qualified hospital-trained nurses ?
—Some nurse that would know her duty well. Of course, if there was some hospital, that would help matters.

12,830. Do you think a small cottage hospital would be of advantage ?
—There are outbreaks of infectious diseases that could be treated in an hospital.

12,831. You could not put infectious diseases into an hospital. With regard to cases that could with profit be removed from the house to a special small hospital outside the nurse’s house, do you think the people would readily take advantage of that ?
—Yes, I think so.

12,832. .We were told by a witness who was attending them that they would rather be attended in their own house ?
—I don’t know, but I think there are several cases I know of that have come under my observation in the parish that it would have been a blessing if they could have been removed.

12,833. Do you think they would readily go, or would they hesitate to go ?
—If they were convinced that there was means of attending them better at the hospital they would go. I know for instance of a case in Shader where a woman is practically dying from cancer in the breast and there is nobody to attend to her except the husband, and there are five or six young children in the house. 

12,834. Would that woman leave her children and go into an hospital ?
—Yes. She has been in Glasgow and they did not interfere with her. They saw the thing had gone too far. She won’t live very long. If the people had the conviction that there was better attendance and a better chance of recovery by going to the hospital they certainly would go. A good deal would depend on the report of those who had been there and had been  treated.

12,835. (Mr Lindsay.) I want to ask a question arising out of a question put by Sir John Dewar. You talked about a local committee being formed to improve these dwelling-houses. Do you think anything could be done by the association of the clergymen? How many clergymen have you in that district ?
—Two. There was at one time three clergymen.

12,836. Do you not think it would be possible for the clergymen to have a social crusade so as to get these byres removed from the dwelling—houses? It would not cost more than £5 to get them removed ?
—It would cost more than that. I have told some of our own people that I would do everything I could to get them to improve the conditions of their houses.

12,837. Would it not be possible for them with the Gospel and the law combined to improve the conditions?
—I think it requires some compulsion from people in authority.

12,838. We were told here to-day that the bye-laws which are dated 1900 say that no building is to be erected in future in which man and beast are to be under the same roof. Have there been any buildings of that kind erected within the last ten years ?
—No, the most of these buildings that have been put up are cottars’ and squatters’ houses. If they put up a house they don’t have cattle at all. It is simply a dwelling-house close to the other house.

12,839. From your parish we had the most serious complaint made about the house for the doctor. I put the question to you—could not one of these manses or churches be given to the doctor in the parish of Barvas— one of these manses which are derelict ?
—I don’t see why not. The difficulty would be that the congregation to which that house belonged would rebel.

12,840. The doctor we had to-day complained that his house is not a proper house for him to dwell in. Here is a man who cannot get a place to live in. Don’t you think it would be possible for all you gentlemen to combine—the different branches of religion—in the parish to get a house for the doctor ?
—I don’t see that there is any house that thedoctor could get, unless he got the manse that is unoccupied.

12,841. Here is a young man who is competent of making a reputation in Harley Street, London; don’t you think it is possible to get that man put down in a fit and proper dwellinghouse?
—My opinion is that the house the doctor is now occupying is as easy to put in repair as the manse. As a house, the manse that is vacant is worse than the doctors. It is not so conveniently situated either. As far as location is concerned, the doctor’s present house is more central at Borve, supposing you got the manse made ready for him to-morrow.

12,842. (Mr Grierson.) I think you said that no house had been built for the purpose of holding both man and cattle. We had it from the previous witness from your own parish that a house had been built within the last two years to hold both man and cattle ?
—There may have been. I did not say that there had been none. I don’t know of any houses built by crofters within the last two years to house cattle.

12,843. What I mean is, has anybody settled or squatted down there with cattle under the same roof? The District Committee have the same power over a squatter ?
—I don’t know of any in Barvas itself, but I think there are some in Shader.

12,844. Are you a member of the District Committee ?

12,845. (Chairman.) Can you tell us if there are any insured persons in your parish ?
—Under the National Insurance Act?

12,846. Yes ?
—There are not very many. There are, of course, those that are constantly employed, such as servant girls and men who are oonstantly employed in road work.

12,847. And these men who go south to Kinlochleven—are they insured ?
—Some of them that work locally have not to be insured. A lot that are away have to be insured when they are away, and I think they will. drop it when they come back. I think it would be probably advisable for them to keep it on. Might I ask a question?

12,848. Yes ?
—Supposing these women who go away from our parish are away for three months in the year, and they come home, and afterwards go away for two months, that means that they are insured compulsorily for five months of the year; if they keep it up for one month, making it six months, would they get medical benefits ?

12,849. Yes, that is so, and it would be a good thing for them to keep it up altogether. They won’t get sick benefit, but they will get medical benefit. They will get sanatorium benefit.

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