Lochmaddy, 16 October 1912 - Roderick M Macmillan
14,033. (Chairman). You are Inspector of Poor for the parish of South Uist?
14,034. Does that include Benbecula?
—Yes, Benbecula, South Uist, and Eriskay.
14,035. Is that a district of the County Council?
—The County Council District includes Barra along with the parish.
14,036. There are not many millionaires in your parish?
14,037. Are they fairly well off, or are they very poor?
— As far as crofters go, they are just like the general run of crofters in the Western Isles. They are something like the North Uist people.
14,038. Are they fishermen at all?
—In the south end they are—in Eriskay particularly, and in Lochboisdale and Loch Eyenort. On the eastside they go in for fishing more than on the west side. A few go in for lobster fishing.
14,039. Do they go to the East Coast and to Lerwick and these places?
—No, they don’t go so far north as that, but I believe they go to Skye and the nearer lochs.
14,040. They will go to Barra?
14,041. There is a considerabe kelp industry?
—Yes, that is still carried on.
14,042. It is not so prosperous as it was. They still do quite well with it?
—For the past year it was not so prosperous as it was in the three or four years preceding it, but still it is a great help to the crofters, especially to them on the west side.
14,043. What is the price of kelp just now?
—Anything from between £4 and £5. I heard of some cases where they only got a little over £3. These were exceptional cases.
14,044. That is a good deal more than it was some years ago?
14,045. How much will a crofter make out of kelp in the course of a year?
—I have heard of some crofters in the much as £230, over and above paying their rent.
14,046. There are a great many of them Lovat Scouts?
—Yes, a good few.
14,047. Are any of them in the Militia?
—Yes, and of course that is a good help too.
14,048. Are there any in the Naval Reserve?
—Not as far as I know, in our parish.
14,049. Would it be true to say that the majority of the male population are in one or other of the services?
—I would not be prepared to say that the majority of them were, but a good few of them are.
14,050. They also have the cloth manufacturing industry?
—Yes, and a good many of the women go in for that. For some time back they have not been getting anything like a remunerative price for it. For instance, they were only getting about 2s, 6d. per yard. In some cases they got 3s.
14,051. Whom do they sell it to?
—Usually to the local merchants, on the barter system. They get goods in return for it.
14,052. Has the Crofters’ Association got a store there?
—That is the Duchess of Sutherland’s Association?
—Yes, but in the south end I don’t think it does very much just now, but it is still in existence in Benbecula. They are going in for it more now, I think, than they used to. They are better for that sort of work in Benbecula than they are in the south end, I understand.
14,054. The income they get from the croft is usually in kind, I suppose? They have very little to sell of the croft?
—Yes, unless at the market, where they sell their stock; and that is usually swallowed up by the rent.
14,055. They get a house, rent and potatoes and meat, and so on, out of their croft?
—Yes, they have the produce off the croft and the cows and the potatoes and meal. They produce their own meal, some of them, but a considerable number of them have to buy their meal.
14,056. I suppose the crop does not ripen very often?
— Yes, invariably.
14,057. And they use it mainly for feeding the cattle?
14,058. But with a. few exceptions, you think they are all able to pay the doctor’s fees?
—If there was a certain amount of willingness, I should fancy so, because I think they should be able to pay the 5s.
14,059. You have a club in South Uist?
—I cannot say that would call it a club. I was in conversation with one of the doctors and he said he did not like to call it a club at all, because they were so slack in paying.
14,060. Who collects it?
—The doctor appoints certain members to go round and collect it.
14,061. Does the doctor attend them free if they pay 5s. into the club?
—Yes, provided they pay for the medicines over and above, but in accouchement cases there is a fee of a guinea. A crofter's circumstances are seldom such as will enable him to pay that.
14,062. In the case of an operation, does he charge extra for that?
—There are very few operations on account of the distances between the doctors. They are sent off to Glasgow usually, to the Western Infirmary. The Parish Council pays into the funds of the Western Infirmary five guineas. Of course we are entitled to send two cases yearly, but we don't have two to send from time to time.
14,063. They are paupers?
—We can extend it to any case we like. It lies with the Parish Council to do that.
14,064. Is it mostly paupers you send, or do you sometimes send a case that is just above the pauper line?
—The crofter class oftener take advantage of it.
14,065. Do you think if the club fee was compulsory and there was power for it to be levied, that they would be able to pay 5s per family easily enough?
—That is just my opinion. There is certainly a number that would not be able to pay 5s. For instance, the cottar class would not be able to pay that.
14,066. You should know pretty accurately the social conditions of the people there. What percentage do you think would not be able to pay anything at all and still not become paupers—10 per cent.?
—Anything between 15 and 10 per cent.
14,067. They are not paupers?
14,068. At present they are not able to pay 5s. and they are not able to pay doctor's. fees at all. From 15 to 20 per cent of the people in South Uist who are not paupers are worse of in regard to medical attendance than the paupers are?
—Yes certainly. Being on the roll, of course, secures a factor for the paupers.
14,069. You have had three changes of doctors in your district, and you believe it to be due to the insufficient remuneration; that it was not worth their while remaining?
—Yes. At any rate, in two cases, two recent cases in the southern division of the parish, that was the case, but the other change, of course, could not be attributed to that.
14,070. Have you had some trouble in getting applicants for the position of medical officer?
—I cannot say that we had. The last time we advertised we had quite a number who answered and we had a selection.
14,071. That is not always the case, is it?
—I don’t recollect really of having any difficulty in getting a doctor. The thing is the getting of a good doctor.
14,072. You don’t expect the doctor to stay very long?
— At the time he was appointed there was a considerable addition made to the salary of the doctor. The doctor at that time used only to get £70 for medical relief. He is now getting £100.
14,073. How many paupers has he to attend to?
— Altogether he has got forty-six in his parish, and as many again for the northern division—Benbecula and Eochdar— doctor.
14,074. So that that is £2 per head you pay him?
—Yes, something like that.
14,075. Is his division South Uist or Benbecula?
—From Drinisdale southwards to Eriskay.
14,076. You give him £100 to attend to forty-six patients?
14,077. That is £2 per patient, but he is attending the ordinary public for 5s. a family?
—Yes. I think that is what he is getting just now.
14,078. Then of course you give him this £2 per family for the paupers, so that he may have a decent income 2Yes, but the salary from the Parish Council is not based on the number of paupers. We had a difficulty, because the two doctors that were there before were very good doctors and they left because the salary was not sufficient to keep them.
14,079. But you are putting a good deal of the cost of the medical attendance of the district on the poor rate?
— Yes, certainly. We don’t get very much from Government.
14,080. And you don’t get very much from the people who have the doctor either?~
—You mean from those outside the ordinary crofters?
—The doctor that was there before this last one was appointed told me at any rate that he left simply because they were not paying the club fees and he was not making anything like a living wage.
14,082. I suppose you would not get a doctor unless you paid that £100?
14,083. In regard to hospitals, you have one hospital at Daliburgh, the Bute Hospital, and it is supported by Lord Bute?
14,084. What is the size of it?
—There are three wards altogether. That is all. Of course they are big wards.
14,085. There are ten beds in each ward?
—Not so much as that.
14,086. You have really over fifteen or sixteen patients in it?
—Sometimes, but ten is about the number that can be comfortably accommodated.
14,087. Is it very often full?
—Sometimes. It varies very much. It is a great boon to that end of the parish, because if there is anything wrong with them they simply go to the hospital and get looked after there.
14,088. Is this hospital confined entirely to the south end of the parish?
—Serious cases go from Benbecula to get good treatment.
14,089. And from the north end of South Uist?
14,090. Are there more from the south than the north?
—Yes, as may be understood.
14,091. How many nurses are there?
—There are usually two. By an Order of Sisters they work the place, and one of them is experienced in the work and she has got somebody else to help her. I think these are all that are in attendance there. The doctor calls there daily.
14,092. They are Catholic nurses?
14,093. The southern division doctor has charge of the hospital?
14,094. Does he get a fee for that?
—I think he must be getting something from Lord Bute, and then each one who goes in from the outside district pays a certain amount too. I think it is 2s. 6d,, or something like that, per head for each case that goes up to the hospital to be treated, and medicines free.
14,095. The people go there for treatment?
14,096. From all parts?
14,097. Is there an outpatient department for the south division?
—Yes, for the south division only.
14,098. Your serious cases you send to Glasgow usually?
—Yes, to the Western Infirmary.
14,099. Then you are pretty well off for hospital accommodation in South Uist. How could you do without it?
—We would be very badly off without it. Down in the north end they are not very well off at all, because it is so difficult to remove a sick person as far up as that.
14,100. How many miles will it be—about eighteen miles?
—Yes, or thereabout.
14,101. You would not like to have charge of a district of that kind without an hospital?
—It would be very difficult indeed to deal with it.
14,102. In North Uist they have no hospital?
—No, they have nothing like that in North Uist.
14,103. Do they take paupers into the Bute Hospital?
— I don’t remember. I remember one dependant two or three years ago getting in.
14,104. Did the Parish Council pay for him?
—No, they did not pay.
14,105. You have no regular arrangement with them?
14,106. Does the Parish Council contribute?
—No, we give them nothing.
14,107. Do you think there is a large proportion of the people in South Uist above the pauper line who don’t get medical attendance when they need it?
—Well, there may be a few. They don’t like to send for the doctor because of the heavy expense.
14,108. You believe that to be pretty general?
—Well, of course, there are cases of it. I would not say it was altogether general. I know perfectly well there are some cases like that.
14,109. They would have something to pay if they were members of the club?
—It is those people who don’t pay to the club who suffer like that.
14,110. How about your nurses; how many nurses have you got?
—We have one in Benbecula, and she is mainly maintained by Lady Gordon Cathcart. She gives £50 towards her upkeep. The rest is subscribed by the people in Benbecula.
14,111. Is she a Catholic nurse?
—No, she is not a sister at all; she is in connection with the Jubilee nurses. There is a Nursing Association in Benbecula.
14,112. Is that enough for Benbecula?
—I should fancy that Benbecula is fairly well off with that nurse. She is doing a great deal of good too.
14,113. Does the Benbecula nurse nurse paupers?
—I have seen her attending to paupers sometimes. The Parish Council would be quite willing to support nurses if they were general in the parish. That is to say, if there were other two nurses in the parish, one for the middle quarter and another for the southern end. I was at a case that the nurse was looking after, and I highly approved of her services.
14,114. You think you have quite enough doctors for the needs of the district at present?
—Well, I should just fancy so. If they were supplemented by nurses it would be better.
14,115. You have one in the north part of the island?
— We have one in the north part, in Benbecula, and 1 think they are required for the southern district and the middle district.
14,116. When they require a doctor at Eriskay, has he to cross the sound there?
14,117. Is there a nurse at Eriskay?
—No, there is no nurse.
14,118. Do you think nurses would be necessary?
— There are about 450 people there. If there was a nurse in the southern end, I should fancy that she would be able to cross over when required.
14,119. How long does it take to cross?
—Anything from three-quarters of an hour, according to the weather.
14,120. Is it dangerous sometimes?
—Sometimes, when it is windy.
14,121. What does it cost?
—8s. Every time I go there I pay 8s. That means I go over and come back for that fee.
14,122. The nurse could hardly pay that?
—Hardly. Probably they would deal differently with a nurse.
14,123. I suppose your rates are at present so high that you don’t think they can bear any additional charge for improved medical service?
—I don’t think so.
14,124. What are your rates?
—This year’s rates are 10s. 8d. altogether. That is the poor rate, the school rate, the registration rate, and a special parish rate.
14,125. Is the County Council rate about 2s.?
—Yes, something like that.
14,126. What percentage do you take off?
—In the case of the Poor, etc., Rates 35 per cent. It comes to this, that one who has to pay £1 for a croft, according to the rates this year, all the money he has got to pay is 1s. 5d. It looks big at first, but when it comes down to 1s. 5d. it is not very much. That is the tenant’s share.
14,127. What is the proprietor’s share?
—About 5s. 7d.
14,128. It amounts to this, that for every £ there is only 7s. paid instead of 10s. 8d.?
—Yes, but allowing for deductions 2s. 11d. only. .
14,129. These are pretty fair rates all the same, and you don’t think they could stand any more?
—They really complain of them as they are. There was this year, of course, 2s. cut off; there was a reduction at our meeting of 2s. in the £.
14,130. Was it your parish that had a rate of 11s 8d for education?
—Yes, in 1910, when the Parish Council resigned, and things were taken over by the Local Government Board.
14,131. What grant did you get from the Education Department for that? Was it £1000?
—I think so.
14,132. Generally, have you anything else to say as to how the medical service could be improved? You have told us that you would like a. few more nurses. What about your telegraphs and telephones? Is the telegraph pretty well developed in your parish?
—Yes, it is just now. For instance, the one at Eochar is about to be stopped. The Post Office threatened to close it because the Parish Council refused to renew their guarantee. We are just considering whether we will renew that guarantee at the present moment.
14,133. Why should you not renew the guarantee?
— The attitude of the Parish Council is like this: in the south end some offices were got like that, by the guarantee of the Parish Council, but then they got sub-guarantees who paid them back. The Parish Council think that the Eochar people ought to do the same, and the Eochar people are against that, and the matter lies like that. The difficulty is to get responsible people to say that they will pay any outlays.
14,134. How much will it amount to?
—£6 a year, or something like that.
14,135. Is the telephone or telegraph not of so much use to the community that they would keep it up?
—That is what I was telling them.
14,136. Is it a telephone or a telegraph?
—It is a telephone in this case.
14,137. Are you allowed to speak over the telephone— are you allowed to speak yourself—to conduct a conversation with the man at the other end?
—It only extends to Grogarry.
14,138. How do your doctors find their way about the country?
—The southern man cycles, and when the weather is bad he gets a trap. The northern one rides a horse and walks.
14,139. None of them have motors?
—No, there are no motors in the island at all.
14,140. Are the roads suitable for a motor-car?
—I should think so. Then there are the fords of course, I should fancy they would suit the south all right. There is the expense; our doctors’ salaries would not permit of their buying motor-cars.
14,141. What is the distance he has to go?
—He has got to come down to the furthest north end of his parish about fourteen miles.
14,142. Is there anything else you would like to say; anything that has occurred to you?
—Nothing, but that I would suggest that the Government should give a grant in support of the medical relief.
14,143. Do you think it would be possible to work a club system if it was made compulsory?
—My opinion is that it would be more satisfactory.
14,144. Do you think they are able to pay 5s. a head mostly?
—Generally, they are.
14,145. Would you undertake to collect it?
—It would not be difficult, because my opinion is that it would be collected along with the other rates.
14,146. It would be quite simple?
—Yes, I should fancy so.
14,147. (Mr Lindsay.) You consider 5s. a fair sum for the average family to pay?
14,148. What is the condition of the housing in your district?
—They are improving.
14,149. Are there any what you call black houses in your district?
—There are a few still.
14,150. What sort of new houses are they putting up in South Uist?
—-There is a township just where I stay where they are putting up houses with corrugated iron roofs, with six rooms usually.
14,151. How are the walls built?
—With stone and lime.
14,152. Are there any bylaws applicable to these houses being put up? They cannot enforce any bylaws with regard to the building of new houses?
—There is some regulation in existence, I think, in connection with these new settlers, made by the Board of Agriculture, that the houses are to be of a substantial nature.
14,153. That is a different class of house, altogether There are no bylaws being enforced in South Uist?
—No. The Local Authority has not framed any bylaws so far.
14,154. What is your opinion of the houses put up by the people themselves? Are there any new houses being put up by the people themselves without any supervision?
14,155. The Board of Agriculture exercises some sort of supervision over these houses?
—Yes. They have an inspector who goes round and sees them being put up.
14,156. My point is that the houses erected by the crofters themselves are not supervised?
—No. Of course there is a sanitary inspector of the district.
14,157. Does he superintend in any way the erection of these houses?
14,158. Do you think these houses are thoroughly dry when they are put up?
—Certainly some of the sites are not of the best.
14,159. (Chairman.) Do they get no advice about selecting a site?
—It is left practically to themselves.
14,160. (Dr Mackenzie.) You are clerk to the District Committee?
14,161. Of course the adoption of building byelaws is purely voluntary under the Public Health Act. There is no obligation on the County Council or the Local Authority to frame any?
—Yes. At any rate they have not done anything since I came as clerk.
14,162. It is only since 1897 that that power has been conferred on County Councils?
14,163. It has been a dead letter?
14,164. As a matter of securing good buildings, apart from bylaws, you spoke of the sanitary inspector visiting. What salary is he paid in South Uist?
14,165. And out of that he has to pay his travelling expenses?
14,166. He has to go as far south as Eriskay?
14,167. He may have to pay 8s. to cross to Eriskay?
14,168. Recently you had an outbreak of typhoid in Eriskay?
14,169. And the sanitary inspector would have to go there?
14,170. And out of that amount of money he gets he had to take his expenses of going there?
14,171. Has he been refunded at all for his outlays?
14,172. So that by the end of the year he may have £3 or £4 to call his own?
—I suppose it comes to that.
14,173. What do you pay the medical officer of health of the district?
—There is a different arrangement since last year.
14,174. Dr M‘Donald is the county medical officer of health; he is chief medical officer for the district of South Uist?
14,175. And he is allowed £70?
14,176. And out of that he pays a certain amount to each of the sub-districts of Barra and South Uist and Benbecula?
—Only to two doctors—Barra and south end of South Uist doctors.
14,177. He gets the £70?
14,178. And he has in fact to pay a certain amount out of that?
—Yes, £25 to each of these two doctors.
14,179. He gets his expenses to the island refunded by the County Council?
—Yes, but not by the District Committee.
14,180. As far as the three men in the sub-divisions are concerned, they get £25 each?
—Two only get £25 each.
14,181. You have a fair amount of epidemic disease in your district. You have scarlet fever, typhoid, typhus, and occasionally whooping-cough during the year?
14,182. The medical officer of health is also the only practitioner in the district, and he has to treat all that as a private practitioner. I mean to say he has to treat the cases at home?
14,183. You have a small hospital at Daliburgh for infectious diseases. Has it ever been used at all?
14,184. How often has it been used?
—It has not been used since I became clerk to the Local Authority.
14,185. In fact it was erected about that time?
—No, it was erected a good time before that. It has been used several times.
14,186. I am thinking of the wood and iron erection outside the Bute Hospital in Daliburgh. That was erected in 1900?
—Yes. I only became clerk to the District Committee two years ago.
14,187. It has been used once or twice?
14,188. For the last two years, since you became clerk, it has not been used at all?
—That is so.
14,189. From the beginning, you understand, there were some cases attended to there?
14,190. Generally, it has not been much used. At any rate, as a matter of fact, in the last two years you have never had a case in it?
—That is a fact.
14,191. Have you had cases in the island during the last few years?
—Yes. We had a case in Benbecula last year, a typhoid case, and another case in Barre. They were all treated in their houses, and treated successfully.
14,192. How many cases have you had of whooping cough, measles, and scarlet fever?
—Several, but they are not thought seriously of.
14,193. Have you any arrangement for supplying nurses to this infectious diseases hospital if need be?
—Yes. We simply wire to any of the nursing associations for a nurse.
14,194. You have had no difficulty in getting them?
— We have had no difficulty.
14,195. Where do you wire to —to Edinburgh?
14,196. How long does it take them to come—twentyfour hours?
—Yes, or thereby.
14,197. Do the Daliburgh sisters help you in any way with infectious cases?
14,198. Would they lend a hand if it was necessary?
— I should fancy they would, if it was necessary.
14,199. (Mr Grierson.) Are the medicines included in the club system?
—No. They are paid for over and above the club subscription.
14,200. You have had some experience now of Parish Council work, and we have found considerable difficulty in our inquiries with regard to tenure of office for doctors. Have you had any trouble with the doctors in that way; would you favour the idea of the doctors having an appeal to the Local Government Board before they are dismissed by your Parish Council?
—I cannot recollect if they were having any difficulty in that way in South Uist. The only two doctors I refer to in my evidence sent in their resignations.
14,201. You have no objection to them having the same tenure as you yourself have?
—No, certainly I would not, but I am of the opinion that the Local Government Board would deal with the matter just as they do in other cases.
14,202. During the time you have been in the Parish Council, you have had no experience of there being unreasonable doctors?
—In the way of a doctor being dealt with unfairly by the Parish Council?
14,203. We have had it suggested to us that a doctor is sometimes unreasonable, although it is difficult to believe it, that you sometimes have an unreasonable doctor to deal with. Would there be any difficulty in having an appeal to the Local Government Board, so that they could judge whether his conduct was unreasonable or whether the Parish Council’s conduct had been unreasonable. Don’t you think it would be the best authority to deal with the matter?
—I should think that the matter should lie with the Local Government Board in case of local feeling in the matter. I should fancy that they would be the best judges. My statement, of course, in regard to that cannot be taken to mean that anything has taken place in our own parish.
14,204. I understand; I just want your opinion as a man who has had experience of Parish Council work?
14,205. I see you lay great stress on the question of nurses. As regards the medical service for the community, would you think that an increased nursing service would be the most important thing in your parish?
—I should fancy it would be very beneficial indeed, from what has taken place in Benbecula.
14,206. Do you consider that the nurses have an educative effect on the people, teaching the people habits of cleanliness and knowledge of diseases?
—Yes, a good deal indeed.
14,207. They have a considerable educative effect on the people?
14,208. (Mr Orrock.) The price was only 2s. 6d. per yard for tweed for the last year or so?
—Not for the last year, but for the last four years.
14,209. You don’t know that that was exactly the price?
—I have no reason again to disbelieve the persons who told me that.
14,210. Was it all hand-made?
—In some cases they sent it away to mills to be carded.
14,211. If it was the pure article then they would get a higher rate per yard?
—I have no doubt about that, but I cannot speak on the matter very much.
14,212. (Chairman.) Can you tell us if there are many insured persons in your parish under the Insurance Act?
— I don’t think so. There are only very few applications come in.
14,213. (Mr Grierson.) Are there any voluntary ones?
— There are no voluntary contributors at all, I understand.
14,214. They are only employed persons?
14,215. Are there any employed persons who have paid insurance premiums and have not joined all approved?
—I cannot say.
14,216. The Highlands and Islands is a church’s one?
14,217. Have the Catholic churches joined in it?
—They have a society of their own.
14,218. (Mr Orrock.) What is the population of South Uist?
—About 4000 from Eochar to Pollachar, and in Benbecula there are 1383—the whole parish, 5383.
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