Tarbert, 15 October 1912 - Roderick Smith
13,300. (Chairman.) You are the Postmaster here?
13,301. Can you tell us about the telegraph system? Is it a telegraph instrument or a telephone?
13,302. You have the telephone to where?
—To Scalpay, and to the lighthouse at night.
13,303. You telephone the telegraph messages there?
— Yes. They are the property of the post office, and they are treated the same as the ordinary telegraph messages.
13,304. Would you allow anybody to come in and speak over it to Sca1pay?
13,305. It is against the regulations?
—Because we cannot let anybody use the rest of the instruments.
13,307. Do you see any reason why they should not be allowed to do it?
—If I got instructions from head quarters, I see no reason why it should not be done.
13,308. We have been surprised to find that it is part of the regulations that no one can speak over them. Don’t you think it might often be employed by a doctor himself?
—Yes, or for one who knew how to use it; but the majority of the highlanders, although they had the right to use it, would ask us to do it for them.
13,309. Do you agree that it would be often a very important thing for a doctor to be able to find out the symptoms of his patient through the telephone rather than having to send a telegram?
13,310. So far as you know, there would be no inconvenience in using this as an ordinary telephone?
13,311. How long have you had the telephone on that footing?
—The telephone was there before my time.
13,312. The main source of livelihood in the district is the Harris tweed industry?
13,313. The crofting industry is not very common here?
13,314. Can you give us an estimate of the sum that annually comes into arris from the tweed industry?
—I might be wide of the mark.
13,315. You have no means of arriving at it. Is it increasing?
—Last year was a very bad year. There was no demand for it.
13,316. Are the people in the district able to pay a doctor’s fee?
—They try to pay.
13,317. Some of them, I daresay, are not able to pay much, if anything?
—There are some who are not able to pay very much for anything.
13,318. In the case of crofters who live a long way off from the doctor, are there any of them at all that are able to pay such a fee that would recompense the doctor for the distance he has to go?
—That is one thing that they would endeavour to pay although they left other things to pay it.
13,319. You can imagine that a crofter ten or fifteen miles away is not able to pay for many visits at 10s. or 15s. a visit?
—No; he would suffer a lot before he would send for a doctor.
13,320. You are very well off for a doctor in this district. Sir Samuel Scott has come to your assistance?
—We have nothing to complain of in this vicinity.
13,321. If Sir Samuel Scott did not subsidise the doctor, do you think the people themselves could provide a living for the doctor here?
—That is a big question. It would be difficult to give a direct answer to that. I have no doubt that the people would do their utmost, as I have said already, to pay the doctor, although the had to leave other things unpaid; but whether it would be a sufficient income for a. local doctor or not is another question.
13,322. I suppose you are pretty sure it would not be?
— I would not like to say it would be.
13,323. The arrangement in this district, we understand, is that Sir Samuel Scott gives a certain sum to the doctor, and there is a club into which the crofters pay 5s. per family and the cottars 2s. 6d. a family per year?
—Yes, that is so.
13,324. Can you tell us what the contributions from the crofters and the cottars amount to in gross?
—Something between £30 and £40.
13,325. The local doctor here is not the parish doctor, so he is not paid anything out of the poor rates?
13,326. You have got an hospital here?
13,327. It is a new hospital?
13,328. The doctor has just explained to us that he finds great unwillingness on the part of the people to go into the hospital, because there is a small charge per week?
13,329. Is not that a little remarkable?
—Yes. It shows the inability of the people to pay that small charge.
13,330. Do you think they are not able to pay that 5s. a week?
—Many of them are not able to pay it; they are not all unable to pay it, at any rate.
13,331. If the hospital was free, do you think there would be any unwillingness on the part of the people to go into it?
—There would not be so much unwillingness.
13,332. You say that in some of the Islands it is impossible to get a doctor when he is sent for sometimes?
—It is quite impossible.
13,333. Of course, there cannot be the unwillingness here that there is in some parishes we have been in, because they have to pay a fee. They have not that to face here?
—No, not so much.
13,334. On that account there is nobody who does not have the services of the doctor. Of course, the only case in which they have not the doctor is in a case where the doctor is not able to go?
—Yes, that is so. He may be required in Scalpay to-day, and not able to go elsewhere
13,335. You have no district nurse here?
13,336. Would you be the better of one?
—Yes, or two. We would be very much the better of at least two.
13,337. Do you think a nurse could make a living here by charging fees for nursing?
—I am afraid not.
13,338. It would need to be in the nature of parish nurse, provided by other means?
—Yes, it would need to be so.
13,339. Have you ever thought of trying to get one?
13,340. You are not a parish councillor?
—No, I am not.
13,341. It is one Parish Council here?
13,342. Where does it meet?
—In Tarbert, and in South Harris.
13,343. It meets alternately?
13,344. (Lady Tullibardine.) I understand that under this system by which Sir Samuel Scott pays the salary of the doctor the crofters pay 5s. a family as a subscription and the cottars pay 2s. 6d. Is not a cottar often just as well off as a crofter?
—He is sometimes better off, and has less to lay out.
13,345. Therefore it does not seem a very good arrangement that a cottar should only pay the half of what a crofter has to pay?
—It does not.
13,346. Would it be a fair arrangement in the island if they all paid alike so much per family?
—Yes, or according to their means.
13,347. Would that be possible—to make a distinction according to means?
—Well, I think it would be.
13,348. Could you give us any idea how it could be done, as to what the limit would be?
—No, but when a figure was fixed upon the cottar in better circumstances than crofter beside him could be made to pay a. little more than the crofter in poor circumstances. .
13,349. Do you think all the crofters can afford to pay 5s. a year as a subscription?
—They will endeavour to pay it.
13,350. So that we could take that as the standard?
13,351. You would like some of those cottars to pay more?
13,352. Would you be able to find out what their means were?
—Yes, from their neighbours. Their neighbours would know their circumstances better than any outsider.
13,353. (Chairman.) Would it do to leave it to the man himself to say if he was well off. Would not he be willing to give a little more?
— You would like his evidence substantiated by other evidence.
13,354. (Mr. Orrock.) Would the neighbours give that information?
—Supposing I am a crofter and I am bound to pay 5s., and if it came out that the cottar is in better circumstances than I, he should pay more. Naturally I would say that that man is more able to pay 5s. than I am.
13,355. (Lady Tullibardine.) Would they know what his circumstances were?
—Yes, I should think so.
13,356. Would he not mind his neighbours giving information about him?
—He might, if it was not fair to do it but, on the other hand, he would be only paying his legal or proper obligation.
13,357. Are most of the cottars fishing people?
—Not all; some of them are.
13,358. If they are not fishers, do they have any other work besides? What is their work?
—They have no work
13,359. Are some of them merchants?
—I don’t know that you would call a merchant a cottar.
13,360. Would it not be better to make a club arrangement apply just to the crofters and the fishers, and make them all pay 5s. a head?
—They could do it if it was made the rule.
13,361. But it would need to be compulsory, you think?
—It would need to be the finding or the under- standing of the district.
13,362. (Chairman) We discovered some cottars who were merchants in Lewis. Are there none of them here?
—I don’t know. There may be some in the outlying districts.
13,363. (Lady Tullibardine.) Are there many people living alone in a house; are there many single women or old bachelors living alone?
—There are some here and there.
13,364. How much do those people pay to the club?
—I don't know that they pay anything at all.
13,365. You think they are let off altogether?
—In some cases I believe they are.
13,366. With regard to the unwillingness of the people to go into the hospital, do they never go away to Glasgow if it is a serious case?
13,367. What do they do about their fare; how do they get to Glasgow?
—They will find the fare. If they have to go to Glasgow they will find ways and means of getting their fare.
13,368. Do you think that in time they would not find means to pay 5s. a week for the hospital here?
—Yes, they would.
13,369. They will come to realise that it is better to give 5s. for a week’s attendance and nourishment in the hospital than to pay more than that for the journey to Glasgow or Edinburgh?
—They have only to pay for the journey; they get medical attendance and everything else free in Glasgow.
13,370. (Dr Mackenzie.) What is the fare to Glasgow?
13,371. (Lady Tullibardine.) They could get three weeks' treatment in the hospital for less than 18s.; they would get good treatment and nourishment?
—Yes, if they were certain that the three weeks’ treatment would cure them of their ailment they would go to the hospital.
13,372. Are they sometimes longer than three weeks in Glasgow?
13,373. Is there anything in the idea that they will get better treatment in Glasgow?
—A great deal.
13,374. Because there are well-known surgeons and so on in Glasgow?
13,375. Does the fare to Glasgow cover the food they get on the way?
—I hardly think so. They will have to provide their own food.
13,376. So that the journey there and back will cost over £1?
—Yes, it will.
13,377. Do you not think in time they will get to realise the benefit of the hospital here?
—It is difficult to say what they will do.
13,378. It will all depend on the doctor, I suppose?
— We are all right here as far as the doctor is concerned, but we don't know how long we will have him.
13,379. (Mr Orrock.) You live in Tarbert?
13,380. Are you a feuar?
13,381. (Chairman.) It is leasehold, is not it?
13,382. (Mr Orrock.) Are you classed with the cottars to pay half a crown?
—That is quite voluntary on my part. Any time I need the doctor I don’t consider that the 5s. is sufficient for his advice. I pay my 5s. subscription and I pay the doctor over and above when I need him.
13,383 Is the doctor allowed to take fees; is he not paid by Sir Samuel Scott?
—That is so, but I never heard that he was prohibited from taking fees over and above that.
13,384. He is allowed to take fees?-
—That is my belief.
13,385. (Chairman.) Are not you treated as a post office official by the post office doctor?
—He is the post office doctor, but not for the family, of course.
13,386. (Mr Orrock.) I think you said that the amount contributed by the crofters an the cottars would probably amount to £30 or £40?
13,387. Sir Samuel Scott has to make up the difference between that and the doctor’s salary?
13,388. (Mr Grierson.) Are you a merchant as well as a postmaster?
13,389. You don’t find the people have any difficulty in paying their accounts here?
—There are some good payers and there are bad payers.
13,390. You told the Committee that the people are so poor that they cannot pay 5s. a week for the use of the hospital to be treated in it. You say that seriously, I understand?
—That is so; some of them cannot pay.
13,391. Do you mean a large proportion of them or just a small percentage of them?
—Not quite a large proportion, but there are some.
13,392. What do you call not quite a large percentage- 5 per cent.?
—Take it at 5 per cent who could not pay 5s. a week.
13,393. Only about 5 per cent.?
—I would not say that.
13,394. What are you saying?
—It is difficult to strike an exact figure, so that you will have to have a margin.
13,395. Could half of the people pay 5s. a week?
—I am afraid I am not able to answer that question. Could you not even say one-third could pay it? (Chairman.) I don’t think Mr Smith knows the conditions.
13,396. (Mr Grierson.) Could you give me some idea of the individual earnings of the people in the Harris tweed trade?
—That is very difficult again. It all depends on their production.
13,397. Could you give us any idea what the production will be in an average weaver’s house where the man and woman are both working together?
—They only work at that in their spare time. They take home their peat and stock their peats and knit, and so on, and it is only when they sit in the house they do their spinning and weaving. It is not the same as if they were working at it from six in the morning to six at night. They do everything else over and above that. They simply attend to their tweed- making when they are in the house and have nothing else to do. I can tell you that two women in a house can keep themselves quite comfortable from the tweed industry.
13,398. And they would be able to pay a small fee to the doctor?
13,399. 5s. a year would not be too much for the doctor ‘.3
—They could pay that.
13,400. In the fishing industry what would be the average earnings of a man?
—I don’t know, and nobody can tell what will be their average earnings. They can give you their average earnings for the past seasons.
13,401. What I want to get at is what last year’s average earnings were?
—Last summer’s fishing was very good, but for some years before that it was very poor.
13,402. Could you give us any idea what last year’s fishing industry would amount to among the men?
—-No, I am not able to give you an average.
13,403. We had it in evidence that married men earn as much as £300 in a season?
—£300 for a crew, you mean, and there will be another half-dozen crews who don't draw £20.
13,404. Is that your experience?
—That is my experience all along.
13,405. Do your women go to the gutting here?
—Not to the East Coast.
13,406. Can you give us an idea of how many insured persons there are under the Insurance Act?
—There are not many who are willing to become insured persons.
13,407. Can you give us any idea of how many insured persons there are here who are compulsorily insured. Can you give us any idea of that. I mean ghillies, labourers, and men working on the roads, and so on?
—The number of stamps sold is far in excess of the number of individual cases.
13,408. Could you not give us roughly any idea of the number of insured persons?
13,409. Are many people insuring voluntarily under this Act?
—None, so far as I know. For instance at the whaling station, which is closed now, every man employed there had to get his card stamped. The men are away now, and they consider that it is far better to lose the money they would pay into the Insurance scheme between the two seasons than to keep it up themselves. They would have to pay their 7d. for the next eight months to keep it up.
13,410. That is a dreadful state of affairs. You see, all that money goes to the Government. You mean to tell me that the seventy or eighty men working at this whaling station are going to let all the payments that they made on their behalf towards the benefits of the Insurance Act go rather than pay 7d a week while they are not working?
— From what I hear, that is their intention.
13,411. They don’t need to let it go; they can become deposit insurers with you?
—Yes, but the difficulty is that they have to make the 7d. a week now.
13,412. (Dr Miller.) Do you think there is much illness in this community; would you say they are a healthy people?
—The majority of them are, but there is more illness than there should be.
13,413. What kind of illnesses do you have here?
—Well, it is mainly whooping-cough, scarlet fever, and so on. We get these as a rule from the South, and they go the round.
13,414. Do the people take measles very badly when it does come?
—Some of them do.
13,415. Do you notice that it is the ordinary practice among the people here to spit a lot?
—I cannot say that I noticed that more than I have done in other districts.
13,416. Of course, there is a notice put up in the post office to the effect that spitting is not allowed?
—Not in this one.
13,417. Do you mean to say that the post office people have not furnished you with a placard against spitting?
— No, they have not, and there is occasion for it.
13,418. One thing I can tell you is that they have furnished you with free medical attendance?
—I don’t get it. I am only a sub-postmaster.
13,419. Is it the habit in this district that the children wear their hair long, both the boys and the girls?
—The girls, as a rule, wear it as long as they can, and the boys as short as they can.
13,420. At what age do they begin cutting the boys’ hair?
—I think it is difficult for anybody to tell.
13,421. (Chairman.) It depends on the taste of the mother, I suppose?
13,422. (Dr Miller.) You don’t consider it a kind of religious rite to have the hair long for a number of years?
13,423. By the parents?
—Nothing of the kind.
13,424. (Dr Mackenzie.) Do you notice any difference between the boys’ hair here and the boys’ elsewhere. Do they wear their hair longer here than the boys anywhere else?
—There is no difference whatever.
13,425. Do you notice it among the Scalpay people, for instance?
—I have not noticed it.
13,426. Do you think that if the hospital were made free the people would take more advantage of it?
—Yes, I believe they would.
13,427. The difference between Glasgow and the hospital here is that the same people who attend them here at their homes would attend them at the hospital?-They are inclined to believe that they get better medical treatment in Glasgow than they could get here.
13,428—13,429. They would get the highest skill possible?
13,430. Short of that, don’t you think the small hospital might be useful?
13,431. (Chairman.) How long does it take to get to Glasgow?
—Usually three days.
13,432. Do they mostly go by the Dunara Castle and not by Portree. It takes you two days by Portree?
—The poorer people go by the Dunara Castle.
13,433. That is the 9s. fare?
13,434. (Mr Lindsay.) Are there any houses in North Harris or South Harris where the cattle are under the same roof as the people?
—I am not quite sure. There used to be some. If there is, the officer of health does not do his duty, or the sanitary inspector does not do his duty.
13,435. (Dr Mackenzie.) I think they are under instructions to clear out all that sort of thing?
13,436. Is there much consumption here?
—here are isolated cases, but not many. It is getting more prevalent.
—Through the district. You cannot say it is in one district more than in another.
13,438. What makes you say that? Are you seeing or hearing more about it?
—That is so.
13,439. Have you any idea why it has become more prevalent .?
—No. I leave that to the doctors.
13,440. You have not the exact figures on the point?
13,441. You don’t know how it compares with North Uist?
13,442. What sort of food do the people get as a rule?
— Vegetables—cabbages, potatoes, and other vegetables. They also also get fish and meat. .
13,443. (Mr Grierson.) Do they grow many turnips?
13,444. (Chairman.) Except in Tarbert, there are not very much vegetables grown on the island?
—A good number of the croiters grow vegetables.
13,445. (Dr Mackenzie.) Carrots and turnips?
—Yes, and that is about all.
13,446. Is there much milk to be got?
—They have all milk. If one has not milk their neighbour has.
13,447. (Mr Grierson.) You have no difficulty in getting milk either in the summer-time or in the winter?
—I cannot say that that is so in the winter-time.
13,448. (Dr Mackenzie.) How many cows do you think they keep in the whole of Harris? There are about 6000 people. Would there be 1000 cows? Have you got a cow for every two families?
13,449. You think you would have a cow to each family at least?
—You can strike an average at that, and I think you are quite safe.
13,450. So that you think they have plenty of milk for part of the year at any rate?
—Yes, except during the winter.
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