View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Saturday 7 April

A fairly bright day and not feeling too cold with the mercury at 10C / 50F. The dandelions are out and refuse to succumb to zapping by weedkiller. They're pulling a long nose...

I have completed the transcription of the Dewar Report of 1912, which gives a good social history of conditions of the people of the Highlands and Islands. To be precise, I have only transcribed the 85 pages of evidence related to the Outer Hebrides. The report was intended to investigate the provision of medical services.

In 1912, not all villages were on a road, telephones were rarer than gold and could not be used by doctors for talking to patients; it was against regulations. People sent for the doctor by telegram. And the doctors felt those telegrams to be a nuisance, as the advent of the telegraph office had quadrupled their workload. Tuberculosis (TB or consumption) was rife, affecting nearly half the population. In some places, children were fed tea (and not Earl Grey variety either; it would be some vile concoction made of bark) instead of milk. For an annual fee of 5s (25p), the doctor could be enticed to your home, but he was fed up with frivolous call-outs for trifling inconveniences like tooth-ache. In many places, people shared their living quarters with cattle; one doctor knocked on a door to see a patient, and found it being answered by a calf! Women giving birth were attended by other women of the village, and were lucky to have a nurse in the area.