How the Doctor Got Around in 1912

Extracts from the Evidence presented to the Dewar Commission in 1912, regarding medical service in the Highlands and Islands.  Among the people interviewed was Dr Victor Alexander Ross, doctor at Garynahine who served Uig from 1900.  The commission was chaired by Sir John Dewar MP (he of Dewar’s whisky) and included Charles Orrock, Chamberlain of the Lews.  This interview took place on Saturday 12 October 1912 at the Garynahine Hotel; the questions are put to Dr Ross by the Chairman.

You might give us an indication of the extent of the territory you have to cover. Can you give us the acreage? – About 40,000 acres

The population is 4462? – Yes, of course it varies considerably at different times of the year.

Is it very much scattered, or are the people in townships? – In townships.

The townships, I suppose, are very widely scattered? – Yes, the farthest off one is thirty miles off.

Is that a considerable township or a small one? — A small one with about 200 inhabitants.

You are unable to give the proportion of patients at the various distances from you. Are there any within three miles? Have you a township within three miles? — Yes

What is the population of that township? — About 300.

Have you any population between that and five miles? — Yes

What population would you say it would be? – I should think a matter of 200 or 300.

(Mr Orrock) If you give the township, I can give you the population. Callanish has a population of 257, Breascleit has a population of 391 – that is between two and four miles from Garynahine – Breasclete Park 33, Tolsta Chaolais 219, Doune Carloway 168, Cirrabhig 105, Upper Carloway 389, Knock Carloway 207, Borraston 113, Gearranan 212. These are all on the north-east side of Loch Roag; they are all within ten miles of the doctor. The total population is 2109. The population on the south side of Loch Roag, including the island of Bernera, is 2326.

(Chairman) How far is that off? – Brenish is thirty miles off, but the bulk of the population is just surrounding the coast. It is ten miles by sea and twenty by road to Valtos.

Have you many of those townships without a road fit for traffic? – We have no townships without roads except a few small places in the Island Bernera.

Is there wheel traffic on that island at all? – There are no carts at all.

You have a good deal of sea work? My principal sea work is to the island of Bernera, which I do by motor launch.

Is it your own? No, it is a public motor launch which goes every day.

Is it dangerous crossing to the island? – It is just like all the other places.

Your means of getting about the country are by motor-car, motor bicycle or ordinary bicycle. What do you use most? – since March I have used my motor bicycle continuously.

Can you tell us what it costs you to run it? – The initial cost was £55 inclusive of petrol; I find it costs me about £10, for the time I have had it.

Can you tell us how much petrol you use? – It is supposed to do 120 miles to the gallon of petrol. I have certainly done the 60 miles on half a gallon of petrol.

Would you say it would cost you £30 a year to keep the motor bicycle? — Yes

Would that include anything for the depreciation? – No

You have not thought of getting a motor-car? – I have thought of it many a time, but it is beyond me.

Would it be of great convenience, not only to you but to your patients? – Yes. A motor bicycle is a fine weather machine; a motor-car you can take out at any time.

If you could afford it you would have a motor-car? – Yes, certainly, long long ago.