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Report on the Cottar Population of the Lews

Report on the Cottar Population of the Lews

This report was commissioned by the Marquis of Lothian, Secretary of State for Scotland and on the 10 January, 1888 they met in Keose manse with the Parochial Board of Lochs of which Rev Ewen Campbell was Chairman.

The report found:

On all sides, not only among the cottars but among the crofters also, we observed evidence of the deepest poverty and dejection: the soil is of the poorest quality, everywhere the potato crop is nearly consumed; almost everywhere the meal furnished by the Destitution Committee was represented as the only alternative diet, except small fish which had reached the people for many weeks; few have money and fewer still credit with the local merchants. In short, within the next two months, as far as we have been able to discover, the bulk of the population of Lochs and elsewhere will be brought face to face with the necessity of killing their cattle and sheep to sustain life, while those who have no stock must either appeal to the Parochial Board or starve.

This was not the only difficulty people had to contend with. Dr Dewar, Acting Medical Officer of the Parish of Lochs reported that the township of Laxay was very badly hit by an epidemic of measles, all but one individual in the township contracted the infection. Although the disease was of a mild type, there can be no doubt that it added another to the many disadvantages under which the people labour.

The population of Lewis had increased dramatically from a figure of 8,311 in 1790/97 to a figure of 26, 487 in 1881. It had nearly tripled over the preceeding 90 years. The kelp industry had collapsed, potato famines had occured and the population were on the very brink of starvation.

You cannot but admire the faith and diligence of a people who in such desperate straits, promised when granted a Free Church in their own locality shortly before this time, to submit annually to the Susentation Fund, 88 in the case of Park and 80 in the case of Kinloch and continued to do so even in more straightened circumstances.

In this kind of environment highlighted by the Report, the Rev Ewen Campbell was minister.


Title: Report on the Cottar Population of the Lews
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Report
Date: 1888
Record Maintained By: CECL
Subject Id: 39573