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Doctors in the Parish of Lochs
Doctors in the Parish of Lochs
This article was written by Alex M Macleod, Lochs and appeared in a 'Bhiorach, Leurbost Centenary Magazine
The first doctor appointed to the Parish of Lochs around 1860 was Dr Douglas Sinclair, who resided at Knockiandue Schoolhouse, with his friend Alexander Crawford, as there was no permanent residence in the Parish until 1889.
Dr Sinclair was succeeded around 1870 by a native of the Parish, Dr Roderick Ross, who resided at Valtos Farm, Lochs - a room at Valtos House is still known as 'The Surgery'.
Dr Ross's father was Alan Ross, known in Lewis as 'An Ceistear Ross', who was born at Crobeg Farm in the Parish in 1801. His father was Rory Ross, who was tacksman at Cromore in 1880. Rory was a great-great-grandfather of the later Rt Hon Iain Macleod, probably the most notable Lewisman of his generation. After leaving Lochs, Dr Ross took over at Barvas where he practised until he retired. Various other doctors practised in the Parish after the departure of Dr Ross, such as Dr MacNaughton and Dr Macdonald.
Life was very hard for doctors in those days as they did their rounds by foot and by boat, especially in Lochs and Uig. In 1860, the Stornoway-Harris road ended in the vicinity of Soval Lodge, at a place called Fuaran Shobhail (the Soval Spring).
In 1889, a permanent residence was erected at Keose for the Parish doctors on the site occupied by the Parish School, which had opened in 1796. The first doctor to occupy the new premises was Dr Macaulay, who was a native of Uist and who stayed in Keose for about seven years.
After Dr Macaulay, Dr Mahon, who was probably of Irish descent, came to the Parish. He died in 1896 at 27 Laxay where he resided.
In 1900, Dr Allan Cameron, a native of Lochaber was appointed but owing to ill-health, he left Lewis in 1920 and died at Cumbuslang in 1922, a comparatively young man. Once when crossing Loch Erisort on a stormy day to visit patients in South Lochs, his sailing boat capsized. The doctor's plight was seen by Garyvard men who hurried to his rescue and picked him up after he had been clinging to his upturned boat for quite some time. Dr Cameron was the owner of the first motor car to came to the Parish in 1917 - a model T Ford, Reg No JS 710. Previously, horses had sometimes been used for transportation and the last horse belonged to Dr Iain McIntosh.
Dr Cameron's successor was a Lewisman, Dr Donald Campbell, who came from Ness. Like his predecessor, he was a fearless sailor and he crossed Loch Erisort on many a stormy day in his sailing boat. Latterly, he obtained a motor launch and he also had a motorcycle which he kept in Garyvard to provide him with a means of transport during his visits to the various villages in South Lochs. In 1925, when the road to South Lochs was completed, he managed his rounds by car.
In 1938, Dr Campbell moved to Luerbost where a new doctor's residence had been built. He died there in 1947 at the age of 58.
In 1934, Lochs was divided into two separate medical practices, North Lochs and South Lochs. The first doctor appointed to Gravir was a Stornoway man, Dr Hector Macdonald, whose ancestors belonged to Glencoe and later settled in Orinsay. Dr Macdonald took over at North Lochs after the death of Dr Campbell.
A record of the doctors in the Parish would not be complete without reference being made to Rev Ewen Campbell, who had a reputation in Lewis as a physician although he was not qualified in medicine. People came to consult him from all over Lewis and some of his 'cures' are still remembered locally. He maintained that he colds prevalent during the months of Spring originated in the phosphorus mines in Russia and that the cause was the dust carried by the prevailing easterly winds over our shores. In more recent years, a foreign 'bug' was diagnosed by the medical profession as 'Red Flu'. Rev Campbell would recommend water from Tobar Fhionnlaigh (Finlay's Well) for various illnesses, as according to local tradition, the well had healing powers and was until comparatively recently, still in use on croft No 2 Keose.