Medical Officer of Health reports, 1891 - Peeblesshire

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HH62/2/PEEBLE/1 TO THE HONOURABLE THE BOARD OF SUPERVISION. MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN, I HAVE the honour to submit to you my Report on Peeblesshire for the year ending 1891. The County of Peebles has the wide area of 354 square miles, but is thinly populated. Altogether the number living within the area of jurisdiction of the County Local Authority at the present moment is less than 9000. There are two Burghs in the County, namely, those of Peebles and Innerleithen. The former has a Medical Officer of Health. The latter is without one, but has approached a Committee of the Councils of Mid and West Lothian and Peeblesshire with the view of obtaining my services. The most populous places, excluding these Burghs, are West Linton, Broughton, Calzeat, Skirling, Romanno Bridge, Mountain Cross, and Drumelzier in the West,
HH62/2/PEEBLE/3 [page] 2 Eddleston in the North, Tweedsmuir in the South, and Walkerburn and Traquair towards the Eastern portion of the County. The sanitary state of the County will compare favourably with any other in Scotland, but, as in all Counties, there are many conditions calling for remedy. The village of WEST LINTON has for long been a Special Water District, and it has a plentiful supply. Regarding the quality of this water I have not as yet been able to satisfy myself. It was certainly until a few months ago extremely liable to be fouled, but, owing to the energetic action of Mr. Anderson, the County Sanitary Inspector, one of these likely causes of pollution has been removed. The village has no drainage system. Water-closets are in some houses, and they drain to the Lyne Water. Other houses have dry closets. Some have no conveniences. BROUGHTON VILLAGE has a population of about 60. Its water supply is by gravitation from the surrounding high ground. Nine of the 16 houses have closet accommodation, the others have none. Any scavenging is done by the roadman in the ordinary course of his work on the road. CALZEAT is an adjoining village with population of 50, and most of its water supply is by pump wells. Its closets and scavenging arrangements are like those of Broughton. [page] 3 The village of SKIRLING has a population of over 100. Its houses are built on three sides of the village 'green,' where is situated the village pump supplying all the inhabitants with the exception of a few at one end, who get their supply from a spring. A few of the houses have closet accommodation in the gardens, each household doing its own scavenging. The small village of DRUMELZIER, one of the most picturesquely situated spots in the County, is in a very insanitary state, and is to receive immediate attention. Its water supply is from Powsail Burn. Its closet accommodation is nil. EDDLESTON, five miles north of the town of Peebles, is composed largely of small houses, which get their water supply from Darnhall Policies by a pipe laid to the village. There are altogether over 20 houses (with a population under 100), six of which have closets. There is no system of scavenging. The few houses of TRAQUAIR (12) get their water from a pump well fed by surface water, and therefore liable to pollution. The village of WALKERBURN is a prosperous place with 1300 inhabitants, but a few of its houses are over-crowded. Its water supply is by gravitation, which is furnished from Walker Burn and Kirna Burn through private enterprise. Dry-closets are the rule, although the better houses have water-
HH62/2/PEEBLE/5 [page] 4 closets, the drainage from which ultimately finds its way into the River Tweed. There is no scavenging system. The mill proprietors and farmers remove the contents of ash-pits, etc., periodically. The Farmers' houses and Farm Servants' quarters throughout the County are as good as, if not superior to, most of their class elsewhere. The position, how- ever, of many of their wells renders the latter liable to be polluted, and they are nearly all mainly fed by surface water. One of the first questions regarding sanitary ad- ministration which I was asked to advise upon, when appointed six months ago, related to the then existing staff of Sanitary Officials. What I recommended was adopted, and the services of all the Local Medical Officers of Health and of all the Local Sanitary Inspectors were dispensed with. I have made special inquiries during my six months in office into the water supply and requirements of Dairies. This I did in conjunction with the Sanitary Inspector, who is likewise Inspector of Dairies, and who reported thereon to the District Committee. I was asked by the Committee to draw up Draft Bye-Laws for the regulation of Dairy premises. This I did, and submitted them to the Committee. I made them stringent, and hope, if they are adopted by the Committee, that they will meet the approval of the [page] 5 Board. In recommending the adoption of Bye-Laws of a stringent nature, I pointedly put before the Com- mittee my reasons by letter, which I here quote - 'To any one who considers some of these regulations too stringent, I would respectfully point out this fact - that it is only by means of Bye-Laws that we can hope to put an end to the selling of milk from filthy premises unsuited for the purpose, and it lies with the District Committee to put them or not put them in force in any special instance, there can be no reasonable objection to their being stringent. It is on this account that they are framed in such a manner as likely to prove useful. 'There is no more perfect medium for spreading disease than infected milk, and too much attention cannot be given to the cleanliness of premises and to the conditions favour- able to the healthiness of the cows. From recently acquired statistical information, it is clear that Tuberculosis in cattle (which can be conveyed to man through the milk of affected animals) is, just as in the human subject, fostered by impure air and want of sufficient cubic space.' It is for these reasons, then, that I trust the Bye- Laws, as drafted by me, may be adopted as they stand, or, if altered, may not be in such manner changed as to detract from their stringency. Some dwellings have occupied my special attention. Amongst these was a house at Dolphinton, in a cellar of which a boy had been long confined. The room he occupied was dark, and in the filthiest condition imaginable. The two women in charge of these pre- mises were brought up by the Society for the Pre- vention of Cruelty to Children for cruelty, and were
HH62/2/PEEBLE/7 [page] 6 sentenced to imprisonment. The house was, at the instance of the Sanitary Inspector, properly cleansed. Again, at Jedderfield, about a mile from the town of Peebles, a very insanitary house was found. It was damp, and its condition was due to a badly arranged basement on a sloping site. This, on being pointed out to the proprietor, was in an exemplary manner at once remedied by (1) cutting off all connection with ground air from below, and freely ventilating to the outer air a space between the basement and the floor; and (2) by causing to be constructed a free area between the back wall and the ground which abutted high up on the building, thus removing one of the causes of dampness. I would here draw attention to the great desirability of securing for all Local Authorities powers to regulate the occupation of new buildings. If it were required that all newly erected buildings (defining the term) should not be occupied until certified to the Local Authority as being in a good sanitary state and properly planned, we should, by a slow but sound method, ultimately secure one of the greatest wants of our time - healthy houses. It is almost as cheap to erect a sanitary dwelling as one that may be most insanitary, and supervision in this direction is a desideratum. The only factories outside the Burghs are at Walkerburn. Their condition is satisfactory. [page] 7 I visited the bake-houses, of which there are three outside the Burghs, Two of these are in West Linton. In one of the two are employed 2 men and a lad of 16. It has a retail shop in connection, which shop is in direct communication with the dwelling-house. This bake-house has a wooden floor, is small, and has no proper means of ventilation. The other has employed in it 3 men and a lad of 15. This bake-house is distinct from the retail shop and from the dwelling-house. It has a tiled floor, and is clean and well ventilated. The third bake-house is situated at Walkerburn, and belongs to the Co-operative Society there. It is large and airy, though not specially fitted with artificial ventilators, and its floor is of concrete. It seems fairly well kept. As bake-houses are likely centres for the spread of disease, it is to my mind essential that they should be under stringent Bye-Laws, and that they should in every instance be separated from, and have no connec- tion with, a dwelling-house. The way to secure this is for Local Authorities to obtain the necessary powers to frame such; for the existing regulations under the Statute are too loose and indefinite. Outside the Burghs there is no lodging-house to my knowledge that can come under the category of Common Lodging-houses.'
HH62/2/PEEBLE/9 [page] 8 The only case where I tried to put the Food and Drugs Act into operation was where a consignment of kippered herrings very badly tainted was made from Edinburgh by a fishmonger (well known for his dealings in food unfitted for human consumption) to a hawker in Peeblesshire, who disposed of them to at least two shop-keepers outside the Burghs. Informa- tion of the consignment was kindly given me in Edinburgh. I wired to Mr. Anderson, Sanitary Inspector, who found the fish in two shops in West Linton, and he had the intended food destroyed. Further proceedings were not taken, but the warning the shop-keepers have had will, I trust, make them more careful of their purchases in future. With regard to the Rivers Pollution Act, I have to state that I see no reason for applying it at the present time. No doubt the River Tweed receives pollution from factories on its banks, but those are com- paratively inconsiderable, taking into account the volume of the stream. It is likewise contaminated by town and village sewage, but it is to be noted that its water is not used for potable purposes. The water of the river and of most of its tributaries is well stocked with fish, and for all purposes for which it is absolutely necessary it is sufficiently pure. I made special inquiry into three outbreaks of infectious disease - (1) of scarlet fever at Stobo, which was imported from either Edinburgh or Berwick; (2) [page] 9 of an influenza attack at a farm, where it caused some anxiety; and (3) of typhoid fever at Traquair. At Traquair there were four cases convalescent at the time of my visit, right opposite to large dairy premises, and one of the workers in these premises at the moment I called resided in the house where the fever existed. This led me to make inquiry as to the health condition of those supplied with the milk. I found that nearly the whole of the milk from this dairy was disposed of in the Burgh of Innerleithen, and that in this Burgh, among those supplied during the same period as the cases were down with the disease in Traquair, there were at least 10 with the same sickness. This seemed more than a mere coin- cidence. The discovery of the four cases was quite accidental, and made while engaged in inspecting the dairy premises along with the Sanitary Inspector, and it well illustrates the importance of ' Notifica- tion,' which, had it been in force, might have led to measures which perhaps would have prevented most of these illnesses. I strongly advised the Local Authority to lose no time in adopting the Notification of Diseases Act of 1889, with the result that this Act comes into force on the 1st day of February. The next question of importance to occupy the attention of the Committee will be Hospital accommodation. I have laid a letter before them asking its immediate consideration. One
HH62/2/PEEBLE/11 [page] 10 Hospital should, I think, prove adequate for the requirements of the County and Burghs, provided it be placed in the neighbourhood of the town of Peebles, which is as nearly as possible the centre of the County. From information furnished me through the kind- ness of Dr. Gunn, Peebles, and Dr. Cameron, Inner- leithen, I am enabled to state generally that epidemic diseases, excepting influenza, have been little felt. Hooping-cough of a mild type occurred in spring in the neighbourhood of Peebles. There were some cases of diphtheria and typhoid, and a few sporadic cases of scarlet fever throughout the County. In- fluenza was severe at the beginning of the year and died away considerably after spring, but it never disappeared, and became again epidemic in December. The healthiest month of the year was September; the most unhealthy, December. Owing to the refusal of the Registrars of Drumel- zier, Stobo, Tweedsmuir, and Manor to supply me with the births and deaths of their respective districts at the fee offered by the District Committee, I am unable to state the mortality in the County. This is much to be regretted, but it is hoped that shortly we may get that part of the Registration Act of England relating to returns extended to Scotland, or other legislative powers passed, making it in- [page] 11 cumbent on Registrars to furnish these essential particulars of statistical information. A deputation of Medical Officers lately waited upon the Lord Advocate, in the unavoidable absence of the Secretary for Scotland, to ask assistance in the matter. I have the honour to be, MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN, Your obedient Servant, W. J. BROCK, D.Sc., Medical Offcer of Health.