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HH62/2/ROSS/13

Transcription

[Page] 12

in spite of the attractions of the town. Looking at the ques-
tion, as we have the right only to look at it, as sanitarians, the
addition of a sufficient piece of ground to mainly keep himself
and his family will be likely to add to his health and comfort,
and in this light I would advocate such holdings strongly.
Do the houses referred to us as a rule, come up to the require-
ments of health? We are bound to answer they do not.
The most clamant failures are, we need scarcely say, on
the West Coast and in the Lews. There the primitive huts,
so well if rather truculently described by Dr Macaulay in his
last year's report, are very far removed from what might be
called the minimum of sanitary necessity. The wall of
separation must be, as soon as possible, built up between man
and beast. It is to be hoped that the Lewis District Com-
mittee will put its foot down in this respect, and give notice
that such partitions of stone and clay (without any direct
passage between house and byre), must be erected within say
the next five years in every cottage in the island. This is the
first step; the next will be providing proper chimneys; and
windows to open, and then carrying the roof to the extreme
outside of the house wall. The present practice of supporting
the roof on the inner wall directs all the water off the former
into the soil between the two skins, as it were, and keeps the
whole tenement in a constant state of damp. The large fires
and the peat smoke are the two counteracting agents; otherwise
the evils resulting from the present state of things would be
much worse than they are. Here, too, the erection of proper
middens and other conveniences must, by and by, be enforced.
The problem on this side of the country is mainly one of
how best to set about improving the cottages of the plough-
men. Their houses undoubtedly require such looking after.
Luckily, or unluckily, in many cases the only cure is entire
reconstruction. The roof is leaky and bad; the walls are
merely stone and clay; the floor is a sodden mass of irregu-
larly moulded filth; the windows are too small and do not
open; the cubic space is ridiculously small for a family, and
the necessary adjuncts are conspicuous by their absence. The
model to be aimed at would be something like the following:-
They should have a slated roof, stone and lime walls covered

[Page] 13

inside with lath and plaster, hollow bricks, a cement floor -
partly of wood - well-sized windows, hinged or hung with
weights; the living rooms sufficient in number and cubic space;
with middens, &c., put down in the proper place, and at a fair
distance from their doors and windows. Where the present
dwellings are fairly good, improvements ought to be gradually
made, in order to bring them up to a proper standard. It may
be necessary in order to secure all these reforms that provision
be made by statute to enable proprietors to borrow money at
an easy rate of interest and repayment for this improvement,
one so intimately connected not only with the health of our
working class, but also with the due supply of labour to our
fields and farms.

I have placed in a separate section the question of whether
District Committees, with the sanction of the County Council
should, or should not, draw up a list of recommendations,
showing what they deemed to be the minimum requirements
in ploughmen's houses that may hereafter be built as looked at
from the point of view of Public Health.

Dr Bell of Scatwell, in his well-known interest, not only in
Public Health generally, but particularly in that of the
labouring classes, has put his shoulder to the wheel in this
good work, and is assisting me to draft these "bye-laws," as
they might be called. Such a code would give us a standard
with which to measure any case complained of, and might very
well be applied to all new houses - the numbers of which, in
any one year, cannot be great. Of course care must be taken
not to make excessive demands; and the rules must possess a
certain amount of elasticity, otherwise the effect would be to
discourage all new erections - a very untoward result of well-
intentioned regulations. In no department of sanitary work
is more attention required than in this. Overcrowding - while
the most insidious of all "nuisances" - is undoubtedly the
most deadly. Attention will be drawn further on in this report
to the excessive death rate from consumption and its allies.
It may be very safely asserted that bad air, it may be,
breathed over and over again, is of all causes the most likely to
engender lung disease; and lung disease costs the country

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