"Survey return from Dr. Traill"
Birsay, by Kirkwall.
Dr. Traill was a church minister in Birsay.
Birsay was a united parish with Harray on the mainland of Orkney. In 1841, the population was 1634. There was some agriculture in the parish. Many women there were employed in linen manufacture.
1. How many Medical Men practice within the Parish of Birsay & Harray?
There is no Medical Man in either parish, nor any one resident nearer than Stromness, 13 miles distant, - the road very bad, or Kirkwall upwards of 19 miles distant, to which there is now a passable road.
2. The Names and Addresses of these.
3. Has the number increased or diminished of late years?
4. Have any left the Parish since you became connected with it? If so, for what reasons?
None. No Medical man ever resided in the parish of Birsay & Harray.
5. Is there any complaint among the people of inadequacy in the supply of Medical aid?
Yes: and yet they have a dread of doctors, and prefer the prescription [1 word illegible] of their neighbors. During the last two years some unprincipled quacks professing to cure all diseases have fleeced the people. Their stay has been short.
6. Do you know of any cases of protracted suffering, or of injury by Accident, such as might have been alleviated had proper advice been at hand?
Many such have occurred.
7. To what extent is the deficiency of qualified Practitioners made up by the efforts of other parties?
I myself am frequently applied to, and as from my distance from Kirkwall or Stromness I keep a supply of medicines for my family the1 sick often receive such from me. Could
youa well educated Medical man, who knows any thing of farming settle here and take a farm he would make a comfortable living in a few years – difficulties2 he would no doubt have to struggle with for a time. But to one who occupies a small farm, living is cheap: but not so to one who must buy everything. The distance from regular markets adds to the expence of living. But3 I consider we are better without a resident medical practitioner than with one devoid of good character or one insufficiently educated.
8. Does your experience enable you to suggest any measure – of general applicability – such as would be likely to relieve to some extent the evils (if they exist) of deficiency in the supply of Medical aid?
9. What Heritors4 are resident, either generally or occasionally, in your Parish?
None5 having a clear income of £20 a year. But the number in all is upwards of 150 – one hundred &
fifty - & all comfortable in their own way without money. Samuel Hall
Q3/4.6 The parish of Birsay and Harray gives £18.18.- a year for medical attendance on the Poor to a medical practitioner in Stromness. This a resident one would no doubt obtain and also the allowance, for the like purpose by the neighbouring parishes – the medical practitioners being alone Kirkwall or Stromness
1. Continues into answer box for query 8.
2. Continues into answer box for query 9.
3. Continues below box.
4. A heritor was a landowner, under Scots Law, whose holdings were sizeable enough for them to be liable for the payment of public burdens such as Poor Law rates, road and bridge assessments and the church minister’s stipend.
5. Written in the printed query box for query 9.
6. Written at the top of the survey.