Condition of the cottar population in Lewis 1881

Condition of the cottar population in Lewis.
Report to Her Majesty’s Secretary for Scotland.
Accounts and Papers, 1888.
Vol. LXXX, 43p., maps. [C. 5265]

Meetings of parochial boards were held in Lewis and it was discovered that some destitution did exist.

A previous inquiry into destitution on the island had been held in 1851, following the collapse of the kelp industry between 1844 and 1849 and the failure of the potato crop in 1846.

The expansion of the herring industry had soon relieved the situation.

By 1888, however, over-production and foreign competition had affected the herring fishery and it became increasingly difficult for the cottars of Lewis to obtain credit from local merchants between the fishing seasons.

In addition, an epidemic of measles had afflicted most of the population.

Mr. Fraser and Mr. McNeill visited 108 houses in the parishes of Lochs and Stornoway. Tabulated results of their inquiries are included in the appendix.

They found that the soil was of poor quality, there was a shortage of food and “a listless apathy is everywhere apparent.”

They predicted starvation on the island and recommended that some of the surplus population should be removed.


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