150 years of the Public Health Act 1867

150 years of the Public Health Scotland Act 1867

Public Health Scotland Act 1867

Public Health Scotland Act 1867

To commemorate 150 years since the Public Health Scotland Act of 1867, the Tasglann has been busy researching what this meant for the Western Isles. To coincide with the First Minister’s visit to officially open the Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean, we have put together a small exhibition in the archive.

The Public Health Scotland Act meant a lot of changes for the islanders that included making conditions better and reducing the impact of infectious diseases as well as building hospitals, new housing and bringing in doctors and district nurses. All of this meant big changes.

Regulation stipulating the cleaning of school slates for hygiene purposes.

Regulation stipulating the cleaning of school slates for hygiene purposes.

Some of the highlights of our collection include a Cleansing register that schools used to register the cleaning regimes within the school to help reduce the spread of infections and diseases. In the instructions it mentions how the slates that children used needed to be cleaned daily due to sharing of slates and children licking slates. We have a slate and some chalk on display along with the cleansing register that came from Tighgarry School in North Uist.

During our research we also found some interesting letters sent by Stornoway’s Cleansing committee to the Sanitary Inspector. Reading about the conditions and what was done at the time to improve the situation was fascinating but also very sad. Schools closed due to outbreaks of diseases like typhoid, scarlet fever and tuberculosis.

Detail of Lewis District Committee Council Minute book stating 3335 houses defective

Detail of Lewis District Committee Council Minute book stating 3335 houses defective

In one minute book, the conditions of the island was described as being so bad that 3335 houses in Lewis alone were inhabitable. It was because of this that the Board of Agriculture decided to provide grants for new housing to be built in the 1920’s.

I think it is fair to say that the Public Health Scotland Act of 1867, did a lot to help improve the conditions of the Western Isles. It may have been a long process but it has helped shape the islands to what they are today.

If you are passing Tasglann nan Eilean anytime soon, pop in and take a look at the display. We hope you enjoy finding out more about Public Health.

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