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Children's Diet (Dewar Report)

Children's Diet (Dewar Report)

The Highlands and Islands Medical Service Committee (1912) Report to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury drew conclusions from evidence gathered by the Dewar Commission's enquiry into the state of healthcare in the North of Scotland. Of particular concern was the state of the children's diet, as the following extract shows:

22. Another relative fact, and one of serious import in connection with our enquiry, is the character of the food consumed, especially by the children. For example, we were told that in south Uist it is rarely that any of the produce of the croft, with the exception of potatoes, is used for food. No meal is ground, the surplus sheep and cattle are sold for urgent cash, every egg is bartered for shop commodities , and the milk supply is insufficient especially in winter. The excessive indulgence in over-brewed tea, especially by children, is deplored by several witnesses. Dr Murray writes:

The great feature in the decadence of the school child's menu is the abuse of tea. The good old porridge pot has fallen from its high estate and the tea-pot has been exalted in its place. Probably over 50 percent go to school on a breakfast of tea and loaf bread, the former usually long brewed... A large proportion of the children live so far from school that they cannot get home for a midday meal. These may walk from one to two and a half miles to and from school in all sorts of weather and they work at their lessons all day upon this inadequate breakfast. In some places it is difficult to induce the children even to take a "piece" to school. All this works untold mischief, and it is impossible for the average child, say in the afternoon, to be in a fitly receptive condition for education. Going on from year to year in this way, the physical stamina of the child is bound to be undermined, and they are sent out into the world with their powers of resistance to diseases,, such as consumption, greatly reduced.

On this question the following evidence by Dr Reardon, South Uist, is not a little disconcerting:--

Have you much tuberculosis - Yes

Both kinds - Yes, pulmonary and non-pulmonary.

Is it increasing? - I am sorry to say it is.

What do you blame? - To begin with, there is no foundation for the children. The mothers don't nurse their children, and at the age of three months they are supposed to be able to take porridge and sops. The reason for that is that the milk of their cows is given to the calves, and there is no milk for the children. It is a case of the survival of the fittest.

They are rearing calves instead of rearing children? Yes

Why do the women not nurse their children? They are not able, they have not the strength.

Dr Mackenzie, North Uist, also attributes the prevalence of the phthisis in the Hebrides to the inferior feeding in early years.


Title: Children's Diet (Dewar Report)
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Report
Date: 1912
Record Maintained By: HC
Subject Id: 61881