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Chapter V - Kinlochbervie To-day

Through various causes a serious change has taken place in the population of the parish within recent years. The general depression in the industry of agriculture has naturally had its effect. The cost of living has remained high while the price of stock and produce has seriously declined. The young people have gone to seek more remunerative employment in the homeland and in the Colonies. "I'his has left the older people to struggle alone to maintain homes and steadings. Hence there is naturally a serious decline in the birth rate.

Apart from the land there is no local industry. Few follow the fishing as a distinct calling, and fewer combine fishing and agriculture. They find it a better policy to devote their whole time to their land and live stock.

This suggests a serious problem. In order to make the rearing of stock pay and maintain a household in comfort an extension of grazing would he needed, but the estate has none to give. There is much land, suitable for such extension, in the adjacent deer forest. There seems to be no reasonable excuse for continuing such land for the sport of a few while as an extension of grazing it would benefit the whole polulation.

There is little hope of an increase in the population in the immediate future except by a return to a more intensive cultivation of the land, and a more general use of homegrown and home-cured food. The latter is one of the available means by which the Highland people can retrieve their economic and social position.

If we were brave enough to be characteristically Highland, as our fathers were, grow our own corn and grind it, rear and kill our own meat and cure it, spin and weave our own wool and wear it, we should be a healthier and a happier people. If we could, by our industry, clear away from our tables such things as Swiss Milk, Danish Butter, Irish Eggs and Foreign Bacon, by providing an adequate supply of our own, we should be on the high way to success. If after supplying our own needs, we sent our surplus wherever it could find a market, a rising tide of prosperity would flood our Highlands.

Such things should not sound impossible. Our young people are open-eyed and active, ready to embrace such opportunities as come their way. They are not likely to neglect the wealth lying about their feet while looking vainly for that which lies across the seas. What they need is a lead in co-operative production, marketing, and transport, to snake the Highlands and Islands the market supply of Scotland. The land is poor, the climate is changeable, transport is difficult and expensive, but a wide outlook, clear knowledge of passing conditions, and regular industry, backed by persevering faith and hope can accomplish marvels.

The housing conditions have greatly improved since the century opened. Fixity of tenure has encouraged improvements on housing and steadings. Modern proprietors have encouraged such improvements. Much still remains to be done to bring conditions up to the standard demanded by health authorities. Slate has taken the place of thatch for roofing ; wood has taken the place of clay and flag for flooring; steadings are separated from the dwelling houses ; and an air of general comfort has been given to the parish.

In the minister of the parish, the Rev. John Macaskill, the people have a warm friend and a wise guide. He was inducted as colleague and successor to Mr. Finlayson in 19o5. Since then he has been assiduous in his endeavours to promote their interests in temporal as in spiritual matters. For many years he was chairman of the School Board, later he became Vice-Chairman of the Education Authority, and is now Chairman of the Educational Committee of the County. He is also a member of the County Council, and Chairman of the District Council.

The duties of those public offices require much time and thought, yet he never forgets that he is the pastor of Kinlochbervie. He systematically attends to the sick and poor, and preaches on an average of from three to five times every week. In the work of the ministry he is supported by a Kirk Session composed of men of deep spirituality and of practical experience of the needs of the people. In the Autumn of 1930, the parish church, having become vacant through the death of Mr. Crarer, the congregation unanimously and cordially united with the late United Free Church under Mr. Macaskill's ministry.

The education of the parish is in capable hands. Miss Fraser, a native, is headmistress of Oldshore School, while in Inshegra School, Mr. David D. Todd, M.A. is headmaster, with Miss D. Morrison as assistant. Both Schools have, in recent years, obtained excellent Annual Reports from H.M. Inspector, fair proof of satisfactory work. Miss Jessie MacLeod teaches in Achlyness, and Miss Mackay in Ardmore.

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