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Caithness Field Club

Some Extracts From Reports By The Inspector Of Nuisances
To The Commissioners Of Police, Thurso
Compiled by G. Watson

The Inspector Of Nuisances developed over the years into the post of Sanitary Inspector, he was employed by the Commissioners of Police to improve the cleanliness of the town. In addition he maintained the roads, constructed sewers and drains, looked after the water supply, and street lighting. The following extracts are taken from monthly reports which he submitted to the Commissioners.

10th March 1873
The Inspector has to report some difficulty in getting several nuisances removed particularly at Bell fiddles and at Walter Ross. The Scavengers do not execute the work in terms of agreement with the Contractor, they refuse to lift the filth in many places, they do not carry bells to their carts and very often it is past mid-day before the buckets with night soil and other filth set upon the principal streets are emptied, on Monday last at twelve o'clock of the day there were twelve such buckets and tubs on the street between Mrs. Buchanan's shop and the shops occupied by Donald Sutherland, flesher and Daniel Leith, broker and the scavenger when remonstrated with said it was not his part of the Town to do altho' then passing the place with an empty cart.

14th April 1873
On Saturday last forenoon a part of the roof of that house near Millers Lane occupied by David Miller, John Macdonald and others fell to the street and a woman passing at the time narrowly escaped being killed. This house is crowded with people and is without doubt a danger to live in or to pass near ......

The square of old buildings near the top of Millers Lane is in a most disgusting state for want of a Public Privy and it does not seem possible to get rid of the nuisance till this accommodation is provided for the Public.

Three street crossings have been completed, but in order to give solidity to the one next Caithness Street, it will be necessary to put a trap in the street to receive the water which runs down from Mr. Donald Campbell's and washes the sand or other bed on which the stones are laid causing them to shake when passed over by carts etc.

The door or gateway at the Reservoir on the Brown Hill is in a very dirty condition and certainly dangerous to the health of the inhabitants who use the water of the reservoir for common household purposes. This also arises from a want of a Privy in that locality. The street pumps are continually a source of annoyance and expense requiring almost daily repairs to keep them all serviceable and as there can be found something more substantial at a little cost, it might be worth the Commissioner's consideration to decide on some means of remedying the evil.

The Maul and side walk in Janet Street has been improved in terms of instructions and several filthy corners in the Town have been cleared out, but so long as the ruinous buildings remain as they now are in several parts of the Town and neither Privy nor urinal provided in any one part of the Town (except the one near the chapel which is more a disgrace than anything else to the Town) never can the Town be quite clean or nearly so .....

12th May 1873
The drains hitherto opened are ill constructed in many places. The Inspector would respectfully suggest to the Commissioners the propriety of making sewers of such materials and plan as are calculated to be quite efficient for a Generation by building them with stone and lime on a sole of about four inches raising the sides in a circular shape and laying double covers thereon ......

8th September 1873
The Depot for Town manure is being levelled up and it is therefore necessary to appoint a place immediately for the Town manure, especially as complaints have already been made that there is a felt want of such a place end particularly by some of the Fleshers who threaten to throw out upon the street all offal and refuse of the slaughter House unless the Commissioners at this meeting forthwith provide a suitable place .......

13th October till 10th November 1873
But there seems to be one special case which he (the Inspector) brings under their (the Commissioners) notice now in reference to the offal from the Butchers shops which is usually laid down in the market place and allowed very often to remain there for days. On the occasion referred to there was a barrow full of offal and blood standing there from eight in the morning till next morning and a quantity lying on the street near the same from the previous Saturday morning. A similar case occurred in Durness Street nearly opposite George Lawries house where the Scaggenger had not visited for three days, and another opposite Mr. Taylors house in the side of the road leading from the Scrabster toll to the Town.

8th December 1873
A horse found straying on the streets without an owner was put into Mr. Bruce's stable by the police. The Burgh Fiscal in terms of the act of Parliament advertised the horse for sale unless claimed before the day appointed for the sale (viz Fifth Dece 1873) but on the morning of the day of the sale the horse was stabled in Mr. Bruce's Stable .......

During 1873 the Commissioners of Police undertook the excavation of a new well to augment the Town's water supply. The spot chosen was between the Academy and what is now the Station Hotel and the progress of the project can be followed in the Inspector's Reports.

16th December 1872
The Inspector desires to know what is intended with regard to the sinking of wells and the erection of Privies, especially the well at the Academy......

14th July, 1873
The boring machine which Mr. Brims ordered the use of for the Academy well has been received and preparations for using it are now going forward ......

11th August 1873
The boring machine furnished on the order of Mr Brims from Calder was put in working order and sunk to a depth of 22ft without striking rock, the works are suspended on the order of the Committee appointed to superintend the same until they receive the further orders of the Commission. There are now between excavations, or digging and sinking a depth of 40 (ft) from the surface and since suspension of the works the water has again accumulated to a depth of about 18ft and the expense is probably 11 or 12 altogether. It is however full time that the Commission should settle the future of this well one way or the other by carrying out to the full or putting a stop to further sinking as it has again become a dangerous pit.....

8th September 1873
The well at the Academy is as reported at last Commission meeting......

10th November 1873
The well intended for water at the Academy steps in same state as at last meeting. The debris from it covers a good proportion of the feu in which is has been dug and the feuer now requires the ground if the Commissioners clear the same away and it is also necessary to make the well at once or close it up for the same reason and because it is highly dangerous.....

8th December 1873
The well at the Academy is now filled up, but yet requires a few barrows full of earth to bring it to a level. The wood which covered it over is in the ground and may be sold with the Commissioners authority.

My thanks are due to Mr. I. Sinclair, Thurso, for allowing me to read and to use extracts from the Inspectors Report Book.

To be continued...

Published in April 1980 Bulletin