Although the island of Stroma held virtually
everything that the islanders needed for survival it was lacking one
very important substance; fuel. Stroma had no peat bogs or timber, so
fuel had to be imported. The Stroma people had a licence to cut peat in
John O' Groats and Gills. This would be cut and dried then transported
in carts to a boat which took the precious cargo over to the island.
After the first world war a small coastal trader began sending coal
boats to the islanders, which carried enough coal for the whole year.
Stroma also did not here a minister of their own until the Church and
manse were built in 1878. The islanders had to make their way over to
the parish church in Canisbay as often as possible for 'moral guidance'.
This was very awkward for the inhabitants, as it was often hard to make
their way across they stormy Pentland Firth. It also meant that when a
funeral or christening took place the minister had to be summoned from
Stroma did not have a doctor either, the doctor had to be fetched from
the mainland in the case of an emergency. This was very dangerous and
meant that the islanders would here to know their first aid well, as the
doctor would take some time to get to the island. He was fetched by
signalling, this was a series of flashing lights; though when the
telephone box was installed it became much more straight forward.
Jessie Crowe, who lived with her family in Finneshaven, Stroma, wrote:
"As a people we could modestly claim that we had to be both
resourceful and self-sufficient. We built our own houses and boats,
produced most of our food, maintained our farm equipment, shoed our
horses and repaired family boots and shoes, etc. If any problems arose,
there was always someone on the island who could be called upon to help.
Except for the doctor and minister, it was seldom that any outside help
As said in the above source it was very seldom that the islanders ever
wanted for something that the island couldn't offer. Though the lack of
communication was a health hazard for the islanders, without a doctor on
Stroma and a very basic means of contact in the event of an emergency it
was extremely dangerous.
A trend can be seen in all the problems Stroma had. The lack of fuel had
primarily been overcome by transporting it from the mainland. At the
start of the twentieth century though a coal ship supplied fuel, which
made things simpler for the islanders but also relied on outside
traders. At the end of the nineteenth century a Church was built on
Stroma and a minister then resided there. Finally communication improved
with the installation of the telephone box. As time wore on the people
of Stroma no longer put up with having to do without and improvements
took place, making contact with the mainland more simple.