Braes, Skye, 8 May 1883 - John Matheson


342. The Chairman.
—Are you a crofter?
—I never got a croft.

343. Are you a cottar?
—Yes, I am a cottar at Achnahaunait.

344. Are you a fishermen ?
—Sometimes. I am not able to fish now.

345. Have you heard what has been stated by the previous delegates ? Do you agree with what they have said ?

346. Have you any remarks which you wish to add to what they have said?
—I want to say that it is the want of land, and the dearness of it that is leaving the people so poor. My own great-grandfather was tenant in Achnahannait, and had a fourth part of it to himself. My grandfather succeeded him, and hada fifth part of Achnahannait. My father succeeded my grandfather, and had an eighth part of the land, and in his lifetime lie came to be reduced to a sixteenth of the land. My father had six sons, of whom I am the eldest, and not one of them would get a sod from Lord Macdonald. Only the youngest of them was left with his mother, and is not that a great reason for the poverty of the people ?

347. How have you supported your family ?
—As best I could, working day and night sometimes.

348. In whose employment have you worked,—in the employment of the landlord or in the employment of the crofters ?
—Working not much in the Isle of Skye, but earning wages elsewhere.

349. When you were a young man working in the Isle of Skye, what were your daily wages?
—About 2s. a day, or the like of that.

350. And what are the wages now?
—I am not very sure what the wages are going now for I am seeing very little work going on at all.

351. Are you quite sure that you received 2s. a day twenty years ago ?
— I am sure I was working at a shilling a day at that time.

352. What are the wages that able-bodied young men are now getting for common work ?
—About 2s. 6d. I think ; that is the wage that I got from a farmer for a day's work in spring.

353. You spoke of the gradual subdivision of the land for three generations, what caused the subdivision ? was it the multiplication of families, or were there other families brought from outside and put upon the land?
—Both causes went together.

354. Mr Cameron.
—Your father had a croft, how did he lose it ?
—The croft was not taken from my father, he died.

355. Who succeeded your father to the croft ?
—My mother is still alive and my youngest brother.

356. Who is the eldest of the family ?

357. Then you will succeed your mother eventually?
—It is not my mother. It is my step-mother.

358. Do you ever expect to get the croft ?
—I have no expectations of getting the croft.

359. How many brothers had you ?
—We were six altogether.

360. What became of the other five ?
—They have scattered. Some of them are hereabouts, and as for the rest I cannot tell where they are.

361. Where do live yourself?
—In Achnahannait.

362. In what house?
—In the north end of the township.

363. Who put up the house ?
—I built the house myself.

364. Did you get leave from the factor to build the house?
—I got leave from the township. I did not ask the leave of the factor.

365. Did the factor not object?
—No, he never said anything to me about it. I got a bit of ground from the township, for which I pay 30s. to the township.

366. Does not the factor object when this is done on the township by other people?
—I cannot say.

367. May anybody build a house who makes arrangements with the township ?

368. Who was the factor at that time?
—M'Kinnon of Corrie.

369. Was he very easy about the time?
—No, he was not very easy. We had not much to say in his praise.

370. But what I meant to ask was, did he interfere with anybody putting up a house upon the township without any land,—making their own arrangements with the township?
—Corrie would be finding fault with the crofters for doing that—for allowing outsiders to build houses.

371. Do you know why he did not find fault with you fordoing it?
— I cannot be very sure ; but I was paying the one-third of the rent of a croft before then, and the factor put me out of that in order to divide the croft into two halves.

372. How did you have to pay rent for this croft? How did you get hold of the croft ?
—My mother-in-law gave mo the one-third of the lot when I was married.

373. Would this building of houses without land on the township be allowed now under the present factor?
—Not without his own order.

374. But does he often allow these houses to be built?
—l am not aware, but in the last instance I have seen the house could not be built without the order of the factor.

375. But I want to know as to whether these houses are built at the present day without the order of the factor ?
—So far as I know, these are built without the order of the factor.

376. There is no subdivision of crofts and houses established ?

377. Do you know what wages the people get who are paid by the road contractor for keeping up the road here ?
—I am not sure what they get.

378. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How much land have you ?
—It is just a little field—a little corner.

379. Do you raise any corn or potatoes ?
—Very little.

380. How long does it keep you and your family alive ?
—Not very long—shorter than I would need to.

381. Then, when you are not away working, of course you have no means of subsistence?
—No, I have no means of supporting myself but for the help of two daughters I have. My wife has been for the past ten years an invalid, and is now confined to bed. I sent two applications, signed by myself and my neighours, to the parochial board for aid, but I was not allowed any. The reply to my application was—Her children were to support her.

382. Have you any sons ?

383. Who was chairman of the parochial board ?
—The factor, I have been told.

384. The Chairman.
—What factor ?
—The factor for Lord Macdonald.

385. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You don't look well; what is the matter with you ?
—I got my trouble bringing sea-ware from Raasay. Our boat foundered, coming with a load of sea-weed from Raasay, and I was two or three hours in the sea. That was the commencement of my ailment.

386. How old are you ?
—A little over fifty years of age.

387. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are your daughters married ?

388. What are they working at ?
—They are house servants at Nairn.

389. The Chairman.
—You stated you had built your own house and acquired a small piece of ground, and paid your rent to the township. Your rent is 30s. When a man hires his land from the township, does he generally pay a higher rent than he would if he paid it to the landlord ?
—I do not think the rent would be higher getting the land from the township.

390. About how much do you get for 30s. ? What is the extent of the piece of land ?
—I cannot tell the measurement.

391. Is there enough to feed a cow?

392. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How far from here is your croft? About one mile from here.

393. What was the cost of erecting the house ?
—I do not know what the house would cost to build, if I had others to pay for building it, but I built it myself without expenditure of money.

394. Did you not buy the wood and so on ?
—I had to buy the roof.

395. What did it cost ?
—About £1.

396. Was that the only money you laid out?
—Yes, for the timber I got the timber in Raasay.

397. For £l?

398. How long did you take to erect that house? How much labour did you put into it?
—I think six or seven weeks.

399. Have you no neighbours?
—Some of the neighbours might give me a little help,—not a full day's help, for they were not getting paid for it.

400. What is the size of your house?
—There are six couples in it.

401. The Chairman.
—That would be about 12 feet long?
—There are about 2 yards between each couple—a fathom between each couple.

402. How much money have you altogether expended besides your labour on the whole house ? There was the door, for instance ?
—I do not remember.

403. You said you got £ 1 worth of the timber for the roof, but that did not include the doors and windows?
—No; there is a small window of four 'lozens' in the wall, and another small window in the roof.

404. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What did you pay for them ?
—I got the window for the wall second hand at 3s. and the roof window cost me 1s. 6d.

405. And the door?
—The door cost me 6s.

406. Mr Cameron.
—What do you grow on your bit of ground?
—A little corn and potatoes.

407. How much potatoes ?
—I could plant three barrels of potatoes in it if I had full manure for it. 

408. Besides the corn ?
—The more I would plant of the one seed the less I would have of the other.

409. Do you think it is a whole acre or more ?
—I believe there is a full acre in it; but it includes bits of heathery ground—stony pieces.

410. If you pay 30s. for that, do you think it is a very high rent ?
— I am sure it is too high.

411. Then, do you adhere to what you said before that the rents paid by the crofters to the landlord are in the same proportion as the rents you pay to the township?
—I believe so, I believe that the rent which the tenants pay to the landlord is as dear as the rent which I pay to them. The lot which my father had was £4, and now it is within 5s. of £8.

412. The Chairman.
—Do you pay school rate and poor rate on your house?
—No, but the rest of the township pay that.

413. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What stock are you allowed to keep?
—One cow.

414. Sheep?
—Four or five sheep, if I had them.

415. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you know how many barrels of potatoes will be raised on your ground ?
—I cannot tell.

416. The Chairman.
—You have one cow?

417. Is that grass included in the 30s. ?

418. Do you wish, before you retire, to make any further statement?
—No, unless I am asked.

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