Braes, Skye, 8 May 1883 - John Mcleod

JOHN M'LEOD, Crofter and Fisherman, Camustionavaig—examined.

419. The Chairman.
—Are you acquainted with the circumstances under which the crofters were removed from Sconser for the purpose of forming a deer forest ?
—I was born in Sconser.

420. How long is it since the deer forest was formed ?
—There was a deer forest before I was born.

421. How old are you?
—I am fifty-seven.

422. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What place are you in ?

423. The Chairman.
—Did deer forests exist there in ancient times ?
— I cannot say, but it was there in my earliest recollection.

424. When you first remember the deer forest were the crofters living in it and near it ?
—Yes, I remember the people of three townships being removed for the purpose of their land being added to the deer forest

425. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Name the townships?
—Aracharnoch, by the side of Loch Eynort, Moll, Kenchreggan, and Tormichaig. The township in which I was born was the fourth township.

426. The Chairman.
—Can you state approximately about how many families there were in the four townships who were removed?
—I am not sure; there were two families in Aracharnoch, eight families in Moll, and four in Kenchreggan. There were twelve of us in Tormichaig paying rent, and besides these there were cottars.

427. Then there were twenty-six families, besides cottars. When these families were removed, was no payment made to them by the landlord in consideration of the loss to their houses and building, and for their loss by disturbance ?
—I have not heard that there was any such allowance. Some of them went to America.

428. Did the landlord assist them on their passage to go to America ?
—I do not know.

429. What became of the remainder of the families ?
—They were placed in other townships, as the factor saw fit.

430. Was any assistance given to them to build their new houses in the other townships ?
—No, I do not believe there was ; we did not get any at any rate. The ground officer valued the houses which we were leaving, and the houses into which we were entering. Our new places were also valued.

431. Who built the new houses?
—I built my own house. It was only a barn that I got when I went to my new lot; I built a new house, and bought the timber for it.

432. Then when the other crofters moved into the new houses, were these existing houses ? or did they build their own new houses ?
—That is so. When two families of us would be entering a lot on which there was only one house, one of the families had to build a new house.

433. When you were moved into the new place, were you given new land which you took in, or were you put upon old crofts already cultivated ?
—They were old lands which we got.

434. Was there much hardship and sorrow connected with the removal of the people from the deer forests to the place?
—Of course there was. There were no new places ready for us, and the factor was threatening he would cut the couples from above our heads if we would not quit. Mr Ballingall was the factor.

435. When the deer forest was extended and improved, was it then reserved in Lord Macdonald's hands, or was it let to a stranger ?
—Lord Macdonald kept the deer forest himself.

436. Was there any common pasture on the deer forest as well as arable ground ?
—Yes, we had grazing for our stock as well as arable land.

437. Why were the new houses which they left valued, and why were the new houses valued into which they came ?
—The houses we were leaving were valued for the landlord, and as we were leaving them, and were refusing to leave unless we got value for them.

438. When the house which the crofter left was valued more highly than the house into which he moved, was an allowance made to the crofter in the payment of his rent for the excess of value of the old house?
— Yes.

439. And when the new house was more valuable than the old house, then had the crofter to pay the landlord the excess of value ?
—Yes, that was the case.

440. Were the new houses generally more valuable than the old or less valuable ?
—Yes, of course, the new houses we were entering into were worth more than the old houses which we left. Perhaps the house into which we might enter might happen to be worse than the house we had left. Generally speaking, the house which we got was worse than the house which we left. The barn which I left at Tormichaig was better than the dwelling-house which I got in the new township.

441. Then, had you an allowance made to you in the payment of your rent on account of the new house being worse than the old one ?
—Yes, there was an allowance made.

442. How much ?
—I cannot remember that very well, as it is thirty-one years since I was removed.

443. Mr Cameron.
—Do you know any case where the house that was left being worse than the house gone into, payment was made to the landlord ?
—I cannot tell that, as the tenants have been scattered into every place. I can only speak with regard to the tenants who were located in the township in which I myself was located.

444. In that case was any payment made to the landlord ?
—I cannot say.

445. What was done with the land that was taken and added to the deer forest ? Has it ever been cultivated since ?
—It was put into grazing. It has not been cultivated since.

446. It was left in grass ?

447. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was there a mutual valuation of the houses?
—It was a mutual valuation.

448. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did the people who migrated get their stock valued, in like manner, and paid for?
—They made a roup of their stock.

449. The Chairman.
—Do you desire to make any further statement before you retire ?
—I have to say that I have been put to disadvantage since I went to my present place. The rent has been increased on me, and the summing has been lessened. Ten shillings of increase was made on my rent, and the allowance to keep a horse was taken from me.

450. Do you mean the permission to keep a horse ?

451. What stock do you now possess?
—Two cows. My summing when I entered my present lot was two cows, a two-year-old, fourteen sheep, and a horse.

452. How much do you now pay?
—I pay £5, 10s. of rent, and with other assessments I pay £6.

453. Mr Cameron.
—No horse ?
—No horse. I have sheep.

454. The Chairman.
—How do you support your family ?
—I have been for eighteen seasons going to the east coast fishing, and going south, besides, to work for wages.

455. Would you be better off without your croft, or are you better off with your croft ?
—I would not be better off without the croft. I would rather have the croft. I would have no home without the croft.

456. Do you wish to state anything more ?
—Nothing more. I consider it a particular hardship to have the rent raised upon me, and my summing lessened. We had great liberties when we entered our present township. Our horses could graze up to Sligachan. Our fallow cows and our horses could graze up to Sligachan.

457. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Does your township make any claim to the grazing of Benlee ?
—We never said anything about that, but we were claiming the right to it when we entered Camustionavaig. It was Corrie who was factor at that time, and when he saw how high our rents were, he pointed out a little spot on the hill, where we could graze our horses during the summer and harvest.

458. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was that on Benlee ?
—I do not say we had a right to Benlee, but that our stock had the liberty of grazing there.

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