Braes, Skye, 8 May 1883 - Neil Macpherson

NEIL MACPHERSON, Crofter and Fisherman, Gedentailler—examined.

243. The Chairman.
—Have you been in the room during the examination of other delegates ?

244. Have you heard and understood what they said ?

245. Do you agree with them?
—I fully agree with all that they said.

246. Is there anything you wish to add to their statement?
—I have to say that during all my recollection ws got no work from the landlord.

247. How long have you been a crofter?
—Upwards of twenty years.

248. The croft has been in your possession about twenty years ?

249. What is the rent you pay?
—£3, 13s. for half a lot.

250. What more have you to say in addition to your complaint about not getting work from the landlord?
—To get land, as much as we could make use of. That would do us and our families good. The land which we have got is too shallow. In some places it is not more than one inch in depth, and other parts of it are so rocky that it cannot be called land. We can make no use whatever of it, and we are paying rent for it all the same.

251. Is there any land immediately near your township which would be useful to the crofters if it were given to them ?
—Yes, there is such land. There is plenty of land on the farm of Scorrybreck, plenty of land at Tormichaig, plenty at Moll, plenty at Kingsburgh and Skeinish, and Glenvarigil and Corrie. There is plenty of land for every crofter on the estate if they got it.

252. If the land were offered by the landlord to the crofters, would the crofters, in your opinion, be willing and able to take it and make use of it ?
—We could not stock it at the present time, we are so poor. We have been obliged to spend our all for food, and we in our township especially are poor because of our having been deprived of the hill pasture, and having no land upon which we could live, and what land we had dear. In some parts when I put down the seed I am obliged to take earth with the spade from other parts to cover the seed.

253. Sheriff Nicolson
—Potato seed?
—Potato seed, and oats as well. Even should the landlord order us to put more stock upon our land, what could we do with them ? We could not feed them, unless we would put the one inside the other. When we have to buy food for our families and food for our stock, how could we stand to it, and the stock few? Our holdings on the land were serving no other purpose to us than affording us a home to which we could resort from our fishing,—fishing at Kinsale and the east coast,—where we were earning the wherewith to pay the landlord and feed our families. Some years our fishing would succeed with us, and other years it would not, aud what caused the rents to be so very high in this part of the land was that it was so close to the sea—sea that was open to all the people in England, Ireland, and Scotland as well as us,—and then, oftenest, it was people from those countries who were making better use of the fishings than we were. They wuld have more fishing material than we had. It was their trade. The little bits of land that we had were spoiling us for fishing. W e had to give our time at home to cultivating the land,—land out of which we were taking no good. I see the whole district around us in the same circumstances in which we are, and that they all have their cause of complaint according to their real circumstances, because they have been crowded upon each other, and have no elbow room. The same land that is being tilled by us has been in cultivation, from year to year, since the time of our great-grandfathers. My grandfather was ninety-five, my father eighty-four, and 1 myself have been fifty years here. I remember seeing my grandfather, and I have heard him say that the land which we are now cultivating had been cultivated in his time and before his time.

254. The Chairman.
—You have stated that the people here are inferior to the east country people as fishers. Can you suggest anything which the Government could do to improve the fishing in this country?
— If we could get assistance from Government to get as good boats as other places have. The fishing will not be about our coasts at all times.

255. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You mean that at certain times, when there was no fishing here, you would go away to the Irish coast and other places ?
—Yes, some of them could do that. If they had better boats and better fishing material they could go elsewhere when the fishing at home failed them.

256. Supposing they had good boats just now they would be in danger of being wrecked, as they have no place to draw them up?
—That would be the case. They would be in danger of being broken. There are some townships about where the boats could be drawn up with safety.

257. The Chairman.
—Have you anything more to say before you go ?
—I have nothing more to say. If we had the land at a fair rent; and besides that I think the land has been sufficiently paid for already—paying rent since the time of our forefathers.

258. Mr Cameron.
—Do any of your neighbours go away to the mainland of Scotland to get work ?
—Plenty of them go to the south country to work. It is by their work in the south country that they are making a living.

259. Do they go as much now as they used to go a few years ago ?
— They are now going more to the south than they used to do in days gone by.

260. What is their favourite place to go to?
—Anywhere in which they hear that work is going on. A man who follows the sea, wherever he hears seamen are in demand, goes there, and the man who is up to land work goes wherever he hears there are wages to be earned in that way.

261. Then how many months will he spend away in the year?
—When we go to the east coast fishing we stay away for two months.

262. I am not talking of the fishing, I am talking of those who take to land work ?
—Some of them leave the country about this time of the year and will be away until about Martinmas, and others of them stay away till the next spring season comes.

263. They stay away the whole year?

264. Do many of your neighbours go away in that way for a whole year?
—Yes, some of them. I myself have been iti the habit of being away a whole year, ever since I have been able to work.

265. Then how do you come to be here now?
—I mean, after my spring work is done. I am away from home the whole year except the spring time. Last year I stayed at home expecting there would be fishing about, but there was no fishing.

266. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I believe there is an unusual number of widow women in Gedentailler ?
—Yes, there are some poor widows in our township.

267. How many?
—There are six at any rate.
268. How do they happen to be there ?
—Through some of their husbands getting drowned at the east coast fishing.

269. Have most of them families?
—They all have families.

270. How do they live?
—They live very poorly; it cannot be otherwise.

271. Have they crofts?
—They have half crofts.

272. Professor Mackinnon.
—I think you said that the crofts were so bad that you would be better without them ?
—Yes, we would be better without them unless we got more land.

273. And that the croft prevented you from prosecuting the fishing?
—Yes; if I have not more land it would be better for me to be at work earning wages than to be hanging about a croft.

274. And what you want is a good croft elsewhere and at a fair rent ?
— Yes; what I want is a good croft at a fair rent.

275. What is your stock just now ?
—Two cows.

276. What is the summing?
—Two cows and a two-year-old.

277. No sheep?
—Nine or ten sheep.

278. How many have you ?
—Seven or eight. I do not know if they are alive to-day, but I think I have that number.

279. Could you stock a good croft ?
—No, I could not.

280. How many acres of arable land have you?
—I cannot tell the number of acres, but there is no more than one acre of it arable.

281. How much rent?
—£3, 13s., and my share of the hill pasture of Benlee

282. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said you thought you had paid rent long enough ; do you mean that you think the land should belong to you now ?
—Yes, I think the land should belong to ourselves now.

283. Were you one of the delegates chosen by the people of the Braes here ?
—Yes, I was elected a delegate.

284. Was it at the first gathering ?

285. And is that the feeling of the people of the Braes generally to which you have given expression?
—I think so.

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