Bracadale, Skye, 18 May 1883 - Alexander Mathieson

ALEXANDER MATHIESON, Cottar and Merchant, Carabost (53)— examined.

6096. The Chairman.
—Have you any land?
—I have a small bit of land.

6097. Have you been freely elected by the people of Carabost ?

6098. Have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Carabost?
—I have to complain of their poverty and the miserable houses that they have. The families till they are grown up have to sleep in the same room. It is a sheer violation of human nature. Our meal mill has gone to ruin, and for the past twenty years there has not been a peck of meal ground in it. I remember being with my father waiting for a whole week to get my turn at the mil!. That was before the first potato blight. It is the prevalent opinion that we were grinding between 300 and 400 bolls annually in this parish previous to the first potato blight.

6099. The Chairman.
—Do you mean the potato blight of 1836, or the other ?
—Previous to 1846.

6100. Mr Cameron.
—Are the houses at Carabost worse than the houses in other parts of the island ?
—They are none of them better anywhere.

6101. But are they worse? You talk of families living in one room. Did not they do that in other places ?
—I think they are. Most of them are very bad.

6102. You heard the witness who gave evidence about the shop and the goods which he sold to the people ?

6103. Do you sell your goods at the same price he sold his at ?
—Mostly about the same price.

6104. There was one item he was not asked about; what is the price of sugar ?
—The average is 5d. for good crystallised sugar.

6105. The previous witness said you had been very successful in your business. Is that so ?
—I manage to make both ends meet.

6106. Do the people find it very difficult to pay the debts that are owing to you ? Have you many bad debts ?
—Yes, a lot of them; but they cannot help it. As a rule, the cottars are as honest a people as are under the canopy of heaven, if they could be so.

6107. They may be honest, and yet poor?
—Yes, if they had the means.

6108. What is your opinion about the state of the people now compared with what it was when you first set up your shop?
—They are sinking more in debt.

6109. Still they seem to spend a good deal upon articles of groceries and similar articles ?
—As a rule, tea and sugar, as they have no meal. Most of them have no meal, and that is the only thing they have to put down their morsel of bread.

6110. Do most of the people buy tea and sugar, and use it?

6111. You sell bacon and cheese?

6112. Do the people buy the bacon and cheese too?
—Just a very small quantity, and I very seldom sell bacon or cheese, but I keep a little.

6113. Where do the people get the money -which enables them to buy these stores ?
—A lot of the money comes from the market towns, Glasgow and Greenock, and from manufacturing towns, and from people going to Mathieson. fishing and earning money. There is no money to be earned in Skye.

6114. Do they earn much money amongst the tourists -
—No, there are very few tourists come this length.

6115. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have heard a previous witness speak about the evictions upon Talisker and Glenbrittle and Drynoch. There were two other large farms. Can you give any evidence about Ulinish and Ebost ?
—Only what I heard. I heard about the evictions by Dr M'Lean and Talisker—that was called the Reign of Terror.

6116. We have heard of it, but I want you to tell of any people that have been removed from Ulinish and Ebost ?
—I heard so, but I cannot mention particulars.

6117. Is there anybody here who can tell the particulars?
—There is a delegate here.

6118. Is there a Donald Cameron from Ulinish here?

6119. Can you give us any information about the evictions upon any other places in the parish except the three places mentioned ?
—That is all I don't mind of any except what what was mentioned.

6120. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You go back to the year 1846. You have always lived at Carabost?
—I was for some time absent from the country.

6121. How many people are there in Carabost now?
—Very, very poor.

6122. How many families?
—There are ten or twelve families.

6123. How many families were there in 1846?
—Double that number.

6124. Then the evictions took place after that ?
—There were no evictions after that, but evictions before that. The people flitted out of it after the potato blight.

6125. It was not on account of the evictions that they left, but on account of the potato famine ?
—Yes, about Carabost.

6126. And that is the reason there is not so much demand for a meal mill ?
—Yes, and the smallness of the crofts.

6127. When were the crofts made small ?
—Upwards of forty years ago.

6128. Since 1846?
— Yes.

6129. I am talking of the year when you had to wait a whole week at the mill ?
—That was before that.

6130. Then the want of the demand for a mill arises from this, that the people have left the country on account of the potato famine?
—Some of them.

6131. And others have had land taken from them since that time?

6132. What places have had land taken from them since that time? There were some at Carabost?
—Yes, and a lot of them emigrated to Australia at the time of the famine.

6133. Were there many people who went of their own free will?
— Yes.

6134. Is that the cause why the population has decreased so much?
— Yes, and a lot went to Glasgow and Greenock and a great deal of them to the market towns.

6135. If there was a good mill here now would there be corn to grind at it ?
—Oh, they raise no crop at all

6136. As regards the houses, they are built by the people themselves ?
— Yes.

6137. You are upon Talisker's ground?

6138. If they built a better house, would Talisker leave them in it?
— Yes, I don't know of any of them being turned out. A lot of remarks were made about John M'Caskill, but I was absent from the country at the time.

6139. But I am talking of those very bad houses at Carabost which you say are too small for a family properly to live in ?
—Far too small.

6140. The houses are built by the people themselves; they might build bigger ones if they had the means ?
—Yes, they would very soon improve them if they had the means.

6141. Then it is the want of means that prevents them building bigger houses ?
—That is so.

6142. They are not afraid of being turned out of the bigger houses ?
—No, for I improved my own, and I am not afraid of being turned out.

6143. And you have no hold of it?
—No more than I have of this church.

6144. The Chairman.
—Would they be afraid of the tacksman charging them a higher rent if they improved ?
—No, I don't think so.

6145. If they improved their houses, you don't think they would be asked to pay a higher rent ?
—No, I don't think it. Their own neighbour may take a set of it, to give more money for it.

6146. Did you ever hear that the proprietor or the tacksman or any one had offered to assist the people in getting better houses?
—Never in my life.

6147. Did they ever show any interest in the lodging or the welfare of the people ?
—Not that I am aware of.

6148. Has the proprietor or the factor ever been in the habit of visiting the people in their own buildings and inquiring into their condition ?
— Never, to my knowledge; and I never heard anything about it.

6149. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated, in reply to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, that several people from some of the townships emigrated. Were these cottars or crofters ?

6150. No crofters?
—No crofters on our side of the loch at all

6151. Sheriff Nicolson.
—The distillery where the famous whisky known as Tallisker is made is at Carabost ?

6152. We heard from M'Caskill that injury had been done to some of the people there at the very time it was erected. Has it been of any benefit to the people ? Are there many of them employed in it ?
—There are about half a dozen of the people employed in it altogether.

6153. Has it done any injury to the people in the district?
—No, but at the time of its erection they were complaining bitterly of it. They were turned out wholesale by the distillery—to make the distillery.

6154. Is any of the Carabost whisky drunk in that quarter?
—Not a gill.

6155. I suppose they cannot afford it?
—No, it is too dear.

6156. Where do they get their own whisky from?
—From the market town—from Greenock or Glasgow.

6157. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Has that distillery ever done any good to that locality ?
—Not that I ever heard of, except only a few men to get employment about it.

6158. Are they people connected with the country, or are they strangers ?
—There is one of them in it ever since it was erected. There are strangers and natives in it both.

6159. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you known or heard of the people of that district having been subjected to very considerable inconvenience, amounting to persecution, after the time of the Disruption ?
—There was some little grievance of that kind at the time of the Disruption.

6160. What form did it take ?
—Well, it cooled down.

6161. Were they not obliged to worship on the sea-shore ?
—Yes, for a couple of years.

6162. Because they could not get a place on land ?
—Yes; I remember it myself.

6163. Whose fault was that? Was it the laird's or the factor's ?
—It was the late Hugh M'Askill and Donald M'Askill of Rhu Dunan. The landlord was not blamed for it, so far as I know.

6164. There is nothing of that sort now?

6165. No disagreeable feelings between the Established Church and Free Church people?
—Not that I am aware of. It has cooled down long ago.

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