Bracadale, Skye, 18 May 1883 - Donald Campbell

DONALD CAMPBELL, Crofter, Struanmore (55)—examined.

6166. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected to be a delegate?

6167. Have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Struanmore ?
—May I not tell what happened to the people that were put out of these places ?

6168. Yes, let us hear it. Did you hear what was said before by Murdoch Mackay ?

6169. Then you will have the goodness to tell us something new, and not to go over the same ground?
—The tack of Ulinish has now added to it five townships. There was one gentleman in Ebost and another in Ullinish, and Struanmore was in possession of a farmer, and Struanbeg was in possession of another farmer. The leases of Ulinish and Ebost being out, Mr Gibbons who was factor to M'Leod, took the tack, and added the five townships to that one tack—Colbost, Ebost, Ulinish, Struanmore, and Struanbeg. The glens above that we have heard about to-day there were tenants there. There were eleven tenants between two glens
—five in Glenmore, six in Glen Colbost. I do not remember how many families were in the third glen,—Glen M'Caskill When Gibbons took the place he put away the tenants out of the glens. They were in very comfortable circumstances, with cattle and sheep and horses. He sent them away at the term of Whitsunday. He then sent eight families out of Garamore and Ebost. There were plenty people at that time at Ebost and Ulinish. He sent five of the remaining families to a wet black place called Garamore, which had not been inhabited before. Of those who were in Ulinish. he sent twenty families to Struanmore. He there gave them the corner of a piece of ground plotted out among them all, and none of them had a cow but one. He was a merchant. That was in 1841. They are there cultivating that ground every year for the past forty years. He left three or four neighbours. My father was one of them, and these were not at all the best off. He compeUed them to give him four days' work cutting peats each year, and for which he was giving them a lippie of meal. Mr Gibbons was fifteen years in possession of the place. Then his lease expired, and he left the tack with Mr Norris, his nephew. I was living in Ulinish, and he was not better than Gibbons. If a son married in a man's family the father dared not give him shelter for a night. All the young men that we had must needs leave and go to the cities, and every one who married in this way would have to leave. The tenants, when they became old, were becoming poorer till they came to be on the poor list, as their children were not allowed to remain with them. After Norris there was another farmer, Mr Simpson, a brother-inlaw of Mr Norris, who took up the farm. He was not a residenter. He had a manager on the farm, and that manager was the worst that ever came to us. He was treating the people very badly. He was ten years in the place. I should have told that five other families went to Australia of their own free will, to try and better their circumstances. Mr Robert Macdonald took the farm after Mr Simpson. Mr Macdonald raised the wages of the people to 2s. and some to 2s. 6d. per day. It is twelve years since he came into the farm, and he ramained in possession eleven years, when he died. Now, as we had been reduced to such poverty, during all that time, we sent last year a petition to the landlord asking him to give us land or better justice than we had experienced. We got a reply through the factor that we were to get something, but we did not get what we requested. He enlarged our holdings a little more, and he gave leave to every one of us who had not a cow to get one. This enabled every one who had not a cow to get one. The factor also put a fence between us and him. The place is very confined for all the stock that is on it. We have eighteen cows. Ullinish is now in possession of the landlord, and managed by the factor for him. We are now holding under the landlord himself. I have no more to say.

6170. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many are there of you in Struanmore ?
—Eighteen families.

6171. And with this enlarged holding from the proprietor, what stock are you allowed to keep ?
—One cow.

6172. On each lot?
—We have no grazing outside of our lots for the cows.

6173. How much will that grazing keep?
—It will only enable us to keep that cow.

6174. Have you a cow inside and a cow out1?
—We have but one cow.

6175. What rent do you pay?
—£3, 10s., besides rates.

6176. Of course, that includes the arable ground ?

6177. How much will you have of arable ground?
—About three acres now.

6178. And you till it all with the cas-cJirom?

6179. There is no horse in the place?

6180. Have all the eighteen been able to get a cow?
—Not altogether yet. They have not all got them yet.

6181. Is that because they are poor?
—I cannot say. I believe there are some of them that cannot easily get a cow. They were so long in poverty.

6182. Have they to pay the whole rent, whether they have a cow or not ?
—Yes, they must.

6183. You would think then that if they could afford it they would put a cow on ?
—It is only last Martinmas we got an addition to our holdings.

6184. And there is no great inducement to put a cow on till the summer grazing comes on ?

6185. How much land did you ask from the proprietor?
—We did not state how much; but we had a meeting among ourselves, and we were thinking of asking him for twelve acres a piece, but we did not ask him that yet.

6186. Is that of arable ground ?

6187. What stock upon hill pasture would you wish to have along with that arable ground ?
—We would need four or five cows, and from twenty to thirty sheep.

6188. Have you settled among yourselves what rent you would be inclined to pay for that croft?
—We are for honest honourable people, other than ourselves, to come and fix a fair rent.

6189. And you would be inclined to pay the rent those honourable people would fix ?

6190. Is there plenty of suitable land near you to make such a croft as that which you state ?
—Plenty, both hill pasture and arable land.

6191. For each of the eighteen1?

6192. Would the eighteen be able to stock the land?
—I believe they would not be able at first.

6193. Have you considered what ought to be done then?
—I was thinking we would do our best, and if we got money by which we could drain and improve our land, we would then be able to stock it. Should we not be able to do it at once, we could do it gradually.

6194. How would you be able to pay the rent?
—We spend in meal annually as much as would pay the rent, when nothing at all is growing in our ground except a little potatoes. It is twenty years since the mill up here ground a boll of meal, and that shows the poverty of the people.

6195. If you got such crofts, would you prefer to have a lease of them ?
—We would prefer a lease, so that we might not be put away for any reason but non-payment of rent, for without a lease they could put us away when they pleased.

6196. What length of lease would you consider reasonable?
—Fifteen years is a common period for leases in this part of the country.

6197. You would be quite satisfied with that ?
—I would. I am growing old and getting old at any rate.

6198. Have you a family ?

6199. Is there plenty of arable land?
—Any one who travels and goes the road can see there is plenty of land, and for double the number of people.

6200. I would like to ask about the steadings. Could you manage to remain in your present houses if you had these crofts ?
—No, we would need to put a house on each of our crofts.

6201. That would involve the building of a house, and a barn, and a byre'

6202. Would you be willing to undertake that on a fifteen years' lease ?
—Yes, but it would not be slated houses.

6203. How was the piece of ground that was fenced in fixed by the proprietor ? Was there a boundary there or not ?
—No, a piece that the factor set apart by guess.

6204. Now, eighteen people, with ten or twelve acres each, would take up about two hundred acres. Have you considered how that would affect the farm out of which you would take it ? If it were taken out of a neighbouring farm, would that still remain a farm that anybody would take?
—It would not be as large as it is; but it would make a good tack still.

6205. It would have a reasonable amount of arable and pasture land after all ?

6206. And would have good land in it ?

6207. You heard one of the previous witnesses speak of fixity of tenure ? Is that what you mean by a lease of fifteen or twenty years ?
—Yes, I mean by a lease of fifteen or twenty years fixity of tenure.

6208. And you believe that in this matter you express the opinion of the people of the place ?

6209. You heard the statements made by the other people as to the clearances all round, and as to the condition of the people long ago ?

6210. Do you quite agree with those statements?
—Yes, so far as I know, but I was not acquainted with the state of matters on the other side of the loch.

6211. But so far as your memory carries you back before the clearances began in the place where you live, you quite agree that the people were more comfortable then than they are now ?

6212. And you believe that if you got these crofts at reasonable rents on leases you would be able to work back into a comfortable condition again ?

6213. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Were the eighteen heads of families in Struanmore present when you were elected ?
—Yes. There might be one or two absent, but there were others besides Struanmore people present.

6214. When was this?
—About a week or a fortnight before the Commissioners came to Braes. The papers came- down telling us the Commissioners were coming.

6215. You saw the notices posted?
—Yes. Mr Ross, the minister, told us. We sent word to the two ministers to come and take charge of the meeting. Neither of them came.

6216. Have you had any meeting since to discuss what should be said to-day ?

6217. Did you not meet yesterday?
—I was not aware. I was not present at any rate.

6218. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have vou been present all the day?
— Yes.

6219. You have named certain townships in Ulinish and Ebost to-day. You have heard an enumeration from previous witnesses. Can you mention the names of any other places from which people were dispersed that have not been named yet ?
—Ose and Balmeanach.

6220. How many crofters were in Ose ?
—Three or four families. They were shifted to another part of it. They were made to build their houses on peat soil beside the river, and when the river was in flood some of them had to leave their houses for fear of their tumbling upon them.

6221. In fact, they got a place upon Ose which was very much for the worse ?

6222. Now, as to Balmeanach, how many were there ?
—The Balmeanach crofters had been removed before my time. I only saw two cottars there.

6223. But have you not heard old people speak about it?
—I don't remember having heard how many families were in Balmeanach.

6224. Are there remains of houses there ?

6225. Considerable ?
—Yes ; many up in the glens, and by the sea-shore. There was a .small township in Balmeanach called Grauban, and there were tenants there also, and there were tenants also in Shagary. I did not see the tenants, but I was told of it.

6226. Did you hear how many were there ?
—-I cannot tell. I did not hear. These townships were part of Balmeanach.

6227. For whom were they dispersed in Ose and Balmeanach?
—For the tacksman, Mr Stephen, a lowlander.

6228. Did he get Balmeanach?
—Ose and Balmeanach were two tacks before then, but both, as well as Glen M'Caskill and Glen Ulinish, were made into tack for Mr Stephen.

6229. Can you mention any more ?
—I do not know any more townships in that place.

6230. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Were there any people in Balgown ?
—There were a few in Balgown. These were not sent away at all. One or two left of their own free will, and the others died out. None of the old people that I remember are there to-day.

6231. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have any of the people from Bracadale or Minginish been sent to Glendale?
—All the people of who I have told that were removed by Mr Gibbons were sent to Glendale. The crofters were sent to Ramasaig and Lowergill, and those who were removed from Garamore and Ebost were sent to Meilove.

6232. How many were sent to Glendale altogether, do you think?
— Nineteen families out of the tack of Ulinish.

6233. Are some of the people themselves now living ?
—A few are still alive, but their descendants are to the fore still.

6234. Do you know of any application being sent to the landlord quite lately, by people about here, to get more land, and being refused ?
—Yes, I heard that the Garamore people requested the landlord to be removed from their present place at Garamore, and they were refused; but the people were here to-day, I believe, and they will tell. There is a man here—Malcolm M'Leod—who was one of them.

6235. And they did not get their request ?

6236. To whom does the nice land now under clover and grass belong
—near the end of the inn, below the road ?
—To Mr Butters, Sligachan, who has got the inn here.

6237. Who took in the land originally ?
—The man who had the inn before Norman M'Leod.

6238. But do you know who originally took it in ?
—That is the first man I saw in possession, and in my father's time it was in possession of Dr M'Caskill.

6239. On the opposite side of the bay there is a small township. What is the name of that ?

6240. Is it a very confined place ?
—Yes, indeed, and bad land.

6241. What about the fishing in this loch ?
—There is no great fishing for our families for the past few years. No herring comes into it.

6242. Where had you the meeting yesterday ?
—You said you were present at a meeting. When did the meeting take place at which you were a delegate ?
—A week or a fortnight before the arrival of the Commissioners at the Braes.

6243. And it is the only meeting you attended ?

6244. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Were the people of Ebost and Ulinish comfortable there, when you were a boy ?

6245. How many cows had your father1?
—Two cows and a horse.

6246. Was that common among the people there ?
—Some of them had it.

6247. None of them had less than one cow1?
—No, none of them less than one.

6248. And at Ulinish the same ?
—Yes, at Ulinish the same.

6249. And they had some sheep too ?
—Yes, they had some sheep, but I don't mind about them.

6250. You said there was only one man who had a cow at Struanmore ?
—Yes, Alexander Macdiarmid.

6251. Where did they get their milk ?
—They got no milk at all.

6252. And the children all those forty years were brought up without milk ?

6253. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Had you more than one meeting ?
— Yes, I recollect we had a meeting first ourselves, and then we had another meeting last week.

6254. Who was with you then ?
—Mr Mackenzie.

6255. And he can tell about that ?

6256. Was Alexander M'Caskill picked out at that meeting ?
—Not the first day.

6257. He was picked out the second day ?

6258. The Chairman.
—You stated that you would consider a lease of fifteen years sufficient to enable you to take in new ground, and build a new house, and build a new barn, &c, but you said that because you were an old man it would not be worth your while ?

6259. Do you think a lease for fifteen years enough to induce the younger people to embark upon such an undertaking ?
—I know that what our young people are wanting is that they are not to be liable to be
removed at all as long as they pay their rent.

6260. Do you think, without going so far as that, that a lease of thirty years would be greater encouragement than a lease of fifteen years ?
—No doubt, it would give us more encouragement.

6261. Do you think it would be an encouragement if the ground were given them for a smaller rent at first, and graduahy increasing ?
—That would be the fairest way with us; but there is no saying but the rent might rise to be too high.

6262. But the maximum rent would be a fixture from the first?
— We would be pleased enough with that.

6263. Then do you really think that if the landlord offered them the land on terms of that kind there would be a good number of people willing to attempt to commence building new houses and cultivate new crofts ?
— I think that all in our district would be willing to avail themselves of such terms.

6264. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there not a good deal of arable land in Ulinish and Ebost on which fine crops were grown, forty years ago, where heather is growing now ?
—Yes, where the heather and ferns are growing now, plenty of good arable land.

6265. You have seen good crops there yourself ?
—Yes, I have seen that.

6266. The Chairman.
—If a new croft were set off of the kind of which you speak, and the summing were fixed,—so many cows, so many sheep, so many horses,—how much would you think a fair valuation per cow, per horse, per sheep, in money ?
—It is too much what we pay for a cow's grazing here, but in crofter's townships they only charge from 15s. to £1 for a cow's grass for a year.

6267. Including winter keep ?
—Exclusive of wintering, but I am not sufficiently well acquainted with crofter's townships.

6268. You cannot state your opinion how much a fair rent would be per cow, per horse, per sheep ?
—If a man had a good croft he would have enough wintering for a cow.

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