Bracadale, Skye, 18 May 1883 - John Mcrae

JOHN M'RAE, Cottar and Fisherman, Soay (35)—examined.

6354. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Soay ?

6355. You have heard what the last witness has stated respecting the condition of the people on the island. Did you understand the statement, and do you agree with it?

6356. Have you something to add to that statement ?
—Yes, I have to say, in the first place, that I could not put down either potatoes or oats in my ground this year, as the ground is so soft—nothing but peats and bogs, and I could not get back what I put into it. I am for the past twenty years getting ground from others in which to plant my potatoes and sow my oats, and my father was for thirty-five years the same way. I have no place on which to build a house. My present house is built on the township, and the tide rises to it, and every stormy night that comes I have to watch and put out all the furniture—such as it is. A sister of mine was employed one night last winter putting out the furniture, and she was sickly, and she died in consequence of hurting herself that night. I tried with carrying some peat soil on my back to make up soil on my ground, but it defied me. I have to pave a way for my cow with stones through my lot in order to get out to the hill, otherwise she would get drowned. She would never have got her feet out of the ground, it is so soft. I do not think I have anything more to say. I have been through England, Scotland, Ireland, and France, and I have not seen such an awful place for people to be living in as Soay.

6357. Were you a seaman on board ship ?
—Yes, a yachtsman.

6358. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you concur with the last witness that the only remedy is to be removed off the island altogether ?
—Yes. We take our meal from Broadford, and it costs 5s. a bag, to the Loch Slapin, and from there we have eighteen miles by boat to Soay ; and it may happen I have to spend 15s. to £1 for lodgings in going for this meal, should bad weather come, and those at home may be starving. No person can believe the sort of place it is unless he has seen it.

6359. Have you asked the tacksman or proprietor for a place to build a new house ?
—I don't remember I asked him for a place to build a house in, but a brother of mine asked him for a stance to build a house, and he built a house near my place, and the tide destroyed it, and he died himself.

6360. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are all fishermen at Soay ?

6361. Either fishermen or sailors'?

6362. If it were made a fishing station, do you think they could make a living there ?

6363. What kind of boats have you ?
—Boats which we get home from the south. A boat which belonged to me was destroyed by the last storm, and I applied for relief to the distributors of the fund that was collected for repairing the fishermen's boats, and I was refused. I was obliged to get another boat instead.

6364. Did any of the people in Soay get new boats ?

6365. What was the reason of your being made an exception ?---I don't know.

6366. Who had the distribution of them ?
—Mr Macdonald, factor, Portree; Mr Cameron, Talisker; Mr Cameron, Glenbrittle; and the minister of Bracadale.

6367. Was your boat quite destroyed ?
—Not quite.

6368. Was she fit to be repaired ?

6369. Perhaps that was the reason for not getting a new one ?
—No ; some blacksmiths and tradesmen got part of that money, and I got none, I who was making my living by fishing.

6370. There are no big boats at all now?

6371. Do you practice herring fishing to any extent ?
—No, our herring fishing is gone.

6372. Don't you go to Loch Hourn ?
—We have no nets.

6373. Did you make anything at the fishing here last year ?
—No, nothing to speak of. We were fishing lobsters.

6374. Is the lobster fishing good there ?

6375. How long does it last
—About three months.

6376. What do you get a dozen for the lobsters ?
—Sometimes from 5s. to 7s.,—5s. when they are plentiful, and 7s. when they are not.

6377. Are the whelks lifted off the shore there

6378. Are they regularly called for, or do you send a boat with them?
—We ourselves take them to Loch Slapin, and pay a cart to take them thence to Broadford.

6379. What do you get for them1.
—Sometimes 10s. a bag.

6380. How many bushels does a bag hold ?
—About four.

6381. How long would it take one to collect them ?
—Two spring tides. There are no whelks now.

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