Bracadale, Skye, 18 May 1883 - Murdo Mackay

MURDO MACKAY, Struanbeg (60)—examined.

5822. The Chairman.
—What is your occupation ?
—I was a cottar till last Whitsunday. I have a house.

5823. Have you been freely elected a delegate by your people ?

5824. Were there many of them present ?
—Yes. There were nearly as many present as are here present to-day.

5825. What statement have you got to make on the part of those who elected you?
—-I have a great deal to say. I remember when Dr M'Lean was tenant of Talisker, and removed two townships which are opposite here—Fiskaveg aud Ardhoil. He was not long there when he left and went to Rum, where he was tacksman.

5826. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Mention the number of families in this township ?
—I cannot tell the number in the township.

5827 The Chairman.
—Can you tell about how many?
— I believe the number was not under ten or twelve, between the two townships.

5828. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Where did they go ?
—To every place about. Some of them went to America, and others were scattered about the country. Then Hugh M'Askill became tenant of Talisker, and he removed the tenants who were in Ardfreck and Heille. There would be fifteen or sixteen families in these two townships. Some of them went to Roag and some went over the way to Snizort. He then began to remove the crofters from Ferrinlea. The number of families in it was about sixteen. He placed some near the distillery those who could not leave the township. My father was one of those removed from Ferrinlea. Some of them went to Unish, Waternish, and others to the island of Rum, some to Roag and Ulinish, wherever they could get a hole to live in.

5829. Was your father a crofter ?

5830. What rent did he pay ?
—£3. I then went to service, and then came to Bracadale and took land in Struan, though my house is a good price the other way, at Struan House. I was paying £5, 16s. of rent and what I could grow upon my holding would not winter one cow.

5831. To whom did you pay that?
—To the tacksman of Ulinish, and though we were paying that amount of rent we would not be allowed to keep a pet sheep, and he himself had grazed his sheep for half a year over our land.

5832. They were not allowed to keep sheep themselves but the tenants sheep pastured over their ground in winter ?
—Yes. I have no more to say.

5833. How long is it since you came to this tack ?
—Twelve years.

5834. The Chairman.
—Are we to understand that all those families who were cleared from the two places you mention, ten from one and fifteen from another—were crofters ?

5835. Then how was the tacksman or tenant able to evict them? I thought that they would have paid the rent to the landlord
—The landlord gave the place to Mr M'Askill, Talisker.

5836. With the crofters upon it ?

5837. Then they had nothing to do with the tenant ?
—Yes? it was to Mr M'Askill we were paying when he got the tack.

5838. What became of the land which was taken away from all those
people. Was it given to the tacksman, or given to other tenants ?
—He added it to his own tack.

5839. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you represent any place except Struanbeg ?

5840. How many people are living in Struanbeg now ?
—I am the only occupant of Struanbeg.

5841. Who are the people who elected you?
—The people of Struan hereabout.

5842. How many are there in Struan altogether ?
—Eighteen families. My croft used to be in Struanmore, and I reside in Struanbeg.

5843. Do they held the land from the landlord or from the tenant ?
— We now hold from the landlord wholly.

5844. Has the landlord got possession of the farm ?

5845. You mentioned you had held land up to last year. Did you give it up of your own accord ?
—I did not give it up of my own accord. I could get land along with them here, but I could not remove my effects. I have no family, only my wife, and I am ill with rheumatism myself. My wife is ill.

5846. Then though you have a house you pay no rent now ?
—I have a cow yet, and I pay for the grazing of it. I don't know yet till we settle at Whitsunday what it will be.

5847. Are you going to pay for the cow's grass ?

5848. And for the house ?
—Yes, I will not refuse to pay anything that is asked of me.

5849. And you expect to be asked ?

5850. What is the customary rent in the country for a cow's grass and a house?
—In Struanmore it used to be £3, 10s. for the outside pasture of a cow.

5851. And that included the house ?
—Without the house.

5852. What did you pay for the house?
—I was paying £5 , 16s. for the sort of croft I had in Struanmore.

5853. Including cow's grass ?

5854. Have the other tenants now that Lord Macdonald has the land in his own hands, any direct advantages they did not have before ?
—Yes, the cow's grass is not very dear now.

5855. What may their rents be now ?
—£2, 5s. is the outgrazing of a cow.

5856. What are they paying for their crofts ?
—£3, 10s, between the cow and the croft.

5857 Wrhat are they likely to keep for that ?
—One cow.

5858. No sheep ?

5859. And for every additional cow they have to pay £2, 5s ?
—Yes, we have no right to keep sheep. There is a fence between us and the landlord.

5860. Have you a horse ?
—No. There is no saying when they had the right to keep horses.

5861. What size of crofts are these ?
—Most of them not more than two acres of arable ground, and scarcely that much of properly arable ground.

5862. And there is some pasture with it ?
—Yes, now, when the fence will be put round it.

5863. But that is common pasture ?
—Yes. That is common pasture and they can keep on it what they choose.

5864. What like is the pasture ?
—Hillocks and rocks that a person cannot make use of.

5865. Do the tenants keep their cows upon it ?
—No, it is among the potato and corn ground they do so; it is not wide enough. They cannot get a peat till the crop is taken off the ground.

5866. How long is it since Ferrinlea was cleared out ?
—-About forty years ago.

5867. Was your father's family in Harlosh then?
—We have three brothers there.

5868. How long is it since Ardfreck and Heille were cleared I
—Fifty years ago.

5869. And you cannot give the date of the clearing of Fiskoveg and Ardhoil ?
—Fifty-five or fifty-six years ago.

5870. You are not fit now to keep a lot or stock a lot ?
—I have no family, but I have an acre or two besides my house and the cow's grazing.

5871. Did you build the house in which you are ?
—Yes, and I am still not the better of my labour in building it. There was not a stone on the ground when I commenced it.

5872. Was it from the difficulty of shifting your house that you did not take a part of the ground with these tenants ?

5873. What would it cost to build a house ?
—Between £13 and £14.

5874. Do the other tenants that have now got land from Lord Macdonald complain about anything ?
—They are more contented than they were before.

5875. Mr Cameron.
—Were any of those evicted tenants who went to Unish and other places left on the ground as cottars ?
—Not in Minginish, none of those who were removed lived in Minginish.

5876. In fact, they are all away ?

5877. None of them had their condition changed from crofters into cottars, through land being taken away, and their houses left ?

5878. What was the arrangement you spoke about with regard to the sheep pasturing on your crofts in winter. Was that by a special arrangement and included in the rent you paid for the croft?
—No it was no part of the agreement. But when Dr M'Lean would find our sheep in the fank, the owner of any sheep who was not prepared to pay half a crown on the spot for it would have the ears of his sheep cut close to its skull at once.

5879. But under what arrangement was the tacksman at liberty to put his sheep on the grazings of the crofters?
—It was no part of our agreement about the lot.

5880. Was any money paid by the tacksman to the crofters for the pasturing of those sheep ?
—No, it was no part of our agreement with the tacksman of Ulinish that his sheep should graze on our lots for six months of the year.

5881. Did they stray there or were they put there ?
—We had a shepherd protecting our crofts, and we also had our crofts enclosed with a dyke during the crop time, but when it was reaped the sheep came in upon us.

5882. At the present moment do any of the large tacksmen send their sheep upon the crofters' pasture for six months of the year and pay the crofters for it ?
—I don't know of any instance of that for some time past. There are others here who may tell.

5883. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—It is about twelve years since you came to Ulinish?

5884. And you agreed to pay £5, 16s. for the croft you had?

5885. You took it from the tacksman of Ulinish ?

5886. And it was part of your bargain that his sheep for a part of the year were to have the wintering of the croft ?
—There was no word of that when I took the croft. I found that rule existing when I came to Ulinish. I found that practice existing in the time of my predecessor.

5887. Did you know the tacksman was to have the wintering of the crofts ?
—Yes, I knew that that practice existed.

5888. Professor Mackinnon.
—If you kept up the fence yourself could you not have kept out the sheep?
—A turf dyke would not keep them out.

5889. But if the turf dyke was kept up would it prevent them getting in ?
—We never tried to keep them out.

5890. So they just got over the wall and came in because there was better pasture ?

5891. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You say you would like a little land near where your house is. In whose possession is the land that adjoins your house ?
—It is in the hands of Macleod of Macleod.

5S92. Have you applied to Macleod or his factor for a bit ?
—I asked the factor twice for a bit of ground near the house, and I have not got it yet.

5893. Do you expect to get it ?
—I would be expecting it, but I don't know if I will get it.

5894. Who was the factor ?
—Mr Macdonald of Portree.

5895. In regard to the story of the evictions, beginning with Dr M'Lean, how soon after M'Lean got possession of the tack did he remove the people. Were they there for a year or two
—I think he was not long in alisker when he began the work, but I cannot tell how long.

5896. I repeat the same question in regard to M'Askill. How long was he in possession before he began to remove them ?
—M'Askill would be about a year or two in possession when he commenced the clearances.

5897. Did those people get summonses from the sheriff court to remove, or did they go of their own accord ?
—They were warned to remove.

5898. Did you see the warning and read it ?
—I could not read it then. I saw him get the paper and all the people get it also.

5899. Was the summons at the instance of the proprietor, or tacksman, or both?
—I cannot tell; I cannot be sure—the people were so ignorant at that time. People who are so ignorant are removed for nothing.

5900. I presume there are other large farms in Bracadale here besides Talisker ?
—M'Askill had them all. He had Minginish entirely, and it is now in two tacks.

5901. Who are the tenants?
—The Camerons—Mr Cameron, Talisker, and Mr Cameron, Glenbrittle.

5902. Do you know John M'Askill, Ferrinlea ?

5903. Is he here to-day ?

5904 Is he a delegate ?

5905. Do you know an old man named Mathieson ?
—Yes; he is here.

5906. Is he a delegate ?

5907. Were the people, so far as you know—the numerous families you have referred to as having been removed by M'Lean and M'Caskill—in comfortable circumstances ?
—Yes, they were that. They had cattle and horses and sheep at that time.

5908. Are you aware they were in arrear ?
—No. I know that some of those who were removed had money to get from M'Leod, the landlord.

5909. Do you mean by that, that they deposited money with him?
— They were at that time earning it in making the road.

5910. Have any of those evictions you refer to taken place under the present M'Leod?
—It was in the time of the present M'Leod's father that the clearances were made—in Dr M'Lean's time.

5911. Do you recollect whether the M'Askill clearances were also in the time of the late M'Leod ?
—The clearances in M'Askill's time were made in the present landlord's day.

5912. Are you aware of any family among these numerous families that were removed in this manner, and that settled down in Skye, that they have become prosperous or risen in the world ?
—Yes; the family of one of them is in Roag. His sons are doing well. None of the heads of the families are alive. Another family of them went to Durinish; those who went to Unish were again scattered.

5913. The Chairman.
—I want to understand more about the price of your cow's grass. Supposing a man who has got land wishes to hire summer grazing for a cow from a tacksman, how much does he pay for the summer grazing?
—It is £2, 5s. I paid.

5914. I thought you said something about £3, 10s. ?
—It was £3, 10s. in the time of the tacksman.

5915. But what is the common price in the country. What is it usual to pay to the tacksman ?
—I don't know indeed.

5916. When you paid £3, 10s. to the tacksman, was that an unusual price. Was it more than common?
—Yes; it was £3 that was paid at first, but the manager laid on an additional 10s.

5917. Would you say £ 3 was the ordinary price paid to a tacksman?

5918. How many months does the cow graze on the hill in the summer ?
—From Whitsunday to Martinmas.

5919. How does the man who has got no ground get the winter keep for his cow ?
—Buying from those who can afford to sell

5920. How much would it cost you to buy the wintering ?
—About £5 or more.

5921. Then the whole expense for keeping a cow—summer grazing and winter keep—to a man who has no land, would be about £ 8 ?

5922. Is it better for a family to have a cow, and to pay £ 8 for the whole year, than to have no cow at all ?
—We would be better without the cow if the people were healthy, but where there are sickly people they would need the milk.

5923. You spoke about cutting the ears of sheep. I understood you to say that if the crofters kept the sheep and did not pay 2s. 6d., then the ears of the sheep were cut off. Did you ever see the ears of a sheep cut off ?
—Yes, I did see that in Dr M'Lean's fank at Talisker. I never saw it before or since.

5924. Was that a punishment of Dr M'Lean's invention, or is it the custom in this country ?
—I never saw it with anybody but himself.

5925. Professor Mackinnon.
—Had you any name for that mode of marking sheep ?
—No, we had no particular name.

5926. Did you ever hear it called the thief's mark?
—Yes, I heard it called the thief's mark.

5927. The Chairman.
—Have you any further statement to make ?

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