Rev. JOHN M'LEAN, Minister, Bracadale (43)—examined.
6392. The Chairman.
—You desire to make a statement?
—I have no particular statement to make, but I am ready to answer any questions.
6393. How long have you been minister here?
—Six years in January last
6394. You have heard generally what the delegates have said to-day, and you have heard particularly what they have said about the deterioration of their condition in connection with the repeated evictions and consequent overcrowding ?
6395. Do you agree generally with their statements?
—Yes, I do. I ascribe their poverty primarily to the smallness of their holdings. I believe they will be better off if they have larger holdings.
6396. Have you yourself observed, since you have been here, a deterioration in their physical condition ?
6397. What part of the country do you belong to ?
—I am a native of North Uist.
6398. Do you think generally that the people are better clothed and better fed than they were at the earliest period of your recollection ?
— Well, I cannot say in reference to this parish.
6399. But generally in the island ?
—Not in my native parish. I think they are as well off there as they used to be. I cannot say anything except for the past six years with reference to the people here, but I think the want of milk is a very great want in this parish, and is felt severely. I think it is a very great hardship to rear children without milk.
6400. Do the people then, in reference to their condition here, compare favourably with the people of your native place ?
—Decidedly they do.
6401. Do you think that if the proprietors were inclined to enlarge their boundaries and give them greater access to the soil, many would avail themselves of it?
—I believe many would.
6402. Are you aware there is any considerable amount of money brought into the parish by the younger people in the form of wages ?
—A great deal. All the young people leave early in spring —at least as soon as they are done with their tillage. They go south, and earn wages there, and send a great deal of money to support their parents and friends at home.
6403. Do you think that would help their parents to take up land and improve it, and build their houses?
—Yes, I think so.
6404. Have you observed here, in the course of your ministry, any solicitude on the part of the proprietor or his factor for the welfare and improvement of the people generally—any active interest?
—I think they are both very indifferent about the circumstances of the people in this parish, —both the factors and the proprietor, they are distant.
6405. Have you any other suggestion of your own, besides the enlargement of the croft, towards the greater welfare of the people ?
6406. How do you find the children? Do you find them miserably dressed—so ill-dressed that they are incapable of going to church or school?
—Yes, they are very poorly clad, and that interferes very much with their education. Whenever we find fault with parents for not sending their children forward to school, the reason they assign for their absence is that they cannot keep them clad, that they have not shoes, and that if the weather is anything severe they cannot send them on to school.
6407. Do you think that they make that an excuse ?
—There is a great deal of truth in it.
6408. How are the paupers looked after in this parish ?
—There is an inspector appointed in the parish to look after them, and there is a parish doctor.
6409. Do they do their duty actively and industriously ?
—I think they do, so far as I know. I hear no complaints. It is very seldom I see any one before the board with any serious complaints in reference to the administration of the poor law in the parish.
6410. Do they make tolerable allowances for the paupers, or are they parsimonious ?
—They are the most liberal board in Skye, I believe.
6411. Have you observed any sign of increasing poverty this year or last year ?
—This year, of course, people are hard pressed, but that is general all over Skye, and for that part all over the west coast.
6412. Have they obtained some useful relief ?
—Yes, they have.
6413. Have they got seed generally, and potatoes?
—Yes, they got a little, and we have a surplus,—I mean the parochial committee,—to relieve the poorest, in the shape of meal through the summer, for perhaps the real pinch is scarcely on yet. We kept a reserve fund.
6414. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are the people generally a very quiet, peaceable, well-behaved people ?
—Remarkably so. I don't think there have been two criminal cases in the whole parish since I became minister of it.
6415. Have you ever been able to visit the island of Soay ?
—I have been once there visiting the school, as a member of the school board, and I beg to say, in the absence of my friend the Free Church minister, that Soay is not neglected to such an extent as M'Caskill said. There is a catechist resident always in the island, and it is very seldom the island is without the services of a missionary; and very often a licentiate of the Free Church I may say the whole of the people in the island are Free Churchmen.
6416. So far as you know about that island, do you concur in the views of the delegate, that it would be wise they should be removed ?
— Well, the soil is very poor; it is a very poor island.
6417. The Chairman.
—Have all the people been baptised; have they the advantage of the sacraments of the church ?
—Well, in former years baptism was neglected.
6418. In Soay?
—There were two adult individuals belonging to the island of Soay that I baptised.
6419. Is the holy communion administered there?
—No, but they come here.
6420. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You wish to make some explanation about one of the delegates, saying that no assistance was given by the clergy in arranging for the selection of delegates ?
—In reference to the election of delegates, it was simply this, that four or five individuals, cottars from the township of Cuilore, called on me and asked me to preside at their meeting. I told them, first of all, it was a very simple thing, and that I thought they were quite capable of selecting delegates themselves. I then drew up a paper for them calling a meeting, which two or three of them signed. At the same time I declined to preside at the meeting, because I was under the impression that there was another gentleman in the parish who would be far more acceptable to the parish in general It was not at all owing to being ashamed or afraid to attend, for it was a lawful meeting, but I was under the impression that another gentleman would be got whose presidency would be more acceptable to the people—I mean Mx Ross. It was all owing to a misunderstanding.
6421. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where does the doctor live?
6422. If there were a sick person requiring medical attendance, how long would it take to send for him from Ose ?
—That would depend on the weather. .
6423. If it were a beautiful day ?
—A boat could do it in two or two and a half hours, but it is a very long route by the road.
6421. Supposing you had to send round by road ?
—It would take three and a half hours from Ose to Carabost.
6425. Do you think any great inconvenience is caused by the doctor residing at Carabost ?
—I think it is the most central place now.
6426. Then, speaking of the people being well behaved, was there any policeman here when you came first ?
6427. Are there any now ?
—There are two.
6428. What were the two sent for ?
—One was sent two or three years ago, and the other recently.
6429. Do you think two persons are required to preserve the peace of the parish of Bracadale ?
—No, I think it is a superfluity. I think we could do very well without them.
6430. Is it in any way disagreeable to the inhabitants that the police force has been increased ?
—Not so far as I know. I have never heard a complaint.