Broadford, Skye, 16 May 1883 - Charles Mckenzie

CHARLES M'KENZIE, Crofter, Torrin (71)—examined.

4386. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman as well as a crofter?
—I am not a fisherman at all.

4387. Were you freely elected a delegate by the people of Torrin ?
— Yes, I was constrained even to go.

4388. By how many people ?
—The whole people of the township.

4389. Without any influence ?
—Without any.

4390. What statement have you got to make on the part of the people of Torrin?
—They are for having their holdings increased—those who can take such increased holdings. Another thing of which they complain, is that the land which they have is refusing to yield crop. Though we sow seed we do not reap, and besides that, the deer are eating our corn. Years before, the deer would not come upon us until the corn was filling; but now they come to eat the braird, and the tops of the potatoes. Yesterday, for the first time, my neighbour had a piece of clover sown, and when he rose in the morning the deer were browsing on it. We have need to be protected from the deer, but we are promised such protection. We never got any compensation for loss caused to us by the deer. We had to stand it ourselves, and besides that, even though our land was refusing to yield its crop, Tormore, the factor, raised our rents and the mill in which we had been grinding our corn for the past forty years is now idle, and has been so for twenty years back. Besides that, the one year's seed will not sow our crofts the next year. We have to buy seed oats in Greenock. If I did not get credit from a merciful man who is there, my lot, for the most part of it, would be uncultivated. I have nothing further to say, but that the land will not pay itself. Our arable land will not yield as much as will feed the stock we have. We have to feed them with oatmeal and with Indian meal at the end of the year, and that expense is eating up the value of the beasts; and we must needs pay Lord Macdonald's rent to the uttermost penny at the end of the year, at any rate. Now, what is to happen to us if our earnings fail us ? How can we afford to pay the meal merchant ? When I was a young man, I was at work earning wages, and I was not troubling any man; but now I am become old, I cannot follow the occupation in which I was making a living before. My savings in these times have supported me hitherto, but are now exhausted. I have nothing now but the little stock which is on my ground, and when that will be exhausted I do not know what to do unless I get some enlargement of my holding while the stock is left to me, to keep me up during the few years I have yet to live, and that will not be very many. I have not been such a long time in the place in which I now am, but as to the other things that happened, there is one here who is older than me, and he knows better than me, and can tell better about these things—the things that have happened.

4391. The Chairman.
—Who is that?
—Neil Nicolson.

4392. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How near is the deer forest to you?
— It marches with our hill pasture. The deer come and trespass over our hill pasture.

4393. How large is your hill pasture ?
—About three miles. There are two miles at any rate in our march with the deer forest.

4394. Was any of your hill land taken away for the forest ?
—We were never deprived of hill pasture.

4395. Do I understand you correctly to have said that it was agreed to fence your lands from the deer ?
—Yes, the factor promised that, with our own assistance, he would protect us from the deer.

4396. When do you expect that fencing to be put up?
—We were promised that it would be up by the end of summer.

4397. What sort of fencing?
—A wire fence on the top of our own dykes.

4398. Mr Cameron.
—How many miles of fence would be requhvd to keep the deer out ?
—I don't know exactly.

4399. Has the factor taken no steps towards getting the fence up?
— Yes.

4400. What steps has he taken ?
—He has provided stobs for us, and he is to provide wire.

4401. Are the stobs cut?

4402. Where are they ?
—I believe near Broadford here.

4403. So, in point of fact, the fence is all ready to put up ?
—We have to drive them home ourselves, and sink the stobs in the ground.

4404. When are you going to drive them home?
—Of course, I cannot say. Those who have horses can tell better, for I have no conveyance of the kind.

4405. But, in point of fact, the fence is all ready to be put up ?
—Well the stobs are all right, I believe, but I really don't know whether the wires have come forward or not.

4406. But the stobs would not be got unless there was an intention of putting up the fence ?
—They would be got for no other intention.

4407. And you believe it will be put up?
—I believe, in the main, that he will stand to his promise. I have no occasion to doubt it.

4408. Do you say no one had been paid for any damage done to crops ?
—No damages whatever; but, I may state, a widow woman in the neighbourhood has got £2, 2s. of late for all she sustained.

4409. What size is her croft?
—She has a half croft.

4410. How many acres ?
—I believe there are seven or eight acres; but I am not very sure.

4411. When was she paid this £2, 2s.?
—I have overheard it of late.

4412. You believe it to be true ?
—I believe it to be true, from the source it came.

4413. The Chairman.
—Whose deer are they?
—Lord Macdonald's.

4414. They belong to Lord Macdonald's deer forest?

4415. How long have they been there?
—Longer than I myself, but they are getting more numerous.

4416. Have they been doing damage to the crops for many years past?
—Yes, for as long as I have been in the neighbourhood.

4417. Were complaints made about it in former times?
—Yes, complaints were made, but no recompense was given.

4418. Have complaints been very often made ?
—Yes, but Mr Mackinnon of Corrie, the factor, was giving us about £2 a year to help us to pay a watchman over them at night. That is done away with.

4419. How long is it since it was done away with?
—I don't recollect, for I was not all the time in the country. I had to go to employment to make my living.

4420. How long is it since the fence was promised ?
—It was promised last summer and last harvest time.

4421. What is the nature of the fence which is going to be put up?
— Stobs with wire on the top of our own dyke.

4422. How many wires?
—Three wires, I believe, was the intention, so that he believed the deer would not jump over.

4423. How high will it be altogether
—Eight feet nine inches
—seven feet or eight feet anyway.

4424. Will this fence go round all the common pasture? No, only four lots of the arable land on the top next the hill.

4425. It will go round the arable land next the hill ?

4426. Will it not go round the common pasture?

4427. Do the deer come on the common pasture?
—Yes, on Saturday I saw them feeding on my neighbour's clover.

4428. Is the clover on the pasture or the arable land ?
—It is on the croft he is labouring for his crops.

4429. He has arable land?

4430. Do the deer do any harm to the common pasture? Do they disturb the sheep or do any harm to the common pasture ?
—We don't look to that; but one thing is, we are prevented from being seen upon the hill the time of the shooting, by the huntsmen—the lease-holders of the deer.

4431. They don't like you to go upon your own common pasture ?
—No, if they go round the time of the hunting.

4432. Suppose there were a fence put all round the common pasture as well as the arable ground, would that be advantageous to you ?
—I believe it would, but if it were round the arable ground we would require no more.

4433. When the deer come upon the arable land and eat up the crop, what do you do?
—Watch them at night the time of the crop filling. That is the time they used to come on of late years, even last year, and thus they are eating the braird of the corn as it comes up.

4434. Did anybody ever kill a deer that came on the arable ground ?
— We dare not.

4435. What would happen to you if you killed a deer?
—I would be evicted out of the place, for the first thing. They could not hang me, I believe.

4436. Is it against the law to kill the deer upon your ground?
—I believe it is against the law of the landlord, whether it is against the law of the land I cannot tell

4437. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What rent do you pay ?
—I pay £3, 5s. for a quarter of the lot at this time. It did not used to be so high till Tormore raised it, and then, when the rent was raised the other assessments were rising along with it, and that makes the burden heavy.

4438. What stock do you keep ?
—Just one cow and a half, I may say. A cow and a two-year-old are allowed me.

4439. And a horse ?
—I am not allowed to keep a horse.

4440. And sheep ?
—'Well, there are sheep, I believe. About fifty on the lot, and the quarter of fifty will be about twelve.

4441. How many have you got yourself?
—That is what is allowed me. It is a club stock. I have to stand the consequences of the loss besides.

4442. Does the club shepherd not go upon the hill at the shooting time ?
—Yes, but he must do it early in the morning, and have not a foot on their grounds after they come out.

4443. But are they not so hard upon you the rest of the year?
—No, the rest of the year they are not so hard upon us'. They were that hard upon us. We need ropes to keep the thatch on our houses, and we spin that rope out of heather. There was a neighbour of mine on the hill for this purpose, and a huntsman came up to him and threatened to shoot him if he would be seen there again, even on their own heather that they were paying rent for,—for fear of molesting the muirfowl. We had to stand all this. We were afraid we would be prosecuted if we should speak out, because it was a great boon to the landlord, of course. We have stood many a thing, but we were feared to speak out, and whatever may be done we must stand it, or else prepare ourselves for the worst.

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