DUNCAN FINLAYSON, Crofter, Upper Breakish (60)—examined.
(See Appendix A, XIII.)
4625. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected a delegate by the people of Upper Breakish ?
—Yes, by all who were present. There were some of them absent, however.
4626. About how many were present?
—Most part of the inhabitants. A good many of them were at work.
4627. Will you make any statement you have to make on the part of those who have elected you ?
—What I have to tell is that we have been located upon a poor piece of ground—a piece that was taken from another township—and it was never cultivated until the set came to it which included my father. They had it for £1 a piece, and there was no work ever made upon it except such work as we ourselves- did. I am at this day paying, including rates and rent, up to £5. There is £3,19s. of rent, and my rates come up to 15s. The ground is such that I have had to expend £25 in seed for it over and above the seed I got out of it. I don't remember seeing the ground left uncultivated. It is turned every year, and it is not worth cultivating it for the support of man. Its only value is to feed our stock. The stock is only one cow and a horse, and these eat up all the grass upon our lots. We have to tether our cows on the cultivated land. The only outrun we have for them is a bit of bad hill pasture full of rocks. The most of it is bare rock. I did not cook a meal for my family out of all that grew on my holding since the new year. Whenever the family come of age that they can work, they must leave to earn money to support their parents. Wre are getting supplies from merchants on credit until the money is earned, and if we had sufficient ground that would supply us with what we need in the way of food, we should consider ourselves well off. All that we earn from end to end of the year we spend in food, and our holdings are so small that even if we had them for nothing we could not make a living out of them. I have not altogether two acres of arable land. I don't know what else to say.
4628. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was your first rent raised all at once from £1 to £3, 19s.?
—Not all at once. There was some improvement made on our township at the time of the destitution. We were getting meal for the work.
4629. What was put on then ?
4630. What was the next ?
—Tormore, the first year he became factor, laid 15s. upon each croft without coming to see the ground.
4631. Was there any cause assigned for that increase ?
—We just got a letter from the factor. There was no cause assigned, only he said the ground had been valued by a valuator, but we never saw him.
4632. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did you hear his name mentioned ?
—No. Five years ago I’ve got clippings of a bad hill pasture for sheep, and that is 27s. to each of us, which makes up the hill rent now.
4633. How many sheep do you keep on that pasture ?
—Six hundred was the summing that was assigned to it, but we have not got four hundred upon it yet.
4634. Was it from want of capital to buy them, or from want of food for the sheep?
—We are not able to buy the stock.
4635. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many families are there of you paying rent ?
4636. And sharing in this hill ?
4637. That would give you twenty sheep each ?
—Yes; but many of them have only one or two, and others have none at aH, and some have a full share.
4638. Do you consider 27s. too dear for twenty sheep ?
—No. It is the best bargain we have. The ground will not return to us the oat seed we put into it.
4639. Are you earning any money for the hire of your horse ?
—There is no hiring.
4640. What do you do with the horse ?
—Only that when my spring work is over I send him to the hill until the winter comes. As the manure we use is sea-weed, we will not manage without a horse.
4641. Do you breed foals?
—Yes, some of us do. Should I be for selling the grazing I have for my cow, I could not get a person that would give 8s. a year. There is no such place at all in the parish.
4642. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What would you wish?
—To get a place out of which I could support my family.
4643. Another place altogether?
—Yes, if I could take it.
4644. How long have you been in this place ?
—I was born in the place.
4645. How long has the family been there ?
—It is seventy years since my father came to it.
4546. Has it always been in this poor condition ?
—My father used, before the ground became so poor, when it was in good heart, to make 2 or 3 or 4 bolls of meal out of it, and plenty potatoes.
4647. Is there any land about you that you could improve?
—No, except the tacksman's land.
4648. I mean land adjoining your croft lands ?
—We are marching with a tack.
4649. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Mr M'Kinnon, Kyle, and Kinloch on the other side.
4650. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was M'Kinnon there seventy years ago ?
—M'Kinnon, Kyle, had Kinloch also at that time.
4651. Was there any pasture they had formerly of which they have been deprived ?
—No, but the township next to ours—Lower Breakish— was deprived of pasture. We were settled in the part of the pasture which was taken from Lower Breakish.
4652. Was your father a crofter ?
4653. Mr Cameron.
—You mentioned that you get supplies from the merchants until the money is earned. Are many of the people in debt to the merchants ?
—Yes, and I for one.
4654. What do you suppose the debt is on your township altogether
—I don't know.
4655. Are they very considerably in debt ?
—Yes, I believe so.
4656. Is that one of the greatest hardships they have ?
—Yes; we would have no hardships so long as we are in health, if it were not for our debts.
4657. Do you see your way at all to get out of debt ?
—I am in hopes, as my family are getting stronger.
4658. How do you work ?
—I do dry-stone mason work.
4659. Do you get good wages at that ?
—The poor people cannot give me wages. If I make 2s. a day I will be contented.
4660. Do you get pretty regular employments
—Sometimes I get more than I can overtake, and at other times I get none at all.
4661. Would you like to have such a sized croft as to make you independent of work altogether?
—I would take a croft at £9 to £12 rent.
4662. Would that be sufficient to enable you to live and support a family without taking any work ?
—I don't know that it would, but it would be very good along with our own help.
4663. Is it a general wish among your neighbours that they should become crofters alone, and live independent of work ?
—There were some in our township that could not take big crofts—widows and others—and we did not speak on that subject before I’ve left home.
4664. So long as your crofts are as small as they are, I suppose you must depend, to a considerable extent, either on work or on fishing?
— Yes. My son is only eighteen years of age, and the last letter I had from him was from Germany, and he is helping me there.
4665. What is he doing there?
—On a steamer sailing from Glasgow to Hamburgh.
4666. Would the people like to emigrate from Glasgow to Australia or America if they got help ?
—I would not like to do that in my old age.
4667. But speaking for your neighbours'?
—I cannot understand their minds on that.