Broadford, Skye, 16 May 1883 - John Macdonald

JOHN MACDONALD, Crofter and Fisherman, Harrapool (65)—examined.
See Appendix A, XIII

4593 The Chairman
—Have you been freely elected a delegate from Harrapool ?

4594. Will you make any statement you have to make on the part of those who elected you?
—The name of our township is Harrapool, the meaning of which is ' the tail end of a quagmire,' and it is there our lots are laid out.

4595. Did you hear the statement of the last witness ?

4596. Do you agree with that statement in general'
—Yes, quite.

4597. Then will you add anything which the previous delegate did not say ?
—I am paying rent in Harrapool thirty-eight or forty years, and in my early recollection my father was taking out of the ground that I have now the wherewith to enable him to rear eight or nine of a family without the necessity of buying. There was good reason for that. The township was taking into cultivation a part of the pasture when it was getting foggy, which enabled them to get food sufficient for themselves and their family, as the ground was strong. The ground officer was living in our township, and he reported to the factor that we were, by this way of cultivation spoiling the grass—both Sculamus and ourselves. The ground officer then came to the Sculamus people, and told them that they could not take in any part of the grazing, as they were spoiling the cows. The people told him that what they had for grazing, over and above what they cultivated, would do for their stock all summer. The ground officer then went to the factor and told him this, and the factor replied that if the people had as much pasture land over and above what they required for the grazing of their cattle he would find use for it. He then placed four families who had been cleared from Suishnish upon the Sculamus grazing. The grazing of the two townships is now spoiled with deer and rabbits. The factor was Mr Ballingall.

4598. Is it the same forest that the previous witness has spoken about ?
—Yes, the deer from the same forest. The deer are through the whole district.

4599. Have you any promise of a fence there?
—No, but any one who will complain the answer is, ' I myself will take your holding.' The rabbits are causing us great loss. Several hundreds of them were killed this winter upon the grazing of our township and the neighbouring township.

4600. Who kills them?
—They are killed by the shooting tenant.

4601. Does he make any allowance? Does he pay any proportion of the price of the rabbits to them ?
—Not a penny.

4602. What does the shooting tenant do with the rabbits he kills
—Sends them away in boxes.

4603. Does he ever give any of them to the crofters to eat ?
—No, not one—not even a foot.

4604. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long have the rabbits been there ?
—It is only three or four years since they commenced to be a burden upon us.

4605. They have been there for ten years, I think ?
—They were not so numerous, but they are now destructive.

4606. Where did they come from?
—They came from Sleat.

4607. The Chairman.
—Are you aware you have a right to kill the rabbits yourselves?
—No, we are not aware. The gamekeepers tell us that we dare not kill them. We don't try to kill them.

4608. If you have a right to kill them, have you any means of killing them ?—Do you know how to kill them ?
—We know that quite well, how to kill them with snares and traps.

4609. About the deer; have you ever asked the factor for a fence to keep the deer off?
—No; they are eating the corn of our two townships.

4610. But as the fence is being put up for the other township, would the factor not put one up for you too ?
—We did not ask him.

4611. How long would the fence be to enclose your arable ground against the deer ?
—It would take a mile, or fhree quarters of a mile.

4612. And how long would the fence be to go round the whole of the hill pasture ?
—That would take three miles.

4613 What other grievance have you?
—I made a great deal of work on my lot in the way of improving. One year I opened 360 yards of drains, and closed them up with stones. A few years after that my rent was raised, and my rent was raised before then, on account of the drainage money I got. This last money rise was 15d. or 18d. in the £.

4614. Do you mean your rent was raised on account of drainage money, and then raised on account of the drains you made yourself?
—My rent was raised 16s. about twenty years after I had opened these drains. It was Tormore who raised it.

4615 It was raised on account of the drainage money expended, and then it was raised again. Do you mean it was twice raised?
—I was not counting the drainage money that was laid upon me as an increase of rent, as I was to be relieved of it at the end of twenty years ; but instead of my rent being reduced at the end of twenty years, I had the 16s. added to it, and the drainage money kept up, and paving poor rates, and other rates upon the sum totaL Any one can understand that peaty ground must be getting exhausted, as the ground was formerly peat mosses, and a place that was never created for the habitation of man. We are for having increased holdings on which we could live. Though we have a few cows left us, we cannot take as much cut of the ground as would keep them alive. Besides, we spend three rents in supporting our families and cattle. Not only that, but we have to buy almost all the seed oats that we have to sow. Another thing I have to say. I had a brother in the township of Sculamus. He was at work in Glenelg, and died there. He left nine of a family. A few years after his death they were wanting to evict his widow and her children. I went security for her year's rent, in order to keep her in possession. The next year she was evicted. She was obliged to leave without getting compensation. It was I who paid the rent for her, and I got £2 back. She was a number of years occupying a half-ruined house with her nine children, the youngest of them being a year old and the oldest seventeen. Her son bought a stirk. She dared not build a place near her house where she could keep it. At last she got a bit of Breakish, and she is there still, but her children have left her. Some of them went to Australia. (see Appendix A. XIII)

4616. Have the children succeeded in life ?
—They made a living of it wherever they went, but she is very poor indeed. It is one son that is supporting her with his earnings,

4617. Did she bring up all her children without receiving any parochial relief ?
—She got very little assistance.

4618. Did she get some assistance?
—It was the parish that built the house for her.

4619. Did she get no weekly allowance ?
—If she did I do not remember it. It was myself who helped her most.

4620. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was it because she could not pay the rent that she was turned out of the house ?
—No, for I got £2 back of the rent which I paid for her.

4621. But that was for the roof of the house1?
—No. I gave £5 to the factor, and it was only £ 3 she was due.

4622. Why was she removed?
—She had very little stock. She had not a summing.

4623. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who got her place at the time?
—A farmer who came from Suishnish. It is now occupied by two.

4624. Was it to accommodate them that she was removed ?
—She was not owing any rent or arrears, and it was one of the Suishnish farmers who was placed in her stead. [Question repeated.]

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