Broadford, Skye, 16 May 1883 - Neil Nicolson

NEIL NICOLSON, Crofter, Torrin (76)—examined.

(See Appendix A, XIII.)

4444. The Chairman.
—How long have you lived in Torrin ?
—Sixty years.

4445. Were you freely elected a delegate by the people, of Torrin?
— Yes, or I should not have come. I was reluctant to come.

4446. Have you heard what Charles Mackenzie said ?
—Yes, and I agree with him in every word, and it was truth he was saying.

4447. Have you anything to add to the statement ?
—I will tell you how I got on all that time in the place in which I was. I was born in Sleat, and I was five years of age when the land was laid out into lots first, and the crofters in the township in which I was for more than ten years after it was made into lots were removed in order to give place to Major Macdonald, Waternish. That is what brought me to Torrin. These people had no place to go to. They were crowded into other townships. My father then had no place at all There was no vacant place in Sleat for him.

4448. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the name of this place in Sleat
—Linigarry and Kilbeg. My father could get no place in Sleat till the factor came to Strath to collect the rents. He then, evicted a man from Torrin, and placed my father in his holding. His croft was then £11 of rent. The surveyor came to value the land, and he made the valuation £12, 10s. Then there were ten of the crofters in the township complained that their lots were not good enough, and at the end of the year the factor came to enlarge their holdings at the expense of the township's grazing—the best grazing we had—and we got nothing for that. We got no reduction in our rents. Then poor rates came to be assessed upon us, which raised the rents again. We then got money for drains. I got £6, and I was paying 8s. 6d. of interest upon it, and we were promised that we would be relieved of it at the end of twenty years. That is two years since, and we are paying it still. Then Macdonald, Tormore, came and he gave us the worst blow of all. He raised the rents, and he laid rent upon cottars in each township, who had not an inch of ground beyond what their houses were built upon.

4449. The Chairman.
—How much did Tormore raise it to ?
—8s. 6d. was added for the drains, making £12, 18s. 6d., and it is now £13, 10s , besides all the other assessments that follow. It comes to £15. The assessment was 13s. for poor rates, and 14s. for school rates, and 3s. for road money. That is all except 4s. of doctor's money.

4450. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What are the rates ?
—The poor rate is about 1s. 1d. in the £1, and the school rate is 1d. in the £1,—tenant's share.

4451. The Chairman.
—Then, in your recollection, your aggregate payments have been raised from £11 to £15?

4452. When the rent was £11, what was the price of cattle? What was the price of a cow when the rent was £11?
—Between £5 and £6.

4453. If you sell a cow, what is the price of the cow now ?
—I behove £7 or £8 to-day.

4454. What was the price of a stirk, such as you now sell, thirty years ago ?
—I would not get £1 for it thirty years ago.

4455. What would you get for it now ?
—If it be a good stirk they may get £4 or £5.

4456. About sheep,
—you have still sheep ?

4457. What was the price of a wedder when you sold a wedder long ago?
—About forty years ago we would get 10s. or 12s. for a wedder.

4458. And what might you get at the present moment?
—We would get £1 for it to-day.

4459. When a cottar went out to labour, what were his wages thirty or forty years ago?
—About 12s. a week.

4460. And now, how much would it be?
—Between 15s. and £1 .

4461. You have heard it generally stated that the condition of the people has deteriorated—that they are less flourishing now than they were before. Do you think that is in any degree owing to the imposition of the new rates—school rate and road money, and so on ? Is that one of the reasons why their condition has fallen off?
—Yes, it is making the burden heavier on the tenant.

4462. Would you rather pay the school rate and the road rate, and have the schools and the roads; or would you rather pay no rate, and have no schools and no roads ?
—I have no scholars at alL To those who have scholars I believe the burden is very heavy upon them —paying so much in the £1 for them besides school fees, and their children going naked and barefooted to school because they cannot clothe them.

4463. Do you think, on the whole, that the teaching, under the present system, is good for them or not?
—I do not think that the schooling they are getting now-a-days is better in any way than the schooling they were getting in my early recollection; and we were in days gone by getting schooling gratis. All the schooling I got was under a parish schoolmaster; and our school, I believe, did not cost more than £20.

4464. You state you got the schooling gratis—who paid for it ?
—The landlord. I was not paying at all. The schoolmaster was paid off the parish.

4465. Were there no fees at all ?
—The scholars who came on well with arithmetic and grammar and Latin, and such branches, were paying a little. At that time, in winter and spring, I believe our school would average sixty scholars.

4466. In regard to the road, would you rather pay the road money, and have the road, or rather pay no road money, and have no road ?-
—I would rather pay for the road, for it is passing my door, and it is very convenient to me.

4467. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are an old man, and have lived all your days in the parish. How many tenants were put out of the place when Major Macdonald came ?
—There were eight in the township in which I was.

4468. Any more ?
—There were six at any rate in Kilbeg. Two of those who were put out of Kilbeg found a place on the mainland.

4469. In whose possession are the two places you refer to now ?
—Tormore, I think, and more besides.

4470. Do you know a place called Suishnish ?

4171. Do you know a place called Boreraig ?
—Yes, they are beside each other.

4472. They are not far from Torrin ?

4473. Will you give us any particulars about people that once occupied Suishnish ? How many people were put out of Suishnish ?
—I am not sure, but it was twelve lots.

4474. What became of these people generally?
—Some were sent to Sculamus, some to Breakish, some to Sleat.

4475. How many were removed from Boreraig ?
—I don't remember, but it is ten lots that were in it.

4476. Who occupies those two places at present ?
—Our minister had these places last

4477. Do you know a place called Kilbride?
—I am not sure whether it was six or eight lots, but there were more than that of families.

4478. There are no crofters there now ?
—Only a shepherd, and a servant with the minister.

4479. Do you know a place called Duisdale in Sleat?

4480. Were there small tenants there at one time ?
—Yes, it was occupied by crofters.

4481. How many ?
—Eight, I think. It was eight lots. I believe there were more than that of families in it.

4482. How long is it since it was cleared ?
—About fifteen years ago.

4483. Can you recollect when Kilbride was cleared?
—Yes, two years after I came to Strath —fifty-eight years ago.

4484. How long is it since the clearance took place at Suisnish and Boreraig?
—I think it would be in 1852 or thereabout.

44S5. Do you know Ferrindonald in Sleat ?

4486. Were people cleared out of that ?

4487. How many?
—Seven or eight, at any rate.

4488. At what time ?
—About twenty years ago.

4489. Do you know a place called Ostaig ?
—Yes ; it marches with the township in which I was.

4490. How many people were cleared out of Ostaig ?
—There was no family at all in it. Mr Macdonald's mother was living there. Ostaig was surrounded by Linigary and Kilbeg, which were cleared as I stated before

4491. Do you know a place called Carradale ?

4492. How many were cleared out of Carradale?
—Four or five, at any rate.

4493. Are all these places—Ferrindonald, Ostaig, Linigary, and Carradale,— in the possession of Macdonald, Tormore?
—He has not Ferrindonald. He has Kilbeg, Ostaig, Linigary, Dalveil, Glencruig, and Gillen. He has Sleat from sea to sea.

4494. What number of people, have you any idea, were upon the farms occupied by Macdonald, Tormore, that you describe as going from sea to sea ?
—It is long since I was that way, and I cannot say.

4495. Is there anybody but the shepherds, to the best of your belief, now on those farms ?
—I am not aware that there is any one paying rent unless to himself.

4496. At whose instance were all those clearances; were they upon Lord Macdonald's estate ?

4497. Who was the factor at the earliest period ?
—Macpherson was the earliest one I can recollect.

4498. I suppose he was the person who was in charge when Suishnish was cleared ?
—No. The present is the ninth factor under whom I have been, and the landlord is the fifth.

4499. I have mentioned some names. Do you know any other townships where you are aware that clearances have taken place in Sleat ?
—Yes ; there were three in Morsaig, and Morsaig was added to Ord.

4500. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Why were the people evicted from Boreraig and Suishnish ?
—I suspect there were some of them who were in arrears of rent. Some went to Australia, and some to other lots that were vacant, and then the remainder were cleared off.

4501. Were they all sent away?

4502. Were there not some well-doing crofters there ?
—Yes, as well doing as any in the parish.

4503. Very respectable people ?
—Yes, as well-doing as in the parish.

4504. Were these in arrears ?
—I cannot say.

4505. Who was factor when that was done ?
—Mr Ballingall.

4506. Was Lord Macdonald under trust at that time ?
—Yes, it was the trustees who sent Baliingall there.

4507. Who got the place after the people were sent away ?
—Norman M'Leod, who was in Scalpa.

4508. Then there were more tenants than that before Mr M'Kinnon got it ?
—Mr Scott, Drynoch, had it, and then the minister got it.

4509. Do you remember it being said that one of the reasons given for removing the people was that it was for their own good, because they were too far from the church ?
—I remember hearing that said.

4510. How far is it from Broadford ?
—Six miles.

4511. Do you know whether any people anywhere have got the offer of Suishnish and Boreraig to be given to six tenants this year ?
—I am not aware of that.

4512. Who was factor when the people were evicted from the various places that Mr Fraser-Mackintosh asked about?
—Macpherson was the factor under whom the first evictions took place. Maxwell was the next. He did not remove any.

4513. Were any evicted in Tormore's time?
—Only those that were cleared off by him from Carradale when he added the township to his own tack.

4514. How long is it since the people were removed from Kilbride
— Fifty-eight years ago.

4515. Mr Cameron.
—What is your own rent?
—£15 between rent and taxes

4516. But the rent without taxes ?
—£13, 10s.

4517. What stock have you?
—I have six cows and two horses and between forty and fifty sheep; that is the summing.

4518. I understood you to say you were satisfied with the schooling you got in your time, and that it was equal to what is now obtained. What are your own acquirements besides reading and writing ?
—Arithmetic ; I can read English and Gaelic.

4519. You think the schooling is no better than it was, but no worse. Is that it ?
—It is worse.

4520. So you pay more money for a worse article?
—In the school in which I was they would get English grammar and Latin taught, and there is no word of that in the present schools ; and they could get Greek too. The present schoolhouse cost £1000—for a little pimple of a woman.

4521. Do the people in this district approve generally of female teachers ?
—Our female teacher is the only female teacher in our parish.

4522. Whether do you prefer a female teacher or a male teacher?
—I hear those who have children in the school say they would prefer a male teacher.

4523. Are you satisfied with your own rent?
—It is dear upon me. The feeding of my stock and my family, and providing with seed, costs me up to £30 per annum, beside the crop.

4524. Sheriff Nicolson.
—One or two of the former witnesses spoke of sowing three bolls of corn and getting only one boll It seems natural to ask why they go on throwing away their corn. Have you any explanation of that ?
—I do not know how other people's crops come on, but I can tell about my own.

4525. Is it because you value the fodder for your cattle more than the grain you can raise ?

4526. Have you a right to sea-ware on the shore where you are ?
—Yes, on our own shore.

4527. Have you plenty there ?
—Some of them are not satisfied. They are taking sea-ware from others. They are taking sea-ware from the minister and Mr Bower.

4528. Has that been put a stop to ?
—I am not aware that it is stopped yet

4529. Have they been threatened with interdict if they go on taking away Mr Bower's ?
—Yes, many a time. I never was obliged to take seawaro from anybody else, or any other place. I had a full share myself.

4530. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You mentioned, though it was not translated, that you bought straw. Who are the people here who have straw to spare -At Breakish principally.

4531. Are they a crofter population at Breakish?
—Yes, their lots are larger than is required for the amount of stock they have.

4532. That is to say, their hill pasture is smaUer in proportion to their lots than it is in Torrin ?
—Yes, very much more so.

4533. Do you pay for the sea-ware to the minister?
—I am not aware I ever paid a penny to the minister for sea-ware.

4534. Did he ever ask it from you ?
—I never heard that the minister asked payment. When Mr Bower came first the people of our township offered to pay for the sea-ware, and he would not accept it, and the people then took the sea-ware.

4535. What docs Mr Bower do with the sea-ware ? Has he any used himself for the sea-ware ?
—He uses it a little, but he does not need much.

4536. In regard to the hill stock, is it in common]

4537. Who manages it ?
—We have two shepherds.

4538. Who buys and sells the stock ?

4539. Does every man do it
—Two or three of our own number are elected each year as managers.

4540. At what time of the year do they make up their accounts ?
—About Martinmas time. Every thing we have to sell is sold by that time.

4541. Do you know what the average profit of a share of the hill is— your own share ?
—£10 per share. I have also to say the deer are troubling us very much. They are spoiling our crofts, and we must get protection against them, or else we cannot stand it. I was paying 5s. of dog tax to enable me to keep them off. The shooting tenant's gamekeeper came to the back of my house, and shot that dog about 50 yards off. The dog was lying beside my wife and daughter, who were lifting potatoes at the time.

4542. The Chairman.
—Who was the shooting tenant?
—The Armstrongs, who had the shootings at Strolamus. They had the shooting over our hill too.

4543. Who was the gamekeeper who shot it?
—Robert Macgregor.

4544. Is he in the country now?
—No, I complained to the Fiscal about it, and the Fiscal could not recover payment of the value of the dog from the sportsman, because Tormore said I had no right to keep a dog.

4545. Did you ask the Fiscal to prosecute the gamekeeper ?
—Yes, I put the case in the hands of the Fiscal, and the answer I got from the Fiscal was that the factor was saying I had no right to keep a dog, so nothing was done.

4546. Did the factor make you any allowance for a watcher to keep off the deer ?
—Mr Mackmnon, the former factor, paid us during two years.

4547. How many years is it since you received any allowance to keep a watcher ?
—Fourteen or fifteen years before Tormore came.

4548. Have you made many complaints for many years about the deer ?
—Yes, and Tormore woidd answer me when I complained to him—' If you are not satisfied with what you have, throw it up.'

4549. Do you know that a fence is going to be put up now?
—The factor is promising that, at any rate.

4550. What kind of fence would you prefer to have ? Would you prefer to have a solid stone dyke or an open wire fence?
—The stone dyke would last longer.

4551. Which is best for the arable land generally—a stone dyke or a wire fence ?
—Neither of them would make much difference to the arable land.

4552. Do you think there ought to be a fence also round the hill pasture against the deer, or would you be satisfied with one round the arable?
—It would be very useful, but it would be a very long fence. There are mountains in it.

4553. How many miles long ?
—Six miles, I think. It would indeed be useful to have it. Another thing that is causing us very much inconvenience, is the fact that two burns run through our grazing, and we have to cross these continually, and they are not bridged; and the beginning of this spring one of my neighbours was found drowned in one of them. I could only say that it is those who have the smallest holdings who complain most. A good deal of money came to this parish for the use of poor people, and because I had a whole croft I did not get a penny of it.

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