Dunvegan, Skye, 15 May 1883 - Donald Mcphee

DONALD M 'PHEE, Crofter and Mason, Roag (74)—examined.

4128. The Chairman.
—How long have you been a crofter?
—I have been paying rent during the last fifty-two years.

4129. Have you been freely chosen a delegate by the people of Roag ?

4130 Have you a statement which you wish to make on the part of the people of Roag ?
—At one time the place on which I now am was in possession of my father and my uncle, and to-day there are thirteen families upon it. We had sheep and cattle and horses at that time, and we had a wide hill pasture, and when we lost the pasture we could not keep horses or sheep, and the bit of hid pasture that we got we could only keep one cow upon it, and two cows on our lots. When we lost the sheep we had no wool wherewith to make clothing for our families; and when we had no horses to do the work, our women had to do it—dragging the harrows with a rope about their shoulders, helping the men with forks and spades in digging the ground. Now, if we would have given us a place on which we could keep a horse and a few sheep, which would supply clothing to our families, and sufficient to keep our men at home to work at, the proprietor as well as the people would be benefited. The ground be made more valuable, and we would be better in. consequence. I was hearing about the clothing of the women, the women used to be making good, tidy clothing for themselves and for their husbands at home out of their wool, and there was no occasion for them to buy south country clothing. If they had the wool, there would be no occasion for each woman to imitate the fashions,—the godless fashions of France; and if we would get the land—as much of it as would keep us in comfort— we do not want too much of it at all. We want a proportionate supply of the good things of this life. We would be satisfied with that, and until the poor people get as much of the land as will keep them in such comfort, and till they have as much sheep stock as will keep their families in clothing, they will not be put right.

4131. When the hill pasture was taken away from Roag, what was done with it?
—It was added to the tack of Claggan. The march of Claggan was a river, and there was a burn on this side of it, and when the tacksman got Claggan the march of it was extended to the burn.

4132. You said there were thirteen famdies now at Roag, where did those famdies come from ? Did any of them come from outside, or did they multiply on the ground ?
—It was the natural increase of the place, as they had no place to go to. Besides these, there are four cottars in the place who have no land at all, and these are a burden upon the crofters ; and if our holdings were extended, we would all be comfortable. It is the want of land that is causing our poverty.

4133. Professor Mackinnon.
—You say the people all grew in the place, but I understood you to say that formerly it was held by your own father and uncle. Surely the whole thirteen families did not grow naturally in the place ?
—When my father and uncle had it, these others were crowded in upon them. In the time of my father and uncle, these others were so young that they could not make any use of land.

4134. Were they in Roag?
—Yes; they were in families then.

4135. How many of these thirteen families are your own relatives?
—They are not relatives.

4136. Where did they come from ?
—Just in Roag. They were young then. Every one of them belongs to Roag. These people were young at that time, but when they grew up, and married, and had families, they had no other place to go to, and they had to be added to Roag, and some of those are without land still.

4137. Are the thirteen crofts in Roag all divided into equal lots?
— They are the same size, but they are not equally good.

4138. What is the rent ?
—The worst of the lots are not so dear.

4139. What do you pay yourself?
—I pay £5, 12s., and two others beside me.

4140. And the others a little less?
—There are others who pay considerably less than that.

4141. What stock does your croft carry?
—Two cows, two calves, and the cow to which I referred, which was kept upon the bit of pasture, but we have no sheep. I have neither sheep nor a horse. We have no place in which to keep them.

4142. Your chief complaint is that the croft is too small ?
—Yes ; that is what is the matter with us.

4143. And, of course, if you got a bigger croft, you would be quite able to pay a reasonable rent for it?
—Yes, if we would get hill pasture on which we could keep a few beasts and a horse.

4144. What croft do you think, in that place of your own, would be required in order to make a living on it ?
—I think if we had 12 acres of arable land, and as much hill pasture as would enable us to keep twenty-four sheep and a horse, we would be satisfied with that.

4145. How many cows?
—Four cows, and we would be agreeable again to have our lots valued by valuators.

4146. Suppose you were a valuator yourself upon such a croft, what rent would you think was a reasonable rent for it ?
—I am not a valuator. I would be quite satisfied with the valuation of any competent person.

4147. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What value is an acre of arable land round here to the crofter ?
—I do not think it is worth more than 3s. or 4s. to him, the land here is so much run out. During all my experience I have not seen any part of our holdings left uncultivated; for, if we left any part of them uncultivated, we would not have wherewith to feed our stock.

4148. What value do you put upon a sheep's grass and a cow's grass and horse's grass ?
—I will tell you the value that is put upon it just now as it is. The grazing of a cow is valued at 5s. on our hill pasture, the grazing being so bad, and 10s. for grazing on our crofts; and we are complaining that that itself is too high.

4149. And for the sheep ?
—Six sheep are considered equal to one cow in grazing.

4150. And the horse?
—A horse is equal to two cows.

4151. Professor Mackinnon.
—Are you old enough to remember the time when your father and uncle had that place themselves ?

4152. Were they in the habit, when they were cultivating the ground, of leaving out pieces of it then?
—Yes, the fourth part, and that fourth part when cultivated would be better than double its size of what had been cultivated.

4153. I understand there is a greater number of people in Roag than thirteen or fourteen. How many?
—The place beside me contains five families, and the place on the south of me other five families, and the other end six families.

4154. Are they all much in the same condition in which you are yourself1?
— Yes, not one better than I have said.

4155. If they were to get reasonably sized crofts, is there land in the district that you could get for them ?
—No, but there is a tack beside us, the lease of which is nearly out, and that tack would put right in their circumstances the whole of M'Leod's crofters.

4156. Are there many of the people about yourself who would be able to take such a croft?

4157 Could they put the stock upon it?
—No, they could not stock such a croft without help.

4158. But there are some who could stock it?
—There are some.

4159. Then they would be prepared to pay a reasonable rent for such a croft ?
—Yes, that is what they want.

4160. Do you think they would pay the present rent that is paid for it ?
—It is likely they would.

4161. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you been away from the country as a mason ?

4162. Where have you been working?
—Galloway, Caithness, and Sutherland, and in the south country at mason work.

4163. We have been told that in some other places the people spend a good deal of money on tea. Is that the case in your township of Roag ?
—I believe they take tea indeed now, but in my young days they did not know anything about tea and they did not need it. They had milk and cheese and flesh, and the tea was not of much account with them.

4164. Can you state from your own knowledge that the children suffer from scarcity of milk ?
—Yes, I know that fully ; and I heard Dr M'Leod also noticed that when the children ceased to be getting the milk and other good food, and were taking tea, they were deteriorating.

4165. Who was Dr M'Leod?
—Dr M'Leod, Portree formoriy factor for Lord Macdonald.

4166. Is he long dead?
—It is not much more than twenty year., since he died. I was working in Ramsaig when he died.

4167. Have you been present all day ?

4168. Have you any complaint such as we have heard in other places of the people being obliged to offer their cattle to the landlord first, or being obliged to go to a store, or anything of that kind ?

4169. As I understand, your complaint is altogether want of pasture and the scrimpiness of your crofts ?
—Yes ; and M'Leod of M'Leod was always so kind to people who had been driven from other places, that he would give them a place on his own property. When Minginish and Talisker were in the possession of one man, the tacksman expelled the one family that was left upon the tack.

4170. Which tack

4171. What was done with the famdy !
—They got a place from M'Leod of M'Leod in Roag.

4172. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you think the children are worse off than they were at the time Dr M'Leod spoke to you!
—I think that they are not at all so strong or so healthy as they were then.

4173. I mean, are they worse off for milk
—Yes, very much worse than in Dr M'Leod's time.

4174. Professor Mackinnon.
—Suppose they got the crofts you were talking of, do you think they would give up the tea, and revert to the milk again ?
—I do not think they would.

4175. I suppose you would do everything yourself to bring that state of matters about ?

4176. Are there a large number without land at all in Roag ?

4177. I am told about fifteen or sixteen?
—There are four on my own lot without land.

4178. Are these without even a cow?
—They are without a cow, but they have a hen or two.

4179. Mr Cameron.
—How long ago was the hill grazing taken from Roag and given to Claggan ?
—It is a long while since then ; about forty years ago.

4180. Have you any rule on the estate as to subdivision of crofts?
— The rule was that, however much the croft would be subdivided, only one house was to be upon it.

4181. How was it that rule was broken in the case of Roag?
—That rule is not broken yet.

4182. But if originally there were only your father and your uncle, and now there are thirteen families, it must have been broken?
—The rule was made when it came to be thirteen families.

4183. What are the French fashions you object to ?
—The fashions the women have, and they used to look nice and tidy before this fashion of carrying bags at their backs.

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