Dunvegan, Skye, 15 May 1883 - John Mcdonald (Roshkill)

JOHN M'DONALD, Crofter, Roshkill (55)—examined.

4077. The Chairman.
—You have a croft?
—I have a croft, but I do not live by the croft.

4078. Are you a fisherman ?
—I am a sort of a tradesman.

4079. What is your trade ?
—A tailor.

4080. How long have you been resident in Roshkill ?
—Twenty-seven years.

4081. Do you gain your subsistence more by your croft or more by your trade as a tailor ?
—It is the tailoring that is keeping me alive
—the sort of a living that I have.

4082. Have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Roshkill ?
—I have nothing to say about them, but that they are tradesmen like myself. They number only a merchant and a shoemaker. There is another man who has got a bit of ground.

4083. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you a Kilmuir delegate ?
—I have nothing to do with Kilmuir. We have a little village to ourselves, which belongs of right to Harlosh.

4084. As a dealer or tradesman, you will be able to tell us something about the way in which the people are dressed ?
—I am able to tell about that.

4085. In former times were the people more substantially and better dressed than they now are ?
—Yes, and clothed much warmer. They are now clothed in south country rags.

4086. Did they use more cloth made of their own wool in former times than is now the case ?
—I have seen about thirty-five years ago, when I was a boy, the webs of cloth—twenty yards to twenty-seven—which had been manufactured by the women of the household.

4087. What is the reason there is less home-made cloth now than there was when you were young?
—The want of wool; and the want of the mother of the wool—the sheep—to us poor people.

4088. Is it because the people have less pasture for their sheep than they formerly had ?
—Yes, what else ?

4089. Do you find that the people are less able to pay you now for making their clothes than they formerly were ?
—In the beginning of my days it was very much easier for them to pay than it is now.

4090. Do they bring fewer clothes to you to make now than they formerly did ?
—It is very little that I am seeing now-a-days of Highland cloth at all.

4091. Have you more bad debts now than you formerly had?
—They are doing their utmost to pay me.

4902. But still, is it more difficult for them to pay than it formerly was ?
—Very much more difficult.

4093. Has the fashion in favour of south country rags, as you call them, something to do with the diminished business of the country ?
—Many of the people would have nothing to do with the south country rags if they could do otherwise.

4094. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do they buy their south country clothing ready made up, or do they bring the webs to you to make ?
— They buy the cloth mostly, for they don't consider the south country clothes so well 0r so strongly made as in our country.

4095. Mr Cameron.
—Do the crofters who have got sheep sell the wool, as a rule, or do they manufacture it into clothes?
—The people on my side of the country have no wool themselves. The people who have sheep stock, as we have heard to-day, may possibly get a share of the wool.

4096. But is their share of wool, whatever it is, sold to brokers in the south, or is it manufactured into cloth, as appears to have been the custom in old times?
—Some of them send wool to the south —perhaps one in a hundred—to be made up into cloth.

4097. And the rest?
—They have not it.

4098. But the rest of those who have it?
—I do not know anything beyond the M'Leod country.

4099. Sir Kenneth Maclcenzie.
—Do you mean to say that when people have their sheep in common, and the wool is sold in one lump, they have not any wool for themselves ?
—No, unless they buy as strangers would buy.

4100. Mr Cameron.
—But you say you know nothing about any country outside of the M'Leod country?
—-1 know about outsiders from hearsay.

4101. Well, will you answer about the wool from hearsay ; whether it is still the custom for those who have sheep to make their wool into cloth, for to send it to the south ?
—Their wool would do little for them with us.

4102. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you think the people about here are generally poorer now than they were in your younger days ?
—I am sure of that.

4103. Are your circumstances better or worse 1
—Worse; I have a large family.

4104. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many are there in Roshkill paying rent ?

4105. What rent do they pay?
—William Campbell pays the highest rent; I think it is about £3.

4106. And the others?
—Another is near that, and I myself pay 39s. of bare rent, and the dues come to 3s.

4107. What stock are you allowed to keep?
—One cow.

4108. Anything else?
—And a stirk, by buying some feeding.

4109. No sheep?
—No sheep.

4110. Are there no sheep in the township at aU?
—No, but the Harlosh people claim our place.

4111. And they have sheep?
—They have a few. One may have one or two, and others have none at aU.

4112. Can you buy wool in the country from the other tenants who have sheep ?
—Yes, we buy wool for clothes and stockings.

4113. And why don't those people who have sheep make country clothes as they did long ago ?
—-Where I was born, which was in Bracadale, there were comfortable crofters there. They were in comfortable
circumstances. They had cattle and sheep and horses. They had a great stretch of hill pasture.

4114. But, even as things are, woidd it not be more profitable for the people of the place to buy wool in the place, and make clothes of it than to buy south country clothes ?
—Not now, because the wool is so dear.

4115. Is that the reason why they don't buy it?
—Those who are able to buy are buying now for the manufacture of bed clothing.

4116. Don't you think it would also be profitable for them to buy it for day clothing ?
—The way the prices of sheep go, it would come very dear to them.

4117. Mr Cameron.
—Who told you the wool is dear?
—-My own experience.

4118. Professor Mackinnon.
—Do you buy it for your own clothes ?

4119. Would it not be better to buy it, and get it done in that way?
— A man has enough to do to attend to his family.

4120. Mr Cameron.
—Do you ever remember wool cheaper than it is now?

4121. In what year?
—Forty years and more ago.

4122. Within the limit of forty years, have you ever known wool cheaper than it is now?
—No, not much since then; but I could get, at that time, a good fleece of which I could make two or three pairs of stockings for 2s.

4123. The Chairman.
—Do you go round from house to house, and work in the different houses, or do the people bring the cloth to you always?
—I used, at first, to go from house to house, but I ceased doing it. I ceased that about seventeen years ago. I have, since then, gone very little among the houses.

4124. How do you think the little boys are clothed, compared with what they were when you were young ?
—In my young days the children would have beautiful shirts on them of white blanketing, and a little kilt and a jacket, and went barefooted.

4125. You don't make clothes for the girls, but you may be able to state whether the young girls are as well dressed as they used to be?
—At that time the young girls were clothed equally well with the boys, but now they wear cotton rags,

4126. Do you think that all the manufactures which are brought hero from the Lowlands are rags, or of a bad quality
—Some of them are good enough.

4127. What are the clothes which you yourself are wearing 1 Are they low country manufacture ?
—The clothes I have on mo now came from the south of England.

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