JOHN MACPHERSON, Crofter, Lower Meiloveg (48)—examined.
6500. The Chairman.
—Have you any other occupation than that of a crofter
—A fisherman sometimes.
6501. You have been freely elected a delegate by the people of Lower Meiloveg ?
—Yes, their names are attached to the paper which I have here; but I wish to make a preliminary statement.
6502. Have the goodness to make your preliminary statement now
— I would wish, my Lord and Gentlemen, that I would not be blamed for telling the truth—that no hurt would be done to me—for I got sixty-one days' imprisonment already for telling the truth, and asking for justice. That is my preliminary statement.
6503. Do you ask for an assurance on our part ?
—We are not able to give you any such assurance. It must be explained to you that the Commission cannot interfere in any respect between you and your landlord, or between you and the law, in case you should fall under the law; but we understand that no molestation will be offered by the landlord or by any one here on account of what occurs to-day. That assurance has been given to us already, on the Macdonald and on the M'Leod estates, and we hope it will be the same on the Macpherson estate.
[Mr Robertson, factor on the estate.
—On the part of the trustees of this property, I beg to say that no interference whatever will be made with John Macpherson or any other witness here, for giving such evidence as they think proper.]
6504. The Chairman
—Is this statement which you produce the statement of the people who have elected you as their delegate—Has it been communicated to them, and have they all signed it ?
—I believe so.
6505. Is it drawn up and written by yourself or others ?
—It was another person who wrote it.
6506. But you understand it perfectly
—Yes. The statement is
—' I am forty-eight years of age, and was born in the township of Meiloveg, in which I am a crofter for twenty-eight years. My father and grandfather were crofters there also. From time immemorial up till the year 1845 the township was tenanted by eight crofters, paying a rent of £7 each, or a total rental of £56. Each crofter kept six cows, a horse, and sixteen sheep; thereby living very comfortably, and buying very little of foreign produce, if any at all At that time M'Leod of M'Leod was proprietor of this estate, as also of that of Bracadale, of which he is yet the proprietor; and by the evicting of the most of the tenants of Bracadale and Minginish, and also of many from other portions of M'Leod's estates, in order to provide the evicted land for sheep farms, and also by the evicting of ten or a dozen from the estate of Major M'Donald of Watemish, father of the present proprietor of that estate— the evicted land in this case being put under deer (see Appendix A. VII)—the townships of Meiloveg (Upper and Lower) were overcrowded, as well as other townships on this estate. The division of the township into crofts was re-arranged, and instead of eight as formerly there were now seventeen crofts, and the rental was increased to about £80. These changes with regard to the Lower Meiloveg township was made in the year 1845 ; each crofter paid from £3, 16s. to £5. As may be supposed, the crofters were from the said changes only to hold three cows, eight sheep, and no horse. At present there are twenty crofts, or more properly seventeen crofts, and three of these subdivided, and two cottars. Our crofts produce only about one and a half times what we sow. My croft is about three acres of very shallow land, and the other crofters in my township of Lower Meiloveg have same amount of land and same quality. We and our wives do the ploughing and harrowing of our land, turning or tilling it with the cas-chrom, the most primitive mode of tilling I believe in existence. As the land does not get any rest, by leaving part of it uncultivated some years, it has been, as may be supposed, rendered very unproductive and poor. Our hill pasture has decreased in quantity and quality in proportion to the decrease of the amount and quality of our croft holding, from the following cause, viz., that formerly there were only eight families in Lower Meiloveg to cut peat from the hid ground (for your Lordship must know that our peats are cut on our Lull pasture), whereas there are now twenty-two families cutting peat from the hill, so that it will be seen what amount of land this peat-cutting by twenty-two families since 1815 would take up, and besides the lull grazing is scarce enough for our cattle and sheep. And owing to this, they suffer badly, and instead of the milk they had formerly, now only treacle and tea to wash down the food; that is, if there be anytlnng to buy the said commodities. We are frugal and not extravagant in our way of living, our staple food being meal, potatoes, fish when it is got, our only drink and beverage being tea. On an average, we consume about sixteen bolls of south country meal. Were it not for our potato crop the year it grows well, we would have no Value in the crop, for which we pay so dear, with regard to what we make of meal. We have very miserable dwelling-houses, and never got aid from our proprietors to build better ones. They arc thatched with straw; and as our crofts do not produce the required amount of straw necessary for fodder for the cattle and thatch for our houses, and as we are prohibited from cutting rushes or pulling heather by the proprietor, the condition of our dwelling-houses in rainy weather is most deplorable. Above our beds come down pattering the rain, rendered dirty and black by the soot on the ceiling above, through which, as has been shown, for want of thatch, the rain has free access, and in consequence the inmates of the beds have to look for shelter from the rain in some drv place on the lee side of the house. Of the twenty crofters' houses, there are only two in which the cattle are not under the same roof with the family. Now we leave it to your Lordship to see what this revelation of the condition of our dwellings reflect on the boasted civilisation of the nineteenth century. Since forty years back we never get a day's work on the estate for pay, except two famdies who about six or seven years ago got a piece of road to construct. We live on the wildest part of coast from the Mull of Cantyre to Cape Wrath, and when returning from our nets in the Uist Channel we were prohibited from landing oh the lee side, that is when the wind blew so that we could not land in Loch Poultiel, below our houses. We were not allowed to land our boats on the Waterstein side. With regard to our demanding Waterstein, it is very convenient for us if we had it. In conjunction with the township of Upper Mieloveg, we desired this farm from the proprietor, as we needed it for the enlargement of our sheep and cattle grazing, and we were quite willing to pay the same rent as Dr Martin, the last who had it, paid for it. His lease expired at Whitsunday 1882. In conclusion, we would give a query
—Why were not the Glendale letters sent away at 2.30 P.M. instead of 5 P.M. on 17th of April last, as by this delay in despatching them, caused by registered letters that day in the post-office, provisions coming home for our families were delayed a week. We now state the demands of the crofters :
—(a) The right to buy our holdings for so many years' rent, and to have them increased to as much land as would support a family in comfort;
(b) That we shall not be removed from our holdings as long as we pay fair rents ;
(c) That that rent be fixed by a land court;
(d) That we shall have compensation for whatever improvements on our dwelling-houses and crofts, in the event of our being removed; and
(e) The power to buy our lands after paying our rents for so many years to Government.
—ARCHIBALD GlLLIES, JOHN M'KNNON, MALCOLM M'LEOD, MALCOLM SHAW, MALCOLM MATHIESON, JOHN GRANT, NEIL M'LEOD, WILLIAM M'LEAN, and DONALD M'DONALD.'
6507. You do not sign this yourself?
—It is in the paper at the beginning.
6508. There are nine signatures attached to this, which makes ten including yourself. Are these ten persons all the crofters in Lower Meiloveg ?
—Not all of them. There are twenty crofters.
6509. Twenty heads of families, do you mean?
—There are twenty-two families, but there are only twenty paying rent.
6510. What is the reason that the other ten persons interested in Lower Meiloveg have not given their signatures to this paper?
—It was quite as easy to get other ten to put their names to it, but it was thought quite sufficient to have the names of the ten who have signed. The other ten can be had yet if required.
6511. You have reason to believe that the other ten concur in the statement of opinions made in this paper?
—I am sure that they do.
6512. Have you any further verbal statement to make on your own part ?
—Not much for myself, but I will be willing to answer any question that is put to me.
6513. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Up to 1845 there were eight crofters here, and there were seventeen after 1845 ; were the additional nine brought from Bracadale ?
—Yes; I believe there were only eight in the township in 1845 belonging to the place.
6514. Did the nine that were then brought in come all from Bracadale?
—The place was five years without an inhabitant, being under sheep belonging to M'Leod of Orbost
6515. What became of the eight original tenants during those five years?
—They were sent to the places about here.
6516. Did they afterwards return to LowerMeiloveg, or arc their families there still ?
—Some of these returned with families from Bracadale and other places.
6517. What year was it then that they were taken away from Lower Meiloveg when the place was left vacant first ?
—They were removed from Meiloveg in 1840.
6518. Then in 1845 were there seventeen families settled there?
—There were seventeen in Lower Meiloveg and sixteen in Upper Meiloveg.
6519. And now there are twenty-two in Lower Meiloveg? Is that the natural increase of tho population ?
—No, they were brought to the township from other places.
6520. Where were the two cottars brought from ?
—-They belong to the place. One of them is a widow of a man who came to poverty in the place.
6521. Was she dispossessed, and another person brought in in her place ?
—She was deprived of the land, after the year of her husband's death
6522. And who got the place?
—A man who was first taken out of Lowergill and placed in Ramasaig, where he was for two years, and then he was sent to this widow's lot.
6523. Then the whole twenty-two are people who have been brought in ? There has been no increase of the holdings or families from the natural increase of the people of the place ?
—I don't know a case of subdivision of our lots for son or daughter.
6524. I think you mentioned you got one and a half returns of seed; I presume that is oats ?
—I refer to the oats.
6525. What return of potatoes do you get?
—According to the year.
6526. I mean in an ordinarily good year?
—I cannot say about others, but last year it was middling good with myself. I planted about six barrels, and I had about forty in return.
6527. That was last year?
—No, the year before.
6528. And last year, was it an entire failure ?
—I had last year no more than ten barrels.
6529. From six barrels of seed ?
65.30. Are forty barrels of potatoes about the whole produce of each croft in the place on the average ?
—Some of the crofts would be better than that, and some worse.
6531. But in ordinary years the average will be forty?
6532. Then, retaining six barrels for seed, you have about thirty-two barrels of potatoes for food ?
6533. And you require sixteen bolls of meal along with tho eight bolls of potatoes for the year's consumption?
—Yes, that is little enough for the year's consumption.
6534. What is the size of your family ?
—Seven children and my wife.
6535. You have spoken of the prohibition to land at Waterstein in bad weather. Are you aware there has been a letter in the papers contradicting that ?
—Yes. But I know there were letters stuck at the post-office which put that right, for I knew whom to get them from.
6536. Do you mean placards ?
6537. Of course, in bad weather, when you could not land in the bay here, it was necessary to land at Waterstein ?
6538. I suppose, in spite of prohibition, you were obliged to do it ?
—Yes, we were obliged to do it, otherwise we would be in danger of drowning.
6539. And was any notice taken of that ?
—No; but he ordered, in these notices, the shepherds to give us up to the law.
6540. For landing in bad weather?
—For landing at alL
6541. And you understood it meant that even in bad weather you were prohibited ?
—Yes, we understood that the prohibition referred to the bad weather also. We don't know very well, but we understood it meant a prohibition to us to go ashore at Waterstein at all, and walk over the hill to the shore. There was another posted up at the same time forbidding us to keep dogs even, and we have a dog licence.
6542. Were the dogs doing harm among the sheep ?
—I am not aware that they were.
6543. There was no report of a sheep killed here by a dog ?
—I did not hear it.
6544 If all the arable land on the estate were divided among them, would there be enough for the people ?
—If the families who wore taken from other places—from Bracadale—and placed among us, were taken away, there would be three times more land for division among us than we would need.
6545. But Bracadale now belongs to another proprietor, and how do you propose to arrange that ?
—They are his people, the people belonging to him. They were possibly natives of M'Leod's property, and I should think it would be proper to settle them where they grew.
6546. Were most of the present generation not born in the place hovel
—Yes, but if they had been left where they were, they would have been born in Bracadale.
6547. If everybody was left where they were born, the world would never flit
—I would let people go away of their own accord, and not be sent off against their will
6548. That is quite true, but we are talking of what is to be done at the present day, not of what was done in the past. How is this thing to be remedied ?
—To give us the land, as there is plenty of it, and when we are quite willing to pay for it.
6549. Have you the means of paying for it
—No, some of us have not. I think it would be proper that the Government should give us the use of the money, and we would pay it back willingly.
6550. There are two expressions of wants in this paper here. The first is the right to buy your holdings for so many years' rent, and to have them increased to as much land as wul support a family in comfort; and the last is the opportunity to buy your lands by paying your rents for so many years to Government. What is the difference between those two demands ?
—I mean that if I was paying rent for twenty-five years, that I would have a preference to it if it was for sale that I would have the preference in purchasing it to anybody else on the estate.
6551. Do these demands mean the same thing ?
—I don't think there is any difference between them. I mean, paying so many instalments.
6552. Do you think the present rent of these lands is sufficient to pay both interest and capital, or would you pay a higher rent while this was going on?
—I know what rent we have already paid. My father, my grandfather, and my great grandfather and myself have already paid in money far more than the value of the land.
6553. Are you taking into account the rate of discount?
6554. And the interest of the original purchase price
—Yes, but even adding the interest, we have paid sufficient to exhaust the price.
6555. What interest do you think the ordinary rent of land affords on the purchase price ?
—I cannot go into these things, but I know this, that I don't want to entail any loss upon the proprietor; but I want that we should be able to do better for ourselves.
6556. Everybody would be glad that you should do better for yourselves, but are you not aware that the rent of land affords the lowest rate of interest of any investment known in this country
6557. Then how can the present rent pay both interest and capital?
— Look at the rent that we pay.
6558. But if that rent only pays the proprietor 2½ per cent, after deducting the rates, how does it pay capital and interest ?
—Look at the amount the rent has come to for the last one hundred or two hundred years.
6559. I want you to understand that the rent does not pay the ordinary rate of interest, let alone the capital ?
—We know that the proprietors here don't spend a penny on the property.
6560. But I suppose they paid money for it when they bought it ?
—Yes, I know that.
6561. Then, it is the interest on that money I am speaking of. The Macpherson landlord would expect interest upon his money, and would expect it to be repaid to him, and the rent does not pay the interest
—We would be quite agreeable to leave the settlement or arrangement of these matters with the officers of the Crown like yourselves, and accept your decision.
6562. Then would you be willing to pay higher rent than you pay now for a considerable number of years, in order to become owners of the property eventually
—Yes, if the rent which would be exacted from us would be at all likely, as the officers of the Crown will see reasonable.
6563. The public have heard a good deal about the Meiloveg and Borrodale Alliance. Can you tell me about it?
—Yes, but there are some present who can tell about it better than I can.
6564. But I understand there are none who can tell as well as John Macpherson. He is the best spokesman in the place ?
—I am not from Upper Meiloveg, but from Lower Meiloveg. There are some names now left out of the list of delegates who know better of it than I do.
6565. But were you a member of that alliance?
6566. What was the object of the alliance?
—I don't think we made any alliance—no distinct binding of ourselves individually. All the alliance we made between ourselves was that we wanted to get Waterstein to help us, as we were poor, and as Dr Martin who had the place gave it up, and that we had as much right as anybody else to get it, as we were as much in need of it. We were more needy than those who had five or six tacks already, seeing that they had only one mouth and two hands like ourselves, and seeing that we were quite willing to give as much rent as they could give.
6567. What measures did the alliance propose to take in order to secure their object ?
—When we heard that Waterstein was vacant, we sent a letter to our factor; and we told him how great our need was of the hill, and how many families and souls there were between the two townships, and that we were thinking he would see it proper to let us have the hill, when we were willing to pay the rent for it. He replied to us telling us that our landlord was coming to the place, and that he himself was coming to Colbost; and our landlord sent us word that the factor was coming to Colbost, and he asked us to meet the factor there. We told him what we were wanting, and he told us that he himself had taken Waterstein, but that he would give it up for our sakes.
6568. Did I understand that Dr Martin had taken it
—No, it was Tormore who took it.
6569. And Dr Martin had given it up ?
—Yes, and it was added to the tacks which Tormore had already in his hand.
6570. Tormore said he would give it up to them ?
—Yes, and he asked us how we would take it, and would we pay the arrears which were upon us if we would get it. We said we would. He asked us what rent we would give for it. We said that although we should make an offer somebody else might give a higher offer, and he told us that there was nobody to give a higher offer but himself, and that he would not do it; and that we were to write him as to how we proposed to take it, and that he would write to the trustees on our behalf. We wrote and told him that we would give the same rent that Dr Martin was paying for it, and we also sent a petition to the trustees saying to them that we would leave it to their own consciences whether it would be more proper to give the place to us, while we were willing to pay the rent for it, and our arrears, or to give it to Tormore, who had already Dibidale, Ollisdale, Lowergill, Ramasaig, Hamara, Ostaig, Park of Nairn, and Craggie, and who, as I have already said, had only one mouth and two hands and one body like ourselves.
6571. And you say Tormore promised it to you?
—Yes, in presence of two hundred witnesses. He then sent us word saying that the trustees were coming to see us, and that they would put matters right with us. The trustees did come, in May last year, and the weather was bad the night they came, but in spite of that there was a bonfire on every hill. When they were a week in the place we went to them, and they gave us no satisfaction, but told us to have patience. We told them that our forefathers had died in good patience, and that we ourselves had been waiting in patience till now, and that we could not wait any longer,—that they never got anything by their patience, but constantly getting worse. The trustees never said to us that we would not get the hill; but the first man who out-and-out refused was Tormore, the man who had promised it to us.
6572. This was in the month of May last year. Was not Dr Martin in possession up to that time?
—Yes, it was at Whitsunday last year that Dr Martin took away his cattle off the hill. Tormore did say to us that we would not get the hill, and we said to him that as he had promised us the hill before, we would retain possession of it until the trustees would deprive us of it.
6573. When was this?
—A little after this time last year. Tormore went that day to Waterstein, and he began to clear off what sheep and cattle were on the hill —for there were sheep and cattle on the hill belonging to other townships as well as to ourselves —and he began to clear them off the hill on to our holdings. We said to him that we would not allow him to do such things, and he said in presence of all these people that he would bid good-bye to us, and that he would never see us again. He had his own stock upon the hill, and he made his people drive them away out of my sight to Ramasaig.
6574. Whose stock was this ?
—This was Tormore's own stock.
6575. That came from his other farms?
—Yes. At that time the people of Borrodale had a great many more sheep than their own land would carry, and the people of Meiloveg sent the Borrodale sheep on to the Borrodale people's own pasture, and as they themselves were telling me they went to Tormore to ask him to buy them, as they had no place on which to keep them.
6576. The Borrodale people?
—Yes. Tormore said he could not buy them, but asked them to send them to his own tack of Ramasaig.
6577. Were the Borrodale people, when they asked him to buy the stock, willing to allow him to retain possession of this Waterstein hill ?
— They were in a company here to take Waterstein along with us.
6578. But if they were going to sell their sheep, what was the meaning of this?
—They were going to sell their sheep because Waterstein had been refused too.
6579. And they did not intend to take any violent measures to secure Waterstein ?
—I don't think that they intended that, but we were thinking that the trustees would give us a place, as they never refused it
6580. If they thought the trustees were going to give them the place, why did they sell their stock ?
—The factor said to them on the day to which I refer that they would not get the place, and they were believing the factor.
6581. And they had lost hope of getting it at that time ?
—The Borrodale people lost hope, but we did not. Then these interdicts were served upon us a few days after that, and a few days after the interdicts were served we went to the fishing.
6582. What was the interdict served for?
—The interdict was intended to prevent us from trespassing on Waterstein to go to the sea-shore, or to put our foot on the place at all, or our stock.
6583. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did it not especially prohibit you from putting stock upon Waterstein ?
—Yes, that was mentioned, and it was mentioned that we were not to stand at all upon the ground.
6584. Have you a copy of the interdict ?
—I believe I have at home, but not here.
6585. The Chairman.
—Will you bring it on Monday ?
—I will do so. I and others of our number went to the fishing a few days after we got the interdicts. It is the practice of the place, that when any one gives grazing on our ground to other sheep and cattle, they are in the man's own charge for a year, with shepherding and all other attention required.
6586. What man are you referring to? Are they under the charge of the man who takes them, or the man who gives them ?
—The man who gives the grass. When a tenant buys grazing from another, the man from whom he buys it is in charge of that beast for the time the grazing is taken.
6587. He does not relieve the owner of all risk of it ?
—Not all risk. It is charge. When we went to the fishing Mr Robertson, Grishornish, took up the factorship instead of Tormore ; and I understand that immediately on his becoming factor the 150 or 200 sheep belonging to Borrodale, which had been allowed to graze upon Ramasaig by Tormore, and were straying on to Waterstein, were driven off Waterstein to our ground by Mr Robertson or his shepherds, and also every strange sheep which was among them was so driven. Mr Robertson went to the shepherd who was in Meiloveg, and said to his father to help his shepherds to keep Waterstein clear. The man said that if he—Mr Robertson—would keep off the sheep for which he had given grazing on Ramasaig, he would keep the Meiloveg sheep on our side. The shepherd went for fourteen days to keep off the sheep along with him, and it was on our side that they were constantly kept. When the shepherd saw that Mr Robertson was not keeping his own sheep away he gave up the business.
6588. After fourteen days
—After fourteen days. Mr Robertson then came to the lad's father, and said he did not fulfil what he had promised. The shepherd said that he was fulfilling his part of the agreement, but that Mr Robertson was not. The matter was that way until we came home from the fishing. The strange sheep and the Borrodale sheep were kept upon our holdings during the twelve weeks. When we came home we went to the shepherds, to prevent their driving the sheep upon us, and they defied us to keep them from driving the sheep upon our lands.
6589. You have made reference to the duty of the person who gives the grass to take charge of the sheep; does that refer to the Borrodale sheep which were taken on to Ramasaig ?
6590. And the shepherd at Ramasaig ought to have taken charge of the sheep ?
—Yes. The shepherd at Ramasaig ought to have taken charge of the Borrodale sheep, as he gave them grass there. Mr Robertson came to us when we had come home from the vessel, and asked us not to meddle with the shepherds. We said we would not interfere with them, if he would keep his own sheep on his own side.
6591. Had you been meddling with them?
—We interfered with them to prevent them driving their sheep upon us
6592. What sort of interference?
—We interfered with them so much that at last we drove them out of the place. I have nothing further to say about it.
6593. And have you got possession of Waterstein ?
6594. Are there sheep on Waterstein now ?
6595. Whose sheep
—I don't know whose sheep they are.
6596. But not your own sheep ?
6597. Do you agree with the shepherds now ?
—Yes; we are expecting much good as the result of the visit of the Commission; and so we are not doing anything about it.
6598. When you met the trustees or Tormore and asked for Waterstein, were your manners civil, such as Highlanders are accustomed to use in talking to those of superior social station ?
—I was one of the spokesmen on that occasion, and I was put to jail for the cause, and Mr Robertson and the herd of Glendale are here to-day, and I will let them testify if I was uncivil, or if they saw anything wrong in me in speech or behaviour.
6599. In regard to the rest of the people, were they generally civil1?
— They were civil enough to the gentlemen.
6600. And to the factor?
—I think they were also civil to him.
6601. Sheriff Nicolson.
—In the meantime, have the people determined not to pay any rent at all till they get Waterstein ?
—No; it is not the case.
6602. But when the rent was last collected that seemed to be their state of mind ?
—Yes. They asked us if we would pay the rent, and the arrears of our present holdings, if we would get the hill, and we said we would.
6603. What time was that ?
—A year last March.
6604 There has been a collection of rent since then; when was it
— Mr Robertson was perhaps two or three times wanting rent since then.
6605. But none paid rent except two or three?
—No, we have not paid rent during that time. I was speaking to the people to-day, and they said that they would never pay a penny to the factor—that they would not pay to Mr Robertson especially—because he is not a suitable factor to be over them, as he does not speak their language, and many of the families who had children were afraid that Robertson would take the shellfish from them.
6606. What made them think that1?
—Because he deprived his own tenants of them.
6607. Did he deprive them of anything but the oysters ?
—I don't know; I did not hear. He is not a suitable factor for us, for he does not speak our language, and many of us cannot speak English.
6608. But it seems, from the case of Tormore, that knowledge of Gaelic does not make a suitable factor?
—We would prefer Tormore to him. People were saying to me to-day that they would accept of any factor who would be placed over them who could speak their language, and of good character, from anywhere in the three kingdoms; and as the year was hard upon them, they would pay as best they could. That is what they said to me about it.
6609. Are there not a good many of them several years in arrear?
—I don't know, but there were no arrears upon me until a year last Martinmas,
—not a penny.
6610. Were any of these warnings that were sent before this term served upon you!
6611. Did any of the people here take the letters that were sent to them I
—I don't know. I was not at home.
6612. You were living in another place?
—Well, you were there yourself.
6613. Is there anything wrong with the post-office here as to the hours at which the mails come and go ?
—They were telling me there was something wrong with the post-office hours—that that day the letters were not sent off in proper time, and consequently the food supplies which we had ordered were a week behind.
6614. Whose fault was that ?
—We don't know; the postmaster is here, and will tell
6615. Do you know anything about the removal of the people from Lowergill and Ramasaig, or do any who are to come after you know more about it? How many families are in Lowergill now?
6616. How many were there fifteen years ago?
—There are some here who know better than I do.
—Alexander Mackinnon, crofter, Lower Meiloveg. He is here.
6618. How many did you hear them say?
6619. Where were they sent to ?
—There were twelve before that
6620. There were twelve sometime before that ?
6621. And on this last occasion where were these six families sent to
— One was sent to Trotternish, one to Pabbay island, one to Fasach, Glendale, one to Meiloveg, and one of them is in Ramasaig still. The other left of his own accord.
6622. And how many are in Ramasaig now ?
6623. How many families were there fifteen years ago?
—There were over twenty.
6624. Where were they sent to ?
—They are scattered through Glendale, except perhaps one family which went to Trotternish.
6625. Were new lots given to them, or part of the old lots?
—Lots were subdivided for their accommodation.
6626. Were these people removed at their own desire?
—No, not those from Lowergill.
6627. I have heard it said they wished to go, because it was such an inaccessible place ?
—That is not the case, so far as Lowergill is concerned.
6628. Is it so with regard to Ramasaig ?
—I cannot say about Ramasaig.
6629. Were they very well off for cattle and everything else at Lowergill ?
—One thing I can say, I would rather be paying rent in Lowergill than have my present croft for nothing.
6630. Are you aware whether the people of Lowergill were in arrears at the time of these removals?
—I know there was no more than 10s. in arrears on the place, if there was even that much, and that they had sufficient sheep stock to pay arrears, even should there be any of them.
6631. It has been said that these lands were held by Tormore. How did you know that ?
—It was Tormore who took the sheep off our hands, and it is our men who took charge of them, and marked our sheep for him with his mark.
6632. Was he not acting as factor then ?
—He was factor.
6633. And was the shepherd acting for the trustees ?
—Not at that time. It was M'Leod of St Kilda who was landlord when the tenants were put out of Lowergill
6634. Do you know anything of the people that were removed from the other townships to the east of them—Dibisdale and Ollisdale?
—No, that was long ago.
6635. Do you know how many of these Lowergill or Ramasaig people have come in among you in Meiloveg?
—Two families in Meiloveg.
6636. Has that inconvenienced anybody besides the two persons whose lots they got a share of ?
—They are spoiling the moor upon us—cutting too many peats.
6637. Is your peat moss barely sufficient for yourselves ?
—Yes; the hill is very small altogether.
6638. Did any come from Ramasaig also ?
—Both of these came from Ramasaig latterly,
6639. Have any of them been removed into some other of the townships here, such as Lephin ?
—They will tell themselves.
6640. Did not the cod and ling fishing here use to be pretty good ?
—I have been fishing ever since I could handle an oar, in winter, and I do not think it would keep me in food all that I ever fished; and I was amongst those who did best at that fishing.
6641. Is the fish taken from you, and kept in the curing-house here?
— That was the case, but not now.
6642. When was it given up ?
—About one year ago it stopped.
6643. Then you don't prosecute the cod and ling fishing regularly at all now ?
—No. but the most of us, when we come home in harvest, have nothing else to do. We must needs go out to fish, and now, after we have done the spring work, we have to go everywhere out of the country for work, and many of the young people don't come home at all.
6644. A gentleman told me that another person had told him that the tenants here sell a great many eggs—in fact, that they can pay their rent with eggs. Is that true ?
—I don't think he was a gentleman who told that.
6645. But as to the quantity of eggs, do they keep a good many hens
—I did not count the number which we have at home, but I don't think it is more than five or six.
6646. Is it not profitable to keep hens ?
—We would have to buy feeding for them from Glasgow and these places, and that would take away the price of the eggs—it would reduce it.
6647. What price do they get for their eggs here?
—Sometimes 4d., and in the winter time when they are not to be found, Is. and lid., but there are none then.
6648. Mr Cameron.
—1 think you stated you were prohibited from cutting rushes to thatch your houses
—We were forbidden to stand at all in these places. I don't refer to our own ground.
6649. What was the reason of the prohibition ? What harm could you do by cutting rushes ?
—They were thinking that the cutting of rushes was injurious to the ground or to the sheep.
6650. You stated that the people would like to have larger crofts, and that they should pay a sum of money for those crofts to Government, I understand ?
—Yes, and that we should have the whole of the soil of the country, and that we should have a motive for defending our country when need arose.
6651. Are you at all afraid that in process of time, many years after this, that the land which you want to get would be again subdivided by families being planted upon them, and their own families growing amongst them, so that each lot would get smaller and smaller ?
—No, I think if I had such a good croft, that I could educate my children, and when they would be educated they would learn so much about other countries, that of their own accord they would go to these other countries, when they would see that these places were better than home, and where they would not be evicted.
6652. Do you think that any scheme of emigration to other countries—America and Australia—that was aided by the Government would be acceptable to you or your neighbours ?
—I think it would be more satisfactory to the people if the money which such a Government scheme of emigration would require should be spent at home, and, when the land at home would be peopled, then to send us away to other countries.
6653. But if you propose yourself so to educate your children as to give them an ambition to seek their fortunes in other countries, why do you think that would not be desirable now, when the people are worse off than you say they would be ?
—I think that the children would then go of their own accord, as they would be single men and women, and I know that if I go to another country at this time of day it will be against my will
6654. But still don't you think there is a very great field open for the energetic of this country in foreign countries ?
—Yes, and I think it would be a capital thing for those who have the £1800 tacks to go there, and then there would be no crofters in their way.
6655. Have you any friends abroad in Canada or Australia ?
6656. You mentioned that some of the people who are now crowding down upon Meiloveg might be disposed of by being sent back to Bracadale. Have you any reason to think that this would be agreeable to the people themselves ?
—Yes, and it would be very agreeable to me too. I would go instead of any one of them who would be unwilling to go.
6657. These removals took place nearly forty years ago?
6658. Would not the people rather find themselves amongst strangers there, or would they not mind that??
—No, the people of this place are not strangers to each other—they are so friendly.
6659. Now, how many of the tenants of Meiloveg could take the stock that would be necessary to stock Waterstein ?
—They themselves were going to stock Waterstein if they got it, if there were no stock upon it when Dr Martin had taken away his.
6660. But how many of them coidd afford to pay their share of it ?
— One gentleman told me he would pay for the whole stock for us, if we had got the place.
6661. How many of your own people would be able, putting yourself out of the question, to pay for their stock ?
—I don't know if there are any who could pay for their own share without help.
6662. Have they ever considered what arrangement would be practicable, supposing that some of the tenants were able to pay their share and others were not; whether any arrangement could be practicable to divide it equally among the tenants—that is to say, that the tenants who had money should lend to those who had not, so as to give them all a share of the stock ?
—That was arranged. It was arranged between us that those who could pay for more than their own share of stock were to help their neighbours, and that their neighbours woidd pay them back gradually.
6663. But you said just now that none of them would be able to pay their share ?
—We could get it from friends outside of our own number.
6664. When the trustees refused to give them this hill, do you think that that was one reason why they refused to give the hill, or do you know of any other reason the trustees had ?
—They asked us how we could stock it. We told them if they would give us the ground that they would see we could stock it in a few days.
6665. What did the trustees say then?
—They said nothing, but told us to have patience, and that they did not mean to make us worse off than we were.
6666. Now, I understood you to say that Tormore had promised that, whoever took the hill of Waterstein, he would not take it lor himself ?
6667. And that when this meeting took place with the trustees, Tormore either had taken it or was about to take it ?
—The trustees told us at the meeting that Tormore had taken the place, and that he was the most suitable man for it.
6668. In fact, Tormore did not fulfil the promise he had previously made to them ?
6669. Has any explanation ever been made by Tormore as to this allegation ?
—No, he simply told us that the trustees were not for letting us have the place.
6670. Was he to pay more rent than Dr Martin ?
—We don't know about that.
6671. Did Tormore make no explanation as to why he did not fulfil his promise ?
—No; but Mr Robertson went one day in autumn last to mark out a piece of Waterstein for us which was next to our march, and which piece would not be worth much to the tacksman of Waterstein, and we showed him before we parted that this piece which he was for adding to our holdings would not enable each of us to keep more than a sheep.
6672. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are there two properties in this glen ?
6673. What is the boundary between them ?
—Partially a river and a boundary dyke.
6674. Your township is upon the eastern division ?
—On the west side of the burn.
6675. What is the name of your proprietor"!
—The trustees we called them, Professor Macpherson, Edinburgh, is one of them.
6676. Didn't you say that the proprietor is in this church at present
6677. Is he of age ?
—I believe he is above twenty.
6678. Is there any arable land upon Waterstein ?
6679. How much ?
—There is a great deal
6680. Do you know how much rent Dr Martin was paying ?
—I am not sure, but I think it was £135 or thereby.
6681. And your present township's rent is £80 ?
6682. And you don't think it too great an undertaking, being cramped at present, to go in for this place for which apparently you would have to pay about £140?
—No, we thought we would be very much better by having Waterstein,—that we would come on by time,—that we would never improve our condition as we were.
6683. You were not bound to pay for any of the stock upon Waterstein
—There was no stock upon it, for Dr Martin had taken his stock with him.
6684. Was any reason assigned by the trustees for refusing your offer?
—The only reason they gave was that Tormore had already taken the place, and that the place had been advertised eight months, and why did we not ask for it then. We told them we never heard the place was advertised, but that whenever we heard that Dr Martin was quit of it we then applied.
6685. At the time you made this offer, did you get the guarantee or promise of this gentleman whom you have referred to, that he would assist them in stocking?
—No, we had no occasion to ask his help till we should be assured of getting the place.
6686. Apart from this gentleman altogether, are you aware that, among your own friends, there are a large number in the south from whom you would get sufficient help to stock the farm?
—I know that we would try and do our best, and through time, if we got the place, we would be able to fully stock it,
6687. You stated that you are obliged to buy sixteen bolls of meal on the average
6688. What is the value here, on an average, of a boll of meal ?
—About 22s. a boll in these later years.
6689. In fact, you pay between £17 and £20 for meal l
6690. Would it not be much better for you to pay that £17 additional rent, and get the produce of it out of the land ?
—I am paying up to £5 in rent already, and the £17 for meal, and I believe if I had the value of that sum of rent, that I would not require to leave the country at all after I got the land stocked, when the working of the ground would give me enough to do; and when my family and myself would be very much more comfortable and contented, instead of having to wander over the country by sea and land trying to earn a Living.
6691. Is there or is there not enough land on the estate of Glendale, if properly re-located, to support the people of Glendale without going to another estate ?
—I believe it would be scarce enough for them, as they have been so crowded upon each other here.
6692. But a good number, I presume, could be accommodated on the estate
—Yes, a good number ; there are six or seven townships at present without an inhabitant, unless there may be four or five shepherds between them all.
6693. Is there any tack here,—of which we hear a great deal in other places—a large extent of ground on which the tenant is not resident ?
— Yes, while Tormore had Waterstein. I do not know if it is he who has got it now.
6694. Is Ramasaig also in his possession?
6695. And what other places ?
—1 do not know who has that tack now which Tormore had.
6696. Then they cannot be resident ?
—No ; whoever has it is not resident, unless the tack is in the occupancy of the trustees. Our previous landlord —Sir John Macpherson M'Leod—was only in the place once in twenty years.
6697. How long was he proprietor ?
—About twenty years.
6698. I want to ask you about the value of cows. You have travelled a good deal about and been in different parts ?
6699. There is, I suppose, a good deal of difference between the value of a cow here and in the east country or in the south ?
—A single Aberdeenshire cow would outweigh three of ours.
6700. With regard to the production of milk, is it or is it not the case that the produce here, particularly among the crofter's cows, which suffer from a want of grass, is much more meagre than that of a well-fed cow
—Yes; is is very meagre. In fact, we can only say that there is milk ; and the cause of that is solely the want of proper feeding for the cows. We keep three, and all our feeding would not do justice to more than one cow. The prices which we get for our stirks are spoken of, but the food with which we winter our stirks we have to buy in Glasgow; in fact, we have to feed them with the meal which we purchase for our own families—feeding the stirks with the meal, and paying for the meal with the stirks.
6701. Is what you give to the cattle included in the sixteen bolls ?
—The cows don't get any of that meal, but if there is a stirk we give a little to it.
6702. But the sixteen bolls are either consumed by the family or given at a pinch to the animal ?
—Yes, that is the case.
6703. Now, if a person in the south or east reads in the newspaper that a croft contains three cows and so many sheep, and that the crofter is paying £5 of rent, might he not be very much deceived as to the position of the man ?
—I have been often asked about it in the south country, and when I told them my rent, and the amount of stock which I kept upon the croft, they thought I was well off. and that I was a gentleman.
6704. And, in point of fact, a good deal of misconception naturally prevails when people in the south read of the quantity of stock on those crofts
—Yes, that is the case. I myself was staying with a farmer, and I know that one of his cows was better than any-six of ours in the way of yielding milk and butter.
6705. There is a summing put upon most of the crofters, and the place is supposed to keep so much, and you pay according to that. Is that so?
—When we went to the place the land was better. It was five years under sheep, and the summing was then three cows, and one of these cows was better than our present three; and the only cause for that is that we have too much stock, and that the land has become exhausted.
6706. You have not exactly taken up what I mean. I am speaking now generally. Is it not the case that the people generally in Skye complain that the summing on their township is rather high ?
—The summing is three times more than it ought to be according to the grass.
6707. And if there was no summing put upon them at all, would it not be better for them to have fewer and better animals?
—They are desirous of having a numerous stock ; the one that has most stock will have the more for his family.
6708. Would you explain that?
—When they get leave to keep three, some of them have to buy food for them at present; and should it be the general wish to have the summing reduced to one cow, the man that has three may not be willing to agree to this reduction.
6709. With regard to Waterstein, are you aware of any reason whatever why the offer of the crofters should not be accepted by the landlord ?
—No, only that we thought the trustees were more willing to give a place to a big man; and on the other other hand we were hearing that the trustees
were gentlemen, and before they left Edinburgh they were saying they were going to come and see the place, but when they came to Skye, and went to visit gentlemen's houses in Skye they were in a different mind.
6710. Were the same gentlemen who offered to help you in the stocking willing to become bound for your rent ?
—We ourselves were ready for the rent, and we said that to the trustees. We told them that the stock on the ground would be their security for the rent.
6711. We have been told, in many places, in fact all over Skye, that there is a general feeling against emigration. Now, is it not one of the reasons why young people don't want to emigrate that they don't like to leave their parents and other old people helpless behind them ?
—Yes, and because of the attachment which they have to each other, as well as to their parents.
6712. Is a good deal of the money that is spent in this locality earned by people going to the south and getting wages ?
—Yes, all the money which we get is mostly coming from the south country, unless we may be able to sell a stirk, and we are not home scarcely for a week with our earnings when we pay it over to the proprietors, and they are off to London and elsewhere abroad to spend it, and not a penny of it is spent on the place for which the rent is paid.
6713. It is upon this estate that there was some question about the proprietor wanting the first option of selling fish ?
6714. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have your own stock yourself, but there is a good number in your place that have not their full summing?
— I have not got a full stock myself.
6715. But there are a good number who have much less stock than you -
—There are a good number who have less than I have.
6716. It also came out here, as well as elsewhere, that the Borrodale people have a large number of sheep more than their stock"
6717. How was that ? Is it a better place, or why ?
—No, Borrodale is a worse place than ours.
6718. How did they come to have so many?
—They had more sheepstock than they ought to have had, because they were keeping them upon other people's ground.
6719. I also understood that these Borrodale people were among those who joined together to ask for the hill of Waterstein?
—Yes, that was the case.
6720. And that after they got the grazing, whether free or not, at Ramasaig, from the factor, they no longer asked for the hill at Waterstein ?
—That is the case.
6721. Was it the general belief that the one was the cause of the other Was it because they got the free grazing at Ramasaig that they ceased to ask for Waterstein
6722. And was it the general belief that that was the reason ?
—I cannot say that it was, but it was our notion.
6723. You stated there was a gentleman who would stock the hill for you, and that you told the trustees that your stock would be security for the rent, and that that ought to be sufficient. Did you tell them about this gentleman who had agreed to stock the hill for you ?
—Not at the time. We did not know of it at the time.
6724. Have you told them since ?
—No, we did not see the trustees since.
6725. It seems reasonable that when there was a large number in your place who had not their stock, the trustees might naturally ask how you could stock the hill. Now, if you were to tell them there was a man of means to stock it, and if you got the means guaranteed, would it not help you much to get the hill from them ?
—I do not know indeed, but they were not inclined to give it at that time at ah ; that was my opinion
6726. Might it not be part of the reason that you had not even your own summing upon your own place, and might they not very well consider how you could be able to stock the hill ?
—Well, we told them we would have the hill stocked in two or three days, and they never asked in what way we were going to stock it, and we had some hopes before we would tell them that.
6727. I suppose the people of Meiloveg have all along been agreed that it was as a joint affair they would take the hill ?
6728. Were there some among you that would have liked to take the hill leaving out the others ?
6729. Have you ever heard such a rumour as that I
6730. Did you hear there was a rumour that there were some among your own selves who wished to take the hill leaving the others out ?
—I never heard of it; they were all willing.
6731. I understand there was such a rumour, but you never heard it?
6732. A nd if there ever was such a rumour, there was no foundation for it ?
—If there was such a rumour I would hear it, but I never heard it.
6733. I am told that it was stated in the Scotsman newspaper that that was the case ?
—Well, whether they had a reporter here or not, there was many a thing besides that reported which was not true.
6734. But your belief is that there was no foundation for such a report in this particular case ?
—No, it was not true.
6735. About your remedy for the whole matter, the cause of the distress of the people, you say, is the small crofts and overcrowding ?
— Yes, and I will prove it.
6736. And, in the first place, you wish to remove these people who came from other estates back to their own places ?
—If we got the estate, I think that would be right.
6737. And then make these suitably sized crofts ?
6738. And I think you mentioned about the stock that a suitable sized croft would hold '
—Yes, and not wanting to hurt our lairds, but to better ourselves,
6739. Do you think the people would be able to stock these reasonably sized crofts?
—Well, I think they will get help from many a one, but in the course of time I know they would be able to pay this, and have their stock to themselves.
6740. That means they would be able if they got voluntary help ?
— Yes, we have had nothing before us but starvation in. our lives, and then you in the south would not require to be begging for us all through the kingdom.
6741. Apart from the statements in the paper, if you got such a croft on a long lease, what would you say to that ?
—I would be as bad again as ever at the end of the lease. I would like to have it and work it, and not be cast out when I had worked it.
6742. That is, you wish that the lease would be very long ?
—But when I would not pay it I would agree to be cast out, with payment for improvements.
6743. You know that in the south all the land is held upon lease ?
— Yes, they have better justice in the south than they have in the north. There are two sides to the law ; but we never saw the just side, always the worst side.
6744. Have you considered whether, in making the crofts you were talking of, you should have them all of the same size ?
—No, I would like to give a man what he would think proper for himself.
6745. And you would like the crofts to be of different sizes, to enable an energetic man to work his way up through crofting as well as other lines of business?
—Yes, I would not give too much to any man.
6746. What would you consider a maximum ?
—If I had £20 worth at a value, I think I would be able, if I got it stocked once, to pay all customers, and be an honest man, but now I cannot be an honest man.
6747. Now, in regard to these reasonably sized crofts, would you have a regulation that would prevent their subdivision again
—I would not allow a croft to be broken at all
6748. And you would compel the overplus of the people to leave the place ?
—Let them leave, or do as they like, but I would not split the crofts on any account.
6749. You approve of voluntary emigration, but, after all, though so many of the Bracadale people were sent away, don't you think there is room for emigration just now?
—I only know about myself, and I know I would not be willing.
6750 But you see a large number of the young people of the place going away to the south and coming back again. Would you not think, if you were young again, it might be worth considering whether some of them might just go away to those better lands ?
—I see a good many young men going to be sailors and going to foreign kingdoms, and they are very willing to come home in the evening of their life.
6751. But don't you think, if they had emigrated as you would approve of your own children doing, that they would make homes for themselves ?
—I believe if a man had a family in a foreign kingdom, it would not be very easy for him to come home even if he had the will, but I know every one I speak to thinks there is no place like home.
6752. You yourself believe that, as an arrangement for the future, voluntary emigration should form a part. I would like you to consider whether, at the present moment, voluntary emigration should not also form a part of it, because you believe that must necessarily come in the future ?
—I have nothing against it, if they do it willingly.
6753. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—No, nor at any time
6754. Professor Mackinnon.
—You would use your influence among the people to encourage it, as you would do among your own family in the future ?
—Yes, I always want young men to go away in these places, but I would not like to force any man to go.
6755. But would you advise them, instead of being sailors, or farm servants in the south, that they should permanently emigrate, and make a home for themselves in other lands?
—At present, when we consider things, we see no reason for it, as there is plenty of land in our country, and I don't know how we do not get it; and I know again that we would supply our friends in the south, as well as those big farmers, with everything.
6756. So you would first re-people your own land, and when it was thoroughly re-peopled you would people other places ? You would scatter people over this place until it was covered, and then the overplus of them would be sent to other lands ?
—--It might be that that would never happen—that they would go now and then.
6757. And you would not on any account subdivide the crofts again ?
—No, I would not.
6758. You say that rent should be fixed by a court I suppose you mean valuators appointed by the Crown ?
6759. And whatever rent they would fix upon as reasonable, either under a long lease or under an arrangement by which you could purchase the holding altogether, you would accept that?
—Yes. I would not like to be a bound person, but to stand for the kingdom as we used to do in olden times, but at the present time we have not much courage to stand for the kingdom.
6760. You think, if there was such an arrangement, the people would be encouraged and more willing to take part in the defence of the country by joining the army and navy ?
—Yes, and standing for the kingdom; but this is not our kingdom—we have nothing where we are.
6761. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is the gentleman you refer to who was willing to help you in stocking the land a native of Glendale ?
—I don't think there is anything to be done with that, but I am sure he will stand to his word.
6762. I merely want to bring it out that he has an interest in you?
— He must, or else he would not do so.
6763. He is a bonafide person?
—Yes, and a good-hearted one,
6764. The Chairman.
—I wish to examine you upon the proposed purchase of crofts by the crofters. You have stated that your croft maintains three cows, and that you have about three acres of arable ground. Have you any sheep ?
—I have only six, but eight is my summing.
6765. What rent do you pay?
—£4, 13s. with rates.
6766. How much without rates?
6767. Do you consider that that is too high a rent?
—I was not complaining of the rent. I was complaining of the smallness of the holding for which I was paying it
6768. Do you consider it too high a rent, or do you not ?
—It is too high for the value which I have for it; and I may say that even should I get the croft for nothing, I would prefer to have to pay three times the amount for a croft three times the size of it.
6769. Suppose you applied to Government to assist you in becoming purchaser of the croft, you are aware that in fixing the price of the croft, the interest would be taken into consideration ?
—Yes, I understand that.
6770. You understand that so many years' rent
—it may be twenty-five or twenty-eight years' rent
—would be regarded as the value of the croft?
6771. Then would you expect your present rent to be taken as the basis of the valuation, or would you expect a new rent to be fixed by the land court ?
—I would be quite agreeable to any method which the Government would adopt
—either to adopt a re-valuation, or to value it higher or lower than at present
6772. It is probable that if the Government consented to assist in the purchase of crofts, the Government would expect the purchaser to pay down a certain proportion of the capital value at once, say one-fourth or one-third. Do you understand that ?
—I understand so.
6773. That payment would be made as a security for the industry and character of the purchaser ?
6774. Do you think that some or many of the crofters would be found who would be able to put down a proportion of the value ?
—I believe that many of them are not very able to pay, but I know that they would try every method to raise the money.
6775. Do you think that their families, who go out to labour in other places, would make a sacrifice to assist their parents?
—I fully believe they would for I believe, there are no children anywhere who are more willing and ready to help their parents than the children of this country.
6776. You understand that, under such a system, the payment would be a heavy one, because it would represent both the rent and the repayment of the capital I
—Yes, I understand so.
6777. Do you think that, with security of tenure, and with a prospect of becoming proprietors before them, the people would make such efforts to improve the crofts that they would raise a greater annual value out of them ?
—I believe that the people would do so—that they would improve their crofts, and so work them that the crofts would be very much improved, and the man who would not do so would not deserve to get help to purchase his holding.
6778. Now, I wish to speak, not of the purchase of the croft, but of the rental of the croft,—of fixing a fair rental for the croft. What do you think is the most important thing to do in that matter? Do you think it would be to fix the proper summing for each croft ?
6779. Supposing that a measure like this were sanctioned,—supposing that the crofters should select a representative, and supposing that the proprietor should select a representative, and that they should have the power of selecting an oversman in order to fix the proper summing of each croft, would that satisfy the people?
—I should think that that would be a good plan.
6780. Do you think that the summing might be arranged between the crofters and the proprietor without the interference of lawyers and commissioners, who cost a deal of money ?
—I am afraid that the landlord and the tenant would not agree about the summing.
6781. I said there was to be an oversman above both?
—I think that with an oversman the proprietors and the tenants could arrive at a proper summing themselves without the intervention of lawyers and officials, which would be expensive.
6782. You stated previously that you rather objected to any scheme of emigration until the land had been in some degree restored to the people, and they had had an opportunity of settling in their own country ?-
—Yes, I said so.
6783. You also stated that one cause which prevented the young people emigrating freely was that they did not like to leave their parents behind ?
—That is the case.
6784. Now, supposing that the Government passed some measure giving them some security in their holdings at a fair rent, and supposing the Government proposed a measure for voluntary emigration which would take in whole families—parents and children—don't vou think that the improvement at home and the emigration abroad might both go on together, and might both be useful ?
6785. With regard to Waterstein, supposing that Waterstein was not voluntarily given by the proprietor to the people, have the people ever taken a resolution by force to prevent Waterstein being occupied by the proprietor or by the tenant ?
—We never thought of anything of the sort.
6786. Suppose that the proprietor or tenant at this moment proposed to put a fence round Waterstein, would the people prevent him doing so by violence?
—I don't think we would interfere. We leave everything in the hands of the Commission to put things right.
6787. But that is not quite a distinct answer. Would the people by violence prevent the proprietor or tenant exercising his lawful right in putting a fence up ?
—I did not ask such a question at them, and I don't know how I should answer that.
6788. Would you advise them to do it yourself?
—I would not advise them to resist the proprietor.
6789. To resist the putting up of the fence ?
6790. In the year 1845, when the new division was made of these crofts, was any hill pasture taken away from them'?
—No, but sixteen were crowded in instead of eight, and the half of the township was taken from us.
6791. You mentioned that some of the people were crowded into these crofts from Waternish long ago, and you said that they were evicted from Waternish on account of deer. Are there any deer there now ?
—I don't know that they were evicted on account of deer; but I know the deer are now in that place.
6792. Is there a deer forest at Waternish ?
—I refer to Island Isay, on which there were twelve crofts.
6793. Sheriff Nicolson.
—That was long ago?
—But the deer are on it now. I don't know how many there are.
6794. The Chairman.
—But the deer are not doing any mischief at present?
—No, but I mean that twelve crofters could live where they are.
6795. But I am asking you particularly about the deer at present. Do you mean twelve crofters could live where deer are now ?
6796. When you stated you were put into prison for sixty-one days for telling the truth did you mean you were put into prison for generally telling the truth, about the state of the country, and advocating the cause of the people, or did you mean you were put into prison in consequence of the statements which you made before the Court of Session?
—I know I was put in prison in consequence of my statement—of my admission to the Court—but I know I was taken to the court because of my speaking the truth in the cause of the people.
6797. Do you think you were arrested for speaking the truth in favour of the people, or on account of your conduct in connection with the interdict of the Court of Session ?
—There was no breach of interdict proved against me, unless trespassing on the ground could be held to be such.
6798. As you seem to believe, or seem to say, that you were arrested and imprisoned in some degree on account of telling the truth about the state of the people and the country, I should like to ask you whether you were ever threatened with the displeasure of the proprietor or with eviction from your holding, or with any other molestation, on account of the part yon have taken as a representative of the people?
—No, there was nothing done to molest me outside of the interdict; but Mr Robertson told me I would long ago have been put into prison but for him, but I did not understand what he was meaning.
6799. Would it do the fishermen much good if there was a pier or breakwater erected in the bay here?
—I know that those who do go to fish would be the better of a pier.
6800. But if there was a pier to be built here, would it not also be necessary to build some kind of harbour on the other side, on Waterstein ?
— I don't think that a pier or breakwater would be possible of erection on Waterstein, the place is so stormy and wild.
6801. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there not a good place for steamers to call at here to land goods?
—There is a good place down at the store-house ; but there are none calling, for the want of a pier. There is a road to it, and I believe if there was a pier they would come oftener.
6802. Steamers sometimes call with and for goods ?
—Yes, and I believe they would call oftener.
6803. And there is no way of putting goods on board or on shore except by boats ?
6804. The Chairman.
—Have you any other statement you wish to make before you retire ?
—I have nothing further to say. I think I have said enough.
6805. Do you think you would be able to get me a copy of the notice, which you say was put up preventing the people landing in bad weather on Waterstein 2
—Yes, there are some in existence still, and I will try and get one.
6806. A book has been handed to me, entitled Highland Clearances, on page 465 of which there is a notice, but this notice has reference not merely to landing on the shore, but to the alleged habit of the people to land for the purpose of carrying away drift timber on the shore. It is as follows :
—"Whereas parties are in the habit of trespassing on the lands of Lowergill, Ramasaig, and Waterstein, and searching for and carrying away drift timber,
—Notice, is hereby given that the shepherds and herds on these lands have instructions to give up the names of any persons found hereafter on any part of such lands, as also any one found carrying away timber from the shore by boats or otherwise, that they may be dealt with according to law.
—Factor's Office, Tormore, 4th January 1882"
Is that the notice you refer to ?
—It says any part of the lands. We cannot get home without travelling on the lands. The notice prohibited us from landing hereafter on any part of said lands.
6807. Supposing people returning from fishing had really been obliged, on account of bad weather, to land at that spot, but not with any desire to remove timber or anything else, do you think that the tacksman or proprietor would have prosecuted them for merely landing in consequence of the bad weather
—I don't think he would prosecute us under such circumstances.
Examination continued on 21 May 1883
6808. The Chairman.
—You wish to make an explanation as to a particular point?
—Yes, in regard to the fixing of the summing of the croft.
6809. This was what was put to you and what you said.
(Q.) 'Now, I wish to speak not of the purchase of the croft, but of the rental of the croft—of fixing a fair rental for the croft. What do you think is the most important thing to do in that matter ? Do you think it would be to fix the proper summing for each croft ?—
(Q) Supposing that a measure like this were sanctioned,—supposing that the crofters should select a representative, and supposing that the proprietor should select a representative, and that they should have the power of selecting an oversman, in' order to fix the proper summing of each croft, would that satisfy the people?—
(A.) I should think that that would be a good plan.
(Q.) Do you think that the summing might be arranged between the crofters and the proprietor without the interference of lawyers and commissioners, who cost a great deal of money?—
(A) I am afraid that the landlord and the tenant would not agree about the summing.
(Q.) But I said there was to be an oversman above both.—
(A.) I think that with an oversman the proprietor and the tenants could arrive at a proper summing themselves without the intervention of lawyers and officials, which woidd be expensive ?
—I was thinking that the oversman would be from the Government, for I am sure that any other oversman would be more favourable to the landlord than to the people ; for it is written that a gift will purchase the wise man, and much more will it purchase the simple.'
6810. Do you mean that, in your opinion, the oversman should be appointed by Government ? Do you mean that in each particular case a different oversman should be appointed, or do you think that there should be one general oversman who should be oversman for all cases ?
—Yes, I would be agreeable to it so far as our own property is concerned, and no doubt it would suit perfectly well, if those upon other properties would consider it as we do here.
6811. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have no objection to it so far as this property is concerned, and you see no objection to it elsewhere?
— That is so.
6812. The Chairman.
—Do you wish to say anything else?
—I am from. Lower Meiloveg, and the people of Upper Meiloveg have another matter to put before the Commission. They have not yet come, but they will soon be here. I have nothing further to say in explanation.
6813. In your memorandum your people express their desire to be allowed to purchase the ground. Do you mean that that purchase should take place with the consent of the proprietor, or that the proprietor should be compelled against his will to give the ground for sale ?
—If he would be agreeable to part with the property, I would see it proper to ask his consent; but if be should not be witling to sell the estate, we would wish he should be compelled by Government to do it. I know that Sir Kenneth Mackenzie was putting a great many questions upon me the last time as to the purchase of the land, but I know that many of our landlords never purchased the properties which they have—that it was our forefathers who purchased the properties with their own blood, and that, therefore, we have as much right as anybody else to have it by purchase.
6814. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—My questions related to the property of Glendale, which was a purchased property ?
—And who sold it to the proprietor of Glendale? It was one who never bought it. In regard to the oversman, what I mean is that I believe a general oversman from the Government would be suitable for all properties, and please all sides.