Isle Ornsay, Skye, 17 May 1883 - Alexander Mcgillivray

ALEXANDER M'GILLIVRAY, Crofter at Aird, Sleat (about 60)—examined.

4991. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman as well as a crofter?
—I was a fisherman once, but not now.

4992. The paper containing your statement has been accidentally left behind, but in the meantime, till the paper comes, you may make a verbal statement ?
—We had not much in the paper which we made up, but one thing that we were complaining of was the way in which we are cramped in our township. We are overforty in a township, which was originally occupied by nineteen families; and we are quite as ill off as regards the sea as we are with respect to the land, and more so.

4993. Whereabout is Aird ?
—It is the extreme south end of Sleat. Any person of understanding can understand our condition. There are twelve years or more since we sent any seed to the m:R in our parish. It is twelve years since the mill in our parish was working at all. We are in a bad place for boats, without a port or a quay, and in danger of our lives every day we are going out to sea.

4994. Mr Cameron.
—How did the change come about from nineteen persons in the township to forty?
—I was giving half of my lot to my son, and others were doing the same.

4995. It was owing to the subdivision of the township?
—Yes.

4996. Are there any regulations on the estate regarding subdivisions
—No, not that I am aware of.

4997. Has the proprietoror factor ever remonstrated against these crofts being cut up into small lots?
—No.

4998. Were any persons brought from a distance and put on the township which you represent ?
—No, not that I know of.

4999. In fact the increase in the holdings is owing entirely to the subdivision
—Yes.

5000. Can you suggest any remedy for the state of things which you describe as to the fishing and the accommodation for boats ?
—That we should get a sort of a quay made, which would not be very expensive, to which we could bring our boats in bad seasons.

5001 Do many of the people in your township fish ?
—Yes, all of them.

5002. But I understand from you that many more would do so if they had the proper accommodation for boats ?
—Yes.

5003. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is your condition much worse than it Alexander was thirty years ago?
—Very much more so, as we are turning the same ground constantly for the past sixty years, and it does not now yield crop.

5004. Do you think, if your numbers were again reduced to nineteen by any means whatever, your condition would then revert to its former prosperity ?
—Yes, very much,

5005. Would it be as good as before ?
—No, owing to the exhausted condition of the soil.

5006. Is there no way of recovering the condition of the soil ?
—Yes, there is, if the place were larger. The summing is so much, and though we should summer the summing, we are not able to winter them without buying food for them in other places.

5007. And what remedy do you propose ?
—There is no doubt the place would come to be as good as it was before, if it were occupied by as few.

5008. Would any of them be prepared to emigrate if they received sufficient assistance ?
—I cannot answer that question, as I did not consult the people about it.

5009. In what other way would you propose the population should be reduced ?
—I don't know. I would leave that to wiser people than myself.

5010. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are down at the very point, I understand. What lands adjoin ? Is it a set of crofter tenants, or is it a big farm that is next to you ?
—There is a small township in our own midst which was taken from us, I cannot tell how long ago.

5011. What is the name of that?
—Drennoch.

5012. The Chairman.
—In your parish there is a township called Carradale?
—That is another place.

5013. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the size of that township of Drennoch ?
—Five tenants.

5014. Was your rent taken down when these people were put upon you ?
—Yes.

5015. How much?
—About £10, I think; but I am not sure.

5016. What was the name of the township taken from you?
—Carradale.

5017. By whom is Carradale occupied now ?
—-Macdonald of Tormore. It was taken not for him at all, but for tenants, and when the school board came in, the people were too far from the school, and it was too few to send a schoolmaster to them, and therefore they had to lift the people out of there and let them go; but we got the offer of the place again from Tormore, if we would take it.

5018. And you did not take it?
—No, some of them would not, and some would.

5019. But you might have got Carradale if you had liked?
—Yes.

5020. You did not object to the rent ?
—No. (see Appendix A. XXIV)

5021. You said that it would require wiser men than yourself to settle what shoidd be done with the surplus population. What is the nearest land to where you are that they could be settled upon anew ?
—I do not know.

5022. You have come to state your grievances, but the Commissioners expect you so far as in your power to state your remedy?
—I would wish to do that, as I have come, and I should be very glad if I could do it. There is another thing that is troubling us very much—trawling herring in our northern lochs. I believe it is keeping down the people of this island as much as anything else that they are suffering.


5023. The Chairman.
—Did you say that Carradale had formerly belonged to you ?
—Yes.

5024. And that it was offered back to you, but some of the people objected to take it ?
— Yes.

5025. What were the reasons given by those -who objected to take it back ?
—Some of them could not stock it. The place which they had was heavy enough upon them. Again, the school-rates are very heavy upon us.

5026. What is the summing of the croft ?
—It would keep six cows, if we could winter them.

5027. How many sheep ?
—Thirteen sheep.

5028. Any horses ?
—One horse.

5029. What is the rent at present without the public burdens ?
—I pay £7, 10s.

5030. For the full croft?
—Yes.

5031. What are the public burdens in all ?
—Last year they were 19s. 5d.

5032. Does that include the money for the doctor ?
—No, there was 2s. 6d. of doctor's money besides that.

5033. What do you think a fair rent, considering your description of stock? How much for a cow, how much for a horse, and how much for a sheep, including wintering and summering ?
—We are leaving that to more intelligent individuals than ourselves.

5034. In what respect does the trawling for herring injure you ?
—When they are taking the small fish along with the big fish The young fish are killed while they are useless, the young fish being what we put to the fishing next year. I refer to herring.

5035. How long have you been suffering from this evil of trawling ?
— There was not much done on our coast until within the past two years, especially last year, it spoiled them altogether.

5036. Where do the trawlers chiefly come from ?
—From the south, some from the north, and some from the east coast.

5037. Have you anything to complain of in reference to your dealings with the local merchants ?
—No, the merchants are very good to us. If they were not, we should be very ill off.

5038. Is it within your knowledge that at any time the factor of the estate was concerned in a shop ?
—Not that I am aware of.

5039. Are the people very much in debt generally to the local shops ?
—Yes.

5040. Have they at any time been obliged to sell their cattle to the factor and not in the open market ?
—No.

5041. They have no complaint of that kind at all to make ?
—No.

5042. Have you anything further to state ?
—I have nothing else to say, but I was expected to speak for the little township that I referred to—Drennoch. I have not much to say about it. They were complaining of being confined, as others were. They have only got holdings worth £2, and that was heavy enough upon us. It is small enough for them.

5043. Have they any hill pasture ?
—No, they have not much.

5044. Sheriff Nicolson.
—They have some ?
—They have a little.

5045. The Chairman.
—Was any hill pasture taken away from them ?
— No, not since they got it.

5046. Where were these people brought from ?
—Throughout the district here and there.

5047. How do they support themselves ?
—They fish.

5048. You complain of the danger of fishing. Have many of your number been lost at sea?
—Yes, and in bringing sea-weed ashore. The following is the statement on behalf of Aird :
—There are nineteen lots in this township, all of them subdivided, some to the extent of being held by four persons. It was stated that the summing of stock was sometimes above and sometimes below the fixed estimate. It would appear that nearly all are both able and willing to take larger holdings and pay the rents. They complain that the mill stopped about twelve years ago, because there was little or no grain to grind, on account of the soil having run out through frequent cropping. With regard to hill pasture, it was stated that many years ago the township held the lands of Carradale and Point of Sleat, in addition to what they now hold, but that these two places were taken from them without consulting their wishes. Another complaint was, that about thirty-foul years ago, a loan of public money was granted to the township for draining, and that interest on this loan still continues to be charged. It was proposed and agreed that Alexander M'Gillivray and Ronald Robertson be appointed delegates from Aird.

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