Isle Ornsay, Skye, 17 May 1883 - Alexander Robertson

ALEXANDER ROBERTSON, Crofter, Fisherman, and Sailor, Caligary (about 60)—examined.

5049. The Chairman.
—Is there a written statement here respecting Caligary ?
There are eighteen lots in this township, on which five entire lots are held by as many tenants, the remaining thirteen being subdivided into as many as six divisions. They hold a fair extent of hill pasture, but it was explained that owing to an estate regulation they are prohibited from having any sheep on it. The ground of this regulation was, that the tenant's sheep were in the habit of trespassing on the Armadale plantations when newly planted. The trees having long since grown up, and moreover a fence having been erected, the cause of the prohibition seems to have been removed. It was proposed and agreed to that Angus M'Innes and Alexander Robertson be appointed delegates from Caligary, and Dugald M'lntyre from Ardvaser.

5050. Were you freely elected to be a delegate?

5051. How many crofters were present at the meeting at which you were elected?
—They were not all there. There were eight or nine of them.

5052. How many altogether may have been there ?
—They were working at Armadale, and they could not attend the meeting till after six o'clock, and the meeting had to be held at five.

5053. But how many could there have been to attend it if they had been all to come ?
—There are eighteen lots in the township, and these are subdivided, and four of these lots are whole, and there is one of the lots upon which there are six families. They might have been there altogether, the people of the place. They did not understand what was the meaning of it.

5054. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—-How many heads of families are there in the place ?
—The crofts are all divided except five. They are in two halves except five, and one of these lots is occupied by six families.

5055. Professor MacKinnon.
—That makes thirty-five families ?
—Yes. There are two cottar families in the township who have no land at all, and cannot even keep a hen.

5056. Still I want to understand how many would have been present, if they had all been present. Aie there about thirty or forty families ?
— Yes, the whole inhabitants of the township might have been there if they had understood it.

5057. About how many might have been there?
—Every one of the families would have been at the meeting if they chose.

5058. Then there are about thirty five families or heads of families, you were elected by about eight or nine. Was this statement all read to them ?

5059. The Chairman.
—Will you have the goodness to make your statement on behalf of those who elected you ?
—I have not much to say about them. They are crowded upon each other. I myself only occupied the fourth part of a lot which my grandfather had, and my grandfather had twice as much as his neighbours had. Lord Alexander gave him two lots when the others had only one. When his Lordship was raising a regiment there were only seven families in the township at first, before the year 1803, and in that year the township was divided into eighteen lots, and everyone who would send a son to his Lordship's regiment would get a lot. Out of the seven families here in the township his Lordship got three recruits. There are some poor widows who have enough to do to keep what they have.

5060. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many people from outsiders were put in upon you ?
—Those who refused to supply his Lordship with soldiers got no land. They did not get land until after his Lordship's death. Three of these were Macphersons, and a factor named Macpherson came to the estate, and he gave these Macphersons land.

5061. That was three families. Any more outsiders ?
—The township of Linigary was cleared, and Ostaig was given to the mother of Major Macdonald, and the inhabitants of that township were scattered about Strath and Sleat.

5062. Did any of them come to this place?
—One of these families was put in upon us. The occupants of the eighteen lots were made up by strangers from other places. There were some of them enlisted in his Lordship's regiment, and got the land, and when the regiment was disbanded those who were for joining the regulars enlisted into other regiments, and some of them never returned, but were killed at Waterloo. No strangers were put in upon us since I remember.

5063. Are you aware there was a written notice posted up upon the door of the inn at Ardvaser about dealing in goods at shops ?
—I cannot say I saw such a notice.

5064. Did you hear of such a notice ?
—I heard something about it, but whether it was true or not I do not know.

5065. What did you hear ?
—I heard a rumour about it Should I be sworn upon my honour I could not tell you about it.

5066. What was the rumour you heard ?
—It was one of the merchants who said something to me about it, but I do not remember rightly what he did say.

5067. You must remember you are to tell the truth, and the whole truth, here, and not to be alarmed?
—I am not the least afraid, but I am not going to say anything that is not right. If tha notice was there, I never read it.

5068. Will you tell us what the rumour was, to the best of your recollection ?
—The man who told me about it is not alive.

5069. That is no reason for not telling it ?
—The man who told me said to me, ' We must now pay £2 of rent.' That is all I heard about it.

5070. I put the question to you directly, was it to this effect, that an additional rent in the form of penalty, amounting to £2, would be put upon any man in the Sleat district who would deal in goods and provisions except at the shop at Isle Ornsay, in which it was commonly believed the factor had a share or an interest ?
—That is not right. Every person had liberty to go to any shop that he pleased. Who can say that the factor had anything at all to do with the shop ? On the shop sign I only see Neil Kennedy & Co., and what would I know, or what does anybody Alexander else know, as to who is in company with Mr Kennedy?

5071. Mr Cameron.
—You don't know who the ' Co.' is ?
—I don't know anything about it, and who can say who the company is?

5072. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was a notice put up at the inn at Ardvaser seen by all the people in the district—some written notice which was afterwards torn down ?
—I heard that such a notice was there, but I never saw it.

5073. I am only asking what you heard ?
—I only heard a rumour in that way, but I know that no one was prevented from going to any shop he liked.

5074. Do you know that this matter got into the newspapers at the time, and was the occasion of comment in a newspaper at Inverness ?
— I heard some such rumour. I never saw it in the newspaper. I sometimes get a newspaper, and I never saw it, but it might be in the paper.

5075. The Chairman.
—Have you heard that Lord Macdonald's factor has made a public declaration that no one shall be molested on account of anything that he says in connection with this inquiry ?
—I heard that, and I am not afraid that he will do anything to me.

5076. Are you, therefore, now speaking without fear at all ?
—I am not the least afraid of any living man, but I am not going to speak anything that is not right and just.

5077. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it not a fact that the factor, or somebody upon his behalf, was in the habit of going round at certain times of the year, or of sending notices to the people of this district of Sleat, to bring in their cattle for his inspection, and that he or some people authorised by him were in the habit of picking out, at their own prices, certain beasts ?
—The factor was sometimes buying beasts from us ; but if he was, none of us were under the necessity of selling to him unless we liked.

5078. Would you prefer he should not come round in this manner?
— I do not know. The factor has sometimes paid us more for our beasts than we could get at the market. He would go to the Broadford market himself, and give a start to the market.

5079. That is perfectly right, but would you rather or would you not have preferred to sell your beasts at your own time, at your own price, and in your own way ?
—Dear me, we might do that if we liked. We were not bound to give our cattle to the factor. He never laid that upon us to do. I am not aware he did it at any time.

5080. Why did the factor do it at all?
—The factor was a drover already, and a good drover.

5081. Did he do it from philanthropic motives, for the purpose of benefiting the people, or was it for the purpose of making gain ?
—I have no doubt it was from both motives—to do good to himself and to do good to the country as well.

5082. We have heard, in some other places, that this factor—Tormore— was very hard upon the people. A witness said yesterday that he gave them the last blow in the matter of rent. Did you consider him a hard factor ?
—I cannot say we considered him a hard factor.

5083. Do you answer in that matter for yourself, or are you stating it for the township ?
—I can say for the township. I have known me go to the factor for the loan of money, wherewith to pay the rent, and he gave it to me. How can I say he was a hard factor? Every one in our township will say the same thing. He was born beside us, and we have known him since he was a boy.

5084. Was there any difference about the appointment of delegates at the time of your appointment ?
—I am not aware that there was any dispute about that. There was one man who was not for me being appointed.

5085. Who was that person ?
—Angus M'Innes, and he nominated himself as a delegate, and he was elected also, and he then withdrew.

5086. Who is Angus M'Innes ?
—He is a tenant in Caligary, and a servant to Mr Macdonald, Tormore.

5087. Why did he object to you ?
—The man was not understanding. He had not sufficient understanding. He was not understanding what he had to do.

5088. Were you or were you not objected to by M'Innes in respect of what it was likely you would tell here to-day?
—I said already that M'Innes was not understanding the business, and did not know what he was saying.

5089. Was M'Innes afraid of what you might say ?
—He might not be afraid of that.

5090. Was he ?
—I do not know what fear was on him. I cannot say it was such fear that prompted him. He might not be afraid of anything I had to say here to-day. I was only going to say the truth. I would not tell a lie for any man I ever saw.

5091. Are you supposing I am asking you to tell a lie in any of my questions ?
—I do not think so.

5092. One question more about the shop. Is it or is it not a fact that it is thought in the district that the factor, when he was factor, had an interest in or was one of the proprietors of the shop ?
—I know that that was rumoured. How could I know ? I heard that rumour.

5093. Are you in debt at the shop yourself at this moment ?
—I believe I am a little in debt.

5094 Do you deal with any other people in Glasgow or Greenock?
— No.

5095. Do you deal entirely with the shop at Isle Ornsay ?

5096. Are most of the people going to the same place ?
—I believe so. I don't know how they could live but for the shop.

5097. Have you any idea that the prices charged at that shop are higher than they would have been to buy elsewhere in Greenock or Broadford or Portree ?
—I do not know about prices at Portree, but I am sometimes in Glasgow and Greenock and Liverpool, and sometimes I buy supplies which I send home; and I know that the merchant has to pay freight on his goods, and that he cannot sell his goods as cheap as I can buy them in Glasgow.

5098. You are quite satisfied with the shop ?
—Yes, I am; and I don't know how I would be alive if it was not there. I would not make a living out of the poor soil that I have.

5099. Mr Cameron.
—What about the grievance as to the plantation ?
—When Caligary was cut into lots, it was about these years that the first plantation was planted at Armadale, and it was protected only by turf, and sheep were not allowed into Caligary until the plantation grew up. It was then fenced, and the plantation grew. No doubt, we would be the better of keeping sheep, but I believe our factor will give us leave to do that. I think so.

5100. What age is the plantation?
—Part of it over eighty years. The plantation is being cut and replanted.

5101. As I understand, what the crofters wish is that the fence should be removed from the plantation, and they believe that a plantation of that age woidd not suffer injury from the sheep ?
—I do not mean that. The fence must not be moved. We don't want the fence to be touched.

5102. Is the proprietor putting any fresh young plants into his own plantation?

5103. Do you think the sheep will injure the young plants that are put in
—Yes, and we don't want the fence removed. There is a fence all round the plantation.

5104. Do the plantations at Armadale give much employment to the people ?
—They give employment to a few.

5105. If it were possible to plant more of the land which is suitable in your neighbourhood, would it be a benefit to the people ?
—There is no suitable land unless the landlord clears the townships of Caligary and Ardvaser, and plants them; and where the storm uproots the old trees, he supplies the places with young trees.

5106. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is it a grievance to the people of the place that they have no sheep ? Is it a loss to them ?

5107. And you think that now, because there is a good fence round the plantation, there is no reason whatever why the sheep should not be granted?
—There is no reason why we should not be allowed sheep, because the plantation is fenced, and even Mr Macdonald's (Tormore) sheep cannot get over.

5108. And I suppose they could climb quite as well as any sheep the tenants would keep ?

5109. Did you ask the present factor whether he would allow you to keep sheep or cattle ?
—No, we were seeing that our present factor had too much to do since he became our factor, and we were not for troubling him much; but we are going to speak to him about it.

5110. Where there is recent planting, is there a good fence round the young trees as well as the old t

5111. Did you ever ask the late factor?
—Yes, but he told us we could not be allowed, as sheep were not included in our summing. Some of us had sheep, and we were wanting that all of us should be allowed to keep them.

5112. I suppose you could scarcely hold that a satisfactory reason, when his own sheep take the fence ?
—No, we did not think that was a satisfactory reason. I was asked to say that we were heavily taxed for school rates. I pay £3, 6s. of rent, and I pay 3s. 4d. of school-rates, 3s. 6d. of poor-rates, and 4s. for the doctor.

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