Isle Ornsay, Skye, 17 May 1883 - Donald Martin

DONALD MARTIN, Crofter, Kylerhea (65), assisted by MALCOLM MACPHERSON (about 60)—examined.

5443. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman ?
—Sometimes I fish.

5444. Were you freely elected to be a delegate ?

5445. Have you a statement to make on the part of those who chose you?
—That we had at one time our land very much cheaper than we have to day. Our rents were raised twice upon us, and the reason why we had the land less at first was that we were engaged at the ferry at Kylerhea, and all the cattle leaving Uist and Lewis and Skye were ferried across this Kyle. Our land was then rented at only 25s., as we had to be in constant attendance at the ferry. At that time there were neither steamers nor
trains to relieve us of that work, but now there are both, and we have no work at all; and our land was after that raised twice. Our summing is two cows, but we have to keep one of these upon the stance of the droves, and we can only winter one of them with what grows on our own land.

5446. Have you any horse or sheep ?
—Neither. We have to be out 16s. in sea-ware to plant our potatoes.

5447. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Each of you ?
—Yes. There is no seaware on our own land at all. What we have of sea-ware on our land would not plant a bag of potatoes. This man and I are furthest out of our townships, and it is very little of either corn or potatoes or clover that grows on our land that is not consumed by the deer. I may say this is the case with three of us. Our township is not fenced, and we are not able to fence it. The proprietor will not do it.

5448. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How much has your rent been raised
— Corrie increased our rents 15s. and Tormore 15s. Our rents are thus double what they were then, and we have only a small bit of ground.

5449. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many families are there ?
—Thirteen families have land. There are eleven crofters in our township, and the innkeeper has another croft or two.

5450. You stated as a reason why the original rent was so low that you had to work the ferry. Did those who worked the boats draw the toll of the ferry ?
—We were getting 6d. for every head of cattle we ferried, and the half of that went to the innkeeper. There were five of us manning the boat, and the threepence was divided among us, except what was charged for grass and oats.

5451. What do you make in a day in the average ?
—Since the trains began to take away the stock we get little or nothing. There was one time when we would make £13 or £14 in the year, and now we will not make more than £5.

5452. Are you compelled, at this moment, as part of your condition, to serve at all times at the ferry ?
—We must always attend to the ferry. We must be in constant attendance at the ferry.

5453. Whether there are passengers or not ?
—We have to be in constant attendance for the ferrying of stock, but not for the ferrying of passengers.

5454. Then, I presume, that does not mean daily attendance ?
—There is only ferrying to be done at the market times.

5455. Are you compelled, all the year round, to be present, traffic or no traffic ?
—Yes. We have to be in attendance, whether there are markets or not. We are the crew of the boat.

5456. Then your grievance is this, that formerly, before the steamers were coming regularly, when there was a good deal of traffic of that kind, you drew a good deal of wages, and the rents were low; whereas now your rents are high, and the traffic has almost disappeared?

5457. Mr Cameron.
—Who pays you for attending to the ferry ?
—We are paid just according to the income of the ferry. We get half the dues.

5458. Supposing you refused to attend on those terms, what would happen ?
—He would put another person in my place, and he might expel me from my land.

5459. The innkeeper ?

5460. Do you hold from the innkeeper ?
—We are tenants of Lord Macdonald.

5461. Then how can the innkeeper expel you?
—He might bring in another man who would do his work.

5462. But how would he have power to expel you from the croft, if you hold from Lord Macdonald and not from the innkeeper ?
—He had only to say one word to the proprietor that I would not do my work, and another would be put in my place.

5463. Have you ever explained to the proprietor that you are expected to attend constantly at the ferry, and get £5 a year only ?

5464. Don't you think Lord Macdonald would listen to your complaint, and remove the grievance ?
—I cannot say anything about that.

5465. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Would you make more if you were not thirled,—if you were allowed to be a free man, and to work as you liked ?
—There is no one who is able to work for wages who would not earn more than £5.

5466. Mr Cameron.
—In regard to the grievance as to the deer, could a fence be erected so as to keep the deer from eating your crops ?
—Yes, very easy.

5467. How long would it be ?
—About half a mile.

5468. Would that do the whole ?

5469. Would that protect the other eleven crofters as well as yourself?
—I do not know but it would need more than that, but the half mile would be scanty. I t would fence our three lots.

5470. Do you think a mile would do the whole township ?
—Yes, and less than a mile

5471. Have you ever asked the factor about this]-
—I did; I asked Tormore.

5472. Would you be willing to pay a small rate of interest on the cost of the fence ?
—Yes, we would.

5473. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long is it since the deer began to attack you ?
—Twenty or twenty-one years.

5474. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are they getting worse ?
—Yes, they are coming in tens and twelves about our houses. They are just coming to our doors. They were not there twenty years ago. They consume our corn quite as much as if it were consumed by the muir bird.

5475. The Chairman.
—Did you ever get any compensation for it ?
— No, never.

5476. Did you ever pay anybody to herd the land or protect it ?

5477. What sort of a fence would suit you best,—a stone wall or a wire fence ?
—A wire fence.

5478. Do you consider that a wire fence is a better fence for the protection of arable ground than a stone fence ?
—With reference to the deer, a wire fence 7 feet high would be a better protection against the deer than a stone dyke.

5479. If a stone dyke were made, 5 feet high, would that be a protection against deer ?
—Doubtless it would.

5480. Do you consider generally that a stone fence or a wire fence is better for the protection of arable ground ?
—I myself would say that a wire fence was a better protection.

5481. You both concur in that ?

5482. If the proprietor should put a wire fence to protect your arable ground, would you assist by bringing the materials to the grout, and by assisting so far as you could in placing the fence ?
—Yes, we would be very glad to do that.

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