Isle Ornsay, Skye, 17 May 1883 - Donald Robertson

DONALD ROBERTSON, Crofter and Fisherman, Saasaig (65)—examined.

5175. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate from Saasaig ?

5176. Were the greater part of the inhabitants present ?
—I believe they were all present except one.

5177. The statement that is made for your township is this:
—The same complaint of overcrowding and rents raised. It was stated that there are ten lots in all. At present the only two tenants hold entire lots, while all the others are subdivided—one of which among four families. The rent in this case also is for the last twelve years considerably higher than it used to be. With regard to pasture, it was stated that about eight years the township held Glen Saasaig, of which they were then deprived, as the majority said against their will, the majority of eight as against two who held entire lots, these being a ground officer and a former ground officer's son. Alexander Macdonald, presently a cottar on one of the lots, complains that fifteen years ago he was deprived of his lands in a neighbouring township, and has ever since been anxious and willing to take a lot. It was proposed and agreed to that No. 9 —and Lachlan M'Innes be appointed delegates from Saasaig.'
Have you anything to add to this statement ?
—Not much about that. But I could speak about the place in which I was born and brought up, because I have been only fourteen years in my present holding.

5178. What was the place where you were brought up ?
—Kilmore. As you have heard already, there were two lots cleared there. Four widows were cleared off these, and a widower. They were cleared without any reason whatever, but just to make room for another man who was a ground officer.

5179. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was his name?
—Ronald Macdonald. We were then placed in Saasaig. A brother and his family, and I with my widowed mother, were placed there, and the place which we got in Saasaig was not much more than half the size of the place which we left. I did not get the house which I should have got with tho land, as the factor and the landlord were against me. I was put into a small bothy that had been built for a stable and byre, and I sometimes could take the snow off the bedclothes with my hand while in bed. I dared not open my mouth about that. The woman who was left in the house which I should have got is still there, and I get no thanks for her occupancy of it. That is all I have to say about it.

5180. Do you think you were much better off, and had a much better house in Kilmore than the one to which you were brought in Saasaig ?
— The house I got in Saasaig was not fit to be entered by man at all. I built a house in Kilmore for myself. I quarried the stones, and I am sure I carted them for a distance of a quarter of a mile. That house was valued by the ground officer without asking me, and I only got £2 for the wood-work and all that the house was worth.

5181. The Chairman.
—Did you get any help in building the new house at Saasaig ?
—No, none whatever, unless from the neighbours, from whom I might have got an occasional help.

5182. Have you now buUt a new comfortable house in Saasaig?
—Yes, recently; but I lived eight years in that bothy.

5183. How much in money, besides your labour, has it cost you to build your new comfortable house ?
—It did not cost me much in money, but it cost me my time and my labour.

5184. Please say how much in money?
—I spent no money on it. A brother and myself built the house, and the factor, Tormore, supplied me with timber for it gratis; and besides that he carried it free to my place, for he saw what sort of a place it was in which I was living.

5185. Did you buy any glass for the windows ?
—The windows cost me about 9s. or 10s.

5186. And the door?
—The doors would cost me about 14s. or 15s.

5187. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were put out of Kilmore for the ground officer ? Is he there still?
—Yes, but he is not the ground officer to-day.

5188. Is he a small tenant?
—He has two lots. He has the same two lots that he got

5189. The Chairman,
—Did you say that the factor came to see you in the bothy, and saw it was bad ?

5190. And then gave directions to help you in budding the new house

5191. Who was the factor?
—Tormore. It was in Corrie's time I was put away from Kilrnore, but it was Tormore who helped me.

5192. Mr Cameron.
—Are you in a position to say anything as to the general condition of the crofters in your neighbourhood ?
—I cannot say anything beyond what is written.

5193. Have the crofts in your township been much subdivided by heads of families allowing younger members of the famdy to take up shares of the croft ?
—Not since I came to Saasaig.

5194. How long have you been in Saasaig?
—Fourteen years.

5195. Has there been any subdivision of that kind before, so far as you know ?
—Yes, it is mentioned in the paper that there are four families on one lot and two families on other lots, what I have seen myself. I have seen the most of these crofts occupied by one family.

5196. Were they brought in from a distance mostly, or was that the result of subdivision ?
—I don't remember of any families brought in from other townships.

5197. Are the people in your township at all afraid of being removed from their crofts, or are they satisfied with their position, and think they are not likely to be removed ?
—We are not at all certain we will not be removed.

5198. Are you afraid that you will ?
—I am not the least afraid myself. Should I be removed to-morrow, I would be put in a very bad place indeed, for I think I am in as bad a place now as possible. I have a little more to say. I am, since I was fifteen years of age, accustomed to go to sea fishing, and the place in which we are is very inconvenient for this purpose. It would be very easy at small expense to make a good place for it, for there is a bay on our shore. We cannot approach our shores in stormy weather, unless there are men enough to draw the boat up. And now, as to the trawling, it is doing us great harm, especially in the past year, for I have seen last year in Loch Hourn thousands of crans of herrings go to the bottom useless for any purpose owing to the trawling. The loch is narrow and shallow, and when the trawl is out it will almost sweep the loch of herring from side to side. By these trawling operations the herring were so disturbed that they could not be got with our nets. I know that there would have been ample fishing last year for everybody to satisfy them till they could stop it of their own accord, were it not for the trawling, as I have seen it in previous years.

5199. The Chairman
—Does the trawling destroy the young fish which are not fit for consumption ?
—Yes, I saw them last winter in Loch Hourn picking the biggest herrings out of the take, and throwing the small ones overboard by thousands of crans. There are plenty here who can bear evidence, and support me in saying that.

5200. Do you think trawling will frighten the fish permanently from returning to a particular spot ?
—There is nothing surer. It will scare away the herring from narrow and shallow lochs. The school-rates and poor-rates are coming very heavily upon us ; and there are no wages to be earned here, as everybody knows.

5201. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where is Kilmore ?
—It is Saasaig I mean for the pier.

5202. Where is Saasaig ?
—Just at the farm of Knock. It is a good bay.

5203. Could a pier be made by unskilled labour, or would it require skilled labour to make it ?
—The people of the place itself would help to erect it

5204. What amount of help do you think would be sufficient to make that pier ?
—I think with the assistance of £100 or £120, the people of the place could make a very suitable pier themselves.

5205. The Chairman.
—Would the stones have to be united with mortar and bound together with iron, or could they be placed loosely together?
—No, I do not think they would require that.

5206. If they had to be united with mortar and bound together with iron, would there be people found about here who could do that, or must they be brought from outside ?
—There are people in our town here who could do every turn of it.

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