Skeabost, Skye, 9 May 1883 - Alexander Lamont

ALEXANDER LAMONT, Crofter, Keistle (59)—examined.

1196. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman?
—I am not a fisherman.

1197. How long have you been on your croft?
—For thirty-three years.

1198. Were you freely elected by the people here to be their delegate?
—Yes. I was born at Henisdale. When I was young I have seen seventeen crofters there in that Glen, and three of them had dauble shares. There was no school in the Glen at all. They were able to send their families to other places to give them education. "Well, any of the rest here in the Glen could not do that, because they had single crofts and half crofts. But I think those who had a double proportion were able to send their families to give them education. I was removed from the place to another glen,—to Keistle yphere. I have seen that those who have double crofts are better off than those who have single crofts and half crofts. They are more able to pay their rents than those who have single or halfcrofts; and I think that would give peace to themselves and their proprietors, when they would have double shares. And I think, moreover, if people would have double shares, they would be more able to pay their rents than with single shares. It would be a bad year when their crufts would not be worth anything ; they would' have their stock to pay the proprietors ; and, as some of the other men were saying, if they had more land at a reasonable rent, the poor people would be far better off. When they could not raise crop they would have stock. When I came into the croft, the first rent I paid was £7, 17s. 6d. Corrie was alive at the time, and he was the factor then ; and I continued in that state for twenty years, paying to Corrie ; and my neighbours and myself were in use to go with their rent to Corrie. Well, Corrie died, and the proprietor who was factor to old Lord Macdonald (Tormore) came in, and the rent was raised, and the second year after Tormore came in my lot was £9. That was £1, 2s. 6d. of rise. There were fourteen tenants, who had fourteen shares; and there was another man, Peter Macdonald in Portree who had two shares. There were sixteen tenants in the place then, and when thatman died the low land he had was joined into Skerriuish farm, and we had the hill that he had, and he laid 15s. apiece on the fourteen, shares, and my lot was £9, 15s., and the rest was greater. It is a kind of a narrow strip we have of the hill, and we are surrounded with tacksmen on each side, and they are giving us very bad justice. The man who was at the march—William M'Leod in Scorrybreck—was very hard upon us, and we are obliged to pay more than £2 0 for poinding our sheep in one year, on the fourteen tenants.

1199. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Had you a shepherd?
—Yes, we had a herd for the sheep, and we had another herd for the horses, and another herd for the stirks ; when this low land was joined into Skerriuish he raised 15s. on the fourteen shares for his hill, and that piece was put in the Skerrinish farm.

1200. Why was that piece of low land put into Skerriuish?
—I cannot tell you. It was not fair at all to take it from us.

1201. Was it offered to you?
—No; I was not at home at the time.

1202. Was it offered to the township? Was it offered to any of the tenants that are here? [Cries of "No."].
—We stood out upon the factor —Mr Macdonald of Portree—that we would not pay the old rent because the land was taken from us; but it was Tormore who took it from us, and any alteration this factor made upon us was on our side. He took £ 5 of the rent down of this last rent we paid. We cannot blame him for that. He took £ 5 off the whole fourteen shares. Any alteration he made was on our side.

1203. Mr Cameron.
—You said that if you had double crofts, the people would be better able to pay their rent ?
—That is my opinion.

1204. How do you propose to get double crofts without taking somebody else's from him ?
—You cannot double them unless you would go into other places.

1205. You mean that by removing half the people you would be able to double the crofts of those left behind?
—No; to give more land at other places.

1206. How many crofts are there at your place?

1207. How would you propose to give twenty-eight crofts to those fourteen ? Suppose you had the power to do it, where would you get the land ?
—You could not get it in that place.

1208. Then you would have to move the people, and give them new crofts? It would not be doubling the old crofts?
—No, you could not double the old crofts.

1209. Then, how would you set about it ?
—Well, it is my opinion they could get land beside them—farms occupied by other people. There are plenty of tacks about them.

1210. Quite touching their crofts ?

1211. You mean you could take a slice out of a farm, and add it to each croft all the way along ?
—Yes, if the people would get it in other places. If the tenants would have double shares they would be better off. That is what I mean.

1212. Professor Mackinnon.
—Have you a double share yourself?
—No, a single share.

1213.Mr Cameron .
—Where is the land you think might be added to the crofts? What farms adjoin Keistle ?
—Scorrybreck and Skerrinish.

1214. Which is the nearest?
—Glenhaultin and Skerrinish.

1215. Would that make more arable land or only pasture ?
—Arable land.

1216. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What was the reason given for raising the rent from £7, 17s. 6d. to £9?
—I cannot say it.

1217. Had you a lease before that ?
—No, I have never had a lease.

1218. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did you just get notice from the factor that the rent was to be raised ?
—Yes, we got a writ from him that he was going to raise the rent.

1219. Did some of you go down to the factor and protest against it ?
— We had to pay the rent.

1220. Did you say anything against it

1221. Did you speak to Tormore and say it was hard ?

1222. Why did you not object to the rent being raised ? Didn't you say a word about it ?
—We didn't say a word against it.

1223. Professor Mackinnon.
—What is your present actual rent? What did you pay last Martinmas ?
—£9, but I did not pay it altogether.

1224. What is your stock ?
—Three cows and three stirks and a horse.

1225. How many sheep ?
—About 40 head of sheep.

1226. And you think that just about as much again would make a comfortable croft ?
—Yes, that is what I think.

1227. And just about as much again of rent?
—No, a reasonable rent.

1228. What would you call a reasonable rent for a croft twice the size of your own ?
—The thing that I have seen was that those who had two crofts when I was young were paying £12 for the two crofts.

1229. And you would think that a fair rent?
—Yes, I would think that a fair rent.

1230. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are the Glen Henisdale crofts the same size as those you have now ?
—Very near the same size.

1231. Professor Mackinnon.
—You say you paid £20 on account of sheep straying upon Mr M'Leod's farm ? Do his come upon you ?
—Not very much.

1232. Why don't you poind them ?
—Because he would have advantage over us : they would be running to him.

1233. They would run to the better pasture?

1234. Have his never strayed to you?
—A few, but never many of them.

1235. Why didn't you catch them?
—Because we were afraid for the bigger men.

1236. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you quite sure you paid £20 and that it was not given back to you ?

1237. Was that £20 in the course of one year ?
—In one year for poinding the sheep.

1238. Did any other of the big farmers exact poinding money from you ?
—No, the man who is there to-day never took a penny from us, nor Skerrinish, nor Kingsburgh.

1239. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was it the shepherds who took the money off you ?

1240. Professor Mackinnon.
—When this double lot was given away, what was the rent of the double lot which the merchant in Portree had ? was it twice yours ?
—Yes, he had more arable land than we had.

1241. Was it his arable ground that was joined to the neighbouring farm?
—It was a kind of pasture he had on the low ground; there was none of the arable land at all.

1242. And each of the fourteen of you paid 15s. for what was left?
— Yes, for the whole he had left.

1243. Did you think that too much?
—It was too much for us. We spoke to the factor, and he took half of it off. The factor thought it too much

1244. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Would that land that is now part of Skerrinish be of any use ?
—Yes, it would be very useful to us.

1245. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I suppose it was given to Skerrinish to make a better march ?
—It was given unknown to us and nothing said about it.

1246. Would it make a better march with Skerrinish ?
—No, there is water between that and Skerrinish.

1247. Sheriff Nicolson.
—It is on the other side of the Snizort river ?
— Yes.

1248. And the river is the natural boundary between you and Skerrinish ?

1249. The Chairman.
—Who was it that took the £20 ?
—It was the shepherd in Scorrybreck farm.

1250. When they exacted that money from you, did they do it at once for a first offence, or had there been many complaints before of your sheep going upon the farm?
—Yes, there would be a little complaint between us and the shepherd, no doubt.

1251. Have you anything more you would like to say?

1252. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you a summing on your hill,— a certain number?
—Yes, we have a certain number.

1253. Have you more than you ought to have?
—No, back and forward between fourteen shares.

1254. Was the trespassing upon Scorrybreck because there was overstocking on your own hill ?

1255. Professor Mackinnon.
—If your holdings were made larger, as you wish, would these fourteen people be able to provide the additional stock ?
—I think they would.

1256. You think they would be able to put stock on if they got the land ?
—Yes, at the place where I was brought up, those who had a double share Mere better off than those who had a single share.

1257. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—The more land a man had the better he was off?
—Yes, more land at a reasonable rent to help the poor people.

1258. Professor Mackinnon.
—Where did you spend the most of your life ?
—On Lord Macdonald's estate ; I was never out of the island.

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