Skeabost, Skye, 9 May 1883 - Angus Macfie

ANGUS MACFIE, Crofter and Fisherman, Aird, Bernisdale —examined.

970. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people in this place ?

971. How long have you been settled here?
—For fifty years.

972. Has your employment been chiefly that of a crofter, or a fisherman, or a trader?
—Fishing the most part of the year, and in the spring time doing the work of the croft

973. Do you practise any trade or work any contracts

974. Have you heard what has been said by the previous delegates and have you understood it ?
—I heard most part of it.

975. Do you agree generally with what has been stated ?
—For the most part it was applicable to the circumstances of the people.

976. Do you desire to add anything on your own part?
—Only in regard to the circumstances of the people among whom I am. The smallness of their holdings is the cause of their poverty, and the want of pasturage. My place was originally occupied by sixteen crofters, and a few year3 afterwards these were increased by eighteen more, who were located on the grazing which belonged to the township. Of the sixteen original holders, only three were paying above £2 of rent; on the thirty-four who subsequently occupied it the rent was increased to an average of £3 each. This was done by the landlord who succeeded him in whose time it was occupied by sixteen crofters; he was Mr Macdonald of Tannara. The trustees succeeded him, from whom the tenants got some reduction of rent. Mr M'Leod of Grishornish succeeded the trustees, and in his time 5s. of rise was made in the rent in lieu of five days' duty work. This continued to the present year, and they were relieved of this sum by the present proprietor, and a further decrease was made in our rent also on our part of the property. The people are so poor from want of room for themselves and for their stock, and they have to go in thesummer time with their stock—with their cows—they have to lead those cows with a rope between the corn rigs to keep them in life for want of outside pasturage. Instead of pasturage they have only the peat mosses. Of the corn crop which they grow they have to devote a third part to the feeding of their cows. They have a cow on each lot and a stirk, and they must part with the stirk whenever it can walk to the market. Besides, whatever crop they have to use in feeding their stock, they have to buy fodder. There is no reason for me to occupy more time saying what has been said already. What the people desire is that they should get more land and hill pasturage, that they might be able to keep a stock that would support them.

977. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In your young days were the people better off than they are now ?

978. Are things getting worse and worse with them ?
—They are getting deeper into debt yearly.

979. Were there no poor people in your younger days ?
—They were not so poor as they are to-day.

980. Were there no cottars ?

981. Were these people better off than the same class now?
—They were then kept up by the tenants, and they are not so now.

982. Are many of them on the poors' roll now ?
—Yes; many of them are on the poors' roll.

983. In regard to the wages in your younger days, what is the difference between men and women, outdoor workers, then and now?
—The women used to get 1s. and the men 2s. a day.

984. How long?
—Not more than twenty years ago.

985. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are most of the people at Aird engaged in fishing?

986. They have all boats?
—They have not all got boats.

987. What fishing do they prosecute ?
—Herring fishing and long lines—cod and ling.

988. Where do they go to fish ?
—Chiefly in the Minch.

989. Do they generally make good fishing?
—Some years they do well, and other years they do not.

990. What sort of fishing had they this winter?
—There was no fishing at all this year.

991. Was that on account of the weather ?
—Not altogether on account of the weather.

992. What else ?
—Because there was no fishing to be got.

993. Who takes it from you ?
—The dealers—the one who gives most price.

994. It is not all salted and brought here?
—Some of us would be salting the ling and cod fish, and others not.

995. What price do you get for cod and ling?
—Sometimes 9d. and sometimes 1s.

996. For the ling?

997. How much for the cod?
—6d. and 8d. and 9d. for cod.

998. Has the price risen within the last twenty or thirty years?

999. What used it to be then?
—4d. for cod, and 6d. and 8d. for ling.

1000. I suppose a good many of your boats were destroyed by the storm the year before last?
—Yes.Those of the old ones

1001. Did you all get new ones?
—No, not all. which were mendable were repaired.

1002. Have you any good harbours at Loch Snizort?
—We have a quiet beach generally.

1003. Is there any particular need for a pier or quay?
—If there was a fishing trade, a quay would be necessary.

1004. I suppose there is no such a thing as a pier or a quay all round Loch Snizort ?
—No, not worth calling a pier.

1005. Do people from here go south to the mainland to get work?
— They would be going south to work and to the east coast fishing.

1006. How long do they stay south when they go to work?
—The young lads stay as long as they like. Those who have families require to come back to look after them.

1007. Do they go more than they used?
—Yes, of course; there were very few if any who left the country for work formerly.

1008. Do they bring back more money than they used to do?
—No, it is not easy for them to lay money by, and for everything is so expensive— living is so expensive.

1009. In the south?
—Wherever they may be.

1010. So that though the people go in greater numbers they do not bring back more money than they used to do ?
—That is the case.

1011. Have the wages in the south increased?
—I am not very sure. I never worked in the south.

1012. Do you know if they have increased in the same proportion as they have in this district ?
—Very likely.

1013. But still the people do not bring back so much money as they did before ?
—I am quite sure of that.

1014. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do many of the young women go away to the Lothians?
—Yes, many.

1015. Does it do them any good?
—Some of them it does no good to. It is sheer necessity that compels them to go.

1016. Do some of them remain there?
—Very few.

1017. Mr Cameron.
—Do they make more money in the east coast fishing than they used to do ?
—No. Some fish on shares, and if the fishing is good, they do better.

1018. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was it good last year?
—I was not at the last year's fishing, but I do not think it was good.

1019. Or the year before last?
—It was not good the year before last.

1020. Was there much destitution here last winter?

1021. Do you know of any people who were actually in want of food in any part of Bernisdale ?

1022. Have supplies of corn and potatoes been sent here?

1023. Are the people satisfied with the way in which these were divided?
—Some are, and some are not.

1024. Who had charge of it on this estate ?
—Mr Lamont had the oversight of the division of it here.

1025. Were you employed in fishing when you were a young man?
— Yes.

1026. Do you remember what kind of boats, nets, and apparatus were in use in those times ?
—The boats were not so good then. They were smaller.

1027. The boats used now are better than they were then ?

1028. And the nets ?
—The nets are better too.

1029. And lines?

1030. Would it be useful to the fishermen to have boats and nets of a still superior description ?
—Doubtless, if the fishing would turn out good.

1031. If they had big boat3 would they go further to sea, and catch a superior description of fish, or more of them ?
—We cannot tell if we would get better fishing, but we would try it; at any rate, we would go further, but we cannot say if we would get better fishing.

1032. Do you remember of boats of a superior description having been at one time given to the people?
—A few biggish boats from the south country were given about the time of the great potato failure.

1033. Did the people make use of them ?
—The fishing was very slack at the time the boats arrived, and the venture did not turn out well.

1034. Is there absolute freedom among the fishermen to use any sort of tackle which they please, or have the fishermen among themselves any restrictions ?
—There is no restriction upon our mode of fishing.

1035. The Chairman.
—I have read that in former times, fishermen did not allow one another to use a line beyond a certain length They had a fixed length of line which they were not allowed to exceed. Is there any restriction of that kind now?
—There is no such restriction now. We have an understanding among ourselves that our herring nets will be of the same length.

1036. Do you ever practise trawling?
—No, there is no trawling here.

1037. Sir K. MacKenzie.
—Do they limit the number of nets put together, or do you mean that each net you buy is of a certain length ?
— When we buy nets we can buy them any length we desire, but when we are three in a boat we would each require to have the same length of net; but there is no restriction as to the amount of nets which each boat is to use.

1038. The Chairman.
—Have you any other statement you wish to make before you retire ?
—Only that the people will not be pleased unless they get more and better land and hill pasturage to enable them to get out of their poverty, and a reasonable rent for the land.

1039. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you anything to suggest that would improve the fishery here ?
—Better tackle, better fishing material and boats, would no doubt improve the fishing.

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