Skeabost, Skye, 9 May 1883 - Donald Steele

DONALD STEELE, Crofter and Fisherman, Kildonan (46)—examined.

1316. The Chairman.
—You live in the same place as the last witness ?
— Yes.

1317. Have you been freely elected by the crofters as their delegate?
— Yes.

1318. Did you hear what the previous witness said?

1319. Did you understand it?

1320. Do you agree generally with the substance of what he stated?
— Yes.

1321. Will you explain what the hardship was about gathering mussels upon the shore, of which the previous witness spoke?
—I believe it is owing to the oyster beds being there that we are not allowed to gather mussels or bait.

1322. Does the shore belong to the same proprietor as the crofts, or to a different proprietor ?
—The shore belongs to another proprietor.

1323. Does the other proprietor allow his own crofters to gather mussels upon the shore, or does he forbid it to every one ?
—He had forbid it to every one.

1324. Is it necessary for the preservation of the oysters that people should be forbidden to gather anything upon the shore? Would they destroy the oyster beds ?
—No, they would not The oyster beds are not so high up on the shore as the mussels.

1325. Is the withdrawal of this freedom to take the mussels prejudicial to the crofters ? Does it hinder you in your fishing, or otherwise ?
—Yes, we are sure it does.

1326. In what respect?
—We cannot go to fish for want of bait for our lines.

1327. Do the crofters upon the proprietor's land suffer the same inconvenience that these crofters do ?
—The same.

1328. Have the crofters on the proprietor's land complained of it?
— They have not come in here to complain yet, but likely they will.

1329. Do you make the same complaint about the crofts and the want of hill pasture which M'Nab did?
—Yes, the same.

1330. Have you anything to add to those complaints on your own part?
—No. I have nothing particular to add to M'Nab's evidence at that point.

1331. Will you explain the complaint about cutting and measuring the peats which the former witness mentioned ?
—I cannot explain much about it. I was not in the company. The man said that they were cutting peats for six years, and got nothing for it,—neither food nor wages; but the imposition of that work ceased last year.

1332. How long had that work existed ? Was it part of the original conditions of the crofter's occupancy ?
—In the present proprietor's predecessor's time they had to give several days' work, and the present proprietor remitted the labour and exacted an equivalent iu money from them, and added it to the rent.

1333. What did the proprietor do with the peats ? Was it for his own house, or did he sell them ?
—For his own house.

1334. How much money payment did they pay instead of it?
—I am not sure.

1335. When did the service of the peats commence?
—Six years ago.

1336. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How was it that it commenced six years ago?
—It was just the proprietor's will

1337. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Were you ever asked to do it?
—I was cutting peats myself one year.

1338. How many days did you cut them?
—Two days. Each family had to cut an iron, and to cut that would take two days' work of two, and that was imposed upon each crofter—every one that was paying rent.

1339. The Chairman.
—But that obligation is now abolished altogether ?

1340. And it will never be put back again?
—We don't know that.

1341. Is there anything you wish to state in addition?
—No, but, as the preceding delegates wanted—extended holdings. We have neither horses nor sheep, and the hill pasture was taken from us. I was not paying rent when the hill pasture was taken from us, but I am paying now.

1342. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What rent do you pay?—£5 a yeir, and others pay £6.

1343. What stock do you have?
—Two cows; some years I may have a stirk, and some years two.

1344. How much are you allowed to keep?
—Two cows and two stirks.

1345. Any sheep ?

1346. What is the acreage of your croft?
—About two and a half or three acres of thin, poor, hard soil.

1347. What return do you get for your seed?
—Sometimes a double return, and sometimes half a return—sometimes double what we put in, and sometimes only half as much.

1348. Is it that amount in addition to the seed?
—Half as much again as the seed put in.

1349. What return do you get of potatoes?
—Sometimes two barrels out of a barrel, and sometimes five.

1350. Do you put sea-ware on them?
—Yes; but we have to buy the sea-ware.

1351. Sheriff Nicolson.
—From the laird?
—From other lairds. There is not much sea-ware on our landlord's ground at all.

1352. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you never get more than five returns of potatoes ?
—Perhaps, if it was a good growing year.

1353. When you get sea-ware on the beach of your own proprietor's land, do you pay your own proprietor for it ?
—Our township has a right to a bit of shore, but, besides that, we buy sea-ware from our landlord.

1354. Did you have a piece of shore on which you could gather seaware without paying for it ?

1355. Is there anything more you wish to state?
—I do not think there is.

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