Skeabost, Skye, 9 May 1883 - Hugh Mcnab

HUGH McNab, Kildonan, Lynedale—examined.

1291. The Chairman.
—What is your occupation ?
—My son is a crofter, and I am in my son's place. Will I begin my story with the previous landlord or with the present landlord?

1292. How far back with the previous landlord?
—Thirty-four years ago.

1293. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—We will take the present landlord?
—The present landlord raised our rent 31s. and I am in the land in which I was settled by Mr M'Leman; and others of the crofters have had their rents raised £2, 5s. and some £2. £4, 43. at first was the rent of my croft, and there was a rise of 3ls. upon that £4, 4s. of rent. One or two paid the original rent for one or two years after the present landlord entered, and then it was raised. The rent was raised on others from £2 to £2, 2s.
He took the sheep from the poor tenants. Our present landlord took our sheep and lambs from us at 4s. 6d.

1294. The Chairman.
—Will you state the amount of stock which your own croft keeps ? How many cows, stirks, and so on ?
—In summer and autumn we could keep two cows and a stirk if we had them; but in winter, owing to the bad crofts we have, we can only winter one cow. We have no sheep and no horse.

1295. Sheriff Nicolson.
—When were the sheep taken from you?
—The landlord took the sheep stock from us a few years after his entry into the property, and we were obliged to sell them to him at 4s. 6d. the ewe and lamb.

1296. The Chairman.
—When the sheep were taken away was the rent reduced, or did they continue to pay the same rent as they did before the sheep were taken away ?
—The rent was raised. Then he took the hill pasture from us as well as that, and left us with only a little bit you could call a pin-fold.

1297. Why did the proprietor take the hill pasture away?
—His own will.

1298. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did he take it into his own hands?
—He took it into his own hands, and stocked it himself, and let it to the others for rent. He treated the Brebost tenants in the same way.

1299. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—To whom did he let part of the land?
—To his own nephew—Peter Campbell. The proprietor himself has it now stocked with sheep, and as to the pin-fold left with us he took a bit of it from us again, and settled two other tenants upon it at a rental of £11. One of these tenants is dead, and the remainder is in possession of the other; and we have only a very small bit of pasturage. We are continually trespassed upon by the propietor's sheep. In winter his sheep are constantly trespassing upon us, and eating up our crops—corn and everything; and I have often had to rise up at night and cover myself with my bed coverlet in winter to drive the sheep away. But, by the Queen's authority, I have a dog this year, and with the assistance of the dog I am keeping the lands cleared now. We are making our living by fishing. I never could get a boll of meal out of my crops, for every boll of meal I could take out of my land I had to replace it in seed time. If I make a boll of meal I have to replace it with a boll of seed.

1300. The Chairman.
—If the proprietor could be induced to give back the hill pasture, or some other corresponding piece of pasture, would the crofters be satisfied?
—We would be satisfied if we could get grazing on which we could keep a stock of sheep and cattle, and arable land which we would work with the cas-chrom. There are seven cottars between our townships and Flashader. Three of these cottars are on our ground and four on the ground of Flashader.

1301. Do the cottars pay rent to the crofters?
—No, nothing.

1302. Do they pay rent to the landlord?

1303. Instead of rent, do they work at harvest time or render any other service to the crofters ?
—No service whatever.

1304. How do they live ?
—Some of them are on the poors roll.

1305. Who gave them leave to settle upon the croft?
—The proprietor.

1306. Have you anything more to say?
—We used to be cutting peats for the landlord at first at 7s. 6d. an iron. The last year we performed this service he sent bis grieve to measure our work and he instructed the grieve to double the measurement, and in that way he lost one iron's work. We were working five years cutting his peats, for which he gave us nothing.

1307. The Chairman.
—What do you mean by an iron?
—120 yards in length, 2 peats in depth, and 6 peats broad in the lower and 7 in the upper row. We want pasture for stock and ground in which we can plant crops; a place in which we can keep sheep and cattle, and a horse. We would be the better of it. We have no shore, and the proprietor takes payment from us for the sea-weed. We had no means of planting this ground this year had it not been for Dr Fraser. He gave us a boll of the seed oats each. My own son and another young lad were getting plenty of fish in Loch Grishornish with the hand line. They went to get mussels, and Mr Robertson summoned them to Portree, I cannot get fishing because of Mr Robertson of Grishornish.

1308. Do you say you are prevented gathering mussels on the shore for bait by Mr Robertson of Grishornish?

1309. Does Mr Robertson allow you to get the mussels for payment, or does he prevent it altogether ?
—I do not know. We are not going the way of his shore now; but before Mr Robertson ever came to the country I was getting as many mussels as I liked without let or hindrance there.

1310. How far are you from the shore?
—The shore is below me.

1311. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How far are you from Mr Robertson's shore?
—Mr Robertson lives on the other side of Loch Grishornish.

1312. The Chairman
—How far are you from the place where you used to gather the mussels ?
—Ten minutes' sail by boat. The beach is two and a half miles from me.

1313. But there is an oyster bed upon that shore?

1314. And Mr Robertson has got the right to those oysters?
—I do not know.

1315. That is why he prohibits people from getting mussels?
—I did not know that. Mr Robertson has got oyster beds there, but if he has a light to the shore, he ought to put up public notices that we might know his marks. It is plenty of land that we want, on which we can rear a crop and sheep, as the Gaelic proverb says—It is time about that the bellows 'are worked'

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