NORMAN M'KENZIE, Crofter, Uigshader—examined.
1152. The Chairman.
—How long have you had your croft?
—I have not had a croft long, but it is thirteen years since my father got it.
1153. Is your father alive?
—He is not alive.
1154. Have you been a fisherman as well as a crofter?
—I have not been a fisherman. We are too far from the sea.
1155. Have you heard what has been stated by previous witnesses?
— Part of it.
1156. You understood what was said?
1157. Will you be so good as to add any remarks you wish to make?
—What I have to say is, that I do not think, should Lord Macdonald give them the whole land they have from him free gratis, it would not free them from their present state of poverty.
1158. What matter are you speaking of?
—I speak of the people of the district in which I reside. I mean the district comprising the seventeen families among whom I live; and the cause of that is this that the years have come to be so poor, and they have run out of their effects through having to buy food for themselves and their families and their stock. I believe that the people are seven times worse than if they had nothing— are empty—if every thing were put in its place. If the people paid their debts, they would be seven times worse than nothing. The people have come to be so poor that they are not able to work the land as it ought to be worked; and again they have so little of the land. We don't blame the landlord for their poverty, but there are no works going on in the place. They must needs go elsewhere to work, and they cannot attend to their crofts; and when they go elsewhere and are not able to attend properly to their crofts, they have to buy food for themselves and their stock elsewhere; and though they are trying to keep stock, not a head of the stock belongs to themselves, but to their creditors and to the landlord. When that is so, the people cannot but be poor. They are occupying land which has not been manured for twenty-five years, though they must needs cultivate this land for the very poor return of the little corn and weeds that it yields. They pay equal to their rent in money for the wintering of their stock besides what the land yields. When Mr Martin came to be our tacksman, we were paying the multures ; we were paying the equivalent in money, along with our rent, so much on each croft; and when we became tenants of Lord Macdonald, Tormore was the factor, and that payment continued, and it is included in the rent still,—these old multures,—and should any of us have to use the mill for grinding our meal we have to pay multure all the same, so that we have to pay double.
1159. Sheriff Nicolson
—Where is the mill?
1160. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What are the miller's dues?
—So much on each boll.
1161. How much?
—The miller is here present, and will speak for that.
1162. Do you never take corn to the mill?
—I have taken corn to the mill, but I could not tell the quantity the miller took out. I do not know the capacity of his measure.
1163. What amount of corn ought to make a boll of meal?
—We have not more than half a boll with the sort of oats that we have. The worst kind of our oats would not yield more than three stones to the boll. In a good year, and with oats from a strong ground, a boll of oats might possibly yield seven stones on the average.
1164. Professor Mackinnon.
—That is after potatoes ?
1165. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie
—Does it come better out after potatoes than after grass ?
—We have no fences, and have no experience.
1166. The Chairman.
—You stated that the crofters on your township originally paid their rent to the tacksman ?
1167. And that they now pay their rent direct to the propretor?
1168. Are there many crofters still paying their rent direct to tacksmen ?
—Not in my district.
1169. When they paid their rent to the tacksmen, were they better or worse off than they are since they paid their rent to the proprietor ?
—No, we are not better off now. We are becoming poorer each year. We are worse off now than we were then.
1170. Do they generally consider in the country that it is better to pay the rent to the tacksman or to the proprietor direct?
—We consider it better to be paying the rent to the proprietor direct. When we pay to the proprietor direct we have only to make money payment, but when we had to pay the rent to the tacksman we had other duties laid upon us as well as the money obligation. The services which we used to render to the tacksman, in addition to the money payment, are now included in the rent which we pay to the landlord.
1171. What was the nature of the services rendered to the tacksman?
—We used to give him in spring a day's harrowing, and in autumn two days' reaping his corn. So we and the crofters would be cutting the tacksman's peats also, and those of whom no service was required had to give compensation to the tacksman in the shape of the value of a lamb. Then the value of the lamb at first was stated at 2s. 6d., and as the price of sheep was increasing it came to be 5s., and that is included now in the rent which we pay.
1172. Sheriff Nicolson.
—The 5s. ?
—Yes, the 5s. is included.
1173. The Chairman.
—Are there still crofters paying rent to tacksmen and rendering those duties and services?
—Unless such are in M'Leod's country, there are none of them in this part of the country. We are complaining also of the smallness of our holdings. I believe that even should they get enlarged holdings, they are so much sunk in poverty, that unless the Government would assist the people to stock the enlarged holdings, they would be as badly off as ever.
1174. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—If they have difficulty in getting stock for their holdings, would any of them be willing to emigrate to another country, where there are more openings ?
—I cannot say that, but there is plenty of land in this country itself which could be apportioned to them, and which would support the whole of them.
1175. But if they cannot stock this land without Government help, or the help of charitable people; if they are not in a position to avail themselves of this other land, even if it were given to them, would they be willing to go to another country where they could benefit themselves by the land ?
—I cannot answer that question for the others, but I know the greater part of them would not be able to stock the land unless they would get assistance.
1176. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Cau you speak for yourself?
—For my own part, should I get an enlarged holding, I would be able to stock it.
1177. Where do you send your children to school?
—I am not putting them to any school. We have no road to the school, and we are far from the school.
1178. Do any of the Uigshader people send their children to school?
—None of them who are on the upper side of the watershed.
1179. How far are you from the nearest school ?
—The school of Borve is the nearest. I believe it is about 3 miles from some of us. How can you expect weakly children to travel 3 miles in the dead of winter, without a road and without any sheltering place intervening?
1180. Is there no road between you and Borve?
1181. How far are you from Glenmore school ?
—There are mountains between us and the Glenmore school.
1182. How far are you from the nearest church?
—This church in which we are met is the nearest to it.
1183. Is there a road from you to the church?
—No, and we pay road money, and yet all that we carry to our townships we have to curry on our backs.
1184. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Of school age, how many children are there in your district ?
—Upwards of fifty children, if not above fifty.
1185. How long is it since any of them have been at school ?
—At times an odd child might be coming for a week or two to school; but they had a little school among themselves, some years ago, and they used to attend that school regularly.
1186. Mr Cameron.
—Is there any compulsory officer?
1187. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Does he ever visit you?
—He frequently visits us.
1188. Have any of you ever been summoned before the sheriff for not sending the children to school ?
—I cannot say that; I do not know that; but I think none of us have been summoned before the sheriff.
1189. Are the children getting taught at home?
—No ; no education at home.
1190. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
— The children, do they go to church?
— No, not out of our township ; none of them ever go to church.
1191. Does a catochist come round?
—Yes, a catechist comes once a fortnight to hold a meeting. The minister sends him once a fortnight.
1192. Professor Mackinnon.
—Though the children do not go in the dead of winter, could they not go in the spring and summer months, especially the older ones ?
1193. Why don't they go ?
—I cannot tell. They are in want of shoes and clothes, and they cannot go naked to school. Very few of them can go to school in comparison with the number who cannot.
1194. Mr Cameron.
—Can none of them read or write at all ?
—Some of them can read and write, who learn in this school.
1195. The Chairman.
—Is there anything further you wish to say before you retire ?