Skeabost, Skye, 9 May 1883 - Samuel Nicolson

SAMUEL NICOLSON, Cottar, Skerrinish (61)—examined.

1356. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman as well as a cottar ?
—I am not a fisherman.

1357. On what croft do you live?
—There are three of us, and we liveon a piece of ground that was appointed for us in a corner of the tack of Skerrinish—an out-of-the-way and rocky place—a wet, mossy place.

1358. How much ground have you got ?
—It would not make two acres of proper ground,

1359. Do you keep a cow?
—I have one cow.

1360. Potato ground?
—I plant both potatoes and corn on the bit of ground I have.

1361. Any sheep ?

1362. To whom do you pay your rent?
—To the tacksman of Skerrinish.

1363. How much rent?
—£5, and that in work.

1364. How many days ?
—One hundred days for a male and two hundred for women.

1365. Who is the woman who does these two hundred days?
—My own daughter, and she gets only 6d. a day.

1366. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the amount for yourself?
—One shilling a day for myself. I got no food with that. The place will not support myself and my family.

1367. The Chairman.
—When you work to another person, not the tacksman, what wages do you receive?
—When I was strong, and was leaving the country to work, I would get sometimes 6s. a day.

1368. But when you worked in the country?
—3s. a day.

1369. And when your daughter works outside to anybody here how much does she receive?
—Not less than Is.

1370. Do you sometimes work for the tacksman voluntarily besides your obliged work of one hundred days?

1371. How much do you get for that?
—The same pay—1s. a day.

1372. If you preferred to pay the tacksman his rent all in money instead of labour, would the tacksman accept it in money—the £5 ?
—No, he would not take the money.

1373. How did you get the house? Did you find it there or build it yourself?
—I built the house myself.

1374. Did you build it with your own hands?
—With my own hands.

1375. How much money did you spend in the purchase of materials in order to complete the house?
—About £6.

1376. Expended by you, not including your labour?
—I spent £6 upon it, besides my work.

1377. How long did it take you to make the house?
—It took time, as I had to carry the stones. I had to bring the stones, some of them, 400 or 500 yards.

1378. Did the tacksman help you to build your house?

1379. How long ago was this?
—Forty years ago.

1380. When you die, to whom will the house belong?
—The house would belong to my representatives.

1381. Have you a son?
—Yes, I have three sons and three daughters.

1382. If you went away, and left the house behind you, would anybody pay you the value of the house, or give you any compensation ?
—If a person came in my place, he would take it at a valuation.

1383. How much do you think the valuation would be?
—Perhaps not more than £2.

1384. Have you anything else to complain of ?
 —I have to make this complaint, that in winter time we only get 8d. per day and women get 4d.

1385. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Then that means it is possible you may have to serve more than one hundred days ?

1386. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—It is one hundred days of ten hours?
—Yes, ten hours.

1387. The Chairman.
—Are these the usual terms for a cottar inhabiting a tacksman's land?
—No, I do not know a tack in Skye or elsewhere where so little pay is given.

1388. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was it the same with the tacksman before this one?
—Yes, we had additional privileges from the predecessor of the present tacksman—Mr William Macdonald. We could keep a few sheep. When the present tacksman's predecessor came I had to part with the sheep, but he allowed me to keep two sheep. At the first term he charged me 6s. a head for the grazing of them, and he sold the lambs for me, an! at last he took away the sheep altogether from me.

1389. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
— Have you anything to suggest that this Commission could recommend in order to better your condition ?
—To get a bit of land at a fair rent.

1390. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Had you ever a croft?
—I never had a croft, but my predecessors had a croft.

1391. Where?
—At Borve.

1392. Were they removed from there?

1393. Where did your father go when removed?
—He came to Skerrinish. It was the farm of Skerrinish that had added to it the townships from which the crofters were cleared.

1394. Did your father get a croft when he came there?
—Only a bit, the same as I have.

1395. What other means of living have you?
—Only my own labour.

1396. Are you able to make a living?

1397. You are not in good health?
—I am strong enough to do a little work about the place.

1398. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do your sons live with you?

1399. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Could they help you if you got a little land ?
—Yes, they could : they are helping me a little now.

1400. And the daughters?
—One of the daughters is with me, and another is married. I have a son and a daughter married, and they have enough to do for themselves.

1401. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long can the corn and potatoes you raise on your bit of ground keep you alive?
—About three months.

1402. And you hive to buy meal, and everything else, all the year round ?
—To buy everything else all the year round—food and clothing for myself and family.

1403. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are there other two cottars on the same footing alongside of you ?
—Yes, on the same footing.

1404. How long have you been established on the farm?
—Forty-two years.

1405. Since your father went there?
—Forty-two years since my father was cleared off the township of Borve.

1406. I suppose Is. a day was the common wages in those days?
—There were no money wages at the time we went; but we had as much ground as we liked, and grazing, and food twice a day, in order to be at the tacksman's disposal to work for him when he wanted us, at any time.

1407. And you got food when you worked for him?

1408. When did this Is. a day commence?
—Twenty years ago. When the 1s was allowed us, and the rent imposed, we had a good bit of ground, and we were taking food out of it. That was taken from us, and we were then put into a bad corner—a corner tack contiguous to the township lands. One thing we want is to get a little bit of land, and to pay for it to the landlord.

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