ARCHIBALD MACDONALD, Crofter, Garafad (37)—examined.
2621. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected as a delegate?-
— Yes. I come against my will very much, because I have not been long in my present place.
2622. Do you mean you are reluctant to give evidence?
—No; only that if I had been longer in the place I would be able to say more about it than I am able to say.
2623. Will you have the goodness to make a statement of any wrongs or injustices which the people have suffered within your knowledge?
—The first inconvenience is the high rent that is exacted from us, and the land not being worth it.
2624. What else ?
—In the second place, we were deprived of part of the cow's grass, and by that we were cut off from watering for our cattle. There is no water convenient for our cattle. We lost also a path which we used to enter the piece of grazing which we have. We were not making the most off our land owing to the insecurity of our tenure. We did not know but we might be deprived of our holdings as well as the grazing. If they did the one, they might do the other. We were only putting the ground in heart to the extent that we would exhaust in one year, and these are the principal hardships which we were suffering at the hands of the landlord.
2625. Are you aware of any occasion on which there was a suppression of the expression of public opinion here?
—There was such.
2626. What was the nature of the suppression of public opinion ?
— That any one who would be known as a leader of any movement would be warned.
2627. Can you give an example of anybody being warned for such an expression of opinion ?
—A deceased brother of my own said to me that he was warned for such a cause, and he was deprived of his land, and could not get the land during his life afterwards.
2628. What was the nature of the expression your brother had made use of?
—Nothing. No other cause than that he nominated, along with other nominators, a member for the school board.
2629. Do you mean that the person whom they nominated was disagreeable to the landlord or factor?
—I think it was at the first election of the school board, because the factor said that the landlord's list of members for the board was complete, and that he preferred to have these; and my brother's nominee was left out. There was no poll.
2630. Is there any other case that you know of oppression by the landlord or his agents?
—Another man in Kilmuir—Donald Nicolson—was hardly dealt with.
2631. Do you say your brother, who was engaged in this nomination, actually lost land which he had previously been in possession of?
—It was in possession of my father, and after my father's death in that of my mother, and then in my brother's possession until deprived of it as already mentioned.
2632. May there have been some other reason why your brother was dispossessed, or was that, in your opinion, the only reason ?
—That is the only cause which my brother told me.
2633. Although the nomination fell through ?
—Yes; although there was no poll, it was done to him after all. My opinion is that at any election of school board there would not be more than twenty voters present, perhaps not half that number.
2634. There must have been some other persons acting along with your brother. Was any punishment inflicted upon those other persons ?
— They got warned also, but they were not deprived of their land. Two of them were warned, at any rate.
2635. Is it the general impression of the people here that any manifestation of independent opinion would expose them to danger on the part of the landlord or his representatives?
2636. Are persons alleging themselves to be the representatives of the landlord in the habit of threatening the people with eviction from their holdings in case they don't do so and so, and so and so?
—I was never so threatened, but I hear that others have been so.
2637. Do you think that the existence of such threats prevents the crofters from executing improvements upon the land which they would otherwise do ?
—Yes. That is throwing the crofters there far back, and leaving us without work in winter, when we might be employed improving our crofts.
2638. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there any persons living in this district who are believed by the people to have a great influence with the laird contrary to the interests of the other inhabitants, and to have exercised that influence prejudicially to the poorer people l believe that that is the case, and we are more afraid of such parties than of the landlord. We are not the least afraid that if our landlord knew our circumstances well, he would give us justice.
2639. Are these persons a limited number?
—They are a limited number.
2640. Is it believed they have personally benefited to a large extent by that influence which they possess, to the disadvantage of the majority of the people ?
—There were no residents in this quarter who ever prospered so well as they, and to the disadvantage of other people and of this township itself.
2641. Is it believed that many of the cases of injustice which are alleged to have been committed have been suggested by these persons ?
—Yes; that is the opinion of the most of the people.
2642. Can you say that that is not mere suspicion ?
—It is our belief. We are not absolutely sure, but it is our belief.
2643. Are these persons in the possession of considerable tracts of land
—Yes, tacksmen; not only possessors of a tack, but of tacks.
2644. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said a little ago that if the crofters were sure of not being disturbed they would improve their crofts more than they have done, particularly when they are home in winter?
—Yes and I myself particularly would do so, and much need of my doing so.
2645. In coming along to-day, between this school-house and the old inn, there appeared to be a great number of stones in the midst of the fields along there. Are these stones not really capable of being removed without much trouble by the people themselves ?
—Yes, and the stones should be utilised in drains and dykes.
2646. Would you also be disposed further to drain your lots besides removing the stones ?
—Yes, without having the rigs going one way and another. That is what we want to do.
2647. And you say that most heartily would you do this on your place. Is it your belief that most of the crofters, were the land suitable, would do the same, and make the land much more productive ?
—Yes, but they will not because if they improve their crofts their rents will be raised, or they will be removed.
2648. The Chairman.
—Do you wish to make any further statement before you retire ?
—I have to complain of how the grazing was taken from us, and that the summing is greater than the land will support. We are particularly inconvenienced for want of water for our stock, owing to the loss of the piece of grazing of which I have spoken.
2649. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Does not the river which runs down here belong to you?
—The river adjoins our arable land, and when it is under crop we cannot let the cattle get at the river. We had a piece of grazing that was marching with this river, and that was what we were deprived of.
2650. The Chairman.
—Will you give us any information you possess about the eviction of persons at Borniskittag
—I was born and brought up in Delista, Kilmuir, which is within six and a half miles of Borniskittag. We were removed out of Delista about eighteen years ago, to the township near it called Graulin. We were seven crofters in Delista and twelve in Graulin. We were removed, all of us —cottars and all
—none were left.
2651. Where were you removed to ?
—We were scattered over the estate, some to east side, some to Kilmaluag, some to Kilmuir. These townships were added to Monkstadt. Three of the Graulin cottars—two at all events—were placed in Borniskittag, and another of them was placed in Totescore. Four crofters were removed from Balgown, which is next to Delista. Then the township of Feaull adjoining Graulin was cleared. There were two families in Feaull. One of these left of their own accord, and the other had to give up the place owing to the excessive rent. After that Lachsay was cleared. One teuant had it. The land was added to Duntulm. There was one tenant in it, and two other families. The township of Scorr, adjoining Lachsay, was cleared of two families. The township of Osmigary was next added to Duntulm, but there were no crofters on it. The lots in Borniskittag were as numerous in my early recollection as they are to-day. But I have been told by old persons that it was occupied at first by a small number—from four to seven—and the township lands were more extensive theu than now. That is what the old people were saying.
2652. Where were all these evicted people crowded together1 .They were placed in other townships on the property. They were placed, for the most part, on land which was run out—which had been exhausted by their predecessors. They were placed in occupancies which had been vacated by crofters who had been compelled to leave through the poverty of the land, and straitened circumstances in consequence; and others of these removed tenants were not able to take crofts at all, and have become cottars. That is my history of them.
2653. How many families altogether?
—Twenty-four families in all. So far as I remember, my own father was one of them.