Stenscholl, Skye, 11 May 1883 - Donald Ross

DONALD ROSS, Merchant, Culnacnock (52)—examined.

2521. The Chairman.
—How long have you lived at Culnacnock ?
—Sixteen years or thereby.

2522. Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people?

2523. What do you deal in?
—General goods; meal, all sorts of merchandise required by the people about.

2524. Do you find that the people buy less than they did formerly?
— They have been buying less of some sorts of goods and more meal.

2525. What sort of things do they buy less of?
—Less cotton and clothing.

2526. Is all their expenditure for meal?
—Part goes into other groceries.

2527-Do they buy more meal than they used to do?

2528. Do they buy less groceries than they used to do
—I buy less groceries myself now than formerly.

2529. Do you mean that you buy less groceries for the supply of the people or for your own family
— I buy less for the supply of the people.

2530. Do you find that the people pay less punctually than they did in former times
—They are less punctual now. They cannot be otherwise; they cannot pay punctually.

2531. Are the people more deeply in debt to you than they formerly were
—Yes ; more than ever.

2532. Do you think that the people are growing gradually much poorer than they were
—I know that they have got poorer.

2533. Do you know of any families who are in want of clothing and especially of bed clothing
—Yes, I know there are families in want.

2534. Where the people in the habit of making their own blankets here of their own wool or did they purchase them from the shops?
—Making the blankets themselves.

2535. Do you think that the reduction of the common pasture in the country, and the diminution in the number of sheep, has deprived the people of the facilities for making blankets and clothes'?
—There are many of them who, through poverty, have no sheep. [Question repeated].
—The end of the district, where I reside, has not been deprived of hill pasture. I am not able to answer for this part. Others can speak to that, but I am given to understand that it is the best part of the hill pasture which was taken from them, in so far as they were deprived of hill pasture.

2536. Did the people use the wool of their own sheep largely for making blankets, or were they in the habit of selling it ?
—The people made use of the wool themselves; they were selling but very little of it.

2537. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you, and the rest of the people here, suffer much from the want of a good road in the district

2538. Is it a serious injury

2539. Is your house near the road
—There is no road into it.

2540. How do you get your goods carried to your houses?
—On the backs of the people and horses
—in creels and burdens.

2541. How far have they to carry them?
—About half a mile.

2542. Do they complain of the postal arrangements in this quarter?
— Yes.

2543. What is their complaint?
—The post office is about four miles away from the upper part of this district.

2544. And they have to send for their own letters?
—Yes, and to send their letters also by messenger to the post office.

2545. I s there no post runner in this district at all?
—No, there is not a paid runner.

2546. Is there much business done by bills among the people in this district instead of ready money

2547. When did that commence
—About fifteen or twenty years ago, and it is one of the causes to which the poverty of the people is to be ascribed.

2548. Why do they resort to bills?
—The landlord rules them so strictly that payment in full must needs be proffered at the rent day. If only part of it were offered it would not be taken.

2549. Was that the universal practice on this estate, so far as you know
—So far as I know.

2550. In that way there wore no arrears?
—No, not at that time, until the present years—until the people were not able to pay.

2551. Have they not been able to pay even with bills?
—Yes; some of the parties who used to give their securities on these bills have not been paid.

2552. If there was no money to pay the bill, of course the cattle had to be sold ?
—Yes ; but some securities were so favourable to them that they did not push them so far. There were some people getting money out of banks here who had not a head of stock.

2553. Have you many bad debts yourself

2554. Do you think, from what you know of the people of the district in which you dwell, that they are mostly in debt ?

2555. Do you think it is because they are very lazy?
—I do not think that.

2556. Is there no work given them here?
—I am not aware of any but fishing.

2557. Does the proprietor give them any work to do?
—Only to a few.

2558. Does he come often to see them?
—We never see him.

2559. Does he never come here?
—We have seen him occasionally, down the way, but we were not seeing him often.

2560. Has he ever visited the houses of any of the people in this district ?
—I am not aware that he did.

2561. Does the factor come often?
—At the rent collection.

2562. Does he come at any other time?
—He comes to school board meetings. He is a member of the school board and parochial board, and comes to attend these meetings.

2563. The last witness told us that a boll of meal could not be got without a particular beast being set aside as security for it. Do they put a mark upon the beast ?
—The beast will be marked when it is bought.

2564. Do you do that yourself?
—Yes; in a few instances.

2565. Is it left for some time with the man who gets the boll of meal ?
—Yes. I pay the man for the wintering of the beast in addition to the price of it.

2566. The Chairman
—Is that particular beast security for that particular debt ?
—Yes; that is the purpose for which it is bought.

2567. If the man pays for the boll of meal a month or two afterwards will he get his beast back ?
—It is not for the boll of meal that the beast is security, but for the value of the beast in meal.

2568. Would you rather have the beast, or rather have the money ?
—I would prefer the money. I would not wish a beast from any man who had got the money.

2569. If you don't get the money, how soon do you take possession of the beast, and sell him ?
—To the last market of the year—the September market.

2570. If the beast dies, is it your loss or the loss of the crofter ?
—-It is my loss, when I mark it.

2571. If the beast fetches more money than the amount of the debt, who has the balance?
—I only want my debt out of it. If the man gets any body to give more than I give for it, I give up the beast.

2572. The man is allowed to sell it, in fact?
—It is I who must deliver the beast to its new purchaser, and the money must pass to me, for fear of its being lost to me.

2573. If the beast dies, does the debt remain cancelled?
—No; it is to relieve the people, and for the people's convenience that I enter into such transactions, as they will not get relief anywhere else.

2574. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many crofters and others do you represent as delegate in the township you come from ?
—Eleven who pay rent.

2575 You have been present, and heard the preceding witness. Have they any grievance of hill pasture having been taken away or their rent raised ?
—They have complained about the piece of hill pasture that was taken away from them.

2576. Are you a crofter yourself 1
—I am a crofter myself. I am one of the eleven. It is from this end of the township that the hill pasture was taken, and our sheep are consequently crowded together on the remainder.

2577. When was this hill pasture taken from you?
—Sixteen years ago.

2578. Why was it taken off, and to whom was it given]
—I am not aware why it was taken from us.

2579. Who got it ?
—It was added to the Duntulm tack.

2580. Was any reduction of rent given to you at that time ?
—Our rent was not reduced, unless it was reduced in the case of the parties from whom the hill was taken.

2581. What is the name of the townships at the end where the hill pasture was taken away ?
—Deig, Glasfin, and Brogaig.

2582. Then these three townships and the township you represent had the whole in common ?

2583. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—But more townships than these had a share in the hill ?

2584. Is there any division between the hill of the different townships all along the east side here ?
—No, it is common hill pasture.

2585. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have the rents been increased in your time ?

2586. What was it in your younger days?
—According to the old people with whom I have been speaking, at one time my township was in the possession of one crofter.

2587. What was he paying1?
—I do not know what he was paying, but afterwards the township was divided between eight crofters, paying £50.

2588. What is it paying now for the whole ?
—£87, 5s.

2589. Is that after the abatement that was given 1
—That is the highest without the abatement.

2590. What has been taken off in the way of abatement lately ?
—5s. in the pound.

2591. Professor Mackinnon.
—Do you belong to this country?

2592. To the particular township in which you are just now ?
—I am a native of that township.

2593. And you have lived there all your life ?

2594. And you know the condition of the people thoroughly well for the last forty years?
—Yes, I believe there is no one who knows it better.

2595. And your opinion is that they are getting poorer and poorer every year?
—Yes, I kuow that by experience.

2596. And to what do you attribute this ?
—There are several causes.

2597. What are these?
—Buying the meal is very heavy on them; the rent is high; raising money out of banks; the inconvenience of the place for bringing things into it. They cannot get things to buy as cheap as they can get them in other places more accessible.

2598. And their indebtedness to yourself is growing every year?

2599. How can you stand it all?
—I have stood it yet. Nobody has lost by me yet.

2600. About the pledging of cattle for the meal, do you consider the beast yours when once it is marked Ì
—Yes, I consider the beast mine, and if the beast gets lost it is my loss.

2601. Do you put a price upon it when you mark it?

2602. And do you tell the price to the owner ?
—Yes. We make an agreement about the price first.

2603. And the price of the meal too ?
—Not the price of the meal, because there is no knowing what the price may be during the year: the man does not take with him at one time the value of the beast

2604. So the beast is pledged in reality before he gets the meal
—Yes, in the case of some.

2605. And what security is there that the man will get the meal ?
—He is not the least afraid that he will not get the meal. In the cases in which I mark beasts as security, the party is already far in my debt.

2606. And does the beast go to cancel that debt ?
—No, but for present and future relief.

2607. And if the price of the beast at the next market, when sold by yourself, is more than tbe price you told the man, and the price of its keep meanwhile, does the man get the balance ?
—I will put it to his credit.

2608. You say the price of goods here is very much greater because of the difficulty of getting goods into the country. What is the price of a pound of tea ?
—Three shillings for good tea.

2609. What is the price of it at Portree ?
—I do not know.

2610. Do you sell a quantity of teal

2611. Is the quantity of tea which you sell increasing every year?
— Not this year.

2612. But without reference to this year, which is exceptional, has it very much increased since you began to trade sixteen years ago
— Yes.

2613. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I suppose you don't sell whisky?
—No, I never dealt in it.

2614. Is there much whisky consumed in the district?
—I do not know what the consumption may be, but there are some here who may tell about that. I have a further complaint to make. I have to complain of the way our marches are open between ourselves and the neighbouring tacksman. We have applied to the landlord to put a fence between us and the neighbouring proprietor. We did not get a reply from him. We had two herds during the past year. We do not expect to be able to have a herd at all this year, because some of the people have become so poor that they are not able to pay their share of the herd. We do not know what to do with our stock. We cannot keep them from trespassing on Scorrybreck without this fence.

2615. The Chairman.
—If the proprietor would pay for a proportion of the fence, would the crofters assist in paying some proportion of it ?
— Yes; we would pay a part. We told him we would agree with any terms he would lay upon us.

2616. Would you carry the materials up, and assist in setting up the fence ?
—Some of us would do that, but those who cannot pay even a herd would find some difficulty in doing anything. We have no road or post-office. Our township, again, is in two halves—half up towards the hill. We keep our cows there. We cannot use the manure from there for the use of our arable ground. We have no road from the shore to our arable ground. We have to carry the sea-weed on our backs and with horses, and we pay road rates without grumbling. We applied for the piece of road to Loanfern to be repaired
—the road that was laid out by the destitution committee before
—and it was at that time suitable for conveyances.

2617. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long is it since the road rates were put on first ?
—When the last Road Act came out—a few years ago.

2618. Did you pay no road rates before?
—It was not paid in name of road rates ; it was paid with the rent.

2619. Is it not included in the £87 of rent you mentioned before?
— The rates are besides the sum I have mentioned. The doctor was included in that sum, but not the rates.

2620. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where does the doctor live ?
—At Uig. When we send for him in a case of sickness, it might be two or three days before we would see him, and sometimes he does not make his appearance at all

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