MURDO M'LEAN, Crofter, Lealt (60)—examined.
2654. The Chairman.
—How long have you been a crofter?
—It is not long since I got my croft. My father was in it before me, but not in my present croft.
2655. Have you been freely elected a delegate ?
2656. What are the particular hardships of which the people in your place complain?
—The smallness of our holdings, heavy rents, and the insecurity of tenure. We are marching with another property, Lord Macdonald's, and no march between us but a small burn.
2657. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are you close to Valtos?
—Three townships lie between us and Valtos.
2658. The Chairman.
—Has any common pasture been taken away from your place ?
—Yes. Two lots of the township were cut off us, and the best part of the grass, and another piece of arable land that the township had in common with others near the shore, and which was of much service to us, because we had ware connected with it.
2659. Have you no sea-ware now?
—No, we cannot reach it. We live on the far end of a peat moss
—the four lots which have been left to the township.
2660. Is there any other complaint in your place ?
—We are without a roadway there, through the country or to the sea-shore. At this time of the year, when the weather is good, and the sea fine, we can get our goods conveyed by boats; but in winter we have to travel 14 miles over the hill for the necessaries for our families, and we have to carry everything on our backs over the hill without roads or bridges,—over rivers; and sometimes people are lost in these burns.
2661. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you know of any instance?
—Several years ago a person was lost in one of these burns.
2662. In speaking of the distance of 14 miles do you refer to Portree?
2663. How far are you from Stenscholl ?
—About 6 miles.
2664. Can you carry anything from here to Lealt except on your backs ?
—If we had a horse, we could carry our necessaries on horseback; if we had carts, we could take them to the march of Valtos.
2665. How far is it from Valtos?
—About 2½ miles.
2666. What school do your children go to ?
2667. Do the children attend well ?
—Those who are strong. We have no road. In winter, when the burns are swollen, they cannot attend.
2668. Does the compulsory officer ever come near you?
2669. How often?
—Occasionally. He comes pretty often.
2670. Are the people in a poorer condition than they were some years ago ?
—Yes, getting poorer yearly.
2671. Is there any fishing at your place ?
—No. I believe fish could be got if the sea were accessible. .
2672. Is there no port on your coast?
—No port. There is no safe place to haul up the boats between this bay and Portree.
2673. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Could this place be improved very much by a quay for the safety of fishing boats ?
—Yes, and possibly nearer Portree than this. I have seen quays made in wilder places.
2674. Could a quay be made here in Loch Staffin, for a comparatively moderate sum, that would stand the weather ?
—I cannot say about that. I have no idea what such work would cost.
2675. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You say the people are getting poorer year by year. Is there more than one cause for it
2676. How many causes do you attribute it to?
—To the smallness of our holdings and the inconvenience and difficulty of access to the place.
2677. But that last has been always in existence ?
—I believe it is attributable very much to the excess of rent. Before the rent was increased upon us we were in pretty good circumstances. Since that time, unless each year will meet the expenditure of that particular year, we have to encroach upon our stock, little by little, until the stock is exhausted.
2678. Have you anything to say of the badness of the seasons, as regards fishings, or as regards crops?
—Last year, I believe, has occasioned considerable loss, for the crop was lost by storm.
2679. That is the only season you think worse than former times?
—I don't remember such a bad year as last year.
2680. There are only four tenants at Lealt now. Do you remember the time when there were fewer?
—There are seven families located on these four lots.
2681. Where did they come from ?
—I believe they belong to the place.
2682. They were born in it ?
2683. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Were you at one time in comfortable circumstances?
—Yes, I was in circumstances at one time that no man could crave me for 1s. of debt.
2684. Is that a considerable time since ?
—Fifteen or twenty years ago.
2685. Were you some years io that position ?
—Before then I was always comfortable.