Stenscholl, Skye, 11 May 1883 - Murdo Mcleod

MURDO M'LEOD, Crofter, Deig (56)—examined.

2768. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate?
— Yes.

2769. Will you state what the people in your place, Deig, particularly complain of ?
—Rent rise,—double what I have seen it,—and hill pasture taken from us. We had the same hill, and when the hill pasture was taken from us, we were ordered not to keep a single sheep. Two others and myself were taken to Uig. One is alive and one is not. We had there to put our names to a paper that we were agreeable to dispense with sheep entirely—not to keep a sheep at all; and when we did so we had the alternative and giving up our holdings. When I came home 1 began to sell the few sheep I had, and sold thern at 6s. to 8s. a head. I had one that I could not get sale for, and I took grazing for it from Mr Stewart, Duntulm, in Flodigary island, and I had the sheep there till Martinmas, till I killed it. My land was then cleared; and my neighbours were so treated. I was then seven years without a sheep or lamb. Then the proprietor allowed us to keep five or six in the upper part of the township. We then began to buy sheep and lambs. We now have two or three, and they are spoiling our township on us.

2770. Sheriff Nicolson.
—They are eating our crops, as we have no hill pasture.

2771. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Did you say he gave you orders, or merely permission ?
—It was permission. These sheep were not allowed to be a burden on anybody else. Then we were forbidden to keep horses. The work of the horses had then to be done by ourselves, carrying everything on our backs, especially so in our township. Our ground would be useless unless we took sea-ware from the shore to manure it with; and I think I am for the past twenty years laying 200 creels of sea-weed upon it each year, besides my other work on the ground, and the rest of the township is the same way; and how can people keep up with such work ? When I was a young man I could do it, but we have to use hands and feet in ascending from the shore to our township. I may say that all this hard work is killing our young people, for during the last eight years we have lost by death twelve of our finest young men and women. We were attributing their deaths to hard work, but we cannot make sure. There are some in our township yet who have not yet a sheep or lamb. Some of these are so destitute of clothing that they are glad of getting a cast-off oilskin —being without clothes for day or night. If a man gets a good bag with his meal he converts it into underclothing, and glad to do so. They are quite as much in want of night clothes. When we had the hill, we had the wherewith to provide ourselves with good blankets and good clothing, and our women would get employment in making them up.

2772. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I suppose there is not a spinning wheel now going in the place ?
—There are spinning wheels yet; we have them yet. I may say that I know a man who was living near me, who died at the age of one hundred and five years, and who never wore cotton clothing— nothing but home-spun,—the manufacture of his own wife and daughter. There is great odds between that time and the present. We are now clothed with south country clothing entirely.

2773. The Chairman.
—Do none of the people still make stuff in their own cottages?
—Some of the people spin yet.

2774. Do they all spin with the wheel?
—With the wheel; any one of them who can afford to buy half a stone of wool. It costs us between 10s. and £1.

2775. Do any of the older people still spin with the distaff?
—It is very seldom that that is seen now.

2776. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is there one in Deig?
—There are one or two at Deig.

2777. The Chairman.
—But those who have hill pasture still, and those who have sheep on it, do they not make clothes of their own wool ?
— Yes. Though I have only two or three sheep myself, I manage in a couple of years to provide myself with a pair of trousers off them, besides stockings.

2778. If a man has enough spun and woven of his own wool to make a suit of stout clothes, how much would the suit cost him when made of his own wool?
—Not more than Is. 6d. a yard. The weaving would cost 6d. a yard, and our own women did the spinning and dyed the worsted.

2779. How much would the same stuff cost if you bought it at the shops?
—4s. and 4s. 6d.

2780. When you say the stuff cost Is. 6d. when made at home, did that include the value of the labour of the women who spun ?
—It was the work of the women which was making it so cheap, and with bought dye it would be dearer still. But the women themselves were getting the dye stuffs at home off the rocks.

2781. How many different colours could they make from the dye stuffs of their own country ?
—Six or seven, or perhaps nine or ten. We can dye with tea, peat soot, lichens, heather tops, and bark of willow; but we do not use tea in making dye—it is too scarce a commodity.

2782. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You say the weaving of the cloth cost 6d. What makes up the Is. 6d.; is it the price of the wool ?
—It is the manipulation of the wool,—the waulking of the wool.

2783 It it home labour -_Yes

2784. The 1s. counts for the home labour?
—Yes, and the 6d. is the actual weaving.

2785. Do they weave at Portree, or in hand looms ?
—We have hand looms.

2786. How many weavers are there on the east side here?
—Seven or eight.

2787. Have they pretty good employment ?
—Yes, sometimes more than they can overtake,—sometimes without work,—according to the time of the year. One of us coming from the south country with our earnings, buys perhaps a stone of wool, and brings it home to our women to be worked up.

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