Stenscholl, Skye, 11 May 1883 - Norman Nicolson

NORMAN NICOLSON, Crofter, Brogaig (48)—examined.

2743. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely chosen a delegate by the people of your place ?

2744. Will you state what are the complaints that the people make in your neighbourhood ?
—The first is that we were deprived of the hill pasture, and in the next place heavy rent was laid ou us, and also that the summing was too heavy for the grazing we had. The place being so poor,
it would not sustain the summing, and would not do to winter them. The little grazing we have is spoiled with cutting peats. Twenty-four families cut their peats on our little bit of grazing. Formerly there were only four families in the township. There are now eleven families paying rent, and ten cottars.

2745. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Didn't you say there were twenty-four ?
—There are eleven paying rent and ten cottars, but there are twenty-four families cutting peats in our grazing. We lost the sheep. We were not allowed to keep a sheep or a horse. I myself had sheep and horses when we had the hill. I had to part with them. I was obliged to part with the sheep at that time at 7s. a head.

2746. Sheriff Nicolson.
—When was that?
—About sixteen years ago.

2747. What kind of sheep were they ?

2748. Who bought them ?
—Monkstadt, and I was thankful that he took them. I could not get any person to give me a price for them at the time, and I did it to turn them into cash, though I would like mutton as well many other person, and I would need clothes also, but I had to part with them.

2749. What was done with the land ?
—It was added to Duntulm's tack, and again, the little bit of ground that I have marches with the tack. The march dyke is made of turf, and though I should do my own share of repairing it, perhaps the tacksman would not repair his side of it during the whole year. Then again, from after this time, when the seed is in the ground, there are other matters to which some one of my family has to attend,
—-to watch the crop, to keep them from the cultivated land,—until I can get it into my stackyard at my own cost, otherwise my whole toil will be lost—eaten up by the tacksman's stock. In that way we do not see that we have a means of living. Unless I would be constantly driving off the tacksman's stock, they would trespass on my lands until they would reach the sea. Then the little bits of ground we have will not afford rotation. We must needs cultivate them constantly, and therefore they become exhausted. When we had the horses I had a mare and a year-old foal. They trespassed one Sabbath eveuing on the tack. They were seized and poinded in Balmeanach. They were sent away at break of day on Monday to Duntulm before I got notice. I had then to go all the way to Duntulm—8 or 9 miles off, —to get them released. Mr Stewart, the tacksman, met me there, and told me that a judgment had come upon me for keeping so many horses, and it would be enough for tinkers to have so many horses. 1 could not answer him much, but I asked him how much the poindage would be. He told me 8s. 6d., and I paid this into his own hands. He told me I would require to work for him, so that I might get my money back ; but I gave him the money, and I did not get it back. I worked for him often, but I never got anything for it. Therefore I cannot keep the little bit of ground that I have, as it is not fenced, even should I have it for nothing. I think that is all I have to say regarding us crofters; but as to the cottars, I think they are as needy of as much land as they could pay for as we are, for unless Ave give them ground they cannot get it at all.

2750. How many cottars are there ?
—There are ten cottars.

2751. The Chairman.
—Do the cottars pay rent for the ground ?
—I do not think they do.

2752. Do they pay rent in labour?
—They are not required to give labour for it ; they may do so of their own accord.

2753. But do they give assistance?
—They help us a little in the harvest.

2754, But they pay for the peats ?
—2s. a year.

2755. How do the cottars live? how do they gain their subsistence?
— Wages out of the country at the fishing and at railway works.

2756. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said you were deprived of grass. Was there pasture in common with townships in the east side here?

2757. Do I understand you are forbidden to keep horses or sheep now?
—Yes, for the past sixteen years.

2758. Are you forbidden by the proprietor?
—I believe so.

2759. Because the other tenants said that in consequence of this land being taken away, the Brogaig and Deig stock crowded theirs up?
—I believe that is so.

2760. But if you are forbidden to keep sheep, how does that happen ?
— Some of them have a few sheep.

2761. Then it is not actually forbidden by the proprietor. It is merely the want of land that forbids it ?
—The landlord forbad it.

2762. And some of them keep it notwithstanding ?

2763. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How do you feed them?
—They graze out on the hill pasture belonging to the other townships during the summer.

2764. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is your township a poor one? Are the people generally poor ?
—They are become poor enough now.

2765. Are their circumstances getting worse and worse?
—Doubtless, they are getting worse and worse.

2766. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where does this pasture lie that was taken away from them ?
—Up to Uig and Bealach.

2767. How many sheep could it keep formerly?
—I cannot tell that right, but I believe that what was taken from us of the hill would carry as many sheep as the whole of what was left to us.

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