Stenscholl, Skye, 11 May 1883 - Norman Munro

NORMAN MUNRO, Catechist, Clachan (69)—examined.

2806. The Chairman.
—Have you a croft ?

2807. Was your family a crofting family ?
—Yes, but not in this country.

2808. From what country do you come ?
—M'Leod's country

2809 How long have you been in your present employment ?
—Eight years.

2810. Where were you employed before that?
—I was employed as a tradesman in the low country.

2811. Since you came here eight years ago, have you observed any change in the condition of the people ?
—Yes, certain. I remarked that they are a deal poorer since the day when I came here.

2812. In what respect do you see the change chiefly?
—In so far as their lands are not yielding maintenance for the people. That is one cause. And that land has been tilled perhaps forty or fifty years, and it cannot be expected it will yield crops to support the people who are living upon it. Another cause, that is evidently the case, which was often spoken of to-day, is the high rents we paid for these lands.

2813. Have you observed a change of feeling and disposition on the part of the people connected with the deterioration of their condition ?
—Well, I cannot remark anything regarding that, only that they complain of poverty.

2814. What do you think should be done?
—If they would get more land, and cheaper, to keep them in employment and work in the country, without running from place to place after the bite they had to get to support their families, they would be better off.

2815. Do you think that the custom of going away for several months in the year to different places, and looking after employment, has a bad effect upon the happiness and character of the majority of the people ?
— Well, there is no doubt but that might be the case, for since that began in the country there is a difference of feeling in that respect from what it was in my young days.

2816. You think that if the men remained at home with their wives and children, and gained their subsistence at home, they would be happier and better?
—I am certain of it. If they had lands to cultivate, and keep themselves and their families at work at home, and land that would support them, with cheap rents, such as would keep a family, I believe they would be far better off than running to the low country every now and again.

2817. But the young men, could they not often better their condition by going to other parts of Scotland, or by going to the colonies ?
—Well, I think they would be as happy at home as in any of the colonies in the world.

2818. But suppose all the young people remained at home and married and had families in the country, would not the land be subdivided again, and the people become poorer and poorer?
—Give them the opportunity to work it out, and if the land was overcrowded with more than it could support, send them away to the colonies. I think they should get what lands are lying waste, and the best lands, in the meantime.

2819. But suppose you allow them to multiply to that extent, and subdivide that land, it would be more difficult then to send them away. There would be greater numbers, and by that time the land in the colonies would be filled up, and would they not find it difficult to get a living there?
— Well, that is a question that is very ill to answer. I believe there is plenty of land, if it were only subdivided among the people, that would support them in the meantime. If that were done just now, we might just look to what is coming afterwards. I do not see that the meantime has anything to do with what is to come.

2820. But would it not be better to provide some of the people with more land here, and allow others to go away, and so to use every means of improving the people ?
—Well, if you give them the land, and divide it rightly, I have no objection to that. I think that is very right, when it is done. But had not I a good right to that land for which my forefathers suffered death in wars, protecting the country ] Who should have a better right to that land than the heirs living in it, although it is wasted with sheep and game and deer altogether] For instance, my uncle was brought out of his bed to go and defend this country, and at the same time my grandfather was provided with a piece of laud that would support his family, and at a very low rent. Now, in a very short period after that he was removed from that, and the land sold, and my people sent abroad if they liked to go. And have not I a good right to claim that land now as the heir of my friend that suffered ?

2821. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where were they removed from
—From Colbost.

2822. The Chairman.
—How was your uncle taken for the defence of his country?
—He was taken by the laird, M'Leod of M'Leod, and when they were done, he got the promise ; but not only that, he was removed from a different place for choice of land for the son at the time. I think the offspring had a good claim on these lands to get them. I am well aware that is partly what has done a little disturbance in the island-claiming such claims on the land.

2823. Sheriff Nicolson.
—In respect of what their fathers did for the country
—Yes, thinking they had a better right to it than strangers had, or even to be put under sheep.

2824. Do you know of any man from this district in the army just now?
—I am not so well aware of that, but there are some here who may perhaps know it. I know some in our own country, M'Leod's country, in the army. There are one or two from here,-I believe, in the army whom I saw at home once. Another thing that is very miserable in this place, is the women working the work of horses at the time of owing and delving their croft

2825. The Chairman.
—-Do you think that in former times, when the crofts were larger, there was less work on the part of women in the fields than there is now ?
—I am certain of it, because they had horses to help them. I never saw any in my young days—women drawing a harrow— till of late, and I think that is horse work for any woman or man, which is very common now in the islands.

2826. Professor Mackinnon.
—In the countryside where you were brought up, was it the practice for women to draw the harrow

2827. I suppose the cas-chrom was used?
—Yes, but only in places where the plough could not go.

2828. Was the plough more common then than it is now ?
—Certainly; the people had horses to plough, but they have not any to plough now, and they must use the cas-chrom.

2829. The Chairman.
—Do you think the health of the females and the children suffers from having an inferior description of food, and not having so much milk as they used to have ?
—That is evident, because in this district I do not believe I saw a pound of butter sold, between Loanfearn and Deig, in eight years, and that is a good proof of the poverty of the country. There might be a little in Loanfearn, but among the crofters I did not hear there was a pound of butter sold in all the district.

2830. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was the district where you lived famous for butter and cheese ?
—They used to have a good supply to supply themselves and sell to others.

2831. The Chairman.
—Do you remember that they used to sell butter in former times ?
—In my own country, but not here since I came.

2832. Salt butter ?

2833. Do the people keep any pigs in this country ?
—No, not in this district.

2834. It has never been a custom in the country ?
—Well, in my own days I saw the tenants keeping one for their own use; that was all.

2835. But did the crofters ?

2836. Why have they ceased to keep swine?
—Because they cannot feed them. That is my idea.

2837. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—They used to feed them on potatoes?
— Yes, and fatten them on com seed when it came to the time of fattening.

2838. The Chairman.
—Do you think the general conduct and moral character of the people has deteriorated or does it remain the same
—their honesty, good behaviour, and sobriety?
—Well, that is a very difficult question to answer. So far as I can see, I cannot say anything in regard to that. I think there are people here as honest as I know of in the whole island, if they had the means; and so far as they go, they are now almost ruined in regard to their honesty.

2839. In reference to sobriety, is there more drinking than there used to be in former times, or less ?
—-I believe there is less, but there is too much still. There should not be any of it at all.

2840. Is the temperance movement making any progress in this part of the country?
—Yes, a good deal.

2841. Is there more education generally now than there was? Has the new system of education done good. Has it been effectual ?
—That will be the case through time. It is young as yet, but it has done a good deal

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