RODERICK M'INNES, Cottar,Glasbheinn (43)—examined.
2686. The Chairman.
—Do you occupy any land?
2687. Have you not a little piece of land for potatoes?
2688. You have a house ?
2689. How long have you been living at your present place?
—I was ever without land in my present house.
2690. Have you been living at the present place all your life?
—Yes; but my people had land.
2691. How do you live—by working on the land or by fishing ?
—Principally fishing; very little work otherwise.
2692. What sort of fishing?
—Herring, lobster, and all sorts of fishing.
2693. Do you pay any rent for your house?
2694. Is your house built on the crofters' land or on the proprietor's land?
—It is on the crofters' land.
2695. You pay no rent at all ?
—I do not pay for my house ; but if I get a bit of land, in which to plant potatoes, I pay for it.
2696. Do you do any service to the crofters in the way of working for your house ?
2697. What sort of work?
—Sometimes helping the crofters in their work.
2698. Did you build the house yourself ?
—The house was built long before I entered.
2699. Did you spend any money in improving it?
—It fell once, and I rebuilt it.
2700. How much money did you spend in rebuilding it ?
—The last time I believe I spent £12 on it.
2701. Does that £12 include the value of your labour, or did you spend it in purchasing wood and other things ?
—I speut that in money upon it, besides the work of myself and family.
2702. What kind of house is it?
—It is a house of six couples, with windows in the wall; but no wooden floor. It was difficult for me to work it. I had a heavy and weak family.
2703. When you go to sea now, do you receive better wages than you did when you were a younger man ?
—Yes, sometimes, if the fishing is a success. Doubtless, we would make a good wage at it if we had convenience for saving ourselves—drawing up our boats.
2704. Where could this convenience be made?
—There is a place down here which is as easy of anchorage as any place in Scotland.
2705. What kind of port or quay do you want?
—If we had a quay in any convenient place where it could be built. We have no boat that we could use at times when they should be used at sea, for its size must be such that four men can carry it up the beach as soon as it touches.
2706. If you had a quay or pier, would the fishermen be disposed to pay some small sum of money for the use of it, if the Government built it ?
—Yes, well might they do it indeed.
2707. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you refer to the bay of Staffin
— Yes, near the end, where it is coming to a narrow.
2708. The Chairman.
—If the Government or any other body were to supply you with a proper description of boat and net, would you be greatly benefited ?
2709. Can you suggest anything else that the Government or any other parties could do to improve your fishing trade ?
—Yes, helping to buy the boats and nets; only, we would need a place for them. They could buy such boats and nets if they got such assistance. These would be of no use to us without a place where we would draw them up.
2710. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is there fishing not very far from this place ?
2711. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is not the best salmon fishing in Skye here?
2712. Is it one of the best in the north of Scotland?
—Yes; as good as any place in the north of Scotland.
2713. It is leased by Messrs Johnston, Montrose?
2714. How long have they had it?
—A long time.
2715. How many boats do they employ?
2716. And how many men belonging to this district?
—Four men to every boat.
2717. Do they all belong to the place ?
—Not all; there are many from Portree.
2718. What wages do they get?
—10s. 6d. a week, and a percentage on the fish caught.
2719. What will that come to when it is a good fishing?
—Between £10 and £14.
2720. What times of the year are you employed ?
—Beginning at this time to the end of August.
2721. Professor Mackinnon.
—Do you say you make 10s. 6d. a week and £10 or £14 in addition
2722. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is the fish taken to Portree in a small steam boat?
2723. How often does she go ?
—Three times a week.
2724. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You are engaged in the salmon fishing?
2725. That employs you for four months, what else do you do ?
— Lobster fishing the rest of the time.
2726. For the whole eight months?
—During the winter.
2727. How many months does the lobster fishing employ you ?
—Beginning at the new year, or a little before, until the beginning of spring.
2728. About three months ?
2729. Then what do you do the rest of the year—after the salmon fishing drops till the end of the year?
—Long line fishing.
2730. What do you get upon your long lines ?
—Cod and ling and eels.
2731. Do you get them in the autumn?
—Yes, if we went out. We don't fish much beyond what we need for our families, for we cannot yet a market for our fish here.
2732. Then for five months you only fish for your families?
—Yes, that is all.
2733. What can you make out of the spring lobster fishing?
—Some years better than others. Some years from £18 to £20 each of the four of us in the boat, but we have to take our fishing tackle out of that.
2734. How many barrels of potatoes are you able to get from the land in the year for use ?
—Sometimes noue; other years eighteen barrels or so.
2735. How much meal do you buy in the course of the year ?
—Nearly twenty bolls a year.
2736. What is the size of your family ?
2737. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What do you complain of personally in your circumstances ?
—Want of land out of which we can make a living, without the necessity of going to sea.
2738. Would yon prefer to be a small crofter rather than go to sea ?
— Yes, but it is not a small croft we would need.
2739. I presume your circumstances have not fallen off of late years, and that your income is usually as good as it was twenty years ago ?
— Some years my earnings are more than others.
2740. The Chairman.
—We have heard a great deal of crofters becoming poorer and poorer. Do you think that those who depend chiefly or almost entirely upon the sea are also becoming poorer, or do you think they maintain the same or a better condition?
—We believe we are getting poorer, like them. The place in which we are is so straitened. We are crowded into a space of one mile between two tacks, on which there are twenty-three families of us, without land, and the smallest family consists of three, and the largest of eleven. There are thirty-six crofters besides on that strip of a mile, and the place must needs be poor.
2741. I don't wish to ask you about the crofters, but I don't understand why the position of the fishermen, who do not depend upon the land, is becoming poorer and poorer, when wages have become higher and higher, and they have no rent to pay ?
—I cannot say we are getting poorer in that way, but that we cannot get the land. We cannot be more prosperous at the fishing.
2742. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Suppose you got a croft—and you say you would need a pretty big one—at a moderate rent, would it be better to take to that, than to continue a fisherman, with the benefit of having a pier, and with assistance, which you could pay back in instalments, for the purchase of boats, nets, and tackle ?
—If we could get a good croft, as I was referring to, we would try and carry on both businesses. I have a family enough at home who would use the boat at the fishing.