ANGUS M'INNES, Grocer and Merchant, Beinsoraig (60)—examined.
1893. The Chairman.
—Have you been long here?
1894. Have you been elected a delegate by the people?
—A delegate from South Cuil.
1895. You produce a statement with which you have been entrusted ?
—Yes. It is as follows :
—'We the tenants of South Cuil, eight in number, beg to state our grievances and our demands before the Royal Commissioners, which are the following:
(1) We want an increase of land, our lots being inadequate to support our families.
(2) The ground is so weak by perpetual tillage that it does not yield crops as it was wont to do, the weather haviug very much changed of late years, so that the fertility of the ground is washed down by incessant rains towards the Uig Bay.
(3) We also respectfully request a permanent lowering of the rents, fixity of tenure, compensation for improvements, and payment of unexhausted manures in case of removal.
(4) We would also respectfully suggest that it is essential to the well-being of a tenant that he would have as much land as would enable him to keep a horse, otherwise he will often find himself compelled to do the work of that useful animal. The number of our stock was taken, but betwixt obligations to our proprietor, meal-dealers, shoemakers, and merchants, it will be soon exhausted.
MARY M'LEOD, Widow STEWART, RODERICK M'DONALD, JOHN GILLIES, ANGUS ROSS, JOHN CAMPBELL, HUGH MACDONALD.
1896. Have you any statement which you wish to make besides on your own part ?
—No, I have nothing, unless I confirm what is already stated, that the people require more land, and that the ground is very much deteriorated in wet weather.
1897. What is the nature of the trade you do here ? What do you sell ?
—I sell tea, sugar, and general groceries; I am a general dealer, only I have no soft goods at present.
1898. From your experience, can you state that the people are poorer than they were at a previous period?
—Yes, I can. They are getting poorer every year.
1899. Do you think that the amount of their purchases is diminished?
—Their purchases, of course, are scattered. They deal only with me in smalls, and they get their larger requirements from Portree, Glasgow, and other places.
1900. But do you find that the inhabitants here purchase less
—that they buy fewer commodities which you sell than they formerly did?
—I am sure they do.
1901. They buy less?
—They buy less.
1902. Do they pay as readily, or are they less able to pay than they were in former times ?
—Less able, but they are as willing, if they were able to do it.
1903. Do you sell meal and tea?
1904. Have you any land yourself?
—Not just now.
1905. You live entirely by trade ^
1906. Mr Cameron.
—Is the population less than it used to be in former times ?
—No, I do not think it, for some time back.
1907. Have you many bad debts in your books ?
—Yes, a good deal.
1908. More than you used to have?
—Not of the production of this year, or last year, but from perhaps ten or twelve years ago.
1909. Do the people in this district get much work?
—No, there is no work at all, unless they do it for themselves. There is no public work. That is one of the great evils the people complain of.
1910. Do many of them go south to get work?
—Yes, a great many, especially to the fishing stations in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and on the east coast.
1911. Do you find they bring back more money to the place than they used to do, or less money ?
—Less money, because the fishing has been a failure for years past.
1912. Do many go to the herring fishing at the Long Island ?
—Not so many to the Long Island as to other places.
1913. And the fishing this year has been less productive than it was formerly ?
—Almost a failure.
1914. To what other places do the people go to get work besides the fishing?
—To the south. They used to go to the south—to the railroads and other public works.
1915. Do they go less than they used to go ?
—Yes, because the railroads are mostly finished, compared with what they were in 1846 and 1847.
1916. Are they fond of working on the railways?
—They are fond of working at anything remunerative.
1917. But not many of them go south to get ordinary field work—farming work ?
—A good many of them, both male and female.
1918. Do you find they go there as much as formerly?
—No, because the work is not so general there as it used to be in former times.
1919. And those that go, do they bring back more money than they formerly did?
—I do not think so, because the times are not what they were when the railways were busy..
1920. What did they use to get when the railways were busy?
—I wrought on the railway for 13s. a week, and I wrought on it for 5s. a day.
1921. It varied from 13s. a week to 5s. a day?'
—Yes, but not at the same time.
1922. What is the rate of wages they get at other works 1 Do they do much road making in the south ?
—I cannot tell what wages they get at the road making, if there is such in the south just now.
1923. Do you find that the same people go back again, year after year, to the same place, or do they have to seek for work each year as it comes?
—They go to the same place, generally to the fishing stations, because it is what answers them best. They require to attend to their duties at home till they get the peats cut, and then they are at home again at their harvest operations, in time for looking after their corn crops.
1924. In fact, not many of the people in your district get work in the south except fishing ?
—Well, I am not aware that they do.
1925. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You commenced to trade here in 1857?
1926. Were you selling on credit or ready money ?
—I have sold on credit more than I should have done, but I prefer ready money.
1927. But you supply still upon credit ?
—Very little; I only sell a little. I don't sell much. I sell on credit, but not as a system. I sell on credit sometimes in spite of myself.
1928. You cannot refuse a poor person?
—Once I give it away, it will be on credit then.
1929. Once you give it away, it will be on credit ever?
1930. Taking ten years ago, how much in the year would you call the bad debts at that time?
—I was taking a piece of land in connection with the little dealing I had, and so I could not exactly form an estimate.
1931. Do you think you make more bad debts now than you did when you first commenced ?
—Of course I made more bad debts when I gave out my goods ; I do not give out so much now as I used to do.
1932. But, in proportion to what you give, do you make more bad debts than you did ?
—Well the people are strictly honest, if they were able to meet their debts.
1933. I don't throw any doubt on their honesty; it is only their ability I speak of?
—Their ability is declining year after year.
1934. Do you know that because you are making more bad debts?---I will not make more bad debts, because I am not so lavish in giving. I do not give so much as I used to do.
1935. I only want to know in what way you yourself know their ability is diminished ?
—It is very easy for me to know that.
1936. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has there been a large increase in the sale of tea and sugar during the last twenty years?
—Yes: that was in consequence of the failure of the potatoes to a great degree. What else could the poor people do unless they got a cup of tea, when they had no potatoes ?
1937. Have they tea in every crofter's house regularly?
—Not regularly. It cannot be regularly; and I consider that those who have plenty of milk do not require tea so much.
1938. There used to be considerable cod and ling fishing?
—Yes, but it's quite a failure for this year and last year. There is not a cod this year where they used to be.
1939. But that fishing has not ceased altogether?
—It has ceased. There was not a cod to be dried this year.
1940. Is there any fish-curer in the district to take the fish?
—It used to be taken by different persons at different times.
1941. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do they continue to fish with lines or do they now use nets?
—Of course, they did not fish any this year.
1942. They did not try it?
—They could not get bait. They could not get herring.
1943. They don't fish for cod with trammel nets?
—They require to get herring for bait.
1944. They only fish with long lines ?
1945. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are a native of this place?
1946. And you have been here all your days—off and on?
—Yes, but I have been some years in the south country.
1947. And you state to us that the circumstances of the people are falling off, and getting worse and worse?
—Yes, that I do.
1948. Has the removal of the people, which we have heard of—some of them shifted twice and three times, and shifted to places not so suitable as they allege, from good places and warmer places—a good deal to do with their poverty?
—A good deal to do with it. This shaking of the people is next door to evictions; shaking the people, and losing at every move.
1949. Particularly if they have to move to worse places?
—They are generally moved to worse places. I never heard of a removal to a better place, nor had I one myself, and I had several removals.
1950. What is the extent of this farm that we hear about connected with the inn here ?
—I cannot give a concise account in acres, but I know it has been inhabited by a good many people. He has two farms.
1951. How many persons in your recollection have been upon those two farms at one time ?
—Well, there were sixteen lots on the farm of the Beinsoraig, and a croft for the mill and a croft for the inn ; but, at the time of removing them in 1877, there were only five or six families, and there were not many people in some of them. One went to Glen Henisdale, one to Idrigil, and one is on the ground.
1952. Then the other farm, what is the name of that?
—Glen Conan or Glen Uig. Glen Conan is the new name.
1953. How many people were on that farm?
—I cannot exactly say, but I believe in connection with the farm there were more than forty-three families removed. The first removal was when Captain Fraser came to the place. Then, when the hill pasture was added, the rest were removed, and brought to another place opposite. Of course, Glen Uig has a southern exposure, and the other is exposed to the blasts of the north wind.
1954. Is there anything of that kind going on at this moment? When was the latest removal of any consequence
—I do not recollect of any since 1877.
1955. It is stopped now?
—Well, I think it should.
1956. And, so far as you know, it has ceased ?
—It has, so far as I know.
1957. You say the people, and you yourself, have worked at railway construction? You have heard there is a project for a new railway from Inverness to Glasgow ?
—I know that.
1958. If that went on, would a number of people from about this place go to it ?
—I have no doubt a great many would avail themselves of the opportunity.
1959. And it would be a convenient distance for the people to go?
— Yes, it would. They would avail themselves of it.
1960. You stated you had been removed more than once?
1961. Tell us about your removals—you held land at one time?
1962. Where was your first croft?
—On No. 13, Beinsoraig.
1963. How long were you there?
—I was there from 1856 to 1869 or 1870.
1964. Where were you moved to?
—To No. 89 of the same place.
1965. Not by your own wish?
1966. How long were you on the second lot?
1967. What happened to you after that?
—After having put up two or three houses and two stack-yards, corn-yards, and several other improvements, I lost the croft.
1968. What compensation did you get?
—When I was removed from No. 89 I was ordered to go to South Cuil, aud I believed, as the croft lies, it would have been 4½ and 5 chains ; but, as I would have to treat it, it would have been 8 or 9,- and, after having taken the lot, after my name was put on the lot, when I got my cattle and sheep sold, I did not go to the lot at all. A house at a distance of 8 or 9 chains, more or less, would not do at all, with the house in one place, and the cattle and the byre in another.
1969. Did you get any compensation for your involuntary removals?
— In name of my barn I got £7, and at my first removal I got £2; but the barn, byre, and stable cost me £18.
1970. You got, then, half of what they cost?
1971. Professor Mackinnon.
—You began to trade in 1857, and you had a croft all along to 1877 ?
1972. Have you been trading and crofting during the whole of that time ?
1973. You don't trade now so much as you did before?
—Well, I lost a good many of my customers at the time of these removals. When the house was pulled down people thought I would never rise again, and my customers scattered, and I am some distance from the road.
1974. And from the knowledge you got by trading, do you believe that the circumstances of the people have been getting worse and worse ?
— Yes, I believe that.
1975. And you say that the cause of that is what?
—Bad seasons, heavy rents, want of public works, and failure of fishings at home and abroad.
1976. And how do you propose that the circumstances of the people might be improved? You cannot change the seasons, and you cannot change the fishings at home or abroad 1
—No, but when people are down you will have to do more than put them on their feet. You will have to keep them up till they can do something for themselves. If people got Government money, which other parts of the United Kingdom are getting in plenty—if they got a little at 5 per cent, and twenty years to pay it—I have no doubt but that they would pay it honestly, and that it would be laid out at good interest, aud as sure as any speculation.
1977. Where is this matter of Government loans going on?
1978. And how do you propose the people should use the money? What use is the money to be put to ?
—To put the people into a better position.
1979. In what way?
—To enable them to get as much of the land as will keep them, and then give them this money to stock and till it, and build houses for themselves and their belongings.
1980. Is there plenty of land in this parish for them to get?
—Plenty, as much as would keep three times the number of its present inhabitants.
1981. On this same estate?
—Yes; the land is nearly all taken up in three or four farms—there is that farm which Urquhart has now.
1982. I understand he only came into possession of it last year. Who had it before ?
1983. When the clearing was made the farm fell into the hands of the proprietor ?
—Yes; it was first in the hands of the proprietor.
1984. Then it changed hands once or twice, and Urquhart took it last year ?
1985. The Chairman.
—Have you anything more to state before you retire ?