DONALD BEATON, Crofter, Earlish (74)—examined.
1725. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected to be a delegate here?
1726. Will you be so good as to state what are the complaints of the people at Earlish?
—That the rent is so heavy that we cannot live on the land, and we have to go everywhere to earn money to support us. I have here a receipt for the rent I was paying in 1852 and a receipt for the rent just now.
1727. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—The same lands?
—The same lands.
1728. The Chairman.
—Is that half a year's rent or a full year's rent?
— A full year's rent. In 1852 it was £3, 17s. 8d ; and in 1880 the rent was £9; poor rate, 9s. 9d.; school rate, 6s.; roads, 3s.; interest, 2s. 3d.; in all, £10, 1s.
1729. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you not got a reduction on that £9?
—Yes, I got a reduction of £1 last year.
1730. Besides the rates?
—The £3 includes rates and taxes.
1731. Do you know what the rent was without the rates and taxes?
— I cannot say, but that is the amount of the rent with the rates.
1732. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did you pay any rates or taxes in 1852 ?
—No, not at that time. I paid no rates and taxes in addition to the £.3, 17s. 8d. We cannot live paying our present rent with two cows. If I had five followers from them this year I would have none next year, the place is so bad, There is no feeding for them. I have only two of a family now, and it is more than a year since my family or I ate any produce of our soil,—buying everything from the merchant, even seed. We got seed this year from the landlord. We got 4 bushels of seed oats this year, and a barrel of potatoes, from the landlord, and we will have to pay it back. We wish to have as much of the land as would keep us alive and would enable us to pay the landlord, instead of going from country to country as slaves. There is plenty land in the Isle of Skye, if we could only get it, which would support double the population. We have only got the remnants of the land which the tacksmen have,—remnants which the tacksmen would not take. The laud is very bad and very thin,—very shallow. My holding is very poor indeed when I cannot support three of us out of it. As to the rent, we have not the promise that the reduction shall continue.
1733. Mr Cameron.
—Where would you like to get other land to add to your farm ?
—Any place where I would get it. Is there not land all about us,—big tacks ?
1734 Mention one ?
—The nearest tack is Cuiderach, next to Kingsburgh.
1735. Would you be able to pay for the stock if you got those lands?
— No. I have two cows and two two-year-old's, and a stirk, and none of them belong to myself.
1736. Where do you propose to raise money to pay for the stock that would be necessary to put upon this new farm ?
—From the charitable gentlemen outside of the island of Skye,—and perhaps they may be present here to-day,—who are sending money to help Skye people; and perhaps we might be able to get money till the place would enable us to repay it. There are people among us who are as willing to repay any such advances, and their honest debts, as can be.
1737. Have you heard that in the rest of the Isle of Skye there are similar complaints, and that the crofters want more land ?
—I do not know, but I know that we have such a complaint among ourselves.
1738. What is the rate of wages in your district?
—No wages unless it be 1s. 6d. a day, between that and 2s.
1739. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What are the men getting who are employed on the roads?
—I do not know. I do not think they are getting much. There are very few men working on the roads. I have been going to Kintyre for the past ten years, remaining there at work until winter time, while the work is to be done, and when my spring work is over I expect to leave the country again this year.
1740. The Chairman.
—How much does it cost you to go to Kintyre, and how much to come back?
—£1 going and £1 returning; and the gentleman was giving my companions and myself 35s. each to meet the
1741. How much do you get per day while you are there?
—2s. 6d. a day, and lodging, but we have to feed ourselves.
1742. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many crofters are there in Earlish?
—Twenty lots, and two of the lots have two families each.
1743. What stock are they allowed to keep?
—The summing of the croft is three cows, ten sheep, and a horse, but I have only seven sheep. I have a horse.
1744. The rent in 1852 was £3, 17s. 8d., and two years ago £9. How often was it raised?
1745. Was that all during the present proprietor's time?
—Yes. I believe we have been paying rent more than a hundred years.
1746. At what date was the rent raised, before the present proprietor came?
—I do not know that there was any rise in the rent previous to the time of the present proprietor.
1747. What was the rent in your earliest recollection?
—The same rent for which I have produced a receipt.
1748. Your complaint is that the croft is too small and the rent too high?
1749. You say that the reduction which was given last year is not promised for the future ?
—It may be continued, but no promise has been made.
1750. What reason was given for making the reduction?
—That the landlord saw, the rent was too high, I suppose.
1751. Was it because the times were bad?
—Partly owing to the badness of the times.
1752. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said there were twenty crofts, and two crofts had double families. How many crofters were there when you first recollect ?
—Twenty,—the same number; but in times past it was four, and then the ground was cut into lots. My father got one of these original lots, and I succeeded him in the lot.
1753. Your father was a sub-tenant of the four who held it originally?
—He was not one of the four; he was one of the twenty who got the subdivision of the four.
1754. But these twenty were living on the land at the time, though they had not a share ?
—They were taken from other places.
1755. Where was your father before he came to Earlish?
1756. Professor Mackinnon.
—Since the lots were subdivided in that way have the marches of the arable land aud of the pasture land remained the same ?
—The same marches.
1757. Both arable land and pasture land?
1758. There was no pasture land taken away?
—A piece of the hill pasture was taken from us, but it was added to another township which was as needy as we were, where there were crofters.
1759. It was not added to a big tack?
1760. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What was the date when this division took place ?
—I was not born when that was done.
1761. And the lands are not smaller now than they were then?
1762. And the people are not more numerous?
—No,but there are poor among us who have not got land at all.
1763. How many of these are there?
—A good number. There are seven.
1764. Were they born in the place, or did they come from outside ?
— They were not all born in Earlish.
1765. Have they gone there with the proprietor's leave or without it?
—It was with the proprietor's leave that some of them came from Uig.
1766. Does it help to impoverish the place that those people should be settled there?
—The township is not at all the better of it. Though we are paying poor rates, those poor people are coming about the houses the same as before.
1767. You said the land was very thin, shallow, and bad. Has anything been done to deepen the land in the way of trenching ?
—Those of the tenants who had wet land were draining it, and we are taking the sand from the knolls and spreading it where the soil is shallower. My son and myself were working the whole of last winter at that work, and doing a little of it every year.
1768. Do you lime the land?
—No, we cannot get it. There is not limestone on the place. In Lord Macdonald's time there were several lots that were cheaper than mine.
1769. Have they been all raised?
—They were all raised the same as mine was in Captain Fraser's time.