Uig, 10 May 1883 - Donald Mathieson

DONALD MATHIESON, Crofter, Kilvaxter (about 40)—examined.

2244. The Chairman.
—What is the acreage of your croft ?
—The croft is 13 acres, and I think half is arable land, and half grazing.

2245. What is the stock which it is calculated to keep the summing ?
—It is only a year since I got possession of this lot, and I was told the summing was two cows. It is four cows for the full lot—no sheep and no horses.

2246. How much of the six and a half acres is arable, and how much grazing?
—The third part is laid out for grass.

2247. What is the rent you now pay?
—The croft was £16 full rent before I entered it.

2248. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—-That is £ 8 the half croft?
—Yes; my original rent was £8 .

2249. At that time was there any hill pasture attached to it?
—Yes. I cannot say about the hill pasture, as I have only been in possession for about a year.

2250. Was it £ 8 when you entered a year ago, or are you talking of a remote period ?

2251. The Chairman.
—Do you know what the rent was at the time the land came into the possession of Major Fraser?
—I can only speak as to my previous holding
—the holding I had before I entered this one.

2252. Where was your previous holding ?
—In the neighbouring township

2253. What was the size of that croft ?
—Feaull was divided into nine crofts and was occupied by nine tenant farmers, paying, some £3 , some £5, and some £6 a croft. In my furthest memory, the total rental was £45.

2254. But what was the rent of the croft you occupied ?
—I had more than one croft.

2255. What was the rent of the whole you had ?
—I had five crofts, ~ and I paid £81 and a few shillings.

2256. Was that in the time of Mr Macdonald1?
—It is two years ago.

2257. Had the rent of that former croft been increased in your memory ?
—Yes, three times.

2258. What was it at first?
—We had the whole township at first, and then there was a son-in-law put in with us, and he got four of the crofts, and he was paying £33.

2259. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What did the whole nine crofts fetch at that time?
—I recollect of the whole crofts being, with the rights of hill for £45 ; and then, before I left the place, the rents came, between myself and my brother-in-law, to £118 odds; and the rents were raised thrice in my recollection.

2260. At first the nine crofts were £45, then they were raised to £118

2261. By whom were they raised
—under the present proprietor?

2262. The Chairman.
—Did the increase take place at once, or by successive rises?
—It was put on at three times. Two rises of rent were put on my father and one on myself, when I got in.

2263. When did the last increase take place?
—About five years ago, in my recollection.

2264. Was the area of the croft or was the hill pasture reduced in that period?
—The arable land was not increased, but the hill was taken away.

2265. When the hill was taken away, was the rent reduced ?
—It was reduced a little the first year, and then they raised the rent two years afterwards. There was just 10s. a croft of reduction.

2266. Did the loss of the hill pasture seriously impair the value of the crofts ?
—A great deal.

2267. Did the proprietor perform any useful work or improvements during that period on the farm ?

2268. None at all ?

2269. Why were you removed from that croft?
—I had to give up that place owing to the increase of rent, and I got the promise of this croft. I occupy the half of it now; and I was two years without land, and then I got that half last year; and once I possessed that croft, the half of it was taken away from me.

2270. When you gave up the old place, on account of the increase of rent, to whom did it go ?
—It went to another tack

2271. Did the tacksman at Monkstadt give as much rent as that which you paid, or could not pay ?
—I cannot say.

2272. When you left that old place, did you receive any compensation for the buildings or improvements ?
—The house I occupied cost upwards of £100 to my father, and when I left it it was valued at £13.

2273. How was the valuation made ?
—By the ground officer and another man.

2274. Was the other man appointed by you ?

2275. Was it on arbitration ?
—It was.

2276. How long had the house been built?
—About thirty years, to my recollection.

2277. Was it a stone and lime house ?
—Stone and lime.

2278. Slated?
—No, thatched.

2279. In good repair?
—Yes, very good.

2280. Did the man appointed by you to value it, value it much more highly then £13?
—I cannot say, because it was left to themselves; I got just the account.

2281. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was anything wrong about the valuation in your mind ?
—Well, I had to put up with it. ~

2282. Who was the man you appointed ?
—One Mr Clow.

2283. Was he a tenant on the estate?
—A tenant and a joiner. He was a miller lately.

2284. The Chairman.
—When you came to the new croft, did you build a new house, or did you go into the old house Ì
—I went into the old house.

2285. Was it a better house than the common, or was it a common house ?
—It was an old public-house.

2286. A stone and lime house ?
—Yes, when it was built first; but there was not much of that to be seen when I entered it.

2287. Had you to spend money to repair it, and put it in order?

2288. How much?
—I got lime from Glasgow, and I had to fetch timber.

22S9. How much would it cost you ?
—About £6 or £7.

2290. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—-What grievance have you to state in connection with leaving your farm?
—I had a great grievance to go. I was paying high rents with my father, and keeping cattle, and paying a good deal of money; and I was sent to that croft with the promise that I would get the whole of it, and the half of it was taken from me. My mother was here before me, eighty-four years of age, and my forefathers, and paying honestly, and without being in arrear to the factor or proprietor. I am put on six and a half acres with twelve of a family, and the oldest is seventeen and the youngest about two months.

2291. Is the rent of the present croft or half croft reasonable?
—Well, I don't consider it reasonable, because nothing was taken off for the licence being taken to another place, only the abatement that the whole of the people got of 5s. in the pound.

2292. You are paying the public-house rent though there is no public-house there ?
—Yes, only the abatement.

2293. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Did your brother-in-law leave Feaull as well as yourself ?

2294. You both were removed in order that Feaull might be added to Monkstadt ?

2295. Professor Mackinnon.
—I understand you gave up your holding ?
— I gave it up because the rent was so high, and my brother-in-law gave up.

2296. Who was in Kilvaxter before you went?
—One Mr M'Millan.

2297. What became of him?
—He was taken to another croft.

2298. Of his own free will ?
—Likely it was, at least I do not know.

2299. And you were promised the whole of the croft?
—My mother was promised the whole of the lot. She is not long with me at Kilvaxter.

2300. Was she at Kilvaxter when you were at Feaull ?

2301. But you were promised the whole lot in Kilvaxter belonging to Mr M'Millan?

2302. Did he have the whole lot ?

2303. And another has been put in along with you ?
—They kept the half of it for M'Millan.

2304. He has got half of it still?
—Yes, along with another one.

2305. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Were there any removals from other townships than Feaull in order to give additional land to Monkstadt ?
—Yes, there were different places that were removed. There were Graulin, Delista, Benore, Feaull, Glachasay.

2306. Were many people removed from these various places?
—There were twelve families in Graulin and six in Delista; three at Benore, and nine at Feaull, and three at Glachasay, and three at Scour.

2307. Where have these been removed to?
—Most of them are down in Kilmuir, and some abroad.

2308. Was all the land and pasture they had added to the farm of Monkstadt ?
—Part of it.

2309. What was done with the rest?
—It was added to Duntulm.

2310. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was that all in the present proprietor's time

2311. And within your own recollection?
—Within my own recollection.

2312. You saw the thing done ?

2313. Professor Mackinnon.
— I understand your own grievance, it is that the place in which you were was rented so highly that you could not live in it. You removed voluntarily ?

2314. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I suppose you thought if you remained there you would be in debt, and could not live ?

2315. Professor Mackinnon.
—Had you a lease?
—No, I never had a lease.

2316. Had you the whole of that large place upon a yearly tenancy?
— Yes.

2317. Would a lease put an end to that unfortunate state of matters you fell into
—To tell the truth, I would not ask a lease, but I would ask security against people being removed as long as they paid their rents, and did not annoy their neighbours.

2318. Do you mean that the security should be provided by the law?
—By the law.

2319. The Chairman.
—How do you think the rent ought to be fixed? Who ought to fix the rent ?
—Whatever direction it would come from, it would give something reasonable that the poor people would live upon. We would be thankful to see it.

2320. But who ought to value the land, and say what the proper rent should be ?
—The Government.

2321. Professor Mackinnon.
—You would not trust the proprietor, and it would not be fair that the tenant should fix the rent?
—I would leave it to the Government.

2322. You have been backward and forward through the whole estate over those places that were cleared away ?
—Yes; I am well acquainted there.

2323. We had people speaking here of their crofts being too small. Is your knowledge of the countryside sufficient to enable you to say what you would consider a reasonable sized croft in this parish—not one like what you had, but one which you would expect the people to hold in order to be fairly comfortable ?
—That would be according to the family they had.

2324. Well, an average family?
—Between £15 and £20 worth.

2325. A croft of £15 or £20?
—Yes, including grazing and arable land.

2326. What stock should a croft of that rent carry ?
—Six milk cows, a horse, and a score of sheep.

2327. And you would give for that croft £15 or £20 ?

2328. How many acres of arable land would there be ?
—That is according to the valuation of the ground.

2329. But, as ground runs in the parish, taking the good with the bad ?
—There are more acres under sheep that are worth double the run the poor people have.

2330. Take it good and bad mixed ?
—About ten or twelve acres, with the grazing besides.

2331. I suppose you know these large tacks very well?
—Yes, very well

2332. Do you think there is upon the estate a sufficient amount of land to divide into crofts of that kind ?
—Quite sufficient.

2333. And that it would pay as well in such holdings as it would pay in the large holdings ?
—I cannot say that.

2334. The Chairman.
—You think that many of these crofts could be carved out of the tacksmen's farms?
—Many of them could be created upon the tacksmen's farms. It is quite visible that the crofts are still there with their marches, to be seen going through the country.

2335. Many could be made, but would there be many persons found capable of taking and stocking them?
—That is a thing hard to say. People have come to such a poor state that they could not, unless they were supported in some way or other.

2336. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—From your knowledge of the people and their character, if they got assistance—the people who are now reduced to comparative poverty—do you believe, from their character, their honesty, their industry, and otherwise, that they would recover themselves if they got those things ?
—I do believe it.

2337. You thoroughly believe that?-
—I thoroughly believe that; and another thing I know, there are a few clever men who would do it, and the most of them are very honest people.

2338. Professor MacKinnon.
—You can perfectly well remember thirty years ago ?
—Yes, perfectly well.

2339. And you can remember crofter's houses and places of that time!

2340. Would you say quite distinctly that all over your countryside the people were better off then than now?

2341. Better fed?
—No mistake about that. In my own recollection, they were better fed, because they had sheep, and horses, and cattle. I would not have to go far before I would get scores of cattle where I cannot get a dozen to-day.

2342. But would that make the people better fed ?
—Decidedly, when they had plenty of stock.

2343. Did they eat sheep at that time?-
—They did.

2344. Do they eat them now?
—Very seldom; very few.

2345. Sheriff Nicolson.
—If the whole of the land between Flodigarry and the boundary on this side of Monkstadt were distributed among the people in crofts of the size you have mentioned, do you think there would be still land enough left to make a considerable tack?
—I remember well, the place was occupied by a great many more people when these towns were not lifted, and there were large tacks at that time.

2346. And were there gentlemen living on them ?

2347. The Chairman.
—Were there always tacks in the country, even in the old times, and large farms?
—They were not so large.

2348. But there were some ?
—There were some.

2349. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you know that there were seven tacksmen within less than 100 years ago—gentlemen with families, some of them officers in the army—occupying farms which now constitute three tacks ?
— I have heard my mother and my father speak about them.

2350. Were there such families at Flodigarry, Sartle, Ardviceolam, Bealach, Duntulm, Monkstadt, and Scudaburgh?

2351. And now there are only three tenants?-

2352. Occupying these seven farms ?

2353. Duntulm, Monkstadt, and Scudaburgh'!

2354. The Chairman.
—Have you any further statement to make?
— No.


  1. Not sure what this Blog is about but I have reason to believe my great-great grandfather came from Feaull. He was aged 35 in the 1841 census and his name was Donald McDonald. Emigrated to Australia in 1852 on the Araminta.

    Marty Wallace, Collie, Western Australia.

  2. Marty,
    I don't know if you will find this comment, but if you click on the title of this blog you'll be taken to its front page which explains what it is all about. If memory serves, Feall is in Skye, and its clearance was one of the reasons for the Napier Commission to come to the Highlands & Islands.