DONALD M'QUEEN, Crofter, Conista, Kilmuir (49)—examined.
1986. The Chairman
—Have you been freely elected to be a delegate ?
1987. You have a statement to read to the Commission?
—Yes. Kilmaluag, Isle of Skye, 9th May 1883. To H.M. Commissioners, Uig, Skye.
GENTLEMEN, —A Royal Commission having been appointed to inquire into the position of the crofters, we, the undersigned, humbly beg to state our case to you for the consideration thereof. We beg to submit to you that our holdings are too small —some of us having only the name of a croft, and quite inadequate to support human life. Our holdings also are too dear. We, as a whole, would wish more land at reasonable rent. The smallness of the crofts renders it imperative on us to till the whole of our round from year to year, and by so doing the land is growing inferior and less productive. Should we have more land we could work it by rotation, and, by so doing, have the benefits of improved cultivation. We would also desire the hill pasture taken from us to be restored. We also would wish compensation for improvements on our land, and fixity of tenure; by having such, we would have some encouragement to improve, take in, and drain our land, and also to make our houses and surroundings more satisfactory than they are. We would also desire a right to cut sea-ware as a help to the manuring of our crofts,—not as a favour, as we now have it. We consider the land laws unsatisfactory, both to landlord and tenant, and hope that you will commiserate our case by calling the attention of Parliament to it. Should we get our grievances redressed, we are certain that there would be less
of real pauperism and poverty amongst us; but in the present position of matters we are unable to support ourselves, but are drifting year after year deeper into debt, and all sorts of difficulties. We, the undersigned beg, in conclusion, to hope that you as H.M. Commissioners will give our case your careful consideration, and your efforts on our behalf will be gratefully acknowledged by your humble servants,
—RODERICK his x mark MACDONALD, Balmaquien; Widow her x mark CATHERINE • MACKAY, Balmaquien; ALEXANDER MACKAY, Balmaquien; CHARLES his x mark MACDONALD, Balmaqueen; ARCHIBALD his x mark MATHESON, Balmaquien ; PETER his x mark MACDONALD, Balmaquien; Widow MERION MATHESON, Balmaquien; ARCHIBALD-MATHIESON, Balmaquien; LAUCHLIN MACKAY, Balmaquien; DONALD M 'PHIE, Balmaquien; DONALD M'LEOD, Kindram; Widow Ross, Kindram ; ANGUS M'DONALD, Kindram; Widow MATHESON, Kindram; JOHN MACDONALD, Kindram ; Widow her x mark ANNE MACKAY, Kindram; ANGUS CAMPBELL, Kindram; ALEXANDER MATHIESON, Kindram; MALCOLM Ross, Kindram; NORMAN MATHESON, Kindram; RONALD CAMPBELL, Kindram; Widow CATHERINE MATHIESON, Kindram; JOHN GRAHAM, Kindram; Heirs of MURDO MATHIESON, Kindram; JOHN LAMONT, Conista; Widow CATHERINE MACQUEEN', Conista; NEIL MATHESON, Conista; JOHN CAMPBELL, Conista; ANGUS MACQUEEN, Conista; Widow MARY MATHIESON, Conista; MURDO MACQUEEN, Conista; HECTOR MUNRO, Conista; MURDO MACDOUGALL.
1988. Are all these crofters paying rent to the landlord?
—Yes, but some of the crofters have two families on them.
1989. The Chairman.
—You mentioned that some hill pasture had been taken away from the crofters in your place. Will you relate the circumstances under which that hill pasture was taken away
—We have hill pasture yet, but part of it was taken away from us.
1990. Was it a large part ?
—Yes, a good piece.
1991. When it was taken away, were your rents reduced in proportion to your loss
—No, but our rents were increased.
1992. How often, and to what extent, have your rents been increased1?
—Our rents are now double what they were in Lord Macdonald's time. They were raised four times. I cannot tell the first rise that took place in my rent, but in Lord Macdonald's time my rent was £6, 5s., and now I pay £13, including rates.
1993. Has your rents been recently reduced?
—Our rents were reduced two years ago.
1994. How much?
—Five shillings in the pound,
1995. How much did you pay last year?
—About £11, including rates.
1996. Is it a permanent reduction ?
—That was not promised.
1997. Has the landlord in connection with the rise of rents expended any money in the improvement of the crofts in a useful manner ?
1998. No improvements whatever?
—No help for improvements whatsoever.
1999. Mr Cameron.
—-In what year was the hill pasture taken away ?
— A number of years now.
2000. About how many?
—Twelve years, or more.
2001. What stock did that hill carry ?
—Two horses, and between thirty and forty sheep each, and we have now only one horse and twenty sheep.
2002. That is for each croft?
—For each croft.
2003. How many crofts were there ?
—Six crofts in my township.
2004. And it carries now twenty sheep and one horse?
2005. So about half of the hill was taken away?
—I cannot say.
2006. How soon after that was the rent raised upon you ?
—Immediately on our being deprived of that part of hill pasture the rents were raised.
2007. Did the crofters make no remonstrance or complaint ?
—We did not complain to the landlord, but we complained to the factor.
2008. What did the factor say ?
—The factor told us that if we were not willing to give that rent for it to leave it, and that he had one who would be very glad to take it.
2009. What remedy would you suggest now for the state of things which exists ?
—To give us enough land at a reasonable rent. Many of them would be very glad to get more land if they could get it.
2010. What stock have you got now?
—Four cows and a two-year-old is the summing.
2011. How many sheep ?
—Twenty, and a horse.
2012. When you had the original croft, with the hill grazing that was taken from you, at the original rent, were you then comfortable ?
—We were pretty comfortable,—much more so than we are now.
2013. What arable ground have you?
—About 10 acres, but I am not sure.
2014. Is that not enough to support your family?
—It was enough at one time, but not now.
2015. Why not?
—Bad seasons, and our crop is not what it used to be.
2016. Do you get any work?
—Not in this country.
2017. Are you aware that there many crofts in Skye that are much smaller than yours ?
—Yes, I know that.
2018. Do you think they are still more in need of redress than you are ?
—Some of us are seeing ourselves as needful of help as any.
2019. Do you think that your croft is not rather above the average of crofts in Skye in regard to size ?
—In some places.
2020. Have you sea-ware in the township you are on ?
—Not in my township.
2021. Are you on the shore ?
2022. When a township has the sea-shore does the right of sea-ware go with it ?
2023. You ask for compensation for improvements and fixity of tenure, in what form would you wish that compensation for improvements?
—Payment for our work; if we would get paid for our work upon our crofts. We have no great encouragement for improving our crofts in the position in which we are. We don't know how long or how short we may be left in them.
2024. And if you were assured you would not be turned out, you would not expect compensation ?
—If we were sure we would not be removed, and got the kind at a fair rent, we would consider that efficient.
2025. You want more land than you have got ?
—My neighbours want more land, though I might do with what I have.
2026. That land would have to be got from the tacksmen's land, would it not ?
—If got at all it would need to be taken out of the tacks.
2027. Would you need to pay the same rent that the tacksmen pay for that land?
—I don't think any one is so able as the tacksmen ; they take the rent out of the ground.
2028. Then you think the rent the proprietor now gets would not be a reasonable rent for you to pay ?
—If we could not take the rent out of it, it would be to the loss of the landlord.
2029. Sheriff Nicolson.
— Why was the pasture taken from you ?
—To be added to a tack.
2030. Which tack ?
2031. Did Duntulm complain that he had too little land, do you know ?
—He was taking the smallest lots he could get. He has a croft still in Solitote—among the smallest crofts in the place.
2032. Does he keep stock upon that separate from the rest of the farm ?
—There is no stock upon it. It is too small to have stock. It was the skipper of his boat who used to live upon it.
2033. The Chairman.
—When you say that the crofters require more land, do you mean by that more arable laud and more hill pasture ?
2034. But if they cannot get both, would it be more important to them to get the hill pasture than to get the arable land ?
—I cannot say.
2035. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do they fish any at Kilmaluag?
—Yes, a little.
2036. Is it not a very stormy coast?
—Yes, it is a stormy coast.
2037. Is there any long line fishing?
—Yes, but they do very little with that. Lobster fishing is what they mostly pursue.
2038. Do they make a good thing of the lobster fishing ?
2039. Who takes them from them?
—Mr Robertson, Portree, buys them from them. He is the principal buyer.
2040. What part of the year do they prosecute the lobster fishing ?
—In the end of October up to the middle of spring.
2041. What price do they get for theni?
—I am not sure, but some of the men are here to-day who can tell.
2042. I suppose there is no herring fishing there ?
2043. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where are the cod fish cured ?
—In our own houses. I never saw buyers coming our way.
2044. You sell them cured ?
—We don't sell them. We use them for our own families. We were fishing but very little.
2045. Did your boats get destroyed in the storm the year before last ?
2046. Did you get new ones for them ?
—Yes, those who had boats got help.
2047. The Chairman.
—Have you any further remarks to make before you retire ?
—No, there are two other delegates.
2048. Professor Mackinnon.
—Are they older than you ?