DONALD ROSS, Crofter, Idrigill (68)—examined.
1770. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate of the people of Idrigill?
1771. You have a statement to read to the Commissioners?
—Yes. At a meeting of crofters at Idrigill, on 7th May 1883,—William Campbell in the chair,—the following resolution was agreed to :—That it is absolutely necessary that additional land should be given to each crofter in order to enable him to live, as our present holdings are utterly inadequate to support us for two months in a favourable year. Our existence depends on the immediate enlargement of our crofts. We also feel it to be a great grievance that we are prevented by the smallness of our crofts from keeping a horse to help us with the tillage, as it is laborious and even degrading for our women and men to have to carry all manure and seaware on their backs. The want of hill grazing is very much felt by us in various ways. First the want of hill grazing prevents us from keeping some sheep. The result of that prevention is that many of us have no better bed clothes than old bags formerly used in conveying whelks to Glasgow. We also desire to bring under the notice of the Commission that we are under the necessity of keeping a herd to keep away the sheep of neighbouring tacks, which often do damage to our little crops. We dare not complain for fear of eviction. The sea-ware on our foreshores is not sufficient for the manuring our several crofts. We often have to go to the outlying tenantless islands to cut sea-ware. The proprietor Captain M'Donald, Waternish, prohibits us from doing so. We arethirty-seven families in Idrigill. For many years back we often have to go to the banks for our rents, and to other money lenders, so that our present debts are nearly £700. Our credit with but few exceptions is gone. We welcome the Commission, and these our truthful grievances we leave with confidence in their hands.
1772. Do you wish to add anything to that statement?
—Not much further than what is expressed in the paper. We want more land, to pay a rent. The land we have is too small. We cannot support our families on it. We have just about two and a half acres each. We have a cow and a stirk, but no sheep and no horse.
1773. What is the rent ?
—Our rent is £4 and a few pence.
1774. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Does that include the rates ?
—Inclusive of rates. It used to be £5 , until the last reduction.
1775. Mr Cameron.
—Do they all pay the same ?
—Two or three of us are paying 2s. 6d. more than that.
1776. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is it paid, or mostly in arrear ?
—Some of us are in arrear. Some of them had to use the money in buying food. The summing is one cow, one stirk, no sheep, no horse.
1777. The Chairman.
—No hill pasture?
1778. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is there no place that the cows graze upon ?
—Yes, there is a place out at the back for the cows.
1779. The Chairman.
—How much arable land ?
—About two and a half acres. We go to Waternish to get sea-ware, but the proprietor forbids us,
1780. How much was the rent at the earliest period you recollect ?
— £2, 17s. 6d. Then, by act of Government, we made drains, and Is. 6d. was laid upon our crofts for drainage interest.
1781. That is, Is. 6d. in the pound?
—It was Is. 6d. on the whole sum that was expended on the drains.
1782. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Then what next?
—The rents were raised three times. It was in three successive rises raised to £5 , and it was reduced to what we now pay two years ago. I cannot remember each step of the rise.
1783. Mr Cameron.
—Over how many years did the rises extend ?
—The first rise took effect nearly twenty years ago. Then the doctor's money was laid upon us, and was included in the rent.
1784. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you get the benefit of the doctor in your rent now ?
—We pay the doctor's money along with the rent.
1785. Does the £4 cover the doctor?
—Yes. This last reduction that took effect two years ago is not promised to continue. We are still charged the old rent, and the reduction is credited to the amount.
1786. Mr Cameron.
—What do you mean by credited?
—The reduction is not permanent.
1787. Do you expect it to be treated next year as arrears, or do you expect it to be permanent ?
—We do not know.
1788. Do you expect the reduction of this year—the odd £1—will be asked for next year ?
—We do not expect the actual reduction made during the past two years will be asked from us again.
1789. The Chairman.
—Have you any other remark to make before you retire ?
—We want more land at a fair rent, sufficient to support our families.
1790. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How do you live?
—On credit; and now those who have been supplying us with credit cannot supply it any further. Their own credit is gone.
1791. But you have got 2½ acres, and that does not occupy you all the year. Surely you do something else for a living?
—When we are able we go to work for wages, but I am now getting too old for that.
1792. How long in the year used you to go to work for wages ?
—Half the year.
1793. And the other half of the year you spent at home?
—I would need to be working about the land.
1794. Were you at sea or land work?
—Both, as opportunity offered.
1795. Had you ever a boat of your own?
—I had once a boat of my own, but I have not now.
1796. Are you working as a hired man?
1797. What may you make in the course of the half year you are away ?
1798. How much do you make, one year with another?
—£8 or £9.
1799. And that is all you have in addition to the croft ?
1800. Do you sell a stirk most years?
—Not every year. The year we would have a stirk to seU we sold it, and the year we had not we just went deeper into debt.
1801. How much food do you get off the croft? How long will it keep you ?
—If potatoes were growing as they used to grow, they would keep us four or five months ; but the potatoes do not grow with us now,—the land has got exhausted.
1802. Do you mean this year only, or before ?
—Potatoes have been getting gradually worse for some time back here.
1803. Have you changed your seed ?
1804. Did it do no good ?
—For a time that did good. They have got deteriorated since then.
1805. Then, if the croft keeps you for four months in the year, you have to live upon £9 for the other eight months
—Yes, but the year we have not potatoes good it would not keep us alive for that length of time.
1806. Have you any family to help you ?
—I have one daughter able to help me with her wages, but she cannot get away to earn wages.
1807. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has the number of crofters in Idrigill been increasing during your time?
—No; our family has a lot as it was in our earliest recollection.
1808. Has any of the grazing been taken from them?
—A little hill of ground was taken away for planting wood.
1809. Have you got sea-ware ?
—Yes, all that our shores afford ; but we have not enough.
1810. Do you pay for it ?
—The payment of the sea-ware is included in our rent.
1811. Where do you get other sea-ware ?
1812. Do you get it there without payment?
—Some were taking full payment for it from us, and others were giving it gratis.
1813. Do some of the Idrigil men engage in the cod or line fishing?
— The fishing is gone, but there are some who would fish if there was any to be caught.
1814. Are there any big boats?
—Two or three have big boats, going away to Ireland and elsewhere.
1815. Did you get any boats after the potato failure of 1846 ?
1816. Was your crop destroyed by the storms last year?
1817. Was there any left at all ?
—Part of it was left, but was threshed out by the wind.
1818. Did the potatoes go altogether?
1819. Did you get assistance from the relief committee?
—We got no assistance from relief committees. We got a bushel of seed oats from Mr Lamont.
1820. For your own family?
1821. Are you the only person in the place who got it?
—All the crofters got one bushel. We bought seed oats and seed for potatoes from the captain.
1822. What did you pay for it?
—It is not told us yet. We have heard the potatoes would be 10s. a barrel on us.
1823. The Chairman.
—Have you anything further to say before you retire ?
—I do not think I have.