Uig, 10 May 1883 - Hector Mckenzie

HECTOR M'KENZIE, Cottar, Solitote (42)—examined.

2071. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected by the cottars to represent them?
—Yes, ' Kilmaluag, Skye, 9th May 1883. To H.M. Commissioners, Uig, Skye.
GENTLEMEN,—We, the undersigned cottars residing in Kilmaluag, Skye, humbly beg to submit a few things for your consideration. We would humbly desire your efforts to procure on our behalf a piece of land from which we might derive some benefit for the support of ourselves and families. Work is not to be had here, and it is very hard on us to procure the means of sustenance. We would desire land at a fair price sufficient to grow potatoes for us, and to enable us to keep a cow and a few sheep. We have been accustomed to work on the good-will of the tenants amongst us, but they themselves are in so poor circumstances and in want of more land, it is hard on them to supply us. We have also great difficulty after receiving land to put manure on it, having to carry it often a mile and sometimes two. We would also desire a right to cut sea-ware, for at present it is a great favour if we get it. We approach you hoping you will consider our case, and your efforts in our behalf will be thankfully acknowledged by your obedient servants,

2072. You state you work for the crofters, what wages do you now receive ?
—We have no work to do in our locality. We have to go to the fishing.

2073. Do you never get employment on the land at all on day's wages
—No; but we pay a little to the crofters for the bits of ground we get from them, and many of them are giving us bits of land for nothing.

2074. How much do you pay for your house and your bit of land1?
— From Is. to 2s. I pay for the bit of land; we pay nothing for the stance of the house.

2075. One shilling or two shillings for how much?
—As much as will plant half a boll of potatoes.

2076. Then your desire is to obtain land?

2077. How do you expect to obtain land,—from a croft or on a tacksman's land ?
—Where the land is most plentiful.

2078. You desire, in fact, to become a crofter ?
—Yes, a croft; as much as I can work.

2079. How much would satisfy you?
—I would be satisfied with 4 or 5 acres; grazing for a cow or two and a few sheep. We would be satisfied with a cow and a few sheep; but some of us would take up a larger holding.

2080. Mr Fraser Mackintosh
—Are you yourself in a position to take a croft of that size, and stock it?
—Yes, I could do that by my own ' industry and my earnings.

2081. Could you get such a place? have you ever tried to get such a place?
—Yes ; I applied twice to the factor, and did not get even a reply.

2082. Are there people in the position of cottars, like yourself, who could become crofters if the land were open to them ?
—Yes; every one whose name is on that paper.

2083. How do you support yourself ?
—Off the sea. I have no other source. I have no cow or sheep.

2084. Then you are not in debt Ì
—Yes, I am in debt.

2085. Mr Cameron.
—Have you heard the evidence which has been given before us to-day ?
—Yes, I heard many of the witnesses.

2086. Have you heard that many of the crofters, who have much larger crofts already than you think would satisfy you, have come to complain of their extreme poverty, and their desire to have larger buildings ?
—I am aware of that.

2087. Do you consider that their complaints are well founded
—I think that I have a greater cause of complaint, but doubtless they have a heavy cause of complaint. They are weighed down with heavy rents and bad years.

2088 . Do you consider that their complaint is true, that the crofts are too small for them? Why is it that you wish to be placed in the same position in which they are and from which they wish to escape?
—We would aspire to a little in hopes that we would light upon the great.

2089. But as long as you were in the position of a small crofter, do you not consider you would be in as miserable a state as they described themselves just now?
—I cannot say much, for I am much straitened in the circumstances in which I am, not knowing where I can put manure, and I would be very thankful to have less or more land in order that I might be relieved from the pressure of circumstances.

2090. Would you not prefer to have a larger croft at once, than to go through a period of a small croft in discomfort and poverty?
—Yes, but it is hard altogether to enter into a big croft and the burden so heavy. It would be better to climb to it bit by bit It would be better to attain to the big croft bit by bit.

2091. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where do you fish?
—On the east coast.

2092. For how long will you be away in the course of the year on the east coast?
—About ten weeks, back and forward.

2093. Have you a boat or a share in a boat?
—No, I work as a hired man on wages.

2094. Have you no small boat at home?
—No, but I go along with my neighbour in the boat belonging to him.

2095. What size of boat?
—24 feet keel and 7 feet beam.

2096. Do you go to the Barra fishing in her ?
—No, it is generally lobster fishing through the winter and spring.

2097. Then at this time of the year you have nothing to do?
—Nothing to do.

2098. Don't you go to the Lewis fishing ?
—No, we have to plant a small bit of potatoes to supply our families, and we have to cast peats after that and we are waiting again for a month or so till the east coast fishing commences, and then we go there.

2099. And there is no fishing at home ?
—Well, we get some saith, but there is no herring to get about our coast now.

2100. And no cod in the spring of the year?
—Yes, they commence in January sometimes if the weather be favourable; but our coast is very rough, and sometimes we cast the lines, and it is impossible for us to go for them again for the roughness of the weather, and the tide is so strong as to sweep them away.

2101. You don't use trammel nets here ?

2102. What earnings do you make at the east coast fishing1?
—£7 for the season and 1s. per cran.

2103. What is the most the boat you were in ever got in a season?
— Two hundred crans sometimes.

2104. Will you catch more than two hundred1? What is the greatest number you ever got ?
—-Two hundred and seventy-two crans.

2105. What is the worst season you ever had?
—I got these three last years' seasons very good.

2106. But what is the worst season you ever had1? Were you ever down to one hundred, or fifty ?
—No, I was never so far down as fifty crans. The fewest number I had was one hundred and thirty crans.

2107. What are you getting for the lobsters?
—I got at the beginning of the season from 8s. to 9s., and at the latter end of the season l0s. a dozen.

2108. Is that here, or at Portree?
—Mr Roderick Macdonald and Mr Robertson here, bought them, and carried them from Kilmaluag shores to Portree.

2109. How many lobsters will you kill in a good season ?
—Some days we have a dozen or a dozen and a half.

2110. But taking the winter over?
—Some days six or seven.

2111. How much will Mr Robertson pay a crew in the season?
—I cannot calculate that just now.

2112. Professor Mackinnon.
—What is the largest sum you make at lobsters in the season ?
—About £10.

2113. And the smallest?
—About £4 or £5.

2114. The Chairman.
—On the whole, considering the fishing on the east coast, and the lobster fishing in the winter, could you make more now than you used to do ten or twelve or twenty years ago, when you were a young man ?
—The lobster fishing was not happening in our place at that time, but more than twenty years ago or seventeen years, the first lobster fishing came to our place from London.

2115. But, on the whole, are your earnings superior now to what they were twenty years ago?
—Yes. The earnings on the fishings are more than they were twenty years ago, but there are more calls for expenditure by having a family to support.

2116. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you think anything could be done to improve your position as a fisherman, and enable you to make more by fishing at home ?
—We have a want of materials, boats and nets and harbours. At our place it is a very bad harbour; running boats upon the beach, and rough shore.

2117. Are your neighbours who have signed that paper fishermen?

2118. All of them?

2119. If you had money to buy a large east country boat, and stock it with nets, could you make money with it on this coast here ?
—Maybe it would happen, and perhaps if we lost the material and boat altogether, we would come to a total loss.

2120. Well, that is like fishermen anywhere else. But what I meant was, whether there was on this coast a good chance of making money if you had the material ?
—Surely, a good chance; there is nothing like it.

2121. As good a chance as on the east coast1?
—No, I don't think it. The Skye fishing is very far back now.

2122. If you had proper tackle, could you fish for twelve months, going Hector about where the fishing was and getting employment as a fisherman ?
—I believe I could, especiaUy for three months in the summer time.

2123. Professor Mackinnon.
—You said there was a month elapsed after the casting of peats was over before the east coast fishing began. Don't you think in that month you could manage to catch the Stornoway fishing ?
—No, because the fishing is working from the 20th or 30th May till the 27th June, and then we leave home for the east coast fishing on the 1st July.

2124. Can't you go to the Stornoway fishing on the 13th May, and have your potatoes planted by that time ?
—No, it is impossible, because we have to cut sea-ware and put it on to the ground. 1 have not a particle of seaware for myself at all, and we have, perhaps, to go round and get some elsewhere.

2125. Don't you think it would be more profit to lose the peats, and go to the Stornoway fishing ?
—I think it would be more profitable to go to the Stornoway fishing.

2126. The Chairman.
—You mentioned it would be a good thing for you to get improved fishing facilities. Will you describe the kind of harbour which would be useful to you ?
—Just quays.

2127. Do you mean a pier running out into the sea1?
—Yes; one that would make a shelter in the bay.

2128. Is there any one of that kind that you know in Skye?
—Portree is the nearest one.

2129. But do you know places where they could advantageously be made ?

2130. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is Kilmaluag one?
—It is very difficult to get one at Kilmaluag.

2131. Would Duntulm do?
—Yes, it would be easy to make one at Duntulm; but Uig is the only place for a quay, because it is smooth water always; there is no heavy sea rising there.

2132. Have you to pay for the right to cut the peats?

2133. From whom do you get them?
—On Mr Munro's 'ground, the innkeeper at Kilmaluag.

2134. How do you do for milk for your children?
—There is a want of that, unless we buy milk from the neighbours here and there.

2135. I suppose sometimes you cannot get it?
 —We get it only a very few weeks in the summer.

2136. Then, during most of the year you have no milk for the children?
—None. It is very hard on the part of the people to support a family without milk, or sheep, or anything of that kind.

2137. Do you think, if you had a good big boat, like the east coast ones, for yourself and the other six cottars, that you could work here as well as the men who come from Buckie, and other places ?
—Oh, yes. It would be very useful through the summer time, at the herring fishing; but there is no harbour in the place to keep it here through the winter.

2138. The nearest port to you is Portree ?
—Yes, that is the nearest place to save a boat in the winter time.

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