Uig, 10 May 1883 - John Gillies

JOHN GILLIES, Crofter, South Cuil (60)—examined.

1431. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman as well as a crofter?

1432. You have been freely elected by the people as their delegate?
— Yes.

1433. Have you been always resident here, and are you well acquainted with the condition and the wishes of the people ?
—Yes, to the best of my judgment,

1434. Will you have the goodness to make your statement of the grievances and hardships, if any, of which the people whom you represent complain ?
—Want of sufficient land to support their families, and that at a reasonable rent, as the place would afford, We are wanting that we should be treated as we hear other parts of the country are treated,—that we would not be removed from our holdings. These are the desires and the grievances, and I have not much more to say.

1435. Can you suggest anything which could be done to remedy theso grievances?
—More land, out of which we could support ourselves.

1436. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What amount of land do you possess?
—Two acres and a half, I believe. Six stones of meal is all I have been able to make during the last sixteen years.

1437. Do you thresh all your corn ?
—Yes, we thresh all the com, unless we give a sheaf to the beasts.

1438. Do you give half the sheaves to the beasts?
—Yes, and more.

1439. Do you take to the mill all that you thresh?
—No, it would not be worth while. I would not have half a boll of oats altogether.

1440. What do you do with it when you thresh it?
—I give it to the stock after threshing it. I must needs do that.

1441. Then you have made six stones of meal in the last sixteen years ?

1442. And the rest you have given to the cattle?
—Yes, I sow seven bushels of seed oats.

1443. How much potato seed do you plant?
—About four or four and a half barrels. My land cannot plant more.

1444. Is it all under crop?
—Not altogether. Some of it cannot be cropped.

1445. Is it in grass ?
—In the sort of grass in which it ever was.

1446. Do the cattle graze the grass, or do you cut it?
—The cattle eat it.

1447. What stock have you?
—A cow and a two-year-old I am entitled to keep, and I cannot winter the cow on the croft.

1448. What do you buy for it?
—About £2 worth of feeding, besides the crop of the ground.

1449. Have you any sheep ?
—A few.

1450. How many ?
—About twelve.

1451. Any horse ?
—I have a horse. I am the only one in the place who has a horse.

1452. Does the £2 worth of fodder you buy include the keep of the horse ?
—The keep of the horse is exclusive of what I have mentioned.

1453. What do you buy besides for the keep of the horse?
—I spent about £3 more for the keep of the horse besides the £2. That would not feed him, but he gets food when out at work with others.

1454. Do you make a profit of the horse?
—That was what I had in view in keeping it, but the principal profit which it is to me is that it does my work.

1455. Of course for 2½ acres you do not want a horse's labour. Do you employ the horse otherwise for hire?
—Yes, that is the case. I use the horse to take home my fuel.

1456. How far are you from the moss?
—Three miles.

1457. Do you bring home peats for other people too?

1458. For payment?

1459. What is your rent?
—£4, 12s. 6d., but I got a reduction about four years ago. We got 5s. in the pound.

1460. What do you pay now ?
—About £3, 11s.

1461. You spoke about being treated like other parts of the country. What other parts of the country do you refer to ?
—I do not mean in the country in which I am — I refer to Ireland.

1462. Do you want a lease, or to have the land for your own?—I do not want a lease at all; I wish that we would have the land to ourselves.

1463. At what rent do you think you ought to have it?
—I cannot say until I would see the amount of land we would get. I would require as much as would keep up a family.

1464. Where would you expect to get this ?
—Unless I would get it on the land where I am.

1465. But in any place?
—There is plenty of land. I do not see anyland in possession of the crofters which is not too small for them already. I would take the land which we require from those who have got too much of it.

1466. Supposing a large farm taken and divided among the crofters, would the crofters pay the same rent that the large farmers pay ?
—I cannot say much about that, but I believe it would be heavy on them to pay it.

1467. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long have you been where you are ?
—I have been five years in the spot in which I am now.

1468. Where were you before?
—In a spot near it.

1469. Why were you moved?
—To give my land to another.

1470. Who ?
—The innkeeper here.

1471. What were you paying before ?
—The rent was raised twice on me; I was removed twice.

1472. Where were you removed from the former time?
—From North Cuil first.

1473. Why were you removed from that?
—Because the landlord was wanting that land for himself.

1474. How much were you paying in that first place ?
—£3, 10s.

1475. What stock had you there ?
—A cow and a calf.

1476. How much did you pay in the second place?
—£9, 15s. at first.

1477. And was that raised?
—It was not that the rent was raised, but I was put out of the land.

1478. Had you been paying your rent regularly?

1479. Was there any complaint against you?
—I am not aware there was any.

1480. What stock had you?
—Seven cows, a horse, and I do not remember how many sheep. I could keep about thirty sheep.

1481. Did that support you and your family comfortably?
—I was middling comfortable on it.

1482. Are you not so now?

1483. What other means of living have you besides your bit of croft?
—Only what I earn with the help of the horse, unless I buy and sell a beast.

1484. Is there any work to be got here?

1485. What kind ?
—Field labour.

1486. Is there any regular work?
—No, not every day.

1487. What wages are given ?
—I cannot say from personal experience.

1488. Have more of the people been removed from that same place which you were in ?

1489. At the same time with you ?
—Yes, the last time I was removed.

1490. What year was that ?
—Five or six years ago.

1491. How many tenants were removed ?
—Five, I think.

1492. Where were they sent to?
—Two of them are still in Bensoraig, one in Glen Ilinisdale, and another in Idrigill.

1493. Were any others removed within a few years back?
—There were no removals since then, but at that time five were removed from the other side of the loch.

1494. Why were they removed?
—I do not know of anything but the will of the landlord.

1495. Who was the tenant?
—Donald Ross has got their land now.

1496. Who got the land of the other people in Bensoraig?
—Mr Urquhart, the innkeeper.

1497. Are the two men in Bensoraig living on land left to them? —One of them has got land, and I do uot think the other has got any.

1498. Had he before ?
—No; it was not good crofts before; there was not a good croft in it.

1499. Has any hill pasture been taken away from the people about here in your recollection, which they had before?
—Not about here.

1500. Have you any difficulty in paying your rent?

1501. Are you in arrears just now?

1502. Have you ever given a bill for payment of the rent?
— Yes.

1503. Who would sign the bill for you?
—A brother of mine signed it once.

1504. Is there a good deal of that done on this property?
—There was at any rate at one time. I was signing plenty of them myself.

1505. Was that when you were in the other place ?
—When I was in the other place; but it is not my having been removed that has left me so unable to do what I could do before.

1506. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You say that when you were first removed it was the landlord who wanted the place. Has the landlord that place still ?
—Mr Urquhart has now got the land from which I was first removed, under a tack.

1507. Who was in the place where you now are before you were put there ?
—The man who occupied it before me is not living.

1508. Then you went into an empty croft?

1509. Have these removals been prejudicial to you? Have you been falling off at each removal ?
—Yes, falling off, and that not little.

1510. Are you able to say, from your own observation in regard to other people who have been removed and shifted in this way, whether it has ever been for their benefit or whether it has been the reverse?—Possibly there may have been one who was bettered, but I do not remember an instance but it was worse for every one of them.

1511. Is the population upon this estate or in this very neighbourhood increasing or decreasing, or stationary?
—The population is increasing, I believe, but many have to leave the country because of the smallness of the holdings.

1512. With regard to the fishings in this bay, are you well acquainted with the fishing in this bay and neighbourhood ?
—Yes, I am acquainted with the fishing in this bay, but there is no fishing now.

1513. Why?
—The fish are not there. I believe there are three years that they have got no fishings. They have spoiled their tackle in their endeavours to fish during that time.

1514. What do you mean by that?
—Using the tackle and no fish in it.

1515. Are there no herring?
—No herring is to be found here.

1516. Then a quay for landing their boats and going off would practically be of no use in this particular spot?
—I have seen fishing here before, and there may be fishing yet, and the quay would certainly not be in the  way here. A quay would be of good service to us, for we could get our supplies landed without loss or damage, as it is from the south country we are getting our supplies.

1517. Suppose you could have a quay where you could go in and out in all ordinary weather, would people go to some distance to fish ?
—Yes. I cannot say they would go out in all weathers, but they would go out in any likely weather.

1518. They would do that?
—Oh yes ; they are doing so now they use their endeavours now in very unlikely weather.

1519. Is this bay very much exposed to the west winds?
—Yes; the shelter would be on the other side, on the north side, in such weather.

1520. Professor Mackinnon.
—When you had that croft from which you were removed last, the £9, 15s. croft, did you consider the rent too high?
—Not at the time.

1521. Was the croft big enough?
—A good part of it was of use to me.

1522. And with regard to the croft which you have now, do you complain that it is too small or that the rent is too high ?
—The rent is too high. Should I have the croft for nothing it would not be of use to me.

1523. The rent is too high, but the worst tiling is that the croft is too small ?

1524. What about the houses?
—When I left the first place I got £7 as the value of the house I left. The wall of that house cost me £15 to build.

1525. Then the second ?
—At the next place from which I was removed, I quarried all the stones for the house which I built, and I got no compensation for it.

1526. And did you build the house in which you are just now?
—The house in which I am just now I found built,—the wall of it at least. I myself put the roof on it, and I am asked to pay 15s. of rent for the bare walls, and I got nothing for the walls that I left behind.

1527. To whom have you to pay this 15s. ?
—To the factor.

1528. Did you bring the roof you had in the previous house to this house, or did you have to buy the wood?
—I brought the roof from the last house.

1529. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How many crofters are there in the place where you are ?

1530. What do they pay?
—One pays less than I do, and the rest pay more.

1531. Professor Mackinnon.
—You want more land. Is there land about here which you might get?
—Yes, not far off, if we could only get access to it.

1532. Where?
—There is a beautiful glen out there—Glen Uig.

1533. Who occupies it now?
—Mr Urquhart.

1534. Is that the same Mr Urquhart whom we have been hearing about ?

1535. Was that place in possession of small tenants before?

1536. How long ago was that?
—Fifteen or sixteen years ago.

1537. Do you know of any people coming from other places into the crofts about here, or were they merely people of the place ?
—There were no strange crofters taken in.

1538. So it is just the clearing of the place for a big farm, and the natural increase of the population that has caused the overcrowding?
—No doubt of that.

1539. The Chairman.—Suppose that the proprietor was disposed to allow the people to make new crofts in Glen Uig, and that these were to be made crofts of £10 value, would the crofters here be willing and able to go out to Glen Uig and build houses, and fence the land, and stock it and cultivate it?
—They would be willing enough to do that, but I do not know they would be quite able to do it without help.

1540. If the proprietor was to allow them to do it for the first year at a smaller rent, would they be able to do it?
—Not without help to stock the ground, and if they could but once get the crop out and take food out of it, I believe they would be able to pay on ever after that.

1541. If such crofts were constituted in a new place, do you think it ought to be prohibited to divide them afterwards into half crofts?
—I think it should be prohibited. I believe that such a subdivision has caused a good deal of loss already.

1542, But would not the people themselves press the landlord to be allowed to subdivide, for the sake of their families ?
—I believe the crofters would ask the landlord to allow them to do so. I think the landlord should not accede to such wishes.

1543. Then you would approve of the creation of £1 0 crofts, with a prohibition ever afterwards to divide them?
—Yes, I would approve of that.

1544. Would it be better to have them £20 crofts, or do you consider a £10 croft a good sort of croft ?
—A £20 croft would be better, and such a croft would be likely to do, and the people of this place are not likely to ask more, for such a croft at such a rent would support their families comfortably.

1545. You stated you were in the habit of earning your subsistence by working for other people. When you work for other people without your horse, how much do you get per day ?
—I only work with the horse.

1546. When you work with the horse, how much do you get?
—In some places 5s. a day, and I feed myself.

1547. Do you sometimes work with your horse for the proprietor?
—I never worked for him but one day.

1548. Do you ever work for some tacksman or gentleman?
—No, I may work for the poor people who have no horses themselves.

1549. If you had constant work with your horse at 5s. a day, would you rather earn a subsistence that way, or would you prefer to have a larger piece of land and work on the land for yourself?
—I would rather have the land. I would need the piece of land to euable me to feed the horse. I would prefer the piece of land.

1550. Mr Cameron.
—What is the smallest size of croft on which you think a family could be maintained all the year round?
—That is according to the place where I would see the croft.

1551. But in your own district, how many cows and how many acres cf arable ground .at the least?
—A croft of 9 or 10 acres, and I would keep six cows on that.

1552. What do you think would be a fair rent for that?
—In my experience in former days, such a croft would be had at £6.

1553. Do you think that would be a fair rent now ?
—I do not say that would not be accounted a small rent now-a-days.

1554. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—In the days when that was considered a usual rent, what was the rate of wages ?
—There was not much day's work going on in those days.

1555. The Chairman.
—Have you any other remark you wish to make before you retire?
—I have nothing more to say further than I have said already—that I know of no likely remedy to improve the condition of the people, but to give them sufficient land to keep their families in comfort, and if they do not get that they will be very much worse than they are. I myself, whatever way I may be able to procure it, have to spend £16 a year on meal from Glasgow.

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