Uig, 10 May 1883 - John Macdonald

JOHN MACDONALD, Crofter, Solitote (45 or 46)—examined.

2139. The Chairman.
—How long have you been a crofter at Solitote?
—It is two years since I got my present croft.

2140. Where did you live before?
—In the neighbouring township

2141. Why did you leave that township ?
—I married and left.

2142. Does the croft belong to yourself, or are you in the house of your mother-in-law ?
—I am in my own house and lands.

2143. You have a paper with which you have been entrusted by the people of Solitote?
—Yes. 'Solitote, Kilmaluag, Skye, 9th May 1883. —To H.M. Commissioners, Uig, Skye.
GENTLEMEN, —We, the crofters resident in Solitote, Kilmaluag, beg to lay some grievances which we labour under before you for consideration. A piece of land, formerly in the hands of one crofter, is now divided among eighteen, fourteen of whom pay rent. Our crofts are miserably small, and by being taken in year after year the land is of very bad quality. The rent of the land when under one crofter was £9, 8s., and we now pay in all £22,10s., although the third part of the croft is in the hands of another tenant. We are not allowed to keep even a cow or sheep ; have no privilege to cut heather for binding the roofs of our houses, or rushes to thatch them with; and we are even debarred from cutting sea-ware to manure our ground. We used to have part of the hill adjoining our township, but this was taken from us, and we really have nothing now. We would desire land sufficient to allow us to keep a cow or two, and also to have the privilege of keeping a few sheep—the land to be reasonable in price. We would also desire the right to cut sea-ware for manuring our crofts. You will confer a great blessing on us by considering our case, and your efforts on our behalf will be gratefully acknowledged by your humble servants,

2144. How do the people whom you represent subsist, since they have no cow, no sheep, and no land ?
—Off the sea for the most part.

2145. What is their principal object in desiring to have land? Is it to provide their families with milk?
—That itself is a great reason.

2146. And potatoes?
—Potatoes and fruit of the earth as others have.

2147. But, if you had more land, might you not be tempted to forsake and neglect the fishing ?
—If we had more land, we would not risk our lives at sea in rough weather as we now have often to do.

2148. You would then prefer to be a crofter to being a fisherman?
— Yes; it would be better for us.

2149. Did you hear all that the previous delegate said?

2150. Do you agree? Did he speak wisely
—-Yes, I agree with what he has said.

2151. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the name of the one tenant who had this large holding ?
—A man named Malcolm Macpherson. After him, two had it. Then it was in Lauchlan Mackay's hands.

2152. Was it subdivided all at once?
—They all came in at once.

2153. Where from ?
—From Duntulm. They were removed from Duntulm tack.

2154. That was done against their own consent, I presume?
—I cannot say. They were merely cottars on Duntulm.

2155. Did they build their own houses?
—Yes, they built their own houses.

2156. This subdivision was at the instance of the landlord?
—It was John by the landlord's orders—the landlord and factor.

2157. How long ago?
—Thirty or thirty-one years ago.

2158. You state that the rent when it was under one was £9, 8s., and now it is £22, 10s., when was that increase put on ?
—When the subdivision was made. I cannot say what the rent was when the subdivision actually took place, but the rents actually were raised in proportion as the rents of other townships were raised.

2159. What was the last increase?
—I cannot tell. It was not I who had the lot at that time.

2160. Why did the people send you when you were there only two years ?
—The people are not at home. Some are not able to work. The people are away from home fishing ; at the fishing at Shetland, Lewis, and elsewhere.

2161. What rent do you pay ?
—Twenty-three shillings and a few pence ; but there are some of them that pay more than that.

2162. What extent of land have you for which you pay that sum ?
—One and a half acres.

2163. How do you work it, since you are prevented from keeping a sheep or cow ?
—I take a little potatoes out of it, and a little corn.

2164. Where do you get the manure ?
—The sea-ware and drift-ware on the shore.

2165. Mr Cameron.
—Do you get any fishing at Duntulm?
—Yes, we fish lobsters in winter.

2166. Was the sea fishing at Duntulm as good as the fishing here?
— It is better than this, but it is a wilder coast.

2167. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—They want some hill land apparently. Is there land adjoining their croft which could be got easily, or in whose possession is it at present ?
—The land is there as we ever have seen it round us.

2168. What farm does it belong to now ?
—Duntulm tack.

2169. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there only one tack on that whole side of the country ?
—It is all in one man's possession at any rate.

2170. How many miles does it extend ?
—I cannot say.

2171. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the nature of the restriction that they are not allowed to cut heather for the roofs of the houses or rushes to thatch them with ? Whom does it prejudice ?
—We are not allowed to cut either rushes or heather without leave.

2172. The Chairman.
—Does the tacksman in reality give you leave to take the grass and heather, or does he absolutely refuse it ?
—He is not refusing it at all. He would give it to the people who would go and ask him.

2173. Does he make you pay anything ?
—He is not asking payment.

2174. Then, why do you put in the paper that you cannot get heather or grass ?
—There are some who cannot get it, though there are others who get the privilege.

2175. Why does the tacksman refuse it to some ?
—There may be some who do not deserve the privilege ; there are others who do.

2176. How can a man not deserve to have the privilege of cutting grass and heather ?
—There may be some who are not able to give work to the tacksman in exchange.

2177. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie
—Do they all do work for the tacksman?
—If you put work before us we would do it.

2178. For pay
—For pay.

2179. But do you give a little work to the tacksman for the privilege of obtaining heather and grass ?
—He is asking that.

2180. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Then, none of the eighteen you represent have a cow among them ?
—No, they are not allowed to keep a cow.

2181. What food do they give to the children?
—South country meal, and treacle, and tea and sugar.

2182. The Chairman.
—Are you allowed to keep a cow; or is it because your land is not fit to support a cow ?
—The land we have is not capable of supporting a cow.

2183. Did they ever ask the tacksman to allow them to have a cow on his farm and pay for it ?
—I never, asked it. It is a new tacksman we have now. This is his first year.

2184. Did you ever get pasture under the old tacksman ?
—We could not get that privilege from any of the present tacksman's predecessors.

2185. Would you be willing to pay for the liberty of having a cow on the farm for summer pasture ?

2186. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are they in debt in your township?
—There is no township without being in debt, and we are in debt also.

2187. Is there any family there that is not in debt ?
—I do not know any who are not in debt.

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