Uig, 10 May 1883 - Malcolm Nicolson

MALCOLM NICOLSON, Crofter, Shiader (51)—examined.

1824. The Chairman.
—How long have you had a croft?
—It is eighteen years since I got the croft which I have at present.

1825. You have a written statement which the people have entrusted to you to present ?
—Yes. At a meeting of crofters in Shiader, on 4th May 1883,—Donald Campbell in the chair, the following resolution was carried:
—That our principal grievance consists in our rents having been raised three times during twenty-seven years, our original rents being £7, 10s. to £8, 10s., our present rent from £12, to £12, 15s. Originally we occupied more fertile crofts, but these we were deprived of, and were sent to other crofts less fertile than any on the estate. Our present crofts are in close proximity to a rapid cataract, which is most dangerous and destructive when in flood, often carrying away considerable portions of our crops. We have been incurring liabilities for a considerable time back. Should our creditors urge payment, we would be left almost pennyless. Our original crofts were turned into a sheep farm beside us. There were forty-two crofters of us in all in the place. We were all removed—some to Australia and some to America and to various other parts. When we were in our first crofts we were comfortable; we feel now quite the reverse. It was Major Fraser who removed us. And what we stand in great need of now is an addition to our hill pasture, as it is quite evident that the spot pointed out to us in company with other four townships is quite inadequate to keep up the summing ordered by Captain Fraser. Our stock is starving in the hill, and getting bad usage keeping them from tacks right and left, without fence or dyke to keep them on our own ground; but the truth is, they are forced to trespass when they have hardly anything to eat on their own ground. We welcome the Commission, and leave with confidence our truthful grievance in their hands—TENANTS of Shiader, Uig, on the Kilmuir estate, Skye.'

1826. Mr Cameron.
How many crofters are there at Shiader?
— Eight.

1827. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are there forty-two families?

1828. Have you anything to add upon your own part to the statement which you have presented ?
—Our land is open to the north wind, and it is the same way in ripening the harvest, and then I cannot have seed upon it. We did not put a stone of meal into the mill this year in the Glen, and we bought seed oats forby that.

1829. Have you any further statement?
—The people are complaining that the place is very dear, and does not yield a crop, being on a cold place and late in ripening.

1830. Has the rent been raised in your recollection?

1831. What was the rent at the earliest period of your recollection?
— It is eighteen years since I came to Shiader, and I was paying £8, 10s. then, and it was raised to £12.

1832. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How soon after that?
—In 1877; the year of the flood.

1833. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was it only once raised?
—There was over 5s. added to each lot betwixt the two. We got 5s. in the pound of abatement.

1834. Mr Cameron.
—And some of the tenants' rents were raised more than yours in proportion?
—We were paying between £7 and £8 on the other side of the river at Tallautain.

1835. How many times were you shifted ?

1836. The Chairman.
—What was the first rent you paid in your present croft?
—£9, 10s.

1837. How often has that been raised?

1838. How much was it raised the first time?
—I think 5s. was the first rise, which was laid upon us in name of the doctor's money.

1839. Does the doctor exist, and does be come to see you?

1840. Do you grudge the money for the doctor, or are you satisfied the doctor is useful ?
—We are satisfied with that payment.

1841. Then you do not complain of that?

1842. What was the second rise?
—Our rent was next raised to £12.

1843. What was the reason for raising it to £12?
—We had no reason other than the landlord's will.

1844. Did you make a remonstrance to the landlord's factor against this rise of rent ?
—We remonstrated with the factor, and the factor told us we would have to leave our holdings if we would not pay.

1845. His the proprietor or the factor ever done anything to improve your holdings or to better your condition in any respect?
—We were not asked by them to improve our holdings, but we were improving them voluntarily, and we then got a little assistance from the landlord.

1846. In what form?
—The ground officer was sent round to look after the. work, and what the officer thought proper we got.

1847. What kind of work did the improvement consist of?

1848. How long ago is it since the drains were made?
—Ever since we came to our present holdings.

1849. Were the drains useful? did they improve the ground?
—Yes, they improved the ground. It was quagmire when we came to it.

1850. Has the improvement been a permanent one? Does it still exist?
—Yes, it still exists.

1851. Is the ground as well worth £12 since it has been improved, as it was worth £9, 10s. before it was improved?
—No, and it is not worth £9, 10s. even with the improvements. It is as good value now at £12 as it was before at £9, 10s. when we entered ; but the croft never was worth £9, 10s.

1852. Have you been deprived of any hill pasture?
—No, when we were shifted to Shiader we got hill pasture along with the crofts.

1853. Is the hill pasture you got at Shiader as good as the hill pasture at the former place ?
—No, the land that we formerly had had a sunny exposure, and what we now have has not. We have seven weeks of the year that the sun does not shine at all upon us.

1854. You stated there has been a reduction from the rent of £12; how much is the reduction ?
—Five shillings in the pound.

1855. How much was your rent last year—1882 ?
—About £9, exclusive of assessments.

1856. Therefore, you are now paying for the improved croft the same that you formerly paid for the croft before it was improved ?
—That is the case.

1857. Then you would not have any reason to complain of the landlord if you continue to hold it at the present rent?
—Only that the rent ever was too high.

1858. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What extent of improvement did you do? Did you trench or drain your croft?

1859. Do you know what extent of trenching you did?
—About 800 rods.

1860. Did you get wages for that ?
—No, nor half wages. I drained my present holding at intervals of five yards three feet deep, otherwise it would not be dry.

1861. Do you know what sum you got altogether for that?

1862. The whole sum you got?

1863. And your rent was raised from £9, 15s. to £12?

1864. Did the landlord supply you with tiles or any materials?
—No, he gave us no material.

1865. The sole outlay by the landlord was £6 ?
—Yes, that is all I got.

1866. Were your neighbours paid at all for their work?
—There were some of them who did the work, but who did not get any remuneration, for the ground officer did not go to see their work.

1867. Was the work sufficiently extensive to make it worth the ground officer's while to go to look at it?
—I do not know, but they themselves are saying they got nothing for their work.

1868. And their rent was raised?

1869. When you say there were forty-two crofters at the place you were in originally, was it at Shiader or Tallantain ?
—Between Tallantain and North Coil, which is included in the Glen.

1870. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You went to your present place against your own will, and not with your own consent ?
—Very, very much against our own will and many of us weeping at leaving our former places.

1871. Who has the place you were at formerly?
—Mr Urquhart has it now, but the landlord himself had it at first.

1872. Who was in the place where you now are when you removed into it ?
—It was unoccupied

1873. Then, did you put up your own houses?
—Yes; every stone to quarry out without any assistance; but we got £ 1 of assistance.

1874. Is it a fact, then, that this original rent of £9, or whatever it was, was a rent that was fixed upon you, and that you must accept the place or leave it ?
—We had the choice of going to a township here and there, if we did not want to go to Shiader.

1875. Were you consulted about the rent you were to pay at Shiader?
—We were asked to make an offer of rent.

1876. Did you make an offer?
—Our predecessor was paying £65 for the land before we entered it, and we offered £68 for it, and our offer was rejected. We then offered £70. The £7 0 was agreed to by the landlord, but when we got our lands we found we had to pay £75.

1877. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Does that include rates?

1878. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Then, in fact, they paid £10 more than the previous big tenant?

1879. The Chairman.
 —When they came to the new place, did they pay the full rent for the first year of their residence ?
—Yes. We entered our lands at Whitsunday, and at Martinmas we paid the full rent.

1880. Did you pay any rent before you got any crop or any profit from the ground ?
—Yes; only that we had the half-year's grass out of it.

1881. Did the proprietor grant you any compensation or any assistance or gratuity on account of the trouble or expense to which you were put in moving ?
—£1 was all the compensation ; and when two crofters occupied one lot they each got 10s. of compensation instead of £1 . The £ 1 was divided.

1882. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did you all build your houses at Shiader ?
— Yes.

1883. What did your house cost?
—I do not remember just now; we had great trouble, forbye the expenditure on mason work.

1884. Had you to employ mason work, or did you do the work yourself ?
—I paid the masons, and carried the stones a good piece to the ground.

1885. Where did you get the timber for the roof?
—I had the roof of the house I had before, and some more added to it.

1886. Professor Mackinnon
—Have you any idea of the amount of money you had to pay out in addition to your own labour and trouble?
— No.

1887. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Would it be several pounds?
—It would, and I was working day and night. We had to move out the very day, and we were staying in broken houses till we got out.

1888. What is your present stock?
—My present summing is four cows and a horse and about thirty sheep.

1889. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you keep all that number?
—I have only a quarter of a lot. That arose on account of a marriage in the family. My relations were in the lot before I went into it.

1890. Mr Cameron
.—Did you ask leave of your proprietor before you divided the lot ?

1891. Was he aware of it?
—I am sure of it.

1892. The Chairman.
—Have you any other remark to make before you retire ?

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