Waternish, Skye, 14 May 1883 - John Mclean

JOHN M'LEAN, Crofter, Hallen Park (73)—examined.

3088. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman?
—I am not now a fisherman ; I was a fisherman.

3089. How long have you been on your present croft ?
—Forty-five or forty-six years.

3090. Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of your place ?

3091. What have you to state to us on the part of the people?
—I have to say that my land is very high rented, stony ground.

3092. I wish you first to speak on behalf of the whole people who have elected you. What do they complain of?
—Their cause of complaint is just the same as mine.

3093. Then go on ?
—Hard stony ground, and part of my arable land has been cultivated during the whole time of my occupancy. We have no hill pasture. We are in a park surrounded by a dyke.

3094. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who is outside the dyke ?
—Tenants who are above us on the hill, and on the other side another park.

3095. Crofters ?

3096. Where is your place?
—About two miles further down.

3097. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What do you think of the life and living of the people now, compared with what it was when you were young ?
—They have no living now in comparison to what they had when I was young. They have much trouble and toil working the ground, which they had not then. There is not a man or a woman now but has to be out in spring working at the ground now; and when they are done with the spade, they have to drag the harrows themselves.

3098. Did they not work as hard before ?
—No, they did not. They had horses that would do the work of ploughing and harrowing.

3099. Had they better food then than they have now ?
—Yes, they had plenty of meal and flesh, some of them. Before they were spoiled, each one would have from ten to twenty sheep, four milk cows, two stirks, and two or three heifers to keep until the time for selling them ; but now I must sell my stirk for want of a keeping place before the proper time for selling.

3100. How often do you eat meat now?
—We do not eat flesh at all. We have not the wherewith to buy any, and we have no flesh of our own that we can eat.

3101. What is the principal article of food?
—Fish, meal and water, and milk.

3102. Do they take more whisky now-a-days or loss?
—I am not using much of it, at any rate. There is not more whisky consumed now. I remember whisky being manufactured down here,

3103. Where did they get their whisky from out of Skye?
—From the Gairloch people; they were very kind people, but it is a long time since we have seen any of them.

3104. Was there a great deal of whisky privately made in Skye before the Carbost distillery was erected?
—Yes, some; but it is a long time since the manufacture stopped. There is not a drop being manufactured now.

3105. In those days, of course, there was no tea?
—No, not a drop.

3106. But there is a good deal now?
—Plenty of tea now.

3107. I suppose in the poorest houses in the parish they have tea regularly every day?
—Yes, in the poorest houses in the parish.

3108. How often every day?
—Twice a day, at any rate.

3109. Do they give tea to the children?
—Yes, what can poor people do when they have not got anything else ? They must take something to keep them alive.

3110. Are there any of them so poor that they havo no milk?
—Not many ; unless it may be some paupers. Some have a cow, some two.

3111. Since what time do you think their condition has begun to deteriorate ?
—More than fifty years ago.

3112. And who was laird then?
—Mr Grant, afterwards Lord Glenelg.

3113. Was he a good landlord?
—Yes, he was; but factors were coming our way, who were spoiling the place. These arc the people who spoiled the place before the Macdonalds got it. I remember the time of ten shares in the township being at £ 4 of rent each, and a factor came who doubled the rent. That was before the Macdonalds became proprietors. He doubled that rent, and took the sea-ware from us.

3114. The Chairman.
—Was the land at that time hold in 'run-rig,' or were the crofts already separated?
—They held the arable land in common.

3115. Sheriff Nicolson.
—When was the land first divided among the crofters ?
—Before the Macdonalds' time.

3116. Were there any people removed during that time, before the Macdonalds?
—Yes. Corry was the last factor, and he was before the Macdonalds' time, and he made a dyke by the roadside. He made parks down below the road to the sea-shore. He moved the people who had the arable land, and the grazing above down to that low land ; and he placed two and three on each lot, and ho put a sheep stock on the hill of which he deprived them. He took from them both sheep and horses ; but there weretwo townships to the north end of that, which he left as they were.

3117. What are they ?

3118. Were there any removals made under Major Macdonald, the father of the present laird ?
—-No, but these people became so poor that they could not pay the land, and much of the land was wasted, and the major had to move these people.

3119. Had the major a factor ?

3120. And his son has never had a factor

3121. He manages his own lands ?
—Yes. Any land which the captain set to tenants since he became landlord, he gave it to them at their own offer.

3122. Has he any tacksmen on his estate, or has he in his own hands all except what the crofters have?
—No, he has no tacksmen.

3123. Mr Cameron.
—You say they used to have horses formerly. Had they more arable land ?
—Yes, much more, and had less rent than we pay now.

31241. How long ago is that?
—About fifty years ago.

3125. Has the poverty of the people been gradually increasing since that date ?
—Yes, they are not gettiug richer at all by any means, and these years have spoiled them entirely. I paid £10 between rent and rates at last Martinmas, and six pecks of meal is aU that I made at the mill, and I had to buy for my family.

3126. You pay £10, and keep two cows and followers?
—Yes, £8, 18s. of rent.

3127. And you have two cows and followers ?
—Sometimes I keep three; but I have to buy grass.

3128. Where is the arable land you used to cultivate when you had horses ?
—Other crofters have it now ; it is just above us.

3129. Then, there were fewer crofters on the ground than there are now on that part of the estate ?
—Yes, I think so. There are many crofters now.

3130. There are too many crofters for the land?

3131. How do you think it would answer if some of the crofters were to become fishermen, and depend entirely on fishing, and let the other crofters (their neighbours) get the land they occupy ?
—Well, the fishing has gone against us for the past two years. The Government should give some assistance for the erection of a pier here, for fishermen pass out their lines in very stormy and dangerous weather. They are not in a position to get built boats with sufficient material.

3132. If you had boats found, and if a pier were erected, would it encourage the people to prosecute the fishing more than they do at present ?
—Yes, it certainly would. They come from the east coast to fish at Barra ; and if the fishermen here were as efficiently equipped as these they would be encouraged to do otherwise.

3133. Then, in that case, do you think it would be for the advantage of the people at large, if a proportion of them were to devote themselves to fishing, and the remainder stick to the farming, and take up the crofts of those who prosecuted the fishing ?
—I do not know that; a fisherman would need to have land also.

3134 Would it not be better for the community at largo if a proportion of them stuck to the land and the other proportion took up fishing, and let the land go to the rest so as to increase their holdings ?
—What would do the crofters good would be for them to keep a horse to help to till the ground. I would rather have a horse just now, even should I only have one cow

3135. Do you think any of your neighbours that you are acquainted with would be willing to give up their land and stick to the fishing, if they pat these advantages in the way of boats and a pier ?
—I do not know. That is what I cannot say. I was not asking them about that.

3136. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many crofters are there in this township ? Five ; one left us.

3137. What became of that croft?
—Another one has got it.

3138. Of yourselves?
—Another one of ourselves took the croft, and he has now two,

3139. How long have you been in this place? I understand you were not born in this township?
—No; I was born not far from the present township, in a place called Reisagan.

3140. You have told us that you are surrounded on two sides by townships of crofters like your own. In these circumstances, how can your townships be extended except at the expense of your neighbours? You have accounted for two sides ; what is on the other side of you ?
—The ground officer is on the other side of me, and other crofters.

3111. How is it possible, then, to increase your holdings in these circumstances ?
—There is no way in which crofts which are enclosed in a park, as we are, can be increased, unless by removing some of those that surround us.

3112. Can you suggest what ought to be done to benefit you ?
—If we would get hill pasture ; but the rent is heavy enough on us.

3113. Is there any hill pasture which would be convenient for you?
— Yes, there is such hill pasture above us, and in the hands of the landlord.

3114. What is the name of the place?

3115. That is the same place the previous witness spoke of?

3116. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You mentioned that when crofts were vacant, the captain gave them to tenants at their own offer. Were the offers higher or lower than the previous ones ?
—I cannot say.

3117. Were the six crofts in your township all at the same rent?

3118. Do you know if the tenant who got the two crofts paid the old rent for the extra croft that he took ?
—I cannot say. I am informed that he has taken it as at this term of Whitsunday, and I am not sure if he has got it yet.

3119. The Chairman.
—You stated that the people were better off when you were young—that they had better clothes and better food. When you were young were the people more cheerful and happy in their minds than they are now ?
—I cannot say much about that, but their circumstances then were better than they are now.

3120. Had they more amusements and diversions than they have now ?
—Yes, much more.

3151. What sort of diversions?
—Balls and dances at some times of the year
—at Christmas. They don't have such now.

3152. Had they more music?

3153. What sort of music ?
—Pipe We don't hear the pipe at all in the place now.

3154. Did they sing more?
—Yes, plenty of songs

3155. Men and women?

3156. What has made them less cheerful? Have the clergy discountenanced those amusements, or is it the deterioration of their condition ?
— The ministers of course were discountenancing it. The ministers won't be for the like of that at all.

3157. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are they against the pipe?
—I did not ask the gentlemen ; I cannot be sure.

3158. Have they expressed themselves against the singing of any songs except psalms and hymns ?
—Yes, many a time.

3159. And the people pay great respect to the ministers?
—There are indeed some trifling songs that people would not be much the better of hearing sung.

3160. The Chairman.
—Is it in any degree on account of their depressed circumstances that they have become less cheerful and fond of diversion ?-You may be sure of that; that their poverty is making them less cheerful. You may be sure that when a man is depressed with poverty he cannot be

3161. Sheriff Nicolson.
—In your early recollection were there young men going into the army from here ?

3162. Did they go willingly or unwillingly ?
—They were going willingly. ' '

3163. Are there many now 1
—Not so many now.

3164. Have you any idea of the number that are now in the army from Waternish ?

3165. Do you know how many pensioners there are in Waternish?
— No, but I believe the commanders who have come from Skye were the best that ever crossed the seas.

3166. Are there any pensioners in Waternish?
—I do not think there are. There was a time when there were some.

3167. What do you think is the reason why the young men do not care to go into the army now ?
—I do not know very well. I cannot understand it very well. Some enter the army yet: perhaps hardships at home may compel them to list.

3168. Have there been any young men from Waternish that have risen in the army ?

3169. Do you know any living now?
—Yes, Major M'Leod, now living in Edinburgh.

3170. He is the son of a crofter from Geary ?

3171. Has that not given any encouragement to other lads to enlist ?
— I would expect it to encourage them, but that lad was considerably steady, and he carved out a position for himself.

3172. Is it an exception among the young men here to be steady and well-behaved 1
—I do not know any unsteadiness about them.

3173. Do many of them go to work in the south ?
—If they don't, they will not get work here. They must go to the south, or die where they are.

3174. Do many of the young women go also ?
—Yes, it is in the south that the women earn most of what supports them.

3175. Do they learn any bad habits there ?
—I don:t know. I was not asking, neither am I seeing any bad habits.

3176. Have they had any visit during the last year or so, from any Irish gentlemen lecturing upon land rights ?
—I am not aware ; I did not notice anything of the sort.

3177. Have their ideas been influenced to any extent by what they have heard about Ireland and out of Ireland, that is, about the land and their own condition ?
—I do not know anything about that; I was not hearing.

3178. Do you know what has been done in Ireland for the improvement of the people ?
—I do not know. I have not heard. I am not hearing so much about that now as I was hearing before. I think they are getting better now. We hope we will all be better of the Commissioners' arrival here. If we are the worse of it, it will be a bad business.

3179. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have stated, or the previous witness stated, that there were no tacksmen upon this property ?

3180. Who live in the slated houses down near the shore ?
—Most of them are merchants, and people who live in rented apartments.

3181. Are some of these people in fairly good circumstances ? Are they reputed to be in fairly good circumstances ?
—I do not know.

3182. Are any of the people living there in a position to help their poorer neighbours ?
—No, unless the merchants. The only other people are fishermen of the place who rent rooms. One thing is, we would need to have a quay at any rate.

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