MALCOLM M’LEOD, Crofter, Gillen (77)—examined.
(See Appendix A, VII.)
3473. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely chosen a delegate?
3474. What statement have you to make on the part of the people of Gillen ?
—They are wishing to get enlarged holdings. I do not know how large they would desire, but that they should get some enlargement at any rate. They are very close. Their holdings can only support one cow with justice, but they keep one and a two-year-old.
3475. Have they any common pasture ?
—No, but a very small bit at the end of the lots within the fence.
3476. In former times, had they common pasture?
—I was once that I had the whole pasture myself. I was four years in Unish, and I had the hill pasture there.
3477. But at Gillen?
—We have not had hill pasture since I came to Gillen six years ago.
3478. Before that, was there common pasture in old times?
—There were no tenants in Gillen before these. They were previously in Scor for twelve years.
3479. And who was in Gillen before that? Was it a tacksman?
—It was in the hands of the proprietor a long time before.
3480. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long is it since you were tenants at Unish?
—It is about thirty-two years since we were cleared from Unish. We were fourteen or fifteen years in the occupancy of Unish, and I myself was four years in Unish to that time.
3481. In whose time were you removed?
—Major M'Donald moved us from Unish, and sent us to Scor.
3482. Who took possession of Unish ?
—The proprietor kept it in his own occupancy.
3483. And there are no crofters in Scor now ?
3484. Who removed them ?
—The captain, the present proprietor.
3485. The Chairman.
—Then you, in your lifetime, have been moved twice ?
—Yes, three times in alL I am now forty-three years paying rent. I was three years in Trumpan, where I was born. Then I went to Unish, where I remained four years; then twelve years in Scor.
3486. Mr Cameron.
—Which was the best land in all those places?
— Unish. I was very well off in Unish.
3487. Was there a tacksman at Unish?
—Yes, at that time.
3488. And crofters ?
—Yes; there was a Mr M'Rae.
3489. Was there a tacksman at Gillen too, a good while ago ?
—Yes, at one time.
3490. Before your time ?
—I do not well remember him, but I remember cottars he had in it.
3491. In what way did the land at Unish show its superiority to the other land 1
—There was large hill pasture connected with it. We could keep cows and sheep and horses.
3492. You have no pasture where you are now ?
—No, we have neither sheep nor horses; and buying has spoilt us entirely. The land has become so weak, and will not yield crops, and we cannot manure it. The
shore is too steep for us to bring the sea-ware from it.
3493 Is any of it capable of improvement?
—It cannot be much improved by working, but if we had a horse we could manure it; we could improve it.
3494. There is no land that would bear trenching?
—No, not that we could trench.
3495. What do you want?
—There is land enough through the country.
3496. But what do you and your neighbours in the township particularly want?
—The one thing they are wanting there is to have their holdings increased, to have hill pasture where they could keep sheep, and that they would be able to keep a horse. If Parliament would advance us money to enable us to stock the land, we would pay it by degrees; but should we have our present holdings for nothing, we would not come on well with them.
3497. Did you ever ask the proprietor if he saw his way to give hill grazing ?
—Our landlord was offering us a piece of hill ground when we came to Gillen. We have no fault to find with him.
3498. Why didn't you take it?
—It was dear. Some of us were not for taking it, though others were, and we didn't take it at the time, and could not get it afterwards.
3499. But you could not have been very anxious about it?
—It is not the landlord that left us so poor as we are,
—at least the present landlord.
3500 How long ago did the landlord offer you this piece of hill ground ?
—He was offering us the hill shortly after we came to Gillen.
3501. What rent did he offer the hill at?
—I think it was £25.
3502. What stock was it calculated to keep ?
—Not many cattle.
3503. About how many ?
—I think it would keep a horse a piece for the eleven tenants.
3504. How many cows?
—I don't think it would support more than a horse a piece to us. It would be bare enough with that itself all the year. It is only a small spot. But the landlord was very favourable to us. Though we should be backward with the rent, he was not hard upon us.
3505. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The previous witness stated that when you were selling your beasts the ground officer was in the habit of coming once a year and getting the first offer. Is there such a custom ?
3506. Supposing then they did not agree as to the price?
—The landlord expects to have the first offer.
3507. What happens if they do not agree ?
—If they would not agree about the price, the landlord was letting us sell the beast wherever we could. He was not finding fault with us.
3508. Supposing they did not agree, what happened ?
—That we would be at liberty to sell the beast anywhere else. He never said anything worse than Yes and No to us about that.
3509. Is it a fact, or is it not, that you generally did give the beast to the ground officer ?
—Yes, and he would be getting them.
3510. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Does he give as good a price as other people?
—He is giving a good price this past year too.
3511. Has that been always the custom?
—Yes ; for some time past at any rate.
3512. Professor MacMnnon.
—And you almost always agreed?
—Sometimes we might be complaining of the price we got from them, but we would agree for all that.
3513. The Chairman.
—Do the people dislike the ground officer coming round to make this offer ? Would they rather that the ground officer did not do it ?
—They would prefer the ground officer to have the beast than anybody else, if he gave a price as good as others, and if he would go pretty near the price they could have got from another, he would get it all the same.
3514. Is it, on the whole, a convenience to the people that the ground officer should give them the opportunity of selling their beasts to him ?
— No, not much. He is buying them these days like anybody else, and he gets them in preference to any other, when he does that.
3515. Mr Cameron.
—Do the drovers come round here?
—A few. Some of them were here this year already.
3516. Are they very stiff to deal with?
—Yes, they certainly are.
3517. Are they more so than the ground officer ?
—They are as hard to deal with as the ground officer. Any one that comes the way will drive as hard a bargain as possible.