STATEMENTS by JOHN ROBERTSON, Esq, Greshornish, Isle of Skye, and Factor for the Macleod Trustees in Glendale.
24th May 1883.
I wish to make a short statement as to my connection with the Glendale property:—
Mr Macdonald, Tormore, I understand, has explained the state of matters there up to June 1882, when I was first consulted and asked to take charge of the farms in possession of the trustees—Mr Macdonald, Tormore, having given them up. Immediately after visiting Glendale, I advised that a portion of Waterstein should be given to the Milovaig crofters, but the trustees and their advisers were of opinion that the crofters must first remove their stock from the grounds they had taken forcible possession of; and, as proceedings had been taken in the Court of Session for this purpose, they were served with an interdict early in July by Mr Mactavish, the sheriff officer, and at the same time he had, with the assistance of the shepherds, their stock removed from the grounds of Waterstein, and they were kept off by the trustees' shepherds till the fishermen returned in September. In August, however, there was a complaint made to me by John Morrison, Milovaig, of the Borrodale sheep trespassing on the Milovaig hill grazings. I went with Morrison and the shepherd to Borrodale, and told the crofters of this township that they must either sell off their overstock of sheep or pay the Milovaig crofters for the grazing, which they agreed to do at the rate of 1s. for each sheep, and which was accepted by the Milovaig people. I may here state that I have always thought that the Borrodale overstock was the cause of great confusion, and a great deal of the trouble from first to last.
On the return of the Milovaig fishermen, they told the shepherds in charge of Waterstein that they must not interfere with their stock, or put them off Waterstein. Soon after this, or about the beginning of October, I was appointed factor, and on my first visit to Glendale I met one of the Milovaig tenants, and had a conversation with him as to whether the Milovaig tenants could stock Waterstein. He admitted that they could not; but he said that eight of their number would take the farm if the trustees would give it to them. I could not see that such an arrangement could benefit the other Milovaig crofters, and so did not recommend it to the trustees; but at a subsequent meeting that day of all the Milovaig crofters I agreed to give them a portion of Waterstein, on condition that they would pay the arrears, and remove their stock from the grounds. The following day I pointed out the extent of ground, and where I should propose making the march fence. It was on an average about 360 yards broad and two miles long. This offer they declined to accept, and in a few days after went in a body to the shepherds, and after abusing one (Macdonald) they turned him off the property, and threatened the others if they again interfered with the Milovaig sheep or cattle. The proceedings aftenvards against the Milovaig crofters for taking forcible possession were carried on by the agents of the trustees, the result of which ended in the Court of Session, and the imprisonment of the three crofters. I have no recollection of having a conversation with John Macpherson about imprisonment, so could not have stated that, but for me, he would have been put in prison long before; the fact is, I had no power one way or another. I do not think he was worse than the others; but he took a prominent part at the different meetings, and was, in consequence, one of those summoned for breach of interdict. The tenants since on the property have mostly combined to pay no rents till the Milovaig people get Waterstein and other supposed grievances removed. I should however state that a small number have paid unknown to the others, asking me when doing so not to make it known, in case of their being punished by the other crofters. The trustees would be glad if the Commissioners could make any suggestions as to what should be done under the circumstances.
I wish further to add, that since I took charge of Glendale the shepherds have been thrashed, and reported to have been stoned and driven from their duties. I have also been informed that the same thing has happened to the messenger-at-arms and his assistants, and to policemen, and, so far as I have heard, no criminal proceedings have followed in consequence.
Greshornish, Skye, 16 October 1883
Murdo M'Lcan, one of the delegates from Edinbane, stated at Dunvegan as a complaint against my management of their club-farm, that I allowed the tenants no interest on sums realised for sales of the stock in September and October though the settlement did not take place till Martinmas (Q. 3687-3694). I was so surprised and taken aback at the complaints this man made, complaints which I never heard a word of till that day, that when explaining to the Commissioners in Portree that there was no interest due to the tenants, I forgot to state that the Whitsunday rent was payable at the previous Whitsunday, and had I been strict with them, I might have claimed six months' interest on the half-year's rent not paid till Martinmas.
I also wish to refer to the letter of Dr Fraser, of the Gesto Hospital, Edinbane, which the Commissioners asked to be allowed to take as evidence of the destitution (Q. 3832-4). In this letter Dr Fraser states that the wife and child of a Donald M'Innes had died of starvation some two years ago at Edinbane. There was at the time an investigation of this case by the Board of Supervision, and Dr Fraser gave a certificate that both died from the effects of drinking impure water.