JOHN CAMPBELL, Crofter, Hamara (64)—examined.
7206. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate ?
7207. How many people are there in Hamara?
—Five families; five shares in the township.
7208. You produce a written statement to the Commission?
—Yes. Hamaravirein, Glendale, May 1883. The following are the grievances of this township :
—(1) That in 1852 Hugh M'Kay took possession of the third part of this township, and continued in possession of the same till 1864. About this date, the third crofter in the township emigrated to America, whereupon the factor, Donald Macdonald, Tormore, induced him to take half of the township, that is the half of the emigrant's croft along with his own croft. The factor also assured him that as long as he should remain factor on the estate, he would not be altered, removed, nor deprived of any of the land, provided the rent was paid. Mackay had now to leave his own houses without any compensation, and buy the emigrant's houses. The land at this date, i.e., 1864, was uncultivated to a great extent on the emigrant's croft, and required many improvements, as a great portion of it consisted of peat soil, which was also very soft. Mackay set about working the land, and improved it considerably. As soon as the factor noticed this it seems he could not think of a better plan than to take the third part from him, and give it to one of the tenants removed from Hamara Mhor. The rent was at this time paid. Upon Hugh Mackay's death his son occupied his place. The said curtailing was not sufficient with the factor; but three years ago he deprived the son, the present occupier, of a third part of what his father left him. The factor gave this to one of the tenants of Borrodale. In consequence John Mackay, the present occupier, had now to sell his corn, having no stock to consume it. He asked the factor to buy it on private bargain. His answer was—"No, there are many in Glendale who are far more in need of that than you." " Then I shall make a public roup." " You are not allowed by the order of the proprietor to do so." Before the land was curtailed, Hugh Mackay was in good circumstances, but immediately afterwards gradually failed to meet ends, so that a brother of the present occupier had to assist him in paying his rent (being in circumstances able to do so). But in consequence of a remonstrance from this brother for curtailing the land, the factor ceased to send him receipts for the money paid by him for his brother. When the brother noticed the factor's intentions, he suspended payment The share that Hugh Mackay held when he had half of the township is at present subdivided between three. Besides that, one of the tenants removed from Ramasaig has been put upon the township against their will There are now five crofters in the township instead of three.
(2) John Campbell paid rent on this estate for thirty-eight years; in this township he paid rent for thirty-six years. His holding is the third part of the township, the rent being £9, 15s. 4d. excluding rates. His rent when paid last amounted to £10, 10s. 10d. including rates. His croft is the nearest to Hamara Lodge. In 1849 Macleod of Macleod was proprietor; and in the said date the estate came under trustees, and Hamara Mhor was then tenanted by three crofters, viz., ground officer and manager for the late Captain Macleod of Orbost, and another subtenant. In the same year he was deprived of part of his croft, which was added to Hamara Mhor. In the following summer he mowed the grass on the part taken from him, but they took it from him. Hugh M'Caskill being then factor, he demanded justice of him, which was firmly refused. Harry Macdonald succeeded M r M'Caskill and all he desired was rent, failing to give so he would be removed. Harry Macdonald was succeeded by Donald Macdonald, Tormore. John Campbell took Donald Macdonald and the ground officer to look at what he had been deprived of, and he said that it was quite possible that it was his (the crofter's) right. Shortly after- wards he spoke to him to restore him his land, but he replied he would not settle the matter more than the preceding factors. When he demanded justice of the ground officer, he was answered —" You may be thankful if left in possession of what you have." There is about thirteen or fourteen years since Tormore got Hamara Mhor into his possession, causing great annoyance to him for herding in winter, as Hamara is not fenced to keep sheep and cattle from crossing over. A herd is engaged to keep away neighbouring stock. His stock is generally maltreated by the herd and his dogs, owing to the reckless state of the fore-mentioned. township. John keeps four cows, a horse, and twenty sheep; and he states his croft is inadequate to feed his stock. In winter, to give any- thing like justice, half the stock would be sufficient for the croft. Our sole request is that the following be considered by the Royal Commissioners:—
(1) That we get our holdings extended;
(2) That our rents be abated;
(3) That inducements be given us to build good houses ;
(4) That compensation be granted for improvements;
(5) That we desire permanent security against the oppression of landlords, and against eviction;
(6) That we may have a right to cut sea-ware for manure;
(7) Power to buy our lands by paying them for twenty-five years, or what- ever seems proper, by trustworthy persons. —Signed by JOHN M'KAY, JOHN M'LEAN, DONALD NICOLSON, JOHN CAMPBELL.'
7209. There is also a statement by John M'Lean of his particular grievance?
—The Statement of Donald M'Lean, crofter, Hamaravirein, evicted from Ramasaig two years ago.
—I have been evicted from Ramasaig to make room for sheep. I was one year a cottar at Ramasaig after some of my fellow-crofters were removed, as there was no vacant place for me the first year. I then got the small plot on which I am settled at present, only a small plot from which an old widow was evicted, to make room for me. It was reluctantly I accepted the offer, as the place was far too small for any man who had seven of a family, but I had sweet promises and no performance at all The factor, Mr Macdonald, promised an increase of holding, and the privilege of some work about the Hamara farm, and herding the cattle. He would do many things for me before I came here, as an old man, too old for going to other countries to support my family ; but I am still obliged to leave my home. Yet, old as I am, I had Campbell. to carry the roof of the old house at Ramasaig the distance of four miles, consequently I lost the whole year's earning, besides my expenses building a new house. As long as I live I shall not get over the loss I sustained by evicting me from Ramasaig. I have spent all I had since I came here. My expenditure in meal, corn, and seed alone, not mentioning any other outlay, this same year amounts to £30, and no income since I came to Hamaravirein, but one stirk and one calf. I have to buy the seed to sow the ground, and I don't expect to get as much out of it as I have sown. If I had the value of £30 of land, or even the half of it, I could manage to keep my family and cattle without being in such a state of poverty. If we don't be relieved through the kindness and sympathy of our sovereign the Queen and Government, we shall all be objects of pity, and our children will leave us altogether, as this place is not fit to keep them anything like human beings, unless the land is given to them to till and toil about it. The people do not expect land for nothing; they only wish to get as much of it as will support themselves and families at a reasonable rent. They would be quite content if they could stand credit, and give every man his due. The people know very well that their forefathers and themselves bought the land before this. W e would all take land for nothing if we could get it, but still we don't expect it in that form. We want as much of the land as we can manage to pay, and work the same. When I was a cottar at Ramasaig I was compelled to sell my horse by Mr Macdonald's order. The time came that I had great need of the horse; when carrying the old house roof and other domestic utensils from Ramasaig, I had to get a neighbour's horse to help me. Tormore charged me £1 sterling for my neighbour's horse, though my neighbour had grazing of his own for the horse. —JOHN M'LEAN.'
7210. Have you any further statement to make on the part of the people of Hamaravirein ?
—I have not much more to say. I know that Tormore was displeased with me ; and I heard it said, and I am not going to deny it, that I gave hospitality to two individuals who were going about among the people, and Tormore threatened that he would do for me because of that. I said to him that I never denied hospitality to any one so long as he would behave himself in my house. He told me I was only keeping a bad house, giving lodgment to Irishmen and to blackguards, and he ran down both myself and my house and my family. He said I would not give him hospitality, and I told him I would, and that I was kinder than that towards his business and his servants ever since he came into my neighbourhood. I concur with Mackay in everything he says; and Hamara, which was cleared by the factor, is a trouble to us. It would be better for Glendale that Hamara would be a lake of water than in its present condition.
7211. What is the present condition of Hamara?
—The way our place is so much troubled by our stock wandering to it. There is no fence about it, and our stock is suffering on every side of it through his servants keeping the place for himself.
7212. Whose servants?
—Tormore's servants, who they were there, and none of them remained long in the place.
7213. You said you kept two strangers in your house ? What were the names of the strangers ?
—M'Hugh, an Irishman, and Mr Murdoch was the other.
7214. Was Murdoch an Irishman or a Scotchman'!
—He was a Highlander ; he was formerly editor of the .Highlander newspaper.
7215. Did they both stay with you for some time ?
7216. How long did they stay?
—They came on the Saturday to the Glen and reached Meiloveg, and they were late, and when they returned, they came to my house, and they left on Monday.
7217. They only stayed from Saturday till Monday?
7218. How did they employ the Sabbath?
—Murdoch went to church. He came to hear the sermon here. The other man could not understand Gaelic, and did not go.
7219. What business brought M'Hugh here?
—To enlighten the people on something, but I would not understand what he was saying.
7220. What language did he speak ?
7221. Did he hold a public meeting ?
—Not many gathered to hear him, at any rate.
7222. What did he tell the people ?
—He was telling the public to plead for good justice, and to get more land, and advising them that they were not to break the law in any way.
7223. And when he went away, where did he go to ?
—I think it was to Uist.
7224. He only remained here from Saturday till Monday ?
—Yes, that is all
7225. Did he ever come back again ?
—Yes, and he gave me a call when he returned.
7226. How long did he stay the second time ?
—He came about six o'clock at night, and left in the morning.
7227. Were there ever any other Irish gentleman came here ?
—No, no other.
7228. Did he visit any other place about here ?
—I don't know what places the man visited.
7229. Do you know what part of Ireland he came from ?
—No, nothing about it
7230. He could not speak Gaelic?
7231. Mr Cameron.
—Did he come from Glasgow ?
—He was saying it was from Glasgow he came to this place.
7232. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—One of the complaints in this petition is that the rent is too high. What is the rent?
—£9, 15s. 4d. is my rent, exclusive of rates.
7233. The Chairman.
—What is your summing ?
—Four cows, a horse, twenty sheep, and the place would not keep half of that.
7234. How many sheep have you got yourself at this moment ?
—I have the twenty.
7235. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many stirks ?
—I have three stirks. The cows happened to have three calves last year.
7236. Was the summing of twenty sheep the proper summing of your croft before a place was taken off it to add to Hamara ?
7237. And what is the summing of it now since that piece was taken away ?
—They are striving to keep that stock which I have mentioned.
7238. 1 mean your own particular croft ?
—As I have mentioned, four cows, one horse, and twenty sheep.
7239. Are the three stirks part of the summing too ?
—I must put them off the ground now; they are not in the summing.
7240. But the twenty sheep are in the summing ?
7241. How many sheep have your neighbours got; what is the summing of John M'Lean, for example?
—His summing ought to be the half of mine.
7242. The Chairman.
—How many acres of arable ?
—Owing to the way in which I work my lot, which the factor and the ground officer know, the arable part of my lot is double what it was when I got it first, and I think I have now six acres of arable land.
7243. How long have you had a croft ?
7244. Has your rent ever been raised ?
—I could only say that the rise in the rent was very little.
7245. Are the stirks more valuable now than they were thirty-four years ago ?
7246. Are they twice as valuable?
—No, and they would not be worth anything but for the way in which we feed them. The cows have no milk. I have to feed the stirks with meal which I buy.
7247. Do you mean that, although the stirks are now more valuable than they were thirty-four years ago, you have to spend more money in feeding them, and bringing them up for the market ?
—Yes, one of the stirks which I would be able to rear at that time on the grazing of the township would be worth the whole three that I have to-day reared with the milk of their mothers on the grazing of the township, and one cow at that time was better than three to-day.
7248. Why is that ?
—The land was strong at that time. It was not run-out at that time through incessant cultivation. It had been five years in grass when I got it, and now it is run-out, and become so poor that it will not yield either crop or grass to me.
7249. Professor MacKinnon.
—There are three crofters besides yourself ?
7250. Do you know Mackenzie's rent ?
—A little more than £6.
7253. That is about £16, and your rent is £9, 15s. 4d?
—Yes. Another Borrodale man has a share of mine.
7254. I think you also told us that, though your summing was twenty sheep, the others could not keep the half of them ?
—No, not with justice.
7255. How many sheep has Mackenzie ?
—Seven or eight.
7256. And Nicolson?
—Five or six.
7257. And M'Lean ?
—Five or six.
7258. They have between them twenty,—just as many as you have yourself ?
—I have not more than that.
7259. They are paying £16 of rent, and you are paying £9, 15s. Do you pay anything to them for the extra stock you have?
—No; that was the summing of my lot.
7260. But you say the place does not keep half the summing ?
—Not to give them justice.