Glendale, Skye, 21 May 1883 - John Mckinnon

JOHN M'KINNON, Crofter, Ferrinvicquarrie (58)—examined.

7471. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to make to the Commissioners?
—Yes. 'From the Tenants of Ferrinvicquarrie.
1. In the year 1836, Ferrinvicquarrie was occupied by twelve crofters. At present it is occupied by twenty-five. Six of these have been removed from the neighbouring township of Scorr—the whole number then occupying it. Others came from Husabost. The township of Scorr was depopulated by Dr Martin's predecessor, viz., Mr Nicolson.
2. At the abovementioned date each crofter was allowed to keep seven cows, two horses, and as many sheep as he could manage. Now we can keep only two cows, no sheep, no horse.
3. We now pay double the rent we then did.
4. The land, by reason of its being cropped and recropped for the last forty-seven years, became annually less and loss productive, so that now it very often does not sow itself.
5. Mr Nicolson imposed upon us four days free labour each year, in addition to our rent. Dr Martin, our present proprietor, increased the number by six —in all, ten days. Over and above this, we had to dry his fish and embark it, and disembark his salt—to do all this, and nothing found.
6. In lieu of the day’s work we had to pay 2s. 6d. In lieu of the whole number of days we had to pay an additional £1 at the rent day.
7. Should a crofter happen to break a hook in cutting down Dr Martin's corn, on one of these days of free labour, he had to pay Is. 6d. for it.
8. Some of our crofters have been deprived of their only cow for arrears ; and they were without any for three years.
9. We have been deprived of most of our hill pasture ; partly by Mr Nicolson, partly by Dr Martin. 10. We use heather for bedding for our cows in summer. Such heather can only be had on the. hill taken from us. But the shepherd had orders not to allow us to pull any there.
11. Our proprietor, Dr Martin, as a crofter, has three crofts in Ferrinvicquarrie ; yet he does not pay his share of the expenses of the herd, or of the expense of keeping a bull.
12. Within the last eight years the rental of Ferrinvicquarrie has been increased by £21.
13. We are not allowed to sell any of our cattle to any buyer but himself. Notices to this effect are just now posted up in public places throughout the glen.
14. Some of our crofters, having large families, buy thirty bolls of meal a year. The average of our whole township is about sixteen bolls. What we desire is—
(a) The abolition of the ten days free labour;
(b) Increased holdings;
(c) Fair rent.

7472. Have you any other statement to make?
—I don't think I have anything further to say.

7473. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Are all these exactions you have referred to going on at this moment ?
—Yes, but we have not performed any of the services for the past year.

7474. Did you agree among yourselves to decline doing it?
—We refused.

7475. Did you get any letter or threat from the proprietor about it?
—Not much threatening for the past year.

7476. One of your grievances is that you pay double the rent you then did. What is the rent you pay?
—£9 ; but £7, 10s. was the rent before, when Mr Nicolson settled the land.

7477. How long was Dr Martin in possession before he raised the rent?
— A long time, I believe.

7478. And he raised it from £7, 10s. to £9 Ì
—Yes; he raised it £2 about eight years ago.

7479. How many crofters are therein Ferrinvicquarrie?
—Twenty-one whole crofts, but the most of them are subdivided into two halves.

7480. How many heads of families will there be?
—There is a family in every half lot.

7481. But how many families are there on either croft or half croft? Is it marked on the paper here twenty-five. Is that so ?
—I believe it will be the number.

7483. And how many will there be altogether?
—I don't know.

7483. Will there be one hundred ?
—There are more than one hundred souls.

7484. In regard to the fishing, we heard from a former witness that, formerly, of their own accord, they were willing to sell their fish to the proprietor, and now there is a charge here for carriage and for drying the fish. Will you explain what that means?
—We were doing that.

7485. What does it consist of ? Had you to gut them?

7486. Explain all you had to do ?
— We had to split them, and to clean and wash them.

7487. Did you salt them ?
—We were not salting them. The doctor himself had a salter.

7488. You state that you had to do this without anything being paid ?

7489. You had to do this for the cod and ling, for which you got so much per head?
—Yes, and we were doing the work.

7490. Did that occupy you some time ?
—Yes. It kept us a good while, and every day on which we brought fish we would have to perform this service.

7491. You went out and fished, and you sold the fish to the proprietor for a certain sum per head. Now, what time would you have on shore before you gutted, cleaned, and put the fish to dry ?
— We would not take much time even should we have to bone fifty fish. We would like better
the day on which we had most to do of that work.

7492. I understand now the grievance is not at the time of landing them, but spreading them out to dry after they had been in the store ?
—Yes, that is what we complain of.

7493. And would that occupy you some time?
—Doubtless it would, sometimes.

7494. And had you to put them back into the store after taking them out ?
—We were not returning them to the store at all. W e were just clumping them on the hillock on which they were dried.

7495. In No. 11 of the paper it says that the doctor, as a crofter, has three crofts in Ferrinvicquarrie, but does not pay his share of the expenses of the herd, or of the expense of keeping a bull. What reason does he allege for not paying his share of the expenses ?-
—The meaning we were taking out of it was that he was a landlord, and, as the word is, might was right with him.

7496. Did you ever protest against it, or just put up with it?
—That is what I cannot tell,—that we ever took it to the doctor himself, though perhaps it might be only once a year that I saw the doctor, unless the sickness of my family would bring him ; but I think I was seeing something harder on me than the doctor; I was seeing the factor, and he was worse for me than the doctor.

7497. Was that Campbell?

7498. How long is it since he left?
—About two years ago.

7499. Is there anybody in his place?
—I don't think there is anyone doing his work at any rate ; and I feel that there is not a person in this

7500. Now you say again, 'We are not allowed to sell any of our own cattle to any buyer but himself. Notices to this effect are now posted up in public places in the glen’. Does that mean that the landlord fixed his own price ?
—No, not at present, at any rate. I did not hear the doctor putting a price on a beast since Campbell left.

7501. Then, taking it in Campbell's time—what used to be done in Campbell’s time when there were any beasts to sell?
—When the tenants would be selling the beast to any person that would be coming the way to buy them, the threatenings of Campbell would be coming upon those who would do so, whether this was with the authority of the doctor or not.

7502. Then tell me what Campbell used to do? Did he go with the beast to the market or not ?
—Campbell used to come through the place to buy the beasts.

7503. How did he fix the price ?
—Just as he himself thought proper.

7504. Was he in the habit of leaving the animals after buying them for some little time upon the crofts?
—No, a very short time. His own place was near, and there was no reason for him to leave them with us.

7505. Was it a benefit to the tenants or a benefit to himself, or a benefit to the person who sent him there, that he took those steps ?
—I don't know. It was that the beast would be better with him than with us. He was sending it to better pasture.

7506. But was it for the benefit of the tenants, or himself, or the proprietor, that he came and took the beast away ?
—I do not know what great profit he was allowing the crofter at all.

7507. Would you have much preferred that he should not have interfered with you ?
—I believe that we would prefer that he should not interfere with our beasts. Sometimes it would be better he should not.

7508. Was it always the best beasts he took?
—Often. Those who were in debt to him he would insist on getting the beast that he chose himself.

7509. And they never know what he really got for them at the markets ?
—No, indeed they did not.

7510. Did it not give a great advantage to this person Campbell, or to anybody who followed that rule of going round and picking the best of the cattle they could get from the crofters, thus making up a choice herd of cattle, and thereby, when they went to the market, perhaps not having a single bad beast amongst the lot. Did it not give the seller of this choice lot a great advantage in the market over other people ?
—There was no person getting the choice of the beasts as he was getting.

7511. And the same would apply to any person who acted similarly in other parts of Skye ?
—Yes. I believe his position as factor gave him an advantage in dealing with us, in making up a choice drove.

7512. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Did he give you a less price than you would have got from the drovers ?
—They would be laying that to his charge, at any rate.

7513. What sort of difference did they think they could get from the drovers ?
—I cannot very well say.

7514. You say you sometimes did sell to the drovers, and were threatened in consequence, what followed such threats ?
—Sometimes nothing much more than threatenings followed.

7515. And at other times?
—I may say that the way in which he was driving ourselves was the hardest treatment we were getting from him.

7516. I have seen the notice you have referred to on the door of the post-office here. Is that put up because the tenants have not been paying their rents ?
—I don't know; I did not see the notice.

7517. But you refer to it in your paper?
—I can neither read nor write. I believe that such notices were posted up.

7518. I suppose the notice on the post-office door now is the notice you refer to ?
—I believe it is.

7519. Has that been posted up because you have not been paying your rents ?
—I believe that that was his reason for putting up these notices, so far as regards the cattle that have been sold.

7520. The Chairman.
—When the factor used to buy those cattle from them, did he buy them for himself, or did he buy them for Dr Martin ?
—I don't know.

7521. When they were bought were they taken into the ground occupied by the factor, or were they taken into Dr Martin's fields ?
—I believe he was buying some for himself also. We were not looking where he was bringing them to
—whether to his own ground or to his master's.

7522. Did you ever see them in Dr Martin's ground ?
—Yes, but we never knew whether they belonged to his master or to himself.

7523. Professor Mackinnon
—What is your own rent?
—£9, 10s. I pay £13, including taxes.

7524. Surely the taxes don't put it up to £13?
—I did not appear at the rent collection time at Martinmas last, but some who were at the rent
collection were saying that these pounds were taken off them—that the increase which was laid upon them eight years ago was taken off. I have two lots.

7525. What has been your own rent for the last seven years, actually ?
—Up to £13, including everything. I was paying for the doctor.

7526. What was your summing ?
—Two cows and a stirk on each croft.

7527. That is five cows really ?
—Four cows and a three-year-old.

7528. What stock have you actually ?
—I have two stirks besides that.

7529. Are there others who have less than their stock?
—Yes, plenty.

7530. Mr Cameron.
—About the twenty-one crofts you mentioned, you stated they were subdivided into halves. How did that subdivision take place?
—When the people became so poor that they could not keep them.

7531. And what happened?
—That they are constantly getting poorer.

7532. How did the twenty-one become divided into half crofts?
—By the natural increase of the families.

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