PETER M'KINNON, Crofter and Postmaster, Lephin (55)—examined.
6946. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Lephin ?
6947. In the statement presented by John Macpherson, on the part of the Lower Meiloveg crofters, there occurs the following passage :
—In conclusion, we would give a query—Why were not the Glendale letters sent away at 2-30 P.M. instead of 5 P.M. on the 17th of April last, as by this delay in despatching them, caused by registered letters that day in the post-office, provisions coming home for our families were delayed a week?
—I am instructed to give all such information to the surveyor-general when asked, as I am provided with books of rules in connection with the postoffice, and it is of course unreasonable. This is the report of the people, and the report should be forwarded to the proper quarter, and then I shall be ready to explain this to the post office department. It is not proper to make such known to the public. That is according as I understand it by the book of rules, but I shall be prepared to explain this and to answer this when the report shall be reported to the postmaster-general, and I shall be prepared for my own department.
6948. Then you do not consider that under the regulations you are at liberty to make an explanation on this occasion ?
6949. Now, speaking as a delegate, have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Lephin ?
—Yes; I have here first my own personal grievances, and then I put the account of the people. I wish to read the statement on the part of the people.
6950. You were freely elected a delegate?
6951. And was this statement which you have put in read to the people ? Did they all see it ?
—Not all; some were not at home, but to such of my neighbours as were at home, all who were living at home—because the able-bodied people are away.
6952. How many were present when this was read to them?
6953. How many residents are there ?
—There are only six in my township in Lephin?
6954. And there were only two present ?
—Yes, the rest are away all through the world. As a chosen delegate on behalf of my township, I am requested to state a few remarks of their present and past grievances, wishing to remind all friends either here or elsewhere of our sending full details of our state to the trustees of the estate. Some time ago, being patiently waiting a redress for a long period, except that the Meiloveg crofters could hardly bear the yoke placed upon their necks by the interdict of Tormore, to which the Supreme Court had given consent, in preventing landing or even standing upon any part of the lands between the point of Dibidal and Lower Meiloveg, the distance of about twelve miles, or taking out any licences or exemption paper for dogs, and from handling drift timber, under pain of their being reported by shepherds and herds. Under those circumstances of extreme depression, it appears that matters changed otherwise, when almost all the tenantry of the estate and of Dr Martin preferred hoisting a flag of independence against local rulers, at the same time unfurling their Hag of distress for observation of the British Parliament, under whose hands are ample stores of provisions, so as to grant timely aid to the needy. There are twenty-nine crofters and four cottars in the townships of Holmasdale and Lephin, paying about £80 rental, instead of ten tenants paying rental of £48 fifty years ago. They are composed of evicted tenants from the parishes of Bracadale and Waternish forty years ago, others who had been removed from Meiloveg about forty-four years ago, when under a lease for the late Captain M'Leod of Orbost, who evicted the old Meiloveg crofters from those townships, where they had many privileges in connection with their holdings, viz., horses, sheep, moderate rent, and double summings of all sorts than at present, Holmasdale being the hill pasturage of Lephin, where the women used to milk their cattle and sheep, as no cattle were then allowed about the clustering hamlets. It was to this desolated, uncultivated barren moor the poor forsaken tenants of both Meilovegs had to flee, where stones could not be got for erecting huts for themselves and their cattle, so that tods might be compared to the ancient Hebrews for want of materials wherewith to form bricks or stones for abodes in their new discovered colony. The rental of both arable land of Lephin including pasturage being formerly £68, comprising ten shares, the former tenants being evicted to make room for sheep about eleven years previous to this new settlement, whereas the new settlers of the hill being charged £10 above the old rent, although minus of the arable. Under present depressed conditional circumstances, we would humbly pray for relief:
1. Fixity of tenure;
2. Enlarged holdings;
3. Fair rent fixed by law courts;
5. Power to buy holdings similar to other nations.
To all concerned, PETER M'KINNON, crofter; LAUCHLAN MORRISON, crofter; PETER M'DONALD, crofter.'
6955. There are twenty-nine crofters and four cottars in the townships of Holmasdale and Lephin. Do you represent Holmasdale as well as Lephin ?
—Holmasdale and Lephin,—Lephin being the proper township. It has been subdivided of late. There is another delegate chosen from Holmasdale. Lephin is the proper township, Holmasdale being anciently the pasturage of Lephin, and now there is a new name given, and the ancient place subdivisioned for some years past.
6956. Have the people of Holmasdale elected you to speak for them!
—There is another delegate.
6957. But are you authorised to speak for the people of Holmasdalc ?
—Oh, yes, they can show that by a show of hands.
6958. Did the people of Holmasdale hear this paper read ?
6959. How many of them heard it read ?
—I don't recollect. I read it openly and publicly to the people.
6960. Then there is a statement on your own part. Have you got a particular grievance on your own part ?
—Yes. I am a native of Glendale, born at Borrodale on the 15th May 1828, left Glendale at the age of sixteen years, enlisted in the Royal Navy on the 4th January 1852, having passed my examinations as first-class gunner of the Royal marine artillery at Portsmouth in 1853, and embarked on board HMS "Royal George" the same year as candidate for actual service for the Baltic, having been transferred to H.M.S. "Spiteful" in 1854 for the Black Sea Fleet as lance bombardier, having been at all engagements from 17th October 1854 until the end of the Russian war, having served also in H.M.S. "Nile" and H.M.S. "Sansparcil." I was invalided at Haslar hospital in 1860, through injuries contracted in and by the service, with first class certificates of abilities in all branches in which I served, including gallantry, most exemplary conduct, and other honours, with pension extended to few vears for reappearance for further examination, either for continual service or pension, being recommended by the naval medical doctors for retiring to my native land for the benefit of my health. When finding my health and strength improving in my native Glendale, and few hundred pounds of money at my command of my hard earnings, I wrote a humble petition to the late Sir J. Macpherson M'Leod, for permission of erecting a shop for general dealings at the roadside at Lephin, where I was at the age of half a year old to six years old, to which petition a favourable reply was sent through the factor, late H. M'Donald, requiring the approval of the inhabitants of such a shop being for the interest of the locality. Having obtained sufficient signatures to the effect required, full permission was favourably granted by the late most honourable proprietor of the Glendale estate. As soon as I started business, the factor told me that I would have to become surety for payment of the rent of the croft upon which my house and shop was built, or that he would evict its possessor for failing payments ever since he got it, as said possessor, late Kenneth M'Kay, apparently being possessor two years previously. I conceded to the request, rather
than see the poor man deprived of his little plot of ground, in considering the poor man of being incapable of maintaining either himself or his heavy family of six sons and one daughter, who was considered by all his neighbours of being of unsound mind, and quite indifferent to all consequences of evictions. I afterwards got possession of the one-third of Hamara, and the post-office on the retirement of the late John Campbell, who was first appointed postmaster of the district. The tenants of Hamara were served with summones of removal in 1867, when the whole township of Hamara was relet to me, on faith of fixity of tenure, as long as I would pay the rent for same. I was again served with citation of ejectment from the township of Hamara in the spring of 1869, when having a long debating regarding the agreements made with the factor that I should not be removed without cause or non-payment, &c. The only plea the factor offered was that he wanted the township of Hamara for his own accommodation, and that he would allow me the sole use of the lot at Lephin, as he was under a vow of depriving M'Kay of his last and only cow for payment of meal; and as there were so many applicants for said No. 2 lot of Lephin, he was about letting it to some one named Donald Nicolson, Glasphin, who offered to build a new house upon it, as he would not think of removing me out of my own premises, since his being aware of my getting full authority from the proprietor of budding premises for the interest of tenants and proprietor as postmaster and general dealer. I continued paying my rent as formerly until 1881, when, having many charges against Tormore on account of bad neighbouring, and for many losses of ill-usage of my sheep and cattle in his protecting the township of Hamara by dogs, instead of the customary dykes, as anciently kept in repair, when good neighbouring and fair play being naturally expected from crofters and proprietors. He then charged me of being repeatedly claiming justice from him, and if he were in my place that he would knock his head against the stones. I told him of his foolish redress and unsound advice, as a magistrate and meditator between tenants and most esteemed proprietors. He reminded me of my not paying the arrears of the former tenant, amounting to £ 6 10s., two years rent. I told him of my never hearing of such contract being mentioned in our specification until then, and if such an amount were owing to the landlord, it looked quite careless to him as manager allowing two cows, worth £20, be taken away by two dealers from off said property until the honest proprietor would have his own, and that I might justly charge him fully £100 for his interferences and non-interferences as a sole judge and ruler of all matters on the estate for a period of about twenty years. I there and then paid my rent, and left the paying office of Hamara lodge, having pocketed my receipt and proceeded homewards; and after arriving home I discovered that I had been fairly or rather unfairly cheated; by my perusing my rent receipt, found myself as heir of the heirs of the estate of Kenneth M'Kay, being watching and waiting consequences ever since then until I had the pleasure of acknowledging, per receipt a registered letter on the 16th of April last, and finding enclosures quite unjustly and quite contrary to reason, which might easily be proven by original rent receipts, and hereby declare my having paid quite regularly my diverse dues as sole possessor of No. 2 lot at Lephin ever since 1861 to 1881, and that my father paid said lands at or within a few yards of same stance from 1828 to 1834, making clear payments of twenty-six years, besides the unsettled period of two years, for which I offered payment to the present factor, on terms of my being fairly served with proper co-efficient receipt as formerly, so as to correspond with former settlements. I have so far endeavoured showing my having been served with three summons of removal within the last twenty years, without any reasonable cause, except imaginary and unfair accusations of the following natures:
1. For claiming fair play and protection as a British subject;
2. For my being reading newspapers, thereby causing the enlightenment of my fellow-mortals;
3. Writing for poor people for admission of obtaining charity, &c.;
4. For speaking openly as shareholder of public opinion, as regarding voting for suitable members for Parliament and school boards, for passing any remarks upon either Conservatism and Liberalisms ;
5. Claiming good rules between factors and tenants, so as to have fair understanding between industrious honest crofters and honourable just landlords—until brought so very low as common degraded thief placed abaft the mizenmast, after undergoing punishment of the seven bell cat-of-nine-tails, but living in hopes of obtaining the usual quantity of sweet oil for soothing my scratches at the hour of sunset, so as to enable me drawing my pound and pint at five bells in the morning.
6961. The statement of your own case is so full and accurate that I shall not ask you any questions about that, but I wish to ask you one or two questions about Holmasdale and Lephin. Am I to understand that the settlement at Holmasdale is made out of the hill pasture that formerly belonged to Lephin ?
—Yes, the hill pasture belonging to Lephin.
6962. Was there a township at Holmasdale before, or was the whole of the settlement at Holmasdale placed upon the hill pasture at Lephin ?
—There was no township at Holmasdale before.
6963. And the people who now live at Holmasdale were brought and settled upon the hill pasture of Lephin?
6964. How many families are there now at Holmasdale
—Twenty-nine families between the two.
6965. But how many are there at Holmasdale ?
—Twenty-one; nineteen paying rent, and two cottars.
6966. How long is it since the first settlement was made at Holmasdale ?
—About forty-four years ago.
6967. Were the families all brought at once, or have they come one after another gradually ?
—They came nearly all at once.
6968. Where were they brought from ?
—From Upper Meiloveg.
6969. All of them ?
—The most part of them; about eighteen of them, I believe.
6970. Was that in consequence of the land being taken away from Upper Meiloveg ?
6971. Why was the land taken away at that time from Upper Meiloveg
—For the purpose of making room for sheep.
6972. What was the name of the land taken away ?
—The land of the Upper Meiloveg.
6973. Does that form part of the farm of Waterstein ?
—No, it is still under tenants. It is the tenants or crofters of the Upper Meiloveg. They were removed at this time to make room for sheep, and afterwards it was lotted again, and the same place is under crofters.
6974. The people were taken away from Upper Meiloveg, and the land was given to a tacksman or to sheep, and then the land was restored afterwards to the people of Upper Meiloveg ?
6975. But you also say there were evicted tenants brought from Bracadale and Waternish?
6976. How many tenants are there in Lephin now?
—It is supposed to be six; but there are nine families, including the cottars.
6977. But six crofters?
6978. Have each of them got a whole croft, or are there any of the crofts subdivided ?
—There is one croft subdivided, and another cottar who pays 25s.
6979. What is the summing of the whole croft ?
—It is supposed to keep ten sheep and two cows and a stirk; no horse.
6980. What is the rent ?
—From £3, 5s. to about £5.
6981. What is your own rent?
—I am paying generally £3, 10s., but since I left off paying I don't know what it is. It is going up and down.
6982. You are now living in a house which you built yourself ?
6983. You don't pay anything extra on account of the house which you built being a good one ?
6984. Nothing is charged on your own improvements?
6985. Have you made any improvements on the croft itself ?
—A great deal; it is worth twice as much as it was when I got possession.
6986. Draining ?
—Draining and trenching.
6987. Have you been charged any rent on account of the improvements ?
6988. You say you have taken an active part in the discussion of public questions, politics, and the affairs of the country. Have you been threatened with removal or molestation by the proprietor or factor on account of the language you have held, and the part you have taken ?
—I never attempted taking any part without bounds of law, but I say I have been accused of such.
6989. But my question is, have you been threatened ?
—Yes, I have been threatened.
6990. What have you been threatened with ?
—By my factor, Tormore.
6991. What did he say he would do to you?
—He said that if I should go against him, I was sure to go against all his equals, or my superiors and gentlemen throughout Skye, because I would not side with him in all his opinions.
6992. What did he say he would do to you? What did he threaten you with ?
—He would become my enemy, of course. He would look after me with his enmity.
6993. Did he threaten to remove you from your holding ?
—Of course, I have been served with summonses of removal, as stated in my statement; with three summonses within the past twenty years.
6994. How long ago is the last summons ?
—I was served with the last on the 16th of April this year.
6995. But you had three summonses in former times ?
6996. How long ago?
—About fifteen years ago I had one, and about seventeen years ago.
6997. Were those summonses in connection with any question of rent, or in connection with the opinions which you expressed ?
—I always left that to himself. I was paying my way at the time I was served with these summonses.
6998. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you afraid of being removed at this moment ?
—I am past that.
6999. The summons was too late for this year ?
—I cannot say.
7000. Did you defend it ? Did you employ a lawyer to defend yourself ?
—No, there is no use of defending a person, because I have not got the money. There was no use going to defend it unless I got the means, so I kept my house instead of defending myself.
7001. You are the postmaster?
7002. It would not do for you to refuse to open a registered letter ?
—Of course not.
7003. Some people do ?
—Of course they might. I have been serving others who called for their own.
7004. The Chairman.
—When you received the last summons were you in arrears of rent?
—Yes, in two years arrears. On the 16th April last I opened the letter, but it seemed the letters had come to the post-office on the 14th, but I had not time to look into-all my letters that day, there were so many of them.
7005. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How many were there ?
—I never told any one.
7006. I suppose it is not a secret how many were taken?
—I shall explain this to his Lordship afterwards in connection with the post-office.