PETER MACDONALD, Crofter, Holmasdale (54)—examined.
7007. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate of Holmasdale ?
7008. About how many families are there in Holmasdale ?
—Twenty-one families and two cottars.
7009. When you were chosen, how many were present ?
—A good number of them; I cannot tell how many.
7010. Have you a written statement to make to the Commissioner ?
7011. Then will you be so good as to make a verbal statement?
—That we are packed so closely in the place, having so little land, and the land through constant cultivation refusing to yield crop, aud that we would be better off if we had more of the land, so that we could leave some of it out, and so cultivate better; and that if we don't get extended holdings there will be no justice for us. Some of our people cannot come home to see their families through the poverty of the place, having to remain away in the south country, earning their subsistence; and when they do come home they cannot remain longer than about a month or six weeks, and they have to go. If we dou't get more land we must needs remain in poverty.
7012. What is the summing of the croft at Holmasdale?
—Two cows and a two-year-old. Eight sheep is the summing of sheep, but we keep ten; no horse.
7013. What is the rent?
—From £2, 10s. to £3 and £5.
7014. What is your own rent?
—£3,15s. besides rates, and the increase of my cattle is only one stirk in the year.
7015. How long has the township been established?
—About fortythree or forty-four years.
7016. Has the rent been increased since that time?
—No, but the dues were increased. It was increased by the dues. We were not at first paying dues, but we are now.
7017. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have a full croft yourself?
7018. And there is no one upou the croft but yourself?
7019. How many are there of you in the house?
7020. And your rent is £3, 15s. or £3, 18s. and taxes?
—It is £4, 6s. with the taxes.
7021. Then is it £3, 15s. exactly?
—It is £3, 15s., the present rent I cannot separate the dues from the rent at present.
7022. There will be probabiy 3s. 2d. for drainage money, and the rest for assessments ?
—There is no drainage money.
7023. Peat money ?
—There is peat money ; 2s. 6d. of peat money.
7024. What is the number of acres on the croft ?
—I cannot tell.
7025. About two acres ?
—About three, I think.
7026. You say the summing was eight sheep, but that the crofters keep ten. Have you got ten sheep yourself?
—I think I have ten.
7027. Have all the people in the place their full stock ?
—No, some of them are without stock at all
7028. And you think that if they all had their full stock, the place would not keep it ?
—No, but very poorly.
7029. How much stock of sheep and cattle do you think the place would keep ?
—I cannot tell what stock it would do justice to.
7030. You wish to extend the holdings. Is there any place near about you to which you would send the people in order to extend the holdings at your place ?
—Yes, plenty land.
—Bracadale and Minginish, the place from which some of them came.
7032. You wish them sent back to their own place to leave room for you ?
—Yes, and some of our own people to accompany them.
7033. You have no horse in the whole place ?
—No, unless one may keep it for a year. They are not allowed to keep a horse.
7034. The people upon the other side of the glen have a horse. Do you borrow their herse to work your ploughing, or do you do it with the cas-chroM ?
—The most of our tillage is done with the cas-chrom. When we manage to hire a horse we use the plough.
7035. How much do you pay for the hire of a pair of horses and plough for a day when you get one?
—From 8s. to 10s. a day.
7036. How many good crofts would Holmasdale make ?
—In my father's time eight had it.
7037. And you would give one horse to each ?
—Yes, that would do.
7038. And how many cows ?
7039. Sheep ?
7040. What rent would you be prepared to pay for that croft ?
7041. That would be just about its present rent. You complain, not so much of the high rent, as of the small holding ?
7042. The Chairman.
—What was the price of a two-year-old forty-three or forty-four years ago ?
—I was but young at the time, and I cannot tell.
7043. What was the price of it at the earliest period you can recollect ?
—About £4, in my earliest recollection.
7044. And how much is it worth now ?
—£6; some years the prices may not be so good as that.
7045. And the rent has not been increased at all in the same period ?
7046. Professor Mackinnon.
—We heard before about the yield—that the return of oats was about one and a half, and the return of potatoes was about seven or eight. Is that about the amount of return you get in your own township ?
—That is about the proportion of our yield.
7047. How many barrels of potatoes do you plant ?
7048. And you get back, in an ordinary year—I don't mean last year, but in an ordinary year—between thirty and forty ?
—Yes, about forty barrels.
7049. When you have about forty barrels, how much meal do you require to buy in the year ?
—About ten bolls.
7050. During the year ?
7051. But I suppose you never make any meal off your croft?
—Yes, a little.
7052. How much, taking one year with another ?
—About one boll and a half; but this year we made nothing.
7053. And you think that if the crofts were so large that only eight would occupy your township, there would not be much meal and potatoes required, beyond what you would grow upon the croft ?
—In my father's time, when the township was occupied by eight, they were buying neither meal nor potatoes.
7054. Would you be prepared to take such a croft yourself right away ?
—I could take it, but I am not sure if I could pay for it.
7055. But I want to know whether you would be able to pay for it ?
—If I got such a croft I should try to pay for it.
7056. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has it been the custom for the factor to get the first offer of the cattle of the tenants to be sold ?
—No, I never gave him the offer; but if he happened to be in the place, he would just get the offer of it like anybody else.
7057. Did you ever hear of its being insisted on in that township or in any of the rest of Glendale ?
—I heard it was the custom in the place to give the first offer to the factor.
7058. Do you mean in Glendale generally ?
7059. Was that in the time of Tormore or before it?
—It was not Tormore who was doing that. That was said to be the practice on Dr Martin's property.
7060. Are the Holmasdale people fishermen ?
—No, we are far from the sea-shore.
7061. Do you know of a notice having been put up here by the factor saying that there would be a rent of £2 additional put upon every one who opened a small shop ?
—I am not a scholar, and I could not read it if I saw it
7062. But did you hear it ?
—I am not sure that I heard it at all.
7063. Would you have any objection to get some of Waterstein, if you do not get to Bracadale ?
—I would not mind where I would have to go to, if it was only better than where I am.
7064 But would the Waterstein pasture be suitable for you?
—No, unless I would shift from where I am.
7065. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was there always a township in Holmasdale ? Were there always people in it ?
—Not until my forefathers went there forty-five years ago.
7066. And they were then eight?
—No, but there were eighteen placed there. Nineteen lots or pieces were made of it.
7067. Was that place cut out of Lephin ?
—Yes, at that time.
7068. And did they get half of the hill of the Lephin people ?
—We got more than the half.
7069. Are the people in Lephin complaining that they have been curtailed and cramped, as the people of Holmasdale are ?
7070. Was this lot at Holmasdale not an injustice then to the two places ?
—Lephin was then under big sheep and a shepherd.
7071. Who was the tacksman of it?
—Old Captain MacLeod of Orbost.
7072. Have you a regular peat moss, or do you just cut peats on the hill where you can find it convenient ?
—Each one cuts where it is most suitable for him—where he pleases.
7073. Is the effect of that not every year to reduce the quantity of their hill ground, which is already scarce enough according to your account ?
—Yes, and to-day it is not worth nearly as much as it was worth when we got it
7074. In regard to easing you of the great numbers that are there, is there any land near to you or close to you upon which they could be accommodated?
—Yes. There is land in Ramasaig and Lowergill, and Dibidale and Ollisdale, beside them.
7075. So that though you said some of them ought to go back to Bracadale and Minginish, there is enough land for them on Glendale estate, and not very far away ?
—There is plenty there for Holmasdale, but not for all the other townships,
7076. I am speaking of Holmasdale—there is plenty for them?
7077. Are you aware of any reason why so much land there was taken off those places, beginning at Lowergill?which I think is the boundary with M'Leod ? Are you aware of any reason why that is kept as a large farm ?
—It is kept for sheep.
7078. Not for men ?
—Not for men.
7079. Have you ever heard it talked about during your life, that there was a special reason why aU those lands were kept up for sheep alone ?
—No, but they were thinking that sheep would pay better than the poor crofters.
7080. Mr Cameron.
—Have you heard of the expression 'fixity of tenure,' and do you know what it means ?
—I don't know what the meaning of it is ; but my meaning is, that should I improve my lot it would not be in the power of any one to take it from me and to give it to another, so long as I would pay for it
7081. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long is it since you first began to demand fixity of tenure ?
—I never asked it until to-day.
7082. When did you first hear your neighbours asking for it?
—I never heard them asking for it before until the Commissioners arrived.
7083. When did they begin to speak about it ?
—A year ago.
7084. Was anybody here from Ireland speaking about it?
—I heard that there were such, but I never saw a man.
7085. But before he came, there was no talk about it?
—Yes, before he came there was talk about it
7086. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are the people about here much in debt for meal ?
7087. Are many of them in debt to Tormore for meal got out of his store?
—I am hearing that some are in his debt, but I cannot tell.
7088. Is that store kept open still ?
7089. When was it shut up ?
—More than a year ago.
7090. How long did Tormore keep it open?
—I cannot tell; a great number of years.
7091. Where do you get your meal from now?
—From every place—north and south, east and west.
7092. What do you pay for it?
—From £1 to £1, 3s. a boll.
7093. At Poltiel?
7094. Did Tormore charge anything above the ordinary price for it ?
—I don't think so; but his salesman was said to be charging Is. a boll for his trouble.
7095. I suppose they got long credit ?
7096. The Chairman.
—Did the people consider it a good thing or a bad thing that the factor kept the store ? Was the store kept for the benefit of the people or the benefit of the factor ?
—It was very useful to the people, at all events.