DONALD MACDONALD, Farmer, Tormore (46)—re-examined.
9463. The Chairman.
—You have a statement which you desire to make to the Commission?
—Yes. I intended to enter into a more lengthy statement as to the management of property generally, statistics, &c, than I think it now necessary, owing to the very valuable and exhaustive statement made by my friend Mr Macdonald yesterday, and I will merely say that generally I agree with and can corroborate his statements. I have already made a statement before the Commissioners at Isle Ornsay in respect of matters in Sleat, and before entering into another statement I want to say that I find, on minute inquiry, that I may have been mistaken when denying that a notice had been put up to the inn doors as to a rent to be charged against shops. If these notices were put up, it was done purely through my clerk mistaking my instructions, as to which I will further explain if necessary. I must add, that there was never any intention to charge for such shops at Glendale where notices were put up, and it was not done, nor did the notice prevent shops being opened; and during my holding office several additional small shops were opened in Sleat, Strath, and elsewhere, where if the notice was put up, it was through a stupid mistake. I shall now touch upon the evidence given by the other delegates, who I may say made erroneous statements, to use a mild term; and I hope I am not out of order in doing so.
9464. Not at all.
—Well, Donald M'Innes, delegate, Duisdale, in Sleat, said his township had been deprived of two pieces of hill land which was added to a tack, and no deduction given. This is a downright falsehood.
This man had never an inch of land of his own during my recollection, but when the lease of the farm of Knock fell out about Whitsunday 1876, I cut off a considerable portion and put it under crofters. Four new crofters got shares, and of these Donald M'Innes is one. He had not a farthing to take the croft, but I have myself given him two cows worth £ 13 to £ 14 each. His rent is about £4, 15s., his summing two cows and a horse, and he also keeps sheep. Besides feeding his two cows and their followers on the produce of his lot, he sells yearly a considerable quantity of corn, or takes in stock to consume it.
9465. If in the course of your statement you meet with any strong expression, such as the word 'falsehood’,I would beg you to modify it, or insert another expression as you go along.
—I will try to do so, but facts are stubborn things. I come next to Donald Beaton, Carradale, who said
he had paid £ 16 for arrears due by a former tenant. I have looked up the estate ledger, and find there was no arrear against the former tenant further than she left value for. This was made over to Beaton : it was a very small matter altogether, and he did not actually pay one penny of arrears. I may add, that no tenant was evicted in Sleat during my tenure of office nor since, but I put several tenants in possession that never had lands before, and helped them myself personally in taking lands. I shall now proceed to the parish of Strath. I heard very little of the evidence taken here, but I understand the crofters of Breakish stated that they had been deprived of hill land. This is false; I hope that is not too strong.
9466. I would prefer erroneous.
—Very well. The two townships got at Whitsunday 1878 additional ground—Upper Breakish to the value of £40, which is computed to maintain 600 sheep; Lower Breakish to the value of £20—and I could have got more rent for both pieces had I chosen to ask it. Hector Macpherson, Harrapool, said there was a woman present at the meeting who had lost her lands within the last ten years. This is perfectly untrue ; no tenant of Lord Macdonald's in this parish was deprived of lands during that period, except one man, who, after repeated warnings, lost his land for persisting to keep a shebeen, much to the annoyance of his neighbours and fellow crofters. This man afterwards, I may mention, got lands, and I am afraid he still keeps a shebeen, and finds it profitable. I gave grazing rights to several crofters at Strolomus who had previously been cottars. I also gave other land to cottars at Broadford and Sconser. The Kylerhea tenants said they could make more money were they allowed to go away to seek work, and not be tied down to work at the ferry. I never heard of there being any obligation on them to work at the ferry, and I am perfectly certain there is none, and Lord Macdonald has never imposed such conditions on any of his tenantry. I understand the delegates from Tote, or the Unakill district, have complained of a rise of rent; this is a mistake. Till within the last few years they held their lands as subtenants or cottars, and paid rent to the tacksman, at the expiry of whose lease there was an adjustment of their rents, but nothing more than the estimated value of what they paid formerly was laid on them. A valuable piece of hill grazing was given to them, for which the old rent only was charged, though a considerable advance could have been got from one tenant, and I was offered that considerable advance. The tenants at the time of this change expressed themselves as highly pleased, and stated they much preferred the new to the former arrangement, and particularly as to holding their lands direct from the proprietor. There are now no cottars paying rent to tacksmen on the Macdonald estate, with two exceptions, to my knowledge. It appears from the evidence given in the newspapers that Neil Shaw, Eyre, a delegate from the parish of Snizort, formerly from Glendale, said that he had been turned out of Glendale, and had been harshly treated by the factor, or wanted it to be inferred he had been, and that he got no value for his houses, &c. Mr Shaw, who was here yesterday, came voluntarily forward to me and said that he had never made such a statement—that he could not do so. Such being the case, it is unnecessary for me to reply to the alleged charge. I hope for Mr Shaw's sake the reporters have made the mistake. I shall now come to the very famous district of Glendale. It has been alleged by several of the Glendale tenants that they have been ill-used and badly treated by their proprietor and myself, when the estate was under my management. I am bound to say, and can prove, that there was not one single case of anything approaching harsh treatment; on the contrary, the tenants were always treated with the greatest consideration and kindness. It is quite true that the small farm of Lowergill was cleared, and the larger farm of Ramasaig partially and nearly completely so, but very good and substantial reasons can be given for doing this, and I will be glad to give a full explanation of facts in cross-examination. There was not one tenant removed to make room for any of these tenants, and there was not a tenant deprived of land or any other privileges on account of these removals, except in the case of John Mackay, Hamaraverran, who had about £ 10 worth of land, who was deprived of £ 3 worth of an uncultivated portion of his ground. This tenant at the time had no stock, and has now far more land than he can manage. There was no eviction on the property during my term of office, but one man was removed as being unmanageable; he was changed from one place to another as being a bad neighbour, and ultimately had to go ; and on being told plainly that he must go, and the cause of it, he left without trouble. I do not intend to go into the details of all alleged grievances; many of them are too absurd and most of them perfectly
unfounded. Before proceeding further, I will read a letter which I wrote giving a statement of facts, and which was published in March 1882 :
—Tormore, Skye, 25th March 1882.
—Sir, As I doubt if your reporter, in the hubbub and excitement that prevailed, and especially as the conversation had necessarily to be carried on in Gaelic, could catch the meaning of all I said at my meeting with the Glendale tenants on Thursday last. I beg the favour of space in your valuable paper to enable me to give the substance of what I said in reply to the petitions recently forwarded to the trustees of the late Sir John Macleod by the tenants of the various townships on the property. The petitioners complain of increased rents, overcrowding, being deprived of land, change of marches, evictions, my adding to my own possessions on the estate, and various other grievances. I have acted as factor over the estate for about twenty years, and during that time there has been no increase of rent; and, looking to the rental of 1852, about which time Sir John Macleod bought Glendale and added it to his property of Skiniden and Colbost, which he inherited, I find there is little difference. The number of tenants on the same lands at Glendale, in 1863, was 108—now there are 113 ; but this small increase is chiefly owing to a farm, then in the hands of one tenant, who gave up possession of his own accord, being let to four crofters. On Skiniden and Colbost there were, in 1863, thirty-nine tenants; now there are forty-two —the increase being from a division of land made at the request of the tenants. No hill land has been taken from the tenants, and there is no intention and no wish to deprive them of any ground, or any privilege they have hitherto enjoyed. There has been only one tenant actually removed from the property during my term of office, and no tenant has been removed to make room for the tenants of Ramasaig or Lowergill. I have no lands on the property, and never farmed an acre of it in my own name or for my own benefit. I, however, managed a sheep farm which came into the hands of the proprietor, and which from failing to get a suitable tenant, remained in his hands, and is now in the hands of the trustees. To this farm has been added the farm of Ramasaig and a portion of Lowergill, which were at one time under small tenants. Some of the petitioners make a handle of this, and wish it to be inferred that the tenants were deprived of their lands. There is not the slightest truth in this. Considerably more than half the tenants (there were about thirty of them) left their places of their own free will, some of them leaving the country to better themselves, but the most of them at their own earnest request, getting better and more suitable possessions on the estate and elsewhere in the island when suitable vacancies occurred. With the exception of, I think, five or six, none of them had any wish to remain at Ramasaig, and I have repeatedly, and from year to year as the farms became more thinly populated, and having lots vacant for which no tenants could be found, offered those remaining the whole farm, if they wished to keep it, and if they could stock it and pay the rent. They would not do this, and consequently the few remaining got other holdings, when suitable openings occurred. None have been pressed to leave, and even still there are two tenants who crop there as formerly, and keep on their cattle and their horses, having the liberty to graze them with the stock of the proprietor, and there is every intention to continue these privileges till suitable places are found for them. The farm of Waterstein, now held by Dr Martin, has never been under small tenants. The present rent of it is £110. The rent of the tenants of the three townships demanding it to be given to them is £176, 0s. 8d.; the arrears at this date, £110, 17s. 9d. The tenants of these townships paid at the rent collection at the last Martinmas portions of their rent as formerly; but, as will be seen by their recent letter to me, they now distinctly refuse to pay any further rent till their demands are complied with. The farms now in the hands of the trustees, and which they have been hitherto unable to let, were, along with Waterstein, which Dr Martin gives up at Whitsunday first, inspected and reported on with a view to letting them together, and the trustees having invited an offer from me, it has been arranged that I become tenant at Whitsunday first; but I intimated on Thursday to the crofters that if they could satisfy the trustees that they could manage to stock and pay rent for Waterstein, or any part of the farm, that my agreement would not stand in the way of such an arrangement being carried out. I am extremely sorry at the state of matters at Glendale, and particularly for the very unseemly behaviour of the people at our last meeting. During my connection with them, our intercourse has up to the present been of the most friendly nature, and I can only attribute their present excitement to the influence of a few evil-disposed parties who, for reasons best known to themselves, instigate the people to take up a " No rent" attitude. For the good of the people of Glendale, as well as for the general peace of the country, I trust that, after calm reflection, better counsels may yet prevail There is no doubt that the tenants generally, all over the west coast, are better off than they were twenty years ago, and during that period, till within the last two years, their improvement has been progressive and decided. In respect to Glendale, any disinterested person visiting it now, and comparing it with what it was twelve or fifteen years ago, could not but be struck with the marked improvement in the houses (which have, for the most part, been renovated), and with the general improvement outwardly apparent. At the same time, all must admit that the last two years have been very disastrous, the Irish and east coast fishings, as well as the harvests at home, having proved very unremunerative; and, under these circumstances, the tenants deserve the sympathy of all classes. The tenants of a great part of Glendale were placed in their present holdings with a view to their prosecuting the fishing, for which Glendale is so famous, and they should not run away with the idea that their crofts were meant wholly to support them, for they were given to them merely for homes, and as a help towards their maintenance. I have written this letter in as plain, full, and simple terms as possible, so that my good friends at Glendale may not misinterpret or misconstrue my meaning. Should it bring out any future correspondence, I will be glad to answer any questions, but will only notice such letters as bear the writer's full name and address.
—I am, Sir, your obedient servant, D. MACDONALD.
I may say that no answer to that letter appeared in any of the papers. As the people of Glendale seem to wish to make out that they have been pressed upon by the proprietor, I may mention that in 1874 arrears to the amount of £500 were wiped off. Sir John Macleod, after I explained matters to him, and that I thought there was no use carrying on some old arrears and some arrears against poor persons, was kind enough to instruct me to strike off such arrears as I thought would really be beneficial to the people and as were really necessary to be struck off. Well, a sum of £500, less 3s. or 4s., was struck off that year. I come now to the statements recently made by the Glendale delegates. I have touched as little as possible upon these matters, as I was afraid it would be too lengthy. Alexander Ross, delegate from Faasach, made a long statement about various grievances, and in particular as to a dog of his that was shot. That case came before the sheriff, and was decided after considerable evidence being led, and I am sorry to say it appeared that the gamekeeper who shot the dog went far beyond his instructions, and acted most injudiciously. The other statements made by this man are geuerally unfounded, and to the most careless observer must appear absurdly exaggerated. There is one exaggeration so very absurd that it must, I think, have struck everybody, viz., that Ross stated that his well had dried up from from the dog falling into it, or something like that—that it was some dispensation, or I don't know what you call it, but I hope he did not put it down to the factor.
9467. He stated the fact that the well had dried up subsequent to the destruction of the dog at the well, but I don't think he distinctly stated the supposed cause?
—Well, I go on to Peter M'Kinnon, delegate. His evidence must be taken for what it is worth, and it is quite worthless. This man has shown towards me the most marked animosity for some years, and if the Commissioners think proper I shall be glad to state the cause of it. M'Kinnon found fault with me as factor and justice of the peace, and as general well-wisher of the people, for deciding some little squabbles between them and him. There are two cases which I unfortunately decided against him. He had engaged a boat's crew to fish lobsters for him, and two young men of the crew were drowned. M'Kinnon came to me with the statement, that he had a claim against the lads.
9468. I think, on the whole, perhaps it is better that the details of these cases should not be stated, as that might involve some painful assertions, and it might be necessary for us to give the other party the opportunity of stating his side of the case. It is sufficient that you should state that you had to decide two cases against M'Kinnon, which may be supposed to explain any animus on his part if such exists?
—Very well, I shall do so; but perhaps you will allow me to make a remark about this case, because
it is very important for me, and I think for the country generally. Your Lordship has no doubt seen a notice which I put up as to landing on the shores of the estate. Well, in the newspapers it was alleged or insinuated that this boat's crew lost their lives through not having liberty to land upon the coast. Now, this boat's crew was lost several years before the notice referred to was issued, and there had been no previous notice of the nature I speak of.
9469. That notice referred to landing on the shores of Waterstein?
9470. In reference to that, one of the parties examined admitted that he did not think anybody would have been interfered with for merely landing upon those shores on account of bad weather?
—I am very glad to hear it. There never was any intention of anything of the kind. Perhaps the notice was not judiciously worded; perhaps I did it in a hurry, or in a fit of temper, or some other way ; but it was made an unfortunate handle against me. I come now to John M'Lean, Hamaravirran. He got possession of his present lot, having urgently requested to be removed from Ramasaig to the lot of an old woman who was quite unable to keep it, and who now gets a cow's keep and potato land ad libitum on the proprietor's farm, for which she pays nothing. John Campbell, delegate from Hamaraverran, has made several statements as to grievances which, with the exception of that referring to his quarrel with me for his harbouring Land Leaguers, are incorrect and unfounded. This man I always considered a very respectable hard-working man. He was very poor when I first went to Glendale. I befriended him in every possible way, and doubled his lot. I would not be afraid now to give him four times as much land, so far as means go. The influence of evil doctrine on the general body of the crofters can easily be imagined when this man, whom I knew to be previously friendly and respectful, was carried away to be most insolent and offensive. Allan Macaskill, Faasach, late tenant at Ramasaig, has also misstated his case; I draw it very mild. As to John Macpherson's statements, I can only say that I am much astonished that a man of his seeming intelligence should be carried away in the stream of rebellion, and it has all arisen from the evil influence of agitators. The Skiniden tenants also made misstatements. I will gladly answer questions as to these. I don't think there is any occasion for my troubling the honourable Commissioners further on this part of the evidence, but will gladly answer any questions in respect of anything or all that has been said at Glendale, and particularly as to Waterstein. I am extremely sorry to find that the people denied the existence of a Land League, and a knowledge of the notices which were being put up. I can speak personally as to both, having seen some of the notices, and I believe they are still to be found. As to their being bound by a league, there is plenty evidence to prove that they said and believed they were under such a bond, for they repeatedly said to me that they were so, and sworn to stand by each other against all law and against all force till their demands were complied with. Their actions at that time and subsequently are sufficient, though, if required, plenty more would be forthcoming. I may say in passing, that a very marked and great improvement has taken place and is going on in the condition of the crofters' houses at Glendale. I think this must be apparent to any unbiassed visitor to the place, and more than one credible and observant proprietor has remarked to me on the comparative increase in this respect; but I suppose this too will be put down by some as factorial oppression and poverty. As to the general condition of the people, the people on Lord Macdonald's property are most undoubtedly far better off than they were thirty or forty years ago. I am certain their improvement during that period has been decided and progressive. Some years, of course, they are better off than others, owing to a prosperous fishing, better seasons, better prices, and from other causes. It is true that they have had now three successive bad seasons, and on many of them this must have a serious effect. I may state causes to show how they must be far better off now than formerly. In my own recollection, wages in general have doubled, in many cases —quadrupled; prices for Highland cattle the same—sheep the same. I will be glad to give present and past prices. The expenses of the people have grown along with their improved circumstances, and perhaps in some cases have outstepped the increased income. I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that generally the families expend as much now in the simple article of tea and sugar as their forefathers did in oatmeal. Many intelligent men among them have often stated so to me. They have also other luxuries never dreamt of twenty or thirty years ago. How do they dress now in comparison to then? Who can find fault with them? I certainly don't, and the better they are to do the better I should be pleased. I remember when a man thought he paid a lot out for what they call shop produce, if he paid £6, or the best of them up to £10, now double these amounts, and even treble them, and it is quite common; and they can buy their supplies far cheaper now than formerly. I never hear or see now of people going to gather the common shell-fish of the coast to tide over the scarce season. In my first recollection this was too common, and done to a very great extent all over the country ; and as a proof of what I say, let any one show me now from the point of Sleat to Portree a single heap of shells near a tenant's house that would fill a cart-load, but let them try the sites of former dwellings, and not one of those but will prove my statement. I could state a great deal more on this head if necessary. The land by overcropping has no doubt deteriorated, but however well farmed the land will not give good crops of grain. This is much owing to climate. I may be wrong, but looking back to my youuger days, and from what I hear others say, I think the climate is certainly not improving, but decidedly getting worse; and I myself gave up cropping a large extent of good arable land in the very best condition at Ostaig, owing to its not paying. That farm was in the very highest state of cultivation. It was cultivated on the five-course shift, and I limed it anrl manured it in every way, and made it so far as I could a model farm. I had to give it up, because I was losing money by it. It is nonsense for the crofters to maintain that their poverty is owing to such causes, and they are quite aware that their grain crop is much more valuable as food for their cattle than for meal making; and I am quite certain, were they able to grow more corn and better grain, it would still all go in feeding cattle. I should like to ask the bankers in Portree to whom the greatest portion of the deposits in their respective banks belong. I am credibly informed these amount close to, if not over, £200,000. I can only state that I have no deposits myself, and I think I may fairly say that most if not all of my brother tenant farmers are not in a very much better position; and I am afraid the proprietors are not the best supporters of the banks either in that respect. I come now to what may be too much of a personal thing, but I have been so much abused lately that I should like to make a few remarks about myself, and to bring out some things I should like the Commissioners to know. A deal has been said as to my dealings in meal. Well, I did deal in meaL, but not to my profit. I was driven into it, and I could easily prove this and satisfactorily. I have, I believe, now outstanding for meal £2000. A very great part of this I don't expect to recover; but had I done what many others have done, and taken joint bills for these amounts, and I could have easily got the people to give them, I would have been safe, but many a poor man would be ruined. I never to my recollection in my life took a bill from a tenant for meal, and I disapprove much of the system which, though almost unknown in my end of the country, is common in many places. I never charged in any one case interest on my account, and with all my dealings with the people. I am not aware of ever having a man -n in court for debt, nor have I allowed any harsh measures to be used. It has been said that meal mills were put down by me. Well, the mills of Strath and Sleat were in disuse long prior to my entry into office. Where there were mills they remain still, and in better order than when I found them. I may remark, that what millers charge for grinding is one-twentieth of the corn ground. It has been said that I am rich at the expense of the crofters. Well, I have looked particularly into the state of my affairs, and I find I was a poorer man the year I resigned Lord Macdonald's factorship than I was the year I took it. I have not as much land now on Lord Macdonald's property as I had the year I entered on the factorship. There are eight years to run of my lease of Tormore and Ostaig, and if Lord Macdonald would kindly relieve me of this, I would willingly give it over, and it would form a good field for tenants deserving of more land and able to take it. I hope I will be pardoned for saying what I have said about myself. I hope it will not appear egotistical, because I have been driven into doing this by the way I have of late been maligned by anonymous writers of articles in Radical newspapers and other like publications. I am sorry I do not stand alone in that respect, but I have come in for a greater share than my fair due. My principal reason for bringing this matter forward is to try and show who have been the chief movers in abusing me and stirring up the whole country to rebellion. I know that this proceeds very much from outside agitators, and I care not what they say or write; but I am distressed and grieved that a few of my own good countrymen have been instigated to speak against me when I certainly did not deserve it at their hands. I have done my very utmost to keep down the price of meal and to keep up the price of cattle. Naturally the dealers in these must owe me a grudge, and I daresay they do. I care not for that. I have done my duty ; and I believe, were it not for my keeping a large supply of meal, and opening an opposition store, that there would have been real cases of starvation. I know there would have been. I could prove this were it required. There is one letter that is rather original. I could show fifty, but this is original, and comes from rather a curious source. It comes from the great Skye poetess, who I am sorry to hear has been going about with rather curious company. May I ask Sheriff Nicolson, who is up in Skye matters, to read it? He need not read it publicly, but I shall be gratified if he looks at it. Well now, I am done. Who are the chief instigators of this and the rebellion in Skye and the west? I can lay my finger on them at once, and will name them if the Royal Commission give the same guarantee of protection as the crofters have asked for and got from the poor unfortunate factors.
9471. If you are seriously asking us for a guarantee of that description, you must perfectly understand that we cannot give you any guarantee.
—Well, if your Lordship will allow me to state the names, I will take the risk of my life. I am not a coward, and let them fire away at me.
9472. You will have to do it upon your own responsibility. You must judge whether it is expedient to go on or not. We have avoided as much as possible eliciting names ; but your name, of course, has been thrust upon us, and we could not avoid hearing it?
—I am much obliged to your Lordship for letting me know that my name has been used, but I was quite prepared for it. I have had so many kicks of late that it is a wonder I was not kicked into kingdom come. If it is any satisfaction to the Commissioners and to the people assembled here that I should state my opinion as to the agitators who are the cause of this rebellion, I shall be glad to do so.
9473. I will not object to it J
—Well, my Lord, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the literature that was distributed among the people of this country was the first mover in this unfortunate rebellion; and, without naming many, I will name the principal paper that came here, and that was the famous but fortunately now defunct Highlander. The editor of the Highlander I believe, is still alive and going about. I saw
in one of the papers that he was to be down here educating the people in rebellion. I have not seen him, but I am not sorry he is not here. Well, I will pass him over,—he is not worth powder; and I will come to No. 2,—Mr M'Hugh, the secretary of the Irish Land Reform Association in Glasgow. Then comes No. 3, —the last but not the least,—and certainly if the others have to answer for a lot of sins, he has to answer for a great many more. He has got a broad back and a very thick hide. —His name
is Dean of Guild Mackenzie.
9474. I must beg of you, Mr Macdonald, in naming a gentleman, to speak of him with ordinary respect?
—I beg your Lordship's pardon. I hope I have not committed contempt of court.
9475. No, but we appeal to your own feeling of propriety to say nothing that is provocative or offensive?
—Well, I should be sorry to come down to Mr Mackenzie's station and give him kicks in the way he has kicked me, but it is rather hard not to give a kick occasionally.
9476. Well, you can give him the kick in another place.
—I may just say (it is more for amusement than anything else) that I believe this wonderful Dean of Guild, in a publication of which he is the editor in Inverness, has given me a great deal of credit for being the author of this Royal Commission. Well, I do not know I have been any cause of it, but if I have I am not at all ashamed of it. I remember travelling, —if I may mention the circumstance,—with this wonderful Dean of Guild, and he rather drew me on the subject. He thought that I should be opposed to a Commission. I certainly told him I was not, and that I should be very glad of a Royal Commission indeed; that I thought it would be a very good thing, that it was bound to do good or harm, and that I hoped it would do good, and that it would go on. —Oh, he said at once, if you are of that frame of mind, I will tell you between ourselves that there is to be a Commission. This is a very long time ago ; some two years ago. Well, I suppose he must have been well informed. He was coached up in his subject, and I led the wily dean into making some remarks. I said to him
—Now, Mr Mackenzie, if this Commission is to go on, you will decidedly be one of the Commissioners; they could not get on without you.Oh, he said, - that too is about settled. Well, I have stated who the principal agitators are, in my belief; but I am sorry to say that I believe there are in our own country local agitators. I am very sorry for that, and I am very sorry indeed to bring the matter forward, and perhaps I should not bring it forward, and perhaps I am doing it injudiciously. I shall be very glad however, to answer any questions that may be put to me.
9477. I did not exactly seize what you said about the farm of Waterstein in reference to your own supposed occupancy, and I will invite you to repeat your statement in another form. Will you have the goodness to state what are the farms at the present moment in your occupancy in the island of Skye?
—I have the farm of Ostaig. Properly speaking, that embraces the whole ; but these are several farms put together, and for reasons best known to themselves, newspapers have made out that I have five or six. I have simply nothing in Skye except Tormore and Ostaig.
9478. Are they adjacent?
9479. What are the area and rental of these farms?
—The rental is about £500 just now, taking off a piece that I was allowed to sublet to a man, and the area that I farm is close on 5000 acres.
9480. Had you at any previous period, and especially during the period of your being factor for Lord Macdonald, any other farms in your occupancy?
—I had the island of Pabbay, in Strath, for one or two years.
9481. What was the largest area and the largest rent for which you were responsible at one time?
—£600 or £650 was the largest rent I ever paid.
9482. And what area?
—Not above 6000 acres.
9483. Was any portion of these farms inherited by you from your father?
—My father and his family had Tormore for a long time.
9484. When the farm of Waterstein became vacant, was it ever your desire or intention to become the tenant of that farm?
—It was. I read a letter, in which I stated that I had been invited to come forward and give an offer for that farm, for the whole land they possessed. I did come forward, and was accepted as tenant, but I never became the tenant. I withdrew from it when the people got up in this rebellious state.
9485. You never became tenant of it?
—I never became tenant of it.
9486. Was any stock of yours, belonging to you personally, put upon it?
—There was; six hundred or seven hundred or eight hundred sheep of mine came from my farm in Nairnshire, with a view to stock it, if the people would not interfere. I was very much afraid they would interfere, but the trustees held me to my bargain, under the understanding that if they could not implement their share of the bargain, they would take the stock which I took there at a valuation.
9487. You say, on the one hand, that you never were tenant of this farm ; on the other hand, you did put your own stock on it, and did so in consequence of a bargain. Do you mean to say that the bargain in fact was never a complete one on both sides?
—Never a complete one. The term day is the 26th, and so far as I remember the sheep came there on
the very term day. The people would not allow the sheep on —at least prevented them going on part of the ground —and therefore the trustees could not implement their bargain with me, and I simply walked out of it, and my stock was taken bv the trustees at a valuation, and put on the ground at their risk and as their property.
9488. And it is now their property?
—It is now their property. I have not the slightest interest in the property or in the stock.
9489. You had various farms, or what had been farms, to the extent of £650. Were they all from Lord Macdonald?
—All from Lord Macdonald, in the Island of Skye.
9490. Was there at any time during your occupancy of these farms any cases of eviction of crofters from the area of these farms?
—At Glendale not one single case of eviction. There were many cases in which tenants removed
voluntarily to other portions of the estate. There were two men on the small farm of Lowergil who would have preferred, I believe, to stop, but the proprietor did not see fit that they should remain there, because four of the other tenants had removed, or were removing, of their own free will. The man Shaw was one of the two that wanted to remain.
9491. Then there were a certain number of cases of persons removed from your farms?
—They were not my farms at all; I never had a farm there.
9492. But the question I asked was this, you were tenant of certain farms under Lord Macdonald. Now were there at any time evictions or removals of persons from the area of the farms held by you?
—The case of the Carradale tenants came up. There were four tenants there, and they were transferred from small holdings into larger holdings.
9493. There were therefore certain removals?
—There were. That was the only case.
9494. Were these removals with the consent of the tenants, or were the tenants acting under a certain amount of constraint?
—Certainly not; every one of them, whatever they may say to-day, was anxious to be removed from that place, because it was four miles away from a public road. There was no school, there was no road, there was no fence of any kind. If they went to buy a boll of meal, they had to carry it on their back four miles. It is natural to suppose that they would not like to live in a place of that kind.
9495. I only wish to arrive at certain simple facts. In the cases of removal from land occupied by you as teuant, were these removals to your benefit and advantage ; were they advantageous to the value of the farms held by you?
—Not the very least, and there was one tenant of a farm rented at £15 who came to me, and said, Though I am giving up this place, I may come back ; my son is in Edinburgh in a good position, and we may wish to take it. I said, You will get back your lot at any time ; and if the people are turned out of it you will get the whole of it. This was said a long time ago, and I am quite ready she should come forward now and take it. I was driven on to take it. It was because I could not get another tenant for it that I took it myself, and as matter of fact, in its immediate neighbourhood, I sublet to a man a farm six times the extent of this little bit at Carradale. It does not stand to reason that I should turn these tenants out to make room for myself, when I was very glad to get quit of another piece of fully more proportional value.
9496. Was there any case in which the whole grazing of a township, or any portion of the whole grazing, was taken from the township and added to farms in your possession?
—Not in my occupancy ; not one inch.
9497. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I understand that Shaw told you that something in his examination the other day had not been properly reported?
—As regards the report I saw in the papers, and which several others saw, I tried to get hold of a paper to-day, but there are plenty of witnesses here who say that Shaw said that he had left Lowergil—that he was pressed out of Lowergil, that he knew what factors were, and rather abused factors, but one specific thing he mentioned was, that he had left without being paid for the value of his houses. I talked to him last night for saying such a thing, and he said he had never said it, and he would be the last to say it. I believe Shaw is here, and I shall be glad if you ask him the question.
[Neil Shaw: Mr Macdonald said to me yesterday that it was stated in the papers that I said I had got nothing for the houses when I left Lowergil; what I said was that there was not a penny of arrears against me at that time.
9498. Did you get compensation then for the houses?
—I cannot tell ; but I will tell everything I got, and everything I gave away, and you can see for yourselves.]
—Mr Macdonald. I have a copy here of the account under which I settled with Shaw, and I shall be very glad to read it.(see Appendix A. XXIV)
9499. The Chairman.
—I think really it is very difficult for us to enter into details of this description during our inquiry, because it might lead us into endless discussions?
—Very well; all I want is that the facts should come out.
9500. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You attribute the state of the crops to the fact of the weather in Skye having become greatly worse of late years?
—That is my candid and decided opinion.
9501. Now, what I want to find out is whether the weather is so bad in winter time, that it promotes indolence among the people, and makes it difficult for them to work?
—No doubt it does. It is apt to increase lazy habits; and there is no doubt of the fact, that if a man goes out in the morning and gets drenched to the skin, it is not very likely he will work the other part of the day.
9502. Then you do not think, in reference to the people who come home from the fishing, and remain there from Christmas till seed time, that it would be very easy for them to spend that time in improving their land?
—Well, they might do a great deal in improving their land that they do not do, and the most of them will admit that themselves. They could do a great deal in draining and in improving the land.
9503. In spite of the weather?
—In spite of the weather. There is no doubt the weather is a bar in the way, but it is more a bar in the way of raising a good crop, because the amount of moisture in the soil prevents it ever coming to a good head. It ripens, but the weight of grain is not there, and when it is ripe a storm may come and do a lot of damage; and that is very often the case.
9504. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated a little ago there was a good deal of extravagance, particularly in the matter of tea?
—Well, I don't know these were the words I used. I did not say it was extravagance. I said there was a very large amount of money spent on tea, and there is no denying the fact, and what I said was that many a man spent now-a-days on tea and sugar what his forefathers did not spend on meal.
9505. The witness who immediately preceded you in this town of Portree said they have no grazing whatever, and that milk is exceedingly scarce. Now, is it not the fact that the consumption of tea has very much increased in consequence of the scarcity of milk?
—I cannot see that milk can be scarcer now than it was in the time of their forefathers.
9506. That is your statement?
—Well, that is my opinion.
9507. You stated you have been before the public for some time?
—I don't think that can be denied.
9508. I am putting that as a reason for taking a little more time in your examination than I otherwise might have done. Will you mention what was the rent paid by Fraser, the former tenant of the store at Isle Ornsay?
—I cannot say. The store and land attached at Isle Ornsay are not exactly the store and land held by Kennedy.
9509. But I ask what rent he paid?
—I cannot exactly say; but I know there was a very considerable rise upon it.
9510. Did Fraser make a good deal of money there?
—I cannot say for certain, but it was supposed he made a very large amount of money there.
9511. Which he lost by a bank failure?
—I believe he lost a great deal of money.
9512. Was he wishing to remain?
—I believe he was at one time. I may state that the place was valued at £130, so far as I remember; I may be wrong a pound or two. Fraser was offered the place at the increased rent, £130. Moreover, he offered £123 for the place; and I may mention that it was not with me that Fraser was treating, because I thought it was better he should treat with Lord Macdonald's Edinburgh agent, Thomas
—He and I were not on very good terms. I cannot say we were on bad terms, but I had put up an opposition meal-store to his, and we did not pull so well together as we had done at one time.
9514. Did Fraser go to Edinburgh to your knowledge on the subject?
9515. Were you there at the same time?
9516. On the same subject?
—I don't know I was. That may have been part of my business, but very likely I had a great deal of business to do besides that. I should not have gone simply on that business.
9517. To whom then was it given? Was it not given to you?
—By Lord Macdonald's Edinburgh agent.
—On my word of honour as a man and a gentleman, it was not. My name never came up in it.
9519. It was given to Neil Kennedy and Company?
—It was given to Neil Kennedy simply.
9520. Not to the company?
—Not to the company.
9521. You stated the other day that Kennedy was not a man of much capital, and that you helped him?
—I stated two facts ; that he was not a man of the capital that the Isle Ornsay shop required.
9522. And you did help him?
—I did help him, and I never denied it.
9523. Now will you or will you not say that you have an interest, and always had, in that shop?
—I will say that I never had an interest further than that I backed Kennedy and lent Kennedy money, that I never heard of a balance sheet, that I never heard of a stock-taking, that I deal with the shop, that I regularly pay my accounts every half year, at all events that I clear my shop account with Neil Kennedy every half-year as every tenant does, that I never got a pennyworth from Kennedy without paying for it, and that I never got a reduction on any article, but paid for it as any ordinary tenant does.
9524. I am referring to the time when you were factor?
—I am referring to that period, and to any other you like.
9525. But I am strictly referring to that period. You had a store before at Ostaig?
9526. Was any of the business or were any of the accouuts at Ostaig transferred to the new shop of Neil Kennedy?
— Unfortunately for me, not one single sixpence; and I may say that every penny which the people
owed me then they owe me still.
9527. I show you a document which has been handed to me. This document bears to be dated 'Isle Ornsay, 18th August 1875, and is in these terms:
—Received to account of Donald Beaton Carradale, £2, 16s. of old account, also £ 7 of new account, Neil Kennedy and Company.' Can you explain the meaning of that?
—No, I cannot. It is a very stupid document. All that I can say I have stated on my word of honour as a gentleman, and I know that for their own convenience people have paid very small sums to Neil Kennedy or his clerk for me, and it was most stupid for Neil Kennedy to mix up his accounts with mine when they never were mixed up in reality.
9528. During your time were the rents on the Macdonald estate considerably increased?
9529. All over?
9530. What was your motive in doing that?
—When I say all over, I should explain there were some townships that were not increased one
9531. Lord Macdonald has land in four parishes?
9532. And there has been a very considerable rise in each parish?
—A very considerable rise.
9533. What was your object in doing that?
—Well, I thought I stated that at Isle Ornsay, but I am not sorry to state it again, Lord Macdonald
has small tenants in four parishes, and the whole rise upon the small tenants was some £250. I cannot state without going into figures what the total amount of the tenants rent was, but I think I stated the other day that there would be a rise of something like 5 per cent., and I think I am not very far wrong. Well, the reason of the rise was this —and it was stated to the people at the time —that a low country valuator, an east coast man, came down here to value the sheep farms.
9534. Who was that?
—Mr M'Bay, Elgin. He valued all the sheep farms, or at least all likely to be soon out of lease —my own among the rest. He put a very large increase on all the farms, or nearly all of them. I think it was the next year after that that I had a conversation with Lord Macdonald, who, was, as I stated already, one of the best of men, but it was natural for him to suppose that, getting this large rise from his sheep farmers, he might expect the same rise, or some rise, from his small tenants. It was in contemplation to get an east coast man to value the crofters' lands. Well, I said to him that I thought it would be a foolish thing, and he certainly did not press the question. I said I thought, if he would allow me to treat with the tenants myself, the tenants and I would agree amicably about it. Well, there was a report given in by some valuators, confirmed by the ground officers, and I made up an estimate which was put before the tenants. I will not say it has put before every tenant. It was put before the tenants who came forward to pay their rent on the regular rent clay, that they were to pay this rise. I never heard a grumble the first year. They all agreed it was far better for them to pay whatever rise was put upon them directly under my own management than under the valuation of an east coast man. I think I am safe to say that if an east coast valuator had gone as a valuator of these lands there would have been a very different story for the small tenants from the rise I put on.
9535. Was it not the fact that, dealing with the large class you had to deal with, and the comparatively small rents they had to pay, they would have agreed to any rent you chose to put upon them, though you had doubled it in every case, rather than leave?
—I don't think they would have put up with it without a grumble, but I am afraid they would agree to
pay a rent that would be ruinous to themselves. I am afraid they would. I admit it quite candidly.
9536. I should like you to give some explanation, if you can, of the letter or circular you sent to people at Waterloo referred to at the meeting at Broadford.
—Mr Finlay M'Innes. 16 Waterloo, Tormore, by Broadford, Skye, 31st Oct. 1872.
Sir, I have to intimate that your land and grazings have been valued at £1, 15s., and you are to be charged at that rate from Whitsunday last. If you consider yourself aggrieved you will intimate the same to me, by writing, within ten days from this date, when I will relieve you of your lands and let to another.
—Your obedient servant, D. MACDONALD.
N.B.—I have strict orders to allow no arrears after Whitsunday 1872.
The witness also states that this was the first notice he got that his rent was to be raised. What explanation can you give?
—It may have been the first written notice, but it was certainly not the first verbal notice he got. He had notice probably six or twelve months before.
9537. It is dated 21st October 1872, and the witness was asked
—Is it correct that five or six months after the term you were told for the first time your rent was to be raised and to go backwards - Was that your first notice? and he answered, Yes, that was the first notice; and the whole of the township the same way.
—Well, the man may be correct, but it would be a singular case. He may have been away on the occasion when I gave notice to the other tenants, and told them of the rise to be put upon them ; but he certainly got verbal notice of the rise of rent before he got that written notice, and that was merely a formal notice he got.
9538. What do you say to the other notice, that he would require to remove within a few days Ì
—The intention certainly never was to remove him. It does not say that he is to remove in a few days.
9539. No, but it states 'If you consider yourself aggrieved you will intimate the same to me by writing within ten days from this date, when I will relieve you of your lands, and let to another’.
—Well that is before the Martinmas rent collection. The meaning is to get notice in due time before the Martinmas collection, which is on 26th November, and he certainly would not write to me supposing he was going to give it up. I don't think I had a single answer to these letters, but the fact is that he would come forward at the rent collection and pay his rent up to Martinmas, and then he would give me notice if he did not intend to keep on after Whitsunday following, because there never was a case —it could not be legally done—of turning a tenant out at the Martinmas term. The notice may not be written in the strict terms in which perhaps it ought to have been; but the meaning is that this man got notice that if he was displeased with his bargain he might give up possession at Whitsunday next. I never dreamed he would do it.
9540. At Whitsunday next?
—At Whitsunday next.
9541. That is rather inconsistent, because the letter says that he is to be charged at the rate of £ 1, 15s. from Whitsunday last?
—I am afraid I must leave it there, with two illegalities—first, in raising the rent during the currency of the terms, and then telling the people that unless they agree to pay they will be turned out in ten days? It was never raised during the currency of the terms.
9542. It looks very like it ; but I must leave that in the meantime. You stated that you had had a good many debts outstanding, and were unable to recover them?
—I did not quite state that I was unable to recover them. I said it was doubtful; but I think if I were pressed into pushing them I might make them good.
9543. They must have been standing for a long time?
9544. How many years is it since you closed your own store?
—I forget exactly; but it is a considerable time.
9545. Why don't you apply to the owners of the £200,000 that is in the bank? Your debtors must be the owners of some of that money?
—Not necessarily. There may be a man in a township who has £500 in the bank and twenty men in that same township who have not a single shilling in the bank. Well, the man with £500 in the bank may not owe me a shilling, and the other nineteen may.
9546. Is it possible that there is a crofter in a township owning £500?
—I have not the slightest doubt of it.
9547. Would not that person be able to take a good big croft?
—By all means.
9548. Then the money question is not so hopeless as we have heard?
—No, I don't think it; and I don't think I have said it was.
9549. In regard to the general improvement of the people, is that not due to the fact that their clothing and food are really obtained in consequence of the wages they earn in the south to a much greater degree than in the old times?
—There is not the least doubt about that.
9550. So really the better clothing and food is not in consequence of the greater produce of the soil?
—I never said it was, and I never thought so.
9551. You made a remark about shell-fish, indicating that in former days the people were in the habit of using shell-fish as an article of food; had you any reason for that?
—The reason is perfectly plain ; they had not sufficient food, or if they had, they would not have gone to the shell-fish.
9552. But is shell-fish not a healthy article of food compared with other things?
—I have not tried it, and I would not like to try it.
9553. Is there any sale for shell-fish?
—A very great sale for whelks.
9554. Is that prohibited, or are people prevented from gathering themt
—I can only speak for myself; I never prohibited it
9555. One question more before we leave the store. What were the prices that you got when you had your own store as compared with other dealers?
—I have already stated, I think, that I undersold other dealers. I know I undersold them sometimes by 3s. or 4s. per boll.
9556, I may mention that we heard at Glendale that the store, occupied during your time there, was highly serviceable?
—Oh, bless me, Yes.
9557. You say that you only possess Tormore, which may be said to be your paternal inheritance. Have you no interest in the farms of Knock and Gillean in Sleat?
—Neither directly nor indirectly. Lord Macdouald's factor is here who let the farm of Knock to Neil Kennedy, and he knows I was not in the country, and could not possibly be consulted about the matter. I believe it is the fact that Kennedy was driven to take it.
9558. When the hill pasture of Kilmore was taken away, who got it?
—There was not much hill pasture taken from Kilmore. It is a very old story. There was a very small pendicle of a hill about three or four miles away from the township, and it joined with the farm of Ord, and I believe Ord was getting very much the benefit of it. It was a very narrow strip, and Ord spoke to me about it. He was going to put up a fence, and this piece of ground came in the way, and they made an offer of it to him. It was a matter of arrangement in fact between themselves, which I as factor agreed to. Ord paid £4 for it, which I know was a very large rent, and they got a proportionate reduction.
9559. Who got the farm of Gillean?
—A man named M'Innes, who once a blacksmith,
9560. Was he not also a ground officer?
9561. Had he never any office?
—Never in Skye.
9562. Did you advance him money to take it?
—I did not.
9563. Had you no dealings with him?
—I had not.
9564. Of any kind?
—I have often bought sheep and cattle from him, as I did from other people, and he has bought from me in like manner.
9565. Will you explain very briefly now the alleged story about your sending some of your men round and giving the tenants notice to bring in their beasts at a certain time, that a selection might be made of the beasts. Was that done to any extent?
—It never was done at all; but this was done, that often before the markets the tenants would come to me and ask me to go and buy their cattle, and I would go. Well, when a man is asked to go and buy cattle off a farm, one does not like to give full prices; but I can safely say I always gave full prices, and I do not think any one will deny that I did. I never bought a beast from anybody in regard to which I would not conscientiously swear that I gave more than value for it.
9566. Are you aware that any ground officer in your employment was in the habit of doing what I have mentioned?
—The ground officer, so far as I am aware, never bought a cattle beast for me.
9567. But for himself, when you were factor?
—Not for me.
9568. I put the question in this way. Are you aware that any of your ground officers, when you were factor, were in the habit of doing this?
9569. You are not aware of it?
—I am certain it is not.
9570. Or any other official of the estate ?
—Or any other official.
9571. Before leaving this and going to Glendale, are you aware that a document has been prepared and signed by a number of people in Sleat in your favour ?
—I am not aware it is signed by any number of people, or by any one in fact; but as I was at Isle Ornsay the other day I met a man on the road, who told me that he and his fellow townsmen and the whole of the parish, or a certain number of them, wanted to send some statement to the Royal Commission about the questions that had been put. I did not enter into details, and I know nothing at all about it.
9572. Will you look at this paper [shown paper], and tell me who wrote it ?
—I cannot really say. It seems to be Donald Macpherson's handwriting, but I don't know.
9573. Look at this notice
—Tormore, by Broadford, Isle of Skye, 10th June 1876.
—Sir, I have to intimate to you that you have been entered in Lord Macdonald's rental for house and shop at Gedentailer, at a rent of £ 3 per annum for the year from Whitsunday 1876 to Whitsunday 1877, payable in equal portions at Martinmas and Whitsunday, the first half year's payment falling due at Martinmas next 1876
—Your obedient servant, per D. MACDONALD, Mr ANGUS MURCHESON, Gedentailer, by
9574. Is that your writing?
—I cannot speak distinctly as to the case. I think there was some row; it was simply a reminder to a man to keep on his good behaviour, but I will not speak positively.
9575. This letter bears that you were fixing a man's rent in the middle of the term?
—Yes, it does; I see it is a few days after the term. Possibly I had a verbal understanding with him before that, but I will not speak positively. (see Appendix A. XXIV)
9576. You stated that bills were common, but not in your part of the country. That is a matter of rumour which you have heard ?
—Yes, but it is a rumour that is generally believed.
9577. But there was no such thing going on in your part of Sleat?
—No, and I don't think there is now, though I don't know it so well as I did then.
9578. What I mean is that the district of Sleat is the most prosperous part of Skye at this moment?
—Well, I am not sure of that.
9579. Will you not stand up for your own part of Skye?
—No, I don't see I have anything to do with it at all.
9580. Have the comparative state and circumstances of the people improved?
—Well, I think from what has been said that the inference would be that Sleat must be in a state of misery.
9581. That is not my impression at all?
—That is the impression which is wished to be conveyed.
9582. I wish to ask you a few questions about Glendale. Your name has been mixed up a good deal in regard to the different farms, and what the proprietor states is this
—Mr Macdonald, Tormore, has never held any part of the property for himself. He held Ramasaig and other farms only on behalf of Sir John Macleod, and he has not had any land in Glendale himself': that is so?
9583. Was your name entered in the valuation roll?
9584. Whose name has been entered?
—Sir John Macpherson Macleod's.
9585. Then what has given rise to all this idea in the minds of the people here?
—I cannot tell. I know it was always supposed so, and I did not see it was for me to enter into explanations with other men about what was not mine.
9586. You did want Waterstein?
—No, not particularly.
9587. Yes, you said so?
—When did I say so?
9588. In your own statement, to the best of my recollection?
—No, I did not.
9589. What reference did you make to it?
—I said I was invited by the trustees to give an offer for the farm, and that I did so.
9590. Did you not go a little further, and say that you were disposed to take it, or words to that effect?
—I was disposed to take it, because I did take it. I accepted the trustees offer, and they accepted me as
9591. What could be the object of the trustees of the late Sir John Macpherson Macleod in keeping so much of the estate in their own hands?
—I suppose it was because they thought it more profitable for themselves. This place of Ramasaig was inhabited by a number of people when I took the tack of it, but even before then there were vacant lots. I used to offer those vacant lots to people in the other part of Glendale, and I never got a man to go to Ramasaig, but when there was a vacant lot in any other part of Glendale a Ramasaig man was determined to get it.
9592. We have been informed by the people themselves that they were very anxious to get Waterstein when Dr Martin gave it up, and that they never got a distinct refusal of it. Why did they not get it? Was not that a splendid opportunity for you to do something for the people?
—I at once stepped out of the way of their getting it, and I never heard a single word from any of the tenants that they wanted it, though they knew two years beforehand that it was to let. I never heard a single word from them till after I myself had taken it and the bargain was concluded, and then whenever I did hear they wanted it, at the first meeting I had with them I told them I would not stand in the way of their getting it.
9593. Did you give them any assistance in getting it?
—I stated to them at that meeting that if they would take my advice, they would pay the rents and arrears, make a specific offer for Waterstein, and satisfy the trustees that they could stock it, and that I would see what I could do for them. My intention was to do everything in my power for them; I did not go further than that with them, certainly.
9594. May I ask why it was that you gave up the charge of the estate?
—Because I could not be humbugged with it. I did not care to be trying to govern people that would not be governed.
9595. In fact you threw it up?
—I chucked it up ; I wish I had never seen the place.
9596. How many tenants were removed at Hamara for you, and what became of them?
—There were three, I think.
9597. What became of them?
—There was one Hector Maclean. The old man died, and his family removed of their own accord. That was the first change, I think; but there are a great many people who can speak to it. I lost sight of the family. Another man was Roderick Macdonald. He was removed for bad neighbouring. Then there was John Maclean, a mason, whom I employed for a long time in making roads and dykes, and in fact supported him. There may have been another, but the valuation roll will show.
9598. You and the tenants seem not to have got on very well?
9599. Did you ever ask Peter Mackinnon for arrears amounting to £6, 10s due by a former tenant?
—He was never a tenant. He is in the position of being trustee over his sister. In fact, the land is held for the heirs of Hugh and John Mackay. The tenant became insane, and Mackinnon was appointed guardian for the good of the sister, and he has remained, and has been reaping the benefit of the land ever since. He may give the benefit or part of the benefit to the widow and children, but so far as I know ho does not, and in point of fact we never considered him a legal tenant; he just represented another person.
9600. Did you ever give him any receipt?
—Of course I did, for every payment he made.
9601. He complains that you changed his receipts—that you got back his receipt, and put in another name. Did you ever do that?
—Certainly not, so far as I remember. I don't think Mr Peter Mackinnon is a man likely to allow such a thing. I know that if he gave in those receipts for any purpose, it must have been for some purpose of his own. There may have been an error; but I know if he gave in a receipt, it was not changed.
9602. Of late years I suppose your dealings with the people were not of a very harmonious character?
9603. Latterly I mean?
—Very ; I never had any question with them till March 1882. We were on the very best of terms, and I can speak very kindly of the people of Glendale.
9604. Did you ever accuse them of reading newspapers?
—I never accused them, but I may have put them on their guard against reading certain literature.
9605. Did you ever threaten the people there for forming their own opinions in the election of members of the school board?
—I never did.
9606. Were you a member of the school board?
—I was. I think I was elected on two occasions.
9607. Did you use to attend?
—I think I attended the first. I don't think I attended the second much.
9608. You were not a good attender at the meetings?
—I cannot say I was.
9609. Would you object, considering that in some of the places the crofter population is very considerable, that at least one member coming from that class should be upon the school board?
—I think there should be.
9610. Would you approve of that?
—I would approve of it. I always did approve of it, and on the parochial board too, and I had them on the parochial board.
—I had them in Sleat and in different places.
9612. Except those you have mentioned in your own statement, did you remove or cause a removal from one part of the estate to the other?
—There were several removals, but very few.
9613. It was only a shifting?
9614. Can you really say that those shiftings were for the benefit of the people who were shifted?
—As a general rule it was by their own desire, but not in every instance.
9615. I would like if you could give me a possible explanation why it was, for instance, that the people of Lowergill were removed, and the place put into the proprietor's hands?
—The tenants at Lowergill were only six, so far as I remember.
9616. What possible object was there in removing these, and putting it into the proprietor's hands?
—So far as I remember, the first move in that direction was that Roderick Gillies give up his lot and came to Skiniden, and arranged to take a house and get a cow's grass or two. Then Hugh Shaw had a young family, and he wanted to remove, and made some exchange with a namesake of his who left of his own accord to go abroad. Kenneth Mackinnon wanted to remove too, because he had a young family; but afterwards he came to the island of Pabbay, where he still is, and where he is much better off than he was at Lowergill. Neil Shaw, who was here, would have stopped had he got his share of it; in fact, he would have taken more. Donald Murcheson, who is at Ramasaig, is very much better off than at Lowergill.
9617. Was he anxious to go?
—No, I think not; but he is much better off at Ramasaig than he was at Lowergill. Charles Mackinnon and his brother were in the same lot. Charles got a lot at Fasach and Sandy got a lot at Meiloveg. Charles did not make a good exchange to Fasach, but in every other case they are much better off than they were.
9618. Do you remember changing a polling station on one occasion from the schoolhouse to your own lodge at Hamara?
9619. The election never took place at the lodge?
—Never, so far as I know.
9620. You are quite aware there is a good deal of discontent, which you attribute partly to outside influence and partly to some local influence. There must have been some foundation for all this discontent and agitation?
—In some cases there might be.
9621. Will you not go further, to say it is so in many cases in the island —that the people are overcrowded?
—Yes, taking the island all over, I would say there are many cases.
9622. Can you suggest any remedies to the Commissioners!
—Give them more land, with all my heart, if it will do them good.
9623. Don't you think that, in consequence of their attention being now so much drawn to this matter of getting more land —as many of them whom we have seen seem to be strong, active, and able to labour —if they did get somewhat larger holdings, and security that they would not be disturbed, at all events for some time, they would make a good move in advance from what they have hitherto done?
—Well, I will not say that. They talk of fixity of tenure, but except in exceptional cases they have had fixity of tenure.
9624. That poor man behind, Shaw, is not an instance of that?
—He would not like it. Ask him whether he would go to Lowergill. I do not think fixity of tenure would benefit them in every case, but it would in some cases.
9625. I am very anxious to get your answer upon this matter, because from your experience it is of great consequence to get your opinion upon it?
—I don't think fixity of tenure would benefit the people. It might in some cases, but I certainly would put them upon such a footing that they could not be deprived of their lands, according to the whim of a proprietor, and certainly not of a factor.
9626. Would you make any further suggestions?
—No, I will answer questions.
9627. I am done with the examination. I am merely inviting you to speak on the general question?
—I would rather not.
9628. I do not think it is fair to allow you simply to give an answer to a lot of statements made against you during your time as factor. We should like you as a large farmer in Skye to give your opinions?
—Well, in answering any questions put to me I will try to give my opinion unbiassed; but I would rather have questions put to me, and I will answer them in a broad way.
9629. Well I will put this again to you. Seeing that the feeling of the people and the minds of the people have been as we have seen and heard very much directed to this matter of enlarging their holdings and having some kind of permanence—that is to say, that they would not be removed after ameliorating and improving their lands—don't you think that though some of them are at present very poor, yet many of them have the capital in their hands, and are able and willing to work? Would you not think that if they got the chance they would take advantage of it, and that it would be a great benefit to Skye, and change it from its present unhappy state?
—I should be rather afraid of that. I should be rather doubtful of it
9630. Then surely you do not propose that things should remain as they are at present?
—It would be a very unhappy state of feeling if they were.
9631. You would not endorse, I presume, what one proprietor told us the other day—that he would give £500 to clear every crofter off his estate, and let them go where they liked?
—Well, if the crofters take up the no rent attitude, as they have done in some parts, and defy the proprietor's rules, and set the law of the country at defiance, I certainly do not wonder at a proprietor making such a suggestion and expressing such a wish, but I should be very sorry that such a state of matters should continue.
9632. The Chairman.
—I think it is right that I should read the paper to which I previously referred, which came into my hands signed by a number of tenants :
—To the Lord Napier, Chairman of the Royal Commission
—My Lord, We the undersigned tenants of the parish of Sleat, considering what we think to be the most uncalled-for manner in which Mr Macdonald of Tormore was cross-questioned as to his dealings with the people in cattle and meal, we do hereby most distinctly state and declare that, instead of the said gentleman taking undue advantage of us in any respect, we are perfectly aware that he has been the means always of raising the price of cattle, both at home and at the markets; and the drovers who came to the island often complain of his doing so to their injury, though for the good of the tenants. Moreover, we can state with truth that he was driven from his good wishes towards us into an extensive meal business to keep down the oppression of others; and had he not done so, there are plenty still alive who can testify that there would have been extensive starvation. We have always considered and still know Tormore to be the people's best friend, and we are distressed and ashamed at the base and false statements made lately. There is little time to get this paper signed, but we can truly state that we represent the parish generally, and should sworn evidence be taken we believe there is not one man in the parish but will willingly corroborate this our statement.'
This is signed by about seventy persons in various townships?
—I can only say that I am very much obliged to them indeed, and very much obliged to your Lordship for your courtesy in reading it.
9633. There is another letter from a single person bearing testimony to the good intentions of Mr Macdonald, and to the services he has rendered to the people, signed by Samuel Campbell, but perhaps it is not necessary that I should read it?
—No, I think it is better not.