DONALD M'LEOD, Crofter, formerly Fisherman, Kyle-Rona (78)—examined.
7829. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected?
7830. How many elected you? How many heads of families took part in the election?
—Nine, and I am the tenth myself.
7831. Will you make a statement to the Commission?
—I have only to say what the rest have said, that it is poverty sent me here —that I am situated on bad ground, and little of it, and too dear, and that for a long time. In my own memory, it was five families who were in the township numbering twenty-nine individuals, and to-day there are ten families and
7832. What was the rent of the whole township when there were five families and twenty-one souls?
7833. What is the rent now?
7834. How did the population increase? Was it by natural increase, or by people being brought in from outside ?
—There were not many taken in from other townships; it was the natural increase of the place. They
were dividing the lots to their sons.
7835. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was any ground that these five original families had, taken away from them?
7836. Have you lived all your days in Kyle Rona?
—Yes, all my days.
7837. We want to find out if you know about the evictions in former times. The first one began in the time of M'Leod himself about forty years ago. Do you recollect that?
—I don't remember the first removing, but I remember Mr Rainy about thirty years ago clearing
fourteen townships, and he made them into a sheep farm which he had in his own hands.
7838. What became of the people?
—They went to other kingdoms—some to America, some to Australia, and other places that they could think of. Mr Rainy enacted a rule that no one should marry in the island. There was one man there who married in spite of him, and because he did so, he put him out of his father's house, and that man went to a bothy—to a sheep cot. Mr Rainy then came and demolished the sheep cot upon him, and extinguished his fire, and neither friend nor any one else dared give him a night's shelter. He was not allowed entrance into any house.
7839. What was his name?
7840. What is the name of the town were his father was?
7841. Will you give us a rough estimate of the population of the fourteen townships?
—I cannot; there were a great number of people.
7842. Were they hundreds?
—Yes, hundreds, young and old. I am sure there were about one hundred in each of two townships.
7843. Will you name the towns?
—Castle, Screpidale, two Hallaigs, Ceancnock, Leachd, two Fearns, Eyre, Suisinish, Doirredomhain, Mainish.
7844. Was there a good deal of arable land upon these townships?
—They were altogether arable land capable of being ploughed.
7845. Are these now altogether in the proprietor's hands?
—Yes, indeed. The only occupants of that land to-day are rabbits and deer and sheep.
7846. Was this done by Mr Rainy at one time—all these clearings of the fourteen?
—No, not in one year.
7847. How long was it going on?
—I don't well remember.
7848. Was he long in possession of the property before it commenced?
—I don't remember very well, but I know it was he who evicted the last batch. I am not sure how long he was in possession of the estate before he commenced.
7849. Do you recollect quite well when Raasay belonged to M'Leod?
7850. Were people put out in his time?
—No, not many.
7851. But there were some?
7852. What became of them?
—They went away abroad, as the rest did.
7853. Do you know whether these people went of their own accord?
—I don't know whether these went of their own accord, but I think that it was not with their own accord.
7854. Do you recollect when the laird of Raasay had some land on the mainland of Skye?
—I don't remember.
7855. Was it sold before your time?
—It was sold before my time.
7856. Did Rainy come in after the M'Leods?
—Yes; he succeeded M'Leod.
7857. Have any people been evicted at any time from Rona?
—No. The people were not living in Rona at first at all. They were sent to Rona.
7858. Did the people out of these fourteen townships that Rainy cleared go of their own accord?
—No, not at all. The people were very sorry to leave at that time. They were weeping and wailing and lamenting. They were taking handfuls of grass that was growing over the graves of their families in the churchyard, as remembrances of their kindred.
7859. Mr Cameron.
—Might that not occur even though the people left of their own free-will, if they were much attached to their kindred?
—No, they were sent away against their will, in spite of them.
7860. How did the ten families come to the place where you resided, whereas there were only formerly five with twenty-one souls?
—When the son would come to maturity, the father would divide the lot with him.
7861. And the result of that is that the people are now overcrowded?
—Yes. The townships were bad before, but this is spoiling them.
7862. And this was the system Mr Rainy wished to stop by preventing two families living on one croft?
—There were two families on single crofts before Mr Rainy commenced.
7863. Did not Mr Rainy wish to put a stop to that system?
—He was desirous to prevent them from marrying.
7864. But don't you think it would be for the eventual good of the people if, when a man married he left the croft, and went elsewhere, rather than settle on the spot and render each croft too small to yield a living ?
—It would do good to the people if the man who married got land from the landlord, and left his father's holding.
7865. How many families are living on your croft ?
7866. What is the second one ?
—My own son.
7867. In the same house?
7868. Have you ever given any encouragement to your son to go abroad, and seek his fortune in the world?
—No, I never did.
7869. Is it a convenient thing for two families to live in one small house?
—No, it is not.
7870. Then why don't you try to persuade your son to go?
—He prefers to remain on the land where he was born.
7871. Are you past work, or are you working?
—I would do a little herding —nothing else.
7872. Does your son help you to maintain the croft?
—Yes, it is my son who is working the croft and paying for it.
7873. Has your son got a separate croft?
7874. And lives with his father ?
7875. Have you ever heard from any of the people who were formerly in the island and who went to America or Australia?
7876. How are they getting on there?
—Some are getting on, and some are not.
7877. Was the report you got generally encouraging to other people to go there?
—It was not encouraging. They would be making mention of the colonies, and the climate, and the troubles that were meeting them.
7878. Professor Mackinnon.
—Then your complaint is that the crofts are too small, and the rents too large?
—Yes, and the crofts bad too —small patches of ground between rocks. If you could see it, you would not believe that a man could live upon them.
7879. How do you propose to remedy that state of matters?
—My remedy would be to leave the township in the possession of the number of the families who had it originally, and settle the rest in other townships.
7880. Are there other townships near hand where the rest could settle?
—No, the townships that are near hand and that are neighbouring with us are overcrowded. There are plenty of vacant townships which I have mentioned that have been cleared.
7881. I suppose the people would not object to remove there?
—No, they would not object to that.
7882. Are there four or five people in Kyle-Rona just now who could take the whole place between them?
7883. Could you take a fourth part of it yourself ?
—Yes. There are a few of them who could not do that.
7884. Have you more sons than this one that is in the croft at home with you?
—I have another son who is not married. We are sowing, and we are not reaping. I have not been at the mill for the past two years.
7885. Sheriff Nicolson.
—If you are so badly off as that how could five of you take the place among you?
—Would not the money pay for it which we are spending in buying food supplies?
7886. But where is the money to pay for the stock that would need to be put on it ?
—If we had the land we would get the stock to put on.
7887. How could you stock it?
—I would stock it. We would get hogs cheap to start with.
7888. Is there much difference between the life when you were young and the life now at Kyle-Rona?
—Yes, there is.
7889. Is it better now or worse?
—It is worse to-day.
7890. Is your food worse?
—Yes, our food at present is scantier and worse than it used to be.
7891. What is your principal food just now?
—Meal and fish.
7892. I suppose you seldom get meat?
7893. Was it more plentiful in former times'?
—Yes. When there are many people in the place you must know that the food is scantier.
7894. Have you always plenty of milk for the children?
—No, our calves are dying for want of milk, and the hares and rabbits eat the grass. There is nothing left for the cows on which to produce milk.
7895. Are there no wire fences put round your crofts to protect them from the rabbits?
—No, they are free throughout the township I have seen them on our corn land when the braird was up so thick that you could not count them.
7896. Why don't you get meat out of them by killing them'?
—We cannot catch them.
7897. But you should get traps?
—I cannot get traps either.
7898. Mr Cameron.
—Would you like to eat rabbits?
—I never was accustomed to it.
7899. Do you know what a rabbit is worth in the south?
—No, I don't know.
7900. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Had you better clothes in your youth than they have now?
—Yes, and plenty.
7901. Did they not make all their own clothes? They had sheep ?
7902. Do you make any of your own clothes still?
—No; we cannot make clothes, we have no sheep.
7903. Do you buy your cloth?
7904. I think I see some men here to-day who have home-made stuff. Are there not some men here who have stuff made by their wives?
7905. Is it better or worse than the Lowland cloth?
—It is very good for us in this place.
7906. The Chairman.
—When the people went away, that you spoke of from all those townships, were they taken away in ships that came here, or did they go from Glasgow or some other place to America?
—They went by steamer to Glasgow.
7907. Did the landlord pay their passage?
—I don't know but he did. He was giving money to some to induce them to go.
7908. Did he provide them with clothes and provisions for the voyage, or anything of that sort?
—No. He may have been giving a little clothes, but it was not in his mind to do them much good at all. He did not care where they went to, so long as they left his estate.
7909. I have seen in an old book that there was once a large place in the middle of the island here which was free to anybody to take their cattle to in summer,—a kind of wild place, for the summer sheilings. Did you ever hear of that?
—I believe the hill pasture is there yet. That was the case. If the hill pasture was there it is not there now for the people.