JOHN GILLIES, Crofter and Fisherman, Fladda (50)—examined.
7783. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected by the people of that island of Fladda?
7784. Have you a statement to make on their part?
—They are complaining, as others are, about the hardness of the land, and the dearness of it. It is dear, it is bad, and there is little of it. They are also wanting to speak about the channel between them and the island. They come from the island to the school here, and the channel is not wider than thirty yards at high tide. Sometimes the children are starving waiting for the tide, when they cannot get over —when the men are away from home.
7785. You mean coming back from school?
—Yes; but many days they cannot go to school at all.
7786. How wide is the channel at high water?
—Thirty yards, and it is dry at half tide.
7787. What remedy do you suggest for this?
—Either to bridge the channel, or else to give us another place to live in, from which our children could go to school in safety.
7788. Would it be easy to bridge the channel?
—It would not be difficult at all. There are plenty of materials—plenty of stones thereabout.
7789. Would you propose to bridge the channel with a light iron suspension bridge, or do you think of building a regular stone bridge?
—I think a suspension bridge would be easier made, with plenty of stones at each end.
7790. Are the sides of the land on each side steep and high, or is it low and flat?
—It is steep on the Raasay side, but it is a gradual slope on the island side.
7791. Would a causeway of stone between the two islands not do?
—Yes, but I think it would cost more than the bridge I allude to.
7792. Mr Cameron.
—Do many vessels pass through that channel?
—Boats pass through at high tide.
7793. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many souls are in the island?
—About fifty altogether.
7794. How many children?
—I have eight myself. I don't know how many the others have.
7795. Have you as many as all the others put together?
—Another man has got quite as many as I have.
7796. Did you ask the proprietor to do anything for you about the bridge?
—No, we did not give him a trial at all. Though the rent is high, Mr Wood is not blamed for that; it was Mr Mackay, and Mr Wood simply left us as he found us in regard to the rent.
7797. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many are there paying rent?
7798. What is the rent each pays?
—The island altogether pays £30, and before Mr Mackay's time it was £22.
7799. What stock are you allowed to keep?
—Two cows and two young beasts —a stirk and a two-year-old.
—I am not sure how many sheep the others have, but I have five. I don't think any one of us has more than seven.
7801. You are allowed to keep six?
7802. Do you fish?
—We work at every work that comes in the way.
7803. What fishing do you get off the island?
—The only fish we get about our own shores are eels.
7804. You don't fish for cod and ling?
—Yes, but it is not good fishing ground for ling. The ground is too foul, too deep. If we get anything
at that depth it is skate.
7805. Where do you go for the fishing? Is it to the east coast?
—I was not there for the past three years. I was staying at home working for Mr Wood, but I have been eighteen seasons at the east coast fishing.
7806. Are there many of the people from your place working with Mr Wood as well as yourself?
—No, they work a little about this time of the year, just to get sufficient money to take them away to the fishing.
7807. Then is it your complaint that the crofts are too highly rented ?
7808. The old rent was not too high, was it?
—It was high enough. It is too high now, but we never complained to Mr Wood about it. We don't know what he might do if we complained to him. He is a kind man. If all the island landlords were like him, a man might have remained at home.
7809. I suppose in a bad year, with a good excuse, he would not be hard on you with the rent?
—No ; I sowed last year four barrels of oats, and I did not reap as much as would sow it back.
7810. That was a bad year. Do you ever change the seed?
7811. Where do you get the change of seed from?
—From Mr Wood's manager I got it last.
7812. How many returns of oats and potatoes do you get in a fair year?
—I might get three returns.
7813. Is that all you get in a good year?
—In a good year I might get three. Our ground is peat altogether.
7814. Then if you got the bridge you want, and the old rent, would that exhaust all your complaints?
— I think it would. It would take away a good share of our complaints, at any rate.
7815. Do you get steady work?
—Yes, and 13s. a week of wages.
7816. Would the other men who go to make money at the fishing get steady work if they remained ?
—Yes, but they expect to make three times as much as that per week at the fishing. Some nights I made £8, and other nights I made nothing at all, at the east coast fishing.
7817. But you think, upon the whole, that 13s. a week and steady work is better?
—No, I think the fishing is better. When I pay 2s. for lodgings off that 13s. and also my personal expenses for the week, my family would be starving at home.
7818. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the nearest place to the people of Torrin here where they could get work?
—Twelve miles from here.
7819. And there is no place nearer?
7820. The previous witness stated that there is a farm steading about two miles from here belonging to the proprietor. What place is that ?
—A few of those living near the square may get work there—the Ballahouran people; but it is up at Mr Wood's own house that the most of the work is to be got.
7821. Mr Cameron.
—Is the pasture upon the island good or bad?
—It is bad. You would not think it would keep four sheep altogether.
7822. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there any shellfish on any of the beaches round Fladda?
—No, nothing but limpets and a few whelks.
7823. Do you make a trade of the whelks?
—Yes, some women work at them.
7824. What do you get per bushel for them?
—Sometimes Is. 6d. and sometimes 2s. 6d. a bushel; sometimes 20d.
7825. How long does it take to collect a bushel?
—Two days a bushel, at any rate, and sometimes three.
7826. The Chairman.
—How are you off for sea-ware on this shore?
—Our sea-ware is out on rocks about our own shores. We have a pretty sufficient quantity of peat, but we have to take it ashore with boats, and then carry it on our backs to the ground.
7827. Do you pay anything for it ?
—No, we don't pay for it.
7828. Arc there any horses ?
— No horses ; they would be drowned.