Torran, Raasay, 22 May 1883 - John Munro

JOHN MUNRO, Missionary, West Coast Mission (68)—examined.

8116. The Chairman.
—Is your mission connected with the Free Church?
—It is unsectarian.

8117. Are you a native of this part of the country?
—A native of Skye.

8118. What has your employment been during your life?
—I was for thirty-two years in Glasgow. It is six years since I came to Raasay. I was working at different employments in Glasgow.

8119. Were you employed in connection with persons of your own country—with Highlanders?
— A great deal.

8120. So if you were a long time in Glasgow, you had experience of your own countrymen?
—Very much. I held a piece of land before I went to Glasgow, in the parish of Snizort.

8121. Were you a teacher in Glasgow?

8122. Were you engaged in any trade, or always connected with religion!
—Not entirely. I was for some time an agent selling fish, eggs, and all these things, that were sent from the Highlands to Glasgow.

8123. You have heard today, in the course of their examination, the people express a great reluctance in regard to emigration?
—I did.

8124. We know there have been times when the people in Skye and elsewhere were willing to go away, and we know there are many parts of Scotland from which the people desire to emigrate, and do emigrate with advantage. To what do you attribute this great reluctance the people express here?
—There may be several causes, but I find in many instances that they are inclined to remain in the country of their birth. I find that, I believe it is natural to the brute beast.

8125. Shall we say, natural to man?
—Natural to man, but I won't say that is in all cases a reason for a man to stay where he cannot support himself.

8126. Do you think that if there was some encouragement given to the people to get better holdings here, and to make their life easier, that would incline others to emigrate? Is it a sort of stubbornness and discontent that makes them refuse to entertain the idea of emigrating?
—I don't believe that that is the case with many of them. At least, in this place where I am at present, they have this disadvantage, they have had no education, and uneducated people never read nor learn for themselves the advantages that might accrue from emigrating.

8127. But don't they sometimes hear? Don't they have letters from relatives in the colonies, or letters from other Scotsmen who have gone there?
—In many cases they are not very encouraging. I have had two brothers in Australia. One of them wrote me three or four times, and the other never wrote me. The first one went when I was in Glasgow. He reared a family of nine. He is now dead and gone; and I believe he was a very industrious good man when he lived, and he died by an accident, and his family are left quite poor. The other one is going about working the best way he can, but he never got a right settlement. Well, these brothers never could send me very encouraging letters to induce me to go. Others may be quite the same, though I have known many who have made what people term a fortune. I have known them.

8128. They generally acquire land of their own?
—Generally. Well, in that case I don't wonder so much that poor people, and especially, as I have said, uneducated people, don't see the general run of things in the colonies.

8129. They all express a desire to have more land in a better position in this island. Do you think that, if the proprietor was inclined to make some new crofter settlements upon his sheep farms, of the proper size, the people would go there and build their houses, and be capable of stocking the crofts, and living better than they do now, and pay rent?
—I don't believe there are any in Rona at present —at least, I don't know any—there may be one who would be able to stock a farm which would be likely to support a family. They are reduced into poverty, and I don't wonder at it. Since I came to Rona I never saw a place like it. They toil away all spring —men, women, and children—and sometimes I am grieved to see the women, and perhaps I should not speak about some things I took notice of here in public. It might be very unsatisfactory to some minds to see in the public prints that a woman carrying sea-ware might be working at that to-day, and in child-bed to-morrow.

8130. Do you think that the women suffer in their health, and contract maladies in consequence of their severe physical labour?
—I have no doubt of it. I have no doubt in some cases they do.

8131. Lose their health altogether?
—Lose their health, with the disadvantage (as was brought out to-day) of the doctor being so far away. I have noticed several things in connection with that which were very disagreeable. I believe in Rona even, though the people there would get the whole of Rona gratis, they could not support their families. They would be almost as bad as they are.

8132. If you say the people of Rona cannot make a living in that island, and if you say they are not capable of stocking a croft on the mainland, and if you say they will not emigrate, what can they do?
—I don't know, unless Government looks after them. They have been reduced to poverty by the laws that made the people so long grind them down, and I think the Government should help them out of their difficulties, and they would work like other men. They are willing to work, and if they got the chance, I think they would do it. The people are a good people, willing to pay everybody their own.

8133. If every one of them had a good croft, and got a stock put on that croft for them, would they certainly pay the interest of that money? Have you any knowledge that in any country even the most benevolent Government has ever advanced money to purchase live stock for the people?
—I am not aware. I know some proprietors in Skye have advanced money on stock, and they did well.

8134. But you are speaking of the Government?
—I am not aware what Government did. I don't know what they did with the Irish people last year
—whether they gave them money in advance or not —but I think they did.

8135. They have given them money to pay arrears of rent, but I don't know that they have ever given money for the purchase of live stock?
—Perhaps not.

8136. Have you anything else to state in the way of suggestion besides help from Government and the proprietor to stock the lands?
—I have no suggestion to make but what has been already stated, that there are too many people in Rona, and the land is poor, and they say themselves that it is dear.

8137. If the proprietor was, for instance, to give them land—new crofts—at what we call an improving rent —at a very small rent at first, increasing gradually—do you think the people would be able gradually to acquire stock?
—I believe that would be a very good plan.

8138. Is there any doctor in Raasay?

8139. Have you ever heard it was the intention of the proprietor to settle a doctor here for the benefit of the islands?
— He has been doing a great deal in that way. He has been keeping doctors in the mansionhouse, for years, and these doctors were very useful to the Rona and Raasay people.

8140. Did you hear them say there might be a bridge between Raasay and Fladda?

8141. Do you think that should be done?
—Oh, it could be done. It needs it very much. But there may be a difficulty in the case. There must be a passage left, for it is a channel for boats.

8142. But it is not necessary for ships with high masts?
—No, just small boats.

8143. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You have been only six years here?

8144. Where were you before?
—I came from Glasgow.

8145. Then you have not much knowledge of the former state of the Rona people?

8146. You say they have been very ill-educated?

8147. But they have had a school in Rona for a long time?
—-There was not a regular school at Rona; there was a schoolmaster coming now and again.

8148. Are there many of the adults that cannot read and write?
—A good many.

8149. I suppose none of them speak English except those who have been for some time in the south?
—Very few.

8150. Do you think they are desirous to get their children educated?
—Very much so.

8151. Do they speak of the school rates as being any grievous burden?
—No , I never heard. The only grievance is the want of roads from the south end to the schoolhouse.

8152. There is no road except a track among the rocks and bogs?
—No road.

8153. Are your avocations con6ned to Rona?
—And Kyle-Rona.

8154. I suppose the inhabitants are quiet, well-behaved people?
—A quiet, well-behaved people; very industrious.

8155. Is there a policeman at Raasay?

8156. And never was?
—Not that I know of.

8157. They have never had any occasion for one to come here?
—Well, there has never been any occasion for one since I came here at least.

8158. Has there been any crime of any seriousness?
—No, none.

8159. Neither in Raasay nor in Rona?
—Not that I am aware of, and now they have mostly given up strong drink, and that is a very great

8160. Are they regular teetotalers, or have they just ceased from drink ?
—Some of them are, but most of them gave up drink voluntarily.

8161. They used to smuggle in this quarter?
—So I believe.

8162. They had great conveniences in the way of caves?
—They were showing me some of their stills.

8163. After your long residence in Glasgow, and coming back to Snizort, and Skye generally, did you find much change in the state of things and life and manners of the people?
—Not much.

8164. Did you think they were better or worse?
—In one respect their condition was worse, especially with respect to their poverty.

8165. There is some improvement in their houses?
—In Rona there is a very great improvement.

8166. I suppose they are very attentive to religious duties?
—Very attentive indeed.

8167. We have heard, in one or two other places, something as to the entire cessation from the ancient custom they had of singing songs and playing pipes. Do you know anything about the present as compared with the past in the island?
—There is far less of that than has been.

8168. I suppose they very seldom have any singing of songs'?
—Very seldom indeed.

8169. They used to meet in the evenings, what was called a ceilidh, and tell stories and sing songs?
—I recollect that.

8170. Was it not a pleasant way of spending the evening?
—It was pleasant to those who liked it, but there was a great deal of nonsense.

8171. But that is very much given up?
—Very much given up.

8172. Then piping also has been very much given up in this quarter as elsewhere?
—Oh, yes. We seldom hear a pipe at all.

8173. Is there a piper in Raasay?
—There may be, but I do not know any.

8174. People allege that the Free Church ministers have exercised a depressing influence upon the people in that respect. Is there any truth in it?
—Perhaps there may be. It was leading to folly.

8175. Do you think the food of the people is worse than it used to be?
—I cannot say that. I cannot say it is. I know this, that they have less milk than they used to have, and we feel that loss.

8176. Have you sometimes difficulty in getting milk?
—Very much. In other respects the people are poor, and have vast difficulty in getting meal for their families. Still they live on meal mostly —at least, this whole year we have had so few potatoes, that I have heard some of them stating that they just had meal and fish. Now that is not so wholesome as potatoes and fish.

8177. How have they been off for herrings this winter?
—The herrings were very scarce.

8178. I suppose they would not think themselves badly off if they had porridge and milk for breakfast and potatoes and herring for dinner?
—They would not; but, as I say, potatoes are scarce, and there is very little milk to get.

8179. As to their clothes, do you think their clothing is better or worse than it used to be?
—It is not better in one respect. The Rona and Raasay people, when I recollect them first, used to be clothed all in homemade clothing, but now you seldom see any with home-made clothing. The home-made clothing was substantial.

8180. They made their own blankets in those days?
—They did, and I believe some of them do yet —most of them.

8181. Are there any native weavers in Rona and Raasay?
—There are. I think there is one in Rona.

8182. A woman, I suppose?

8183. Does she get regular employment?
—Well, she would get more than she was able to do. She was not constant at it, not being very healthy.

8184. As to their shoes, are they better shod or worse than they used to be?
—They are just much about it.

8185. Do any of them make their own shoes, as they did formerly?

8186. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said, in answer to Lord Napier, very few, perhaps only one, of the people of Rona, could stock the new lands that were proposed, without assistance. Suppose they got help from friends or outsiders, and if they knew they would not be disturbed in their new holdings, would they soon put themselves in a good position?
—-I am perfectly sure that they would.

8187. Now, they may not have much capital; but if I look around this room, I see a great number of strong men, and are not their hands a great deal of capital?
— A very great deal, if they just got proper encouragement and employment.

8188. Do you suppose, now, that some of those men going and reoccupying some of the crofts which Rainy cleared, would have to labour a bit harder than if they went to Australia or Canada?
—I believe they would labour harder.

8189. I mean, would it be necessary for them to labour harder than if they went abroad?
—It might, and I believe they would be more willing to do it.

8190. I don't think you take up my question. My question is, would it be necessary for these men to work harder on these lands here than it would be necessary to do if they went abroad?
—I do not see it would. There would not be any necessity for working harder, and I believe they would work willingly here. I have known several people who went to New Zealand and Australia. One that had been with me in Glasgow went there, and he was complaining very much of the hard labour he had to undergo abroad. Now, I do not see that they would have to labour anything harder here than they would in Australia or New Zealand.

8191. From the great anxiety you have seen displayed this day by the delegates and others about being sent to those places, don't you think that that would nerve and encourage them to work even more than might be necessary, for the purpose of repaying any advances that might be made to them at the outset?
—I believe it would nerve them.

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