Torran, Raasay, 22 May 1883 - Murdo Nicolson

MURDO NICOLSON, Crofter and Fisherman, Torrin (18)—examined.

7688. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate?

7689. Have you a statement to make on the part of those who elected you?
—Yes; we are complaining of the bad land we have, and we have to say that the land does not yield crop. We cannot get more out of the ground than we put into it. It is ten years since I came to this township, and I may say I have not been able to make a boll of meal out of my oat crop since then, neither have I been able to sell any of my own crop.

7690. How many lots are there in the township?
—Three crofts.

7691. How many families?

7692. Each family has got a whole croft?

7693. What is the summing? How many cows?
—Two cows and a stirk.

7694. Any sheep?
—Four or five sheep.

7695. What is the rent?
—£5, which is very dear for the bits of ground which we have.

7696. Do the people of Torrin support themselves chiefly by fishing?
—They do their utmost at the fishing, but it will give them enough to do to support themselves by fishing.

7697. Do they get work from the landlord?
—Yes, the man who can work gets it

7698. What is the day's wages or week's wages from the landlord for common work?
—13s. or 14s. a week, I think. Our township was formerly rented at £10 only, and it is now £15; but it was not Mr Wood who raised the rent—it was Mr Mackay.

7699. Do they suffer from game?
—The game are spoiling us very much.

7700. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—This is Torrin where we are now sitting?
—Yes. There is such an amount of scrub bush growing on our crofts, and we are not allowed to cut it, and we are prevented by it from cultivating our crofts.

7701. Would you like to see all this pretty wood here about cut down?
—The wood is not so pretty as that.

7702. Is it not useful sometimes for different purposes to have a little bit of wood?
—No, it is a source of loss to us every day of the year. The game shelter in the wood and spoil our crop, and we get nothing for it.

7703. Mr Cameron.
—Is your land good enough to grow heavy crops if there were no game?
—There is no doubt it would be considerably better were it not for the game. It is only bad ground at all events. I believe it is as bad as is to be found between the two ends of Raasay.

7704. How many acres have you?
—It is only in bits, but you can guess by the land I sow. I sow four barrels of oats.

7705. I suppose the game don't do any harm to the potatoes?
—The pheasants and rabbits spoil the potatoes on us.

7706. Do rabbits eat potatoes?
—Yes, they do that indeed.

7707. Have you ever estimated the amount of damage done by the game in the year?
—No, I have never estimated it.

7708. What do you think it might come to?
—I cannot guess, but I am not taking so much oats out of the ground as I sow.

7709. Does Mr Wood, the proprietor, ever make it up to the people in any way, either by employment or any other way?
—No doubt, so far as concerns those who are working for him, so much of the damage is made up to them.

7710. Do the people of Torrin not get a share of the work that is going?
—Yes, if they go to it; but I go to the fishing, and I make more at the fishing than I do at Mr Wood's work.

7711. How far are you from the work ?
—Twelve miles.

7712. And how far from Mr Wood's farm?
—About two miles.

7713. The Chairman.
—Have the crofters ever asked Mr Wood for leave to kill the rabbits on their own crofts?
—He gives us leave to kill the rabbits, but we cannot kill them as the ground is so bad.

7714. Do you ever kill any rabbits?
—Very few.

7715. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many barrels of potatoes do you plant?
—About five barrels.

7716. What return do you get for that?
—I may take twenty barrels out of that, if it grows well.

7717. Is that besides the seed or including the seed?
—Including the seed altogether.

7718. Is that in a good year or a bad year, or an average year?
—In a good year.

7719. And you have no return of oats, you say?
—No return of oats.

7720. Ten years ago, when you came to Torrin, where did you come from?
—From Fladda island.

7721. Why did you remove from Fladda?
—Because I had no land there.

7722. You were glad to get a place here?
—Yes, I was glad to get any place rather than be without a place at all.

7723. I suppose your father had land in Fladda?
—Yes, ever since I remember.

7724. Besides the game, what is your other complaint at present?
—The badness of the ground, that we cannot get crop out of it, and that we have to be out of so much money in buying food for ourselves.

7725. But you took it of your own free will ten years ago?

7726. What would you wish now?
—I wish I would get a better place.

7727. How much meal do you buy in the course of the year?
—Not less than twenty bolls.

7728. Do you go to the east coast fishing?

7729. Have you any fishing at home here besides?
—A little in the winter time.

7730. What sized boat have you got?
—Fifteen feet.

7731. What kind of fishing do you use that for?
—Herring fishing.

7732. Do you get the cod and ling fishing in the spring?
—We cannot go out in spring to fish at all, with our spring work.

7733. But the cod and ling fishing comes before the spring work?
—Not this way.

7734. Do you catch any lobsters through the winter?

7735. What, in an average year, will you make from the lobster fishing?
—When many of us are working at it, about £4 or £ 5 each.

7736. Do you make anything by the home herring fishing beyond supplying your family?

7737. What wages do you ordinarily get at the east coast fishing?
—Between £ 6 and £7, and Is. per cran.

7738. How many crans do you make in an ordinary season?
—Some years not more than thirty.

7739. And in other years ?
—In other years more than that perhaps.

7740. Did you ever make 300 crans?
—No, never.

7741. Did you ever make 200?
—A year or two, I made 200 crans.

7742. One year with another, will you make one hundred and fifty crans?

7743. Will you make one hundred?
—Not more than forty crans on the average.

7744. Have they a good landing place for their boats here?
—Yes, for small boats, where we draw them up.

7745. And they have no occasion for larger boats?
—If we could get bigger boats we would get a better place to secure them in the island of Fladda.

7746. Have you any occasion for bigger boats?
—We would use the larger boats if we possessed them.

7747. What would you use them for?

7748. But you told us there is no fishing at home here?
—No, but there is fishing elsewhere.

7749. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there any banks not very far from this where they can get cod and ling?
—No, it is not good. It is down at Gairloch.

7750. They could easily go to Gairloch if they had big boats?

7751. Where could a pier or harbour be made here for them, if they had big boats?
—In Island Fladda there is a very good place for a pier.

7752. But the Torrin and other people here would need to be ferried from Fladda?
—Fladda would not be far for them getting their boats. It is only about a mile from here.

7753. What is the width of the channel between Fladda and this?
—It ebbs.

7754. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated that you wanted to get a better place. Would you be willing to pay a rent for that?
—Yes, if there was good land that I could get a value out of it.

7755. Would you be prepared to stock and work a better and a bigger place if you got it?
—If I would get money, paying interest until I should be able to pay the principal, the land would then, pay itself, when I would get it stocked.

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