NORMAN M'LEAN, Crofter, Balchuirn, Raasay (40)—examined.
8192. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Balchuirn?
8193. Will you make a statement on the part of the people of Balchuirn?
—As has been already heard here, we have too little land, and that is too dear and bad. It is very much spoiled with game, and especially with rabbits. The rabbits alone would keep down our crop without any other game.
8194. Are there not wire fences—rabbit fences—put round your crops!
—Every man's arable land is cut out for him, and as lots varied in the quality of the soil, so the rents varied, and the stock they had was in common. They had the hill pasture in common. A good part of the ground was taken from them.
8195. Do you mean the hill pasture or the arable?
—The hill pasture, and this necessitated the taking off from the stock one cow and one horse and about forty sheep, each lot.
8196. What is the summing now?
— We are trying to keep four cows, but they do not get justice.
8197. How many sheep?
—None at all.
8198. Any stirks?
—None at all.
8199. How much arable ground have you?
—I think it would be altogether three acres.
8200. What is your rent?
—£5, 17s. exclusive of rates.
8201. Are you near the sea-shore ?
—No, we are about a mile from the sea-shore.
8202. Do you get any sea-weed?
—Yes, plenty. Some of it we have to take three or four miles by sea.
8203. Do you pay for it?
—No. It was not Mr Wood who deprived us of the hill pasture or raised our rents.
8204. It was Mackay?
—It was Mr Rainy who took the hill pasture from us. He took part of the ground from us, and Mr Mackay took the rest; and then Mr Armitage raised our rents. When we were having our lots relotted in Mr Armitage's time, our lots were raised £6 over the whole township.
8205. Has the rent been raised since then?
—No. That rise took place the year before Mr Wood became proprietor about seven years ago.
8206. Then do you agree generally with what has been said before by the other delegates?
—Yes. As to the houses in this island, every man at first built his own house, and it belonged to himself; and if he happened to leave the lot, his successor in the lot took over his house at a valuation. It was at that time I got my lot, and it was a bad house that was on it, not fit for human habitation. I was asking, as it was in that condition, and I would have to rebuild it, to break it down and value it as a broken house, and I got a letter from the factor that I was not to be allowed to rob my predecessor, and if I would not take the house at a valuation, he would find a man who would do so. I then got the house at the valuation that was made.
8207. How much ?
—It was £4 when it was valued, and I rebuilt the house at my own expense; and if it would get so much land along with it at a fair value —that is as much as I could cultivate and stock —the house would do.
8208. How much could you stock?
—I would stock the township as it was before, should I get the ground that was along with it.
8209. If you got pasture enough for twenty sheep, could you stock it with twenty sheep?
8210. Professor Mackinnon
—How many pay rent in the town?
8211. And their grievance is that the rent is too high?
8212. That the place is too small?
8213. And infested with rabbits?
8214. Why don't you trap the rabbits?
—We have no traps.
8215. Why don't you buy a trap?
—I believe we are not allowed to keep dog or gun or trap, or anything in that way.
8216. Did you ask permission to trap?
—No, but I know we have no liberty to keep dogs.
8217. Are there any other game that injure the crofters?
—Yes, but they are the worst.
8218. How many would you say that this place, where there are six now, should hold?
—Well, there were six in it before.
8219. Do you think it would keep six families if the hill pasture were given back?
—Yes, the same as before, along with their town earnings.
8220. What was the rent of the township before the hill pasture was taken away?
—£33 now, and I think it was £35 before.
8221. There was only £2 taken off when the pasture was taken away?
—When Mr Rainy took it from them, he gave them £ 9 down.
8222. And you think the hill pasture was worth at least £9?
—Yes, and more.
8223. How many sheep could you keep when you had the hill pasture?
— Forty, and a horse and a cow.
8224. For each of six families?
8225. Would your neighbours be able to stock that place as well as you?
—Well, I think the most of them would.
8226. And you think, if you got that hill pasture back again, you would be quite comfortable?
8227. Did you ever ask it back?
8228. Why not?
—I am not sure.
8229. You know the place well enough—is there a fence upon it now?
—There is a fence from the place where we have the houses, but the rest of our cultivated ground is not fenced, and, even if that were fenced, we would be little better off than we are. We would require to have something to winter our cows.
8230. Would it cost much to add that hill pasture back to your township again?
—Yes ; of course, I don't think it did any good to the sheep farm, but still it was standing in the way, and it would require to be fenced in all along.
8231. If the proprietor were disposed to give the hill pasture back to you again, could that be done without much expense?
—No, there is not much of the landlord's stock coming on that hill, neither is the hill very enticing to our stock, and the stock might be looked after by a herd.
8232. Are there many of the young people going to the south to work?
—-Oh, there are not very many young people there. They belong to this end of the land.
8233. Are there many people from Rona and Raasay who work in the south, apart from fishing
—young men and women?
—Not many who work ashore. They go to the fishing mostly.
8234. Do the young women all remain at home?
8235. Where do they go?
—Out to the towns.
8236. And do they all come back again?
—Sometimes they come to see their friends for a fortnight or three weeks.
8237. And some do not come back at all?
—That is the way. Mr Wood is very kind to us, but Mr Wood will not last always; and we may be
deprived of the benefits of his kindness at any time.