RODERICK MACKAY, Crofter and Fisherman, Dryharbour, Rona (56)—examined.
7982. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected?
7983. Will you make your statement?
—In the first place, the same as others said, the dearness of the soil; and in the next place, how we are
crowded upon each other, so that we cannot take a living out of it. There are some in our township who remember when there were only seven families in the township, and there are now fifteen families. Should they get the place for nothing, they would not make a living out of it. They would need to get another place. I am now going to tell the rise that took place in our rents. Our township was formerly rented at £50 in all, and it is now £80. When there were seven families in the township it was £50, and now it is £80.
7984. Is the land the same, or has any land been taken away?
—The land is the same. There has been no land taken from us. I remember one of the families in a township in which there was a considerable number—numbering eight children. Half of their land was taken away from them, and another family was placed along with them upon the remainder.
7985. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—From Fearn, when the people were sent away. Then the ground is so soft that it will not yield crop. We are making ditches in part of our arable land, and while we are making these ditches we require to have planks under our feet, and if a man misses that plank another one will need to help him out of the bog. The people will never be right there, and they can never be but poor if they will not get another place. They need many things. They cannot cut a peat for fuel.
7986. Do you mean there are no peats in Rona?
—There are peats in Rona yet, but the peat will not last long, owing to the number of families who use it.
7987. Mr Cameron.
—What rent do you pay yourself?
—£5, 12s. 6d., besides road money and poor rates.
7988. Did you get any abatement this year?
—Yes, we got one-third abated to us.
7989. What did you pay this year?
—I don't remember the exact penny.
7990. What is your summing?
—Two cows and a two-year-old and two sheep.
7991. Is that the summing, or is it what you have?
—We were keeping three cows upon the croft, but it would not be justice to two. Though I have the two cows that are named upon me, they don't belong to me. They belong to merchants in Portree and Glasgow. It is they who are keeping me in meal.
7992. How many sheep have you?
—Nine or ten.
7993. Why are you short of sheep?
—Poverty, that I cannot procure the stock. I am rearing a family on poverty.
7994. Do you do any work?
—I go to the fishing every year. I have gone for the past twenty-eight years.
7995. Do you go to the east coast fishing?
—Yes, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
7996. Would you like to have a sufficiently large croft to enable you to dispense with going to the fishing?
—Yes, that is what would do good to us, but I am getting old.
7997. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are only fifty-six?
7998. Mr Cameron.
—Don't the people make a better living by having these small crofts, and going to the fishing, than by having large crofts and staying at home all the year round?
—They would be better than in the place in which they are, wherever they would go. The land is in spots here and there. Our arable land is so far from us that should I leave at six o'clock in the morning, I could not get home before eight or nine o’clock at night—the land is so far away from us.
7999. Then would you have, in any case, to depend upon the fishing for your subsistence?
—Yes, no other means of subsistence except my earnings.
8000. I mean even though you had not a croft?
—I don't know as to that, if the land would yield a good crop—if there were a place in which man could have stock. Our place will never be right so long as it is so densely peopled.
8001. How many people will require to leave the place in order to leave the rest as much land as you wish?
—I should only apportion the township to five families to keep them comfortable.
8002. How did the fifteen families get to the place?
—Some of them were families who were taken from townships that were cleared.
8003. How many were taken from townships that were cleared?
—There are two families of these.
8004. Where did the rest come from?
—The natural increase of the place.
8005. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any goats?
8006. Are you not accustomed to keep goats in Rona?
—No; goats would suit better.
8007. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How did your place get the name of Dryharbour?
—For generations; I cannot tell.
8008. What is it in Gaelic ?
—A dry anchorage.
8009. Is there no other name upon your township?
8010. Or upon the other one called Big Harbour?
—That is the only name.
8011. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you wish to be removed from Rona?
8012. Where would you wish to go to?
—Any of the places that are waste in the island.
8013. Is it the general wish of the people to leave Rona?
—Yes, they most desire that.
8014. But they would not wish to go beyond this property?
—I did not hear anything of that sort from any of them.
8015. Was the population of Rona at one time larger than it is now?
8016. Never so high?
—No. If Rona would carry sheep as well as the rest of Raasay, it would have been cleared the same as the other townships of Raasay.
8017. You heard what the other delegates said about the evictions. Have you anything new to add? Did you witness them?
—Yes, I remember the work going on.
8018. What has become of the M'Leods of Raasay?
—I don't know. I don't think any of the family are alive to-day.
8019. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are you all fishermen at Rona?
—Yes, we live by the sea.
8020. Have you good boats?
—No, we have but small boats.
8021. Did you get your boats destroyed in the storm the year before last?
8022. And got new ones instead of them?
8023. Better than the old ones?
—Some were, and some were not.
8024. Where do you fish round about the shores here?
—On each side of Rona itself.
8025. Do you fish with long lines?
8026. Where are the best banks for fishing?
—The east side is better for fishing, but some years it is not so good.
8027. Do you cure any of the fish yourselves, or does anybody take them from you and sell them?
—We cure most. We are not conveniently situated for the market.
8028. You have a pretty good harbour at Rona, have you not?
—Yes, some parts of it.
8029. Would a pier be an advantage to you?
8030. It could easily be made of the stones of the shore?
8031. Have they a school there?
8032. Is it convenient to all the children of the island?
—It is too far away from those who are on the south end of the island.
8033. How far ?
8034. Do the children attend well ?
—Yes, but they cannot go in bad weather. They have no road.
8035. Have you had any schoolmaster who could speak Gaelic since the new Act came into operation?
8036. Do you consider that any disadvantage to the children?
—Yes, a schoolmaster who could speak Gaelic would be able to bring on the children the better.
8037. Have you a compulsory officer ?
8038. I suppose none of you were ever brought before the sheriff?
8039. Do the children get pieces to take to school with them1?
—Yes, those who are far from their homes, and cannot go home at playtime,
8040. Where is the nearest doctor to you ?
8041. Is that a great inconvenience to you at any time 1
—Yes, it is.
8042. There is no doctor in Raasay ?
8043. You have no church in Rona ?
—Yes, we have a meeting house.
8044. How often does the minister come there 1
—He does not come regularly.
8045. I suppose you mostly belong to the Free Church?
—Yes, every man of us.
8046. Is there a catechist or missionary staying there 1
8047. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In regard to the peats, is it the case that the regular peat mosses are exhausted, and that you are cutting up pasture ?
—The peat moss is getting exhausted, and it is so far away from our houses.
8048. Will it come to this that bye-and-by the supply of peats will become exhausted ?
8049. It is coming to that ?
—Yes, in our township.
8050. We understood there is a general wish that the people, or a considerable number of them, should be removed to the mainland?
8051. Do you know anything about the mainland part of Skye that belonged to the M'Leods of Raasay?