Barra, 26 May 1883 - John Mackinnon

JOHN M'KINNON, Cottar, Glen, and formerly Crofter in Tangasdale (69)—examined.

10470. The Chairman.—Have you been freely elected a delegate?
—Yes, by the people of Tangasdale.

10471. Have you a statement to make on their behalf?
—Yes. I have to say that they lost their land, the one-third of the township, and other land was promised to them for it, but they did not get it.

10472. Do you mean they lost their land in Tangasdale?
—Yes, the onethird of their land was taken from them, and they were told they would get other land for it, but that promise was not redeemed.

10473. How long ago was that ?
—Sixteen years ago. After the rent was paid I was put out at the end of a month. They have lost their means.
The land is dear.

10474. Are you on the proprietor's lands or the tacksman's lands?
—On the crofters' lands.

10475. How do you earn your subsistence?
—By day's wages from any person from whom I can get it.

10476. Do you get employment from the farmer?
—I get work from Mr M'Neill, merchant here. I never went to seek employment from the large tacksmen.

10477. What are your wages?
—2s. and sometimes 2s. 6d. a day.

10478. What description of work are you employed at?
—Curing fish.

10479. How long does that sort of work last during the year ?
—Generally half the year.

10480. What do you do the other half ?
—The rest of the year I work about his own house.

10481. At the same wages?
—No, the day is short then.

10482. How much then?
—1s. 6d.

10483. When you were young, what wages would you have got for the same description of work ?
—I was not at that kind of work when I was a young man. I had land of my own then.

10484. But in the case of other people who did the same kind of work, how much did they get?
—The highest was 1s. 6d., 1s., and so on.

10485. When you were young, were meal and other commodities dearer or cheaper than they are now?
—Meal was dearer then than it is now, but there was no meal imported at that time. We did not need it. Plenty grew upon the land. When the men had planted the land, there was as much growing to them as would support them in meal.

10486. Is there more money circulating now, in consequence of the increase of fishing?
—Money is scarcer with them. They make more money, but they give it away for meal and for other means of livelihood.

10487. Sheriff Nicolson.
Who made the stuff that is in the coat you wear?
—My wife.

10488. Where did she get the wool?
—It grew with the tacksman here.

10489. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
You said that part of their hill was taken from them sixteen years ago. Who got it?
—The tacksman that left Vatersay got it,—Mr Archibald M'Lellan.

10490. Why was it taken from them and given to him?
—To add it on to the tack.

10491. Was there any reduction of rent made at the time?
—No abatement of rent. We were promised additional land in exchange for it, which we did not get, but the rent remains upon the township still the same as it was before.

10492. Can you give us any idea how many acres were taken away from them in this way?
—In my opinion, there were at least 80 acres, perhaps up to 100.

10493. And you got no reduction of rent?
—No, not a penny.

10494. Has Mr Macdonald, who is now present, been the head factor for a great many years ?

10495. Did they represent this grievance to him?

10496. Why not?
—We would not get it any way—even supposing we asked it ; but I was broken down, and did not like to make much of a row about it.

10497. Were you and your co-crofters afraid that if you made a disturbance you would be put out altogether?

10498. You stated in answer to his Lordship in the chair, that they did not import much meal in your younger days. Was there a mill in old times?
—There is a mill yet at the other end of the island.

10499. Is there much doing at the mill now?—As much as is sent to it, and it could grind as much as would feed the whole island.

10500. Is there much meal ground at the mill ?
—No, there is not so much meal ground as would keep the mill going one day in the week. All the meal is imported.

10501. Has the principal tacksman, Dr M'Gillivray, a good deal of arable land under cultivation ?
—Oh, plenty of it; I may say he has the half of Barra, and he cultivated a good deal of it.

10502. And, notwithstanding all that, there is only work for the mill how one day in the week?
—It does not get the one-sixth it could grind. The meal comes from Glasgow.

10503. Are the crofters generally, as we have heard in parts of Skye, getting poorer and deteriorating in their circumstances ?
—Yes, they are. The land is so small, and it is getting inferior by continuous cropping. The people are getting poorer,

10504. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
How long did you hold land in Tangasdale?
—Thirteen years.

10505. Had you more land at the beginning of the thirteen years than at the end ?
—Yes, I had my share of the third portion that the township lost.

10506. Did you lose your croft in Tangasdale altogether, because you came to poverty ?
—No, the croft was taken from me to be given to a policeman whom they brought into the place. It was not because of poverty that I was deprived of it, but through injustice.

10507. Were you in arrears when you were turned out ?
—I brought home , some money after paying the rent; I had no arrears.

10508. Then you did not wish to give up the croft?
—No, it was taken from me in order to be given to the policeman. The policeman selected mine rather than that of any one else in the township, and of course he must needs get it.

10509. Was the choice given to the policeman?
—Probably that was the case. At any rate, he fixed his eye upon mine.

10510. The Chairman.
Who was the factor at that time?
—Mr Birnie.

10511. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was it because it was a good croft that it was taken from you ?
—The very reason, because it was the best.

10512. Did you get any compensation ?
—Nothing was given to me. The rent was paid, and there was nothing due by me.

10513. Did you get any compensation for your houses ?
—I left the houses with them; they were of no use to me.

10514. Professor Mackinnon.
Are you as well off now as a day-worker as your neighbours whom you left behind you in Tangasdale are as crofters ?
—Not by any means.

10515. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
Are you as happy?
—I am happy enough though I am not so well off; but I shall soon be past work.

10516. Have you a wife ?

10517. And a family ?
—Yes, three daughters and a little boy.

10518. The Chairman.
Do your daughters go abroad for service?

10519. All of them ?
—Yes. One of them goes to the east coast fishing, and they assist her too when the fishing is going on.

10520. They do not go away as servants?
—There is another who goes out to service here in this place.

10521. Have you got a little house here of your own ?

10522. Did you build it yourself?
—Another had it, and it was vacant when I entered.

10523. Do you pay anything for it ?
—Yes, I pay 7s. 6d., and road money and poor money, altogether coming to 12s. 6d.

10524. Did you pay anything to the man who left the house?
—Yes I paid him £ 3 . It is a small house.

10525. Have you any land with it at all ?
—No, not the breadth of my bonnet.

10526. Sheriff Nicolson.
Have you a cow?

10527. How do you feed it?
—I get bits of land from other people out of which I grow fodder to feed my cow.

10528. Do you send the cow out to pasture in summer?
—Yes, on the hill

10529. How much do you pay?
—£1 generally.

10530. How much rent do you pay for the bits of land?
—I pay it in work; I work to them.

10531. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
How long is it since you came to your present house ?
—Nine years.

10532. Have you been charged 7s. 6d. of rent ever since you came there ?
—I was paying it until last year and this year. I have not paid it for the last two years.

10533. Do you pay to the proprietor or to the crofter?
—To the proprietor.

10534. Is it for the house you pay it, or for the right to cut peats ?
—It is upon the house ; they never charged us for peats.

10535. To whom do you pay this £1 for the cow's grass?
—To different people. I pay it to the one from whom I can get the grass.

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