Barra, 26 May 1883 - John Macpherson

JOHN MACPHERSON, Cottar, Kentangaval (68)—examined.

10536. The Chairman.
Were you freely elected a delegate by the people?
—Yes.

10537. Have you got a statement to make on their behalf ?
—The tenants who are paying rent are complaining that there are too many cottars disturbing them with the small holdings they have—that they are a burden to them.

10538. How do they make their living?
—Some of them by fishing, and at other times by bits of land which they get for work to plant potatoes.

10539. Do you pay your rent to the tacksmen or the proprietor?
—Not to any body,—no rent whatever.

10540. How long have the cottars been settled there?
—I cannot really tell how long, but they never had any lands,—these twenty-four cottars. The cottars bade me to say here that they never had any lands, and that they wanted lands if they could get them, and that there was a kind of promise to them this year that they would get them.

10541. Do they live upon the crofters' land or upon the tacksmen's land ?
—They stay on the land that the tenants have got.

10542. They have their houses on crofters' land ?
—Yes, but they go and labour on big farms.

10543. Do they pay any rent to the crofters in the form of work
—No.

10544. You do not work to the crofters without pay
—No, we never give them anything for the houses.

10545. Do these twenty-four cottar families generally possess cows ?
—A few of them have cows.

10546. How do they manage to keep the cows?
—They buy what will keep them up, and some of them have patches of land on M'Lellan's farm.

10547. When they have ground for the pasture of a cow, how much do they pay for that pasture ?
—They do not get it from the tacksmen. They did not use to get it from the tacksman at all, but from the tenant.

10548. But do they ever pay the tenants any money, or do they pay them in labour or assistance ?
—In money.

10549. How much do they pay for one cow?
—£1 or thereabouts.

10550. How do they get the keep of the cow for the winter ?
—They buy it from those who have not a cow.

10551. How much usually would you pay for what you bought to winter a cow ?
—15s. or thereabouts, but the most of them had a little fodder of their own in addition. They paid 15s. or thereabouts for fodder for the winter.

10552. Who receives the £1 for the grazing of the cow, is it the proprietor or the small tenant?
—It is the tenant who gets it.

10553. When you work at day's labour, how much do you get for the day's work ?
—About two shillings.

10554. Do you ever get half-a-crown ?
—I never work, but they tell me they get that.

10555. How do you live ?
—I am a dealer in a small way, and sometimes I act as agent for curers in engaging women for them here, and so on.

10556. Are they women of the place whom you employ, or do women come from other places ?
—Very few ; whenever there are not enough to supply them they take a few from the east coast.

10557. But are there women enough here to do the whole fishing business?
—Sometimes, according to the number of boats that come.

10558. Do the women like the work? Are they ready to accept it
—They are very ready to accept it.

10559. What sort of wages do they get?
—They get £1 of arles money in the winter time. There are three women for every boat the curer has. For every barrel they fill and pack they get eightpence, and when there is no packing or gutting they get three- pence an hour for any other work the curer wants them to take.

10560. How much would an active able-bodied woman make in the fishing season
—According to the work.

10561. Professor Mackinnon.
Suppose she had as much work as she could do in the day, how much would she make?
—About £ 3 in the season, forbye the arles.

10562. The Chairman.
That is about £4?
—Yes.

10563. Four pounds for six weeks?
—The fishing lasts six or seven weeks, but some seasons they do not make £1. They did not make £1
last year.

10564. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie
Do they get their wages paid to them in money?
—Yes.

10565. How many tenants are there in Kentangaval?
—About nineteen or twenty.

10566. And twenty-four cottars?
—Yes.

10567. And the tenants have sent you here to complain that these cottars are a burden to them ?
—Yes, and the cottars too.

10568. Where did these cottars come from?
—They were raised there.

10569. Are they the children of crofters?
—The children of both crofters and cottars.

10570. Had your father land ?
—Yes.

10571. Have you a brother that has land?
—My mother and sister were the last that had it.

10572. Have any of your friends lands ?
—No, they are all dead.

10573. Who has got the land your father had?
—Mr M'Neill has it now.

10574. Why did you not get it?
—I was too young at the time, and my mother was put out.

10575. Could she not pay?
—She could pay it, and more than that.

10576. Why was she put out?
—She was put out on account of not being pleased with them for taking the sheep from her at the time of the
great wrong that was done by Colonel Macneill.

10577. He took the sheep from you?
—Yes.

10578. And she made objection to that ?
—Yes. She had more sheep than any crofter that was in Barra, and there were plenty at that time. There were no big farmers in the islaud at all, and the hills were full of sheep belonging to the crofters, and my mother had more than any of fiem. She had about one hundred sheep on the hill, and all these sheep were
taken away over to Vatersay by Colonel Macneill's orders. I saw the constable and foreman take them away, and owing to my mother objecting to that the croft was taken from her. She had two cows, and a mare and a
foaL and a colt and a few other beasts. A while after that, and after the croft was taken from her, there was a call put out again that there was to be an account given to the colonel, and the constables came round and
every one gave them a cow. Let him be tenant or cottar the cow was taken from every one in Barra, after the sheep were taken away.
10579. Do you mean that the cow's grass was taken away?
—The cow itself, from every one in Barra, was to be taken away. So many constables came for the cows and took them away, but my mother objected to giving a cow. She had two of them, and they were on another man's grass on tethers, and the constables went and took one, and the tether along with it. There
was a sister of mine in the family at the time, and I was quite young at the time, and we met them with the cow coming up the road. My sister ran at one of the constables and hurt him on the knee, and took the cow
from him. We could run better than they, and the cow ran well, and ran back to the house ; she knew the house—and in she went, and my mother took a stone, and put it at the back of the door to keep it fast. The constables came to the door, and tried to break it open to get the cow. I got above the lintel of the door with a stick in my hand, and knocked off the hat of oue of them with the stick. They went away and told this to the
factor—the colonel was not at home—and told what we had done to the constable, and how the man was harried, and all by trying to take the cow away from us. The factor gave them an order to take all she had from her then—to come and take every cow and horse that belonged to her. That factor's name was Macrae, Askernish. I was about twelve years old at the time
10580. The Chairman.
Were the cows taken on account of arrears of rent ?
—There was no settlement required to be taken or given.

10581. But were the people generally in arrears of rent to the colonel?
—I do not think they were. It did not look like that. They would take whatever they liked at any time. There was never any settlement for years at all. Those who are at the herring fishing want me to tell that they are charged net ground by the proprietor.

10582. Professor MacKinnon.
Are these the east coast people?
—No, they are the Barra people. They complain they are charged 7s. 6d. for net ground—for the nets they land on their own ground.

10583. That they pay rent for nets on the ground for which they pay rent as crofters?
—That is what they tell me.

10584. Do you know it as a matter of fact?
—I believe it.

10585. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Have any of them a receipt for that?
It is the curer who charges them for it.

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