MICHAEL BUCHANAN, Crofter and Fisherman, Borv (40)—examined.
10178. The Chairman.
Have you a croft ?
—My brother is a crofter.
10179. Do you help him to pay the rent?
—Yes; I have laboured for the last twenty-eight years to pay the rent with him.
10180. Were you freely elected a delegate by the people of Borv?
— Freely and unanimously.
10181. What number of persons were present when you were elected?
— There were six or seven from the township of Borv, having the consent of all the rest.
10182. Would you be so good as to make a statement of what their wishes are ?
—Yes. I only wish to have first the opportunity of saying a few words. I should like to get an assurance that my interest, and that of my brother, whose name is written in the rental, should not be hurt by any procedure taken by the landlord or factor—I mean in the way of eviction—for any truthful statement I may make here to day before the Royal Commission.
10183. Is there any person here representing the proprietor?
Mr Ranald Macdonald, factor for Lady Gordon Cathcart.
—I have to state that any one and every one here may speak fully and freely without any fear of any kind whatever.
—The people are complaining of the smallness of their holding and its inferior quality, of the uphanded-ness of the factors, and the oppression of landlords. Before the year 1827 the island of Barra was almost always occupied by crofters, who lived comfortably and contentedly iu possession of reasonably large crofts, the population being then about 3000, and at present it is only 2000.
10184. Mr Fraser Mackintosh.
—Are you referring at present to the whole estate of Barra?
—The whole estate of Barra.
10185.And all its islands ?
—All its islands. Unscrupulous factors and ground officers and estate officials laid their hand pretty heavily upon the people, and left them in such a state that they could scarcely ask land and pay for it, their whole stock being taken away ; and some of the inhabitants, even up to the present day never saw a cow in their fold or a horse to be harnessed at their door. This has been the severest blow that ever the inhabitants of this island suffered. The next attack was that stirks and two-year-olds were taken away from them by ground officers and other estate officials, and sold to their own friends by private bargain at the respective prices of from 2s. 6d. to 6s. 6d.
10186. The Chairman.
You say that the first wrong was about 1827. When was this practice of taking the stirks introduced ?
—The first took place forty-years ago, and the second took place thirty-seven years ago. Down from these dates incoming factors and incoming ground officers were participating in the same action.
10187. Down to the present time?
—Down to the present time. People in those days, particularly in such an outlandish place as this is, did not
understand very much the use of receipts. They used to pay their rents, and when the receipt was handed over perhaps some of them carried it home, and perhaps some of them did not. However, those who did carry it home perhaps lost it or mislaid it. The next time they made their appearance before the factor to pay their rent they were told—' You did not pay your rent last year.' ' I did.' 'You did not; where is your receipt ?' I have seen some of them going home a matter of six or seven miles, and coming back breathless with the receipt. Some would happen to find it at home, and some would not.
10188. How long ago was this about the receipts ? Does that continue till the present time ?
10189. How long ago is it?
—About twenty-two years ago. The large farmers in this island, in the event of an incoming factor, would of course get first in contact with him; and I understand that we, the poor people, would get a very bad character, and we would be most likely, during that man's time, under the suspicion that we were bad characters. Any grievances that we stated to the factor he would postpone or resist. He would say, ' I will see you to-morrow,' and then when I saw him to-morrow he would say, ' Oh, I can't do anything for you.' On the other hand, if any of those large farmers were to express any grievance, they would be sure that the factor would listen to them.
10190. As regards this partiality to the farmers and against the crofters, was that in former times, or is it still kept up?
—It was in former times, and is still kept up in a less degree.
10191. Have you any further statement?
—That their cattle were forcibly taken away from them, and in many cases after selling those cattle some
of the men did not get any credit for the proceeds. I refer to the cattle taken away in those days.
10192. You mean the cattle that were purchased by the factors or ground agents ?
—They were taken away by the ground agents and factors.
10193. And no payment made?
—For a nominal price, and in the name of rent, and in many cases afterwards the people never got credit for the money proceeds. The inhabitants of the island being reduced to such poverty, the consequence was that they were not able to pay rent, and could scarcely ask for land. Consequently the best and the most of the land fell into the hands of large farmers, and the poor men were huddled together, the one lessening the holding of the other; and that was on the most worthless and useless patches of land that could be found within the marches of the parish of Barra. Labouring under such disadvantages, they were obliged to apply to Dr M'Gillivray for some ground, for which they paid sixty days' labour per acre of sandy, inferior, and exhausted soil. About six years ago there were letters down from the English market, desiring the natives of this island to gather every kind of shell-fish, particularly cockles, which were and are very abundant, and to be found on the strand lying adjacent to Dr M'Gillivray's farm. Dr M'Gillivray tried to prevent any collection of this shell-fish. The people did not pay much attention to what he said. Then his brother-in-law, being at the time the head ground officer on the estate—or, at least, he was called so—drew up a paper with orders that it should be posted up on the chapel door, threatening the gatherers of this shell-fish with certain penalties. The officiating clergyman of that chapel did not give his assent to this proceeding, and told his congregation that he considered it an illegal act. Being thus baffled, those two gentlemen, as justices of the peace, ordered policemen to watch for fear that any of the shell-fish should be laid down above high water-mark.
10194. Was Dr M'Gillivray a tacksman or a proprietor?
—A tacksman. He is the largest farmer on this estate. His brother-in-law, to whom I have referred, Roderick M'Lellan, then commenced to prevent the thoroughfare down to the shipping place, and even prevented the use of the steamer's boat to carry the cargo on board. Seemingly they were willing to deprive the poor inhabitants of the produce of the sea, as they were instrumental in depriving them of the produce of their native soil. They coveted, and succeeded in their attempts, and put us back to the precarious occupation of fishing, which limited our livelihood to an inferior condition. Another prevalent grievance is, that should I or any other man, particularly any other tenant who pays his rent honestly, say a word on behalf of another man, mostly all the officials on the estate are down upon him, and consequently he is afraid to say much. The inhabitants of this island have every confidence in their present proprietrix, Lady Gordon Cathcart, that she would promote their interest and comfort were their cases properly laid before her ladyship, but the factor steps in and offers every possible opposition. As to the fishing resources of this island, I must suggest that the people cannot derive their livelihood out of the sea, for the following reasons :
—For the stormy seas by which this island is surrounded, for the irregularity of the ground and banks by which it is surrounded, because the nourishing ingredients natural where fish live are not to be found about this island, and because they can only fish opposite here at certain seasons of the year, and if the weather does not permit at these certain seasons of the year the fisherman loses the privilege. I admit that the fishing industry is a great help combined with that of land. The reason is that when I don't get to sea, if I have less or more land I have still something to support me; but supposing I have no land, if I am going to sea and getting no fish, I have nothing at all whereby my family can live. The second reason is the insular situation of this island, and its irregular postal communication, from which we learn the state of the markets. Though local merchants here would buy fish, they must always be very cautions; they must always depend upon the contingency of future markets. In regard to a fisherman's land, I should say he should have about seven acres to keep a cow and a horse, with potato ground. To keep a cow is very necessary, because milk is a very nourishing article in a family where young children are brought up. It is peats that we generally use on this island as fuel. The peats are now so much run out and consumed, except in inaccessible patches of moss land, that fishermen would require the use of a pony to carry home their peats. The farmer do not go about here as they do on the east coast with a cart selling peats ; neither does the dairyman go about selling a pennyworth of milk; the coal merchant does not go about here selling half a cwt. of coal. Therefore unless the fisherman has land here, he cannot obtain any of those above described articles. I should also say that the fish-curers who visit this island ought to receive every encouragement from Government, as they are the only means of giving work to the inhabitants of the island, particularly when successful—men, women, and children. The encouragement I mean is the extension of the wire from Loch Boisdale to Castle Bay, whereby they would learn the state of the English, Scotch, and continental markets, and the fishing of the different Hebridean stations. The scarcity of land necessarily produces scarcity of fodder and provender—I mean hay and straw. When any part of their grazing gets bare, the beast that grazes there naturally goes away to graze where the gras3 is allowed
to grow. When our patches are getting bare, our horses and cattle are very apt to go over the march of the big farmer—that march which is neither stone-dyke nor fence—and the consequence is that the beast is taken by the farmer's servant by order of the farmer and put into a pound. That pound is not fit for an animal; the beast is up to the belly in mud and water. The farmer is not very apt to give an intimation when he pounds that beast. Sometimes there is a lapse of twenty-four hours, and the consequences are great losses and deaths of animals. It also subjects the horses of this island to a local disease called trance—I mean by that, that all the natural functions of the beast are suspended. It shakes and gets short of breath, and loses all self-command, and dies in a little while—of which I have seen instances. Again, arising from the same cause, we are obliged to live in thatched houses, and we are obliged to make application to Dr M'Gillivray for bent grass to thatch our houses. We have to labour twelve clays for two small cart-loads of that bent, and in many instances the application is refused. We thought of late, and we had great hopes,that our holdings would be enlarged on account of Lady Gordon Cathcart and her factor receiving back the lease from Mr M'Lellan, Vatersay, but it happened unfortunately that we did not get the chance. That is all my voluntary statement.
10195. You have mentioned two abuses which prevailed in former times —one of them, according to your account, in your own recollection. The first abuse to which I allude is that of the compulsory- purchase of cattle, and the price being withheld, or not being credited in the rent account, and you stated that the practice of purchasing cattle arose about thirty-seven years ago, and continued on till a later period. Can you give me any example, with date and name, of the price being withheld from a crofter?
—Yes. There was an old widow woman in a township of this parish, called Earsary. The ground officer and other estate officials came and took away a fine heifer about three years old, I believe, for the matter of 30s. or so, in the name of rent. They did not proceed very far when they met with a native of this island who they thought had money, and they asked him if he would buy that heifer. He said he did not know.
They said they would give him a bargain of it. He said he did not know if he had enough money to buy the beast. ' Oh, you need not be afraid; we will give you a bargain.' Then when he thought he would get a
bargain he bought the beast. They then invited him back to a shebeen, and drank the proceeds; and the man is within the walls of this building at this very moment.
10196. How much did the man give for the heifer to the ground officer ?
—That is more than I can state, but we can get the information from the man who is within the house.
10197. Can you state that whatever was given for it was not carried to the widow's account ?
—Yes; she did not get credit for the proceeds.
10198. Can you cite any other examples of that nature ?
—Yes. There was a man named Donald Mackinnon living in the township of Tangasdale, Michael
and the ground officer I refer to was John M'Gregor. Buchanan.
10199. Mr Cameron.
The same ground officer as in the other case?
— Yes, the same ground officer. He came to this man's house, and asked him for a stirk. Well, the man could scarcely refuse him, for he knew the consequences too well if he did refuse him—there was a staff of legal officers along with him—and he gave the stirk. They then went to some house in the neighbourhood and drank whisky there for a good long time, and then they asked the man would he buy the stirk for 7s. He said he had not 7s. ' Oh, yes; you must have 7s.; we know you have 7s.' ' No,' says the man; but the man's wife being within reach of hearing— she used to weave with one of those handlooms—had 7s., and she went and bought the animal for 7s., and the 7s. was paid there and then.
10200. The Chairman.
Was the value of the animal not carried to the man's credit?
—The value of the animal was not carried to the man's credit, and the man is present here.
10201. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
Do you mean that the wife bought back the animal for 7s?
10202. Professor Mackinnon.
Was it Mackinnon's own wife who bought the animal back ?
10203. The Chairman.
With reference to the other abuse you mentioned about the receipts, you stated that when receipts were not preserved a second payment of rent was exacted. Can you give us any example of that ?
—Yes; I was present one day in North Bay inn about sixteen years ago, and I saw a man belonging to Bravaig going in. His name was Murdoch Mackinnon. Mr Birnie told him he had not paid his rent last year, and the man said he had. Mr Birnie said he had not. He was rather a hasty man in temper, and the man was very certain he had paid his rent, and he was a little bolder. He was obliged to leave the house. He went away in my presence and came back panting, having by good luck fallen in with the receipt. Mr Birnie took the receipt, and pulled a shilling out of his pocket, and said, ' Here, you can drink this shilling.' The man is here.
10204. But he brought the receipt?
10205. And he was not obliged to pay?
—No, otherwise he would have been obliged to pay.
10206. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
What did Mr Birnie give him the shilling for—for his trouble?
—Yes, for his trouble in going there.
10207. The Chairman.
Have either of these two abuses—either the compulsory sale of cattle or the exaction of rent a second time—existed in recent years—say within the last ten years ? Does the practice of compulsory purchase of cattle exist at all ?
—It does not.
10208. How long is it since it ceased?
—I believe about twelve years ago.
10209. Then there is perfect freedom in the sale of cattle at present ?
—Perfect freedom, so far as I know.
10210. Is there any trouble about the receipts?
—Well, last year—I am not exactly sure whether it was last year or the year before—I saw a little.
I saw a man who was obliged to go back to the township of Kentangaval, because Mr Barron, the new factor, told him he had not paid last year's rent. He was a young lad, who represented his mother. He had to go back for the receipt.
10211. Still it is right that people should keep their receipts, and produce them when called for. Do you mean to say that the factor's books are not regularly kept and entered up ?
—I don't mean to say that; I only 1 mean to say I have seen it done.
10212. What about the gathering of cockles, which I understand is an old practice in the island ? Is there any difficulty or impediment at present ?
—They are not gathered at all at present.
10213. Are they still to be found in the same quantities?
—Still to befound in the same quantities.
10214. Are they not gathered anywhere?
—Not gathered anywhere within the boundaries of this parish that I am aware of.
10215. What is the reason of that?
—Want of demand in the English market.
10216. But do the people not gather them at all for their own food ?
—In former years it was the case, but now the people are generally employed elsewhere.
10217. Then they don't use cockles for making broth or for food in any form ?
—I never saw them used for food for the last twelve or thirteen years.
10218. But if the people wished to gather them would the tacksman or proprietor now impose any difficulty ?
—The proprietor never imposed any difficulty; on the contrary, Mr Birnie, when factor, was very much against doing so.
10219. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
Very much against imposing difficulties or against gathering cockles ?
—Against prohibiting them.
10220. The Chairman
He was in favour of allowing the people to do it?
10221. Is Dr M'Gillivray still tacksman of that farm?
10222. Do you think he would impose any difficulty now ?
—I cannot exactly say as to that.
10223. With regard to the postal and telegraphic communication, have you made representations about postal communication to Government?
— I understand that the chief factor on this estate is present, and he is a man who knows more about that than I do, only I feel the want of it as well as any other man.
10224. And he can give information about the telegraphic wire also?
10225. Does the pounding of the cattle still continue?
10226. Does it continue in the same degree, or is it less done than formerly ?
—In the same degree, if not increasing.
10227. But do the crofters really do their best to prevent their cattle straying on the tacksman's farm ?
—So far as known to me.
10228. Is there any case of a wire fence between the tacksman and the crofter ?
—Not that I am aware of.
10229. Not in the whole island?
—Not in the whole island.
10230. You stated that twelve days' labour was exacted for the privilege of getting two small cart-loads of bent. Is that the case on all the tacksmen's farms, or only the case on one?
—Only the case on one, because it is on one farm only that the bent grass grows in sufficient quantity. It grows upon other farms, but not to such an extent.
10231. But the other farmers do not charge anything?
—It is so scarce that they cannot supply us with it.
10232. But for what it is do they charge ?
—It is only against the one tacksman that the complaint is made, for he only can supply it.
10233. Is there any complaint about heather ?
—There is heather enough. I have had complaints about heather. We use it to roof our houses, and
I have heard different complaints about that, but I never heard any labour asked in return for the heather.
10234. Is there any complaint about the sea-weed from the shore ?
—Not that I ever heard, unless we went over the marches into those big farms. If we did they would ask some payment for it, otherwise some labour. We would not be at liberty to take it away on our cart.
10235. You would not be at liberty to take the sea-weed from the shore Buchanan, of the tacksmen's farms?
—No, unless sanctioned by themselves.
10236. Did you ever hear any case of their refusing the liberty or charging money ?
—I have heard of their refusing liberty, but I never heard of any case where they charged money.
10237. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
Where is the township of Borv ?
—On the west side.
10238. How many families are there in Borv ?
—About thirty-six families of crofters, and the exact number of cottars I cannot tell.
10239. Have the thirty-six crofters got the township equally divided among them ?
—The township was founded about sixty years ago, and made into fourteen crofts. It is now made into eighteen, and these crofts are in several instances inhabited by four and in general by two.
10240. Are the eighteen crofts equal in size?
—They are equal in size, but not equal in quality of land, and are at different rents.
10241. What has your brother?
—The half of a croft. My forefathers had the same land for the last fifty years. During the runrig system my
grandfather had a great part of the present croft, and this present croft consists of about eight acres, and we occupy the half of that croft.
10242. You have about four acres?
10243. What do you pay for that?
10244. What grazing privileges have you ?
—We have only our own part of a small hill; I cannot exactly tell the acreage of it, but it is on the common pasture of the parish for all townships on the east, west, south, and north. It is a central place.
10245. Is there any limit to the number of cattle you can turn out upon it ?
—There was in former times, but I cannot exactly say what it was.
10246. What stock do you yourselves turn out on that pasture ?
—We have two cows, a heifer, and two working ponies.
10247. Are the other crofters in the township rented in the same proportion ? Do they pay a similar rent for the acreage and stock which they have ?
—They do in proportion, but, as I have mentioned, some of the crofts are not the same rent owing to their not being of the same quality. Some pay more rent than we do that have the same acreage, and some pay
less than we do that have the same acreage.
10248. But I suppose they have more or less stock in those circumstances ?
10249. Has the population of Borv increased in your time ?
—It has, but if the population of Borv were restricted to the local increase of the place there would be quite sufficient land for them; but the township of Borv was the only place where they were huddled into from other places at the time these were cleared.
10250. Do you know how many people were brought in from other townships at the time of these clearances?
—There were fourteen from Green and Cliad ; two from Cregston, a township lying contiguous to Borv; and three from Ollosdale.
10251. Is that all?
—All, with the exception of the increase of men belonging naturally to the place.
10252. When did these clearances take place ?
—These men came into the township thirty-five years ago.
10253. Who have those lands of Green, Chad, Cregston, and Ollosdale now ?
—Up to the present Whitsunday, Ollosdale was occupied by Donald Macdonald, who succeeded his father, Archibald MacDonald, for whom that township was cleared; Green and Cliad are Dr M'Gillivray's; and those men who came from Cregston were replaced by men from other townships. I mean that Cregston is for the present occupied by crofters.
10254. Who has got Ollosdale ?
—I believe it is let to six or seven men,
10256. Where were they taken from?
—James Mackinnon, Neil Galbraith, Malcolm M'Leod, and Alexander M'Lean were taken from Borv,
and Alexander Galbraith from Scalladale; and the parish minister, the Rev. Alexander Macdonald, has got another croft, and the miller has got another.
10257. Were the people who were taken from Borv crofters or cottars?
—They were crofters.
10258. So there has been an enlargement of the crofts in Borv at the term of Whitsunday ?
—The croft which James Mackinnon occupied is let to two other men now. I believe one of these men was removed from his own, and his own was given to another man, Donald Cameron. Donald Cameron held half a croft, and that was given to a man who was along with him, and the other man who was occupying the second half had owned lands before.
10259. Has anybody got a bigger croft than he had before?
—I believe Kenneth M'Cuish got a bigger croft, because another man was removed.
10260. Is that the only benefit to the people ?
—That is the only benefit that I know of.
10261. That is the only case of doubling a holding ?
—The only case that I know of.
10262. But you have got rid of four people from Borv, and therefore to that extent the pressure of population must be reduced. People who were cottars before have now become crofters ?
—Only one that I am aware of—Hugh M'Lean—who got half a croft. I understand he was a cottar
10263. Would the people of Borv wish to be removed to another part of the island ?
—I did not consult the men's mind as to that, but for my own part I believe the rest of them would be removed to any part of the parish where their condition would be better.
10264. Yes, of course ; but in what part of the parish would their condition be better ?
—I believe their condition would be better either at Poll or Kilbarr, or Scarival or Vaslin, or Cliad or Ardvore. or Orradh or Bogach-na-forla, or Rulisor Sandray or Vatersay, or Uy or Caolas, or Bentangaval.
10265. In whose possession are the places you have mentioned?
—Some of them are presently in the possession of Dr M'Gillivray, and others in the possession of Roderick M'Lellan; and the present tacksman of Vatersay is Donald M'Donald.
10266. How long has Dr M'Gillivray been in possession?—I believe he was in possession of Poll, Kilbarr, and some of these other places a long time, but only in possession of the rest for the last thirty-five or thirty-six
10267. There is no part of these places but what he has had for thirty-five or thirty-six years ?
—That is so.
10268. You say that Dr M'Gillivray demands sixty days' labour for an acre of potato ground ?
10269. Is that male or female labour?
10270. Does he take it in either?
—Whenever he wants service to be done, there are some families in which there are no males, and in such
cases the women go and work.
10271. He will take sixty days of a man's work or sixty days of a woman's work ?
—I only say he takes sixty days' average for an acre of land, but in small odd cases women are working as well as men.
10272. If he takes a woman, does he increase the number of days?
—I don't think he does.
10273. Do people take a whole acre at that rate, or only a small patch ?
— If one man does not do it, eight do.
10274. They take the eighth of an acre each?
—No, but each takes the planting of a barrel of potatoes, and we always calculate an acre to plant
about eight barrels.
10275. What return do you get from the eight barrels?
—Sometimes we get about eight barrels, ten or twelve in a good year, and some years hardly double the seed put in.
10276. Eight or ten barrels for the one?
—Eight, ten, and sometimes twelve, for the one barrel; but in a great many cases not double the quantity of the seed we plant
10277. But in an ordinarily good season ?
—In an ordinarily good season we get generally eight or nine barrels. In extra seasons we get about that.
10278. Do you know how long Dr M'Gillivray has had his tack?
—I cannot say how long it is since he occupied the farm of Eoligary, but I should say it is thirty-five or thirty-six years since he got all these places I have mentioned.
10279. When will his lease be out?
—I cannot say.
10280. Mr Cameron.
How many crofters do you represent here ?
—I represent about thirty-six crofters.
10281. Is that the whole number of crofters on the island?
—The whole number of crofters in the township of Borv.
10282. But you told us there was only six or seven present at the meeting when you were elected a delegate ?
—From the township of Borv.
10283. Do you know why the other thirty were not there?
—They were employed elsewhere, only they gave their consent.
10284. In what form did they give their consent ?
—They gave their consent in such a form as this : As we have to go elsewhere to attend our
respective services, we give you our consent to elect whom you like.'
10285. Was that in writing?
—I cannot exactly say whether it was or not.
10286. Could not the meeting have been held at some period of the day or some day of the week when more people might have been present?
— They all go to work. Whenever the bills came here and were posted up, the news went rapidly through the whole parish of Barra, and they commenced to gather from the different cantonments. They were there from our township, as many as were necessary, and there was a meeting held in the class-room, and the question was put to them, and they said they were there representing those who remained at home as well as those who had come.
10287. In any case, out of thirty-six, only six or seven managed to be present at this meeting ?
—That was all I saw present.
10288. Might not a day or an hour have been fixed when more could have been present ?
—The bills were posted on a Saturday, and as hurriedly as we could we passed the word through the parish, and as many gathered here as could. A great many were not coming to the island till Sunday morning.
10289. Was there not time to arrange for a more largely attended meeting ?
—That was all the time.
10290. Do you mean there was no time to arrange for a more largely attended meeting?
—I tell you I saw the bill on the Saturday, but a great many of them did not, and I intimated seeing such a bill, and told them to do something to meet the Royal Commission.
10291. You stated in answer to the Chairman that you and the people, whom you represent complain of the oppression of landlords and factors. Do you complain of the present oppression of landlords and factors, or do you refer to a period before you were born?
—I partly refer to a period before I was born, and that upon good authority, but in general to the period after I was born.
10292. As you have heard from the factor here that you will not be put in any worse position in consequence of what you state to the Commission, perhaps you will mention some of the oppression on the part of the factor beyond what you mentioned in answer to the Chairman ?
—I think I have stated all the acts of oppression voluntarily that I can presently remember.
10293. You have no definite or distinct act of oppression committed by the landlord or factor that you can remember, except in regard to the stirk being sold and the money not credited to the tenant ?
—There was another particular case belonging to the township I represent 1 can scarcely call it a very hard case. There was a woman named Isabella M'Lauchlan in Borv, about two years ago, who had sublet a bit of land, and she wanted the use of the whole of the land herself. The woman to whom she had sublet the land would not part with it, and the matter became a factor's affair, and I believe the factor said it would be better they should settle it themselves, otherwise he would turn out the woman who had been first in
possession of the land. Then Isabella M'Lauchlan's son went to pay the rent, and John Macdonald refused to receive it, on account, I believe, of non-compliance with the factor's request. I believe the woman got a
removal summons, but of late years she was reinstated in half of the croft by Mr Macdonald, the chief factor.
10294. Then, in point of fact, she was not removed?
—She was removed, but she got another croft.
10295. And you said that you did not consider that a great case of hardship
—Not a great case of hardship, when I saw the woman get the land.
10296. I want to ask you about the stirk. Do I understand that the factor took the stirk away from the crofter and sold it on pretence that the proceeds would be credited to him for payment of the rent due, and that the proceeds were not credited to him for the rent due?
—I say he did.
10297. Do you know whether it ever occurred to the crofter to put the matter into the hands of the procurator-fiscal ?
—He did not do that. He was afraid that if he did so he would be worse off and only double his own misfortune.
10298. Does it not occur to you, if the statement you have made is correct, that it was more a question for the procurator-fiscal than it is for the Royal Commission
—You know that best, your Honour, only I had to state it.
10299. You said the horses and cows were taken away from you forty-two years ago, and the stirks thirty-seven years ago ?
10300. Where did the stirks come from if the cows were taken away five years previously ?
—There were some men whose stock was cleared completely away, and some men to whom perhaps a cow or so was left. There is a man in the township of Tangasdale from whom nine head of cattle were taken that same year.
10301. As a rule, do the crofters in this island not possess cows?
—A great many do not possess cows.
10302. What has been your occupation all your life ?
—My occupation was crofting and fishing.
10303. Have you been all your life in the island ?
—All my life. I have often been away, but I never remained a year away without visiting it.
10304. When the lease of Mr M 'Lellan fell out, did the crofters make any application for the farm ?
—Yes, some of them did. The crofters of the township of Glen did, and a deputation went and waited upon
the chief factor, Mr Macdonald, in Aberdeen.
10305. Did he give any reason for not giving the farm to the crofters?
—I am not aware of that.
10306. You saw the correspondence in the newspapers upon the subject ?
10307. When did the kelp manufacture cease here ?
—I cannot exactly say in what year, but it went on here during the late Colonel Gordon's time, and abundantly in the time of the late General M 'Neill.
10308. Did it go on subsequently to the year 1827?
10309 Was not the cessation of the kelp manufacture the principal cause of the poverty of the people in the island ?
— I do not think it was ; it was partly.
10310 To what do you attribute it, if it was not due to the disappearance of the kelp manufacture ?
—I attribute it to the following reasons, to the famine that followed the failure of the potato crop, coupled with the doings of the factors, studying not the interest of the crofters or cottars.
10311. Do you think the people could live by the island here entirely ?
—I think so.
10 312. Do you think there is land enough to support a population of 3000?
—I can safely say there is.
10313. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
You have lived here, you say, all your days ?
10314. And your predecessors before you, for about eighty years ?
—Yes, on the same land and mostly in the same house.
10315. You gave us as an important date, the year 1827, before which things were in a favourable condition. Who was the proprietor before 1827?
—It was the late General M 'Neill—R oderick M'Neill—the sixth Roderick M 'Neill.
10316. Was the property sold in 1827 ?
—It was not sold, it was let by the late General M 'Neill.
10 317. When was it sold ?
—About forty-two or forty-three years ago.
10318. That would be about 1840. Now, there have been extensive evictions and clearances from this estate at different times?
10319. When did these begin?
—About thirty-five or thirty-six years ago.
10320. Were there any at all in the time of the M'Neills?
—Not that I am aware of, except from Poll and Kilbarr.
10321. Were these upon an extensive scale ?—No, the people were only moved up to the adjacent townships.
10322. May I take it that all the townships which you stated might be given back were cleared ?
—You are quite safe in doing so.
10323. Were there circumstances of great hardships in connection with some of the evictions ?
10324. Take the last one, which probably occurred within your own recollection ?
—I have seen with my own eyes the roof of the house actually falling down upon the fire, and smoke issuing.
10325. The houses were knocked down?
10326 Are you aware, in connection with the last eviction, that the people when they arrived in Canada were in a most miserable condition, dependent upon charity ?
—I have seen that stated in public prints.
10327. Do the people here occasionally receive letters from some of those who were evicted ?
—Occasionally, but not very often.
10328. Do you know how they are getting on ?
—I believe two or three per cent, got on pretty fair, but the rest we receive very bad accounts of.
10329. Do you know how many fighting men the old M'Neills of Barra could take out ?
—Two hundred men, so far as I am aware.
10330. Had they any property besides Barra ?
—In former times the Barra estate extended as far as North Boisdale.
10331. That was part of South Uist?
—Yes; to the north march of Boisdale,—the march of Boisdale and Kilphedar.
10332. And all that was the M'Neill's property?
10333. Can you give me a list of the local factors upon the property since the Gordons acquired it, and the length of time they held office?
—There was a man named Webster. I think he was a south country man.
10334. He was not a Barra man?
—No; so far as I remember, he was not a Highlander.
10335. Had he any Gaelic?
—I never heard him speaking Gaelic. The next was a man named Robertson. He was a stranger also,—I think, a Perthshire man. The next was a man named Clark, a stranger; then there were Fleming, Young, George Gordon, John Rule, William Birnie, then Drever, Taylor, Barron, and now Mr Forbes Phillips.
10336. These were all strangers?
—Yes. I forgot to mention Dr M'Leod, who was not a stranger, but a very well known gentleman.
10337. Sheriff Nicolson.
He was factor for Lord Macdonald?
—Yes, at the same time.
10338. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
Then all these people have been factors since the acquisition of the property by the late Colonel Gordon?
—Yes, and Mr Macdonald into the bargain. He is not a stranger.
10339. Was there not some local person of the name of Thomson farmer here a year ago?
—No, his name was Barron. He left lately, and Mr Phillips succeeded him.
10340. Did the people present him with a testimonial?
—I think they did.
10341. And he made a speech to them in reply?
—I was not present, and did not hear it. It may have been in another place; but I was present when subscriptions were received.
10342. Did he not thank them when the presentation was made?
—I did not hear.
10343. Are you aware he stated at any time here that he gave up his position because he could not agree with some things that were going on ?
—I am not aware of that. I have heard that Mr Walker, South Uist, made such a remark.
10344. Professor Mackinnon.
You have two local factors just now, one in South Uist and one in Barra ?
10345. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
What is the value of a day's labour here to a man if he gets a day's work to do ?
—The value of a man's labour here among big farmers is a shilling.
10346. Then, according to that, Dr M'Gillivray gets at the rate of £ 3 per acre, being sixty days at one shilling a day ?
10347. Do you consider that a high rent?
10348. Have you any idea of the extent of Dr M'Gillivray's farm?
—I suppose he occupies about 6000 acres.
10349. Has he a number of cottars?
—None that I am aware of, except shepherds and servants.
10350. What may be the amount of population upon his farm?
—He has seven shepherds besides his own domestic servants.
10351. There will be about fifty altogether ?
—I cannot exactly say. .
10352. What proportion does his farm bear to the whole island ?
—Pretty well on to the half of the island, and the best half.
10353. And the other islands?
—The other islands.
10354. I want to get some information about Vatersay. Was it advertised in the newspapers for people to offer ?
—It was advertised in the newspapers to be let.
10355. Did a deputation from the islands here go to Lady Gordon Cathcart for the purpose of getting it ?
—No, they went to wait upon Mr Macdonald, the chief factor, at Aberdeen.
10356. How many went ?
10357. Were you one of them ?
10358. Did they want to be transported bodily to that island, with their houses, or was it merely as grazing that they wanted it ?
—I believe they considered themselves quite transported as they were, but they wanted to get over there to better their condition. They wanted to go and live there.
10359. How many made the application?
—I cannot say, but I believe mostly all inhabitants of Glen and Castle Bay.
10360. Are these two towns very much crowded ?
—They are not exactly two towns. This bight is Castle Bay, and the contiguous township is Glen.
10361. Did they want the proprietrix to build houses for them?
—I don't think they did.
10362. This place, Castle Bay, seems to be very rugged and rocky. There does not seem to be any cultivation at all.
—It is very rocky and rugged, and the green patches which there are are very bleak, barren, and sterile ground.
10363. Were there any people at one time on Vatersay ?
10364. Is the land there capable of cultivation?
—The finest land on the island.
10365. What was the story about there being no sufficient supply of water on the island ?
—I heard that, but I do not think it is true.
10366. Don't you suppose the people themselves studied the matter very thoroughly before they made application ?
—I think they did ; but I am aware of three spring wells there, which with a little labour would supply
water to the island.
10367. Was her Ladyship ever upon the island?
—I cannot say; it was only once I ever saw her here.
10368. She did not state of her own knowledge that there was no water ?
—I cannot exactly say whether she did or not.
10369. With regard to Dr M'Gillivray wanting twelve days' labour for bent, does the bent grow naturally, or was it planted ?
—It grows naturally, and grew naturally. It was never planted in that place.
10370. Bent is very useful for keeping sand together?
—Yes, and the more cutting among the bent the better growth.
10371. Would all the cuttings the people require do any harm to the proper growth of the bent as a proper protection against the sand bank increasing ?
—It merely encourages growth.
10372. Then what possible reason could Dr M'Gillivray have for exacting such a large sum as that for a thing that was of no use to himself ?
—I cannot say, if it was not to get his own work done at as little expense as he could.
10373. That is the only solution you can give ?
10374. Has Dr M'Gillivray got anything added to his tack within the last ten years ?
—Not that I am aware of.
10375. Professor Mackinnon.
—You said that if you had to go for sea ware on the shore you would have to pay for it to the tacksman. Have you not sufficient sea-ware on your own shore?
—No, we have not; and I will tell you how. It is cast sea-ware that we get. It is very much owing to the drift, and is more liable to be drawn ashore on the strand adjacent to the big farm.
10376. Have any of the crofters got sheep ?
10377. How many has your brother ?
—About eight sheep.
10378. Do they stray to the neighbouring farm of Dr M'Gillivray?
10379. Do any of his sheep come your way?
10380. Do you pound them ?
—No, we do not take any notice of them.
10381. Why do you not pound them ?
—That is a question I cannot exactly answer.
10382. Do they come as often your way as yours go his way ?
—They come equally our way.
10383. So that his sheep get free upon your pasture, and yours are pounded upon his ?
—Yes. I account for it in this way, that if I had anything against Dr M'Gillivray, perhaps I might have to go to him for a favour to-morrow, and it is not very likely I would get it.
10384. He is the only one to supply you with bent?
10385. About the cockles ; supposing you were to use them now, would the tacksman object?
—I cannot say whether he would or not.
10386. But he objected before?
—He objected before.
10387. The factor did not ?
—The factor did not.
10388. How long were you away from the island ?
—I was several times away from the island, but I never remained away from the island the whole year.
10389. I suppose you got your education in the parish school here?
—Yes, under Mr Arbuckle, the parish schoolmaster.
10390. You said you understood from the public prints that the emigrants were pretty badly off when they arrived in Canada. Was there an account of the same nature sent home by the people themselves to their friends ?
—Very much the same.
10391. So it was the general belief in the place that the account in the newspapers was upon the whole true ?
—It was the general opinion of the people here that the account in the public prints was true, because they
attributed a great deal to the treatment they saw the men getting before they emigrated at all.
10392. Was there anything peculiar that happened at the time the horses and cows were taken away ?
—Yes ; there was a Spaniard lying wrecked on the strand adjacent to Tangasdale. Well, the very man I refer to who took the cattle forcibly away made the men work about that ship. She was loaded with fish, and the fish became quite useless ; and the people thought they could make, use of the fish. They were not allowed to do that until such time as it was mostly taken away by the tide ; but I believe he made them labour a great deal about that ship, and never gave them wages,—at least I understood that from the men who worked.
10393. There are not so many wrecks now?
10394. Is it the lighthouse that has prevented that?
—It may be attributed to it.
10395. Is that a loss to the place?
—I don't think it is.
10396. Now, about the man's stirk, you say the man is here whose stirk was taken away and given back to him on payment of 7s. ?
—Given back to his wife.
10397. Were all the people drinking ?
—Yes, they were all drinking; andI believe they were there for a good long time the following morning.
10398. And the wife would not get back the stirk without the 7s.'?
— No. I have also to state, in conclusion, that there was a very severe remark passed one day we came to Castle Bay to meet the chief factor. There were some gentlemen present, who called us privately—but I was within hearing— Fenians, and we were not very well pleased to hear ourselves called Fenians. We do not like the name.
10399. Sheriff Nicolson.
Have your ideas been in any way influenced by what you have heard from Ireland ?
—Not in the least, I am not an Irishman, neither have I imbibed their notions.
10400. Do many of the Barra men go to the Kinsale fishing?
—None, all to the east coast.
10401. Who was it that called them Fenians ?
—The medical practitioner of this island.
10402. I suppose the people here are not much given to law ?
—No, they are very simple, harmless people.
10403. If any man has a case against another, where does he go for an agent?
—He goes nowhere for an agent. In particular cases they might apply to the procurator-fiscal.
10404. For that purpose have they to go all the way to Loch Maddy?
10405. Then do you think they suffer any injustice from the want of lawyers near them ?
—I cannot eay, but I know it is bringing very unnecessary expense upon them.
10406. When they have to go all the way to Loch Maddy ?—Yes ; it is a long and dreary way to walk, and they have to cross two ferries
10407. Is there any agent there except the fiscal ?
—None, except a man of business, whose name I think is Wilson, and, if I remember right, they are in company.
10408. So only one side of a case can be heard at Loch Maddy ?
—That is all I understand about it.
10409. How long does it take to go to Loch Maddy?
—For my part, I would take about two days going there.
10410. I suppose you would rather lose something than go on such business?
—I would, by far.
10411. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were asked by Lochiel about the number of people who seut you here. Has there been anybody consulting with or advising or directing you from the outside to the steps you should take in coming here to-day ?
10412. Did the clergyman of the place, or the priest, or others, interfere in any way or assist you in getting up your meeting?
—They did not interfere in any way, only they were very encouraging to us by coming and sitting along with the people.
10413. The priest was present at your meeting?
—He was present.
10414. And you are quite prepared to state that the proceedings in the schoolhouse, as regards the appointment of the delegates, truly represented the feelings of the crofters throughout the whole of the island ?
—I am quite prepared to say that, and it was quite a legal affair, and we kept a copy of the sederunt.
10415. Who wrote out the paper that was signed by the chairman ?
—A merchant's clerk.
10416. Now, is it the case that, from the state of matters in this island, it is practically impossible for the crofters to do anything but submit to whatever the proprietor or factor may put upon them ?
—Owing to the position in which the people are, it was ever a very prevalent idea on this island that they would have to obey their superiors, particularly landlords and factors; and, I believe, should they wish to do anything, they could scarcely do it without consulting either landlord or factor, whether to their own benefit or to the reverse.