MURDOCH M'KINNON, Earsary (nearly 60)—examined.
10888. The Chairman.
Have you been freely elected a delegate ?
10889. About how many people were present when you were elected ?
—There are twenty-two paying rent in the place, and the greater part were present when I was elected.
10890 Have the twenty-two all got complete crofts, or are the crofts much subdivided ?
—There are four upon some, three upon others; two upon one croft, and seven undivided.
10891. Have you an undivided croft ?
—I have the fourth part of a croft.
10892. What stock do you keep yourself?
—A horse, a cow, a heifer, and a stirk, but the croft cannot maintain these. I purchase fodder for them. I gave over £2 worth of meal to them last spring, and I must now sell one of these to pay the rent.
10893. What is your rent?
10894. Have you sold a stirk lately ?
—I have sold none for the last two years. I am keeping them in the expectation that we may get more land, and in the event of our getting it I would have some stock for it.
10895. How much did you get for the last stirk you sold?
—£2. It was over twelve months old.
10896. That was not a good price?
—Yery bad indeed. Unless beasts are well fed they will not fetch a good price.
10897. What did the stirks fetch last year?
—Off and on, about £3.
10898. Do you think £2, 5s. is too dear a rent?
—I have cultivated it for the last three years, and I have not taken £ 1 worth of meal out of it, and this last season I did not take out of it so much as would sow it. It was the factor who gave me seed.
10899. How many acres of arable have you got?
—Between l½ and 2 acres.
10900. How much would you consider a good croft fit for a family?
—I am fifty years there, and my father had the whole croft of which I now occupy the fourth part. My father kept six cows upon the croft, and never had to buy any provisions. He was taking his living out of the land.
10901. How many horses and sheep?
—Two horses and twenty ewes.
10902. How much rent did your father pay?
—£5. Five families had the township at that time instead of twenty-two who are there to-day. There were no cottars. There are fourteen cottars to-day in addition to the twenty-two who hold land. The land is now exhausted. We till the same plot every year continuously, and the rain of winter washes the soil away. Although I took no crops out of it last year, I expect a better year this year, and it is necessary to turn it in order to provide some fodder for the cattle.
10903. Is there any good land near your place which might be used to make the crofts larger?
—There is a tack beside us, but perhaps it is too small for the man who holds it.
10904. What tack is that ?
—Oleas. If I had land that would yield half as much the amount as I pay for meal I would endeavour to make a living out of it. For eighteen years I paid on an average £20 to the merchant for meal and things to support my weak family. I was thirty-five years ago going to the east coast fishing. I believe I brought over £500 home. I spent the whole of that in meal and other things to support the family, all for want of land. If I had a good croft I would have some of that to leave to those I leave behind. If it were not for the local merchant here, who keeps us all in provisions, no person would be alive in this place at all, and all the stock in the country side is his if he chose to take possession of it—between himself and the proprietor.
10905. Is there only one merchant in the place ?
—There are two in Castle Bay, but it is with Mr M'Neill we deal. He is the more liberal to us.
10906. Do you pay ready money ?
—He gives us provisions and everything we require, in the expectation that we will get money to pay him for it. Everybody in our place is exactly in the same position as I am.
10907. Do you know a place called Bentangaval?
10908. Do you know that that farm was offered in small lots to crofters this year?
—Yes, but I think it would not provide arable land; it would only provide pasture land.
10909. Was it taken up by the people?
—I am not quite certain. I heard it was offered to them by the factor.
10910. If they had not taken it had they good grounds for not going into it ?
—I cannot tell the reason why they took it or why they did not take it.
10911. You yourself were not an offerer?
—No, I did not live in the neighbourhood at all
10912. If you were complaining of want of land, why did you not come forward and offer for a piece of it?
—I don't think I could take my living out of it.
10913. Is that the reason why it was not taken up?—I believe it is not suitable to provide land that would yield crops: it would yield pasture.
10914. Was it made a condition that under certain contingencies the stock of Vatersay would be put upon them ?—I heard that the stock was to be kept upon it if they were able to purchase it, but those who live in
the neighbourhood know more than I do.
10915. But my question was whether, in the event of the weather being very dry, or there being a scarcity of water or the pasture of Vatersay running short, the tenant of Vatersay would have the power of putting his
stock upon this land that was offered to the crofters?
—I heard that as one of the conditions.
10916. Mr Cameron.—How far do you live from it?
—About five miles.
10917. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
Are you a fisher?
—I always was a fisherman, but not of late.
10918. Whom did you fish for?
—I used to fish for Mr M'Neill, and I fished for a long time for a curer down in our own neighbourhood named M'Caskill.
10919. How are you paid by these curers?
—When we worked for M'Caskill we got 7d. for ling and 3d. for cod. This year ling is 11d . and cod 6d.
10920. Were you fishing for cod this year?
—Not this year. I fished for lobsters.
10921. For whom did you fish lobsters?
10922. What are you getting for lobsters?
—12s. per dozen.
10923. When do you get paid for these fish?
—When we settle up, perhaps at Martinmas next. I don't ask a settlement till the work of the year is over.
10924. Does Mr M'Neill give you credit up to the settlement?
—Yes, he always gives us credit till we make the settlement.
10925. Are you able to clear your account every year?
—We can pay in a good year and in a bad year we cannot, but he allows matters to lie over in the expectation that a good year will come next.
10926. Do you always allow matters to lie over, or if there is a balance in your favour do you get it ?
—Yes, if we have to get money we get it.
10927. Do you get it in cash ?
—Ready money in our hands ; but it is very seldom that the balance is upon our side. If our accounts were square we would only be glad. This year we are in great debt
10928. When you take goods on credit do you know the price, or is the price left over till the settlement?
—We know the price when we get it.
10929. Can you buy your commodities in any shop you like, or are you obliged to deal with Mr M'Neill? —We can buy where we like, if we can pay; Mr M'Neill cannot prevent us