South Uist, 28 May 1883 - Donald O'Henley

[Mr Ranald Macdonald.
—I have the utmost readiness in repeating the assurance I gave before, that the people here may speak, freely and fully, anything they think proper without any fear of any kind.]

DONALD O'HENLEY, Crofter and Fisherman, North Loch Boisdale (about 56)—examined.

10991. The Chairman.
Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of North Loch Boisdale

10992. How many people were present?
—Over twenty.

10993. Have you got a statement to make on the part of the people?
—It is about forty years since I was removed from the place where I was well off.

10994. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
What was the name of the place?
—Frobost. I was sent out on a small holding to Loch Boisdale, which is not sufficient to support me. This was in the time of Dr Macleod, then factor. He planted us in this place in North Loch Boisdale, and sent a servant to mark out the land. It was then agreed or promised to us that we would get sufficient land on which to  maintain one cow. Eight lots were put out here for those people who were removed from Frobost, and two of those from Frobost came here and got laud sufficient to maintain one cow. These two had each two of these lots. There were four lots remaining upon which one tenant was squatted or laid down, and they did not seem to have sufficient land to keep even one cow. My father informed me that he gave to this Dr M'Leod, the former factor, a horse to pay up arrears of rent amounting to 15s., and that he was to return the residue of the price, but he never received it.

10995. It is forty years since you left Frobost. Were you yourself tenant at Frobost, or was your father tenant there?
—My father.

10996. How long is it siuce you held a lot of land yourself at North Boisdale ?
—About thirty-six years.

10997. When you came to North Loch Boisdale, was the fishing good here ?
—Fourteen years ago there was very good fishing here for some years.

10998. Was that the reason Dr M'Leod moved them here?
—No, that was not the reason. He was sending them here before the fishing was started at all,

10999. What was Dr M'Leod's reason for changing your place ?
—Clearings, to make up a tack for a Mr Chisholm that came from Moidart.

11000. Is that the tack of Frobost ?
—It is now incorporated in the tack of Milton.

11001. Have you got the same land you had when you came here ?

11002. No more ?
—No more.

11003. What is the extent of your croft?
—About eight acres.

11004. Is it all arable?
—We ourselves made it arable since we came.

11005. But it is all arable now?

11006. Have you any out-run pasture for cattle?
—No. Through the friendship of the neighbouring tacksman, we were allowed to send our cattle out to the moor, and we perform some service for this. Though I send my cattle out to this moor they are often chased with dogs, and they are often very much abused owing to stranger herds.

11007. What rent did you pay for the croft when you first succeeded to it ?
—27s. a lot.

11008. You paid 54s. for your two lots?
—£2, 14s-

11009. What are you paying now for it ?
—£4, 10s. to-day for the same, the rent being raised on account of the good fishing that was obtained here.

11010. How long ago is it since it was raised ?
—About fourteen or fifteen years ago.

11011. How long is it since the fishing ceased at this place?
—It is about five years since I provided anything by fishing—puttiug me to expense in gear.

11012. Is it that the fish have left the place?
—I think that the Barra fishing has spoiled this loch.

11013. When the fishing was good, did you think your lot dear at £4, 10s. ?
—I think it was rather too dear when it would only maintain one cow. I think it was too dear a rent for it.

11014. How many days' labour do you pay for the pasture ?
—Nine days for one cow. Two years ago we spoke to the present tacksman complaining that we paid too much,—nine days' labour for the one cow. The arrangement now is that we give six days' labour for one cow, and three days for a two-year-old. I suppose, before, the two-year-old was a follower.
Nothing was charged, but now we have three days' labour for a two-year old.

11010. How many barrels of potatoes do you plant in your croft ?
—Some years seven or eight.

11016. What return do you get for that in an average year?
—I cannot tell.

11017. Do you know how much return of oats or barley you get for your seed ?
—No, I cannot tell.

11018. Do you thresh the corn, or do you give it in the sheaf to the cow ?
—Generally I thresh it, and I give the rest to the cattle.

11019. Do you keep a horse?
—I cannot keep a horse,—harrowing of land by our own labour without any horse. We tried a horse, aud could not keep her.

11020. How do you plough your land?
—With the cas-chrom or crooked spade. We might get a pair of horses to plough for us, if it was a good
fishing season. Some of the crofters, perhaps, could afford to pay for them.

11021. How much of the croft do you turn over in a year ?
—Not the half. They are anxious to leave as much for the cattle grazing as possible. If I had room I would cultivate more.

11022. How long do you leave the land in grass, in that case?
—Two years, three years, and sometimes over that. We cannot work with the crooked spade unless the land gets into a condition of lea.

11023. Do you think you get a less return now from your land than you used to get?
—Last year nothing at all out of it. It is getting poorer. The longer it is in lea—the older the land is—the better will be the crop.

11024. But if you are able to leave part out two or three or four years, is that not sufficient to ensure a good crop ?
—Yes, much better ; but the place is so small that I cannot leave much out.

11025. What stock do you actually keep? Do you keep only one cow?
—I have three cows, one two-year-old and two stirks, and five or six sheep, but they are chiefly on the neighbouring tack.

11026. You are able to winter those from the produce of your croft?
—Some years I could maintain these.

11027. Do you pay to the tacksman the summering of all this stock?
—They are on the tack till the beginning of harvest, and then they have a little picking at home, but they must go on the tack some portions of each day.

11028. What I mean is : Is there one cow or one stirk kept wholly on the croft, or do they all go to the hill?
—Portions of them.

11029. You are paying for them to the tacksman?
—Yes, in labour.

11030. Do you know how much labour you have paid to the tacksman this last year?
—I don't know. The females about the house oftener did the labour than I did—particularly looking after peats, drying them, and so on.

11031. Does the tacksman take a woman's labour the same as a man's ?
—The same.

11032. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
How many people do you represent here to-day?
—Over forty families.

11033. I understand your complaint, and the complain of the particular township you are in, is this, that you have no positive right to the hill ground. Is that so?
—That is the principal complaint—want of hill pasture and larger holdings altogether.

11034. Do you want an increase of arable land also ?
—Yes, that is what we want.

11035. Is there ground upon ths tacksman's land that could be taken in adjacent to your lots?

11036. What is the name of the tacksman?
—Mr Charles M'Lean.

11037. What is the name of the town ?

11038. Is that the famous Milton in South Uist—Flora Macdonald's place ?

11039. Going back to the place you came from, you stated you were put out in order to accommodate Mr Chisholm from Moidart. How many families were put away by Dr M'Leod on account of Chisholm?
—I cannot give the number, but I know there were forty full crofts, and on some of these crofts there were two families.

11040. And were all these cleared off for the sake of Chisholm ?
—Every one.

11041. Were those people distributed on other parts of the estate, or were some of them obliged to emigrate?
—He squatted them altogether upon other crofts.

11042. Who was the proprietor at the time? Was it Clanranald?
—The late Colonel Gordon.

11043. It was not in Clanranald's time?
—No. A few remained on the farm of Askernish, as servants of this Chisholm the tacksman, but they had
no lands.

11044. Sheriff Nicolson.
Was there ever a better factor than Dr M'Leod in the country ?
—He may have been a good man, but he did not do a gentlemanly turn in this matter.

11045. Was there ever a factor in these parts who was considered so kind to the people ?
—I cannot say. He was not long in it after that.

11046. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
Perhaps it was as well for the country that he was not ?
—I think so.

11047. The Chairman.
Have you anything else to say?
—What will we do if the neighbouring tacksman stands to-day on his own march, and prevents our cattle going on his own moor? That is the question. I think the man is so gentlemanly that he will not make any difference to-morrow more than any other day, in respect of allowing the cattle to graze upon his tack. I have no particular grievance myself, but I know Ronald Macdonald, Loch Boisdale, has something of the nature of a grievance, and I would like if you would favour him with a hearing.

11048. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
Is it something especial to himself?
—It belongs to his own family—some private wrong.

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