South Uist, 28 May 1883 - John Walker

JOHN WALKER, Crofter, North Boisdale (83)—examined.

11174. The Chairman. Were you freely elected a delegate?

11175. You produce a written statement?
—Yes. We had a great reason to complain. About forty years ago there were twenty-four crofters in this village, and now it is situated on forty-eight, with heavy families. In the month of September the most of our crop will be destroyed with heavy floods, owing to the leading drains being closed up more than twenty years ago. Also the west side, that we called the Macher, are exhausted, and going with the wind, which cannot be
made up without the help of the landlord. The hill pasture that we had for grazing our cattle, horses, and sheep, if we would have any, are now situated on six or seven tenants. And when we will go out to our grazing place, they are drilling them back with their dogs. The property that we have does not belong to ourselves; it belongs to the men who supply us with food and clothing; and the reason that we are in the
heavy debts is this, that our land is exhausted with the number of the people. And about forty-six years ago we used to sell plenty of graiu and potatoes, besides keeping up our own families, and the place where that
was growing is now filled up with Cheviot and oxen. We are now kept so far behind that we will no get leave to keep the littlest dog about our houses. Then we are paying so much taxes for poor-rates, school, and
road taxes, and we never get an account of what they were doing with it, and therefore the new alteration that they are expecting to do on this village, instead of improving us, would make us worse than ever. When the kelp was at a high price, this land was rented according to that, and since a couple of years ago the kelp stopped, and the rent is as high as ever. About thirty years ago the late Colonel Gordon offered the third part of the rent down to them that would pay ready cash for it, and the rest never got the same chance again. We are in great need of help, and wishing to get more land for the future.

11176. Mr Cameron.—How many crofters are there in this township now ?

11177. In this paper it is stated there are forty-eight ?
—Some making up the forty-eight do not belong to the township at all, but are squatted outside of it.

11178. When did they come there ?
—Some of them are five years and some four years there.

11179. Where did they come from?
—From about Loch Boisdale here; some people who had no lands.

11180. What was their occupation before they came there?
—One was a sailor, and he got lands there; another occupied a croft further out, and he was changed.

11181. Do these squatters pay rent, and if so, to whom?
—Yes, they pay rent to the proprietor.

11182. Did the proprietor or factor put them in there?

11183. Do you know why they were put there?
—Because he had no lands elsewhere for them.

11184. Why had they a claim upon the factor for lands?
—They were natives.

11185. Did they belong to the same township ?
—Not to the same township. Some of them had lands in South Loch Boisdale, and they were dispossessed and settled there. Others were natives, and had no lands at all ; young people who set up house there.

11186. The descendants of original crofters?

11187. Do you in any way complain of these cottars being amongst you?
—We are complaining of their presence there, because our cattle when they are sent out are chased by dogs, and sent back again by those squatters.

11188. The squatters chase them with dogs?

11189. What remedy can you suggest to prevent the squatters from chasing them with dogs?
—To give them some other places, and clear them out of there.

11190. Give the cottars some other place?
—Our township has no room for them.

11191. Did you remonstrate with the factor when the cottars were put there ?
—We were often complaining to the factor, but not at the particular time when these were squatted down.

11192. Are they relations of the crofters themselves who are on the place?
—They are not relatives. They are not related to the people of the township.

11193. What is your own rent ?
—The rent of my croft is £12, 12s. and 25s. of poor-rates.

11194. What stock have you ?
—My stock is not large. I have only two cows and a horse.

11195. Any sheep?
—I have five or six sheep.

11196. Any young cattle?
—I have one calf.

11197. Is that about the stock which your neighbours keep?

11198. What do they keep?
—They would keep four cows, two horses, three or four young cattle, and some six or seven sheep.

11199. Are you in very poor circumstances?

11200. Is that why you keep so little stock?
—Want of money is the cause. My children married and left me, and there is only my wife and myself.

11201. What hill pasture have you in common ?
—Very little. It would not amount to an acre per family—all that is left of our hill pastures now.

11202. And where do the cows graze
—On our arable crofts.

11203. Where do they graze in summer ?
—On the crofts. [A man here stated that the witness had only one-fourth of a croft]. When I said £12, 12s. that was the rent of the croft.

11204. What is the summing of the croft
—Six cows, two horses, and a young horse.

11205. Are you quite sure the summing is only six cows?
—Not much more, unless a few followers.

11206. How much more?
—I don't know.

11207. How many sheep for the whole croft ?

11208. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Have you any family?
—None, only my wife.

11209. What is her age?
—Seventy-five or seventy-six.

11210. What has become of the children? Have they left this place?
—They didn't leave the country. Some of them married in my own neighbourhood.

11211. Do you get any help from them?
—No, I have never troubled any of them very much yet.

11212. I understand that all you complain of as representing North Boisdale is that the cottars trouble you? —That is their chief complaint.

11213. Have you any other?
—The land is too dear, in consequence of the change of value in kelp.

11214. How long is it since your present rent was fixed ? Was it fifty years ago?
—Thirty-four or thirty-five years ago.

11215. Was the kelp remunerative at that time?

11210. How long is it since the estate of Macdonald of Boisdale was sold ?
—About forty-three years ago.

11217. Did it fall into the hands of the Gordon family at once ?

11218. Were any of the people that were sent away in the five vessels that the previous witness spoke of taken from your neighbourhood ?
—Yes, some from my township.

11219. Did they go away of their own accord ?
—Some of them went of their own accord.

11220. Did those who were left behind get the crofts of those who went off ?
—I came to my present lands as one of those families who were evicted.

11221. Where were you before?

11222. Was there anybody in North Boisdale who benefited by the removal of the people ?
—I don't know of any in North Boisdale who, in consequence of the removal, got more land than they had.

11223. Do you pay rent and get receipts yourself?
—I was paying it all formerly. I don't pay it in full now. I am unable to pay.

11224. Are the other people like yourself, in embarrassed circumstances? Are they poorer in consequence of the number of cottars?
—All in North Boisdale are back in condition, on account of so many people being squatted upon them.

11225. What rent did your father pay
—My father was never in North Boisdale.

11226. Where?
—In Frobost. He paid six guineas in Frobost.

11227. Was your father pretty well off in your younger days ?
—He was in a pretty good position.

11228. Had your father a large family?
—Three sons and three daughters.

11229. Did they all grow up?

11230. Did your father leave the land at all, to earn wages, or was the family of six supported out of the croft that they had
—Yes, maintaining a family and paying more than that.

11231. And always selling?
—Always selling, on account of the land.

11232. How old were you before you began to earn something away from the croft
—I was never engaged to labour outside of the country.

11233. But how did you start 'on your own hook,' according to the common expression? How old were you? —I had lands at Frobost before leaving, and had stock there, and paid rent before leaving Frobost.

11234. Where did you get the money to stock it?
—I earned it through the country. While at Frobost I kept six or seven cows on my own account. One particular thing which I would like to receive assistance for is to make some improvements upon the parts of the shore where the sea-ware is gathered for the use of our lands. Improvements were formerly made, but these have now fallen through, and we would like assistance outside ourselves to improve this.

11235. Sheriff Nicolson.—What kind of improvements do you mean?
—To place large stones here and there, so that drift ware would grow upon them.

11236. From whom do you wish assistance to do that?
—We need it, from whatever source it comes—whether from the proprietrix or anybody else, but we cannot do it ourselves. There seems to be land near the shore separated by a narrow channel, and I could wish this channel blocked up, so that the sea ware would be caught in it.

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