St Kilda, 2 June 1883 - Donald Macdonald

DONALD MACDONALD, Crofter and Fisherman (37)—examined.

13580. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
Do you hold a piece of land?

13581. What do you pay for it?
—We pay separately for the ground that is worked around here, and separately for the hill.

13582. Then what do you pay?
—£2 for the arable ground.

13583. And for the hill?
—About £3.

13584 Do the tenants all pay the same thing for the hill?

13585. Why does one pay more than another?
—According to the proportion of the hill that they had when the laird came into possession.

13586. Then their hill is not in common?
—Under the former proprietor each man paid for the actual stock that he had ; but since then the proprietor makes them pay according to the stock they had at that time, whatever it is now.

13587. But their stock is all on the same hill; there are no marches on the hill?

13588. Do you pay this in money, or do you pay it in produce?
—We pay it with all the produce which the island gives.

13589. What is the produce of the island?
—We pay it with feathers, and oil, and cloth, and also with cattle.

13590. At what price does the proprietor take the feathers and oil?
—5s. a stone for the grey feathers, and 6s. a stone for the black feathers, puffin feathers—which are finer.

13591. What does he pay for the oil?
—1s. a pint.

13592. What oil is it?
—Fulmar oil.

13593. What does he pay for the cloth?
—3s. a Scotch ell

13594. What does he pay for the cattle?
—The price varies.

13595. Who puts the price on them ?
—It was another man who took the cattle last year.

13596. How do they agree about the price?
—The factor fixes the price.

13597. Are you bound to give your cattle at the factor's price?
—Sometimes when we are complaining, he adds 1s. or 2s. to the price [Another witness adds : We never got such good prices before as under the present factor.] We get £2, 10s., and we have got £3 for a stirk from him. Though the former factor was as he was, we must admit he gave us better
prices latterly.

13598. Are you in arrears of rent, or are the arrears fully paid in St Kilda ?
—Yes, there are some in arrears.

13599. Are they much pressed for payment of these arrears?
—The factor does not press people at all.

13600. A man behind said, that though some were in debt some were the other way. What is the meaning of that ?
—As in many places, some people are well off and some are ill off.

13601. Have any of them an account against the laird—money due to them ?
—Yes, that is so. The laird owes some of us money.

13602. In what way does the laird pay them back ?
—-Anybody that wishes it from him gets it from him in money.

13603. Do you generally make meal enough to keep yourselves through the year ?
—The island would not keep us in meal any time.

13604. What quantity of meal do you get from the mainland most years ?
—Some families get from eight to twelve bolls in the year.

13605. And that is paid for in the produce of the island in the same way as the rent ?
—According to the families. Some don't get more than five or six bolls. Our accounts are made up at the same time for the rent and for the meal.

13606. You get all your meal and all your supplies from the proprietor?
—-Yes, except a few bolls we got by steamer last summer.

13607. Is there any sale for your produce to the steamer?
—We have sold a little cloth to them.

13608. Were you getting good prices?
—A little better.

13609. You don't sell any cows to the steamer?
—I have seen one cow sold to the steamer.

13610. Did they get a good price for it ?
—A better price.

13611. Mr Cameron.
Would you like to have a pier ?
— Certainly we would be the better of a pier.

13612. How would you be the better of a pier if you got it ?
—If you saw some of the days when we have to land here you would understand then what need we have of it.

13613. Is it for purposes of fishing you would be the better of a pier, or for the steamers when they come with supplies ?
—We would rather have it for ourselves—for purposes of fishing.

13614. How many of the men fish on the island?
—Two boats go out to fish now. We are fallen off in able-bodied men.

13615. What time of the year do they fish ?
—Whenever we get the chance.

13616. I suppose there are a great many days in the year when they cannot fish at all ?
—There are very many days when we cannot go to the fishing, and other days we have other work to attend to at home, and cannot go to fish.

13617. Are you ever kept out at sea by the weather getting bad, and your being unable to land here after being once out ?
—Yes, we have sometimes been obliged to try and seek shelter in a creek opposite us on the other side of the island when we could not land here.

13618. Does that happen often?
—Not often.

13619. Have any boats ever been lost ?
—There have been no drownings that I remember, but we have lost a boat at Boreray.

13620 . What fish do you catch?
—Ling and some cod.

13621. A t what time of the year do you catch the sea birds?
—We catch the birds to get the oil at the beginning of summer.

13622. How do you catch them ?
—We catch the young ones with our hands before they are able to fly away off their nests.

13623. Do you catch any birds at this time, or in the spring of the year ?
—We catch the old birds in spring, and at this time of the year with the rod and snare.

13624. On the nest?

13625. You put the snare over the nest?
—We descend the rocks on a rope, and place the snare over the bird's head, and catch it by the

13626. Have you any idea ho w many birds are caught here annually, young and old ?
—I cannot give a guess, probably thousands, but I cannot say.

13627. How much does each head of a family catch ?
—One day I remember we were snaring the birds at Boreray, when we caught at least 1000.
There were twenty men of us.

13628. That was an unusually large number?
—I never saw or heard of so many being got.

13629. Do you get any herring here?
—We have no herrings nets.

13630 . Would you catch any if you had nets ?
—Yes, I believe so ; and we have spoken of it several times, but we have never got herring nets.

13631. Do you catch any solan geese ?
—We catch some solan geese.

13632. Is it for the oil or feathers, or both?
—We catch the young ones for their oil and feathers. We eat them a little. We salt some.

13633. The Cltairman.
Is there auy diminution in the number of birds, or are there just as many as there used to be long ago ?
—The number of birds varies, apparently, like other crops—more some years, and less other years.

13631. Is any shooting with fire-arms allowed?
—It is forbidden to shoo t birds when they are hatching.

13635. Mr Cameron.
Who forbids it ?
—It has been a rule in the island as long as I remember.

13636. The Chairman.
But do you allow shooting on the island the rest of the year ?
—There is no prohibition during the rest of the year.

13637. If you had herring nets, would you be able to use them ?
—We would try, at any rate.

13638. Do you know that the herring comes here, close to the island ?
—Yes, it does sometimes come into this loch. There were Lewis men fishing here and getting herring three years ago.

13639. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
If you gut a pier convenient for yourselves and bigger boats and nets, would you be enabled thereby to do with less meal than you are paying for ?
—If we had to buy the same meal, we would be more able to pay for it.

13610 . When the new roofs were put upon your houses many years ago by Sir John Macpherson M'Leod, was the rent readjusted at the time you got those new roofs ?
—He made no difference on the rent on account of the improvement of the houses.

13641. Did he put any rise on the land?
—We had some complaints here about twenty years, ago, for being made to pay for the rocks on which we caught the birds. We paid at that time £1 for the land and £1 for the rocks. When the complaint was made, the laird took £1 off the rocks and laid it upon us for the island of Boreray, for which we had been formerly paying 5s. a head.

13642. Are you acquainted with the history and traditions of the island ?
—I am not very skilled in these things, but I have heard some of them.

13643. In the oldest history that is written about St Kilda, there is mention made of a cross upon which the people were accustomed to take an oath. Have you ever heard of that ?
—I never heard of that.

13644. Does the man sitting behind you know?
—We cannot say anything about the oath, but there is a cross cut upon the rock at Boreray, the steep island over there.

13645. But my inquiry was about a movable cross which would be held up by a party taking the oath, and it was either of gold or silver ?
— We never heard of it.

13646. The Cliairman.
Was any object of curiosity or art ever found in the island—any old coin or old articles ?
—We never heard of anything of the kind being found here.

13647. Or any stones shaped like knives or spears ?
—There have been such things found.

13648. Like arrow heads?
—Yes; I have heard of such arrow heads being found, and I have also heard of little crocks made of clay. I have seen them myself. I have seen such found where we were digging, of the size of little bowls.

No comments:

Post a Comment