St Kilda, 2 June 1883 - Angus Gillies

ANGUS GILLIES (35)—examined.

13649. The Chairman.
Have you heard what the previous witness has said

Have you anything else to say?
—I have some little addition to make to it. We are complaining a little that our rent has not been
fixed according to our present possession, but according to what it was when the present laird came into possession of the island. And as you have come to this island to see us, I hope that one change will be effected by it, and that henceforward we shall be provided with a doctor, the want of one being very much felt. We trust that this great boon will be provided for us by Government. In the next place, with regard to the school, we trust that the justice that is being done to the rest of the Highland Isles will be done to this island of St Kilda, so that the children may be taught to speak the English language as well as their mother tongue. We have suffered very much too, by the loss of a large boat which we had for the purpose of conveying us to the mainland, or to the islands, and which was lost in a storm, and we have now only our small skiffs.

13651. Was it a decked boat?
—She was not a very large boat, but bigger than those we have, and undecked. Mr Sands collected the money with which that boat was provided for us. We felt the loss of the boat very much after that, when we wrote to Edinburgh, understanding there were funds there of which we were entitled to get the benefit. We did get a boat, but it appears there was not sufficient money to provide us with a boat of the kind we required, and the one we have got is so small as to be of no use, beyond those we have already. That boat was sent us by Mr Menzies of the Highland Society.

13652. Would you like to have a decked boat?
—A boat with a deck would be of no use here. A boat would be of no use to us of a greater weight than we could haul up on the shore, at present.

13653. What is the length of keel of the boat you would like ?
—Twentyfive feet keel, with nine feet seven inches of breadth in the beam.

13654. Sheriff Nicolson.
There was some destitution last year in the island ?
—We were much worse off last winter and spring than in former years.

13655. What was the cause of that?
—The crop was bad, and we ran out of food. The land did not produce of its abundance.

13656. Where did you get help from?
—We went in that little boat I have mentioned to the factor at Dunvegan, and he sent over a vessel with meal for us. We could not bring it in the little boat ourselves. I believe there were very few people in any of the Western Islands that would have undertaken the risk we did.

13657. The Chairman.
As regards the larger boat you want, is it of any use to have half a deck, or a place to keep things dry in the boat?
—Oh yes, that would be useful. We would not be the worse of that.

13658. Sheriff Nicolson.
You state that the factor pays 3s. per Scotch yard for the cloth. Do you ask a higher price from Lowland customers ?
—We would need to have a little more from them than from the factor. There is a difference between the landlord and anybody else, because he will take things from us when nobody else

13659. The Chairman.
Is there any of the old breed of sheep on the island
—There are some, but they are mostly in possession of the laird.

13660. What is the breed, the wool of which you use for the cloth?
— We mix together the white wool and the wool of the black sheep.

13661. Is the wool of the old original sheep much finer?
—Some of them ; it is at least as fine.

13662. Professor Mackinnon.
Where has the proprietor the sheep in the island ?
—On the island of Soay.

13663. How many has he got there?
—I cannot say positively. No shepherd goes there at present; but I believe there are at least 200.

13664. Where does the man who is in charge of them live?
—They are under the charge of the ground officer here, but they are on that island like deer.

13665. Has the proprietor always had that island in his own possession ?
—It has been in the hands of the laird since time immemorial.

13666. Does he send over to shear the sheep ?
—Not always. I believe it is about three years since there has been any shearing there. Unless
you go there at Whitsunday it is no use to go afterwards, for they cast off the wool.

13667. What does he do with the young ones? Does he take them away or sell them ?
—They are left there, all mixed together.

13668. Does he never sell any?
—He does sometimes. We ourselves are the chief purchasers.

13669. What do you pay for them ?
—They are very small, and we don't pay a great price for them. I think we suffer much by the loss of long lines in the stormy weather here.

13670. Sheriff Nicolson.
We have had complaints laid before us in Skye, and the other islands we have been in, as to the smallness of the quantity of land that is in the hands of the crofters. Have you any such complaint? —We have none, because the proprietor can give us no more than we have except the little island which he has for his sheep.

13671. Do you complain that the rent is too high?
—We have no complaint as to the rent except what we have made already.

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