ANGUS M'FIE, Crofter, Island of Flodda (70)—examined.
11831. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate
11832. Have you got a statement to make?
—I have no written statement.
11833. Then you will make your statement verbally ; what have you got to say ?
—It has become impossible for us to live where we are. I have been settled in heather land for the last twenty-one years. I have been reclaiming this heather land as well as I can. Now I have been rented by the ground officers, and before I went there this same land belonged to the people of Island Flodda. I was settled there along with three others, and there was another family there before we were settled there, and the land we occupied was rented at £9 before we were settled there. The ground officer cut off crofts for the three, but the people of the Island of Flodda who formerly possessed this ground received in compensation, or as favour, a road to their peat mosses and also to water their cattle. The people of Island Flodda had formerly the right to the land upon which we were settled. The people of Island Flodda were rented on account of this road which was made to their peat mosse3. They had to pay £ 1 a piece on account of this road to their peat mosses. Instead of the £9 which was the original rent paid for this particular piece of ground—formerly possessed by people who emigrated to America—their rents were raised to £18 when we were settled upon it. Our lands were lotted by order of the proprietor. The whole of the island of Beubecula was alloted in this
way except Island Flodda and a portion of land occupied by us. A poor man from the district of Uachdar, who had no land in his own particular neighbourhood, was removed from the said district, and four acres of my lands taken from me and given to this poor man, as also a portion of road to the peat mosses formerly mentioned. I am of opinion that a proper valuation would fix the value of this same outroad at something like 30s annually, instead of £1 per family according to the present charge. On account of this removal from my own holding of four acres, I desire to get an equivalent of reduction in my rent, but I have been refused, and
the former rent is still existing.
11834. Mr Cameron.—You have explained to us your own grievance; we want to know what the people who have sent you here complain of, and what remedy they wish ?
—We are all afflicted with the same disease.
11835. Are they all in the same position as yourself?
—All in the same position. The country is not lotted in proper proportions, and a few people may be better off than the general, but only a few.
11836. Have the crofters whom you represent any hill pasture?
11837. What stock do they keep on this common grazing ?
—I have two cows and a two-year-old.
11838. Is that the ordinary quantity belonging to the other crofters?
—No, that is not the usual summing.
11839. What is the usual summing?
—According as they are able to maintain them.
11840. What does it practically amount to as a rule ?
—Some have three cows and some have four cows, but it is rare to have four.
11841. What is the rent you yourself pay?
—I am paying £3, 15s. of rent including taxes. The rent itself is £3, 10s.
11842. Have you any other stock besides cattle?
—I have seven ewes this year.
11843. Any horses?
—I have one horse.
11844. Have the other crofters got a horse each?
11845. Do the other crofters pay about the same as you pay?
—Some pay £6, some pay £5, and some £ 1 , 10s.
11846. Do they want more arable land, or do they want more pastureland, or both ?
—I want both, but, though increased, how could I stock it when I am empty ?
11847. Is there any land in the neighbourhood that is available for you and your neighbours ?
—Only heather ground.
11848. What do you propose if there is no land suitable for the crofters, and, even if there were, if they have no stock to put upon it ? What remedy should you suggest ?
—I will tell you that if it can be done. We have a big tack at Benbecula, and I consider it the cream of the island. This one tack would improve every poor family in Benbecula, and still leave enough to support in comfort the one family that presently occupies it.
11849. Do you propose that the whole body of the crofters whom you represent should be moved bodily on to this tack ?
—I mean that the one who cannot live upon his present holding should get an increase. If two or three of the present crofters on Island Flodda were removed, it would relieve the pressure on those families remaining.
11850. But I understood the land of Island Flodda was so bad that it was of no use for any one to cultivate. Is that so ?
—It is so, being cropped during the last eighty years, continuous cropping has exhausted it.
11851. Do you think nothing would remedy the condition of the crofters but what you have suggested ?
—I know no other remedy.
11852. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where did you come from twenty-one years ago ?
—I was born in this township, and lived in it for twenty-seven years.
11853. What is the name of the township ?
—Torlum. I married when I was twenty-seven years of age.
11854. Was there no room for you in the place where you were?
—I myself with a friend had purchased a croft in Liniclate; we remained twelve years upon that croft; but we were compelled, when our families increased, to separate the one of us from the other, and look out for some
11855. What do you mean by purchasing a croft?
—We purchased the houses with the land. They call that a possession.
11856. Is it the custom to pay the outgoing tenant for houses ?
— It was the custom at the time I refer to.
11857. When you left did you sell your house again?
—I did not. I received nothing for the house which I left behind me.
11858. If it was the custom of the country, why did not you sell your house ?
—It was promised to us, but the promise was not implemented.
11859. Who promised it?
—Mr Birnie, the late factor, promised that I should receive the value of these houses from the incoming tenant, but the incoming tenant proved to be so poor tbat he was unable to implement his promise.
11860. Was the factor always aware that money was paid by the incoming tenant for houses ?
—He was aware of it.
11861. Does that custom still continue?
—No, except by private agreement
11862. The factor has nothing to do with it ?
—If we come to a private arrangement, the factor takes nothing to do with it.
11863. The land you have at Flodda you improved entirely yourself ?
—Every inch of it
11864. What was the rent you paid when you went there?
—£3, 10s. When I removed to Island Flodda two ground officers were ordered to measure out my piece of land, and also to value it. These two ground officers valued it at £ 4 ; but a different factor, Mr Rule, said he considered it really too dear himself, being a piece of wild moorland, and that he would take 10s. off, leaving it £3, 10s.
11865. Then the £3, 10s. included the right to graze these cattle of which you have spoken of?
—It includes the grazing of the cattle on the heather.
11866. Has your rent ever been raised?
—No, but portions of my land were taken and let to others, and I still pay the former rent.
11867, Was that land improved that was taken from you?
—It was improved.
11868. Did four acres come off?
11869. Was that improved and reclaimed land?
—Every inch of it.
11870. And how much reclaimed land have you now left?
—I believe I am left with 12 acres of improvable land at present.
11871. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many souls are there upon the island of Flodda ?
—It is composed of six crofts.
11872. How many cottars ?
—Nearly as many more cottars.
11873. How many heads of families are there ?
—There are at least ten heads of families, but there are crofts which have three families upon them and crofts that have two.
11874. What is the name of the place where there is a big tack on the island ?
11875. Is that the only large tack in Benbecula?
—The only one.
11876. You are an old man. Has the farm of Nunton been added to, in your own time, at the expense of land once held by crofters ?
11877. Was it at any time?
—Yes; it will be about thirty years since there was an addition to this tack of Nunton.
11878. Then, of course, you must recollect it quite well ?
—I remember it perfectly well.
11879. Can you mention the names of any townships in your own lifetime that have been diminished and added to Nunton ?
—Yes; some land was taken off Balvannich and the township of Aird. I may also say Uachdar.
11880. Any more ?
—I am not aware of any more.
11881. Was it all done at one time, or at different times?
—When the tack was originally cut by the late Dr M'Leod, the Balvannich people were promised compensation for a piece of moorland which belonged to them before that year, and which was added to the tack of Nunton.
11882. Who was the factor at the time that the whole was done ?
11883. Was Dr M'Leod factor for Clanranald or factor for Colonel Gordon at that time ?
—For Colonel Gordon.
11884. Have many people been entirely put out of the island, in your recollection, against their will ?
11885. Mention the townships from which people were put against their will ?
—I cannot mention the townships, but I can mention the moor.
11886. What moor was it?
—They were hiding themselves in caves and dens for fear of being removed.
11887. Where from?
—Scarraleod. I remember of no other place in Benbecula.
11888. Is there any other witness that knows about these matters better than you do?
—I have no doubt but there may be.