Benbecula, 29 May 1883 - Angus Mckinnon

ANGUS M'KINNON, Crofter, Linicleit (60)—examined.
12067. The Chairman—Have you been freely elected a delegate?

12068. Have you a statement to make to the Commission?
—Yes. We, the tenants of Linicleit, Benbecula, complain
—That our crofts are now too little, being much less than what they formerly were, which may be seen from the fact that twenty additional crofters are placed among us; that our rents are too high for two reasons—
(1) That continual cropping has reduced the land so much that it now yields almost nothing without double quantity of manure, and that that manure cannot be had, being divided among the increased tenants.
(2) That we have to pay, besides rent, for food for our families and provender for our cattle an average of, for the last six years, from £12 to £33, as the case may be, which, added to our rents, will show what we are, properly speaking, paying for our holdings. If all our effects were sold and the proprietrix and local merchants put in their own, very little would be left.
(3) That we have to meet these demands either from the earnings of ourselves or our families who must go to other places to earn that money, as there is no work at home.
(4) That the common and hill grazing are taken from us, except a nominal stripe of black moss more fit for peats than for grazing. Before we could be somewhat comfortable we would require a guarantee from the Government (a) that our crofts be made large enough to support our families, (b) that we shall not be at the mercy of either proprietor or his agents to remove us at will, (c) that we shall get compensation for improvements.'

12069. How many crofters are there in that place ?
—There are forty tenants to-day.

12070. Does that include cottars?
—No, crofters.

12071. How many were there when you first recollect ?

12072. Where have the thirteen additional crofters come from ? Is it  the natural increase of the people?
—The natural increase of the country.

12073. Have you got a full croft?
—No, I have about nine acres of land.

12074. Is it half a croft?
—It is the size according to the re-apportionment of the land five years ago.

12075. There is a little hill grazing?

12076. And you have the right of sending your cattle to the general hill grazing ground ?

12077. What stock do you keep?
—Two cows, one horse, two stirks, and five or six sheep.

12078. What is your rent ?
—£3. I wish to state that my nine acres would not support all these animals. The nine acres would barely support one of these cows. I must expend £ 3 in purchasing summer grazing for them and also wintering.

12079. Then your complaint and the complaint of your people is that your holdings are too small ?
—Yes, too small.

12080. What else?
—Also that our land should be valued by Government valuators, and that we should have a reasonable guarantee that we would not be disturbed from these revalued holdings so long as we paid that reasonable rent.

12081. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—We understand that you are able to tell us about some evictions that took place from this island. Will you tell us what occurred in your observation?
—I saw them at Loch Boisdale. I saw, down at Loch Boisdale, people sent to the emigrant ships by violence—by policemen and strong men.

12082. Will you mention the names of any you knew there?
—I knew especially one man who was forced by four men to the waterside in order to put him on board this ship.

12083. What was his name?
—William Macpherson.

12084. Where was he living ?
—A few yards from this house.

12085. Was Macpherson a young man?
—A young, strong man.

12086. Were there any others of his family sent at the same time?
—Every one of the family was sent away, with the father, who was blind.

12087. Can you give any other instance of any able-bodied man taken away by violence that you saw yourself ?
—I have not seen that, but there are many here who did see such.

12088. Then tell us what you know by report?
—There was one other person on the moor of Benbecula here who was removed, himself and his wife and children, from his house. They were lifted away from their dwelling, and put into a cart till they were sent in the boat to Loch Boisdale.

12089. What was the name of that man ?
—Donald M'Lennan.

12090. Have you any other cases?
—There were many other cases at the time when these events occurred.

12091. When did they occur?
—Well, up to forty years ago.

12092. Was it in Colonel Gordon's time?

12093. Have there been any such scenes since then, or was it the last?
—Not so forcible as that.

12094. What do you mean by that ?
—That they were not sent away against their will altogether after that.

12095. We heard yesterday that five ships went away from Loch Boisdale at one time. How many people would there be ?
—I do not know the number. Another man states that there were about 1700.

12096. Where did they go from ?
—From the North Ford to Barra Head,

12097. Were these all upon what are now called the Gordon estates ?
—They were all belonging to the Gordon estates.

12098. Were some of them crofters in good circumstances ?
—They were crofters at all events.

12099. And cottars among them ?

12100. What became of the lands which those people occupied ?
—There were as many people after them as filled up the land which these occupied.

12101. Was any part of the lands occupied by these people added to the farm of Nunton ?
—I am not aware.

12102. Were the people at the time of these great evictions as well off as they are now, or were they better off then ?
—The people to-day are in a condition as poor as I have ever known them to be.

12103. Were they very poor at that time after the potato famine?
— They were poor enough at that time; what could they do but cut their fingers takiug shell-fish off the rocks, pretty much as they are doing to-day for food ?

12104. Had you any friends or relatives among those who were sent away ?

12105. Have you heard that when they landed in Upper Canada they were so very ill off, many of them, that they were dependent upon the public charity of the inhabitants ?
—I heard that they were so poor after landing, without food or clothing, that they died upon the roadside, and
were buried into holes where they died.

12106. Were you also aware that many of the children who accompanied them died of starvation in Canada? —I heard that also.

12107. Have accounts come of the survivors as to how they got on in Canada, and whether any of them are alive and doing well ?
—We have heard accounts from some of them, but we have heard no accounts from many of them, because they were not living to give accounts.

12108. Can you say that anybody who was sent away at that time, and who may have left relations behind them, sent back any money to those whom they left behind ?
—I don't remember of any such cases.

12109. Did any of them ever come back here to visit their native island ?
—They may have done so, but I have no recollection.

12110. You yourself, I presume, did not see anybody that came back?

12111. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—You complain of not having a lease? Have you ever been offered a lease by Mr Macdonald?
—He offered a lease, but I have never seen it.

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