Benbecula, 29 May 1883 - Donald Mcdonald

DONALD M'DONALD, Crofter, Torlum (71)—examined.
12001. The Chairman.—Have you a statement to make to the Commissioners ? What is the complaint of the people here ?
—I have to complain that in the days of Clanranald there were two large crofts which belonged in those days to the townships of Torlum and Griminish, and that when the present crofts of these two townships were allotted to the holders of them, these two large crofts were taken from them and added to the neighbouring tack of Nunton, and this has conduced to greatly press us for room in these two townships. On account of this we are behind in food and in fodder.

12002. When the two large crofts were added to Nunton, what became of the crofters who lived on the two large crofts?
—There were no crofters upon that particular strip of land, but it did belong to the townships already mentioned.

12003. Professor Mackinnon.—How many crofters are there in Torlum now ?
—Twenty-two crofts. There are eighteen crofts in Torlum, and one tenant has four crofts besides those eighteen.

12004. There would have been twenty-two full crofts, only eighteen have eighteen full crofts and one has four?

12005. What is the rent of a full croft?
—There are some at £7, 10s. some at £6, some at £5, and some at £4.

12006. And what is the stock ?
—I pay a rent of £6, 4s.

12007. What stock are you allowed to keep ?
—I have four cows and three little heifers, and I have also three stirks, a horse, a mare, a year-old, eight sheep, and a few hoggs.

12008. How long have you been paying rent in Torlum ?
—My father was paying rent for seventy years, and I myself have paid rent upwards of forty years.

12009. You were then in the township when these two crofts were taken from it

12010. Do you remember if the rent was reduced when the parks were taken away ? Was it made less ?
—It was a common before the township was lotted, and then the common was taken away from them, and a new valuation made of the rents at. that date, and these two were valued as well, and those two were joined to the neighbouring tack of Nunton.

12011. Does your township march with Nunton ?
—Very nearly so.

12012. Who is between you
—The turner.

12013. Is the turner in the township?

12014. Who occupies that farm of Nunton?
—It was occupied by the late Norman M'Donald, and is now occupied by his widow.

12015. Then, about this large piece or common, are you marching with that piece of common ?
—Very near it.

12016. But I presume that all the crofters in the island have a right to graze upon that common, whether they march with it or not ?
—Every one may send his stock as he pleases to the big common.

12017. Is it not regulated at all how many each is allowed to send there
—There is no regulation as to numbers.

12018. Is it occupied in winter as well in summer?
—It will not support any creature in winter.

12019. It is only used as summer pasture?
—Just so.

12020. Do you send cows there as well as horses and sheep?
—No horses at all are sent there. It is chiefly sheep, and occasionally we send our cattle there also.

12021. Are milk cows ever sent there?
—Yes, for portions of each day, some days.

12022. That is, I suppose, by those who are near it, but do those crofters that are far away send their milk cows there ?
—No, not those far away.

12023. Only those who are near?
—Only those that are near

12024. So that they can easily milk them there without staying out on the common themselves ?

12025. Then what is it that the people of Torlum complain of?
—The smallness of the land.

12026. You don't complain that your own rent is too dear?
—Yes, I do complain that it is too high. I stated to the factor that he valued the eight crofts in my neighbourhood too highly, my own croft being among the eight.

12027. But your complaint is more against the size of the croft than against your rent?
—Yes ; much more.

12028. How many suitable crofts would Torlum make ?
—One man has a fourth part of the township, and he complains that he cannot make a living on it.

12029. So that even if you had four crofts, you have scarcely much hope that you would be very comfortable?
—If I even had two I think I would be better off than I am.

12030. But the man that has four complains very hard ?
—Yes, so he does.

12031. His complaint, I suppose, must be that the rent is too high, not that the croft is too small ?
—He complains of both.

12032. Except this farm of Nunton, of which almost all the delegates have spoken, is there any other large farm in the island suitable for subdivision into crofts ?
—Yes, there are.

12033. What are their names ?
—The island of Wia.

12034. Who occupies it?
—It belongs to the farm of Nunton.

12035. I was asking, except the farm of Nunton?
—I don't know of any.

12036. That is to say, Nunton takes up all the good land except what the crofters have ?
—Nunton is the best land.

12037. Do you think that that farm, broken up, would be able to give reasonable crofts to all the people of the place ?
—It would not supply the half.

12038. Then how do you propose to deal with the people?
—The island of Wia is now a portion of Nunton farm, formerly part of the two townships of Torlum and Griminish. This island maintained a stock of three hundred sheep, fifty heifers, and thirty horses. From that stock you can conceive the island is good. So that if those two townships already mentioned received the island back, along with the original strip of ground adjoining Nunton, our difficulty might be solved.

12039. Perhaps that might do for these two townships, but what of all the other townships that have been asking for a piece of Nunton ?
—The proprietrix at present has in her own occupancy two vacant tacks called Ledistrom and Cregston. If the crofters who are burdening Linicleit should be removed there, this would remove the pressure upon Linicleit.

12040. Do you think there are other places on the estate to accommodate all the people that are burdening the other townships as well ?
—I believe there are plenty of places.

12041. So that the whole population, and not merely the half, could be accommodated ?
—Plenty of places.

12042. How could you provide stock for those who would have to be removed to those two tacks, if you say they are already so destitute ?
—That is a large case. They have no stock.

12043. You would not like that the estate should be without large farms altogether here and there, would you?
— I would not wish them to possess so very much as they do now.

12044. But you would like that there should be some few large holdings in the place ?
—That would require to be in every country—a difference in the size of the holdings.

12045. The people would be all the better off by the large farms as well as the crofts, some of them being larger and some smaller?
—Yes, a poor man cannot go to a big holding.

12046. A previous delegate stated, about the price of meal here, that the price of oatmeal was 50s. to £ 3 per load. Is that the case?
—I believe it costs about 50s.

12047. If you got it from Glasgow direct, what do you pay for a bag of oatmeal in Glasgow ?
—£2, 4s.

12048. What is the freight of the steamer to this place ?
—2s. 6d. per bag altogether. It costs 3s. 6d. for the carriage of it to my house; so that the total cost of a bag of meal, when it reaches my house, is £ 2 , 8s.

12049. Do you pay less in Glasgow for a bag of oatmeal1?
—I paid 22s. to a Glasgow merchant for one boll of oatmeal.

12050. I suppose the merchant is a family grocer that supplies meal, as well as other things, on credit?
—No credit longer than fourteen days, or over three weeks.

12051. I suppose you are quite sure that is the case about the meal?
—I am perfectly certain.

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