North Uist, 30 May 1883 - Archibald Macdonald

ARCHIBALD MACDONALD, Crofter, Knockline (44)—examined.

12961. The Chairman.—Have you a statement to make to us?
—Yes— Unto the Chairman of the Royal Commission. This statement is in behalf of the crofters of Knockline, seen and approved of by the same tenants. I was born in the township of Knockline, in which I am now a crofter. My father was a crofter there also. According to the history of this township, as I learned from my father and other old pepole who inhabited the place from time immemorial up till the time of my father, and those living at that time, it was tenanted by eight crofters, paying a reasonable rent. Each crofter at that time lived very comfortably, buying very little of foreign produce if any at all. The division of the township into crofts was rearranged, and instead of eight as formerly there are now twenty crofts, and the rent is increased according to that. Some time ago Loch Eport side belonged to our township, which was of immense use to us for grazing our cattle during the summer time. This place was taken from us, and we got no reduction of rent, although we were deprived of the place. This place was afterwards given to the tenants who were evicted from Sollas. Thirty-two years ago our crofts were drained, and we were told at that time that we were to pay a certain sum yearly for the said drainage, and at the end of twenty years we were to stop paying
it. For twelve years now we are paying that money, and not only that but it has been put upon us with rates as part of our legal rent. Marivall was our hill pasture by rights, and we now pay three shillings each for it. At present there are twenty-three crofters or, more properly, twenty crofters, and three of these subdivided —and twelve cottars. These twelve cottars pay a yearly rent to the proprietor, and although they are a burden upon us we get no reduction of rent for what they pay to the proprietor. We have a piece of common where we keep our cattle sometimes, and which is very convenient to us, especially in harvest and spring, from which the proprietor cut a small park last year for one of the cottars who is not a native of the place at all. We sent him a petition, which showed him how inconvenient it would be for us to part with any of that ground, and how unwilling we were to do so, but the said petition was of no consequence to us. He did not reduce a single penny of our rent for what he gave to that cottar. Our lots are by far too small for us, and as the land does not get any rest by leaving part of it uncultivated for some years, it has been rendered unproductive and poor, and before we can be raised to better circumstances we must get more land. If some of the tacks on this estate were divided, there would be enough of land for the people. We would urgently demand the right to buy our holdings for so many years, to have them increased to as much land as will support each family in comfort; that we should not be removed from our holdings as long as we pay fair rent; that we shall have compensation for whatever improvements we make on our dwelling houses and crofts in the event of our being removed.—ARCHY MACDONALD, ARCHY MACDONALD, Knockline.'

12962. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—How much land was taken off you for the cottar of whom you complain?
—A piece that was right in the heart of the township, which formed a track for the cows of the township to got round the bay back and forward to the pasture.

12963. What was the extent of it?
—I don't know that there was an acre of it altogether; but still it was a great loss to us.

12964. Was your petition put into writing?
—Yes, and the proprietor would not take it from our hands except by putting it through the hands of the factor; and then we sent a petition to the factor, and we never heard anything more about it.

12965. Do you know what this cottar is paying for the land?
—The factor can answer that question. The rumour was that he paid £ 1 .

12966. So not only is the proprietor getting £ 1 , but he is getting that over and above the old rent, besides putting you to great inconvenience ?
—Yes, and every crofter upon the township that pays rent he gets £1 from him too.

12967. Do you know that each of these cottars pays £ 1 ?
—The greater part of them pay £ 1 .

12968. You mention that Loch Eport side belonged to your township Did the Loch Eport people get the exclusive right to the part you refer to, or had they merely the power of putting their beasts on the hill ?
—It was taken from us entirely. There is not a hoof of our cattle there since they got possession.

12969. And no reduction of rent?

12970. What was the value of that piece which was taken from you? Would it be worth £10?
—Yes, it would be well worth £10.

12971. What is the total rent that the twenty crofters are paying the landlord just now?
—£5 or £6, up to £ 8 a piece; I cannot tell the total amount

12972. How long is it since that rent was fixed?
—When the crofts were lotted out the rents were fixed in that way.

12973. And since then the hill that the Loch Eport people got use of has been taken from you ?

12974. The Chairman.—Do you know whether the Loch Eport people pay rent to the landlord, and how much ?
—I know that five or six of them pay rent.

12975. How much?
—So far as I can make out, they pay £ 1 a piece.

12976. There is a paper sent in here by the cottars of Knockline, in which they say that they pay rent from 12s. 6d. to £ 1 , 10s. Are you aware that one of the cottars pays as much as £ 1 , 10s. ?
—Yes ; I knew that one of them paid 30s. once, but I understood it was reduced last year and this year. Twelve years after the crofts were lotted out, additional two crofts were taken out

12977. Are you aware that the cottars of the place are also complaining?
—Yes, and they have reason; but still we have great reason to complain of their being a burden to us in addition to all our other burdens. There is plenty of land, if only the cottars and poor people who need it
got it.

12978. Then your principal demand is more land, and you agree with what has been said in your presence to-day?
—Yes, our complaint is the smallness of our holdings, and that the land which there is does not give good crops in these years. The following is the statement of the cottars of Knockline, referred to in the examination of this witness :
—' Unto the Chairman and Royal Commissi on to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, at the meeting to be held at Loch Eport on 30th May 1883. Statement, Petition, and Complaint of the Cottars of Knockline, —Honourable Gentlemen, We the above cottars have to state, that we are in a miserable condition as to the way we live. We are left as a burden on the crofters, without any way of living by labour in this island. There is no public works in it that keep us and our families alive, and nothing is given or allowed to us. Our hovels or
poor habitations are so close to the sea, and in such a low place, that the tides are coming into our houses; sometimes now and then that we were almost drowned, and obliged to save ourselves on the top of our beds.
Our peats, potatoes, &c, swept away by the tide. Besides this, we are not allowed to remove or get houses built in higher grounds to save us from the tide; also are charged such heavy rents for these hovels, from 12s. 6d. to £ 1 , 10s. &c, which the most of us have not any thing to pay for it. We beg the Commissioners that they would consider our poor and miserable state or case, and plead hard in Parliament for us, who have no money or other stock; to plead for us to get some waste land, with rushes and heather plentiful, annexed to large tacks, without any profit to those who have, might be useful to us to cultivate and keep us alive. The number of cottars at Knockline is sixteen; Balemore, eleven; Knock-an-Torran, nineteen.'

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