JAMES M'CORQUIDALE, Crofter, Carinish (77)—examined.
12317. The Chairman.—Have you been freely elected a delegate?
12318. How many people were present at the meeting when you were elected?
—Every one of them—twenty-two in number.
12319. You have a statement to submit to the Commission?
—Yes. The following statement has been agreed to by the crofters of Carinish, at a meeting held on the 25th May. In the year 1814, I, James M'Corquidale, remember the whole township of Carinish being in the hands of eight tenants, paying £7, 10s. each; now there are twenty-two tenants, paying upwards of £140. Twelve crofts are divided into half crofts, with two families on each. Besides the crofters, there are twenty-two cottars, making fifty-five or fifty-six families. The place is greatly over-crowded. Carinish is the highest rented farm in North Uist. The rent was fixed when the kelp was in great demand; the crofters were manufacturing the kelp at £ 1 , 15s. per ton, and the proprietor selling it at £21 per ton; but as there is no kelp made now, the rent should be reduced. Our hill pasture is the poorest on the estate ; and although we keep some sheep, we generally lose them in winter for the want of proper grazing for them. We have still some cattle and horses left, but they are reduced to skin and bone, and they will not sell at the July market owing to their miserable condition. Our liabilities are so great, that supposing we sold all our cattle we would still be left in debt. We are deeply in arrears to the proprietor, and in debt to Glasgow merchants for meal and seed this year; and also heavy in debt to local merchants, tailors, shoemakers, &c. Another cause of complaint is the drainage money; we are still paying the interest as part of our rent. Poor-rates and school-rates, &c, are charged on this drainage money, which has been refunded to Government a long time ago. All the drains made with that money are now quite useless, and require to be re-opened at once, as they do more harm than good to the ground. What is absolutely required is more land, with an assurance that the land is ours as long as we pay fair rent for fair value. The Government must interfere to guarantee each crofter in his holding. We will be glad to answer any questions the Commissioners like to ask us as far as we know.—JAMES M'CORQUIDALE, ROBERT FERGUSON.'
12320. Professor Mackinnon.—Was your father one of the eight tenants in Carinish in 1814?
12321. Were your circumstances then much more comfortable than they are now ?
—Yes, very much.
12322. How many cows did you keep at that time?
—Each had eight cows with their followers.
12323. How many horses and sheep ?
—Two horses and about twenty sheep.
12324. Were you buying any meal from Glasgow then ?
—No, we did not require it. There was plenty meal growing out of the ground, and potatoes as well.
12325. Did you ever use to sell meal and potatoes at that time?
—Yes, we did, at 20d. per barrel for potatoes.
12326. Do you ever sell meal or potatoes now?
—No, we are always buying them.
12327. How long does your own meal last you generally?
—This year all the meal that was made in Carinish would not supply the people for a month.
12328. And how long did the potatoes last?
—They lasted this year till the middle of spring.
12329. Did you buy potatoes after that, or did you do without potatoes ?
— We buy potatoes when our own supply is done.
12330. Where do you get potatoes for seed?
—We got them this year from the factor.
12331. You had to pay for them, of course ?
—We were glad to get them even for payment.
12332. Did you get a present of them this season?
—I don't know. They were not promised to us for nothing. It may be that they will not be charged for.
12333. Then did you get seed for your corn, or had you to buy seed ?
—We had no oats. We got them from the factor. We got a great deal from him both of barley and oats.
12334. What is your principal crop here? Is it barley?
12335. Do you plant any other green crop than potatoes? Do you plant turnips or any of these roots ?
12336. Is your ground not suitable for them?
—The ground is suitable enough, but people would steal the turnips.
12337. What is your summing?
—Five cows and a two-year-old; two horses; eight sheep. That is what I am allowed to keep.
12338. What is your present rent?
12339. Do you consider that rent too high?
—Certainly I do. I consider it twice as much as the croft is worth.
12340. You have cottars among you?
12341. Have they lands also?
—No, they have no lands.
12342. Do they not get a bit to plant potatoes or a little oats?
—Yes; they get some potato ground from the crofters.
12343. Don't they pay rent for their houses to the laird?
—I am not certain, but it is said they are charged 10s. for peat ground and houses.
12344. Did any of the increased number of tenants since 1814 come from other quarters, or did they all grow upon the place ?
—Some came in upon us from other places.
12345. But I suppose a good many of them were the sons of former crofters, who would get half of the father's croft?
—Yes, there are some in that way whose fathers' crofts were divided among their children. It was from the other side of the country that some of the people of Carinish came who have increased the population of the place.
12346. What place did they come from?
—They came from various townships.
12347. Did some of them come from places from which people were sent away ?
—Baile-mhic-phail, Grenitote, Bernera, and Caolas.
12348. Where did the cottars come from?
—Some who lost their lands, and widows. There have been always cottars, but their number was increased
by those who fell into arrear and had to give up their land.
12349. Are they allowed to come there by the laird and factor, or have they come without leave ?
—It was neither the present proprietor nor factor that brought things to this pass. We are perfectly satisfied with our present factor. He never oppressed us in any way.
12350. I know they came long ago, but I want to know whether they came with the will of the laird and factor when they did come ?
—I believe some of them may have come into the place with his permission, but most of them were born in the place.
12351. Do any of them keep cattle and sheep?
—Yes; two at any rate have cattle and sheep.
12352. But I suppose a good many of them have no cow ?
—Yes, most of them are without a cow.
12353. Or sheep ?
—They have all sheep.
12354. Where do these sheep feed ?
—Upon the crofters' ground.
12355. Do they pay anything to the crofters for that?
—Not a penny.
12356. Do they give them any recompense in the shape of labour?
— Not a bit.
12357. Then these cottars, of course, are a great burden to the crofters?
—Yes, a very great burden.
12358. Has the pasture of the crofters at Carinish been diminished since 1814?
—No, only diminished in the sense of people being thrown in upon them. There were only eight to begin with.
12359. Was there any prohibition on the estate, so far as you know, of subdividing crofts ?
—Not at that time.
12360. Is there now ?
—Yes, there is an estate regulation against it just now, but it is not observed.
12361. How many crofters do you think could now live comfortably upon that same place ?
12362. How many cows would you give to each of them ?
—I would give each of them seven cows.
12363. How many sheep ?
12364. And horses ?
12365. What rent would you consider fair?
—I am not able to say what would be considered a reasonable rent.
12366. Do you think the present total rent of £140 is too high?
—Yes, much too high.
12367. Would you think £ 10 each too high a rent for these twelve men
—It would be quite reasonable.
12368. Are you aware of any potatoes having been sold out of North Uist this year ?
—Yes; they were sending potatoes to Glasgow. Those who have machair land—that is on the west side — sent the potatoes to purchase meal.
12369. Do you think they sold all their potatoes?
—I think they sold them all. I was in search of potatoes, and I could not get a single barrel.
— Balemore, Knock-an-torran, Knock-an-lin, and Paiblesgarry.
12371. Do you make kelp now at all?
—No; that was our great misfortune. When the kelp was going on people were getting their living. They would get meal to support their families, and also some money that would pay their rents.
12372. When did it cease to be manufactured ?
—Seven or eight years ago—perhaps ten.
12373. Why did it cease ?
—It was not remunerative. It was not worth the proprietor's while to keep it on.
12374. What was the price?
—The people who worked it got 35s. per ton for manufacturing it.
12375. Did they not get much more than that long ago?
—Yes, when it fetched a high price they got £ 2 and £2, 10s.
12376. What would the proprietor get ?
—1 cannot tell that.
12377. It is said in the paper that you were manufacturing kelp at £1, 15s. and the proprietor was selling it at £21 ?
—That was long ago, when there were only eight people in Carinish—in the year 1814 or thereabout.
12378. How many men would be working altogether in making the kelp ?
—There may have been four in a family that worked together, and that family would make about ten tons in the summer season.
12379. They paid the rent and something more with the kelp in those times ?
—They would take their feeding out of it first of all, and then what remained would go to pay the rent. In some cases they could pay the whole rent, in others the half, and so on.
12380. At your place do most of the people wear clothes of their own wool or cloth bought in shops ?
—At present we buy out of the shops, but in those times we did not require to go to the shop ; we had wool of our own, and women to make cloth of it.
12381. But do not some of them get their cloth made by their own wives?
—Yes, if they have the wooL
12382. How many weavers are there in Carinish?
—There are three weavers, all women.
12383. Are they constantly employed ?
—They get plenty of work if they got payment for it.
12384. Is there a good deal of knitting of stockings and hose done by the women ?
—Yes, they can do that very well.
12385. Do they get a good sale for them ?
—Yes ; sixpence for a pair of socks. We send them to the shops, but we sell them of course to everybody who buys.
12386. How much for hose ?
—They don't make hose. I remember the time when hose were made.
12387. Do they make long stockings?
—Yes; they ask 1s. 6d. for long stockings that come up to the knee.
12388. Do they provide the wool themselves for these prices ?
—Yes. To those who are hard up and without food, even that is considered a great benefit.
12389. Has there been any attempt made to get up a scheme to provide the women of this and surrounding places with regular occupation at a better price than that ?
12390. Who did it ?
—Lady Cathcart. They were making home-made clothes and stockings. I am not certain what price they got for them, buf I heard them say they got a good price, and could make a good living out of it.
12391. Has that ceased?
—I have not heard of it for the last few years.
—I don't know why. The scheme worked only on Lady Cathcart's own estate.
12393. There was nothing of the sort here
12394. Do you think it would be a benefit if somebody would undertake it ?
—Certainly it would be a benefit.
12395. Do you think the women would really produce a steady supply of hosiery that would be profitable to themselves and to the person taking it off their hands ?
—Yes, certainly it would.
12396. The Chairman.—From what source is the rent usually paid ? Is it paid from wages earned elsewhere, or from the sale of animals ?
—Some from the sale of stock ; others out of the proceeds of the east coast fishing.
12397. How is the stock sold ? Is it sent to market, or do dealers come round ?
—Dealers come round us here.
12398. Was there ever any complaint in this island of stock being compulsorily bought by factors or proprietors ?
—There was nothing of that sort with the present proprietor or factor, but I saw the day when that was done — when the stock was taken away, and they would not tell the price that would be given for it.
12399. At what age do you sell the young cattle?—The stots are sold at a year old.
12400. Your memory must extend fifty years back?
12401. What was the price given for a one-year-old animal fifty years ago ?
12402. What is the average price for such an animal now ?
—£6 or £7 last year, which was an exceptional year.
12403. Is the quality of the animals better now than it used to be?
—No, it is worse.
12404. Has there been no effort made to improve the breed by the introduction of good bulls ?
12405. Has that not produced any good effect?
—Yes, it was of great service. We got a bull from Balranald, and we believe it was the means of adding £200 to the township within three years' time.
12406. Then is the present deterioration of the character of the cattle owing to the want of food?
—The want of grass and provender. The ground does not yield fruit either in the shape of seed or of straw as it used to do.
12407. You have stated that you had on your croft five cows ?
—That is my summing.
12408. How many do you actually keep ?
—Three cows and three stirks.
12409. Can you count upon being able to sell a stirk every year?
—Yes. I have at least one every year.
12410. You said that the cottars were a great burden to you. How do the cottars earn their subsistence ?
—I cannot well tell, but in some way or another. They must needs live upon the crofters, and by shell-fish, and in other ways.
12411. You said that the cottars paid no rent, and gave no labour. Are they of no use to you in time of harvest, or in cutting peats, or any other small labour ?
—They help us in casting peats now and again, but we pay them for it.
12412. You said that the people were afraid to sow turnips, because the turnips might possibly be stolen. Is anything else ever stolen ? Do sheep sometimes disappear in the country ?
—Yes, such things are known as sheep disappearing.
12413. Do you think it would be very useful if there were more enclosures and fences round the hill pasture? —Yes, that would be of service.
12414. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—You stated in answer to a question that if the number of families was reduced to twelve, £10 would not be an unreasonable rent ?
12415. I presume you mean along with that that all the cottars should be taken off them ?
—Every one of them.
12416. Do you buy any fodder or any provision for the animals?
—Yes, we do. There are some in Carinish that paid £30 this last year for provender for themselves and their stock, others paid £10, and others £5.
12417. You said, in answer to Lord Napier, that you could on an average sell a beast every year. In point of fact, the money you get for that would not be all profit, because you must make a certain deduction for what you paid for the wintering ?
12418. Have you been in Uist all your life?
—Yes, ever since I was born.
12419. Will you state your opinion as to the condition of people like yourself in your younger days compared with what it is now ?
—The difference is very great. I remember when I was a young man fifty years ago, there used to be cargoes of barley and cargoes of potatoes exported from North Uist. They did not require to go to the militia or elsewhere. They would get plenty of work at home, plenty of food and clothes.
12420. Have their circumstances of late years been getting worse and worse ?
—Certainly they have. For the last fifty-four years I have been continuously cropping the same ground, and how can you expect good crops out of such ground as that ?
12421. Do you know by repute or otherwise that people who have held large tacks in North Uist have made large sums of money, and left the country ?
—I am not aware. I cannot charge my memory with any one that left the country after having made money in such a way.
12422. Were the big tacksmen thriving then or not thriving, so far as repute went
—They themselves would know their own circumstances best, but the general opinion was that they throve, well.
12423. You stated that under the present factor, and under the present proprietor, there was no such thing as animals being taken away by ground officers or others without a price being fixed, but you have heard of it in former times. Will you name the proprietor and factor under whom the thing was done?
—The practice prevailed under Lord Macdonald's proprietorship, and when Allan Cameron was factor.
12424. Was Allan Cameron a stranger?
—He came from Mull.
12425. How long was he factor, and how long since?
—I believe he was factor for about thirty years. His factorship came to an end about forty years ago, but I cannot give accurate dates.
12426. Was any beast taken from yourself?
12427. Will you explain how the thing was done?
—The ground officer, Angus Macdonald, came and gathered all the cattle in the place. Any animal he himself would choose to mark out he would carry away. He would send it off to market, and we would not hear any price fixed for it till after it was sold.
12428. What was his object in taking it in this manner?
—For the rent.
12429. Did you always get credit for the beast sold in settling for the rent?
12430. Did you get the market price for it ?
—We did not know what price it would fetch at the market. They would just give us any price it pleased them to give.
12431. They put whatever price they thought proper to your credit in the rent ?
12432. Was that considered by yourself and the people at the time a very great hardship?
—Yes, and it was very unjust as well
12433. Was there the shadow of a doubt in your mind that more was got for it at the market than was credited ?
—That was our belief, but of course we could not tell. I wish to state that for the last twelve years we are taking our meal home from Glasgow, and though we have stock, it is not our own. A merchant of the name of Thomas Martin, Glasgow, has provided for a large number of the inhabitants. Donald M'Lean, a local merchant in Carinish, also deals. Twelve bags of meal come with every steamer, and I don't think he gets a penny for it, but distributes it among the poor people of the place. He has not a house, and we thought it exceedingly desirable that he should just get forty feet of that ground that we pay rent for, if the proprietor or factor would see fit to give it to him, in order to provide a suitable store, for such a man is very much required, and ought to be encouraged.
12434. Have you spoken to the factor about it ?
12435. Do you complain of the prices of the local merchants ?
—We do not ask the price until we are paying for it, if indeed we can pay for it. Indian meal is 27s. or 28s. per bag over head; flour 35s., and oatmeal about £2 per bag.
12436. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—Is that at Glasgow or here ?