JOHN BOYD, Crofter, Houghgarry (65)—examined.
12918. The Chairman.—Have you got a statement to make on the part of the people of Houghgarry? —Yes.
—' Unto the Commissioners on Crofters in the North Highlands and Western Isles. The Memorial of the Crofters in the Township of Houghgarry, Parish of North Uist,— Humbly sheweth, that they have many grievances to complain of, which they respectfully beg leave to bring under the notice of the Commissioners. They desire to state that none of them have any grounds of complaint against their present proprietor, who neither increased their rents nor evicted any person for arrears—and his factor has always acted a judicious part towards their interesb. Their principal grievance is the want of sufficient arable land to enable them to support themselves and families comfortably; also, the scarcity of grazing for their stock of cattle and horses —the former feed mostly in winter on sea-ware, the cattle falling in swoon or fainted down on the ground after eating it. In summer and harvest they are fed with green corn, nettles, and other weeds carried by women in creels on their backs both morning and evening a distance of two miles. Their rents were fixed on the consideration of the manufacture of kelp, which work enabled them to pay their rents regularly, besides maintaining themselves and families while engaged at that labour; moreover, they had grazing for their horses until the 1st August. Your memorialists have already represented their destitute condition to the proprietor, and brought under his special notice that a considerable portion of their land on the west side named Airdarunara, and the hill pendicle of Bireval had been taken from their predecessors and forefathers, and was first added to the farm of Penmore, and afterwards to the tack of Balranald, without allowing any reduction of rent. They further stated that they would willingly pay the present rent, if the said land was restored to them for it would enable them to raise better and larger crop, and also enable them to give rest to their present small holdings, of which no part has been left unfilled for sixty years past. The said point of Aird is near the shore, and convenient for raising potatoes, the soil being sandy, which is now found the best preventative against the disease ; besides it would afford room for grazing and wintering our cattle—the possession of it would save them the trouble of carrying sea-ware with carts to the Outer Geary or Park, a distance of four miles from the shore.—In our own names and by authority of the rest of the crofters in the township, RODERICK MACDONALD, MALCOLM BOYD, LACHLAN MACDONALD X his mark, JOHN
' MACDONALD x his mark, JOHN MACDONALD X his mark.—Houghgarry,
22nd May 1883. We have also to state that we were not summoned when Ardirunara (the sandy soil) nor Bireval hill were taken from us and given to the Benvore and afterwards to Balranald's tack, also the drain that was drying the land for the grass to grow at Benvore and the afore-said Aird. We were forced to work at the drain forty days' work a year and that for fourteen years, without anything for that labour but a little bit of bread and gruel at dinner time once a day, and this laud which we had ourselves before was taken from us and added to the Balranald's tack, and us forced to drain for grass the said tack, and when we at last were so tired of forcing us to this slavery of work, refused to work this work, drains what we had ourselves before, and working at it for nothing but for the aforesaid tack. There was a certain messenger sent to us for forcing us to the work, which we refused to do for the tack. But if we would get that land which was taken from us, which was our own right, that we would drain the whole of for ourselves. But the messenger said that it.was useless to speak of that more, for that was under lock and key at another.—DONALD MACLEAN X his mark, JAMES MACLELLAN X his mark, Widow NORMAN MACDONALD X her mark, ROBY MACDONALD X his mark, ALLAN MACDONALD X his mark, ROKY MACDONALD X his mark,
ARCHY MACLEAN X his mark, MURDOCH MACDONALD X his mark.' I also present the following statement on behalf of the cottars of Houghgarry:
—' Unto the Royal Commissioners on Highland Crofters. The Memorial of the Undersigned Cottars residing in the Township of Houghgarry, Parish of North Uist,—Humbly sheweth, that from the want of land for tillage, it is hardly possible for your memorialists to make but a bare livelihood, especially such of them as have families to provide for. They are in the habit of getting annually small patches of ground for raising potatoes from the crofters, to whom they are a great burden in many ways; were it not for family relationship and other connections with them, your memorialists would, from sheer want of the common necessaries of life, have been on the paupers' roll before now. Their chief hardship is, that they cannot get holdings of land to cultivate, for which they would willingly pay a fair and reasonable rent to the proprietor, who has been demanding yearly rent for the site of their houses, but which they were unable to pay by reason of their destitute circumstances. If each of your memorialists got a suitable portion of ground near the sea-shore for
raising potatoes and corn, in a place convenient for landing sea-ware with creels, it would be the means of ameliorating their present miserable condition. There is abundance of land of that description in many parts of
the west side of the island, if they could only get it. Your memoriahsts humbly submit their case of real hardship for the special investigation and consideration of the Royal Commission.' Signed by fifteen persons.
12919. The principal demand is that a portion of land which is now in the tack of Balranald should be restored to the crofters ?
—It was added first to the tack of a Mr James Maclean, who occupied Benmore.
12920. But it belongs to Balranald now?
—Yes. The marches were such that Balranald was here, and a small strip belonging to this township jutting in between this and the grazing of Benmore, and Mr Cameron, the factor, just added on this bit to Benmore without consulting the people about it.
12921. Do you know when the tack of Balranald will expire?
[Mr Macdonald.—It should be out soon].
12922. Have you brought your wishes under the consideration of the proprietor ?
—Yes; before the proprietor and the factor.
12923. Could this portion now belonging to Balranald be taken back and restored to them without serious injury to the farm of Balranald?
—Oh yes, it could easily be done. It is only forty-five years since it was added to Balranald.
12924. With regard to the complaint from the cottars on your place, how do those cottars come to be there? —Some of them were reared in the place, and others came from everywhere.
12925. Were most of them the natural increase of population in that place ?
—Yes, most of them belonged to the place.
12926. How do they earn their subsistence? Do they go away to work in the Lowlands ?
—They get a patch of land here and there, and they have a horse and cart by which they work that patch of land. The maintenance of that horse falls upon us, which is a very great burden upon us. Some of them go south to work, and make their living in all sorts of ways.
12927. Do they pay rent to the landlord or to the crofters?
—They pay no rent to the crofters. I don't think they pay to the proprietor either.
12928. Have you heard what has been stated to-day by the other delegates ?
—I did not hear much of it.
12929. Then your chief demand is for increase of land?
—Yes, we are very much crowded in. We have no provender for the cattle. We have no pasture at alL Our cattle die for want of grass.
12930. Don't you say in your paper that the cattle die from eating seaweed ?
—It appears that when they go and eat the sea-ware during the day, unless they get a good bellyful of barley fodder when they come home, they fall into a trance and die.
12931. Is that in consequence of the sea-ware being poisonous or in consequence of their not getting food besides ?
—It is not any poison in the sea-ware, but when they eat it it takes the heart out of them, and unless they are refreshed by a feed of barley they are the worse of that; but if they are, they are the better of it. Then we give them hand-feeding twice a day during summer and autumn.
12932. Mr Cameron.—Why have the people put their marks to these petitions ?
—Because they are not able to write.
12933. Can nobody in your township write his own name?
12934. Out of how many?
—There are twenty crofters and fourteen cottars.
12935. And only those out of all these can write their own names ?
—There are only three of the crofters. It may be that a cottar may be able to sign his name.