North Uist, 30 May 1883 - Malcolm Mcinnes

MALCOLM M'INNES, Crofter, Tighary (48)—examined.
12228. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by your people ?

12229. Have you a written statement to put in?
—Yes, this is my statement. ' Unto the Royal Commissioners on Highland Crofters. The Memorial of the Crofters in the Township of Tighary, Parish of North Uist, —Humbly sheweth, that at a meeting of the crofters it was unanimously resolved and agreed upon, that the following statement of the causes of their complaints should be handed to the Commissioners by one of the selected delegates, as a preliminary remark, that each and all of them have no cause of complaint against their present proprietor, because in his time he neither increased their rents nor evicted any person for arrears; nor have they any fault whatever to find with his judicious factor. In common with others on the estate, they complain that drainage money is still continued to be charged against them since 1848. Their principal grievance, however, is the smallness of their holdings, which are quite inadequate to support themselves and families in comfort; therefore, they would prefer that each of them should possess three crofts instead of one, which would enable them to have a regular rotation in cropping, because the tillage land is getting poor year by year from incessant cultivation, consequently is less productive, the chief manure used being sea-ware. Their horses then would be reduced by half the present number, which are weak in strength to carry cart-loads of sea-ware from the shore to the tillage land—a distance of two miles. To point out the scarcity and inferiority of grazing, a cow's grass only costs eight shillings a year. With respect to their rent, it was originally fixed in connection with the annual manufacture of kelp, which was fetching a high price at market by means of this labour. Rents were paid regularly, and  sometimes a supply of meal was given by the proprietor in advance, besides grazing was allowed to the horses employed till 1st August. In common with other townships on the west side of the island, Tighary had the privilege and right to the hill pendicle of Langash, for which, if restored, they would willingly pay a  reasonable rent to the proprietor, for it would be of considerable benefit for the purpose of improving the condition of their young stock of cattle previous to the July cattle market held at Lochmaddy. With respect to the Education Act, they find that the school fees are too high and difficult for some of them to pay quarterly. They would consider it expedient and proper that Gaelic should be taught in the public schools, in order that the children might be able to read the Bible in their mother tongue. Without the least doubt, there is plenty of arable and hill land in North Uist for the whole population, if properly and equitably divided; for by reference to the map of the island, as well as to the valuation roll, it can be clearly seen that the greater part of the best
tillage and grazing land is occupied by a few tacksmen. We repeat the chief reform we stand in need of, viz., a larger holding of land, fixity of tenure, and remuneration for improvements. There are fifteen cottars in the township. They are certainly a great burden in various ways, and the sooner they get holdings for themselves the better for our interest. The delegates can corroborate the above statements.—Your memorialists will ever pray. We subscribe this document for ourselves and by authority of the rest of the crofters in this township.—Tighary, North Uist, 25th May 1883.—JOHN M'LEAN, JOHN M'INTYRE, JOHN M'QUEEN.'

12230. Was this document read to and understood by the rest of the crofters who do not sign it?
—Yes, it was read both in Gaelic and English.

12231. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—You have stated in this paper that Gaelic should be taught in the schools. I presume, therefore, there is no Gaelic taught in the schools of North Uist
—Not in our place anyhow.

12232. Has the teacher any Gaelic ?
—Plenty of it.

12233. Would there be any difficulty do you think in getting teachers that could teach Gaelic in the whole of North Uist ?
—I don't think there would be any difficulty.

12234. You state that there are fifteen cottars upon this place. How many crofters are there altogether? —There are twenty crofts, but a few are double.

12235. How did that arise? Was it from vacancy or eviction, or how did people manage to get more than one?
—Some of them went voluntarily to America.

12236. Would you explain about this drainage money which you say has been going on since 1848? Were you told at the time it was first put that it would cease after a number of years ?
—There was talk to that effect any way—that it would cease at the end of twenty years, but I am not certain about that.

12237. Did you make any representation to the factor that it should now cease after the twenty years were over ?—I never spoke to him myself, but some told me that they did speak to him.

12238. What was the answer?
—His reply was that he himself was paying it yet to the Government.

12239. Which factor was that?
—Mr Macdonald, the present factor.

12240. You complain that the whole pendicle of Langash has been taken from your town, and if restored you would willingly pay rent for it. To whom was Langash given ?
—It was taken away long ago, before I was of much sense, but I am not very sure that the crofters ever had it, but it was attached to this township. I believe it was taken away before the place was divided into crofts.

12241. Who has it just now?
—Mr Macrae, tenant of Langash.

12242. Is that a large farm?
—No, it is not large.

12243. What rent would you be willing to give for it if you got it back ?
—We cannot say, but a reasonable rent.

12244. You are willing to pay a reasonable rent?

12245. Do you know what the total rent of Mr Macrae's possession is?
—No, I don't know.

12246. You say here that there is plenty arable and hill land in North Uist for the whole population if properly and equitably divided, and that the best part of the tillage and grazing is occupied by a few tacksmen. Would you mention the names of some of these tacks ?
—The place where I was born, on the other side of the country, is under sheep by a nonresident tenant.

12247. What is the name of it?
—The tenant is Widow Macdonald. There are two farms—Grenetote and Dramauen. In these two places
there were twenty-four crofters.

12248. What became of these twenty-four crofters?
—They were sent away to America, the whole of them except one, and my father.

12249. Who sent them away?
—Mr Shaw, the factor.

12250. Was the property then Lord Macdonald's?

12251. How long is it since this happened?
—Forty-two years.

12252. Did these people go of their own will, or was pressure brought upon them to go to America ?
—The proprietor sent them away.

12253. Now, can you name another suitable place?
—Upon the other side of it again there are Arisa and Avore.

12254. Who possesses them now ?

12255. Were there any people put out of them?
—Every one of them.

12256. How many?
—I cannot tell bow many.

12257. Were they considerable?

12258. What became of them?
—They went to America, the most of them.

12259. In the same way, under pressure?
—In the same way.

12260. About the same time?
—Yes, about the same time, or perhaps before it.

12261. Can you name any other places ?
—Remisgarry, Clachan, Scoloba, Balmaconnon, Caolas, Bal-vic-pheall.

12262. Who now possesses Remisgarry?

12263. Clachan ?

12264. Scoloba ?

12265. Caolas ?
—The factor has it,

12266. You have mentioned three places—Remisgarry, Clachan, and Scoloba Is there any other place from which people have been dispossessed and of which Balranald is the tenant ?
—I am not certain about others, but I am certain about those I have named.

12267. How many were put out of Remisgarry ?
—I cannot say. There are some here who know these matters better than I do.

12268. And out of Clachan ?
—I cannot tell.
12269. Scoloba ?
— I cannot tell how many were sent out of any of these places.

12270. Would you mention the name of anyone who knows?
—John Morrison, who was brought up in that place.

12271. Do you know any particulars about Caolas? Is that a farm that would be suitable for crofters ?
—I know Caolas would be a suitable place for crofters. They were there before.

12272. How many were turned out of that place?
—I cannot say, but John Morrison knows.

12273. And Bal-vic-pheall ?
—I cannot tell you how many were sent away from that.

12274. Who has got Bal-vic-pheall now?
—The factor has it.

12275. Can you mention any other large tacks besides those you have named that would be suitable ?
—Yes, Sollas.

12276. Can you tell us about the Sollas evictions ?
—I can give some account of them, but there are delegates here who could tell more about them than I can. John Morrison is one and Donald M'Queen is another.

12277. Mr Cameron.—What rent do you pay for your croft?
—£6, and perhaps a few shillings more.

12278. How many acres of arable ground have you?
—I cannot tell how many acres. It is not very large. Perhaps there should be from seven to eight acres.

12279. How many cows have you?
—We are not able to keep stock at all, although we have them. They are really dying of hunger. Our summing is four cows.

12280. How many cows have you got?
—I have four.

12281. How many young cattle?
—Three small stirks.

12282. How many horses ?

12283. How many sheep ?
—I smeared twenty-eight sheep, but probably a good number of them are dead by this time.

12284. Has this been a bad winter for them ?
—Yes, it was a bad season, and there is a great scarcity of grass. It was sea-ware that kept them alive.

12285. Is that the ordinariy size of croft that your neighbours have?
— Yes, it is the average size; some larger and some smaller.

12286. Is the rent about the average rent?
—Yes, the rent is also the average ; some greater and some smaller.

12287. Do the crofters complain of the rent being too high ?
—The rent of the croft must be large when we are not able to make our living out of it.

12288. Do all the crofters in your township have sheep?
—Yes, more or less.

12289. And all of them have horses?
—Yes, every one has a horse.

12290. There is no such thing as what we have heard of in some of the other islands—women drawing the harrow, or that sort of thing ?

12291. Have there been any evictions since the present proprietor came into possession
—I never saw any one sent away from our township, but one who was very far back in arrears of rent.

12292. Is there any general feeling of alarm lest the people should be removed as they were in former times? —I never experienced any such feeling.

12293. I see in this paper that the crofters ask for fixity of tenure—do you know what that means ?
—We mean by the phrase fixity of tenure that in the event of our getting more land, as we ask for, we would be able to work upon it, and we would be settled down upon it without any fear that we would be removed from it.

12294. Do you wish fixity of tenure in your present holding, or would you restrict that to the possibility of getting a larger holding?
—I don't ask for it for my present holding; we never thought of that.

12295. Have you never considered whether a long lease might not answer your purpose, provided you got larger holdings?
—We would likfully better that the tenure should be as long as we would pay the rent, and as long as people would behave themselves properly. We would fully prefer that to any lease.

12296. Is there any work going on in the island?
—I am not aware of anything but repairing roads, and a little kelp made out of the drift weed since the other kelp ceased to be made.

12297. Do the people fish at all ?
—Not in our place, unless there may be a few who fish lobsters now and again. Our coast is so wild and exposed that it is not suitable for fishing.

12298. Then what I understand is that though you are not dissatisfied with your present holdings, you wish to have such large holdings as would enable you to live as farmers on a farm, and not be dependent upon labour
to maintain your families?
—That is it exactly—the very thing we want—that we could make a living out of our crofts by our own labour. We don't want to be gentlemen.

12299. Is there any land suitable for the purpose of enlarging your holdings which is adjacent to the township you represent ?
—No, crofters surround us on every hand.

12300. Then how would you propose to enlarge your holdings without shifting the crofters altogether to these large tacks ?
—The big tacks are there ready for us getting a share of them.

12301. Would half of the people be ready to migrate altogether to the big tacks, so as to leave the present township to be divided among the remainder ?
—Yes, quite willing.

12302. Have many of the people in your township got sufficient money to stock these larger holdings ?
—I believe there are not many. They could not very well be in such a position, but if justice was done to the present stock we have, we could perfectly well take up larger holdings, for the stock really would require twice the amount of croft in order to support it properly. The cows have no milk, and they are not properly fed.

12303. In other places we have had a request made for Government aid to stock the larger holdings they ask for, but as I understand from you the people here would not require that—they would be able to do it themselves
— Oh yes, they would be glad to get it. Although their own stock would increase in a few years so as to stock the place completely, still they would have a hard struggle for these few years without such aid.

12304. Would they be able to build houses for themselves, provided that at the end of the lease, or whatever term their occupation lasted, they got compensation for their houses ?
—They would be very glad to do so.

12305. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—Where do you get the cow's grass?
—In order to keep up our stock we always require to keep young beasts. It sometimes happens that one may have a cow over-much and another may have a cow short, in which case the man who is short of a cow is able to rent out a cow's grass to the one who has a cow over-much.

12306. When was it that Tighary was divided among crofters and Langash taken from it ?
—I am not perfectly certain. We came to it ourselves forty-two years ago, but I believe it is nearly sixty years since it was laid out.

12307. Who held Tighary and Langash before it was lotted?
—The parish ministers had it.

12308. As a glebe?
—They rented it ; it was not part of the glebe.

12309. Do you know where Balmaconnon is situated?
—It lies between Bal-vic-pheall and Clachan, but though I know the district, there are so many names that perhaps I could not describe the particular locality.

12310. Have you been discussing these names lately?

12311. From whom did you hear about Balmaconnon ?
—Ever since I was born I used to hear tell of that district as having been occupied by crofters, and of the people having been evicted from the whole country side there.

12312. Professor Mackinnon.—To what school do the children of Tighary go ?
—There is a school in Tighary itself.

12313. Is there no Gaelic taught in that school?

12314. I happen to know that the children are remarkably good Gaelic scholars. Where do they learn to read their Gaelic ?
—They learn their Gaelic from their mothers. I don't know how they learn to read it. There was, and is still, a Gaelic schoolmaster at Houghary, where some of them may have learned it, but the present children don't go there now.

12315. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Is there a great scarcity of milk in your town?
—It is scarce enough at present.

12316. I ask that, because in other places it is given as a reason for consuming a lot of tea. Does that apply to your township?
—There will be tea at all hazards.

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