North Uist, 30 May 1883 - Rev Donald Mclean

Rev. DONALD M'LEAN, Free Church Minister, Carinish (60)—examined.

12594. The Chairman.—Were you born in this country?
—No, I was born in Skye.

12595. You have been here about eleven years?

12596. We have heard a great deal about the recent destitution of the people and the deterioration of their circumstances. Have you observed that of late years ?
—Well, of course this year has been worse with them than any previous year since I came to this place, on account of the storms and tides and the failure of the harvest.

12597. Are you aware that any part of the poorer people are actually in want of clothing and of bedding in their houses ?
—They are in need of clothing and of food—many of the poorer people.

12598. Do you think that any of the poorer people have had recourse to shell-fish and substitutes of that sort for food ?
— Many of the poorer people are always in the way of going to the ebb for shell-fish. That is always the case.

12599. Do you find a great difference between the crofters and cottars ? Are the cottars much more liable to destitution ?
—In the nature of things, the cottars must be so. There must be some difference, for the cottars have less to depend upon.

12600. How do you find the parochial board in their dealings with the poor ? Do you find they pay attention to their duty, or that there is a proper distribution of relief to paupers?
—I am not a member of the parochial board. I hear many of the paupers complaining, but I am not member of the board.

12601. But, not being a member of the board, you are the more capable of giving an opinion on their conduct. Do you think the allowances made are defective or sufficient ?
—I know the allowance is bare enough. At the same time, a number of the rate-payers find the expenditure enough.

12602. Do you find that the destitute circumstances of families are such that the children are prevented from going to church or school by want of clothing?
—I am fully aware of that; many of them being so destitute that they can not really attend church or school for want of clothing.

12603. You have not been engaged in farming yourself ?
—Not much. I have one small park.

12604. But you are not, in fact, personally very conversant with their agricultural condition?
—I cannot say that I am.

12605. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—You said they were in the habit of going to the ebb for food ?
—Yes, I think so.

12606. Was that also the custom in Skye where you came from ?
—It was.

12607. And that custom here has never ceased ?
—I should think not.

12608. Will they get wholesome food in that way ?
—It is a help. They do not depend upon it by any means.

12609. What do they get ?
—They get cockles for the most part here.

12610. Do they get sand eels ?
—I am not aware of their getting them. They may, but I cannot say.

12611. The island of Boreray is not in your parish?

12612. Do you think the schools are properly administered here, so far as you have seen ?
—Well, we have a good deal to do with both schools.

12613. One of the witnesses to-day complained that the children were not taught to read their Bible in Gaelic. Have you anything to complain of on that score ?
—We try to supplement that. We have Gaelic schoolmasters; we have Sabbath schools, and we supplement what is not attended to in the board schools the best way we can.

12614. Are you able to do so satisfactorily?
—Well, so far; perhaps not satisfactorily, but so far as we can we try to overtake the thing.

12615. Would you like to see Gaelic reading taught more largely than it is in the board schools, or are there Gaelic-speaking teachers to do it ?
—We have a number of teachers who have not Gaelic. I am always pleading for the Gaelic in our schools. I pleaded for it with the school board, and I should like to see it in all our board schools.

12616. To what extent would you like to see it?
—To the extent of every child being able to read the Bible.

12617. Gaelic is still the chief language of the country here ?

12618. Do they understand English ?
—They do.

12619. Do you find the young people able to attend the English sermon ?
—Most of them understand the English sermon.

12620. And able to read their English Bible ?

12621. Except in this one year, you do not think the circumstances of the people are getting worse from what you first remember ?
—There is a general complaint of the land being so much exhausted that in the nature of things the crofts cannot be so sufficient as they were in former times.

12622. Do you remember the time when that complaint was not made?
—Not in this island, of course; being so long in the island, I know it as matter of fact.

12623. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Do you preach in English?
—Very little.

12624. You don't preach steadily in English?

12625. What is the number of people who generally attend your congregation ?
—Well, this meeting house is generally about full, and at the communion season it cannot hold the people by any means. The parish is made up so much of detached islands that we must have service in various places besides here.

12626. How many will this building contain?
—When full, about 300 people.

12627. Is there another Free Church clergyman in North Uist?
—Not just now. There is a vacant congregation.

12628. What is the name of the place ?

12629. How many people are in your parish?
—In the statement which I gave in to the presbytery I had Benbecula, but that is now made a separate parish. I had between 600 and 700 people including Benbecula. I should say there are now between 400 and 500.

12630. How many are there in Paible?
—Some 800 or 900 or more.

12631. Is there temporary supply at Paible ?
—We have been trying to get ministers there, but they have been refusing our calls.

12632. Are you a member or the school board ?

12633. And you have been as yet unable to get Gaelic taught regularly?
—I am not aware of Gaelic being taught in any of our board schools, but we have Gaelic teachers apart from our board schools, and Sabbath schools besides.

12634. Suppose Gaelic were ordered to be made a special subject, would there be any difficulty in the Western Islands of getting competent teachers?
—No, there would not.

12635. And you are perfectly clear that the Gaelic-speaking children are entitled at the hands of the Government to be taught to read the Bible in their mother tongue ?
—I think so.

12636. Sheriff Nicolson.—We have heard something of the persecution of Free Church people in this district, not within recent times, but in former times, though not very long ago. Do you know anything about
it ?
—I have heard of it, but really from my own observation I cannot say. There has been nothing of the kind since I came here.

12637. Are there any of the delegates here who know or have experienced anything of it?
—I am sure they should know.

12638. Was there any place, in particular
—The evictions of course took place in former times, but I cannot say they were entirely for the Church. It is possible, but I am not in a position to say that.

12639. But now-a-days I suppose there is no difference made in the terms of landlord and tenant and of neighbours between each other, on account of the church they belong to ?
—No, we are on the very best of terms in that respect

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