South Uist, 28 May 1883 - Donald Currie

DONALD CURRIE, South Loch Boisdale, Crofter and sometimes Fisherman (47)—examined.

11763. The Chairman.—Have you a written statement ?

11764. Have you any verbal statement to make'
—The great complaint on our side is that the land is very scarce and very poor in quality. There were five crofts, and formerly these crofts were tenanted by five tenants, but now there are fifteen tenants. As a general rule, they purchase eight bags of meal annually—this year twelve bags per family—and I think if the land had been sufficiently good, it would have been amalgamated long ago by tacks, but it is not good enough to make a tack and therefore it has escaped. We wish that we could get a proper croft—a croft sufficient to support a family, and that the croft be valued—the rent to be fixed by valuators, and any draining or trenching or improving of the land we should get compensation for, and a promise not to remove us, which we were too much accustomed to.

11765. What do you regard as a proper croft? What area of arable land, and what number of cows and horses, &,c. ?
—We would require a croft to hold six cows and two horses, and as many sheep as would keep a family
in clothing—that is from forty to fifty head.

11766. How many acres arable?
—I cannot state acres—as much arable land as would supply a family with food.

11767. How many bolls of oats and how many barrels potatoes would you want to sow ?
—I would like to plant an average of twenty barrels a year.

11768. How many barrels of oats?
—Eight barrels of oat seed and twenty pecks of barley or bere.

11769. What would you think a proper rent for a croft of that kind?
—A valuator would be the most just to both sides.

11770. Do you know of any croft of that kind at present in the island here ?
—I know some such crofts upon the west side of the island, and in all these cases the occupants of them make a livelihood of it.

11771. What sort of rent do they pay now?
—For those crofts which I have already specified, I think the rent is from £8 to £10 a year. I don't know whether there are any sheep upon those crofts I have mentioned. There may be sheep, or there may not be.

11772. What stock do you keep on your own croft?
—I have half a croft. I have three cows and two horses, two sheep and three stirks— that is year-olds—but that is more than my proper summiug.

11773. How much rent do you pay?
—£3 of rent.

11774. But you hire land to feed them upon?
—No, but when fodder is scarce for them we often have to purchase meal for them, which we had to do this year.

11775. Does the half croft ever produce, in a good season, enough to keep all that stock ?
—There were years when the half croft did produce what sufficed.

11776. Do you complain of your rent being too high?
—It is not the dearness of the rent we complain of, but the scarcity of the land. We would be poor without paying aay rent at all on these small patches.

11777. If one of the tacks were cut up, and made into good crofts, would you be ablo to take one yourself? —A few would. I would attempt myself to take one of these crofts, and a few would also manage it ; and if we were placed on a good part of a tack we would soon get on.

11778. But supposing you got such a tack, with a lease of thirty years, at a fair rent, what sort of improvements would you make ?—I would be quite willing to pay interest on outlay for the purpose of improving the land. I don't want a lease of thirty years or one hundred years, but simply that I should have the land as long as I am able to pay its rent.

11779. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—Have you ever seen any person lose his croft on account of his arrears?—There are none upon my side of the loch, because no one is in arrears, but I heard of people being put out.

11780. Did you ever hear of the succeeding man paying the original tenant's arrears ?
—If a son were taking a croft after his father, he would have to pay his father's arrears.

11781. But when there is a change of tenancy?
—I did not pay any arrears.

11782. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Were there arrears on the croft when you went in ?
—I don't think that there were arrears on my father's croft, and my father got another croft which he still occupies. I did not hear from him that he paid the arrears of the out-going tenant.

11783. What is the value of the beasts you sell upon your owu croft? What was the last beast you sold ?
—I sold one stirk at the last market in July.

11784. What did you get for it?
—I got £4, 15s.

11785. Was that considered a good price
—Yes, it was considered a good price.

11786. Are you ever able to sell more than one beast?
—Some years I am able to sell two.

11787. But that is from the.additional stock you keep, not from what the croft would keep ?
—The year before last I sold two.

11788. Were they properly brought up and fed on the croft?
—They were all brought up and reared on the croft.

11789. What did you. get for these two?
—About 10 guineas for the pair.

11790. What is the summing of your croft ?
—I don't know. I never saw it ; I don't know what the summing should be.

11791. Professor MacKinnon.—Have all the crofters as much stock as you ?
—Some have one cow and some two.

11792. Do you pay anything for the summer grazing of them?

11793. Then you have only your own summing?
—Only my own summing.

11794. And you only pay £3 for two horses, three cows, and three stirks ?

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