South Uist, 28 May 1883 - Donald Mclellan

DONALD M'LELLAN, Crofter, Garra-na-mony (about 52)—examined.

11674. The Chairman.—Have you been freely elected a delegate?

11675. You have a written statement to lay before the Commission?
—Yes.—[Reads.] 'Garra-na-mony, South Uist, May 28, 1883. My Lord and Gentlemen, in the first place, Garra-na-mony crofters try their best to work their land, but it is impossible for them to take their supply out
of it. Now the only thing we want is to get more land, if we could get ' it. We have seen Garra-na-mony with sixteen crofters, and it is now divided among twenty-six. Some of them possess about two acres just now, and taxes are rising higher every year. It is impossible for us to work the small piece of land we have got, because we have never got a road made through the town. The land was rented first when the kelp was as high as £ 3 , 10s. per ton. There is no kelp made in this country since several years—but little of it last year—and the rent is as high as it was before. The people here are keeping little of stock, but the most
1 of it belongs to Mr Donald Fergusson, merchant, who keeps food to the people since the famine came. There is plenty of land in the country that was cultivated and brought to use by crofters once. Now this land is settled on farmers. Likely this country was made for themselves, for the poor crofters were thrown to the worst part of the country. If we had plenty of land, as it is possible for you to give us, our stock would be our own. There is a person here, who goes as one of the three witnesses, says that his grandfather kept 600 sheep and 30 head of cattle. The farmer took this stock by catching them on the grass, and locked them up in a fold till the greatest part of them became his own stock. The father of the witness was put out of this place, and a place was given to him three miles distant from the first place. He was in this place for six years, and he was then thrown out of this place by the order of Colonel Gordon, to give room to the stock of the farmer who got the place, and other seven besides him. We then went away with boats to a place twelve miles from the first, where there were no people, no houses, but heavy heather; sleeping in shore dens, with frost and snow covering our beds for five days and five nights, until they made turf cottages. We then made better houses in summer; and six years after that my father and other thirteen families were thrown out of that, and a place was given to us in Eriskay, on the south side of the island, that was never cultivated. My father and his neighbour got eight acres between them—four acres each. It is no wonder that this country is so poor, for I took thirty-seven years between Ireland, England, and Scotland on the sea. It is a poor thing for me after all my troubles, and keeping myself clear and my land paid. My two sons are gone away, because they have no land to make their living upon; and just now, for to let you know that I and my father was selling food as long as we had plenty of land, and it is the want of land that is making the people so poor. Now I hope that you will give land to us, if you please, that we can make our living upon. Another of the witnesses says that he was put out of his land. The ground officer took spite to us because we did not kill the dog we had. I took three years' paying twenty-five shillings for every year for the house, because it was on the land of another person, until I got a small piece of land. Although this was cruel, it was more cruel when my brother was bound, and put out of this country without any fault, with a weak family. Some of the wituesses are here that saw this sight. You see that now before you, whether that was good or not. If they are going to keep up that law iu this country, this country will be very poor. The third witness says that he was put out of his land, without any fault, by the ground officer; and a place was given to me near the hill, with a weak family, to give place to another person, with about two acres of land and nothing else. I am in this condition yet since sixteen years ago; aud it was Mr Ferguson, farmer, Kilbride, who was giving me place, and the rest of the crofters in Garra-na-mony, for to make the potatoes. All my sons, as they grew, went away to make their living, and to help me as best they could, because they had no place to live upon. The most of the crofters in Garra-na-mony suffered nearly as much as we suffered. If they get plenty of laud, and lease upon it, we will pay great attention to it in draining the land, instead of being in danger every year iu throwing me out of my land without the least fault. —GARRA-NA-MONY CROFTERS.'

11676. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—How many families are in Garranamony?
11677. What is the population?
—Over 200.

11678. Are you on the island of Eriskay?

11679. Where is Garra-na-mony
—It is a township to the south of this.

11680. How much of the increase of the crofters came from among themselves, and how much was caused by outsiders planted among them ?
—The larger number present in the township to-day have been shifted from other places cleared for tacks.

11681. Is it your own grandfather who is mentioned in the paper who kept 600 sheep, aud 30 head of cattle? —My grandfather.

11682. Where was he ?
—In Glen Corriedale.

11683. Where is that?
—On the tack presently occupied by the Rev. Mr Macdonald, who is here to-day.

11684. Who was the farmer that took hold of the stock by catching them on the grass, and locking them up?
—Murdoch M'Lennan, who came from Harris to Milton.

11685. You spoke about your own father being put out of the place, what rent was your father paying ?
—I was about eight years of age when my father left, but I don't recollect very well. 1 think, however, it would be between £6 and £ 7 a year.

11686. What rent do you pay?
—£2, 7s. 6d. for a half croft.

11687. Do you know what rent your grandfather was paying, who had the 600 sheep ?
—I believe he would be paying about £ 8 or £9.

11688. There is a complaint here which I would like you to explain. You say, ' We then went away with boats to a place twelve miles from the first, where there were no people, no houses, but heavy heather, sleeping in shore dens, with frost and snow covering our beds for five days and five nights.' How long is it since that occurred ?
—I believe it will be thirty-seven years ago.

11689. Where was the place they built those houses ?
—In Bay Harstabrach, to the south of Loch Boisdale.

11690. How long were you following the sea
—I was sometimes on British coasters, and also fishing.

11691. With regard to the man who was found and put out of this country without any fault, with a weak family what was the name of that man ?
—I cannot tell; the man himself is here.

11692. What is your complaint now? is it that you are overcrowded?
—What I have specially to say is that I want land.

11693. Is there any land close by in your neighbourhood that could be eventually given ?
—There is no land in the country that we can get until we go and break up the tacks.

11694. What is the nearest tack to you?
—The nearest tack is Kilbride, tenanted by Mr Robert Fergusson. But it was not from that tack that my father was turned out.

11695. Do I understand then, that when you are wanting more land, you want to get an extension where you now are, or to go back where you formerly were ?
—I would return to-morrow if I were permitted to the land my father had. I would not give a snuff for the land which I presently occupy, if I were permitted to return to the land which my father tenanted.

11696. Where ?
—Uishnish or Glen Corriedale.

11697. And where your grandfather was also?
—My grandfather also, and my predecessors from time immemorial.

11698. And that land is in possession of a tacksman, and is very suitable for you ? That is the land you want? —The land of my birth I would prefer to any, where there was no want of food, and no debt. The chief of Clanranald sometimes spent nights in my grandfather's house.

11699. And very naturally you are sorry you have come down in the world, compared with the position of your grandfather?
—I am.

11700. And you would like to get an opportunity of restoring yourself to the position your grandfather had? —If I got an opportunity, I would take it even without anything except what you see on me here, and I would not be long in going on. I am not afraid, but I would become a very good farmer in a very short time. I wish the Royal Commissioners to understand that the whole people of the country have been blocked up like
sheep in a fauk, huddled together so that it is impossible for them to live.

11701. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—Are you able to pay your present rent ?
—I am clear. I have no arrears, and I never was in arrears. I not only can pay debts, but I can take land as well if I can get it.

11702. What is your stock ?
—I have four cows and three horses ; but I wish it to be understood that these are not kept upon the croft which is worth £2, 7s. 6d. in the year, but they are fed upon lands belonging to some other persons.

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