NORMAN CAMPBELL, Crofter, Arnol (67)—examined.
15421. The Chairman.
—You were freely elected a delegate?
15422. You have a statement to make to us ?
—Yes. To Her Majesty's Royal Commissioners for Highlands and Islands. Statement made by the People in the District of Arnol, Parish of Barvas.—Gentlemen, during the last fourteen years 13s. has been added to our rent. Formerly there were only nineteen families in this township, now there are forty-five who pay rent, and ten who have no land. The best of our cattle were taken from us some years ago, and very little value given us in return. We pay £5 for the right of fishing in Arnol River. That right was taken from us, but the £ 5 is still upon the township. Three crofters say that they had to pay £ 4 as a bonus before the got their lots.
15423. You say there were formerly nineteen families and now there are forty-five. Where did the increase come from ? Is it the natural increase of the families, or have people been sent in from without?
—It is the natural increase of the people. There were only one or two families from outside.
15424. You say that the best of their cattle were taken away and very little value given in return. Why were the cattle taken away ?
—They were taken away from us at different times in the time of the groundofficer Macdonald. There was no special reason for it. It was not rent time.
15425. How long is it since any cattle were taken in that manner?
—About twenty years ago.
15426. And they have not got that complaint now?
15427. You say they paid £5 for the right of fishing in the river, and that that right was taken away but the £5 is still paid. What sort of fishing was it?
—The matter was this way. Nobody remembers now when this £ 5 was charged against the township for the right of fishing in the river. It was a matter of so long ago that the people came to believe that the right was theirs to fish in the river, so that the nets they used had to be carried away not during the day but during the night.
15428. Was it fishing for salmon ?
15429. Is that salmon fishing now let or is it in the hands of the proprietor ?
—It is let now, and to tell the truth we were deprived of the right fifty-four years ago.
15430. I am afraid it is too old a business for us to inquire into?
—It is true all the same.
15431. You state that three crofters say they had to pay £4 as bonus on entering their crofts. Was this paid for value obtained in houses, or was it paid for the arrears of the rent of the previous tenants ?
—It is for houses. There were no arrears of rent upon the crofts that these men entered into. One of the lots was occupied by a bed-ridden man, 100 years of age, whose son was fifty or sixty at the time. He was not a penny in arrears except the rent of the current year. It so happened that he was not present on the rent collection day, but he turned up a month thereafter. When this man went with his rent to Stornoway,—it was in Mr Munro's time—and offered his rent a month after the rent collection day, the rent had been already paid by the new entrant. The new entrant built a house right in front of the old man's door so that he could scarcely enter it with a creel of peats on his back. In the case of the other man there were no arrears of rent, and he paid the £ 4 in addition to the rent. In these cases there were no houses, and he only paid the £4 for the privilege of being entered in the rent roll of the proprietor.
15432. To whom was the £4 paid?
—I cannot tell, but I believe the ground officer handled the money first.
15433. Have you ever heard a report that there was a ground officer who was suspected of taking these things for himself ?
—Certainly, I did.