Barvas, Lewis, 6 June 1883 - Statements

The following statements were given in by delegates, time not permitting them to be read :

—Holdings are inadequate for maintenance. Cannot properly be worked with horses very inferior in soil. Meal needed in addition to yield of croft in good and bad years.

Removals and Changes.
—Some evicted from Galston and Uig were settled among us to their and our discomfort and loss. A new channel was made for the river, by which a burying ground was opened up and a piece of our land cut off, and no compensation or abatement of rent made. About eighty years ago the land now occupied by ninty-six  families was occupied by only about thirty-two. About thirty acres have been taken from us for a farm for the inn occupied by the ground officer; and we had to build a stone dyke around this piece of land, and to keep the same in repair or pay an equivalent in rent account, unless our wives could do the work in our absence at the fishing. Anything the factor may wish us to do we must do or pay for it. Shootings and fishing are let over all our land to a sportsman. A gamekeeper is settled among us with a house and piece of land. We cannot have dogs, and a child must not cast a stone into the river.

—Horses are few, because the land is unworkable by them. Sheep and cattle more than can be rightly kept, because of the people's anxiety to have, through their sale and the fishermen's and reserve men's earnings, wherewith to pay rent and rates. Sixty head of cattle were at one time forcibly taken away from us, and not accounted for. There are factor-constables in every district. We cannot keep cattle but such as can be fed by sea-weed (besides grass, &c). Rent unabated, irrespective of changes in land, &c. Blue book regulations summed up into one, viz., that the factor is final judge (no appeal).

—Crofters furnish the principal means of support to the paupers allowance from Parochial Board often not equal to expenses in tea and sugar; whatever may go to officials and incidental expenses. In short, the people must fall into debt or starve. They are grateful for public help, particularly when distributed to the most necessitous cases.

—Land holdings fit and adequate for proper and sufficient maintenance, and on conditions which will ensure the safety and security of the crofters'  interests. For this they confidently look to Parliament.
DONALD MURRAY, Lower Barvas;

The complaints of the township of Upper Shader per Roderick Macleod, delegate.
—This township at first had only twenty families about fifty years ago. Their rent then was about £100. This included lots and hill pasturage. Then they complained of the rental being high. Now we have a greater reason for complaining, since the number is fifty-seven families, and that in the year 1849 a great lot of the hill pasture was taken from us, and was occupied by other families, who were evicted from another township (Galston), to make room for sheep. These ate up our hill pasturage ; and though the pasture was taken from us, yet there was no decrease made on our rental. The sum of their rentals now amounts to about £50. The young folk of the families since then had no other lots to go to. Then we had to divide our lots into halves. In this way the lots were made smaller, and reached the number we just stated. If it would happen that a young man would get a chance of getting a bit of land, he would require to pay as high as £7 before entering. In the year 1868 our rents were raised when Mr Munro was factor. Before that time we had to pay 5s. of road money, and a shilling for hen money. This was put to our rents. At this time a change was made in getting road money. The above sum was added to our rents, and then we had to pay sixpence per pound. Between this tax and other taxes rising from year to year, we cannot rightly say what our rent is. Since so many people were added to our township, they ate up our pasture, so that we can keep but very little stock. We have no other way for earning money to pay our rent, and other things that are with it. There is no fishing station here like other places in the island, unless we go to other coasts to fish a few weeks on hire. At times this suits us, other times it does not. In this way we are kept in such a state, that we cannot properly put clothes on our children to allow them to go to school, as we are made to do by the act, or go to church, and that strangers put this up to us ; but we cannot help it. By looking into these things in the way that the Royal Commissioners would think right, we do need reform. The next delegate William Matheson wdl explain about the evictions referred to above from Galston. He was one of those. We have more grievances that I am able to tell personally, that is not stated in the above.

—The complaints of the township of Lower Shader.
Fifty years ago there was only about twenty-two families, who paid the rent of £90. Now there are forty-three families, eighteen of these extra ones were people who were put out of Galston for sheep and put into our township, and the rental was not made less. In the year 1868 the five shillings we used to pay for the roads were added to the rents, and extra put on us for road money (sixpence per pound). In 1871 another five shdlings was put on us for Galston. Besides these, we have to do twenty-four yards of a double dyke, and also to pay from a shilling to eighteenpence every year. We think this too hard on us, for the farm is three miles away from us, so that our cattle hardly reaches the dyke. We would like, therefore, to get free of this. We complain of small lots and would like to get more land; for on some lots there are three families, and plenty of land under sheep in the island. I am one of those who were evicted from Galston since about thirty-four years.

—The following statement was unanimously agreed to at a meeting of the crofters of Borve, held 29th May 1882 [1882 verified in document, transcriber's note].
—One of our hardships is the smallness of our crofts. In our township there are now fifty-three families, but about thirty-two years ago it was only occupied by nineteen. All the crofts are subdivided except five. There were other crofters pat among us where we were cutting the peats, but with reduction of rent. Another hardship is, our rents have been raised three times during the last thiry-two years. In 1851 the rental of our township was £105. We now pay £138. The hens' money, as it is called, is included in that rent. We are paying two shillings in the pound for hill pasture, between Murnag and Galston, which our forefathers held as common grazing between themselves. Our cattle are chased by shepherds, our women have been assaulted by gamekeepers, our men have been fined by factors and ground officers, with no better justification than the law of superior force.

—To Her Majesty's Royal Commission for Highlands and Islands. The fishing community of Shawbost desire to bring before your gracious consideration the importance of increasing the facilities possessed by the Lewis fishermen for prosecuting their calling. They believe that the welfare of the community would be very largely improved by assistance being provided them to build harbours at suitable points round the coast, and they would respectfully urge upon the Royal Commissioners, that representations should be made to Her Majesty's Government or the Fishing Board with a view to monetary assistance being provided in erecting harbours, and thus helping to meet in a satisfactory way the present grievances of the crofters and fishermen. They believe that Shawbost is a very suitable place for erecting a harbour, and accordingly they urge its claims for the following among many reasons :

(1) Although the people cannot help with money, all our able-bodied men are wdling to give work to help in building a harbour
(2) The population of Shawbost district is 900 souls, congested within a radius of 1½ square miles.
(3) All the able-bodied men of the place are fishermen, and their work would represent a considerable sum of money.
(4) At one time there were fourteeen or fifteen boats fishing at Shawbost, but owing to the small fishing annually made on account of the difficulty of getting to sea, the curers now will not trust their boats or money at Shawbost.
(5) There are this year only five ling-fishing boat3 at Shawbost, all nominally belonging to the crews, but if they had a refuge for their boats, twenty crews could be raised among the Shawbost people alone.
(6) This year they have had already to haul their boats three times, and have wasted many weeks seeking for bait, but all the boats have only been able to go to sea this week for the first time.
(7) Taking 1000 lings a boat as a moderate estimate of the probable number of lings caught per boat at Carloway—where there is a good natural harbour—this year before a single ling was landed at Shawbost, it represents a direct loss to this poor place in money alone of £250, besides the amount of fish—other than ling—which would have been during that time sustaining their families, and in lieu of which they have had to beg or borrow meal.
(8) There is every likelihood that an extensive herring-fishing has been begun on the west of Lewis, and no place is more convenient to the fishing ground than Shawbost.
(9) Carloway is at present the safest harbour on the west, but the harbour is several miles from the ocean. At Shawbost the harbour, if erected, would be right on the ocean, and thus much time would be saved in reaching the deep sea fishing ground.
—JOHN M'LEAN, delegate, fisherman.

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