MURDO MACLEOD, Crofter and Fisherman, Borrowston (31)—examined.
14910. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—This is the statement you have to make before the Commission :
—At a meeting of the crofters of Borrowston on the 21st May last, it was agreed that the following statement of their grievances and demands be presented through their delegates to the Royal Commission. Our first grievance is the smallness of our holdings. Fifty-five years ago there were only five crofters in Borrowston, paying an aggregate rent of £42. At present there are fifteen crofters paying a rental of £ 61. (see Appendix A. XLI). We hold on an average about three acres of cultivable land. Our common or outrun is about 3/4 mile long and 1/2 mile wide. The population of our township is ninety-two souls. We cultivate minutely from year to year the whole of our lots, and in consequence of this perpetual tillage the soil of our crofts is graduaUy deteriorating. The quantity of grain which we raise off our crofts does not suffice any year to support our families. Wè require to buy of meal in ordinary years about £ 12 worth on an average over and above what we raise off our own lots. We require to buy about £ 23 worth of meal on an average this year, there being only three families in our township that require less than £ 20, while there are others that need £ 40 worth of meal. Our people are strong, active and industrious, and thoroughly capable to earn a respectable and independent livelihood for themselves and the families they represent, provided only they had plenty of land to work upon. Bordering on our township is a promontory called Leimshadder, which would be a good and convenient supplement to our present small holdings. Leimshadder, the place referred to, was at one time inhabited by eight crofters, but these were removed and the place given to a tacksman. About twentyseven years ago we offered a rental of £ 50 for Leimshadder, promising to pay the rent before entering into possession, but our offer was refused, though the place was afterwards given to a tacksman for a rental considerably less than what we offered. Four or five years ago it was let to its present holder, who has large possessions of land elsewhere in the island. We are still willing to take Leimshadder at a reasonable rent. Another serious grievance which we wish to state is the extreme difficulty and hardship we experience in connection with our peats. The peat moss connected with our own township was exhausted upwards of twenty years ago. The estate then gave us permission to cut peats on convenient ground belonging to another township, but on the authority of the ground-officer this peat ground was taken from us two years ago. We were then driven out to the moor outside the township of Carloway. Our peat banks are now 3 miles distant from our homes. For half this distance there is no road, though we have to carry all our peats on our back. We have further to cross a river which, being without a bridge, is, after heavy rains, often dangerous and impassable. Our peats being so far away from us, and to relieve ourselves somewhat of the hardship of carrying them the whole way on our backs, we sometimes have recourse to the expedient of floating them on the river for a certain distance, but as the river is let by the estate for fishing purposes, we are not allowed to float our peats on it till the beginning of January. We could get a supply of peats for twenty years or more in Leimshadder within a short distance of our homes.—MURDO M'LEOD.
14911. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where is Borrowston?
—About four miles from this.
14912. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any statement to make in addition to what has been put in ?
—I have to say that we cannot live with so little land as we have, and that we are much inconvenienced by the distance we are from our peats. About the tack of Linshader, which bounds with us, I have to say there is no resident tenant there, and that the herd from there goes through our township with his cattle, back and forward.
14913. Who has that place?
14914. Anything more?
—Our weak sheep are harrassed by his passing back and forward.
14915. The shepherd and his dog ?
—He is a herd, and drives both cattle and sheep through our ground. We are not allowed to cross the dyke between us and his farm, if we want to go for sea-ware or anything.
14916. Are you allowed to gather sea-ware on the shores of Linshader ?
14917. Do you buy it there?
—We cannot get any more than about a dozen creels every year on the shore of our own land.
14918. Do you take drift weed from the shores of Linshader when you can get it ?
—No, we must not cross the dyke.
14919. Would Linshader be convenient for you for sea-ware if you could get it ?