Keose, Lewis, 12 June 1883 - Ewen Campbell

Rev. EWAN CAMPBELL (67)—examined.

17709. The Chairman.
—How long have you been minister of this parish ?
—Twelve years. I have been nineteen years in this island.

17710. Will you state what you have to say ?
—I understand, gentlemen, your Commission to the Highlands is to investigate the condition of the crofters and their grievances, and to consider or suggest the remedy that is applicable to these grievances. To make my remarks as brief as possible, I shall confine myself to bare facts, to what I conceive to be
relevant. There is not the least doubt that all the townships in this parish, as elsewhere, are very much crowded,—overcrowded indeed, and the question that would arise in connection with this crowding would be this, who was instrumental in crowding these townships? It would be very wrong to throw the blame upon the proprietor. No doubt, the proprietor was a party to some of that crowding. But the people themselves—the crofters—are equally to blame, for here at Keose for instance, a few years ago, when the place was lotted, and every one got a croft, there were very few,—there was only one on each croft. As the sons grew up, as soon as they were out of the shell, they immediately married, and nothing would do but to settle down on a croft along with their parents. When you look at the state of things, and ask whether these crofts are overrented, I say they are not. The people have very severe grievances in the position in which they are placed; but the proprietor is not to blame in everything, neither is the proprietor, you would say, to suffer altogether in removing these grievances ? The first remedy is to thin them out, but how are you going to do it ? What is the surface you have on which to spread this population ? I have read in the papers, and heard to-day, that there are plenty lands, plenty, but what are they? There is not a single acre of proper arable ground in the whole parish of Lochs. I know what arable land is perfectly well, and the extent of the area of the parish of Lochs is 141,700 acres. There are 6000 people in Lochs, and the last decade produced an increase of 1000; and if every decade goes on at the rate of 1000, I don't know how it will do. Where are you to stop? But to go back to the proposition of dividing; the land among them. Give them twenty-four acres each, and every inch of these 111,000 acres will be occupied, —the hill tops, the bogs, and everything. Now you have come across here from Stornoway, and you have seen the extent of ground that is spread out there. Allot that extent of ground into lots. It would be far better and far more merciful towards those poor people to send for the 42nd, to shoot every mother's son of them that would be put there. As I said before, there is not a single acre of arable ground here, and the mystery is how in the world do people get any crop at alL It is merely spade culture after all, in ground that they till with a great deal of labour, and to heap up the ground with these lazybeds; and what have you in the insterstices? Nothing but the hardest gravel and rock. Speaking about draining and what not, if any one went there with a pickaxe, I would like to see him making any speed or benefiting himself. When Sir James was making a field opposite the Castle there, it cost him about £30 an acre to drain and trench it, and what is the result ? There is not as much subsoil as you would lift up in your hand, as much as would fill a bucket. You have plenty peat over there. On most of that ground they would have perhaps eighteen or nineteen feet of depth in the moss; and though there was only one foot here, where there is a rock,-you had only to go two feet to the other side, and you would go down fifteen or sixteen feet before you got to th<> bottom. This being the case, why do people speak about the extent of land? No doubt the people would require some extent of land, but where can they get it ? They have extent of land in these bogs. Send them out in the summer time to graze their cattle, but what grazing have you in the winter? I have, I suppose, about 800 acres of a glebe here, and it is almost surrounded with water. My neighbours will not trouble me, and there is not a year but I lose a fifth or a sixth of the stock. Without going into my own losses, why, the place will not support a stock.

17711. What would you propose by way of remedy in the present state of things ?
—In the first place, what I would propose is to remove these cottars and give them what there is; and to allow these people to extend their tillage beyond their crofts into the moor. The people of Leurbost came to me five years ago, and I took down their numbers and namts so as to represent their grievances to Mr Hugh Matheson. I did so, and stated them seriatim, and had a letter from Mr Matheson to the effect that he was very sorry, and that he would make every inquiry. The people there begun to ask a dyke just about their own holdings to preserve their ground, and that dyke was knocked down. They came to me, and I told them to put it up again. I wrote to the ground officer to put it up as quickly as possible, otherwise I would advise them to take ulterior steps, for I explained to Mr Hugh Matheson the way in which these farms were held by the people. They held most of them as commonty, and the rest as a croft, and hence they should be allowed to till their moor. Now they have not been allowed to till their moor. They were prevented from tilling it. There are the Leurbost and Crossbost people, and all those there,—I would allow them to till the moor so far as they can, going out upon their own common, for this is a benefit to the proprietor as well as to themselves; and try what other remedy you can think of to provide for these cottars. There is no doubt that, in making these farms, the people were hardly dealt with, and I have very little doubt it would have been more judicious to have given these poor people of Gravir that place they petitioned for and which was refused.

17712. And you think the whole farm of Park might have been given to the people of this parish with advantage?
—Perhaps it would not be given with advantage to the proprietor,—far from it ; and the whole of the farm of Park could not be so utilised by the people in this parish if they would have to pay the rent that is paid for it. And the farm of Park has not been paying had it not been for the deer that are on it, and Mr Sellar removed his young stock every winter. Still I would suggest that these poor people should be provided with a portion of that farm ex ad verso of their own holdings.

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