Keose, Lewis, 12 June 1883 - John Smith

JOHN SMITH, Crofter, Balallan (75)—examined.

17289. The Chairman.
—Were you elected by the township of Balallan?

17290. Who called the Balallan people together to elect you?
—Those who were going among the people from out of Stornoway.

17291. Who were those ?
—Those who were at the head of the Stornoway meetings.

17292. Was it Mr Morrison?
—Mr Morrison and Rev. Mr Martin, and Mr Mackenzie, who is here present.

17293. Were there any strangers present?—No, they were all of the island.
—Statement of Balallan People. We beg to lay before the Commissioners the way in which Balallan has been so badly ruled.
1. About forty-four years ago, when Mr John Knox was chamberlain here, he took Kintarvay, or part of our hill pasture, from us, and joined it with sporting grounds of Aline.
2. Sixteen crofters were placed among us when the Park tenants were displaced.
3. Mr John Scoby, " Factor," formed the village of Arivruach, west from Balallan on our hill pasture, without allowing any discount in our rents.
4. When Mr John Mackenzie became factor he divided Balallan into sixty-four crofts, and increased the rents.
5. Mr Donald Munro also increased our rents.
6. When Mr William M'Kay became factor we got some hill pasture from him, and also a place to cut our peats in.
7. We now entreat that, by the favour of Lady Matheson and Mr William Mackay, all the squatters (people without crofts, thirty-two in number) will be removed, or places given to them, as they are an entire burden on the tenants, as also high rents and taxes.

17294. What was the rent of Balallan when you first remember?

17295. What is the rent to-day ?
—£215, 2s.

17296. Is that exclusive of rates and taxes?
—Exclusive of taxes.

17297. Does it include the road money and the kain money?
—Yes, it includes that.

17298. Is that the increase made by Mr Munro to which reference is here made ?
—That was the only permanent rise of rent that he imposed. There were temporary impositions. In one case the rent was doubled because one kept a married son.

17299. How many lots were there before the place was lotted under Mr John Mackenzie ?
—There were twenty-six lots when Sir James Matheson bought the property.

17300. How many families were living on the twenty-six lots?
—There were a few of them that had two families upon them.

17301. There were not two families upon each?
—No, only upon a few.

17302. Were these families brought in from other places after the lotting by Mr John Mackenzie?
—No, there were none brought in from the outside since Mr Mackenzie lotted the place. There was a large number shortly before that, and there were additions made to the lots by Mr Mackenzie by giving lots to some of the people of the place.

17303. There were sixty-four families in the place when it was lotted out into sixty-four crofts?

17304. Well, there are now thirty-two squatters in the place. Where have they come from ?
—They grew upon the place—the natural increase of the place.

17305. And there is not room in the place for them?
—No, there is no place for them. They are a burden to the place, and they injure it very much.

17306. Have you any of your own family burdening the place?

17307. Where do you want your family to be put that are burdening the place ?
—We don't know very well. We used to consider America as the place to go to, but now, through the favour of Lady Matheson and her representative Mr Mackay, we think that a place might be provided for them in the land of their birth.

17308. If they got assistance to go to America, with promise of some provision on their arrival there, would they be inclined still to go to America?
—I don't think they would. There were many of our relatives who went to America, and we have not heard such favourable accounts of how they got on.

17309. Have any of them come home from America?
—No; they had not the means to bring them home.

17310. Did they write letters to say so?
—Yes. My father was the only one of my grandfather's family who did not emigrate, and the arrangement they made with him when they went away was—' Don't stir from where you are till we send for you,' and he never got a letter from them but the tenor of it was—' If you are as well off as you were when we left you, don't stir out of it.'

17311. How long is it since you last heard from them ?
—I heard from a son of my own not very long ago, and a sister of my own. There was an unmarried nephew of my own who came across here some years ago, and stayed with me for a while, and returned back again, and I heard from him too.

17312. Why did he return ?
—To support his father and mother. They had no means of support without him.

17313. Where were they living?
—In Canada—I cannot specify further—but he used to tell me this, that when people gathered together from all parts, the Highland people as they are here to-day, the burden of their conversation was the old homes they had left behind them, and they all say that if they could they would return back again.

17314. Had your relatives land of their own in Canada?

17315. Were they not living comfortably upon that land?
—Sometimes they might be pretty comfortable. I met with a trustworthy man who went away at the same time, John M'Leod by name, and when I asked him about my sister and her husband, his reply was that my sister and her husband did not get much satisfaction or comfort in America. They were but young at the time, and the proof of their discomfort he gave me was that their heads were as white as a seagull, mourning for the land they had left behind.

17316. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was your nephew born in America?
—No, he was born at Kershader.

17317. How old was he when he left ?
—Fourteen or fifteen years of age.

17318. Is there much fishing in this loch now ?
—There used to be when herring came into it. There is very little fishing except when there are herring.

17319. Do you know the reason why the herring are not coming now?
—Providence—the administration of the Creator.

17320. About sixteen families came from Park. What was the object of sending them out ? Was it then created a tack for the first time, or was it an enlargement of a tack ?
—Clearing Park in order to place it undersheep.

17321. Who was the person who got the place?
—Archibald and Alexander Stewart, two brothers.

17322. Were you yourself born in Balallan, or were you in Park at one time?
—I was born in Park, in a place called Eesgin of Park.

17323. How old were you when you left ?
—About fifteen.

17324. Was your father one of those who were removed?
—He was one of those who were sent away from the place.

17325. Was your father well off when he lived in Park?
—Yes, as well as a crofter tenant might need to ask.

17326. Was it for his benefit to be removed?
—Quite the contrary, but because of the oppression of the people—dealt with as a herd of sheep driven by dogs into a fank.

17327. Were the other people who were removed like your father in comfortable circumstances ?
—Yes. Nobody needed to leave the place from one year's end to another for anything the family required. If one family happened to be short of provisions, they had only to ask their neighbour, who could supply them.

17328. Had the removal of those families a prejudicial effect on their circumstances—tending to impoverish them ?
—Nobody stood it so well as my father did. He had means, and he got into a place until he was banished a second time.

17329. Where did he go the first time?
—He came to another portion of Park called Cleater, over upon the other side of the loch from Balallan.

17330. How long was he there before he was removed ?
—He had Cleater to himself for nine years, and then another man was put in who got two-thirds of it, and my father for five years had one-third. He was fourteen years there altogether.

17331. What became of him then ?
—He was one of the sixteen who were removed to Balallan when Mr Scott became tenant of Park. This was before Sir James Matheson's day.

17332. They had to clear out of Park and go to Balallan?
—Yes, those of them who were not sent off to America. Others of them were sent to Tongue, down near Stornoway.

17333. Is there a ground officer living here ?

17334. What land has he got?
—He has net very much land—about two lots.

17335. Is it part of the township of Balallan?

17336. Was that croft cut out of your township at that time?
—It was made before he got it. It was cut out at the time Mr Mackenzie portioned out the place into lots.

17337. Was any allowance made to crofters for the cutting out of these two lots to the grouud officer ?
—No ; the arrangement was this, that the rent of the township was apportioned out among the lots, these two lots paying their share of the rent as well as ourselves.

17338. Does that so remain ?

17339. Has the ground officer any privilege over your township which none of the other crofters possess?
—Nothing whatever; he is just as another neighbour.

John Smith was recalled later in the day for two supplementary questions

17713. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you know how many families were removed from Park at different times?
—Yes, 108.

17714. What would the average number of each family be?
—Six persons.

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