KENNETH M'DONALD, Crofter and Merchant, Leurbost (45)—examined.
17575. The Chairman.
—How many people are there in Leurbost?
—113 families in addition to paupers.
17576. How many paying rent?
17577. Did the township of Leurbost freely elect you to come here ?
17578. Were they all present at the time of election?
—They were not all there. I was not there myself when I was chosen at the first meeting, but there was a large meeting there, and there was a second meeting at which I was present, and those that were not at the first were at the second, so that they agreed upon me.
17579. Who called those meetings?
—The Stornoway Association.
17580. Who made out the paper which you present to us?
—I have written it myself.
17581. Is it on behalf of the township or on behalf of yourself?
—The one portion of it concerns the affairs of the township, and the other concerns a matter of my own in which I was not dealt with in a Christian fashion.
17582. Was the part that concerns the township read to all the people of the township ?
—I read it to a large number of them. I did not get them all gathered to read it.
17583. How many would there be gathered to hear it?
—It was not read at a meeting, but to every one that met me. Some came to see it.
17584. Was the substance of it agreed to at the first or second meeting ?
—Yes, they agreed upon it, one making one statement and one another, and the substance of what they stated is in the paper. There were some statements they wished me to put in which are not there, for fear of making the paper too large.
17585. Were there any outside people at your meetings helping you?
—No, not at the meetings that were held in connection with this matter.
17586. What other meetings do you refer to?
—I saw Mr Murdoch one day addressing the people.
17587. Did Mr Murdoch's address influence the people much?
—The minds of the people before the arrival of Mr Murdoch were stirred up in some way, but until they heard him they did not even understand their own minds on this question so well as they did afterwards.
17588. We have not time to take up the individual grievances of persons throughout the Highlands, but we will hear the paper which refers to the township.
—Leurbost, sixty crofts, 113 families. Five of these crofts put in to make room for sheep farms; increase about rents thirty years ago, five shillings per croft. When the Road Act was passed five shillings was added to rents and hen money. Double renting commenced in 1870; fine for Cleascro plantation fence 1871 ; fine for Arnish deer forest fence 1873 ; double poor rate paid in 1868. Petty fines, such as fining a man for a big lip. For instance, widow Esa Maclver, No. 21 Leurbost, receipts can be produced to prove that she paid double poor rate in 1868. Fined for Cleascro plantation fence in 1871 ; fined for Arnish deer forest fence in 1873. Two girls and three boys from Leurbost have been taken to the fiscal's office under the control of a policeman for taking oysters out of the ebb in 1864; mussels and wilkies were taxed. Those taxes were collected by Donald MacLeod, crofter constable, Balallan. Some years ago miles dyke fence was levelled to the ground by the ground officer. John Martin, No. 23 Leurbost, receipts can be produced to prove that he paid double poor rates in 1868, and fined for Arnish deer forest fence in 1873.—KENNETH MACDONALD, delegate for the Leurbost crofters.
17589. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are these all the things that the Leurbost people have to complaim of?
—They have other causes of complaint, but these were what they consider peculiarly hard and oppressive.
17590. The complaints here refer to particular individuals. Were those named the only persons to whom those things were done that are complained of?
—I believe that the whole people were dealt with in that way, but these cases that are instanced are next door neighbours of my own, and have submitted their receipts.
17591. The paper states that there are sixty crofts and 113 families, Are there fifty-three families of cottars ?
—Some of them may have a share of a croft, but they are cottars.
17592. Are there any full crofts ?
—I can point out two. Then there are three new crofts that are rather small, one of which I occupy myself.
17593. When was the township divided into these sixty crofts?
—About thirty years ago. There were fifty-seven people before that, and three new ones were added then.
17594. Do the additional families consist entirely of people that were born in the place ?
—Four families were brought into the township in connection with clearances about the Park farm. There was another that was removed in order to make a sheep farm in another place,—that is five. All the rest belonged to the place.
17595. What other farm was that?
—Croirgarry. There was no additional land added to that tack by the removal of this man. He was either a crofter or cottar upon that tack before.
17596. Have these 113 families all houses?
—They have each separate dwellings. We did not count those that lived in family with their parents.
17597. Is it not prohibited on the estate to build more than one house upon a croft?
—Yes, that has been the regulation upon the estate for a long time back.
17598. But all these houses were built in spite of the regulation?
—I saw one built in spite of the regulation. I don't know whether others may have done it, but this man was called to account for it.
17599. What was done to him?
—His father-in-law was summoned out of the land. Mr Munro made the peace by compelling him to pay £ 5, and Mr Munro threw down the house next year, and the constable broke the furniture and everythiug that was there and scattered it over the place.
17600. Your paper states that the double renting commenced in 1870. Does that mean double rent for the whole township?
—The meaning is that there were people who were charged double rent in those years by Mr Munro, and the practice of double renting then continued till Mr Munro got the management of the estate.
17601. How long have you lived there?
—I was born there.
17602. What was your rent when you first took house?
17603. Has it been raised?
—No; it was only a piece of peat land that I got.
17604. What is the highest rent that is paid at Leurbost?
—£5, 3s. or thereabouts.
17605. That is for a full croft?
—Yes. There are two families upon it but I believe that is the rent of a full croft.
17606. Have all the crofters cows?
—I think they have all a cow this year. There are some years when they lose a cow, and are without one.
17607. How many of them have more than one cow?
—There may be some that have three.
17608. What rent will a man pay that has three cows?
—About £3 or £4.
17609. Have they sheep also?
—There are some without a sheep.
17610. Do they consider their rents too high?
—Some say they are; some again reclaimed bog land, moor land, and the crofters complain that these people have these places too cheap; and, on the other hand, those men have expended labour and picks and spades upon the reck lined lots.
17611. Is that peaty ground that they have reclaimed?
—Partly, and partly rocky and stony places.
17612. Is it now producing crops to satisfy their expectations?
—It never yields such good crop when it is cropped every year, but when you got clay to mix with the peat upon these lands, and plenty manure in addition, it gives good crops.
17613. The Chairman.
—Has the summing of their stock any relation to the amount of their rent ?
—Yes, the rent is in proportion to the stock. The rent was fixed long ago, and it was then fixed in connection with a certain amount of stock that was allotted to that lot.
17614. Are those tenants who have reclaimed crofts for themselves, and who hold them at cheap rents of £1, entitled only to keep a small stock in proportion to that £ 1 of rent?
—I heard nothing to the contrary, but we might keep as much stock as the man who has a full croft at £ 5 , if only we can keep that stock alive.
17615. Is that the reason why the tenants complain that some are too cheaply rented ?
—No, I did not hear them so much complain of the stock at all. They complain that their own rent is too high.
17616. How many people were double rented in 1870?
—I know one of my own knowledge. I know another whose rent was increased by £ 1. I am not aware of any fault he ever committed, and this £ 1 is kept on to the present day.
17617. Was this double rent in the nature of a fine, or was it meant to be continuous rent?
—The case was this. The ground officer and the tenant differed, and the tenant said to the ground officer that he would bring the matter before Sir James Matheson. That was the cause of doubling his rent, and the double rent was exacted for eleven years.
17618. From 1870 to 1881 ?
—It was imposed in 1869, and perhaps not paid till 1870, and was exacted till Mr Mackay got the management of the property.
17619. Will you give the name of the man you know who was double rented ?
—Murdo Mackenzie. He is now dead. It is another Mackenzie who has come to his place.
17620. Is he the man who had a receipt in his possession for the double rent ?
—It is the poor rates I spoke of when I spoke of receipts.
17621. You have not seen a receipt for a double rent ?
—No, but I know the thing was right.
17622. Did you bring the receipt for the double poor rate here?
—Yes, I have got two. [Produces receipts.]
17623. Professor Mackinnon.
—There appears to be one year's poor rates in 1867, Is. 11d. , and in 1868, 4s. 4d.; but there are arrears of 2s. 2d., and the poor rates of the year are 2s. 2d. as well.
17624. The Chairman.
—What do you pay as a tax for gathering whelks?
—There was a constable exacting 2s. 2d. per bushel. I paid that myself for a Stornoway merchant.
17625 Who paid the 2s. 2d. per bushel?
—The man who shipped them.
17626. Were the people here bound to deliver their whelks to that man ?
—Not at that time, but matters changed afterwards, so that they were obliged to give up their whelks to one man. I had to cease purchasing them. The constable came to me with a written document telling me I was obliged to give them up.
17627. When was that?
—In Mr Munro's time.
17628. Had the tax ceased at that time?
—I don't know what the practice was at the time I was made to cease purchasing them. The men used to say then that they farmed the shores for gathering whelks.