ALEXANDER MACDONALD, Crofter and Fisherman, Crowlista (48)—examined.
14388. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected by the people of Crowlista?
143S9. Where is Crowlista?
—It is upon the headland, three miles away from here.
14390. Is it a good place for fishing?
—Somewhat good, but only accessible from the middle of spring and during the summer months.
14391. Have you got any pier or landing place ?
—No. We have a sort of breastwork which the fish-curer set up, where we can laud when the tide is in.
14392. Is there any good station for making a pier or jetty?
14393. Would it be very useful to the place?
14394. How are you off for boats ?
—Very good boats.
14395. How did you procure the boats?
—From the curers. None of the people possess any of these large boats. They have small boats with which they fish lobsters.
14396. Were any boats ever given to the fishermen by the late proprietor?
—Never, since I remember.
14397. What character of boats did fish-curers supply? How long and how wide ?
—From 30 to 33 feet long by 14 feet broad.
14398. Have they any deck ?
—They are half-decked, with a side deck.
14399. How many men go in each of those boats?
—Seven or eight men.
14400. How long is it since this kind of boat was introduced ?
—It is not very long since we commenced with these decked boats, but we always worked with boats that were not altogether so large as these.
14401. Are the new boats better and safer than the old ones?
—Yes, I consider them better.
14402. How are you paid by the fish-curers?—Are you paid by the cran ?
—The fishing is for cod and ling, and the curer comes as one of the crew and gets a share; that is to say, when there are seven men in a boat the curer gets an eighth, and when there are eight in the boat the curer gets a ninth part.
14403. Who purchases the fish?
—The curer purchases the fish.
14404. Have you got a curing house?
14405. How much should such a boat cost, all found, with masts and apparatus ?
—About £80. There is one that perhaps may have cost £120, but the average would be about £80.
14406. Do none of these boats belong to the fishermen themselves?
—No. The small ones do, but not the big ones.
14407. Do you go round to the east coast fishing?
—Yes, everyone that can.
14408. Do you get higher wages and make more money now than you did many years ago at the fishing ?
—No ; the payment is according to the amount of fish received. The payment is partially in arrears ; and of late years we have not been so successful as in former years, so that less money is made. The rule is that wages are given to a man, and, in addition to that, Is. per cran of the fish caught.
14409. Are the wages the same as they were when you began first?
—I believe a hired man gets more in wages now than he got twenty years ago.
14410. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—To whom does the boat belong in which you fish ?
—Hector Mathieson, curer, Valtos.
14411. Do you work as a hired man to Hector Mathieson?
—No, only as one of the crew of the boat.
14412. Do the crew get a boat on loan on payment of one-eighth of the fish ?
14413. That is at home?
14414. How do the crew pay for the boat when they are away from home ?
—We don't bring the boat to the east coast fishing at all.
14415. Then for how many months in the year do you use this boat ?
—From the beginning of spring until about mid-summer.
14416. And the boat is not used at any other time of the year?
—No, it is not used the rest of the year.
14417. What payment do you get from the curer for the cod and ling that belong to yourself ?
—A ling counts twice a cod, and the year before last some ling were bought for 1s and some for 10d. That was the rate the year before last. This last season we don't know the price we will get till the time of settlement comes.
14418. When is the time of settlement?
14419. Are you paid in cash at that time?
14420. What do you get?
—Meal and fishing material, and this year especially we have drawn already more than the account for the fish wilt cover.
14421. Do you ever, in any year, get a sum to your credit, which is paid to you in money ?
—Very seldom now, but there were seasons when I commenced first when such was the case.
14422. How long is it since you were first in debt to the curer?
—I never worked for any man in the parish till this year. I used to fish for Mr Smith at Stornoway.
14423. Do you know the price you have to pay for the meal for which you have to settle at Martinmas ?
—I cannot tell the price I shall have to pay at Martinmas for the meal I take now from the curer, but I can tell the price of last year's meal.
14424. What was the price of last year's meal?
—They said it was 24s. per boll.
14425. And you leave it to the kindness of the curer to fix the price of the meal and the price of the ling at Martinmas ?
—Yes, poverty compels us to do that.
14426. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is the curer taken bound to keep the boat in working order and to supply tackle ?
—The curer is bound to keep the boat in working order, but he pays for no share of the fishing material. In the event of the boat being lost, as to who should have to pay for it, I cannot say, but if it were lost through no fault of ours I would consider it hard to have to pay for it myself.
14427. Is the boat insured ?
—I am not aware she is.
14428. Was it the same arrangement you had with the Stornoway curer ?
—The same arrangement.
14429. Were you getting supplies from Mr Smith in the same way?
14430. Have you anything else to say ?
—I have to state that we poor people have been sent to a headland of the sea where it was not worth while to send sheep forty years ago, and that was the reason we were sent there. We were crowded all together upon it. In my father's days there were sixteen crofters there. There are forty houses now. Many of these were sent from the other townships that were cleared—poor people that could not go away to America. Because there was no other place for them, they were hurled in upon that headland. When I open my own door there is no place within the range of my sight except where there are big sheep. There are now so many poor that there are twenty-three crofters in the township who have only one cow each, and not one of them can say it is his own cow after all.
14431. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What rent does each crofter pay?
—From 15s. to £ 5 each. There may be some lots which are rented higher than that, but these lots are subdivided. There are three crofters upon one lot, where each pays £3.
14432. The Chairman.
—Was it in the time of Sir James Matheson that this township was founded, or was it before his time ?
—It was portioned out into lots during Sir James's time, but there were crofters there before. I don't remember it ever being held by a tacksman. We have
been there ourselves for four generations.
14433. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many of the forty were brought in from other townships
—I believe that over twenty of the present families are the descendants of outsiders that came in within the last forty years.
14434. How many outsiders have gone in in Sir James Matbeson's time?
—About six. Some of them were sub-tenants of other people. But when other two townships were cleared before Sir James got possession of the property, there was a considerable number that came in then. The place was poor before, and then when those who were too poor to be sent to America were added to those, it made them poorer still
14435. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is it with the cas-chrom you cultivate your land ?
—Partially with the cas-chrom and partially with the spade.
14436. We are badly off for peats. They are far off, and there is no road to them. They are two miles away, and it would take two hours to get a cartful. There is no road there.
14437. You never have horses for ploughing?
—There were horses in my father's time, but wheu the people were thrown in upon them the horses had to be sent away.
14438. But I mean you don't hire horses ?