Meavaig, Lewis, 4 June 1883 - George Macaulay

GEORGE MACAULAY, Crofter and formerly Fisherman, Hacleit, Bernera (63)—examined.

14115. The Chairman.
—Were you freely elected a delegate ?

14116. You heard what the previous delegate said about the fence that the people of Bernera had to put up on the mainland. Does that apply to your township as well as his ?

14117. And to all the people of Bernera in the same way?
—All the people of Bernera are in the same position with regard to that dyke.

14118. And you agree with all his evidence so far as that is concerned ?
—Yes. But I am not sure about the length he spoke of, as I did not measure it. Before that dyke was made we had another dyke. The hill pasture we had first was out in the mountains beyond that, and it was there we had to build the dyke between ourselves and the forest, when the forest was first made. We made that dyke, and we kept it up for twenty years at our own cost. Then, when we got the pasture in exchange for that former hill pasture, we made a new dyke between our pasture and the forest of-Scaliscro. That is the dyke of which the last witness spoke.

14119. Professor Mackinnon.
—The last witness said they were promised Is. a head for building this fence. WTio gave the promise ?
—I did not myself hear that promise.

14120. Did you hear that the promise was made?
—I heard, when we were summoned out of the ground, that the chamberlain had promised at that time that we would get payment for the dyke.

14121. How many years before that was the dyke made?
—About two years.

14122. And you did not hear of the payment for making the fence until two years or so after it was made ?
—I cannot say I did.

14123. With respect to the other statement that the factor was to put a paling on the top of the dyke, that was promised ?

14124. And why did you not ask the factor to put it up?
—It was the ground officers that formerly carried on transactions between us and the factor. I was first at Croir, in the north end of Bernera. It is three years since we removed from there, because of the crowdiug of the people of the place. The tacksman that had Hacleit offered to exchange with us, and the chamberlain countenanced that, and it was done. When Croir was first settled as a township there were only four crofters in it, of whom my grandfather was one, and the rent was £16 on the township. Then shortly after my grandfather got the croft, it was divided among eight crofters, and the rent was raised to £31, 10s., and since then it has been raised to £33, 10s., so far as I can remember. The stock was at first larger than it is now allowed to be by the chamberlain. They had horses in my grandfather's time, cattle, and sheep, but I have never in my time seen a horse in Bernera. The place we came to three years ago, Hacleit, was, fifty-seven years ago, in the possession of Stewart, the ground officer. As ground officer he kept the place, but when he lost the ground ofticership he began also to feel himself lower in circumstances, and had to go as a poor man to America. It was about £60 of rent when that man went away. It is now £85, 8s. upon us.

14125. How many are there of you who pay that rent?
—There are twenty crofts.

14126. And how many families?
—Twenty families—127 souls.

14127. And you pay £85, 8s. ?

14128. What stock is each croft allowed to keep?
—There has been no change of stock made upon us yet since we left Croir.

14129. Does that mean that each person in Hacleit is allowed to keep as much or as little as he pleases ?
—Those who were in Croir are allowed to keep at Hacleit the same stock they had at Croir.

14130. But Hacleit is a far bigger place?
—We have had no increase of our summer pasture since we came to Hacleit, though the number of people is greater than it was in Croir.

14131. What is your own stock?
—I have very little stock. I have just one beast that belongs to myself. There are other beasts of mine on my grass which only belong to other people, who have not taken them away yet. I mean by that my creditors, who must be paid in that way.

14132. I want to know what your stock is, without counting your creditors?
—Two cows, one four-year-old, two one-year-olds, and eight sheep.

14133. And your rent ?

14134. Do you consider yourself better off in Hacleit than you were in the place where you were before ?
—We have more room, but the land is so rough that it would be a considerable time before it is of any good, even to the strongest of the people.

14135. Did you build your own house when you came to Hacleit ?

14136. Have you a lease ?

14137. Did you take away with you the roofs of the houses from the other place ?

14138. Did you get any assistance in building your houses except that?

14139. Then what do you want done?
—The people can never rise out of the condition they are in, but they will sink deeper into poverty, unless the rents are reduced, and more land is given them out of which to make their living. (See Appendix A, XLI)

14140. Do you pay more rent for the place just now than the man who was there before you paid ?
—I cannot tell.

14141. Do you consider you pay too much for it ?
—Yes, for all that it can produce of crop.

14142. But even supposing you had the rent reduced, would that place there support twenty families ?
—It would not. The ground will not yield as much as will support the people that live upon it unless their stock were increased.

14143. How many families do you think that place of Hacleit would maintain in comfort ?
—The half of the present population.

14144. Where would you remove the other half to ?
—I have no place for them.

14145. But you came to represent the people of Hacleit here?

14146. WThat have the people of Hacleit to say about that?
—They say themselves that there is plenty unfilled land in the parish.

14147. I suppose that what the chamberlain stated here to-day was true, that there is less land in the hands of the large farmers than of the crofters in this parish : he stated there were over 63,000 acres under crofters, and 5000 acres less than that under large farms and deer forests. If you think that your own township can only maintain the half of its present population, how can people say there is land in the parish for the total population, though they should get it all ?
—That is the opinion of the people, at any rate.

14148. Is it your opinion ?
—I believe the people could be accommodated and live comfortably at reasonable rents if their land were increased.

14149. All that came here to-day from all the townships stated that the place was too srnaU, just as you do. Now, from these figures there is no place in the parish for them ?
—Though the people are making such money as they can in every place to pay for the land upon which they live, it is not the land that pays it.

14150. But you expect that if there were only ten people in your own place where there are twenty people they would be able to pay the rent ?
—I don't say they could pay the present rent if there were only ten. If the rent of the township were reduced to £40, and the stock that is upon it at present were aUowed to be kept upon it, that would pay the crofters.

14151. So that you would require to send away half the people, and to take off half the rent, before the people could be comfortable in the place where you are ?

14152. Mr Cameron.
—When was your last rise of rent?
—[Witness produces a paper.]

14153. What was that 5s. of increase put on for?
—I cannot say. We got nothing for it at any rate, though the rent was raised.

14154. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—When you spoke of putting off half the people, and reducing the rents by half, so as to make them comfortable, I presume you refer to the island of Bernera?
—Yes, I refer to the whole island of Bernera.

14155. Then I presume you did not mean it would be necessary to put away half the people off the whole island of Lewis, to make them comfortable ?
—No. But I think that if the waste land that is in the parish was divided among the crofters, they could pay it and live comfortably upon it. Our mills were taken from us, and the one-sixteenth part of the crop is due to the miller from every person whatever his crop may be. There was a mill erected by the landlord, and a miller put into it who has land, to which everybody is obliged to contribute.

14150. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What mills had you before?
—We had small mills of our own before. We are not satisfied with the way in which the miller behaves about the grain. He takes his own dues off the grain,
and he grinds our grain as it seems good to him.

14157. Mr Cameron.
—Did you hear the evidence given by the chamberlain ?
—I was not here at the time.

14158. He said that the 5s. additional rent was placed upon the crofters instead of work which they used to do formerly ?
—Yes, at first it was work. The 5s. was put on, but there was no work. It was for the roads. Our receipts did not show the road money as an item in the assessments, but summer pasture.

14159. Did you do any work after the 5s. was put on your land ?
—No, there was no work to do ; but additional road money was laid on us.

14160. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—So, in point of fact, you are paying 5s. and road money ?

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