Ness, Lewis, 7 June 1883 - Malcolm Mackenzie

MALCOLM MACKENZIE, Crofter and Fisherman, Sgigersta (71)—examined.

15668. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Sgigersta ?

15669. Where is Sgigersta?
—It is a small township surrounded by a fence out at the back of this place here. When I was born my father and another man occupied it between them. About sixty years ago they placed twelve families there in order to prosecute the fishing. Then six of these and my own father were drowned forty-eight years ago. They got the whole township at £10 a year at that time, and now it is £80. We cannot keep but two cows each. We are surrounded by a ring fence in our township. We are seven miles from the march of Galston tack, and though none of our cattle ever went there, or ever shall, still we have had to pay 5s. 6d. a family for this fence which has been spoken of. Then they placed six other tenants upon our township within our boundary fence. This was done in Munro Mackenzie's time.

15670. How did it happen that the six men and your father were drowned ?
—The boat foundered in a storm off the shore here. There were two similar accidents since that time. The one was exactly similar, and the other was during a comparative calm.

15671. How long is it since the last serious accident occurred?
—About twenty years ago in a great drift off the shore to Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire.

15672. Were the boats smaller and worse in those days than they are now ?
—Some of them are larger and more seaworthy boats, but there are others just about the same size as those.

15673. We have very often heard the people say that they prefer crofting and the cultivation of the soil, to fishing ; does that depend upon the danger of the sea in any great degree ?
—My neighbours can make nothing of the land. Unless they take their livelihood out of the sea they cannot live at all.

15674. And are they deterred from prosecuting the trade of fishing generally from an apprehension of the danger?
—No one was ever deterred in my township by fear of consequences. The crofts in my townships are so small that they cannot be subdivided. I have myself two sons, and they have not the breadth of my palm of land.

15675. Was your mother alive when your father was drowned?

15676. Did you support her?
—A younger brother than I stayed in the house then. That brother was drowned since.

15677. Have you in your township many widows of persons who were drowned at sea?
—There are six alive to-day whose husbands were drowned. Of course, there were many more who are dead.

15678. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many families are there in your town ?

15679. Sheriff' Nicolson.
—How are the widows supported?
—They have a little land, as we ourselves have. Two of them have only half crofts. They just live as Providence bestows upon them.

15680. Do you know of the new port that is being built?

15681. Do you think it will be of great benefit to the whole neighbourhood here?
—If it succeeds, certainly.

15682. Have you any doubt about it?
—I cannot judge very well; only I know that the sea would be very violent there at times, but still skill will prevail.

15683. You have been to see the works ?
—No, I have not seen the works.

15684. Do the herring boats do any damage to the long lines of your people ?
—Yes, they injure them very much. My own son's lines were three times taken away this year.

15685. Were they lost?
—He got the lines; a neighbour got them for him.

15686. But are they sometimes carried far away?
—Sometimes they are lost.

15687. Dont you think it would be a good thing for your own men to turn herring fishers and give up the long line fishing ?
—They have no place to keep the boats.

15688. Will not the new port be a place to keep them in ?

15689. Is it convenient for Sgigersta as well as other places ?
—If all the expense that has been incurred on this port had been incurred in our place of Sgigersta, it would be a better advantage than ever could be made

15690. Will it be possible for them to prosecute the herring fishing in summer, and the long line fishing in winter and spring, after they get the new quay?  —Yes, they could, but when once these fishermen appear off the shore they may drop the ling-fishing,

15691. Does it do any injury to the fish that are on the hooks when the lines are disturbed ?
—I believe they injure the supply of fish as well. At all events, the fishing has fallen off since my recollection.

15692. Is there any reason but the want of money why there should not be as fine a fleet going out from the port of Ness as from any other place ?
—Even with the quay it would not hold much of a fleet.

15693. But I suppose the men are as fit to be fishers and to compete with anybody else as those on the East coast are ?
—Yes, and as brave. There are no better seamen afloat.

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