Ness, Lewis, 7 June 1883 - Murdo Morrison

MURDO MORRISON, Crofter and Constable, Lionel (72½)—examined.

15628. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected by the people?

15629. Do you wish to make a statement?
—Well, the previous delegate is from the same township, and I have nothing to say except that I remember the time when there were only eleven families in it.

15630. There are now sixty-six?
—Sixty-six, although two are not on the rent roll.

15631. Have you anything further to say?
—Nothing, except that the increase which was mentioned was not done by the act of the present managers of the estate.

15632. What caused the increase of the people in the township?
—Several came from various townships in this parish—none from outside the parish. Others belonged to the place.

15633. Was it the custom when any member of a family married that the new family should establish themselves on the croft?
—Yes, there was some of that.

15634. Did any of the factors attempt to stop that?
—I don't remember they did. If they tried it they did not succeed.

15635. Do you approve of that process?
—What could be done with them ?

15636. That is just the question I was going to ask you ?
—I could not know what I would do with my son or with my daughter. I would only ask for myself as I would ask for others.

15637. But supposing you were the factor and saw this process of subdivision of crofts going on, what would you do ?
—I don't know. But there was one thing, that when the third or fourth part of the croft was taken there was a tax imposed by the landlord for roads, and so on.

15638. Do you seriously think that for the sake of 5s. a head the landlord would see the people multiply to such an extent that he must have known there was no work for them to do, or no land for them to cultivate ?
—He would not do it for such a small consideration as that, but still it was allowed. There can be no question of its having been allowed.

15639. That was hardly an answer to my question. I asked what you would do if you were factor ?
—I would, undoubtedly, be very much against it, but still it would be a very hard thing to carry out. I would not know what to do with my son and daughter. The proprietor at one time wished to insist upon it that a married son or daughter should not be admitted to the house, but things were too hard for him. He was not able to carry carry out his wishes.

15610. Can you suggest anything to do away with the bad effect of this redundancy of population in the district ?
—Well, if they got an abatement of rent things would be easier for them.

15611. Would that not encourage them to subdivide their crofts still more ?
—I don't know what they might do, but one thing is that the rent is very high. You can see from these receipts the change which has been made on the rent within the last twenty years.

15642. Very likely the rent may be high, but what I want to find out is how you could do away with the evil resulting from the too rapid increase of the population ?
—I can give no answer to that question.

15643. Do you think the people might do more in the way of fishing?
—I don't know that they could do more by fishing. They risk their lives as it is, and since the herring fishing commenced off the shore here they cannot very well leave out their lines; the herring nets break them.

15644. Do you think anything could be done by Government which would enable them to prosecute the fishing with greater advantage to themselves ?
—Well, I cannot tell, now that the herring fishermen are injuring our fishing in the way I have mentioned.

15645. Do the people ever speak of emigration to America or New Zealand, or Australia?
—Not often. They don't hear such good news always from these places.

15646. Do you mean they do not hear good new from those who have already gone abroad ?
—Yes. Some of their relatives have a sad enough story to tell; others are better off.

15647. Do you think the people would be disposed to emigrate if they got assistance and the members of the families were not separated from each other?
—I cannot tell. For my own part, I am too old to emigrate.

15648. Don't you know the opinion of your neighbours on that subject ?
—Well, they do occasionally speak among themselves that they must go somewhere, but they are so poor that they cannot go unless some assistance of that kind was given.

15649. We have heard in other places that there exists a great indisposition to emigrate. In this quarter does the same aversion to going abroad exist ?
—There is no doubt they are strongly against emigrating, and is it not rather a hard thing that they should be made to emigrate while sheep are being fed at home.

15650. I don't say anything about making them emigrate. I wish to know whether your neighbours would be willing to emigrate, provided they got assistance and the members of the families were not separated from each other ?
—I believe there would be very few indeed.

15651. What do the people do in winter?
—Fish every day they can. Almost all their success at the fishing now is in the winter and early spring, before the herring fishermen, come. The cod and ling fishing is carried on by leaving the lines out at night, and these lines must have buoys upon them, and if you leave a line out it may be that before morning it will be in Stornoway.

15652. Are these the ordinary fishing boats we see on the coast, or steam trawlers ?
—The ordinary herring boats.

15653. Are there not a great many days in winter when it is impossible for any man to go out fishing on this coast?
—By far the greater number.

15654. Then what do the people do at these times?
—Gather sea-ware and various things. They will not at all be idle.

15655. Do they ever improve the land—take in fresh land?
—Those that get that moorland pasture of ours will be taking new land; others of them will be improving it.

15656. Then do you say that many of the people in this township are in the habit of occupying their leisure time in winter in taking in fresh land ?
—Those who have got such work to do—that is, those who have fresh unbroken land as part of their crofts.

15657. Is that newly improved land to be seen from the high road as you come from Stornoway ?

15658. Do you know how much has been done?
—Yes; there is especially a strip visible that stretches out to the moorland pasture from the high road.

15659. Was that cultivated by crofters ?

15660. Lately?
—The first piece that was taken off our township, of this outside pasture, I believe was drained and done by the factor at the time himself, but the people have been going at it since.

15661. What is your rent ?
—£4, 18s. 6d.

15662. How many cows do you keep?
—Two cows and two stirks.

15663. Any sheep?
—Five or six perhaps.

15664. And a horse?
—A horse.

15665. How much arable land have you got?
—I cannot tell. The surveyor who measured it the other day told me it was 7½ acres, and that includes those wide ditches between every plot.

15666. Do you pay about the same amount in proportion to your arable ground and stock as the other crofters do in the township ?
—Yes; they all pay as high a rate and they all complain.

15667. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you know anything about the families that were evicted from Galston ?
—I know nothing about it.

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