Obe, Harris, 31 May 1883 - Donald Morrison

DONALD MORRISON, Crofter, Geocrab (76)—examined.

13216. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected by the people?
-Time was so short that there was no meeting of the people. It was Mr Davidson who mentioned it to me.

13217. Have you any statement to make to the Commission?
—I can add a little more to what the previous witness said. I was there when there were only eight tenants in Geocrab.

13218. How long ago is that?
—Before my father's time there were no people there at all. No person can conceive what kind of a place it is without seeing it. There is no highway there for cart nor horse. I was born there.

13219. When you remember at first were the lands held on the runrig system, or were they already divided into lots ?
—They had it among them in common. They had no lots among them, but the hill was divided into four parts, each of which was divided between two.

13220. Was the arable ground divided every year-or every three years ?
—Every year.

13221. Was that a better system than the system of making separate lots, or is it better in lots ?
—The lots were better, but the people in these times preferred to have them in common. I have seen a woman weeping at being separated from her neighbours by the division of the crofts.

13222. Whom did they pay their rent to? Did they pay it to the tacksman or pay it to the laird?
—To M'Leod of M'Leod.

13223. Did they have summer shielings then ? Did they drive the cattle to the hills, and live there in summer?
—We did.

13224. Do they do that anywhere now at all?
—I don't think there is any such thing done now. Everybody had shielings in my youth.

13225. But you still have the same pastures they had when you were young ?
—We have the same hill.

13226. Do you send the cattle up?
—Yes, we do.

13227. And how do you manage them if there is nobody living there?
—Everybody herds his own cattle.

13228. Who divided the lots of the arable ground every year? Was it the people themselves or the ground officer ?
—The tenants made the division themselves. When people were removed from Rodel, that was the first thing that spoiled us. There were twenty-four tenants there. Three of them were sent iu among us, and the rent was not changed, and these people paying their own additional rents.

13229. Sheriff Nicolson.
—With reference to these summer shielings, will you explain exactly what was done ? At what time of the year were the cattle sent up ?
—In the beginning of summer.

13230. How long did they remain there ?
—Till Lammas.

13231. Were all the cattle, young and old, sent up?
—All, young and old.

13232. Who accompanied them, and had they bothies?
—Yes, the women and children went, and stayed the whole summer, living in these shielings.

13233. They milked the cows, I presume, just as you do at home?
—Yes, leaving the milk in the shielings.

13234. Did they make any butter or cheese in the shielings?

13235. And the women and children occupied themselves, I presume, in spinning?
—Yes, they used to spin with distaffs and spindles.

13236. Was it always a happy time at the shieling? Did they look forward to it with pleasure ?
—Yes, they had pleasant times there.

13237. Were you there frequently when a boy?
—Yes, I often helped also.

13238. You were there as a child, and helped there?
—Yes, and lived in the shielings.

13239. Did you use to sing songs and have music?
—Yes, those that could would sing.

13240. And did the woman sing when they were spinning outside, or milking their cows ?
—It is they that would. In those times they would sing and dance, and have tunes.

13241. Was there any particular song or rhyme that they used to repeat at the time they started ?
—I have no recollection of any particular chant which they repeated.

13242. It is mentioned in a paper by Mr Carmichael in the third volume of Mr Skene's Celtic Scotland?
—I never saw or heard anything of the sort.

13243. What were the little huts like that you had on the hills ?
—Like ordinary houses built of stone and turf. We slept on the floor with the heather below us.

13244. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You mentioned the name of M'Leod of Harris. Did Harris once belong to M'Leod of M'Leod ?

13245. Do you recollect when Harris belonged to the M'Leods?

13246. In whose time did the crofters and small people begin to be removed or sent out of the country ?
—I don't know when it began, but the last eviction took place in my father's time.

13247. Do you know a namesake of your own called Donald Morrison living not far from here ?

13248. You have often spoken together?
—Yes, I know him very well.

13249. Do you know anything remarkable in the life of that Donald?
—I don't know anything particular.

13250. Was he in prison at Inverness?
—Yes, he was.

13251. What brought him there?
—For something he was concerned in that was done against the authorities at the time the people were being removed. I was at Portree fishing when the cutter brought them to Portree.

13252. Where did this take, place?
—These people were removed from the west side of the island—from Little and Middle Borv.

13253. Have you seen in your day many people sent away to America?
—Yes I have seen some.

13254. Do you know what became of them? Have you had any good accounts of them out there ?
—Yes, good accounts have been received of some of them ?

13255. Did any of them ever come back to visit this part?
—None of them ever come back to see this part of the country.

13256. Did the crofters that remained here in South Harris benefit in any way by the sending away of the people to America, or, if not, who benefited?
—No, their condition was in no way improved. They were sent away to the Bays. If there was any benefit derived by anybody it was by those who got the land we had, such as Mr Stewart.

13257. Were there any others who got some of the crofters' lands? Was not the tack of Rodel enlarged by the removal of crofters?
—Yes, the land from which the people were removed was also added to the farm of Rodel. That was when Mr Macdonald was factor.

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