Stornoway, Lewis, 8 June 1883 - Donald Campbell

DONALD CAMPBELL, Crofter and formerly Fisherman, South Tolsta (60)-examined.
15981. The Chairman.
—How many families are there in Tolsta?
—There are about one hundred altogether, of whom about fifty pay rent.

15982. Were you freely elected by the people of your township?

15983. On what day did the election take place?
—About a fortnight ago.

15984. Was the whole township present on the occasion?
—There was a large number present, but they were not all there

15985. What proportion of the township was present?
—Between forty and sixty probably.

15986. Who summoned the meeting?
—The people of the place. They heard that such a thing was to be done.

15987. How did they hear it?
—They heard through the country that these proceedings were taken, and when they heard of these meetings
they met too.

15988. And those who were absent knew of the meeting?
—Quite well.

15989. Have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Tolsta?
—Another delegate and I were sent here in order to tell how some of the ground which our fathers occupied before us was taken from us. A moorland pasture of about ten miles broad was distributed between our township and the two tacks that marched with us upon the other side, between our township on the one side and the two tacks upon the other side. When these ten miles were portioned out, only the breadth of two miles was left with our town, and afterwards it appeared to them that even this was. too much, and one of these two miles was taken from us. We have now scarcely one mile—that is all the breadth. Perhaps
it extends about five miles back, this mile between the sea and the moorland pasture. Then the last rude that was taken from us was added to a tack, and we were obliged to pay the sum of £7 before we were allowed to put a hoof of cattle upon this ground, which really was our own. Then, if our cattle were three or four weeks out upon the moorland pasture immediately after they came home, dogs were set after them, and they were placed in pound. The township of North Tolsta was originally under a tack, then afterwards it was lotted out among the crofters, and over twenty years ago it was made a tack of again, and it is now under big sheep. And when they sent away the crofters from that place in order to make a tack of it, they sent some of them away to America, and others of them they crowded in upon us. This tack is a portion of the township. They crowded in upon us in the rest of the township of North Tolsta the people that were not sent to America in order to make room for the tack. North Tolsta is entirely tack. It is the people of South Tolsta that elected me to come here, and they call a portion of it sometimes Balmeanach. So when the people were removed from North Tolsta and South Tolsta in order to clear it for a tack, some of them were sent to America and others crowded upon us. It was necessary to make room for them because they were removed from their own place, and some of the people of South Tolsta who were in arrears of rent were removed from their own places outside the township in order to make room for those of North Tolsta that were sent in upon them. These got no land, and it mattered little whether they were alive or dead, so far as the authorities were concerned. There are between fifty and sixty young men in the township—some of them married, some not—who wish to acquire land, and who have not got it. These have been trained in the defence of their Queen and country both on land and sea. These think that a portion of the land which belonged to their forefathers should be given to them—the waste land which is under sheep. There is a great portion of land now lying waste—uncultivated under sheep—perfectly capable of supporting these people if they could only get it. Under the turf of this land there lies the possibility of plenty of oatmeal and barley-meal for the sustenance of these people, if they only could get possession of it. It is sad to see that the people whom God created for His own glory should be crowded in together upon each other to make room for big sheep. As we heard a good man belonging to Caithness saying—'The landlords said that the earth was theirs, while the scripture saith that the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.'

15990. Mr Cameron.
—Do I understand you to say that those ten miles of moorland were taken away from them twenty years ago?
—It was not taken from us. These ten miles belonged to these two tacks and our township, and when the appointment was made only two miles were  left with us.

15991. Then eight miles were taken from you ?
—No, that could not be said, because the ten miles belonged to the two tacks and us.

15992. Was it common pasture between the two tacks and the crofters ?
—Yes, that was the case.

15993. So your share of that would have been about three and one third miles ?
—No, our share would have been two miles, but then they took away more than one of these two miles from us.

15994. Then the complaint is not that they took away anything from the ten miles, but that they took away one of the two miles ?
—Our complaint is with respect even to the two miles, that it is less than our proper share. If it were properly divided we should have over three — three and a third.

15995. Then the difference in the first instance is between the three and one-third miles and two miles which you should have got?
—Yes, that was our first complaint.

15996. And the second complaint is that of the two miles one was taken from you subsequently and added to the tack ?
—Yes, that is our second complaint. More than a mile was taken from us and less than a mile left with us.

15997. What sort of land was it that you talk off, this moorland?
—Just moorland pasture—peat.

15998. What stock did it keep?
—A mile of moorland pasture will not feed much stock. I cannot exactly tell how much they feed the most of their stock without fence of their crofts.

15999. If they got this land again, what would they do with it?
—If we got it back we would keep more stock than we keep to-day; but in addition, there were over twenty families thrown upon us.

16000. Would you cultivate that land? Would it be susceptible of growing corn, that woodland which was taken from you?

16001. Was not land taken from you which was susceptible of the cultivation, as you say, that would grow corn ?
—The tack of North Tolsta was taken from us, and it would yield crops, if we got it back.

16002. When was that done ?
—Over twenty years ago.

16003. Was arable land taken from them at that time?
—All the arable land of that tack was taken from us. It was arable at that time, and people were living upon it. It is now pasture land.

16004. That is ground which you say was originaUy a tack, which was distributed among the crofters and then made a tack again?

16005. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—When was the rent last fixed?
—About thirty-one years ago.

16006. Has the rent never altered since then?
—Yes, it was raised.

16007. What was it thirty-one years ago upon the township?
—About £140.

16008. What is it now?
—Between £160 and £180.

16009. What is the name of the other tack you refer to besides North Tolsta ?

16010. What is the name of the tacksman of the North Tolsta and the name of the tacksman of Gress ?
—Thomas Newal is the manager of North Tolsta. The tenant is a young man, and I do not know his name. Mrs Liddle is the tenant of Gress.

16011. How many families were removed altogether from North Tolsta ?
—I cannot tell, perhaps there may have been about twenty.

16012. How many came in upon you?

16013. Then how can you say that only twenty were removed altogether?
—My neighbour and I cannot agree between twenty and thirty as to the number who were there first.

16014. But how many do you say were placed upon you?
—I cannot tell.

16015. You can neither tell how many families were placed upon you nor how many went to America?
—No, I cannot tell how many went to America.

16016. Are all the families that were put upon you still there?

16017. How long would you take to count them on your fingers?
—From ten to fifteen families of those that were in North Tolsta were sent in on our township.

16018. The Chairman.
—You stated that some of the people in South Tolsta had been removed outside the township because they did not pay their arrears of rent. Do you object to the removal of people who don't pay their rent?
—I object. I would like they should have time in order to pay up their arrears. It might be made up in a short time, even supposing they were in arrears, and they should not be removed to make room for other men.

16019. Do you know how long these people had been in arrears?
—I cannot tell. At the time they were removed the markets were bad and there was no price for cattle, and they were taking away the cattle without leave asked in order to pay up these arrears. The proprietor's people were removing cattle in order to pay their arrears without asking leave. They themselves fixed any price upon them that they pleased.

16020. Had the tenants not a right to take their cattle to the market?
—Yes, they might do that; but they were gathering them in a certain place, and the proprietor's people were fixing the prices of them.

16021. But they might have taken them to market, had they wished themselves ?
—Yes, but the prices were so low.

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