Stornoway, Lewis, 8 June 1883 - Torquil Mcleod

TORQUIL M'LEOD, Crofter and Fisherman, Knock (40)—examined.

16283. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected by the people of Knock ?

16284. How many were present when you were elected?
—Forty or fifty, at least.

16285. How many families are there in the township of Knock?
—Forty-four or thereabouts.

16286. Then the people who elected you came from other places than Knock ?
—There were a few from other places.

16287. But most of the Knock people were there?
—There were scarcely any people but the people of the place.

16288. Have you any statement to make on the part of the people of Knock ?
—I have to say, in the first place, on their behalf, that to begin with, a portion of the arable land of the township was taken away from them to provide a site for a manse and a glebe for the Established Church. Then a piece of macher land that we had was taken from them and added to the tack of Aignish; that is, a green sward over a patch of sand. Then the moorland pasture which our fathers had we were deprived of, so that if we now will send a cow for a few weeks to that moorland pasture we must pay 2s. a head for the period, and 4d. for sheep for the same pasture ground for a settled period. Then the people in the township are very much crowded together, and the ground outside our township is given to other crofters. While they weie deprived of this pasture land there was no abatement in the rent, so that in the present circumstances of the township of Knock I can see no way by which the people can live. There is another specific thing connected with the fishing that is one of the causes of the poverty of the people. It affects more or less the whole population, but especially our township. During the last twenty years five boats were lost in our township for want of a place of refuge. The five boats belonged to the same crew. They were lost in the gale of October last. Seven of tho boats belonging to Knock were utterly destroyed upon the 1st of October last for want of a place of refuge. Things have come to such a pass by our being deprived of our pasture, and for want of places of refuge, that if in these respects we are not relieved, this island of Lewis, so far as I can see, will come in a short time to be a burden upon the rest of the nation. I can see no remedy for improving the condition of the people unless Parliament will see fit to deal justice to the people, by giving them additional land, and providing harbours of refuge to enable them to save their property on the sea. I believe the people should get the waste land that is locked up from them, through the whole island at  present being under sheep and deer, and of no great use to the people. I remember the tack adjoining our township having been occupied by a crofting population. I could purchase a stone of meal from them when I required it, a barrel of potatoes, a bushel of oats, and a pint of milk. I see nothing on that farm to-day except green grass, rushes, and white sheep; and they even attempt to prevent us from approaching the fishing port which our fishers used, and which is one of two used by us, one of them being upon this farm.

16289. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the rent of the place before they began to take things away, beginning with the glebe ?
—I cannot tell.

16290. What is it now ?
—I am not quite certain.

16291. Do you know what extent of land was taken for the glebe
—About five acres.

16292. Any hill land ?
—I am not aware he got any pasturage.

16293. What was the extent of the piece of macher land that was taken from you and given to Aignish ?
—Probably about ten or twelve acres.

16294. What were the other parks taken away from you, to which you had to pay 2s?
—The summer moorlands grazing.

16295. Was that of considerable extent and value to you ?
—It was of great use to the people.

16296. That park, I understand, was not given to anybody, but simply a rent was put upon it ?
—It is now what we call a forest, and there are deer upon it ; but we are allowed to send our cattle there, and we pay that amount to the proprietor for the privilege.

16297. Is that forest let to a tenant, or the right of shooting ?
—So far as I know, it is in the hands of the proprietor.

16298. Has the forest any particular name1?
—We have no distinctive name for it.

16299. Is it near the mountain of Murnich ?
—No; it lies west from here about three or four miles, out upon the road leading to Gara-na-hine.

16300. Can you mention how many crofters were placed upon you, and where they came from ?
—There were at first four placed upon one end of our township.

16301. Where from?
—One came from an adjacent township called Swardale, and three came from among ourselves. There have been six placed on the other end.

16302. Where did they come from ?
—They all belonged to the place.

16303. Then it comes to this that the lands were all subdivided?
—Yes, it came to that.

16304. You stated that, in your young days, you could buy milk and other things from the neighbouring tack. What tack was that ?
—It was a Mr Alexander that occupied it, and the farm was Aignish.

16305. Was it regularly cultivated?

16306. And it is now a sheep farm?

16307. Do you consider that the introduction of a sheep farm in that way is less beneficial to the neighbours and to the country at large than an arable farm?
—I think it is of less use to both the neighbouring people and the country at large.

16308. You spoke about so many boats being unfortunately destroyed connected with the herring fishery. You heard it stated that about Gress was a very good place for a harbour or pier. Would a pier at that place be suitable for you?
—At some portions of the year it might, and others not. The distance is about fifteen miles by land, and seven or eight miles by sea.

16309. Do you fish upon the Gress side or the Stornoway side chiefly ?
—It is at Gress that we fish herring just now. We go there every Monday, and come home on the Saturday. Herring are not found beside us now as they used to be.

16310. Do you know that the present rent, though you could not mention the amount, is bigger than the rent was before the glebe was taken off ?
—The rent is higher to-day. I am quite convinced of that.

16311. And you got no allowance for that or the piece of macher land ?
—Nothing whatever. I would like to speak about the school. We have great reason to complain of the excessive school rate and the little advantage which the young children enjoy in return for the burden that is laid upon us. I would be exceedingly pleased to know that some change would be made in the administration of education that would improve the education of the children, even supposing the burden should remain. There is one thing which I personally refer to as a burden, because I had a large number of children of school age. It is this, that at the time of summer, when it was easier for the children, badly clothed and sometimes badly fed as they were, to attend school regularly, and when it was easier for us to send them there, the school was vacant I think it would be altogether for the circumstances of such places as ours—where we have bad roads and ill-fed and poorly clad weak children, that the vacation should come in winter instead of in summer. Another thing in connection with the progress that the children are able to make under the present mode of education is this, that I consider the Act is an Act that has really come in order to deprive us people of the Highlands of any school worthy of the name.

16312. How far is the school from you ?
—It is just about a quarter of a mile.

16313. Are your children not able to go that quarter of a mile in winter ?
—How can you expect our children to attend regularly in winter with bad roads in frost and snow ?

16314. Have you a vote in the election of the School Board?

16315. Are you aware there is any dissatisfaction in the parish, generally speaking, with the administration of the School Board ?
—I know that the great majority are dissatisfied.

16316. Have the great majority attempted to put in a board that would please themselves?
—They have not the chance.

16317. Don't you know that everybody who pays £ 4 of rent has a vote?
—Yes, but I know that the great majority of the crofters in my parish don't pay £4.

16318. But are not the great majority of electors crofters, paying £4 of rent ?
—Yes, that is the case.

16319. And why is it that if the crofters are not satisfied with theboard, they don't endeavour to put in a board that would suit themselves?
—I cannot tell what the mind of the other people is upon the subject.

16320. Have the people of your district ever represented to your board that they wish the children's holidays to be in winter ?
—I am not aware that the people of our township have brought it under their notice until now.

16321. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What did you pay for school rates last year?
—3s. 8d. upon the £3, 15s. rent.

16322. How many children have you going to school?

16323. What fees are they charged ?
—One shilling a quarter for each.

16324. Are your children not well taught?
—I don't see much improvement in them.

16325. Are you able to judge yourself ?
—Yes, in so far as they have yet gone.

16326. Are you a good English scholar?
—I am not a great English scholar in any way, but I can test their education so far as it has gone.

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