Tarbert, Harris, 13 June 1883 - Angus Campbell

ANGUS CAMPBELL, Crofter and Fisherman, Plocropool (59)—examined.

18024. The Chairman.
—Who chose you to come here ?
—I am here to represent seven townships.

18025. How many people will there be in those townships?
—There are sixty-seven families in the whole of these places. When I took land there thirty-two years ago there were only twenty-two.

18026. Were you freely elected a representative of these sixty-seven families ?

18027. What have you got to say on their behalf ?
—I have to say that they are very poor, and that the one half of them injure the other half. Also that of the twenty-two crofts—there are only three which are not subdivided. The people who occupy these three are certainly better off than the rest of the people, the inference from which is that it is want of land that is impoverishing them all. I have to say that some of the crofts upon which there was only one family when I came there, have now five families upon them. I have nine of a family myself of whom four are sons, ranging from twenty-nine to twenty years of age, and in a very short time, through the operation of the same cause that impoverished my neighbours, I expect to be worse off than any of them. It was mentioned here to-day that some people were taking their sea-ware from Skye and Uist, and other places far away. I have a boat of seven tons' weight, and with my four sons I take the sea-ware from these places and further off. When I am able to bring this manure home early in the season I can sow my crops in better time than my neighbours, who have not the same advantages in this respect that I have, are able to do. If it were not for the kindness of the people towards one another, both in allowing those who are not able to take sea-ware from a distance, to gather what comes upon the shore at home, and also in giving them patches of ground to cover up with sea-ware so as to make use of it, I don't know what might become of them at all. I tried various pursuits in order to make a livelihood, within the last thirty-two years, but among them all I have not been able to find one equal to cultivating,—that is to taking my livelihood out of the land. I have of such land as is going a sufficient amount to maintain myself, and my family are springing up, and there is nothing left to distribute among them. A month ago my fourth son left the island without being too communicative with me about the matter; but he took some of the neighbours into his confidence, and I got a letter from Glasgow, and he is now upon his way to Queensland. His letter was, that when the oldest—Alexander—was to settle down he could get a portion of the croft, and when the second was to settle down—Murdoch—he was to get a share, but what was to remain to him in the land of his birth, and therefore, he would require to go away. Where we live man's physical strength holds not forth long. When we make our creels for carrying up this sea-ware from the boats to the crofts, we must make them of different sizes according to the strength of the person who has to carry them, for they all must take a share in it. I once cut peats where I now grow crops, and by continual working at it during the winter,—draining it,—I have been able to take some reasonable crop out of it, but my bodily strength cannot improve it more. When I came to the place first, if I had a barrel of potatoes to sell I could sell it for 2s. but now if it could be sold at all, such is the overcrowding and scarcity of potatoes that it costs 5s. There is no need to talk much longer of the matter. I don't wish to blame either factor or proprietor in the least for bringing about the state of matters that exist. The main cause has been the squatting of the people of the place, and not one of them getting an opportunity of removing elsewhere. The people of the Bays in Harris have no wool of their own, but they purchase wool elsewhere, and their wives through the night manufacture it into cloth. I myself get it for them,—as much as 500 stones in one year, from tacksmen through Uist and elsewhere, at prices ranging from 14s. to 26s. per stone. This enterprise was carried on through the kindness of the Dowager Countess and Mrs Thomas, and except for the proceeds of this manufacture, I do not know how these people could live at all. The people are quite accustomed to work bad land. There is no good land for them. The little good there is, they were driven out of it. So much am I accustomed to this that I could not work good land if I had it now. It is needless to expatiate upon it. Suppose I should go on till to-morrow morning the burden of it would be that the only remedy is additional land for the people. I, along with my family, am able to keep a fishing boat agoingLuskin upon the road leading to the churchyard, for I have seen the coffins carried upon our shoulders dragged through the flood—six men strung together, and following the course of the
stream in order to keep themselves from being swept away with the bier upon their shoulders. I was a young man in South Harris at Obbe, and there was a miller there, and I remember two boats laden with grain going to Stornoway distillery, and sold at Is. a peck, as the export of the district beyond what was necessary for the support of the inhabitants. I also know that when my father had plenty of land, such was the comfortable mode in which we lived, that I myself as a young lad was throwing the old potatoes out into the sea in order to find a place in which to store up the new potatoes in the beginning of autumn. I believe that if the township on which I live was occupied by one man instead of six, as it is, the same thing might occur again.

18028. Are you aware that potatoes nowhere grow so well as they did before 1847?
—They cannot grow so well as to supply potatoes to all the people of the place. I do not want a single rig of land for myself. I have quite sufficient for my own personal purposes. But if my family would wish to follow the same pursuit, there is no land for them, and if I were to share with them the small portion I have myself, I would be worse off than ever I was before. It is the want of land that ruins them. I have paid rent to five factors, and I never owed a shilling upon rent collection day; but instead of having a whole lot, if I had only half a lot, I might now have been probably £ 10 behind.

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