Appendix XXX

STATEMENT by the Rev. ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, Roman Catholic Priest of Bornish, South Uist.

In accordance with the wish expressed in your circular, received sometime back, I hereby send you a statement of some of the facts which occurred in the island of South Uist relative to the treatment received by the people from the hands of the proprietors (perhaps, speaking more correctly, from the hands of their representatives, the factors). Several changes came under my observation in the island, and I am sorry to say that these changes were not for the best. I am a native of the island, and between sixty-three and sixty-four years of age. I saw a class of comfortable tenants in the farms of Ormilate, Lower and Upper Bomish, Kildonan, Milton, North and South Frobosts. All these tenants were evicted at different periods from their land and sent to America, and the few of them who managed to get a footing in the country, were either removed to some moorland or distributed amongst the other crofters, which, in many cases, necessitated the division of crofts, as well as the allotment into new crofts of the land they held in common—land which they themselves and their ancestors formerly reclaimed from its primitive and wild state. Besides this common land, reclaimed and reduced into a state of cultivation, they had a wide range of hill pasture, of which they were also deprived, with the exception of a small and insignificant portion. On these hill pastures a great many sheep were reared, by means of which the owners were supplied with plenty of wool, which they manufactured into good and comfortable home-spun cloth. Now, having been deprived of this source of comfort, they must have recourse to the merchants for their cloth, or else buy their wool from the tacksmen, which comes to a serious item of expenditure in the household of a poor man with a numerous family. It was not only their sheep stock, but also their yeld cattle, and colts were grazed on the said hilly pasture. It was also the universal custom amongst them to return to the glens with their milch cows during so many weeks in summer, and upon their return home at the end of that period, the grass on the crofts and land in common was so abundant and plentiful that their cattle were well fed. Thus they had plenty of milk, cheese, and butter. But now the case is the reverse ; having to keep their cows for the most part of the year on their crofts, the quantity of milk is scarce, and the quality less nutritive. There is another serious complaint amongst the people, which is that the deprivation of the hill pasture and of the land in common caused no abatement of rent; for they are still charged the same amount of rent as they were when they had these in their possession. I remember, likewise, that there was a great deal of barley grain exported from this island, but now since these unfortunate changes alluded to took place, almost every sort of prosperity has declined. The people must depend either upon the proprietor or upon the merchant for the necessary supply of meal. The late proprietors always kept a store of meal in the country, and allowed no one to suffer the pangs of hunger. They received payment for the meal in question in kelp. Now kelp manufacture is discontinued and the usual supply of meal is stopped, which sinks the people deeper and deeper in the debt of the merchants. Upon the whole, I find that the people were attached to the Gordons, but they were absentees, and had in consequence to depend upon their factors for the management of their property.

So they lay the blame at the door of these unfeeling factors for the changes of which they complain. And certainly it must be owned that they proved themselves to be anything but favourable to the poor people of South Uist. Such changes for the worse cannot with any degree of truth and justice be attributed to the present proprietrix, Lady G. Cathcart; they took place many years before she got possession of the property. Neither do I think that her ladyship has it in her power at present to remedy the existing state of matters, because these farms I mentioned above as being formerly in possession of the people, are occupied by tacksmen, who, I am sure, are noways disposed to relinquish or to give up their leases. There is no one amongst the inhabitants of Uist who blames her ladyship, and I acknowledge with pleasure her kind and benevolent disposition. I know for certain that she on several occasions went personally to see the sick and infirm, and at the same time liberally administered to their comfort. I am equally aware that in some cases blankets and beds were given to the sick and destitute. These are traits of benevolence in her ladyship's character which I have great pleasure in stating, because I know them to be true, and it is but justice that she should receive credit for her kindness and good actions. The only remedy, in my humble opinion, for this state of affairs in South Uist, is to give the people more land (when such a step is practical), and at the same time to restore to them the hill pasture. If this plan is followed, I am convinced that their former prosperity will return, and that the tenants at the same time can afford to give the present amount of rent paid by the tacksmen. I by no means wish to insinuate that tacksmen should be removed altogether from the country, for such a class of educated and intelligent gentlemen is in a manner necessary to act as justices of the peace, as well as to conduct also the business in connection with the parochial and school boards. But some of these farms are so very large and extensive that they can very well afford to be divided, and at the same time leave a tacksman plenty to live on in a comfortable manner. Moreover, there are one or two tacks which may be done away with altogether.

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL.

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