STATEMENT by the Rev. John A. MACRAE, Minister of North Uist.
NORTH UiST, 31st July 1883.
I am of the decided opinion that if fhe crofters' holdings were extended they would be in a position to support themselves and their families in an easier manner than they are now capable of doing according to the present division of the land, and more particularly if leases were granted to them of ten or twelve years, on certain conditions of improving the land by way of draining and making enclosures, which I feel confident would induce the crofters to improve their holdings, and consequently their own circumstances; for it stands to reason, that land cultivated year after year does not yield the same quantity or quality of crop that it would do by bringing it into cultivation by a regular system of rotation.
I would also suggest that the pendicles or hill grazings that were attached to several of crofters' farms should be restored to them, of which they were deprived many years ago. I m a y mention some of these hill grazings which were held at one time by some of the townships in my own immediate neighbourhood, viz., Loch Eport side was equally divided between the farms of Knockline, Balemore, and Knockintorran; the hill of Birenal belonged to the farm of Houghary ; the hill of Langash to the farms of Tigheary, and Hosta Sponish (Loch Eport) to the farm of Baldoch ; Breanish to the farm of Balmartin ; Carnish to the farm of Baldone ; and Arighochdan to the farm of Scolpeg. All these hill grazings have been added to sheep farms; and I hold that, by restoring these several hill grazings to the crofters' farms I have mentioned, would not only prove to be a great boon to the poor crofters, in so far as it would enable them to keep more stock, particularly sheep and young cattle, but it would also put them in an independent position to maintain themselves and their families in the event of a failure of their crops. Another system that has been largely countenanced by Highland proprietors is the letting of farms to non-resident tenants, from which great evils have arisen, and that consists of good farm-houses now occupied by uncultivated menials, instead of gentlemen and their families, who possessed these farms at one time, and who were not only an acquisition to society, but a great credit to the country at large.
JOHN A. MACRAE.