DONALD MACKENZIE, Crofter, Second Coast, Gruinard (74)—examined.
28930. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected a delegate ?
—I cannot tell whether I was elected or not; but they told me I was the oldest man.
28931. Was it at a public meeting that they told you that?
—Yes, there was a meeting.
28932. Were there many people at the meeting?
28933. Many heads of families and payers of rent ?
—There was a sermon, and a minister was present. There would be half a dozen heads of families at least.
28934. Was it on Sunday ?
28935. What was the sermon about?
—There was a stated service, and the meeting was for the discussion of this question.
28936. Had the service any reference to the rights of the people or the sufferings of the people ?
—All these things were discussed after the sermon was over:
—' To the Royal Commissioners. My Lord and Gentlemen.
We are under the necessity of bringing under your notice that the rents of our crofts are by far too high j this is chiefly because some of our low land and best hills we had were taken from us, and attached to large sheep farms, and no reduction of rent. All this was done by evil and senseless factors, who had too much influence under our late proprietor. These three tremendous factors—one a retired merchant, one an officer in the army, and the other a great terror for putting away poor people—these inebriate three caused our estate to be in arrears, also in heavy debt to merchants; therefore what would clear us from this debt is to get improvements on our lots, and the land in the old way in which the old wise men had put it out for us ; also to get harbours on our rough shores to save our lives and increase our fishings. We have nothing against our present proprietor, P. L. Bankes, Esq., of Letterewe and Gruinard, he acted very kindly in sympathy and lenity in providing us with potatoes, oats seed, and meal, &c.
First Coast Township;
—The best of our hill and low land was taken from us, the low land was let to a new tenant. Whenever we heard it we at once assembled and prevented the man taking possession, afterwards we were compelled to pay the appointed rent in addition to our old rent, which we consented to in fear we would be put away.
Second Coast Township:
—Our best hills, even some of our peats and some of our low ground pasture, were taken from us, after we ourselves offered the same rent for it as the man to whom it was let.
Third Sand Township:
—The best of our hills and a good deal of our green pasture were taken from us. This green pasture we had for our milk cows, upon which we depend a great deal for part of our living, and the hills we had for summering our horses, cattle, and sheep, such as Ben Chasqun. All the Gruinard estate had the use of Ben Chasqun.
28937. Who was the late proprietor?
28938. When did the family of Mr Bankes get possession of this estate?
—He bought the estate about forty years ago.
28939. To whom did it belong before that?
—Mr Davidson of Tulloch.
28940. Were you contented under Mr Davidson of Tulloch?
—Yes, and well we might be.
28941. Did he raise the rents before he sold the estate?
—No. The place was lotted out in Mr Davidson's time, and the rents that were very high were placed upon others —some more than others. My own lot was rented at £8, and afterwards I found the rent was too high, and they took £2 worth off the lot and put it on to another man, and charged me £6.
28942. Did Mr Bankes make any changes when he came ?
—Yes, he was making changes now and again; it was during his time that we lost all the hill pasture, some three miles long.
28943. Did Mr Davidson take any hill pasture from you?
28944. What did Mr Bankes do with the hill pasture ?
—It was given to others. There was another side we had for summer shielings, and the year following he took that from us. We offered £10 for that place ourselves but we did not get it. It was given to the tenant for £10.
28945. Was all the land which was taken away given to the tenants, or was it used in part for deer forests ?
—It was all placed under sheep, none of it under deer.
28946. Did the tenants remonstrate with the proprietor or factor when his was done ?
28947. When the hill pasture was taken away from you what reduction was made iu your rent ?
—Not a penny. I believe that £ 7 was added to the rent of the place, but not a penny was taken off.
28948. Did Mr Bankes do you any favour or any good in other respects to make up for i; ?
28949. Has any improvement been made in your condition of recent years?
—Nothing, but such a thing was never thought of.
28950. In this memorial you speak of three terrible factors, is the last of these factors in the management now, or are they all gone ?
—No, these three are all gone, and just as well, perhaps; but the factor we had last—not one of these three —we had nothing to say against him; he was a very fine man.
28951. And the factor you have now?
—We have had no factor since the present proprietor came into possession.
28952. Does the present proprietor show any inclination to make your state better ?
—We don't know, but our belief is that if he could our condition would not be worse than it is.
28953. Have you made any request for the restoration of the hill ground or the enlargement of the crofts ?
—No, we don't think that he would do it, or if he were to do it it would be only for something in
28954. You stated that the proprietor was kindly in giving you potatoes, oat seed, and meal; was it the proprietor who did it himself or was it done by subscriptions from the south ?
—Yes, it was the proprietor himself who provided it, but we have to pay it back.
28955. Have you to pay back all the potatoes, oats, and meal, or only what was given for seed?
—Everything; what we ate, as well as what we used for seed. What we got from him was chiefly seed.
28956. And how long will he allow you for the paying of it back? Is it all to be paid back in one or in several years ?
—We don't know.
28957. You complain that peats have been taken from you, are you obliged to pay for the peats which you formerly had free?
—There are some who pay for the old ground which was taken from us. When that ground was taken from us we had to come on to our own land to cut peats, for they are scarce and far away.
28958. How much will it cost a family for peats for the year?
—5s. or 6s. perhaps.
28959. And you cut them and cart them yourselves ?
28960. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is there a large number of crofters at Gruinard ?
—Yes, there are three townships included in that paper.
28961. Were the grazings of Benhasken of considerable extent?
—Yes, it is of considerable extent, but it has nothing to do with the pasture which was taken from us. Our forefathers had it, but that is not grazing which was taken from us.
28962. Who has the grazing which was taken from you?
—It was a Mr Thomas Golan.
28963. What is the name of the place?
28964. Do you know the farm of Drunichork
—Yes, very well.
28965. Is that a big farm ?
—That is where our proprietor lives.
28966. Is it a big town ?
—No, there is a great house on it, built two years ago; all that was there was cleared away.
28967. How may people were cleared out of what now goes under the name of Drumchork.
—I don't know about the number of families that were in Drumchork, but there was a place adjacent to myself out of which the people were cleared and scattered throughout the whole earth, and the people of Dingwall came and pounded them upon the stones; and the meal that was being prepared for the family was taken away off the fire, and thrown outside.
28968. Who was laird at that time ?
—It was during the late laird Mr Bankes's time. Then the officers went up to the roof of the house—
meanwhile they had not extinguished the fire—and they cut down the roof with hatchets, and when it fell it took fire and continued burning during the Sabbath day.
28969. Was it a bad day for Gruinard when Tulloch had to sell it?
—Yes, it was; we would not have lost our hill pasture had Tulloch possessed the land.
28970. Can you instance anything that Mr Bankes ever did, during his possession, to benefit the crofters ?
—Yes, a little. He made us drain our land a bit, and we were paid for that work; and he was doing a little work—there was not much —in making piers and that. It was a rough coast, and the boats used to get broken, and he did some work in that way, at the piers.
28971. Was Mr Bankes reputed to be a wealthy man?
—Where could you find a wealthier ?
28972. When Mr Bankes died was his eldest son living?
—Not long after he died his eldest son died too; his two sons died shortly after he died himself.
28973. Did the eldest son leave any family ?
28974. Are they proprietors of the property ?
—No, it is a son-in-law Donald who possesses the estate.
28975. Are the crofters on the estate of Gruinard generally in poor circumstances ?
—Some of them are. They are not to say bad ; some are worse off than others. I am as badly off as anyone upon the estate myself.
28976. Was any application made for outside charity to help some of the people to lay down their crops and to keep them alive ?
—There was some assistance came to the place, but I got nothing of it.
28977. Who wrote the paper which you presented ?
—A lady belonging to the place.
28978. Does that paper really represent the true feelings of the people of the district—the three coasts?
—Yes, I think it does.
28979. It was prompted by no outside interference?
—No, there were no outsiders in among us.