MALCOLM MACKENZIE, North Eradale (68)—examined.
28884. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are you prepared with any statement ?
—'At a meeting held by the crofters of North Erridale, on the 2nd day of July 1883, they resolved to place the following grievances before the Royal Commission.
(I.) Previous to 1843 the whole arable and pasture land belonging to the township was occupied by twelve crofters only, at a rent of £50, 8s. sterling. In the said year 1843 or thereabouts, and while the Gairloch estate was under trustees, the arable land was divided into lots, and for the purpose of raising more money the hill pasture was separated from the lots under a distinct rent. By this new arrangement the rents now raised, exclusive of all rates, amount to £95 sterling, making an increase on the former rent of £39, 12s. annually.
(II.) In the place formerly occupied by twelve, there are now twenty-three crofter families, a number which our township of North Erridale is not capable of supplying with the necessaries of life. Food for man and provender for beast must be purchased elsewhere, and the money for buying these must be earned in other places.
(III.) We do not complain of our present proprietor Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie. Generally speaking
he is a good proprietor, specially kind to poor widows who may be left with weak families, and taking a warm interest in the education of the young. But he did not remove the burden of rent laid upon us by the trustees who held the estates immediately before him.
(IV.) We want
(1) the hill pasture along with our lots same as our fathers had it ;
(2) a reduction of rent;
(3) more land.
28885. What rent do you pay?
28886. How much land have you ?
—Four acres arable land.
28887. You pay £3, 16s. for that along with the hill pasture?
28888. What stock do you keep ?
—Two cows, and two young beasts, and three or four sheep.
28889. Do you find the pasture too small for them ?
—No, not for all that I have.
28890. You have not to buy any food for your beasts ?
—No, if I had more I would have to buy.
28891. Had you ever any more than two cows?
—Yes, I had formerly a great many more.
28892. Where were you then?
—Just where I am. I was paying a twelfth share of the township before it was laid out.
28893. What stock had you then ?
—Two horses, eight milch cows and young animals, and about fifteen sheep.
28894. And how much did you pay for that?
28895. Where were the additional crofters brought from who were put into this place in 1843 ?
—There were some of them in the place —cottars. The greater number of them belonged to the place, and they got lots. The land yielded greater increase at that time than now. I have seen, in my day, a great many changes upon the estate. The ground yielded four times more then than it does now.
28896. Did any of the people come from other places ?
—-Two or three came from the outside.
28897. And the other ones had been cottars until they got lots ?
—Yes, they were cottars, they had no land except what we chose to give them.
28898. How did they manage to live at that time ?
—They raised some potatoes at home, and they had fishing at home and elsewhere; and out of
the proceeds of their earnings they bought meal.
28899. Was there any other land in the township that could have been given to these people to improve their position, except what was given to them?
—No, there was none near us that could conveniently be given. There were two bits of pasture land which belonged to us at that time, and which were afterwards given to some people who now live upon them.
28900. Was it not a great benefit to these cottars that they became crofters instead of being left as they were?
—We don't know that it was much to their benefit; they lived quite as well then as now.
28901. If they lived quite as well with a little bit of land, how is it that you are not living as well, if your land is little less than it was ?
—Because the land does not now give the increase it did.
28902. Do you think that the land is so much reduced that it cannot now bring forth the same crops that it did forty years ago ?
—It does not give such increase among us. No doubt the land has the capacity to yield it if it were made to yield it. It was by their wages that most of those cottars, who depended upon us, lived.
28903. What could be done to improve the land ?
—I am an old man ; it is the young who can give that information.
28904. But you should have had more experience in cultivating the land ?
—I am not so sure of that.
28905. Can anything be done in the way of trenching or manuring the land, more than has been done already?
—Yes, there could, on some of it.
28906. And why don't you do that?
—They do as much of it as they can.
28907. Has anybody among you any fear of being put out of his place if he improved his land ?
—Our present proprietor is the friend of the poor; more so than any one we ever had. He is not an object of fear to any one; but we don't know what might befall.
28908. Do your people find a difficulty in paying their rent ?
28909. Are they much in arrears ?
—Yes, some of them.
28910. Are you yourself?
—Yes, I am.
28911. Did all the inhabitants, or those of them who could, attend the meeting at which you were chosen to represent them ?
—The greater number of the people were away out of the place, but those who were at home were all there together when I was elected. The greater number of those who were away bad a meeting before they went.
28912. Are the young men all away at the fishing?
28913. Are you near the shore?
—Yes, and a very rough shore it is; we very often cannot approach it when out fishing or when getting supplies.
28914. Have you no good place of refuge near you?
—Yes, we can run into the loch here.
28915. Do your men fish regularly when the weather permits?
—Yes, the greater number of them.
28916. What kind of fishing ?
—Herring, cod, and ling.
28917. Do they make a good thing by it when there is a good year?
—Yes, when it is a good year.
28918. Have they any difficulty in disposing of their cod and ling?
—No difficulty whatever.
28919. Who takes it from you1?
—There are two curers upon the other side of the loch who take it from us.
28920. What price do they give for cod and ling this year?
—8d. a fish for both the cod and ling.
28921. And are the men regularly paid in money for their fish?
—Yes, so far as I am aware.
28922. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Were you well off before this allotting took place in 1843 ?
—Yes, I had as much as my needs required.
28923. Was not the effect of the arrangement whereby eleven additional people got land in this township to impoverish both?
—The effect was to impoverish us who had the land; but some of those who had the land were better than they were before.
28924. Are they better off now—those who got it?
—No they are not, were it not for their earnings they would not be in any condition at all so far as their lands are concerned.
28925. You were asked what would be the best way to improve their condition. Supposing that these eleven crofters were settled somewhere else, and the old crofters or their descendents got the lands as they had them before—get the pasture which was taken from them —and at the old rent, would they be all right then ?
—Very likely we should be. I cannot very accurately determine it, but it would very probably be an improvement on our condition.
28926. Is not that what you want in your paper?
—I suppose you have all seen what is in the paper.
28927. The hill pasture along with our lands as our fathers had it ?
28928. Reduction of rent ?
28929. More land? Do you approve of that?
—Well, so far as I am concerned my day is nearly done, and it is but little that I can take of land. That is what the young would wish for.