Ullapool, 30 July 1883 - John Mackenzie

JOHN MACKENZIE, formerly Crofter, Leckmelm (64) —examined.

28550. The Chairman.
—Have you any croft ?
—I have still about a quarter of an acre of land at Leckmelm.

28551. What statement have you to make?
—Leckmelm was long ago divided into four townships. Three of them were under crofters, and one of them was a farm tack. The people were well-off at that time. One of the townships where there were four people paid about £20 of rent. In another township there were eight people who paid £40 between them ; and there was a third township called Incroash which was divided amongst three tenants who sub-let to three other tenants, making altogether in the township six people. I don't know the rent of that third township. The sub-tenants paid £14 of rent. In the year 1832 every person upon the estate was summoned out of his building. The two central townships were then lotted out into thirteen lots. In the township in which there were six tenants, these six were thrown in amongst the other thirteen tenants who had the two townships. In these two townships there are now twenty in all. Seven full lots were given to seven of those twenty, and the rest was divided among the other thirteen, at that time the land was rather disjointed, a patch here and there with a heap of stones now and again right in through it. When the lots were apportioned out among them in this way, the people began to clear the stones off the surface of the land, and to improve and cultivate it so as to make it one continuous ground, and improve it in every way as they were able. Another township was cleared
in order to make room for the innkeeper that was in Strathmore, and a portion of the hill which the tenants had at the time was taken from them and added to the farm which was given to the innkeeper. But still the rent was kept on the township after the hill was taken from them. The people were in this condition until the year 1842. In that year three townships were cleared in Strathmore—that is upon the Braemore estate—and some of these were thrown in among the tenants of Leckmelm, some of the existing tenants in those townships were sent away without the proprietor's knowledge. The proprietor was at the time away on the Continent.

28552. Who was the proprietor?
—Mr Davidson of Tulloch. When the proprietor came back he began to ask me what had become of those people, and when I told him, he replied that the thing had been done without his knowledge. In the following year a cold wind came into the land which has still remained, and that was the division that arose among the people in consequence of the Disruption. Then the son of this innkeeper who was settled among us was appointed factor upon the estate, or rather manager over the whole estate, and messages used to come from him and the ground officer to the effect that unless all the people should go to the church to which they were wont to go they would be removed from the estate, and it was alleged this was the proprietor's order. There were some that obeyed this order but others refused to obey, knowing where they could get the milk, and that when they got it they would drink it sweet This state of affairs continued for thirty-four years. The people still continued to improve the land and clear the surface of it of stones, but only some of us cleared it all. Then the young proprietor, who was at that time living on a portion of Strathmore, thought it proper to come and add to our rents. Over £20 was added to the rental of the place at that time, making the rent over £80. Then a black day for the Highlanders came round after that when the schools were placed under the control of the State. Then we began to quarrel as to who should be elected members of the School Board. Mr Davidson was then at Innerbroom, and our young proprietor became a candidate, thinking that everybody who had a vote in Leckmelm ought to give the vote to himself. There were seven properly qualified electors at that time, but through a change of tenancy and the like of that there happened to be only at that date of legally qualified voters, five. Mr Davidson only got four- votes in Leckmelm, and he got angry with us and increased the rent by £20 again, so that the rent thus became over £100.

28553. Sheriff Nicolson.
—When was the rent raised last before the estate was sold to Mr Pirie ?
—Just that same year I think.

28554. What year was that ?
—I think 1879, if I am not mistaken.

28555. What had the rent been before that ?
—The place was rented at £60, I suppose; then over £80, and then over £100.

28556. Was it raised from £80 to £100 in the last year that Mr Davidson had it?

28557. How many tenants were there then do you think ?
—About sixteen.

28558. How many are there now?
—There are sixteen still who hold bits of land from the proprietor.

28559. Were you all paying the same rent at that time ?
—No, not at first; but we were afterwards.

28560. What was the highest rent paid by anybody ?
—£5, 15s., at the first.

28561. What time do you refer to?
—When the lots were first given.

28562. In 1879 what was the highest rent ?
—£8 on the whole lot and £4 on the half lot.

28563. How many people had whole lots ?
—I think seven.

28564. And the rest had half lots ?

28565. What cattle were the whole lots able to support ?
—They were allowed by the proprietor more than they were able to winter. They were allowed four cattle and two followers, or three cattle and three followers as they liked.

28566. Had they horses ?
—One horse each.

28567. And sheep ?
—Twenty-four for each lot

28568. Were the people in a comfortable condition ?
—They were in a comfortable position some of them; those who had the full lots, but not those in the half lots.

28569. Were those who had the full lots able to make their living out of them ?
—-Not able—far from that; I have seen me some years when paying the high rent, buy as much as between thirteen and fourteen bolls of meal for my family.

28570. Because you could not make it out of the land ?

28571. And were you cultivating the lands as well as you could?
—I was.

28572. Had you not good crops ?
—Sometimes, but the failure of the potatoes was very bad.

28573. Which failure ?
—The failure in the potato crop.

28574. Has there been a periodical failure of potatoes ?
—Some years more than others.

28575. Did you never get enough of potatoes out of the ground to support yourselves?
—Oh ! yes, by buying some meal; but never without that.

28576. Now that the land has been taken from you, you have just the one-fourth of an acre on which to grow potatoes ?

28577. You have no corn, and no horse or cow or sheep ?

28578. Are you as comfortable as you were before ?
—No, far from that; but I might be worse than I am.

28579. Do you get regular work from Mr Pirie?
—I daresay I will get that if I like, but I am glad he is here; there are things he is not aware of. I went to work two years ago in the garden for the manager, and I continued there for about a month. For the days I wrought I was paid sixteen shillings. Next month I worked out more—I had more days —and, before I was paid, the Fast Day in connection with the Established Church came round and I went to the garden and commenced to work, not being aware that it was the Fast Day. The manager came into the garden where I was, but never said I was doing wrong or doing little. He was quite agreeable all the time I had been working there, but he came in and said ' This will not do.' ' What is wrong ?' I said. • Do you know this is the Fast Day ?' ' It is singular,' said I, 'that would be unknown to me.' 'I t is,' says he. 'Where? says I. ' In the church,' says he, ' up there.' ' That is in the parish,' says I. ' Yes,' says he. ' Yes,' says I ; ' but the day we parted with the Established Church we parted with it and all its eremonies,' I said, ‘I am not going to quarrel with you over my work; do your work when you like.' 'None will be working here to-day' he said. I then went home and commenced my own work. The same day he had to go to the hill himself and look about the marches with the factor, pretending he was going to church and he was not there. In the course of a few days after that the pay day came round, and when I was paid I took the money given to me and went away, and on looking at the amount of money I found I was two shillings in the week less. Next day when we met he asked me how much money I had got. I took my pass-book out of my pocket and told him the number of days and the amount of money I had received marked at the end. He said, ' That is it.' I said' are you going to give me more?' ' No,' he said. I said, ' You reduced me two shillings a week;' and he said, ' That will be your wages.' I said ' Why did you not tell me before ?'

28580. Are you sure that Mr Pirie authorised that?
—I am sure he never heard of it until now. The manager then came round and gave me a lot of curses, and said, ' I don't care whether you be willing or not.' ' I am not willing,' says I, - and keep your swearing to yourself; keep your mouth clean as a Christian speaking to another;' and I went off and left him there. One day I had a piece of work I had not finished, and I went and finished it, and left him and did not work any more till I was called last year, and when I was called I did not give him an answer This year I was called again to work in the garden, and I would be paid for it. When pay time came up he paid me according to the rule, at the rate of sixteen shillings.

28581. It comes to this, that your wages are not satisfactorily paid to you for the work you do ?
—I would take more if I could get it.

28582. What are the general wages paid?
—I cannot tell you that exactly.

28583. Is it sixteen, or seventeen, or eighteen shillings a week ?
—Some of them get that.

28584. Do they constantly get work ?
—Yes, when the weather permits, since Mr Pirie got the place.

28585. What do they do for milk ?
—Buy it from Mr Pirie.

28586. Do you get a constant and satisfactory supply ?
—Yes, when it will be.

28587. Are there times when there is no milk ?
—Yes, likely; when it will be, they will get it.

28588. Are you allowed to keep hens ?
—For that I was not caring; I don't care much about hens.

28589. Are you allowed to keep hens ?
—I am not very sure

28590. Is anybody forbidden to keep hens ?
—Yes, they were.

28591. Are they ?
—I cannot say about that just now.

28592. Why were they forbidden?
—Because they had too many, and they were destroying the fields. I had one at that time, and I think at the present time that one is still about the house.

28593. But on the whole your present condition is not so satisfactory as it was before ?
—No; but it might be worse, of course for all we do Mr Pirie pays us. When we were giving over the sheep and crop and stock, I asked the gamekeeper what reduction we were to get for the rent, and said that surely the half year's rent would be reduced. He said, 'You are perfectly right, and I will write about it ; ' but it came round at the end that we had the whole half year's rent gratis by Mr Pirie's orders.

28594. What do you pay for your houses and ground ?
—Just now for the site of the houses which belong to myself, and for the piece of potatoes and liberty to cut peats, we pay twelve shillings a year.

28595. Is that the rate all the'people are charged ?
—I think so.

28596. Do you consider that much or little ?
—It is rather too much, I consider; it is rather too little in a way ; but it is high enough for the way we have it.

28597. The Chairman.
—Did you build your house yourself?
—Yes; along with my father.

28598. Have there been any new houses built by Mr Pirie ?
—Oh; yes, a great many.

28599. What does he charge for the new houses ?
—I cannot say; there is none of them occupied by the tenants.

28600. Are all the people living on the ground still that belong to the estate, or have some of them gone away?
—No; they are not all living there, a good few of them died a few years ago, old people. Some of
the young people went away to New Zealand, Australia, Africa, and India.

28601. What became of the houses of those who went away?
—I don't know. I am not aware of any family that went away altogether, except one man who left about sixteen years ago for New Zealand with his whole family. His house was given to some person down from the strath. We wanted it from the factor, but he would not give it to us.

28602. You say that no family went away leaving their house behind them ?
—One family sixteen years ago.

28603. Did that family get compensation for the house ?
—No, nor for the improvement of land.

28604. That was before Mr Pirie's time ?
—Long before.

28605. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Was the land bearing hay at the time you had it ?
—Yes I was keeping under hay the most part of my lot.

28606. Had you any rotation of crofts ?
—Just a fourth part of it.

28607. Every year you changed it ?
—Yes, but the last year I took it all except the fourth part of the larger lot.

28608. Are there any old people on the place who are unable to work now ?

28609. And who have no other means of living ?
—About their means I cannot say, but I believe some of them have no means.

28610. And they have only that bit of ground to live upon?
—Yes, there are some on the estate who have no ground at all, but they were not in the books of the proprietor.

28611. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are there any people from Leckmelm on the poors' roll ?
—I know there were, but I don't know whatever there are any now, I think there are two still

28612. Have you any security that you won't be turned out of your house next year ?
—Not the least, and never had; that is what keeps things in the position they are. We are dependent on the good-will of the proprietor.

28613. Leckmelm is very good ground?
—Part of it.

28614. Were you living below the road?
—Most of my land was below the road, but when we built the house, about 1849, the road was made through the place and we never got anything for that.

28615. Did you build any dykes?
—Yes; all the dykes were built about it and still are. Some of them were rubbishy built as they were in
a hurry to get the stones out of the field, and they were building them without using a hammer.

28616. I saw a goodish dyke at the roadside. Was it you who put it up ?
—I put up part of it.

28617. Did you get value for that ?
—No, not a penny. I built a dyke on both sides of the road so long as I had to do with it.

28618. You kept the dyke a little back from the road?
—Close to the side borders; we were willing to save as much of the land as we could.

28619. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long have the two or three paupers you know been on the roll ?
—I am not sure.

28620. Were they on the roll when Mr Pirie bought the property?

28621. They have come on since then?
—I think so. The man is not able to work and had not much stock to give over at the time of the valuation. He was lame.

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