MURDO M'LEOD, Crofter and Fisherman, Auchnahaird (52)—examined.
28276. The Chairman.
—Have you any statement to make ?
—' The Petition of the Crofters residing in Auchnahaird, unto the Royal (Crofter's) Commissioners,
Humbly sheweth, That there are eight tenants in the township of Auchnahaird, that each lot averages
between two and three acres; and that these lots have been tilled for about eighty years as we have not land enough to allow part of this to lie out in grass, the land has got so weak and poor that we can hardly make a boll of meal in a year from a croft. That about twenty-eight years ago, more than one-third of the pasture, and one-third of the arable land were taken from us and added on to the farm of Auchnahaird, and that some time afterwards our rents were raised £1 on each croft. It is but fair to state that our present factor, Mr Gunn, who has always dealt in a most gentlemanly manner to us, has reduced our rents by 15s. each croft, but that still we pay £4, 10s. more than what we paid before part of the land was taken from us. That we complain much of the want of sea-weed for manure. Formerly there was no restriction for us to take as much sea-weed as we required, but now we must pay 7s. 6d. to the tacksman of Auchnahaird, or give him three days' work instead. We understand that the tacksman holds the right to the sea-weed in his lease, and so we cannot blame him. That when we build a house at our own expense, we receive some planks for rafters and a few bags of lime, and then if we leave, the house is claimed for the estate, and no compensation whatever is given to us. That what we wish is, to get back the land that was taken from us twenty-eight years ago, and to pay the old rent for it ; leave to cut as much sea-weed as we require for manure without any restriction; compensation for improvements we make on our crofts; and also that a small local harbour should be erected, as at present there is no pier of any kind whatever for us to land fish and sea-weed at.
Signed by KENNETH MACLOUD, MARY M'LOUD, widow; and by six others.
28277. Do you remember twenty years ago when a third of the pasture was taken from the township ?
—Yes, and long before it.
28278. When more than a third of the pasture was taken away, was there any reduction of rent made ?
—No, nothing at that time.
28279. There was also a third of the arable land taken. What became of the third of the pasture and the third of the arable land—who was it given to ?
—It was made into a farm which is now occupied by a gentleman of the name of Lindsay.
28280. Was it made into a farm or added to another farm ?
—It was added to an existing tack. They wanted the fence drawn transversely through the land diagonally down to the sea, so as to leave the good portion of their own township with them.
28281. Was the best part of your croft taken away to be added to the farm ?
—Yes, it was twice better than what was left to us; one yard was better than two of what was left.
28282. And the rent of the tacksman's farm was increased ?
—I understand the rent was increased.
28283. You complain that you have to pay the tacksman of Auchnahaird 7s. 6d., or give him three day's work for sea-weed, is there plenty of sea-weed on that shore ?
—Yes, each of us pays 7s. 6d.; there is plenty of sea-weed on the shore.
28284. Has he as much as he can use on his own land besides what he sells to you ?
—Yes, there would have been quite enough and to spare, even although he were to use three times the amount he uses. There is a long sea-coast.
28285. Are a great number of them building new houses?
—Very few have built new houses.
28286. Are the houses very bad ?
—They are pretty bad—pretty old ; just about as bad as they can be and still remain habitable.
28287. If you had any security that you would be repaid any cost on leaving, would you build better houses?
—I believe they might, but it would not be worth while to build houses upon the small portions of land we have, or to improve them in any way. The ground is poor and the crofts small, and they cannot keep us alive.
28288. Have you any complaint to make about horses?
—I am not going to say much about that; there are a few horses, but the place cannot keep them.
28289. Do you pay additional rent if you keep horses ?
—Yes; those who have horses pay a pound additional. There are only two horses set apart for the township, and the men who have them pay a pound each. We wish first of all that we would get that piece of good ground between us and the sea which was taken from us ; and at any rate, if we cannot get that, we would wish that the small patches that have been left to us would be given us at a somewhat more reasonable rent.
28290. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you attach more importance to the increase of land or to security of tenure ?
—A larger holding is of all things what we want. We used to pay our rent by our stock, and now we cannot keep stock.
28291. Mr Cameron,
—Do you plough the land with the two horses?
—I put a third of what I have under rye grass, and a third under turnips and a third under oats, and one cow would eat the whole thing; the place is so very small, a cow and a calf could eat it.
28292. Do you use the two horses you have mentioned for ploughing the land ?
—Yes, the neighbours use the horses for ploughing in some places in return for payment; but the great portion of the arable ground is of such a kind that horses cannot work it.
28293. Are these two horses sufficient to do all the ploughing necessary for the crofts?
—Yes, for every bit of it if they were kept going; but those who have the horses sometimes go to earn wages to other townships to plough, so that the horses are not always available.
28294. That is not very fair to your township ?
—Well perhaps they prefer to go far afield and get better paid. They will be paid more exactly there than at home.
28295. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have your predecessors been there for a long time ?
—My ancestors have been for at least 200 years upon that country side between Inverlaul and Auchinahaird and Rhidorrach. They were foresters for some 150 years probably, father and son, and then they went over to the other side.
28296. Have most of the M'Leod's in the neighbourhood been there since the M'Leods were the lairds of Coigach?
—My people are the oldest in the place.
28297. Have you ever heard of Sir Rory M'Leod of Coigach ?
—I have heard often enough of M'Leod of Coigach.
28298. Have you heard of Torquil?
28299. Are your people as old as Torquil M'Leod of Coigach?
—My people were here before the Union when James was king —before the Georges came to the land.