Balmacara, 2 August 1883 - Donald Macrae

DONALD MACRAE, Crofter, Camuslongart (56)—examined.

31162. The Chairman.
—Were you elected a delegate ?

31163. Have you any statement to make on behalf of your township?
—' Statement by the Crofters of Camuslongart, in the Parish of Lochalsh. In this place there are eight crofters and two cottars, occupying each from three and a half to four and a half English acres or thereabouts of land of very inferior quality. Before our fathers were removed to it, it formed a part of a township occupied by small tenants. It is composed partly of moss and partly of gravelly soil and rock, and was mostly covered with heather. When Lettre, Conchra, and Braigh-an-tratha were, in the time of Sir Hugh Innes, given to one man, some of the people were removed to this poor place. Our Complaints.
—The smallness of our holdings, and, considering the poor quality of the soil, and the improvement made was by ourselves, and also that we have no claim for compensation, the rent is too high. We have no outside grazing for cows or any other beast. We keep a cow each on the crofts; but during the summer and autumn seasons they must be tethered or herded, each his own cow, which requires eight individuals. No followers can be kept. We pay 7s. 6d. for peats either in money or labour, and 9s. to neighbours for sea-ware for planting potatoes. All burdens must be carried on our backs—doing horses' work. The remedy for this is to grant more land, especially more pasture, where we could keep cows with their followers, and a few sheep, which would be of great benefit to families. Emigration has not, in any case we know, improved the condition of the remanent population or those who remained in the country. The reverse was the result. In many they were reduced to poverty, their lands being added to large sheep farms.'

31164. Who was this letter written by?
—The minister.

31165. Your own minister ?

31166. Was it read over to the people ?
—-It was written by instructions of the people.

31167. After the minister had written the paper did he read it over?
—The people could not understand it in English; but they believe it is according to what thay wished him to put in Gaelic.

31168. Did the minister translate it into Gaelic to you?
—He had no time to re-translate back to the Gaelic what he put in.

31169. But you have faith that the minister has written what you said ?
—[Rev. Mr M'Call, Free Church minister, Lochalsh].
That statement was dictated by the people, and I explained to them in Gaelic, and asked if that was all they wanted.

31170. Your demand is for more land ?—where can you get more land ?
—[Donald Macrae]. There is plenty of land in Conchra.

31171. Could it be given near your own place, or would you have to be transported with your family to another place ?
—We are near enough it already.

31172. Do you mean adjacent to it?

31173. Is it to be taken off the farm?
—Yes, off the big farm. There is no other place.

31174. But the factor said it would spoil the big farm to give it off?
—It is certain it would make a change upon it.

31175. But do you think that some of the farm would still be left ?
—Yes, plenty would be left for the man.

31176. You say that emigration has not, in any case that yon know of, improved the people's condition ; when the people emigrate and go away, what becomes of the land they leave behind them?
—The bulk of it has been given to one man, and put under sheep.

31177. Did you ever know any case in which the land of an emigrant was added to the land of somebody who remained behind ?
—Yes, some in Ardcloe.

31178. Then emigration sometimes does some good to those who remain behind ?
—Very little good it has done to us as yet.

31179. Do the emigrants not sometimes do well in the new country?
—Very few have come back to help the country of those who have left.

31180. But perhaps they don't come back because they are so well off in the other country ?
—Although they would return they would get not a turf of land for a site for a house.

31181. If you were a young man again, and had a good chance, would not you go to Australia or America ?
—I think there is plenty of good land in this country to keep people living without going so far from home.

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