Balmacara, 2 August 1883 - Donald Mackenzie

DONALD MACKENZIE, Crofter, Alt-na-stu (40)—examined.

30276. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Had you a meeting of the Alt-na-stu people when you were appointed ?

30277. Were they all at it ?
—They were not all at home, but all who were at home were present.

30278. When was it ?
—-A fortnight on Tuesday.

30279. Where is Alt-na-stu situated ?
—Alongside of Loch Long.

30280. How far is it from this ?
—Five miles at least.

30281. What kind of place is it ?
—A steep place, difficult to work.

30282. How many years is it since the people were removed from Sallachy to this place
—More than fifty years.

30283. How is Sallachy occupied now ?
—By other tenants.

30284. It is not a sheep farm ?

30285. It adjoins Alt-na-stu, does it not ?

30286. Do you know how many tenants there were at Sallachy ?
—There were thirteen lots.

30287. And there are twelve at Alt-na-stu ?

30288. How long is it since Mr Lillingstone gave you some additional ground ?
—More than thirty years; I cannot say exactly.

30289. Has the rent been increased since then ?
—It has not.

30290. It has been reduced lately ?
—Yes, two years ago.

30291. Are you unable to raise sufficient food for your cows on your ground ?
—We have to buy food for them in winter, and to send them to Conchra in the summer.

30292. Where is Conchra ?
—Beside us.

30293. By whom is it occupied ?
—Dr Duncan.

30294. How long are you obliged to keep your cattle there ?
—As long as we can get them —about a month ; we are not allowed to keep them longer there.

30295. Where do you buy the winter provender for them ?
—From neighbours round about the country,

30296. Are you all fishermen ?
—Some are fishermen, and others day labourers.

30297. Are none regularly engaged in fishing ?
—Pretty regularly ; but when there is no fishing to be had they dig and do other work.

30298. Do any of you go to fish in other lochs besides this —lochs at a distance ?

30299. Do any of you go as far as the east coast to fish ?
—Very few; almost none now-a-days.

30300. Have any of you a boat of your own ?
—Ouly small boats for the local fishing.

30301. What kind of fishing do you engage in?
—Herring fishing always,

30302. Has there been any fishing thus season ?
—Very little as yet.

30303. You don't keep any horses ?
—No horses.

30304. Are you forbidden to keep horses ?
—No; but there is no place for us to keep them or to work them.

30305. You say no horse could work in the place ?
—No, it is that steep that it would be impossible.

30306. Therefore you consider it a grievance to carry your manure and other things up the bill ?

30307. But is there any other way of doing it ?
—No other way.

30308. Is it uncommon in the Highlands and Islands for people to carry that sort of thing on their backs?
—It is getting less and less common.

30309. What you want is to get a better place, and to be out of Altna-stu altogether ?
—If we could get a better place, that is what we want.

30310. Is there such a place not far from you ?
—Not far from us.

30311. What place do you refer to ?
—There are some hill farms on the Conchra side.

30312. What farms ?
—Kinnamoine, and the deer forest beyond that.

30313. How is Kinnamoine occupied ?
—As a deer forest

30314. Would you be able to take it ?
—We would not be able to take it all, but a small quantity we would.

30315. How many acres have you at present on an average?
—It is stated to be nineteen acres.

30316. That is the arable land amongst you all?

30317. How many acres of arable land would you think it good and right for yourself to have ?
—About ten acres.

30318. Ten acres each ?
—I should say eight each.

30319. Do you consider the pasture land also too limited ?
—Yes, it is worse still.

30320. There are just three of you who keep two cows at present, and the rest of you have only one cow. I suppose you would all like to have two cows ?
—Yes, or more.

30321. With ten acres and a fair amount of pasture, how many would you expect to keep ?
—Four cows and a horse.

30322. And of sheep ?
—Fifty, or about that.

30323. Can you estimate what you would consider would be a fair rent for that ?
—We have not considered that; probably they would not take the rent we would offer.

30324. Do you consider the present rent too high for the ground ?
—Yes; the ground we occupy is hardly worth any rent.

30325. Your rents are on an average £ 1 , 13s. 6d. Is that what you pay ?

30326. Yours is £5, 7s. ?

30327. What do you think your rent ought to be ?
—It would be too dear at half what it is.

30328. Supposing there are several other townships which want to get a part of those farms you have mentioned, who is to have the first chance ?
—We are the first.

30329. Why ?
—Because it marches with us, and we are needful

30330. Had your predecessors before you part of it ?
—Those at Sallachy had.

30331. You mention that you send your cows to one place in summer and another place in winter?
—We send them outside our own pasture in summer, but we keep them inside in winter. But we have to buy food in winter for them.

30332. How long do your cows remain on your own ground, and how long are they off it?
—They are all the year round on our own land except one month. We would require more time for them to be off the land, but that won't be granted us.

30333. How much do you pay per cow for the one month during which it is sent away ?
—Is. 6d. a week.

30334. How much do you pay per cow for fodder which you are obliged to purchase for winter?
—A pound or thirty shillings.

30335. Do you think you have to pay in money 31s. for each cow in the year ?
—Some of them have; it depends on how they work their land. Some keep more land in grass, and others cultivate more produce.

30336. Do you ever pay as much as 31s. in the year for your cow ?
—Not I, as I have two lots, and leave, out more of the ground in grass; but those who have only one lot have to do so and have to buy.

30337. Do you know other people who have to pay 31s. in the year ?
—There is a man here from the township who can tell that.

30338. Is that for the cow that really belongs to the place and to the summing, or is it for an extra cow beyond your proper stock ?
—Sometimes we rear a young beast in order to replace an old cow, and in that case the expense is incurred.

30339. Do you always find it easy to buy additional fodder for the winter ?
—Some years we do, and others not.

30340. What class of persons do you buy fodder from —farmers or crofters ?
—From different parties just as we can get it.

30341. What is it you buy ?
—Straw and hay.

30342. Professor Mackinnon.
—You are one of those that pay a high rent ?

30343. Can you tell me what stock you are allowed to keep?
—A cow, a stirk, and a few sheep, because the place is too rocky for cattle.

30344. The summing is a cow and a stirk for each croft?

30345. And your actual stock is two cows and two stirks ?
—No, I am not able to do that

30346. Are there any sheep in the summing ?
—I believe not.

30347. But some keep sheep ?
—Quite so.

30348. How many do you keep yourself ?
—I smeared at Martinmas twelve sheep and two hoggs, but there are not so many alive to-day.

30349. Do all keep the same number?
—No, some of us have none at all.

30350. How do you arrange amongst yourselves, those that have sheep,—what do you do with those who have none ?
—We agree satisfactorily in regard to that amongst ourselves.

30351. Do those who have sheep pay anything to those who have none ?
—No, because an understanding was arrived at amongst ourselves, and those who don't have them cannot claim anything from those that have.

30352. I thought there were no sheep in the summing?

30353. And don't the sheep spoil the pasture of those that have no sheep at all ?
—We keep them up to the rock at the back.

30354. Those that have no sheep have no cause to complain against those that have ?
—There are not so many sheep as to make any difference.

30355. You don't consider that the place is too highly rented ?
—There is no doubt but it is.

30356. How would you like to get your rent fixed if you got additional ground ?
—If we got it from the proprietor himself, we would be quite satisfied to get it reasonable.

30357. But you would like to be away out of this place and get arable land in another place ?
—Quite so.

30358. In that place you were talking of, Conchra, is there good arable land, or a place that could be made into good arable land ?
—Very much, better than where we are.

30359. Is it flat ground that horses could work upon ?
—Some of it.

30360. You would prefer to be there rather than where you are 1

30361. Those of you who have double crofts, 1 suppose, are much better off than those who have only one ?
—I don't think so, considering the nature of the place and the circumstances we are situated in.

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