Balmacara, 2 August 1883 - Duncan Mackay

DUNCAN MACKAY, Crofter and Sheriff-Officer, Duirnish (37)—examined.

30637. The Chairman.
—Have you got a written statement ?

30638. Are you a delegate?

30639. Were you elected by the people of Duirnish ?

30640. How many heads of families are there paying rent there?
—Thirteen paying rent between lots and half-lots; and there are four besides that who have a lot between them.

30641. Did they all take part in the meeting?
—Yes, or people representing them.

30642. Would you be kind enough to read your statement ?
—The rental of the township of Duirnish when first given to tenants was £120 at that time, in addition to the arable land and grazings for forty-eight cows. They had summer grazings in the neighbourhood of Loch Monar for eighty cows and four horses. The original number of tenants was four, and these subsequently took others in with them. They then sent to the fore-mentioned grazings sixty-eight cows and ten horses, that is two cows less for each horse over the stipulated number of horses. They were first deprived of Portmaneon, which was, and still is, let to tenants at a rental of £ 9 a year. In or about the year 1852 we were deprived of the fore-mentioned summer grazings, and in or about the year 1863 the township was divided into ten lots at a rental of £ 10 each, three of which were made into half-lots. In addition to the arable land each tenant could keep four cows, sixteen sheep, and one horse. (The horses to be sent to summer grazings) But as the land was being allotted, the factor said that he purposed dividing one lot of the arable land among four of the former tenants who had lost their holdings, with the privilege of keeping one cow each, at a rental of £ 2 each, leaving us under the impression that we were to have a reduction of our reut to the extent of £ 8 , but instead, leaving only nine lots of the arable land to be made into ten lots, and adding £ 8 a year to the rent of the townships,—this making the rental £ 108 instead of £100, as first agreed upon. There were some improvements made on the place at the time, which we were given to understand we were not to be charged for, as t he work was done, we were told, on account of the poverty of the people, and the work people were principally paid in meal from Balmacara, as it happened to be a bad year. About sixteen years ago we were deprived of a piece of the pasture land for a plantation, and about four years ago we were deprived of another piece for the same purpose, both pieces containing upwards of twenty acres, and for which there was no reduction of rent. About five years ago there was a fence made between us and the proprietors' home farm along the river which had always been the march between us. The fence was made on our side of the water, and encroaching into our land to an extent of an average of twenty yards in width in upwards of a mile in length in the best part of our pasture, for which we got neither compensation nor reduction of rent, unless a march fence made between our arable land and two other townships, for which we quarried and carted in stones, was meant as such. Twelve years ago, finding it a cause of contention that each tenant should have his particular share of sheep, we turned them into a common stock; but after the first-mentioned fence was made, as it locked us from all outlet and left us open to the encroachment of t h e sheep and cattle of the neighbouring townships, our sheep stock of 200 in a short time was reduced to 120, and three years ago we were obliged to sell them. Thirty-one years ago a large portion of the sea-weed which belonged to us was transferred to Achnadarroch, and when the proprietor took the latter place into his own hands, instead of being restored to us, it was given to the Plockton people. We are obliged to get sea-ware wherever we can procure it, having in some cases to go as far as twenty miles by sea for it , as we have not enough of our own to manure a tenth share of our lots. We are obliged to send our horses and young cattle to summer grazings wherever we can get it. For our horses we pay £ 1 for each for four months in the poorest place, and from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a week in a good place. The returns from our crofts doth not exceed three bolls of meal and eight bolls of potatoes a year, that is for each £ 10 lot, and last year we had not enough of seed to sow the ground. Owing to the deterioration and narrow compass of our pasture land, our cows do not give above the half of the former quantity of milk. We desire that our crofts should be revalued, to get more land at a reasonable rent, and full compensation for all improvements. The difference between the original and the present rent as far as the oldest inhabitant of the place can remember, was caused as follows:
—Some years after Portmaneon was taken from them there was a reduction of £ 7 , and at the time of
the potato fadure there was a further reduction of £ 5 in the rental. We, the undersigned tenants of Duirnish, in the parish of Lochalsh, humbly beg to submit the foregoing statement to the favourable consideration of the gentlemen of the Royal Commission; and we beg to submit that it is a great hardship, and that it has a pauperising effect, that while we and other crofters and cottars are crowded on the poorest part of the land, that six large farmers should get the full benefit of the largest and best part of the parish.'
—Signed by ALEX. M' LENNAN, JOHN MATHESON, and eleven others.

30643. You had summer grazings in the neighbourhood of Loch Monar, how far from the township of Duirnish were these summer grazings ?
—-More than twenty miles.

30644. Did the people drive their stock for the summer all that distance ?

30645. And lived up in the hills with them ?
—-They kept a herd for them

30646. When did they lose that privilege ?
—About 1852.

30647. They continued to drive their stock as far as Loch Monar till then?

30648. What has become of the grazings in Loch Monar?
—They were made into a sheep farm.

30649. Whom does Loch Monar belong to?
—-Part of it is on Lord Lovat's estate ; several properties meet there. It was on the west side the people had their grazngs.

30650. To whom do these grazings now belong ?
—Part of them is in the deer forest.

30651. Sir Alexander Matheson's deer forest ?

30652. First they were deprived of Portnaneon ?

30653. That was before they were deprived of Loch Monar ?

30654. Portnaneon was not a very large place ?

30655. Is it now under sheep ?
—Yes, some people who got it when it was taken from the crofters have it still.

30656. These crofters' lots ?

30657. Before the division in 1852 how was the ground held, —in runrig?
—There were differents kinds of lots —there were £7, 10s. lots and £10; and there were others who had half lots, and some had less than half lots.

30658. It was not held in runrig ?
—Each had his share of arable land laid out for him in different places, so as to have good and bad together.

30659. Did that change ?

30660. Did they use to change in this part of the country?
—I do not know of any who changed in this part of the country.

30661. When the ground was allotted was the holding consolidated or was it divided in the same way?
—No, they had their arable land in different places, so as to have good and bad together.

30662. When it was allotted, one lot was taken away and divided among four, leaving nine complete lots; and then there was no reduction of rent to the remaining nine ?
—It was agreed upon between the factor and the tenants that the rent of the place was to be £100, and that there should be £ 10 lots; and afterwards one lot was taken away and the nine remaining were divided into ten.

30663. But there were some improvements made; what was the nature of these improvements ?
—There were a few drains made, and there was a dyke which had fallen down rebuilt —a stone dyke.

30664. Round the back of the arable land ?
—Yes, near it at least, on part of it between the houses and the arable land.

30665. Was it a good dyke built of stone ?
—Yes, it was well built.

30666. Is it still there?

30667. How many years has it lasted ?
—About twenty years.

30668. Are the tenants bound to keep it up?
—I believe they are, but it has not required mending.

30669. It has stood twenty years without any injury ?

30670. It has been useful to the tenants ?
—Very useful.

30671. But it does not go round the whole of the arable land?

30672. Would you like it continued round ?
—We have a wire fence,

30673. Why didn't you continue the stone wall ?
—It was not suitable.

30674. Soft ground?
—The ground was soft.

30675. Then you were deprived of a piece of the pasture for the plantation and you did not
get any compensation or reduction of rent ?

30676. Was the plantation fenced with a wire fence ?
—It was.

30677. Who was employed to make it and plant the trees—was the labour of the people employed ?
—Principally, I believe.

30678. How old is the plantation now?
—Perhaps fifteen or sixteen years.

30679. Have the people ever got any branches or wood out of it?
—It has not grown to that size yet.

30680. It has not been thinned out yet?

30681. And four years ago there was an additional piece taken from you, and no compensation given?
—That is so.

30682. What sort of land was it —was it the worst of the hill pasture ?
—No, it was the best; it was along the river.

30683. What did you do? Did you write to the factor that it was unjust to take away your pasture and not give you compensation ?

30684. What did the factor say?
—I do not know that he said very much about it.

30685. He did not add to the rent ?
—He did not take anything off the rent for it.

30686. Five years ago there was a fence made between you and the proprietor's home farm along the river. Although that was made between the home farm and you, was it useful to you?

30687. Did it not prevent your cattle getting across the river?

30688. Then it must have given you trouble to follow them and herd them?
—But this fence took the land away.

30689. But you think it was of no use to you?

30690. Did the factor make yon do any of the work ?
—No, he did not.

30691. What did they do with the land between the river and the fence ? Did they plant it ?

30692. Did they intend to plant it?
—I am not certain.

30693. Then they turned the sheep farm into a common club farm, but after the fence was made you say it locked you from all outlet ; do you mean the fence along the river ?

30694. What harm did that fence do your sheep?
—It kept our cattle and sheep from trespassing.

30695. But it may have saved them sometime from being poinded?
—Yes, but if they had got good grass it would not have done them much harm,

30696. In fact, you would rather be without the fence because your sheep would trespass upon your neighbour's ground ?
—Yes; it would be better for us and better for the sheep.

30697. Did the sheep from the opposite side of the river ever come and hurt you ?
—There were not many cattle on the proprietor's ground.

30698. They did not do you any injury?

30699. You go on to say that while the fence locked you from that outlet it left you open to the encroachment of the sheep and cattle of the neighbouring townships ?
—Yes, on the other side.

30700. There was no fence between you and the neighbouring township?

30701. Did you ask for one?

30702. What did they say ?
—It would be too expensive.

30703. Did you offer to help to put it up?
—Yes, or to pay interest.

30704. Did you offer to put down the stones and do part of the work?
—We offered to put down the stones if the other townships put down their share.

30705. And did the factor give himself any trouble to arrange that, seeing you and the other tenants might have helped, and that the factor might have helped too perhaps ?
—Not that I know of.

30706. And in fact you remained without a fence ?

30707. Why do their cattle and sheep hurt you more than yours hurt them ?
—Because they have less pasture ground than we have, and they have a heavier stock than we.

30708. Do you pay anything for sea-weed?
—We do.

30709. To whom —to the proprietor ?
—No, to the parties who have it on their shores.

30710. Do you pay to the farmer —to the tacksman?
—There is no tacksman near us who has sea-weed.

30711. How much do you pay?
—3s. to 4s. a boat-load. There are about twelve of our cart-loads in a boat-load.

30712. Have you far to bring it?
—In some cases.

30713. Is it sometimes rough and dangerous to bring it?

30714. Was there ever any accident connected with it?
—Yes, but not a serious accident.

30715. Can you get any sea-ware nearer or more convenient?
—There is not any that we can claim except what we had ourselves, because all those who have it nearer have use for it themselves.

30716. Was the sea-weed which was transported from Archnadarroch sea-weed upon your own shore?

30717. Upon each shore of your township?

30718. Why was it given to another township ?
—I cannot say.

30719. Does the other township pay you anything for it ?
—That other township has not got it now. It was given to Plockton by the proprietor.

30720. Is that a long way off?
—No, it adjoins.

30721. Are they quite close to you?
—Yes, they border upon us.

30722. Would they have any sea-weed if they did not get it for you?
—Yes, they had a considerable amount of their own, much more than we had.

30723. You are obliged to send your cattle to summer grazing, you pay £ 1 for each in a poor place ?

30724. You say you consider it very hard that the best ground in the country should be distributed in these large farms, which get the benefit of the largest and best part of the parish; is there any portion of these large farms which march with your township—that lies near to you ?
— There is the farm of Balmacarra, which lies partly along over borders, and there is also Achnadarroch.

30725. So that, if you could get a bit of these two farms at a reasonable rent, that would satisfy you ?

30726. Could a bit of each of these farms be given to you without destroying the farms entirely; would there be enough left to make a decent farm ?

30727. How much of the two farms would you be satisfied with —a third or a half ?
—Less than a third.

30728. Would a fourth satisfy you?

30729. Could you get a portion of that without taking away from the farmers the low ground necessary for wintering their stock ?

30730. Would you leave them enough to winter their stock ?

30731. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I understand from you that some of the sea-ware opposite your own township does not belong to you ?

30732. And the consequence is that you are obliged to buy elsewhere?

30733. The part which was given away is now allocatcd to the town of Plockton ?

30734. That is a place with a large population ?

30735. To whom do you pay for the sea-ware ?
—Some of us buy it from people in Plockton who do not use it themselves, and some go to Kyle for it, and different places.

30736. Your mean Kyle on this side ?

30737. Who has got Kyle—two farmers ?
—Two farmers.

30738. Small farmers?
—Yes, and they occasionally sell some seaware.

30739. Did your township ever represent to the factor or proprietor the hardship of any of his tenants being obliged to buy sea-ware ?
—Yes, we often spoke about it.

30740. Did you think it was rather hard that other tenants could sit on the estate ?
—It might be hard enough for us, but still these tenants do it, and it would hardly do to take it from them.

30741. It was included in their rents?

30742. Is the want of the sea-ware not rather a drawback; would you not take more out of the land if you had a better supply of sea-ware ?
—Yes, and if we had more we would not require to buy it, or go such a long distance for it.

30743. You have said, you think it rather hard that your town and others should have so little land with so much in big farms ?

30744. Is there a large population in Lochalsh ?
—Not very large.

30745. Is it growing or falling back ?
—It is falling back.

30746. Why is it falling back, do you know ?
—I cannot say; there are not so many people going away; want of marriages, perhaps.

30747. Is there any encouragement given to small crofters to improve themselves ?
—They do not get any valuation for their improvements, so far as I know.

30748. Supposing there is a young man connected with the parish who has gone away and earned a little money, who wants to settle down in his native parish, is there any opening for him in the way of getting a small piece of ground ?
—Not unless it was taken off a large farm.

30749. Are there such things done as pieces taken off large farms ?
—I do not know of any.

30750. Do you think that as much rent could be got by the proprietor by encouraging small people as he would get for the large farm ?
—I believe quite as much.

30751. And it would be more satisfactory to the people themselves ?
—It would be much more satisfactory to them, and I believe there would be less pauperism.

30752. Do you live entirely by the produce of your own land ?
—Oh no, I am a sheriff-officer.

30753. Is that the only other business you have ?
—I am default officer to the School Board.

30754. From your public position, you mix a good deal with the inhabitants of the parish, do you not ?

30755. Are you well acquainted with their views and feelings ?

30756. Is the desire for acquiring land strong in the parish as well as in other places ?
—Yes, very strong.

30757. That feeling has not arisen from what they have read of other places ?
—Not so much. Before this agitation commenced they had the same views and opinions, as far as I know.

30758. The village of Plockton was once an important place, wasn't it ?
—There were more people in it at one time.

30759. People owning ships ?
—There are people owning ships there still.

30760. Are there any ships trading abroad from Plockton ?
—Yes, two ; but they don't go to Plockton. They are large vessels which are owned by Plockton people.

30761. Did not there use to be a great many more ?
—Not that I know of ; I believe there are almost as many now as there have been for years. There are almost as many schooners now as any time I have known.

30762. Are you a native of the parish ?

30763. Was there any proprietor between the Seaforth people and Sir Hugh Innes ?
—I don't think there was.

30764. Was the management of Lochalsh under Sir Hugh Innes and the Lillingstones favourable to the small people ?
—I cannot say of my own knowledge.

30765. But you have heard people speaking about it?
—I have heard them say the rule under Mr Lillingstone was pretty favourable, —very favourable to the poor people.

30766. He did not turn off any people?
—I think he did ; there were some turned off from Avernish, but I am not certain.

30767. Did they use to lay out a good deal of money on the improvement of the estate ?
—I cannot say for my own knowledge; I do not remember that they did, and I do not remember hearing people say it.

30768. There has been a deal of money laid out by Sir Alexander Matheson on the estate since he bought it ?

30769. He must have spent a good deal of money in the way of wages ?

30770. Was there any part of the lands that belonged to Plockton or the small tenants taken away from them in the course of these improvements?
—A good deal of land that the Plockton people had was taken away—the greater part of it, I believe.

30771. Was that to make a home farm, policies, and woods at Duncraig?

30772. Was there any reason why the wire at the side of the river should not have been on the other side ?
—No reason that I know of.

30773. Would it have been as easy ?
—Quite as easy.

30774. Does it do you any harm in depriving you of access to the river for your beasts?
—I don't know that it does, because there is always plenty of water; but it has taken the green places on the borders of the river away—on the other side of the river.

30775. The river perhaps winds ?

30776. And the line is straight ?

30777. So that a good deal of very good land for you may be struck off?

30778. Was the river itself anything of a fence for your sheep ?
—There was an old fence along the river before this wire fence was made, which was kept up, when the people were living at Achnadarroch, in equal portions by them and us.

30779. Did it seem to you that in drawing the line for the fence they wanted to make it as short as possible, and that they did not mind although you lost something ?
—I believe it could have been as short on the other side.

30780. And all this green space would have been left to you?

30781. This green space would be of money value to you?
—Yes; it was the best grass.

30782. And of some money value ?

30783. Explain to us where the old fence was that was kept up between you and the Achnadarroch people ?
—Principally upon the Achnadarroch side, with the exception of a short piece about 200 yards on our side.

30784. I suppose when the former fence was put up both people looked sharp that neither got the better of the other ?

30785. But on this occasion, when the proprietor put up the fence, poor Duirnish had to go to the wall?

30786. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are you much employed as a sheriff-officer?

30787. What kind of summonses have you chiefly to serve?
—For debt and these things.

30788. None of removal ?
—It is very seldom that I have any of removal.

30789. When had you the last?
—This year?

30790. What was that for ?
—It was in the village of Plockton. A man who had a house there was turning another man out.

30791. Have you great distances to go sometimes?

30792. And you find no difficulty in discharging your duties ?
—Not the slightest.

30793. Is there much litigation amongst the people?
—Not very much.

30794. They have to go to Dingwall ?

30795. How far is that from here ?
—Between fifty and sixty miles.

30796. Is there no Court held in any nearer place ?
—No. There was a Court held in Loch Carron last year, but it is very seldom that there is a Court nearer than Dingwall.

30797. Was the Court held by the Sheriff-depute or the Sheriff-substitute?
—I am not sure. I was not there.

30798. Is it any disadvantage to the people that they are so far from the Court ?
—I do not know that it is.

30799. Have you much to do as compulsory officer for the School Board ?
—No; I have not very much to do, but still the children do not attend very well

30800. How many schools have you to look after ?

30801. That is within a large district ?

30802. How often do you visit and inspect the districts?
—Once a month generally.

30803. Have you reported many cases of non-attendance ?

30804. Has anything been done to the parents ?
—No, nothing except advising them.

30805. None were taken to the Sheriff Court?

30806. And has the advice been taken ?
—No, generally not.

30807. Of whom does the School Board consist ?
—The proprietor and two or three ministers, a merchant in Plockton, and the bank agent.

30808. Where are the meetings held ?
—In the estate office at Balmacarra.

30809. Do all the teachers speak Gaelic ?

30810. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
— What extent is occupied by plantations which were taken off your land ?
—The two pieces were about twenty acres

30811. What value do you think it would be?
—I cannot say.

30812. Was it worth 7s. an acre ?
—No, it is not; it was not the best of the pasture land.

30813. It was on the higher ground?
—Yes, partly, and partly not; but still not the best of the pasture land.

30814. Was this stretch of land on the river tide say about a mile long ?

30815. Would it average twenty yards in width?
—Yes, I believe it would in some places.

30816. And at other places the fence was at the very bank?
—In no place quite close to the bank.

30817. Your common stock became reduced to 120?

30818-19. And then it was sold off altogether ?
—I do not understand why it was sold off. We could not keep them; they were dying off. They were in bad condition.

30820. How did you replace them?
—We have not replaced them.

30821. Have you put any cattle on ?
—We keep for each lot two oneyear-olds in summer —two stirks; but still it would be better for us to
send them away to another place and pay for them.

30822. Your hill ground is bad ground ?

30823. Where there were 120 sheep there should be room for something more than eighteen stirks ?
—It would hold twenty stirks.

30824. But what you have endeavoured to put on is two stirks a-piece ?

30825. And they are nine £10 lots?
—There are ten lots; nine lots were made into ten.

30826. Is two stirks each all the ground would carry ?
—It is, to have them in good condition; and they are not in good condition.

30827. After all, they are not in good condition ?

30828. Is that because the ground is overstocked ?
—It is overstocked by other townships encroaching upon it.

30829. You want your lands valued ; at present the town is paying £108 ?

30830. If you were employed as a valuator and not otherwise interested, what would you think the place worth?
—Not much more than the half of what we pay.

30831. £5 for each lot?
—£5, or perhaps £6.

30832. The lots are not big enough for a man to make a living on?
—Not the pasture land; they do not require arable land so much as pasture land.

30833. Have they sufficient arable land ?
—They could do with more, but more pasture land would suit them better.

30834. What do you think would be a sufficient amount of arable land and stock to keep a family all the year round ?
—I think eight acres of arable land, six cows, and fifty sheep.

30835. And what rent would that be worth?
—It would be worth £10.

30836. Is that about the rent they pay at Conchra and those sheep farms?
—I do not know the rent of any of the farms.

30837. The Chairman.
—Is your common pasture fenced ?
—No, it is not fenced; there is no fence round the common pasture.

30838. Would it be advantageous to you to have it fenced ?

30839. Have you ever asked to have it fenced?

30840. What do they say ?
—It would be too expensive.

30841. Suppose they would give you a fence all round the common pasture, would you help to make it ?

30842. You said you were a native of this place ?

30843. Some one told us nobody ever got any employment who was a native of this place—how did you manage to get nominated for your present place ?
—I do not know; they simply nominated me for it.

30844. Notwithstanding that you were a native?

30845. Has there been any contested election for the School Board since you came here'?
—They have been mostly all contested.

30846. Has any representative of the crofter class or small tenants ever stood ?

30847, Would the people like to have a representative of their own class, or do they like people of a different class ?
—I never heard any of them say whether they would like any of their own class; they do not take very much interest in the administration of the School Board.

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