Balmacara, 2 August 1883 - Roderick Macrae

RODERICK MACRAE (69), Crofter, Port-a-chullin—examined.

30921. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you got a written statement?
—Yes. ' We, the tenants of Port-a-chullin, Lochalsh, beg to submit the following statement:
—That we are so confined by the nature of the place and by fences and otherwise, that it is impossible
for the small plots of land which we have to support the number of tenants (8). Our houses are of the most miserable description, and they are built so close to the sea that in tempestuous weather there is a considerable danger that the sea may enter them. We keep two cows each and their followers, but owing to the smallness of our allotments, we have to pay from £8 to £9 in the winterseason for their keep. The land is also deteriorating in quality, owing to, we think, the sea-ware which we have to use as manure. We are not allowed to cut sea-ware on the rocks at the shore, but have to go out and fish for the coarse kind found lying at the bottom. Often we have to fish for it with an iron hook six or seven pounds in weight, and at a depth of five fathoms. We consider that this manure is of little or no use to the ground, and we can't afford to buy any of the other expensive manures, as we have more then enough to do to keep ourselves and our cattle in food. We can't make any meal from the oats growing on our ground, as it’s is barely sufficient to sow the ground next year. With the exception of potatoes, the produce of our grain crops is not much more than what we sowed. It is impossible to have a rotation of crops on account of the smallness of the patches which we have. Thirty-seven years ago the hill pasture of Altagre, on which we could graze about eighty sheep, was taken from us and converted along with other tracts into a deer forest. We would consider ourselves very well off if we had land enough to support four horses between us all, in addition to the cattle which we have already. The caschrom which we have to use in turning the soil does the work but very imperfectly, and by the difficulty and slowness of the work we spend a great deal of valuable time, which would be greatly shortened if we had horses. With land enough to support sixteen cows and four horses, together with a reasonable tenure of holdings and better houses, we should be in very comfortable circumstances.

30922. Where is Port-a-chullin ?
—On the north side of the parish, between Plockton and Strome Ferry.

30923. Do you build your houses yourselves ?
—I was building a house, and the proprietor helped me to do it.

30924. Did he do so to the other tenants?
—There was only one other man who improved his house, and the proprietor gave him wood and
the man slated it at his own expense.

30925. Why is it you are not allowed the sea-ware on the rocks ?
—We were for forty years compelled to raise tangle from the bottom in about five fathoms depth of water with long-pronged forks; but of late we have got the sea-ware restored to us.

30926. The long stuff spoiled your ground?
—That is what spoiled the land altogether.

30927. Since you have got the proper sea-ware is the ground recovering?
—Yes, but we sow it in grass in order to improve it.

30928. It is mentioned in this paper that you have to pay from £8 to £9 in the winter season for the keep of the cattle. Do you mean that each tenant has to pay £8 to £9 for two cows?
—It is only for the last year, owing to the storm having swept away all our crops, that we had to buy so much. We would not have required to buy so much if it had not been for that.

30929. Did you get any abatement?
—No abatement. We did not ask for any.

30930. What forest is it you spoke of that the hill pasture of Altagre was put into ?
—It is the next place to Pait, on Loch Monar side.

30931. Did you get an abatement of rent at that time?
—Yes, we got £1 each of a reduction and part of Alt-na-ban given to us.

30932. You say you would be well off if you had land enough to support four horses in addition to cattle. Where could the landlord give you land for four horses ?
—It is himself who knows he has; he has plenty of land on each side of us. We have a fence on each side of us forcing us into the sea, and we have no chance to go on either hand.

30933. Who is tenant of the land on either side of you ?
—There is Fearnag on one side, Auchmore on the other, and Breantrah too.

30934. This was done before your time. Have you applied to Sir Alexander Matheson or his factor to do anything to ameliorate your condition?
—Oh! yes.

30935. What happened?
—They said they had no place for us.

30936. But you have got something lately for Fearnag?
—Yes; but it was in order to bring us in to pay poor rates and taxes, and schoolmasters and everything.

30937. So that it was not a very great advantage to you?
—It was better for us than we were before. There is only 3s. of difference in the rent now, and when we had the land that was taken from us for grazing.

30938. How could the sea be prevented from coming in upon you?
—How can we keep out the sea when it chooses to come ? It could be done by raising up an embankment before us; but as the houses are bad, it would be better to rebuild them, and put them back from the sea. There is a great bank behind our house, about 400 feet high, which prevents us
having our houses free from the sea.

30939. Were you born at Port-a-chullin ?

30940. How long have you been there ?
—Fifty-five years. I was born and brought up in Sallachy.

30941. Is Port-a-chullin an old place, or was it settled when you were put out of another place ?
—There were people in it before I came to it. The first people that went to it went in the year before I was born.

30942. Did you hear where they came from?
—There were two when we came to it towards Kyle Inn, that is, at the end of Lochalsh; but I do not know the time they came.

30943. Do you fish at Port-a-chullin?
—Yes, we must live somehow.

30944. Would you rather get this additional accommodation you want than to be removed to a better place ?
—We cannot be comfortable owing to the large number of us. There are seven families who pay no rent, and are burdens upon us. Four families might be comfortable enough in the place, and other four might be removed.

30945. Are the people who pay no rent relations and friends of the crofters, or are they strangers that were settled down upon you ?
—Not one of them is related to us. They were forced in upon us, taking the skin off the land.

30946. Who did so?
—There they are, and we cannot put them out, and we do not believe the proprietor could.

30947. It was not the proprietor who put them in ?
—No; everyone squats at his own freewill. I want to be as near the truth as I can, because I am getting old. It was bad justice we got when we were sent to the place. It was only for the year we were sent there, and they promised to bring us out of it afterwards; and when we went to make the factor to keep his promise, he said, ' It was a good thing I did not promise you much.'

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