Shieldaig, 1 August 1883 - Duncan Beaton

DUNCAN BEATON, Crofter and Fisherman, West Aligin (53)—examined.

29657. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you any statement to make on behalf of the people of West Aligin ?
—I have.
—'Statement by the Western Aligin Crofters:
We possess one and a half acres of arable land for which in previous years we paid £ 4 rental, but this year it has been reduced £ 1 . We are uncertain, however, whether this reduction is to be permanent or not. When Mr M'Barnet bought the estate we possessed individually fifteen sheep, five cattle, and a stirk, for which each of the twenty crofters then residing iu our township paid £5 rental. The trustees of the younger M'Barnet, however, deprived us of the privileges then enjoyed by us. This they did, we think, by imposition. They promised that if we parted with our sheep stock, they would pay us £ 50 annually for the use of the grazing, but this they paid only for one year. Matters then went from bad to worse. One hardship was endured by us after another. No sooner did we lose our stock of sheep than we were deprived of grazing for our cattle. Previously we had, as already stated, five cattle in addition to the stirk, but now we were not allowed to keep any save one cow, the calf of which we were forced to sell or kill before it was six months old. It is only fair to add that our rental was reduced from £5 to £ 3 , but notwithstanding this reduction we were in poorer circumstances than when we possessed the grazing. Our grievances were further increased by the fact that we were at the same time deprived of about one-fourth part of the arable land for the benefit of the proprietor's shepherds. In consequence of all this we gradually fell into arrears as we possessed nothing that we could sell save the one calf. Such were our circumstances when Mr Darroch bought the estate, who since his residing among us has showed us several acts of kindness with a view to better our condition. His first act was to pay our arrears to Mr M'Barnet's trustees, lest we should have to part with the only cow we then had, he himself giving us work by which we could partly repay him. If at any time we were unable to pay our annual rent, he never forced us to do so, but always gave us time until circumstances so changed as that we were able to pay him. Without any solicitation on our part, the calf which we were formerly compelled to part with when six months old he allowed us to keep until it was one year old. This year he further extended our privileges by allowing us to graze another additional head of cattle. We consider, however, that our rental is high when we take into consideration the quality of our land; and that our condition would be improved if we possessed more land, and got an opportunity of keeping additional stock. The above is written out by me as reported by the people themselves, JOHN M'NEIL

29658. According to this paper you have nothing whatever to complain of except that you have not so much land as you would like, and that you pay more than you would like ?
—That is all; we have no further complaint.

29659. Is the arable land that you have good?
—No, it is very bad.

29660. Do you get good crops out of it ?
—The crops look better than the land; this year the crops look very well, but the land is very bad.

29661. Do you consider £ 3 too high a rent for what you have?
—Yes, I think it is.

29662. What would you consider a proper rent yourself?
—Between 50s. and £ 3 .

29663. Would you like to get a man to value it ?

29664. Would you take your chance?
—Yes, we would be very glad to do that.

29665. What would you say if he said it was worth £5 —would you be pleased then ?
—Yes, we would be quite pleased with what he said; but no man of conscience would value it at that.

29666. Is there any better arable ground for you that you could get?
—There is very little available arable ground, almost all the possible arable ground is cultivated.

29667. What would you like Mr Darroch to do for you?
—The proprietor was doing very well towards us; he was doing what he could. He cannot give us what he has not; but we consider the land dear. We would like very much if we would get additional grazing.

29668. Is there more grazing you could easily get if he pleased to give it to you ?
—Yes, there is what would be of great service to us.

29669. How is it occupied?
—There is a hill upon which we have cattle, but it is not settled upon us but for the year, and we would like to have it permanent so that we could stock it.

29670. Who had it before you got it?
—My father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather had that hill.

29671. Is there anybody else who is likely to get it if it is not given to you ?
—No, we are not afraid, but we don't know anything about it. We know we are in want of it

29672. Are you not allowed to put any stock upon it except cattle ?
—We do not get it for that purpose, and perhaps there were some among us who could not provide the other stock even if we got permission; but if we did get permission we would endeavour to stock it as we were able.

29673. With sheep as well as with cattle?
—Yes, if we could.

29674. The Chairman.
—You said you got leave to keep an additional beast—did you get additional land to feed the beast ?
—Yes, we got this year that hill that I have spoken of.

29675. Do you pay additional rent?
—We were not told that we would have to pay rent; perhaps we may have to pay a little additional rent, we do not know. But if we had an additional cow to our summing we had to work ten days' labour for it.

29676. How do you get the winter feeding for an additional beast?
—We buy here and there if we do not have it ourselves.

29677. How much will it cost you in winter for the food of the additional beast ?
—40s. to 50s.

29678. Would you rather pay for an additional cow in ten days' labour or give £ 1 , 5s. in money ?
—Ten day's work ; that would be easier than to pay 25 s. a year.

29679. What season would the proprietor take the work in ?
—I think we would afford to work; he is not hard upon us in that respect.

29680. What sort of work is it—is it work on the roads for your own good, and fences —or work for the proprietor's good ?
—The last bit of work we did was for our own good; making a road for ourselves.

29681. Was that the road to your own township?

29682. From the high road ?
—-Yes, from the public road.

29683. How long is this new piece of road ?
—Five miles.

29684. Is it good now —can you take a cart upon it ?
—No, it is only a path

29685. Who has to keep it up—are you to do so or the proprietor?
—We keep it up at the proprietor's expense.

29686. If the proprietor offered to help you to make a cart road would that be a great convenience to you ?
—Yes, it would be a very great convenience, but we have neither cart nor horse.

29687. But if the proprietor offered to make a cart road would you help with your own labour ?
—What could we do with a horse and cart, what would be the use of a cart without a horse. .

29688. If the road was made you might begin to buy horses and carts ?

—Yes, if we could afford it, we might.

29689. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How long have you been paying rent ?
—Thirty-three years.

29690. Was it to the M'Barnet's you first began to pay rents?

29691. Did the M'Barnet family live upon the estate?
—Latterly the proprietor lived for the most, but formerly he only lived occasionally.

29692. Did he spend any money in improving the condition of the crofters'?
—No, anything we have got in that way has been from the present proprietor.

29693. Were the rents raised in your time or in the time of the M'Barnets?
—Yes, it was raised during M'Barnet's time. The rent was raised during his time and the tenants were increased. The place had only sixteen families at first, and they were increased to twenty.

29694. Did you hear what the previous delegate said about a number of people being removed from one side of the river?
—I could not understand him supposing I did hear him.

29695. Is it not the fact that a great number of people were cleared from one side of the river during M' Barnet's time ?
—Yes, they were sent across to our west side from the south side.

29696. Are there any people at all on that south side of the river now ?
—There are about sixteen or seventeen families yet.

29697. What is the name of the place ?

29698. Were there many people removed from the estate altogether during M'Barnet's time?
—Yes; some went away voluntarily to America and Australia.

29699. Had they any reason for going?
—They got money from the old laird of Torridon.

29700. Which laird was that ?

29701. Was it poverty which took them away—were they starved out?
—What else, but that they could not remain after the land was taken from them.

29702. Was it a good day for the people of Torridon when the present proprietor became possessor ?
—Yes; every benefit we ever got has been got since he came.

29703. Was it a bad day for Torridon when the M'Barnets got it ?
—M'Barnet was not hard with respect to the rents, but he was not laying out money upon improvements

29704. Was he a popular proprietor?
—Yes, I am not aware there was any cause of his being unpopular.

29705. Was there any cause for your being dissatisfied with him?
—He put sheep upon the place and kept it in his own hands, and that was the beginning of depriving us of our hill pasture and stock.

29706. Do you point to anything at all that the present proprietor can do for you otherwise than has already been done ?
—No, unless he will give us additional hill pasture.

29707. But if he continues you in the hill pasture you last got, will you be satisfied ?
—Yes, but we would not like to have a rent that we cannot pay.

29708. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie
—Have you had any sheep since Mr Darroch came there ?
—No; we had no sheep when he came, and he got sheep for us and they had to be sent away. We were not understanding one another amongst ourselves about those sheep.

29709. And that was the reason you had to part with the sheep?
—Yes. It was myself that purchased them, and the stock was deteriorated, and we were getting afraid that the money that was invested in them could not be realized, and so we sold them.

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