Shieldaig, 1 August 1883 - Kenneth Mackenzie

KENNETH MACKENZIE, Seaman and Fisherman, Shieldaig (50)—examined.

29463. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected a delegate?
—Yes, for those who lost their houses by the former proprietors in this village.

29464. Was there a public meeting?
—There is no one in the village of the old race that would make a public meeting but widows and poor people, and that sort. It is not the present sort in the village that are the old residents.

29465. But there are some heads of families?
—Yes, and there are some of them here.

29466. How many chose you?
—Four or five.

29467. How many heads of families do you think there are paying rent in the village ?
—I think six or seven.

29468. Have you got a statement ?
—No, I have no business on the land but for fishing and trading by sea.

29469. Make your verbal statement—say what you have to say?
—I would prefer to say it in the Gaelic. The village of Shieldaig was built in 1800 under authority of the king. No person could be got to build it until the year 1810, when strict orders came that it must be built; unless they would build the village within three years they would require to quit it. This is the reason why it was built: I will read it myself.
—' Great destruction of property at sea by ships of the French navy between the island of Lewis and the mainland in 1800. Part of the speech of His Grace the Duke of Argyle, who was a member of Admiralty at that time.
—We are able to build ships, but the great question is how to man them ? Every person who has knowledge knows that a ship of war is a costly article : to trust such an article to the scum of cities and towns, such as tailors and shoemakers, country shepherds and ploughmen, would be foolishness. We want different sort of people. The greater portion of the people fit for manning our ships lies between Corswall Point and the Orkney Isles, and unless the Highland proprietors grant sites for building villages, we are not able to man all our ships at a short notice. In this year, 1800, His Majesty George III. and his Lords in Council marked the village of Shieldaig for bringing youths to the knowledge of the sea. The site is good for a village, having a fall of water from 15 to 18 feet. His Majesty's Lords in Council promised the best of terms to a society for building the said village on a lease renewable for ever. Society formed 1810, site measured having a speeching green, walking greens, bleeching green, and cross roads. Chief members of the society, and the sums of money advanced for trade:
—J. M'Kenzie, Esq., Derbyshire; Walter Bain, Esq., £700, city of Glasgow; J. M'Kenzie & Sons, £900; D. M'Donald & Co., £600; M. M'Kenzie, cooper, £500.
By those men the village was built. The king promised them £1 for every ton registered that a vessel would be; so a vessel of 50 tons was getting £50 for fitting her out for sea. He promised them 7s. of price for every barrel of herring they would get, and sell it where they liked; £1 for every ton of cod and ling; and he promised them a justice of the peace and a schoolmaster. He promised them salt without duty, and the duty at that time was about £8 a ton ; and he promised them salt without duty —they were getting it for 15s. a ton or the like. He promised them to run a line of road between this and Loch Carron, and they made that line and kept it up to the time of Lord Stewart, and then it was thrown on the county. He promised them more, but I cannot recollect the other promises. But every promise of them was fulfilled in my own day. And the village stood one of the finest villages in the west until the year 1859. The village, then the property of the state of Applecross, came into the hands of Her Grace the Duchess of Leeds, and the rule was in the hands of the gamekeeper. The village was broken down. He promised them that they would get it on a lease renewable for ever, but these were the terms of the lease, that they would agree to remain under His Majesty's rules and laws, any person who would put sheep on the means of the village, £50 fine; any person who would have two shares in one name on the means of the village, £20 fine. Now, in this year when the gamekeeper got the rule, he abjured all these regulations which were laid down by the Government, and substituted some of his own. It was an article of the lease that it would fall if they would become drovers or shepherds. In 1859 the innkeeper and a local merchant asked that the place should be put under sheep, and they got permission; so that they placed some five hundred sheep upon it, and thus injured the stock of ewes and brought the people into poverty. Now, this innkeeper and merchant quarrelled with the people of the village, and they asked them to pay for the grazings. They began to ask that the people of the town should pay the wages of the shepherd for attending the sheep upon their own grazings. This was the beginning of trouble. The gamekeeper took the side of the innkeeper and merchant, for he preferred shepherds and sheep to mariners and sailors. Then the row began. Then he began to deprive those who opposed this measure of their land. And I will now tell what became of the people who were against this oppression. One of them went on a trip to Ireland with his vessel, and took a cargo to Ireland. We went to Ireland for a cargo, and the gamekeeper got two policemen who took the owner out of the vessel, and took him as a prisoner and rogue to Dingwall and kept him until both the vessel and cargo went by the winter and they were lost. After that the gamekeeper went to his house when he was from home, and took out all that was in the house and spoiled it, and would not allow any one to preserve it for him, to the value of £200 —he was thinking it was something like that. The man is a poor wretched man and stops in the village yet.

29470. You must tell us shortly ?
—Well, that is the most of it all. The next proprietor that came was Sir John Stewart, and he took the
houses from the widows and those people, and made his own property of them.

29471. Before the village was built whom did the place belong to —who was the proprietor ?
—Thomas Mackenzie, Applecross.

29472. Were there any people living here before the fishing settlement was made ?
—Yes, the place was given to five or six farmers before the village was built.

29473. Small farmers?
—No, those were not small. There were no sheep at that time ; the forester would not allow them.

29474. When the village was built was the ground lotted off, so much arable given to each ?
—When the village was measured every lot was measured with it and every man took his own lot at that time.

29475. A lot of arable ground?
—Yes, twenty shares in the village.

29476. About how much ground did each get ?
—About an acre.

29477. Of arable land ?
—Arable land.

29478. Was there a large common pasture ?

29479. And at that time how much did you think each lotter could keep—how much stock ?
—Two cows ; that is the standard of the Government; they must not exceed two cows each.

29480. Any sheep on the hill ?
—No, they are fined if they keep sheep in this village.

29481. No sheep, nothing but cows —any horses?
—No horse; they must keep to their trade.

29482. How does it stand now; how many lots are there in the village at present ?
—Twenty ; they cannot be altered.

29483. Any subdivision ?

29484. How much stock do they keep ?
—There is no more than seven in the village just now I think. There is no one in the district that has a cow from the proprietor but strangers.

29485. Do they still have the same number of lots ?
—The same number is in the village, but two or three are given to one.

29486. How many cows does each keep?
—Two cows for every lot if they like to keep them.

29487. What rent do they pay?
—£3, 10s. for every lot.

29488. And who do they pay it to ?
—Mr Murray at present.

29489. Has the rent been raised or has it always been the same ?
—It is a fixed rent by Government; it must be about £60. On the improvement Sir John made he added £ 1 0 to the rent; and I think it is worth it ; he put a fence round it and drained it, and the like of that.

29490. There has been no change in the hill pasture ?

29491. No change in the lots and no change in the rent except the £101

29492. There is no complaint about the land ?
—No, but may be there are other people in the village who complain for land, but my complaint is about the fishing.

29493. What is the real reason of the decay of the village; is it because those good regulations have been lost, or is it because the fish are lost ?
—No, the fish are not lost, but the regulations have been taken off the village. I have a vessel myself, and I was not given power to repair her, and she must fall over on her side.

29494. Is it true that the fish do not come in here as they used to do long ago ?
—Generally, they come some years ; and some years not. But there is plenty of fish in general.

29495. In those old days when there was a bounty for the fishing, and when the people practised the fishing better, what sort of boats had they—large boats, or the same as they have now ?
—They had big fishing vessels and boats fishing then ; and they were curing fish and sending them to the principal markets of the kingdom.

29496. Who supplied the people with those big fishing boats ?
—It was themselves who did it.

29497. The Government did not give them ?
—No, themselves were bound ; those who advanced the money for the trade; they built the vessels by order of the Government, and took those vessels to the people for working them.

29498. They supplied the people with them?
—They were bound to do that.

29499. Are there any of those vessels still left ?
—No, since the laws and rules were taken off the whole village is done.

29500. They have no large boats now ?
—There is not so much as a fishing boat since twenty three years back except one.

29501. They have small boats?
—No, only boats fit for carrying ware and peats.

29502. In other places there are fish-curers who supply the big boats ; is there no fish-curer here who would supply these big boats ?
—No ; there is no such thing here ; it is the village itself that is working by fishing.

29503. Have you ever asked any fish-curer to come and establish himself here and bring boats ?
—He could not do anything unless the rules and laws of the village would be given back again and the village given to the people.

29504. Some of those rules were rules for bounty—paying so much for every cran or ton of fish ; you know that the bounty system has been abolished everywhere ?
—Yes, but it is the byelaws of the village we want.

29505. What is that ?
—That the lease must be renewable for ever, and when the lease comes to an end in the village the trade is done.

29506. Do you mean the lease of houses ?

29507. But you said the rent has not been raised and no change made ?
—There is a difference in a parliamentary village between the means of the village and sites and stances. The proprietor may make a change if he likes in the means; that is when a man falls to poverty and cannot pay his share of the means he will give it to another; but the house and garden are fixed to him for ever.

29508. But suppose they had this fixity of tenure and poor people could always remain in the same house, how would that help the village to buy those good expensive boats ?
—It is the members in the village that are bound to set up the village—bound to work it up. If we could get the village we could build boats and vessels ourselves and set out to the fishing.

29509. Do you mean that the present proprietor of the village ought to fulfil the terms of the old leases?
—That is what we want —will he keep all the rules of His Majesty or not ? If the present proprietor keeps the village to himself, it is of no use then to the population under that rule.

29510. Has the present or the late proprietor turned anybody out?
—Plenty—the late proprietor, Sir John Stewart.

29511. How long ago ?
—-Sixteen or seventeen years ago, and less than that.

29512. But he is dead and gone now ; has the present proprietor turned anybody out or made any changes?
—Not yet.

29513. Have you any reason to apprehend that he intends to do it?
—This is what I will say about the proprietors, unless the Government keeps the proprietors back we are gone.

29514. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Did you or your father own one of those building lots in the village?

29515. Have you got it still ?
—No, it is in the hands of the proprietor; it is for that I am speaking and for other houses in the village.

29516. How did the proprietor become possessed of it?
—By the gamekeeper getting hold of the rule of the place.

29517. For how long was your lease —ninty-nine years?
—Oh no, it is a lease renewable for ever.

29518. Was there a rent payable?
—Ten shillings of feu.

29519. Was it always paid ?
—Yes, but he would not take it at last. They won't take the feus in this place.

29520. What did you do with your lease ?
—The leaseholders in this village, because it is a parliamentary village —a great number had no
written leases. There were no writings of that sort going about here, but just a parliamentary title the same as the schoolhouse under the Act. And there was no wall taken then less than 8 feet side walls.

29521. Did you get any money for that house when the proprietor took it ?
—No, and no other in the village who lost houses. The houses are in the hands of the proprietor in the most of the village.

29522. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the name of the gamekeeper who did so much mischief to you ?
—Mr Fraser.

29523. What was the Christian name?
—I don't remember.

29524. Is he here yet?
—Oh! no.

29525. Who was the person who went to Ireland?
—Donald Mackenzie, master of the "Enterprise."

29526. Is he yet alive?

29527. Do any of the people in Shieldaig pay feu-duty?
—Yes, from 5s. to 10s., and 15s. is the highest —7s. and 8s. they commonly are.

29528. Can the proprietor increase that rent ?
—I cannot tell that, unless he is able by Act of Parliament to increase it at the end of ninety-nine years.

29529. This place seems very poor?
—No wonder.

29530. Will you again say why it has fallen into this poverty ?
—Yes, because His Majesty's bye-laws have been taken away and the gamekeeper's laws put into the place.

29531. Have you a copy of the bye-laws you refer to under the Act of Parliament?
—We have the Act of Parliament for the villages, but we have not the bye-laws. The bye-laws are signed amongst the people.

29532. Is there a printed copy anywhere?
—No; it is an old thing, and the village was broken down in that bad manner, and a great number of the writings were taken away and spoiled, and everything in the village. There were writings two hundred years old.

29533. The people that have got right to the lots have the same right of pasture that they had before ?

29534. And for the same amount?
—The same amount except 10s. for fencing the place.

29535. You said there were twenty lots originally ?
—Yes, twenty shares.

29536. But there are not so many now?
—Yes, there are, but there are three given to one.

29537. In how many hands are those twenty lots now?
—I think seven or eight. But no one in the village knows better about the land than I.

29538. Is it against what you call the bye-laws for any man to have more than one lot ?
—Yes, because the Government wanted seamen and fishermen to fill up the navy in time of need.

29539. You said Sir John Stewart turned out some of the people—where from ?
—From the houses, and he took the best of the houses too.

29540. In this very village?
—In this very village.

29541. Were they in arrear?
—No, ho would not take feu-duty at all.

29542. Did the people who were so used not employ a lawyer in Dingwall to defend them ?
—Every lawyer and every clergyman was against us at that time. It was our duty to give notice to the nearest clergyman, and we went to the minister of Applecross and Lochcarron, and when they got the thing they got as small as tailors.

29543. In place of standing up for the thing they got so small?
—Yes, they got as small as tailors, and if these people would stand as men they would have been alive.

29544. Did you know a man of the name of Roderick Mackenzie?
— Yes; he came to the village about 1840.

29545. Is he able to come out?
—Yes, and he knows more about the land than I do, because I am not working the land, but am a seaman and fisherman.

29546. He knows better than anybody?
—I think he knows more about his own business—what was that but work the land?

29547. What is it you want?
—We want to have the village given us under Her Majesty's rules and bye-laws as it was given from His Majesty George III. and the Lords in Council.

29548. What more ?
—And that our houses would be given back, and allowing us to build boats and vessels to go to sea. There has not been a fishing boat in the village for twenty-three years back, and we have no vessels for carrying anything back and forward to us, and the country was in a miserable state before the railway was opened —nothing more. Although the people would get good crofts in this country, it is of no use to give them crofts unless the village is given to the parish; it is for the benefit of the parish that His Majesty granted the site. Our people are thinking if they get crofts they will get oats. No such thing unless they change the seed; and the country to get seed from is Ireland, and Kintyre for potatoes. Every inch of ground is marked out for seed and potatoes for this country; and every inch of ground from the mouth of the Bann to the mouth of the Belfast Lough for oats. It is worked out to us for oats. Although you get Scotch oats in this country they will grow but they will not grow meal. One measure of Irish oats is better than two of our own. And Ireland is good, but unless you change seed every three years it is a poor country, and the same with us. And to get the village would be a great benefit to the people.

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