Letterfearn, 3 August 1883 - John Macrae & Farquhar Macrae

JOHN MACRAE, Cottar (64), assisted by FARQUHAR MACRAE, Shepherd (38), Bundaloch—examined.

31272. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many cottars are there in Bundaloch?
—Thirty-four families.

31273. Does that include Carndhu ?
— Yes. Macrae

31274. [To John Macrae].
—Are you one of these thirty-four ?
—I am.

31275. But Farquhar Macrae is not ?

31276. What have you to say on behalf of these people?
—I have not much to say, but I have been left destitute as well as my father, who was paying rent before my day. I was the head of the family after my father died. My sheep were taken from me for a trifle, and the whole of the people were treated in the same way. We have been robbed. The proprietor did not wait to see what we might be able to do. We are told that the proprietor declares we were largely in arrears of rent; but the arrears were not so large as represented. Many of these arrears were two hundred years old, lying always in the book, handed over from one proprietor to another. Another thing is, they wished to get hold of our receipts, and when they did they were burned and rent books given instead. Then they renewed the arrears against us for which they had receipts, after the receipts had been destroyed.

31277. I hope you will be cautious to say nothing you are not sure about ?
—We have also been hearing that it was reported in the newspapers that the proprietor stated that he gave work to all his people, and that they were in no want whatever, and the destitution money which was being distributed here and there was in consequence of that statement kept from us. Some of us got a little timber, say to the value of 5s., and some to the value of 10s., to make up our boats. Another statement we complain of is, that they have been declaring we are no workers, and in con sequence they have refused us work, even to myself for one. All my potatoes were lost through the severe frost of last winter. I went to the authorities for assistance and wanted work on the road, which is in a disgraceful state between Bundaloch and Dornie, but I was refused. The reply I got from the factor was that, although myself and all I had should die of starvation I would get no work. This is our grievance. What we want is a little land to help us to live. After that we met with the factor at the schoolhouse, Dornie, but all he did was to make fun of us, telling us to take crops out of the rocks, and to imitate the earth worms who were splendid drainers. And further he told us that the blood went from the heart to the top of the head, and then went downwards to the soles of our feet. This signified that men now-a-days were asking too much, but that they would be checked. A vessel was sent to the country loaded with potatoes by the proprietor, but the factor went amongst the better class of people to give them a supply, and kept from the poorer classes all knowledge of it ; and had it not been for the parish minister, who through charity and kindness got a supply for us, we should have been in a very bad state indeed. Had it not been for the minister of Dornie, many of the poor people here would have been in danger of dying of want during the spring. The nuns provided them with work.

31278. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who is the factor you are referring to all along, is it Mr Watson ?
—I have been referring to Mr Watson and Mr Maclean.

31279. Who was the factor that had the meeting with you when he laughed at you ?
—They were both there, but it was Mr Maclean who was speaking.

31280. Is Mr Maclean the principal factor?
—Yes, he is.

31281. When you were deprived of your sheep, who got the land?
—Some Macmillans.

31282. Have they got it yet ?
—No, not now.

31283. Who has it now?
—One John Macrae.

31284. Could you not have sold your own sheep at a public market instead, since the proprietor or incoming tenant was not bound to take the stock ?
—No, we could not do that, because two of them sent their sheep to another grazing farm, and the factor threatened them unless they brought them back.

31285. Who got the benefit of the inadequate price of the sheep, —the factor or the incoming tenant ?
—I suppose it was the two incoming tenants.

31286. What was the price you got for the stock ?
—That is, sad to tell, only from 7s. to 8s. per head.

31287. What stock of sheep do you suppose you had ? Had you some 500?
—Something like 450 sheep.

31288. Had you your full summing ?
—We had about that number, and in addition some of the poorer cottars among us had also extra beasts included.

31289. Who was the factor at the time the sheep were taken from you ?
—Mr Finlayson.

31290. And have the people been in poor condition ever since?
—Exceedingly poor.

31291. During this last year did your state become so serious that you were obliged to apply to the clergymen of the three denominations to write a letter on your behalf ?
—Some of us were as poor as we could possibly be.

31292. Did the three clergymen agree to do so?
—They agreed most willingly, and we took their advice and conducted ourselves most peacefully and respectfully.

31293. Did these clergymen do so from their own knowledge of the circumstances?
—They knew from their own experience, and anybody might, passing the way, from their own knowledge.

31291. Can you give any reason why you were refused work when John Macrae there was work going?
—I don't know, as I never since then have gone to and seek work. I have been in the habit of going to the fishing and to the south country for work.

31295. Do you recollect the time of Sir Hugh ?
—Very well.

31296. Was it the fact that he crowded in a great number of people into Bundaloch, Cairndhu, and Dornie, and only gave them a few acres of land ?
—It is quite true he so gathered them in.

31297. You stated the arrears were two hundred years old, and were handed over from one proprietor to another. Is it not rather that the arrears were held over against the crofters and their possessions ?
—I am quite certain that they were kept up for a space of two hundred years against the crofter or his representatives.

31298. Mr Cameron.
—When you say you were refused work on the road, did anybody else get work on that road ?
—No; it is a disgrace yet for anybody to see that road, passing along.

31299. At the time you asked for employment on the road you were refused, and nobody else got any work on the road?

31300. What year was that?
—It is a good while since.

31301. What road was it?
—The road between Dornie and Bundaloch.

31302. Is it a road which was much used?
—It was very much injured by the great storm.

31303. Is there at the two points any population which use the road?
—Of course Bundaloch at the one end and Dornie at the other.

31301. What is the population?
—I am sure there are about 300 souls.

31305. Was the road a cart road or a carriage road?
—If kept in proper repair carriages could go on it quite well.

31306. Is it kept up by the road trustees or the proprietor as a private road ?
—I believe it is kept up by the proprietor himself.

31307. Do the people who use the road help to maintain it?

31308. When was the last repair effected on the road by anybody?
—Several years ago.

31309. You state that on one occasion the factor told you when you asked for employment that you and your family might die of starvation, but that you would get no work ?
—I could swear to that.

31310. Was any one present when the factor made use of these words?
—Yes, plenty, but some of them are dead. The tenant of Lienessie was present and heard the words. He is still alive. Alexander M'Lennan was also present.

31311. How many years ago was it?
—It was in the time of Mr Finlayson's factorship. I stated to him that there was plenty of sheep on the hills, and that rather than starve I would be justified in taking one of the sheep.

31312. But this about the road occurred at that time, and not in recent times?
—No, not recently; in the time of Mr Finlayson being factor.

31313. When was he factor ?
—Previous to 1869.

31311. And this was previous to 1869?
—Yes, certainly; Mr Finlayson was factor at the time.

31315. Was it Mr Finlayson who made fun of you and advised you to take an example of the earth worm ?
—It was Mr Maclean.

31316. Are you sure the factor intended to make fun of you?
—It looked very like it. Can we take crops out of the rocks, or imitate the earth worm as a drainer ?

31317. Do you as a a matter of fact know that the earth worm is a good drainer?
—He may be a good drainer for those who have land, but what is that to us who have no land. We paid 2s. 6d. for land to plant half a barrel of splits in.

31318. Have you any children ?

31319. Have you ever advised your children to follow the example of the busy bee ?
—They would be diligent enough if they had an opportunity.

31320. Professor Mackinnon.
—Had you land yourself in 1852?
—Yes. I was the head of the family after my father's death. When my father died my mother's brother, who was postman in Lochalsh, paid the rent for her until I became of age to do it myself, and when the land was taken from us there were only £ 3 of arrears against me, which I paid into the hands of Mr Finlayson, and I expected that I might be allowed to retain the house stones.

31321. Are you still occupying the same house since?
—I am still there.

31322. And your people occupied that land before your time?
—My people were there for five generations.

31323. As tenants?
—My great grandfather preached in the parish church of Lochalsh.

31324. And your ancestors always held land at the same place?
—They were in several places.

31325. Backward and forward through this country?
—Quite so.

31326. Are you old enough to remember the time before the potato disease ?
—I am old enough, if I had proper recollection of these things.

31327. Was your father alive at that time?
—He was not.

3132S. What was the condition of the people of the township before the potato disease ?
—They were fairly well off. They hadn't much land, but what they had they made good use of, and they did not require to go eighteen miles from home to plant potatoes, as we have to do.

31329. They lived upon the croft and fishing?
—Yes, they lived on both.

31330. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—When you were dispossessed, had you 450 sheep ; or had you part of your summing in cows ?
—We had one cow and a follower at the time.

31331. And how many were there of you?
—There were forty-three families of us and forty-five cows.

31332. Had you ten sheep besides the cows?
—Yes, we had.

31333. What were the sheep valued at?
—The factor, Mr Finlayson, appointed valuators and made them drunk, and when the thirdsman saw
this he did not go near them.

31334. Hadn't the tenant anything to do with the appointment of the valuators ?
—I don't know as to that. If he had such a right he was not aware of it. Finlayson frightened the people so much that they dared not do anything.

31335. Do you know that their right was not exercised by any one of them ?
—It may have been, but I don't know. I am not aware that they had any representative there.

31336. Who was the thirdsman who refused to act?
—The son of Captain Cameron, who was in Lienessie at the time.

31337. He is not alive now is he?
—He is in Australia.

31333. Who asked for your rent receipts and gave you rent books back in exchange for them?
—Mr Black, and a clerk of the name of Mr Dunbar.

31339. For whom was Mr Black acting?-
—For the factor, Mr Finlayson, I think

31340. Do you remember that occurrence?
—I don't remember that altogether, but there is a man here who remembers it and can testify to it

31341. Can you say that your receipts were taken from you and books and given in exchange, and that debts were marked against you for which you formerly held receipts?
—Yes; and one of the receipts was found amissing, and was given by the party who found it to the policeman to see what kind of document it was. The policeman said it was as good as money in the bank to him. ' Show me your book,' he said; and when the man did so what appeared upon the receipt to have been paid was against him as arrears in the book.

31342. Did he show that receipt to the factor?
—I don't think he did.

31343. He allowed the arrears to stand against him in the pass book?
—I believe he did.

31344. Although he had proof in his hand that it was not an arrear ?

31345. [To Farquhar Macrae]. You have heard what John Macrae has said ?

31346. I suppose you agree with all he has stated?
—Well, he said plenty that I don't know anything about, but so far as I know it is true.

31347. Do you know about this petition which Mr Morison wrote out ?

31348. Have you any relations living among the cottars at Bundaloch?
—Yes, my mother is there and has a croft, but not the grazing of a cow.

31349. Was any other answer received to this petition but the answer which is given here ?
—Not to my knowledge.

31350. Was the petition presented to Sir Alexander Matheson?
—It was presented to the factor.

31351. And did he afterwards deliver it?
—I don't know.

31352. Was any further communication made to the cottars at Bundaloch about this letter?
—We received no reply so far as I know; but about a month afterwards both factors visited us at Bundaloch, and took all our names and occupations and our circumstances.

31353. Did the factor not mention whether he had forwarded the petition to Sir Alexander Matheson ?
—He said that he did not forward the petition, but that he sent a letter to Sir Alexander Matheson.

31351. That is not the letter from the ministers, but a letter of his own ?
—A letter of his own.

31355. Have you anything you wish to say further on behalf of Bundaloch ?
—There is one special grievance that has not been yet referred to, but which applies to other townships besides Bundaloch. If I want to make up my roof, I require to buy timber and make it up; but supposing I close the door and have to go from home on any business, the factor has the power to come and force the door in with his foot, if he sees proper, and dispossess me of any stones, and he may dispossess me before I am aware. I don't wish to add anything further to the statement. I have been in delicate health since last month, and could not write any statement, but coming across to-day I wrote a small statement upon the deer forest, and would like to read it.

31356. We presume the petition asks what you want?
—Of course the petition to the proprietor of that time did.

31357. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The petition is part of our business, and we will look into it, and you must not think although we do not put a question to you that we won't consider them.

—Statement by FARQUHAR MACRAE.
—The Linessie forest, which would cast 800 wedders anuually, and before 2000 slaughtered by butchers would average 721bs. per head, equal to 57,600 lbs. of mutton ; the Kilellan forest, which would cast 1000 wedders annually and would average 70 lbs per head equal to 70,000 lbs. of mutton ; also the Lochalsh Moor Forest, which would cast 800 wedders averaging 72 lbs., and equal to 57,600 lbs; also 200 ewes, which would average 60 lbs., equal 12,000, —making a total of 197,200 lbs. of mutton. I only point out these because Sir Alexander Matheson says that there is no harm in converting sheep walks into deer forests. But how do deer forests affect large centres, such as Glasgow, when a single estate could produce so much mutton? And how do deer forests affect the Government when all our kingdom's money will arrive at America for inferior flesh, instead of pure Highland mutton ? Now the wool that would grow on every one of the forests—Linassie forest, 16,200 lbs. of wool; Kilellan forest, 19,800 lbs.; Lochalsh forest, 48,000; —making a total 84,000 lbs. of wool. How do deer forests affect the low country farmer when upwards of £2000 sterling was left for wintering these forests' hoggs ? How do deer forests affect the traveller when he must not go his way through the forest ? And how do deer forests affect the working class when they must pay Is. per lbs. For mutton instead of 6d. per lbs. ? I hope reporters will bring this with them, as it will be found valuable if the inhabitants of towns and villages would understand it. I am able to prove that the Lochalsh forest is laboured by one gamekeeper, and when under sheep there were four shepherds, three wintering shepherds, and several helpers, besides clipping and smearing. And then how can any man tell me that there is as much labour attached to deer forests as sheep walks ? Now, if the people get the land, they will serve towns with beef and mutton, and supply themselves with the fat of the grass as in other days. But landlords today want nothing but a pursefull of money, and that makes them let their hill and glens under deer instead of brave and powerful men, who would rise shoulder to shoulder, to serve their queen and country if required. Oh, the deer! oh, the deer! Very backward regulations when the deer would be the ruler, and the sons of men starving without land to cultivate.

No comments:

Post a Comment