Bunessan, Mull, 8 August 1883 - Allan Mcinnes

ALLAN M’INNES, Crofter, Creich (52)—examined.

34373. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement to submit ?
—I have.
—Creich, comprising Ariglass.
The principal cause of our grievances is the repeated rising of our rent from 1850 to 1876. When Beinntirchladain, with other portions composing half of our hill pasture, were taken away twenty-five years ago by the factor as the share of eight crofts, and added to his own farm, our rent was considerably raised. Subsequently two of the eight crofts were relet; and a row having been raised by the new occupiers for hill pasturage for their crofts, which was provided to them by taking away reclaimed portions of other crofts. Our stock was not reduced in proportion to our pasturage, on which twenty-four crofters had a right to keep three sheep each and their horses in summer, and besides fifteen crofters having the privilege of sending their cattle to it all the year round. First, crofters built and maintained dwellings, steadings, and fences by clearing much of their croft lands from groundfast stones, which have been improved upon by their successors in many cases, and we suppose by the proprietor in some cases. Now our rent is raised the last thirty-three years from about £ 4 to more than the double bare rent, without any regard to the quality or condition of our croftlands or capacity of our pasturage, no compensation given for improvements on being evicted, or on quitting, and no inducement for improvements. In 1872 we petitioned to restore us our old boundaries, the farm to which the same has been added being then in his Grace's own hands for two years. Our petition to his Grace for three years was rejected in 1881, though based on the excess of stock assigned to our occupation and excess of rent laid on us, and humbly praying that his Grace would be graciously pleased to appoint valuators or assessors to compute stock and adjust rent. However, for that year some help was given to some for losses by storm or otherwise. Constant tillage to raise provender, generally scarce, deteriorates the production of our crofts. On the area of a mile of the poorest land in Ross, there are forty-six families who are paying rent directly or indirectly, with the exception of five paupers. Of late there is a progressive mode of diminishing our pasturage by giving sites and adding lands for another rent to our great annoyance.

34374. In the year 1850, how much was the rent of the croft ?
—My father was paying £8, 7s. for the two crofts, and that was the average rent paid throughout the whole township.

34375. What was the rent for the one croft?
—That is £4, 3s. 6d. for the single croft.

34376. Including the share of hill pasture?

34377. And at that time what stock did the single croft keep?
—Three cows, a stirk, three sheep, and a horse.

34378. And that was for £4, 3s. 6d. ?

34379. What were the successive rises of rent from 1850 to 1876?
—Twenty-seven years ago, when the hill pasture was taken from us, as mentioned in the paper, the rent was raised from £8, 7s. to £10, 9s. 6d. for the double croft.

34380. That is £5, 4s. 9d. for the single croft ?

34381. When was it raised again?
—In 1876 it was raised to £17, 8s. the double croft, or £8, 14s. the single croft.

34382. Does it stand at that figure now ?
—It does.

34383. But in the meantime a portion of the hill pasture was taken away? Was the amount of stock reduced by the hill pasture being taken away ?
—We were keeping the same stock, but we had not sufficient food for them as before.

34384. You say that eight crofts, twenty-five years ago, were added to the farm of the factor; what became of the crofters on these eight crofts ?
—Some went out of the country, and some were removed to other places.

34385. How many do you think went out of the country, and how many were provided for on the estate ?
—One family went to Australia ; the rest got houses in the country.

34386. Did some of them remain upon the Duke of Argyll's estate ?
—Yes, the whole.

34387. Were they provided with crofts or houses without land ?
—Houses without land.

34388. The one that went to Australia, was he assisted to emigrate—were his expenses paid ?
—I cannot say.

34389. Did those who remained in the country on other parts of the estate receive compensation for their houses when they left ?
—So far as I know, they got nothing.

34390. Were they assisted to build new houses or to establish themselves in their new crofts ?
—They got houses that had been erected before.

34391. Had they to pay the old tenants of these houses ?
—I cannot tell.

34392. What became of the old tenants who lived in the houses before ?
—They had perhaps died, the houses were vacant at any rate.

34393. In the year 1872 we petitioned 'to restore to us the old boundaries ; does that mean that in 1872 you petitioned to have those portions of the township restored to you which had been taken by the factor ?

34394. The land at that time was in the hands of the Duke of Argyll ?

34395. But it was not given back ?
—No; the reply we got was that that would be as it was.

34396. How large would the factor's farm be without the eight crofts which were added to it—how large was it originally ?
—I cannot precisely say, but it was a large farm.

34397. What is the rent of it now ?
—I cannot say.

34398. But if the ground was given back which was taken from it, would it still be a large farm ?
—It would be large enough.

34399. Why did the farm remain in the Duke's hands?
—The person who occupied it died.

34400. It was over two years in his Grace's hands; did his Grace execute improvements upon it ?
—I am not aware.

34401. Was it retained by his Grace in consequence of a difficulty in finding a tenant ?
—I cannot say.

34402. What is the present area of the arable land of each croft ?
—I cannot tell the acreage, but I can tell the quantity of seed that was put into it.

34403. Can you not tell about how much in acres?
—It maybe guessed to be between three and four acres in each croft, but that is a mere guess.

34404. Then it stands at three cows, one stirk, three sheep, one horse for £8, 14s. ?
—We have no sheep at all now since that hill was taken from us.

34405. You say that on an area of a mile of the poorest land in Ross there are forty-six families; does that mean in your own place ?

34406. You say that the pasturage is being diminished by giving sites; to whom are those sites given
—to cottars ?
—To people who have no land.

34407. What amount is given in that case to each family ?
—About the size of a garden or kailyard, or a little bigger.

34408. Any pasturage for a cow?

34409. Who builds the house in that case ? Is it the Duke ?
—I believe it is the people who are going to live in the house that build it.

34410. Is the place near the sea?
—No; part of it is very far from the sea.

34411. Are these people to whom sites are given fishermen?
—They do fish, but that is not their ordinary occupation.

34412. Professor Mackinnon.
—What is their occupation? Do they work in the quarry ?
—Yes, they are chiefly engaged in the quarries.

34413. In Camus?
—No, in Tormore.

34414. Who was the factor at the time those crofts were taken from you ?
—John Campbell.

34415. And the crofts were taken from you to add to his own farm of Ardfenaig ?

34416. He occupied that farm till his death?

34417. And it was at his death that you asked that the crofts should be restored to you ?

34418. The farm of Ardfenaig was at that time over two years vacant?

34419. And it is now occupied by a tacksman who lives there?

34420. How much stock would that pasture which was taken from you keep?
—We were keeping three sheep each on the twenty-four crofts on that hill, and the horses during summer and autumn.

34421. So that you have ceased to keep the sheep since you lost the pasture ?
—Yes; we have no place to keep them.

34422. But you are keeping the horses still?

34423. But you say your pasture is by that amount so much the worse ?
—Yes, in so much that, although we are keeping the same number of cows, our land does not produce grass sufficient to feed them during summer.

34424. Is it the arable land or the pasture land of your place that is being injured by these new houses that are being put up?
—It is the pasture that is injured.

34425. There are none of the houses being put upon the arable portion of the crofts?

34426. Your rent was raised, you say, in 1850?
—Well, it was raised just about that time—from 1850 to 1876.

34427. 1850 was in Mr Campbell's time also ?

34428. What was the reason alleged for the rent being raised in that terrible year?
—That is a thing I cannot tell; but when the ground was taken from us the rent was immediately raised.

34429. That was in one of the worst years following the potato disease ?

34430. The rents then remained the same till 1876 ?
—There was very little increase until 1876.

34431. Who was the factor in 1876 when the rent was raised?
—The present chamberlain.

34432. And it was raised in that year from £5, 4s. 9d. to £ 8 , 14s. Was there any reason given to you at the time for that large increase ?
—No reason whatever was given to us.

34433. But you consider the rent too high ?
—Undoubtedly. We, three years in succession, sent a request to the proprietor to reduce the rent in respect of its being too high, but we got no reply for the first two years. The third year we got replies stating that the rents would not be reduced, but that the Duke would agree to give some assistance to the tenants on account of some special losses they had sustained; and he did give that to those who needed it.

34434. What were the special losses?
—Loss of cattle or of boats. That was a help, but it was not a diminution of the burden of the rent.

34435. So that what you consider the excessive rent still remains ?
—Certainly that is so. Is it not double what it was? That is the bare rent, and there is besides that the school rate and the poor rates, road rates and others.

34436. You say that upon one square mile of the poorest land in Ross there are forty-six families. Do you consider your own land the poorest land in the island ?
—We consider it as poor land as there is in the Ross or in Argyllshire.

34437. What do you consider the best land in the Ross ?
—That is a thing I cannot touch, because it does not belong to me to do so.

34438. You might give us the information ?
—The large farmers in the Ross have the best lands, in my opinion.

34439. What are the names of their farms?
—Scoor, Fiden, Knockvaolagan, Ardalanish, Ardachy.

34440. You say there are forty-six families on this square mile. Have all these land ?
—No, they have not.

34441. How many of them have land?
—I am not aware that there is any of them that has not some small bit of land, except those on the poor
roll, unless two or three.

34442. How many of them would you call crofters ?
—Formerly, when it had its old boundaries, there were twenty-four crofts; now there are only eighteen.

34443. And all the rest of the families have just a small bit of land or none at all?
—Yes, all of them have some little bit of land, except three or four, unless those on the poor roll.

34444. How did such a large number of people without crofts come in ?
—They gathered there when they were removed from other places, and there was fishing near it.

34445. What other places were they removed from?
—They came from some of the farms that have been depopulated throughout the country.

34446. What places are these?
—I cannot name them accurately, and therefore would rather not attempt it.

34447. Was Fiden crofted in your time ?

34448. How long is it ago since it was made a farm ?
—As far back as the memory of anybody can go, it was occupied by a gentleman.

34449. What do you consider a double croft to be worth yourself ?
—I would say that the rent that was paid thirty years ago, when it was first raised, was quite sufficient It was as much as we could do then to make ends meet.

34450. Don't you think that a croft is worth more now than it was in the year 1850?
—I don't think a croft now is worth so much as it was in 1850. It does not yield the same crop as it did then. In proof of that, there are some in our township who have not sent any corn to the mill for twenty years ; and those of them who were able to send corn to be ground had to buy as much again for seed.

34451. May they not be giving more of the fodder to the stock than in former times ?
—They must give more fodder to them, because they have not the pasture they had before, and the crofts do not yield sufficient to feed them. This year itself many of them were much in debt, yet their cattle were in such poor condition that they could not make any market of them.

34452. But don't you think that in ordinary years, for the last five years or so, that a croft was worth more than thirty years ago ?
—I don't think so.

34453. What is the condition this year of those who have no crofts ?
—They were getting work throughout the country, and there was help coming from the south.

34454. Were they so poor that it was necessary to get help for them from the outside this year?
—It seems that that was the case, because there were very few who had a single potato out of their crop of last year.

34455. I suppose this was felt most by the very small crofters and those who had no land at all ?
—Yes, of course; because, with their large rents, when they had no produce out of the ground, they suffered more.

34456. What part of the shore do you border upon; is it upon the Sound of Iona?

34457. It is there the fishermen are ?

34458. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was any improvement made on your croft by the landlord before your rent was raised in 1850?
—He did nothing before that, but since that time there has been some drainage done ; and we pay the interest of that for the last twenty years, and that is added to our rent. It is included in our rent at present

34459. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Has the Duke of Argyll a large property here in the Ross of Mull?
— Yes.

34460. How many crofters are there upon the Duke's estate here ?
—I cannot tell.

34461. Will there be about fifty ?
— More than fifty, I think.

34462. Do they occupy much of the land, or shall we say half of the land, belonging to the Duke ?

34463. Is the great bulk of the population upon the Duke's estate upon the crofters' land ?

34464. Will there be one hundred souls altogether upon the big farms ?
—I cannot spy.

34465. Is there anybody living upon them except those necessary to work the farms ?
—Yes, there are others; a few who may be paupers.

34466. Was the taking away of the ground by Mr Campbell a permanent impoverishment of this township ?
—It was.

34467. Was there any reason whatever, so far as known to you, why the land should not have been given back when it was in the Duke's own hands ?
—I don't know any reason.

34468. Your rents have been raised nearly to double from time to time. What object was there in raising the rents ?
—I cannot tell the object.

34469. Speaking generally, now, about the crofters iu Mull, do you know that there is any rule to the effect that when a man dies, leaving a widow with a son not twenty-one years of age, she must remove?
—In some cases they were getting land, and in other cases the widow and her children were turned out.

34470. But was it a thing that was generally understood as a rule or regulation on the estate that widows in these circumstances must remove ?
—It was said so, that when the husband died the widow was no longer to retain the croft; and I myself knew an instance in which this was done.

34471. Do you know a person of the name of Widow M'Phail?
—I know the woman ; I am not very near her, but I heard about her. There are persons present who were nearer to her.

34472. Are there any delegates present who know the circumstances ?
—Yes, there are some here from the same town.

34473. What are their names ?
—Duncan M'Lean and Lachlan Macdonald.

34474. What is the name of the place?

34475. Has the policy of the estate since the time of Mr Campbell been to impoverish the crofting population in the Ross of Mull ?
—Yes; since the time of Mr Campbell the rent has been greatly increased, and that always tends to impoverish the crofters.

34476. Except the little drainage that you referred to, can you state anything that has been done by the proprietor for the benefit of the crofters ?
—I cannot say anything, but the provision made in special cases of loss.

34477. Are you and your brother the joint occupants of the croft?
—Yes, we are together.

34478. But your name does not appear in the valuation roll ; can you explain that ?
—The reason why one only appears in the valuation roll is, that we could not have both a vote to send a member to Parliament, and the land had to appear in the name of one.

34479. Is your brother older than you?

34480. But in reality the croft belongs to you both ?
—Yes. The receipt for the rent is only in the name of one.

34481. Did you think the right of voting a very important one?
—I think nothing of it.

34482. You now trust to the honour of your brother that you will not be dispossessed of half of the croft ?
—I am quite sure of that as long as he is of the mind he is of now.

34483. But the Duke of Argyll did his best to put you out of the farm, did he not, when he struck your name out of the roll ?
—I don't know what was in the Duke's mind, but I did not view what was done in that light.

344S4. You were quite willing to let the matter be settled so ?
—I was.

34485. Was your concurrence asked to allow this change to be made?
—Yes, the request was made of myself; my brother was not present; but I fully concurred in what was to be done.

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