Bunessan, Mull, 8 August 1883 - Duncan Mclean and Lachlan Macdonald

DUNCAN M'LEAN, Crofter, Ardtun (60), assisted by LACHLAN MACDONALD, Crofter, Ardtum (60)—examined.

34720. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you a paper ?

34721. What have you to state for the people of Ardtun?
—The only thing we have to say is that we complain that the rents are higher than the land is worth.

34722. How many crofters are there in Ardtun ?
—More than twenty.

34723. Do the rents vary, or are they uniform ?
—They vary.

34724. What is the highest rent?
—About £22; that is, £11 for one croft.

34725. Are there any who have more than one croft ?
—The most of them have two crofts, paying from £16 to £18 and £20.

34726. What is the smallest rent any of them pay?
—About £8.

34727. What is the amount of arable land on a single croft ?
—About six and a half acres; that is an average.

34728. And what extent of pasture have you?
—-I cannot tell the extent of it. It is not good.

34729. What stock do you keep on your two crofts ?
—Some have four, five, and six cows on the two crofts; that is the whole stock.

34730. Horses ?
—Two horses besides.

34731. Any sheep?
—No sheep.

34732. Where is your hill pasture?
—Our pasture is a moss between our township and Bunessan; and there was at one time a place where peat was cut.

34733. Are there any cottars there ?
—A few.

34734. How many ?
—A good many about Ardtun.

34735. Have they any land ?
—No, except what they get from the crofters; they get a bit generally from the crofters gratis to put potatoes in.

34736. Has your rent been raised much within the last twenty years ?
—I moved to Ardtun in 1855. At that time the rent was £8. Then it was raised to £10.

34737. How soon after?
—I cannot really say. Then it was raised to £12.

34738. What is it now ?
—£16, 8s. The last rise was about seven years ago.

34739. Has the land been much improved since you came into possession?
—It has been very much improved by myself.

34740. What improvements did you make ?
—Draining and reclaiming. I drained about 900 roods of the ground and built houses and many other things.

34741. What houses did you build ?
—Dwelling-house, stable, and byre. The whole places were in perfect ruin when 1 went.

34742. Did you get assistance from the proprietor to build the houses ?
—No, there was no such thing allowed at that time; but since this hooley' came we get all things we require, such as lime and wood.

34743. Have you received any advantage in that respect in building or improving yonr houses ?
—No, not a penny. I got £ 3 in Mr Wyllie's time for damage done by storm and for repairing the houses again.

34744. Have you a lease ?

34745. Have any of your people leases ?
—Not one that I know.

34746. Have they ever desired to have leases ?
—I think they are just as well wanting them while their rents are so high ; they cannot stand the
pressure on them owing to the high rent.

34747. If you were removing from that place to some other, would you get some compensation for the buildings you erected ?
—I don't know. I am not aware that any compensation was given for any improvements of lands or houses previous to the present chamberlain's time of office; but lately lime is given in every improvement that may be necessary about the buildings.

34748. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I understand you are able to give some information about widow M'Phail ?
—I know something about her case; she was near me in the township.

34749. How long is it since her husband died ?
—A twelvemonth last May.

34750. What was the age of her eldest son about that time ?
—I cannot exactly tell his age.

34751. Was he upwards of fourteen?
—Between fourteen and fifteen.

34752. Can you tell us whether or not the widow presented a petition to the chamberlain asking that she might be continued in the croft ?
—I don't know myself, but there may be others who know.

34753. Did you hear it was done ?
—I heard it.

34754. So far as you are aware, was the widow in pretty comfortable circumstances, and quite able to keep a good stock upon the place ?
—Yes, she had a full stock, and was able to pay the rent.

34755. Do you know if any answer was received to that petition ?
—I cannot say further than that I heard she was not to get the land.

34756. Was it afterwards given to a schoolmaster?
—He is not a schoolmaster; he was a schoolmaster.

34757. Is he an inspector of poor ?

34758. And does he hold some other offices as well ?
—Yes, he is collector of poor rates and clerk to the School Board.

34759. Was it a common report in the locality that the first notice that the widow got that she was not to occupy the place was by this man going about and telling he had got it?
—She understood that to be the case.

34760. Are you aware that this matter of widow M'Phail got into the Glasgow newspapers ?
—I heard that it was in the papers, but I did not see it myself.

34761. Have you also heard, or do you know yourself, that pressure was brought to bear on the widow by some people on the estate to get her to sign a paper that she was willing to go out of her own accord ?
—I have heard that such was done, but I cannot speak of it from my own knowledge.

34762. Is the widow here?
—She is living in the village of Bunessan.

34763. And her son ?
—Yes. She has a little shop. I was hearing these matters, but I was not inquiring.

34764. Was the result that she left the place voluntarily or involuntarily?
—She left the place on the term day.

34765. What is she doing now ?
—She keeps a little shop in the village.

34766. Who is the proprietor of the shop?
—Donald M'Lean, junior.

34767. Does he pay a feu-duty to the Duke of Argyll ?
—I think he does.

34768. What is the name of the inspector of poor?
—Alexander M'Gregor.

34769. Where did he come from?
—I cannot say. He came to this place from Coll.

34770. Was there no other place on the estate for his but the widow's croft ?
—I don't know ; at all events, he got it.

34771. Was it talked of a good deal in the country here —the hardship of putting out this poor woman who was not in arrears, and who had a good stock and a son past childhood?
—I was hearing a great many speaking about it.

34772. Do you know Uisken?
—I know it well.

34773. Was there a widow in Uisken lately put out of her croft ?
—I am not aware of any person but the widow of John M'Ewan, and she got the croft back.

34774. What rent was she paying?
—I don't know the rent.

34775. Are you aware there was a petition presented to-day by a woman from Uisken that she was deprived of her croft, although she was able to pay her rent?
—There are some from Uisken who know the circumstances better than I do.

34776. Professor Mackinnon (to Macdonald).
—Have you lived in Ardtun all vour life?

34777. Where did you come from?

34778. When?
—In 1838 my father left Shiaba. We went to Ardalanish.

34779. And from there?
—From there to Ardtun.

34780. How many years were you in Ardalanish?
—Sixteen years.

34781. And did you remove to Ardtun at the same time as your neighbour ?
—In the year 1854.

34782. Was Shiaba under crofters when you were there ?

34783. How many were there?

34784. Did they hold their land from the proprietor?
—Yes, from the Duke direct.

34785. Not from the tacksman ?

34786. But there was a tacksman in the place?
—There was a factor.

34787. And what was done to the place after these eight left it ?
Were other crofters put in, or was it added to the farm ?
—The tacksman took it at that time, and it is now in the hands of a Lowland tacksman.

34788. Is the arable ground you and your neighbours cultivated there, still being cultivated by the present farmer, or is the place now a grazing farm ?
—No, not a bit of it cultivated, and has not been for the last twenty years or more.

34789. Where did your old neighbours in Shiaba go ?
—Some left the kingdom.

34790. When you removed to Ardalanish ?
—I cannot say for certain, but some came to this neighbourhood.

34791. How many families were there?
—Twelve families.

34792. What was done to the land those twelve had?
—The land they had is a sheep farm under one tenant.

34793. When you went to Ardtun, what was your rent?

34794. Has your rent been raised like M'Lean's?
—A croft in the place was added to the hill pasture, and the rent of that croft was divided among the tenants, and my portion of that for the two crofts came to £1. We considered it good value.

34795. You were quite agreeable to that rise, because you got value for it?

34796. What is your rent now?
—I pay now £18, 15s. for the two crofts.

34797. And is the land for which you pay now £18, 15s. the same land exactly as that for which you paid £9?
—Exactly the same.

34798. In what year was the croft added to the hill pasture?
—About sixteen years ago.

34799. You began to pay £9 then?

34800. When did you begin to pay £18, 15s. ?
—In 1876.

34801. Does that mean that within the space of nine years the rent of the croft was doubled ?
—That is so, and 15s. more.

34802. What is the stock you keep ?
—Three cows on the croft and a horse.

34803. Any sheep ?
—Twelve sheep on one croft.

34804. You have small beasts as well as the cows ?

34805. What is the summing upon the two crofts?
—Six cows, two horses, and twelve sheep.

34806. Have all your neighbours sheep ?

34807. Do they all keep then full stock ?

34808. Do you remember Ardtun before you came to live in it ?
—It has always been under crop.

34809. But you like the place quite well, except that you consider the rent too high ?
—I like the place well enough and the neighbours, only I consider the rent too high.

34810. What rent would you consider reasonable for those crofts for which you are paying £18, 15s. ?
—I think if the rent was about £13 it would give me room to live.

34811. You quite agree, after considering the price of stock and labour, and the general improvement in the condition of the place all over, that the croft is worth now somewhat more than it was when you went to Ardtun first ?
—Some of the crofts are better than others; and those I have, if they were drained and reclaimed, would be worth fully more than when I went.

34812. Your neighbour said he did not want a lease because the rent was too high. If you got your crofts at a reasonable rent would you like a lease ?
—We would take a lease from the Duke.

34813. Would you wish it?
—Yes, if the rent was reasonable.

34814. But you would not wish to take a lease at the present high rent ?
—No; we are not prepared to take a lease just now.

34815. Did you ask for a reduction?
—I spoke to the chamberlain about a reduction, and he said he could not do anything in the meantime; he would speak for me, and I think he will do it.

34816. Are there many in the place, in Ardtun, without land at all ?
—Yes, a good many.

34817. What was their condition this last winter ?
—Some were complaining, and some bad enough. They were tiding over as best they could.

34818. They were in very much poorer circumstances than those who had land ?
—I cannot say that their state was worse than those who had the land.

34819. Were you in the country yourself between 1846 and 1851?
— No.

34820. Or your neighbour?
—No, neither of us were; we were helping our parents.

34821. I suppose there is as much land, arable and grazing, attached to the village of Ardtun as when you went there ?
—I am not aware that any person lost an inch.

34822. Your only complaint is that your rent is so high?
—Our only complaint is that the rent is too high, and if we get it down we will be all comfortable. I have a small matter to bring before the Commission which was entrusted to me by a neighbour. When I came to the crofts I now have they were in the hands of the factor, and the grass that was then in the crofts the neighbours got it to put their cows in. For this privilege some paid 10s., some more, and one paid 30s. That got into the Duke's books, and remained so until this time. The rent was raised a short time after that, and I was of opinion that they are confounding what they were paying for the privilege of grazing upon this croft with the rise which was made upon the rent. I am only speaking as I was informed; I cannot say myself; I was not in the country at the time.

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