Lismore, 13 August 1883 - Hugh Cameron

HUGH CAMERON, Cottar and Sailor, Killean (45)—examined.

37034. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many people in Killean pay rent?
—Ten crofters.

37035. And how many families are there that don't pay rent?
—About twenty-five.

37036. Is there a village?
—No, they are scattered here and there, and are on the roadside, as close to the road as possible.

37037. Among the crofts?
—Separate from the crofts, on the public roadside, where they don't tramp on any grass.

37038. Do they pay any rent at all?
—Some of them do, but they refuse to take any rent from others.

37039. What is the meaning of that?
—I don't know; because the houses are not worth it, I suppose; that it would be a shame to take rent for them.

37040. But don't you think the people in the houses might think it a shame to offer it ?
—They would be glad to offer it rather than be evicted.

37041. Do they wish these people to leave the place ?
—Yes, if they would go away quietly.

37042. Are you able to speak about the crofters who are on that place ?
—Well, I know the general run of them.

37043. Are they very comfortably off?
—Indeed they are hard pushed to pay the rent; the rents are very high.

37044. What is about the rent?
—They were telling me they average from £ 5 to £6 and £6, 10s. for each cow they keep on the croft.

37045. What is the rent of a croft now in Killean, off and on ?
—Those who have two cows and scant to keep them pay £ 10; there is one beside me and he has just one cow, and he keeps that cow comfortably and pays £7.

37046. And have they horses ?
—No, none.

37047. Have they sheep ?
—No sheep.

37048. How do they get the land ploughed?
—They employ one of the large farmers to plough it in the spring time.

37049. What stock do they keep
—Highland cattle ?
—Highland cattle generally, but some of them are sometimes not able to afford to have any kind of cattle.

37050. Does your neighbour who pays £7 work the whole year upon the croft ?
—No; he is a smith, and works at his trade.

37051. What do the crofters do who don't work upon their crofts?
—They all work upon their crofts.

37052. But don't they work somewhere else besides ?
—There is no employment for them unless Mr M'Intyre, who keeps the lime quarries going, employs them. That is the only means of living in this island, quarrying.

37053. And do any of the crofters work there ?
—Yes, there is one just now beside me who pays £16 of rent, and who has two cows, and I believe the place would keep three if he had them. But he had no way of living this summer if it had not been for M'Intyre, who has given employment to many persons in distress.

37054. The land is good in this place ?
—Very good indeed.

37055. The potatoes are excellent ?
—Excellent potatoes and all kinds of crops ; if the land is laboured it yields a good crop of whatsoever kind.

37056. Do they sell potatoes every year ?
—Generally they do.

37057. Where do they send them to ?
—They sell them to different persons who come round and buy them.

37058. Irish people ?
—No, they buy them at home; the Irish never come over here. Oban people take them.

37059. Were the crops much spoiled by the storm last year ?

37060. Were they so good as they had been in former years ?

37061. In a very good year how many barrels of potatoes would a barrel of seed produce ?
—From twelve to sixteen and eighteen, and, if the seed crop is good, they give twenty-five barrels.

37062. Of course twenty-five barrels is a very exceptional crop, but it sometimes reaches that ?
—Since the new seed came here, the ' Champion ' has been yielding twenty-five barrels in a good year.

37063. I suppose that will be one of the reasons why the rent is so high, that the soil is so good ?
—The soil is good, but it is not left to the people who are inclined to work it ; there are so many independent people who want the land just now for grazing purposes that those inclined to work the land do not get the chance of doing it. If you seek a piece of the land you work it and make yourself comfortable you will be just left out.

37064. How do the cottars live ?
—Some of them are boating, and some are shoemakers, and some carpenters, and some masons, and others at different work.

37065. And some of them quarrymen ?

37066. Are many of them sailors ?
—Yes, there are two or three.

37067. Do they trade about the coast or go to foreign ports?
—Well, I was going to foreign ports in my young days, but then I settled down and got married and stayed at home, and got a little smack, and am supporting myself and family.

37068. And do you trade about here just as Mr M'Coll did ?
—I work for Mr M'Intyre generally.

37069. About here ?
—-To the Isle of Skye, and Coll and Tyree, and Morven and Arisaig and Moidart, and in all directions.

37070. Have you much steady work ?
—Sometimes we have no reason to complain, and at other times there is not much. The county is now going so much under grass that there is not so much demand for lime as there used to be.

37071. Have any of these cottars a garden about the house?
—No. There are four houses on the estate, which were built by Mrs Cheyne for those who were on the roll; but shortly after that she was advised to take these houses, because they were thought too good for the paupers, and let them to cottars, and she then got them let and put £4 of rent on each house, and there is just a little short bit of ground, about the breadth of the house, with a garden laid out in front. The rest of the houses had no gardens at one time ; and now, those who were evicted at the other end and got houses here, have become old people, and the younger ones being away working throughout the country, the gardens went down and the walls were destroyed, and never rebuilt, and still the crofters claim these gardens, and the cottars cannot get them. I made an arrangement with the under factor, and the Duke was for building me a house, and I was to get £8 from the Duke. Well, I was giving that to the factor to do the quarrying, and I was to build the house and do all the rest of the work, and yet pay a rent of 32s. 6d.; and when I asked for a garden he told me I would get a spot for a midden at the back of the house, but no garden.

37072. Can the cottars have a cow?
—No; I have one on another farmer's ground.

37073. How much do you pay for grazing ?
—I was told yesterday that he was paying £6 of rent foment every cow that he has, and that I would have to pay likewise.

37074. He feeds her well for you in winter, and gives you good grazing in summer ?
—He feeds her, I suppose, as he does his own.

37075. And you are the only one of that number who has a cow ?
—Yes, I believe so.

37076. But I suppose there is plenty of milk in the place to buy ?
—No, that is the great evil. The farmer has been in the place altogether for these twenty years back, and the markets are so good that they are feeding the calves and giving them all the milk, and there is none left for the cottars.

37077. So that the calves get the milk that the children used to get?
—Yes, we used to get the milk liberally to buy ; if we do buy it now it is not worth carrying, just sour milk.

37078. There is plenty of land, is there not, if it were given to you ?

37079. Are there many of these people so well off that they could take a very small croft if they got it ?
—The whole of them could. There are those who were evicted off the land. They were not evicted because they had no means; tbey had the means, as they have yet.

37080. And they wish to get back to their former places ?
—Yes, they would be glad to take the land back at a reasonable valuation—twenty families of them.

37081. How many are employed in the quarry ?
—Mr M'Intyre keeps, generally, from twelve to sixteen, and more if he could get them. He would get as many as he liked in spring time.

37082. They are all people of the place ?

37083. They are quite well up in that kind of work now ?

37084. The quarry has been open for a long time ?
—Yes, this is the third generation that is working in it.

37085. Have you a school down in your place ?
—We have.

37086. Do the children attend school well ?

37087. Are they good scholars ?
—They do generally attend the school.

37088. Do a large number of young people go south ?
—They all go south ; there is nothing here to keep them.

37089. Do they succeed well in the south?
—Some of them do. Some of them prosper very well, and some don't.

37090. Is the school so good there that they are able by their education to do well in the south ?
—No, there were better scholars made in my time in that school than there are now; because the rule is now that the children must stick in the school until they get to standard six,' and then away they go. The teacher allows them to remain in school after that, but she don't like them to come after that. But all she is under an obligation for she teaches them.

37091. It is a lady who teaches down your way?
—Yes, we had a very good teacher indeed ; but she has left us now.

37092. It was not a lady who taught in your time ?
—It was old Mr M'Gill, the parish schoolmaster; and supposing we were away labouring or at farm service in the summer time and spring time, we could all go to school in the winter, and he would be glad to receive us.

37093. There were very big boys in the school in those days?

37094. And good scholars ?
—More scholars than there are now.

37095. They don't come back now after having passed the sixth standard?
—No, because the teacher don't care for them over that age.

37096. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Does the Duke of Argyll show any interest in the crofters and cottars about you?
—He will just come once in the year, and he just comes ashore out of his yacht, and goes into the machine and drives right along to the end of the estate, and drives back, and gets on board the yacht, and then away he goes. We never get the pleasure to say one word to him at all.

37097. It would appear then that Mr M'Intyre is the benefactor of the place ?
—He is the person upon whom the whole island relies, especially the poor and working class.

37098. It might be well if he had some land of his own in Lismore ? A good deal of land ?
—It would be a gracious thing if the like of him had the land between them.

37099. You think if the like of Mr M’Intyre had the land the poor people would be better off?
—They would be, for he would take an interest in the people, and wish to see them all employed and comfortable
—[Mr Buchanan]. The witness Cameron said the average produce of a barrel of potatoes in Lismore was from 8 to 16 returns. The average, to people well acquainted with cultivation as I have been, is 8 barrels.
Sometimes the return is 12, 14, and 15, but that is not the average. The average, I consider, would be 8 barrels.

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