Lismore, 13 August 1883 - Hugh Carmichael

HUGH CARMICHAEL, Crofter, Port-Ramsay (57)—examined.

36997. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement to make?
—I don't like to go on with my evidence, because it may be that I may suffer for it; and I hear other people getting the assurance that they will suffer no injury. I wish to get that assurance.

36998. Whose land are you upon?
—Mr Fell's.
—[Mr Sim, factor.] I may state at once that Hugh and I have known each other for twenty years, and no harm will happen to him in consequence of what he may say. I think I have heard worse things from him than he is likely to say to-day.
—[Carmichael]. I shall say nothing but the truth; but people sometimes suffer for the truth. I have held my croft in Port-Ramsay for the last twenty-eight years. There are sixteen of us. Our lots consist of two acres of arable land, upon an average, within the fence, and the cattle pasture in common outside, and we have a herd for them. We have only one cow each; and if one tenant had the whole place, he would not put on more than eight cows, instead of sixteen. We require to sell the calves, because there is no way of keeping a stirk. Every one of the cows would die in summer for want of pasture, if it were not that we hand-feed them now and again. The rent is £5 and £6 each. I have two lots myself, and I pay £10, 8s. 6d., including a small sum for interest upon improvements.

36999. Have you two cows ?

37000. You spoke of common pasture. What do you keep on it; cows or sheep ?
—I have no sheep.

37001. What do you do with the two acres of arable land?
—We pay £4 for the ploughing of these two acres which we have in single lots, cropping them with potatoes and oats alternately.

37002. Have any of you horses?
—We have no place to keep a horse ; we have no place to keep even a hen, unless we send them down to the sea-shore.

37003. Have the rents of these small crofts been increased during your memory ?
—Not since I have lived in the place.

37004. How long ago is that?
—Twenty-eight years.

37005. Has any of the common hill pasture been taken away from you ?
—We never had more than we have; but it is commons that we want - additional pasture.

37006. Have the crofts been subdivided, or are they as large as they always were ?
—Just as they were.

37007. You have two acres of arable ground and pasture for one cow, for £5 or £6, and a cow's grazing upon the common pasture. You say that common pasture does not support the cow for the summer ?

37008. How do you feed the cow in winter ?
—The cows are better off in winter; the crop feeds them then. We sometimes buy a little fodder at sales, when people are leaving their places and that.

37009. Do you thresh your own corn, and use it for the food of your families?
—Yes, and we grind whatever we have.

37010. How much of the two acres do you generally keep in potatoes?
—Just the half, alternate crop.

37011. You have nearly an acre of potatoes every year ?

37012. Has the potato crop been pretty good of late years here?
—Pretty good; but it goes with disease occasionally.

37013. If you have a fair year of potatoes, how long does the produce of one acre of potatoes last in your family ?
—The potatoes and what we make of meal altogether would not keep the family for three months.

37014. How do you support your family ?
—The people cannot succeed in our place without extra help. The members of the family who can work go about here and there working in order to keep the family there altogether; and some of them have grown old in the condition of bachelors, and are not able to make a home for themselves. They don't require to be sent away from the place —the place itself sends them away; they cannot remain.

37015. Do you work for wages yourself?
—No, I never worked for a wage. I had a small vessel—a smack—and went about with it. Those who earn wages in this place are those who have smacks, and tradesmen; the common labourer can scarcely keep a family.

37016. Do you go with the smack?
—Not for the last five years; I have not been so strong; my sons go. They are working away in it there; but they are not able to keep the place very well with it.

37017. Have you a share in the vessel yourself?
—Yes; the whole of the earnings of the vessel go to keep the house. It is manned by the family.

37018. What sort of trade are you engaged in?
—Lime and stone and slate and that—about all the local traffic. The railway has injured the lime traffic. They bring it to Oban by rail now. My smack, and many others, has been quite idle for the last two months. We have only made one cargo of it

37019. What kind of house have you got? Perhaps it is better than is usual ?
—Yes ; the houses are all in a row, under one roof, fourteen of them. They were built by the people entirely at their own expense. We built the houses upon a thirty years' lease, and at the expiry of the lease we were so foolish as to take a short lease; and at its expiry the proprietor, Sir John Campbell of Airds, charged them rent for it.

37020. Do you pay a separate rent, or is it included in the £ 5 or £ 6 ?
—There are two of the lots still with thatched houses upon them, and the rent of these is only £3. The lots are quite as good as ours. I don't know whether the houses there were built by the landlord or by the tenants. The lots and houses, put together, in these cases are only £3.

37021. Have there been any evictions or arbitrary removals in your township ?
—No, we have no fault to find with him in that way. The rent itself is so large that it is sufficient to evict them; they go off of their own accord, and there have not been many applicants for the vacant places.

37022. When a person goes away is his holding generally let to another ?
—A neighbour may get it, or a new applicant may get it.

37023. And is a man better off with two lots at £10, than with one lot at £ 5 ?
—A man has to work upon it anyhow; and, if he had a young family to do some work, probably ho would be better off with the double croft.

37024. Has the land become exhausted, or does it bear as good crops as it used to do when it was properly tilled ?
—It must be weak by continuous cropping.

37025. Where do you get your manure from?
—We take it off the searocks, and drown ourselves sometimes taking it ashore.

37026. Is it contiguous to your own township?
—The shore was portioned out just like the crofts in Sir John Campbell's time, and it has continued so; so that we have got a part of the shore for our township.

37027. You don't pay anything for it?

37028. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Whom did you succeed twenty-eight years ago?
—A widow, whose family wished to leave the place, gave it up.

37029. Was it this widow's family who built the house ?
—Yes, it was that family who built the house.

37030. And you have no complaint to make on the score of having forfeited the house after thirty years ?
—No, I only express the complaint, of the people that the rents are high. The children of those who built these houses are in here to-day.

37031. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You say you want pasture to keep your cows ; is there any land convenient that can be given to you ?
—We march with crofters.

37032-3. Is there any land upon Mr Fell's estate which you might get ?
—Yes, there is a piece of hill pasture which the proprietor might give us if we asked him, and we are thinking of doing so. We pay £64 for the ploughing of these crofts, and we think this pasture would not come to so much, and it would keep some cattle too. We pay now twice the amount that we did some time ago for the ploughing of these crofts. The reason is that the big farmers have plenty of work upon their own farms, and they don't like to do the work for us unless they got more for it than the work is worth. The interest of some repairs made upon the house, amounting to about 18s. in each case, has been charged against us for some seventeen or eighteen years back. This is a virtual increase of rent, and we pay rates upon interest as well as upon the rent. There was also peat ground formerly, but now there is none.

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