Tiree, 7 August 1883 - John Mcfadyen

JOHN M'FADYEN, Crofter, Caolis (42)—examined.

33466. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You have a written statement to submit ?
—I have. ' To the Royal Commissioners, Highlands and Islands. I represent the small crofters of Caolis, Ruaig, and Salum, who complain of:—

(1) The smallness of our holdings, the inferior quality of the soil, through continual cropping, there being no room for rotation of crop.

(2) High rent and the high-handedness of factors in using every means to exact more rent from us ; for example, a late factor got all the crofters to sign a paper to him, that they would comply with anything he would see proper to do to them, or they would be evicted, and when he got them to do so, he raised two times their rent. The consequence is yet seen in our poverty. Under these circumstances, we petitioned his Grace the Duke of Argyle last December for a reduction of rent, but were refused; his Grace, however, gave some help in seed to those that could not sow their crofts, and offered leases to those that did not sign the petition, and were better off than their neighbours before.

(3) Paying rent for drains made thirty-six or thirty-seven years ago, which ought to have ceased in twenty years: these drains are now useless.

(4) Having to buy almost all the meal we require, as well as about £6 worth of coals yearly, and all the wood we use for building or repairing our houses.

(5) Having had formerly to work about twelve days a year on the estate without payment of any kind, and that at any time of the year the factor saw proper to send for us; if we refused, we would be fined.

(6) The partiality of factors in favouring the larger tenants against the small crofters, when the larger tenants can get the factors to remove cottars from their own larger holdings, and put them on the small crofts against the crofters' will.

(7) We are under all these disadvantages, while the half of the island is under large sheep tacks held by strangers, and the people of the island are not allowed so much of the land as to make a living off it. The large tacks are the cause of much of the pauperism in the island. The people having been evicted from their holdings and removed to the sea-shore, and their holdings converted unto sheep tacks, six of which are held by three individuals.

(8) There is no harbour accommodation where goods and passengers can be landed or shipped by steamers of ordinary size in rough weather, in consequence of which goods and sometimes passengers are taken north until the steamers land them, if possible, when returning south The postal communication is also so irregular that for a fortnight at a time neither letters nor papers are received in the island ; nor is there a post running between the post-office at Scaranish and the east end. Our demands are more land, fair rent, fixity of tenure, and compensation for improvements.'
—Signed by JOHN M'FADYEN, Caolis, delegate, and by nineteen others.

33467. What is the extent in acres of your crofts at Caolis ?
—-There might perhaps be about twelve acres of arable land in addition to the outrun; but in some cases the outrun has been apportioned along with the arable ground; the acreage in this case is larger, of course.

33468. But the extent of arable land is usually about twelve acres ?
—Short of twelve perhaps.

33469. Is that not sufficient for a rotation of crops?
—I am afraid not; there is a good deal of the land within the arable area that is rocky and unsuited for cultivation, and that is counted of course in the acreage.

33470. What extent of arable land would you think sufficient to admit a rotation of cropping?
—To make a crofter comfortable probably he would require about twenty-four acres.

33471. Besides the outrun?
—Yes, besides the outrun.

33472. You don't think a rotation of crops could be carried out without an acreage of that extent ?
—The ground is so poor and gives forth such poor crops that I think we could scarcely maintain much stock upon all the arable land that we do plough just now.

33473. How long is it since you signed the paper which the late factor asked you to sign?
—Thirty years ago, perhaps.

33474. That is given as an example of the high-handedness of factors; can you give a more modern instance?
—There are many examples of highhandedness down to the present day, but some of them are specified in the other papers sent in to-day, and those who sent them in are more capable of speaking of them. But this high-handedness does continue.

33475. How much meal are the people generally obliged to buy in the course of the year, on an average ?
—Twenty-one bolls per family this year in the township of Caolis; but this year is exceptional.

33476. Do you grind any of your own corn ?
—Yes, we grind some barley some years—very little.)

33477. What amount on an average will you make from your own crops ?
—Some of us make none at all. They have more than enough to do after feeding the stock to sow down crop again; some of us have to buy seed.

33478. Do you use the whole produce of the croft in feeding your cattle ?
—The greater number give to the cattle the whole of the barley and oats. Of course, the potatoes always go to the family; but there are others who send something to the mill.

33479. Do you keep more than one horse usually ?

33480. On twelve acres of arable land?

33481. What quantity of potatoes do you usually raise ?
—Perhaps fifty to sixty barrels in an average year, off an average croft; some more, some less

33482. Do you sell potatoes?
—They are always sold out of the island more or less; but there has scarcely been any sold out of our township the last four years.

33483. Do you sell some when you have sixty barrels ?
—Yes, we would.

33484. What quantity would you use yourselves ?
—Probably between thirty and forty barrels. That would depend of course upon the number of the family, but it is an average.

33485. How long is it since you ceased to give twelve days' work in the year to the estate ?
—It has not entirely ceased yet. In Mr Campbell's time it was twelve days, and it got less, and now there may be a few days now and again ; it has not yet ceased. We do not complain of it now.

33486. For what purpose is that work given ?
—Any kind of work. We were once obliged to put up a fence between two large tacks—a stone wall six feet high. We had to do the whole work; quarry the stone, carry, and all. I built it.

33487. That has ceased to be a ground of complaint now?
—Yes, unless it may begin again.

33488. Have any cottars been taken off the large farms and put upon the crofters' lands at Caolis ?
—Not out of the large tacks, but they were taken off some other crofts that were consolidated into one, and they were removed as matter of favour to the sitting tenant, and made to settle down upon the smaller crofters' holdings.

33489. In Caolis ?

33490. How many instances of that have there been at Caolis since you remember?
—I and three neighbours had a piece of outrun attached to our arable ground, and four crofters who were removed from their holdings were settled down upon this outrun of ours. There were instances of sitting upon an individual croft.

33491. Who got this ground?
—A man who was a bachelor, and who had no one to look after; but he was in favour with the factor. He is
not living now.

33492. What was the extent of those four crofts, or what was the rent of them ?
—There was only one croft, although there were three families upon it. Two of them were in the rent-book, and one was a cottar. They were moving to make room for him, and sent off upon our land.

33493. Had this old bachelor any other land besides ?

33494. Had those two crofters and the cottar grown up upon that piece of land, or had they been crowded in upon it ?
—Yes, they belonged to the place.

33495. What rent do you pay ?
—£14, 8s.

33496. What have you —stock and acreage ?
—Ten or twelve acres of arable ground, two horses —one of them only about a year old, three cows, a quey, two stirks, two sheep. The place is rather fully stocked; the croft would scarcely feed them well.

33497. Have you beyond this arable acreage any outrun belonging to you individually?
—There is a portion of outrun to some extent, but principally rocky, and five of us have the right to put stock upon it. One of us only puts a horse upon it.

33498. What extent will it be ?
—Probably thirty or forty acres, rock and all.

33499. Have you any pasture besides for the whole township?
—No, nothing; that is all The outrun of the other crofts is allotted to each croft separately.

33500. Do you consider your rent too high?

33501. Do all the rents bear the same proportion to the land that yours does, or about it?
—Probably it is much about the same : some may be cheaper.

33502. You think yours is dearer than ordinary ?
—Well, perhaps it is.

33503. Do the large farmers pay lower rents than the crofters in proportion to their acreage?
—Perhaps some of the large farmers may be dearer than the crofts, but take them all round, considering their extent, I should say the crofting communities are as highly rented.

33504. What would you consider a fair rent for your croft and right of pasturage ?
—I think, considering the stock it keeps, it is dear enough at half the present rent.

33505. How do you arrive at the value of the land?
—I fix the rent in proportion to the amount of stock the croft can provide for. We practically take little out of the produce of the croft itself. It is the outcome of the stock that provides our rent and the value of the croft.

33506. That being so, what value of rent do you put upon the horse, the cow, and the sheep ?
—I look upon it this way : the horses are employed for cultivating the croft, and we take no profit out of them, so we do not count them in making up the rent. I would set apart, perhaps, 25s. or 30s. for each cow.

33507. But if a man keeps two horses on twelve acres of land, is he not consuming in an unprofitable way a large proportion of the produce of the croft ?
—I can scarcely admit that it is unprofitable. We cannot do with one horse; the ground is light and sandy, and some of it mossy ; it must be ploughed quick, and sown when it is ploughed. One horse won't do, and unless we have a horse we cannot have the crops at all.

33508. Can two of you not arrange to keep two horses between you ?
—I tried it, and we could not get on with it ; not but we agreed well enough, but we would be behind hand with the work.

33509. Then if instead of having twelve awes of land you had twentyfour, would you require four horses ?
—No; the two horses would cultivate more land equally well as the present croft.

33510. Why then will they not do it when it is divided between two men, if they would if one man had it ?
—There is a great difference. The neighbour may have other work to do with the horse when I would like
it to plough. It may be he is carrying sea-ware when I would like to be at the plough.

33511. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you a native of the island?

33512. Are you well acquainted with it?
—Yes, I know it ; but I live upon one end of it, and there is some portion of the other end I don't know so well

33513. Is the population of the island falling off?
—It is decreasing.

33514. Was there a much larger population in Tyree in old times than now ?
—Yes; there was once about 4000 people, and now it is short of 3000.

33515. Is it the case that half the island at least is in the hands of a few large tacksmen ?
—Probably there is about half the island.

33516. Can you name the large tacks?
—There are some of these large farms that have crofters still within their bounds, but a considerable portion of the old boundary of the township has been added to the tack.

33517. Name those that have no crofters upon them?
—Scaranish, Baliepheatrish, Cornaigmore, Hough, Grianal, Hynish, Cruaidhghoirtean,
Crosspool, Reef. There are several others where the place was only partially cleared and a large tack formed of the portion that was cleared, and a few of the crofters stud remain on the outskirts of the place.

33518. Upon the various tacks you have enumerated, how many people may be living now ?
—I don't know that there is more than a family on each farm.

33519. Is it the fact then that of these large tacks six of them are held by three people ?

33520. I want to know the position of those tenants—are they Tyree people ?
—Two of them are natives of Tyree.

33521. Where did the others come from ?
—The factor has two, Mr M'Quarrie has two, and Mr Barr has two."

33522. Are these people resident on their farms ?
—Yes, they are resident in one of the places.

33523. What is the name of the present factor's farms ?
—Hough, Hylipool or Cruaidhghoirtean.

33524. Were there a great number of people at various times working these nine possessions you have referred to ?
—Some of those places were cleared before my recollection, some since. I live upon one end of the island, and could not tell the population, but there are others coming after me who can.

33525. Can you speak generally whether the removal of these people benefited those of the small crofters who were left behind ?
—In some of the townships that was the case; they were the better of it; but in the great majority of them they were nothing the better of it; the cleared lands were added to or made into tacks.

33526. Are the crofters in your position worse off to-day than they used to be?
—Yes, we are; and the reason is that we pay higher rents, and the crofts are not so good as they used to be in the days of our fathers.

33527. Did the system of creating large farms in this way benefit in any degree, directly or indirectly, the crofter class ?
—I think it was greatly to their loss, because some of those who were removed were added in and crowded upon the small crofters, and their places made less.

33528. May it be stated with truth that of the total population of Tyree nearly the whole of them are situated upon one half of the island ?
—That is the truth, according to my judgment.

33529. Are the lands that are under tack of a better class, both arable and pastoral, than the lands in possession of the crofters ?
—Well, perhaps it generally may be said to be better laud, but anyhow it looks very much better, because a great portion of it is not under cultivation, and therefore the pasture is good, and the portion of it that is arable can be cultivated upon a better system, and yields better crops, than we in our small crofts are able to raise.

33530. Is there a good deal of land that was once under cultivation now in the big tacks, and not cultivated at all ?
—Yes, I can tell you some of those townships out of which the people were sent away.

33531. Mention them?
—Out of Scaranish went ten crofters. Then there is another tack not named before, Baugh, where some crofters still remain; five crofters were sent out of it. Another place that was added on to the farm of Balliepheatrish, eight crofters were sent from it. It was called Kennoway. Out of Hylipool twenty-six crofters were removed and twenty-one cottars. There were nine crofters and three cottars cleared from Balephuil, and this portion added on to the farm of Hynish. Those four crofters were removed from a piece of land which was given to the British Sea-weed Company. There is another tack, Manal, where there is still crofts, but twenty-nine crofters were removed from a portion of it that is a large farm now.

33532. You said you bought a lot of meal last year; where did you buy it ?
—Chiefly from Glasgow.

33533. Did you use to produce much more meal than you do now ?
—In old times we used to send to the mill almost as much as would feed the family, in many cases where now we do not send a grain.

33534. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was the land from which the four crofters were removed for the British Sea-weed Company the piece next
to the quay at Balephuil spoken of by Donald M'Dougall ?

33535. Does the British Sea-weed Company give any great employment in Tyree ?
—Yes, there are a few that find direct employment from this, and there are others that manufacture kelp, and they are obliged to sell it to this Sea-weed Company; they are not allowed to sell it to anybody else.

33536. Is that for want of a market, or because the factor orders it?
—No, it was neither the one nor the other, but because the Company rented the shore from the proprietor, and accordingly they have the right to purchase at a price fixed by themselves all the kelp manufactured on the island.

33537. What wages are those that they employ able to make?
—There is a statement bearing upon that among the papers sent in.

33538. Can you make better wages by burning your own kelp ?
—So far as I know, they do not make better wages. You cannot manufacture kelp except for a few weeks; whereas those in the employment of the Company are employed all the year round.

33539. What was the date of the removals you have spoken of —was it in modern times ?
—The greater portion of them would have been sent away some thirty years ago; but upon a change of factorship in the place about twenty years ago, some more were removed. There might have been a few cases since that time, but not to speak of.

33540. Those removed about thirty years ago would be removed after the potato famine in 1848?

33541. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Without anticipating any statement that may be made about the case of the Sea-weed Company, can you say whether the Sea-weed Company ever pay money to people employed by them ?
—Perhaps they have given away money once or twice, but they won't pay any money if they can help it.

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