NEIL M'NEIL, Crofter, Vaul (50)—examined.
34189. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any paper?
—I have :
—'To the Royal Commissioners for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The township of Vaul consists of twelve crofters and fourteen cottars. I represent the township. Our grievances are—
(1) That a former factor Neil M'NeiL made us sign a document that we would be obedient to his laws ; the
result was that he nearly doubled our rents within the last thirty-eight years, partly for drainage and twice for reasons unknown to us.
(2) That, owing to the inferiority of the soil through incessant tillage, we have to buy all our meal from Glasgow. Our sons and daughters gather our rent through the world.
(3) Scarcity of fuel and wool, for we have no sheep.
(4) That the cottars are a great burden to us.
By order of the Crofters of Vaul, NEIL M'NEIL.
—I have been requested to hand in the following papers also :
—For John M'Kinnon, Kirkapool; Hugh M'Dougall, Vaul; and Lauchlan M'Kinnon, Vaul.
To the Royal Commissioners for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
Statement of John M'Kinnon.
—I was formerly a crofter in Kirkapool. My grievances are—
(1) That the land was taken from me while my rent was paid. I was gathering the rent the best way I could, at all sorts of fishing ; and as soon as my father and mother died the land was taken from me, and no recompense. I may state that my father and grandfather were crofters on the same land before me;
(2) that I have a large family, some of them young, others unable to do anything for, themselves;
(3) that I mostly live by fishing. I have no boat nor nets of my own.
—JOHN M'KINNON, Kirkapool'
—The Statement of Hugh M'Dougall, Cottar and Fisherman, Vaul, Tyree
—Sheweth, That our house was damaged by the November tide of 1881, and I sought liberty from the factor to build another house at my own expenses, above high-water mark, and that was not granted us. I having no other occupation but the fishing. What I desire is that we shall be allowed to build another house, where our lives shall not be in periL Trusting that your Lordships will give our case due consideration, and as in duty bound, I shall ever pray.
—'To the Honourable the Crofters' Commissioners at present sitting in the Island of Tyree.
Statement by Lachlan M'Kinnon, residing there.
Gentlemen, I desire to state that over twenty years ago I purchased, for the sum of £40, a croft at that time belonging to one Archibald M'Phail. M'Phail was then in arrears of rent to the extent of about £12. This sum was deducted by the factor from the principal, and the balance handed to M'Phail, who subsequently went to America. The late Mr John Campbell was then chamberlain to his Grace the Duke of Argyll, and Mr Lachlan M'Quarie, ground officer here. After occupying my croft for over twelve years it was taken from me, and no reason given for doing so. When I asked the chamberlain if he had anything against me, he said that he had not, but that there were other reasons. I was then paying for my croft a yearly rent of £5, 10s., and was not in arrears. My family was then young. My stock consisted of one horse and two cows. These I was obliged to sell. With the proceeds, and some money which I borrowed from a friend, I purchased an east coast fishing boat, which I have since had enlarged; and from the time I was deprived of my croft until now the boat has
been the principal means of support of myself and family. I have a wife, six sons, and three daughters. At the time my croft was taken from me, I was allowed to retain one acre of it, or thereabout; the remainder being given to another crofter. During Mr Campbell's time I was not charged any rent for the acre retained, but during the factorship of his successor, Mr Geikie, I was obliged to sign a paper agreeing to pay rent if required, at any future time. I was never charged rent by Mr Geikie, but I am now paying the sum of 30s. for the said acre yearly. When my croft was taken from me I was promised another croft in return, but which, notwithstanding my frequent applications to the then and subsequent factors, I am still without. On the ground I now occupy I can only plant a few barrels of potatoes, and am obliged to plant more potatoes in other crofters' ground, paying rent therefor. My present stock consists of two cows and one horse, the grazing and wintering of these respectively costing me over £20 a year. I have never received compensation of any kind for the loss of my croft, although at the time it was taken from me I was willing to emigrate with my family, had money compensation been given me. As I consider that I have been most unjustly deprived of my land, and there being no apparent intention on the part of his Grace the Duke of Argyll to reinstate me therein, or in another croft, I beg humbly to present this statement for the consideration of your honours.'
34190. Did you ever see again this document you signed saying you would be obedient to the factor?
—-No, but I have heard people who have seen it and who signed it,
34191. You have not seen it?
—No, not I.
34192. Was it ever produced again?
—Not to my knowledge, but the people who signed it told me they did so.
34193. Did they get a copy of it ?
—It seems not.
34194. What is your rent at the present time?
—£21, 10s. 6d., I think.
34195. Was your father in the croft before you?
—We were in Balphuil first.
34196. How long have you been in possession of the present croft?
34197. Was it your brother or your father that came there first?
34198. What was the rent?
34199. How much money was put on for drainage?
—None upon us.
34200. Therefore, the rise from £18 to £21, 10s. is a rise that was put on for reasons unknown to you ?
—I may state the reasons perhaps. The rents were raised twice forbye the drainage money, and it was sent by the factor amongst the tenants to divide amongst themselves, and they valued the crofts amongst themselves, and if you did not take so much of this rent which is given in lately you will give me your croft, and the crofters had to remove back and forward amongst themselves.
34201. Did they value the whole township?
—Yes, among themselves, and we had to give up one of the crofts we had for one of these light sandy ones, and latterly we were removed down there altogether.
34202. You present a paper from Lachlan M'Kinnon, in which he says he bought his croft and paid £40 on entering it; was that a common custom?
—Yes, it was in old times that such as Lachlan M'Kinnon bought the rental; that is when he bought the stock it was understood that he bought the use of the rental along with it.
34203. When he paid £40 he got some stock for it ?
—He would have some stock, but it was understood he would have the benefit of the croft by buying the rental.
34204. The goodwill?
—Yes, his Grace allowed them to sell the rental. John Maclean bought his place, that was what he did. It was understood he had it while he paid his rent.
34205. And did everybody have the right of selling it in old times ?
—It seems they had before factor Campbell's days.
34206. He stopped that?
—Yes, my father bought his first croft the same way in Balphuil.
34207. How long is it since this practice was stopped ?
—Thirty-eight years ago, I think, since factor Campbell came.
34208. You mention the scarcity of fuel, what on an average will you spend on coals ?
—About six tons to each family on an average. Some can do with less and some more.
34209. Where do you get it ?
34210. What do you pay for it ?
—The price varies, sometimes 14s., 10s., and 17s. 6d., and it has been as high as 30s. per ton.
34211. Will it come to £ 4 on an average ?
—They were allowing £6 on an average for each family; some require more than six tons.
34212. Have none of the crofters any sheep?
—I am not aware of any.
34213. They do not make any cloth at home?
34214. Do they buy the wool?
34215. And spin it at home?
34216. Are there many weavers in Tyree?
—A good many.
34217. The Chairman.
—You say your sons and daughters gather your rent through the world ?
34218. Do your sons and daughters frequently send home money from their wages ?
—Generally they do.
34219. Would it be possible to pay the rent throughout the country unless the younger members of a family sent money from their wages ?
—As far as I know, I don't think it would; in most cases it would not.
34220. Do you know anybody here present who actually signed that document in which they promised to obey the factor's wishes ?
—Yes, Donald Macdonald.
34221. (To Donald Macdonald). Did you sign the document promising to obey whatever the factor desired?
34222. How did you know what the contents of the paper were —was the paper read over to you aloud ?
—All we know is this —the paper was not read to us at all, but the ground officer had a lot of notices to quit in one hand and this paper in another, and we were told that the contents of the paper were that we would require to obey anything that the Duke of Argyll or his factor would ask us to do.
34223. Was it written or printed ?
—It was written.
34224. Was M'Quarie the ground officer?
34225. Is he alive yet?
34226. Is he here ?
—He was here; he may be here yet.
34227. Was that in the time of the present Duke or his predecessor?
—In the time of the present Duke.
34228. Do you know of anybody who can read and who saw the paper himself and read it ?
—I am not aware of any who read the paper before he put his hand to it.
34229. Was your knowledge of the contents of the paper solely derived from the statements of the ground officer ?
—The factor was not present upon the occasion ; our only information regarding the paper was what the ground officer told us at the time.
34230. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Was each tenant obliged to sign a separate paper, or did several of them sign one paper ?
—I believe it was the same paper that every crofter in Tyree signed.
34231. Did you put your cross to it ?
—I believe I signed my name ; I can sign my name.
34232. What year did this occur in?
—It would be about thirty-five years ago; some two or three years after Mr Campbell got the management
of the estates.—John Campbell, Bailenoe. Probably it was in the year 1847. Mr Campbell got the management of the estate in 1846, and it was the year after.
34233. The Chairman.
—Did you sign it?
—I did not sign it myself, but everybody in the township where I lived signed it.
34234. (To Donald Macdonald).
—How did you know that the papers in the man's other hand were summonses to quit ?
—He told us.