Tiree, 7 August 1883 - Ronald Macdonald

RONALD MACDONALD, Cottar, Heanish (46)—examined.

34252. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have a paper?
—' To the Honourable the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Condition of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Statement of Ronald M' Donald (46), cottar and cattle dealer, Heanish, for Heanish and Baugh cottars—Humbly sheweth, That many of the cottars of Heanish and Baugh were deprived of their holdings, either directly or indirectly, to make room for tacks, as in the case of one party who was deprived of his holding at Baugh, then partly cleared to make an addition to the tack of Reef, and same party again was evicted from his croft at Heanish to make room for a blind man and his family from Hylipool, then a crofter township, but which was at this time converted into a tack. This party never received a penny for his outlay in house erection, but had to build another house at his own expense down at the sea-shore; and ejectments were served upon us during our occupancy of the crofts for being one day behind in ploughing our turnip ground, and fines imposed for fictitious faults, and had to be paid on rent day, for such as if any of our horses should break in accidentally from one part of our common to another part, both which was our own by right. The sums paid for each collectively amounts to £17. The late John Campbell, Esq., was factor for his Grace the Duke of Argyll. Cases could be cited where the crofters were evicted to make room for factor's servants and favourites. The result is that many are reduced to poverty; their only employment in winter is gathering tangles for the British Sea-weed Company, and making kelp in spring for the same company whenever they get the chance of doing so, those of them who do not go to the fishing. What we desire is a few acres arable land and as much grazing as will be a sufficient keep for a cow or two.'
—' Also Scaranish cottars' statement by Duncan M'Kinuon, crofter formerly, but now labourer, age fifty-five. My father and grandfather occupied the croft or holding from time immemorial and paid the rent, yet evicted to make room for sheep. My father was seventy-five years of age when we were evicted. The croft was about eight acres, giving plenty of work : and returns to keep us comfortably.

—' Also Archibald M'Kinnon, shoemaker, crofter's son, age forty-three, deprived of the place for which his father paid £50 for the goodwill of it in Scaranish, and never received a penny for our loss there. There was a large family of us thrown out.

—Also the whole of Scaranish crofters, numbering twenty-two families, were badly used; twelve families went to America, and a number of them died on the passage through want of proper food and allowance. The rest were allowed to remain and got their lots increased, but subsequently all of them were evicted and reduced to poverty. "We humbly pray that our crofts shall be restored to us again, for which we are willing to pay fair rent with fixity of tenure.

34253. What rent are you paying now ?
—I just paid one rent last year for the garden I got along with the house.

34254. Had you any land at any time yourself?
—My mother had ; I never had.

34255. What rent was your mother paying?
—About £6.

34256. Was your mother long a widow?
—Yes, she was married twice; and it was the land that her husband had that was taken from her.

34257. Were your father and mother in comfortable circumstances to bring up a family?
—Yes, they were in good circumstances. My father died when I was only an infant, but my stepfather was in good circumstances.

34258. Until they lost the croft ?

34259. Where would you like to get land—yourself and the other people of Heanish ?
—Wherever we would get it.

34260. Would some of you be able, if you got land, to build houses for yourselves, and to put some stock on it ?
—Some of us would be.

34261. Would you?
—I would myself and others would also.

34262. Would you be able to take as much land as would enable you to live without doing anything else but attending to the produce and stock ?
—The croft would always stand good, and I might still be going backwards and forwards as I now am.

34263. Are there some of the other crofters in Heanish and Baugh who could take land ?
—Some of them are —three or four at least; others of them are very poor.

34264. Do you know the case of Duncan M'Kinnon, who is referred to in the paper ?
—1 don't know very particularly about the case; I know the man ; he is here.

34265. Will the whole of the people mentioned here in Heanish, Baugh, and Scaranish, ever be in anything but a precarious position unless they get more land or steady employment ?
—It is difficult for me to say generally with regard to that, but I don't see how they can live at all as they are.

34266. Are the people referred to in this paper, for whom you have been speaking, generally very poor
—poorer than they have been in your recollection?
—Some of them are poorer than they were, others are much about the same condition.

34267. And you represent to us that the general demand of the people is to get more land; and some of them to get potato ground and enough to keep a cow?
—That is their demand.

34268. The Chairman.
—How do you make your own living?
—I am a cattle dealer.

34269. Is the droving trade going on as well as before?
—Yes, sometimes better, sometimes worse.

34270. But is it interfered with or altered by the railways and other causes of that sort ?
—It goes on as before.

34271. Do you pay rent for your house?
—I paid one rent for both the house and the garden.

34272. Is the house a new one?
—The house is about six or seven years old.

34273. Why did you only pay one rent for the house if you have had it for six years ?
—It was not asked.

34274. Then you had your house for nothing for five years?
—Yes; perhaps more than five, but five anyhow.

34275. Who built the house ?
—I built it.

34276. How much did it cost you ?
—It did not cost much. If you get suitable stone here it can be built cheap; there is not much outlay excepting the wood.

34277. If you had to leave it would you get any compensation for it?
—It has not been usual in the place to give compensation.

34278. Did you ask the factor's leave to build it ?
—Well, it was an old house that was re-made, and I leased the land —just went to one of those old houses and made it suitable for habitation.

34279. Did you pay anything to the former occupier?
—No, it is one of our own houses: we did not leave the houses although we lost the land.

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