Tobermory, Mull, 10 August 1883 - Lachlan Mcquarie and Alexander Fletcher

LACHLAN M'QUARIE, Shoemaker, Salen (73) assisted by ALEXANDER FLETCHER, Fisherman, Salen (64)—examined.

35552. The Chairman.
—Have you a written statement ?
—Yes. 'Some Particulars in the case of the Crofters and Cottars of Salen, on the Estate of Glenforsa.
—At a numerously attended meeting held in the Temperance Hall, Salen, on the 7th of August, Mr Robert M'Lachlan in the chair, it was resolved that the undersigned should draw up a statement and present it by the hand of one of us, to the Royal Commission at Tobermory. Perhaps the best statement will be a record of what the several said to the purpose of laying their grievances before Her Majesty's representatives. By way of commencement it was asked first, " How many of those present had enough of land ?" and on a show of hands being called for, there was not a hand raised. Then it was asked, " How many are there who have not enough of land ?" and the response was all hands up. It was then asked how many there were on the estate of Glenforsa who had enough of land to live on, and the answer was " two." The question was then put, " How has it come about that there are so few holding land enough, and so many having too little?" The answer was, "That the people had been cleared off excellent and extensive lands and the evicted sent hither and thither over the face of the earth, some settling in Salen, some in Tobermory, some in Glasgow, and many in foreign lands." An illustration of the wholesale nature of the eviction, the following list was given of townships cleared on the one island of Ulva, premising that in 1841 the island of Ulva had a population of 859, or somewhat more being 200 above the present population of the whole quoad sacra parish of Salen :
—from Ormaig, 7 families; Cragaig, 9 ; Kilvicewen, 6 ; Eolusary, 4 ; Glaenagallan, 4; Ballighartan, 4 ; Beannas, 4; Cuilinis, 5 ; Abas, 5 ; Sorata, 7; Achanatutha, 4 ; Tairi-nan-Ardruidle, 3 ; Upper Ardeallani 2; Lower Ardeallam, 5; Blar-nan-Corr, 2 j Salen Buadh, 2; total, 73 families. Some of these evicted families were first removed from sufficient farms to smaller ones, then they were reduced to a house and grass for a cow or two, then to nothing at all, and when they would not clear off altogether some of them had the roofs taken off their huts. When one of them asked Mr Clark for a house, the answer given was "No ; I am not the father of your family." In another case there was a very sick woman with her daughter in one of the houses which Mr Clark wished to pull down. Notwithstanding the critical condition of the woman, he had the roof taken down all to a small bit right over the sick woman's bed. On other occasions he went and pleaded with the inmates to go, he giving biscuits to the children as inducements. One of the inducements offered in another case was that the parties appealed to would get good treatment in the Tobermory Poor House, as he (Mr Clark) was a member of the Parochial Board. By one means or another he got the people away, now one lot, and then another lot of them, according as he was able to stock the land. Some poor people got permission to build huts on a point which~ho one else thought worth having. By way of making the place look nicer, they planted some trees; but as that went to give them a more permanent feeling and appearance, he actually pulled up the plants, and ultimately sent the people away too. Lachlan M'Quarie (64 years), residing at Salen, and one of our delegates, had three different removals from better to worse, and from that to the other side of the Sound of Ulva. He remembers having seen seventy-three crofters in the island of Ulva, and there are now only the proprietor and his three shepherds besides two or three cottars. After the failure of the potato the present proprietor (Mr Clark) cleared off the crofters from about the half of the island first, and put sheep in their place; and as his stock was increasing he gradually cleared off the rest of the crofters till he had all the island cleared, with the exception of one small place, Ardglass, where he allowed three or four to put up huts for themselves to remain there for a little, but it was not very long till he sent them after the rest. He (Lachlan M'Quarie) rented a croft himself in Ormaig at £13 rent; another came, offered more, and got that croft. Some time after he got a small croft in another place, Cragaig. In a short time again be was warned out of there also, and on refusing to leave his house was stripped by a policeman and sheriff officer along with the proprietor and some of his working men. Being then homeless, having a wife and three young children, he had to take the couples (being his own) that were on the house, carry them to the shore, and put up a hut for himself there, about six yards above high-water mark. Being a lobster fisher also, he had intended to have stayed there for some time, and support his family at that calling; but was not above a week there when the proprietor came riding to him, and said he was vexed for the young children and was afraid they would catch cold, and he could only reply in astonishment to the proprietor, " Why then, if you are so anxious about them, did you strip the house above their heads ?" He then offered him a house at Coalas at £ 3 rent, which (glad for the time to get anything) he accepted, and lived there solely by fishing for three years, when he was again glad to leave of his own accord. He also remembers the proprietor closing up with stones the only good well near him and the rest of the poor people living there, because it was on M'Quarie and his (Mr Clark's) ground at the roadside leading to his house. He also remembers a poor woman being at this same well one day, when she, terrified at seeing Mr Clark coming, ran away and left her kettle at the well, which Mr Clark took hold of and smashed to pieces. Another poor woman left her body clothes to bleach by the same roadside, and on Mr Clark coming the way he saw them and tore them in pieces. In these and similar ways he succeeded only too well in clearing the island of its once numerous inhabitants, scattering them over the face of the globe, as already stated. With reference to the clearances on the Glenforsa estate, it is but proper to state that they were all effected before the present proprietor came into possession. But the lands were nevertheless cleared, and the people now remain without. By way of example, we can give the names of—well, of a dozen of townships which were cleared right away one after another, without leaving a living, with the exception of one. Alexander Fletcher, shoemaker, 73 years, residing at Salen, and one of our delegates, remembers having seen ( 1 ) 11 crofters in Leitir, 6 in Corachaidh, 1 in Pennygown, 1 in Cuocubuntata, 3 in Rohill, 3 in Gaydale, 1 in Croich, 1 iu Kilbeg, 1 in Callachly, 6 in Torlochan ; total, 34 in Glenforsa estate. He also remembers having seen (2) 8 crofters at Tishnish, 2 at Corrynaheucha (parish of Salen), and (3) 14 between Killechronan and Kellan Mill, parish of Salen. All these were then in good circumstances but now are all in the hands of the proprietors, with the exception of (1) a single farmer in all that ground, who has Pennygown, Corachadh, and Rohill. Number 2 is entirely in proprietor's (Mr Guthrie's) hands. As also number 3, in the hands of Mr Parr, the proprietor, with the exception of one small croft at Kellan Mill. So well populated were these places that he (A. Fletcher, delegate,) remembers seeing seven weddings in one day at Salen, and now for the past several decades there has scarcely been one in a twelvemonth; he remembers the time when there would be not less than 800 bolls of meal ground in one year at the mill of Kellan, and now there is no use for a mill, and not a boll made there. Everything has been to reduce the number of the people, in many cases by means which certainly were anything but creditable to humanity. There is some employment given about, but the wages are only 2s. a day, ; and with the exception of what grows with those who have a bit of garden, everything has to be bought. Even the milk, which should be plentiful in the district, is deplorably scarce, and those who have cows : have to pay for fodder and for bad pasture. And now, when there would seem to be some hope that better times are coming, and the big farms are falling into the hands of the proprietors, the majority of the landless people are so poor that even were lands offered them they could not stock crofts without assistance, and they are not very clear as to how the assistance could be obtained. We understand that money is got for drain-making, for fencing, and the like, and possibly poor people on the security of the stock or of the landlords, might have money from Government, until they were able to repay the loan. W« can only hope that the Royal Commission's report to the Government and Parliament will lead to the formation of a plan by which the lands now waste will be placed at the disposal of the people now without, and that some way of helping them to stock and crop their farms will be devised.

35553. How many crofters are there in the township of Salen?
— Perhaps six.

35554. Are all the crofts alike, or are they of different sizes?
—No, they have only a garden, with the exception of four.

35555. How many have land?
—I cannot say; there are more than four.

35556. How much land have you?
—Only the house, both of us, and a wee bit garden.

35557. How much do you pay ?
—Three pounds, and I have to keep the house up too.

35558. Who built the house?
—One who was in it before I was there.

35559. When you came into the house did you pay the previous tenant anything for it?
—No, the proprietor had it in his own hand when I entered.

35560. Did you pay him anything?
—I paid him rent; the house is his own yet.

35561. Did the proprietor lay out any money on the improvement of the house ?
—Not an article.

35562. How large is the garden —a quarter of an acre ?
—It will only raise about two stones of potatoes.

35563. Is it as big as this room?
—About that.

35564. Is the house slated ?
—No, thatched.

35565. Is it a black house?

35566. Do the other tenants pay £ 3 ?
—Yes, every one of them, except those who have a long lease; but we cannot get grass for a cow.

35567. But you are a flesher by trade?
—No, but there is a namesake of mine a flesher; I am a shoemaker.

35568. Have you a shop in which you work?
—I work in the house.

35569. How many apartments are there in the house?

35570. Is it better than a common cottage?
—I keep it as well as I can ; it is looking pretty well.

35571. It is a little better than one of the common houses of the country ?

35572. What do the other cottars pay who have no land ?
—Every one of them the same; there are only four houses altogether there.

35573. How much do those pay who have land?
—None of them have land.

35574. I thought you said four of them had land ?
—No, they have no land, but a bit garden ; they have no cow's grass.

35575. Do none of them keep a cow?

35576. Do none of the cottars of Salen keep cows ?
—Yes, we are in Glenaros, on Mr Fletcher's property.

35577. What do the others pay who are in Colonel Gardyne's property?
—They have mostly two cows, and others have nothing but houses.

35578. Do Colonel Gardyne's crofters keep cows?
—Some of them two.

35579. When they keep two cows, how much do they pay ?
—They pay for the grazing of the cows £ 2 each.

35580. And how much for the house?
—I cannot tell about the croft what they pay, but the factor is here. But Colonel Gardyne is a good landlord after all; he never put any one away without cause.

35581. It is said here that there was a call for those who had land enough and there was no hand raised, so that there was nobody there who thought he had land enough : what would they consider enough land ?
—Sufficient to keep two or three cows.

35582. What would you consider a proper-sized croft?
—I should say what would keep about four cows and a horse, or the like of that.

35583. Any sheep ?
—Yes, about twenty or thirty sheep along with that.

35584. So that you consider four cows, one horse, and twenty or thirty sheep would be a comfortable croft ?
—Yes, we were living by that before the land was taken from us.

35585. Was there hill pasture attached to Salen before?

35586. When was that taken away?
—About forty years ago by the factor.

35587. Has it been broken up and cultivated ?
—It was a moor, and it is a deer forest now.

35588. Then you live upon the border of a deer forest ?
—I am not far from it.

35589. What is between you and the forest ?
—About half a mile.

35590. How is that land occupied ?
—Colonel Gardyne has it.

35591. Does he graze sheep upon it?
—He may do what he likes with it.

35592. What does he do?
—He would have game and everything rather than any person in Scotland.

35593. Do deer come down to near your house ?
—There is a fence eight feet high, so that the deer cannot come out now on the crofters' side, but at our side it is open.

35594. Then the deer don't do anybody any harm ?
—Not now since the fence was put up.

35595. Who put up the fence ?
—Colonel Gardyne.

35596. Did the crofters assist him ?
—-No, he did it himself; it cost about £2000.

35597. Did it give the crofters any work to put it up ?
—Yes, he let it to one who put it up at so much a rood.

35598. How long has this deer forest existed ?
—Three or four years or more.

35599. Is it all fenced round ?
—No, it is open at the side of Loch Buy.

35600. Is it all devoted to deer, or does Colonel Gardyne feed cattle among the deer ?
—He feeds some sheep.

35601. When Colonel Gardyne made the forest, was it a sheep farm?
—Yes, the same people had the grazing ground along with the crofts, for cattle and the like of that growing up, and he took that from them and gave them another bit below, and they are paying too dear for all that is in it.

35602. When the forest was made, he put the sheep out ?
—He did.

35603. Was it a large sheep farm ?

35604. What rent was it paying when he took it ?
—The same rent that they paid before and more, because he gave them this bit of ground for the cattle and all the people were seat away before that.

35605. Then the ground occupied by the deer was all in possession of the small tenants ?

35606. It was not one large tenant?
—Yes, there was a large tenant, Dr M'Lean, Callochy.

35607. Then the forest is made up of farms and the common pasture of the crofters ?

35608. Could the land near the crofters be used again, if any of it was given back, for grazing cattle ?
—It could, but there is no land for potatoes or anything of that kind; it is coarse ground —most of it is wood. It is good enough for sheep or cattle or horses.

35609. Could a piece of it be given back to the crofters without spoiling the forest?
—No, I don't think it.

35610. Could he put the wire further back ?
—-Yes, he could lift the wire altogether and give it as it was before, I mind of seeing no policemen in Mull, and no gamekeeper, and no machine but the one belonging to Colonel Campbell.

35611. Were there any carts?

35612. You complain that all the common pasture and grazing was taken away from the people?

35613. And that the people have been all scattered over the country ?
—Yes, except a few; they could not go further, and they stopped there.

35614. (To M'Quarrie).
—Was this deer forest belonging to Colonel Gardyne all made up out of a large sheep farm, or out of sheep farms and the pasture of the small tenants besides ?
—It was for sheep and cattle; it was not for farm purposes, it was not arable ground.

35615. There was no arable ground in it?

35616. But was the pasture ground which was taken in occupied by one farmer or by small tenants also?
—The half of it, a while ago.

35617. But at the moment when the forest was formed, was all the land in the hands of one man ?
—In Colonel Gardyne's own hands.

35618. How long had it been in his own hands before he made the forest ?
—Alexander Fletcher. Four or five years.

35619. And when he took it into his own hands was it all one sheep farm, or had it been divided ?
—It had been in his own hands; the tenants had scattered thirty or forty years.

35620. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Who occupied the land which is now deer forest before Colonel Gardyne bought it ?
—Captain M'Quarrie.

35621. Was it when he gave up the place that Colonel Gardyne took it into his own hand ?
—No, Lord Strathallan got it.

35622. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who wrote this paper?
—A man in the town where we had the meeting. It was Duncan Fletcher, a working man ; he has a croft.

35623. Did he draw it out unassisted ?
—We had to tell him.

35624. But he put it into this form?

35625. There is something curious here about a well; do you know about the well ?

35626. Do you recollect when it was running?

35627. And do you recollect when it was shut?

35628. Do you know that wells are always mentioned with respect in the Bible ?

35629. Don't the people now-a-days look with respect and reverence on a well ?
—Not the same as before.

35630. It is the country people I am speaking of?
—I am aware.

35631. Was it considered a very improper act that this should be done to the well ?
—Yes, because there was no other place to get water.

35632. What was the notion of the few people who were left as to this closing of the well?
—That it was a piece of inhumanity.

35633. Whose property are you on now ?
—-Mrs Fletcher's.

35631. Are you comfortable in your present circumstances?
—Yes, except that I have not a cow's gss.

35635. (To M'Quarne).
—Do you recollect when Ulva belonged to the M'Quarries ?

35636. They had it for a long time?
—Yes, the chief had it a long time, and the M'Donalds of Staffa had it after that.

35637. Were the people comfortable in the time of the M'Quarries in Ulva?
—They were; they never complained.

35638. Were they comfortable in your time ?

35639. It is a pretty fertile island ?
—Yes, it raises potatoes and oats.

35640. Is there much crop grown in it now ?
—Nothing at all, except what the laird has himself.

35641. Is there not a great deal of land which was once under the plough or under cultivation now lying waste?
—Lying waste, full of brackens and everything.

35642. Where did Mr Clark come from?
—-From Elgin, as far as I Lachlan understand.

35643. Does he speak Gaelic ?
—He can speak it now, but he could not speak it when he came first.

35644. Do you belong to the old family of Ulva yourself ?

35645. Of the people put away, were there a great many in the island ?
—Yes, a few of them, but not a great many. They went away before; they were sent away at first.

35646. What were the other common surnames on the island ?
—M'Donald, M'Kinnon, and M'Neill.

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