Glenelg, 4 August 1883 - Donald Macrae

DONALD MACRAE, Crofter, Cosaig (73)—examined.

32246. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Who is there at Cosaig besides yourself?
—Six families.

32247. Did they agree to send you here?

32248. All of them?

32249. What did they wish you to say?
—They all wish for more arable land and more hill pasture than they have—room for a reasonable stock of cattle. Most of them have not but one acre of land and one cow; and the half of them have not an acre itself nor cow itself.

32250. There are six of them, and three have not half an acre of land, and two of them have an acre each?

32251. And you have five acres?

32252. You pay £7 of rent?
—No; that is another Donald Macrae who pays that.

32253. Is there land to be got near you?

32254. On Eilanreoch?
—Yes; the hill. The hill belongs to Eilanreoch. But I have seen the whole of Cosaig belong to the crofters who were in Kirkton and Cosaig.

32255. When did they lose it?
—It is a long time since they lost the first part of it —more than forty years ago

32256. Do you remember that?
—I do; it was old Currie who was factor at that time.

32257. And when did they lose the lease of it?
—They took the first portion off that was right opposite the house of Eilanreoch, and Currie said every person would be asking that portion. Then they shut up the fence there. What was down the other side of the fence they had for a good while afterwards. Then a man of the name oft Stewart came, and the fence by this time began to break down, so that the stock upon either side crossed. To make a short story of it, the march was afterwards changed to the back of our house.

32258. Was any alteration made in the rent when the march was changed?
—Yes; the people came to poverty, and the proprietor was obliged to send them to America. Four hundred went away in one day. The land became desolate —no person there. A few did not go away.
The land was charged at £2 an acre, and that rent was put on the few who remained.

32259. Are they paying £ 2 an acre at Cosaig?

32260. I was asking about Cosaig. When the march was changed at Cosaig, was the rent changed?
—Yes, rent was paid.

32261. What reduction did they get?
—It came down to 25s. per acre the dearest of it.

32262. Have you any place for your cow outside your croft?
—No, not an inch.

32263. You have nothing but arable land?

32264. And you are paying 25s. an acre for the best of it?

32265. Are they paying less than that for some of it?
— I heard that some had it for £ 1 , but I am not certain.

32266. And you now want more pasture land?
—Yes, we want both pasture land for stock and arable land to support our families.

32267. Who has the arable land now which you desire to get possession of?
—The land has remained unchanged, but some have a good deal of it and others very little.

32268. And you have not got enough yourself?
—I could do with what I have of arable land if I had the hill pasture, and if I had seen the arable ground fairly distributed amongst those who had none at all. I judge that the poor people have about thirty-two acres of arable land just now, and there is only one horse among them to turn the whole of it.

32269. Do you mean that the six tenants in Cosaig have thirty-two acres?
—No ; but round about between this and Cosaig. I am making one place of it.

32270. How many tenants are there in the place between Kirkton and Cosaig?
—Cosaig is just an angle or corner of this place.

32271. How many families are in the enjoyment of these thirty-two acres? Do you think the thirty-two would be sufficient for them if divided between them in pasture?
—No, that would not suit, because there are a good number of them who have only one acre. They would be better off than they are, but it would not support them.

32272. Who is in possession of the arable land you desire in addition to the thirty-two acres?
—There is an innkeeper in our neighbourhood who has forty or fifty acres; but probably he requires more than an ordinary tenant, because he has to support horses and that; but still less than he has might suffice.

32273. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long have you been living in Cosaig?
—About ten years.

32274. Where were you before?
—In Kirkton.

32275. Why did you remove?
—That would be a long story to tell

32276. Tell it as shortly as you can?
—They deprived me of my lot which I had here.

32277. Who did?
—I don't mean to blame the proprietor or the factor for it. There happened to be a lawyer of the name of Home, manager of the property for Mr Baillie of Bristol. There were a lot of us gathered together, and we were discussing the proprietors and managers and that; and I happened to say there was no better stock of landed proprietors in the country side than the Baillies, only they had very bad horns. Mr Home heard this in Edinburgh, and resolved to put me out of the house and land. It was a very good lot which I had.

32278. Did you use that expression in Gaelic or English?
—In Gaelic. Mr Stavert was local factor at the time, and Mr Stavert would execute any commission you would entrust him with. A printed paper was set before us that we were paying rent, and containing a considerable number of articles which we were obliged to sign, otherwise we Would have to go out of our lots. One of the articles was that if a son of mine married, he would not be allowed to bring his wife into my house; and if a daughter married, she would not be allowed to bring her husband. I was not to be allowed to cut sea-ware or peat without the consent of the factor, nor to keep a dog, and lots of other rules of the same kind. I went away without signing the paper, and the ground officer came next day and asked why I ran away without signing that paper the previous evening; and he said that unless I signed it I would have to go out of my lot. Through fear I went and signed it. It was about that time that I was discussing proprietors and factors, and it was then I made use of the expression regarding Mr Home.

32279. How long was it after that that you were put out of your croft?
—Two years after that.

32280. What was the reason given for removing you?
—He gave no reason except that he would not suffer me to remain upon the estate.

32281. Did he say that to you or to any other body?
—I never saw the man, but I knew what was coming.

32282. How long had you been here before you were removed?
—Thirty-two years whatever.

32283. Had you always paid your rent?
—Yes ; I never slept one night in arrears.

32284. Did any one ever complain of you to the factor or anybody else for anything wrong you had done?
—I never heard.

32285. What condition were you in when you were removed here? Were you well off?
—I had a house and three cows.

32286. How many sheep?
—I was twenty years in the service of Mr Baillie—old Baillie—in charge of the people working at the district roads, bringing in their time and getting money to pay the men.

32287. How many cows do you keep now?
— Only one.

32288. And no horse?
—No horse. We are at the mercy of the gentle folks in spring, if they will be good enough to give us a horse ; and if not, in the case of an old man like myself, the land will have to lie waste.

32289. Were your father and grandfather here before you?

32290. Have you seen many people removed in your time?
—Yes, I have. I have seen that great big glen, from top to bottom, full of people.

32291. How long ago was it?
—Considerably over sixty years ago.

32292. How many families were there?
—I could not say.

32293. But it was full of people?
—I could give you a number of the townships. The townships there were only small, but they were bigger than they looked, for behind them in the hills there were shielings—a .shieling for every township—and these stood them well, for they had a place for their stock. And, if this Commission is to raise the people from the low condition into which they have come, it will be by restoring the land to them.

32294. Were these people making their living upon the land?

32295. Were they living independently of fishing and other work?
—They depended upon their stock; there was no fishing, and a stranger throughout the whole district could get food and drink when he came.

32296. Were there not times, after a bad year, when they would be very ill off?
—I don't know of such times ; no doubt, when the price of stock was low, they would be straitened a bit ; but when the prices rose again their stock would restore them into their former condition.

32297. Was there ever a time, that you remember, when they had to appeal to the public for assistance, until the time of the potato failure?
—No, I never heard of it.

32298. Then, where were these people all removed to?
—America, a great many of them ; and some to Australia.

32299. What was done with the land that they lived upon —who got it?
—It was made into bigger lands, and given to the few who remained at home. We petitioned Mr Baillie ; we complained that the land was too dear at £ 2 an acre, and asked that he would give us it at £ 1 an acre, and he granted our request; and of all the lands that were fixed all that time there is none remaining now without change but one, and that is the only lot upon which there is now a horse in the place ; and there might quite as well have been a horse upon all the other lots.

32300. When these people were removed to America and Australia were there some left?
—Yes ; I am here —one that was left.

32301. I am speaking of the ' great glen’—was some of the ground taken from them made into sheep farms?
—The glen is filled with sheep.

32302. Was that done when the people were removed?
—It was done before that. The clearing began at the time of which I spoke, and they were being gradually cleared down and down, township after township, until they reached the glebe. I can give you the names of nine of them, and each of them with its shieling. It was then that the people could live well, and there were heroes in the land. One man was stronger than three of these men here. They have neither the flesh nor bone nor sinews that they had then. The names of the townships were Maolmore, Maoluachdarach, Bolanalin, Cnocfhuin, Ardaun, Abathalhith, Achadahocuirn, Airithcheachan, Toamcluiadain, Gallatar, and Achdain.

32303. Professor Mackinnon.
—Are these uninhabited now?
—Yes, with the exception of shepherds.

32304. What farm do they belong to?
—They are included in Mr Mitchell's farm now j they are included in Rattagan farm.

32305. Did these clearances begin in the time of the M'Leods?
—No, in Bruce's time; it was Mr Bruce's factor who commenced the business.

32306. Did Bruce buy the estate from the M'Leods?
—Yes. I have seen Bruce myself.

32307. Where did he belong to?
—England ; and a good proprietor he was, but he had bad servants.

32308. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Was it the policy of the estate here first to deprive the people of their beasts and to reduce them to poverty afterwards?

32309. And after reducing them to poverty, that was an excuse for sending them away to America?
—Those who could were obliged, of their own accord, to go away; and those who were not able to go were only able to creep into such small corners as they might until their means failed, and then they had to go away.

32310. Was it through any fault of the people themselves or their actions that they were reduced to poverty and compelled to be expatriated?
—No; if the land had been left with the people there would have been no appearance of poverty. They had horses and cattle and sheep, and they had the fishing of loch and river salmon.

32311. Are the circumstances of the people to-day —as represented to us, being that of considerable poverty —the result of these evictions and clearances?
—I am convinced of it. They have not food as they had; they have not the fleece of the sheep; and their children have no milk. They are fed like skeletons in comparison with those who went before them. I speak nothing but the truth, but it is truth that should be told.

32312. Mr Cameron.
—Do you remember what amount of stock was kept by each of these people?
—It would depend upon the size of the township. They had their milk cows and followers, and they kept a horse and young cattle upon the hill. In the last township whose neck was broken, each tenant had ten milk cows and a horse. The number of sheep would be few ; I cannot tell the number.

32313. How did these people get reduced to poverty? Were they sent away at once, or were they first reduced to poverty and then sent away?
—I remember four—the last of these people. They were first removed to a township across there, opposite the shore —a poor place. One of them is a next door neighbour of my own, a poor crofter. There were two of them sent over to that poor place. The representative of the fourth family is the family now occupying the house upon Mr Macdonald's glebe.

32314. Were the people who went to America so far reduced to poverty that they had no stock when they went, or did they sell their stock before they went?
—The first number that went away were those from the upper portion of the glen. They had their stock, which they sold, and they paid their own passage away.

32315. Did they go of their own will?
—They thought it was a wise thing for them to go away. Six of my own brothers went.

32316. Were they removed out of their places, or did they go of their own accord?
—Some of them had no land. They were shepherds, and they understood from the policy of the estate that it was wiser for them to go away, and so away they went. The last two who went away were only poor crofters.

32317. When you say that the glen was cleared of its people, do you mean that the people were deprived of the land, or that they voluntarily gave it up?
—I mean that they were deprived of it.

32318. Were they in poor circumstances, or were they in possession of cattle when they were deprived of it?
—They were in poor circumstances when they were deprived of their land.

32319. At what period were they well off, and how did their condition change to one of poverty?
—Two of them got a bit of a township (and they are in here to-day), where they have two or three head of cattle, and a few sheep and a horse.

32320. But how did the mass of the people in the big glen change their position from that of prosperity which you described to that of poverty, in which you say they were when they were removed? How did the change come about?
—The reason for their falling from prosperity to poverty is that they lost their land. They did not like being removed; they were for remaining there living upon the produce of their stock, and they became poor and latterly went away.

32321. So that, in point of fact, the people who were in this glen lost first their land, and remained some years on the land without stock and without land?
—That is the way.

32322. How long did they remain in that condition as cottars on the land but not occupying the land, and having no stock?
—I cannot tell very well the number of years. The tacksman who came in let them all remain as cottars upon the farm.

32323. Do you know how long ago it was when the land was taken from them?
—It commenced at the head of the glen nearly sixty years ago.

32324. And when did the emigration take place?
—In the time of the famine in 1846, I saw 400 go away on the same day.

32325-9. And they lost their land twenty-five years before that?
—Yes, some of them.

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