JOHN M'CUAIG, Crofter and Fisherman (54), assisted by JOHN M'PHEE, Crofter, Corran, Arnisdale (60)—examined.
31710. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected a delegate?
—I believe I was.
31711. Are you sure?
31712. Have you any written statement to produce?
31713. Then what have you to say on behalf of your people?
—They are wanting more land. None of those in the township in which I live have more than one acre of land each, and that is too little for them to bring up their families on. We would be indebted to our proprietor or any person who would give us more, because there is land that might be given to us. There is plenty of low land in Arnisdale that might be given to poor people. The acre of land which we have we consider too dear at £2 of rent. We have no hill pasture or anything beyond that one acre of land. Three or four keep a cow, but neither I nor my neighbours are able to keep one. Those who do keep a cow pasture it upon the land of the farm and pay for it. We pay £ 3 for the grazing for the whole year.
31714. Where did the people of your township come from ; have they been long there, or did they come from another place?
—I believe they are all people belonging to the place without any admixture of strangers.
31715. In old times what was the condition of the people —your fathers and grandfathers?
—They were in a hard enough condition ; but they were in a better condition, so far as I know, than the people are to-day.
31716. Had they in those times any hill pasture?
—They had the hill; but there is an older man than I can tell about that.
31717. Do you know when the hill was taken away?
—It was taken away, I think, in the time of a proprietor called Bruce.
31718. Who is the older man?
31719. Had the people any hill pasture in this place in former times?
—M'Phee. They had hill pasture in the time when Lord Glenelg was proprietor.
31720. Was it large?
—Yes; it pastured eighty cattle and sheep—I cannot tell how many sheep. It was then taken from them in the time of Lord Glenelg, before the property was sold to Mr Baillie.
31721. By whom is the land occupied now?
—Mr Milligan, farmer. Our rent remained the same as it was after the hill was taken from us.
31722. When the hill was taken away did you then remain with one acre each of arable land?
31723. And did you pay the same rent for the one acre that you did for the one acre and the common pasture?
—Yes, till this day—£2 for the acre of land and £ 3 for the grazing of a cow.
31724. Do you all keep cows to graze out at £3?
—No; there are only tliree milk cows in our district, and we think the rent very high for them, the ground which they pasture being very bad.
31725. What do you grow on the arable ground?
—Very little; floods come upon one half of it, and make it incapable of bearing crop. Two bolls of potatoes were all that I took out of mine last year.
31726. Do you grow any winter fodder on the arable ground for the cattle, or do you use the arable ground entirely for your own food?
—It is out of the ocean that I take my own food. I cannot get a living out of the ground. Potatoes have grown on the same land for the last sixty years.
31727. When you pay £ 3 for the cow does that include the food of the cow for the whole year, or have you to buy fodder for the cow besides?
—It does not include the hay which we have to buy for them in the winter.
31728. How much will it cost a man to buy hay for winter besides the £3?
—From Whitsunday of last year to Whitsunday of this year it cost me between that £3 for what I had to pay for food for her in addition, £12, 5s. 4d.
31729. Is that the cost generally, or was it an extra year?
—My cow was more expensive to me than those of the rest; some cows require more food than others.
31730. You say you want more land; is the hill pasture which was taken away from you adjacent to your arable ground?
—-M'Cuaig. Yes, just above us.
31731. And does it contain arable ground as well as bill pasture?
31732. Could a portion of it be taken from the farm and given to the township without altogether spoiling the farm?
—Yes; the farm would still be a good farm without it. The hill pasture which was ours before was taken away from the farm and given to us.
31733. Has the rent of your acre of arable land been raised?
—No; it has neither been raised nor lowered from what it was when we had the hill pasture.
31734. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie
—How many tenants are there in Corran now?
—There are fifteen tenants, with 13½ acres amongst them; they are penned there like sheep in a fold. There are upwards of fiftythree souls existing upon that bit of land.
31735. How many families were there in the time of Lord Glenelg?
—There were many more in that time; some of them went away to America. The factor at that time, James Stavert, took their land to himself. He kept to himself all the lands of these people who went
away to America, and it has been attached to the farm since that time.
31736. Had your predecessors in Corran in Lord Glenelg's time more arable land individually than the people there have now?
—Some had two acres; most of them had only one acre, but they had the hill besides.
31737. How many crofters were there among whom the eighty cows were divided?
—I cannot say how many. There were only one or two had two acres, the rest had one acre, and some had no land at all. These latter had a cow, and they got grazing from others who had the bill.
31738. Would the tenants of those days have more than one cow apiece?
—Some had two milk cows and three and four young beasts on the hill besides.
31739. Had those who had an acre of land in those days more than one cow?
—No, they had only one cow ; but they had other beasts besides on the hill.
31740. How did they winter these beasts if they had more than one cow?
—They were Highland cattle, and they stood out the whole winter, except when the snow came, and then they gave them a bite of something. There was more pasture on the bill then; it was very good compared with what it is now —dirtied by sheep.
31741. Professor Mackinnon.
—I understand the factor took into his own hands the arable land of those who went away and the hill pasture of the whole township?
—He had the hill pasture before that: but he took the arable land of the people who went to America.
31742. And afterwards both the hill pasture and that arable land were added to the farm as it now is?
31743. When did these people go away?
—Upwards of thirty-four years ago.
31744. To America?
31745. To Canada, I suppose?
31746. What part?
—The county of Glengarry.
31747. Have you heard from them since?
—Not many are alive now of those who went there.
31748. What is the condition of those who are alive, and of the children of those that are dead?
—There were some of them for whom it would have been as well had they remained at home, but those who had strong families got on well.
31749. Did they go of their own accord, or were they sent away?
—They went voluntarily. Some of them after getting on board the ship went ashore again, not wishing to go; but they were not allowed to remain, and their houses were pulled down over their beads, and they were forced to embark again.
31750. Were they assisted to go away?
—They got their passage ; Mr Baillie paid for their passage.
31751. The present proprietor?
—The predecessor of the present proprietor.
31752. If that ground which your neighbours had, instead of being taken by the factor, had been given to you, would that have very much and improved your condition?
—Yes, if we got the hill pasture as the boundaries were before, we would be quite satisfied.
31753. You were not benefited in the least by your neighbours going away to America?
—It did us no good, it injured us rather; it tightened us more than we were.
31754. How did it make you worse?
—It took no land from us, but it did us no good; we got none of what our friends had.
31755. But your circumstances would be very much improved if you still got what they had along with the hill pasture that you had before?
—There can be no doubt of that.
31756. And you would be willing to pay a reasonable rent if you got it?
31757. [To M'Phee].
—Do you consider also, along with your neighbour, that the rent you pay for the acre is too high?
—There is no doubt of it ; it is only £ 1 per acre on the rest of the estate.
31758. You pay £ 2 , and the rest of the estate only pay £ 1 per acre; is that what you mean?
—Yes, it is only £ 1 per acre on the tenantry, except us, on this side of Glenelg.
31759. Is your ground better, or have you better fishing ground beside you?
—Nothing did it but the will of Stavert, the factor. As he had the farm himself, he thought he could get the place depopulated altogether.
31760. Was that the reason why, when he took the hill pasture from you, he did not reduce the rent?
—Yes; the part that he took to himself which the tenants had before, he got a man to value, and he valued it at 7s. 6d. an acre, and it is at that rate that he paid for it himself.
31761. And was that piece as good as the piece for which you now are paying £ 2?
—It was quite the same, except that it was more convenient to him.
31762. Have you a school in the place?
31763. A good school?
—[M'Cuaig] It is better this year than last year.
31764. Do your children all go to school?
—Yes; it was a female teacher we had before, and we have a male teacher now, whom we consider
31765. You prefer a male teacher?
31766. All along, since you remember, have you been paying rent direct to the proprietor, or did you hold your land from the farmer?
—It is to the proprietor we have always paid the £ 2 , but to the farmer the £3 for the grazing since the hill was taken from us.
31767. Was that always the case before Stavert's time?
—Yes. We never paid to the farmer until the hill pasture was taken from us—we always paid to the laird.
31768. Which do you consider the highest rent, £ 2 for an acre of arable ground or £ 3 for as much as a cow can gather on the hill side?
—[M'Phee]. The ground is the more useful to me ; the cow is dear, dear; if she were feeding on good ground I should not think it so bad.
31769. You don't think she can take £ 3 worth off the ground upon which she is allowed to feed?
—Not £ 1 worth; it is not there for her; the sheep don't leave that to her.
31770. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is there a great scarcity of milk in the township?
—It cannot be otherwise, when there are only three milk cows in th eplace
31771. How many children may there be in the township?
—[M'Cuaig]. I should say twenty-four or twenty-five.
31772. Has any proprietor lived on this estate during the last fifty years?
—[M’Phee]Not to our recollection.
31773. Have you any idea how many times the late proprietor, Evan Baillie, visited the estate during the time he was in possession?
—I am not aware that he ever came to our side. He may have come to this side.
31774. Was the predecessor of Evan Baillie long proprietor of the estate?
—I cannot be certain.
31775. Was he the one who bought it from the Grants?
31776. Did you ever see him?
—I saw him once.
31777. How long have you been paying rent?
—About thirty years.
31778. Did you ever receive any benefit directly or indirectly from the proprietor?
—I got some benefit from him the year before last, when the great tide came. I got a reduction of about £2 of arrears.
31779. Did you ever get any assistance in your buildings?
—No ; I am well acquainted with the sea coming into the place where I live.
31780. Did any of the crofters in Corran ever receive any advantage from the proprietor in the shape of buddings or otherwise?
—Never, so far as I am aware.
31781. Are you aware that the estate of Glenelg is very large?
31782. How many big farmers are there on the place?
—Four or five.
31783. Are there any of them resident on their farms?
—I am not so well acquainted with this side, but on our side there is one who lives occasionally, but only for a short time, on his farm.
31784. Has he any other place besides the farm?
31785. What is his name?
31786. Are any of these tenant farmers Highlanders!
31787. Were the late local factor or the present local factor people from the district or Highlanders?
—The present one is not, at any rate,
31788. Was Mr France?
—I cannot tell from what place he came.
31789. Has the administration of the estate for many years back been satisfactory to you and the crofters in your position?
—It has not indeed.
31790. Have you any idea what rent Mr Milligan is paying?
—I am not sure; he is present himself.
31791. Do you think he is paying £ 2 an acre?
—No, nor the fourth of it ; he could not give anything like that if he paid for the high and low ground together.
31792. Can you give us any idea how many acres of land once cultivated are now uncultivated upon his farm?
—There is a great deal, but I cannot give the figures.
31793. Is there a great deal more than 13½ acres?
—There is a great deal of arable land.
31794. Is there a great deal more than the 13½ acres you and the other people have?
—Sixty times as much. There are hundreds of acres of arable land in the farm.
31795. You were asked to explain an expression you made use of, that when the people went to America you were tightened. Since they were not benefited by getting the land of the people who went to America, was it not rather a loss to them to be deprived of the society of their neighbours?
—We did not like their going.
31796. Is it not an advantage to a country and a district to have a considerable population?
—It is ; there is no pleasure in its being otherwise under sheep.
31797. Do you know if there were any evictions or people sent away from the country in the time it belonged to M'Leod of M'Leod?
—I know nothing about that.
31798. Did you ever hear of it?
—I have never heard of it.
31799. That evictions began as far back as M'Leod's time?
—-No. The people had good times in the days of the M'Leods ; the land was not so dear then.
31800. Have you travelled over a good deal of the property in your day?
—Yes, I have walked over a good part of it.
31801. Is it or is it not a fact that there was once a very large population on the estate, and that there are appearances of that in the remains on the estate?
—Yes, it was to be seen within my own recollection.