WILLIAM M'CRIMMON, Crofter, Bernera (42)—examined.
32412. The Chairman.
—Are you a delegate?
32413. Have you a written statement?
32414. Where is Bernera?
—It is a township over on the other side, between here and Kyle Rhea ferry.
32415. What is your complaint?
—We wish to get more land.
32416. How much land have you got at present?
—We keep four cows, one horse, and thirty sheep each; some have forty sheep.
32417. What property are you on?
32418. What is your rent?
32419. How many acres of arable land have you?
—Between six and seven acres.
32420. You have very good hill pasture, I suppose?
—Pretty bad ; broken ground.
32421. Is it fenced?
32422. Who is on the other side of the march?
32423. Do you live on good terms with his shepherds?
32424. They don't do you any harm?
—They pound our horses occasionally.
32425. Do your horses go on Mr Mitchell's land?
32426. Would you like to have a fence between the farm and your pasture?
—We would be quite as well with a fence.
32427. How many crofters are there in the township?
32428. Have you any cottars living on them?
32429. Does he belong to any family of the crofters, or is he a stranger who has come in?
—He belongs to the place.
32430. How long has your rent been £16? Has it been raised in your lifetime?
32431. When was it raised?
—Ten or twelve years ago, in Mr Stavert's time.
32432. What was the rent before?
—£14; it was raised by £2.
32433. Had it been long standing at £14?
—Yes, all my time it was at £14 until then.
32434. Considering the increased price of cattle, is it dearer now at £16 than when you began at £14?
—No, I rather think not; I think it is about as cheap now as it was at £14. But it was very much cheaper than £14 long before that.
32435. Have the rents of the large farms in this neighbourhood been reduced?
32436. You know that?
—Yes, I know that quite well.
32437. Have the rents of any of the small holdings been reduced?
32438. What have you done for the improvement of this little farm?
—I have reclaimed about an acre and a half.
32439. Have you done any draining?
—Yes, I did.
32440. Stone or tile drains?
—Stone drains, with turf over them
32441. Any lime?
32442. Any fence?
—Some wire fencing.
32443. What have you done to your house? Have you improved it?
—No; I have done nothing to the house since I got possession of the land.
32444. Is it slated?
—No; we built it ourselves.
32445. Is it a thatched house?
—Yes, a thatched house.
32446. You have a better croft than is common in this country; do you make a living out of it for your family, or do you work for wages?
—I could not make a living off my croft; I buy and sell.
32447. So you don't fish?
—No; I was brought up in one of the townships named already as having been in the back glen which was cleared ; my father was one of the last that was dispossessed.
32448. Do you consider yourself much better off with this croft than those who have got one acre of land and who live by fishing?
—Yes, I consider myself better off than they are.
32449. And if there were more crofts of the same kind as yours would the people be happier and better off?
—Yes, if they only got them a little cheaper. There is no place in the whole country dearer than our place. I show an old receipt, of date 1838, for £16 on account of rent.
32450. Had your father a croft on the big glen worth £16 a year at that time?
—Yes, my father paid £16 of rent for his croft, and it was well worth that. There were four of them, and they each had ten milk cows and near about one hundred sheep each. They left it twenty years ago.
32451. When these crofters went away did they go of their own free will or were they forced away?
—They were forced out.
32452. Did any of them go to America?
—No, the old man explained what became of them; they removed here and there.
32453. Do you want more land?
—Yes, we want more land; and now that the proprietor has plenty of land in his own hands, and is wishing to let it, we do not see very well why he should not give it out to those of us who could afford to take it, when we would be willing to pay at the same rate of rent as the large farms.
32454. What land has the proprietor in his own hands?
32455. Professor Maekinnon.
—What amount of land would you yourself be able or willing to take?
—I would take about 300 or 400 acres.
32456. What would be about the rent of the place you would wish to take?
—Between £30 and £40.
32457. That would be about the size of the place your father had long ago?
32458. And you think the place for which he paid £16 would now-a-days be worth £30 or £40?
32459. The Chairman.
—You would require to leave your present place if you got such a place as that?
—I would be quite willing to do that. Three were ejected from this place in order to make room for us when we went there, and some would be only too glad to get back even at the present day.
32460. Can you say how those in your father's position were able to stand the shock of the potato famine?
—He never got any assistance at that time, although, no doubt, it gave them a heavy blow. Still, they
had sufficient means to be able to do without assistance, and if they had been left in the land they would have been able to hold it. They were not a penny in arrears.
32461. Professor Mackinnon.
—And did he always consider it a loss to have had to leave that place and go where he went to?
32462. He would have preferred to remain where he was?
32463. Do you remember what amount of stock he would have when he left it?
—About twelve milk cows, and one hundred sheep, and horses.
32464. And he was not in arrears of rent nor in debt in any way?
32465. That was thirty years ago?
32466. And his neighbours were in the same way?
—Yes, one of them; the other two were not so good. My father was born in Swordlan, and he was removed to this place; but his two grandfathers were in this same township to which he himself was afterwards removed
32467. So that your people have been living on this land for a long time?
32468. You don't come from Skye?
32469. You are no relations of the pipers of Dunvegan?
—I cannot say.
32470. Is the name M'Crimmon common in this country?
32471. Have you any knowledge of how your family came to this place?
32472. But you have been here for a long time?
—We have been here for at least five or six generations.
32473. Do you, who were in the big glen with your father, believe that that glen could be repeopled with such substantial tenants as your own father was, if the proprietor would give it back to you again?
—Yes; but the delegate didn't mention the other side of the glen. There is a river coming down through the glen, and the other side is mostly the same as the big side. The other side of the glen could be peopled quite as well. I remember myself of a few tenants who were there at one time. I have a chair in my house which was made out of a portion of the timber of a house which was burned at the time Prince Charles went through the country. That shows that my people have been in the country for a long time.
32474. The Chairman.
—Was that the old house of your grandfather?
—It was the same house, but we rebuilt it just before we were removed finally out of it.
32475. When you removed did you receive any compensation for the new house you built?
—No, not a penny. We were only a year or two in the place, when we saw that they thought to remove us again. By that time we had the dwelling-house and offices built.
32476. But you were not removed?
—No, we were not. They tried to remove me again last year.
—[Exhibits summons of ejectment.] This decree was not executed. I went to the factor and saw him, and he told me to go away home, and I would get leave to stay as long as I paid my rent. Last Whitsunday he went and took down the very fence I put up myself, saying that I had more land than my neighbours. This was about the land I reclaimed myself. His manager measured it out three times, and upon each occasion he found a different measurement. When the proprietor died last year, I got an invitation to the funeral along with many others, and I and one or two of the smaller tenants went to the funeral, and very shortly afterwards the factor gave me this paper, and attempted to eject me.
32478. Do you know what they meant or intended by this summons of ejectment?
—They wanted us to make a club stock of the sheep.
32479. They did not really want to turn you out?
—He wished to eject me, evidently, because I was of the old stock of the land.