CHARLES SHAW, W.S., late Sheriff-Substitute of Inverness-shire, at Lochmaddy (72)—examined.
41434. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to make to us?
—Yes. Being a native of Skye, and having spent the greater part of my life in the Western Islands, I feel a deep interest in all that concerns those parts, and I have in consequence closely followed the investigations recently pursued there by the Royal Commissioners. Having filled public offices which brought me into frequent contact with all classes in the islands, and having for long been an observer of the relations which subsisted between landlord and tenant, and acquainted with the history of the people, I have read with surprise and regret many statements made by delegates which I know to be erroneous and misleading, and many statements which I know to be ungenerous and unjust to good and philanthropic men who cannot now explain their actions or the motives by which they were influenced. It has therefore occurred to me that a simple narrative of a few facts within my knowledge may be useful to the Commissioners, and without any desire to challenge the veracity of any man, and in bringing to light the actual facts as they presented themselves at the time to one who was equally interested in all. I began business in 1835, by receiving from Lord Macdonald a joint commission with my father as factor of North Uist. I also to some extent assisted him in the management of Lord Dunmore's estate of Harris, and of Clanranald's estate of South Uist. I was also factor during part of 1836 and 1837 for the trustee on the sequestrated estate of General MacNeill of Barra. At Whitsunday 1838 I was appointed factor on Lord Macdonald's estate in Skye, which then included the large property now possessed by Major Fraser of Kilmuir. I held this last office till I was appointed Sheriff-Substitute of the Long Island in November 1841, and I remained there till 1881, when I left the Long Island. My earliest recollection goes back to 1817, and the great famine of that year. This famine was not owing to a failure of the potato crop in particular, but to a generally very bad and late harvest in 1816 over all Scotland. The spring of 1817 was also bad and backward, and of both these the Highlands had more than their proportion. The proprietors of the Long Island imported meal largely for the crofters, and Government supplied a considerable quantity of oat seed, which gave the year the name of the " the year of the big seed," and it is, I have no doubt, still known by that name to a few old people. The seed was of no use in the outer islands for the purpose for which it was sent, being unsuitable for the soil. The people got it ground into meal, and in this way it was of service. The crofters were due to 4 the proprietors a considerable portion of the price of that seed, when I ceased to have anything to do with Long Island estates in 1838. When in Edinburgh learning my profession in 1828-35, I made the acquaintance of Mr Robert Brown, at that time factor for the Duke of Hamilton at Hamilton. Mr Brown had gone to Uist as Sheriff-Substitute of the Long Island District, and factor for Clanranald, I think in 1796, and remained there till he went to Hamilton in 1811. My father succeeded him at Nunton in Benbecula in both offices. I often spent some days with Mr Brown at Hamilton, and our conversation frequently came upon Uist and its affairs, for Mr Brown was then Clanranald's sole surviving trustee. There was nothing he dwelt so much upon as the kindly relations that had always existed between Clanranald and the crofters on his estate. He always said they were more like members of Clanranald's family than his tenants. My own experience confirmed this view of their relative positions, and it continued the same down till one or two years before the sale of the estate to Colonel Gordon, when perhaps there was a little irritation created among the crofters by a small deduction having been made in the price of the kelp manufacture, a curtailment of advances before then freely made to them, and a more punctual collection of rents and arrears. To justify what has been said as to the relations between Clanranald and the crofters I may mention —
1st, if at any time the crofter ran out of food he applied to the factor, and at once got a supply furnished by the millers on the estate, if there were only a few cases of want, but imported from Glasgow if the need was more general.
2nd, A medical man who was resident in North Uist was specially engaged to attend the crofters in Benbecula, and afterwards another medical man resident in South Uist was engaged to attend the crofters on the whole estate, and to supply them also with medicine. It was his duty to come at a call, but whether he was sent for or not he paid frequent visits to the Island of Benbecula. For these medical men the crofters were assessed 2s. or 3s. each; but the factor paid the medical man whether the assessment was paid or not, and it was often in arrear. Besides this the factor kept 1 a large supply of ordinary medicine which was at the command of the crofters when required.
3rd, When a crofter or any member of his family died, the survivors at once came to the factor and got timber for the coffin, and money to defray the funeral expenses.
4th. If a crofter lost a horse or came by any unusual misfortune, he came to the factor, and except in the rarest case, such as being very heavily in arrears, he got means to buy another horse, or whatever else he required to relieve him. In short, in every difficulty he sent to the factor for help and advice,
and was rarely disappointed.
5th, Each crofter had in general a piece of shore that pertained to his croft, the sea-ware on which in favourable seasons, and with due industry on the part of the crofter, paid his entire year's rent when made into kelp, and the time occupied in the manufacture seldom exceeded six weeks.
6th, Besides the parish school in South Uist, there was another school in the north end of the island, and one I think also in the south end of it. There were in the island of Benbecula two excellent schools, one situated towards the north end of the island and another towards the south end, and all the children in the island could attend these schools, except those whose parents resided in remote corners. To the support of these schools, including of course the parish school, the proprietor contributed annually, besides being at the original expense of the buildings. In addition to the schools I have mentioned, in all of which the three R's were taught, and in two of them Latin, mathematics, &c, there were several itinerant Gaelic schools to teach the children to read the Scriptures in their own language, but to what extent Clanranald contributed to these schools I am not now able to say. There was in Benbecula a missionary clergyman under the Royal Bounty, and to his pay the proprietor contributed £ 10 a year. My connection with North Uist began in 1829, when my father got the management of it from Lord Macdonald in succession to Mr Cameron. I am not able to speak as to the relations between the former factor Mr Cameron and the crofters. After my father got the management the treatment of the people by Lord Macdonald appeared to me to be very much the same as that of Clanranald to his people. In some respects the North Uist people had the advantage over the Clanranald crofters. They had for a long time a medical man resident in the island, though, as has been already stated, he was at one time regularly engaged for Benbecula also. For generations Lord Macdonald gave him an allowance annually of £10 for attendance and medicine given to poor people who had no crofts. There was also Lord Macdonald's compassionate list, being a list of persons who received an allowance on an average amounting in all to about £40 a year, given by the millers on the estate to old and poor people. Lord Macdonald gave £ 10 annually in premiums of £5, £3, and £2, to the crofters' townships on the estate that exhibited the best bulls in competition for improving the crofters breed of cattle. In the matter of education, the crofters of the North Uist were, I think, better supplied than the inhabitants of any parish in Scotland. There were at the time of the sale of the estate by Lord Macdonald, besides the parish school, six others, all fairly taught, and two of these six in which the higher branches were given. Lord Macdonald was at the expense of building all the school and teachers' dwelling-houses, besides contributing an annual sum to the teachers. There were besides schools in the parish placed there by a Ladies' Association and the Gaelic School Society. There was in the south end of the island a mission under the Royal Bounty, to which Lord Macdonald contributed £ 10 a year. There was a Government quoad sacra church in the north end of it, to which Lord Macdonald gave a glebe, and besides bestowed also in perpetuity to the clergyman a grazing on the neighbouring farm of the annual value of £5. General Lord Macdonald got a special valuation of North Uist made in 1830, by the late Mr Neil Maclean of Inverness, one of the most experienced valuators of Highland property then living, himself also a native of North Uist. By this valuation the rents we slightly reduced. Lord Macdonald left the crofters' rents at the valuation then made till the sale of the estate in 1855, and Sir John Campbell Orde and his father have continued the crofts at the same rents to this day, notwithstanding the great rise in the price of cattle and a large advance in the tacksmen's rents. The crofters' rents have thus been the same for upwards of fifty years. In a book lately published in Inverness, called Highland Clearances, by A. Mackenzie, it is said in a chapter on the Hebrides, that the rents were raised to more than double on account of the kelp. This is a most erroneous statement. When in 1842 it became evident that the kelp manufacture must be abandoned, and that the potatoes were beginning to fail, Godfrey Lord Macdonald brought to North Uist from Perthshire a man to superintend the making of drains on the crofts. A sum of about £800, exclusive of the superintendent's wages, was expended in draining the crofters' holdings in that part of the estate where it appeared drainage was most necessary and most likely to do good, and no interest or additional rent was charged against the crofters for this expenditure. On other estates complaints are made because increased rents are charged on tenants for improvements made by themselves, but here neither interest nor additional rents were charged for drains made at the proprietors expense, and yet no mention is made of this very liberal dealing with them by any of the delegates before the Commissioners. During the famine of 1836, George Earl of Dunmore sent about 700 bolls of meal to the crofters in Harris, and in 1837, his son Alexander Edward Earl of Dunmore sent 1000 bolls all at prime cost and on credit, and larger quantities in subsequent years, as to which I am not able to speak, having ceased to have official connection with Harris. There was a medical man on the estate, paid
much in the same way as in North Uist, and there were three or four schools besides the parish school, all contributed to by Lord Dunmore, and a sewing school kept up by the Countess. During the minority of the present Earl, the Countess, who was his guardian, was unremitting in her attention to the wants of the crofters, and in the trying times that began with the famine of 1846, expended large sums out of her own private means in improving their condition. At an early stage of her connection with the estate, she expended large sums in the purchase of wool and in the employment of the females on the estate in various kinds of manufactures, and exerted herself to an extraordinary extent in the sale of these manufactures. I regret that, owing to the distance of my residence at Lochmaddy and the indifferent communication then between these parts of my jurisdiction, I am unable to give such full particulars as I should wish of a work so deserving of being better known. There were at the same time considerable sums laid out on drainage and other improvements. Lord Macdonald, like Clanranald in years of scarcity, gave the crofters meal on credit, and at prime cost. In 1836 I distributed among the crofters of North Uist 800 bolls of meal, and in 1837 770 bolls on account of Godfrey Lord Macdonald, besides making heavy advances in the spring of both years to the crofters on the north end of the estate, where the crofts were very bad, to provide provender to keep their cattle alive. Between 1837 and the total failure of the potato crop in 1846, Lord Macdonald on frequent occasions imported large quantities of meal from Glasgow for the crofters. Not having been concerned in the business I am enable now to specify the quantity, but I know it was considerable, and imported almost annually. When the potatoes failed entirely in 1846, Lord Macdonald at once imported a large quantity of meal, so as to supply the crofters with food during the autumn till the corn was reaped and was ready to send to the mills. Their own corn then kept them in food till spring, when the distribution of the food sent by the Destitution Committee in Glasgow began, and on the food thus obtained nearly the whole population of North Uist subsisted during the year 1847. The corn crops of 1847 were not good, and there were few potatoes, for few were planted, and those planted did
not turn out well. Indeed, as the delegate A. Macaulay admits, the potatoes had been a failure in the Sollas district for a number of years. The year 1848 was thus passed very much as 1847 had been, and as prospects did not materially improve it began to be a serious question what the end of this state of matters was to be. This leads to the Sollas evictions, of which so much has been said. In judging of these proceedings, one ought not to contemplate them in the light of matters as they are to-day, but as they were during the effects of the famine that had come upon the crofters, and was still continuing with little prospect of improvement, particularly in the Sollas district, at the time the evictions took place. The crofters did not, and apparently could not pay their rents, for they were on an average nearly two years' rents in arrears; neither could they feed themselves and families, for so many of them were living on charity. Lord Macdonald had an undoubted right to his rents, but he could not get them. He had been in the habit of always feeding the crofters when an emergency arose, and recently before the the potato famine of 1846, gave them large supplies of meal almost every year, but he could not feed them in perpetuity, as seemed then to be the prospect, and this too when he got no rents. It will thus be seen that it was not on the grounds, on which it is often alleged proprietors evict crofters, that Lord Macdonald endeavoured to persuade the1 crofters of Sollas district to emigrate, and did at first succeed in getting them to agree to it. There was nearly a total failure to pay any rents, and an inability to supply themselves with food. So that, even had lie handed over the land to themselves without exacting any rent for it, it was more than doubtful if they could have existed. It is further to be observed he did not propose to crowd the people into corners which would have cost him little, but at a very serious expense to himself to place them by emigration in a position that he had every reason to believe would have secured them a degree of comfort, wealth, and independence, they had no chance so far as could then be seen of ever attaining in their native island. In making these proposals I have little doubt he was fortified by the recorded opinions of men who had made the state of the Highlands and Islands one of special inquiry and consideration, under far less trying circumstances than then existed, and one of whom had been intrusted by Government to inquire into a previous though far less severe famine, and report upon the best remedies for preventing a recurrence. I need only refer to three of these gentlemen, viz., Mr Robert Graham of Redgorton, a commissioner sent by Government to the Highlands and Islands to inquire into the distress of 1837 following so close on that of 1836 ; Mr Robert C. Baird, writer in Glasgow, Honorary Secretary to the Glasgow Committee for affording assistance to the destitute Highlanders in 1836 and 1837; and Dr Norman Macleod of St Columba's, Glasgow, than whom no one was more attached to the Highlands and Highlanders, or did more for them when occasion occurred. Mr Graham made a report to the Government in 1837, and was afterwards examined in 1841 before a Committee of the House of Commons. In his report he recommended emigration as the most expedient, the most efficient, and the most economical expenditure; and in his evidence before the House of Commons in 1841, he stated his views on emigration even more strongly than in his report four years before. He states in one place
—" It would be humanity to remove some people," then " it would be humanity to transport them to some other situation," and that " to give them five acres of land in a colony would be happiness to them." Mr Baird, who had also obtained a vast amount of information, urged emigration in the strongest language. He accuses the Highland proprietors of " false humanity " in not pushing it, and states the destitution that existed arose from a " false humanity allowing the people to remain." Both he and Mr Graham point out Mr MacNeill of Canna as the best model for other proprietors in the Highlands. Now, the first thing Mr MacNeill did in bringing his estate to the position so highly commended, was to remove by emigration 200 out of a total of 500 on his property. Dr Macleod, in his evidence before the House of Commons, speaks if possible more decidedly than these other gentlemen in favour of emigration as the only way of relieving distress in the Highlands and Islands. With such opinions before him, and under the distressing circumstances already detailed, it cannot be matter of surprise that Lord Macdonald at once resorted to emigration as the only mode of relief within his power and the best for all concerned. So, in March 1849, as is stated in the Rev. J. A. MacRae's evidence, Mr Cooper, his Lordship's commissioner, came to Sollas to make an offer to the people of sending them to Upper Canada on what were considered liberal terms, the Highland Destitution Committee also promising assistance. The people then agreed to emigrate on the terms proposed, but when Mr Cooper came in June to carry through the arrangement, the people refused to leave their crofts on any terms. There is no doubt that the refusal was not a spontaneous act on the part of the people, but was the result of influence brought to bear upon them from other quarters. I am very clearly of opinion that the determination to reject Lord Macdonald's offer was on the part of the people injudicious and wrong. They were surely under an obligation either to pay the rents of the crofts or quietly to restore them to the owner when duly warned to leave them. By accepting the offer the crofters would have placed themselves in plenty, comfort, and independence, instead of living on charity and incurring debts they could not pay, with no prospect of bettering their condition at the time, the offer was made. That if they had gone to America at the time and even selected Cape Breton, which is said not to be the best colony to emigrate to, but is one to which many of their countrymen had previously gone to, they would speedily have attained a state of comfort and prosperity is clear not only from the letters of their countrymen who had gone before them to that island, but from the statements of other parties who have visited Cape Breton. I beg to refer specially to a paper in the Celtic Magazine of January 1880, by the editor Mr Alexander Mackenzie, now Dean of Guild, Inverness. In that article he says, that on going there he found our countrymen at the top of "everything." He says he found his own friends in much better circumstances than he expected. He adds, as their position "is a fair illustration of that of many others," he goes on to describe it. He says their father emigrated having only a very few pounds in his possession, but in consequence of having been in the British Navy for five years, obtained a free grant of 200 acres, and being industrious they prospered. They drove Mr Mackenzie to North Sydney in a carriage and pair, while he says, if they had remained at Melvaig, they would never have got beyond a pair of creels. Mr Mackenzie delivered a lecture in Sydney, the Honourable Sheriff Ferguson, a native of Uist, presiding, probably one of those who emigrated about forty years ago. Mr Mackenzie then gives accounts of various individuals from our Western Islands, who obtained elevated positions in the colony, and accumulated a considerable amount of wealth, among others an M.P., whose father, a man of the name of Morrison, emigrated from Harris without a cent, and became a prosperous farmer. How in the face of such evidence men can be found to urge the natives to cling to these islands of ours with such miserable prospects before them, and so many difficulties to contend with, I am quite at a loss to understand. There was at the time the Sollas evictions took place a considerable sum of money in the hands of the Perthshire Destitution Committee. Somehow the members of the Free Church who had taken an interest in these Sollas people, ascertained the existence of this fund, and being of opinion, as many others then were, and unfortunately still seem to be, that the moss lands of these islands can be remuneratively improved, they applied to the Perthshire Committee to devote this money to the improvement of moss land in North Uist, and to employ the Sollas people in the work, being of opinion that when improved it would provide well for all of them. The Perthshire Committee came into their views, and one of their number, the late Lord Kinnaird, who was personally acquainted with Lord Macdonald, on the part of the committee, wrote his Lordship to ask if he would give them moss land for that purpose, and if so on what terms. Lord Macdonald answered that he would allow them to go over the whole estate of North List, and select such part of the moss land as 1 seemed to them best suited for their purpose, and that he would give it to them at a nominal rent, or on their own terms. Afterwards Dr Aldcorn of Oban, on the part of the Free Church gentlemen, with a practical man of their own selection, went over all the moss land of North Uist, and ultimately Locheport Side and the hill of Langash were selected. A member of the Perthshire Committee and Dr Aldcorn came to North Uist to confer with the people and get them to go to the new colony. They came to my house on their arrival. Next day I drove them to Sollas, where they had appointed to meet the people. I left them there, and went on to Balranald, where they joined me in the evening. It seems Dr Aldcorn had some difficulty in getting the people to go into this moss land scheme, they evidently not having much confidence in its success, but at last they were persuaded to consent. I was asked to undertake a general superintendence of the work and of the colony ; but I declined to do so, for the obvious reason that I had always given it as my opinion that Uist moss land could not be profitably improved, and that if it failed, as I felt confident it would, it might be said that my superintendence contributed to that result. I was then asked, as there was then no bank in the island, to act as a sort of banker by receiving the money from Perth, and then handing it over to the overseer of works. This I at once agreed to. The work of migration from Sollas was carried through in 1850, but not so early in the season as it should have been. It was only the townships of Sollas and Dunskellar, and a small township at Lochmaddy, that were cleared. A selection of the crofters was made on the part of the proprietor, and those selected numbering more than half of those originally intended for emigration, with all the cottars, were settled in two townships of the Sollas district called Midquarter and Malaglete, where they still are. In Mackenzie's History of Highland Clearances, already referred to, there is an account of the attempted evictions in the Sollas district in 1849, apparently abridged from the Inverness Courier. Then occurs these words, "The following year the district was completely and mercilessly cleared of its remaining inhabitants, numbering 603." This last statement is quite erroneous. I have already stated what took place in what he calls the following year (1850), namely, a proportion of the crofters migrated to Locheport Side and Langash, as arranged under the auspices of the Perthshire Destitution Committee and by the advice of their Free Church friends, but the larger portion of the crofters of the Sollas district, and I think all the cottars in it settled down quietly in two of the Sollas townships, Midquarter and Malaglete, where they or their descendants still are. There is an asterisk after the words " 603 souls," and a relative foot note referring to the Inverness Courier as an authority for the statement in the text. This also is quite misleading. The Courier is an excellent authority for what took place in 1849, when that paper had a representative on the spot, but it is no authority for what took place the following year, when the " 603 " are erroneously said to have been " mercilessly " removed, that paper not giving any account, so far as I can discover, of even the partial migration that took place. Lord Macdonald gave over such part of the people's stock as would have fallen to him for arrears to the Perth Committee, to assist in carrying on the improvement of the moss land. Operations began in the new colony in the winter of 1850, and a considerable quantity of ground was supposed to be ready for oat and potato seed in spring 1851. Seed of the finest quality was sent from Perth and put into the ground. At first the oat braird was beautiful. I never saw anything more promising, but it soon became evident that it only remained so while the strength of the seed remained. It then began to assume a sort of purple colour and to fade. In August not many stems remained, and I do not believe an ear was seen upon it. The potatoes were quite as unproductive. By this time, I believe, half of the money was expended. A new overseer was engaged, and operations were continued for another winter and spring, and a crop put down in spring 1852. Operations had been restricted, and they were confined to parts more likely to produce a crop, and there was some crop, but very inferior and quite inadequate for the support of any considerable number of the people. The people themselves were by this time satisfied the whole scheme was a failure, and Sir John M'Neill, being at the time carrying on, with the sanction of the Government, who were to provide a ship, an extensive emigration from the Isle of Skye to Australia, a deputation from the people came to me to ask me to apply to Sir John, to have them carried away along with the Skye people. To this I consented, and Sir John wrote me in reply that if I sent him a list of suitable families he hoped he could get them taken. I then fixed a meeting with the people at their own place. On going there I was glad to find before me Dr Duff, the well-known Free Church Indian missionary, and Dr Mackintosh Mackay, who had recently been moderator of the Free Church Assembly. They had been looking at the crops, and had evidently formed a very poor opinion of the prospects of the people. Dr Duff proposed we should gather the people around us and explain matters. This was done. I informed them that Sir John M'Neill had agreed to send to Australia a considerable number of them, so far as their ages, &c, were suitable, and I explained the terms generally. I did not urge them to go, but I told them I would come back next day when they had thought over it for a night, and would then take down the names and ages of such as were willing to go. Dr Duff, who unfortunately could not speak Gaelic, addressed them briefly in English, and urged them very strongly to accept the terms offered. Dr Mackay spoke to them in their own language at greater length. He also advised them to accept the terms offered, but not so strongly or decidedly as Dr Duff had done. I came back next day and took down a list of names and ages, and sent the list to Sir John. After this Mr Chant, a Government officer, who was employed in the service, came to meet the people and make a selection. I think the number considerably exceeded 200, including families from other parts of North Uist. Ultimately the " Hercules" came to Campbelton, Argyleshire, and a steamer was sent to Lochmaddy for these people, and also to Harris, from which several families went. Soon after reaching Campbelton, and after I think the " Hercules " had sailed and was driven back, fever and small-pox broke out on board, and a good many people died, among others the heads of two North Uist families, whose orphan children were sent back to North Uist. Some years after that, I succeeded in getting one of these orphans sent to Adelaide. He is now rapidly accumulating wealth there, and remitted money to his mother while she lived. The " Hercules " sailed at last, and reached Adelaide in safety. The people have in general been doing well. Some of those who resisted Mr Cooper's attempt to get them to go to Canada and singled themselves out by the violence of their opposition, and again when leaving Lochmaddy to join the " Hercules," spoke to me in no very polite terms, as if I had some personal object in getting them away, began a correspondence with me a few years after reaching Australia, and sent through me money to their friends. So much bad their tempers changed, and their feelings towards me, that they put a sum of money together, and remitted it to me, with a request that I would purchase my wife a ring with it as a token of their gratitude to me for all the trouble I had from first to last taken in their matters; and in writing me they begged of me on no account to return the money, as they would not accept of it. I felt gratified, after all the ill-feeling they all had shown, that they at last appreciated my disinterested efforts to improve their condition, though these efforts had not at first met their approval but very much the contrary. Most of the Sollas people who migrated to the moss crofts, but who did not leave in the "Hercules," are still, or their families, on Locheport Side. One widow and her children
went to Cape Breton four or five years ago, her father, who is in good circumstances there, having sent for her. I may mention, while on the subject of emigrants, that I have had frequent correspondence with some who went from South Uist and North Uist to Canada, Cape Breton, Australia, and the United States. I always found their letters written in the most genial and contented terms, and without exception all my correspondents seem to be doing well, and thankful they had left their former homes. After the migration of a portion of the crofters to the new colony at Locheport Side and Langash, and the settlement of the remainder on the two townships, matters did not improve in the islands, and in 1850 the crops were in general rather worse than in the previous 'year. The Destitution Committees formed in 1847, announced that their funds were about being exhausted, and that therefore they could not go on much longer to feed the people. This state of matters so deeply impressed me, that in September 1850 I addressed a letter to Mr Fraser Tytler, then Sheriff of this county, which will be found in the appendix to Sir John M'Neill's Report of 1851, It gives my view of the state of my own jurisdiction as it then was. My letter was in about three months after followed by communications much to the same effect from Skye and other islands. In consequence of these various communications, Sir John M'Neill was sent on his well-known mission to the west coast and islands. Before. Sir John made his report, another step was initiated, which in its results so far has, I think, done more for the good of the inhabitants of the outer islands than anything that has hitherto been effected on their behalf since the kelp trade gave way. I refer to the introduction of trading steamers to these islands. At that time there were no steamers trading to the Inverness-shire portion of the Long Island. There was in Glasgow a firm, Thomson and MacConnell, that sent a weekly steamer to Portree, arriving there every Saturday, and going on every alternate Saturday to Stornoway, but resting at Portree every other Saturday. In this year (1850), a few weeks after waiting to Mr Fraser Tytler the letter referred to before, I addressed an urgent letter to Messrs Thomson and MacConnell, asking them to send their steamer to Lochmaddy on the Saturday that she rested at Portree. To this letter I received no answer till January 1852, and the answer did not come from Thomson and MacConnell, but from David Hutcheson & Company, to whom the former firm had made over the business. Hutcheson & Company, referring to my letter to their predecessors, agreed to send their steamer to Lochmaddy. After some correspondence with them, I engaged an agent for them, and had the whole matter arranged to their satisfaction, and the trade was fairly started. At first a small cart or two would have carried the steamer's cargo outward and inward, but matters soon changed, though there was then no pier at Lochmaddy but a rock, that to some extent answered the purpose of a pier, the trade increased amazingly. The crowds on the shore waiting it, were more like a fair than a steamer's arrival. There were carts from North Uist and Benbecula, boats from Harris and other islands. In the course of some years another Company put on a steamer that came round by the west side of Skye, and called at Locbmaddy and the principal harbours in the Long Island of Inverness-shire once a week. When I left Lochmaddy, a little more than two years ago, there were three steamers in the week trading along the whole of my old jurisdiction, and doing a fair amount of business. The advantages which the visits of these steamers have conferred on these far-away islands it is not easy to overrate. They have given an easy and rapid means of sending all their produce, cattle, sheep, eggs, lobsters, whelks, &c, to all the markets in the kingdom. The men can now get with ease, and at little expense, to the east coast fishing, where they seldom went before, and also to the training ships. Men and women can, and do continually, go to the south for service, on the other hand, meal and flour, which they now stand so much in need of, they can get rapidly imported, and in fact a new world has been created in these distant islands. Another source for making money which, within recent years, young men from these islands have largely availed themselves of, is the militia service. There are rather more than 1000 men in the militia regiment, embodied from the counties of Banff, Elgin, Nairn, and Inverness. Of that number sometimes as many as 700 are said to be natives of the three parishes of North and South Uist and Harris, and the number from these islands is, I am told, seldom less than 600. It will thus be seen that many of the crofters and their families have opportunities of making money now, which in the best days of the kelp manufacture they scarcely enjoyed, and if they contented themselves with the food and clothes they used in my first recollection, there would perhaps be more wealth in these islands than at any former period, particularly so long as cattle continue at present prices. Such, however, is the change in style of living and dress, and so considerable is the failure in all their crops, that with all their other advantages they do not seem to me to have all the rough and plenty they had long ago, or to be so far removed from poverty as then. They live now more luxuriously, but more from hand to mouth, and therefore the changes from what may appear to be plenty to poverty and want, are likely to be more rapid than formerly, when any particular cause for such changes occur. I have no intention of adverting to much of what was stated to the Commissioners by the delegates, though a great deal of it, as reported in the Scotsman, is open to remark. There are some statements however, so very incorrect that it would not be right to pass them over entirely. Some delegates who gave evidence at Lochboisdale, stated that at the time of the emigration which took place in 1851, more than one person was tied, forcibly carried on board the transports, and sent to America. I can only tell what came to my own knowledge in the course of an inquiry, and which perhaps may account partly, if not entirely, for what was told by the delegates. Sometime after the ship with the emigrants sailed, how long I cannot now remember, I received a letter from an M.P. in London, with whom I occasionally corresponded, in which he stated that he had heard that one emigrant had been tied and carried on board the transport at Lochboisdale; I had not heard of anything of the kind having taken place. After consultation with the Procurator-Fiscal and Inspector of Police, I sent the Inspector to Lochboisdale, and directed him to make a thorough inquiry, and to report. On his return he reported that a man and his wife had embarked, that the husband afterwards skulked ashore with the intention of getting rid of his wife in this way, and hid himself, that he was missed, looked for, found in hiding, then tied and carried back on board ship, and so was sent to America. My parliamentary friend thought the man was rightly served under .the circumstances. I heard no more of the matter till I read the statements of the delegates in the Scotsman. In the evidence given before the Commissioners in Benbecula on 29th May, Ranald Macdonald, crofter, Aird, is reported to have said, " In the time of Clanranald a large extent of moorland was reclaimed by their forefathers, on the understanding that it should remain in the possession of the township. Most of that had been since added to Nunton. The people who were settled in the moorland after it was reclaimed were evicted, when the place was given to the tacksman." It is then reported that, in reply to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, the delegate said, " It was a year or two before Colonel Gordon bought the estate that they were deprived of this reclaimed ground." I knew that this last statement was not correct, and therefore wrote to the delegate, with whom I had been acquainted all his life, to ask if this statement by him was correctly reported, and if so, how he had made a statement so manifestly erroneous. He answered in the following terms :
—" I understand that my statement to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie was misunderstood, if I am alleged to have said it was a year or two before Colonel Gordon bought the estate the settlers on the moorland were evicted and the place given to the tacksman. Colonel Gordon had the place of the settlers or crofters for years before it was added to the tack of Nunton, a year or two probably or more ; I was not keeping dates of it. The thing was, I did not rightly lift the question put by Sir Kenneth, or on the other side they took it contrary to what I meant at the time. I hope you will understand from what I said that the year or two was contrary to what I meant, for the Gordons had the place to themselves a while before it was added to the tack." All this means, though it does not come out so clearly as could be wished, that it was after Colonel Gordon bought the estate, and not before, that this improved moorland was taken from the township and added to the tack of Nunton. Two delegates speak as to the evictions at Sollas, the one John Morrison, the other Angus Macaulay. The facts as they took place are, I think, correctly stated in the Inverness Courier of August 1849, reported by a person who was present whose evidence can be relied on. The statements by Morrison are all greatly exaggerated or entirely erroneous. It would occupy too much time and space to go over them all. It is not possible to believe the people were, as is said by this delegate, living in ease and plenty, and in a happy, prosperous condition, when they had so often and so recently been visited by famine, and were then and for the previous three years living chiefly on charity doled out to them in small quantities by the Destitution Committee. I have in a former part of this paper stated the facts as to the removal of the people to Locheport, and many of the hardships referred to, if they really suffered from them, might have been avoided had they left their holdings at Sollas early in the year. Morrison states that it was the factor, the late James Macdonald, Balranald, who directed the evictions. This is not the case. Mr Macdonald was not factor at the time. He ceased to be so in 1848, the year before, and was not appointed again till 1851. I have documents in my possession that will prove this, though it is only of importance as showing the random and unreliable statements that are being put forth. He says he saw the soldiers that were sent from Inverness about it. There was not one soldier sent from Inverness about it. He says the place they were evicted from was about as desirable a place to go back to as any they could get to. So far from this being the case, the other delegate (Macaulay) admits that the potatoes had been failing there for some years back; that they had to carry the sea-ware in boats five miles, or cart it three miles, it being observed it was not carted on roads, but through sand too trying for their horses ; besides, sea-ware was very scarce in that district, and its scarcity was in a great measure the cause of destitution so often prevailing in all these townships, and this being so unsuitable for crofters. This delegate further says
—" The inferiority of the soil they now lived on, and its unsuitableness for human existence, was indescribable, notwithstanding that they had laboured to improve it for thirty years. The croft would not yield them so much food on an average as would support their families for two months of the year. The ground was of such a nature that it could scarcely be improved," &c. If this evidence be good for anything, it proves beyond question that Uist moss land is not capable of improvement, if this be the result of the expenditure of probably £1000 on this limited extent of ground, with the addition of the labour of forty men for thirty years. It further shows what an amount of nonsense is spoken about the improvement of waste land in the Highlands by men who really know nothing about the matter, and who will not listen to those who have had experience of it. I think the delegate is wrong in saying they got no assistance in building their new houses. I believe the Perthshire Committee paid for that as for other work, but they did not pay for the recently built houses or cottages noticed by the Commissioners. The other delegate, Angus Macaulay, who was born four years after the evictions, can only speak from hearsay, and his evidence is therefore of no great value as regards these evictions. He repeats the statement as to who was factor, which is not correct. He then says the repeated evictions carried out when Lord Macdonald was proprietor, was the cause of so many townships being overcrowded. I believe this statement is at the least an exaggeration, and one of which he can really know nothing. I am almost certain that scarcely one crofter was added to a township in North Uist since Whitsunday 1829, and till Lord Macdonald sold the estate, though I know that crofts that had in 1829 two crofters on them, were afterwards reduced to one. Then the delegate mentions that Mr Cooper states in a pamphlet that Mr Macdonald telegraphed to Earl Grey for a regiment of soldiers. What Mr Cooper says in his pamphlet I really do not know, but what the delegate says is not correct Sir George Grey and not Earl Grey was Home Secretary. Mr Macdonald neither telegraphed nor did anything else about soldiers or evictions. There was no telegraph in North Uist for more than twenty years after these evictions. There was no emigrant ship brought to Lochmaddy to take families to Australia. Most of what is stated by the delegate about this is incorrect; as also what he says about the rents, as to which I refer to in a former part of this paper. One delegate states, by way of complaint, that they only got 35s. per ton for manufacturing kelp, and that the proprietor got £2 for it. This statement is not correct. The very high price for kelp only continued for three or four years 1807-8-9, and perhaps 1810, but North Uist kelp never got the highest price. It was only the best quality of kelp got that, and North Uist kelp was not the best. The price came down after 1810, and the serious fall took place continually after 1817, till it was manufactured at a loss. With regard to the price paid by Lord Macdonald to the manufacturers, the delegate is not correct. The price paid to North Uist crofters was 35s. per ton for kelp made of three-year old sea-ware, and 42s. for two-year old. The question, however, is not what amount of profit the proprietor realised, but whether a fair wage was paid the manufacturer. I endeavoured to satisfy myself as to this at an early state of my connection with kelp manufacture, but 1 had no small difficulty in doing so, because most of those employed were females and children over twelve years of age, and also because there was so much broken time occasioned by wet weather and the people going away now and again to hoe and weed potatoes and other work. On one occasion, however, I saw five men employed to make twelve tons at 35s. They were favoured by the weather, and so did the work in between four and five weeks' time. The amount due then came to £ 21, equivalent to a wage of nearly £ 1 a week to each man, which was rather more than double the wages paid at that time to other labourers in the island. Whether the land in these islands is exhausted by overcropping, as is alleged, is not a very easy question to solve. There seems no doubt that the corn which the land yields is not so productive in meal as it once was, but what the cause of this is I am unable to say. For some years back I have been hearing complaints to this etfect from the crofters. I suspect the climate has a good deal to do with it. The farm of Balranald, in North Uist, is without doubt the best agricultural farm in that island, if not on the west coast. During the time of the late Mr Macdonald,besides feeding a large number of servants, it yielded a considerable quantity of bere which was sold. The present tenant tells me that, though he has another small arable farm in addition to what his father had, he never sells any bere, but has even to import annually from Glasgow the value of more than £100 of meal to feed his servants. He wrote me the other day, in answer to inquiries from me
—"It is a well-ascertained fact, that no land in culivation in these islands produces anything like the return of crop it did at one time. The best stacks grown in Macher in old land manured with sea-weed, from 7 to 9 bolls is rarely turned out, when in my first recollection stacks of the same size made an average of from 12 to 24 bolls. Tenants and others find it more profitable to give the corn to their cattle as it grows, and buy meal for their families. The miller of Dusary told me all he had of his year's grinding was 7£ bolls. This mill was not long ago rented at £56. A few years ago it was reduced to £30. All the miller has this year to meet this rent is 7½ bolls, and the other mills are somewhat alike. I may now shortly advert to my experience in Skye. At the time I was appointed factor for Lord Macdonald in 1838, the crofters in Skye were just recovering from the effects of the famine of 1836 and 1837, and during the three and a half years I remained in the office, I have no recollection of ever having heard from any of the crofters on the estate a complaint of the rents being too high or of the land being scarce. As to the rents they could not have been too high, as they were fixed by the late Mr Neil Maclean of Inverness, at a moderate rate about the year 1830, and the price of cattle and sheep had advanced at Whitsunday 1838. The lease n the largest farm on the estate came to an end while I was factor, and ithout difficulty I get it renewed at an advance on Mr Maclean's valuation of about 35 per cent, as well as a smaller advance on other farms, yet there was not a shilling added to the rents of the crofters, though valued at the same time and by the same valuator. As to scarcity of land, my opinion was at the time that the stock on the crofts was scarcer than the land, owing probably to the famine having compelled several of the crofters to encroach on their stock. In 1839 there was an emigration from Slate and Strath to Australia, and in 1840 and 1841 from Kilmuir, Snizort, and Portree to Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. Lord Macdonald had nothing to do with these further than that he assisted such emigrants as were in need of help. There was no Brae or Benlee question in my time. My idea was that Benlee was a common grazing of which many par ty had the use, but none an exclusive or unquestionable right to. The brae crofters had no doubt the lion's share of the benefit, but only I think, because they resided nearest to it. When North Uist and Kilmuir were sold, it appears to me it was the factor's duty to put Benlee on a different footing, so as to get rent for it. Whether the Brae tenants had then a right to any deduction of rent, for at most they could claim no more, seeing they had only a share of its use along with others, depended, I think, on whether Mr Maclean, in his valuation of 1830, had in fixing their rents calculated on the partial use they had of the hill. The fact of a decree of removing having been obtained against them in 1865, and of their taking a new set of their crofts without Benlee, at the rents then fixed, settled the question. When Benlee fell out of lease again, their having had a partial use of it seventeen years previously could give them no right, only an argument to support their application for it; but Lord Macdonald was surely entitled to consider whether their offer was adequate, whether they had capital to stock it, or to take any other view that might occur to him on the matter. I cannot help thinking that a moderate amount of firmness ought to have obtained a settlement, and would no doubt have done so but for the interference of others who must have a say now-a-days in much that does not concern them, particularly if it pertains to the distribution of land. The practical question now is to determine what should or can be done to improve the condition of the crofters, and if possible place them above want. This is a matter which from my position and circumstances I have been led to consider more or less for more than half a century, and I have always arrived at the same conclusion. The first step seems to me to be to enlarge the present crofts to such an extent that each croft will support a family comfortably, and 1 to give them leases of these enlarged crofts. But the crofter, in order to prosper, must be possessed of such an amount of capital as will start him in full stock and free of debt. To do otherwise, the crofter would be landed in misery and kept in that state. I am opposed generally to the breaking up of large farms, and converting them into crofters' holdings, though this might be done with advantage in a few exceptional cases. The cost of buildings involved by such a change would be enormous, for the old class of buildings will no longer do. There must be well-sized dwelling houses, with apartments more appropriate to modern civilisation, byres, stables, and kilns. Moreover, the land in the case of large farms now in pasture having been long out of cultivation, the proper working of it would at first be attended with no small difficulty and expense. Besides, I am inclined to think that the putting these large farms under crofters would only lead back to the old state of matters, the same ground of overpeopling and its attendant miseries would just be gone over again, aggravated by the number alternately to be provided for being greater than at present. There is an idea abroad that those places where old stances of houses are seen must necessarily have at one time been the abodes of a well-to-do and happy tenantry. I suspect this is a very mistaken idea. The tradition is that the occupiers were often very miserable for want of food. The late Dr John Macleod mentions this in his evidence before the House of Commons. I have myself been told in my younger days of the barbarous custom of bleeding cattle in summer having been often resorted to, to afford the people food, and also that many subsisted for weeks at a time on shell-fish alone. Looking to the fact that potatoes are now such an uncertain crop, and keeping in view the general impression that the land is not producing so much corn in the islands, and if the result of the Locheport experiment and the expenditure of £800 by Lord Macdonald on drains, be taken as samples of what would result in similar cases, the inducement to extend crofts is not great, but very much to the contrary. Without discussing the various views that are taken of this important question, I venture to say that in my opinion emigration to healthy thriving colonies of every family that cannot take up, or be provided with, so much land as will amply suffice for its support, and find no other adequete means of livelihood, is the only way to meet the present difficulty, and I believe it will meet it thoroughly. It may be said that the people will refuse to emigrate. I have no belief in this if the people be only left to themselves and fairly dealt with. In the
early part of this century they actually pushed to America in hundreds, in the teeth of the wishes of the proprietors. I found in the factors office in Portree in the letter book of Captain Macdougal, then Lord
Macdonald's factor copies of letters addressed to his Lordship's Edinburgh agents. By these letters it appears Captain Macdougal declined to try and prevent the people emigrating, as he had been asked to do by Lord Macdonald's commissioners being of opinion that whatever amount of emigration took place, more people would remain than the estate could support. Though Captain Macdougal had been writing now he could not, so far as my recollection serves me, have explained the existing state of matters more correctly than he did in these letters. Captain Macdougal died shortly after these letters were written, and was succeeded by another, who I believe, though unwillingly went into the commissioners, views of stopping the emigration. During my own life down to a period not very remote a stream of emigration more or less intense has been going on from the outer islands to America, and it was this stream of emigration that saved the island of Benbecula, in which I spent my younger days, from being in a worse state of congestion than any of the other islands. Indeed, I look on that island as in a great part of its past history showing more clearly the benefits of emigration than any other part of the Highlands and Islands with which I am acquainted. It is in a manner self-contained, and has no fishing in its neighbourhood. The people are not fishermen. It at one time produced more kelp than any island of its size in the Hebrides, and now that kelp manufacture may be said to have ceased, its inhabitants have nothing to depend upon but the produce of the soil So far as I have heard of its history, it has always been occupied by the crofter class, excepting the Clanranald home farm of Nunton. There have never been any great changes in it, no clearances or conversion of crofter farms into tacksmen's, or the reverse, to any appreciable extent. There has been for a long time an attempt to convert moorland into arable with some partial success—the moorland producing an inferior potato, and still more inferior oats, and a slightly improved pasture. While this was going on there was a pretty regular and gradual emigration to Cape Breton, not always annually, but sometimes so, and never at a great interval of years. The population did after all increase, and sometimes press heavily on the means of subsistence, but the proprietor Clanranald always came forward with a supply of meal, and the occasional emigration helped to relieve the pressure, and kept the numbers within some bounds. There was no influence used for or against emigration ; facilities were given to those who wished to emigrate, by relieving them of their crofts if they had any, even between terms, but nothing more. Providence opened the door, and the people, left to their own judgment, made use of it as an exit from what appeared to them either a present or coming evil. Emigration was the safety valve, and the people cheerfully availed themselves of it. The same, I am convinced, would have happened again had the people been let alone and been left to their own judgment, but the agitation about changes in the land laws, &c. has, I fear, quite upset them for the time. However un likely things may look at present, I very much agree with Mr Kenneth Macdonald, one of the witnesses examined in Harris, that when education spreads they will take a different view of the case ; and I believe it is only ignorance, and the advice of injudicious friends that will induce them to remain in their present precarious state, so nearly allied to poverty and want, and to delay their availing themselves of any opportunity offered them of attaining to the greater and more permanent wealth and independence which so many of their countrymen have already secured, and they or their descendants are now enjoying.
41435. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Were .some of the Sollas people tried at Inverness?
41435*. Were you present?
—Yes, I was a witness.
41436. Who was the judge that tried them?
41437. Did you ever read Lord Cockburn's Memorials?
41438. Did you ever read the chapter about the Sollas evictions?
—I really forget, but I remember what he said at the trial a great deal better. So far as I remember, he said he did not know whether to land or to find fault with Lord Macdonald's proceedings—that there was no evidence before the Court to say one thing or another, and he had formed no opinion—so help him God. It is very well reported in the Inverness Courier.
41439. Perhaps you will refresh your memory again by looking at the Memorials?
—I would rather refer to the Courier.
41440. What I am referring to is not what he said at Inverness, but his own journals?
—I have the book.
41441. Now, you made reference to the name of Mr Brown, the factor for Clanranald, and who was so for a long time ?
—He was there from 1796 to 1811.
41442. The account you give of the Clanranald family is a very pleasant one?
—Well, it is the one he always gave me, for it was himself who first suggested the idea, and I watched and found he was perfectly correct.
41443. And you yourself had a good deal to do with the estates in the Clanranald time ?
41444. Then these are exactly the old times the crofters would like to see back again?
—Yes ; but give them the kelp again, and I hope the old time will come back too.
41445. I don't think any of the delegates made any particular objection to their position in the time of the Clanranalds?
—Well, this delegate that I refer to said that two years before Colonel Gordon bought the estate.
41446. But that is explained?
—It is explained now; but if I had not taken it up, it would have gone down in history, I suppose, with the illdoings of other factors.
41447. The most of your experience as a factor applies to a time more than forty years ago?
—Yes; I ceased to be factor for Lord Macdonald in the year 1841.
41448. But we had very few complaints as to what occurred prior to 1841?
—There were very few complaints when I was there. You could not expect that certainly.
41449. And there were none?
41450. But we should like to have heard from you something of the doings at a later period than 1841?
—I don't like to give an account of doings that I was not concerned with. I have refrained in this paper from saying anything I did not know of my own knowledge.
41451. You made some reference in your paper to what MacNeill of Canna did ?
—Yes. In a Committee before the House of Commons, Mr Graham of Redgorton, who was the commissioner sent to us in 1837, recommended MacNeill as a model whom all Highland proprietors should follow, and he turned off 200 out of 500 the first step he took.
41452. Is there a MacNeill of Canna now?
41453. He has gone?
41454. Along with the 200?
—No ; a long time afterwards.
41455. But considering the great credit given to this MacNeill of Canna, it appears that forty years afterwards there is no MacNeill of Canna?
—The last of them was a fool, and you cannot help that. That has nothing to do with the turning out of the people. He was practically a fool ; I don't say he was in an asylum.
41456. I must ask you as a man of great experience to re-consider a matter in your paper. In speaking about Sollas, you stated that the people were in arrear?
—I was told so. That is one of the things I had no evidence of. I did not see the books, but it was stated at the time of the evictions. When Sheriff Colquhoun was there, carrying through the law, we were told they were about two years in arrear, and some of them four, and some were a year and a half.
41457. I was going to ask you more with reference to an observation you make in your own paper, and I think the purport of your observation was this, that usually when they were not able to pay they were bound to go?
—Yes, I think I did make use of that observation. But I also took into view their prospects and the state of the country at the time. I did not take the mere fact of a man being a year or two in arrear, which may happen at any time, but here was the country in a state of destitution without the means of livelihood. What were they to do?
41458. I am afraid your statement was rather broader than that?
—It was not intended to be broader, because my intention was to look to the whole circumstances of the case. If I did not say it, I should have said, looking to the whole circumstances of the country,—and I think if you look at the paper, although it does not occur in that particular sentence, you will find in the sentences either before or after, that anybody reading it carefully will infer I looked at the state of the country at the time.
41459. I am glad to hear it?
—I never would recommend eviction for the mere fact of arrear; but it was the desperate state of the country then that made the case so bad, so hopeless for Lord Macdonald.
41460. You don't mean then, if it is susceptible of such a meaning, that because a man might fall into arrear for a time, he must go if he did not pay?
—No; but still the landlord has the right to make them go if he chooses to do it.
41461. Let me go a little further. Are there no men in this world engaged in commerce, who sometimes through misfortune are not able to pay their debts in full, and who go through the Bankruptcy Court?
41462. Is it necessary in those cases that those men are compelled as a matter of course to emigrate and go abroad?
—No, it is not. It may be, though, and I believe it very often happens, that they go abroad before their affairs are examined into.
41463. You surely would not say your countrymen are in the habit of doing that, or your brethren in the islands?
—My brethren in the islands are just like other people.
41464. Another thing you stated about Sollas was that some of the people in Sollas were not removed, but remained there?
—They are there yet.
41465. Did any of those people that remained come to make a complaint to us? Did they send delegates?
—I really forget.
41466. I don't think they did?
—I cannot remember. Yes, they did; Angus Macaulay was there.
41467. What complaint had he?
—Oh, he had every complaint in the world. His evidence, as reported in the Scotsman, is most odious, so far as reflections went.
41468. But what I wanted to know was this, was there any real complaint brought before the Commission by the remaining inhabitants of Sollas as to their present condition?
—I don't think there was, because they have had no reason to complain of Sir John Orde. He has been a most excellent proprietor, and kept the rental of the estate the same as it was fifty years ago, and has not added one penny to it.
41469. We find on the one hand that those who remained had no complaint of their present position, but we find that those who were compulsorily removed to Locheport had great complaints?
—Yes ; but who was to know it was to turn out as it did?
41470. But the people at Locheport have complained very much indeed?
—-Yes, very much indeed.
41471. We have found two facts,—that the people allowed to remain in Sollas were making no complaint, but those compelled to go to Locheport were complaining ; is it not a fair inference to say, that if the people who were sent to Locheport had been allowed to remain in Sollas, they would be as contented as those who are there?
—I don't know ; but they would be ten times more contented if they emigrated.
41472. But that is not an answer?
—Well, it is really a thing impossible to know. You must observe that Lord Macdonald made a selection. I don't know but he selected the men who had the means of working the land ; whereas it was the poor people that went to Locheport, and if they had remained at Sollas, they might have been twenty times worse off than they are.
41473. Who has Sollas at this moment?
—There are four townships, and the two townships from which the people went to Locheport are in the hands of a Skye man.
41474. Now, would it not be more pleasing to you as an isleman to see a lot of islemen in this island, instead of the Skyemen?
—Yes, if they were contented and not starved, as I have seen them.
41475. Is it not true that Sollas was a sort of garden in North Uist, and that the people were not only able to support themselves, but to export elsewhere?
—I never heard that. On the contrary, it was a wretched place, for they had five miles, as one of the delegates says, to bring sea-ware, and to carry it through heavy deep sand for three miles, and the potatoes had been failing for a period of years, whatever the cause of it was. No, no; Sollas was never the garden of North Uist.
41476. You admitted in a kind of hesitating way that there was one man taken hold of and put on board whether he would or not?
—But I know nothing about it.
41477. But you heard it?
—I never heard of it at all. I got a letter from an M.P., in London to say he heard this, and I went immediately to the Procurator-Fiscal to consult what we were to do. It was difficult to deal with it, as the people were gone to America, but still I wanted to satisfy my friend, and this was the result.
41478. If you had known what was going to happen on board the Hercules, where the small-pox broke out, would you have allowed a single man to put a foot on board?
—I don't think I would have interfered. It was none of my business. I was helping the people the best way I could.
41479. But my question is, Had you known of the results of the unfortunate breaking out of epidemic, would you have recommended a single man or woman to go on board?
—I could not prevent them. If the ship was to be lost on the way to Australia, how could I prevent it?
I have not the gift of prophecy.
41480. Is this the only case where epidemics have broken out in the case of vessels sent to take people to the colonies?
—I never heard of any others. There may have been, for all I know.
41481. You mention there are about 600 or 700 militiamen?
41482. And you think that is a most creditable thing to the men?
41483. But according to your own statement, if emigration is the only thing to put matters right, how many militiamen will you have?
—I don't know; but I suppose there are only twenty-four from the whole of Skye, though the population is nearly double.
41484. Would the Inverness militia be worth anything numerically but for the men of the islands?
—Certainly not, but I do not expect that the men of the west, though emigration was carried out, would all go away. Surely we will keep the half of them. I would like as many as are comfortable to stay. I want to keep every human being that will be quite comfortable.
41485. You think, by drawing the line at half, that would be quite enough?
—Oh, I don't mean to say that is the right thing. It was just a sort of hap-hazard way of stating it.
41486. You have stated you read over the evidence carefully, and watched it as it went along?
41487. Can you say, or can you not, that the people have at this moment very great cause of complaint as to their position?
—Well, I don't know. They have cause of complaint if this fact be true that the crops are scarce, but if the ground is yielding the crops it did yield before, they would have no serious cause of complaint, if they contented themselves with barley meal and potatoes and milk, and things of that kind.
41488. Do you think that the land in the Outer Hebrides is at all equally distributed among the population —I mean with regard to large farms and crofts?
—Well, I think it is very much upon a par with the mainland. In North Uist there are 63,000 acres, and there are upwards of 4000 people. If you take the west coast, I think you will not find such a population.
41489. How much will the crofters have; will they have the half ?
—I don't know if they have. There is a great extent of what you call common, and they have their sheep there.
41490. I take the case of Barra as an illustration. There is a considerable population there?
41491. Is the best half of the island in the hands of one man?
—Not the half of it j at least, he had not when I was there. I don't know what it is now.
41492. But he has the best portion of it?
—Yes, decidedly, he has the best quality, but there is some, which is in the hands of another man, which is just as good though not so extensive.
41493. Do you know anything about the wealth of the people in any way?
—Well I hear there are considerable sums in the banks on deposit. I don't know whether to believe it or not. If it is true, the people must be much more wealthy than the general public give them credit for. I have heard since I came to Inverness of large sums on deposit receipt in a bank at Lochmaddy, but I don't know whether it is the truth or not. These things are like a snow-ball—always added to.
41494. If it be true that there are considerable deposits in the banks in the Hebrides, must they not have come there very much from what we call the crofting class, namely, the people paying rent under £30?
—Decidedly. I am very much inclined to think, if there is much money there, it comes very much from the east coast fishing, because I hear of men coming home with £25 or £28 earned, others come without a shilling ; but putting it all together, I rather incline to think that is the best source of money-making for them.
41495. And if there be any monies in the bank they must come from that source?
—They must come from that source.
41496. You have been many many years a Sheriff; cannot you say something in favour of the character of your island brethren ?
—I have already said that they are just like other people.
41497. No better?
—Certainly not I will not flatter them by saying they are better than other people. I don't think there is any man who has sat on the judgment seat for forty years, but ought to know people very well. Some of them are very good, but others indifferent.
41498. Is the record of serious crime apparently trifling?
—It is not so great now as when I went there at first. There was seldom a circuit at one time but there were one or two prisoners. It is the rarest thing now.
41499. Then there is an improvement?
—There is an improvement—a decided improvement.
41500. What used to be the general nature of the offences? Was there any particular species of crime?
—Theft and assaults, but the assaults were seldom of a magnitude that entitled them to be tried before the Sheriff and a jury, or the Justiciary Court.
41501. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Did you observe reflections made upon Dr Macleod in the course of the evidence given in Uist?
—Yes, and I was very much disgusted with them.
41502. Did you see a paper, given in from South Uist, in which the manner of his death was referred to, as if it had been a judgment?
—Yes, and there was a horrible letter put into a paper.
41503. You knew Dr Macleod very well?
41504. And the way he administered Lord Macdonald's estate?
—Well, I don't know anything about Lord Macdonald's estate.
41505. But with regard to Uist, can you tell us?
—I do not suppose there is any foundation at all for what was said. He was a most benevolent, kindliearted man, a man who would take any amount of trouble to benefit another. I never saw a man more ready, being a doctor, to rise at twelve o'clock at night in that dreadful climate, and go here and
there to trifling cases.
41506. But in the exercise of his duties as factor, in particular, was he not considered very lenient?
—I cannot say as to that. I live at a considerable distance from South Uist, thirty or forty miles, and I cannot say anything as to the facts. I merely speak of the character of the man, who was quite the opposite of anything like what was alleged.
41507. The Chairman.
—I would just ask you a single question about a custom which you allude to here, and about which we hail some evidence recently; that is, the alleged custom of bleeding cattle in order to procure food?
—I heard that long, long ago, but I cannot say one word about the truth of it.
41508. But you heard of it?
41509. Was it reported that the blood of the cattle was mixed with meal?
—No ; I did not hear that part of the story at all. I remember an old man telling me that long ago they occasionally bled the cattle. I was rather disgusted, and did not even ask how it was cooked, if cooked
41510. Was it reported to you that they did that on account of hunger, or because it was a delicacy?
—On account of hunger, I understood. That was my understanding, and it was told to me as such, —that the scarcity used to be so great in some summers long ago that they used to bleed the cattle.
41511. Because it was argued to us that if they mixed the blood with meal, that proved they could not have been in want of food, because they had the meal?
—Certainly, it was a very natural conclusion. I never heard of the meal.
41512. Sheriff Nicolson.
—During all the long time you presided as Sheriff at Uist, did you find any change for the better in the character and habits of the people?
—The only thing I can remark is that latterly I did not come so often to the Circuit Court here. When I was first appointed I was here almost every Circuit Court with one, two, three, or four prisoners sometimes, but latterly there were not so many of these heavy crimes. I think the quantity of criminal work was just about the same, only the crimes were less heinous.
41513. Perhaps the reason for that was, that the police were more efficient?
—Perhaps they were made more efficient and more numerous.