Bettyhill, Sutherland, 24 July 1883 - Hector Munro

HECTOR MUNRO, Crofter, Scullomie, Tongue (71)—examined.
(See Appendix A, XLIV,)

25705. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are a delegate from Tongue?
—I am.

25706. Have you any statement to make?
—Yes, I have a paper which I shall read.
Scullomie in parish of Tongue :—There are twelve crofters in this township, who pay from £ 3 to £6 of rent.
Hector M'Kay hold about 3 acres, for which he pays between rent and taxes, £6/ 0/ 0
Colin M'Kay holds about 2½ acres, for which he pays £5/ 2/ 6
Hector Munro (scarce) 2 acres for which he pays £4/16/3
Angus Sutherland 2½ acres for which he pays £5/ 10/ 0
James M'Kay 2½ (besides 7s. taxes) £5 /19 /0
Widow Sutherland holds about 2½ acres, for which she pays £5 /10/ 6
William Mackay 2 ½ acres (besides 8s. taxes) £4/ 5/0
Charles Mackay 3 acres (10s. taxed besides) £4/ 12/ 0
George Mackay 2 acres (besides 6s. of tax) £3/ 7/ 7
Sandy M'Kay 3 acres (besides l i s . tax) £5/ 13/ 0
James Mackay 3 acres for which he pays £5/15/0
John Mackay 4 acres for which he pays £6/6/0

They hold of arable land from two to four acres, and pay of rent from £3, 7s. to £6, 6s. There are thirty-six acres rented in my district of arable land, for which we pay £58 and £9 of taxes—£67. The township yields in good years the average crop of forty-eight bolls of meal and 120 barrels of potatoes. If whole produce were sold it should fetch £18 for potatoes and £33, 12s. for meal —in all £51, 12s., which is £6, 8s.less than we pay to the Duke for rent, and £15, 8s. whan taxes are counted. We buy of meal £13 worth to support our families every year; some years far more, but some less
—this of an average. Rents were raised as follows :
(1) I was paying £5, 5s. 4d. of road money;
(2) It was reduced to £4, 9s;
(3) it was raised to £1, 16s;
(4) 2s. 6d. taken off for the pier;
(5) Mr Crawford took off 3s. 3d.
—I can't tell why. I lost two crops within the last twelve years by a burn that runs through it. The proprietor refuses to protect my lot from the ravages of the stream; only he offers to do it on condition I pay interest on the money expended; which I think unreasonable because my rent is high. I pay
now between taxes and rent £4, 16s. for scarce two acres. We petitioned the Duke for reduction of rent last November, on the ground that a storm damaged the corn crop, and that our potato crop was
almost an entire failure; but we did not get as much as a reply to, or acknowledgment of receipt of, our petition.

25707. Your rent is more than £2 an acre?
—Yes; I pay £2, 3s. 6½d of standing rent, forbye taxes, per acre.

25708. Is your land very fertile ?
—-Most of it is not —two inches of soil in some parts, and most of it solid rock.

25709. What crops are you able to raise?
—It cannot be very much for all that I have.

25710. Is it oats and potatoes entirely?
—Oats and here, but mostly potatoes.

25711. Does the land produce good crops?
—No; the third part will be good and the other part nothing at all

25712. What sustenance does the croft afford to your family?
—I think one would be abundance to consume all that it would produce except potatoes; and when they are a failure I may say we have nothing at all upon it. When there is a good year we may have four bolls of bere-meal. I often keep two cows on the croft, but I have to buy food for them; and my neighbours in the whole township whom I represent here are similarly situated. I am about the worst of them.

25713. How much money are you obliged to spend in the whole year for the support of your family in buying meal and other food?
—I could spend more money than I have. If I had not good credit I could not do at all.

25714. Can you give any estimate of what you actually spend. How many bolls of meal do you buy?
—Four or five bolls, but our family is not big, there are only three of us just now. The people don't require so much just now, because they are nearly all away. They are scattered through all Scotland; all those who can earn anything are away from home just now.

25715. Are you surrounded by large farms in your parish?
—All the place is bordering with them.

25716. Is most of the parish occupied by large farms'?
—Yes, except round about the rocks, from one end of the parish to another, the same as if the crofts were a fence for keeping sheep and other beasts from the shore.

25717. How many big farms are there in the parish?
—Two and a half. There is one the half of which is in Durness and the other half in the parish of Tongue.

25718. How much of the land of the parish is occupied by these farms?
—Mostly the whole of it.

25719. You have only a little strip along the shore?
—Yes; and we have a little pasture, but the grass is no resource at all; we cut peats and divots for the houses.

25720. How many cows do you keep on your croft?
—I keep two cows, but I have to pay for them.

25721. Any sheep?
—About half a dozen. I think the whole township will scarcely average eight sheep. Some have none at all, and some two or three, and some more than that; but on an average I think perhaps about eight.

25722. Where is your hill pasture?
—It is adjoining the large farms.

25723. Is there a fence between you and them?

25724. Do their sheep come over to you?
—Yes, and ours go over to them; and we agree about that.

25725. Do they ever poind your sheep at all?
—No, I think not; they are not very hard upon us. We must give honour to whom honour is due.

25726. Would you like more land?
—Very likely the young people would, but not the like of me.

25727. Supposing you got additional land at a reasonable rent, something less than £2 an acre, would you like to take it?
—I would like to take it at less than £1 an acre. I think I pay too much rent. I think I have paid more than £50 to the Duke since fifty-five years; I have been paying rent above what I should, and the Duke is not a bit the richer for that.

25728. You say you petitioned the Duke last year for a reduction of your rent?
—This last spring.

25729. Was your corn crop destroyed by the storm?
—Yes, the most of it was destroyed and scattered away, a great deal of it.

25730. Was your potato crop bad?
—Yes; there was a great failure amongst the potatoes generally. The storm did not spoil the potatoes, but it spoiled the corn.

25731. Did you get any answer at all to your petition?
—Not yet.

25732. When did you send it?
—I think some time in November.

25733. Perhaps the Duke was not at home?
—I don't know if he was.

25731. How often does the post leave this?
—Twice a week.

25735. Then you ought to have got an answer before now?
—Yes, long before.

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