Bettyhill, Sutherland, 25 July 1883 - Peter Mckay

PETER M'KAY, Crofter, Strathtongue (80)—examined.
(See Appendix A, LXIV.)

25812. The Chairman.
—Had you ever any other occupation?
—I was thirty-five years a builder carrying on slater work and carpenter work.

25813. Have you been elected a delegate?

25814. By the people in Strathtongue?
—Yes, and Dalchurn and Blundy, which only contain thirteen crofters altogether.

25815. Have these places always been townships, or have they been allotted in your recollection?
—They have been townships since before my recollection, but only occupied by one tenant—one tenant in each of them.

25816. Where were the additional people brought from?
—They were brought from the heights of the strath in order to make way for extending sheep farms at two or three different times, till at last they got their farm to their own mind and put all the people to the breadth of the sea-shore, where they are in danger of losing their stock and even their children over the rocks.

25817. Is the number of crofts increasing—is the subdivision going on, or is it stopped?
—The subdivision went one again in 1808. There were then six crofters. Again in 1815 there were other six put in, and lately by the present factor there was one lot divided into two, making thirteen altogether.

25818. How long ago is that?
—It is about eighteen years since the last lot was divided.

25819. Why was he brought in; was he a son of one of the crofters, or was he brought in from the outside?
—He had the half of a croft in Dalcharn, the next township, and he was turned out by the present factor for a son-in-law of the ground officer, and the factor gave him a croft in Blandy.

25820. How long is it since the last increase of rent took place?
—The last great increase was in 1808; but I am not quite sure of the date, because an old man is apt to get rusty, and my memory would require to be assisted.

25821. Have there been any new houses built in the township lately?
—There were a great many built in 1832, more than the people required, and far more than their means could bear. The most of those who were tenants at that time are in their graves now, and went to their graves insolvent. Other people have built houses, and have never got a thing from the Duke for them but the bare rent.

25822. That was in 1832?
—In 1832.

25823. Are the houses which were built in 1832 inhabited by the people?
—They were inhabited by the people at that time, but in a few years afterwards some of the people emigrated to America and the houses were valued by the Duke's factor, and some of the people had to pay £ 20 for the houses for which they had never got a farthing from the Duke ; others were valued at £ 8 and so on.

25824. Are the houses which were built in 1832 still standing?
—They are still standing.

25825. Are they inhabited ?

25826. You said they were too good for the people long ago. Do they seem too good for the people now, or are they just what the people require?
—I did not mean that they were too good for the people, but that the people would have done with less accommodation —the houses were too good for their means.

25827. You mean they were too expensive for the people to build?

25828. How much would it cost at that time for the people to build a house? The people built the wall, I understood, and the proprietor put on the roof?
—Yes, he only gave the roof.

25829. Who gave the timber?
—They only got planted timber, which is now gone away this long time. It was not foreign timber, but planted timber from Inverness and this place.

25830. What are the houses covered with—thatch or slate?
—At that time mostIy, except one or two houses, they were covered with divots and thatch. A few people who were getting better up in the world by having good dutiful sons got their houses slated. They were not able to do that themselves, but it was done through their family coming up, and being by good example and training dutiful sons, who helped their parents to slate their houses. Most of the houses, however, are still under thatch, and many a drop the people have upon their head too.

25831. Are the crofts all of the same size?
—No, they are not all the same size.

25832. Have you got a large or a small croft?
—First it was my father who got the croft, and there is a map in the Duke's Tongue office which will show how much arable land there was in the croft at that time. I think there would not be two acres of arable land altogether when I got it. I improved the lot and made it one piece. The factor gave me a piece of very bad ground, se steep that I could not work it, and I promised that I would improve part of it, and I improved twelve acres of new ground between the old lot and the new one.

25833. You have now got twelve acres of improved ground altogether?
—Yes, I have fully that—about fourteen.

25834. What is your rent?
—-£5, 5s. 4d.

25835. Have you got good hill pasture?
—No we have not.

25836. Have you any hill pasture?
—We have hill pasture. We have about six square miles of heather pasture—nothing but heather —which is divided between 160 crofters. We have double the number of the cattle upon it for the number of crofters, and it is of no avail to us for that reason.

25837. Do you make any use of the hill pasture?
—Yes, we do.

25838. How many sheep do you keep upon it?
—It is eight sheep I have myself.

25839. What stock do you keep; how many cows?
—I keep three cows.

25840. And followers—young cattle?
—May be a calf and stirk ; that is all I have just now.

25841. And horses?
—Two horses, because the ground I have is so steep that I require a good pair of horses to work it; but they are idle with me a great part of the year.

25842. How long have you been paying £ 5 , 5s. 4d. of rent?
—Since 1829.

25843. Your rent has not been raised since 1829?
—Yes, four or five times by some trifles—£1 at one time, 5s. at another time, and 4s. at another time.

25544. Your present rent is £5, 5s. 4d.; how many years have you had it at that sum—how long have you been paying that?
—About forty-four years.

25845. You have been paying your present rent of £ 5 , 5s. 4d. for fortyfour years?
—Yes, as far as my recollection serves me.

25846. Then your own rent has not been raised for forty-four years?
—No, not from that present sum.

25847. You have been paying the same rent for forty-four years?

25848. And you have been improving your ground all the time?
—I have been improving the ground, and I built a mill for the tenants, of which I have only had the benefit as one of the tenants. I was promised many a thing when I built it, but never got it. I laid out £650 upon the new ground and buildings, which left my rent without altering.

25849. When you say you have laid out £650, do you count the value of your labour?
—I do not count the value of my labour at all, but the labour of those who did the work, whom I paid with money.

25850. Can you tell mc from your own accounts how much you have paid in money in improving the ground?
—Every farthing I say, between labour and timber and slate and lime and smithy expenses upon these
improvements—altogether clear and clean cash.

25851. When you say you have' laid out £650 in that way, do you include wages you have paid in the regular cultivation of the croft; or do you merely include the wages you have paid for substantial improvements?
—For substantial improvements—what I have paid to tradesmen and labourers for building dykes, making drains, trenching, and smithy expenses.

25852. Did you receive any security for the reimbursement of any portion of the £650?
—I was promised by the late Duke that I would get a lease, but I never got it, and that led me to make these improvements more than I would otherwise have done. I petitioned the Duke last year to give me some compensation for all this money, being an old man and my family being taken away by death, except one daughter who is a widow, and I cannot work a stroke; but the factors were putting in things which were not true, and spoiled the thing upon me altogether, I was wanting some compensation while I was alive, which would not be long, but I did not get anything, and I was blaming the factor for the whole, the Duke being a childish fellow himself. He is a good man, but very childish, and takes factors to be infallible, and will not come to investigate the case between the factor and his tenants.

25853. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—What factor are you referring to?
—In one point to our present factor, but in other things to his predecessors. But I may say he is the worst we have ever had. I may say that distinctly, and I have many a reason for saying it.

25854. You are paying £ 5 odds of rent to the Duke, and you have laid out £650; if you put interest upon that at 5 per cent, that would be £30 a year would it not?
—I cannot follow you in these figures, because my father was thrown out of a good place into a croft of an acre and a half, and had not means to give me education. He had to put me to herding, and all the education I ever got was what I taught myself when herding.

25855. Supposing you put that £650 into the bank you would get something for it would you not?
—I would expect that.

25850. So that the place is standing you a good deal more rent in the year than what you pay?
—A good deal for keeping it in order. Those new things cost me as much as the rent, and I am only keeping them up for the Duke.

25857. You said you keep two horses?
—Yes, with no use for them, only for six weeks when laying down the crop; but I would require to leave the place barren unless I had the horses.

25858. Could you work double the quantity of land with the pair of horses?
—Yes, nearly five times as much. These horses are too heavy for me, and the grass upon the place wont keep them in working condition.
Are the people in the town which you represent pretty well off in their circumstances or are they poor?
—They are generally poor; but according to Providence some of them will be in better circumstance than others. Some of them, by having large families and dutiful sons, get better on than others, but that is not from the land.

25859. In your own case, does the land support you?
—No, that is the case with the three townships I represent, and mostly in the whole district of Tongue; it applies to the whole district of Tongue what I say.

25860. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You have spent £650 on this place ; after spending all the money, if the Duke were to give you a nineteen years' lease and you were to subset the holding, what rent could you get for it?
—I would not get the rent I am paying for it

25861. After spending £650?
—No, it is bad ground. Sometimes I cannot get out of it the seed I put in. I cannot gather manure, and I had to buy artificial manure; and I was prohibited taking sea-ware by the factor, and then I could not work at all.

25862. What was the good of spending £650 if it brought nothing back?
—I was foolish, and looked for better days, and wished to be in the place that my father lived in. But I see myself a very foolish man today.

25863. But the Duke has gained nothing more by it than you have?
—He has gained by it because I improved his estate.

25864. But if the croft will not fetch any more money than it fetched before, it has not been improved?
—It is worth more money for grazing, but where would my crop be?

25865. If it is worth more than before, what rent could you get from another for it if you were to let it?
—I do not see that I would get any one to take it at all, because they know the place to be so bad that they would not take it; that is my real opinion.

25866. Professor Mackinnon.
—How do you make out the £650 you spent upon the croft?
—By measuring the land and drains and fences.

25867. Did you keep an account of it all?
—I kept an account, but I cannot say that I could gather it together now. But the very place will make it out; the ground will show for itself.

25868. You mean your own labour that you expended?
—I do not mean anything I expended myself.

25869. Is the £650 what you paid to other people?
—Yes; I never put 6d. upon my own labour.

25870. How were you paying other people for improving the croft?
—I only kept account of the money I paid out, not upon anything I have done myself.

25871. What was the money paid for—for making drains?
—Trenching, making drains, building fences and houses, and smithy expenses.

25872. What do you mean by smithy expenses?
—It was this; there were some parts where the gravel being so hard, I had to pay more smithy expenses for picks and things than for the rood of ordinary trenching—owing to the ground being naturally stiff and hard.

25873. The smithy expenses were those that were connected with the improvement?
—But the whole of the ground was not that.

25874. You do not include of course the ordinary smithy expenses of keeping up the croft, ploughs and horses?
—I think you would not expect I would include that.

25875. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What kind of house have you?
—I have a house of two rooms and a little garret, a good kitchen, a carpenter's shop, stable, byre, and a good large barn, and a good outer house for keeping timber in, which I have no use for just now, but only it cost me money. All the houses are good enough, because I am a mason myself.

25876. Your houses are rather superior?
—Not outside.

25877. Are they slated or thatched?
—Slated; the barn, stable, shop, and byre are all slated.

25878. Did you build them yourself?
—I did; it was by my orders it was done. I was maybe only as one hand, or providing things for the
workmen. I had other masons doing it

25879. Was the wood supplied to you by the landlord?
—Only for the dwelling house, which is about 36 feet long by 12 broad. I only got the roof of the dwelling house; I never got an inch for the other houses.

25880. Did you get lime also?

25881. Have you kept the house yourself in repair all the time you have lived in it?
—Yes, and I have never got a grain of lime from the factor, and only now and then I would get that same.

25882. What kind of houses have the people round about you —are they anything of the same sort as yours?
—There are a few of them of the same sort—most of them are, but they do not build those additions
for the steading as I did. I had money about my hand and did this, being foolish, and I am at last left in the lurch. The Duke has the house, and I am without money and without house when he likes to evict me.

25883. The Chairman.
—Did you ever know anybody who was evicted in your township?
—No, not in my memory; they were only huddled in with us, not evicted.

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