Kinlochbervie, Sutherland, 26 July 1883 - Angus Macaskill

ANGUS MACASKILL, (formerly Fisherman), Crofter, Tarbert (75)—examined.

26465. Professor Mackinnon.
—Have you been elected a delegate?
—Yes, by the people of Tarbert and Eddriachillis.

26466. Have-you got a written statement?
—I did commit a little of what I have to say before the commissioners to writing in my own broken
English, and with your permission I shall read it :
—That the crofters of this parish had been evicted by their proprietor from their comfortable dwellings to the most barren spots of the parish, that the small quantity of that same is quite inadequate to support the life of those who does labour it. The smallness of it leaves no room for rotation, so that constant cultivation of it weakens the soil, that it cannot yield crop to the advantage of the crofter. Therefore, year by year, their condition is getting more deplorable. There are plenty of good land in this parish under sheep, which if properly divided and cultivated, would give the crofters ample room for to live comfortable by their own industry. The way in which this could be effected is that ten acres of good arable land would be given to each tenant, with a lease of nineteen years, at a reasonable rent by a competent and impartial judge under Government control, as the land should pay its own rent. As seasons is coming across every country that some failure may appear in the crop, every tenant should have some sheep, so as to enable him to have support from his stock. Through the poverty prevailed among the crofters they are unfit to buy sheep for their land. But the Government should buy sheep for them at three and half per cent, per annum, and the full amount to be paid in ten years' time, in various instalments. Their whole proceedings is carried on in the name of the Duke of Sutherland. If grudge or objections is offered by the crofters, the alternative is quit the estate. We were paying roads on rent for forty-nine years' back, but no part is granted as yet. There was a great praise given by his own officials to the second Duke of Sutherland, for granting a free passage to many people from his estate. But as far as known to me not a foot of that peoples land was given to the remaining crofters, turned to a sheep walk. Another grievance is deeply felt here.When the heads of the families are going to their long home, an additional rent is charged upon the croft, say fr om ten to twenty shillings more. If asked why is this extra rent charged, a crooked answer is given that will not stand the light of truth. Through the illiterate condition of our forefathers, no recourse was obtained through the publick prints of face land, so that our forefathers were branded by false reports and defamation of character. But the just judge showed his displeasure against those who depopulated the people, reduced them to beggary, and sent them off the face of the earth with the besom of destruction, as he foretold in his holy Word. The most stout and healthy lads belonging to this parish had to quit their native country, as no room was allowed for them to build houses, and marriage being prohibited, so that the most weak and helpless of them are left. In regard of fishing in this part of the country, there lies in the main ocean a bank, say from twenty to thirty miles off, where cod and ling is plentiful; the only way among us to hive the benefit of that fish is large decked boats; and a small boat to work their lines, but very few of us can obtain such boats, as no fishcurers are residing in this part of the country, and no markets for them, neither a harbour, but what is formed by nature, so that various drawbacks is meeting our fishermen. The amount of money paid for meal annually by this parish is great, so that clothing and food is not what it ought to be. All that privations is attributed to the want of land to support the people by their own industry.

26467. Where is Tarbert?
—South-west from here.

26468. Have you been there all your life?
—I was born in the parish of Assynt, and went to Tarbert in 1833, for causes which I am not willing
to mention here.

26469. That is fifty years ago?

26470. And have you been in Tarbert for the last fifty years'?

26471. Occupying the same croft?

26472. What is the size of your holding? what is your stock?
—It is pretty fair in regard to cattle. I have four cows, a horse and about seven sheep; but of late a good many of these had to be sold for meal, not by me, but off the lot.

26473. What was the rent?
—Formerly it was £ 1 , 5s., but now it is raised, with dues and things of that description, to £ 1 , 18s. 6d. taking poor rates and school rates together.

26474. The rent remains the same?

26475. But the taxes added bring up the sum to £1, 18s. 6d.?

26476. Is the rent too high as rents go in this country?
—Rather too high as rents go. I don't know a crofter whose land supports him more than five months in the year. If there is one in our parish I should like to know him.

26477. How do they live the other seven months?
—We must live by meal, or starve.

26478. How much money one year with another do you spend upon meal for these seven months?
—I can hardly state that with any at curacy.

26479. Is it more than the rent of the croft?

26480. In that case, supposing you had the croft for nothing, it would not support you?
—It would not support me.

26481. You have been fishing as well as crofting?
—Once upon a time, when I was able, but old age and other disabilities prevent me now.

26482. Was it the cod and ling fishing you went to?
—Yes, and the herring fishing.

26483. What is the season of fishing at the bank you speak of?
—If people had proper boats and a proper way of curing fish, the fishing is very productive, but also very precarious.

26484. What months of the year is the fishing carried on?
—February, March, and April, and sometimes it is carried on until June.

26485. Is it a good bank the one to which you refer?
—Excellent; men from Banffshire, Morayshire and various parts are inhabiting our country at that season of the year.

26486. Do they take away a lot of money?
—A lot of fish.

26487. That means about the same thing?
—They get money in their own country for the fish.

26488. Do they salt the fish themselves?
—They do.

26489. Are there any of the people of the place engaged in that business?
—Yes, and doing well according to the materials they have.

26490. Could they not get better material?
—Those who are doing well can, but they must take it from Banff, Aberdeen or Peterhead ; such materials are not got in this country to the same advantage as on the east coast.

26491. When the people of the place are engaged in fishing, do they sell the fish fresh or salt them?
—Who would buy their fish but the factor?

26492. I mean a merchant?
—There is none to buy them; there is no one able to buy them.

26493. They salt them and send them to the market?
—Yes, to Aberdeen or Stornoway or Peterhead, and various parts.

26494. Where is the good land you speak of that the people may get?
—There is one farm. Mr Gunn's farm, Kyle Strome, and I hold that would supply all the crofters in Eddriachillis.

26495. You know the place well?

26496. Is there low ground as well as high ground?
—There is good ground on that farm, and not only that, but a place which was memorable for herring,
—Kylesku —where people could live, although for the last few years there have not been many.

26497. Do you think if people were going there the herring would come back?
—I have had thoughts of that at times, for a man is at liberty to have his own thoughts, though they are not correct sometimes.

26498. Mr Fraser Mackintosh.
—Were there many people turned out of Assynt where you were turned out fifty years ago?
—A good many.

26499. Who did it?
—It was all done under the Sutherland family's name; there were inferiors under them, but it was all done in their name.

26500. Who got the place you and others were put away from?
—Mr Charles Clark, who lived in Glendhu, and was a scourge to the country in his lifetime.

26501. Where did he come from?
—He belonged to this same country, but for all that he died a beggar.

26502. How many people were present at the meeting which sent you and the others here?
—There were many of them away at the east coast fishing, so that many of them were not present. Those who were present sent me as one to this place, in order to meet the Commission and their
words are set down by me in my paper in my own broken English.

26503. Was it you who wrote that paper?
—Certainly it was.

26504. Are there many crofters in this district of Eddrachillis?
—Yes, a few townships; Eddrachillis, Tarbert, Foindale and others in this end of the parish. But there are more people to speak after me,

26505. Have you got a ground officer in Scourie?
—Yes, and a factor and a clerk and a poor inspector, and what not.

26506. Are you complaining of the ground officer?
—No, we don't.

26507. Is it because he is an old man that he does not trouble you?
—No, but because he is an inferior, and therefore should submit to his superior. Of course, my lord, whether you are a lord or a gentleman, you would be displeased if your servants did not do your bidding : a servant must obey.

26508. But you are not complaining of him in any way?

26509. Did you hear the evidence given here to-day?
—Part of it; I am rather dull of hearing.

26510. Supposing you and the other crofters were allowed to get back to the glens and get biggish crofts to support you, would you be glad to go?
—Certainly the rest would, but my days are numbered, and with all the good the Commission can do it would be madness for me to try it. I don't speak for myself, but for the rest of my country.

26511. The rest would be glad to get back?
—Quite glad.

26512. Would many of them be able to stock larger crofts'?
—It is not consistent with reason that men reduced to poverty would be able to buy stock at first, but in such a good pasture the stock would pay itself.

26513. There is a great deal of waste ground occupied by sheep in the parish?
—A great deal under sheep, and in deer forest.

26514. Do the deer trouble you?
—No. We are quite close to the shore; we are not allowed to go up where they are.

26515. There is a road between you and the forest?
—There is a road through the forest; we have nothing to say about the man who occupies the forest. He is a kind nobleman, the Duke of Westminster.

26516. Have you any other statement you wish to make?
—No. I think I have said enough, if well considered.

26517. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I think you speak very good English, were you always in the position of a crofter?
—I am glad such a competent judge would give me that character.

26518. Have you ever had any other vocation but that of crofter and fisherman? where did you learn to speak English?
—At home; I have been once or twice in Glasgow, but it was little learning I got there.

26519. You were never a teacher?
—No. I attended the old parochial school in Assynt. In childhood I was such a long distance from school that I did not attend, but in my young days I was bestowed with a good memory, and I learned some of my English from books.

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