Bonar Bridge, Sutherland, 9 October 1883 - Hugh Mackintosh

HUGH MACKINTOSH, Crofter, Little Torboll, and late Sergeant in the 79th Highlanders (77)—examined.

39634. The Chairman.
—Did you get your croft after the expiration of your military service or did it belong to your family before?
—It belonged to my father. My father was an old soldier.

39635. Then you have been two generations of soldiers and crofters?

39636. Have you a statement to make?
—Yes. 'Grievance of the Torboll Tenants.
—Previous to the year 1826 Torboll contained only four tenants, but on the expulsion of the people from the neighbouring lands to make room for a sheep farm, the four lots were subdivided into seven. On a complaint being made to Lady Stafford of the smallness of the crofts, she granted them the use of the grass growing on a piece of land reolaimed from the sea, called " The Ebb," to winter a cow and a horse for each tenant This continued until the year 1881. After they had got the hay seasoned, and carried part of it on their backs for half a mile through the wood, possession was taken of it by the Duke's forester. On a complaint being made by Sergeant Mackintosh to the factor, he promised to lay the matter before the Duke, and to let them know his decision in a few days; but no word was received until late in October. The day after the Duke left for London the innkeeper at Dornoch, to whom the hay was said to be sold by the forester, sent carts and took it away. The people then had to sell part of their beasts at a loss, having lost the chance of the market owing to its being so late in the season, not having received word sooner. We complain of the smallness of our holdings, not being large enough to maintain us six months in the year, insecurity of tenure, no protection against rack-renting, and no compensation for improvements in case of removal.'

39637. Is this additional piece of land, called The Ebb, still in possession of the crofters?

39638. I don't quite understand what has become of this piece of land. Is it now taken away entirely from the township?
—It is taken away from the tenants, and they will not get leave to cut grass.

39639. They are not allowed to cut grass upon it?

39640. But they are allowed to pasture it?
—No, they are not allowed. It is fenced in. It belongs to the Duke, and is fenced in; but they got liberty for forty or fifty years to take grass to help them.

39641. And they have no longer that liberty now?
—No, not for two years back.

39642. Was the hay that they cut, and which they are not now allowed to have, all cut upon this ground called The Ebb?
—Yes, by the crofters.

39643. Had they been directed not to cut it before they cut it?
—No, they were not warned.

39644. You say they complain of the smallness of their holdings; what is the size of the holdings? How many small tenants are there at the present moment in Torboll?

39615. What is the size of their holdings —how many acres?
—From three to four, so far as I understand.

39646. Have they got an out run of common pasture?
—Yes, there is a good bit of pasture.

39647. What stock do they usually keep —those who have three or four acres?
—They keep, perhaps, two or three cows; and I keep one myself—no horse.

39648. Do they never keep horses?
—Yes, some of them have horses, but they provide for the horses by gathering whins for them, and one thing and another.

39649. But the lot does not keep the horse?

39650. And if they keep two cows, how many sheep do they keep on the common pasture?
—No sheep at all.

39651. Then their whole stock, you may say, is two cows. They have no followers?
—Yes, they may have a young beast or the like of that, but they cannot keep them long.

39652. Do they keep them two years or one year?
—One year or so.

39653. What is the general rent ?
—I myself pay £2, 10s.

39654. Is £2, 10s. the general rule?
—No, there are some of them who don't pay so much.

39655. Do some pay more?
—Yes, one or two pay more.

39656. Would £2, 10s. be the valuation rent?
—The valuation rent was £3 for each croft, I understand.

39657. Do the people fish?
—No, they don't fish any.

39658. Have they had a good deal of work given them?
—There is no work going now.

39659. Was there work before?
—Not that I know of, except working about farms and the like of that.

39660. How do the people generally live then; do they go away to other parts of Scotland for work?
—The young men do so, and some of the young women, and they help their parents too. That is the general style they have; and if it were not for that I believe we would have the old people all on the poor roll.

39661. You say there is no compensation for improvements in case of removal; have you any cases of removal? Do you know of any cases?
—No, I don't know anything about that.

39662. You don't know anybody that has been removed?
—Not in my neighbourhood where I reside. There have been none removed out of it within these thirty-six years to my knowledge.

39663. What about the houses? Have the houses been improved in your recollection?
—Yes. I have improved my own. house. It cost me £40. I got rope and sarking from the Duke to the value of about £7; but it cost me £40 to improve it myself, and if I left it next day I would not get any value for it

39664. Were you born there?
—I was born in the parish of Rogart.

39665. How long did your father have this same croft; had he the same croft that you have?
—Yes, he had, but it was larger. It was subdivided. When I went to the army there were only four tenants.

39666. When did you go to the army ?
—In 1823.

39667. How many years were you away without seeing your country?
—I was twenty-two years in the service, but I was home on furlough. I came home on furlough ten years after I enlisted.

39668. And when you came back to settle in your father's place, did you find the place and the people improved?
—There is no improvement since.
—Well, there was not much improvement?
—Well, yes, in regard to different things, the people are getting tidier and cleaner than they were in old times. There is something in that.

39669. But since you came back has there been more improvement than there was before, or less?
—Well, I don't think there is.

39670. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What do you mean by rack-renting?
—Well, we don't pay a rack-rent. We don't grumble about our rents. They are not very high. I have about two and a-half acres of arable land. I took in one and a half acres myself since I came to the place, and kept it for a few years, but then it gave me no return. It would hardly give me the value of the seed, and it was destroyed by black game and rabbits. I only keep about two and a half acres, or two and a quarter acres.

39671. I suppose this paper expresses the wish of the tenants around you?

39672. They ask for protection from rack-renting; what do they mean? Are the others too high rented?
—No, I don't think they are too high rented; but I don't know. But still they might raise it. That is what it means.

39673. They are afraid it might be raised?

39674. Mr Cameron.
—Why do they say that the 1st October was too late to sell their stirks?
—The prices were not so good.

39675. It was not that the date itself was too late?
—I had two cows myself, and I had to sell one of them; I would get the double of the price next year for it.

39676. The prices fell, but it was not that the date itself was too late?

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