45993. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to read to us?
—Yes. Several references having been made to my name by crofters and delegates in the Lewis when giving evidence before you, tending to mislead and put me in a false position, may I be allowed to lay before you the following observations:
—1. John Maciver, Breascalete, aged 56, said
—That they had four chamberlains since Sir James Matheson came to the estate, and the second, John Mackenzie, was taking from them their cattle for rent, and giving them £ 1 and £2 for what was worth now £7 and £8." Maciver, at the time I was in Lewis, was a young man, and not in possession of land, so that he must have been talking from hearsay, not from his own experience. During the years 1848-49-50 and 51, the price of Lewis cattle was very low. Very few cattle dealers or drovers came to the island to purchase cattle, therefore the people, being unable either to turn their cattle stock into money, or in many cases to support them during the following winter, the proprietor had to take them at a valuation in payment of rent and arrears. If, however, they succeeded in getting a better offer, the cattle were returned upon the payment of the money for rent. The cattle were taken for the proprietor. I never had any transactions in cattle on my own account, and I employed another person to value them. The cattle were generally sent to southern markets, and after paying expenses they seldom realised the amount credited to the tenants for them. Prices now are more than double what they were in 1819-50. I had no wish to take their cattle, as it entailed much greater trouble than cash payments, but when so few dealers came to the island it became a necessity.
2. Malcolm M'Lean, Swanabost said—" When Sir James Matheson got the estate —a kind-hearted gentle-
man he was—he sent a number of men to reclaim a great part of land in these parts. It was in the time of Mr Munro Mackenzie's factorship, one of the farms made was taken off the inland portion of their township, their rent was raised, and crofters were settled all round them, so that now they were enclosed in a fank." I have to explain that the farm of Swanabost was at one time let to a tacksman, and that there was a good two-storied slated house on it, which I occupied when I went to Ness. When dividing the farms into allotments, I reserved 10 acres to be let with this house, which was never in the possession of crofters except two years when not let. They grazed their cattle on it without paying rent. I let the remaining portion to forty-one tenants in crofts, averaging over five acres, at an average rent of 12s. per annum, with pasture on the macher along the sea-shore, and on the moorland beyond the ring fence. The land is of the best quality, could be ploughed from end to end, and all cultivated, so that I think this man had no great cause of grievance.
3. Murdoch Mackay, 57, weaver, Lionel, said—" That thirty-five years ago there were twenty families in the township, now there were sixty-six. They had been deprived of hill pasture by Chamberlains Mackenzie and Munro, which was given to other townships, and now Lionel had only a piece about 300 yards in breadth." I find, on referring to my diary, that on 22d Feb. 1851, I let the old arable land of Lionel, containing 124 acres, to thirty-six tenants at £70 in 3½ acre lots, at less than an average of £ 2 each. I also at same time let 47 acres of waste land, which was being trenched and enclosed by the proprietor, to eleven tenants, making forty-seven in all. Subdivision must have gone on since to increase the number to sixty-six. I am not aware of having taken any hill pasture from this township. The tenants of the old land had the pasture of the macher, along with the moor, for £2 of rent, which is not excessive, though I must admit that Lionel is the highest rented place in Ness, except Skeggersta, but they are both good fishing ports, and the land of Lionel is good, every yard of it can be cultivated. The allotments in the other townships of Ness, as let by me in 1851, are the largest and cheapest in the Lewis, being an average of 7 acres, at 10s. per acre rent, viz. :
Skeggersta has the advantage of a good fishing port and a large extent of moor pasture.
4. Murdoch Mackenzie, Skeggersta, said
—" Though they were 7 miles from the march of Galson, they had to pay for its up keep. That was done in Mackenzie's time." The Galson march dyke, also referred to by other delegates, was not built till after I left, so there must be a mistake of date. Skeggersta must have 7 miles extent of moor if it marches with Galson.
5. Donald Maciver, 50, crofter and blacksmith, Cross of Ness, said
—" The people were still suffering from the oppression and highhandedness of the two factors Mackenzie and Munro. It would have been well for the island of Lewis if the present factor, Mr Mackay, had been appointed when Munro and Mackenzie were elected. He had seen Mr Mackay do what neither of his predecessors did, and that was to wipe off arrears which poor people could not pay." During my factorship it was a most trying time for the poor people of Lewis from 1846 to 1852. Potato disease, bad harvests, low price of cattle, and poor fishing, proved a bad combination. When I took charge in May 1848, I found the people had been supplied with meal by the proprietor, for which they did some work; but there being no regular settlement, most of the people were found to be largely in debt to the estate. I at once altered the system, giving them piece-work, which was measured and paid for each month, less the meal they had got during the month. This change was a most unpopular one. An old man said to me one day
—" I have seen six factors on the estate, and you are the first countryman. May I ask you a favour, which is to abolish this piece-work, and put us back again to the day's wages, as we are wasting our constitutions with the pick to make a living." On account of the destitution prevailing, the collection of rents had been neglected; but seeing that work at ordinary rates was supplied, I was very strict in the collection of rents, and, after six years, left not much more than a half a year's rent in arrear, the only exception I made was in the case of widows, but they in general paid as well as men. I rarely wiped off arrears of rent, and would not feel justified in doing so without consulting the proprietor. The township of Knockard in Ness, being very much in arrear, I asked an old man the cause. He told me " that when the estate was bought by Sir James, many of the crofters had been much in arrear, those who had paid in full finding themselves on starting anew on the same footing with those who had not paid, resolved that in the future they would reserve their money, as they looked on their former payments as so much lost." Another man who stood by, said
—"I wish your predecessor had been as hard in pressing for payment of rent as you are. If he had I would not have been in arrear. I came here with the rent in my pocket, but when I saw others getting past so easily I took it home again, and soon after my house was burnt, and my money perished with it." The Lewis estate is so moderately rented that there is seldom any excuse for arrears, and when the rent is collected regularly the payments come more easily to the people, who have to exert themselves to earn or save as much as pays the rent. A regular collection of rent, I hold, cannot be looked upon as " oppressive or highhanded." Personally, I was at all times on the most friendly footing with the tenantry, except perhaps with some of the young people, who wished to divide their parents' crofts and build houses for themselves. During the year 1849-50 and 51 all the crofters' land was surveyed, enclosed, and re-alloted. I personally went over every croft in the island, accompanied by a man of skill, heard what the people had to say as to the way the land had been divided, rental, &c. In many cases the mode of division was altered to meet their views; in some cases the rental was reduced, and others left the same ; but generally there was an increase of rent of 10 to 12 per cent., which I did not think too much, considering the altered circumstances of the estate brought about by the making of roads, regular steam communication, fencing, and other improvements. I granted verbal leases to each township, so far as the enclosed land was concerned, for a period of fifteen years, and a written lease was to be granted to each tenant on his fulfilling the terms required by the estate regulations, viz., to pay up all arrears of rent, to build a suitable house, with division between himself and cattle, &c. These leases were not much asked for by the tenants, as they were slow in doing their part. As an instance, one man who was a " merchant," and then pretty well off, was building a house, and draining his land with rather shallow drains. I told him if he would build the walls of his house with lime, put slates for roofing in place of thatch, and make the drains 3½ feet deep, I would give him a letter promising him two-thirds of the value at the end of the lease, if he was removed from his holding. I met him twenty years after on board a steamer, when he told me how often he had regretted not accepting my offer, as he had got nothing for his improvements at the end of his lease. Some of the people built better houses, with windows, chimneys, and divisions between them and their cattle, as provided by the estate regulations, on which they were to be granted leases; they got assistance in the shape of lime and other material, and an allowance of meal, while they were employed building, from the Destitution Committee, but almost in every case these houses were soon changed to the old style—divisions pulled down, windows blocked up, and chimneys put out of use. One man, in particular, over whom I had obtained some influence, I got to build a house according to a plan I had given him, with a ' but-an-ben,' and mid room windows and chimneys, with byre behind. I was so pleased with this house that I asked Sir James Matheson one day to come with me to see it, as a pattern of crofters' house for the Lewis. We drove to the house, a distance of 12 miles. Sir James was surprised and delighted with the house to see it so well built by a crofter. He wished the occupants much happiness in their new abode, and he hoped many of the neighbours would follow his example. We thought we had made a beginning at last. Three months after, on my next visit to this township, what was my disappointment on going to this house to find the front door and windows blocked up, no smoke coming from the chimneys, but issuing through the thatch. I asked the occupant what was the meaning of all these changes. He replied that he was in fear about his cattle at night, that they might get loose and hurt one another, that they were cold without seeing the fire, and that he had made a communication between the byre and the room where they lived. I asked him why he had the fire in the middle of the house, and did not use the chimneys. He said he wanted to make soot straw for his potatoes, &c. I told him I did not believe in all these excuses, that there must be something else which he must explain. At last he acknowledged it was the ill-will and ill talk of his neighbours; he could not stand it —even his own father was among the worst of these people. Fearing they would have to build such houses as he did, they got him prevailed upon to go back and live in his byre. I may relate another incident among thousands of the bad influence of idle neighbours used against the industriously disposed. Going along near the Port of Ness one winter day, I saw the unusual sight of a man at work in his croft with his pick and spade. He could not go to sea on account of the weather, so he occupied his time trenching his lot. I had a talk with him, and remarked to the usual crowd which followed me, how much more profitably this man was engaged than going idle, as they all were when they could not get to sea. I told the ground officer to give this man a boll of meal from the proprietor's store, in token of approval of his conduct. At my next quarterly visit to that part I went to this man's croft, and was surprised to see that nothing had been done since my former visit. I asked the ground officer the cause of the man stopping his work. He replied
—' It was that boll of meal; he has not done a clay's work since he got it.' His neighbours gathered round him, and taunted him for working for the proprietor, and asked would the factor have given the meal had he not some selfish reason for it? I state these facts that came under my notice, as I could many more, to show the influence of bad example and the jealousy of those who, idle themselves, dislike to see the industrious more prosperous. Much of the backwardness of the Lewis people is caused by there being so little difference of class or position. Out of the town of Stornoway the people are all on the same dead level, and no improvement can be gained by the example of superiors. Till the beginning of this century, the greater part of the Lewis was in the hands of tacksmen or middle-men, who got in some cases from their sub-tenants in money, produce, and labour what nearly paid their rents. There were the Macivers of the parish of Stornoway, the Morisons and Murrays of Barvas, the M'Aulays of Uig, and the M'Leods of Lochs. When Mr Stewart Mackenzie married the Hon. Lady Hood, daughter of Lord Seaforth, and took the management of the estate into his own hands, he did away with the middlemen, and let the land direct to the crofters. This, no doubt, was a step in the right direction, but it had its disadvantages, as the example'of a good middle-man, who looked after his people, and who was industrious in farming and attentive in stock breeding, was beneficial to the people, though in some cases they may have been petty tyrants. The destitution continuing in 1850-51, and many of the people becoming so much reduced in circumstances (no fewer than 12,829 souls receiving supplies of meal from the Destitution Committee in May 1850), and the proprietor, seeing that his large expenditure was in no way remunerative, emigration was looked to as the only means for providing for able-bodied people who had no means of support, having exhausted all their stock, and who were unable to live should they get the land rent free. The proprietor, after full consideration of all the circumstances, offered to pay the passage of all destitute people, not only to Quebec, but to whatever township in Upper or Lower Canada they might wish to settle in, to forego the arrears of rent, meal, &c. If they could not otherwise dispose of their stock, he agreed to pay them the fair value thereof, and in addition to give clothing to such as required it. During 1851-52 and 55, on the above terms, 1772 emigrated, the greater number to Upper Canada, some to the eastern townships of Lower Canada, where some people from Lewis had gone many years before. The people who went to Upper Canada succeeded remarkably well, and wrote to their friends telling how well they were getting on, and wishing them to follow. Those who settled in Sherbrook, in Lower Canada, did not get on quite so well. The Government emigration agent at Quebec advised against their going there. He said that Highlanders, who, on their arrival, congregated together, remained in the same state, while those who were dispersed among other people succeeded best. The only man I may say I forced to go to America was a sheep stealer, who never did any work for his own or his family's support. Two years after he went I was much relieved by his father coining to me with a letter from him in which he said
—" Tell the factor how much obliged I am to him for sending me to America, as I can now make 5s. a day, support my family in comfort, and am able to look every man in the face." I have often heard of these people from friends and others who have visited Canada, and their reports are most favourable. During my factorships two farms were cleared of sheep and converted into deer forest. No crofters were then disturbed to make way for the deer. From several townships which were not considered suitable for crofters, who were greatly in arrear of rent, and did not accept the offer to emigrate, the people were removed to vacant crofts in other townships which had been occupied by the people who went to America, and on reclaimed land. They were in no case crowded on any township where there was no room for them. There was no demand for more land (except in the parish of Lochs) but could be supplied; no applications were made that the vacant crofts should be added to the others. In some ; cases where 10 acre crofts had been given to well-to-do people in the course of a year or two the occupants gave up the half of them; and when I wished them to retain them for a few years longer to make a fair trial, they replied that they had not the means of stocking and working them, or of paying the rent. I may also state that all tenants on the estate paying from £20 to £40 rent came to ruin in these years, as they did not work with their own hands, and had not the means of paying or feeding servants. In my opinion, there are few parts of the Highlands or Islands where a crofter, even with 10 acres, can pay his way from the produce of his croft. Club farms may do with a sparse population, but an ordinary crofter, without some other occupation, such as a trade, labour for which he receives day's wages, or fishing, cannot make both ends meet. When I refer to a crofter being a fisherman, I do not advocate such a combination except to a limited extent. In the parish of Lochs, where the crofts are the smallest, the people are the best fishermen and the most regular payers of rent. They own many large boats, with which they go to fish at Wick and the east coast fishing. I believe our east coast fishermen were never so successful as they have been since they gave up the holding of land and took entirely to the fishing. They have full occupation all the year round, as will be seen from a statement, which I beg to hand to the Commissioners, got from Mr John Duthie, Rosehearty, who comes to fish at the island of Coll every winter and carries away a cargo of dried fish. If a fisherman has land it should be a small extent, as it otherwise must be ill cultivated, and left to the women to do, as is the case at Ness in Lewis. This land, which is the best in the island, or any of the islands, is not cultivated over 3 inches deep, though it is capable of cultivation to the depth of 12 inches. Another great disadvantage under which the Lewis cod and ling fishing labours is the truck system. If the fish was taken from the fishermen as it is caught, and paid for in cash monthly, in place of six and nine months after, they could pay in cash for their supplies, which would make the people more provident and stimulate them to greater exertion, and the fish would better be cured. More safe harbours would be of the
greatest advantage ; two at least should be constructed between Ness and Loch Roag. It has been said that the land improved in the Lewis has been ill-selected. The late Mr Smith of Deanston, under whose direction the improvements were commenced, said he had fixed on the worst places, to show that if these could be improved, there might be no doubt as to the improvement of other parts. I regret to say that his expectations have not been realised. The land afterwards improved was in connection with the crofts and farms already let, and where land could be got suitable for the occupation of the people during the destitution. Sir James Matheson supported and contributed to seventeen schools in the island, many of which he built with teachers' houses prior to 1854. Monthly returns of attendance were sent to my office, and parents who did not keep their children at school were dealt with, but in many cases to no avail, as they often told me they did not want to give their children wings to leave them. When I left Lewis in 1854 the people were comparatively prosperous, and for many years afterwards there were better crops, better price for cattle, and the herring fishing had been fully established at Stornoway and other stations along the east coast of the island. All the people who had a right to land were settled on crofts well-defined, which they were improving, and it is my decided opinion, which I cannot too strongly express, that if subletting and divisions of crofts had been strictly prohibited and enforced, the population would not have increased as it has done for the last thirty years, and which large increase of over 7000 is very much the cause of the present difficulties. The population of the island in 1854, after deducting emigrants, I calculate to have been (including natural increase from 1851 to 1854)
Census 1851 (and three years' increase, 771), , , 18,693
Census 1881: 25,487
Increase since 1854: 6,794
Less emigrated in 1862, 459
Add absent militia men when census was taken in 1881, 400
Average increase from 1881 to 1883: 480
Estimated increase from 1854 to 1883: 7,215
Or 38 per cent, in 29 years.
The style of living has quite altered in the Highlands during this century, as in other parts of the country. A Highland crofter will on an average spend £10 to £30 per annum on the purchase of articles imported into the country, on which his father and grandfather would not have spent £5. Tea, sugar, and wheaten bread were in their time unknown. Clothes and shoes were home-made —thus was little or nothing spent on any luxury, such as tobacco and spirits, the latter being a home production. Within my own recollection there was but one small steamer, which plied once a fortnight between and Portree, and none to Lewis or the other islands. Now there are three large steamers loaded with goods weekly to Portree and Stornoway, and three more to the other Hebrides, ministering to the comforts of the people who now live so much more expensively than their forefathers. In most cases, however, these steamers return to the south almost empty, except during the herring fishing season, which lasts but for a few months, and then nine-tenths of the herrings are fished by strangers. It is generally a bad state of matters when the imports of any country so excessively exceed its exports, as is at present the case in the Highlands ; and the question may be asked how these imports are to be paid for as they are not replaced or repaid by the natural produce of the country. To a small extent they are met by an export of fish, eggs, cattle, sheep, and wool, and largely by the people going at certain seasons of the year to the south country and east coast fishings, returning to their homes with the wages they have earned. A large amount is being yearly spent in the Highlands by landed proprietors in the improvement of their estates, in many cases exceeding their rental. I may say in my own individual case I have spent on my property, in road-making, fencing, draining, planting, and building, &c., an amount greater than my rental; and I know many of my neighbours who have done the same, but such expenditure must be reduced, and in some cases come to an end, as it is found not to give a fair return for the money spent. The price of Highland wool is now very low, and is almost unsaleable, which makes a great difference to the sheep farmer, who formerly looked to the wool for paying his rent. This, with the very high price paid for stock by valuation on the entry of a new tenant to a farm, makes sheep farms very difficult to let, and in many cases causes the land to be turned into deer forests. In the evidence given before you in Skye as in other places, wrong dates and wrong names of people were often given. For instance Hugh M'Askill, Talisker, was said to have made the clearances at Talisker and Rhudunan forty years ago. A number of the people of Rhudunan were removed in the beginning of the present century by Kenneth M'Askill, tacksman of Rhudunan, who accompanied the people to North Carolina, and remained there with them for three or four years till he saw them comfortably settled. A number of the people were removed from Talisker by a Mr M'Lean. Hugh M'Askill, Talisker, ruined himself very much by giving meal on credit to the people during the years of destitution 1846 to 1849, and for a large portion of which he was never repaid. This lie told me himself, and yet these people say without any regret that " he went to the dogs, but I do not believe they made use of these words, as there is no such expression in the Gaelic language, in which the evidence was given. In the evidence you have had brought before you, it has often been said, and I believe in many cases most unjustly, that the factors had much to do with the impoverishment of the people, and this for their own selfish ends; while in truth, as a general rule, they have done everything in their power to relieve them, and to act justly between proprietor and tenant. During the terrible time of destitution through which the Lewis passed, the greatest anxiety and labour devolved on the factor, and even now, after all the years that have elapsed, the memory of such a time is very sad. Nothing too much can be said for the kindness of Sir James Matheson to his people, and his constant interest in and anxiety for their good; and this the majority of the crofters admit to-day. While I was in Lewis, Sir James received from me weekly a diary of all my transactions as his representative, and when he was absent he had in addition a weekly letter telling all that it was proposed to do and all that was done, and to these he regularly replied, showing a full knowledge of all details and the supremest interest in them, so that everything that was done during my term of office was done with his full knowledge and entire approval.
45991. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I think you remarked that, in your time in the Lewis, crofters who held ten acres of land found they were incapable of keeping that quantity of land occupied ?
—Yes, and after having it for two years they gave up the half of it.
45995. What do you think a suitably sized croft in the Lewis ?
—Well, a man without having a horse, and to work with spade labour, could not possibly work more thau ten acres, and it would be very hard work.
45996. But even with ten acres he would require horse work?
—He would require assistance. Two crofters in some parts joining keep a horse each, and between them they would work a ten acre lot each.
45997. What was the reason this crofter gave up his ten acre croft; was it because he had not a horse ?
—He had a horse. He had two reasons. He said first he could not work the ten acres and stock the ten acres, and he could not pay for the ten acres.
45998. Was he better off when he had five acres?
—I believe he was, because he was not industrious.
45999. What would you recommend for the Lewis now-a-days—what size of croft ?
—Near the fishing stations such as Ness, —and I strongly recommend that some fishing ports should be made, —one at Shabost and perhaps, one at Galson, so that they could get to sea, because very often they cannot get to sea, —I would recommend that near these stations they should only have potato land, and that a large proportion of the people there should follow the fishing altogether.
46000. Have you more belief in fishing than in agriculture for the Lewis ?
—Yes, much more.
46001. You mentioned that the tenants paying £20 to £40 of rent in your time were all ruined ?
46002. But you say that those tenants paying £ 30 to £40 did not work on their own farm?
—They did not work with their own hands; they had servants.
46003. Is a farm of that size in the Lewis too large for a man to work by himself?
—It should not be, but when I left there were none of that size,
46004. And do you think it would not do to re-establish farms of that size ?
—I think it would be a great advantage. I think in every country it is a great object to have progression, so that a man may rise from one step to another. I think it would be wise to have first the crofter, and then the intermediate man, and then the larger farmer. I think it is a great pity that they are all the same.
46005. Are you a native of the Lewis ?
—Yes; I was born there.
46006. Do you know anything about the manner in which the 78th Highlanders was raised in the Lewis ?
—There were two battalions, and I had uncles in both battalions. I have heard a great deal about it in the Lewis. The first battalion was principally raised on the mainland; but I know that in the parish of Uig, when Seaforth came to the parish to get recruits, the people all took to the hills. There was a ferry of twelve miles across Loch Roag, and they sent a boat across for Seaforth, manned by six women. This set up Seaforth's rage, and he came very wroth to the manse of Uig, where my grandfather was minister, and was very wroth at them. The minister told him to be quiet—that the people would find the tops of the hills rather cold, and just to let them alone. Next day the minister went up and had a talk with them, and told them their conduct was very unbecoming and very unpatriotic, and that they should come down and meet Seaforth. They said they should be very ready to do so, but they were afraid he would clear off the whole generation of young men. The minister said ' No, I will be responsible for that —wherever a man has one son that son shall not be taken, but where there is a large family perhaps two will be taken; but I will see there is no hardship, and I will send my only son with you.'
46007. You had this story from your own grandfather?
46008. Do you know whether any promises were made to the peoplethat they should have an enduring tenure of their land?
—I think the only terms made were that they were to be engaged only for home service ; but afterwards, when they came to Edinburgh, there was some row, and it was changed, and they went abroad.
46009. But were the parents promised some lengthened tenure of their land in consequence of their sons' enlistment?
—I never heard of any.
46010. The Chairman.
—Then the people were, on the whole, averse to entering the army, according to your impression?
—At that time they were.
46011. And they were promised that Seaforth would not take more than one or two out of a family ?
—Just so, and only two where there was a family of three or four sons.
46012. But did the people understand that he could not have taken any?
—I suppose in those days Seaforth was omnipotent. They had no idea beyond him. They knew nobody else.
46013. Did his authority operate, as it were, upon their affections, or did they really believe that he would turn them out of their homes if they did not enlist?
—No, the people volunteered. There was no compulsion of any sort. That very night Seaforth got his full number. I have been told even that men came in to Seaforth saying ' Here is my son,' or ' Here are two sons of mine that will go with you.' There was no compulsion at that time. They all volunteered.
46014. Notwithstanding their first terror, they came in and volunteered ?
— Yes; it was a terror lest they should all be swept off.
46015. Were there any of the tacksmen or middle class who went with them ?
—My uncle was the only one who went with them.
46016. He obtained a commission?
—He did, and was killed at the taking of Java.
46017. Did many of those people get back to the Lewis?
—Yes, a great number of them, and most interesting men they were. In Egypt they mostly all lost their sight by ophthalmia, and they came back to the Lewis with hardly a single exception. They were in Egypt in 1801 with Sir Ralph Abercromby. When they came home the Government was very, very liberal to them. They gave them a large pension, and not only a pension to themselves, but a pension for a guide for each man. I think, between themselves and their guides, they had a pension of £39 a year each. When I went to the Lewis I found upwards of twenty of these men still living. I asked them ' Have you got medals?' ' No, we never heard of medals.' got their names and regimental numbers, and I wrote to the War Office, and got medals for them. They were at Maida and Alexandria. I got medals for them, and they were highly delighted and pleased. That was more than fifty years after they came home.
46018. Did they spend a happy time ?
—Most happy, and they all lived to a very great age. I think fifteen of these men lived till they were nearly eighty. They were not very long in the army. They would not be ten years in the army altogether—those who got blind.
46019. Did they marry ?
46020. And settled in the island ?
—Yes. They were almost all, without exception, very good men. They did not read—they were not educated men—but they got those guides to read to them, who were very intelligent men. They used to tell us their adventures abroad.
46021. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The story you have told us is very interesting, but it appears to me that it was your grandfather that really got the men to enlist, and not Seaforth ?
—Well, they knew my grandfather, and did not know Seaforth.
46022. You have told us what the Government did in the way of giving them a good pension and giving them guides ; what did Lord Seaforth do for them when they came back blind?
—So far as I know, they all got very good crofts.
46023. Cheap rented ?
—Well, they were.
46024. Can you explain this to me. Up to this day we are told that the people of the Lewis, look back with attachment to the times when the old way of the Seaforths existed ; can you explain the circumstances under which that attachment is continued ?
—It is just clannishness. I am quite sure Sir James Matheson did a hundred times more for the Lewis than all the Seaforths together, and still they will hold up for the Mackenzies. There was one man who came to me one day. He wanted land, and he said, ' If you look at Mackenzie's books you will find my name there for the last forty years.' I said, ' They don't happen to be Mackenzie's books now; they are Matheson's.' ' Oh,' he said, ' you may call them what you like, but they will be Mackenzie's.'
46025. Do you know the circumstances under which the Mackenzies obtained the island ?
46026. You know the circumstances were not very creditable, but rather the opposite?
—Well, at the time it was the common way of warfare.
46027. Is there no feeling at all in favour of the ancient Macleods who were the original lords ?
—No, there is very little recollection of them at all.
46028. Then can you point out, apart from the clannishness you have referred to, anything that the Seaforths did for their tenants during their possession, which lasted for, I suppose, 200 years, except that they left them very much as they were, and that they were cheaply rented ?
—That is all they did for them.
46029. Did they make any harbours or piers for them?
—Nothing. Mr Stewart Mackenzie, who was of a Galloway family, was the first man who did anything. In former times there was not a single yard of road in the Lewis, and no improvement whatever, and this Stewart Mackenzie did a great deal in the way of making roads. He tried to improve the people all he could, but he lost heart, and went away as governor in the Ionian Islands, and afterwards of Ceylon.
46030. By what authority, or under what rights of property, did Lord Seaforth come down upon this occasion to raise those men ?
—Well, a hundred years ago the laird was the king. There was no power known beyond him. He could do what he liked.
46031. He thought he had that power?
—Well, he had it.
46032. Whether he had it or not, he exercised it ?
46033. Well, I want to know what duties devolved upon the person who exercised those very extraordinary and exceptional powers ?
—I suppose in those days they never reckoned duties. Might was right.
46034. These were the good old times in Lewis ?
46035. Which the people look back to still with affection ?
46036. Sheriff Nicolson.
— You have kept up your acquaintance with the island of Lewis ?
—Yes, I have.
46037. Do you think the condition of the people has improved since you left it or otherwise ?
—-Well, I cannot say very much. I have not visited it much. I have just gone yachting and called at Stornoway, but I cannot say anything practical, for I have not gone over the island. From what I hear, and from the trade of the country and the large increase in the herring fishing, I think there must be an improvement.
46038. From what you heard of the distress that was in the island last year, do you think it was in any way comparable to what it was at the time of the potato famine in 1846 ?
—It was nothing to that, because the failure of 1846 lasted from 1846 to 1851. Many people I know who were comfortable, and who had a large stock of sheep and cattle, were perhaps reduced to their very last. Though Sir James Matheson gave plenty of employment at draining, trenching, and so on, many of the people, as long as they had a cow to sell, preferred to do so rather than to work, so they became very much reduced. The last year, I believe, was bad enough, but it was only one year.
46039. Is there a large part of the population of the Lewis, do you think, that could be profitably employed in fishing if they had proper harbours for their boats ?
—There is. [Appendix A, xl., lxxxix., and xc ]
46040. And apart from the land ?
—Apart from the land. The fishing banks in the neighbourhood of the west side of Lewis are, perhaps, the most productive of any part round the coast. Another thing that convinces me that a man who works the land should not be a fisherman is that the very heaviest cod and ling fishing is in the months of spring, when they should be laying down the crop. The consequence is that the men are at the fishing, and the poor women are toiling the land. I can say that the women of the Lewis are the most virtuous and the most industrious people I know on the face of the earth. I think if the men were half as industrious as the women they would be far better off.
46041. Have the people of the island of Lewis any aversion to a seafaring life ?
—The people of Lewis are divided very much into a Celtic and a Scandinavian race. The Celtic people occupy the south end and the Norsemen are in the north end. I tried to mix them as much as possible. I sent a lot of the Celts among the Norsemen. The Norsemen are splendid fishers, and have no fear of sea or weather. The others are rather like the cat. They don't like to go to sea if they can help it.
46042. Is the parish of Lochs in the south ?
—Yes, but it is more Scandinavian than Celtic.
46043. And where do you think the Celtic population chiefly are?
—In Uig and away on to Barvas, Shabost, Bragar, and so on.
46044. Have you made it a matter of special observation to notice the physical characteristics of the races?
46045. What are the physical characteristics which distinguish them ?
—The Norseman is more industrious, particularly as a fisherman. He seems to have no fear of the sea. He will go to sea almost in any weather. The other people will wait for good weather. '
46046. But what are the physical characteristics'?
—The Norsemen are generally fair-haired, tall, strong men. The Celt is a little dark man, and very active and very fiery. You cannot put a Norseman into a passion. You might try to chaff a man in the Ness, or do anything you like with him, and he will never lose his temper; but as to the Celt you can set fire to him in two minutes.
46047. What is the historical reason for that difference of race in the parishes of the island ?
—I don't know, except that the Norsemen settled more in the north part of the island.
46048. Is there any difference in the mode of thought or customs of the inhabitants of the one part of the island from the other ?
—Well, I think that in the Celtic part they are more given to grazing. They have more sheep and cattle, and prefer working with sheep and cattle. The Norsemen are more toilers of land and fishermen.
46049. Do you think the population of Lewis has increased too largely ?
—Much too largely. There are only two ways of relief that I see —that a number of them, if they had harbours, should be employed more at fishing, and get a very small extent of land—that and emigration.
46050. Do you think it would be possible to accommodate the present population of Lewis on the island if the land were distributed among them?
—Well, I think they would be much better, some of them, to emigrate. There are too many.
46051. But do you think it would be possible to find land for them all on the island ?
—If they go on for a few years at the rate they are going, they will make it impossible. Lewis is an island, and there is a limit to it, and I think the limit is reached.
46052. But is there land enough for the present population ?
—No, I think not, unless you have more piers and more fishing. There is a stretch of twenty-five miles between the Butt of Lewis and Loch Roag, and no place where boats can land. There are two or three places where harbours could be made at a not very large outlay, and I think these would accommodate the people very much. It is not the being at sea that they are afraid of; it is the getting away from land, and the getting in to land. Just now they have to use a very small boat, which they can pull out of the water, and they have perhaps to pull up a bank thirty or forty feet high, and it is pitiable to see the poor people striving to take these boats up after being out at sea. I know that many of them have been ruptured by that work. It is that which prevents them fishing; whereas if they could go freely out and in they would fish ten days for every one day they fish just now,
46053. Do you think, for the proper development of the fishery there, it is absolutely necessary, in addition to harbours, that there should be regular and rapid communication by steamers for carrying away the fresh fish that cannot be salted ?
—Yes. I think, if there were a harbour at the Butt, where a steamer could go into, it would be untold the wealth they could get. I have seen boats landing 300 and 400 and 500 of the most splendid ling there, from which, if sent to market, they would have made as much in a week as they now make in three months.
46054. They also catch a great deal of turbot ?
—They do, which they make into bait because they cannot get it to market. If they had swift steamers, and people offering even 5s. for a turbot, they would be very glad to take it.
46055. The Chairman.
—You seem to have a very high sense of the importance of harbours and boat shelters. When you were there you were associated with a very rich and benevolent proprietor. Was his attention not called to that question ?
—Constantly, but that was one of the few points which he and I differed upon. I constantly wished that some of the money expended on other things should be expended upon harbours, and he always said
—' Well, the fish-curer should do it. The people who are getting the benefit of this fish trade should do it ' I said, ' You will get it in another way. You will get it in rents.' But I could never get him to see the advantage to him. He always said that the fishermen and curers, and the people engaged in the trade, should do it for themselves.