Glasgow, 20 October 1883 - Hugh Mackay / Sutherland

HUGH MACKAY, Merchant, Greenock (60)—examined.

44539. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to make with reference to the recruitment of the 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders ?

44540. Will you read it ?
—It is an extract from a speech delivered by Mr A. M'Leod in Aberdeen on 12th December 1843.
—'I now beg leave to correct a mis-statement in Mr Hugh Miller's pamphlet, Sutherland as it was and is. It is very strange that such an excellent scholar and gentleman as Mr Miller could make such a gross mis-statement, as that the 93rd regiment come down to the number of five hundred or six hundred to Dunrobin Castle to volunteer their services. This was not the case ; but it was not that gentleman's voluntary mistake: he was misinformed by factors and others under the name of respectable, who were concerned in the matter, and none but those respectable gentry in that quarter are capable of giving false statements, as I stated to some of those factors at their own tables last year. The real facts connected with the raising of
that regiment are as follows :
—" The 93rd never was a Fencible regiment, more than I am a Fencible regiment. The fencible regiment alluded to was disbanded in the beginning of March 1799, and they were also forcibly enlisted. But the general was sent to every parish, and called every tenant with their sons to the parish minister's parlour, where they were met by the Countess's factor with his rental book on the table, and every tenant who would not give one of his sons to the general had his name scored out of the rental book. This general got in this way in Sutherlandshire about 500 young men, thus forcibly enlisted rather than see their parents and relatives reduced to beggary, so the 93rd was embodied in the latter end of March 1800. But I never knew a father who consented to give his son to the army for his land, but the sons themselves, rather than see their parents and relatives, as I have already stated, go to ruin, enlisted, having been promised that the leases were to endure for ever. But, besides the clearing system in 1807, their houses were burned about their ears. In the year 1816, when Napoleon, late emperor of France, was secured prisoner in St Helena, another clearing took place, and several thousands from the county of Sutherland were forced into exile, and none of those soldiers on return to their native county, where so high promises were held out to them, found their parents and relatives they so fondly expected to meet, neither would they get one foot of land whereon to rest their weary limbs; so much for the boasted promises of nobility. It may be said that it was too simple of this loyal people to leave security of this kind to chance. But it is to be recollected that the people of whom we speak consider it a point of honour to place unsuspected confidence in their chief, if needing security of their rights to be maintained on the soil which their own and their forefather's sword had won and defended. But what shall we say of the house of Sutherland coming forward and taking advantage of the unguarded state in which the honourable feeling of this loyal people had left their dearest rights, to expel them from the fields, mountains, and houses of their forefathers, convert their very virtues into instruments of their destruction, turning their confidence in the honour of the house of Sutherland to their ruin ; what shall we say too of the Government which could lend the sanction of its name and support of its power to the performance of such a deed as the sweeping away of a people that stood so high in the estimation of those who were best able to judge both of their civil and military worth. The result of land monopoly throughout the Islands and Highlands of Scotland is not altogether confined to the crofter population of the country; that is too narrow a view to take; it affects the nation in a great variety of ways. It immediately affects the trade of a country, to have its resources locked up under stringent laws from being developed and utilised by the inhabitants to their own benefit and the general good of the country. When this inquiry that is so thoroughly and exhaustively compiled will be analysed, we expect the Government in their wisdom to find sufficient ground to warrant them, under any circumstances in which the land may be tied up in certain individuals, to make such alterations in the law as will relieve the land from any trammel that may be a hindrance to the development of the resources of the country and productive power of its soil. Keeping the best of the lands of this country a dwellingless waste, on the plea that few can derive a larger income from a wilderness, is a system, as it seems to me, that cannot be justified on any moral principle, short-sighted as the policy may be. River fishing, game, the land and its proper and legitimate use, are of the utmost importance to the nation, therefore it is the most important duty the nation can do for itself to press on the Government for a speedy and satisfactory settlement of these burning questions. It is universally admitted that all lands let for game preserves are virtually lost to the country —in fact, it would have been better to have it an ocean. Therefore, as a matter of public policy, I hold that it is competent for the Legislature to interfere and say in future that no lands in this country capable of cultivation, cattle or sheep farming, shall be let for game preserves, as it has a tendency to great evil and discontentment.'

44541. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is there any other point on which you wish to speak ?
—Nothing more.

44542. It is all in the paper ?
—It is all in the paper here. It is an extract from a speech delivered by a pensioner who had enlisted in the 93rd, against Hugh Miller's pamphlet in 1843. He had the greatest respect for that gentleman, but he knew the source from which he got his information.

44543. This pensioner was a Sutherland man ?
—He was an Assynt man who enlisted in the 93rd.

44544. Under the conditions he describes himself ?

44545. He was one of the people who considered themselves defrauded ?
—Yes, he was one of the people who enlisted under these engagements at the time. I remember of seeing the man at different times. He was just harrassed out of his country when he was trying to speak of it, so much so that on one occasion when he happened to be at Eddrachilles seeing a friend at the time his pension fell due, the parish minister, who was drawing the pension money, returned it back to London. You know what it is when a pensioner's money is returned. He is considered a dead man. He was obliged to go to London and represent himself as a living soul before he got his pension, and that was done by factors and people in Sutherland.

44546. He had to go the whole way to London ?
—Yes, only to show he was a living man, before he got his pension.

44547. I suppose the feeling has been universal in the county all along that this transaction which is described here was an actual bona fide transaction?
—Yes, that is the clear opinion.

44548. And you got this direct testimony to it from a party to it ?

44549. You remember the man yourself ?
—I remember seeing the man himself at times.

44550. And he was, of course, quite a reliable man ?
—He was too much of a man.

44551. He was a man whose statement upon any subject whatever would be received ?
—Yes, he gave his speech in Aberdeen, and it was never contradicted. Surely if Hugh Miller could have contradicted him he would have done it. He was a living man in those days.

44552. The belief all along has been quite uncontradicted throughout the whole land ?

44553. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have been examined already at Lochinver ?

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