Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Isle of Skye in 1882-1883

THE body of this book was in type before the Royal Commission to inquire into the grievances of the Highland Crofters began its labours, but its publication was delayed to enable me to glance at its proceedings in an Introductory Chapter. Some of the statements made in the book itself were described by certain interested individuals as exaggerations; others hesitated not to apply even stronger terms, without the slightest pretence to a personal knowledge of the facts. Keeping this in view, I resolved to await the result of the Inquiry of the Royal Commissioners in Skye before publishing this volume. The first portion of the work has appeared in my “History of the Highland Clearances,” now nearly out of print, but I felt that Skye deserved a volume specially dealing with itself, during a period in its history when the eyes of the whole of the British people, and indeed of the civilized world, were upon it The Social Unrest which has exhibited itself in the Island during the last two years, will prove the turning point in a long reign of oppression in the Highlands. To the Men of Skye will be due the honour of securing a complete change in the system of land tenure which has hitherto kept the Highlands under the foot of the oppressor; and this fact alone will give an interest to what might otherwise appear comparatively trifling incidents, but which, in the circumstances, I deemed worthy of record in the following pages.

Let us first see how the evidence given before the Royal Commission affects what appeared in my previous work, and what I reproduce in the first portion of this volume. When it first appeared, in my “ History of the Highland Clearances,” few people believed that the description given of the Social Upheaval and its results in the Braes and Glendale were not greatly exaggerated. Indeed, that was quite expected; for it does appear incredible that the antiquated customs and petty tyrannies inflicted upon a noble race by factors and landlords in that part of the Queen’s dominions were possible, within the bounds-of civilization, much less in the British Isles, whose leading statesmen, in the past, have in most cases secured the brighest settings in their reputations by taking the side of oppressed races in what were hitherto held to be much less favoured lands than our own. The Royal Commissioners examining into the grievances of the Highland Crofters have, during their Inquiry, not only brought to light facts corroborative of all that has ever been written or said on that subject, but disclosures have been made in the Isle of Skye which no one unacquainted with the facts could have believed, until, after hearing both sides—Crofters, Landlords and Factors,—it has now been placed beyond dispute. It is very remarkable, as well as instructive, that the factors made scarcely any attempt— much less succeeded—in rebutting any of the statements made in my recently published “Highland Clearances” about the state of affairs and what has led up to it, during the last two years, in the Braes and in Glendale.

All that I have written, and much more, about the Braes has been corroborated by the witnesses examined before the Commission; and the factor for Lord Macdonald, Mr. Alexander Macdonald, has not, in his long and—from his stand-point—able statement, read before the Commission, made any attempt to rebut a single statement which has been hitherto made.

Mr. Donald Macdonald, the famous “Tormore,” fails to contradict anything which I have written of his factorial rule in Glendale, or elsewhere; on the contrary, he admits it all and much more. At page 15, he is referred to in his capacity of judge, and before the Commission he fully accepted the position. In a curiously-involved statement at Portree he declared in this connection that, “In his capacity of factor, justice of the peace, and general well-wisher of the people, it had fallen to his lot to decide two cases against Peter Mackinnon, postmaster, Glendale.”. Referring to the harsh notice which he had issued against the. people of Glendale for trespassing on the lands of Waterstein, he not only admits having issued it, but adds that perhaps it “was injudiciously worded and written in a fit of temper”. “It was quite true,” he also admits, “that the small farm of Lowerkell was cleared and the larger farm of Ramasaig partially and nearly completely so.” He confesses to having put the people on their guard against reading certain newspapers and other literature, and then makes the important admission, from him, that, “taking the whole Island,” for which he was mainly responsible, “there was some foundation for the discontent that had been manifested;” and when asked, “Can you suggest any remedies?” he replied, “Give them more land, with all my heart,” and “I would put them on such a footing that they could not be deprived of their lands according to the whim of any proprietor, and certainly not of a factor. It would be a very unhappy thing if matters remained as at present.” When examined a few days earlier at Isle Ornsay he stoutly denied having issued notices to the effect that an additional rent of £2 should be charged against any one opening a small shop for the sale of groceries and provisions. The Rev. Finlay Graham, Free Church Minister of Sleat, however, in answer to the chairman, after having expressed reluctance to do so, said, “I have seen thendtiee; to the best of my knowledge it was this—that any shopkeeper in Sleat or Broadford would not be allowed to sell goods without an additional £2 of rent”. In answer to another question, the reverend gentleman said, “The general feeling in the district was, ‘ What 'are we coming to! ’ I could not say how long the notice was left, but I saw it on the door of the Inn at Isle Ornsay.” Tormore replied, “ I have no hesitation in saying, if that notice was put up, it must have been a forgery. I never ordered that notice to be put up, and the Innkeeper and his son are here to corroborate that no such notice was put up. The only way that I can account for it is this—I did put up a notice to the very effect that was borne out by Mr. Graham, not on this property, but on the property of Glendale. ... I must emphatically state that I put up no notices in the parishes of Strath and Sleat, but I did so in Glendale.” At Portree, however, he admitted “ that he might have been mistaken when denying that a notice had been put on the Inn doors as to a rent to be charged against shops ” in Sleat and Broadford. He did not deny that he compelled the incoming tenants to pay the arrears of their predecessors. The statements of the Glendale people to that effect were fully corroborated by several witnesses in Sleat, one saying, that “ the rule of the Estate was that the incoming tenant should pay the arrears of the out-going tenant,” and another that it was a common practice. “ I know it was the rule,” he says, and “ I know that Tormore, the factor, was demanding arrears from the incoming tenants.” Alexander Maclean, the last witness examined at Glendale, stated that “on taking a croft at Milovaig he was made to pay £20 of the arrears of his predecessor, to Tormore. He paid the sum down, but was only left two years in possession. During this time he was served with two summonses of removal, and although he was loth to go, after having paid so much money for the croft, he ultimately did so to escape from the persecution to which he was subjected.” Tormore did not attempt to deny this, but, on the contrary, in answer to Lord Napier, stated “ that the payment of arrears by the incoming tenants,” on Lord Macdonald’s estate, “ was a pretty general practice, and was enforced Asked as to his alleged participation in the profits of trade in the firm of Neil Kennedy & Co., Isle Ornsay, or whether he was a partner in the firm at the same time that he was factor for Lord Macdonald, he replied that he “ did not expect to be examined on that question” ! He however admitted “dealing in meal ” here, as well as in Glendale, and also that he told Mr. Kennedy on his taking the shop, on his recommendation, that, “ if my influence, or money, or my name was any use to him, it was at his service”. He “was in the habit of buying cattle from Lord Macdonald’s tenants while he was his factor ”. Lord Napier having put the following question,—“ Did it never occur to you that by trafficking with the people in this way, in your capacity of farmer, you exposed yourself to imputations?” Tormore innocently answered, “No”.

Murdo MacLean, Husabost, stated before the Commissioners that “ten days’ work was claimed by the proprietor from each crofter at Spring and Harvest times, and all the thanks and wages received was abusive language. The labour was so severe that it required the very strongest of the people to stand it, and was it not a disgrace to civilization that any human being should be compelled to perform horses’ work without thanks or wages?” -In cross-examination he admitted that this work was not given by the tenants last year, but added that “ the service would still be exacted if we did not rebel against it”. The following dialogue between the witness and the chairman is worth recording:—

Q.—Would the proprietor exact the services where it was inconvenient for the tenant to give it?

A.—We were bound to render the service any time it was wanted.

Q.—Supposing they were doing their own harvest work, would the proprietor take them away and make them work at his own harvest?

A.—Although only my wife were at home, and my corn going to the winds, she must needs do the landlord’s work when required. I remember coming home from the fishing after I had been four months away. I found my wife reaping the landlord’s com, and she asked, as a favour from the factor and manager, to be allowed to go home to prepare food for me, and she would not get leave. (Sensation).

Q.—Were you allowed to find a substitute for the work?

A.—Yes, if I paid.

Q.—It is stated in the paper read that abusive language was used?

A.—The language was so bad that I would be ashamed to repeat it in the presence of gentlemen.

Q.—On whose part?

A.—The manager, Campbell.

In the statement presented by Donald MacLean, Galtrigal, on behalf of his township, it was stated that “ they were also forced to work ten days a year, a man or woman from each croft, for the proprietor, and if they did not they were in danger of eviction. They had also to buy hooks from the proprietor to shear his own corn, and if they did not attend to his labour they were charged 2s. 6d. a day, but if they got any work from him for payment [over and above the ten days’ free labour], he only gave them is. and is. 6d. a day.

When questioned as to these practices on his estate, Dr. Martin said that when he first acquired the property, he “ then found the practice of free labour existing,” and he continued it. According to one of the witnesses, the Doctor largely increased the number of days, and this Dr. Martin did not deny. Asked whether his manager was in the habit of going round and buying the tenants’ cattle? Dr. Martin expressed unbelief, but added, “My manager might do some things of which I was not aware ”.

Q.—“ With reference to the custom of purchasing the fish, was that a rule of the estate? ”

A.—“ That was the rule before I had anything to do with it.” ’

Last Spring, Dr. Martin issued a notice which was posted up on the door of the local Post-office, and several other places, to the following effect:—

“All beasts bought from the crofters will be seized, whenever found, unless the purchase price be paid to me.” This notice I have myself seen, on the 19th of May, on the Glendale Post-office door.

It will, I think, be admitted that these statements, made by the witnesses, admitted by Tormore and Dr. Martin, more than fully corroborate everything that I have ever said or written as to the state of matters existing on the respective properties under their control in the Isle of Skye. I must, however, say a few words more in-this connection before parting with Tormore. His failings of memory “without his books,” have become proverbial in the West, and it is but charitable to assume that this weakness must be held responsible for contradictions and inconsistencies in his statements, otherwise very puzzling to the disingenuous. He has presented the world with a version of a certain conversation which he alleges to have taken place between himself and me in a railway train, in reference to the appointment of the Royal Commissioners, so grossly inaccurate that it appears quite inexplicable, but for his constitutional defect of memory. Whatever effect my efforts may have had in securing the Royal Commissioners, as Tormore puts it, I have no hesitation in admitting that it would be most unfair not to give him full credit for his share in our success, and that the Commission would yet be in the distant future, were it not for the impetus given to our efforts by the imperious conduct of Tormore in the Isle of Skye; and I only trust that he is as satisfied as I am with the result of the inquiry hitherto. Tormore, as a man, was a very good fellow, and one is sorry to find him placed in a position in which, by contact with a pernicious system, he not only becomes a changed man, but is, on occasions, driven to the commission of acts unworthy of a gentleman of his position and pretensions.

In connection with this case he brought upon himself, at Portree, a singularly severe, but well-merited rebuke from the chairman of the Royal Commission. Having, as he thinks, discovered qualities in others which clearly are not such as he can fairly lay claim to, if I may judge by the exhibition which he made before the Royal Commission at Portree; and after giving me credit for having “to answer for a lot of sins,” over and above any of the others whom he was pleased to designate as “the instigators of the rebellion in Skye and the West,” he elegantly exclaimed, that I “had got a broad back and a very thick hide”; whereupon Lord Napier peremptorily rebuked him, and told him that such language was “ not permissible,” and then, appealing to qualities which did not appear predominant in the particular case before him his Lordship thus addressed him:—“Your own sense of pro. priety,-and your gentlemanly feeling, should prevent your using language which is provocative and offensive ”. Poor Donald evidently felt the crushing rebuke, and he “ exposed the raw” to an unexpected degree.

Tormore, the factor, and Tormore, the man, are evidently too widely different persons. Indeed this is the case with most of his class. They have, in many instances, to do the dirty work of employers who would be perfectly ashamed and quite incapable of doing it for themselves, though they are not always ashamed to bask in the sunshine of society in the South on the proceeds of factorial meannesses and accumulated tyrannies on their neglected people and properties in the North.

Evictions in the Isle of Skye.

I shall now briefly point out the nature of the evidence submitted to the Royal Commision on Evictions from the Island, with many of which I was unacquainted when -I wrote my general history of the Highland Clearances. The extent to which these were carried out in the Isle of Skye, almost quite unknown outside its own borders, is simply astounding, and it is high time they were made as widely known as it is now possible to make them.

Mr. Neil Nicolson, Torrin, 76 years of age, in his evidence at Broadford, described those carried out on Lord Macdonald’s property in the south end of the Island during his own recollection. He was only five years old when the land in Sleat was laid out in crofts, and ten years after, the people were evicted from these lots, to make room for the late Major Macdonald of Waternish. They could not

get an inch of ground in Sleat, but were crowded into other places. Kilbride was cleared, 58 years ago, to make room for the late Rev. John Mackinnon, Parish Minister of Strath. There were 8 lots there, but more families; 5 more were from Carradale, and 9 from Ferrindonald. Those from Carradale were evicted by Tormore, and their lands added to his own farm. 22 families were evicted from Suishinish and Boreraig. Regarding these, fully described in my “Highland Clearances,” pp. 236-248, Donald Maclnnes, Duisdale, said, “I remember very well the removal of the people from Boreraig 26 years ago. Some of the people perished from the hardships they had to endure when put out of their houses. It was in time of snow they were put out; one man perished. He belonged to Suishinish. He was found dead at his own door after he had been evicted. His name was Alex. Matheson. There was great hardship connected with that eviction. The fires were extinguished, the houses knocked down, and the people forced out much against their will, the officers compelling them.”

Regarding Ferrindonald and Carradale, on Lord Macdonald’s property, Nicolson said, “These places, and a number more, are-in possession of Tormore, who has Sleat now from sea to sea. All these Clearings were on Lord Macdonald’s estates; the present is the ninth factor under whom I have been, and the fifth Lord Macdonald.”

Donald Mackinnon, Elgoll, on the property of Macalister of Strathaird, stated, “that from the township of Ceapach, no less than 44 families had been evicted in 1852, and 8 other townships in the neighbourhood were cleared at the same time. The tacksman who marches with them has six miles in extent, and the whole estate of Strathaird is in the hands of large sheep-farmers, except the square mile which forms the township of Elgoll, into which 64 families—47 crofters, and 17 cottars—have been congested to make room for sheep. There has been no resident proprietor on this estate since 1832.” Hugh Macpherson, Haripool, said, “That removals have been common there in his time, among whom were several widows.”

The Rev. Donald Mackinnon, Minister of Strath, was questioned as follows by Lord Napier:—“We have heard a great deal said of the eviction of the people in former times, of their land being taken from them, especially the hill pasture given to tacksmen, and of the people being crowded into inferior lands. Do you think that the system of creating large farms, and adding to them, and crowding the people into smaller holdings was in past times carried too far for the welfare and the happiness of the people?” Mr. Mackinnon replied, “Most undoubtedly; I think these immense sheep farms are great evils in the country. I have no hesitation in saying so, while I think a moderate sprinkling of comfortable tacksmen among the crofters is very much to their advantage”; and he added “that he thought it a certainty that the proprietors would not now be able to re-let the large holdings, except at a great reduction of rent”. Mr. Mackinnon is himself a farmer as well as a minister, and is therefore well qualified to express an opinion on this question. “I should like,” the reverend gentleman continued, “to see a tax imposed upon non-resident farmers and proprietors. It is one of the greatest disadvantages to our country that the landlords are non-resident, and I have no doubt that in some cases the people had been inconsiderately and selfishly used by the landlords for the purposes of increased rent.”

Finlay Maclnnes, Waterloo, produced the following letter, affecting 149 souls in- his township, every crofter there having received a similar notice :—

Tormore, Broadford, Skye, 21st October, 1872.

Mr. Finlay MacInnes, 16 Waterloo, .


I have to intimate that your land and grazings have been valued at £1 15s., and you are to be charged at that rate from Whitsunday last. If you consider yourself aggrieved, you will intimate the same to me by writing within ten days from this date,- when I will relieve you of your land and let it to another.

Your obedient servant,


N.B.—I have strict orders to allow no arrears after Whitsunday.

Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh put it to MacInnes:—“Supposing you were not disposed to pay the increase of rent, the letter informs you that you will be turned out in the middle of a year! ” to which he replied—“I had no other expectations. I could not say that I would not pay, or that would have been the result; and everyone else in the township was in the same position.”

Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh, at a later stage pointed out that there were two illegalities in this notice, one raising the rent between the terms, and the other, in telling these poor people that unless they signified their acquiescence in ten days they would be removed from their holdings.

Bracadale Evictions.—Macleod of Macleod’s Property.

Malcolm Mackay, Struan Beg, stated that Dr. MacLean, Talisker, cleared the townships of Fiscavaig and Ardhoil of 12 families. Hugh MacCaskill, succeeded Dr. MacLean, and he evicted 16 families from Aird Bhreac and Heille. “ When Dr. MacLean found a crofter’s sheep on his farm, and the owner was not prepared to pay half-a-crown on the spot for it, he would have the ears of the sheep cut off close to the skull.” In reply to Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh, the witness continued—“ Dr. MacLean was not long in possession before he began to remove the people. Mac-Caskill had the place a year or two when he commenced the Clearances. The people were warned to remove. They were so ignorant at that time that they would remove for anything. The whole of Minginish was held by MacCaskill. It is now in the hands of two tenants. All the people removed by Dr. MacLean and MacCaskill were in comfortable circumstances. They had cattle and horses and sheep at that time. I am not aware that any of the people were in arrear, but Macleod of Macleod was due some of them money for making roads. The Clearances from MacLean’s land were made in the time of the last landlord, and those of MacCaskill in the present landlord’s time. The MacCaskill family came to poverty at last; they went to the dogs. - I never saw it [cutting off the ears] done by anybody else but himself. This mark is well-known as ‘ the thiefs mark’.”

The following proceedings, almost incredible, were derailed by John MacCaskill, Shoemaker, Ferrinlea:—“I have learned from older people than myself that the Clearances commenced about 70 years ago. MacCaskill had only Rhu-dunan in his possession at that time, and Glenbrittle was occupied by crofters in comfortable circumstances; he cleared it, and made a sheep run of it. There was then a church in Glen Inch, there is nobody there now to use it. ‘ The church is in ruins, and the manse is converted into a shepherd’s house. The clearances were made on the one side by MacLean and by MacCaskill on the other. About a dozen families all in comfortable circumstances were removed from Tusdale.”

In reply to Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh, he said—“There used to be 16 families in Crickernish; there is nobody there now but a shepherd. From other townships about 47 families were removed. Hugh MacCaskill was barely settled when he began the same operation as MacLean. The big township of Ferrinlea which was occupied by 30 families was cleared 50 years ago. A township in Minginish, with 12 families, was cleared, and the people in a place called Lec-a-chlerich were evicted and the people scattered throughout the world. The MacLeod family began the Clearances and MacCaskill finished them. There was another township near Carbost Beg, in which there were four families who were very well off. The daughter of a widow told me that her father had given Hugh MacCaskill ;£i8o to help him when he came to Talisker, but when the place was cleared, he removed her mother along with the others. This woman saw her father’s corn shoved into the river when the place was cleared to make a distillery.”

The Chairman—“ Is that the whole list of Clearances you have to mention?”—“No; I may say that what the Assyrians left undone the Babylonians finished. I refer to the present tacksman as the Babylonian. Those whom I named before are dead. I want now to speak of the living. I begin with Mr. Cameron, the present tacksman of Talisker. He got the tack 33 years ago, and when he came he made up his mind that there should be nobody else on the place at all. MacCaskill had left a remnant of the people for his own convenience, but when Mr. Cameron came to Talisker he would have nothing to do with any of the people, and, as I have understood, he began to litigate with the landlord, holding out that their being allowed on the tack was not mentioned in his lease. He would give us nothing, and would have nothing to do with us. It then came about that he would have to take the tack as he got it or leave it.

He deprived the cottars of the grazings which they had for 20 years. They could not get any. He also took from us our peat moss and gave us a bog which neither man nor beast had used up to the time he measured it out to us by the yard. The cottars who had been left by MacCaskill at Fiscavaig, Cameron deprived of their peat moss. They got for it a piece of bad land which could not be called earth or. moss. They had to cut it for fuel. Then he removed ten cottar families which had been left by MacCaskill at Torten-an-Fhirich, and ten or eleven from Fiscavaig, and put them in Ferrinlea, dividing the existing holdings. For this we were obliged to work for the tacksman of Talisker whenever he required us. The strongest man, though he were as strong as Samson, only got is. a day, and the women 6d. We had often to walk nine or ten miles to attend to his work. Though we had other employment we had to leave it and work for the tacksman if he asked us to do so. Persons in business like myself lost our trade in consequence. He complained of the way in which my brother and I were doing his work. We saw it would not be easy to satisfy him. I told him we would stop working for him entirely and pay him in money the equivalent of our work according to the rate of wages in the country. Because I had the coolness to say that, my mother, who is about 75 years of age, and myself were served with a summons to remove. There was nothing for it but that I should apologise to the tacksman, and sign papers that I would be obedient to him in the future, or that the whole of our family should leave the country. When my brother saw what was likely to happen he went to Talisker to make peace; he said he would go in for the land, and asked that the matter should be allowed to pass by. 'We have been allowed to remain on that footing.”

In answer to further questions, he said—“Mr. Cameron of Talisker told me that the landlord had blamed him for his usage of the people. If it had not been for MacLeod’s interference there would not have been a representative of the families of the original inhabitants of the district to bear testimony here to-day. It was MacLeod’s wish to keep these people—and that was what caused the dispute.”

Alexander MacCaskill, cottar, Cuilore, stated, in reply to Sheriff Nicolson, that “all in his township have been put off other townships forty years ago. There were removed, from Meadale ten or twelve families; from Somerdale ten families; from Crossburgh ten or eleven families; and from Bendhu six families.” He “ remembered two of these removals. They took place when Norman MacLeod (father) and Martin MacLeod was tacksmen at Drynoch. All these townships were" now vacant. Many of the people went to America. Some have succeeded abroad, some not.”

In reply to Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh, he said—“That ten townships were cleared on Drynoch by Captain MacLeod. There were cleared in addition to those he had already mentioned, Ferrin-nan-cailleach, with five or six families; Colbost, with four families; Glenbracadale, with two families; Glenachadaloch, with three families; Invermeadale, with five or six; and Boust, with four families. All these places wyere empty now, unless there was a shepherd.”

Alex. Matheson, Carbost, w’ho said that “ the people wrere turned out wholesale” to make room for the distillery, added, “I have to complain of the poverty of the people of Carbost and the miserable houses they have. The families, until they are grown up, have to sleep in the same room, which is a sheer violation of nature. Our meal mill has gone to ruin. For the past twenty years there has not been a peck of meal ground in it; and I have seen my father having to wait for a whole week for his turn at the mill. That was before the first potato blight. As to the Clearances, I have only to repeat what the previous delegates have stated.”

Donald Campbell, crofter, Struan Mor, said—“I wish to state that the townships of Colbost, Ebost, Ullinish, Struan-mor, and Struanbeg were added to the tack of Ullinish when Mr. Gibbon became factor to MacLeod. The tenants were also removed from Glen Colbost, Glen Ose, and Glen MacCaskill. They were in very comfortable circumstances before they were removed. Five of the families were sent to a wet, black place called Garmore, which had not been cultivated hitherto. Twenty families who were in Ullinish he sent to Struanmor, where he gave them a corner of land which was lotted out among them. That land had been cultivated for 40 years. All this happened in 1841. None of the people had a cow, but the merchant. He left 3 or 4 families in Ebost,-and 5 families- went to Australia to try and better their condition. Mr. Gibbon compelled them to give him 4 days’ labour. Mr. Gibbon was 15 years in possession of the tack, when he was succeeded by his nephew, Mr. Norris, who was not better than him. If a man married, his father dare- not give him shelter for a night, and the young man and his wife must needs leave and go into the cities. When the parents- became old they became poorer, until they came on the poors’ roll, aS their children were not allowed to remain with them. After Norris, Simpson, his brother-in-law, took up his farm. He was a non-residenter. He had a manager on the farm who was the worst that ever came to us. He treated the people very badly. He was ten years in the place, and after him Mr. Robert Macdonald took the farm.” Campbell further stated that “there were other three places cleared in Ullinish and Ebost, besides those already mentioned, viz.: Nagli, Ose, and Balmeanach. There were four or five families in Ose who were removed toanother part of the same place, and were made to build their houses on a peaty soil beside the river; and when the river was in flood some of them had to flee for their lives. Their new place was much worse than their old. He did not know how many were in Balmeanach, but the remains of a considerable number of houses might still be seen there. Ose and Balmeanach were made into tacks, and these, with Glen Caskill and Glen Ullinish, were made into one tack by Mr. Steven.”

The following account given at Skaeboat by Neil Shaw, 60 years of age, crofter, Eyre, is well worthy of record:— “I was in Duirinish at one time. There were ten tenants in the township. Bad times came upon us, and Mr. MacCaskill and his officer said if we put our stock into their hands they would get better prices for us than we could command ourselves. This we did, and it went on for two years, before the end of which the tenants had got so much into debt that they were unable to keep their holdings, and he took the land himself. Some of the crofters went to Australia, myself and four others remaining here. We got a new township laid out for us at £40 rent. We were there for five years. There were seven of us located on the ground at first, but latterly only five. When Tormore became factor he never rested until he became possessed of our lands. He removed the five of us, although, I believe, not one of us was a sixpence in arrears; but when Tormore became factor he took some convenient lots adjoining our township, and he never rested until he got possession of our land. Tormore was then factor for Orbost and for Lord Macdonald, and he promised me that if I went to Eyre everything would be done for me. We did not want to leave the township we were in in Orbost. Tormore cleared two townships—Ramasaig, in which were 22 families; and Lowerkell, in which I. resided, and took the land himself. He stated that the rent was too heavy for us and the township too big for us, and I replied that another crofter and myself, were quite willing to take it all. I am a good deal worse off than I was. I was free of debt then; I am not now. The year that I came to Eyre turned out to be a bad one, and I got largely into debt before I could pull myself and family through. One particular thing that can be done for us is to give us land at its value. I believe I am paying double rent for the land which I have. Should we get good land, I would like it to be a condition that neither the landlord nor factor should have the power to remove us. I would not take a lease because they would just put us away at the end of it. I know too much of factor’s work now. In the event of our getting land at a fair rent, we would require to be made sure against eviction.”

The Glendale Evictions.

From Lower Milovaig, 8 families were evicted between 1840 and 1845. At different periods 12 families were cleared from Upper Milovaig, half of these being removed 15 years ago. Within the last fifty years, 19 families were removed from Ramasaig. No new lots were provided, but the old lots were subdivided by the proprietor, for the %occupation of those of them who could not be induced to leave the country altogether. Alexander Ross, Fasach, stated, “that out of 22 families who formerly tenanted these lands, there were now only three cottars; and the land, like others named, was now under sheep.” Allan MacCaskill corroborated this, and added:'—“It is 19 years last spring since Tormore became factor, and he left about a year ago. He held in his own hands a considerable portion of the best lands of the estate. He removed the crofters from Lowerkell, Ramasaig, and Hamara. When MacCaskill complained to Professor Macpherson, one of the Trustees, the latter told him. that “ he would take my holding off my hands, but there was no word about what I was to get instead. I said to myself there was no use in doing anything further about it; it would, only be ‘the gallows succeeding the fever’. I was the man who summoned the gamekeeper to Court seven years ago for killing my dog, and for firing his gun in the direction, of my wife.. The gamekeeper was fined 10s, with an alternative of; three days’ imprisonment. A man gave evidence in my favour in that case, and he was deprived of his croft in. consequence. He was the best neighbour I ever had; I knew he was not, in arrears. He gave evidence in the middle of May,, at Portree, and next year he and I were served with notices of removal. In 1834, Colbost had been cleared to make room for Tolmie, a sheep-farmer, but at the end of his fourteen years’ lease, the people got the land back again, when the late proprietor, Sir John MacLeod, returned home from India. MacRaild, the factor, however, unknown, to., Sir John, took away a part of the towhship worth £16, but still charged the old rent against the small tenants, though directed'by Sir John to give them the whole of the lands at the old rent. The landlord only visited his property once during the last fifty years:” Mr. MacLean, Hamara, said, “Tormore was displeased with me because I gave hospitality to two persons who visited the glen, and he threatened to do for me because of that”.

Dr. Martin’s Estate.

John Mackinnon said, that “Scorr was depopulated by Mr. Nicolson’s predecessor. Like the other townships on the estate, Ferrinvicquarrie had been deprived of the sheep and hill pasture. Mr. Nicolson imposed four days’ free labour on them; Dr. Martin increased it to ten.” This was not denied. Regarding this free labour, Alexander Mackenzie, crofter, Boreraig, in a' statement presented by him on behalf of that township, said, “ that at this unlawful labour, the grieve, named: Campbell, used to make them work like slaves. The women were in perfect dread of him. If they did not work as- hard as he wished, or if they were absent for a day, her would threaten them with eviction. There were 26 families crowded into the township. Both men and women had now to do the work of the horse, while their children were going about naked for want of clothing.” No attempt was made by Dr. Martin to refute this evidence when afterwards examined by the Commissioners. On the contrary, he admitted it all, and appeared to think that such proceedings were quite justifiable.

Macleod of Macleod’s Property of Dunvegan.

Dr. Fraser, Edinbane, in reply to Mr, Fraser-Mackintosh, said that he rode about a great; deal, aver the Island, and in the course of his observations he constantly saw the ruins of hundreds of houses that were once occupied by the people. He saw them on every hill-side, and the appearance presented by the grass about these places denoted that there was a considerable depth of good soil; most of the spots were pretty and green. .

Mr. Malcolm MacCaskill, Kilmuir, Duirinish, who stated that his father had been evicted four times, handed in a long statement, in the course of which he said :—“The proprietors hate to see the face of man, as their Clearances of the land show. They have more respect for sheep and cattle; when a crofter leaves the place or dies, his next neighbour will not get his croft, but it is given to a stranger. There were seven crofters removed about fourteen years ago in order to add their lands to those of the new Hotel at Dunvegan.”

John MacFie, aged 74, after stating that he had been in his present croft for forty-six years, continued :—“In 1840, there were seventeen families removed from Feorlick by Mr. Gibbon, 'die tacksman, who took the land and the people on it. They were placed, some by the sea, some on peat land which had never been cultivated. Some of them did not get a place on earth on which to put a foot. I myself saw them living under a sail spread on three poles, below high-water mark. One of the crofters, Donald Campbell, was warned by the ground-officer for giving refuge to a poor man who had no house. The ground officer came and pulled down the house, .and took a pail of water and threw it on the fire. By the noise made in the extinguishing of the fire and the denseness of the steam, the wife went out of her mind. He never saw one so mad. Mr. Scobie came afterwards, and Macleod of Dunvegan gave us all over to him. He said that it was God who sent him there. Rather than settle on the mossy ground which they were shown, two of them preferred to go to Australia. They died on the passage, and were thrown overboard. When Campbell was put out of his house, not a tenant was allowed to give him shelter. He had nine of a family, and they had to remain on the hillside on a wet night. Scobie took our hill pasture, which we had for fifty or sixty years, and settled crofters upon it. We are still paying for that hill pasture. We have no road, and if any of our people die in the winter he has to be buried in the sea or in the peat moss. Scobie closed up the road to the church-yard with a gate, and before we could pass • that way we would have to break down the gate.”

Waternish, the Property of Captain Allan Macdonald.

In the life-time of Major Macdonald, the present proprietor’s father, a great amount of pasture was .taken from the people, which, as Donald Mackinnon said, “our forefathers had". Another witness, John MacLean, said, “Factors came before the Macdonalds got it, and these are the people that spoil a place. The last factor that was before the Macdonalds removed the people from the high to the low ground near the shore, took away their sheep and horses, and put stock of his own on the hill.” According to Neil MacDiarmid, “ the west side of Waternish was cleared”. He'also states, “ I cannot say to a mile how much. land the proprietor occupies himself, but he has the ground of several townships. I cannot give an estimate of the land once arable and occupied as townships now in the proprietor’s possession • I will not try it, but it is big enough. If you are on board the steamer, you will see that it extends from sea to sea.” Asked if he could give any idea of the number of families that formerly occupied the lands now in the hands of the proprietor, he said:—“There were 18 families in Minsh; 4 in Baile-Sheorach; 18, latterly, in Scorr; and 10 in Lower Halistra”. He thought all these clearances were made by the present proprietor’s father, about 1849, and others were made by Mackinnon of Corry, while factor for Grant, an earlier proprietor. One of the witnesses here, Alexander Morrison, in reference to the Glendale martyrs, ominously declared that, “ The parties who were the means of getting this Royal Commission for us, are now suffering in prison, and we are quiet here; but if we don’t get justice, we will go to prison ourselves, or else we will sell our lives as dear as possible! ”

Grishornish, the Property of Mr. Robertson.

Murdo MacLean, Crofter, Edinbane, said that “there were plenty of evictions in Grishornish and Coishletter, before the time of the late Mr. Macleod. Many of us have seen the law-officers come and strip the roofs in Edinbane, and pour water down to extinguish the fires. The people evicted mostly emigrated. They got no compensation. The land is now largely in the hands of Mr. Robertson, the factor.” He “ makes us twice a year build up a dyke that keeps our own sheep out of our own grazings. We have to submit to such things for fear of being evicted. There is land we might get on the Grishornish estate, from which crofters had been removed, such as at Coishletter, which was cleared about twenty-nine years ago, when Cameron was proprietor.” Proceeding eastwards we pass through the estate of Lyndale.

Here all that was brought out in evidence amounted only to the curtailment of hill pasture, which had then become the universal practice, and the precursor to ulterior evictions from the arable portion of the people’s holdings. Several crofters had been removed from one place to another, but no evictions, in the usual sense of the term, have been carried out The reader must now take a long drive to Kilmuir,

The property of Major Fraser, the first portion of the Island in which open expression was given to the dissatisfied feelings of the people. As he passes along, the large farm of Skorrybreck, showing unmistakeable evidence of having at one time supported a large population, is left on the right, while on the left and in front, between him and Kilmuir, are the large tacks of Kingsburgh and Skirinish, both of which, also, at one time maintained an extensive population in positions of great comfort, while the large tenants themselves were none the less so.

John Gillies, South Creil, Uig, said that he had been removed five or six years ago, with five others, while at the same time, an equal number of families were cleared from the opposite side of the loch, and he knew no reason for these removals “except the will of the landlord”. There was land not far off which would be suitable for the people if they could get it. “Glenuig is a beautiful glen. It is in possession of Mr. Urquhart, the Innkeeper. That glen, fifteen or sixteen years ago, was in possession of small tenants- The overcrowding in the district was caused by the clearing of the glens to make room for large sheep-far ms.” Peter Macdonald, Glenhinisdale, stated that the hill pasture was taken from the people, there, sixty years ago, to be added to the already large farm of Kingsburgh.

Twenty families were removed from the lower ground of the farm now occupied by Mr. Urquhart, with the Inn, in Major Fraser’s time.

Malcolm Nicolson, Schiadder, stated that originally they held more fertile crofts than they now do, “but these” he said, “we were deprived of; our original crofts were turned into a sheep-farm. There were 42 crofters in all in the place, and we were all removed. Some went to Australia, some to America, and to various other places. We were then comfortable. We are now quite the reverse. It was Major Fraser who removed us. There were great hardships experienced in connection with the removals from Glenuig. Many shed tears.” Angus MacInnes, merchant, Pecscoraid, said—“The removals of the people have had a great deal to do with their poverty. I never heard of removals to a better place. I used to be a crofter and was twice removed.” Donald Macqueen, Conista, Kilmuir, stated that the rents had been raised four times, though their hill pasture had been taken from them, and the factor considerately told them that they “could leave if they were not pleased. Eighteen families were removed from Duntulm and their lands added to that already cumbrously large farm.” The hill pasture*was taken from the crofters of Herkbusta, eighteen years earlier, when it was divided between Monskadt and Duntulm. The tenants of Hong-ladder were similarly treated, their grazings given to the same large tacksmen, and the poor people removed from good arable crofts to very inferior land. That the want of pasture is the main cause of the existing poverty is the universal song.

Norman Stewart, crofter, Valtos, said that the best piece of the hill pasture was taken from one end of the township, and that overcrowded the rest. The part of the grazing taken from them was also added to Duntulm. “The people are poorer than I can tell. Their poverty is indescribable. When they go to the dealer for a boll of meal the animal he is to get for it must be marked. We are constantly getting poorer. Some of our poverty has been caused by our hill pasture having been taken away.” Archibald Macdonald, Garafad, said that “ they were not making the most of the land owing to insecurity of tenure. They did not know but what they might be deprived of the remainder of their holdings as well as what was already gone. If the landlords did the one they might do the other. They were only putting the ground in heart to the extent which they could exhaust in one year.” Questioned by Lord Napier as to the evictions at Bornesketaig, Kilmuir, eighteen years ago, he said, “ both crofters and cottars were removed, and their township was added to Monkstadt. Four of the cottars were placed in Totescore and other places from Balgown. Four crofters were removed, and, after, the adjoining township of Feaull was cleared; there were two tenants in Feaull. One left of his own accord, and the other had to give up the place owing to excessive rent. After that Lachasay, on which there was one tenant, was cleared and the land added to Duntulm. Besides the tenant who paid rent there were two families who did not pay rent. The township of Scorr, adjoining Lachasay, was afterwards cleared of two families, and the town of Osmagarry was next added to Duntulm. The lots in Bornesketaig were then as numerous as they are to-day, but I have been told by old persons that they were once occupied by a number as small as four to seven. The township lands were more extensive then than they now are. All these evicted people were placed in other townships on the property, and for the most part on land which had been exhausted by their predecessors.

The lots they were put into had been vacated by crofters who had been compelled to leave through the poverty of the land and their straitened circumstances. Some of the tenants who were removed were not able to take crofts at all, and they became cottars. There were in all 24 families evicted.”

John Mackenzie, Malagar, after stating that his whole district was deprived of the hill pasture to the extent of two-thirds, said—“Unless we get a reduction of rent we cannot hold out long, as we will soon lose all we. have ”; and he then naively added, “ We were hearing such good news from Ireland, that we were inclined to turn rebels ourselves in order to secure the same good results ”.

Norman Munro, Catechist, Clachan, was examined by the chairman about the propriety of the people emigrating to the colonies, when the following dialogue occurred :—

Q.—“What do you think should be done?”

A.—“That they should get cheaper rents, get more land to keep them in employment without running from place to place to work for money to support their families. There is no doubt that the custom of going away for several months in the year to different places to look for employment has had a bad effect on the happiness and character and morality of the people. If the men remained at home with their wives and children, and earned their subsistence here, they would be happier and better.” .

Q.—“What about unmarried people? Could young men not improve their condition by going to other parts or to the colonies?”

A.—“Well, I think they would just be as happy at home. If the land, after being properly sub-divided, was unable to support the whole, then the rest could go to the colonies, but the best of the land lies' waste in the meantime.”

Q.—“But would it not be better to sub-divide the land to fewer, and send the rest away to the colonies ; as, by the time you speak of, the colonies would be filled up, and there would be more to send away?”

A.—“Well, that is a question; but I would divide the land in the meantime, and let the future look after itself. Do you not think, my lord, that I have a good right to the lands for which my forefathers died. I had an uncle who was taken away by Macleod of Macleod for the defence of his country., My grandfather and my father went into his croft at Colbost, but they were afterwards evicted. Have we not as much right to these lands as strangers or deer? It is the claiming of such rights in respect of what our fathers did for the country that has been causing the little disturbances in the island.”

Rents were increased to an incredible' amount, while the hill grazings, and the best portions of the arable land were, at the same time, taken away, and that not less than on four different occasions, since Major Fraser acquired the property. The case, of

The Brave Old Crofter

will illustrate this and other high-handed proceedings on this estate so completely that I am tempted to give it at length. The following authenticated version of it is from the Celtic Magazine for August:—

Donald Nicolson, formerly of Totescore, but now of Solitote, Kilmuir, stated that he was past 78 years of age; that he was formerly a crofter, but that Captain Fraser all at once doubled his rent, which increase he. most reluctantly agreed to pay. He was then asked to pay more, which he naturally refused, after which he was forcibly evicted, and his lot given to Mr. Macleod, the tacksman of Monkstadt, local factotum for Captain Fraser, who sent round word that any one who gave Nicolson a night’s shelter would be treated in a similar manner next year. Having related how he was evicted from his home and lands, and turned outside, Nicolson continued—

“My son’s wife and her two young children were with me, and we were all that night in the cart shed, and our neighbours were afraid to let us in, and were crying over us. There was plenty of meal outside, but we had no fire to make a cake. We lived in the stable all the summer. I could only erect one bed in it, and my daughter and my son’s wife and two children slept in the bed, and myself slept on the stones. During a vacancy, the Presbytery of the Established Church allowed me to enter the glebe. After that I got refuge in the house of a poor woman at Duntulm, and the factor, Mr. Alexander Macdonald, Portree, challenged the tacksman of Duntulm for allowing this poor woman to keep me in her house. Mr. Grant, the parish minister, supports me now. That happened five years ago.”

The witness then appealed to Mr. Dugald Maclachlan, banker, Portree, who was present as interpreter, for confirmation of his story; and at the request of Lord Napier, Mr. Maclachlan gave the following explanation :—

“After Nicolson was put out of his house he entered a cart-shed, and thereafter he entered the stable; then he was evicted a second time, and an interdict taken out against him, forbidding him to enter for ever his dwelling-house, or at all to enter upon the lands, except for the purpose of preserving his crop, which Mr. Macleod had refused to take over with the croft. Under stress of circumstances, he entered the barn with his family. He was had up for breach of interdict, and for this breach of interdict was fined

I os. with the alternative of five days’ imprisonment. The expenses of the interdict were £8. Then there was a year’s rent due, and in addition to that he was charged with ‘ violent profits,’ which means the doubling of the rent for remaining in possession after the term. The whole came to ^35 odds, which the man paid.”

Lord Napier—“But do you mean to say that that money was really exacted, and passed into the factor’s hands?”

Mr. Maclachlan—“Yes. I arranged with the factor for him, and advanced the money out of the bank. When the markets came round he realised his stock, and paid me every penny of it.”

In conclusion, Nicolson said that his 'family was all scattered now, but if he got a piece of land, although he was now 78 years of age, he would gather them again about him.

When Mr. Alex. Macdonald afterwards gave his account of Skye affairs, to the Royal Commissioners, at Portree, the case of the “Brave Old Crofter” was referred to. The burden of Mr. Macdonald’s explanation was—

“That Nicolson was a litigious and disagreeable neighbour, who kept more stock than he was entitled to, and allowed his stock to stray on neighbouring lands. Many complaints were made of him. There was a decree got against him for about £55 3s. 2d., and off that he (Mr. Macdonald) struck voluntarily £25; that left ^30, and against that he was credited with the value of his house and effects to the extent of £16. He had only the remainder, £14, to pay. The law expenses, so far as he personally was concerned, were £9 to £10. £6 was paid to sheriff-officers, and the remainder was put to the credit of the incoming tenant, who had been kept out of the croft for a considerable time.”

This explanation did not agree with the statement made

by Mr. Maclachlan, who had corroborated Nicolson, at Uig; and at the close of hisr subsequent examination, at Portree, Mr. Maclachan desired to make a further explanation regarding the case. He said that “ he feared an impression had gone abroad that there was a discrepancy between the two statements. There were some outsiders who did not alto-' gether understand the question.”

Lord Napier—“ I don’t altogether understand it myself.” (.Laughter.)

Mr. Maclachlan stated that the whole sum of £35 11s. 8d. was paid to the landlord—and no portion of it was returned; and he produced a receipted account under Mr. Macdonald’s hand, being a note of “Rent and violent profits and expenses due by D. Nicolson to Captain Fraser of Kilmuir ”. The note, which Mr. Maclachan produced, was as follows:—

Rent and Violent Profits' ......

... £16



Expenses decerned for ......

.... 4



Do. further ....... ...

— 3



Extracting ............

... 0



Officer ejecting, and party......

... 2



Expenses of Interdict proceedings ...

... 8




- £35



Less Valuation of House ......

... 15



Balance paid in cash ......

... £19 14


The proprietor thus got the total sum of £35 11s. 8d. from Nicolson. Of that sum, £15 17s. 6d. was the valuation of Nicolson’s own property, while the balance of £19 14s. 2d. was paid by Mr. Maclachlan (acting for Nicolson) to the factor, on 5th December,, 1877,. and for which he held the. receipt produced.

Mr. Macdonald here said that “ anything which was got for violent profits went to the incoming tenant to pay the damage which he was entitled to for not getting possession at Whitsunday. The proprietor got the rent, and nothing but the rent; and, of course, Mr. Maclachlan did not know that.” * . '.

Mr. Maclachlan—“Of course, I don’t; but Nicolson paid to you, in the first place, the sum that I have mentioned. ” Lord Napier, to Mr. Macdonald—“Have you any other statement to make? Nicolson’s statement was that his rent had been doubled, and that he was willing to stick to his land for all that, but that he was charged £10 more, which "really was the straw that broke this tenant’s back.”

Mr. Macdonald—“That was his statement, but we deny it. It was for his own misconduct that we put him out.”

Lord Napier—“Was Nicolson’s rent doubled?”

Mr. Macdonald—“ It was, my lord.”

Lord Napier—“Now, Mr. Macdonald, why was his rent doubled?”

Mr. Macdonald—“It was doubled when all the other rents were doubled.” (Great Laughter.)

Lord Napier—“Were all the other rents doubled?”

Mr. Macdonald—“His rent was doubled like all the other rents of that township, and it was according to the valuation of Mr. Malcolm, Nairn. This man was evicted for his own misconduct.”

The Chairman—“Mr. Maclachlan alluded to a model eviction on another estate—a case in which all the tenants petitioned the proprietor to have a certain tenant removed. Now, was the case of this poor man Nicolson as bad as that one? ”

Mr. Macdonald—“I think it was a worse case—(“ Oh ”) —or, at least, fully as bad.” (Laughter.) Mr. Macdonald added “that the other tenants complained of this crofter (Nicolson), but he himself had no ill-will towards him. He thought, however, his eviction was perfectly justifiable.”

Mr. Maclachlan had no doubt it would involve a long inquiry to prove Nicolson’s misconduct; but he would say that the impression which this eviction left on his mind, at the time was, that it was a most high-handed and arbitrary exercise of the landlord’s legal rights.” (Loud applause.) Mr. Macdonald—“ That was only your impression.”

Lord Napier—“We are quite sure that in this matter Mr. Maclachlan acted a most honourable and humane part according to his judgment.” (Loud applause.)

An incomplete account of this shameful story appeared in almost every newspaper and in every language in Europe. It has been the theme of conversation and adverse criticism in every club and household in the kingdom, and further comment here is quite unnecessary. The mere record of the facts is enough to make every freeborn Briton blush for the fair fame of his native land.

Eviction Results in Skye.

These Skye evictions affected directly some seven hundred families, each, on an average, representing at least five persons, and making a grand total of more than three thousand five hundred souls, not less than two thousand of whom were evicted, during the last half century, from the property of MacLeod of MacLeod! What physical misery, what agony of soul these figures represent, it is impossible even to imagine! The number of those removed in Skye, as elsewhere, from one portion of the island to another,— even from one part of an estate to another,—can never be ascertained; and the misery and loss endured by these can only be surpassed by the misfortunes of those who had been forcibly driven from their native land altogether; though that unfortunate class are usually left out of account when the more drastic and complete forms of eviction are written or spoken of. There is also another class who were, and are being, deprived of their hill pasture and left to comparative starvation, with their cattle, on wretchedly small and unprofitable arable patches among the barren rocks on the .sea-shore. And all this misery and agony to gratify the inhuman- selfishness of some two or three persons who, by the mere accident of birth, enjoy a power which they could never have secured for themselves!

One of the results brought out by the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission in Skye is, that nearly all the meal mills that used, in great numbers, to be constantly employed twenty to fifty years ago, have fallen into decay or are lying completely idle in consequence of the evictions and of the best portions of the Island having been laid waste to make room for large sheep farms. These silent and dilapidated buildings now proclaim the sad truth respecting the once prosperous inhabitants of the famous and soldier-producing Island more eloquently than pen can possibly record.

Rent of Ben Lee Paid.

In reference to the correspondence published at pp. 101-106, and the settlement of the dispute between the Braes Crofters and Lord Macdonald, described at page 114, it may be right to state that Mr. Malcolm Mackenzie, while not admitting any claim whatever upon him, after Lord Macdonald’s refusal of his generous offer to pay two years’ rent for the Braes Crofters, on the conditions set forth in his published letters, already referred to, decided upon making a very substantial gift to the people of the Braes. With this object he requested me to proceed to the district; to pay a year’s rent of Ben Lee, amounting-to £74 15s; and to distribute £25 5s. in meal and money, making a sum of £100. in all, among the most necessitous of the inhabitants of the three townships of Gedintaillear, Balmeanach, and Peinichorairi; and these instructions were duly carried out in February last. The rent being after-hand, the tenants will thus, through the generosity of Mr. Mackenzie, have the use of Ben Lee for two years before they can be called upon to pay any rent whatever for it out of their own earnings.

In support of the claim made by the people of the Braes, it may not be inappropriate to quote here from a letter published by Macleod of Macleod in the northern Newspapers in July last. He says, that “Ben Lee was a Common, and as is well known, what is common to all is of little value to any ”. What are the statements and denials by Lord Macdonald and his representatives of the peoples’ rights to this Common worth, after this damaging admission by Macleod?

Liberation of the Glendale Martyrs.

The three Glendale crofters imprisoned for two months in the Calton jail, Edinburgh, for breach of interdict were liberated on 15th May, at 8 a.m., when they were met at the door by about 1000 people, headed by two pipers, who marched to the Ship Hotel, and there entertained the liberated men to a public breakfast. The same evening John Macpherson, after visiting his friends in Glasgow, proceeded to Skye, by Strome Ferry, that he might reach Glendale in time to be examined by the Royal Commission on the following Saturday. It became known in Skye that Tie was coming, and the Portree and Braes people ’ determined to give him a hearty reception. As the “Clydesdale” approached the Braes, three bonfires were noticed a-blaze, and several flags were flying aloft, in the distance. When the steamer rounded into Portree Bay, a large crowd congregated on the pier, while numbers were flocking from all parts of the village in the same direction. Macpherson having been observed on deck, the crowd cheered vociferously, while hats were raised and handkerchiefs waved by the assembled multitude. Before he could place, his foot on shore he was raised on the shoulders of four stalwart fellows, who carried him aloft, hat in hand, bowing to the crowd, amid the -enthusiasm of the people, to the Portree Hotel, a piper leading the way, playing appropriate airs. Macpherson, on his arrival at the hotel, addressed the people, warmly thanking all his friends and the friends of the people of Skye, north and south, and urging upon his countrymen to insist upon getting justice now that it was within their reach. “If Joseph,” he said, “had never been sent into Egyptian bondage, the children of Israel might never have got out of it.” He believed the imprisonment of the Glendale crofters had done more to remove landlord tyranny and oppression from Skye than anything which happened during the present century. He was afterwards entertained in the hotel by many of the leading inhabitants of Portree, where several of the Braes men came all the way to pay, honour, on his return from prison, to one whom they esteemed as the leading martyr in the crofter cause.

An attempt to arrive at an amicable settlement has recently been made by the proprietor of Glendale, who personally approached his tenants after all the mischief recorded in this book had been completed, and since the Royal Commission visited the glen; and it was heralded forth, in inspired quarters, that a settlement of the question in dispute had been finally arranged. Though this is not the case, as yet, it is gratifying to find that negotiations have been entered upon, and that no attempt at evictions followed on the notices of removal served by registered letters in April last. (See pp. 144-145.) The settlement proposed, according to an excellent authority, writing from the spot, on the nth of July, is as follows:—

“Waterstein,” he says, “is one of the finest grazings, or arable lands, in the Island. The proprietor only intends to give the crofters a narrow strip off the worst end, about 150 yards wide, and about a mile in length ; and preparations are being made to fence this off. Dr. Martin was paying .£133 rent for the whole of it; the section offered to the crofters is only one-fifteenth of the whole, and is at the worst end, being chiefly heather. The rent asked for this strip is £33. I am told that the crofters naturally refused this, but offered to take the whole at the same rent that Dr. Martin paid for it. The proprietor refuses to accept this offer; the crofters are withholding their rents, but little or nothing is going on now in the way of negotiation, as the men are«way at the fishing.”

This is how the matter stands as we go to press.

The “Scotsman” in the Scales.

The one-sided position taken up by the Scotsman in connection with this question, can easily be gathered from what appears in the body of the book, especially at pages 135 to 143 ; but it may be added, as a further illustration, that its representative, while reporting the proceedings of the Royal Commission in the Lewis, was driven about the Island, and to the meetings of the Commission, by Lady Matheson’s Chamberlain, while the other reporters had to provide carriages in the usual way, at their own expense; and that he was entertained as the guest of the ChamberIain’s principal Accountant while in Stornoway. It may further be added, that this reporter concocted and sent the most unfounded falsehoods to his journal, regarding my own sayings and doings in the Isle of Skye, during my visit to the Island, on a recent occasion, and that his journal maintained its character for partiality and unfairness, by refusing to insert a correction of the false statements so meanly manufactured and sent to him by his own reporter.

If any further evidence be necessary, to prove the inexplicably one-sided unscrupulousness of the Scotsman under its present management, it will be found in the following:— On the 20th of July last, it published a letter, from Macleod of Macleod, on “Highland Land Rights,” in which he quotes a paragraph from a speech delivered by Dr. Cameron, M.R, for Glasgow, at a meeting of the Federation of Celtic Societies, held in Liverpool, on the 2nd of January, 1883, and charges me with using similar and even stronger language in the Isle of Skye. The quotation from Dr. Cameron is as follows :—

"Before the ’45 rising the tenants in the Highlands had distinct proprietary rights on the land they cultivated, and the chiefs were looked upon as the trustees for the clans. But after ’45 the feudal system was introduced, the tenants lost their rights, and the landlords were made the absolute proprietors of the land. In Scotland there was provision made for the registration of titles to land ; but the very existence of that registration had the effect of quickly getting rid of the proprietary interests of the tenants. The landlords, of course, registered their titles, but the crofters knew nothing about the system of registration, and took no trouble to register the rights they had in the land.”

What Macleod said regarding myself, and my comments thereon, will be found in my reply addressed to the Scotsman, but, consistently with that journal’s characteristic lack of fair-play towards the crofters and their friends, it was refused insertion. The Scotsman has on repeated occasions misreported my remarks, and then honoured me by criticism, in his leading articles, on what I never did say. He cannot, in point of fact, afford to allow the truth to appear in his columns, as to what the crofters’ friends say and do, and at the same time, make an outward appearance of decency and apparent truthfulness in his abuse of them for what they neither say nor do. Here is my reply to Macleod which the Scotsman, for these and other reasons of his own, would not insert:—



“Celtic Magazine” Office, 2nd Aug., 1883.

Sir,—Having been from home for the last fortnight, I have hitherto been unable to notice Macleod of Macleod’s letter on the above subject, which appeared in your issue of 20th July last. I expect that you will, on the simple grounds of fairplay, permit me to do so now, though my doing so may seem somewhat late.

Having given a quotation from the speech delivered by Dr. Cameron, M.P., at Liverpool, on the 2nd of January last, as to the respective rights of landlords and tenants to the soil in the Highlands, Macleod proceeds:—“I should not have quoted this remarkable statement, for which there was no foundation whatever, were it not that similar language has been used lately by Dean of Guild Mackenzie, who has gone through Skye in advance of the Commission, assuring the people that the land belonged to them, and that, with a view to its recovery, they should represent their condition to the Commissioners as one of extreme hardship and suffering, and their proprietors as heartless oppressors.” This whole statement by Macleod regarding me, my doings and sayings, is simply and absolutely untrue. For this, however, I do not hold him responsible, except in so far as he has unwittingly accepted the statements of some underling flatterer, who must have drawn upon his imagination as to what I was saying and doing in the Isle of Skye. I know that Macleod was not in the island when I was there, and, therefore, he could not have had any personal knowledge of the subject upon which he wrote.

I cannot but feel flattered that Macleod should consider my sayings of more importance than Dr. Cameron’s, M.P. ; and as others, as well as he, may.possibly care to know how the facts really stand, permit me to say that I not only disapproved of Dr. Cameron’s statement, as quoted by Macleod, but that a few days after it was made, I publicly said so in presence of one of the Royal Commissioners, Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie of Gairloch, Baronet, who, on the occasion, presided at the annual dinner of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, when I had the honour of occupying the opposite end of the table. I then pointed out the mischief that such crude and inaccurate statements were likely to lead to, and stated that most Highland proprietors held charters for the last four or five hundred years, as I myself had shown in my histories of the Macdonalds and Mackenzies, and, more recently, in my “History of the Camerons,” now passing through the Celtic Magazine.

It is quite possible that what I did say regarding the rights of landlords and tenants to the land would not be of sufficient interest to the general public to justify me in asking you to publish it. I may, however, be permitted to state that I hold the rights of the landlords to be legally unassailable, and that I said so in Skye and elsewhere, as well as that I would not, even in the public interest, deprive them of a sixpence worth without full compensation for the agricultural value of their estates. I, however, hold very decided views as to the natural rights of the people to live in their native land as against the legal rights of the landlords to evict them. I have openly given expression to these views, and I shall not rest satisfied until the legal rights of the landlords are brought into harmony with the natural rights of the people by Act of Parliament. I shall soon have an opportunity of stating more fully, before the Royal Commission, what my views on that most important subject are; meanwhile I trust that you will insert this in your next issue.—I am, &c.,

Alex. Mackenzie.

P. S.—When men in Macleod of Macleod’s position make such reckless and unfounded statements in your columns, people should hesitate before charging the less-favoured crofters with wilful misrepresentation in detailing their grievances to the Queen’s representatives. They cannot all, like me, call a Royal Commissioner to their aid to rebut the baseless charges made against them. A. M.

I am not, however, without hopes as to the future of the Scotsman on the Crofter question. As soon as he finds that his ravings are ignored by the Liberal Government of the day, so soon the Scotsman will ponderously support the Government and turn his back upon himself, as he has done in the past, with scarcely an exception, in similar circumstances. It, however, requires more talent than the editorial department at present commands to ensure success in so delicate an acrobatic performance, and, probably, rather than expose himself too glaringly he will make a further and stronger effort to maintain his consistency in a career of abuse and misrepresentation of the Highland people.

The following extract from a letter published in the Scotsman on May 21st, 1881, when the Irish Land Bill was before Parliament, in reply to some “leading” criticism in connection with the Lockmelm Evictions, will be found as truly descriptive Of his position now as it was then :—

You have consistently opposed the principle of State interference between landlord and tenant—any restriction of the right to enter into private contracts—until the Liberal Government threw your principle to the winds, in such as the Ground Game Act of last year, and now the Irish Land Bill. You were then equally consistent with your past history in support of the Government and inconsistent with yourself. If a principle is sound in Ireland it is equally so in Scotland. If you give up the principle in Ireland, I must ask you to do so here, if it can be shown that the circumstances are similar, or in proportion to the extent in which they are so. What, then, becomes of your proposition “that land, like gold, ought to be left to the laws of supply and demand,” and that no one ever thought that the possessor of it “should be compelled to part with it for less than the price which it would fetch in a free and fair market?” The present Government say exactly what you state no one would think of saying or doing, and you ably support them to get a Bill passed for Ireland by which the owners of land shall be restricted in letting their land for what it would "fetch in a free and fair market”. This was clearly brought out by Mr. Gladstone in his able speech on the Bill on Monday last. He boldly stated and deafly proved that the market value of land was in many cases an unfair one, and far higher than its real value. He is making provision accordingly in his Irish Land Bill. What is good for Ireland in this respect cannot be very bad for the Highlands of Scotland, and I expect to see the powerful influence of the Scotsman one day wielded in favour of a Government measure for this country, as it is now wielded in favour of an Irish Bill founded on a principle which the Scotsman has always consistently condemned.

You describe the contention that the country requires men, and that by abolishing small holdings they are being exterminated, as “nonsense”. The facts are against you. The men are exterminated, so far as this country is concerned, when they are evicted ; for most of them emigrate, and the recent census shews that the Highlanders in the Highlands are being, to all intents and purposes exterminated, and that the population is rapidly decreasing. Therefore, if it is a good thing to have the men, evictions must be bad, and should be checked. If the men are of no value,„the case is altered.

I have no personal knowledge of the miseries of small tenants in Connaught [to which you refer], though I believe such chiefly prevails among the cottars who have no land. I know something about the state of the Highlands, and I carefully read the letters of your own “Special Commissioner” a few years ago. If we believe him, he seems to have found misery enough, though, in my opinion, he, in many cases, overstated it. No one ever suggested that the Highlanders should be crowded on the land. They are overcrowded already in patches close to the sea-shore. What is proposed is, that they should be spread over the straths and beautiful glens from which they were evicted to make room for sheep and deer. .

And here let me say what I have often said privately, that sheep and sheep farmers are almost entirely responsible for the Highland evictions. The people were driven away to make room for sheep, and it seems now that retribution is fast overtaking the original sinners by their being in turn gradually driven out by sportsmen and deer forests. These will also have their day, and I trust and believe that man will yet take hi's proper place and occupy his fair share of the land. Even then there will be plenty room for real sport and for a sufficient supply of sheep.

I am not sure that I could even now write anything more accurate or appropriate than this extract, and time will show that I have accurately gauged and described in it the true position of the Scotsman, not only as regards the past, but also as to his future position respecting the Highland Crofters.

Patrick Sellar’s Trial. .

Shortly after my “Highland Clearances” appeared, Mr. Thomas Sellar, eldest son of the late Patrick Sellar, complained that I did not make enough of the fact that his father was acquitted of the charges of Culpable Homicide and Fire-raising in the Inverness Court of Justiciary. I have since published a report of the trial separately, and it is reproduced in full in this volume. I trust that Mr. Sellar will be satisfied with the circulation I have secured for it.

I am perfectly content to leave the public to judge of the whole question in dispute from this report of the trial. Mr. Sellar would have been much better to have let sleeping dogs He, but that is his affair. He has chosen to publish a book in reply to those who believe that his father was largely responsible for the Sutherland Clearances. He has as completely failed in his object, as he would have failed in an attempt to turn the ocean into dry land. His book answers itself. By its publication, he has, however, challenged further discussion of the whole question in dispute.

A valued correspondent, well acquainted with the' history and traditions of Sutherland, oral and written, on seeing an intimation that such a book was forthcoming, -wrote to me as follows :—“ I see the Sellars are moved against you for exhibiting the part their famous father took in the atrocities committed in Sutherland; that one of them is to write a book in vindication of their father ! Well, I have heard a fetish, to wit, that ‘ a clear-eyed person could distinguish the dust of the righteous from that of the wicked in the same grave; that the dust of the former lay still, but in that of the latter there was a perpetual vermicular motion which prevented it taking rest or being still’. It would appear that the memory of the unenviable Sellar is doomed to this endless restlessness. No learning, no literary skill, or power, no wealth, no ducal influence, can prevent that name going down to posterity otherwise than as an example to be avoided, a character to be shunned.” After detailing various incidents connected with the Sutherland Clearances, my correspondent gives an account of a lively colloquy which is reported to have taken place between Sellar and Colonel Mackay of Pitfure, Strathfleet, who demanded an interview with him on the subject of the burning of the houses in Strath Brora, and tells how the Colonel was instrumental in putting a stop to them, with the result, as he says, that “ a good part of Strathfleet was saved from the catastrophe that fell on the whole of the other Straths; and to-day,” he writes, “Strathfleet is a happy and prosperous contrast to the ruin and loss that reign elsewhere in the county of Sutherland”. He then exclaims, “Such is a specimen of the accounts of Mn Sellar which are handed down from father to son, wherever a Sutherland man is to be found. And now the public character of this man is to be thatched with legal technicalities so. as to make him appear a just and humane man ! This will be accomplished when the world is made to believe that Ahab did justly in getting possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Before this promised book, justifying Mr. Sellar, comes out, I would give the following review of it: nine-tenths of Sutherland was reduced to a wilderness, the inhabitants burnt out as vermin. Of this fact, there is no doubt, no possible dispute. Who did it ? Earl Gower, the Countess of Sutherland, Mr. Loch, and their most active lieutenant, Mr. Sellar. It would be difficult, at this time of day, to balance the blame fairly between them, but almost all will conclude that Mr. Sellar’s was not the least of the four. Let them divide the guilt between them ; each of them will find his own share too much to bear.” Here I, at least, am satisfied, at present, to leave Mr. Sellar and his book.

Lord Napier as Chairman of the Royal Commission.

In view of what has been said and written, when the Royal Commission was appointed, and especially of what appears at pp. 150-152 of this book, I have much pleasure in acknowledging here the absolutely impartial and searching manner in which the grievances of the people have been inquired into, hitherto, under the guidance of the noble chairman, Lord Napier and Ettrick, who has not only proved himself possessed of the necessary qualifications—impartiality, knowledge of the subject, and a remarkable patience —for such a responsible and difficult position, but has, at the same time, exhibited an insight into the whole question of the Inquiry which has no less surprised than it has gratified the Crofters and their friends. His conduct as chairman has been in all respects unexceptional, a fact for which he deserves the universal gratitude of the Highland people at home and abroad.

It would be at present invidious to make special reference to other individual members of a Commission which has, in its corporate capacity, done its work so well. This will be in good time when the Inquiry is completed and the Report issued.

A. M. .
25 Academy Street, Inverness,
22nd August, 1882.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus