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The Isle of Skye in 1882-1883
The Social Revolution in the Braes

No evictions have yet taken place in consequence of the social revolution which has, during 1882-3, directed the attention of the world to the position of landlord and tenant in the Isle of Skye. Considerable space must, however, be devoted to what has already occurred. The writer went over the ground, and he has carefully considered the whole question. The following statement was published by him, on his return from the Island, in the Celtic Magazine 'for May 1882, and he has not hitherto found it necessary to modify a single sentence of what he then wrote, though he has watched all the proceedings which have since occurred— including the evidence given at the trial of the Braes crofters—with* great care. Indeed, it has been admitted by those more immediately concerned on the landlords’ side, that his account was exceedingly moderate in tone, carefully couched in temperate language, and accurately stated in all its details. It is as follows:—

That we were, and still are, on the verge of a social revolution in Skye is beyond question, and those who have any . influence with the people as well as those lairds and factors who have the interests of the population virtually in their keeping, will incur a very grave responsibility at a critical time like this, unless the utmost care is taken to keep the

action of the aggrieved tenants within the law, and on the other hand grant to the people, in a friendly and judicious spirit, material concessions in response to grievances regarding any hardships which can be proved to exist.

It is quite true that, though innumerable grievances unquestionably do exist, no single one by itself is of sufficient magnitude to make a deep impression on the public mind, or upon any mere superficial enquirer. It is the constant accumulation of numberless petty annoyances, all in the same direction, that exasperate the people. The whole tendency, and, it is feared, the real object of the general treatment of the crofter is to crush his spirit, and keep him enslaved within the grasp of his landlord and factor. Indeed, one of the latter freely admitted to us that his object in sometimes* serving large numbers of notices of removal, which he had not the slightest intention of carrying into effect, was that he might “ have the whip-hand over them ”. This practice can only be intended to keep the people in a constant state of terror and insecurity, and it has hitherto succeeded only too well.

The most material grievance, however, as well as the most exasperating, is the gradual but certain encroachment made on the present holdings. The pasture is taken from the crofters piecemeal; their crofts are in many cases subdivided to make room for those gradually evicted from other places—in a way to avoid public attention—to make room for sheep or deer, or both. The people see that they are being gradually but surely driven to the sea, and that if they do not resist in time they will ultimately, and at no distant date, be driven into it, or altogether expelled from their native land. A little more pressure in this direction, and no amount of argument or advice will keep the people from taking the law into their own hands and resisting it by force. The time for argument has already gone. The powers that be has hitherto refused to listen to the voice of reason, and the consequence is that scarcely any one can now be found on either side who will wait to argue whether or not a change is necessary. It is admitted on all hands that a change, and a very material change, must take place at no distant date, and the only question at present being considered in the West at least, is, What is to be the nature of the change? This is what we have now been brought face to face to, and, however difficult the problem may be —and it is surrounded with endless difficulties on all sides —the change must come; and it is admitted all round that the day when it shall take place has been brought much nearer by the inconsiderate action and unbending spirit of those at present in power in the Isle of Skye. This is now seen and admitted by themselves. In short, a great blunder has been committed. This opinion is almost universal in the Island, and it will be a crime against owners of- land, against the interests of society, and against common sense, if the blunder is not at once rectified by the good sense of those who have it in their power to do so. The error will soon be forgotten if rectified with as little delay as possible; and the class of men who are willing to sacrifice their own ideas of self-importance to confer a great boon upon society is so limited, that we appeal with no slight confidence to Lord Macdonald’s factor to retrace his steps, and arrange a settlement with his people in the Braes; and thus assuredly raise himself to a higher position in public estimation than he has ever yet occupied, with all his power; and at the same time become an example for good to others. He can do all this with the less difficulty, seeing that not a single one of the grievances of the Braes tenants were originated since he became factor on the Macdonald estates, and that

the only thing with which he can fairly be charged in connection with them was a too imperious disinclination to listen to the people’s claims, and that he had not fully and sufficiently early enquired into the justice of them. On his prudence very much depends at present the amicable settlement of a great question, or at least the shape which the present agitation for the settlement of the relations of landlord and tenant in the Highlands will ultimately take.

We believe that the sad consequences of the recent proceedings against the Braes tenants is deplored by himself as much as by any in the Isle of Skye, where the feeling of regret and shame is universal among the people, from the highest to the lowest, irrespective of position or party.

There is a very strong feeling that the law must be maintained; but the opinion is very generally expressed that the people ought not on this occasion, and in the present state of the public mind, to have been brought into contact with the criminal authorities; and that by a little judicious reasoning this could have been very easily avoided. We quite agree that the law must not only be respected, but firmly vindicated, when occasion demands it; but at the same time the owners of land who press hard upon their poor tenants are living in a fool’s paradise if they expect that harsh laws, harshly administered, will be allowed to stand much longer on the statute-book if such as the recent proceedings at the Braes are to be repeated elsewhere throughout the country. Just now the facts of history deserve careful study, and we trust that the lessons they teach will not be thrown away on those more immediately concerned in maintaining their present position in connection with the land.

An attempt has been made to show that the Braes tenants have no real grievances; and our own opinion before we went to examine them on the spot was, and it is so still, that they are, from a legal standpoint, in a far worse position to assert their claims than the tenants of Glendale, Dr. Nicol Martin’s, and other proprietors on the Island. We are now satisfied, however, that they have very considerable grievances from a moral standpoint, and no one will dispute that grievances of that kind are generally as important, and often more substantial and exasperating than those which can be enforced in a court of law.

The Braes tenants maintain that in two instances considerable portions of their lands have been taken from them without any reduction of rent, and their contentions are capable of legal proof.

I. There is no doubt at all that they had the grazings of Benlee—the original cause of the present dispute—down to 1865, when it was taken from them and let to a sheep farmer as a separate holding. It can be proved that Lord Macdonald paid them rent for a small portion of it, which he took into his own hands for the site of a forester’s house and garden. It can also be proved that it was not a “common” in the ordinary acceptation of that term, though it is called so in a map made by a surveyor, named Black-adder, who, in 1810, divided the crofts from the run-rig system into ordinary lots, while the grazings of Benlee continued to be held in common as before. The Uist people, and others from the West, paid a rent for the use of it to the Braes tenants when resting their droves on their way to the Southern markets.

II. The townships are, or were, divided into seven crofts, occupied by as many tenants, and an eighth, called the shepherd’s croft, which that necessary adjunct to a common or club farm received in return for his services. The shepherd’s croft has been since withdrawn, and let direct by the factor to an eighth tenant, and that without any reduction of rent to the other seven crofters in each township, while they have now to bear the burden of paying their shepherd from their own resources. This is a virtual raising of the rents, without any equivalent, by more than 13^ per cent., altogether apart from the appropriation of Benlee.

These grievances took shape long before the present factor came into power, and he himself has stated that it was only since the present agitation began that he became even acquainted with the complaint regarding the shepherds’ crofts. For townships to have such a croft is quite common in the Island, and the practice is well known and understood.

It has been stated that the rents are now not higher than they were in 1810, but, apart from the fact that Benlee and the eighth croft have since been taken away, why compare the present with 1810, a time at which, in consequence of the wars of the period, and the high price obtained for kelp, rents and produce of every kind were very high. The rental of Lord Macdonald’s Skye property, we understand, was ^8000, while in 1830, it fell to ^5000, but no corresponding reduction was made in the Braes. The tenants maintain that they have repeatedly claimed Benlee, and that the late factor told them if they had been firm when the previous lease expired, they would have got it, though whether with or without rent was nQt stated. This is admitted, though different views were held by each as to the payment of rent —the tenants expecting they were to get it in terms of their request, without any payment, while the factor says that he meant them to get it on payment of the then rent. In any case it is impossible that they can now obtain a decent livelihood without additional pasture for their stock, for they have been obliged to allow a great portion of their arable land to run into waste, to graze their cattle upon it. They are willing to pay some rent for Benlee, and it is to be hoped, in all the circumstances, that the factor will meet them in a liberal spirit (as he can, without difficulty, get the lands from the present tenant at Whitsunday next),1 and thus avoid further heart-burnings and estrangements between the landlord and his tenants. That they have moral claims of a very substantial character cannot be disputed, and the mere fact that the lands have been taken from them so long back as 1865, can scarcely be pleaded as a reason why this stale of matters should be continued. It has indeed been suggested, with some amount of apparent justice, whether in all the circumstances the people have not a moral claim to a return of the value of Benlee for the period during which it has been out of their possession, seeing that they still have the arable portions and part of the grazings of their original holdings.


We visited this property, some 30 to 35 miles from Portree, and 7 to 12 miles from Dunvegan, accompanied by the special commissioners for the Aberdeen Daily Free Press, the Dundee Advertiser, and the Glasgow Citizen. The whole surroundings of Glendale at once indicate a more than average comfortable tenantry, indeed, the most prosperous, to outward appearance, that we have seen in the North-West Highlands. The estate is owned by the Trustees of the late Sir John Macpherson Macleod. The people are remarkably intelligent and well informed, and their grievances place those of the Braes men entirely in the shade. The following account of them and their position generally, largely from Mr. William Mackenzie’s account in the Free Press, and taken down in the presence of the writer, may be accepted as a true statement of their case :—

While the people are thoroughly firm in their demands, it would be a mistake to call their attitude and actions a “no rent” agitation. They are all alive to their obligation to pay rent to the landlord, and where rent is witheld that is done, not in defiance of the landlord’s rights, but as the best, and perhaps the only, means they can devise to induce the landlord to consider the claims and grievances of the people. The estate managed by the trustees of the late John Macpherson Macleod consists of about a dozen townships. According to the current valuation roll, lands, etc., of the annual value of £400 9s. are in the occupancy of the trustees. Dr. Martin pays £133 for Waterstein, and the shooting tenant pays £140. The ground officer pays some £30 for lands at Colbost, while the rest of the estate is occupied by crofters, who among them pay a rent of about £700. The extent of the estate is about 35,000 acres. Ten years ago the rent was £1257, while now it is £1397 odds, shewing a net increase on the decade of £139 16s. 1d. or slightly over 11 per cent.

The tenants complain that the different townships were deprived of rights anciently possessed by them ; that some townships were by degrees cleared of the crofters to enable the laird or the factor to increase his stock of sheep, and that such of these people as did not leave the estate were crowded into other townships, individual tenants in these townships being required to give a portion of their holdings to make room for these new comers. They also complain of the arrogant and dictatorial manner in which the factor deals with them. So the Glendale crofters, wearied for years with what they have regarded as oppression, have now risen as one man, resolved to unfold before the public gaze those matters of which they complain, and to demand of their territorial superiors to restore to them lands which at one time were occupied by themselves and their ancestors, to lessen, if not to remove, what they regard as the severity of the factor’s yoke, and generally to place them in that position of independence and security to which they consider they are fairly and justly entitled. The functions performed by the factor of Glendale are exceedingly varied in their character. He is, they say, as a rule, sole judge of any little dispute that may arise between the crofters. He decides these disputes according to his own notions of right or wrong, and if anyone is dissatisfied—a not uncommon occurrence even among litigants before the Supreme Courts —the dissatisfied one dare not carry the matter to the regularly constituted tribunals of the land. To impugn the judgment of the factor by such conduct might entail more serious consequences than any one would be disposed to incur, and, further, the extraordinary and mistaken notion appears to have prevailed that if any one brought a case before the Sheriff Court the factor’s letter would be there before him to nonsuit him. This factorial mode of administrating the law is probably a vestige that still lingers in isolated districts of the ancient heritable jurisdiction of Scotland; and it is only right to state that Glendale is not the only place in the Highlands where the laird or the factor have been wont to administer the law. Among the privileges which the Glendale people formerly possessed was the right to collect and get the salvage for timber drifted from wrecks to the shore. Of this privilege it was resolved to deprive them, as may be seen from the following written notice which was posted up at the local post-office, the most public part of the district:—

Notice.—Whereas parties are in the habit of trespassing on the lands of Glendale, Lowergill, Ramasaig, and Waterstein, in searching and carrying away drift timber, notice is hereby given that the shepherds and herds on these lands have instructions to give up the names of any persons found hereafter on any part of said lands, as also anyone found carrying away timber from the shore by boats or otherwise, that they may be dealt with according to law.—Factor’s Office, Tormore, 4th January, 1882.

The lands over which they were thus forbidden to walk, consist mainly of sheep grazing, in the occupation of the trustees, and managed for them by the factor. The people were also forbidden to keep dogs.

These notices, it is stated, had the desired effect; trespassing ceased, and the crofter, with a sad heart, destroyed his canine friend. Grievances multiplying in this way, it was resolved by some leader in the district to convene a public meeting of the crofters to consider the situation. The notice calling the meeting together, was in these terms:—

We, the tenants on the estate of Glendale, do hereby warn each other to meet at Glendale Church on the 7th day of February, on or about one p.m., of 1882, for the purpose of stating our respective grievances publicly, in order to communicate the same to our superiors, when the ground-officer is requested to attend.

Such a revolutionary movement as this, the people actually daring to meet together to consider their relations with the laird, and make demands, was not to be lightly entered upon, and it need not be wondered at if some of them at first wanted the moral courage to come up to the occasion. If any one showed symptoms of weakness in this way he was encouraged, and on the appointed day the clansmen met and deliberated on the situation. At that meeting their grievances received full expression. It was in particular pointed out that the township of Ramasaig, which fifteen years ago was occupied by 22 separate crofters, is now reduced to two, the land taken from or given up by the other twenty families having been put under sheep by the factor. The people, who presumably were less valuable than the sheep, in some cases left the country altogether, while those that remained were provided with half crofts on another part of the estate.

For instance, a crofter who perhaps had a ten pound croft, say, at Milivaig was requested to give up the one-half of it to a crofter removed from Ramasaig, a corresponding reduction being made in the rent In this way, while the sheep stocks under the charge of the factor were increasing, the status of the crofters was gradually diminishing, and the necessity for their depending more and more on other industries than the cultivation of their croft was increasing. To illustrate this all the more forcibly, we may state that the crofters at Ramasaig had eight milk cows and their followers, and about forty sheep on each whole croft—altogether over a hundred head of cattle and from 300 to 400 sheep. Lowerkell was similarly cleared. At the meeting of the crofters, to which I have alluded, it was resolved that, as a body, they should adopt a united course of action. They were all similarly situated. Each man and each township had a grievance, and no individual was to be called upon to make a separate claim. Each township or combination of townships was to make one demand, and if any punishment should follow on such an act of temerity, it should not be allowed to fall on any one person, but on the united body as a whole. To guard against any backsliding, and to prevent any weakling or chicken-hearted leaguer (if any should exist) from falling out of the ranks, they, one and all, subscribed their names in a book, pledging themselves as a matter of honour to adhere in a body to the resolution thus arrived at. The scheme having thus been formulated, each township or combination proceeded to get up petitions embodying their respective cases, and sending them to the trustees, Professor Macpherson, of Edinburgh, and his brother.

The tenants of Skinidin claim two islands, opposite their crofts, in Loch Dunvegan. Apart from this, they complain that they do not get the quantity of seaweed to which they were entitled. This may appear to some a small matter, but to the cultivator of a croft it is a matter of great importance, for seaware is the only manure which he can conveniently get, excepting, of course, the manure produced by his cows. The quantity of ware promised to the Skinidin crofters was one ton each, but the one-half of it, they say, was taken from them some time ago, and given to the “wealthy men” and favourites of the place. The result is that they have to cross to the opposite side of Loch Dunvegan and buy sea-ware there at 31s. 6d. per ton. This is not only an outlay of money, which the poor crofters can ill afford to incur, but it also entails great labour, which is attended with no inconsiderable danger to life. The crofters accordingly demand the quantity of ware to which, they say, they are entitled.

The Colbost tenants, to the number of twenty-five, also sent in a petition, in which they complained of high rents, and stated that owing to incessant tilling the land is becoming exhausted, and ceasing to yield that crop which they might fairly expect. In 1848, they say they got Colbost with its old rights at its old rent with the sanction of the proprietor. The local factor, Norman- Macraild, subsequently deprived them of these privileges, while the rents were being constantly increased. They accordingly demand that their old privileges should be restored, and the rents reduced to the old standard, otherwise they will not be able to meet their engagements.

We shall next take the petition of the Harmaravirein crofters. The place is occupied by John Campbell, who pays £9 15s. 4d; John Maclean, £8 3s. 4d.; John Mackay, £16 2s. 8d.; and Donald Nicolson, £4 12s. The petition, which was in the following terms, deserves record :—

We, the crofters of Harmaravirein, do humbly show by this petition that we agree with our fellow-petitioners in Glendale as to their requests. We do, by the same petition, respectfully ask redress for grievances laid upon us by a despotic factor, Donald Macdonald, Tor-more, who thirteen years ago for the first time took from us part of our land, against our will, and gave it to others, whom he drove from another quarter of the estate of Glendale, to extend his own boundaries, and acted similarly two years ago, when he dispersed the Ramasaig tenantry. We, your humble petitioners, believe that none of the grievances mentioned were known to our late good and famous proprietor, being an absentee, in whom we might place our confidence had he been present to hear and grant our request. As an instance of his goodwill to his subjects, the benefits he bestowed on the people of St. Kilda are manifest to the kingdom of Great Britain. We, your petitioners, pray our new proprietors to consider our case, and grant that the tenantry be reinstated in the places which have been cleared of their inhabitants by him in Tormore.

The petition of the Upper and Lower Milivaig and Borro-dale crofters set forth that, notwithstanding their going north and south all over the country to earn their bread, they are still declining into poverty. The crofts too are getting exhausted through constant tilling. Before 1845 they say there were only 16 families in the two Milivaigs and one in Borro-dale. There are now 5 in Borrodale, 19 in Upper Milivaig, and 20 in Lower Milivaig, averaging six souls in each family. The rent before 1845 of the two Milivaigs was £40. At the date mentioned, Macleod of Macleod, who was then proprietor, divided each of the oMilivaigs into 16 crofts.

They prayed that they might get the lands of Waterstein now tenanted by Dr. Martin. The petition concluded:—

Further, we would beg, along with our fellow-petitioners in Glendale, that the tenantry who have been turned out of Lowerkell, Ramasaig, and Hamara by our ill-ruling factor be reinstated.

The tenants of Holmesdale and Liepbein, 29 in number, stated in their petition, that 48 years ago the place was let to ten tenants at about j£6o, and afterwards re-let to 25 tenants at about £85, besides a sum of £3 2s. 6d. for providing peats for the proprietor. The rents, they say, have nearly doubled since then, and the inhabitants increased, the present number being nearly 200, occupying 33 dwellings. There was much overcrowding, there being as many as 15 persons upon crofts of four acres. The petition contained the following estimate of factors :—“ Unless poor crofters are to be protected by the proprietor of the estate, we need not expect anything better than suppression from factors who are constantly watching and causing the downfall of their fellow-beings, in order to turn their small portion of the soil into sheep-walks.” These tenants prayed that the evicted townships of Lowerkell, Ramasaig, and Hamara, should be restored to the tenants, and thus to afford relief to the overcrowded townships. The crofters of Glasvein said they had no hill pasture for sheep, and no peat moss to get their fuel from. When some of the present crofters, they say, came into possession of their crofts, the township of Glasvein was allotted to seven tenants, each paying an average rent of £5, whereas now the township is in the possession of 12 crofters, paying each an average rent of or so. They accordingly sought to have this matter remedied.

It may be stated that most of the tenants of Glendale appear to be all hard-working, industrious men, and their houses are better, on the whole, than any crofter district that that we have yet visited in Skye. The soil is more fertile, well drained, and comparatively well cultivated. The men seem to be thoroughly intelligent, and some of them not only read newspapers, but have very decided opinions in regard to some of them. One of these, the Scotsman, we heard them designating as “The United Liar”. But newspaper reading—that is Liberal newspaper reading—is not encouraged in Glendale. One man whom we met informed us that a crofter in Glendale was accused of reading too many newspapers, a circumstance which the factor strongly suspected accounted for the heinous crime of the crofter being a Liberal. At one time there were some small shops in Glendale, but these would appear to have practically vanished. Some years ago the factor set up a meal store himself, and the crofters, we are informed, were given to understand that shopkeepers would have to pay a rent of £2. each for these so-called shops, in addition to their rents. No one, however, appears to have ever been asked to pay this, but the shops ceased to exist!

Perhaps the most indefensible custom of all was to compel the incoming tenant to pay up the arrears, however large a sum, of his predecessor. This appeared so incredible that no one present felt justified in publishing it, but on our consulting the factor personally, he not only admitted but actually defended the practice as a kind of fair enough premium or “goodwill” for the concern, and said it was quite a common practice in the Isle of Skye. We would describe it in very different terms, but that is unnecessary. It only wants to be stated to be condemned by all honest men as an outrage on public morality.

As we left the district the crofters were in great glee at the prospect of a visit from the trustees to arrange matters with them. They are hopeful that important concessions may be made to them, and if these hopes should not be realised, they appear to be animated with an unflinching determination to stand by one another, and, shoulder to shoulder, agitate for the redress of what they firmly maintain to be great and serious grievances.

Dr. Martin’s Estate.

We have left ourselves but little space to speak of the condition of affairs on the estate of Dr. Martin. This estate is one which is of great interest to Highlanders. Borreraig, one of the townships in revolt, was anciently held rent free by the MacCrimmons, the hereditary pipers of Macleod of Dunvegan. The principal grievance complained of by the crofters may be briefly stated. The crofters are required to sell to the laird all the fish they catch at a uniform rate of sixpence for ling and fourpence for cod, and we have actually been informed of a case where some one was accused at a semi-public meeting of interfering in a sort of clandestine way with the doctor’s privileges by buying the fish at higher prices. The crofters were also required to sell their cattle to the doctor’s bailiff at his own price. A man spoke of his having some time ago sold a stirk to a foreign drover, and was after all required to break his bargain with the outsider and hand over the animal to the bailiff. This bailiff was, however, dismissed last Whitsunday, a fact stated in defence by Dr. Martin’s friends. Tenants are also required to give eight days’ free labour each year to the laird, failing which to pay a penalty of 2s. 6d. per day; and while thus working, we were informed that if any one by accident broke any of the

tools he used, he was required to pay for the damage. The breaking of a shearing-hook subjected the man who did it to pay 2s. 6d. for it. We are aware that the friends of the laird maintain that the labour thus contributed by the people is in reality not for labour, but an equivalent for a portion of the rent. This is a very plausible excuse, but it will not bear examination. If it is regarded as a part of the rent, rates should be paid upon it, and the “annual value” or rent returned to the county valuator each year should be the amount actually paid in money plus the value of the eight days’ labour. Thus, either the labour is free, or there is an unjust and inequitable burden thrown on the other crofters in the parish who do not perform such labour, as, of course, the labour given by Dr. Martin’s tenants is not rated. The tenants have now struck against performing this work, and Dr. Martin’s work was done this year on ordinary day labour. ’

The people also complain that the hill land was taken from the tenants of Galtrigill, and the hill grounds of Borreraig, the neighbouring township, thrown open to them. ' This was a very material curtailment of the subjects let, but further, sums of from 10s. to 30s. were added to the rent of each holding. No crofter on the estate has a sheep or a horse, and they are obliged to buy wool for their clothing from a distance, as Dr. Martin, they say, will not sell them any. The tenants paid their rents at Martinmas last, but they have given notice that unless their demands are conceded they will not pay the rent due at Martinmas next. The leading points of their petition are that the rents be reduced, the old land-marks restored, and the hill grounds as of old given to them. This petition the tenants sent to Dr. Martin some time ago, but he has not made any reply. The tenants do not appear to be very hopeful that he will make any concession, but they are evidently determined to walk in the same paths as their neighbours on the estate of Sir John Macpherson Macleod, and they are in great hopes that the friends of the Gael in the large towns of the south will manfully aid them in their battle against landlordism. This statement will enable the reader to form his own opinion on the question which has produced such a feeling of insecurity and terror in the minds of both crofter and proprietor for the last two years in the Isle of Skye, indeed throughout the whole Highlands.

Burning the Summonses in the Braes.

We shall next give a short account of what followed upon the refusal of these proprietors to give favourable consideration to the claims of their crofting tenantry. A correspondent of the Free Press, early in April last, described what had occurred—after the tenants had refused to pay any rent until their grievances were considered—in the following terms:—

The quarrel between Lord Macdonald and his tenants of Balmeanach, Peinichorrain, and Gedintaillear, in the Braes of Portree, is developing into portentous importance. His lordship, it appears, has made up his mind to put the law in force against them, and not on any account to yield to their demands; and on Friday a sheriff-officer and assistant, accompanied by his lordship’s ground-officer from Portree, proceeded to serve summonses of removing, and small debt summonses for rent upon about a score of the refractory ones. The tenants, however, for some time past, since they look up their present attitude, have been posting regular sentinels on watch to give warning of any stranger’s approach, and when the officer and his party were at the Bealach near the schoolhouse, two youngsters who were on duty thereabout gave the signal, and, immediately, it was transmitted far and near with the result of bringing together from all quarters from their spring work a gathering of about 150 or 200 men, women, and children, who rushed to meet the officer before he had got near the intended scene of his operation, viz., the townships of Peinichorrain, Balmeanach, and Gedintaillear, and, surrounding him, demanded his business. Upon understanding it, and being shown the summonses, the documents were immediately taken from him and burnt before his eyes, and thereupon he was coolly requested to go to his master for more of them. The officer, who is well known among them, with good tact, humoured them, and so escaped with a sound skin, so that no violence was used; but it appears the temper of the people was such that had he been less conciliatory, or had he attempted to resist the people, the consequence would have been inevitably very serious for him. When they were gathering from the sea-shore, where many of them were cutting sea-ware with reaping-hooks, their leaders judiciously shouted out to leave their hooks behind, which was done, so that the risk of using such ugly arms in the event of a melee was avoided. The officer spoke lightly before proceeding to the place of the resistance he was likely to meet, and thought there would really be none, as he knew the people so well and they knew him, many of them being his relations, but his impressions now of the real state of the people’s minds is said to be very different, and he believes there would be no use attempting any legal steps again by the employment of the officers of civil law. The same paper in a later issue says:—

We have received the following narrative of the manner in which the summonses were burned on Friday last:—The people met the officer on the road, about a mile from the scene of his intended labours. They were clamorous and angry, of course. He told them his mission, and that he would give them the summonses on the spot if they liked. They said, “Thoir dhuinn iad,” (Give them to us) and he did so. The officer was then asked to light a fire. He did so; and a fish liver being placed upon it, that oily material was soon in a blaze. The officer was then peremptorily ordered to consign the summonses to the flames, which he did! The summonses were of course straightway consumed to ashes. The interchange of compliments between the officers of the law and the people were, as might be expected, of a fiery character. The chief officer was graciously and considerately informed that his conduct—as he had only acted in the performance of a public official duty—was excusable; but with his assistant, or concurrent, it was different He was there for pay, and he would not go home without it. Certain domestic utensils, fully charged, were suddenly brought on the scene, and their contents were showered on the unlucky assistant, who immediately disappeared, followed by a howling crowd of boys.

March of the Dismal Brigade.

The summonses were never served, and the County Authorities after full consideration determined to arrest and punish the ringleaders for deforcing the officers of the law. Sheriff Ivory obtained a body of police from Glasgow, and with these, twelve from the mainland of the County of Inverness, and the Skye portion of the force, he, with the leading county officials invaded the Isle of Skye during the night of the 17th of April. After consulting with the local authorities in Portree, an early start was made for the Braes to surprise and arrest the ringleaders. The secret was well kept, but two newspaper correspondents were fortunate enough to get an inkling of the proceedings, namely, Mr. Mackinnon Ramsay, of the Citizen, who followed the invading force from Glasgow, and Mr. Alexander Gow, a special correspondent of the Dundee Advertiser, who had gone to Portree a few days before the Battle of the Braes. These gentlemen accompanied the county officials, saw the whole proceedings, and sent a full description of the desperate and humiliating scrimmage to their respective papers. We give below Mr. Gow’s graphic account, every particular of which we found corroborated by the leading county officials on our arrival in Portree the same evening. After describing the state of feeling, and the acts on the part of the crofters which led up to direct contact with the criminal authorities, Mr. Gow proceeds :—

Here we were, then—two Sheriffs, two Fiscals, a Captain of police, forty-seven members of the Glasgow police force, and a number of the county constabulary, as well as a couple of newspaper representatives from Dundee and Glasgow, and a gentleman representing a well-known Glasgow drapery house—fairly started on an eight-mile tramp to the Land League camp at Braes, in weather that for sheer brutal ferocity had not been experienced in Skye for a very long time. In the cold grey dawn the procession wore a sombre aspect. It looked for all the world like a Highland funeral. It was quite on the cards, indeed, that the return journey might partake of the nature of a funeral procession. There could be no doubt that every one was fully impressed with the gravity of the mission on which we were proceeding. It is literal truth to say that no member of the company expected to return without receiving knocks, if not something more serious. We were perfectly aware that the crofters had made preparations for giving us a warm reception. In front, some distance ahead of the main body, walked the sheriff-officer, a policeman, and another person occupying for the time being some official position. Then came the police detachment, and the Sheriffs and the Fiscals brought up the rear—the three unofficial persons already mentioned forming what may be termed the rearguard. In this manner we proceeded without incident for four miles, when the Sheriff and his friends left the vehicle and sent it back. About half-past six o’clock we reached the boundary of the disaffected district nearest Portree. Hitherto scarcely a single soul was observed along the route, and some surprise was expressed by those in charge. At the schoolhouse, however, it was expected that a portion of the colony would be encountered, but the place was untenanted. On another mile, and signs of life appeared among the hillocks. Presently our ears were saluted with whistling and cheering, and this was interpreted as a sign that it was time to close the ranks. Gedentailler township was passed without any demonstrations of hostility. At the south end of this township there is an ugly looking pass, which seemed to cause some anxiety to the officers in charge. No wonder, as there could not be a finer position for an attack on a hostile body of men. On the west, a steep rocky brae rises sheer from the road to the height of about 400 or 500 feet. On the other side, a terrific precipice descends to the sea. We passed through it in safety, however, but Inspector Cameron, of the Skye police, had reason to believe that the return passage would be disputed.

Arrived at the boundary of Balmeanach, we found a collection of men, women, and children, numbering well on to 100. They cheered as we mounted the knoll, and the women saluted the policemen with volleys of sarcasms about their voyage from Glasgow. A halt was then called, and a parley ensued between the local inspector and what appeared to be the leader of the townships. What is passing between the two it is difficult for an outsider to understand, and while the conversation is in progress it is worth while to look about. At the base of the steep cliff on which we stood, and extending to the seashore, lay the hamlet of Balmeanach. There might be about a score of houses dotted over this plain. From each of these the owners were running hillward with all speed. It was evident they had been taken by surprise. Men, women, and children rushed forward, in all stages of attire, most of the females with their hair down and streaming loosely in the breeze. Every soul carried a weapon of some kind or another, but in most cases these were laid down when the detachment was approached. While we were watching the crowds scrambling up the declivity, scores of persons had gathered from other districts, and they now completely surrounded the procession. The confusion that prevailed baffles description. The women, with infuriated looks and bedraggled dress—for it was still raining heavily—were shouting at the pitch of their voices, uttering the most fearful imprecations, hurling forth the most terrible vows of vengeance against the enemy. Martin was of course the object of greatest abuse. He was cursed in his own person and in that of his children, if he should have any, one female shrieking curses with especial vehemence. The authorities proceeded at once to perform their disagreeable task, and in the course of twenty minutes the five suspected persons were apprehended. A scene utterly indescribable followed. The women, with the most violent gestures and imprecations, declared that the police should be attacked. Stones began to be thrown, and so serious an aspect did matters assume that the police drew their batons and charged. This was the signal for a general attack. Huge boulders darkened the horizon as they sped from the hands of infuriated men and women. Large sticks and flails were brandished and brought down with crushing force upon the police—the poor prisoners coming in for their share of the blows. One difficult point had to be captured, and as the expedition approached this dangerous position, it was seen to be strongly occupied with men and women, armed with stones and boulders. A halt was called and the situation discussed. Finally it was agreed to attempt to force a way through a narrow gully. By this time a crowd had gathered in the rear of the party. A rush was made for the pass, and from the heights a fearful fusilade of stones descended. The advance was checked. The party could neither advance nor recede. For two minutes the expedition stood exposed to the merciless shower of missiles. Many were struck, and a number more or less injured. The situation was highly dangerous. Raising a yell that might have been heard at a distance of two miles, the crofters, maddened by the apprehension of some of the oldest men in the township, rushed on the police, each person armed with huge stones, which, on approaching near enough, they discharged with a vigour that nothing could resist. The women were by far the most troublesome assailants. Thinking apparently that the constables would offer them no resistance, they approached to within a few yards’ distance, and poured a fearful volley into the compact mass. The police charged, but the crowd gave way scarcely a yard. Returning again, Captain Donald gave orders to drive back the howling mob, at the same time advising the Sheriffs and the constables in charge of the prisoners to move rapidly forward. This second charge was more effective, as the attacking force was driven back about a hundred yards. The isolated constables now, however, found' their position very dangerous. The crofters rallied and hemmed them in, and a rush had to be made to catch up the main body in safety. At this point several members of the constabulary received serious bufferings, and had they not regained their comrades, some of their number would in all probability have been mortally . wounded. Meanwhile the crowd increased in strength.

The rime within which summonses of ejectment could be legally served having expired, the crofters had for a day or two relaxed their vigilance, and not expecting the constables so early in the morning, they had no time ‘ to gather their full strength. But the “ Fiery Cross ” had in five minutes passed through the whole township from every point. Hundreds of determined looking persons could be observed converging on the procession, and matters began to assume a serious aspect. With great oaths, the men demanded where were the Peinichorrain men. This township was the most distant, and the men had not yet had time to come up. But they were coming. Cheers and yells were raised. “The rock! the rock!” suddenly shouted some one. “The rock! the rock!” was taken up, and roared out from a hundred throats. The strength of the position was realised by the crofters; so also it was by the constables. The latter were ordered to run at the double. The people saw the move, and the screaming and yelling became fiercer than ever. The detachment reached the opening of the gulley. Would they manage to run through? Yes! No! On went the blue coats, but their progress was soon checked. It was simply insane to attempt the passage. Stones were coming down like hail,' while huge boulders where hurled down before which nothing could stand. These bounded over the road and descended the precipice with a noise like thunder. An order was given to dislodge a number of the most determined assailants, but the attempt proved futile. They could not be dislodged. Here and there a constable might be seen actually bending under the pressure of a well-directed rounder, losing his footing, and rolling down the hill, followed by scores of missiles. This state of matters could not continue. The chief officials were securing their share of attention. Captain Donald is hit in the knee with a stone as large as a matured turnip. A rush must be made for the pass, or there seems a possibility that Sheriff Ivory himself will be deforced. Once more the order was given to double. On, on, the procession went—Sheriffs and Fiscals forgetting their dignity, and taking to their heels. The scene was the most exciting that either the spectators or those who passed through the fire ever experienced, or are likely ever to see again. By keeping up the rush, the party got through the defile, and emerged triumphantly on the Portree side, not however, without severe injuries. If the south end township had turned out, the pass would, I believe, never have been forced, and some would in all probability have lost their lives.

The crofters seemed to have become more infuriated by the loss of their position, and rushing along the shoulder of the hill prepared to attack once more. This was the final struggle. In other attacks the police used truncheons freely. But at this point they retaliated with both truncheons and stones. The consequences were very serious indeed. Scores of bloody faces could be seen on the slope of the hill. One woman, named Mary Nicolson, was fearfully cut in the head, and fainted on the road. When she was found, blood was pouring down her neck and ears. Another woman, Mrs. Finlayson, was badly gashed on the cheek with some missile. Mrs. Nicolson, whose husband, James Nicolson, was one of the prisoners, had her head badly laid open, but whether with a truncheon or stone is not known. Another woman, well advanced in years, was hustled in the scrimmage on the hill, and, losing her balance, rolled down a considerable distance, her example being followed by a stout policeman, the two ultimately coming into violent collision. The poor old person was badly bruised, and turned sick and faint. Of the men a considerable number sustained severe bruises, but so far as I could ascertain none of them were disabled. About a dozen of the police were injured more or less seriously. One of the Glasgow men had his nose-almost cut through with a stone, and was terribly gashed about the brow. Captain Donald, as already stated, was struck on the knee, and his leg swelled up badly after the return to Portree. Neither the Sheriffs nor the Fiscals were injured, but it is understood that they all received hits in the encounter on the hill.

After the serious scrimmage at Gedintailler, no further demonstrations of hostility were made, and the procession went on, without further adventure, to Portree. Rain fell without intermission during the entire journey out and home, and all arrived at their destination completely exhausted. On arrival in town the police were loudly hooted and hissed as they passed through the square to the jail, and subsequently when they marched from the Court-house to the Royal Hotel. The prisoners were lodged in the prison. There names are :—Alexander Finlayson, aged between 60 and 70 years; Malcolm Finlayson, a son of the above, and living in the same house (the latter is married); Peter Macdonald has a wife and eight of a family; Donald Nicolson, 66 years of age, and is married; and James Nicolson, whose wife was one of the women seriously injured.

Unless appearances are totally misleading, the work which they were obliged to accomplish was most repugnant to Sheriff Ivory, Sheriff Spiers, Mr. James Anderson, Procurator-Fiscal for the County, and Mr. MacLennan; and the hope may be expressed that they will never again be called upon to undertake similar duties.

The “Battle of the Braes” has been capitally hit off in the following parody, published in the Daily Mail of the 26th of April last:—


Half a league, half a league!
Four a-breast—onward!
All iii the valley of Braes
Marched the half-hundred.
“Forward, Police Brigade!
In front of me, bold Ivory said;
Into the valley of Braes
Charged the half-hundred.
“Forward, Police Brigade!
Charge each auld wife and maid!”
E’en though the Bobbies knew
Some one had blundered!
Their’s not to make reply;
Their’s not to reason why;
Their’s but to do or die;
Into the valley of Braes
Charged the half-hundred.
“Chuckies” to right of them,
“Divots ” to left of them,
Women in front of them,
Volleyed and thundered!
Stormed at with stone and shell,
Boldly they charged, they tell,
Down on the Island Host!
Into the mouth of—well!
Charged the half-hundred.
Flourished their batons bare,
Not in the empty air—
Clubbing the lasses there,
Charging the Cailleachs, while
All Scotland wondered!
Plunged in the mist and smoke,
Right thro’ the line they broke;—
Cailleach and maiden
Reeled from the baton stroke,
Shattered and sundered;
Then they marched back—intact—
All the half-hundred.
Missiles to right of them,
Brickbats to left of them,
Old wives behind them
Volleyed and floundered.
Stormed at with stone and shell—
Whilst only Ivory fell—
They that had fought so well
Broke thro’ the Island Host,
Back from the mouth of—well!
All that was left of them—
All the half-hundred!
When can their glory fade?
O, the wild charge they made!
All Scotland wondered!
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Skye Brigade!
Donald’s half-hundred!

When the “Battle of the Braes” had been fought and won, and the gallant Sheriff with his- brave contingent of blue-coats covered with the mud of the Braes and the glory of their masterly retreat before the old men and women of Gedintailler had retired to their quarters in Portree, the friends of the prisoners began to think of their defence when they came before the Law Courts for trial.

A few hours after the Police Brigade returned to Portree, Dean of Guild Mackenzie, Inverness, editor of the Celtic Magazine, who had gone, as representative of the Highland Land Law Reform Association, to report upon the alleged grievances of the crofters in Skye, arrived In Portree. Him the friends of the prisoners consulted, with the result that he dispatched a telegram to Mr. Kenneth Macdonald, Town Clerk of Inverness, asking him to undertake the defence. Curiously enough a number of sympathisers in Glasgow, who had formed themselves into a defence committee, met about the same time, and they also, through their secretary, Mr. Hugh Macleod, Writer, Glasgow, telegraphed to know if Mr. Macdonald would defend the prisoners. Both telegrams were delivered about the same time and to each an affirmative reply was immediately sent.

At this time nothing definite was known of the charge preferred against the prisoners, and it was not until the 26th of April, 1882, a week after the arrest, and when they could no longer be legally detained without having a copy of the charge delivered to them, that the prisoners were committed for trial and allowed to see an adviser. Such is the humanity of the Criminal Law of Scotland. During the week which a prisoner can thus be legally kept in close confinement, he will not be permitted to see friend or adviser of any kind, but he may be brought day after day before the Sheriff and subjected to examination by a skilful lawyer whose main if not sole object is to get from him admissions which will tend to prove his guilt, and every word he utters during this time is taken down for the purpose of being used against him at his trial.

After the prisoners were committed for trial, they were visited by their agent, with the editor of the Celtic Magazine as interpreter, and in course of conversation, and in reply to questions, the prisoners expressed a desire to get home to proceed with the spring work on their crofts. By this time the sympathy with the prisoners among the outside public, not merely in the Highlands but in the large cities of the south, had extended through all classes of society. Many who were in entire sympathy with them in their personal grievances thought that they saw in the proceedings taken against them, and in the outrages perpetrated in Skye in the name of law, a means of creating a public opinion which would compel the Legislature to take up the question of land tenure in the Highlands. It was the desire of this party that the accused should be allowed to remain in prison until their trial came on, in order that the public sympathy which their apprehension and imprisonment evoked should have time to take definite form. If the calculations of these sympathisers should turn out accurate, the infliction of a slight hardship upon these men would result in permanent good to themselves and the whole class to which they belonged. The desires of the men themselves, however, of their friends in Inverness, and the interest of their families, naturally guided Mr. Macdonald’s proceedings, and he presented a petition to the Sheriff to fix bail. The bail was fixed by Sheriff Blair at £20 sterling for each prisoner —£100 in all—and immediately it became known that persons were wanted, to sign the bond, gentlemen offered themselves, the required subscriptions were obtained, and the five prisoners were liberated that night. The gentlemen who signed the bond were: Mr. John Macdonald, merchant, Exchange; Dean of Guild Mackenzie; Councillor Duncan Macdonald; Councillor W. G. Stuart; Mr. Wm. Gunn, Castle Street; Mr. T. B. Snowie, gunmaker; Mr. Donald Campbell, draper; and Mr. Duncan MacBeath, Duncraig Street—all of Inverness. On the following day the accused left Inverness for Skye by the 9 a.m. train, accompanied to the station by several of their friends, including the Reverend and venerable Dr. George Mackay.

The following account of the reception of the liberated men on their return to Portree is taken from the Aberdeen Daily Free Press, whose special correspondent, Mr. William Mackenzie, was on the spot:—

The five men from the prison of Inverness arrived at Portree this evening, and were received with unbounded enthusiasm. Early in the day a telegram was received intimating that they had left Inverness in the morning, and that the venerable pastor of the North Church, the Rev. Dr. Mackay, gave them there a friendly farewell. Mairi Nighean Iain Bhain, to whose poetic effusions on the men of the Braes and Benlee, I have formerly alluded, went by the steamer from Portree in the morning to meet them at Strome Ferry. She was accompanied by Colin the piper, and on the homeward journey the men were inspired •with the songs of the poetess, the music of the Highland war-pipe, and a scarcely less potent stimulant, the famous Talisker, It was known far and wide that the men were to come to-night, and their fellow-crofters in the Braes resolved to give them a hearty reception. The Braes men accordingly began to straggle into the town in the afternoon, and groups of them might be seen along the street eagerly discussing the situation. Endeavours were made to induce the “suspects” to leave the steamer at Raasay and row afterwards to the Braes. This would, of course, deprive their friends of any chance to give them an ovation at Portree, and lead outsiders to suppose that the Portree people regarded the matter with indifference. The liberated men were, however, warned against being caught in the snare which was laid for them, and they came straight on to Portree. The steamer did not arrive till about eight o’clock, but whenever she reached the quay the assembled multitude raised a deafening cheer, again and again renewed, which completely drowned Colin’s pipes. As soon as the steamer was brought alongside the quay, Colin stepped out, playing "abhaidh sinn an rathad mor”. He was followed by the poetess, and after her the five liberated men. Each man, as he stepped on the quay, was embraced by the males, and hugged and kissed by the females, amid volumes of queries as to their condition since they left, and congratulations on their return. These friendly greetings were not allowed to be of any duration, for each man was hoisted and carried shoulder-high in triumph through the streets of Portree. The Braes men themselves mustered in full force, and in the procession they were joined by numerous sympathisers in the district and the village of Portree. The crowd, headed by the piper and the poetess, proceeded along the principal thoroughfare to the Portree Hotel. Bonnets were carried on the tops of walking sticks, and held up above the heads of the people, amid cries of “Still higher yet my bonnet,” while the women of Portree waved their white handkerchiefs and shouted Gaelic exclamations of joy as the “lads wi’ the bonnets o’ blue” were carried along in triumph. On reaching the Portree Hotel a number of them, including the “suspects,” went in, and Mr. MacInnes, the popular tenant of that excellent and well-conducted establishment, treated the " suspects” to refreshments. Who should happen to turn up unexpectedly at the hotel but the factor, accompanied by some of his friends, and when that individual emerged from the door of the hotel, he was received with a volume of groans. The Braes men left the hotel without any delay and marched to their homes in a body, shouting and cheering as they proceeded on their way. A carriage was sent after them to convey the five men from Inverness to their respective places of abode.

In the meantime an intimation had been conveyed to the Prisoners’ Agent by Mr. James Anderson, Procurator-Fiscal of Inverness, that he had been ordered by the Crown Agent to have the prisoners tried summarily before the Sheriff for the crimes of deforcement and assault. This was,' so far as known, the first time in Scottish Legal History that so serious a crime, so seriously treated by the authorities at the outset, had been ordered for summary trial. There was something suspicious in the order, and although the letter of it was adhered to, it is probable that but for the protests made on behalf of the prisoners, both in and out of Parliament, the true meaning of the order would have been made evident at the trial. On receiving intimation of the order, Mr. Macdonald wrote to the Lord-Advocate for Scotland, requesting that he should instruct the trial to proceed before a jury. To that letter the following reply was received:—

Whitehall, April 29, 1882.


I am directed by the Lord-Advocate to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 27th current, and to say in reply that he sees no reason for recalling the order for trial of the Skye crofters charged with assault and deforcement before the Sheriff summarily, and that the order will therefore be carried out

I am,


Your obedient servant,


Kenneth Macdonald, Esq.

Mr. Macdonald, immediately on receiving the reply, addressed the following letter to the Lord-Advocate :—

Inverness, 1st May, 1882.

My Lord,

I have received from your Secretary a letter stating that you “see no reason for recalling the order for trial of the Skye crofters charged with assault and deforcement before the Sheriff summarily, and that the order will therefore be carried out ”. I thought when I first wrote you that the request for a jury trial was so fair and reasonable that I did not require to adduce any reason in support of it, and that it lay with you, if you refused it, to give a reason for the refusal. Since, however, you do not seem to take this view of the matter, you will permit me to state some of the reasons which I think ought to induce you to grant the request of the prisoners.

The crime with which the men are charged is said to have been committed in the Skye district of this county. In that district there is a Court which has hitherto, so far as I can ascertain, tried all summary cases arising in the district. And yet without any reason assigned, the present case has been ordered for trial at Inverness. Had the case been sent for a jury trial it would have been the usual, and indeed, necessary, course to try the case here, but it is a thing hitherto unheard of that a summary trial from one of the outlying districts of the county should be taken here. With a complete machinery for conducting summary trials in the District Court, the prisoners are entitled to some explanation of the reason why they are put to the expense of bringing their witnesses and themselves from Skye to Inverness, when, in the ordinary course of things, they ought to go no further from home than Portree. It may be answered that as the resident Sheriff at Portree was engaged in the apprehension of the prisoners, he ought not to try the case. That is perfectly true. The prisoners quite agree that it would be improper to have the case tried by Mr. Spiers, but they are not responsible for what he has done, and ought not to suffer for it. If Sheriff Spiers has disqualified himself from trying the case, that affords no reason for punishing the persons to be tried. All that would be required to be done would be to have the trial conducted in Portree by Sheriff Blair, who would, according to your order, conduct it in Inverness.

What I have said is sufficient to show that your order is an exceptional one, and the prisoners, and, I believe, the public also, will expect you to justify it. Had these prisoners stood alone, their poverty would have prevented them bringing a single witness from Skye to establish their innocence, and your order would have meant a simple denial of justice.

But, further, the crime with which these men are charged is that of deforcement of an officer of the Sheriff of Inverness, and your order is that the Sheriff, whose servant is said to have been deforced, shall be the sole judge of whether the crime was committed or not. It is not my wish to draw historical parallels, but the circumstances will, no doubt, suggest to your lordship a series of trials which took place in Scotland nearly ninety years ago, when Muir and his fellow-reformers were convicted of sedition. It is not for me to suggest, and I do not suggest, that any of our local judges would deal unfairly with the prisoners, but I ask what is your reason for refusing them a trial by jury. It is to you they look in the first instance, and it is your reasons for pursuing an exceptional course with men who have already been harshly dealt with that the public will canvass.

I presume the object of the proceedings which have already been adopted with regard to these men, and of the trial which is to follow, is to inspire them and their fellows with a proper respect for the law. If this is so, let them have no excuse for saying they have not got fair play. If their crime was so important as to call for the exceptional measures taken for their apprehension, it is surely too important to be disposed of by a Court whose duties are usually confined to mere matters of police. The belief of the prisoners is that the object of your order is to secure their conviction at all hazards irrespective of their guilt or innocence, and this belief is shared by a growing number of the outside public. It is for you to dispel this misapprehension if it is one.

In such circumstances as I have described a summary trial would be little else than a farce ; and you will never inspire the Highland crofters or their friends with respect for the law if you persist in enacting such a farce in its name. I trust, therefore, you will reconsider your resolution, and yet order the trial of the prisoners in a manner which will inspire them with confidence in the administration of the law of their country.

I am,

Your obedient servant,


The Honourable the Lord-Advocate for Scotland,

Home Office, Whitehall, London, S.W.

On the same evening that the letter was written Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh (M.P. for the Inverness Burghs), in the House of Commons, asked the Lord-Advocate whether he would order that the Skye crofters now committed for trial should, instead of being tried summarily, have the privilege of being tried by a jury of their countrymen, and that the presiding judge should be one disconnected with the exceptional proceedings attendant on their recent apprehension ?

Mr. Dick Peddie had also the following question to ask the Lord-Advocate—Whether it is the case that instructions have been given that the five crofters recently arrested in Skye, and now released on bail, be tried summarily; whether they have applied through their agent to be tried by jury: and whether he intended to comply with their application ?

The Lord-Advocate, in reply, said he saw no reason for recalling the order for the trial before a summary magistrate.

After due consideration with his learned friend, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, this decision had been arrived at when the case was before them during the Easter recess. The people of Skye were generally peaceful, and having reason to believe that they were misled by bad advice, or they would not have resisted officers of the law in the execution of a legal warrant, he, with his learned colleague, thought that the offence would not be repeated if it was made clear to the people as rapidly as possible that the law will be vindicated. The charges preferred were of the least grave class that could be preferred on behalf of the Crown, and summary trial proceedings afforded little delay. The maximum sentence that could be inflicted was sixty days, and of course a lighter sentence would be passed if in the discretion of the magistrate it met the justice of the case. As to the last part of the question, it was intended that the trial should proceed before the Sheriff of Inverness who had not hitherto taken part in measures which unfortunately became necessary to vindicate the authority of the law in Skye.

The refusal of a Jury trial was final so far as the Crown was concerned. Curious as it may seem, an accused person in Scotland has no right to demand a trial by his peers. Our forefathers were not so careful of their liberties in this respect, or not so powerful to enforce them as our neighbours over the border. They took care centuries ago to secure this right; we have not secured it yet.

What might have occurred in this particular case but for the fear of public indignation it is hard to say. Tyranny has a peculiar fascination for weak men. Lord-Advocate Balfour, a good lawyer, but a weak politician, the holder of an office which was long since stripped of most of its power, and which immediately before his accession to it was so emasculated that his predecessor declined to sacrifice his self-respect by continuing to hold it,—desired to do one official act which had an appearance of strength about it without the reality. He had brought contempt upon the administration of the law by sanctioning or suggesting the sending of a large body of police from Glasgow to Skye to arrest a few old men of peaceful habits and general good character, whose worst weapon, it has been proved, was a lump of wet turf, and when the whole country was indulging in a roar of laughter over the ignominious retreat of the invading army of policemen before the women of the Braes, and the ridiculous ending of a performance which was intended to represent the dignity of the Law, he, the person primarily responsible for the mistake which had been committed, would naturally desire to cover his blunder by securing a conviction against the few harmless cottars whom the policemen in their blind panic had first laid hands on.

If ever there was a case which ought to be tried by a Jury this was one. At no time is the right of Jury trial more valuable than when the opinions of the public, and the acts of the Crown, as represented by its officials, run counter to each other, and when these acts are in any way connected with the offence to be tried. At no time ought the right to be more readily conceded. Here, however, it was determinedly denied. To Mr. Macdonald’s second letter no answer was ever given. We believe none was expected. Except in the answer given to the questions of Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh and Mr. Dick Peddie in the House of Commons, at least twenty-four hours before Mr. Macdonald’s letter reached him, the Lord-Advocate did not attempt either to explain or defend his conduct. In point of fact, complete explanation or defence was impossible. All that time the Crown officers must have known what was not known to' the prisoners’ advisers at the time, that there was no evidence against the prisoners upon which any sane Jury would convict. But the Lord-Advocate seems never to have forgotten that the officialism of the County of Inverness had involved itself in the mess, and in a summary trial officialism might be left to vindicate its own dignity. This would also vindicate the dignity of the law, and the wisdom of its administrators—at least so they thought. This theory was universally accepted outside official circles as the reason for the resolution to try summarily, and but for the protests made by outsiders, and particularly a number of Scottish Members of Parliament to secure a fair trial for the prisoners, most people believed that the trial would have been even a greater farce than it turned out to be, but with a far different ending.

The efforts of the Scottish Members to obtain a Jury trial did not end with the questions in the House of Commons. Efforts were made privately by some of these gentlemen to save the Administration of Justice in Scotland from being sullied, but without result, and when all their efforts failed, the members who had taken most interest in the matter, published the following protest in the Times of ioth May, 1882, from which it was quoted by almost every newspaper in the Kingdom:—

The circumstances of the arrest, by a large body of police brought from Glasgow, of half-a-dozen Skye crofters, accused of deforcing a sheriffs officer who went among them to serve writs, and the attempt at a rescue which attended it, must be fresh in the minds of your readers. We need not say that the case has excited great public interest in Scotland. It is most important, therefore, in order to secure any moral effect, that the trial should be conducted under such circumstances as will place the verdict above all suspicion. This, we regret to say, is not to be done, and already many persons who sympathise with the men, and desire that their case shall be fairly heard, openly accuse the Executive of resorting to unworthy means to obtain a conviction. For ourselves, we may at once state our perfect belief in the sincerity of the Lord Advocate in his profession of a desire, while vindicating the law, to provide for the accused that form of trial which will protect them from an unnecessarily heavy punishment. But punishment pre-supposes guilt, while what the accused contend is that they are not guilty. What they claim is that they shall first have their guilt established in the ordinary way, and if found guilty they are willing to take their chance of that punishment their conduct may seem to deserve.

Now, persons accused of crimes committed in Skye have ‘hitherto been invariably tried in one of two ways. If the cases are considered so trivial as to be dealt with summarily, they are tried by a sheriff-substitute sitting at Portree. This course secures to the accused the important advantage that evidence for his defence is procurable at a minimum of expense and inconvenience. If the case is of a grave character, it is tried by a jury at Inverness. This, of course, involves much more inconvenience and expense to the defence, but it secures the services of a jury, a tribunal which, for the purpose of deciding on matters of fact, is admittedly superior to a Judge, however impartial, sitting alone. But in the case of the Skye crofters the trial is to be at Inverness, without a jury. The defence thus incurs all the incon-venience and expense usually attendant on a jury trial, and obtains none of the advantages in the way of a tribunal the best qualified to pronounce on the question of the guilt or innocence of the accused. It is stated that Portree is in such an excited state that it is unadvisable that the trial should take place there, and that, therefore, it has to be removed to Inverness. There is not the smallest reason, however, why, being held at Inverness, it should not be held in the usual manner. The accused dispute the facts alleged by the prosecution. Their agent has asked for a jury to decide on the question of fact A jury trial is the invariable mode of disposing of Skye cases tried at Inverness ; but a jury trial, though in this case specially demanded, has been refused. The reason given for its refusal is that the Crown authorities having originally intended that the trial should be a summary one at Portree, though it has now been deemed advisable to remove it to Inverness, they see no reason to change the form of trial on that account. The reply is that at Portree there would have been nothing unusual in a summary trial, and trial at Portree would have secured material advantages to the accused. At Inverness the summary trial of a Skye case is unprecedented, and the expense to the accused as heavy as would be that of a jury trial.

But the Lord Advocate has explained that if the cases had been tried by jury the sentences might have been much heavier than those to which they would be exposed on summary conviction. That is true, but it is equally true that the judge might have awarded sentences as light as he deemed proper. In the interests of justice it is desirable that the punishment should be commensurate with the offence. There is no reason why a judge sitting with a jury on circuit or in the Sheriff Court should not award the slightest possible sentence. That is what the agent for accused thinks, and, knowing their case, he is willing to take his chance of the heavier sentence if they are found guilty and are thought to deserve it.

On the point of guilt or innocence, however, he prefers the verdict of a jury to the decision of a judge, and that has been refused. In criminal cases in Scotland a bare majority of the jury convicts, and if the case is not strong enough to convince eight men out of fifteen, the prisoners are surely entitled to the benefit of the doubt. That is all that has been asked, and that, despite the strongest representations, has been refused. To us its refusal in this particular case, on grounds of public policy, seems particularly regretable, and we beg through your columns publicly to protest against it.

Charles Cameron.
C. Fraser-Mackintosh.
P. Stewart Macliver.
James Cowan.
Frank Henderson.
J. Dick Peddie.
James W. Barclay.

House of Commons, May 9, 1882.

Commenting on this protest the Pall Mall Gazette of 10th May, said:—

It is hard to see what answer there can be to the protest on behalf of the Skye crofters raised in the Times this morning by seven Scotch members. Skye cases have hitherto always been disposed of either summarily at Portree or by trial before a jury at Inverness. If the accused had not the satisfaction of submitting his case to a jury, he was, at least, relieved from the expense of being tried at a distance from home. But in the present instance it is proposed to try the crofters at Inverness, but without a jury. Why should the crofters be subjected to the disadvantage of both methods of trial without the benefit of either?

Whether if published earlier this Protest would have had any effect it is hard to say. Probably not. As it was, it only appeared in the Times the day before that fixed for the trial. By that time the arrangements were complete. Some days before then Mr. Macdonald, the accused’s agent, finding that the trial was to proceed summarily, had gone to Skye and precognosced a large number of witnesses, several of whom were cited for the defence. On the morning the.Protest appeared in the Times the accused and the witnesses for the prosecution and defence left Portree for Inverness, the trial having been fixed for the nth of May, 1882.

On that day the accused took their place at the Bar of the Sheriff Court in the Castle of Inverness. The hour of commencement was noon, and by that time the Court-house was crowded. Sheriff Blair, the presiding judge, was accompanied on the bench by Sheriff Shaw, late of Lochmaddy. Besides numerous members of the Faculty, there were around the bar—Mr. Alex. Macdonald, factor, Portree; Mr. Macleod, secretary of the Skye Vigilance Committee, Glasgow ; Dean of Guild Mackenzie; Bailie Smith; Mr. Alex. Macdonald Maclellan; Mr. MacHugh; Mr. Cameron of the Standard, and several others.

The indictment set forth that Alexander Finlayson, tenant or crofter; Donald Nicolson, tenant or crofter; James Nicolson, now or lately residing with the said Donald Nicolson; Malcolm Finlayson, son of, and now or lately residing with, the said Alexander Finlayson ; and Peter Macdonald, son of, and now or lately residing with, Donald Macdonald, tenant or crofter, all residing at Balmeanach, had all and each, or one or more of them, been guilty of the crime of deforcing an officer of the law in the execution of his duty ; or of the crime of violently resisting and obstructing an officer of the law in the execution of his duty, or persons employed by and assisting an officer of the law in the execution of his duty; and also of the crime assault, or of one or other of these crimes, actor or actors or art and part, in so far as Angus Martin, now or lately residing at Lisigarry, near Portree, in the parish Portree aforesaid, having been as asheriff-officer of the County of Inverness, on or about the 7th day of April, 1882, instructed by Alexander Macdonald, solicitor in Portree aforesaid, as agent for the Right Honourable Ronald Archibald Macdonald, Lord Macdonald, of Armadale Castle, Skye, to go to Balmeanach, Penachorain, and Geden-tailor, three of the townships in the district of Braes, in the parish of Portree aforesaid, to serve actions of removing, which, with the warrants thereon, he delivered to the said Angus Martin for that purpose, raised in the Sheriff Court of Inverness, Elgin, and Nairn at Portree, at the instance of the said Right Honourable Ronald Archibald Macdonald, Lord Macdonald, upon the tenants in the said townships . . . and also to serve small debt summonses for debt . . . and the said Angus Martin having upon the said 7th day of April, 1882, or about that time, proceeded towards, or in the direction of the said three townships of Balmeanach, Penachorain, and Gedentailor, in order to serve the said actions and small debt summonses, accompanied by Ewen Robertson, now or lately residing at Lisigary aforesaid, as his concurrent and assistant, and by Norman Beaton, ground-officer on the estates of the said Lord Macdonald, and now or lately residing at Shullisheddar, in the parish of Portree aforesaid, the said Alex. Finlayson, Donald Nicolson, James Nicolson, Malcolm Finlayson, and Peter Macdonald, did all and each, or one or more of them, assisted by a crowd of people to the number of 150 or thereby, whose names are to the complainer unknown, actors or actor, or art and part, at or near Gedentailor aforesaid [and at a part thereof three hundred yards or thereby on the south of the schoolhouse, known by the name of MacDermid’s Institution, on the lands of Olach in the parish of Portree aforesaid, and now or lately occupied by Kenneth MacLean, teacher there], wickedly and feloniously attack and assault the said Angus Martin, well knowing him to be an officer of the law, and in the execution of his duty as such, and that he held the said actions and small debt summonses and warrants for service, and the said Ewen Robertson, well knowing him to be the assistant and concurrent and witness of the said Angus Martin and the said Norman Beaton, and did knock them, or one or more of them to the ground, and did by force at or near Gedentailor aforesaid, forcibly seize hold of, and destroy the service copies of the actions and ^small debt summonses before mentioned, and did also upon the lands of Upper Olach, being another township in the said district of Braes, and in the parish of Portree aforesaid [and at a part of said lands occupied by Donald Macpherson, crofter, there, forty yards or thereby on the south of the said schoolhouse], forcibly seize hold of and burn, or cause, or procure to be burned, the principal copies of the said actions and small debt summonses and warrants thereon, and did further upon the said township of Gedentailor, and upon the said township of Upper Olach, and upon the high road leading from these townships to Portree aforesaid [and on that part of said road lying between Gedentailor aforesaid and the said Schoolhouse], throw stones and clods of earth and peat at the said Angus Martin, Ewen Robertson, and Norman Beaton, by which they, or one or more of them were struck to the hurt and injury of their persons ; and by all which or part thereof the said Angus Martin, and the said Ewen Robertson were deforced and by force, preventedfront executing and discharging their duty and from serving the said actions and small debt summonses.

Mr. James Anderson, Procurator-Fiscal for the county, conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Kenneth Macdonald, solicitor, and Town Clerk of Inverness, appeared for the prisoners.

The Procurator-Fiscal asked that certain amendments should be made on the complaint with the object of more specifically defining the places at which the acts charged against the prisoners were alleged to have been committed. The amendments were not objected to and were allowed. The lines introduced are those within the preceding copy of the libel.

Immediately after the amendments had been made, Mr. Macdonald said that, before the complaint was gone into, he had to state objections to the relevancy of the indictment and also to the competency of the Court to try the case. He objected to the competency of the Court on the ground that the crime charged was of such a serious nature that it ought to be tried by a jury; and he objected to the competency of the complaint on the ground that the punishment attached by law to the crime charged in the indictment is beyond that which could be imposed in that court. The charge in this case was that of deforcing an officer of the law in the execution of his duty, and that was said to have

been done by the prisoners in concert with a crowd of 150 people; so that the deforcement ran into the other serious charge of mobbing and rioting, the most serious kind of deforcement known to the law. This was the first time, he believed, in the legal history of Scotland that a charge of such a serious nature had been tried in a Summary Court. The accused had been brought to that Court; they objected to being brought there. The public prosecutor had no right to dictate what was the competent Court for the trial of a case; it was for his lordship to say whether the Court was competent or incompetent. The public prosecutor had refused to go to a higher Court; he had refused to give these men the benefit of trial by jury; and it was now for his lordship to say whether these men were to have that benefit. It had been said that the reason for bringing the trial in the Summary Court was the fact that the maximum sentence was so small, but his lordship had the same power in the Jury Court as he had in the Summary Court

The Sheriff said there was no question whatever in regard to the power of a judge sitting in the Jury Court to inflict the minimum punishment in a case of deforcement; and he instanced a case of that kind, tried by Lord Young at the Inverness Circuit Court, in which the sentence was a fine of 40s., with the alternative of one month’s imprisonment. .

Mr. Macdonald quoted the acts of the Scottish Parliament of 1581 (C. 118), 1587, (C. 85), and 1591 (C. 152), which regulated the punishment which by statute followed on conviction, to show the serious nature of the charge against the prisoners, and argued that as the libel concluded generally for “ the pains of law ” and these pains were statutory and such as were beyond the power of a Court of summary jurisdiction to inflict, the Court was incompetent to dispose of the cause. He also quoted from Hume and Alison to show that the High Court had frequently suspended sentences pronounced in a Summary Court when the crime charged was too serious for such a mode of trial. He maintained that before 1864 there never was a case of such magnitude tried before a Summary Court, and if not before 1864 there was nothing in the Act of that date which would entitle them to try it. .

The Sheriff said that this was an offence at common law as well as under the statute. They were proceeding at common law, and the pains and penalties which the prosecutor asked should be inflicted, were the pains and penalties applicable under the Summary Procedure Acts.

Mr. Macdonald held that the punishment was statutory, even though the offence was charged at common law.

The Sheriff said the punishment was statutory if the prosecution was under the statute; but if the prosecution was at common law, it was not necessary for the Court to take the statutory penalty.

Mr. Macdonald contended that when his lordship was asked generally, as in this complaint, to inflict the pains of law upon defenders, that carried them back to the statute law.

The Sheriff—That carries you back to the statute under which you are proceeding; and the statute under which you are proceeding is the Summary Procedure Acts.

Mr. Macdonald—If that is your lordship’s view, there is no use in any further pressing my contention.

The Sheriff said that was the view he was inclined to take. He might mention that he had been aware that some objection of this sort might be taken, and he had given the point careful consideration. Personally he should have preferred that the case had been tried by jury, on the ground that it would have relieved him of a considerable deal of personal responsibility; but it was not what he desired, but what was really the law on the point. It was quite true, and it had been the opinion of most distinguished lawyers in this country, that there was no point less fixed than as to when a trial was to be by jury or not. In the present case, even should he have been of opinion—which he was not—that the nature of the offence as detailed in the complaint before him was unfit for summary trial, he did not think he could interfere with the discretion of the public prosecutor in trying under the Summary Procedure Acts, as the penalty craved did not extend beyond the limits set forth in these Acts.

Mr. Macdonald then stated that he objected to the relevancy of the indictment. The libel amounted to this—that Angus Martin, who lived at Portree, proceeded on a certain day towards, or in the direction of, certain townships; and that on the way there, at a certain place, he was met by certain people, and had his warrants taken from him. The question for his lordship was whether that amounted to deforcement. The act charged in the indictment, Mr. Macdonald contended, might be theft, or mobbing and rioting, or assault, but it was not deforcement. To be deforced, an officer must be assaulted, and be in bodily fear while in the execution of his duty; but in the libel it was not mentioned that Martin ever made an attempt to execute the warrants he carried. There was nothing to show that the officers had got near to the residences of any of the persons upon whom they meant to serve the summonses— nothing even to show that even on the road they were near to any of the men against whom they held summonses. He quoted from Hume, Alison, and Macdonald’s works on Criminal Law to show that an officer could only be deforced while he was actually in the execution of his duty as an officer, or in actuproximo to its execution. There was nothing in the libel to show that the officers in this case were in the execution of their duty, or on the point of executing it, or even near any of the places where their duty fell to be executed, indeed, the presumption was, from the terms of the libel—and this presumption was strengthened by the amendments just made by the Public Prosecutor—that they had not reached the place when they were met by the people.

As to the alternative charge of violently resisting and obstructing an officer of the law in the execution of his duty, that was simply an unsuccessful attempt at deforcement, and would only be committed in circumstances which, had the resistance been successful, would have amounted to deforcement. In short,’ here also the officer must be executing, or on the point of executing, his duty, otherwise the crime would not be committed. If, therefore, the libel was irrelevant as regarded the charge of deforcement it was necessarily so as regards the less serious charge of obstructing also.

The Procurator-Fiscal, in reply, quoted from Alison and Macdonald to show that it was unquestionably deforcement if when a messenger had come near to the debtor’s house he was met by a host of people who drove him off on notice or suspicion of his purpose. In this case the officer was in the immediate neighbourhood of the place where he intended to serve his warrants, as stated in the libel; and therefore the act charged amounted to deforcement.

The Sheriff, after full consideration, said—The objection taken to the complaint is one of very great importance, and if sustained detracts very materially from the gravity of the offence with which they are charged. The offence of deforcement, as Mr. Hume says, is not to the individual, but to the officer and the law, which is violated in his person ; and it lies in the hindrance of these formal and solemn proceedings, which took place under regular written authority, which it belongs only to an officer of the law to perform. It therefore appears to me to be indispensable that the complaint should bear that the officer said to be deforced was at or near the premises of the parties against whom the writs were issued; or that the officer had assumed that official character and entered on his commission, being in the near and immediate preparation with proceeding to the first formalities in the execution of that commission. This complaint does not, in my opinion, contain those essentials; and therefore, to the extent that I have now stated, the objection must be sustained.

The Procurator-Fiscal—In these circumstances, there is no case of deforcement, and I propose now to proceed with the case as one of assault.

The Sheriff—Of course the offence, though not deforcement, may be assault and battery, aggravated certainly by the station of the officer.

Mr. Macdonald—All that there is in the complaint regarding assault is the phrase, “as also of the crime of assault”. There is not a single word about aggravation. I hope there will be no attempt to prove aggravation when there is no aggravation libelled.

The Sheriff—The offence now to be tried is that of assault. Assault, as we know, may be of various degrees. It may be .of such a character as would be met by the minimum sentence, and it may be a serious assault I used the word “aggravated” in the popular rather than the technical sense. The case to be tried was not an assault with an aggravation, but an assault which might or might not be of a serious character.

The effect of this judgment was that the charge of deforcement was struck out of the libel and the words printed in italics were held as deleted.

The prisoners were then asked to plead to the charge of assault, and Mr. Macdonald stated that their plea was “ Not Guilty ”.


Angus Martin, sheriff-officer, Portree, was the first witness called. Examined by Mr. Anderson, he said—A few days before the 7th April last I received instructions to go to the Braes for the purpose of serving summonses. I went on the 7th April to the Braes, which is about eight miles from Portree. It is on the estate of Lord Macdonald. The summonses I had were’ for removal, and I had also some small debt summonses for arrears of rent. I left Portree about twelve o’clock, accompanied by Ewen Robertson, and Norman Beaton. As we were going towards the Braes, my attention was directed to two little boys, who;came out on the road and looked at us. They ran away, but returned a second time with small flags in their hands. Then they ran towards the townships of Balmeanach, Peinachorrain, and Gedintailler. When I went to Gedintailler I saw two young men with flags. They were bawling out and waving the flags, the boys were also waving their flags. When I got to Gedintailler a great number of persons came out.

The Sheriff—Were there two flags? Witness—Yes.

The Sheriff—After the waving a great many people came?

Witness —Yes. A crowd came from the townships.

The Sheriff—How many would there be?

Witness—I should say there would be from 150 to 200, including women and children. (Laughter.)

Mr. Anderson—When you say women and children do you also include men? Yes. .

Did they surround you? Yes, sir, they did.

The Sheriff—They came towards you and surrounded you? Yes, my lord. I had not then gone off the public road.

Mr. Anderson—Did they ask you anything?—They called out to me to return. I had the summonses in my pocket, and I took them out and told them my name was Angus Martin, and that I. was a sheriff-officer from the Sheriff. When I took out the summonses they rushed forward and snatched the summonses out of my hand. This was done by Donald Nicolson.

Mr. Macdonald—I think we might stop this line of examination now.

Mr. Anderson—On what principle?

Mr. Macdonald—The charge is one of assault merely, and the evidence with which it was intended to support the charge of deforcement is now being led for the purpose as I take it of proving an aggravation which is not libelled.

The Sheriff overruled the objection.

Mr. Anderson—Were the crowd quiet at that time?—No. They were very excited.

What was done with the summonses?—They tried to tear them up and threw them on the ground.

Did any person come up to you then?—Yes, Alex. Finlayson, who had a staff in his hand. He told us that unless we turned back we would lose our lives, meaning myself and the ground-officer.

Did he dare you to proceed further?—Yes. He was also brandishing the stick. Stones were thrown by the crowd, and the whole five prisoners were amongst the crowd. I cannot say who threw the stones. My concurrent was taken hold of by Donald Nicolson, who said, “Get away you b-”. He had a hold of Robertson about the back, and Robertson was afterwards thrown to the ground. Nicolson said (evidently referring to the summonses), “Lift them now, and take them away, yon-”. I do not know who it was among the crowd who threw Robertson on the ground. The women were very busy at that time. (Laughter.) I saw James Nicolson when my concurrent was on the ground. He rushed forward with his two hands closed, and asked who was that? On being told, he said, “Kill the b-”. I can’t say what Robertson did then, as I did not like to turn my back. I wished to keep my front to them. (Laughter.) 1 think he ran towards Portree. He was followed by a large crowd. The crowd continued to threaten me. I spoke to them, and tried to pacify them as best I could, though I was very shaky. (Laughter.) I proceeded towards Portree, but the crowd followed, and continued to threaten me. Stones were thrown by the crowd from Gedintailler until I reached the schoolhouse at Olach, when I got rid of them.

Mr. Anderson—Did they say anything about you not coming back there again?—Yes. They told me not to come back, because I might be killed, and said if it had been any other officer he would have been killed.

Mr. Anderson—Did Malcolm Finlayson do anything?—He came to me in a great hurry and said the people wished to speak to me; and I said I would be very glad. He asked me, If I had any summonses, and I told him I had the principals and copies. He snatched them out of my hand, and after trying to tear them threw them on the ground. The crowd were about me at this time, and one of the prisoners, Peter Macdonald, said something about burning the summonses. He said, addressing me, “unless you burn these you will not go home alive”. There were murmurs among the crowd and I was asked to burn the summonses. They tried to bum the summonses themselves first, and tried to light them at a burning peat, but were unsuccessful. When I was threatened with my life, I asked for a piece of paper, and one of the crowd handed me a bit of the torn summons. I blew the burning peat as hard as I could to make it burn and I lighted the piece paper at the burning peat, and handed it to some one in the crowd, crying “go ahead I was induced to do this, because I was afraid of my life, as I had been told before I went up that I would be killed. Nothing else induced me to bum the summonses.

Mr. Anderson—You were afraid of your life?—Yes; I was, and I was very glad to get away. (Laughter.)

Between the place where the summonses were tom and where they were destroyed was there much stone-throwing?—Yes, stones and clods, but I was not struck with them.

Did you see your assistants struck?—Well, I did not like to look back—(Laughter)—but I think they must have been getting some of them.

When you got home you reported the matter to the Fiscal?—Yes.

Cross-examined by Mr. Kenneth Macdonald—What do you do?—I am a sheriff-officer and auctioneer.

Are you also a clerk in the office of Lord Macdonald’s factor?—I am.

Mr. Macdonald—Anything else?—I am sanitary inspector, clerk to the Local Authority, and clerk to the Road Trustees.

Do you hold many other offices?—I am a crofter. (Laughter.)

In which capacity did you go to the Braes?—I went in my capacity as sheriff-officer. I called in to Mr. Macdonald, the factor’s office, that morning to tell that I was going away for a time. I did not get the summonses against these people signed as the Factor’s clerk. They were handed to me by the Sheriff-Clerk. I was instructed to get them from him by Mr. Macdonald, and I proceeded to the Braes to serve them. I was quite sober then, as sober as I am now, and I think I am sober. Donald Nicolson snatched the summonses from me.

Mr. Macdonald—Will you swear to that?—Yes.

Who saw him?—Lots of people, besides my concurrent and the ground-officer. He tore some of them and did not hand them back to me. I turned my back shortly afterwards, but by that time the papers were lying on the ground.

Did Nicolson ask you for the summonses? —No.

How did he come to get them from you?—I did not give them to him.

How did he come to have them then?—I took them out of my pocket and said I would give the summonses to them as I saw some of the persons for whom they were in the crowd.

Was the bundle tied up?—There was an elastic band about it

Did you hand the summonses to anyone?—They were snatched out of my hand by Nicolson.

Do you swear that he did not hand them back?—No. I swear that, so far as I can remember.

You must remember that?

The Sheriff—Have you any doubt about it?—No, my lord.

Mr. Macdonald—What became of the summonses?—I don’t know. They were lying on the road.

You were not struck by a stone?—No.

Or by anything else?—One of the women, I think, struck me with some soft stuff on the head.

One of the women?—I think so.

Was that Mrs. Flora Nicolson? Witness—Which Mrs. Nicolson?

Mr. Macdonald—You know Mrs. Nicolson?—There are so many Mrs. Nicolsons.

Do you know Widow Nicolson, to whom you made the statement about the widows of Gedintailler?—I know two widows of that name.

Do you remember a widow you made remarks about before that?— There are so many of them I can’t remember.

Do you know Widow Nicolson of Gedintailler to whom you made a statement about the widows of Gedintailler?—I know more than one Widow Nicolson in Gedintailler, but I don’t know their first names.

The Sheriff—Did you see any of these widows?—Yes, I saw Widow Nicolson, Balmeanach.

By Mr. Macdonald—Did she strike you?—No, Sir.

Did she call upon the widows of Gedintailler to come round Martin to get their character?—No, I am not sure.

Did you make a statement about the widows of Gedintailler in Portree before that?—I do not think it. I would always be speaking to them about rents.

Did you make a statement about the character of the widows?—No, no.

Were you rebuked by Norman Beaton about the filthiness of your language about these women?—Filthy language! I do not remember. I was not checked by Norman Beaton or any other.

The Sheriff objected to this, but Mr. Macdonald said he wished to show that the whole of the disturbance arose out of an attack made by Martin a short time before, on the character of the ladies who formed the major part of the crowd.

Mr. Macdonald—Did Widow Nicolson strike you?—-No.

Did any one strike you?—No, but it was a narrow shave.

Did any one threaten to strike you?—Yes, Donald Finlayson with a stick.

And you did not attempt to proceed further?—No, not I.

Did you make any attempt to regain the doubles of your summonses? I just let them go. '

I suppose you were glad to get rid of them?—Oh no, not in that way.

How far had you gone back towards Portree before you were again overtaken by the crowd?—Well, I think it would be about three-quarters of a mile. Malcolm Finlayson came up to me then, and I took the summonses out of my pocket. He snatched them from me, although I had a good hold of them. He did not return them, and I heard nobody tell him to return them to me.

You said some one tried to burn the summonses and failed?—Yes.

And then you said “I have a good breath,” did you not?—I was hearing murmurs in the crowd that they would make me bum them, so I took a piece of paper and set fire to a bit of one of the summonses.

What did you say then?—I handed it to some one in the crowd, and immediately there was a great clapping of hands.

Now, did you not set fire to the summonses?—No, I set fire to a bit of one of them with a piece of paper which I lighted at a burning peat.

Did you not bend down and set fire to them?—No, I am quite certain I did not.

Did you not, Martin, in setting fire to these summonses say, "Now, keep back, boys, and give it air?”—I did not set fire to the summonses, but after they set fire to them there was a great cheering.

Did you call on the crowd to keep back and give it (the fire) air?— I may have said stand back, but not to give it air.

Now, why did you say that?—In order to please them.

Did you make a speech after that?—Yes, for their kindness. I thanked them because they had not struck me, and as I waited to get rid of their company.

Did anybody say—“Angus, boy, you need not fear?”—Yes. That was at the first stage of the proceedings, when I said don’t kill me.

Did you say you were not afraid of anything?—I said I was there independent of factor or anybody else.

Did you say you were not afraid of anybody?—Well, I might have said so.

Was that true?—No, it was not (Laughter).

Did you say that all the people of the Braes would not hurt you?— Very likely.

And that was not true?—Well, I saw it was not true at that stage. (Laughter).

Did you tell any more lies that day?—Well, I do not remember. It is not my profession to tell lies.

You seem to practice it occasionally. (Laughter).

You asked for a smoke?—Yes.

Why did you ask for that?—I was not a smoker, but I asked for it to please them.

How long did you smoke?—For five or six minutes.

In answer to further questions, witness said that when leaving he shook hands with a number of the men in the crowd. He denied having advised the crowd, in his speech, to be smart and hard about Ben-Lee, and that they would get it. He had no whisky that day, and denied emphatically that he had lately been dismissed for drunkenness. He reported the case to the Fiscal when he went home.

Mr. Macdonald—Is this the first criminal charge against the Braes tenants?—No.

There was a charge of intimidation, but it broke down?—Yes.

Did you go to the Braes with the intention of serving these summonses?—Yes, and I thought I was safe in serving summonses in any part of Skye up to that time,

Is it not the case that you were sent to the Braes with the view of getting up a charge of deforcement against these people?—It was not, sir.


Ewen Robertson, who spoke through Mr. Whyte as interpreter, said—I am a labourer, residing at Portree. On the 7th April last, I went as witness with Angus Martin to the Braes with summonses. The ground officer, Norman Beaton, was also with us. When we came to Gedintailler we saw two boys, and they had flags in their hands on the point of a stick. They ran ahead of us. They were waving the flags, and ran away to a knoll on the low side of Gedintailler. When we went on we saw a man, and he came down where we were. A number of people collected, but I do not know how many. The crowd surrounded us. I knew the people, but did not see but Donald and James Nicolson. The crowd knocked me down three times. I was pushed down on the road. The crowd was much excited. I was hurt every time they knocked me down. I went off when I got on my feet. I heard them saying to us that they would kill us. I heard James Nicolson saying so. I did not hear Donald. After throwing the summonses down, Donald seized me by the back of the neck. Donald plucked the summonses from Martin and tore them, and then seized me. He did not throw me down, but caught me by the back of the neck and told me to lift the pieces, and I said there was no use of them. He told me where the summonses were. I was frightened at that stage, “and it was not little”. The crowd were excited, and I took myself away, and was followed by about a dozen youths throwing mud at me. I do not know who knocked me down, but I was thrown down three times. They also threw a pail of water at me, but I don’t know who did. When I ran away a great deal of stones and earth were thrown at me. Some of them struck me, but I was avoiding them as well as I could. It was only a few youths who followed me. The youths were among the crowd first.

You did not go back again?—Oh, indeed, I would not go. I did not see the summonses burned, and was frightened for my life.

By Mr. Macdonald—What is your occupation?—Anything I can do if I get payment for it.

Are you in the habit of accompanying Martin?—Yes, and his father before him for forty years, and others of the same kind before him, and nothing ever happened to me.

This profession I take it is not very highly respected in the Island of Skye?—I never heard anything about it. Before that time everything went on quietly, and we did our message and got the best in the house before we went away.

Did you see anything happen to Martin?—No ; I did not. I went away.

When you were asked in Portree to submit to precognition on behalf of the Prisoners, what was your reply the first time?—I said who asked that of me.

Did you refuse to answer any question when I asked you?—I said I had been already examined, and until I would go before the judge I would not answer more questions.

You came the following day and gave information. What led to the change in your opinion?—Yes; I did that when I heard who it was.

Did I not tell you the first night who it was?—Oh, yes, you did. (Laughter).

What brought about the change?—I did not wish to be examined.

Did Martin tell you not to answer any questions?—He did not.

Did you see Martin that night?—Yes.

Where?—On the street at Portree.

At the hotel door?—Yes.

Waiting for you?—I do not know whether he was or not.

Did he tell you to refuse to answer questions?—No! he did not indeed.

How did Donald Nicolson come to get hold of the summonses?—He just came over from where he was and took them from him.

How long had Martin the summonses in his hand before Nicolson got them?—No time ; and he said he had come to deliver the summonses with the Sheriffs warrant.

Did he take them out of his pocket?—Yes.

How long was that before Nicolson got them?—I cannot say what time. I had no watch.

Did Martin offer the men the summonses?—I did not hear him. The people would not take them from him.

Then he did offer them?—He did not offer them at that time.

Why had he the summonses in his hand?—There were some there for whom the summonses were. .

My question was, why had Martin the summonses in his hand?—Oh, God ! How could I know what they were in his hand for.

Did he offer them?—He did not require to offer them.

How long were you beside Martin at this time?—I was not long when I was thrust away by the people.

Did you know all the people?—I did not know them all.

Had they anything on their heads?—The women had handkerchiefs on their heads, but I do not know was it to protect them from the sun or hide them.

Why did you not lift up the summonses?—Why should I lift them when they were in pieces.

Who tore them?—Nicolson did.

Did you see him?—I will swear that.

Did you see the destruction of the other summonses?

Witness (before interpretation)—No.

Mr. Macdonald—This witness had good English a week ago. (Laughter).

Did you see any person touch Martin?—No, I did not see them.

Or Beaton?—No, I do not, but they might have killed him for all I know. •

You ran home?—I ran back as fast as I could.

Did any of them touch you?—I am not aware of any of them touching me.


Norman Beaton, ground-officer, said—I reside at Shullisheddar. I accompanied the sheriff-officer on 17th April last. I want to point out the places. He had summonses to serve at Penachorrain, Balmeanach, and Gedintailler. On coming near Gedintailler we saw two boys, and they ran away. We afterwards saw a man with a flag waving it. They came and asked where we were going, and Martin said he was going to serve summonses on them. He took the summonses out of his pocket. Alexander Finlayson said he would not allow them to go on. He said lifting his staff, “ You won’t go any further ”. He said, “Surely you all know me, I came here by order of the Sheriff”. Donald Nicolson took the summonses out of Martin’s hands and threw them on the road, but I could not say who tore them. I saw them in bits on the road. The people were gathering. There was about 150 altogether—men, women, and children and girls. I saw them all in the crowd. Martin I and returned back towards Portree. Robertson turned first, and after he left I saw him knocked down in the road. The crowd followed us when we turned back to Portree, and some of them were throwing stones and clods at us, near Gedintailler on the road, Not many of them struck me. Near Murchison’s schoolhouse, about three-quarters of a mile from the place where the summonses were destroyed, the crowd followed us, and amongst them were James Nicolson, Peter Macdonald, and Malcolm Finlayson. They were very much excited, and using threats. They ran after us, and asked if we had any more summonses. Martin said he had the principal summonses to bring them back to Portree. He took them out of his pocket and showed them, and Malcolm Finlayson snatched them out of his hand and threw them in the road. They were not tom, and I could not say if they were afterwards torn. 1 saw peat lying beside them; it was alive. Martin stood on the road, and I stood nearer Portree. I saw smoke, but could not say if the summonses were burning. I was alarmed but not hurt, and afraid to go on.

Cross-examined by Mr. Macdonald—In what capacity did you go with Martin to the Braes?—I think I went as ground-officer—as Lord Macdonald’s servant. _

You did not go as Martin’s concurrent?—I was sent there by Lord Macdonald’s factor, by whom I was employed. Martin was not to pay me.

Were the crowd principally women and children?—Yes, and men.

Were they principally women and children?—No answer. Were there more women and children than there were men? I believe there were more men. To make three shares of them, I believe there were more men. More than one third were men.

You said that Robertson was knocked down by some women and men?—Yes.

He had gone away from the crowd at that time?—Yes.

When Martin came up first with the summonses, how was it he happened to take them out of his pocket?—They asked him where he was going, and what brought him there, and he took the summonses out of his pocket. He told them it was for that purpose he came. He kept the summonses in his hand.

Close to his body?—He held them out a little. He said, “Here they are”. Donald Nicolson then took them. He was not very close to them, just past him a yard or two.

Was not this what took place? Did not Nicolson put out his hand and take them?—He was not so close as that.—Was Martin offering them at the time ?

The. Procurator-Fiscal—Martin did’nt say that. You are putting words in the witness’s mouth he never used.

Mr. Macdonald—If I put a question, it is not the part of the Procurator-Fiscal to instruct his own witness what to say in answer to it.

Cross-examination continued—What were Martin’s words?—He said, “Here they are”. I swear he did not say, “Here they are to you I will swear to that. .

Were they pointed in the direction of Nicolson?—They were pointed in the way of the crowd as well as Nicolson. He was along with the crowd.

And he took the summonses?—Yes.

Did he offer them back to Martin?—I did not see that. I was close to Martin all the time and I did not see that. I was very close behind.

Might they have been offered to Martin without you seeing it?— They could not, and I did not see them offered. He tore the summonses. I could not see Nicolson put them on the ground.

Were they torn then?—No, they were not torn when he put them on the ground.

How long after you first saw them on the ground did you see them torn?—I could not say. It was some little time.

Did you see them in anybody’s hand between the time you saw them on the ground untorn and when you saw them torn?—No.

The whole crowd was walking over them. I cannot say if that would account for the tearing of them. The band which bound the summonses was off when I saw them on the road. It was torn off about the time they were dropped upon the road. Nicolson took the band off and threw it upon the road. By the time I went down to the school-house, I was struck with stones and clods by some women—not by men—in the crowd. _

Did you hear anything said by Mrs. Nicolson there as to the character of the women of Gedintailler ?—I did not.

Did not you hear her say, “Now, come, women of Gedintailler, and hear your character from Angus Martin?”—I did. I heard her also say that he should burn the summonses. I heard her say that he was saying some words to her in Portree about the character of the women of Gedintailler. She told words to me herself at that time.

At what time?—At Olach. Not in the presence of Martin. It was said to me near Murchison’s school-house. Martin was not there at the time.

She complained of the language Martin had used?—I cannot remember what words he had used. It occurred after the meeting of the Disaster Committee in Portree. I did not hear anything about the language till she told me there that day.

Is it not a fact that you and Lachlan Ross checked him for the language in Portree?—I can’t remember of it. Was it filthy language? —Yes, very filthy.

And she referred to it this day at Gedintailler?—Yes.

After you got down to near Murchison’s school-house the principal summonses were produced by Martin?—Yes. He was asked if he had any more of them, and he took them out of his pocket. He caught them in his hand and told me to bring them back to Portree. He did not offer them to Malcolm Finlayson. He said, “I have them here, and I have to take them back to Portree”. I did not hear him ask for a match. I heard some one in the crowd ask for a match to bum them. I did not see any weapons in their hands.

No sticks or anything of that sort?—No.

I heard Martin asking for a smoke from some of the crowd who were about. I think he got a smoke. • I believe Martin was afraid.

And yet he asked for a smoke?—Yes.

How long did he stand smoking?—I could not say. I saw him on the road and some of the crowd speaking to him. It was about that time Mrs. Nicolson came, and there were some women with her.

She wanted Martin to repeat what he had said at Portree?—I could not say.

Did you hear Martin make a speech?—No, sir.

Did you observe her speaking to the crowd—can you tell us what was said?—No. I could not say how many he shook hands with. There was not many about that time. I was struck in Gedintailler with stones and clods by the women. They did not hurt me. I was struck at Olach with stones and clods again, but they did not hurt me. Some women were throwing them.

Did one of the men wipe off the mark of a clod on Martin’s clothes with the sleeve of his coat?—I saw that done to Martin. A woman before that had taken a handful of turf and rubbed it on his jacket.

Did one of the men come and wipe it off with his sleeve?—One of the men of the crowd came and wiped off the mark with his coat.

Mr. Macdonald here turned to consult his notes, and witness, who was apparently getting rather uneasy, hurriedly left the box. Mr. Macdonald, without turning fully round, put the question, “Did Martin make a speech, ” but getting no answer he found to his surprise that the box was empty, and the witness escaping rapidly by the door of the Court-room. He was recalled amidst much laughter, and, having answered a few questions, was allowed to go,



Alexander Macdonald, factor, examined—I am a solicitor at Portree, and act as factor for Lord Macdonald. In the middle of April, I instructed summonses against Donald Nicolson, Balmeanach; Alex. Finlayson, do.; Samuel Nicolson, do.; John Nicolson, do.; James Matheson, Widow C. Matheson, Widow C. Nicolson, Widow Mackinnon, John Stuart, and Donald Macwilliam. I instructed Martin to go and serve the summonses, and he proceeded to do so.

Cross-examined by Mr. Macdonald—Is Martin your clerk?—Yes, and has been so for a long time.

How long has he been so?—I think he entered my office first, at the very beginning, and then he went to Glasgow, and came back, and has been with me for the last eight or ten years.

From the beginning of what?—Of his career. .

How many years will that be?—I cannot tell you, Mr. Macdonald.

He was in your office before he became sheriff-officer?—Yes.

Is he your clerk still?—Yes.

Was he absent for a time recently?—Well, I think he was.

What was that for?—I cannot tell you. I was away (a pause). Let me see (another pause). I think I was away in the south somewhere, and when I came home (a pause)-

Mr. K. Macdonald—Oh, don’t be afraid—(laughter).

Witness—I am not afraid at all. I beg to assure you-

Mr. Macdonald—Well, go on then.

Witness—I was absent from the office lately, and, during my absence from home, I understand he was absent.

The Sheriff—What was the cause of the absence?

Witness—I don’t know. He was absent when I returned. I think he was absent for a fortnight, or nine or ten days.

Did you enquire what was the cause of his absence?—No, I did not enquire particularly.

The Sheriff—Did you not enquire at all?—Yes.

By Mr. Macdonald—And what was the result of your enquiries?— I heard a suspicion cast on him by some people that he was rather unsteady, but I do not think it is true at all.

Did you dismiss him?—No, certainly not.

You took him back whenever he came?—I forget the circumstances. I was not prepared to speak to this. I took him back.

And made little enquiry?—I asked of his mother and wife, but I don’t remember much about it,

Martin is your clerk and a sheriff-officer. Does he hold other offices? —He is clerk to the Road Trustees and collector of rates for the parish of Snizort, about five miles from Portree, and collector of poor rates for Bracadale, nine miles away. I do not recollect if he is collector for any other parish.

How many proprietors are you factor for besides Lord Macdonald?

—Macleod of Macleod, Mr. Macallister of Strathaird, Mr. Macdonald of Skaebost, and Major Fraser of Kilmuir.

I suppose that is the greater part of Skye?—Yes, decidedly.

And in addition to this you are also a landed proprietor yourself?— Well, I believe I am. (Laughter).

You are also a solicitor and bank-agent?—Yes.

And 1 believe you are agent for Captain Macdonald of Waternish?— Oh, I have a number of appointments besides these, and lots of clients.

And your influence extends all over the Isle of Skye?—I do not know about my influence, but I hold the positions mentioned.

You are distributor of stamps?—Yes.

And Clerk of the Peace for the Skye district?—Yes, Depute under Mr. Andrew Macdonald. (Laughter).

Any other offices?—I may have some, but I do not remember any more. I do not see what right you have to ask these questions. Do you mean to assess my income? I will tell the Assessor of Taxes when he asks me, but you have no right to inquire.

You are also a coal-merchant?—I am not aware, Mr. Macdonald. (Laughter).

And how many School Boards and Parochial Boards are you a member of?—Several.

The Sheriff—I don’t want to interrupt you, but what has this to do with the case?

Mr. K. Macdonald—To show that this gentleman is the King of Skye —the uncrowned King of the Island—(laughter)—an absolute monarch who punishes a murmur by transportation to the mainland. There are some other offices which you hold in Skye? Witness—Yes.

Mr. Macdonald—In point of fact, you and Martin hold between you pretty much all the valuable offices in Skye except that of parish minister?—(great laughter). Witness (warmly)—Not all, sir ; not at all—(laughter).

Did the people of the Braes petition you about Benlee?—They lodged a document, but I do not call it a petition. I call it a demand or ultimatum. The witness read the document, which was to the effect that the petitioners “demand” the grazings of Benlee, otherwise they would not pay their rents.

Mr. K. Macdonald—These people of the Braes are not very well educated? Witness—Some of them are.

What did you do with that petition when you got it?—I kept it.

Did you send it to Lord Macdonald?—No, but I wrote to Lord Macdonald about it.

Did you make any inquiry on the spot as to the grievances of these people?—I understood what they meant by the petition itself.

Did you make any inquiry to ascertain if their grievances could be substantiated?—Yes, I made inquiries of a number of people.

Did you go to the place to make the inquiries?—No, I do not require to do that, as I know the place perfectly well.

Is the statement which they made true or not?—I believe that the demand for the exclusive possession of Benlee is not a well founded claim.

The Sheriff—That is irrelevant; we need not go into that matter.

Mr. Anderson was of the same opinion, but would not object.

Sir. K. Macdonald—If your lordship wishes me to stop, I will do so. I am probably outside of the immediate issue now, but I am led on by the hope that if an explanation is now made of the position taken up by Lord Macdonald and his factor in relation to the demands of the prisoners and their neighbours in Skye, an arrangement may be come to which will prevent a recurrence of the events which have led to the present trial.

The Sheriff—If any opposition was taken by the prosecution, I would stop this course of examination at once.

Mr. Anderson—I do not object, my lord.

The Sheriff—I do not see what bearing it has on the case.

Mr. K. Macdonald—Did these people refuse to pay their rents until the grievances complained of were inquired into and redressed?—Until they got Benlee. I sent them circulars and letters, copies of which are produced.

You state in the printed letter that they have each 6| acres arable land, with a right to keep 5 cows, 20 sheep, and I horse ?—Yes.

Did you ascertain the accuracy of that statement before you made it? —I have only acted as factor for two and a-half years, and that statement regarding the townships was given to me shortly after I entered, and I think it is quite correct.

Are you not aware now that, if these tenants would put all these cattle and sheep on the ground, they would die from starvation ?—I am not aware of anything of the sort, sir, but we are quite prepared to look into that. The request was never civilly made.

Did a deputation of these people come to you in November last?— There was a deputation of their sons, but there were no tenants except one.

An old man of 85 ?—I do not think he was 85. I told them the tenants must come themselves, and not their sons. I saw this man

Nicolson, but I do not think Nicolson came into my office, though I met him on the street.

Was there a man Angus Stewart there?—Well, I don’t remember.

Was not Angus Stewart, a tenant of Lord Macdonald for the last 65 years, their principal speaker?—You refer to a different occasion.

When was that?—When they came arm-in-arm and shoulder-to-shoulder with a piper at their head. (Laughter).

Is it not the case that they were met by this piper, who plays for money in Portree?—On the first occasion there was no piper, but on the second occasion they came with this piper, and would scarcely listen to me. They never came quietly to me. (Laughter). The time they came with a piper they entered the rent collection room and would scarcely listen to me. I called over their names to see I had nobody but tenants to deal with.

What was the object of this, Mr. Macdonald?—I told you before that it was to ascertain that I had nobody but tenants to deal with'.

No intimidation in it?—I do not believe the men were ever afraid of me, nor that they are so yet. (Laughter). I do not see why they should be so unless they were doing wrong.

Did you prefer a criminal charge against some of these men before this charge was made?—Two widows-

Mr. Kenneth Macdonald—Never mind the widows.

Witness (excitedly)—You have asked me a question, and I must answer it.

The Sheriff—Did you make a criminal charge against these people? Witness—I cannot answer no or yes, but two widows came to me weeping, saying they had been intimidated by a number of men in the Braes for paying their rents, and 1 \vent with these two widows to the Fiscal. .

Mr. K Macdonald—Was there a charge of intimidation made to the Fiscal?

The Sheriff—He says the two old ladies-

Mr. K. Macdonald—They are widpws, my lord, but not old. (Laughter.)

The Sheriff—The question is a simple one. Did you or did you not?

Witness—They made a charge of intimidation.

Mr. K Macdonald—But the charge fell through?—Not so far as I know.

When did you hear the last of it?—I do not know if I have heard the last of it yet. (Laughter.)

Did you hear that Crown Counsel had ordered no further proceedings to be taken on that charge?—Yes.

Was it after that you caused the summonses of removing to be prepared?—Yes, but the one thing has no connection with the other. There may have been a coincidence of time, but there was no relation between the two cases. The summonses were for ejectment for nonpayment of rent.

Was it not the fact that Martin arranged to be deforced before he left Portree?—Certainly not ; he did not expect it. (Laughter.)

The Sheriff—Is Martin a native of the Braes?—No ; he is a native of Portree. His people belong to Kilmuir.

Mr. K. Macdonald—Is it your practice to fcsue summonses of removing that you have no intention to enforce?—No, of course I do not enforce them if the cause for which they were issued has been removed.

Question repeated?—No, but they may not be followed out, because if the rent be paid there is nothing more about it.

Then you intend to evict these people?—Certainly, if they do not pay their rent, or show good reason why they should not.

Had you Lord Macdonald’s authority for evicting these people?—I did not want to evict them, nor do I intend to evict them if they pay their rent.

Mr. Macdonald—Kindly answer my question. Had you Lord Macdonald’s authority for what you did?—I cannot give you a more direct answer. 1 believe I said something to Lord Macdonald that it would be necessary to do something to the ringleaders. I did not ask for any instructions to evict, but said it would be necessary to warn them out for not paying their rents.

Had you Lord Macdonald’s authority for evicting these people?—I did not require his authority for that.

The Sheriff—Were your instructions special or general?—I had no special instructions, as I did not ask for them.

Mr, Anderson—When you got the petition, Mr. Macdonald, did you write to say that they would get the hill according to the value of the present day, and expressed your wish to have it valued by an experienced person, and sent to Lord Macdonald for his consideration?

Witness—Yes, but I got no answer from them.

Did you also offer them Benlee?—I offered them Benlee if they would pay for it, and would give a lease of it to any tacksman who would come forward.

The Sheriff—That will do.

Witness—(sharply)—Are you done, Mr. Macdonald? (Laughter.)

Mr. K. Macdonald—Oh, yes.

Prisoners’ Declarations.

The prisoners’ declarations were then read. They are as follows :—

Donald Nicolson, Balmeanach, sixty-six [years of age, declared—I know Angus Martin, Portree, and I know that he is a sheriff-officer. .1 also know, but only by sight, Ewen Robertson, residing at Lisigarry, Portree. I also know Norman Beaton, ground-officer, Portree. I saw the three of them at Braes about a fortnight ago. They were on the township of Gedintailler, and there was a crowd about them. We were hearing that they were going up with summonses of removing. I was in the crowd, and I saw papers in Martin’s hand. I could not tell what they were.

Did you take the papers out of his hands?—He' knows himself. There were plenty of witnesses if they saw me do so. I did not catch hold of Ewen Robertson or touch any one there; neither did I throw anything, nor was I swearing. I asked Robertson to lift up the papers which were at the time scattered on the road.

James Nicolson, son-in-law, residing with the above Donald Nicolson, is 30 years of age. He knew Martin to be a sheriff-officer, and he also knew Robertson and Beaton. He saw the three of them at Ged. intailler on the occasion in question. The Declaration continued— There was a crowd about them when I saw them. I joined the crowd. I knew that it was with summonses of removing they had come. When I joined the crowd I did not cry out to kill Martin. I have no recollection of saying, or hearing said, that even with the support of the Volunteers no one would dare to come to Braes to put us out. I saw Martin having papers. I did not know what the papers were, but I thought they were the summonses. I saw Martin handing out the papers, and some one taking them out of his hand, and I afterwards saw them on the road torn. I did not see Ewen Robertson down on the ground. I saw a crowd of boys and girls after him along the road. They were saying that I was cursing and swearing, but I was not, and I did not put a hand on any one that day or on the papers which the sheriff-officer had. I did not think there was any harm in anything I saw done.

Peter Macdonald, Balmeanach, aged 48, and married, said he heard that Martin was a .sheriff-officer. He saw Martin and Beaton at the Braes, but not Robertson. He was not present when Martin arrived. The Declaration continued—We were thinking it was with the summonses of removing he (Martin) came. There was a crowd gathered about him when he arrived of about 150 women and children. I did not see papers with him until I saw them on the road at Olach. I saw them before they were burnt. The crowd called out—that is, the women called out—that Martin and his assistants would require to bum them themselves. I did not say to Martin that he would be made to bum them himself. It was at Olach that I joined the crowd. I have nothing further to say but that Martin burned the papers himself. The place Olach above alluded to is about half a-mile from Gedentailler, in the direction of Portree.

Alexander Finlayson, Balmeanach, 70 years of age, declared that he did not know until Martin arrived that he had come to the Braes to serve the summonses. He was not present when Martin arrived, and he saw him first among a number of men, women, and children at Gedentailler. He did not know that Robertson was helping Martin. The Declaration continued—I told him to return and bum them. At this time there was some torn papers scattered about the road, and it was to these papers I referred. The papers were tom and on the ground before I joined the crowd. I did not know that these papers were summonses of removing, but some of the people were saying that they were. I did not know that Martin was going with summonses to us that day, but we were hearing a rumour that we were to be warned. I did not dare Martin to proceed further with his summonses that day. I had a staff in my hand. I was not flourishing it. I did not hear Martin say that he had the Sheriff’s warrant for serving the summonses that day. I thought we ought to get justice concerning the matter in dispute, which was the hill pasture of Benlee, which we ever had. When had you the pasture?—We had it ever in connection with our town-ships. It was taken from us about sixteen years ago by bad rulers. We have not possessed it for the last seventeen years. It was let to another tenant. I and my father before me, and my grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, have been living in the township of Balmeanach, and the hill of Benlee was all that time connected with our township.

Alex. Finlayson, son of and residing with the said Alex. Finlayson, Balmeanach, is married, and about thirty years of age. He saw Martin at the Braes on the day in question. The Declaration continued—I did not know then that Martin was a sheriff-officer. I only knew that he was the factor’s clerk when I saw him at the Braes on that occasion. Martin had a bunch of papers. I did not know what the papers were, but he told us they were summonses, some of removing and some of rent. I did not take these papers out of Martin’s hands, but after seeing them in his hands, I saw them torn and scattered on the road. I saw some of the papers which Martin had burnt at Olach that day, but these were different papers from those I saw scattered on the road at Gedentailler. It was I who took the papers which were burnt at Olach •out of Martin’s hand. He stretched out his hand holding these papers, and I took them out of his hands. Somebody said I should not take them, and I offered them back to him, but he would not take them, and I let them fall on the road. At this time there were a good many people about Martin, and some of them cried out to burn the papers, but I am not sure whether I said this or not. Martin then asked for a match, but there was no match to be found. A lighted peat, however, was produced, and Martin set fire to one of the summonses, and then the whole caught fire and were burned. The crowd did not very much force Martin to burn the summonses. They told him to burn them, and he did so. The crowd did not call bad names to Martin, but he told the people he would be put out of his situation by the factor if he had not come to give them the summonses that day. They did not say anything worse than his name to him. I told him to move on, as I was afraid the scholars and women would come and hurt him. He then asked us to see him safe over the bum, and we did so.


Mr. Donald Macdonald, Tormore, examined by Mr. K-. Macdonald —You were factor for Lord Macdonald until about two years and a-half ago?—Some time about that.

You know the Braes?—I do.

When you were factor did the tenants of the Braes townships complain to you about the want of the hill of Ben-Lee?—They may have done. I have no distinct recollection about their making any specific charge.

You know the story about the shepherd’s house being built, about which some of the crofters complained?—Yes.

What did you do?—Well, the complaint was that the tenant of Benlee was building a house on a portion of what they considered their land.

The Sheriff—All this occurred two or three years ago, Mr. Macdonald?—Yes.

The Sheriff asked Mr. K. Macdonald if he meant to justify the action of the prisoners by this evidence? He did not see that it had any relevancy.

Mr. K. Macdonald—It has a bearing on what followed.

Mr. K. Macdonald (to witness)—There was a lease of Benlee which expires at Whitsunday 1882. Is not that so?—I believe it does.

And the people wished to get the land back at that term?—There was some indication that way.

Did you make them any promise?—I made no promise.

Did you hold out any hope?—No ; certainly no distinct hope.

Then, was it from you they got their information?—I don’t remember, but it is quite possible.

Did you renew the lease during your factorship? I believe I did.

For a further period?—Yes. And without informing them? I don’t remember, but it is quite possible.

In answer to Mr. Anderson, Mr. Macdonald said Benlee had not been in the possession of the crofters for the past 16 or 17 years.

The Sheriff.—Benlee is advertised to let now.

Mr. K. Macdonald—Yes, in the Courier of to-day.

Mr. A. Macdonald, factor—And the tenants may have it if they like to pay rent for it.


John Finlayson, a tenant of the Braes, said, in reply to Mr. Macdonald—I was at the Braes when Martin arrived, and saw him with the papers in his hands. He handed them over to Donald Nicolson, who took them and threw them back to Martin, who turned his back, and I think refused to take them back. Some one in the crowd said to Nicolson that he had no right to the papers, and he then dropped them on the ground, and the children trod upon them. No one struck Martin, or even threatened to strike him. I heard some one saying to Martin, “ Be not afraid, no one will touch you ”. Robertson at this time had gone homewards, the children following him. Martin also followed, but after he had gone some distance he stopped, and asked for a light. He got an ember of a peat, with which he set a paper (a paper about the size of a summons) on fire, and put some more with it. He said, “Stand back and don’t smother it,” and added, “There it is for you, boys ”. He appeared to be laughing, and did not seem to be afraid. He afterwards had a smoke and chatted with the people. He made a speech before leaving, in which he said, “Be hardy and active ; you will not see me again, and you will get Benlee ”. He also said he did not blame them for what they had done, and said if he had been in their place he would have done the same thing. He shook hands with a number of people before leaving. I did not see any person strike Martin. .

By Mr. Anderson—I joined the crowd when they began. I went there just because I followed the rest.

You saw some boys with flags on the watch?—There were.

And what were these boys to do?—They were to give us notice.

Of what?—About the force that was being sent to us.

Was that a sheriff-officer you expected?—We did not know that it was a sheriff-officer.

Did you expect Martin?—No.

Did you expect summonses?—Yes, I expected a summons.

Now, was it for persons coming with summonses that you placed the boys on the watch?—Yes.

And it was arranged that as soon as a boy saw them he was to give warning?—Yes.

And you were to collect then?—Yes.

Mr. Macdonald objected to this line of examination, as being really an attempt to prove the charge of Deforcement which the Prosecutor had not been able to libel relevantly. The Sheriff however allowed it.

Was it said that he would not be allowed to serve a summons?—I did not hear that.

What were you going to do when you met the persons comiug with the summonses?—To return them.

That is to return him to Portree?—I do not know where. (Laughter.)

I suppose you know that you were to turn him off' the Braes?—Yes, we were going to turn him off the Braes.

Are you any relation of Finlaysons in the box?—I am a brother of Malcolm’s and a son of Alexander Finlayson.

Did you see any stones thrown?—No.

Nor clods of earth?—No.

Nor peats?—No.

Did you see Robertson on the ground?—Yes.

Did you see him lying on the ground?—No.

Did you see anybody touch him?—No.

What became of him?—I saw him going away, and the children were cheering him home. (Laughter.)

Were they throwing anything after him?—I did not see, I was far from him. Witness saw only two of the prisoners, Malcolm Finlayson and Patrick Macdonald following Martin to the second crowd, near Murchison’8 schoolhouse.

Alexander Finlayson, Peinacliorrain, was at Gedentailler on the day when Martin came with the papers. He knew that Martin was the factor’s clerk, but did not know that he was a sheriff-officer. The papers were lying on the road when he saw them first, and Martin was laughing and talking, and did not appear to be frightened. He generally corroborated the previous witness regarding the burning of the papers, and said he did nof see any stones thrown at Martin. In answer to Mr. Anderson, he said he was a son of Alexander Finlayson, one of the prisoners, and brother of Malcolm Finlayson, another of the prisoners. Martin did not seem to be in the least afraid.

James Mathieson, on being asked to take the oath in English, declined. He said—Oh no. All the speaking in this case has been done in Gaelic, and I am not going to interpret Gaelic into English. (Laughter.) The oath having been administered in Gaelic, he said he resided at Balmeanach, and was at Gedentailler on the 17th April when Martin came to serve the summonses. When the people came up Martin held out some papers in his hands. He held them out in the direction of Donald Nicolson, and said, “There they are, take them”. I don’t know whether he said this to Nicolson or to the rest of the people. Nicolson, however, took them. He did not snatch them from Martin, and Martin did not endeavour to keep them from him. In answer to other questions, witness said Martin did not appear to be frightened, and had no occasion to be so.

What occurred near Murchison’s schoolhouse?—I saw him with more papers there. When I arrived he had them in his hand as at first. He was offering them to anyone who would receive them. I don’t know where Robertson was. He went along before them. I don’t know if they were following him at that time, but they were before that, and some children.

Was Martin quite sober at that time?—Well, I don’t know. I would think him like a man that would have a little.

Did you hear Martin ask for a match?—Yes. He said, Was there no one there had a match? They replied that they had a burning ember for lighting his pipe. After this Martin asked where it was. They said, It was here. I was standing at the side of the road, and I saw him go over by the papers. I saw him point to them and say, ‘ ‘ Lads, there is a fire, stand back and don’t choke it I saw the papers on fire after that. I saw him drink at the well. He was inclined to bend at the well, but they told him there was a pail. He asked, Have any of you a pipe till I smoke ? Alexander Nicolson went to give him his pipe, but it was broken. Nicolson then went to get another man’s, and after cleaning it so (here the witness made a movement as if wiping a pipe clean) he handed it to Martin, and Martin smoked it He (Martin) was in the very middle of the crowd smoking it.

Was he talking to them and smoking?—Yes, smoking and talking. I did not see any appearance of fright about him. There was no occasion for his being frightened.

Did you hear Murdo Nicolson say anything to him?—I heard some one say, I am not very certain if it was Angus Nicolson, but I heard some one say, “No one here will do anything to him”.

What did he say to that?—He said, “Oh, I had no fear. I know that the Braes people will not do anything to me. ” He was shaking hands with the people before he went away. He was shaking hands and thanking them for dealing so gently with him. He told them to be active after this, as it was now they had it to do. I don’t know what he meant by that. I did not hear him say he was a sheriff-officer, or that he came from the Sheriff. I know he is the factor’s clerk in Portree. I thought the “bailie” sent him there that day. I saw the widows standing up as if they were speaking to him. One of them, Widow Nicolson, seemed to be angry. I did not hear Martin say anything to her at the time. She was done speaking to him before I came. I don’t know what they were talking about, but people were telling me afterwards. I did not see anyone touching Martin other than to shake him by the hand.

John Nicolson, Gedintailler, gave corroborative evidence. He saw no one putting a hand on Martin, and said Martin seemed quite pleased, and put the papers on the top of the fire.

John Nicolson, Peinachorrain, also gave evidence regarding the proceedings at Martin’s visit. He saw no stones thrown. In crossexamination by Mr. Anderson, he admitted that clods had been thrown by the school children, but if Martin was frightened it was only at seeing so many women. (Laughter.)

John Maclean, Balmeanach, described the scene at the schoolhouse where the papers were burnt. He said Martin stepped into the centre of the crowd, and getting a fire-brand blew it until he had lighted the papers. He then set them on the ground, and said, “Men of the Braes, I am obliged to you for your kindness ”. He appeared quite hearty, and shook hands with the people. There was no reason for Martin fearing anything. He added, I was in the factor’s office in November last as one of the deputation. Our names were taken down at that time, and we were charged with impertinence. The factor was sending us letters after that threatening us.

This brought the evidence to a close. Mr. Anderson did not address the court, but simply asked a conviction for assault. Mr. Macdonald began by showing the effect upon the indictment, of the judgment sustaining his objection to the relevancy of the charge of deforcement, and the minor charge of obstructing an officer of the law in the performance of his duty; and he read what was left of the indictment, to show that all that remained was a charge of simple assault against the prisoners. He went on to say:—When I first addressed your Lordship to-day, I attempted to show that the case as it then stood was too important for trial in this court It has now been reduced to such slender proportions that the wonder is it was ever brought into any court. It has been attempted, by leading irrelevant evidence, to give the case a fictitious importance, but the prosecutor has been flogging a dead horse. A common assault such as is now charged would never have justified the measures taken to apprehend the men now in the dock. Would the public have looked on in silent wonder if they had been told that the army of policemen sent to Skye had been sent there to apprehend a few men—most of them old men—whose only crime was that they looked on while a few respectable women threw dirt at a man who had slandered them. I rather think they would then do what those of them who have not to pay for it will do now—they would laugh outright. I really feel some difficulty in discussing seriously the very small mouse which this mountain in labour has brought forth. The charge is assault. What is the evidence in support of it ? It is certainly not the sort of evidence usually led in cases of assault. We heard of a sheriff-officer being sent from Portree to serve writs at a place nine or ten miles away, of his seeing boys with flags and afterwards being met by a crowd of people, of his papers being burnt by himself, and of his making a speech thanking the people for their kindness to him, and encouraging them to persevere in their demands; but very little, and that unreliable, of an assault by anybody, nothing of an assault by the men at the bar. In fact the public prosecutor never anticipated having to prove a charge of assault, and had no evidence to support it. The turn the case took when the Court held his main charges irrelevantly stated had taken him by surprise, and he ought then to have thrown up the whole case. He had not done that He had led evidence which showed that the prisoners had done certain things which might or might not be criminal, but which certainly did not constitute the crime with which they now stood charged, nor, for that matter, any of the crimes with which the indictment, as it originally stood, sought to charge them. The prosecutor had not stated the grounds upon which he asked for a conviction on the charge of assault,—there were none to state. The only hope he could have was that the Court would convict them of a crime of which they* were not guilty, because the evidence showed that they came near committing another and a totally different offence with which they could not be charged. If this was the hope of the prosecutor, he hoped it would be disappointed, and that these men would not be convicted of a crime of which they were not guilty simply because some victims were required to shield officials from the charge of playing a huge practical joke at the expense of the public. I shall now, with your Lordship’s permission, go over the evidence shortly, and I think I shall be able to show that there is no evidence—no reliable evidence—that any one of the accused committed an assault, while there is a considerable amount of reliable evidence to show that not only was no assault committed, but that Martin and the ground-officer were on the best of terms with the prisoners while they were together—terms so friendly that the idea of an assault having been committed during the interview is utterly precluded. As to Robertson, he was clearly not a popular favourite, and he retreated towards Portree at an early stage, followed by some children. If he was assaulted at that time, the prisoners were no parties to it. Robertson was, however, the only person who was said in evidence to have been touched by one of the accused; but the evidence on that point came from so suspicious a source, and was, as would be sh6wn immediately, so strongly contradicted, that I have no hesitation in asking your Lordship to disbelieve it. Mr. Macdonald then proceeded to review the evidence for the purpose of showing that Martin, Robertson, and Beaton had contradicted each other in important particulars in their account of what had taken place, and that the story told by the witnesses for the defence was consistent throughout, and entirely inconsistent with those of Martin and his associates. Martin, he said, had to account to his master, the factor, for his failure to serve the summonses, if, indeed, it was not intended before he went that he should fail; and this was the story he told on his return. The enlightened management of Lord Macdonald’s estates in Skye by his omnipotent and unapproachable factor had brought about a state of matters which the usual machinery of the factor’s office—summonses of removing and occasional evictions, supplemented by threats of undefined pains and penalties—was unable to deal with. An attempt even to get up a criminal prosecution had failed. What more natural, then, than to get up a sensational charge which would bring a large force to the rescue of the powerless factor without expense to his employer. I do not say this is the explanation of what took place, but it is a possible interpretation of the evidence, and it would go a long way to account for the peculiar “ coincidence,” as Mr. Macdonald calls it, that while the criminal authorities intimated the abandonment of the first criminal charge on ist April, the attempt to serve the summons of removing was made on the 7th of the same month. Be that, however, as it may, the evidence which, by the forbearance of the Court, I was permitted to lead, showed that the present unhappy State of matters among Lord Macdonald’s tenants was entirely attributable to mismanagement on the part of successive factors. Before 1865 those people were comfortable and contented. They had their patches of arable land near the sea and the hill grazings beyond. The grazings were on Benlee, of which so much has been heard. The rent for both lands was paid in one sum, and was fixed on the basis of the number of cattle, sheep, and horses each tenant was able to keep. In 1865, however, a factor deprived them of the hill while their rents remained the same. They were pushed down towards the sea-shore, and there, under the shadow of their mountain, and a few inches above highwater mark, on what was at no very distant date a sea-beach, they eked out a precarious living from their patches of mixed rock and sand, dignified with the name of arable land. For years these people went on uncomplainingly, while year by year they became poorer. Their horses first went,—in 1865 every man had a horse—most of them several; now there is not a horse for every three tenants. Then the little stocks of sheep and cattle gradually dwindled down, while all the time their owners were paying rents for the grazing of three or four times the number of sheep and cattle the grazings left to them would feed. At last the inevitable came—the people saw starvation or pauperism staring them in the face, and they made a humble appeal for redress. To whom? To Lord Macdonald ? No! To his factor, and the factor made fair promises—at least so say the people. He told them, they say, that the hill was let on lease, but the lease would expire in 1882, when they would get it. How does he keep his promise? Several years before 1882, he, without saying anything to the crofters who were patiently enduring poverty and hardship waiting for the fulfilment of his promise, let the hill on a new lease, and then leaving this little complication for his successor to settle, he resigned his factorship. The successor was Mr. Alexander Macdonald. It was Mr. Macdonald’s misfortune that in his time the crofters found out how they had been deceived, and that, not taking the trouble to understand their grievances, he threatened them when he ought to exhihit at least the appearance of sympathy, and to attempt to conciliate them. To the crofters Martin was simply the factor’s clerk, Beaton the factor’s underling, and with the factor and all his belongings they resolved to have nothing to do. To Lord Macdonald they must appeal. They believed that he had never authorised the harsh measures adopted towards them, and the evidence led to-day shows that their belief was well founded. Lord Macdonald, in whose name these proceedings were carried on, never authorised them, was never even consulted about them. Proceedings which had for their ostensible object the eviction of the inhabitants of three townships,— several hundred people in all,—were not important enough forsooth to lead the factor to consult his master. The people knew well that less than thirty years before similar proceedings had been carried out to their bitter end in the name of their landlord’s father without his authority, and they knew that to the day of his death that Lord Macdonald bitterly regretted these proceedings. Well might they believe that this Lord Macdonald would not lightly consent to their wholesale eviction and expatriation. They knew, and he knew, that the strong arm of their ancestors was the only title deed by which his ancestors held their land, and that but for the sturdy clansmen of the Isles, Lord Macdonald would not now hold an acre of land in Skye. It was not, therefore, the law in the person of its officers, it was not even their landlord, these men resisted, it was the factor—the man who was in their eyes the impersonation of all the injustice and hardship to which they had been subjected, and I ask was there not some justification for their resistance ? This being the position taken up by the accused and their neighbours, was it probable that they would degrade themselves and their cause by assaulting a person in Martin’s position ? I think not. Further, was Martin’s own story consistent with the theory of an assault? Would a man who had just been assaulted, and who was in mortal terror, as Martin says he was, find himself so sound in wind as Martin admits he was. When a lighted peat was procured to burn the summonses, some of the men in the crowd tried to blow it into a flame but failed. Martin, however, notwithstanding his terror found himself, as he admits, “in better breath” than his alleged assailants, and succeeded in blowing the peat into a flame when they had failed to do so. (Laughter.) Though terror-stricken and in mortal fear he managed somehow to enjoy a smoke quietly. When he wanted a drink of water he was not afraid to go off the road to a well, and to go on his knees and dip his head into it. It never occurred to him that this dangerous crowd finding his head in the water might keep it there. He gauged the crowd correctly enough as his conduct showed. He stood among them, chatted with them, drunk out of their pails, borrowed and smoked one of their pipes, and on parting made them a speech. That was the evidence of the prosecution, as well as of the defence.  The Prosecutor did not make an attempt, after hearing the evidence, to argue that Martin had been assaulted. To do so in the face of such evidence would be an outrage on common sense. Mr. Macdonald concluded by asking for a verdict of not guilty. (Applause.) •


The Sheriff said—The charge now is one of assault against these men combinedly or against one or other of them, “actor or art and part,” so that if the prosecution has proved that one of them assaulted one or other of the men said to be assaulted, and that the other prisoners aided and abetted them in that assault, that, I take it, would be sufficient to enable me to find the whole of them guilty as libelled. Throwing aside all that is really unnecessary, the simple question for me to determine is this—Did these men “ or one or other of them ” do something to one or other of the three men, Martin, Beaton, and Robertson, which in the eye of the law is assault ? Now, it is quite true that there are certain discrepancies in the evidence which has been adduced. There is no doubt whatever that the witnesses for the defence do not support the evidence- for the prosecution; but the evidence for the defence confirms to a very great extent the statements that are made by the principal witnesses for the prosecution. And part of the evidence of the defence is really of a mere negative character. Certain of the witnesses —the first three—say that they were not present at the beginning of this disturbance. They came to the ground after the papers were taken out of Martin’s pocket. Now, Martin says that when he came to the place he had the papers in his pocket, and they were only taken out of it when he was asked for them. I may mention, before proceeding further, that I see no reason whatever to doubt Martin’s statement. Martin gave his evidence fairly, and in a way which convinced me at least that he really was telling the truth, and I do not think there was anything in his cross-examination which tended to render Martin’s evidence untrustworthy. Now Martin says that Donald Nicolson took a leading part in this affair, and he stated that Donald Nicolson caught hold of Ewen Robertson by the back of the neck “and called out to me in language which was not very polite,” but it had reference to things which had taken place before then. Robertson tells us more particularly how Donald acted after the summonses had been plucked from Martin. He laid hold of him by the neck and so on. Now, I take it that this is an assault within the four corners of this complaint. It will not do for any one to say that because five or six witnesses did not see this that the affair did not take place. There is the direct evidence of two witnesses which is a great deal better than the indirect evidence or negative testimony of a score. Therefore, if Robertson’s and Martin’s evidence were true, Donald Nicolson was guilty of an assault Now, if Donald Nicolson was guilty of an assault, the question will then come to be, what part did the others take in regard to this ? Donald Nicolson, according to Martin, came forward and took the papers from him. The next person who comes on the scene is Alex. Finlayson, and the proceedings that he adopts are certainly of a most threatening character. There is no doubt whatever that he had a stick in his hand, and the testimony given by Robertson and others is that he comes forward and threatens them, flourishing his stick and daring them to proceed further. And then he proceeds to tell us of the throwing of stones, in which Finlayson took an active part, and in this way he became “art and part” with Nicolson in the assault upon these men. I therefore take it that when you have Nicolson behaving as he had done, and Finlayson being there with him, and taking the part he did, that Finlayson is guilty of the assault as a party—as one acting art and part with Nicolson. Then the next persons who come before us are James Nicolson and the other two.

These three men are not said to have done anything except to be accessories along with these people. Peter Macdonald, indeed, after a time, comes to make himself conspicuous by telling Martin that unless he burns his papers, Martin would not get home alive; but there is no evidence of Macdonald doing anything in particular beyond threatening Martin and the others. Malcolm Finlayson appears afterwards near the schoolhouse, and all three form part of the threatening crowd. It appears to me, however, that Peter Macdonald, Malcolm Finlayson, and James Nicolson did not take thst conspicuous part which Donald Nicolson and Alexander Finlayson took. And, therefore, although the case against each and all of these prisoners has been proved, I think there is a distinction between the conduct of Donald Nicolson, and Alexander Finlayson, and the others. These two are really the persons who committed the assault, and a distinction must be made between them and the others. The judgment of the Court is that Donald Nicolson and Alexander Finlayson be each fined £2 10s., or, failing payment, one month’s imprisonment; and the other three prisoners, Peter Macdonald, Malcolm Finlayson, and James Nicolson, be each fined 20s., or fourteen days’ imprisonment.


The result was received with some surprise, though not with dissatisfaction. As the Sheriff summed up strongly against two of the prisoners it was anticipated that the full penalty in their case, at least, would be inflicted, and that on the other three prisoners the sentence would have been more severe than that pronounced. The leniency of the judgment, therefore, was satisfactory to the audience. Dean of Guild Mackenzie at once passed a cheque for the full amount of the fines to Mr. Anderson, but the agent for the prisoners (Mr. Macdonald) intimated that it was paid under protest in order to enable him to lodge an appeal if this should afterwards be resolved upon.

The prisoners, who had been confined between two policemen throughout the day, were then liberated. As they emerged from the Castle, they were met by a large crowd, who greeted them with cheers and calls for a speech. They, however, were allowed to proceed to their hotel without any further demonstration.

The men and the witnesses were lodged, and provided with a liberal supply of all the creature comforts, in the Glenalbyn Hotel, where they were visited by many of those in Inverness who sympathised with their position. Next morning they left by train and steamer for Portree’, their fares having been paid, and provision made for anything they might require on the journey. On their arrival the same evening in the Capital of Skye they were met by their friends and the people of Portree, who greeted them with great enthusiasm, and many of whom convoyed them the greater part of their way to the Braes.

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