Tuesday, 18 March 2008

125 years ago

I continue to make my way through the many pages of the Napier Report of 1883, into the conditions of the people of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Paragraph 3596 gives a good example as to why the Napier Commission was brought into being, as many of the factors (proprietor's representatives) abused their position for their own gain - I think you could describe that as nepotism, as graphically described below.

15 May 1883
Statements prepared by the Tenants of Edinbane. Our lots are from 6 to 8 acres of arable land. There are about 20 half lots from subdivision. A large piece of the hill has been taken from us called Ben Dhu, and no compensation, given. Several of our lots have been taken down by 1 acre, and no reduction of rents. The proprietor has never done anything for the land. The houses are built and maintained by ourselves. On removal we get compensation for the roof only. We think our rents too high, when so much land has been taken from us, and the rent in many cases raised. They were last raised to give the factor Mr Robertson votes. We are not in arrears. Seven days' work is claimed by Mr Robertson from each lot, and 2s. is taken from us for every day we miss. He likes us to give him the first offer of stock, but he does not fix the prices. A lot is allowed four cows and twenty-four sheep. Four cows are too many for the pasture. The profits from sheep go direct to Mr Robertson for rent. We never touch a penny of the money. The money from our sheep for the rent, instead of being put in the bank for us until Martinmas -when it is due, is kept by Mr Robertson for his own use, and we get no interest from him for it. We cannot utilise fishing for the want of proper boats, &c. Fishing should be distinct from crofting. There were plenty of evictions in Grishornish and Coshletter before the time of the late Mr M'Leod. Many of us have seen the law officers come and strip the roofs in Edinbane, and pour water down on the fires. The people evicted mostly emigrated. They got no compensation. The land is now largely in the hands of Mr Robertson, the factor. We would migrate, not emigrate. No Gaelic is taught at our schooL We would like our children taught to read the Gaelic Bible. The school rates are a shilling. Fees for standard IILIs. 6d. There are eight paupers on the estate; most of these on Ben-Dhu have come from other places. Several cottars have been removed by the late Mr M'Leod and by Mr Robertson from Grishornish and Coshletter and put upon us. The poor-rates are 8d. Mr Robertson, the factor, has the lands once belonging to us of Kerrol and Ben-Dhu in his own hands. We received no reduction when these lands were taken from us. Mr Robertson keeps a meal-store, and we nearly all deal with him. We are this year already very deep in his books for meal. When Mr Robertson put the money on to our rents, for votes for himself as he said, he promised to make it good to us, but he has never done so, although we protest every year. We can give many other instances of oppression. One man took in a lodger against Mr Robertson's wish. He was fined a £1, and had to pay the £1 for five or six years, and was only pardoned last Martinmas. Another man for selling a stack of corn off the farm, although he had offered it to Mr Robertson several times, and was in sore need of ready money, was punished by having his rent raised from £3, 8s. 5d. to £4, which he still pays. The year before last two men quarreled about the march of their crofts. Mr Robertson ended the quarrel by fining the man with the largest croft 10s. a year on to his rent, and no corresponding reduction to the man with the small croft. In November last the factor put 7s. on to a half lot, with the reason stated, " I want to make a gentleman of you, and give you a vote." Mr Robertson has two shares of sheep in the hill, and although we complained, he will not pay for the grazing, and he refuses to let our sheep go over the lands of Kerrol, which is our right in winter, and makes us twice a year build up the dyke that keeps our own sheep out of our own grazings. We have to submit to such things as these, for fear of being evicted. Reforms wanted. More land and fixity of tenure. We cannot improve our lands at present as they will not support our families while we are improving them; but if we had enough of land to keep us on it the whole year round, and if we were made secure against fines and evictions from petty spite of the factor or other causes, we would improve it, and there would be no more heard of destitution in hard years like this. When the credit which this bad year drove us into is settled for, there will not be much of our stock left to us we think.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read ~ Mr Robertson sounds like he was quite an evil man.  How awful for people to have been treated that way, amazing.