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Statement to the Crofters Commission
Statement to the Crofters Commission
This is an extract from The Highland News, November 1888
Mr Donald Macrae makes the estate responsible for the deplorable conditions of the people of Lochs
Mr Donald Macrae, Balallan, having got permission to make a statement to the Commissioners bearing upon the general state of matters in the district, said that in order properly to understand the serious elements which combined to bring about the deplorable condition of the people, it would be necessary to go back nearly fifty years.
In the time of Mackenzie of Seaforth, Balallan was devided into 26 lots, at a rental of 150. In 1840, eighteen families forming the township of Seaforth, Eishken, Cleiter, Shiltinish in the Park district of Lochs were evicted and forced by the estate into Balallan, the number of crofters being thus raised from twenty-six to forty. The township was then rearranged but the gross rental remained at the same amount. Shortly afterwards, Kintarvie, near Aline, was taken from the towns and given to Mr Donald Stewart, tenant of Aline. This place was occupied by one of the Balallan crofters at a rental of 8 but no reduction was made in the gross rent in lieu of this curtailment, which is charged against the township to this day.
In 1846, a sub-division was made of the township by Sir James Matheson or his factor, by which the number of holdings was increased to 63 and the rental was raised to 215 - an addition of 65. The next event was the creation of the Aribruach township in the same year when Mr Scobie, factor for Sir James Matheson measured off four crofts from the Balallan pasture at a place called Aribhruach and planted four tenants there, ostensibly with the object of establishing a ferry between Lochs and Harris. But no one was ever known to have used the ferry except Sir James, on one occasion. Shortly thereafter Mackenzie, another factor, located ten more tenants there, and Munro, a subsequent factor, sent other two into the place, making sixteen in all - the present number. Balallan got no abatement for this.
The farm of Linshadder and the sporting subjects of Aline were both enlarged at the expense of Balallan, and a fence erected round the part added to the latter, the tenants being charged to this day 1s each for the expense of this fence. There was also an addition of 1s for kain or hen money, and 5s of a road tax made, which the crofters pay to this day. About 1846, Sir James gave the township the right to all the sea-ware round the head of Loch Resort from Valtos to Talmachan. About two years ago the chamberlain deprived them of the half of this, which was a serious loss to them. Mr Donald Munro, a recent chamberlain, on one occasion invited all the tenants to meet with him at Valtos on a certain day with their rents, but no hour was specified. Some of the men were late and not being present when their names were called, all of them, with the exception of three, were fined 1s. Another fee was put upon them by Mr Mackay, the present factor, in consequence of the crofters not being able to tell him who set a part of the heather on fire.
With respect to rates and taxes it should be specially considered (1) that heretofore rates and taxes of all tenants under 4 were included in the rent; (2) that hereafter, as per notice already received, all those are to be charged directly, not upon the old net rental, but upon the gross charge which includes rates and taxes, and; (3) that the rates and taxes of recent years are more than the rent in themselves, and especially that the rates and taxes for the current year will exceed 15s in the 1, or more than the rental was when Sir James got the property.
In 1868 the condition of the people was such that a destitution fund was got up by the estate, and the crofters were relieved by meal &c, from that fund, which meal was charged against them the following year in their rent accounts.