The first witness to give evidence at Balmacara in August 1883, Duncan Sinclair, came with some hard-hitting statements regarding the way tenants were treated in the parish of Lochalsh. It would appear that he intensified some of the statements a bit.
Those who were allowed by the proprietor to remain after the factor had expressed his determination to have them evicted, in these words, "Go you must, even though you should go to the bottom of the sea," were allowed a mere fringe of the township, bordering on the rocky sea-shore.
[...] at the commencement of the sheep-farming mania, when the people were regarded as a nuisance to be got rid of by driving them out of the country like noxious vermin, or by crowding them into barren promontories or boggy hollows which were useless for sheep [...]
Lord Napier proceeded to verify that the translations accurately reflected what the people had actually said.
30059. I understood you to say that the English phraseology of those memorials has been translated by you ?
30060. It is therefore the correct English expression of what was stated to you verbally by the meeting?
—It is the substance; of course, I may have varied from their expressions in the Gaelic.
30061. But there is nothing substantial introduced by you on your own part?
—Nothing; and I insisted that they should appoint a delegate to come up to tell you that the statements in these papers are not my views alone.
30062. There is nothing in the terms of these memorials that I have to complain of, unless some expressions of rather unnecessary bitterness in the second one. I should like to know whether these expressions justly represent the feelings and expressions used by the people themselves?
—Is it in regard to going to the bottom of the sea ?
30063. That is one. Another is, ' at the commencement of the sheep-farming mania, when the people were regarded as a nuisance to be got rid off, by driving them out of the country like noxious vermin, or by crowding them into barren promontories or boggy holes which were useless for sheep ; ' is that a translation of the language told by the people to you ?
—That is the expression of the people. They know they have been regarded as a nuisance, and have been wanted to be sent abroad, and they know very well they were sent into these rocky promontories and boggy holes. That is the experience of the people, although it is not so bad as in some parishes.
30064. But what I want to know is whether the expression ' noxious vermin,' for instance, is a correct translation of the language used at the meeting or by the people in your presence ?
—Well, ' wild animals' perhaps would be the proper term ; that passage refers to the deer forest. They say our Parliament and Legislature have been legislating for animals with the greatest care by means of the Game Laws, but have never passed any legislation for the people. It is to these matters that that passage refers.
30065. I was only speaking about the terms themselves; I was anxious to know whether they were proper translations of words and things said in your presence, or whether you had infused any additional strength into it yourself ; and I rather think from what you say that you did somewhat intensify the language ?
—Well, I modify it to the extent of saying ' wild animals.'