Saturday, 10 March 2012

Napier Commission in Tiree - evictions

I have now commenced the transcription of the evidence from Tiree, as contained in the Napier Report of 1883. After going through an awful lot of waffle about the relative value deer forests versus sheep farms in the evidence from Inverness, the accounts from Tiree have brought me back down to earth with a jolt. I hand over to Donald Macdonald, Balemartin, Tiree, as he spoke on 7 August 1883 about four evictions being perpetrated in singularly callous and cruel fashion.

1st, Neil M.'Donald, crofter at Mannal, was about thirty-four years ago, for no well-grounded reasons, evicted from his home and farm by the factor, John Campbell, Esq. He had no other home to go to, and was forbidden by the factor to build a house in any part of the island. The factor also threatened with instant eviction any crofter or cottar who might out of pity afford him even one night's shelter from the cold. So his only place of shelter was a small boat turned upside down, with a hole in the centre for a chimney, and some straw laid round the openings to prevent the snow drift from perishing himself and little ones. One neighbour, who out of pity was moved to take and give his one children shelter in his house, was instantly summoned before the factor, and severely reprimanded for being so humane.

2nd, Hector M'Donald, Balamartin (crofter), was some time afterwards evicted in the same manner. Forced to leave his house and home, having no house to go to, every individual crofter and cottar in Tyree were, on the threat of eviction, forbidden to give him even one night's shelter. His wife being nigh her confinement, he for her sought shelter in his sister's house; but the farmer on whose croft the sister's house stood (John Sinclair, Banapool) was instructed by the factor to turn the evicted family out. In the said John Sinclair's cart the wife and family were removed, and the woman, while being driven in the cart, by the way was delivered of a child, as no one would be allowed to shelter her during the time of her delivery.

3rd, Hugh M'Lean, crofter, Mannal. This man, who was blind, was about nineteen years ago disgracefully evicted as the above. Having no house to go to, he was still in his own home. The factor then sent men to strip the roof off that home by means of instruments of iron. He then removed to the barn, in which lay a quantity of grain. The same men were then sent back with orders to strip the barn too; and the poor blind man, with his crippled wife, and no sons to help him, as of the sons he had two were drowned some time before, and his only other son was insane in the asylum, was cruelly turned out and left at the roadside.

4th, Alexander M'Donald, a blind man, was evicted while John Campbell, Esq., was factor of the island, by whose orders men were sent to have this man's house stripped while the poor man was in bed and unable to leave it. He was then removed by some friends to the barn, but the factor ordered the roof to be taken off the
barn too; and thus the sightless man was rendered houseless. And the only reason for evicting this man was simply to give his holding to one of the factor's favourites. The man then became a burden to the parish, and from that time till now his maintenance cost the parish about £600

—I am Gilchrist M'Donald. Since I can remember, my father was a crofter in Balamartin. About nineteen years ago, although being only one year's rent in arrears, he, and a neighbour who was only 50s. in arrears, were evicted. The latter from his own croft. This was done in order to give both the crofts to the factor's servant man, which servant was not a native of the island. Some weeks before the time to leave the house I paid the rent, but on the appointed day (as we were still in the house, not having another to go to) some men—others refused to do it—by order of the factor were sent to the house, and these men by means of an iron bar broke open the door, turned us and all our things there and then out of the house. My father was about sixty years of age, and without the croft was unable to do anything for himself. My mother, who was about the same age, was imbecile, and in that state was carried by them out of bed and laid at the road side. As the factor would not grant me leave to build a small house to shelter them, I had to remove them to Glasgow, which city not agreeing with them, I was obliged to return with them to Tyree again, but the only house I could get was an old kiln belonging to the crofters of Balamartin. The little I got for the stock on the farm was all spent in maintaining us before getting leave from the factor to build a house and had it ready for dwelling in.

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