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Hidden or seen, still murmuring that old tune :
All on a bank impearl'd with many a flower,
Up on the hills after the deer,
The stag in the corrie is trembling with fear
The stag and hind are down the wind,
Oscar, though swift, is far behind,
The hunter shot his bolt too soon,
He might as well have shot at the moon,
Oscar returns from a bootless chase,
He ran amain, but he lost the race,
The hunter descends by corrie and cairn,
But the stag is couched amongst the fern,
When next the hunter bends his bow,
That antler'd head will be lying low,
Whilst yet the echo of my sister's song
As Oscar fawned upon us each in turn,
THE PAST AND PRESENT POSITION OF THE
MR. LACHLAN MACDONALD of Skaebost, Isle of Skye, has recently issued a valuable pamphlet, for private circulation, entitled “The Past and Present Condition of the Skye Crofters.” We present it to our readers, for whom, it will be seen, it was originally written, in the following abridged form. A series of 23 valuable full-page tables are printed at the end of the pamphlet. These would be unsuitable for our pages. We, however, think that Skaebost should publish the whole pamphlet in the usual way, and so make it accessible to the general public:
It is scarcely an exaggeration [he writes] to say that, were the Island of Skye polled to-morrow, and the wishes of the people taken, the voice of the large majority would be—Perish Landlordism, and let the land be divided among us.
“Give us more land, and restore to us the land robbed from our forefathers under cover of Landlord-made laws,” has been the demand of the crosters ever since the present agitation commenced ; and no doubt this feeling had its origin, and possibly still exists, from a sense of indignation arising out of a widely-spread belief among them, that a great and grievous wrong was done to their ancestors, from the consequences of which the present generation is now suffering.
My object in writing this is to try and ascertain, if possible, the truth of the above charge, and to what extent the Skye crosters were injured by the Skye proprietors, and whether the Skye crosters of to-day are justified in the attitude they have assumed towards the Skye proprietors. The way in which I propose tackling this knotty problem is by an examination of authentic figures, showing the past and present rentals, and distribution of the lands of the Isle of Skye.
According to the return presented to Parliament in 1872-73, popularly known as the Domesday Book, the Island of Skye contained 408,657 acres, and in former times 219,596 acres of this land belonged to the Macleods, and was called and known as Macleod's country; the remaining 189,061 acres belonging to the Macdonalds and Mackinnons. The following figures embrace the whole of these lands, with the exception of 13,000 acres of the Mackinnon lands, now belonging to Mr. Alexander Macalister of Strathaird, and entered in the Valuation Roll for 1885 at a rental of £939 19s., of which about 11 per cent. is paid by crofters. Also, say about 5000 acres now belonging to Lord Macdonald, and entered in the Valuation Roll for 1885 at a rental of Á538 16s., and which is occupied by 68 crofters, paying 4,488 Ios., and one other tenant paying £50 6s.
the MACLEOs) COUNTRY.
In 1664, the whole of Macleod's country belonged to the Macleod of Macleod of the day; now the same lands are owned by eight different proprietors.
Macleod's country was occupied in 1664 by
73 Tacksmen rented at - - - - - - 4917 4 8 Ioš Joint-tenants rented at - - - - - - 246 i 8 178 A 1163 6 4 The same lands were held in 1885 as follows:–
5 Proprietors rated at - - - - - - 43242 o o Io Tacksmen rented , , - - - - - - 6219 15 8 8 Farmers > * > y - - - - - - 277 I4 o 745 Crofters * * * * - - - - - - 3052 2 5 12 Others paying - - - - - - - 296 17 6
78o A 13,088 9 7
Those figures show that a great change has taken place since 1664. They show that the rent is now more than eleven times greater in Macleod's country than it was in 1664; and, in the second place, that the tacksmen class of that day has become extinct. They show also that the lands occupied by 73 tacksmen, then paying 78% percent. of the entire rental, are now mostly held by Io large graziers, and by 5 proprietors paying 72} per cent of the present rental ; and that the lands then occupied by 178 individuals are now held by no fewer than 780 persons. At the same time, the figures make it apparent that, whoever has cause to complain of the joining of field to field, the crosters do not seem to have suffered so much as is generally supposed. Those paying under £30 a year now pay 23 per cent. of the rental, and other small farmers pay 2 per cent., or a total of 25 per cent., against 21% per cent. paid by joint-tenants in 1664. This proves that, instead of the crofters' possessions decreasing, they have increased. But it may be said anything can be proved by statistics, and it may doubtless be asked, how can we account for all the green spots which we find here and there surrounded by wildernesses of heather, and marking the sites of former habitations, as, for instance, in Bracadale, that Parish in Macleod's country which is most coveted by the crofters, and to which the Royal Commission pointed as an instance of the reduction of numbers ?
An examination of its figures will show that this Parish of Bracadale was formerly, as now, mostly occupied by the gentry, and that the crofters' ancestors (those of them who are descended from joint-tenants) never had much of a footing, either in it or in Minginish.
The present Parish of Bracadale consists of part only of the ancient Barony of Bracadale, and of the whole of the Barony of Minginish, and the lands which now comprise it were held in 1664 by
32 Tacksmen rented at the sum of - - - - 4.448 o 2
Showing that the crosters pay about 1% per cent. of the rental, and that the other small tenants pay nearly 34 per cent., or a total of only 5 per cent., against 1o per