• Lachlan Gillies (Lachie)
Location:
Stenscholl
Date:
Saturday 13th September 2008
Reference:
SWI2008/004

Lachlan:

... Och, your big, big buildings. Most of the ... even the window frames, the sandstone and the doorways and all that, it came by boat from the mainland, say from somewhere in Glasgow, on a puffer and discharged here along with the work that was done. And these two buildings were built for the sum of £1,760 in those days.

Simon:

That was quite a lot then.

     

Lachlan:

Oh, it would be. It would be millions now, aye. So that was the days gone by and then bit by bit as people got on, you know, they were building better houses for themselves. The roofs that were covered with thatch, if the walls were any reasonable strength at all they were able to do away with the thatch and they would put rafters on and then they’d put sacking on and over the sacking felt was put on. And then probably every summer or every second summer or spring they would be tarring them, tarring these roofs. And then they went from one stage to the slate stage. They were then ... Oh, they couldn’t be bothered. The felt over the years would deteriorate and ... Och, instead of applying felt again they would be putting slate on and asbestos slates, aye. Oh, we thought about them in my young days. They were diamond shaped, diamond shaped.

Simon:

Did your old house ...? Cos I remember the photo that Sharon Macdonald’s got, the roof was the diamond slates.

     

Lachlan:

Yes. I’ve got some of the ... Who showed you these photos?

     

Simon:

Well, Sharon Macdonald’s book is in Sabhal Mòr so the photo’s in there.

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes, that’s it! Yes, that’s it. It does, it does show it. Oh aye. And these slates used to come from Glasgow by boat and they would be discharged in the bay there. A small ferry boat would go out and take the cargo every fortnight in from the cargo boat that called in the bay there, take it into the slipway there and into the storehouse at the end of the slip. And people, bit by bit ... That was if the walls were reasonable at all, and they got on bit by bit and then in 19... was it 1928 or into the 30s, early 30s, the Board of Health had a scheme where people could apply for a grant and loan and they could build from scratch, you know? And the houses they were building in those days, they were ... They weren’t high up. It was attic rooms that were above the sitting room and the kitchen and the best room of the house was at the other end and the rest was attic bedrooms, yes. And, again, people later on they would make them ... heighten the walls and make it ... you know, comfortable bedrooms up above.

Simon:

Yeah, you can see some of the houses in the bay ...

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes, yes. That’s right, aye. But since maybe thirty years, maybe a bitty more ... thirty or ... we’ll say forty to fifty years, people went in for bigger and better houses altogether. Well, the likes of electricity was coming on and all that you see? And water, the water was ... You see, before people depended mostly on maybe a well they had near the house or maybe a scheme that would supply maybe just one township and that itself wasn’t that dependable either but then in the 50s, early, early 50s, Staffin was able to get a complete new water supply and then people were able to get water into the houses and all these amenities. Electricity, yes? Electricity when it first came, maybe there was only just the minimum. Say one light in the sitting room and one light in, say, the bedroom downstairs and maybe just one plug in the wall and just ... Then it graduated bit by bit, bit by bit. People got electric cookers and ...

Simon:

In Kay and Teenie’s house they still have the old plug, the first plug they had, in the wall.

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes? It’s still there? Oh well.

     

Simon:

It still works as well. They don’t use it but ... the old fashioned two pin plug.

     

Lachlan:

Oh the old fashioned ... the round pins?

     

Simon:

Yes.

     

Lachlan:

Yes? Oh well!

     

Simon:

And that used to be their only plug.

     

Lachlan:

So that’s the way things moved, bit by bit by bit. You see ... Och yes, you see even after the First World War the habit and the way people were ... You know, the work they were doing and even their method of ... You know, regarding houses and all that, it changed and then after the Second World War there was another bigger change you see? Even after every war there used to be a change, a change within the area. Even going back to the Napoleonic Wars and even Skye then in those days they were able ... Well, they had about 10,000 men in the army with their officers and commanders and generals and all that so when these people came back after being away they wanted things to be different and changed, you know? And it’s not everybody ... “Och, it’s better than the way it used to be,” but it was improvements all the time, yes. So that’s it, bit by bit things. Yes, when they were ... Well, the young people in the Highlands here, at one time there wasn’t any worthwhile employment for them, you see? If they carried on, say, with their schooling they would have to go to college or university in Aberdeen and Kingussie and Glasgow and Edinburgh. Now when these young people qualified, there was nothing for the work they qualified for, so they took on whatever work they were following and what happened? They got married, settled, had a home, yes? So that ... You could say the cream of the place was gone away, aye. And while ... The families were much bigger too in those days but now a big family is considered ... Well, five, four and five, is considered a big family. In those days you could have ten, eleven, and twelve in a family and it was the oldest boy that was left with the croft and the house and everything. The rest ... well, the rest had to fend for themselves. Oh that’s the way things were. Sinn agad e anyway. So you gonna ask me questions in Gaelic?

Simon:

Well, I can’t but I’ll ...

     

Lachlan:

Well, ask me in English and ... Aye.

     

Simon:

I hope you don’t mind that.

     

Lachlan:

Oh that’s fine!

     

Simon:

So the things I’m interested in are ... I guess the kind of communal works and things like the fanks and the shielings and I know that you’ve been involved in the fishing as well and so a bit about the fishing and then possibly the souming, the common grazings, and then I heard you said about that time of the Land League and there’s the rent strikes and ... So maybe a bit about that. What we’ll do is we’ll just go through them one by one.

     

Lachlan:

Very good then, very good. Well, regarding the Land League, right enough, well, people were ... Some people were a bit hushed about it, you know? And some were quite outspoken so sometimes you don’t get just the right picture from everybody but, yes, I’ll ... You want me answering in Gaelic? Or English?

     

Simon:

Yeah, I guess the thing like the Land League ... What I’m quite interested in is if people have family connections that go back to that time and if people feel it’s as ... Was it important to the development of the crofting community?

     

Lachlan:

Well, yes I would think so, oh yes.

     

Simon:

A bit about the history of it here, in the Staffin area, what actually happened.

     

Lachlan:

Well, I wrote quite a bit once upon a time on the Land League, yes. Got it written here, I’ll have to look it up. It’s in one of these books here. We’ll have a look through and we’ll see. No, that’s not it. I don’t know. We’ll go through whatever else you’ve got at the moment and then we’ll come to the Land League.

     

Simon:

OK. So shall we start with the fank?

     

Lachlan:

Yes!

     

Simon:

So I think there was ... Nowadays there’s maybe two fanks that are still active around here? Two or three? There used to be a lot more than that.

     

Lachlan:

Well, yes. I remember ... Well, there used to be a fank in every township here and there’s, what, more than a dozen townships in the Staffin area. Do you want me to answer in Gaelic or ...?

     

Simon:

Yeah. If you describe what the fank was for and ...?

     

Lachlan:

Bha faing anns a h-uile baile beag air an taobh sear ann an seo, agus na faingean a bh’ ann an uair sin ‘s e well dìreach clachan. Bha iad air an dèanamh suas le clachan agus chì thu fhathast far a bheil iad ‘s far an robh iad gan cumail. A-nist, bha àite ann airson, ‘s dòcha gun robh aon fhaing dhèanadh i an obair a bha seo leithid rùsgadh agus bha faing eile agus ‘s dòcha gun dèanadh i obair dubaidh, ‘s bha iad uile air an dèanamh suas le dìreach clachan a bh’ air an cruinneachadh leis na seann daoine o chionn fada, ‘s bha ‘s dòcha tè no dhà far an robh daoine a’ fuireach uaireigin, far an robh taigh-còmhnaidh ‘s far an robh iodhlainn is rudan dhen t-seòrsa sin ‘s bha iad air an cruinneachadh ‘s air an dèanamh airson gun cumadh iad caoraich. A-nist, aig àm an Earraich ann an sin, bha na caoraich a’ dol a mhonadh mar a bha Staidhseal ann an seo agus anns an Ògmhios bhiodh iad a’ toirt a-staigh seasgach agus na h-othaisgean ‘s bhiodh iad gan rùsgadh ‘s bha iad gan tilleadh a-mach a mhonadh. Bha san dà mhìos a-rithist às dèidh sin, bha na caoraich uain gan toirt a-staigh agus gan rùsgadh ‘s bha sin air a dhèanamh sa bhaile seo san aon àite, faing a’ Chreagain mar a chanas sinn, shuas an sin. Niste, deireadh na bliadhna, uill chan ann deireadh na bliadhna, anns an Iuchair an uair sin bhiodh na caoraich gan toirt a-staigh a-rithist ‘s bhiodh na h-uain gan casg. Bha sin a’ tachairt na b’ fhaide suas a-rithist na b’ fhaisge air crìoch Thàinigil ann am faing ris an canamaid faing Shuairpidh.

     
 

Bha iomadach àite san fhaing a b’ urrainn dhut caoraich a chur air leth. Bha àite airson gum biodh iad air an dubadh, ‘s bha i na bu fhreagarraiche cuideachd oir bha lòn a’ gabhail thairis faisg oirre, agus bhiodh na h-uain air an casg ‘s nuair a bha na h-uain an uair sin air an casg bha iad air an toirt a-staigh na b’ fhaisge air na taighean còmhnaidh ann an seo gu cùl a’ bhaile, ‘s bha iad gan cur a-staigh ann an tobhta eile ann an sin, ris an canadh iad Tobhta Seònaid. ‘S bhiodh iad gan cur a-staigh a h-uile h-oidhche ‘s gan leigeil a-mach a h-uile latha airson suas ri ceala-deug no uaireannan faisg air trì seachdainean. Gu dearbh, bha sinn fhìn nuair a bha sinn ag èirigh suas, bha sinn dìreach seachd deug sgìth dhen obair oir bha muinntir a’ bhaile a’ toirt òirnn an latha aca fhèin a dhèanamh. ‘S a-rithist bha iad an uair sin, na caoraich a bha sin nuair a chaidh an casg bha iad gan cur air ais a mhonadh, ‘s bha iad sa mhonadh ann an sin gu deireadh October, bha iad a’ tighinn a-staigh airson a’ gheamhraidh agus bha faing Shuairpidh an uair sin ga cur a feum na bu trice. Bha an conadal air a sgaradh agus bha e air a thoirt air falbh, agus an fheadhainn aig an robh conadal ann bha iad a’ tighinn ‘s a’ tadhal agus a’ toirt leotha a’ chonadail. Mas ann à Brògaig a bha iad no Sairteal no Màiligear is Mailisiadar, Clachan, an Gearraidh Fada, bha iad a’ tighinn ‘s bha iad a’ toirt leotha an cuid conadail fhèin a-mach às na faingean. ‘S bha sin ag obrachadh mean air mhean suas gus an ruigeadh tu a-mach suas Leth-allt.

     
 

A-niste bha san àite bha seo, well bha na reithichean a’ dol a-mach an uair sin ann an November. Bhiodh iad an uair sin aig an àm sin gan cur a-mach mun treas latha fichead ‘s an ceathramh ‘s an còigeamh latha fichead de November. Agus bhathas ga cruinneachadh nan caorach an uair sin, a h-uile latha a’ faicinn gun robh na reithichean, well no cur cuairt air am feadh, bhathas a’ faicinn gun robh na reithichean a’ fuireach air an àite sam bu chòir dhaibh a bhith ‘s far an deach an cur, airson nach deigheadh iad air siubhal às an àbhaist. An uair sin nuair a bha sin seachad, bha geataichean cùl a’ ghàrraidh, bhiodh iad gam fosgladh ‘s bha sin a’ toirt cothrom dha na caoraich an uair sin tighinn a-staigh gu na croitean, ‘s bha caoraich a’ tighinn a-staigh a h-uile madainn ‘s bhiodh iad a’ togail a-mach iad fhèin a h-uile feasgar ‘s a-mach chun na mòintich ‘s a-mach gu cùl a’ ghàrraidh. Ach bha an uair sin feadhainn a’ toirt a-staigh nan othaisgean, na h-uain bha iad an uair sin dìreach ag èirigh suas nan othaisgean, ‘s bhiodh iad gan geamhrachadh a-staigh aca fhèin. Bha seadachan aca ‘s bhiodh iad gam biadhadh a-staigh ‘s bha, ach bha sin a’ dol air adhart, air ais ‘s air adhart, ‘s bha an uair sin nuair a thigeadh àm an Earraich, àm an Earraich sa mhìos Mhàirt bhiodh iad deireadh a’ mhìos Mhàirt, bhiodh na caoraich a’ fàs trom làn uain ‘s bhiodh iad gan cruinneachadh às ùr, ‘s bhiodh iad a’ faighinn, bhiodh iad a’ faighinn an uair sin dòsadh airson clupad ‘s bha iad a’ faighinn dubadh ‘s bha a h-uile creutair bha iad a’ faighinn sin a dhèanamh riutha ‘s amharc às an dèidh agus bha an uair sin, rud a bha a’ tachairt an uair sin, bha breith nan uan a’ tòiseachadh. ‘S bha na caoraich air a’ bhaile air a’ chùl-chinn a-muigh, agus uaireannan bhiodh duineiginich aca air a chur air leth airson a bhith ag amharc às dèidh nan caorach nuair a bhiodh iad a’ breith, ach às dèidh well aig toiseach a’ chogaidh sguir an obair sin agus bha muinntir a’ bhaile fhèin a’ dol a-mach agus ag amharc gun robh na caoraich ceart gu leòr, nach robh càil a’ tachairt a thaobh uain a’ stiogadh no càil. Bha an uair sin bha an aon rud a bha a’ dol orra an uair sin ‘s e teàrr, a bha a’ dol orra airson comharradh ‘s gun aithnicheadh tu cò leis a bha iad. ‘S cha robh, ma bha thu a’ cur comharradh air uan ‘s e comharradh a mhàthar a bha thu a’ cur air. ‘S mar sin, agus bha thu a’ comharradh cha robh e gu diofar do chuid fhèin no cuid do nàbaidh, cuid a’ bhaile cha robh e gu diofar cò bh’ ann. Ma bha thu a’ tachairt air uan a bha air a bhreith, bha thu a’ cur comharradh a mhàthar air, ‘s nuair a thigeadh a-rithist mìos, trì seachdainean no mìos às dèidh sin, bha na caoraich air an cruinneachadh ‘s bha na h-uain sin air an comharrachadh anns a’ chluais. Sin agad dìreach mar a bha obair nan caorach a’ dol anns an àite.

     
 

There was a fank in every village on the east side here, and the fanks that were there then, well they were just stones, they were made up of stones and you will still see where they are and where they were held. Now, there was a place for, perhaps one fank would do work such as shearing and another fank perhaps would do dipping work, and they were all made up of just stones that had been gathered by the old people long ago, and there was perhaps one or two where people stayed at one time, where there was a dwelling house and where there was, where there was a stackyard and suchlike, and they were formed in such a way as to keep sheep. Now in the springtime there, sheep were sent to the moors like Steidhseal here, and in June they would bring in the sheep without lambs and the hogs and they would shear them and they returned them to the moor. In the two months thereafter, the sheep with lambs were brought in to be shorn, and that was done in this village in the same place, Faing a’ Chreagain, (the fank on the hillock) up there as it was called. Now at the end of the year, not the end of the year, in July then the sheep were brought in again and the lambs were taken from them. That happened further up again nearer the Thàinigil boundary, in a fank that was known as Suairpidh fank.

     
 

There were many places in the fank where you could put sheep separately. There was a place for them to be dipped, and it was more suitable also because there was a stream nearby it, and the lambs would be separated and when the lambs were separated they were taken in nearer the dwelling houses here behind the village, and they were put into another old ruin there which was known as Jessie’s Ruin, and they were brought in every night and sent out every day for up to two weeks or nearer three weeks. Indeed, we ourselves, when we were growing up, we were sick and tired of the work because the people of the township made us do their own day’s work there. And again they were, those sheep that had been separated were sent back to the moor and they were on the moor there until the end of October. They came in then for the winter and Suairpidh’s fank was put to use then more often. The strays were separated and taken away, and those people who owned the strays there came and called and took away their strays. If they were from Brogaig or Sartle or Maligar and Malishader, Clachan, Garafad, they would come and retrieve their own strays out of the fanks. And that worked bit by bit until you’d reach as far as Lealt.

     
 

Now, in this place, well the rams went out then in November. They would at that time send them out round about the 23rd, 24th, 25th November and the sheep were gathered then, every day making sure that the rams, well going about amongst them, to see that the rams were staying in the place where they should be and where they were put, so that they would not wander off. Then, when that was over, there were gates behind the boundary wall which were opened, and that gave the sheep a chance then to come in to the crofts and the sheep came in each morning and they would take off themselves in the evening out to the moor and out to behind the wall. Then, some people brought the hogs in, the lambs, they were just at that time growing into hogs and they would winter them inside at their own place. They had sheds and they would feed them inside, and och that was going on back and fore, and then when springtime came, springtime in the month of March, at the end of the month of March the sheep would be getting heavily pregnant with lamb, and they would gather them afresh and they would be dosed against sheep rot and they were dipped, and every creature had that done to them and looked after and then, what happened then was the lambing started. And the sheep were in the township out on the common grazing and sometimes they would have someone appointed specially to look after the sheep when they were lambing. But after, at the beginning of the war, that work stopped and the people of the township themselves were going out and making sure that the sheep were alright, that there was nothing happening with regard to lambs getting stuck. There was then, the only thing that went on them then was tar. It was put on them as a mark so that you would know whose they were. If you were marking a lamb, it is its mother’s mark you would use. Thus, and you would mark ... it didn’t matter whether or not it was your own or your neighbour’s or belonged to the township, it didn’t matter which, if you came across a newly born lamb you put its mother’s mark on it. And then a month later, three weeks or a month later the sheep were gathered and these lambs were marked in the ear. That is just how the work involving sheep took place in the area.

 

Oh, uh huh, yes. That’s the way the work of the sheep was carried on and everything.

     

Simon:

I got little bits of that but it’s good! You were talking about the ear markings and ...

     

Lachlan:

Yes, correchadh. You want me to say something about that? No?

     

Simon:

Maybe ... I know that everyone had their own earmark and so how were the earmarkings used and how did people come to have them?

     

Lachlan:

Comharradh. Uill a bharrachd ... thèid mi a bhruidhinn air mar a chanadh iad am peant a bha a’ dol air na h-uain. Well, ‘s e teàrr a bhiomaid a’ cur orra an toiseach ‘s mura faigheadh tu air an uan a chomharrachadh can ann an trì seachdainean no mìos, nuair a thigeadh e gu àm a’ chasg, bha an teàrr a chaidh a chur air as t-earrach bha e ri fhaighinn agus b’ urrainn dhut a chomharrachadh air mar a bha an teàrr air an uan. A-niste, am peant a bh’ air a h-uile caora, bha diofar peant aig a h-uile duine ann an diofar àite air a’ chaora. ‘S e an dà pheant bu trice bhathas a’ cur a feum, ‘s e peanta gorm agus peanta dearg ‘s bha a h-uile duine ‘s a chuid fhèin is àite aige air a’ chaora. Mar a bha a’ chroit a bha seo a-niste, bha trì spallan gorm ann, spall air cùl a’ chinn, spall air an druim agus spall air bàrr na tòineadh. ‘S dòcha bha mo nàbaidh a-rithist ‘s ann a’ dol air an t-slinnean thoisich a bhiodh e, bha cuideiginich eile ‘s dòcha gur ann air an t-slinnean thoisich air an taobh cheàrr ‘s bhiodh cuideiginich eile ‘s ann air an t-slinnean thoisich air an taobh cheart, ‘s bhiodh e air an loch-bhlian aig feadhainn, air ais ‘s air adhart mar sin. Ach a bharrachd air sin, bha comharradh air a’ chluais cuideachd agus bha an comharradh a bha sin bha e a’ tighinn a-nuas a’ leanail na croite, ‘s ann leis a’ chroit a bha an comharradh. Nam fàgadh tu a’ chroit, bha an comharradh a’ fuireach anns a’ chroit ‘s bha diofar dòighean air comharradh a dhèanamh. Bha sgoltadh gu h-àrd aig feadhainn sa chluais, bha feadhainn eile ‘s e beum a bha iad a’ toirt às a’ chluais, bha feadhainn eile bha iad a’ toirt toll às a’ chluais, bhiodh feadhainn a’ toirt bàrr na cluaise ‘s och bhiodh dhà-no-trì dhe na rudan sin a’ falbh ‘s dòcha aig aon duine ‘s dòcha gum biodh bàrr na cluaise deas, sgoltadh sa bhun ‘s can toll sa chluais taisgeil, rudeiginich ag obrachadh leth-char mar sin a bhiodh e, ach mar a thuirt mi bha e a’ leanail na croiteadh an comharradh. Ach anns an latha tha an-diugh ann, ‘s e glè bheag de dh’obair comharradh a tha a’ dol ann. ‘S e tags a tha a’ dol sna cluasan aig na caoraich an-diugh agus tha na tags a tha sin tha iad làn figearan. Ach a dh’aindeoin sin, tha an comharradh fhathast aig na croitean nam biodh iad ga chur am feum.

     
 

Marking. Well, as well as ... I will speak about the paint that was put on the lambs, well it was tar that we used at first, and if you didn’t manage to mark the lamb within three weeks or a month, when it came to the time of separation the tar mark that was put on in the spring was still there and you could mark it according to the tar on the lamb. Now, the paint that was on all the sheep ... everyone had a different paint in different places on the sheep. The two most commonly used paints were blue paint and red paint, and everybody had their own mark on the sheep. With this croft now, there were three blue stripes ... a stripe at the back of the head, a stripe on the back and a stripe at the top of the rump. Perhaps again my neighbour might have a stripe on the forequarter and someone else might have one on the forequarter left and someone else on the forequarter right and on the flank with some, and back and fore like that. But apart from that the ear was marked as well and that earmark followed the croft. The earmark belonged to the croft. If you were to leave the croft, the earmark stayed with the croft and there were different ways of making earmarks. Some had a slit high in the ear, and others took a semi-circular piece from underneath the ear, others made a hole in the ear, others took a top cut off the ear, and och there could be several of these on the go with one person ... there might be the tip of the right ear and a slit at the base, and say a hole in the left ear. It worked something like that and och as I said it followed the croft, the mark. But in this day and age it is very little earmarking that goes on. It is tags that go in the ears of the sheep nowadays and these tags are full of figures. But in spite of that the crofts still have the earmarks if they were to need them.

 

So that was the tagging and the painting of sheep, aye.

     

Simon:

Ned was talking about the modern tagging and how he doesn’t like it the way they have to do it now.

     

Lachlan:

Och no.

     

Simon:

And he said it was quite cruel for the sheep because they can get their tags caught whereas the older ...

     

Lachlan:

Aye. I think soon they’ll have to put two tags ...

     

Simon:

They have to do that now.

     

Lachlan:

Yes?

     

Simon:

He’s got to do that. Two tags are for the sheep he keeps for breeding and the ones that go to market only have to have one. It’s worse for the ones on the grazings ...

     

Lachlan:

Aye, they could get caught in a fence or anything, uh huh. Didn’t matter where the sheep went, the earmark done with the knife followed the sheep. It doesn’t matter where it went.

     

Simon:

It was a better system, in a way, for the sheep and the crofters.

     

Lachlan:

Oh well ... aye, they could get caught in a fence or anything, uh huh.

     
 

O well tha, tha a dhraghannan fhèin aig a h-uile càil. Faodaidh e a chluais a mhilleadh, can nam biodh iad faisg air feansa ‘s gun stiogadh a’ chluas air an fheansa leis an tag, dè tha a’ tachairt – tha a’ chluas air a sracadh agus mar sin tha, well, chan eil fhios ‘am ciamar, dh’fheumadh tu tag a chur an àiteiginich eile sa chluais agus, ach mar a bha an t-seann chomharradh ga dhèanamh leis an sgian, bha cuid a bha math air agus bha iad grinn air a’ chluas obrachadh gus am biodh e dìreach snasail grinn air a dhèanamh. Nuair a leighiseadh e cha robh an còrr dragh aig a’ chaora dheth agus cha robh e gu diofar càite an deigheadh a’ chaora a bha sin, bha an comharradh ga leanail.

     
 

O well yes, everything has its own problems. The ear can be damaged if say it is near a fence and its ear was to get stuck in the fence with the tag. What happens? The ear is ripped, the ear is ripped and therefore I don’t know how ... you would just need to put a tag somewhere else in the ear and ... but the way the old earmarking was done with the knife, some were good at it and did a fine job on working the ear so that it would be just fine and well done , and when it would heal the sheep had no more problems with it. And it did not matter where that sheep went, the earmark followed it, the earmark done with the knife followed the sheep. It doesn’t matter where it went.

Simon:

It was better.

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes.

     

Simon:

For the sheep and the crofters. Should we talk about the shieling?

     

Lachlan:

What? The shieling?

     

Simon:

Araidh.

     

Lachlan:

Araidh, yes.

     

Simon:

You said it kind of died out after the first ...

     

Lachlan:

Oh well ... Àirigh. Och bha tòrr àirighean air feadh an àite, bha deugnachadh, deugnachadh, an t-uabhas suas taobh chùl nan cnoc suas an sin a-mach às a’ mhonadh a-muigh, ach chan eil càil a sgeul agamsa air na h-ainmeannan aca an-dràsta idir, ach tha aonan no dhà a bhios sinn an-còmhnaidh a’ bruidhinn orra – àirigh an Easain – tha i sin thall air mullach a’ bhealaich ann an sin ‘s chì thu fhathast an tobhta ri taobh an easa far an robh an àirigh, agus tha rithist shìos anns an Dìg ann an sin, aig ceann shìos na Dìgeadh bha àirigh ann an sin cuideachd, oir gun an latha an-diugh tha e air ainmeachadh fhathast aig na daoine mar an àirigh. Ach ‘s e obair na h-àirigh, ‘s ann as t-samhradh aig àm an t-samhraidh a bha sin a’ tachairt. Bha iad a’ dol a-mach leis a’ chrodh gun a’ mhonadh agus bhiodh an crodh an uair sin a-muigh an sin, ‘s bha daoine a’ dol a-mach, bha dìreach chan eil fhios agamsa am biodh luchd an taighe uile a’ dol a-mach gus nach biodh, ach bha a’ chuid mhòr dhiubh a’ dol a-mach ‘s bhiodh iad a’ cadal a-muigh an sin. ‘S dòcha nach biodh iad a’ tighinn dhachaigh ach ‘s dòcha dà uair san t-seachdain no mar sin agus bhiodh iad a’ bleoghainn a’ chruidh a-muigh an sin, bhiodh iad air am feurach ‘s bhiodh iad gam bleoghann. Tha mi a’ creidsinn gum biodh iad a’ toirt leotha nan cearcan a-mach cuideachd oir bha an uair sin nuair a bha na cearcan air an toirt a-mach, eil fhios agad bhiodh iad a’ cur an t-sìl ‘s bhiodh sìol san fhochann fhathast agus mura biodh na cearcan air an cumail dheth, dh’itheadh iad a h-uile càil a chaidh a chur. Ach bha am bainne air a shuidheachadh agus bha an t-uachdar ga thoirt dheth. Bha ìm ga dhèanamh agus bha an t-ìm a bha sin air a shailleadh ‘s air a chur mu seach aca ‘s bha e aca nuair a bhiodh an crodh tioram ‘s dòcha anns a’ gheamhradh, fad a’ gheamhraidh. Bhiodh e air a shailleadh aca agus chumadh e a’ dol iad gus is dòcha a bheireadh an crodh a-rithist. Ach aon rud a bha iad a’ dèanamh nan deigheadh aca air idir, bha iad a’ cumail mart ‘s gum biodh i seasg airson nach biodh laogh aice idir, ‘s bha sin a’ cumail bainne riutha fad a’ gheamhraidh ach cha bhiodh bainne gu leòr ann ‘s dòcha a dhèanadh uachdar no ìm agus an ath-bhliadhna a-rithist ‘s dòcha gur e mart eile a bha iad a’ cumail bho tharbh, ach bha àm sònraichte dhen bhliadhna anns am biodh iad a’ dèanamh an ime airson gum biodh gu leòr aca a chumadh tron a’ gheamhradh iad gus an tigeadh a-rithist deireadh an earraich ‘s toiseach an t-samhraidh a-rithist às ùr. Och well, nuair a bha na h-àirighean ann, cha chreid mise nach do chuir a’ chiad chogadh faodaidh mi a ràdh buileach às dha na h-àirighean, oir cha robh mise a-riamh air àirigh agus tha faisg air ceithir fichead, well chan eil e fada bhuaidhe, tha faisg air ceithir fichead bliadhna bho rugadh mi ‘s cha robh mi a-riamh air àirigh. Ach chuala mi sna seann òrain, bha iad an-còmhnaidh air an ainmeachadh sna h-òrain, na h-àirighean, agus fhathast an fheadhainn a tha a-mach a’ trusadh sa mhonadh ann an sin, tha fios aca càite a bheil a leithid seo a dh’àirigh ‘s càite a bheil a leithid sin a dh’àirigh agus dh’innseadh iad dhut dìreach gun an dearbh spot càite a bheil iad.

     
 

Och the shieling. There were lots of shielings around the place, indeed yes, tens of them, tens of them. There was a lot up behind the hills up that way out in the moor. But I have no recollection of their names just now at all, but there is one or two that we always talk about. The shieling at the waterfall, that one is over at the top of the pass there and you will still see the ruin beside the waterfall where the shieling was. And then down in Dìg there at the bottom end of Dìg, there was a shieling there as well because to this day it is still named by people as the shieling. The work of the shieling, it was in the summer, in summertime that that took place. They went out with the cattle to the moor and the cattle would be out there then, and people used to go out, just ... I don’t know if all the household went out or not but most of them went out and they slept out there. Perhaps they would only come home twice a week or thereabouts. And they would milk the cattle out there, the cows would be fed on grass and they would milk them, and I believe that they would take the hens out with them as well. Because then when the hens were taken out, you know they planted the seed and there would still be seed in the corn and if the hens were not kept off it, they would eat everything that was planted. But the milk was settled and the cream would be taken off and butter was made and that butter was salted and they set it aside, and they would have it when the cattle were dry (without milk) perhaps in the winter, all winter. They would salt it and it would keep them going until, until perhaps the cattle would calve again. But one thing that they did if they possibly could was to keep one cow without calf, so that she would not have a calf, and that kept them going in milk all winter, but there would not be enough milk perhaps to give them cream and butter, and next year again it could be another cow that they kept from the bull. There was a particular time of year when they made the butter so that they would have enough that would keep them through the winter until the end of the spring and the beginning of summer again. And och well ... when the shielings existed, I think that the first war I can say finished off the shielings completely. Because I was never on a shieling and it is nearly eighty, well it is not far from it, it is nearly eighty years since I was born. I was never on a shieling but I heard about them in the old songs, they were always named in the songs, the shielings, and even yet those people who are out on the moor herding sheep they know where this shieling is and where that shieling is, and they could tell you to the very spot where they are.

Simon:

We spoke ... Can we talk a little bit about the ...? We could talk about the fishing, a little bit about ... particularly about the island because I’ve got some footage of the island and that’s specific to Staffin the way that it was done, the salmon fishing.

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes. Bha, bha tòrr iasgach a’ dol san àite tha seo. Bha iasgach is croitearachd a’ dol air adhart còmhla agus thèid thu air ais fada fada fada gu leòr nuair a bha tòrr dhaoine san àite, nuair a bha iad a’ faighinn obair an earraich deis ‘s bha iad ga dhèanamh deiseil cho sgiobalta ‘s a b’ urrainn dhaibh. Bha tòrr dhiubh an uair sin a’ falbh chun a’ chosta an ear gun an iasgach, ‘s bhiodh iad a’ falbh chun a’ chosta an ear ann an sin ag iasgach an sgadain, gus an tigeadh àm an fhoghair. ‘S bha na boireannaich air am fàgail aig an taigh oir bha ‘s dòcha na h-uiread a’ bhoireannaich san teaghlach an uair sin, agus boireannaich thapaidh cuideachd ‘s bhiodh aca air amharc às dèidh obair na croiteadh mar a bha, mar a bha glanadh a’ bhuntàta, ‘s dòcha gun dèanadh iad, well bhiodh corra ... ach bhiodh daoine a-staigh cheana, a dhèanadh an trusadh airson àm rùsgadh chaorach ‘s rudan. Ach bha tòrr dhiubh a’ falbh gu iasgach an sgadain fad an t-samhraidh. A-niste mar a thuirt mi mar-thà, bha obair na croiteadh ‘s obair an iasgaich a’ dol air adhart làmhan a chèile ann an seo, agus bha na h-uiread a huirt ris a’ chladach ann an sin far am biodh iad a’ tarraing nan sgothan, tha sin na bàtaichean a bhiodh suas ri fichead troigh agus còrr air fichead troigh oir ‘s e sin na bàtaichean a bhiodh aca a-mach tràth as t-earrach agus ag obair air giomaich fad a’ gheamhraidh ‘s bhiodh suas ri ceathrar is còigear de chriutha orra. Agus bha can nuair a dh’fhàgas tu Cill MoLuag ann an sin, bha port an sin ‘s bha port am Flòdagearraidh ‘s bha dà phort san Dìg ‘s bha port thall an sin sa Bhreunphort ‘s nuair a thèid thu suas an cladach ann an sin, port Eàrlais ‘s na puirt sin suas anns an Leth-allt, beul na h-Aibhne anns an Leth-allt gus an ruig thu Ruig ann an sin. Bha suas cho fada ri Beararaig nuair a bha daoine a’ fuireach ann. A-niste, od bha de sgothan aca an uair sin, tha mi a’ creidsinn gun robh, bha deugnachadh de sgothan ann anns an taobh sear ann an seo, agus a bharrachd air an sin bha bàtaichean beaga aca, geòlaichean. A-niste, bhiodh iad a-mach leis na geòlaichean aig àm an t-samhraidh ‘s àm an earraich, ‘s dòcha toiseach an fhoghair. Bhiodh iad a-mach anns an loch ann an sin ag iasgach leotha. Bhiodh iad ag iasgach adag, bhiodh iad a’ cur lìon bheaga, bhiodh iad ag iasgach saoidhean leis na slatan ‘s bhiodh iad ... och bha de dh’iasg an uair sin ri fhaighinn ‘s bhiodh iad, bhiodh iad, och cha robh dìreach ... cha robh dòigh ann an uair sin air an iasg a chumail. Bhiodh iad ga shailleadh ‘s bhiodh e greis anns an t-salainn, ‘s bhiodh iad ga thogail ‘s ga thiormachadh agus bha sin an obair a bha iad a’ dèanamh fad an t-samhraidh leis na geòlaichean. Ach aig deireadh an fhoghair, nuair a bha am foghar seachad, bha iad a’ teannadh air iasgach nan giomach leis na sgothan a-null mu dheireadh October ann an sin. ‘S bhiodh an obair sin a’ dol air adhart gu ’s dòchas anns a’ Ghearran, sguireadh iad anns a’ Ghearran, ‘s bha iad a’ tionndadh ri ‘s dòcha cur a-mach lìon sgadain airson gum faigheadh iad biadhadh lìon mhòra ‘s bhiodh iad a’ biadhadh nan lìn mhòra ‘s bhiodh iad a’ dol a-mach ‘s dòcha feadhainn aca trì ‘s a ceithir a mhìltean a-mach gu na bancaichean. Bha iad agus a’ cur nan lìn mhòra ‘s bhiodh iad a’ tilleadh air an oidhche. Cha robh càil aca an uair sin ach ràimh agus seòl. Bhiodh iad ag amharc airson brìsean beag gaoithe ach cha bhiodh iad ag amharc airson cus idir ... oir fios agad fhèin, na sgothan mòra bha siud, cha robh iad cho soirbh an iomradh nam biodh a’ ghaoth uabhasach làidir. Ach ma bha gaoth idir ann a bha freagarrach, bha iad ga seòladh ‘s bha na bodaich a dh’fhalbh, bha iad math math air seòladh.

     
 

A-niste, bhiodh iad gan cur air an oidhche ‘s bhiodh iad ag èirigh sa mhadainn ‘s a’ falbh a-mach a-rithist, ballaisteachadh nam bàtaichean sin air a’ chladach ... gam ballaisteachadh, tha mi a’ ciallachadh a’ cur clachan annta airson gum biodh, gun tigeadh orra beagan seòlaidh a dhèanamh no gum fàsadh a’ ghaoth mòr ‘s gun tigeadh orra seòladh a dhèanamh ... bha iad air am ballaisteachadh aca airson gun giùlaineadh iad an seòl. ‘S dheigheadh iad a-mach an sin agus ‘s dòcha gun toireadh iad ceithir ‘s a còig uairean a thìde ag obair ann an sin a’ togail nan lìn mhòra. Bhiodh iad an uair sin a’ tighinn a-staigh leotha ‘s bha an t-iasg air a roinn air a’ chladach. Ach anns na làithean mu dheireadh a tha seo, a’ dol air ais fichead, deich bliadhna fichead, ‘s dà fhichead bliadhna, tha iasgach nan lìn mhòra tha eagal orm, chan fhiach dhut a bhith ris. Chan fhaigh thu, chan fhaigheadh tu ‘s dòcha beathach mar a tha gnothaichean air an glanadh le tràlairean timcheall air na cladaichean anns na làithean sa bheil sinn beò. Chan fhaigh thu adag às an loch, chan fhaigh thu cuibhteag, chan fhaigh thu lèabag mar a chleachd iad a bhith. Am beagan a gheibh thu an-dràsta ‘s e rionnach agus liughannan agus smalagan. Sin agad an aon iasg a gheibh thu an-dràsta nuair a thèid thu a-mach air a shon agus cha well ... sna làithean a bha sin, bha na bha thu a’ toirt far a’ chroit agus an t-iasgach, ‘s e bha a’ cumail biadh ris an dachaigh agus ris na teaghlaichean.

     
 

Agus innsidh mi dhut rud eile a bha iad a’ dèanamh, na daoine nuair a thachradh cuideigin a bhith sa bhaile, cha robh na sgothan a bha sin bha iad an-còmhnaidh, bha ‘s na geòlaichean nuair a bhiodh iad a-mach, an-còmhnaidh duine no dithis a bha bochd anns a’ bhaile ‘s nach b’ urrainn a dhol a dh’iasgach, nuair a thigeadh iad air tìr ‘s dòcha feasgar no meadhan latha no am beul na h-oidhche nuair a chuireadh iad a-mach an t-iasg às na bàtaichean air a’ chladach airson a roinn, ‘s dòcha gun canadh cuideiginich: “O, cuiridh sinn iasg air leth dhan tè ud no dhan an fheadhainn ud,” agus an àite can trì earrannan a dhèanamh mura robh a-mach ach triùir sa gheòlaidh bha thu a’ dol a dhèanamh ceithir no ‘s dòcha còig earrannan oir gun ruigeadh beagan iasg air na daoine nach b’ urrainn iad fhèin a dhol a-mach a dh’iasgach. Bha sin a’ tachairt leis na sgothan mòra cuideachd. A-niste, bha daoine an uair sin anns na làithean a bha sin a’ cuideachadh a chèile ann an iomadach dòigh, air muir ‘s air tìr ‘s cha robh èis idir air duine nach b’ urrainn e fhèin a chuideachadh. Bha e a’ faighinn, bha an fheadhainn a bha làidir calma tapaidh agus èasgaidh, bha iad a’ cuimhneachadh air an duine nach b’ urrainn a dhol a-mach e fhèin agus rudan fhaighinn dha fhèin. Bha a-rithist, thug mi speileag ag obair aig obair iasgach, och air na h-uiread a dh’obair, ‘s thug mi aon cheithir no còig a bhliadhnaichean ag obair aig iasgach nam bradan ach ‘s e iasgach nam breac a chanamaide ris. Bha iasgach nam breac, bha e a’ dol air adhart ann an eilean Steidhseil, ‘s bha e a’ dol air adhart sa Leth-allt ‘s bha e a’ dol air adhart ann an Ruig ach chan eil càil idir dheth a’ dol air adhart a-nis o chionn bliadhna no dhà. A h-uile earrach, can deireadh a’ Ghiblein ann an sin, an ceala-deug mu dheireadh dhen a’ Ghiblein, bha e a’ tòiseachadh agus bha thu a’ feuchainn ri obair an fhearainn a chrìochnachadh ‘s bha thu a’ feuchainn ris a’ mhòine a bhuain mus tòisicheadh an obair a bha sin, agus bha a h-uile duine a bha a’ frithealadh an iasgaich a tha sin, a’ dèanamh oidhirp mhòr gum faigheadh iad am buntàta a chur ‘s gum faigheadh iad an sìol a chur ‘s gum biodh cuid mhath den mhòine aca air a bhuain an ceala-deug mu dheireadh dhen a’ Ghiblean. A-nist, bha an t-iasgach a’ tòiseachadh ‘s bha e a’ cumail obair riut fad an t-samhraidh gus an crìochnaicheadh e deireadh an Lùnastail ‘s bha thu a’ dol a-staigh gu ruig uaireannan ceala-deug agus ‘s dòcha trì seachdainean de September mus fhaigheadh tu pàigheadh dheth. Ach aig an aon àm, dheigheadh agad air obair na croite a dhèanamh ‘s bha thu a’ dèanamh obair an iasgaich a bha seo.

     
 

A-niste, anns na làithean a bha mise ris, cha robh a’ dol ach an t-eilean ann an sin ‘s an Leth-allt agus Ruig, ‘s bha àite am Port Rìgh ‘s bha àite sa Bhràighe ‘s bha àite an Ratharsair. Ach nan deigheadh tu air ais ceud bliadhna no còrr, bha barrachd na sin de stèiseanan mun a’ chladach, stèiseanan iasgaich a chanamid riutha. Bha bothagan ann ‘s bha àiteachan ann far an robh na lìn air an cur mu seach nuair a bhiodh tu deiseil as t-fhoghar agus airson, ‘s bha iad air an cur mu seach ann an dòigh ‘s gum biodh iad deiseil agad airson tòiseachadh às ùr an ath earrach a-rithist. Bha, canaidh sinn bric riutha, bha bric gu leòr an uair sin ann. Gheibheadh tu ceud breac ann an July ‘s ann an August cha mhòr a h-uile latha agus gheibheadh tu sin anns na stèiseanan eile cuideachd. Bha na mìltean a’ falbh dhe na bric sin a Phort Rìgh, ‘s bha iad an uair sin a’ falbh ann an deigh gu ruig Glaschu is Lunnainn. Agus bha, an latha a gheibheadh tu ceud breac no còrr, bha am maighstir iasgair os cionn an iasgaich, bha e a’ tighinn a thogail an iasg a bha sin le bàta. Bha e a’ cur cuairt air a’ chladach. Bhiodh e a’ tighinn timcheall an seo ‘s bha na bocsaichean gan cur air bòrd a’ bhàta a bh’aige, ‘s ma bha ceud breac no còrr agad bha e a’ fàgail botal uisge bheatha agad. Sin agad mar a bha gnothaichean an uair sin, ach dh’fhalbh sin ‘s dh’fhalbh am breac ‘s chan eil breac ri fhaighinn, ‘s tha an abhainn a bha ann an sin thall mar a chanas iad, abhainn Chille Mhàrtainn, bha i anns an Lùnastal suas September toiseach October, bhiodh i tiugh le bric a’ dol suas gun a’ ghlò-ghlan mar a chanas iad airson spànadh shuas an sin. Bha, chan eil fhios ‘am am faigheadh tu an-diugh, ged a bhiodh tu air an abhainn, am faigheadh tu deich no fichead breac uile gu lèir oirre. Càite an deach e, chan eil fhios ‘am. Chaidh an t-iasg uile air ais mar a tha an adag agus na h-iasg a bha sin. Chan eil gin dhiubh ri fhaighinn, càil idir ri fhaighinn dheth an-diugh. Bha mi a-mach, ach bha mi a-mach air iomadach dòigh iasgaich. Bha mi a-mach cuideachd air bàta mòr a bha ann an seo air an taobh sear ann an seo ris an canadh iad Flora MacDonald. Bha mi a-mach oirre sin, agus bhithinn a’ cuideachadh leotha, bha iad ag obair lre lìn ghrunna. Bhiodh iad a’ tòiseachadh air an sin deireadh an fhoghair. ‘S ann suas a-mach às an linne a bhiodh iad ag obair ‘s bhiodh iad ag obair a-null taobh Thoirbheartran ‘s a-mach cùl Ratharsair ‘s na h-àiteachan sin agus tràth bhliadhna ‘s e bioraich a bhiodh iad ag iasgach, agus bha na bioraich sin air am feannadh ‘s bha iad air an cur air tìr sa Chaol. Bhiodh na bocsaichean dhiubh a’ dol air tìr, bhiodh stac, gheibheadh tu dìreach cnap dhiubh sna lìn. Bhiodh tu uaireannan ag obair gu dà uair dheug ‘s uair sa mhadainn gam feannadh ann an sin agus gan cur ann am bocsaichean agus bhiodh iad a’ falbh leis an trèana sìos gu deas. Nuair a bha sin seachad an uair sin, an seusan aig sin seachad aig àm na Bliadhna Ùire no goirid às dèidh na Bliadhna Ùire, bha seusan nan liughannan a’ tòiseachadh ‘s bhiodh seusan an fhalmair ... falmair... e fhèin ann an uair sin cuideachd. ‘S goirid às dèidh sin, a-null, null ‘s dòcha anns a’ Ghiblean is toiseach a’ Mhàirt, bha ... o bha sa Ghiblean, deireadh an Fhaoilleach, bha an trosg a’ tòiseachadh, bha an trosg a’ tòiseachadh agus chunna mise uaireannan ann an sin a’ dol a Chaol le trì fichead bocsa ‘s a deich ‘s dòcha ceithir fichead bocsa eadar truisg is liughannan is eile a’ dol a Chaol leis, agus ged a chuireadh tu lìon a-mach an-diugh chan eil fhios ‘am am faigheadh tu bocsa. Tha sin a’ sealltainn dhut mar a tha a h-uile iasg a’ dol às ‘s canaidh iad riut gu bheil uiread a dh’iasg sa mhuir agus a bha a-riamh ann. Bidh mi a’ gabhail iongnadh uaireannan a bheil sin ceart. Sin agad mar a bha.

     
 

Thòisich mi an uair sin mi fhìn air iasgach le mo sgoth fhìn. Thòisich mi an uair sin còmhla ri caraid dhomh. Fhuair sinn bàta air a togail às na h-Arcaibh ann an sin agus bha trì deug air fhichead de throighean innte. Bàta ùr, agus thug sinn bliadhnaichean ag obair air an sin. Sin agad gus an do leig mi dhìom, gus an do leig sinn dhinn an obair. Bha sinn còrr agus, o còrr math agus deich bliadhna fichead ris an obair a tha sin agus ‘s ann ag iasgach chlèibh a bha sinn. Bha sinn ag iasgach ghiomach agus bhiomaid ag iasgach chrùbagan, ach gu sònraichte bhiomaid ag iasgach a’ mhuasgain chaoil, bhiomaid ag iasgach nam prawns, ‘s bhithinn ag obrachadh ochd ceud cliabh mar bu trice, ‘s dòcha corra uair bhiodh e suas faisg air mìle cliabh. Bhiomaid ag iasgach anns gach àite, bhiomaid ag iasgach a-mach à Dùn Bheagain ‘s bhiomaid ag iasgach a-mach à Ùige, a-mach à Port Rìgh ‘s a’ dol sìos cho fada ris a’ Chròlainn ‘s a-mach tuath air Rònaidh ‘s na h-àiteachan sin, agus sin agad an obair a bh’ agamsa ‘s aig mo charaid gus na leig sinn dhinn an obair sin, gus na dh’fhàs sinn sean agus nach b’ urrainn dhuinn an còrr a dhèanamh. Ach ‘s toil leam a bhith a’ dol a dh’iasgach fhathast. Ma bhios mi beò slàn, tha sùil agam a dhol a dh’iasgach feasgar a-nochd. ‘S toil leam a dhol a dh’iasgach rionnach, ‘s toil leam a dhol a dh’iasgach liughannan còmhla ri mo nàbaidh a tha ri mo thaobh ann an seo. Agus sin agad rud eile is toil leamsa a bhith a’ dèanamh a bharrachd air sin ... ‘s toil leam a bhith a’ càradh bhàtaichean ... ùidh mhòr agam ann an obair bhàtaichean. ‘S toil leam e agus ‘s iomadh bàta a chàirich mi, bàtaichean a bha gu math dona, chanadh tu nach b’ fhiach càil a dhèanamh riutha. Bhithinn a’ cur seachad ùine mhòr, ‘s dòcha gun toirinn suas ri bliadhna no bliadhna gu leth air bàta a chàradh ‘s bha iad a’ dol air ais gu muir. ‘S e carpatair a bha nam sheanair, agus bha m’ athair e fhèin bha e math air an obair sin, obair càradh bhàtaichean. ‘S bha ùidh mhòr agamsa san obair a bha sin ‘s nuair a dh’fhàg mise an sgoil bha mi ag ràdh rium fhìn gur e siud an rud a dh’ionnsaichinn, ach cha d’ fhuair mi an cothrom. B’ fheudar dhomh an sgoil fhàgail agus b’ fheudar dhomh mo chosnadh a thoirt orm oir cha robh an t-airgead anns an dachaigh an uair sin ann mar a th’ ann san latha an-diugh. Agus bha mi ag ràdh rium fhìn gun dèanainn an uiread seo a chosnadh agus an uair sin gun teannainn gun deighinn a-staigh airson ionnsachadh, ach thachair gun do chaochail m’ athair ‘s e na dhuine òg agus b’ fheudar dhòmhsa na smuaintean sin a leigeil às m’ inntinn, agus ach chun an latha an-diugh tha ùidh mhòr agam ann an obair nam bàtaichean. Sin mar a bha an t-iasgach.

     
 

Yes, there was a lot of fishing on the go in this place. Fishing and crofting went on at the same time and if you go back far far far enough when there was a lot of people living in the place, when they were getting the spring work finished, they got it finished as quickly as they could. A lot of them at that time were leaving for the east coast to the fishing, and they would be travelling the east coast there fishing for herring until autumn time arrived. And the women were left at home because there were perhaps so many women in a family then and strong women too, and they would have to keep an eye on the croft work such as cleaning the potatoes, perhaps they would ... well there would be people at home already but they would herd the sheep at shearing time and things like that. Oh, a lot of them left for the herring fishing during the summer. Now, as I said before, croft work and fishing were going on at one and the same time here, and there was such a bustle down by the shore there where they were bringing in the boats (skiffs). These are boats which were up to twenty feet long and more than twenty feet long because these are the boats they would be using at sea early in the spring and working on lobster all winter, and they would have up to four or five crew. And say when you leave Kilmoluag there, there was a port there and there was a port in Flodigarry and there were two ports in Dìg and there was a port over there in Breunphort and when you go up the shore there, Eàrlais port and these ports up in the Lealt, the mouth of the river in Leth-allt until you arrive at Ruig there. Yes they were as far north as Bereraig when people lived there. Now, och they had so many skiffs then. I am sure that there were tens of skiffs on the east side here, and more than that they had small boats, yawls. Now they would be out with the yawls in the summer time and spring time and perhaps the beginning of autumn. They would be out in the loch there fishing with them. They would be fishing for haddock, they would cast short fishing lines, they would fish for saithe with the rods and they would be ... och there was so much fish to be had then and they would be, they would be och just ... there was no way then of preserving the fish. They used to salt it. It would be in salt for a while and then they lifted it and dried it and that was their work all summer with the yawls. But at the end of the autumn when autumn was over they started on the lobster fishing with the skiffs round about the end of October. And that work would be ongoing until perhaps February, they would stop in February. And they were turning to perhaps casting the herring nets so that they would get bait for the long lines, and they would bait the long lines and they would go out ... some of them as far as three or four miles out to the banks and casting the long lines and returning during the night. There was nothing else then but oars and sails. They would be looking for a light breeze but they would not be looking for too much at all. You know yourself, these big skiffs were not so easy to row if the wind was strong, but if there was a suitable wind at all they would sail them, and the old men who have gone were very very good at sailing.

 

Now, they would cast them at night, they would get up in the morning and set out again to ballast these boats on the shore. By ballasting them, I mean putting stones in them so that they could sail them, because if the wind rose and they had to sail they were ballasting them so that they would take the sail. And they would be out there, perhaps they would be out there for four and five hours working there lifting the long lines. They would then come in with them and the fish was shared out on the beach. But in the last few years going back twenty, thirty and forty years the long line fishing I am afraid is not worth tackling. You wouldn’t get one fish perhaps, the way things have been cleared up by trawlers round about these shores in this day and age in which we live. You will not get a haddock from the loch, you will not get whiting, you will not get flounder the way you used to. The little you get now is mackerel and lythe and coalfish (coley), that is the only fish you will get now when you go out for it. And well in those days, what you were getting from the croft plus the fishing was what kept food going for the home and the families.

 

And I’ll tell you something else that they were doing, the people, when someone happened to be in the village, these skiffs were not, they were always and so were the yawls when they were out, there was always one or two people in the village who were sick and could not go fishing, when they’d come ashore in the afternoon or perhaps at midday or at nightfall, when they would put the fish out of the boats on to the shore to be divided out maybe someone would say: “Oh, we will put fish aside for that person or for those people,” and instead of making three shares if there were only three people in the yawl they would make four shares or five shares so that those who could not go out fishing for themselves would receive some fish. That happened with the big skiffs also. Now, people in those days were helping each other in so many different ways at sea and on land, and there was no deprivation regarding people who could not help themselves. Those who were strong, able and resilient and willing, they had in mind the person who could not go out himself and get these things for himself. Again, I spent some time working at the fishing and did quite an amount of work, and I spent four or five years working at the salmon fishing but we called it trout fishing. Trout fishing was going on in Stenscholl Island and it went on in the Lealt and it went on in Ruig but there is none of it going on now for a few years. Every spring say the end of April, the last fortnight in April it started and you were trying to finish off the croft work and you were trying to cut the peats before that work started. And everyone who attended this fishing made a big effort to plant the potatoes, plant the corn and most of the peats would be cut in the last fortnight in April. Now, the fishing started and it kept you in work all summer until it finished at the end of August and you were going into a fortnight or three weeks of September before you were paid off. But at the same time you would manage to do the croft work, and you were doing this fishing work also.

 

Now in the days I was involved in it, there was just the island there being worked and the Lealt and Ruig, and there was a place in Portree and a place in Braes and a place in Raasay. But if you went back one hundred years or more there were far more stations around the shore, fishing stations we called them. There were bothies there, and there were places where the nets were put aside when you were finished in the autumn, and they were put aside in such a way that they would be ready for you starting afresh in the spring again. There were, we’ll call them trout, there were plenty of trout available then. You would get one hundred trout in July and August almost every day and you would get that in the other stations also. Thousands of these trout were going away to Portree and then they were packed in ice and sent to Glasgow and London. And the day you got one hundred trout or more the fishing master who oversaw the fishing, he came to lift that fish with a boat. He went round the shores and he would come round here and the boxes were put on board the boat he had and if you had one hundred trout or more, he would leave you a bottle of whisky. That is how things were at that time. But that disappeared and the trout disappeared and there is not a trout to be had. The river over there, as they say Kilmartin’s river, in August and September and the beginning of October it would be thick with salmon going up to the spawning grounds to spawn up there. I don’t know if today and you were on the river you would get ten or twenty trout altogether. Where did it go? I don’t know. But all of the fish decreased, such as haddock and that kind of fish. There is not one of them to be had, none of them to be had nowadays. I was out, yes I was at sea working on many different fishing methods. I was also out on a big boat that was here, on the east side here, which was called Flora MacDonald. I was out on that one and I was helping them, they were working with bed lines. They would start with that at the end of autumn. They would be working out of the firth and over towards Torridon and out behind Raasay and these places, and early in the year they would be fishing dogfish and these dogfish were skinned and sent ashore in Kyle. There would be boxes of them going ashore, stacks of them. You would get a pile of them in the nets, you would be working on them sometimes till midnight and one in the morning skinning them there, and putting them in boxes and they would go by train down south. When that was done, when that season was over at New Year or shortly after New Year, the lythe season would start and the hake season also. It was there as well at that time, and shortly after that perhaps round about April and the beginning of March, oh yes there was in April and the end of January, the cod started. And I saw sometimes there going to Kyle with seventy boxes sometimes eighty boxes between cod and lythe etc, going to Kyle with it, and if you set a net nowadays I don’t know if you would get a boxful. That shows you how all kinds of fish are disappearing, and they’ll tell you that there is as much fish in the sea as ever came out of it. I wonder sometimes if that is correct. That is how it was.

 

I started then fishing myself with my own skiff and then I started along with a friend of mine. We got a boat which had been built in Orkney and it was thirty-three feet long. A new boat and we spent years working at that. That was until I until we retired and left the work. We had been at it for over, well over thirty years at that work. And we were fishing with creels, we fished for lobster and we fished for crab, but especially we fished for prawns. We used to work usually eight hundred creels, perhaps sometimes on occasions up to one thousand creels. And we fished everywhere. We fished out of Dunvegan and fished out of Uig, out of Portree and down as far as Crowlin and out north of Rona and these places. And that is the work that my friend and I had until we retired from that job until we grew old and we could not do much more. But I still like to go fishing. If I am fit and living, I intend to go fishing this evening. I like to go fishing for mackerel, I like to fish for lythe along with my neighbour beside me here. And that is something else that I like to do apart from that. I enjoy repairing boats, I have a great interest in boat work. I like it and many a boat I repaired, boats which were in a really bad state that you would not think could be repaired. I would spend a long time, perhaps I would spend up to a year or sometimes a year and a half repairing a boat and they were going back to sea. My grandfather was a carpenter, and my father himself was good at that kind of work, repairing boats, and I had a huge interest in that kind of work. When I left school, I said to myself that that is what I was going to learn but I did not get the opportunity. I had to leave school and I had to go and earn my living because there was not the money in the home at that time like there is nowadays. And I was saying to myself that I would earn a certain amount and then I would approach, I would apply but it so happened that my father died at a young age, and I had to forego these ideas. But to this day I have a tremendous interest in boat work. That is how the fishing was.

 

That’s how the fishing went. That’s how I proceeded right through my life, yes. I was saying there, latterly, my grandfather was a carpenter and he built boats and I had a great great notion for boat building and I was saying to myself: “Oh when I leave school I’ll go for an apprenticeship,” but when I left school I had to go and make ... Work! They couldn’t afford to send me ... An apprenticeship then, you were only getting ... Och, it wasn’t even sweetie money so you couldn’t afford it and I was saying to myself: “Right! I’ll do a spell and I’ll put some money aside and then I’ll go for an apprenticeship!” but ... unhappily things didn’t go that way. My father died very suddenly as a young man and all my plans went, yes.

Simon:

It happened a lot, I guess, that people had to ...

     

Lachlan:

Oh yes. So that’s it. Anything else?

     

Simon:

Eh ... Shall we ...? I guess there was two things. One was about how ... It kind of follows on from what you were saying, about how different members of the family worked together on the croft and then the Land League stuff but maybe we should ...

     

Lachlan:

Oh, the Land League stuff, yes.

     

Simon:

You were saying people were quite harsh about the ...

     

Lachlan:

Yes, some were, yes. Some were ... (inaudible) ... of Staffin. One or two were ...

     

Simon:

Do people feel it’s not something to talk about or ...?

     

Lachlan:

But, you know, some people were a bit friendly with their landlords and they weren’t just ... I’ll look through here, see what’s ... That’s just records of sheep and ... census, Raasay. There’s Ellishader census and ...

     

Simon:

Teenie’s mum did a census.

     

Lachlan:

Ach, I’ve got it here. I’ll read it in English. This is what I wrote:

     
 

Charles Stewart Parnell was an Irish politician who was the leader of the national party, the Nationalists, for the policy of home rule 1846-1891. He was 45 when he died. Round about this time, the late 1800s, the crofters in the Islands and the Highlands were suffering terrible injustice from the landlords. The best parts of their grazing would be taken over by the tacksman with permission from the landlords, and supposing they did not cap the rents at the same level, it increased every two or three years until it became unbearable as nearly six month employment was needed to pay the rent of the croft by the tenants. The stock wasn’t dealt with either in a proper or decent manner. If a sheep or calf, cow or horse, strayed on to the landlord’s or the tacksman’s grazing, it would be impounded and several days would pass by before the notice was given. Probably done deliberately as payment had to be down each day till it was taken away by the crofter and the sore point again was if the tacksman or the landlord’s beasts would stray on to your croft or grazing, you could not do anything about it but quietly put them back to where they came from. It was up to the tenants to keep their walls and fences in a good state of repair so that your beasts would not stray whereas the tacksman or the landlords would do as they pleased. Some of the tenants were so poor that if they bought a bowl of meal from a merchant they would have to take a cattle beast with them as surety, so that if they weren’t able to pay for the meal the merchant would be able to claim the beast. Crofters were very unhappy how hard and difficult things were, increasingly difficult for them. Skye wasn’t the only place, this was happening throughout the crofting Highlands and Islands. Charles Stewart Parnell would’ve heard about all this and came over and had meetings over a number of times in several places and the crofters, who felt so strongly about the way they were treated, went to listen to what he had to say. And Norman Stewart Baltas was one that listened to what was said and he was prepared to stand up to the injustice done to the Staffin crofters and speak amid them so that their lot could be improved. Norman Stewart must have been a great admirer or half hand of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irishman, for he himself was given the nickname of ‘Parnell’. The Staffin crofters gave him a lot of support, and especially the ones in Valtos, his own brother Malcolm Stewart, and his son Alexander who was just a lad of 17, Murdo Macdonald of Ellishader was also involved, Martin Martin, Norman Macleod, Archibald Macdonald of Garafad, that’s the Herd’s grandfather.

 

People started to withhold their rents. When pay time came round and other areas in Skye were doing the same, such as Glendale, Braes, Staffin and I’m sure other areas were doing the same thing also when they saw that people were determined that this time the injustice had to stop. The landlords saw this uprising was gathering momentum. Meetings being held in many places, powerful speeches being made by the leaders of the crofters stirring up people and giving them the courage to join with one and other. In Staffin alone, up to three hundred people would gather at one time and as much as a hundred children of school age having Norman Stewart, nicknamed ‘Parnell’, addressing them and I’m sure one or two more would have been very willing to join in also. The landlords were seeing that they were on the verge of losing control of their tenants and went to the government of the day for help so that the uprising would be quelled. Captain Fraser, who was the landlord in the Staffin area, was desperate to get his hands on Norman Stewart, who’s nickname as I said was ‘Parnell’, and one or two other people: Alexander Stewart, nephew of Norman Stewart, and a Murdo Macdonald from Ellishader. As the days went by, things all over Skye got worse and it came to a head when one hundred marine were landed at Uig. I think it was at the small jetty, called Graham’s Quay. The boats were, as far as I recollect, The Locheil and The Assistance. Twenty eight members of the Inverness Sheriff Constabulary came from Inverness with swords. All this happened in February 1885. At the very beginning of February, maybe the 3rd or the 4th, the marines marched from Uig to the lodge now called Quiraing Lodge. And the boats that took them to Uig came to anchor out at Staffin Bay. There was a Sheriff Officer called John Lamont, maybe from Portree, and he was responsible for serving summons on the Taobh Sear crofters, that’s the Staffin crofters, the summons being for mobbing and rioting.