As I said, after the shielings that were out on the moor at Beannaibh a’ Chuailein, that moorland had belonged to the crofters of Bernera since time immemorial, and Donald Munro or the Black Munro as he was known, wanted to put deer, would keep deer out on the moorland and grouse, and so that moorland was taken from the people of Bernera, and another piece of the estate offered to them further in nearer the road. There was no road there at the time, but where the road is nowadays. And, but before they had permission to keep livestock there, they had to build a wall themselves of between six or seven miles, without pay and without thanks. And they did that, and a year, a few years later, three or four years, Munro came again and he took that part of the estate and moorland from them and said that he would give them the land where the village of Hacklete is now in Bernera, to keep livestock there during the summer. Now that was not suitable in many ways and ... they were ... they had a discussion about that with Munro, but he was who he was. He was a law unto himself, and if not, he would soon make one for himself, because he was in charge of the court and everything else then. Anyway, the matter came to a head, in that they stood against him and they came to Stornoway. The result was that Munro brought out a summons through the court for each one of them in Tobson anyway, I think that he gave out thirty-six summonses, in order to expel the people from the place. But he did not know the Bernera people as well as he thought, and they stood up against him and the matter came to court in Stornoway. With regard to them distributing the summonses, one of the bailiffs along with Munro said that he would ... if he had a gun ... he would set the mothers of Bernera weeping, since they were so ill-mannered ... the children ... that they had been throwing sods at them when they were travelling at night from one township to the other. The situation was then ... some of these people were in Stornoway and they were caught and brought in by the police. So when Munro and MacLennan the other one ... the bailiff who was with him ... saw them, they went to the police and received permission then to imprison them. And when they heard in Bernera what had happened, one of them got away and they headed for Stornoway, a large contingent of them led by a piper, and when it was heard that they were coming, the poor man who had been imprisoned was set free. Now, when he was brought in to the office, the police office, MacLennan the bailiff who was with Munro, attacked him and battered him. But what happened then was that they gave him a new suit of clothes, in effect that it would prevent him from taking up against them. But the result was that Munro and MacLennan and the other one were brought to court, and Munro and MacLennan were sentenced, and the Bernera crofters won the day. And that was how ... it was through that, that the Napier Commission was set up. And they came to the Islands and to the Highlands gathering evidence as to the state and the situation of the crofters and out of that ... when was it now, 1886, an Act was passed which gave opportunity and freedom to the crofters, that they would have their own portion of land if they paid their rent. And I heard of that many a time in my grandfather’s house when I was young – the old men would come in and they would smoke and recount stories, and that is how I remember how it was then – it is a long time since then.

  • Donald MacAulay (Reddy)
Tuesday 16th February 2010