Raasay: The Island and Its People

By Norma Macleod | Go to book overview

7
The History of Raasay, 1872-1900

George G. MacKay: 1872-1874

George G. MacKay paid £55 000 for the estate in 1872. He held it for only two years. His stewardship was entirely negative. The overriding memory of the man was that he raised the rents substantially. This was stated time and time again to both Royal Commissions. In 1883, Rev. Angus Galbraith said of this time:

The purchaser was Mr G. G. MacKay, whose chief aim appears to have been
to make pecuniary gain by the purchase. Accordingly he set immediately about
increasing the rents. Rents were imposed on a number who paid none, and
the rents which were before, and which were considered high enough, were
in some cases nearly doubled. Taking an average of the whole, the rise was
nearly fifty per cent. The people at the time remonstrated, and were almost
driven to open resistance. Whether rightly or wrongly, I did my best, in the
interest of peace, to influence the people to agree to Mr MacKay's terms,
though I considered them very hard. The people were quite willing to take
their lands at valuation; but the proprietor, perhaps thinking such a course
might in some cases rather diminish than increase the rents, told them they
must either agree to his terms, or leave the island. The poor people were
unable, and probably unwilling to leave, and so they were compelled to submit.
Since then the people believe – and I think justly – that they are far too highly
rented; and it is not true, so far as I know, that in appearing before the
Commission, they were influenced by any parties whatsoever, but by a sense
of injustice which they think was done to them, in imposing a rent far beyond
the value of their holdings. Looking at the extent and quality of their lands,
the inconvenience resulting from their insular and outlandish position, the
want of roads, and several other disadvantages, I have, after careful comparison
with other places, come to the conclusion that their rents are among the highest,
if not the highest, in the West Highlands.'

James Ross, factor for the estate in 1893, gave evidence from estate records and from questioning 'old residents on the island'. Information about this period would appear to have come mainly from estate records. He said

During the two years Mr MacKay owned the property, a good many men
were employed, chiefly in making walks and bridle paths on different parts
of the property, but these were of little permanent benefit to the estate. Soon
after entering into possession Mr MacKay took the township of Balachuirn,
consisting of six crofts and pasture land, together about 500 acres, into his
own hands.

-118-

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