I copy part of the evidence given to the Napier Commission at Lochinver, on the west coast of northern Scotland, in July 1883. Assynt, the area surrounding Lochinver, was owned by the Duke of Sutherland, and his name continues to be cursed by many. I am not in a position to give a balanced view of the issue - but the actions perpetrated in his name do not do the Duchy of Sutherland any favours whatsoever.
John Mackenzie, Clashmore, was accused of being a ring-leader in a case of preventing what was regarded as an encroachment of the rights of the neighbourhood by Mr David Humphrey, and in face of every evidence to his innocence, he was sentenced to lose his croft, and he is now a pauper invalid and a burden to his neighbours. Donald Macleod, Clashmore, came in for the vengeance of the same power in connection remotely with the resistance offered to Mr Humphrey, when cutting off part of the Baffin pasture, when some boys went to obstruct the work. On this, Mr M'Iver ran to catch two boys assumed to have been obstructing the work, reaching a house, the boys got out of Mr M'Iver's sight, and he rushed into the house, supposing they had entered. There was a very sick woman who had been taken out of bed and placed on a shake-down at the fireside, Mr M' Iver went on, however, searching for the boys, and tossing things about, and so frightened the woman that her death shortly afterwards took place. The boys not being there, were not found, and Mr M'Iver, as soon as he came out, dashed at two small boys at play. The boys who were about nine years of age, and knowing of no offence, did not think of running from the factor, remained to be caught. Mr M'Iver, seized one of them by the throat, and kneeling down held his captive to the ground, insisting that he should tell the names of the persons engaged in the obstruction. Hugh Macleod, the boy's brother, seeing this, remonstrated with the factor, who now persisted, demanding the father's name. Hugh took hold of the factor's hand and told him to let go, but as Mr M'Iver held on, and the boy being in great danger, Hugh now took hold of the hand that was throttling the boy. On this, the factor's two sons and Mackay came. The factor said Hugh had struck him, but so little evidence was there for this, that an attempt was made to get Hugh to criminate himself. After this one of them came with a paper for Hugh to sign, which paper proved to be a declaration that he was guilty of striking the factor. He was told if he would sign this declaration, the factor would be his friend, and he would get anything he wanted ever after. But Hugh refused, saying he would have the factor prosecuted. The result was, that the father Donald had to emigrate with all his family, excepting Hugh, who had a little shop in which he carried on some business. The avenger did not rest satisfied with what he had done to the father. Hugh was about as offensive to him as Mordecai was to Haman. Taking advantage of Hugh's absence, his shop and his groceries, which he left carefully in boxes, were attacked by order of the factor, and when he returned he found the house broken into, and the boxes of goods smashed and damaged to a ruinous degree, and the house, which was built at the family's expense, except the roofing, was levelled to the ground shortly afterwards, and the timber handed to another man. John Mackenzie, son of Donald, an old, respectable man of 70, equally without foundation accused of the same offence, and deprived of his croft, which had come down to him from his forefathers. He went all the way to Lairg, then to Dunrobin, and not finding the Duke there, he went to Tarbert; but after travelling in all 160 miles, his efforts were in vain. The belief was, that the persistent hostility on the part of some of the officials was at the root of this. Humphrey said to John one day
—"You are bending to the grave,"
—"Yes," said John, "but see you are not bending with the weight of the evil you are doing to the widow and orphan."