JOHN M'INTYRE, Crofter and Missionary, Sconser—examined.
593. The Chairman.
—Will you describe to us the condition of the place where you live, and the hardships and grievances which the people suffer or are alleged to suffer, particularly in connection with the deer forest ?
—The principal grievances of which they complain are the smallness of their holdings, the want of sheep on their common grazing, and the way in which their crops are yearly destroyed by deer. That destruction is not so much now for the past two or three years owing to the present factor's liberality in repairing the fence about the township. They complain very much of the way in which people from other townships—removed for the sake of enlarging the deer forest—have been crammed upon them, abiding so many to the already too thickly peopled townships. They thinkit is the poorest township in the parish, and especially owing to its connection with the deer forest. They complain much of the way in which they are dealt with by the gamekeepers. They are strongly under the impression that the gamekeepers are far more severe than their instructions from their superiors allow them to be. They blame the gamekeepers most for all the ills they suffer. The remedies they are anxious for in the meantime are, that they get the liberty of keeping sheep upon the common grazing, larger holdings at a fair rent, and fixity of tenure, so that the proprietor cannot remove them without just cause, such as being so many years in arrears of rent. That is all I am instructed to inform the commissioners.
594. Might I ask whether you have yourself personally witnessed the ravages caused by the deer among the growing crops ?
595. If the proprietors were disposed to give to the people larger holdings of arable ground, is there available ground in the vicinity which could be given to them ?
596. Would it be possible to put a wire fence round the crofters' pasture so as to protect the pasture from the incursions of sheep and deer and enable them to keep their own sheep upon it ?
—Yes, but at a great deal of expense, which the crofters are not able to pay.
597. What would be the extent of the wire fence necessary fur the protection of the common pasture ?
—About 3 miles.
598. If such a fence could be put up, and the wandering sheep and deer excluded, would that give great satisfaction to the crofters ?
599. Would an ordinary wire fence of six or seven wires in a great measure exclude the deer, or would the deer pass over it ?
—In some cases the deer would pass over such a fence. Round the arable land there is at present a fence of seven wires and the deer in some cases get over it, and they are so vicious—more so than deer I see anywhere else—that they twist themselves between the wires so as to get into the corn. I have seen it with my own eyes. They go on their sides to get in between the wires—especially the hinds. I never saw stags doing it.
600. Are the houses of the place more than usually bad ?
—They are very bad. Some of them are about the usual style of houses in the island.
601. Do you attribute the present prevalence of fever in any degree to the bad houses ?
—I could hardly answer that.
602. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What kind of fever is it?
603. Mr Cameron.
—You said the factor had repaired the wire fence for the crofters. What sized fence was that?
—The wire fence that was formerly round the cultivated land.
604. Was that a fence that would keep out sheep and deer from your own pasture ?
—It was very well for keeping out the deer from the pasture.
605. Was that the fence you spoke of which was 3 miles long?
606. An inside fence ?
607.. But an outside fence including your pasture would require to be 3 miles long ?
608. Have you ever seen a deer fence ?
609. What height do you consider sufficient to keep out deer ?
—They are not the same height in all places.
610. Where did you see this fence?
—At a place called Cluny, in the possession of Earl Cowper.
611. How many miles long was it?
—I cannot say.
612. Was it sufficient for its purpose ?
—It was sufficient.
613. Was it about 6 feet ?
—Between 6 and 7 feet.
614. Do you think 6 or 7 feet should be enough ?
615. Do you know anything about any other deer forest in Scotland?
616. Have you ever heard heard that fences have been erected in other forests ?
617. And of much greater length than you talk of here?
618. In fact, there would be practically no difficulty except finding money to make a 3 mile fence ?
—That is all.
619. Has any application ever been made to the proprietor or factor to make this fence?
—I do not think so.
620. If it were made quite efficient, I suppose it would remove all the grievances about the deer eating the crop?
—Yes, it would.
621. Does the gamekeeper annoy you by shooting your dogs?
—He did; not now.
622. Cats ?
623. Does he annoy you in any other way?
—Yes, in many a way.
624. In what sort of way?
—In preventing people taking thatch out of the forest.
625. Do they have to go far into the forest to take thatch?
626. How far?
—In some cases a mile or more.
627. Is there anywhere else they can get thatch?
—No; and it is a thing very much used in the district to keep thatch on the houses, and they are not allowed to cut it in the forest. They are allowed in a certain part of the forest, but they cannot get all they require, because the Braes and Sconser people get all their thatch from that forest. There is a certain part of the forest put out to them to get thatching, but it is not near enough to supply all.
628. Is there any other grievance they have against the gamekeeper except not allowing them to get thatch?
—Not that I am aware of just now.
629. So, if you had these three miles of fence you would have no grievance against either the shooting tenant or the gamekeeper, with the exception of the difficulty of getting thatch ?
—No, not the least.
630. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—As to this fence which was repaired by the present factor, how long is it since it was first put up ?
—Fifteen or sixteen years ago.
631. And I suppose when it was first put up it was a benefit ?
—I do not think it was ever a benefit.
632. But it is now ?
—No, it is not. It did a little help last year, but not to the extent necessary.
633. Was it never repaired in those twelve years?
—No, until the present factor came in.