HECTOR MACPHERSON, Crofter, Harrapool (55)—examined.
4554. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate?
4555. Have you got a statement to make on the part of those whom Macpherson. you represent ?
—Well, I had some delicacy in accepting to be a delegate, because I was afraid I would be hunted afterwards for giving evidence; but I see there is a guarantee from Lord Macdonald and the factor, and I just took courage to come forward. We have general grievances in the township that I belong to. I think it is a great grievance, the small holdings. That is the main grievance, and want of security of tenure, and want of compensation in case of removals. The rents are high, but are considered high owing to the smallness of the holdings. These are the main points, I think.
4556. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you anything else to state in addition ?
—There are grievances connected with cottars being rented who are on the crofts of other parties, and no reduction of rent.
4557. Does that occur in your own township ?
—It does. It is not on my croft, but it is in the township.
4558. Does the proprietor get that rent ?
—Well, it is likely. It was Tormore who imposed the rents on the cottars here on the lands of the crofters.
4559. And you got no allowance?
—No, there was no allowance.
4560. Did you use to charge any rents to these cottars'?
—Not that I know of.
4561. Is there any other grievance ?
—The money we got for improving was added to the rents at the expiry of the time that we were allowed to pay the interest for it.
4562. You mean drainage money ?
4563. Is it still going on?
—-It is still going on, added to the rents, and we are assessed for it in connection with the rent. It stands as rent now.
4564. How many years is it since you got the money?
—I think thirty-two years or so. There were twenty years allowed to pay it.
4565. Anything else?
—We are paying for sea-ware.
4566. To whom?
—To the proprietor, or to the adjoining tenant who can sell some.
4567. Have you none of your own?
—Well, we have a little, but it is not sufficient.
4568. What are you charged for what you require to buy?
—Those who have a little of their own will do with 5s. worth yearly.
4569. Is that about the highest"?
—No, it is not about the highest. Those who require it require the value of about 10s. or 12s.
4570. Is there not enough sea-ware on the shores of Skye far all without any payment ?
—I think there is no scarcity here, but only they have to pay for it.
4571. Have you any other grievance?
—There are game and rabbits in our grazing.
4572. We have heard to-day of rabbits for the first time. Are the rabbits very troublesome ?
4573. Are they growing; are they increasing?
—They are always increasing, except when the sportsmen are after them.
4574. Are you not aware you can protect yourself now to some extent ?
—No, because we are tenants at will. We cannot protect ourselves. There is no fixity of tenure.
4575. Don't you even try to trap them?
—No, we don't even dare to trap them. If we did we might be put in jail
—if there was room for us.
4576. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said there was no security of tenure. Has anybody been removed from Harrapool or the neighbouring townships of late years ?
—I don't know of any of late, but that is the Macpherson good-will of the proprietor and the factor.
4577. How long is it since you heard of a removal ?
—Well, removal was carried on in my time on a very extensive scale. Perhaps it is too far back to speak of, but in this parish there were a few cases of those who were thrown out and evicted. I think there is a woman outside at the door who can give evidence of that. She was a widow woman with two children, and she was thrown out of her holding without any rent or arrears.
4578. What was the reason she was thrown out?
—She was at Breakish.
4579. For what reason ?
—There was no reason.
4580. Is she a very poor woman now?
—Yes, she is supported by her son now. She has two sons, and one is in the army, and the other has to support his mother.
4581. How long is it since she was turned out?
—Upwards of ten years ago.
4582. Was it for doing something against the will of the proprietor or factor that she was removed ?
—I do not think it.
4583. You say the rent of the crofts is thought high because they are small ?
—Yes; supposing I had the croft I had myself gratis from the proprietor, I would prefer to have three times as much and pay for it, becauee I could bring a living out of it.
4584. Is there ground near you held by tacksmen that could be used for enlarging your holding?
—Well, there is plenty of ground in the parish, only it is occupied by the tacksmen.
4585. Supposing the crofters got it, would they be able to pay as good a rent as the tacksman is able to pay ?
—It could not be expected that crofters would pay for tacks that were in the market for some time back, and parties declaring they were ruined by these tacks. They would pay a reasonable rent imposed by a valuator.
4586. They would not pay as high a rent as the tacksman would be able to pay ?
—It seems the tacksmen are not able to pay when they are willing to get clear of their tacks.
4587. Suppose it is let again, and the proprietors have to take a reduced rent from tacksmen, will you be able to compete with the tacksmen ?
—Of course, not without capital. The tacksmen are men of capital.
4588. How can you expect to take any large holding without capital ?
—It would be easier to have large holdings than to be paying it to the merchants here and there.
4589. But you want to stock it ?
—Well I would strive to stock it too.
4590. Would you get money to stock it?
—I think the factor would advance the money on good security.
4591. The Chairman.
—You said there was a woman who had been turned out of her holding, and that she is here at the present moment. Did she ask you to mention her case to us ?
4592. Does she wish to be examined?
—Yes, she came to my house this morning.