MALCOLM M'INNES, Crofter and Fisherman, Heaste (35)—examined.
4899. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected to be a delegate?
4900. Have you any statement to make on the part of those who have elected you ?
—Yes; the lots which we have are too small, and we have spoiled them owing to the frequency of our cultivation of them. I myself remember getting crops very much better than we can get to-day out of them, and the reason for that is that our holdings are so small (see Appendix A. XIII) that we leave to cultivate them entirely every year, and if we don't do that the crop will not feed our summing of stock, and even after all the crop is not sufficient for that purpose. We are out of pocket £6 or £7 for feeding for our stock in addition to what the lot grows. Besides that, none of us can get as much seed from our corn as will sow our land. We had no potatoes at all last year. We had to buy them all. We had to buy seed oats last year also. Other years we might not be as ill off as that. Again, we are at the back of the country, and we have no roadway. We are four miles from this place, and this is the nearest place from which we can get our supplies. This is the nearest place at which steamers call. Drainage money was laid upon us—I don't remember how far back. Those drains then burst, and I had then to lift them and relay them, or the ground would be worthless. But I got no compensation for that, and I myself am paying the drainage interest which was originally laid upon me.
4901. The Chairman.
—How many years is it since the drainage was effected ?
—Before my time. I believe it was thirty-five years ago.
4902. Was the ground benefited by the trenches?
—Yes, at first; but then they burst, and they were useless until I re-opened them.
4903. You did re-open them. Is the ground still the better for the trenching executed at that time?
—Yes, it is the better for it to the present day, as long as the outflow is kept clear.
4904. What do you desire in order to improve your condition ?
—Though the land is dear, we have to complain we have not got enough of it. We have to keep a pair of horses, and we have not got enough work for our horses to do on these lots, and we have to keep them all the same. We cannot work a cart or any other wheeled conveyance until we get a roadway.
4905. Have you any hill pasture ?
4906. How many crofters are there ?
4907. What is the summing?
—Five cows, twenty-four sheep, and a pair of horses.
4908. How much is the rent?
—£10, 16s. besides rates.
4909. Do you consider that too high a rent?
—Yes, because of the badness of the soil, owing to the frequency of its cultivation. I have no doubt the land at first would yield sufficient to feed the stock. We have to buy all the meal that our families require.(see Appendix A. XIII)
4910. Do you make no meal for your family off your croft at all ?
—No, we cannot even get as much seed oats as will sow our land.
4911. What is the extent of the arable ground?
—I believe six acres.
4912. Professor Mackinnon.
—I suppose you heard the evidence that was given by the smaller crofters here during the whole of the day?
4913. Their idea was that a croft of this size would be about a reasonable-sized croft. Don't you think you could manage to let a part of your six acres rest every year, and cultivate the rest, and that that would be a better way, leaving out, say, two acres every year?
—We would have nothing then to feed our stock with.
4914. Could you not keep more sheep then, and one horse ?
—The cows are better for the ground than sheep.
4915. What would you consider a reasonable-sized croft?
—We would require double as much as we have to keep our pair of horses in work.
4916. That would be twelve acres ?
4917. Ten cows ?
4918. Forty-eight sheep ?
4919. Do you think that croft would be worth twice the rent you pay just now?
—I would prefer to give double the rent for such a croft than to be dealing with such a croft as I have, for I could then leave out a part of it. We have to complain also of the deer.