NORMAN ROBERTSON, Crofter, Elgoll (71)—examined.
4312. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman as well as a crofter?
4313. Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Elgoll ?
4314. Was no influence exercised by any one in the election of the delegates there ?
—No, they were not influenced by any one outside of themselves.
4315. Where did they meet, and how did they meet, and how many of them met?
—All the inhabitants of my township.
4316. Did you hear the examination of the other delegates from Elgoll, and did you understand it ?
—I heard them, and understood it.
4317. Do you agree with what they stated?
4318. Have you any additional statement to make on your own part? Not much. In our townships we have no peat moss.
4319. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where do you get your peats?
—From Mr Bower, tacksman.
4320. Do you pay for them?
4321. Is the peat moss far from you?
—Yes, but many of the people have not that privilege.
4322. How far is the peat moss from where you get your peats?
—It is a mile from the man who is farthest away from it.
4323. Have you horses?
4324. Has every crofter a horse?
—Yes; there is a horse allowed to every full croft.
4325. Do you use the horses for ploughing, or do you use the cas-chrom?
—Those who have land suitable for ploughing use the horses, and there are others who have not been able to use a horse at all in cultivating their land.
4326. Do you fish for cod and ling?
—Some years; seldom.
4327. Do you fish for herring regularly when they are to be got?
— Yes, a few families who have nets. There are many of them who have no nets.
4328. Were any of your boats destroyed in the great storm the year before last?
4329. Did you get new ones ?
—Yes, every one of them.
4330. Much better than they had before?
4331. Has there been any positive destitution in Elgoll this season?
— I have not seen such destitution for the past forty years
—such want of food.
4332. Do you refer to the great potato failure in 1846 ?
4333. Have you got any relief from the committee1?
—Yes, many of us got that.
4334. Were they satisfied with the way in which it was distributed ?
—There were not many who went to ask relief, and who needed it, but got it; but there are many who are still needy, and who have not got it, but these did not, I think, ask for it
4335. Mr Cameron.
—Do you go to the Loch Hourn fishing?
—Yes; those who have nets go, but there are not many in our townships who have nets. They are not able to buy them.
4336. Do they make much profit out on the fishing at Loch Hourn ?
4337. Would the people go more to the fishing in Loch Hourn if they had more nets ?
4338. Have you any complaint to make in regard to the mode in which the fishing is conducted in Loch Hourn?
—The south country people are spoiling it—fishing it in. daylight and trawling, and so spoiling it on the poor people—trawling even on the Sabbath day.
4339. Have there been any cases of steamers from other places carrying away the fishermen's nets ?
—I have not noticed anything of that. The steamers are very careful.
4340. You did not hear any cases of that kind last year?
—No, I did not hear; but another might have heard of it.
4341. What was the price of herring per cranlast year?
—From 2s. 6d. to 18s.
4342. It varied according to the supply ?
—Yes, according to the means of getting it to market.
4343. Could you suggest any means which might be adopted so as to equalise the prices, and avoid getting such a small price as 2s. 6d. ?
— Yes, if the poor people had an opportunity of salting them, they would get a better price for them, and steamers would have less to take with them in great hauls, and the poor people would then get a better price.
4344. What do you mean by having better opportunities of salting ?
— If they had money wherewith to buy barrels and salt, they themselves could sell the herring when they had cured them.
4345. You don't cure the fish yourselves ?
—No, we have no means of doing it.
4346. They are taken away by the steamers to cure?
—Yes; and if the steamers would not take them, perhaps a poor man would lose twelve crans and more, and then their nets along with them.
4347. Do they lose anything in consequence of the want of telegraphic communication ?
—Yes, people would be the better of the telegraph.
4348. How would they use the telegraph ? For what purpose ?
—We could know all about the state of the market, and when the fishing was in he loch.
4349. So as not to lose a good opportunity of salting your fish or selling them?
4350. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The previous witnesses stated that they wanted more land, which had been possessed by their forefathers. If you got that land which you want would you pay a fair rent for it ?
— Yes, and thankful to do that.
4351. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What do you understand by a fair rent ?
—If I would know how much land I was to get—what summing I could keep on it.
4352. Do you think that the present tacksman pays a fair rent for his tack ?
—We do not know what his rent is.
4353. And you cannot say whether the crofters of Elgoll would be Norman willing to pay the same rent as the tacksman does, if that land were given to them?-
—No, as we don't know what the tacksman is paying. We would pay a fair rent if we would get the land.
4354. A former witness stated they turned over part of the ground twice in the year ?
—If he lifts his potatoes early, he may be able to plant cabbage.
4355. He also stated that for three bolls of oats sown sometimes he only reaped one boll. Is that also your experience?
—Yes, that is my experience also.
4356. Would it be better rather not to cultivate that piece at all, and give it rest for a year ?
—If it could be left out of cultivation two years, we could get a double crop out of it.
4357. How do the seventeen cottars live that are in Elgoll ? Do they pay rent to the crofters ?
4358. How do they live at all?
—Going away to their earnings and getting help at home here and there,
—getting a few bits of land from such of the crofters as can afford to give them it.
4359. And the crofters don't charge them any rent?
4360. Do they give them any assistance in work ?
—No, not to speak of, as the crofters have no work to be done for them.
4361. I should like to hear what your idea of a fair comfortable croft would be ? What would be the summing of a reasonably-sized croft ?
— Four or five cows, forty or fifty sheep, and a horse or two.
4362. And of arable land which would winter these black cattle and horses ?
—Ten or eleven acres.
4363. Now, on the estate on which you are, what would you think a fair rent for that croft?
—I would say £8.
4364. Of course, you are not able to say whether it pays more just now?
—No, as I do not know what the rent is.
4365. You would not think it would be worth more than that to a crofter ?
—I do not know, but it might be worth more, according to the demand and the quality of the land.
4366. But you would be willing to give a reasonable rent for it—such as any other man could afford to give ?
—Yes, according to what valuation could be made for it.
4367. Are there any sheep in Elgoll just now?
—I don't believe there are more than two for each lot.
4368. You say the people are very poor. Do you think there are many among them who could take such a croft if they got it ?
—Yes, plenty. They are spending in meal in the half-year as much as would pay for such a croft.
4369. How long have you been paying rent in Elgoll yourself ?
—I am forty-seven years paying rent.
4370. How many people were in Elgoll paying rent in that old time when your father began to pay rent?
—I cannot remember exactly, but I will guess about sixteen or seventeen.
4371. And there are now forty-five ?
4372. And the increase has taken place, partly at least, by other people being thrown in upon them?
—Yes, they were taken from Keppoch. Those of the Keppoch people who would not go to Australia were settled down among us.
4373. How many sheep did your father keep on his croft ?
—He had fifty sheep, at least.
4374. Do you remember his rent at that time ?
—That was before they lost the hill. He was paying £3, 10s.
4375. Of course, your memory can go back long before the potato-disease 1
4376. Were the people very much better fed at that time than they are now?
—Yes, they had plenty of food then.
4377. What kind of food had they?
—They were making food from what they grew themselves—making meal of their own oats, and using their potatoes.
4378. I suppose you have quite a distinct recollection of the years from 1846 to 1851—the year of the potato disease, and the two or three years following?
—Yes, I was working in the south in the year of the potato failure.
4379. But you were at home the two or three years following?
4380. And do you say distinctly that the people are worse off this year and poorer than they were in those years ?
—I don't remember the people being as poor as they are this year, the most of them.
4381. Of course, there are a large number of the families in Elgoll that could not take crofts, even if they got them, from their poverty ?
—Those who could not take such large crofts as that could take smaller.
4382. I suppose they could not stock them without assistance
—the whole of them ?
4383. But you think there is plenty of land in the country for the whole of them, if they got it ?
—Yes. The land that my grandfather had is in green rigs, marching with us, on the other side of our fence.
4384. When the people of the place were talking over this matter among themselves, had they any other remedy to improve their condition besides getting larger holdings in their own place ?
—There is no other remedy that they talk of.
4385. And you think that remedy quite sufficient ?
—Yes, we think so; and then we will not require any outside assistance. If we could only get land we could work.