JOHN MARTIN, Crofter and Catechist, Camuscross (60)—examined.
5257. The Chairman.
—Are you a catechist in connection with the Established Church or the Free Church ?
—The Established Church.
5258. Have you been freely elected a delegate?
5259. By a large number of people ?
5260. The following is the statement from Camuscross:
—'This seems to be one of the poorest of the townships. It was stated that all the land, both pasture and arable, which they hold, is less than one mile square. On this there are forty-seven families. The lots seem to be considerably smaller than in other townships, being not more than two acres in average. The soil, of course, in consequence is much run out. Only two lots are occupied by more than one tenant, the others being all held by one each; but, owing to their smallness, they are not able to keep any great stock of cattle. One particular case was mentioned, in which eight families had only four acres, and not a beast of any kind. The average rent of each of these is 9s., in addition to which they have to pay for ware, besides assessments of various knds. They have no horses or sheep, and they greatly need more land to enable them to keep these. It was explained that there was a lot for which rent is paid twice over by the holder, and the rest of the tenants. It was proposed and agreed to that John Martin and Lachlan Campbell be appointed delegates from Camuscross.'
Have you any verbal statement to make in addition to that which has been put in on this occasion ?
—Only that the place is so much confined. That is the particular complaint we have to make.
5261. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You speak of one lot as twice paid for. What is the meaning of that ?
—The lot was originally laid out the same as the other lots, and the man who got it did not take it, and the township took that lot again for a passage for the cows, and the rent was laid upon themselves. After that another man got the lot, and the rent was never changed, and the man who got that lot was paying it to the landlord.
5262. The rent of your lots is now 9s. What was it before they took this lot ?
—I can only say that since that lot was taken from us, our rents were somewhat increased.
5263. What were your first rents?
—I cannot be sure; only that I know it was raised a little.
5264. How long is it since the lots were laid out?
—I cannot be very sure, but I think it is upwards of sixty years ago.
5265. What do the people of Camuscross live by, as it is evident they cannot live upon their lands?
—Their earnings. Every man is now in a hurry to get the spring work past to be off to his work—to be off to work on sea and land all through the kingdom; and when they return, if their earnings have succeeded well, they pay the shop, and the shopman supplies them on credit, as they require it. There is no doubt it has put them to very great inconvenience and hardship that their holdings were reduced, and the land was exhausted with constant cultivation during the past sixty years. The summing of our lots is two cows each, and the crop that grows upon our lots will not feed these two cows.
5266. Do you pay 9s. for your lot, and these two cows?
—These are small lots.
5267. What is the rent of a lot that whl support two cows ?
—From £2, 18s. to £3, 10s. besides dues.
5268. Now, the people go away to work. What wages do they bring back to the country with them on an average ?
—That is difficult for me to say—as Providence will deal with them. Some bring less or more than others.
5269. Can you name a sum that would be thought a large sum to bring home?
—I would think between £15 and £18.
5270. And how long has a man to absent himself from home to secure that1?
—From five to thirteen months. The one whose earnings did not succeed very well might only have to stay away four or five months.
5271. Now, as far back as you remember, when people used to go away did they bring back the same amount of money as they do now, or less money ?
—It is getting slacker. It was at fishing that the people made most money, and now the fishing has got slack. They only fish on shares, and some of them in that way may only incur debts.
5272. What do you mean by fishing on shares?
—That the master is giving half the fishing to the crew, and they are paid according to the amount of fish, and if they don't make a good fishing they get nothing.
5273. This refers, of course, to the east coast fishing ?
—Yes, and to the south country and everywhere else.
5274. Have any of the people here boats and nets of their own?
— Very few.
5275. Have those who have boats of their own been doing well of late years ?
—Middling. The fishing about here during the past two years was not very good, except on two short occasions.
5276. But do the men with boats and nets not go away to Barra, Stornoway, and the north coast fishings or Irish fishings ?
—Yes. They go with their own boats to these fishings.
5277. Have they done pretty well of late years?
—Very middling. They did not succeed very well.
5278. You have said that those who go as hired hands, and are paid by shares, have not done so well of late years. Would they have done better if they had had boats and nets of their own ?
—That is my opinion, that they would do better if they had fishing appliances of their own.
5279. What would be the cost of a proper boat and nets for a crew of five men ?
—I cannot very well speak about that, for it is not my work, but there are some fishermen here who can tell."
5280. Have you been long at Camuscross ?
—I was there ever since I was born.
5281. Do you notice much difference in the condition of the people there from what it used to be ?
—I know that in times gone by it was easier for people to come through than to-day.
5282. Do you think that they are better clothed and better shod than in the times gone bye?
—The clothing and shoes of to-day may be quite as good as the clothing and shoes of my early days, for at that time people were not earning the wages they are now, and the merchants are giving such extensive credit to the people now that the merchant with whom we deal is dealing very freely indeed with the people.
5283. Do you think the people spend more money now-a-days than they used to do when you were young ?
—I know that they do.
5284. May that not contribute to the poverty which prevails?
—In the way the people were in my early recollection, the people had to live on whatever they could grow out of their own holdings. Since that time crops began to go back, and then, of course, when they had to buy from the merchants, it must be heavier on them than before.
5285. But had they not a considerable amount of potatoes cultivated in olden times'?
—Yes, in my early recollection.
5286. Is not the meal they have now better food than the potatoes ?
— We don't make meal at all now.
5287. But you eat it ?
—Yes, when we buy it. We do not grow it.
5288. Did you ever grow any great amount of meal here ?
—Yes; but the ground has become so slack that the corn crop has to be used for feeding cattle unthrashed.
5289. Have you about two acres of land yourself ?
5290. What is the most meal you can recollect having made off it in one year in byegone times ?
—I eannot make that out, the time is so long since I did make meal of it.
5291. Would you make four bolls out of it in the olden time?
5292. What is your consumption of meal at the present day ?
—Three to four individuals, I think, will consume a boll of meal in twenty days, and that will amount to a considerable quantity.
5293. Sixteen bolls in the year ?
—Yes ; and sometimes in harvest time they may have some potatoes.
5294. Therefore, even according to the former state of fertility, it would not supply them at all with the amount of meal they need ?
5295. And you need larger crops ?
—Yes, but I know that it is the smallness of the holdings of the people that has caused a great deal of the poverty; and if our holdings were somewhat larger we would be more able to stand our credit, and we would be very much the better of it.
5296. How would you propose to enlarge the crofts'?
—That cannot be done without breaking in upon land in the occupancy of others.
5297. Mr Cameron.
—Has there been much subdivision among the crofts in your township ?
—No, our crofts are so small already.
5298. They never were subdivided in old times'?
—No. The land is so sniall that when it happens the son comes to years, he has to go elsewhere.
5299. Are there the same number of crofters that there were ?
—Yes, for the past sixty years. I think there are only two lots on which there are two families each, and that is all the difference.
5300. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are a native of this parish?
5301. How long have you been a catechist?
—About nineteen years.
5302. I suppose you go up and down regularly through the parish, and are well acquainted with all the townships?
5303. You have heard all the statements that were made to-day?
5304. So far as your knowledge goes of the circumstances of the people, do you agree with the statements that were made ?
—Yes. There may be part of what was said to-day that I may not be very well up in.
5305. Was the condition of the people very bad this winter?
—Yes; They were under great hardships.
5306. Do you know many cases of families here in want of food ?
—Yes, some of them, but the merchant here was very favourable to them. I never saw him taking advantage of the people; when they would be hard up he would relieve them.
5307. They got all their meal from his shop, I suppose ?
5308. What is the price of it?
—A guinea a boll; that is the credit price.
[Transcriber's note: Questions 5309 through 5328 not present]
the facility of obtaining peats ?
—Every other township has peat mosses close to them on their own ground. The township in which I am is most inconvenient in that way to the whole of them.