JOHN M 'INNES, Crofter and Fisherman, Drumfearn (about 67) assisted by PETER KELLY and JOHN NICOLSON—examined.
5483. The Chairman.
— The following statement is submitted on John M'Innes’ behalf of Drumfearn :
— Here it was stated there were ten lots, and only one tenant has a whole lot all the others being subdivided, the two chief reasons of this subdivision being that tenants from other parts of the country were crowded in upon them ; and also, that when a son got married, his father often grants him the half of his lot. The consequence of this is that the land is overcropped, and therefore not so productive as it was in former years. It was explained that there are no less than three lots on which there are three families each. The complaint in this township is, that the rents are too high, inasmuch as they have to pay extra for sea-ware. It is one of the conditions of their holdings that they take their ware from the parish of Strath, for which they must pay whether they use it or not. They also complain of interest charged against them for public money borrowed for drainage. This loan was granted some thirty-four years ago. The rents were increased some seven or eight years ago, and they consider that they were high enough rented before then. It was also explained that a great part of the land was swampy, and often liable to be flooded. It was proposed and agreed to that Mr John M'Innes and Peter Kelly be appointed delegates to Drumfearn.'
Have you any further statement to make on behalf of those who have elected you ?
—Nothing further. Our ground does not yield crop, as every delegate has been complaining of to-day.
5484. Mr Cameron.
—How many crofters are there altogether on Drumfearn ?
—Twenty families on ten lots. There are two of the lots with three families on each.
5485. What is the summing of the stock kept on each lot ?
5486. Any sheep ?
—Thirty sheep and two horses.
5487. Is that on each of the ten lots ?
—Yes, but there is only one who has got a whole croft.
5488. And the ten lots are divided among twenty families ?
—Yes ; one of them is whole, and two of them have three families on each.
5489. There is an average of two families on each lot ?
5490. So that each family, on an average, would have three and a half cows, fifteen sheep, and one horse ?
5491. But some of the lots are divided to a greater extent than two ? Some are divided into three, and that you consider too small ?
5492. The principal grievance among you is that two lots have three families ?
—There are three lots on our township, 'with three families each.
5493. If these three lots could be reduced in the numbers who occupy them, would the remaining families have sufficient land to be comfortable?
5494. Would three and a half cows, fifteen sheep, and one horse be sufficient for one family ?
5495. What do you consider sufficient ?
—If they could keep themselves in good order, and have work for their horse all the year round, and to keep the crofter and horse in work, all the year round, with as much stock as they have, they would be a good deal more comfortable than they are now. But we don't go out with our horses except for a month or six weeks or so in the spring.
5496. Can you give us any idea what amount of land and what amount of stock would be sufficient, including all you say about the horse, to make a family comfortable ?
—1 cannot give a proper idea.
5497. About the sea-ware. It is stated that one of the hardships is that they have to take their ware from the parish of Strath, for which they must pay whether they use it or not. Is there no sea-ware on your own shore ?
—Yes, but there is not enough.
5498. Where do you take it from in the parish of Strath ?
5499. To whom do you pay the dues ?
—To the proprietor of the country, Lord Macdonald.
5500. Is it a township of crofters that you take it away from ?
5501. Do the crofters complain of its being taken away from their own doors ?
—I am informed by some of the old men in the town that they did once, but he did not regard their complaint about the sea-ware being taken from us, and so we paid and cut it since.
5502. What do you pay for it ?
—£4 a year.
5503. For the whole township ?
5504. That is a fixed sum, and for that you may take away as much as you like ?
—It was valued at £4.
5505. And you pay that, and you may take away as much or as little as you like ?
5506. Do you take it away every year ?
—Yes; the most of it.
5507. Is there any other place more suitable than Strath where you might get sea-ware if you were allowed ?
—There is a nearer place opposite us.
5508. What is the name of it?
—We get it from Ord. Mr Macdonald, Ord, gives sea-ware to those who ask for it; but we pay for it.
5509. Then you get your supply of sea-weed from Ord, and from this place in Strath ?
5510. If this £ 4 were remitted to you, would you still go on taking the sea-waro from Strath, and paying lor it as you took it, or would you take all your sea-ware from Ord ?
—There are some in our township who do without sea-ware at all. There is on the township what would do for some of them.
5511. Would you explain what it is you would like done about it?
— That we should get the sea-ware money taken off us, and the drainage money also, and the last increase in our rente, and that we should have the land at the rent which was put upon it in the late Lord Macdonald's time. The father of the present Lord Macdonald had the property valued, and we would like to have our crofts at that value.
5512. Would you like to have the sea-ware from Strath without paying for it, or would you like to pay for it as you took it without there being a fixed sum whether you took it or not ?
—I would rather be relieved of the sea-ware money. If we were relieved of that money, we would not go to Heaste for sea-ware.
5513. When were the rente raised ?
—Four or five years ago the last time.
5514. Was any reason given for raising the rente?
—No. When we got the Government drainage money, we were informed it would be paid up in twenty years' time, but we have been paying it for thirty-four
5515. But you know of no reason why the rent was raised?
—No reason whatever.
5516. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What year was it that the lands were valued
—About fifty years ago, in the time of the present Lord Macdonald's father.
5517. Has there been any rise in the rate of wages since that time?
— I believe so.
5518. Have you any notion what the rate of rise has been?
—I cannot say.
5519. Has there been any rise in the price of cattle?
—I am not sure what the price of cattle was at that time.
5520. In your own lifetime, has there been any rise in the price of cattle ?
—Yes, the price of cattle is much higher than when I was young.
5521. You don't know how it was at the time of the valuation?
5522. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the rise put upon them when their rents were raised seven or eight years ago ?
—Eight shillings on an average. The lots are not equally rented, but I think the average would be 8s.
5523. Was any reason given for putting that on ?
5524. Did you remonstrate against that rise ?
—We said nothing about it. We would be speaking about it amongst ourselves, but we did not complain either to the landlord or to the factor.
5525. It is stated in the paper that some people were put in upon you formerly from outside places ; where did they come from?
—Boreraig and Suishnish and Carradale—one family from Carradale, and one or two from Suishnish, and one from Teangue.
5526. Mr Cameron.
—Were a greater number born in the place?
—Yes, a greater number.
5527. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated that the one lot carried two horses, seven cows, and thirty sheep. What is the total rent of that lot ?
—£8, 4s., and more than that in some of them ; £10 in some of them without taxes; some are up to £12.
5528. Do you consider that croft big enough ?
—It would be too small. I t would be small enough, suppose one man had the whole lot. I t would be better than the way it is.
5529. Do you consider £10 or £12 too high for a croft that would carry that stock ?
—Yes, and the cattle are very small.
5530. Does it require two horses to work that lot?
—We have many small ponies; one good horse would do.
5531. How many acres of arable land would be in it?
—I think the whole croft would come to seven or eight acres, but the land is very bad; and we were better off when prices of stock were less, because our land was better
—in better heart, but now the crop is so scanty that we have to buy food for ourselves and for the stock.
5532. The Chairman.
—Do I understand that one whole lot of thirty sheep, two horses, and seven cows, would be sufficient for the support of a family ?
—Yes, it would be leaving them comfortable.
5533. Do these full lots support the summing you have mentioned— seven cows, thirty sheep, and two horses ?
—Some years. It did not do so this year, the season was so bad.