KENNETH MACDONALD, Crofter, Stonefield (58)—examined.
5561. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected a delegate by the people of Stonefield ?
—Yes. Our statement is : ' There are at present fourteen families here, where at one time there were but five. This was about seventy years ago. The size of the lots run from about three to four acres, and the rents run between £1 , 10s. and £5, 5s. Three of the lots are subdivided, and in two cases one tenant holds several lots. It is a complaint that they are still charged interest on public money, borrowed about thirty years ago for drains. It is complained that the rents have been raised on lands which they themselves reclaimed from mossy bogs; also that, whereas they consider there ought to be a right to cut ware attached to the township, they have to go a distance for it, and pay from 7s. to 10s. each for it. It was proposed and agreed to that Kenneth Macdonald, Donald M innes, and Angus Macpherson be appointed from Stonefield.'
5565. Have you any further statement to make ?
—I have to say that in the crofts which are divided into two halves, the occupants of each half have such a small stock, the half lot only keeps one cow and a three-year-old; and should it happen that one of these beasts -would get into a quagmire or be lost otherwise, we would then be as good as without stock. Now, if a man had a place on which he could keep four or five cows, if he lost one of these he would not feel it. The increase of the rest of his stock would be coming on, and he would soon be able to replace the lost one. Again, if he has a young family growing up, the one who has so little stock as I mention has to keep his children in clothing and shoes; he has to send them to school, and to pay the school fees regularly. Now it is not easy for him to feed them when he cannot get that feeding out of his own ground. He has not got ground that will yield crop, it is so weak. He must needs cultivate every bit of it each year —he cannot leave any of it out; and if he does not use all the corn that grows to him in feeding his stock they will die on him. Then in spring he will need to buy seed oats. If ho had as much land as would keep work to one man all the year without the necessity of leaving home, I would undertake that he would take out of that food for himself and his family, and have his stock as well —so that his stock would be strong and in good condition for the market. And it is the smallness of their holdings that has brought them to poverty entirely—where they are crowded together like sheep in a fank. I may say they are surrounded with iron shepherds, iron herds, and that they cannot move a foot. Now, what has left such a small proportion of land for the people, and plenty of land wasted in the country without an inhabitant ? It would be easy enough to take them out of these straitened circumstances with so much land to relieve them. About the drainage money, the people themselves were at fault. When the time had run during which the money was to have been paid, they should have spoken to the factor, and seen if that money was to be taken off them at the time. Perhaps, if they had spoken at that time, it might have been taken off, so they themselves were to blame.
5566. We have often heard the complaint made about the drainage money, and we have often heard it stated that the factor, when the money was first applied, engaged that at the end of the term the increase of rent should no longer be exacted. Was that promise made in any distinct form; was it made in writing or publicly ? Can you show it was really made ?
—I cannot say it was a written promise. None of that was made in my presence.
5567. Was the drainage then executed beneficial to the land?
—No doubt of that.
5568. Does the improvement still appear in the land at present ?
—Yes, the land is better to the present day.
5569. If the land has been permanently improved in this way, is it unjust that they should continue to pay a small advance of rent?
—-They are complaining that, perhaps, the rent is high enough as it is.
5570. What is the summing of the croft ?
—I have only half a croft, but the summing of a full croft is three cows and a two-year-old
5571. Any horses?
—Yes, a horse to each lot. I am keeping a horse, and buying pasture.
5572. Any sheep ?
—Twelve sheep. 5573. What was the rent, without the public burdens, for the whole croft ?
5574. Do you think £5 too large a rent, if the land keeps a full summing ?
—I am thinking if I had a full croft that I could pay it.
5575. But you have only half a croft ?
5576. Is it more diificult to pay half the rent on a half croft than the whole rent on a full croft ?
—No doubt because the increase of my stock will not be so much.
5577. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What rate of interest were you paying for the drainage money?
—One shilling in the pound.
5578. Did you expect that that rate of interest should come to an end in twenty years'?
—I am not sure, but I think that is the amount of interest they were paying. I made no terms about it. I had not this land at all when the expenditure for drains was made upon it.
5579. Then, as you took the place, you took it merely at a rent1?
—I took it at the rent at which it wns.