Rev. FINLAY GRAHAM, Free Church Minister, Sleat (42)—examined.
5329. The Chairman.
—How long have you been a minister at Sleat?
—Eight and a half years.
5330. You have heard the description which has been given by several persons here with reference to the general condition—physical condition—of the people at the present time, contrasted with its former condition. Do you agree with their statements generally ?
5331. You think there is really a deterioration in the condition of the people of late years ?
—Well I think about this time is the poorest time, owing to the general destitution over the island.
5332. Do you think there is any hardship connected with the supplies of the people being almost exclusively procured from one shop ?
—Well, I have thought over that subject. I do not know that there is any, comparing it with any of the other parishes.
5333. You don't think there is any hardship ?
—That is to say, things are not dearer here than in other parishes.
5334. You don't think they are dearer ?
—I would not say they are.
5335. Supposing there were two or three opposition shops established, do you think that the custom of the place would give a sufficient support to other shops ?
—Well, I think it would give support to two or three at least.
5336. Some reference has been made here to-day to an alleged notice or placard which was set up in connection with the custom of the people at this particular shop. Have you any personal knowledge of such a thing having been done ?
—I would rather not state it; but if I am compelled to state, I will tell the truth.
5337. I think it would be desirable, in order to prevent any misapprehension on this subject, that a full statement should be made ?
—I have seen the placard with my eyes.
5338. Will you kindly state what the nature of the notice really was?
—To the best of my memory it was this, that no shopkeeper—that is petty shopkeeper—would be allowed to sell things without an additional £2 of rent.
5339. That no new shop would be allowed?
—Yes, in Sleat or Broadford.
5340. And that an additional rent would be imposed upon those who bought at such a shop ?
—No, but upon the shops.
5341. That the additional rent would be imposed upon any person who established a shop ?
—It amounted to that.
5342. Did that cause any discontent among the people at the time ?
—Well, it was just said, I think, among the people at the time
—What are we coming to ?'
5343. How long was the notice left at the place where it was fixed up ?
—I cannot say how long it was, but I have seen it at the inn of Isle Ornsay, and the innkeeper is here. It was fixed on the door of the inn.
5344. Did it profess to be issued by any authority, or was it an unsigned, unsanctioned notice ?
—To the best of my recollection, it was written ' Estate Office.'
5345. Was there any signature attached to it?
5346. How long ago was it ?
—I should say about five years ago.
5347. How was it removed?
—I cannot say. I was just passing, and noticed the statement, and wondered at it.
5348. Did it gradually disappear, or was it removed by violence ?
— I cannot say.
5349. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you aware that it attracted some attention, and was taken notice of in the newspapers?
—There was a rumour to that effect. I did not see it in the newspapers.
5350. But it disappeared very quickly. At least you did not see it but the once?
—I did not see it but the once.
5351. Have you heard that it was intended to circulate copies of this notice, and that it was actually in print, but was withdrawn in consequence of the notice that appeared in the newspapers ?
—It is possible, but I cannot vouch for it.
5352. In regard to the school board elections, have you some knowledge of the elections of the school board?
—I have some knowledge of that.
5353. Has there or has there not, in your opinion, in past times, been influence used in the election of the members of the school boards ?
— Well, at the time I thought so, but as it was an old story I was willing to forget and forgive.
5354. But you think there was influence used ?
—At the time I did.
5355. Do you know anything about the story we have heard as to the selection of animals by the factor or ground officer?
—I do not know exactly what that means.
5356. That once a year the people of Sleat got a message on a certain day to gather all their beasts together, and the factor or ground officer went and made an inspection, and bought the animals at his own price, or something to that effect ?
—There was a rumour to that effect.
5357. What is the name of the doctor of the parish ?
5358. Is he here ?
5359. Do you know anything about sea-ware in this parish of Sleat ? Are you aware that, though the tenants have been in many cases refused sea-ware, eight vessels came here, and were allowed to carry away ballast in the shape of stones, which are useful to keep the sea-ware together ?
— I have never heard it as a grievance
5360. Do you know a man named Alexander Macdonald, Saasaig ?
—I know the person.
5361. Are you aware he alleges he has a very serious grievance?
—I have not heard it.
5362. Mr Cameron.
—What is the population of Isle Ornsay ?
—There are only a few houses in Isle Ornsay.
5363. But in the parish
5364. Do you think, if there were two shops established at Isle Ornsay, there would be any reasonable amount of profit to the shopkeepers ?
—I don't know about that. I speak of the parish.
5365. You think there might be another shop established at the other end of the parish ?
—I should think so.
5366. Are you aware that shops, as a rule, pay a higher rent than ordinary houses where no business is conducted ?
—That is very true.
5367. Do you think £2 extra, for a man who keeps a shop as distinguished from an ordinary house, is a very high rent, or a very great grievance ?
—I don't know how to answer that question.
5368. This notice you talk of stated that if anybody kept a shop besides the shop which existed, £2 would be laid upon the persons so keeping the shop. Don't you consider £2 a very moderate increase of rent for a person who keeps a shop, beyond one who lives in an ordinary dwelling house ?
—Yes, I would think that was a moderate rent, if that was the only object.
5369. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—As a matter of fact, are there any other petty shops in the parish ?
—There are a number of petty shops.
5370. Do these pay £2 extra?
—I don't think so.
5371. Professor Mackinnon.
—The local influence you talk of with respect to the school board election was not more keen than the usual influence that is exercised in parliamentary elections ?
—Well, I thought so ; but I did not expect to be examined on this point. I thought it was keen enough at the time.
5372. But keener than when there is a contest for the county?
—I think so.
5373. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the reason given commonly among the people for setting up this placard ?
—That was a well understood reason—that they would purchase at Isle Ornsay.
5374. That was the common reason alleged ?
—That was well understood. I do not know that there was any secret about it, that Tormore was a partner in the business.
5375. It was held to be the general opinion of the place that that was the reason for setting up the notice ?
5376. The document which has been given in by the different townships seems to have been prepared at the sight of yourself and the minister of the parish, and you were both present ?
5377. I suppose you both agree generally, so far as your observation is concerned, not only in the truth of the statements there, but also that they are correctly stated by the people ?
—I do not know whether the Rev. Mr Cameron concurs in the statements, but we thought we had a duty to perform in preparing the people for the Royal Commission, and we performed it together.
5378. Have you anything further to say ?
—There is a grievance, and I make it a grievance of my own, because the parties of whom I speak have not the proper attention I thought they were entitled to, and these are the paupers. Our inspector of poor is at Portree. He was at Isle Ornsay, and when he went to Portree he carried the office of inspector with him to Portree, and his assistant-inspector is ground officer and sheriff officer, and school board officer and several other offices, I think. Now, in my judgment, I think he is not a proper man —the man I would like to see in charge of the paupers, if there were a responsible person in Sleat. I would not complain, but I don't think he has the full powers he ought to have in dealing with cases. He has often to consult round at Portree as to what he is to do in cases of that kind, and it is a hard thing sometimes, and I could give instances of hardships I have seen to paupers suffering. I know that even at this day, although our factor ordered the houses of some paupers to be repaired, it is not done yet. It has not been done for a year. I think the arrangements are entirely unsuitable for the parish. I would not deprive an old man of eighty of his office, if there was a responsible man in the parish to have charge of the parish.
5379. The Chairman.
—Who is the inspector at Portree?
—Mr Mackenzie. He is road inspector, and holds several other offices.
5380. Who are the members of the school board in this parish ?
—Lord Macdonald; Mr Macdonald, Ord; Mr Macdonald, Tormore; Mr Cameron, and myself.
5381. Do you think it would be agreeable to the people connected with the crofting community to have a representative on the board of their own class ?
—I don't think they thought they would have that privilege.
5382. But have you ever had occasion to know that they desire it, or that it would be acceptable to them ?
—I have not.
5383. You don't think it ever occurred to them to aspire to a seat upon the school board ?
—I don't think so.
5384. They probably look on you as their particular representative ?
— I think so, at least the ministers.
5385. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Were any of the little shops closed in consequence of that formidable placard ?
—No, but they were alarmed.
5386. The Chairman.
—I thought the placard meant that any other shops, any new shops which should be opened, should pay £2 additional rent. I did not understand it to mean that the petty shops existing should pay additional rent ?
—I did not take that meaning out of it; I thought that the existing shops should pay £ 2 additional.
5387. Without any additional accommodation in the way of building or convenience to be afforded them ?