STATEMENT by the Rev. FINLAY GRAHAM, Free Church Minister
F. C. MANSE, SLEAT, SKYE,
22nd May 1883.
I think that you will gather, generally, that the crofters are as a rule cooped up and crowded together in the most barren comers; that they have been deprived from time to time of their hill pasture, and that their hill pasture has been added to sheep farms, already large enough; that it is dangerous to have a large population of this kind, little removed from want and deeply sunk in debt to the merchants, while in many places in each parish, and all over the island, there is abundance of land formerly in the possession of tenants, who were evicted thirty years ago. This land should be restored at fair rents. It is also evident that the present holders will not long give the present rents, as the pasture is running to by. I would be sorry to see the landlord suffer in any way unnecessarily, but the Government will have to devise some wise means of breaking up, say, one large farm in each parish, or cut off parts of the large, farms adjoining the townships of the crofters to widen their bounds. Some might emigrate voluntarily, but a general emigration would be unwise, as they would be in poverty in those new lands, if they have no money in hand when leaving their native land. It would be better to assist them at home. Two or more farms in the possession of one farmer is a great evil, and especially when the farmers are non-resident, and take little or no interest in the people in giving work. The tenants should be encouraged to improve their holdings and their houses, and some guarantee that they would not be removed or their rents increase: after effecting improvements. The present agitation may have been to some extent assisted by outsiders, but I have no hesitation in saying that they have serious grievances. I earnestly trust that this inquiry by the Royal Commissioners will issue in much good to the people, and that the landlords will not suffer by giving them back the land cultivated by their forefathers. I may be wrong, but I was of the opinion that crofters paid as high a rent in proportion to the large farmers, and it takes more than I have heard yet to convince me that they do not do so. I never met any of the crofters but are willing to pay any fair rent for good land.