ALEXANDER MACDONALD, Factor, Solicitor, and Bank Agent in Portree, and Proprietor of Treaslane (42)—examined.
8282. The Chairman.
—You desire to make a statement to the Commission?
—I have prepared a statement, which I hope you will allow me to read, and in doing so I claim the same freedom of thought and expression which the crofters have done, —to express my thoughts and opinions just as freely as they did. I hope they will take well anything I have to say on the subject, because I have a great deal to do with them. I have the greatest interest in the crofters, and I personally have a great regard for them as my fellow-countrymen, and, on the whole, a good moral people. On the part of the various proprietors in Skye whom I have the honour to represent, I propose, in the first place, to make a few observations upon the complaints which may be said to be common to all the crofters who have appeared before the Royal Commission, and thereafter to refer to certain special statements made by some of their number. Before proceeding to make any observations on these complaints I think it is proper that there should appear on the records of the Commission a fact which has already become notorious through the public press, which is, that the inhabitants of every district in Skye were tutored and schooled before the arrival of the Commissioners by one or more persons acting under the instructions of Societies throughout Scotland, designating themselves under different appellations, as Societies for the Reformation of the Laws relating to the Tenure of Land in Scotland. As one who has been resident in Skye from the beginning to the end of the agitation which resulted in the appointment of the Royal Commission now sitting here, I can state with the utmost confidence that the ideas and sentiments of the people of Skye have to a very great extent been stirred up, influenced, and shaped by the action of these agitators. Although it must be admitted that, before the operations of these agitators commenced, there was a certain amount of discontent as to some matters, still it is an undoubted fact, as I have already stated, and one which is well known to people living in Skye, that since the action of the agitators commenced, the complaints and discontent have increased tenfold, and many matters which were formerly viewed with perfect placidity, if not with indifference, have now come to be viewed as serious grievances requiring legislative interference. I am credibly informed that at various meetings held in Skye at no distant date, the inhabitants were specially schooled into stating before the Commission, that what they wanted were larger holdings at fair rents, with fixity of tenure. I wish it specially to be understood by the Commission and by the gentlemen who held these meetings, that I do not for a moment mean to dispute their perfect right to hold them, but I do respectfully ask the Commission to bear in mind as an undoubted fact, that these meetings preceded the Commission, and that they must undoubtedly have to a very great extent influenced the minds of the people in giving evidence. Had the evidence of the people been perfectly spontaneous, I respectfully submit that it ought to have been credited with much greater weight than it can now receive. With regard to the first subject of complaint, which is to the effect that the lands are held by the crofters too highly rented, I have to state as a matter of fact, that the lands held by the crofters on the Macdonald estates, in the Isle of Skye, were about 20 per cent, at least higher in the year 1825 than they are at present. In the year 1830, the crofters’ rents were reduced by about 25 per cent., and since then they have not on an average been raised more than from 4 to 5 per cent. In some of the townships held by crofters, there have been changes of boundaries, &c.; but with the view of instituting a comparison of rents, I have selected the following townships in which no changes as to boundaries have, so far as I am aware or can trace, taken place, with the view of showing the former and the present rents :
—COMPARATIVE STATEMENT of RENTS of the following Townships held
by Crofters on the Macdonald Estates, in the Isle of Skye, in 1825, 1830, and 1883.
Parish of Sleat – rents in 1825, 1830 and 1883
Achnacloich - £79/13/9 - £61/5/0 - £66/8/0
Calligarry - £105/0/0 - £82/10/0 £89/16/0
Drumfearn - £101/17/10 - £80/10/0 £91/4/0
Tarskevaig £144/8/2 - £100/0/0 £117/0/10
Toekvaig £50/1/1 - £40/0/0 £46/4/0
Parish of Strath
Breakish, arable £161/10/0 £143/0/0 £170/8/0
Heaste £159/13/5 £120/0/ 0 £137/9/0
Torrin £221/10/0 £188/10/0 £204/18/0
Harrapool £80/9/10 £65/10/0
Parish of Portree
Balmeanach £65/0/0 £75/0/0 £78/19/0
Achnahaid £52/0/0 £34/0/0 £47/16/0
Collimore £106/0/0 £86/0/0 £100/1/0
Gedentailer £72/0/0 £50/0/0 £54/1/0
Glenmore £130/4/10 £95/0/0 £106/4/0
Mugary £95/2/0/ £70/0/0 £79/10/0
Nether Ollach £32/0/0 £22/0/0 £25/17/0
Upper Ollach £30/0/0 £20/0/0 £21/15/0
Peinchorran £102/0/0 £69/0/0 £70/2/0
Conardan £32/0/0 £21/0/0 £23/5/0
Parish of Snizort
Kestle £55/0/0 £86/0/0 £46/14/0
Raintra £65/2/7 £60/0/0 £61/6/0
I have taken these as examples of the townships held by crofters, on which I may mention there is an increase of about 7 or 8 per cent., only since 1830.
8283. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do I understand from you that there has been no change in the bounds or marches?
—Yes; I have selected these townships specially on that account, but I believe it applies to the whole estate, because there were deductions given where there were changes of boundary, in proportion to the old rents. But I have selected these, so far as my knowledge goes, as being townships in which there was no change whatever. Then we come to the larger farms on the Macdonald estate:—
COMPARATIVE STATEMENT of RENTS of larger Tenants on the Macdonald
Estates in 1830 and 1883
Parish of Sleat
Townships – rent in 1830 – rent in 1883
Tormore £397/10/0 £550/0/0
Parish of Strath
Kyle &c £180/0/0 £520/0/0
Suisnish and Borroraig £160/0/0 £235/0/0
Kilbride and Kilchrist £105/0/0 £130/0/0
Corry &c, incl Pabbay £411/10/0 £630/0/0
Scalpay £210/0/0 £260/0/0
Parish of Portree
Glenvarigill £105/0/0 £160/0/0
Portree Home Farm £95/0/0 £156/0/0
Scorrybreck £620/0/0 £1250/0/0
Parish of Snizort
Glenhaltin £50/0/0 £105/0/0
Kingsburgh £330/0/0 £625/0/0
Skirinish £257/10/0 £474/11/0
It therefore appears that the rents of the larger tenants increased in some cases from 50 to 60 per cent, in the same period, and in other cases 100 per cent, and even more. From a comparison of these statements as to the relative increase in the value of the lands held by the small tenants and by the larger tenants on the Macdonald estates, it will be seen that the rents of the small tenantsholdings are considerably lower than they were in 1825 - and if we compare the rents of 1830 (between which period and 1825 an abatement was granted) with those of 1883, we shall find an increase of only about 4 or 5 per cent. The rents of the other townships held by the crofters on the Macdonald estates are proportionately low, and in cases where the boundaries were changed, the deductions granted were in proportion to the old rent. On the other hand, the rents of the lands occupied by the larger tenants have increased since 1830 at the rate of from 50 to 100 per cent. In the case of the larger farms, most of them came to be advertised at different times, and offered for competition in the usual manner. The crofterslands, on the other hand, were not offered for competition, it being a principle in the management of crofterslands throughout Skye that they were not to be offered for competition, but continued at the same rents. In the case of the Macdonald estates they were lowered. As the crofters now complain so much of the present value of their lands, and if the value of anything be what it will fetch in open market, it may be a matter for consideration hereafter, whether crofter lands ought not to be offered for competition, like other lands, as no crofter can well complain of his own offer being accepted. While suggesting this for consideration, I cannot say, however, that I am personally inclined to adopt the principle. With regard to the Macleod estates and the estate of Strathaird, for both of which I act as factor, the rents of crofterslands have been similarly stationary. On the Macleod estate I cannot exactly trace when the present rents were fixed, but it was, so far as I can ascertain, fully fifty or sixty years ago, if not more. They have not since been raised. On the other hand, the rents of the larger farms on the estate of Macleod have within the same period increased fully 50 or 60 per cent., and in some cases much more. On the estate of Kilmuir, as the Commission has been informed by the crofters, their rents were raised in the year 1877; and on this subject I shall hand in a statement by Major Fraser, if he cannot attend personally, as also some notes on Kilmuir dated 1882, giving statistics as to rental and other matters, and likewise a report by Mr Malcolm, farmer, Nairn, who valued the Kilmuir estate in 1876. Generally, I may mention that Major Fraser has expended large sums on the Kilmuir estate since he purchased it. In particular, he has done so on the roads of the estate, and likewise on drains and fences and other improvements, thus giving employment to a good number of his people. Major Fraser established likewise a post-office at Uig, and subsidised it for several years. The Kilmuir tenants say that their rents were raised three times since Major Fraser took possession. It should be explained, however, that one of the risesreferred to consisted of a sum of 5s. imposed on each tenant on the estate to provide payment for a medical man for Kilmuir. With regard to the value per acre of the lands on the estate held by crofters (which are about the same extent as those held by the larger tenants on the estate), I have to observe that, in consequence of the abatement allowed by Major Fraser for the last two years, the rate per acre paid by the crofters, including both arable and pasture land, is 2s. per acre only. Mr Mackay of Glen Gloy, in his last work on the land laws, says that one acre of moor in the Highlands is worth 2s. 6d. The quality of the land on the Kilmuir estate is thus under the usual estimate, although it is proverbially fertile and good, Kilmuir and Waternish being well known the best land in Skye. The rent actually paid by crofters in Kilmuir for pasture land, exclusive of arable, is not above Is. per acre, which for such land is considered very moderate. While, from what has been stated, it appears quite clearly that the rents of the small tenants in Skye have not increased in anything like the proportion in which the rents of the larger class of tenants (which were offered for competition) have increased, I beg to draw attention to the following points as showing that the proprietors were actually entitled to a rise of rent between the year 1830 and 1883. In proof of this, no evidence can be stronger than the fact of the great increase on the rents of the farms which were offered for competition already mentioned; but besides this, it may be useful to give a few figures showing the prices of the produce of land at different periods. I find that Dr Johnson, in his Journey to Scotland in 1773, says that 'the prices regularly expected for cattle in Skye are from £2 to £ 3 a head. There was once one sold for £5.In his report on the Agriculture of the Hebrides in 1811, Mr James Macdonald says, at page 423 of his work
—'For the last ten years the people of the islands of Skye and Mull have sold their cattle at an 'average of £6.In the Inverness papers of 1830, when the rents on the Macdonald estates were fixed, the following are the prices quoted for the Wool Market of July 1830 :
—Cheviot wedders, 13s. to 21s.; Cheviot hoggs, 8s. to 11 s.; Cheviot lambs, 6s. to 6s. 9d.; cross wedders, 5s. To 6s.; blackfaced wedders, 9s. 6d. to 13s.; blackfaced hoggs, 5s. to 8s. 6d.; blackfaced ewes, 4s. to 6s. 6d.; blackfaced lambs, 4s. 6d. to 6s. The Inverness papers of October 1830, also show the following as the prices of West Highland cattle at Falkirk Tryst:
—West Highland heifers, £6, 9s; West Highland good three-year-old stots, about £ 7; West Highland
good two-year-old stots, £6. The prices of younger cattle are not given, but I have ascertained from private sources of information, that stirks were sold at from £ 2 to £ 2, 10s. In the Edinburgh Evening Conrant Macdonald of 23rd August 1830, I find that in a report of the Muir of Ord market the prices of sheep were quoted as follows, viz. :
—Good many sheep in the market. Wedders, 10s. to 12s.; ewes, 7s. to 9s. 6d.; lambs, 2s. to 4s. 6d.From the Transactions of the Highland Society, vol. viii. p. 159, I find that the prices of West Highland cattle in 1849 were as follows,viz. :
— Stirks, £ 3 to £3, 10s.; two-year-olds, £ 7 to £ 8; and three and four-year-olds, £ 9 to £10, 10s.If the prices of the present day be compared with these prices, they will be found to be very much higher; and I may quote the following as the price of cattle and sheep during the past season:
—Sheep.- Cheviot ewes, each £1, 12s.; Cheviot lambs, 18s.; Cheviot wedders, £2, 13s.; blackfaced ewes, £ 1 , 5s.; blackfaced lambs, 16s.; blackfaced wedders, £2. Cattle.- West Highland stirks, each
£ 6 to £ 9; West Highland two-year-old cattle, £ 7 to £ 10; West Highland three-year-old heifers, £ 9 to £ 14; West Highland three-year-old stots, £12 to £16. Price of oatmeal, per boll, 20s.; per load, 39s. I would respectfully ask the Commissioners farther to keep in view the rate of wages in the Western Isles about the time when the present rents were fixed. I have not been able to discover the rate of wages about the year 1830, but I find in the Statistical Account of Scotland in the year 1840 for the parish of Duirinish, that it is stated that the common wages of labourers are
—In summer Is. per day, and in winter 9d. In my own recollection, the wages of a man in Portree about the year 1848 or 1850, were Is. per day. The wages of labourers in the present day throughout
Skye are from 2s. to 3s. per day. On the other hand, I find that in 1811, the price of oatmeal per boll of 16 pecks or 160 lbs. was 28s. In 1840 the price of oatmeal per sack of 280 lbs. was £2. I beg leave
further to mention, as an important circumstance affecting the rents of the present day as compared with those of former times, the following facts, viz., (1) That the change in the value of gold has of itself altered the rents much in favor of the tenants, without any labour on his part; (2) That improved means of communication with the south markets and commercial centres should also favourably affect the circumstances of the tenant, and enable him to pay a better rent. In the year 1830 there were no means of communication between Skye and the south except by sailing ships of a very inferior and slow-sailing description. All cattle and sheep had to be sent by road. We have now several steamers a week, besides communication by rail. On the subject of rents a good deal more might be said, but I refrain from entering farther into the subject, it being abundantly plain from the facts stated, that if the produce of land has anything to do with its value or rent, the crofters of Skye now have their lands at a very much lower rate than that at which they were held by their brave ancestors, who contributed such a large number of distinguished soldiers and officers for the service of their country, in times of imminent national peril. Before leaving this subject, I beg to refer to the rents of the townships of Peinchorran, Gedentailer, and Balmeanach, which recently attracted a good deal of public attention. I find, on referring to the rentals of the Macdonald estates in the year 1825, that the rents of these townships stood as follows, viz.:
—Peinchorran, £103, 0s. 0¾d.; Balmeanach, £105, 0s. 1¾ d.; Gedentailer, £71, 19s. 11 ¾ d.;
total, £280, 0s. 2 ¼d. In 1830 the rents of these townships, like other townships on the estate, were reduced, and their present aggregate rental, exclusive of Ben Lee, is as follows, viz.:
—Peinchorran, £70, 2s.; Balmeanach, £78, 19s.; Gedentailer, £53, 11s.; total, £202, 12s. At
Martinmas last, the tenants of these townships, by agreement with Lord Alexander Macdonald, entered into possession of Ben Lee at a rent of £74, 15s. Macdonald, (although he has been formerly receiving £128 of rent for it), in addition to the crofts and pastures formerly held by them. Their rent in future, including the rent of Ben Lee, will thus be £277, 7s., which is a less rent than these townships paid in 1825, although it is a fact which many witnesses in the neighbouring townships of Cainesstionobaig, Penefiler, &c. can, if required, bear testimony to, that these last mentioned townships and others had possession of a great part of Ben Lee, or had rights of pasturage on it, besides the rights which Lord Macdonald's tenants in Uist and Skye had of using it for pasturage at the time of markets, &c. The hill of Lee, it may be mentioned, will carry from eight hundred to a thousand blackfaced wedders, besides some cattle, and the rent of £94, 15s. charged for it is, as any judge of such matters can testify, extremely moderate. If I mistake not, one of the tenants of Balmeanach mentioned, in giving evidence, that Balmeanach had a tenant placed on it over and above the original number of crofts intended to be there. Now, as a matter of fact, Balmeanach, now contains eight crofts, while according to the plan or the estate it contains twelve crofts. When the tenants of Peinchorran, Balmeanach, and Gedentailer were prohibited from sending their stock to Ben Lee, they were duly and legally summoned to remove from it, and their crofts were reset to the tenants on their present footing as to rents, and these rents were regularly paid by the tenants until the time when the present land agitation commenced. In answering remarks by certain crofters when examined before the Commission, I shall require to make a few further observations on the subjects of the Braes crofters and Ben Lee. I shall now briefly advert to the other chief points of complaint made by the crofters examined before the Commission. In the first place, I shall take up the complaint as to the smallness of the crofts. In the course of their examination it is generally admitted by the crofters themselves, that if the crofts were of the same size as they originally were, they would probably be large enough to meet their requirements. Now, although it is probably true that in some cases the factors on various estates in Skye arbitrarily divided some of the crofts and put in strangers with the former tenants, yet it is an undoubted fact, which can be demonstrated by overwhelming evidence, that the main cause of the division of the crofts has been the desire of the crofters themselves to have their families settled about them, both from natural affection towards them and from a desire to have the benefit of their assistance in paying their rents and working their crofts, when they themselves were getting old. It has been the invariable rule with every estate in Skye with which I am connected, that the subdivision of lands held by crofters is rigorously prohibited. During my time as factor, about ten years, a very small amount of subdivision has taken place and I am aware that during a period of ten or twelve years before then, during which period I assisted the late M r Harry Macdonald, my father, in managing all the estates with which I am now connected (except the Macdonald estates), very few lots were subdivided. Notwithstanding our utmost endeavours to the contrary, however, a few subdivisions did take place. Some of these took place entirely against our will, and lots were divided and houses built without our knowledge or consent. In such cases, although the tenants were originally warned to remove on account of their conduct, evictions were not carried out, simply out of feelings of kindness towards the tenants. In other cases, but they were very few indeed, a very reluctant consent was given to subdivision, in order to meet the family exigencies of the tenants. It is somewhat disappointing to find now, however, that the whole blame of subdivision is thrown upon factors and landlords. I do not wish these statements to rest upon my own authority and in support of what I state, I may refer to the Statistical Account of 1841, in which the Rev. Coll Macdonald, in commenting on the state of matters in the parish of Portree, says, with regard to the crofterslands:
—All the farms in possession of small tenants were cut into lots or crofts, and each was let to a family. In the course of a few years, a tenant on a lot had a son, who, in opposition to any advice that could be given him, by parents, relations, and friends, would, whether right or wrong, be married. To provide for this son, his wife and his family, there was no other alternative than to give him a share of the lot. The same individual lotter has a daughter, to whom some young man becomes attached; marriage is proposed and agreed upon; but in the matrimonial contract, it is expressly stipulated that this new ally of the family shall have an establishment on the lot. Thus, on one portion of land, too small for the support of the original crofter, there are now three families. It is easily seen that the situation of these must be poor in the extreme. The proprietors show every kindness and indulgence. Their rents are not rigidly exacted at a term. There are instances of tenants being allowed to remain in arrear, some two, some three, and some even four years.The other clergymen, who wrote statistical accounts of parishes in Skye, remarked in almost similar terms upon the system of subdivision going on among the crofters to meet their own family requirements. Under these circumstances, it is scarcely fair or just that the whole blame of subdivision should be laid upon landlords and factors. My own experience of the strong temptations to subdivide existing among crofters in Skye leads me firmly to believe that it is impossible for any landlord or factor wholly to prevent it; and further, I would go the length of saying that there should be a law against it as a matter of public policy, making subdivision punishable as a crime or misdemeanour, as leading to poverty and pauperism. Taking matters as they actually are at present, it must be admitted, generally speaking, that most crofts are too small; and if it were possible to make a redistribution, I think that there ought to be two classes of crofts, viz., one of a very small class near the sea for fishermen, who would rely on fishing alone for their subsistence, and another class, ranging in value from £ 12 to £ 15 and up to £ 30, for crofters, who would with their families rely solely on the farming of their crofts and on the produce of their flocks, for maintenance of themselves and their families. At the same time, I cannot see how that is to be done without the consent of the proprietors. Even if it were done, there would be great danger of the old system of subdivision again commencing, and the evils now complained of again occurring. A great difficulty in the way of giving new lands to crofters is, that it has been found by experience that crofters cannot pay the same rent for the same lands as tacksmen for any length of time, and hold their ground. The complaints which have been made to the Commission as to the rents show this to some extent, as it is the fact that no crofters in Skye now pay the same rent proportionally as tacksmen. Further, tacksmen object to crofters being in their neighbourhood, chiefly for the following reasons, viz.
—(1) That their sheep and cattle are not properly herded or attended to, and that in consequence their sheep become diseased, and infect the tacksmen's sheep with scab, &c. This might, however, be obviated if the crofters had club stocks.
(2) On account of trespassing, and loss of stock, and other causes. Fencing would also be a remedy to some extent for those evils.
It is an undoubted fact, however, that lands given to crofters at present yield a considerably lower rental than those held by tacksmen, and also that tacks iu the neighbourhood of crofters fall in value from that very cause. It is therefore manifest that to insist, if that be conceived possible, by legislative enactment, on lands held by tacksmen being converted into crofterslands, without compensation to the proprietor for loss of value, would be doing a great wrong, and depriving proprietors of rights wliich they relied on being secured to them wheu the purchasers come into possession of their respective properties. Not only are these difficulties in the way of enlarging crofts, but there is also a serious one,—that without extraneous aid the crofters themselves confess they could not stock a greater extent of land than they at present hold. As a practical illustration of this difficulty, I may mention the present condition of the tenants of Peinchorran, Gedentailer, and Balmeanach. These tenants have, in the returns which they have given in to the Royal Commission (exclusive of three tenants who gave no returns), stated their total stocks to be as follows, viz., 13 horses, 93 cows, and 317 sheep. On the lands which they already hold, exclusive of Ben Lee, they are entitled, and have for years been entitled, to graze 24 horses, 146 cattle, and 460 sheep. It will thus be seen that, although these tenants have taken additional lands, those which they now hold are not, if the returns be correct, anything like sufficiently stocked. All I can say is, that I most sincerely trust that the tenants of these townships who have taken Ben Lee, will be able shortly to stock it fully, and that any misgivings which I entertain on the subject will not be realised. The next complaint made by the crofters is that their tenure is uncertain, and that they now should have fixity of tenure. In answer to this complaint, I may remark that tenants already practically have fixity of tenure in Skye. One tenant, who gave evidence before the Commission, stated that his family had been in possession of the lands which they now hold for 500 years. Other tenauts have also given evidence of lengthened possession on the part of their families, though they have qualified the statement by complaining of their possession being curtailed by subdivision. To give fixity of tenure without duly compensating the proprietor for his loss, would not only imply a grave constitutional change, but the opinion is also entertained by many that to give fixity of tenure would imply a cessation from labour or improvement. I am well aware that the contrary has been argued, but, notwithstanding what the actual result of so damaging an experiment would be, is by many competent judges considered extremely doubtful Throughout the rest of Scotland, under the well-known contract or lease, those lands which once were barren marshes, bogs, and forests, have obtained the character of being among the most fertile and best cultivatod lands in Europe. If small tenants enter into leases with proprietors, containing obligations on them to make certain improvements, with rights of compensation at the termination of the lease, as may be justly due, it would, in my humble opinion, be much more likely to produce beneficial results than granting a fixity of tenure, which, in many cases, would lead simply to their again resting upon their oars. The granting of leases by the landlord is a tried and constitutional means of effectually improving lands and the condition of tenants, while the other method proposed is not only untried, unconstitutional, and of doubtful efficacy, but it also implies the infliction of a positive wrong upon the proprietor, by depriving him of a valuable legal right, that is if it be granted the proprietors are entitled to justice at all. Subsidiarily it may be mentioned, that if bodies of small tenants had fixity of tenure, it would be impossible to guide and direct them for their own benefit in the settlement of disputes between themselves. By any one experienced in the management of small tenants io the north, the weight of this objection can be well understood and estimated. The next complaint made by the Skye tenants generally, and the last upon which I intend to make any remark, is that relating to evictions. In one word, I have to say on this subject that all the evictions of any extent, referred to by the crofters, are of old date, and no evictions of any extent in recent times have been referred to. By way of explanation of the causes of these evictions—which I do not, however, mean to justify—I may state that when the old common hill pasture in the north became valuable, in consequence of the rise in the value of sheep, the crofters were unable to stock them or to pay anything like the rent offered for them by others. The operation of this cause, combined with the fact that many crofters who were evicted were deprived of their holdings on account of non-payment of their rents, were the chief causes of most of the notorious evictions in the Highlands. It is frequently said that, in consequence of evictions, the population of the Isle of Skye is much less than it was in former days. I find, however, that this is not the case, as the following figures will show : —
From an enumeration made by one of Lord Macdonald's ancestors in 1745, it appears that the population of Skye then was 10,134. From the Church records it was, in 1750, 10,671. According to Dr Webster, it was, in 1755, 11,420. In 1771 Mr Walker made it 13,552. In 1801, according to the Government enumeration, it was 15,788. In 1871 it rose to 17,330; and in 1881 it was 16,889—thus having, at the last census, fallen off a little, but not more than other rural districts in the north. It will be seen, however, that notwithstanding the great cry about evictions and depopulation, that the population of Skye is greater by about 6700 than it was in the. days when Culloden was fought, at which time, no doubt, our glens and straths were inhabited by crofters. Adverting generally to the causes of the present agitation, I may mention, briefly, that I consider them to be, among other causes—
1st, The poverty and depression consequent on the recent very bad seasons experienced by us
in the west.
2nd. The increase in the expenditure of the inhabitants in such luxuries as tea, sugar, whisky, fine clothing, & c , and the general tendency towards extravagant habits.
3rd, The deplorably bad agriculture of the Western Isles. It is easily shown, by referring to various eminent authorities and reports by skilled men, that so far back as 1811 the present results in the yield of the land were clearly foreseen and foretold. I may add to this the subdivision of the lands, chiefly by the crofters themselves.
4th, The fact of the inhabitants not being engaged in steady daily labour throughout a large part of the year.
5th, and last, but not least, The non-vindication of the law throughout Skye for the last two or three years, amounting practically to a direct encouragement to lawlessness, disorder, and agitation. I shall now, as proposed, proceed to give answers and make observations upon certain special statements made by individual crofters in the course of their examinations before the Commission. The first delegate, Angus Stewart, who be it observed is not himself a crofter, but the son of a crofter, makes the statement, that one of the causes of the poverty of the people is that the best part of the land in Skye is devoted to deer forests and large farms. Now, while it is an indisputable fact that there are many large farms in Skye with excellent land, still it 13 equally true that many townships of crofters in Skye (as for example various townships in Kilmuir, Strath and Sleat, and other parishes in Skye) who hold just as good land, although not to the same extent as is held by tacksmen, while the latter have a very much larger proportion bad and sterile land. With regard to deer forests, this witness makes it appear as if he and other Braes crofters suffered from them. Now the fact is, that there is only one deer forest in Skye, viz., the deer forest, by which the Braes and other townships in the parish of Portree are in no way injured or inconvenienced, they being separated from it by an arm of the sea, viz., Loch Sligachau, and have not at any time been subject to incursions of deer. With regard to the statement made by this delegate to the effect that there were formerly only five tenants on Peinchorran, where there are now twenty-six or twenty-seven, I have to state that I find no evidence whatever of that statement; and at the same time, I beg to explaiu that before the year 1811 almost all the croftersland in Skye were held in common. In 1811 Peinchorran was divided into thirteen crofts, and there are now only thirteen crofts, although these have since been to some extent subdivided. I cannot tell the particular circumstances attending each subdivision. As I have already stated, I know that subdivision took pi ice almost in every case, in consequence of the family arrangements of the crofters themselves, much against the will of the proprietor and bis factor, who really have been hitherto unable to prevent subdivision in all cases where they would wish to do so. They have been successful in preventing it in only a few out of many cases. This delegate complains that he was prevented from stealing rushes in the deer forest to thatch his house. Now, while I think that this witness may be thankful for having got off so easily when found in the act of stealing the rushes, as acknowledged by himself, I have to add that I and my predecessors as factor, have frequently given
permission to crofters in Braes or elsewhere to pull thatch in certain parts of the forest at certain times of the year. The terms on which this permission was granted were not, however, adhered to in many cases, which is probably the cause of the difficulty in which Mr Stewart found himself when he consented to give up the half of his spoil to the gamekeeper. This delegate complains, in common with other tenants from Braes, that although the hill of Ben Lee was taken from them seventeen or eighteen years ago, no abatement was made on their rents. As the dispute relating to Ben Lee lately attracted considerable public attention, it may be proper to give some information on the subject to the Commission. At the outset, I have to state that I cannot admit as correct the account of matters given by the crofters of Peinchorran, Balmeanach, and Gedentailer. They have frequently stated to the public, and they have now made statements before the Commission, to the effect that they had the exclusive right to the grazings of Ben Lee. Now, with the exceptiou of the Braes crofters themselves, who are most immediately interested in the matter, I believe it is perfectly well known that these townships never held exclusive right to the hill in question. From time immemorial the hill, or at any rate a very considerable part of it, was kept as a common pasture for Lord Macdonald's tenants. In not very remote times, Lord Macdonald was proprietor of the island of North Uist, and I have frequently heard that, for the sake of these tenants, and also for his tenants in the Isle of Skye, Ben Lee was set aside as a kind of common pasture ground for the tenants at the time of the annual market held until recently at Sligachan, in the neighbourhood of Ben Lee. Not only was the hill subject to pasturage from Lord Macdonald's tenants in Uist and Skye, especially at the time of the markets, but it is also an undoubted fact, of which the strongast evidence can if necessary be adduced, that the tenants of other neighbouring townships had rights of pasturage on the hill of Lee, just as strong and effectual as the tenants of Balmeanach, Peinchorran, and Gedentailer, who quite recently claimed sole right to it. It is well known to the tenants now resident at Camustianaveg and to the tenants who were formerly at Scorr, as likewise the tenants of Penifieler and other parts of Braes, that they had rights of pasturage on the hill of Lee, and I have not the slightest doubt that the tenants of these townships will, if asked by the Commission to give evidence on that point, the fullest and amplest testimony on the subject. Some of them have told me that they had hesitation in coming forward, as threats were used against them at the time when the recent agitation was going on, for simply stating that they had the right mentioned. It is quite true that the tenants of Peinchorran, Balmeanach, and Gedentailer had right to keep a certain number of cattle, horses, and sheep, and no more. In the course of my negotiations with the tenants mentioned, I offered to them, for a settlement of the dispute, such a portion of the hill as, with the pasture they already possessed, would keep their summing; but this was refused, the tenants preferring to take the whole hill as they now possess it, and pay the rent of £74, 15s., which was agreed to. I may likewise mention that before this agreement was made, I offered to the tenants alternatively that their lands and Ben Lee should be valued together by two arbiters, and an oversman mutually chosen, to value the whole subjects together. This was declined, and the tenants preferred to pay the £74, 15s. already mentioned. It is somewhat unsatisfactory now to hear from some of the delegates that the tenants are still dissatisfied. I cannot say, however, that I am surprised. I produce a copy of a letter which I addressed to the tenants of Braes relative to the question which was between them and the proprietor shortly after the disputes arose. The witness states, as an evidence of the tenants having sole right to Ben Lee, that £ 3 were received of rent for a piece of arable ground at the base of Ben Lee from Lord Macdonald's gamekeeper. Even if this were proved to be true, it would not show that the tenants had right to the whole of Ben Lee, which is a piece of ground about two miles broad by two miles long, although it might show their right to that piece of ground itself. It is a piece of arable ground at the head of Loch Sligachan. I can find no trace of the rent having been received, although I think it a matter of little consequence whether it was ever received or not. After investigating the matter fully, what I have learned is that the £ 3 were paid to the tenants, not by Lord Macdonald but by Lord Middleton, a shooting tenant of Lord Macdonald. This witness states that on his father's croft there is not an acre worth putting seed in. Now I find from the plan of the estate that the croft contains about five acres of ground, and is of the same general quality as other lands in Braes; and further, it has been reported to me as being well worth the rent which the tenant pays for it, if not considerably more, particularly if in the hands of a person better able to cultivate it. The summing of the lot is four cows and twelve sheep, with a proportion of seven horses for the township. I may mention that the rent of this lot in the year 1825 was £7, 14s. 8|d. The delegate, Samuel Nicolson, crofter, Peinchorran, states that he believes that there were twenty families put into the township during the last thirty or forty years. This is not correct. It is perfectly correct that the crofters themselves have to a considerable extent subdivided their own lands on account of marriages, etc. and it is also true that the proprietor did not take harsh measures for preventing this subdivision; but the statement that the twenty families from other parts of Skye, as might be understood from the delegate's statements, were forced upon the three townships in question, is; quite unfounded. This delegate appears to insinuate that the twenty families, which he says were forced upon the townships in question, pay rent to the landlord in addition to the original rents. If this be understood from the delegate's statement, it is perfectly false. The total rental of the three townships in question in 1829, was £280, Os. 2£d., and it is now only £200, 17s., there having been a reduction of rent over the whole estate in 1830. In consequence of subdivision, the lands were divided but not raised in rent. What this witness means by saying that Balmeanach had originally only eight families, and that this number was increased to twenty-three by others coming from different places, including Nairn, I caunot understand. There are now only seventeen families paying rent to Lord Macdonald, and in 1829 there were ten or eleven. The increase has taken place imply from subdivision since 1829. The rental from 1830 up to this date is identically the same. Although the tenants of Braes mention Tormichaig as having been cleared, they had nothing whatever to do with it, as it was in the Macdonald deer forest, which is separated from them, as already mentioned, by an arm of the sea. In the whole of the three townships in question there are only two or three cottars against whom a nominal rent of 5s. per annum is charged for the sites of their houses. With regard to the statements about drains, I have been able to find no trace of drainage interest being charged against the crofters in Braes, but if it was, the value of their land must have been permanently increased by the drainage. The delegate, Donald Buchanan, crofter, Ollach, states that there are no meal mills going on Lord Macdonald's property at the present day. I can scarcely fancy that this witness was ignorant of the fact that there is an excellent meal mill now in going order no further from him than Portree. There is another excellent meal mill in going order at Romisdale, six or seven miles beyond Portree. There is another mill at Tote, about five mites beyond Portree, also in going order. There is likewise a mill on the estate of Raasay. It is difficult to understand how this delegate can allege ignorance of these notorious facts. This delegate farther says the subdivision of lands could not have taken place without the will of the factor. This statement is very far from correct, as every factor who has ever acted in the north can testify. It is well known that, in consequence of changes in families by marriage and other causes, the subdivision of crofts and building of houses takes place in spite of the utmost efforts of both factor and proprietor. In consequence of the complaints of the people, and if subdivision is to be prevented, much stronger measures than any used heretofore will have to be resorted to. From my experience, I think that a special legislative enactment upon the subject will be necessary. With regard to the statement by John Macleod, Camustionaveg, that there were twenty-six families removed from the deer forest, I hold, on referring to the rental of the Macdonald estate in 1830, that the townships which were removed were the following, viz.:
—Moll containing four tenants, Kinchraggan containing two tenants, and Tormichaig containing twelve tenants. I never heard that any tenants or townships were, within the memory of man, removed for the sake of the Macdonald deer forest; and the tenants of these townships which were removed were, I understand, in almost every case supplied with lands, although removings were in those days much more common and less thought of than in the present time. John Nicolson, crofter, Sconser, states that the four nearest townships to Sconser were evicted thirty years ago for the purpose of forming a deer forest, and that they were placed among the tenants of Colliemore. I find that Colliemore was, about the year 1811, divided into thirty-six allotments, and there were then thirtyfour tenants occupying the lauds. I find that in the present day there are twenty-five principal crofts and eight small crofts, besides the missionary's croft, and seven cottars, so that the statement of Mr John Nicolson appears, to say the least of it, somewhat exaggerated. This delegate also makes a statement apparently to the effect that Lord Macdonald put some sheep on the forest, which he blames for grazing on his croft. This statement is perfectly erroneous, if meant as it appears to be, as Lord Macdouald never had a single sheep upon the forest. The statement that Mackenzie, the gamekeeper, brought a cow and a horse to the township, and left it with about £3000, is one for which the witness is indebted to his imagination. I may mention that I have recently had the whole arable land of Colliemore fenced with a good wire fence. The tenants pay no part of the expense of putting it up or keeping it up. This tenant also complains that he is not allowed to keep a dug. It is perfectly true that as a general rule it is one of the conditions of set on the Macdonald estate that each tenant is not to keep a dog. The rule is that as many dogs are allowed for a township as are necessary for protecting their crops, generally a dog at each end and one in the middle being allowed. The reason is, that dogs are most destructive, not only to the tenant's own stock, but also to game. On account of the recent change in the law relating to dog licences, I have this year had a number of complaints from crofters in various parts of Skye to the effect that dogs are alarmingly increasing, and doing an immense deal of damage, and that they ought to be put down. I have had very strong complaints on this subject. It frequently happens that one dog will kill, in a single night, from twenty to thirty lambs, and when there are a number of dogs the damage is frequently very great. I have not the slightest doubt that it would be for the advantage of the small crofters that the present law allowing each tenant with a few sheep to keep a dog would, with great benefit to the crofters themselves, be made stricter.The witness John Nicolson, crofter, Tote, states that when Dr Martin came to Unakill in 1839, the cheapest rent on the Tote crofts was £ 4 , 10s. and the highest £6. At this present time the cheapest are £ 7 , 8s. and the highest £10, 18s. I regret very much for his own sake that this witness should have omitted to mention that the chief cause of the rise in rent was that the tenants had a large piece of hill pasture recently added to their crofts. The delegate Norman Mackenzie, Uigshadder, states that not a tenth part of the croftersstock belongs to themselves. I consider this statement, speaking moderately, to be very much exaggerated. I know the circumstances of the crofters throughout Skye very well indeed, and I feel quite confident that the majority of them are quite solvent, and able to pay their debts. There are some among them, however, as there are in every community, who are much involved, and this has very much been increased by the recent severe seasons. The delegate Neil Shaw, Eyre, states that the hill pasture of Eyre is only half a mile broad. It would be interesting to know whether this delegate measured the ground at the broadest or at the narrowest part, or where he measured it, as the average width will turn out to be considerably greater than is stated. This delegate only recently came from another estate, viz., Glendale, to the Macdonald estate, and if he thought the rent too high he should not have taken the croft. Referring to the statement made by Neil Nicolson, crofter, Torren, in which he says he was removed from that and sent to Strath. This is a case in which it is clear that the crofter was removed from a moderately good into a very good place. He was, in fact, apparently kicked up stairs. He now occupies a holding where the proceeds of the club stock pay, or very nearly pay, his whole rent. For his five or six cows, his house, his fuel, and his horses he pays nothing whatever, and he has practically fixity of tenure. In fact, I can imagine no crofter in a better position. It has, in fact, been a matter of astonishment to me how this crofter and many others on the Macdonald estates, whom I know to be equally well off, have come forward to make any complaint to the Commission. Indeed, I can account for it only on the supposition that these crofters thought that if there was any old pieces of land, grazings, or any other good things going at the disposal of the Commission, they might as well get a share as others. Referring to statements made by delegates on the Kilmuir estate, I may briefly observe as follows, viz. :
—The delegate John Gillies states that he got no compensation for a house which he says cost him
Macdonald. £15, from which he was removed. I never heard this before, and no complaint was made to the other subject. I am well aware that every case of removal on the estate of Kilmuir, Major Fraser fully compensated the tenants not only for their houses, but also paid them sums to cover the expense of removal. Gillies was allowed to remain in his house for a year or two after he should have removed and after Mr Urquhart came into possession of his farm. Peter Macdonald, Glen Hinnisdale, while complaining of the condition of the tenants in Glen Hinnisdale, says with reference to the breaking up of the proposal made by the tenants to Major Fraser, that they should give up their land conditionally, that he is of opinion that the withdrawal of the tenants from their proposed offer to remove arose from bribery in the part of the proprietor. It is scarcely necessary for me to say that this strong false statement and calumny took me by surprise, and were it not for its absurdity would have filled me with indignation. Suffice it to say, that the statement is perfectly false and unfounded. Throughout the whole negotiations with the tenants as to this proposal, I may mention that I told them, on behalf of Major Fraser, that he did not wish them to remove; but that if they resolved to do so, he would grant them, speaking generally, two years of the increase 1 rent as a present, besides taking all their effects at valuation. As the circumstances are fully detailed in Major Fraser's statement, I need say nothing further on the subject, beyond strong regret that the delegate should have committed himself to so false and calumnious an allegation. As to rates, there is no doubt that tenants have good reason to complain grievously of the school rates recently imposed, which are a grievous burden. The provisions of the Education Act as to punishing defaulters are, owing to the expense attending them, on account of great distances having to be travelled, &c, practically unworkable. If boards themselves were granted the power of inflicting small fines on defaulting parents, the Act would work much better, and the education be more efficient. It might be possible, if any such provision were made, to give parents the power of appealing to the sheriff in the event of their being dissatisfied with the decision of the school board on a case to be stated for them by the school board. Malcolm Nicolson, crofter, Sheader, says that the factor told the tenants of Sheader that they would have to remove if they did not pay the increase of rent recently imposed. This is not quite correct, as what I said was, that the tenants having agreed to pay the rent, would of course have to pay it as stipulated, and that tenants not paying the rents agreed on would have to give up their holdings. I may mention, that when the last rise of rent on the Kilmuir estate took place, the tenant in question, and all other tenants, had the offer of taking two years of the increased rent as a present, and giving up their holdings if they preferred; but this offer was accepted by not a single tenant. The delegate, Norman Stewart, says that the best part of the hill pasture was taken from the tenants of Valtos. Now, I am not aware that the tenants of Valtos lost any hill pasture whatever since Major Fraser become proprietor of Kilmuir. The tenants of all the east side of the Kilmuir estate are now as formerly in possession of their full grazing rights, except these townships, viz., Deig, Glasphen, and Brogaig. These three townships had grazing rights in the Kilmuir common, of which they were deprived, and there a piece of the common was cut off, for which they got a reduction of rent, but the grazings on the other town ship on the east side were in no way interfered with by that operation. Although this tenant complains so much of poverty, he last Whitsunday took the neighbouring lot which was formerly occupied by his brother, and he is in very fair circumstances. I know that as a matter of fact he has not to go south, as he states, in quest of labour. He almost never leaves home. A crofter named Archibald Macdonald states that his brother was warned for an expression of opinion connected with a school board election. Now I cannot understand what this witness means. In the first place, there never was any such expression as the delegate states of the expression of public opinion. No doubt, rate payers have frequently met and endeavoured to avoid polls by compromise, but this is common everywhere, and no subject of complaint, but rather the contrary. The statements of this delegate as to oppression by landlord and factor are all quite unfounded and untrue. In the next place the delegate's brother could never, as alleged, have been deprived of his holding for the causes stated, or for any other cause, as he never at any time was a tenant upon the estate, or had any holding from Major Fraser. This delegate should also have stated the following facts, viz., that his brother John Macdonald is still a crofter on the estate of Major Fraser, and is in possession of the very holding of which he says his deceased brother was deprived. He should also have stated, that last year he himself applied for two crofts of Major Fraser's at Garrafad, and that Major Fraser accepted him as tenant; and further, that he this year wished to give up one of the crofts and that it has not as yet been taken off his hands, with a view to preventing the increase of small holdings. The delegate Donald Mathieson states that he was promised a croft which he did not get, being now in possession of only one half of it. The truth is that this tenant was promised the whole croft as soon as room could be made for the tenant leaving it. This crofter called upon me a few days before the meeting of the Commission, and stated that he insisted upon the present occupant of the other half of the croft being turned out, and his getting the whole of it. This I declined to do until another place would be got for the other man. Referring to the statements made by the tenants of Elgol generally, I have to explain that in no part of Skye have I experienced greater difficulty in preventing the subdivision of land than in Elgol. The tenants should have mentioned, that I said to them at the last rent collection, on their complaining of being crowded, &c, that I could see my way to recommending the proprietor to let them have the neighbouring township of Glasnakill if they could pay the stocks, and if the present tenant would voluntarily give it up. If he would not do so, I said that if I was factor at the time, and there was no essential change of circumstances, I believed I could recommend their getting it at the termination of the present tenant's lease, although I could not absolutely bind myself or my successor. I may mention I actually did apply to Mr Bower, the tenant of Glasnakill, asking whether he could see his way to give up Glasnakill, so as to give more room to the Strathaird tenants, whose condition I wished to improve, but he said he could not do it at present, and of course we could not force him to do it, because he has a regular lease. With regard to statements made by crofters on the Macleod estate, the first delegate examined was Malcolm M'Caskill, Dunvegan. This delegate's statement was a written one, and therefore the less excusable for its inaccuracy. It is throughout of a highly sensational character. He states that there is no doctor in the parish. Now, besides the ordinary parochial doctor, Dr Campbell, there are two other medical men in the parish, viz., Dr Fraser, Edinbane, and Dr M'Lean, Orbost, and I may add Dr Nicol Martin of
Glendale, all of whom are. in the habit of giving advice and medicine, in most cases gratuitously. With regard to the assessment on his holding complained of by the delegate, he should appeal to the county valuation court if he feels aggrieved. With regard to the charge made against the returning officer in the late school board election, it is utterly without foundation. The delegate was a candidate for election, but was unsuccessful, and no doubt feels much chagrined at having received only a very few votes, instead of the large number which he expected. He complains of candidates having been admitted into the polling booth, —his own ignorance alone can account for this charge, as the delegate would not have made it had he been aware that candidates had a right, under certain conditions, to be present within the polling booth. It is not the rule on the Macleod estate, as stated by the delegate, that incoming tenants pay the arrears due by the outgoing ones. I have to explain, however, that where the outgoing tenant leaves arrears, the factor generally tries to make a bargain with the incoming tenant to pay as much as he can get for the houses and other effects left by the outgoing tenant, and this he places to the credit of the arrears of rent. This is of course to the advantage of the outgoing tenant, as it leaves him from being prosecuted for the balance of arrears left by him. I may mention that though sometimes the factor succeeds in making such a bargain, very frequently he does not succeed,—that is to say, where the outgoing tenant leaves nothing of any value. With reference to the statements made by tenants at Bracadale, on the Macleod estate, as to the proceedings taken by tacksmen against their sub-teuants at Ferrinlea and Carbost, I have simply to state that the proceedings complained of were adopted to compel the sub-tenants in question to fulfil their obligations which they had undertaken. It is very well known in Skye that Mr Cameron, Tallisker, and Mr Scott, Drynoch, are both men of high character, and most kind and considerate to their subtenants. It is not easy to see upon what principle the sub-tenants can be relieved of the obligations which they have voluntarily undertaken. At the same time, in most cases it would be advisable that the persons presently occupying the position of sub tenants should if possible hold direct from the landlord. Being on the spot when Alexander Cameron, Cuilore, made a strong statement about something he alleged I had said about the Cuilor& tenants, I then took the opportunity of contradicting, on the part of Macleod of Macleod and myself, the statement made. I observe that the Rev. M r M'Lean, minister of Bracadale, mentioned that Macleod of Macleod and his factor were very indifferent about the tenants. I am very sorry that M r M'Lean should entertain this opinion. We did not know that he entertained it. Even if we entertained the same opinion of him, we would not as a matter of Christian charity have mentioned it publicly to a Royal Commission. As matter of fact, I may say that both Macleod of Macleod and my humble self are very far from indifferent to the condition of the tenants on the Macleod estate. On recent occasions we have shown this, in supplying them with potatoes and oats when they fell into poverty. Of course these are to be paid for, but still we had to make the advance. I myself exerted myself on behalf of the people throughout Skye, I may say —though I say it with reluctance and solely in consequence of this charge —when they lost their potatoes; having spent a great part of my time, I am glad to say successfully, in collecting funds for their assistance. I have not been able to go over the whole evidence of the crofters, but I hope to do so yet. I have not specially touched upon the story of the brave old man,about which I shall simply state a few particulars. This man was a tenant of Totescore, on the Kilmuir estate. He was formerly at Uig, and was removed from Uig to Totescore, with the view of bettering his condition. Immediately upon his entry to Totescore, the tenants there said he behaved very badly indeed to the outgoing tenant, as mqy be borne out by their testimony if necessary. He afterwards became a very disagreeable neighbour, keeping more horses than he was entitled to keep, and making new regulations about the horses and also about the cattle. He allowed horses to go about the farm untended, and in particular he allowed them to trespass upon the neighbouring farm of Monkstadt, and likewise his cattle to trespass upon the neighbouring farm of Scudaburgh. When they were pinfolded he would give no satisfaction. He would come forward and tender 7½d. or 6d. or something like that for his cattle and horses being upon the township and doing an immense deal of damage. On the farm of Monkstadt, I may state, he allowed his horse once to trespass and graze for a long time on the ground occupied by the milk cows, and after it was there for two or three days he came forward and offered 7½d., I think. The tenant would not accept this, and the consequence was that Mr Nicolson left his horse for five or six weeks on the farm till the tenant was sick tired of it, and would have given him any money to take it away, or if something would happen to the horse. Well, the tenant was about to take proceedings for the sale of these horses, according to law, and one night, I understand, they were taken away in some strange manner from Monkstadt and disappeared. I had repeatedly remonstrated with this man in the presence of the whole tenants, on account of his conduct, for two or three years before that. He was charged with misbehaviour as a neighbour before all the tenants, and was very severely reprimanded by me at the rent collections. In 1875 he was warned to quit on account of his conduct; but thinking that this would frighten him and that he would improve, he was left as he was, with a warning, however, that he would be put out if he did not mend his ways, and look after his stock of sheep and cattle, and herd them properly. In 1877 the thing became utterly unbearable, and he was warned again. Then it was determined he should be removed; but the proprietor had it in view, I believe, privately, to give him another place, though he did not mention that to him. There was a decree of removal obtained agaiust him before the sheriff. Upon that decree he was charged to remove in June, I think, and in July he was turned out. Before he was turned out I wrote to the man telling him not to occasion himself any expense —that if he resisted, considerable expense would fall upon him, which he would have to pay. He paid very little attention to this. In fact, he thought he could remain in spite of us, and on the 13th July I wrote to his brother-in-law, a ground officer at Kilmuir, to see Nicolson and try every means in his power to get him to remove quietly, and to tell him that great expense would fall upon him if he refused. He paid no attention to this, and maintained he would not go. He was then turned out. After being turned out he came back again, and I personally wrote to him warning him of the expense he was incurring. He employed an agent, and the agent also advised him not to be putting himself to expense. But all that would not do, and then, after he had gone in a second time, a petition for warrant of ejection, and also for interdict, was taken out against him. This was in August. There were conclusions against him for payment of damages for entering the farm after he had been legally warned. On this summons a decree was obtained, which I now hold in my hand; and there was decree pronounced against him by the sheriff for £55, 3s. 2d., including damages and expenses. The man went to Inverness, thinking he was getting neither law nor justice in Portree, I believe, and consulted another agent there, who also pointed out his folly, and told him it was better for him to go quietly. He then yielded, and came to a settlement in December; and out of pity for the man, and knowing that he was headstrong through ignorance, I voluntarily struck off £ 25 from the sums decerned for against him by the sheriff, and that left due by him a sum of £30, 2s. 8d. I gave him credit for the value of his houses and other effects which he left, amounting to about £16 and he had to pay only the remainder. Of that remainder I believe the law expenses in all those proceedings, so far as I was personally concerned, were about £ 10 or £ 11. I think that was what I got. The rest was paid to sheriff officers who were employed in ejecting him; and the remainder was credited.
8284. I thought the sum payable by him was reduced to £ 9?
—£30. The amount the sheriff found him liable in was £55, 3s. 2d., and I struck off £25. I credited him in the value of his house, £16, and that left about £14. I believe it was about £ 9 that I got. The rest was paid to sheriff officers, and the remainder was credited to the incoming tenant. Neither the proprietor nor I pocketed it. The man was got out in December, and the incoming teuant was claiming damages for not getting possession at Whitsunday, and he got that money, as he was entitled to it. He had been keeping his stock at expense elsewhere, and he was entitled to the money.
8285. You are in possession of a statement from Major Fraser, of Kilmuir?
8286. Then it would be convenient if you would read it.
—Statement as to Kilmuir, by Major Fraser.
—Some comments having passed at Uig and Staffin in reference to the administration of above estate, Major Fraser offers the following remarks :
—Whilst Major Fraser cannot follow all the little stories which have been recounted, some of which he never heard of before, whilst others seem trimmed up for the occasion, he just refers to the two or three that seem to him most noticeable. First as to Glenhinistle, in the spring of 1882, a proposal was made to him by the tenantry of that glen, that if he would allow them a sum equal to two years rent of their possession, and take their cattle at valuation, that they would be willing to leave the glen in peace at first term of Whitsunday; the proprietor, whilst replying that he had no desire that they should leave except of their own will, agreed to relieve them of their lands on the proposed terms, agreeing at the same time also to take their sheep at valuation, the only condition being that all should keep by the arrangement. Shortly after this, the tenants sent in a fresh notification that they would also like their crops taken at valuation; this the proprietor also then agreed to. Shortly after that a farther note was sent in, that the tenants would like the roofs of their houses taken at valuation; this being also agreed to, it was thought that matters were now indeed finally adjusted; but no, for just a little before the term a further condition was sent in that the tenants would like their farm implements and household effects taken at valuation. Major Fraser seeing some little difficulty as to this, declined the proposal, but proposed instead to allow each tenant three pounds in lieu thereof, with permission to the tenant to dispose of such otherwise for his own behoof as he might think proper; this was gratefully acceded to, and the arrangements seemed now complete. The term was now approaching, when within a few days of it, the factor was informed that the tenants expected the various allowances would be paid on the term day; response was made that all such would be paid on terms being implemented; the term then arrived, and nobody left. It has now been stated by the delegate from Glenhinistle, in rather objectionable terms, that he understands several of the tenants were induced to remain by the proprietor, as he did not think he could let the glen for as much as payable by the present tenants. Major Fraser thinks this statement bears absurdity on its face; but if this is not so, and unless the tenants now think that the Government is now to hand them over the glen, Major Fraser will be happy to carry out the same arrangement with them at Whitsunday 18S3 as was proposed for Whitsunday 1882. Owing to the near approach of the term, a little further delay beyond it might be required for necessary arrangements, but that, if desired, could easily be met. As to the story of a tenant who was removed from Tottescore, his memory seems to have failed so far, that he omitted to state that his removal arose from the fact of his being a very troublesome neighbour; and such complaints were made to the proprietor in reference to his stock trespassing over the neighbouring farms, and of a dog of his disturbing the sheep, and of his refusing to come to terms in any way, that after much trouble it was resolved to remove him, which was done. The removal was one simply in the interest of discipline, for as to the proprietor, nothing of an unpleasant nature had occurred as betwixt him and the tenant, and he had no interest of his own to remove him. The tenant, or rather the late tenant, came to see him some time ago at Nairn, and so far as he (the proprietor) was concerned, he would have been quite pleased to have given him another suitable lot had such been available at the time. Major Fraser has not noted any other things that he thinks worth referring to as to removals, unless that he sees Bornaskitag was cleared, 1 but this must of course be a mistake, as there are still fifty tenants there; no doubt, some other place must have been meant. A Norman Stewart at Valtos makes great complaints; all Major Fraser can say as to such is, that in 1881 he (Stewart) signed along with other tenants a loyal letter, which was sent to Major Fraser, in which the tenants subscribed themselves his grateful tenants; as to what he says about roads, he must know what Major Fraser has done in that way up to the march of Valtos. As to Archibald Macdonald, Garrafadd, he complains of high rents, &c; why then did he apply so earnestly for land in Garrafadd, and go to it all the way from Kilmuir. He knew the rent and boundaries, neither of which have been altered since he went there about two years ago. Major Fraser is at last glad to be able to agree with some one, and so he agrees with a John Mackenzie at Maligar, that the news from Ireland had a good deal of effect in Skye. Now as to rents, it is correct no doubt what Stewart at Valtos says that the rents were raised there three times, the first time about twenty-six years ago, the valuation being then made by a competent agriculturist. A good many years afterwards, a rise of 15s. was made, to provide them with medical attendance; whilst about seven years ago, being nineteen after the first valuation, the lands were again valued by a practical farmer; in the interval the proprietor having much enhanced the value of his estate by good roads from Uig to the march of Valtos, and all round by Kilmaluack and Kilmuir. He had also largely subscribed to the Skye railway, which he considers has much added to the value of his estate. It may also be mentioned that in 1876, when the rents were altered, the whole four hundred tenants agreed without exception to take on their lauds, although they were each offered a sum equal to two yearsrent, if they preferred leaving; they however preferred remaining on, and paid their rents well, for Major Fraser sees by an arrear list in his possession of 11th June 1880, being the year previous to that in which the Irish Land Act was passed, that his Martinmas arrears then amounted to just £63, 3s. 7½d., of which only one item of £ 2 , 12s. was considered irrecoverable. As to the question of rents, having purchased his estate under the laws of the country, he considered he had a perfect right to lay it out and improve it as he thought fit, though whilst doing so, he thinks he showed some consideration to his small tenants (now called crofters), inasmuch as he never advertised any of their lots, or put such to competition in any way, but for which (under the action of the present agitation) he does not appear to receive much thanks; were they, however, now to be offered for competition, he is inclined to think that the introduction of some skilled agriculturists from other parts would have a good effect in the district, whilst the rental would probably be thus considerably increased, and no doubt ultimately very much so. As to what is averred by some, that the increase of rents has been too much felt, Major Fraser doubts if the lowering of the rents would lead to any material improvement, if any, in the position of the people; he goes so far as to think that in many
instances, if even the small tenants got their lauds rent free, their comfort would not be substantially increased, for if industry disappeared with rent, the tenants might not be much the gainers. Major Fraser may further observe that, as to the four hundred small tenants on his Skye estate, he has allowed them an abatement of 25 per cent, for last two years off their rents, which for that time has cut off any return from the townships affected on Major Fraser's outlays, whilst on the sum total it has about brought back the rents to what they were previously. On an average then, the tenants for the last two years could hardly have suffered much from increase of rents; whilst during the previous four years, things seemed to have gone on much as usual, besides Major Fraser also submits as his opinion that the question (if any) should be not so much what amount the rents were generally raised some years ago, but what is the present value of the holdings; and he further submits that if carefully compared with rents generally over the Highlands, they will be found very moderate, some might say very low.. In the opinion of the writer, the excessive development of the crofter system, aggravated by the past two bad seasons, is'the cause of most of the poverty in Skye; to this must, no doubt, be added the effects of agitation. From his own experience in other countries and his knowledge otherwise, he has no doubt that a certain amount of emigration properly arranged to suitable countries would be the best remedy, mainly for the benefit of those leaving, but also for that of those left behind. In support of this view, he may refer to the Statistical Account of the parish of Kilmuir, drawn up in 1840 by the late Rev. Alexander MacGregor, a well-known and much respected minister. The following is a quotation:
—The primary cause of the late destitution was a redundancy of population, occasioned by an injudicious system of management. The error of the system of management lay in the frequency of early and improvident marriages, encouraged by the introduction of the lotting system, which in its turn gave rise to bad husbandry.The writer then refers to the various causes which afterwards aggravated their poverty, and afterwards remarks
—The only preventive remedy is to reduce the population by a Government system of emigration.In the accounts of various other Skye parishes the same remedy is suggested. If the Government should think proper to advance money for land improvements, of course so much the better for Skye. As to the idea that destitution may, in future, be averted by spreading the crofter system over Skye, the writer does not agree with it. In the first place, even if the proprietor could be induced to exchange a certain rent, payable by one tenant, for a less rent payable by a number of tenants, how as a rule are the tenants to provide the necessary stock? Secondly, should they manage such, the relief would just be of a temporary character, for the system would carry its results with it, until ultimately all Skye in crofterland would find itself as it is now seen in the townships. Major Fraser believes the disturbed state of things in Skye very much due to agitation in consequence of late events in Ireland, non-vindication of the law in certain parts of Skye, and bod seasons, whilst lately their hopes have been much raised by expectations of certain changes. Major Fraser regrets very much having had to write at all on the subject, as he would much rather have avoided all public controversy on it, having a personal liking for his tenantry, none of whom he has known to speak of him hitherto as one or two appear to have done lately. However, as his property in common with others has been so much touched on, he has endeavoured to reply in a quiet way, and he hopes accurately.—19th May 1883.
I have also a statement by the valuator, which I may read,—the man who was employed to value the lands at Kilmuir. Statement by William Malcolm, Farmer, Crook, in the County of Nairn.
—At the request of Major Fraser, I examined in 1876 the smaller holdings on his estate of Kilmuir, Skye, with a view of readjusting rents. In doing so, I consulted parties resident in Skye, and competent to judge the values of such subjects, and I found that on inspection these values bore no comparison with those of such subjects in the part of the country where I reside. The miserable system of cultivation, and the great loss and waste of land, struck me very forcibly at the time; and I considered that, even in these circumstances, the respective holdings were well worth the rents put upon them. The soil in Kilmuir is good, in many places exceptionally rich, and well worth cultivation. I have no doubt it is capable of growing the best of crops, and more especially oats, the crop most needed in the district. I consider the great drawback in the crofter system (as regards Kilmuir, with which part of Skye alone I am well acquainted) is the poor way in which the land is farmed. It is impossible that the land can make any profitable return with the present system of cultivation, and I am sure that one acre properly cultivated would be of more advantage to the crofter than several acres worked as at present. I have heard many complaints made of the climate there, but on my first visit I saw splendid crops of oats at Uig, growing on land which some time previously had been improved and manured well, and wrought after a five-course shift by the proprietor, and these crops were as near maturity as any in the county of Nairn were at that time. The crops of clover, hay, and turnips were also excellent. I have no doubt the climate would be improved by draining, liming, and proper cultivation; at all events, crops would ripen much earlier, and the straw would be strengthened and hardened, instead of being, as at present it is, weak and soft and incapable of resisting wet, and the return would be more than doubled. I have read the newspaper reports of the evidence hitherto given before the Commission, and it seems to me that a great deal of it goes to show that the land is exhausted by repeated cropping. I am very sure, that if it was only farmed as it ought to be, it would not only be much improved, but it would also be susceptible of continuous cropping by proper rotation. I cannot help thinking that it would be a good thing if the present holdings were either increased or lessened. If made larger, the holders should have land sufficient to enable them to keep a pair of horses to do their work, and the holders should be bound to farm after some approved system of cropping; or if lessened, the holders should be located near the sea, and if provided with proper boats and materials, and land sufficient to grow potatoes and vegetables, and keep, say for a cow or a few pigs (thus making the sea their principal stay), I am sure they would in the end be more comfortable and prosperous. I would farther add, that whatever amount of land any one has should be all cultivated yearly, and instead of what is called the lazy-bed system, that on part of it clover and grass seeds should be regularly sown and turnips grown, which would not only improve the condition of the land, but be of great service (in feeding in the winter season) the stock summered on their grazings, and on which at present they seem so much to depend. The style of cropping now carried on I consider a loss to all concerned; but I have no doubt that if the estate were cultivated fairly well, it would grow corn for sale after supplying its own population. The present holders, with whom I sympathise, and whose best interests I have in view in these statements, are very far behind so far as farming is concerned, and with their present appliances and knowledge of farming are, many of them, after a great amount of labour to themselves, scarcely above want. They would require therefore to be assisted and taught to till their lands properly, which would put them in a better position, than if they held the land for nothing, working it as they now do. This would be the means of growing a greatly increased amount of food for home consumption, and in my opinion be the first thing to briug about plenty and contentment amongst the people.—
WILLIAM MALCOLM. Nairn, 19th May 1883.
8287. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was this the person who made both valuations?
—No; it was not he who valued in 1856; it was Mr Munro.
8288. The Chairman.
—Was this the second valuation?
8289. On which the last increase of rent was founded?
—Yes. The first was in 1856, and I think the second was in 1876.
8290. And then there was a small increase?
—Of 5s., to provide partly for the doctor, the proprietor himself paying the remainder. I beg also to
submit the following Notes on Kilmuir, 1882:
—'As showing how little the parish of Kihnuir has progressed in point of rental from early times
to this date, as compared with the county of Inverness at large, and thus indicating what scope there may be yet in store for its future development, the following comparison is given. It appears that the valuation roll of the whole couuty in the year 1644, exclusive of the burgh of Inverness, amounted in pounds Scots to £132,225, 17s. 8d., the rental in 1881, in pounds sterling, and exclusive of railways and canals, amounting to £322,873, 17s. 9 d.; increase from pounds Scots to pounds sterling from 1644 to 1881 being about 144 per cent. Now in 1644 the valuation roll of the parish of Kilmuir amounted in pounds Scots to just £3866, 13s. 4d., whilst in 1881 it amounts in pounds sterling to £5827,10s. 6d., being an increase from pounds Scots to pounds sterling of only 50 per cent., as against 144 on the part of the whole county. For further information on the subject, vide an interesting little work on the Land Statistics of Inverness, Ross, and Cromarty, by Hugh C. Fraser, Inverness, from which the above information as to the valuation of 1644 is taken. It may be mentioned that Skye, until railway communication was opened up a few years ago to Strome Ferry, was, as compared with many parts of Inverness-shire, very remote; whilst farm husbandry in the island has to a great extent gone on much in the old way, which applies very much to Kilmuir, that parish having only recently been opened up by good roads. It may be also added that in the olden time Kilmuir parish formed a much more important district than of late. Duntulm Castle, known as the ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles, occupied its position in the northern extremity of the parish, whilst a noted monastery, dedicated to St Columba, stood on an island on Loch Columkill, not far from the present residence of Monkstadt, which became the mansion of the Macdonald estates on Duntulm Castle being disused. These great places had their smaller surroundings, and it was probably in part owing to all such, in conjunction with the fact of there being such a great extent of good land throughout the parish, that much attention was at one time drawn to it, whilst the decrease of the importance of the neighbourhood has for a time, perhaps, caused the district to be now comparatively less known and inquired after, unless by those interested in the sheep and cattle of the district, and by travellers visiting Quiraing and other spots of interest in that picturesque neighbourhood. It was thus that, owing to its early fame, an attempt was made in 1598 to improve the lands of Kilmuir by letting such to an influential Lowland Company, and which transaction might have been attended with good results, were it not that succeeding feuds betwixt the clans of Macdonald and Macleod desolated the district, and in time put an end to the arrangement. Such, indeed, was the character of Kilmuir as an arable district, that it was formerly known as the Granary of Skye.It is so referred to by Pennant, who travelled through it in the year 1772, and it was on his way there that, passing through Uig, he noticed the heavy crops waving with the breeze, and thus described that place as laughing with corn.As to Loch C'olumkill, it is now drained, its former bed forming an expanse of rich alluvial soil, annually yielding great crops of hay. The lake extended to nearly 300 acres; the work of draining it became a heavy one during the years it occupied, the outlet from what was lake to the sea being nearly a mile in length, whilst part of it is 35 feet deep, and '114 feet wide at the top, gradually sloping in to 9 feet wide at the bottom. Dean Munro, in his work of 1594, refers to the "fertile land in Skye excelling aney uther ground for grassing and pastoures;" whilst Martin, who writes in 1716, in remarking on the arable land in parts of Skye, speaks of the soil as “very grateful to the husbandman," and mentions the great returns of oats and barley that he heard of in certain places. He also speaks of a Lochuge as a proper place for settling a magazine or colony,being one of the places most abounding with fish. MacCulloch, in his instructive work of 1824, also refers to the Plain of Kilmuir, emphatically called the Granary of Skye. Perhaps the most exhaustive work on the agriculture of the Hebrides yet published is that drawn up under the direction of the Board of Agriculture in the year 1811. The following is an extract from it:
—"In parish of Kilmuir, in the the district of Totternish, there are 4000 acres of as fine loam and clay upon a gravelly bottom as are to be found in Scotland. With good management, that land would, in Skye, be worth three guineas per acre, in East Lothian five. Some fields have been under crops of barley and oats without any rest for twenty years, and with scarcely any manure. The whole district is admirably calculated for turnip husbandry, and for the established rotations of crops on the best of soils.It may be added, that the system of farming generally pursued continues much the same as it was in 1811, and consequently portions of the land have since been almost continuously kept under grain crops, still producing very much better returns than could possibly be expected under such a mode of agriculture. Also, owing to circumstances, the lands generally are not at present laid out to best advantage, but when this is remedied, and a general system of improvement is entered upon, much may be hoped for under it, and the present revenues of the district will then prove no criterion of what they may be brought to, whilst the agricultural and fishing populations may expect to reap as much benefit from the works to be carried out, as may accrue to the employers from their labour. Should any of the minerals prove workable, or should any works be started,—such as the manufacture of Roman cement, as has been already proposed, or of porcelain, —such of course would form invaluable sources of industry in the district. As to harbours, that of Uig, by the erection of suitable quays, might be converted into an excellent one for general purposes; that of Duntulm, overlooked by the ruins of the old castle, is also available, as well as that of Cuidrach, the present residence being on its north side; whilst Castle Uistean lies to the south of it, not far from the ruin of Peinduin, also on the same farm, and once the residence of Flora Macdonald.The following is a state of the acreage of the farms and townships and average rents per acre, payable by the tenants in cumuloon the estate of Kilmuir, which includes the parish of Kilmuir and a division of the parish of Snizort, also the average rents per acre of the large tenants, or tenants of farms, and the average rents per acre of the small tenants, or tenants of townships :—
A R P
Farms, Arable, &c 4,561 2 33
Farms, Pasture, &c 17,882 2 26
22,444 1 19
Townships, Arable &c 4,149 1 0
Townships, Pasture &c 18,402 3 11
22,552 0 11
44,996 1 30
Practically, then, the estate consists of say 45,000 acres, of which say one-half or 22,500 acres, are possessed as farms, and other 22.500 acres as townships. The rental of 22,500 acres of farms, as from Whitsunday 1881 to Whitsunday 1882, is £4071/15/0 and rental of 22,500 acres of townships is £3000/6/6. Thus the whole estate pays per acre rather under. £0/3/1¾
The farms pay rather under £0/3/7½
The township pay exactly £0/2/8
About one-fifth of the land of the farms is arable, whilst the proportion of the arable land of the townships is rather less, being betwixt a fifth and a sixth, but nevertheless much more land is tilled by the small tenants than by the large ones, so much of the arable land on the large farms being kept under grass.
8291. Will you have the kindness to state the names of those for whom you are factor at the present moment?
—I act for Lord Macdonald, M'Leod of M'Leod, Major Fraser of Kilmuir, Mr Macdonald of Skeabost, Mr Macalister of Strathaird.
8292. Are the system of management and the scale of rental upon these various estates homogeneous and similar, or do they vary a good deal?
—On the estate of Kilmuir of course the rents have been raised, on the others I may say they are similar.
8293. You think there is no essential difference in the scale of rental between the Macdonald and the M'Leod estates and the other two you have mentioned?
—I don't think it; nothing essential.
8294. And with reference to evictions and changes, you think the practice of these estates are nearly identical?
8295. You state that a reduction of rental on the Macdonald estates was effected in the year 1830 to the extent of 25 per cent.; what was the cause of the reduction at that time?
—I believe that before then the prices of cattle were higher.
8296. You think that the reduction at that time had reference to a change in the value of produce?
—Of cattle; in fact, I know it was so.
8297. Then subsequent to that there was a slight rise of 4 or 5 percent.?
—Yes; that was the rise made by Macdonald, Tormore, which has been so much spoken of. _
8298. What was the cause that prompted that small addition to the rental?
—I have no doubt that Mr Macdonald, Tormore, thought that when other proprietors throughout the country were getting very much larger rises, surely Lord Macdonald was entitled to 4 or 5 per cent. He was a good practical judge of land too, and believed the lands to be worth it.
8299. You have stated, therefore, that in the year 1830 there was a great diminution of rent, and that there has been subsequently a small augmentation of rent. In the course of our inquiry, certainly with reference to the Macdonald estates, the question of rent was not voluntarily or prominently brought forward by the delegates whom we examined; but what was commonly alleged was this, that, though the rent had not been raised, there had been a gradual deterioration in the quality of the soil, in the productive power of the soil. If that was the case, what was a reasonable or low rental formerly, might now be a high rental. Do you think there has been practically a considerable deterioration in the productive power of the soil in the smaller crofts?
—I think so.
8300. Very great?
—Very considerable, on account of bad farming.
8301. But is it also not in some degree owing to the smallness of the arable part of the croft, which does not enable the crofter to allow the soil to rest?
—Probably that cause effects it too, but I understand that in other parts of the country, where the crofts are fully as small, a system of rotation of cropping regularly goes on—in other parts of the north.
8302. But still you think there has been a deterioration of the soil?
—Yes, from excessive cropping.
8303. You attribute the smallness of the crofts to two causes—partly to the introduction at a remote period of additional tenants upon the crofting area, but chiefly to the subdivision in consequence of the multiplication of families?
8304. Whatever the source is, there has been an increase of population upon the area?
8305. And your cure for that is emigration?
—I leave that to the Commission.
8306. But the remedy which you principally recommend is emigration?
—I can see my way to no other.
8307. Now, with reference to the size of crofts, a very frequent complaint to us has been not only the small size of crofts —the small area of the arable —but the insufficient amount of common pasture, and the withdrawal at various periods of common pasture from the township. Do you think that there has been in past times an inconsiderate withdrawal of the common pasture from the townships in many cases?
—I do not think it was inconsiderate, because the tenants could not at the time stock it. They were poor, and when sheep became valuable they were not able to compete with other persons who wanted the land, and on that account the tenants were not able to take up the pasture lands and to stock them.
8308. But I am not speaking of pasture lands which were unstocked. I am speaking of lands which were actually the common pasture of the township at the time they were withdrawn. Do you think that in those times the common pasture was withdrawn, or diminished, really because there was not a proper stock upon it, or do you think it was for the benefit of the large farms, and for a better rent?
—I think a better rent than the small tenants could give for it was to be obtained from the large tenants, and that consequently the small tenants lost it. I think that is the real reason; and they could not stock it at that time.
8309. They could not stock it in the superior manner in which the large farmer could?
—No. They were very poor at that time generally —the small tenants throughout Skye. I may say I am only talking from hearsay—what I have read and what I have heard from others. Of course, I have
no personal knowledge of this, but what I have stated is what I have been told.
8310. But we wish to benefit by your general opinion, and it is to elicit your general impression that I am speaking. At any rate, in many cases the common pasture has been diminished or withdrawn, and the township has proportionally suffered. Without contemplating at present the substitution of small farming for large farming altogether, do you think it possible or not that in many cases the hill pasture of the township might be increased again—might be expanded by the addition of a portion of a farm, for instance, at the conclusion of a lease, without any great sacrifice to the proprietor, and without the destruction of the sheep farm itself?
—I believe it could not be done without sacrifice to the proprietor. I believe that thoroughly. At the same time, I know that many proprietors in Skye are ready to make a sacrifice.
8311. Then you think that at a proper period, on proper occasions, portions of the large farms might still be withdrawn and restored to the township with such a sacrifice to the proprietor as a benevolent man would be willing to undergo ?
—I believe so —that they will be restored—the only coudition being that the tenants can show that they are able to stock it.
8312. And that is the course of policy which in proper cases you as an experienced factor would be inclined to advise ?
—It is, but it is for individual proprietors to determine whether they are going to make a loss or not. I know some proprietors would be ready to make the loss, because they can afford it. I know that other proprietors cannot afford it, and would not be so ready, though equally benevolent.
8313. But, Mr Macdonald, you yourself are a proprietor, and you have the sympathies and the feelings of that class. I understand your own feeling would be rather in favour of it ?
—Yes, I would like to do it.
8314. With reference to fixity of tenure, that term has been used by the delegates examined before us, and we think that various meanings are attached to the term, and sometimes with a very indistinct understanding of what it really means. We have not found that they all think that the land is to be given to them for ever, or for an indeterminate number of years. One delegate was so moderate as to say that he thought a fifteen years lease would satisfy him. Others have spoken of a longer term. Do you think it would be possible —a certain portion of land being restored to the townships —to offer the townships and the individual crofters those lands under certain stipulations on long leases ?
—I believe it would be quite possible.
8315. Do you think, for instance, if security of tenure to the extent of twenty-one or thirty yearslease were granted to those people, with stipulations for improvement, that they would enter upon this duty with a desire and resolution to perform their part ?
—I am rather doubtful of that in many cases. I know the experiment was tried before on the Macdonald estates. Leases were granted, containing these stipulations about improvement, about fifty years ago, and some of the leases are now lying in my office, but I am aware the stipulations were never carried out. However, there has been such an advance in public opinion and intelligence on the part of the tenants that I think it ought now to be tried again, and though it did not succeed before, I think it might succeed now, and it ought to be tried.
8316. Then you would advise not only an attempt to restore a portion of the common hill pasture, but you would advise a restoration of certain portions of arable ground, with stipulations for improvemeut and a lease?
—Well, there has not been much arable ground taken from them. I do not think they complain of that. It is the hill pasture they complain of, and I would certainly wish to see in some cases where the proprietor consents to it, and could do it —I would like personally to see the tenants getting the hill pasture, and entering on leases with these stipulations.
8317. Then the improvements to be made under the stipulations you refer to would have to be made upon the old arable of the croft, or would you allow them to break up a new portion ?
—I would allow them to break up as much as might be fixed by the lease; and I think it ought to be
extended, as it certainly might be in many parts of Skye, so as to give more room.
8318. With reference to evictions, will you have the kindness to state whether under your own administration there have been any evictions except for non-payment of rent upon those particular estates which you manage?
—I have only seen two or three evictions forcibly carried out by the officers of the law for the last twenty years, so far as I can remember, and these were for misbehaviour, and the parties becoming a nuisance to their neighbours, and being complained of.
8319. Do you, in your own personal recollection, remember any evictions from croftersground, for the purpose of adding that ground to a tack ?
—Well, I have seen the tenants of Glen Uig voluntarily going at the request of the proprietor, but they were not turned out by officers, nor was any force used. I have seen them removed to other parts of the estate, but, except these, I am not aware I have seen any.
8320. But without going so far as legal proceedings, I presume that those persons who were removed from their crofts went under some measure of constraint ?
—Well, I have no doubt they did, but they agreed to go, and they went quietly. I have not the least doubt they were unwilling to go, but they agreed to go, and they went.
8321. Were they provided for by being placed in other townships, involving a subdivision of ground, or were they placed upon new lands?
—I don't think they were placed upon new lands. I was not the factor then, but my recollection is that some of them got vacant lots on other parts of the estate. My recollection is—and I don't think I am wrong—that there was an emigration at that time, and that there were some vacant lots. I know that in other cases lots were subdivided. I believe they were, but I don't remember very accurately about it, though I know very generally that there were not any new lands placed under crofters at that time.
8322. You have spoken under a very strong sense of the dangers and evils of subdivision. Have you ever known cases in which small crofts became vacant by natural causes, and in which those small crofts were consolidated with other crofts so as to make them larger ?
—I have known a few, but it is very difficult, because the tenants press us so much that we sometimes yield and just allow them to have them as they were before. We wish as a general rule estates to increase the holdings, and to add a vacant lot to the next lot if possible, but we found great difficulty about doing so.
8323. You state that in your opinion subdivision should be prevented or prohibited by positive enactment. Would you extend that principle so far as to provide that in any case of evacuation of very small crofts, these should be added to other crofts so as to make them of good size ?
—No, I don't think so
8324. You would not go so far as that ?
—No, I don't think so.
8325. You would only prevent further subdivision ?
—Yes, I would allow increase, but not lessening.
8326. Do you not think it might be desirable sometimes, in case of a small croft becoming vacant, that it should be obligatory to add that to another small one so as to make a good croft ?
—I think that would be an excellent thing, but I am so much impressed with the difficulty of preventing subdivision, that I should like to see a very strict enactment on the subject. It would, no doubt, lead to harshness, but really no man, unless he is a man of iron altogether, can prevent subdivision among Highland crofters.
8327. You have no desire at all, I see, that the class of the crofting population should be abolished from the country ?
—Certainly not. I should be the last to see my fellow-countrymen ill-used in any way.
8328. You wish for various reasons of public policy and kindness, to see the class retained and improved ?
—I should like to see their condition improved and retained. Personally, I do wish that.
8329. And you think it might be improved perhaps in some degree by those tentative measures to which you have alluded ?
—I think so.
8330. But do you think that those tentative measures of internal improvement could only be efficacious if supported by a good system of emigration ?
—I think so. I know that those who are better off in the country —such a class of Skyemen as I belong to myself —always go abroad, and they generally succeed abroad, and I do not see why the crofters, who are much poorer, do not try the same thing on a much larger scale than they do at present.
8331. We have been very much struck by the unanimity of feeling against emigration. We have never found, I think, almost in a single case, any witness or delegate admit that it is a desirable thing or an alternative that he would select. We are aware that in Skye there have been many emigrations, and that in many parts of Scotland the people have no disinclination to emigrate. Do you think the reluctance to contemplate emigration at this moment is natural to the people, or do you think it has been insinuated into their minds with the view of obtaining greater concessions in their own country?
—I think it is to a great extent natural. I think that the natural desire to remain in Skye has been increased by agitators and others, but I know it is very natural to the people of Skye to wish to remain in Skye, and not to emigrate.
8332. We have very frequently heard the delegates say that for many years past no corn has been carried from the crofts to their mills. One crofter said that on the Macdonald estate there was not a single mill going. But you have brought forward many examples of mills which you state to be in going order. Are they actually going ?
—Well, when the harvest is reaped, they will be going. They are in working order.
8333. You mean they are ready to be worked ?
—They actually do grind corn, but of course the past season was a bad one, and there was little ground. They are really bona fide going mills, as bona fide as any other mills.
8334. Might it not be that the cessation of grinding corn in the country is partly owing to the fact that the description of corn which they grow may be more profitably employed in feeding stock, or for some other purpose?
—I believe so to a great extent, and partly owing to the bad seasons, when there was less corn actually to grind or in existence for any purpose. Your Lordship was perfectly right in saying that the tenants
fìnd it pays better to give the sheaves, just as they stand, to the cattle, and to buy meal rather than to grind the corn.
8335. Are the mills of which you spoke generally associated with crofts ? Has the miller got a croft, or does he stand on his business as a miller?
—He generally has a croft.
8336. Does he pay a distinct rent for his mill and water privilege ?
—Yes, as a rule.
8337. What sort of rent does an ordinary country miller pay?
—From £10 to £20 sometimes.
8338. Irrespective of his croft?
—No, including the croft.
8339. What do you think the miller's rent is for the building, machinery, and so on?
—It is extremely small. In some cases, I think the croft is worth the rent, and in other cases I think the mill rent alone may be about £10, but there are millers present here who can tell.
8340. We have heard a great deal about quarrels between the crofters and the tacksmen, with reference to trespasses of their respective stocks. Do you think that the tacksman trespasses more on the crofters, or that the crofters trespass more on the tacksman, or does it depend on the lie of the ground?
—It depends on the lie of the ground.
8341. In particular cases?
—In particular cases, but they both complain.
8342. We have had a great number of complaints from the crofters as to their cattle or sheep being impounded, and the expense they have been put to. Now, on the whole, with a view to the balance of advantages and disadvantages, do you think that the crofters would prefer to have a fence put round their hill pasture in most cases, or do you think they would rather run the chance of gaining a little pasture?
—It depends entirely on circumstances. I know that in some cases the crofters have positively objected to put up a fence, and would not allow it. In other cases, I know the crofters and tacksmen are both anxious for a fence. I can specify instances of both sides of the matter.
8343. Have you in the course of your administration put up in various cases march fences between the crofters grazing and the tacksman ?
—I do not remember at present of having done so; but there is one on Major Fraser's estate that is about to go on, and there are various others in contemplation to which I, as factor, am distinctly favourable, as I think there ought always to be a fence between crofterslands and tacksmen's lands.
8344. And that you think, on the whole, should be a wire fence?
—A wire fence. I think it would be a distinct advantage, and would prevent a great deal of bad feeling or trouble.
8345. Would you go so far as to say that it would be desirable to give the township, acting as a whole, a right at law to claim the erection of a fence as against the tacksman or proprietor, the township contributing to the cost of putting it up?
—I think, if there was any such right it should be a mutual right.
8346. A right on the part of the tacksman as against the crofter, and on the part of the crofter as against the tacksman or proprietor?
—Yes, I think that might do good.
8347. With reference to the deer forest of Sconser, we had complaints that the deer infested the croftersarable ground and inflicted losses upon, them. It was not stated before us on that occasion that there was a deer fence round the croftersland?
—I erected a fence last year round the Sconser arable lands, which I certainly understood was quite sufficient to keep out the deer, and I understood the tenants themselves were of that opinion too. There has been a fence actually erected round there, and I am now in the course of erecting a fence to keep out the deer round the township of Torrin, in Strath, who also complain of the deer visiting them occasionally.
8348. But speaking after experience on the subject, is the Sconser fence sufficient to keep the deer out or not?
—I believe it is. I never heard it was not: but if we find it is not sufficient we must improve it, because we really do wish honestly and efficiently that those tenants should not be troubled by deer at Sconser.
8349. How long has the deer forest been in existence?
—There has been a forest there from time immemorial.
8350. But it was enlarged and improved, I think you said, about 1830?
—No, that was the time I got the tenants names in the books. I think these three townships were removed on account of the forest later than that, but I do not know the exact time.
8351. Not much later?
—Not much later; perhaps up to 1840.
8352. Then the forest has remained unfenced for about forty years?
—Yes, it was never fenced.
8353. Have there been frequent complaints made during those forty years?
—Not very frequent; an occasional complaint. I know that Lord Macdonald has been very anxious for a long time that the tenants should not be disturbed by the deer, and that he occasionally gave sums
voluntarily to people on the estate who complained of trespass.
8354. At any rate, whether the fence at this moment is efficient or not, you say that it is the desire of the landlord and of yourself that the tenants should be freed from all subject of complaint on this score?
—Yes; that is to say, the tenants of Colliemore and Torrin, who are the tenants most exposed.
8355. You spoke of a fence round the inner boundary or arable. Don't you think that in the case of a deer forest, it would be desirable to give the crofters the right of claiming a fence for the outer verge of their common pasture too?
—That would be an enormous expense, and I do not know that the advantages would compensate for it, because deer fences are very expensive indeed.
8356. We have heard it stated that the crofters are sometimes prohibited from going upon the common pasture at particular seasons of the year, for fear of disturbing the deer in some measure?
—Very often, when we let our lands to English sportsmen, they come down and they say all sorts of
things which we don't sanction or approve of, but which we cannot prevent them saying; but we proprietors do not wish or authorise any such statements to be made to our tenants, and they are very seldom made, and the tenants have other advantages which far more than counterbalance a few words said occasionally on the hill-side.
8357. Well, we may be ready to admit that in some degree, but if you state that the deer forest is let to English tenants, or tenants from outside whom you are not always able to control, would that not be a reason for giving the township the right of insisting upon a fence round the hill pasture? That would surely remove all complaiuts?
—The deer sometimes come upon the hill pasture of the tenants themselves, and the sportsmen have the right to follow them there as well as on the forest.
8358. Have the sportsmen under their tacks a right to follow the deer upon the common pasture of the township ?
—I know that they generally do it. As to the legal right of the matter I am not quite certain, but I never heard any question or difficulty arising from that.
8359. You have said that it would be a just and useful thing to give the township a right of insisting on a march fence being put up as against the sheep of the tacksmen?
8360. Don't you think it would also be an equitable thing to allow the township to claim a fence as against the shooting tenant and the deer?
—Well, I have had experience of evils arising from the one thing, but I have had no experience of evils arising from the other, so I am not prepared to give a distinct answer upou the point, but my impression is rather that the expense of deer fences would be so enormous, for all the advantage to be gained, that it might scarcely be worth while. However, I have had no complaints arising from deer trespassing except upou arable ground, and I think that ought to be fenced against deer.
8361. In the statement which you made, you spoke with some warmth of what was said by the minister of Bracadale as to the want of active interest in the people on the part of proprietor and factor?
—He said we were indifferent.
8362. I think it right to remind you that that statement was made in answer to a direct personal question put to the minister by me, and the minister was bound to answer upon his conscience?
—I said I was sorry the minister was of that opinion.
8363. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said a little more?
—I know exactly what I said.
8364. The Chairman,
—I meant merely to remind you that it was the duty of the minister to answer according to his conscience?
—The minister and I are very good friends, and I don't think that anything he has said will interfere with our friendship in the least, though I was a little annoyed with it at the time.
8365. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—We have heard a great deal throughout Skye of the increasing poverty of the crofting population. You said today that you believed the majority of the crofters were able to pay their debts. Have you good grounds for that belief?
—Yes. I believe there are a great many poor crofters, but I think the majority of them are quite solvent.
8366. Do you think that many crofters in Skye have deposits in the savings bank or investments in other ways?
—I cannot answer that. I am a banker, and I consider my lips closed on that point. Unless I am
ordered and compelled to give information, I must respectfully decline to do so, on the score of duty.
8367. Then do you think that the crofters are in a better position than they used to be?
—I think they are a great deal better fed and better clothed than they were in my earliest recollection. That is my opinion. They used to feed on potatoes, and now they feed mostly on oatmeal, and I have heard many say that the people look much healthier and stronger now than they used to do. I have heard that frequently remarked.
8368. As a banker, you are not allowed to refer to the matter of deposits, but perhaps you, as a member of the public, can tell us whether the people are much indebted to the shopkeepers?
—I believe that among the crofters there are a number of people in debt, the same as there are amongst any other class in the United Kingdom.
8369. But it is said that their indebtedness is very much on the increase?
—I don't see any increase in the number of prosecutions before the Sheriff Court, or anything of that sort. In fact, I think the prosecutions are decreasing. I believe at the same time there are a great many crofters in debt to the merchants, but there are a great many who are not, and who are quite able to stand their grouud like men if put to it.
8370. Do you think that they have better stocks, or has their stock of cattle and sheep diminished of late years?
—If the whole of Skye is taken, I don't think so. I daresay the last bad year or two might have had some effect in making people sell animals which they would not otherwise have sold, but otherwise I would rather say that the stocks of crofters are increasing, or why are they wanting more land? In fact, in my experience the desire for more land has generally arisen out of increasing stocks—not always, but very often.
8371. You mentioned it was a principle that the rents of crofting lands should not be increased on the Macdonald property. What do you mean by a principle?
—-That they were not offered to competition, and that we did not wish the crofters to be set one against the other to raise the value of the lands, as big farmers are doing.
8372. You mean that it was the practice on the property not to offer the crofts to competition?
—Yes, on the principle that we wish them to be in good circumstances, and that we thought it was a good thing.
8373. On principle, you thought it right that they should be lower rented than the big farmers are ?
—I think no crofters can pay the same rent which large farmers pay; in fact, I am perfectly positive that no crofters can succeed if they pay the tacksmen's rents. It will ruin them.
8374. Even if their crofts were enlarged to the extent that would employ their whole energies ?
—I am speaking not from theory, but from what I have seen and know, and I believe they cannot pay. I don't believe that a body of them paying £12 each of rent could afford to pay the same rent that the proprietors get from tacksmen.
8375. You mentioned that certain agitators had been about the island lately, but, previous to their coming, there was a certain amount of discontent existing in the island. With reference to what did that discontent exist?
—I have never seen a tenant in my life who would confess that his rent was low. I have never met him yet. Even in cases where I have known tenants to make large fortunes, they complain of their rents, and I have all my life heard tenants complaining of their rents, and that is what I chiefly refer to.
8376. Does that discontent exist among large farmers as well as among small ones?
—All classes of agriculturists complain of that.
8377. Do you think that was the principal cause of discontent previous to the arrival of those agents of low-country societies ?
—Yes, and I have heard the crofters say that they wished they had more ground in some cases. But the other was the real substantial complaint.
8378. With reference to their demand for more space, were they not under the impression that they had been crowded together in consequence of the eviction of the crofting population in other parts of the country, or is that an impression that has been forced upon them from the south?
—I never heard much of that stated. In fact, I never heard so much of it stated as I have heard since the Commission sat, though I have heard of holdings being reduced by subdivision. I never heard so much of tenants being put in as I have heard within the last fortnight.
8379. How far back does your memory extend as a factor or assistant factor?
—I have been a factor myself since 1872, and I think I can remember about ten years before that, but I was not regularly in my father's office during all that time.
8380. You have no personal recollection of the great emigration that took place after the destitution of 1848?
—Yes, I remember it distinctly as a boy.
8381. Was that the emigration from Bracadale?
—No, I think it was from other parts.
8382. Was it from Raasay ?
—I really cannot tell, but I remember the people being here and going away; that is all.
8383. You are not able to speak on the subject?
—No, though I remember seeing the people in Portree.
8384. Do you know if that was a voluntary or a forced emigration?
—I think Mr Rainy forced his tenants away, but I am not quite sure. On the Macleod estate there were very few forced evictions.
83S5. If my recollection serves me aright, there was a large emigration from Bracadale in 1851 or 1852?
—No, I think that is a mistake, but I am subject to correction.
8386. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You seem to put a great deal of weight upon the action of outside agitators, but is it not the fact that there has been a considerable agitation and disturbance in Skye for the last three years ?
—Yes, but I think it is largely due to the action of agitators.
8387. As far back as three years?
8388. How long is it since the Valtos matter first became prominent, because I think that was the beginning of it?
—I think it was about three years ago.
8389. Have you yourself not expressed more than once verbally, and in writing, the importance of an inquiry being made into the grievances or alleged grievances of the people in Skye?
—I am not aware.
8390. Did you or did you not write to Macleod of Macleod that it was highly important that an investigation and inquiry should be made more than twelve months ago?
—I really do not remember. I never thought of a Royal Commission.
8391. I said inquiry?
—I don't remember anything about it, but I may have thought that the proprietors themselves ought to inquire.
8392. You have made a long and a very interesting statement, and made it in a very moderate and temperate way, but I find it necessary to put a few questions to you with the view of eliciting the full facts of the case. The population of Skye, I understand, is from 16,000 to 17,000?
8393. You hold a great number of offices yourself?
—Yes, I do.
8394. Am I wrong in saying that of that population of 17,000, more than 15,000 are under you in one form or other ?
—My experience has been that they are above me.
8395. You have detailed the different estates upon which you are factor. Will you mention the names of those in Skye for which you are not factor or agent?
—I am not factor for Glendale, Waternish, Raasay, Lyndale, Grishornish, Orbost, Edinbane, and Husabost.
8396. Will you be kind enough to mention the offices you hold in Skye, in Portree in the first place, and then over the parishes?
—I hold a number of offices.
8397. Will you state them?
—I am a bank agent and solicitor, and I was elected clerk of the Portree school board. I am also distributor of stamps and collector of taxes. I think that is all in Portree, so far as I remember.
8398. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—And captain of volunteers?
—I am captain of volunteers, and I hold a number of minor offices.
8399. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I speak of offices of remuneration. Of how many school boards in Skye are you a member?
—I have been freely elected a member of the Stenscholl school board, the Kilmuir school board, the Duirinish school board, the Strath school board, and the Bracadale school board.
8400. Are you clerk to any of those boards also?
—Yes, I am clerk and treasurer, but I get no pay. I get pay where I am not a member of the board. I am paid in Snizort, and I am paid in Portree; and the parish of Bracadale gives me a small sum for my outlays, but nothing for my trouble. In the other parishes I discharge the duties without fee or reward, and they are very troublesome and very responsible.
8401. With regard to roads, are you clerk to any of the district roads?
—No, I am not clerk.
8402. Have you anything to do with the roads?
—I am collector. I was elected by the road trustees as collector.
8403. You are paid for that?
—Yes; I get £15 a year for that.
8404. What staff have you got to help you?
—I have six or seven clerks.
8405. How many hours a day do you attend at your office?
—Well, I am at my work generally from tea in the morning till one next morning and sometimes two. I think I have worked as hard as any working man in the north of Scotland. I work very hard.
8406. Do you think you are capable of doing justice to all those estates and to all those thousands under you?
—As I have explained, those thousands are above me, but I don't think the tenants themselves have
complained very much of me on the whole; and my constituents, so far as I know, are satisfied with my endeavours.
8407. Are you pleased yourself?
—I daresay, if I were asked, I am not a bit more pleased than the croftars are.
8408. There is an estate from which no delegates have appeared, the estate of Treaslan. That is the only case from which we have received no delegates?
—Yes, and I am very proud of my tenants, and very much obliged to them.
8409. With regard to the estate of Strathaird, you stated that you were very anxious to improve the position of the people of Elgol?
—Yes; they are very nice people, and I should like to see them have more land.
8410. Are you not aware they are uncomfortably crowded for the extent of land?
—Yes, I am quite of opinion that they should have more ground and I should be very glad to see them have Glasnakill, if they could stock it.
8411. But the present tenant has declined to do it in the meantime?
—I wrote to him twice, and he is sometimes very stiff about answering letters. I don't think he has ever said no, but he has never said yes.
8412. You are aware that the Elgol people are very anxious to get more land?
8413. Now, I come to the estate of Kilmuir, of which we have heard a good deal. It has been commonly reported that when the rents were raised in 1877, you personally were not in favour of that rise. May I ask if that is true?
—I don't think anybody ever heard me say that. I don't know that I should be asked that in my official capacity.
8414. You are not asked in your official capacity. You are here as a native of Skye, and you can answer or decline, as you like?
—Well, at the time Major Fraser resolved on having the property revalued by Mr Malcolm, I had some doubt about whether it was expedient or not, and I think I mentioned that to Major Fraser. Then I had the matter fully explained to me—that is to say, about the system of valuation, and I actually saw the basis of valuation. The basis was the old summing—Lord Macdonald's old summing before Major Fraser bought the estate. Mr Malcolm explained to me, and showed me figures, and so did Major Fraser, to the effect that every cow on the estate on an average was valued at about 17s. or 18s., the lowest being 15s., and the highest 22s., but that 22s. was only on a few of the best in the township, and I should say that the average was 17s. or 18s. Every sheep was valued at 2s., and every horse at £1. The arable was valued at from 5s. to 7s. per acre; in some few cases. I think it was 10s., but the average would be 7s. These were all added together, and that made the rent, and nothing but that. When that was explained to me, I thought it was not at all dear, and that there was nothing excessive in it—in fact, that there were other rents in Skye quite as high, and that it was a fair rent —so any doubts I had about the matter were removed. There was a further test, viz., that the tenants were offered, if they were dissatisfied that Major Fraser would make any one of them, who thought it was too high, a present of two years of the increased rent if he wished to remove. Whatever doubt I had before was removed when I saw all this, and I thought that the rents were not excessive.
8415. Are you aware that the rental of Kilmuir was raised very considerably since the time Major Fraser acquired it ?
—Of course it was, but it was the best land in Skye.
8416. Will you mention how much it rose from the time he got it until now Ì Was it £3000 a year ?
—I would be very glad to mention the sum, but I don't remember.
8417. Am I wrong in stating that it was £3000 a year?
—I really would prefer to be accurate, and to hand in a slip about it.
8418. Can you specify anything he did that tended to the permanent improvement of the crofters except making some drains, fences, and roads?
—I know that this year there has been a very large expenditure there—several hundred pounds. Some crofters said there was scarcely anything spent at all. Every year there is a very considerable xpenditure on the estate.
8419. That is all very well in the matter of wages. That is a temporary advantage; but I am speaking of permanent advantage to the people in regard to their crofts. Can you specify anything to any extent that was done to benefit them permanently ?
—I should like to have a little time to consider that question, because I cannot answer it all at once. I know he did a good deal in the way of water-courses and bridges, and so on, and as I mentioned, he took a very large interest in the Skye railway, which was for the benefit of his tenants. It was entirely for that that he took it, and not for profit.
8420. I daresay the people who took shares in that railway did it for the benefit of their country, for they never got a dividend?
8421. It has been held up as a sign that Kilmuir was not over-rented, that the rents were regularly paid at a certain date, and that there were no arrears. We have also heard an explanation of that, namely, that no payment to account of rent would be taken. Was that true or was it not?
—That was the rule of the estate, and I think it is a very excellent rule in dealing with crofters—not to be rigidly adhered to, but an excellent rule for the sake of the crofters themselves —because if some of them are allowed they will fall into arrear, and have ultimately to be evicted, and I have found that the best thing for the tenants, if they are at all able, is to make them pay the rent every year as it goes.
8422. Was it you who established that rule, or was it made before your time ?
—Before I became factor it was a rule, and I think it is a very excellent rule, and it is one that I would always follow, although not rigidly.
8423. It was not a rule upon Kilmuir when Kilmuir belonged to the Macdonalds?
—I don't know, but I don't think so, because I see Mr Coll Macdonald says that the administration of the Macdonald estates has been extremely mild, and the utmost kindliness shown to the tenants, though we have not heard anything of it from the tenants during the sitting of this Commission, or almost anything.
8424. I daresay it is a good rule though it may work hardly, and apparently it did work hardly, because we have been told that in order to meet the rent on the rent day the crofters were obliged to discount bills at the bank, and not only to pay the rate of discount at the time, but also to pay people who became security so much in the pound for becoming security. I suppose you knew nothing of that at the time?
—I was hearing it.
8425. When did you hear it for the first time?
—I have always heard there were bill discounters in the country, but the same thing occurs—perhaps not so much —upon all estates, whether they have to pay the year's rent or not, though not to the same extent.
8426. Were you aware that the crofters had to pay something to the guarantor who signed the bill along with them?
—Yes, but I have frequently heard the people who signed the bills deny that they ever got a farthing.
As a general rule they said they did not, and the crofters said they did.
8427. You quoted very considerably the prices about the years 1773 and 1811, and so on, in regard to the value of stock, and how stock has risen; don't those prices really apply to what you may call first class cattle, the cattle of the big tacksmen, and not to those of the crofters, which, we understand, are worth very little ?
—They get excellent prices for them.
8428. But don't the statistical accounts which you refer to apply to the tacksmen's cattle?
—I don't think so. They are the average prices of cattle, and the cattle held in those days were very inferior and much lower in value as compared with the class of cattle now held generally by crofters, especially on the estate of Kilmuir, where the crofterscattle are particularly good.
8429. You gave a quotation from Mr Coll Macdonald's account; did you know anything about Mr Macdonald ?
—I knew him well.
8430. Was he himself a large tacksman ?
—No. I think he had the farm of Toteashaig, a small farm. He was a man respected in the parish in his own day, and he was highly respected by the crofters.
8431. You also quoted from the minister of Duirinish as to the rate of wages; are you aware that the minister of Duirinish denounced in the most distinct manner the creation of those large farms ?
—I did not read that; I was only looking to the rate of wages, and I only referred to him incidentally. I myself remember a shilling a day being given.
8432. The gentleman whom I refer to says that the two great grievances were the creating of large sheep farms and the erection of a distillery?
—Well, I did not read that.
8433. You stated with regard to evictions that in your time very few changes had been carried out, and I think that is the case. But is it not a very common thing, and has it not been a very common thing in your time, for people who were in arrears of rent to get summonses of removal ?
—Well, when a man falls into arrear he is sometimes warned to remove and sometimes not. In fact, the tenants expect warning themselves if they do not pay, because they know that the condition of their holding the land is that they pay the rent.
8434. Have you not in your own day issued a very considerable number of those summonses of removal, though perhaps you did not carry them out ?
—No, I did not. A certain gentleman told me that he was going to challenge me before the Commission about the amount of money I made off removals on the different estates with which I was connected in Skye during a period of years. I accordingly took the trouble to look up the old removings which had taken place for the last ten years on the Kilmuir estate, and I find that the average of the whole ten years did not come to £5 a year, and you know that represents a very small amount of removals.
8435. What did you generally let them off for?
—8s. or 9s. A good deal depends on the distances; but I know that what was charged did not pay the expenses, and I, like other agents, always lost a good deal of money by it. The people came and made a story, and one generally was a little softened by it, and would let them off.
8436. How many law agents are there in Skye?
—There are only two at present, and I don't think I make what would keep me in tea by law. I have always discouraged law, and so did my father before me.
8437. Don't you think that in a large population of this kind matters should be a little more distributed?
—I have not the slightest objection to another agent coming here, and if he makes enough to keep him in tea I will be very much surprised.
8438. Were there more agents in Portree at one time than there are now ?
—I don't think so; not for a very long time. The law business here is really nil—next to nothing. I make a very small sum by it altogether.
8439. The law business has fallen off?
—Very much indeed.
8440. Is that because, as I think Dr Martin told us, there is no law in Skye ?
—I think it is by the discouragement which the agents here, Mr M'Lennan and myself, give to poor people. They are apt to be litigious, which we discourage very much.
8441. Is it competent for persons in Skye to take their cases to Inverness ?
—It is competent in one way, but they are generally remitted back.
8442. If there is no special cause are they generally remitted back ?
8443. So, in point of fact, the people must come to this court ?
—For sheriff court cases—small cases.
8444. You mentioned about the crofters that you were very positive they could not pay the same rent as the large farmers?
—I am very strongly of that opinion—very strongly indeed.
8445. We are told that a man who pays £4 or £5 of rent is obliged to buy 15 bolls of meal. Is that man not paying a great deal more as rent in that way than the big tacksman pays, if he pays £4 for his croft and £15 for meal ?
—I don't think it is safe to judge such matters by arithmetical calculation. I know as a positive fact that crofters cannot pay it, and no amount of arithmetical calculation will make me change my opinion. I believe my opinion will be supported by all who know anything about the matter.
8446. You mentioned also that tacks are of less value when they happen to bound or march with crofters ?
—I know that tacksmen always complain, and put some value on the trouble and bother they have.
8447. Is that the secret why so many of the crofters have been driven away here and there from pillar to post?
—Well, I have mentioned the causes which have led to the people being removed and evicted, and
perhaps that may be one of them, but I know that in my time it has never been done from that cause. We rather protect the crofters than otherwise.
8448. Suppose an estate were advertised, and it was said that there was a numerous contended and happy peasantry upon it, don't you think that would be an inducement to a purchaser ?
—Yes, but if they were crofters I would be doubtful whether it was true.
8449. Have not crofters often been obliged to give way to sheep in Skye ?
—There is no doubt that the great rise in the value of sheep has probably been the real cause of many evictions.
8450. People are rather in the way of sheep, are they not ?
—Yes, that is one way of putting it, but another and a practical way of putting it is that the crofters could not pay the rent that the tacksmen pay. The one is the practical and the other the sentimental way of putting it.
8451. Would you approve of such an advertisement as this which, appeared in an Inverness paper as an inducement—No crofters on this or the adjoining estate. Would you approve of the sentiment that dictated that ?
—So far as sentiment goes, I am a Highlander myself as much as any man, and I entertain a good deal of all these sentiments like my neighbours, and I don't like these things more than anybody else.
8452. Would you like to put your name to such an advertisement?
—Well, I don't think I would. I am just as sentimental and strong on the Highland question as any body else, though I happen to be a factor, and. I am as fond of my countrymen and country as anybody else.
8453. You gave us an account of the reasons why there was consideable poverty, and you began with bad seasons, increased expenditure among the people, subdivision, no steady labour and among the expenditure you spoke about the great increase in the consumption of tea. We have heard from some of the delegates in answer to our inquiries that the real reason for the use of tea was the scarcity of milk?
—I know I can get as much milk myself as I like, and for all that I take a great deal more tea than milk. I know people prefer tea to milk.
8454. But I am now speaking more about children than men. What about the children?
—Well, I have no doubt there is in the country sometimes a scarcity of milk for children, as there is in towns and everywhere else.
8455. We have been told by some of the delegates that their cows are so poor that they will not calve perhaps once in the three years?
—I have no doubt that the crofterscows sometimes don't have calves. Tacksmen's cows also very often don't have calves.
8456. But such a thing would be a greater misfortune to a crofter as compared to a big tacksman?
—Decidedly it is a great misfortune to a poor man for his cow not to have a calf.
8457. You spoke about having plans of the Macdonald estate, how long is it since these were prepared?
—I think about 1810 or 1811.
8458. Do these show all the arable land which is under cultivation?
—I don't think so. They show the lots.
8459. And they have a table of contents?
—Yes, they show arable, pasture, and so forth.
8460. Could you upon the Macdonald estates show us how much arable land is held by the crofters in Skye now?
—It would entail a very large amount of labour, but if the Commission would wish me to do it, I will
be very glad to do what I can.
8461. Could you give us the extent of their pasture?
—No. I could not do that, because the hill pasture has been so far interfered with. I could do it in some cases. I don't know that the plans would show it sufficiently to enable me to give it correctly, but they show the arable ground quite easily.
8462. I want to find out if I can —and it is a matter of essential importance to the inquiry—how much arable land is held by crofters at this moment, and how much arable land, partly in actual cultivation and partly out, is in the hands of the big tacksmen?
—I don't think the maps will show that, but I will be glad to do anything I can to further the objects of the Commission.
8463. Do the crofters not pay more in proportion to the extent of their lands than the big tacksmen do?
8464. Of that you are positive?
8465. How can you say that when you don't know the extent of the ground?
—It is a very easy thing to say although you cannot tell the exact number of acres. I cannot tell the exact number of inches between me and the wall, but I know it is not a thousand yards, and though I cannot tell the exact number of acres which the crofters have and the tacksmen have, I know as matter of fact that the one is much more highly rented than the other. If the crofters could pay the same rent as the large tacksmen why should they not get the ground?
8466. I echo the question, why should they not?
—They can't. They think they could pay, but they are entirely mistaken. It is nonsense. They would go to ruin in a few years if they paid the tacksmen's rents. I don't state that for any object, but as a fact.
8467. Have you any idea of the acreage of Skye altogether, roughly speaking?
—I suppose about 300,000 or 400,000 acres.
8468. And the total rental?
—From £40,000 to £50,000. I should not like to make any mistake upon that point, because the figures are capable of being accurately stated.
8469. Putting it hypothetically that the rent is £50,000, what would that be per acre?
—I may be entirely wrong.
8470. I am putting it hypothetically?
—But is it of any advantage?
8471. I want to follow it up by another question?
—But if you follow it out upon a wrong basis, where are you?
8472. I may be wrong, but you are not committed. On that hypothesis, what is the value per acre?
—I don't believe the value in Skye is 2s. per acre, but I don't know. I am not prepared for those questions.
8473. I want to put another question to you, because you think the crofters are paying so little. At a place called Cuillore in Bracadale, I understand that for about 30 acres of very poor, rocky land, which I saw with my own eyes, the crofters are paying £60?
—That is not to Macleod.
8474. But they are paying it to the tacksmen?
—Well, we have nothing to do with that. I cannot tell what these tacksmen's sub-tenants are paying.
8475. I think you stated that, in point of fact, all that should be done away with?
—I said that I personally think it would be for the advantage of the crofters that the tenant should hold direct from the landlord.
8476. I think, upon all the estates, that is coming to be more and more the case?
—Distinctly. We are this year giving a large slice —and I don't think it was mentioned before the Commission —indeed very few things except hardships were mentioned—we are giving a large slice of the fine green laud of Ulinish to the crofters in Struan, on the Macleod estate. Perhaps it was mentioned, but I did not observe it.
8477. Well that certainly was land worth getting?
—It is, —fine land.
8478. With regard to mills, are the mill dues which are charged fixed by the landlord?
—I believe they are just the old dues that had been handed down for a very long time.
8479. Are they not heavy?
—I never heard complaints about them.
8480. We have also heard a good deal of complaints about sea-ware, and things of that kind; have the Macdonald estates got right to the foreshore?
—I believe so. They are barony lands, and we have had possession from time immemorial.
8481. Does the proprietor uplift anything for sea-ware?
—It is not specially mentioned in tho rental. I fancy there is Is. or 2s. or 3s. included in the rent, but it is not mentioned in the rental, and has not been for a long time.
8482. You made use of the expression in regard to evictions or removals that they were less thought of at one time than now; what do you mean by that?
—I mean this, that public opinion has changed very much upon that point, and that people in former times did not consider it a very serious matter to remove some tenants, but now no proprietor would evict a body of tenants, or even one tenant.
8483. And is that to a great extent due to public sentiment?
—Not entirely, because the proprietorsown sentiments and feelings on the subject have probably changed just as much as the sentiments of the public.
8484. Do you know what the only proprietor whom we have yet examined said upon the subject?
—I don't know. I am a proprietor myself, and I know what I have said.
8485. I am going to read it to you. I asked Dr Martin, at Glendale,—'Are you aware that in proportion to the extent of their holdings the crofters of Skye are paying much higher rents than the large tacksmen?
—(A.) Well, I am not sure of that.
(Q.) You are not aware of it1?
(A.) I am not aware of it.
(Q.) And you do not believe it is the fact?
(A.) I do not believe it is the fact. I would give £500 to-day if all the crofters on my place went away. I would keep the paupers. I would not ask the paupers to go away.
(Q.)The Chairman. Do you mean you would give £500 in order to facilitate their establishment in America or elsewhere ?
—(A.) Elsewhere, if they leave my place, but not partially, because I would be just as bad then as I am now, because if only a few went away all these crofts would be vacant, and I would get nothing for them, but if all went away I would give £500.
Do you approve of such a sentiment as that ?
—Well, if my tenants, or any person's tenants, would not pay their rents for two or three years, I doubt very much what effect it would have upon the most humane man who ever lived, or what his sentiments would be —if his tenants kept him out of his rents for two or three years, and would not pay, and subjected him to a great deal of annoyance besides. There are some things beyond human endurance, and I think that verges very much upon it.
8486. The non-payment of rent?
—For three or four years, and annoyance besides. I know Dr Martin was subjected to that, and I know Dr Martin to be a very kind man.
8487. Well, I put a further question to him, and I asked him, 'Would it be wise for Lord Macdonald and Macleod and the other big proprietors to pay down a much larger sum than £500 for the very same purpose? and his reply was, Well, I should think it would.
—I believe that Dr Martin would not remove a single tenant on his estate though he said that. I believe he would be as reluctant as any one to remove any tenant on his estate if the rent were paid. I believe that Lord Macdonald or Macleod would not remove their small tenants for the value of their estates, and I don't believe that Dr Martin would either, though he was led into saying that.
8488. You spoke about a gamekeeper who after being a short time on the Macdonald deer forest made £3000; what was it you said in regard to that?
—I said the man was indebted to his imagination for that statement.
8489. You think it is not true?
—I don't believe a single word of it.
8490. Do you know that this man and his son have been going about
and thinking of offering for a big farm?
—I do know that, but I know more than that —namely, that another gentleman was to provide the
money for taking it and not himself, so far as I know about it.
8491. How long was the man a gamekeeper?
—He was not gamekeeper for Lord Macdonald, but was gamekeeper for Mr Wolstenholme, the tenant, and I think he was gamekeeper for ten or twelve years.
8492. Is that all you have to say about it?
—I have nothing to say except that.
8493. Do you think it is not true that in that time the man made £2000 or £3000?
—I don't believe he made that.
8494. Or any sum?
—I don't know, but I don't believe he made that.
8495. But he or some member of his family has been speaking to you for a large farm?
—Yes, but I understood he was supported by another gentleman.
8496. Do you think he would tell you as factor if he had the money?
—Well, I took him to be an honest man, and that he would not deceive me.
8497. I want to ask you one or two questions about the Macleod estates. You said something about the doctor there, and you explained that Dr Martin gives advice when asked, and that there is a doctor at Orbost?
— Dr Martin is now a very old man, and does not do much. Dr Fraser, Edinbane, gives advice, and Dr M'Lean is a most skilful man.
8498. Are you aware that Miss Macleod is dissatisfied with the state of matters in regard to the doctor?
—I don't know that I should mention any private matter, but I believe she is not satisfied with Dr Campbell being the parochial doctor.
8499. Is Miss Macleod a lady of whom it may be said in every way that her life is devoted to good works?
—Most distinctly. I know of no one of whom that may be said with more truth.
8500. And she represents the family, though they are not resident there ?
—She does in many ways —in their kindness and goodness to the tenants.
8501. With regard to the large farms, it is commonly reported all through the Highlands that in course of time the pasture on those farms gets deteriorated and becomes of less value. Is that your own observation, and do you concur in it ?
—I concur in it. The value of the sheep lands in Skye has fallen a good deal in my time.
8502. I understood you to say, in answer to Lord Napier, that you would like to see the smaller people's position very much benefited, and I want to ask you about the present large farms. Is it not a very serious matter to the proprietor when one of those big farmers gives up his farm, and no person is ready to take it ?
—It is a very serious matter, but I should mention that this year I had the farms of Suishnish and Borroraig, the rental of which is £235, advertised for nearly a year with the view of trying how small tenants would do upon them —tenants of about £30 —who, I thought, would be a good class of tenants to have. I advertised asking offers, saying that I would divide it amongst six tenants if I could get suitable offerers. Not a single tenant of that class ever came near me at all.
8503. What is the probable rent you expect ?
—Well, the present rent is £235; but I would be quite prepared to recommend its being lowered to about £200.
8504. At £30 each ?
—Yes. I was anxious that that should be tried, and I wrote to tenants who I thought would take it, but they did not seem to see the advantage of it at all.
8505. What was the length of lease that you proposed ?
—That was a thing to be arranged with the tenants.
8506. Would you give fifteen years?
—I would give fifteen years at once, if the people could stock it. I was prepared to recommend that to
Lord Macdonald if we got six tenants, but not a single creature came forward.
8507. Was the offer made public?
—I wrote out circulars about it, and advertised it on the inn at Broadford, and all through the property, and there were not six to come forward, though we had been hearing of this cry.
8508. You say with regard to crofters increasing their holdings, that some of them if they got land would be able to stock their holdings ?
8509. Don't you think, if a beginning was made with a few of those better-class ones, that their fellow crofters would be moved by a spirit of emulation to go on and do the same in time?
—I should like very much to see that. We have tried Ben Lee, and we shall see how the Braes crofters
get on there.
8510. Are you not aware that a landlord may do a very great deal for his people, and they will not pay attention, but if they see one of their fellows going a head they will not be left behind?
—Well, I should like very much to see people rising and improving in their condition, but I don't think they will do it by agitation, but by hard work and labour.
8511. We have not heard from any single delegate, however wide some of their ideas may be, that they were not ready to pay for everything they got. No one stated that they wanted anything for nothing?
—I heard one tenant at Bracadale saying he had paid plenty rent, and that it was time for him to take it easy.
8512. Are the big farmers as a rule making money? Do you find the farms go from one generation to another, or are those farmers shifting constantly, even within your own memory, which goes back now thirty years?
—Well, some who began in a very small way are now in a very large way.
8513. The Macleods, for instance?
—I think Mr Macleod, Monkstadt, is a man who has shown crofters and others what they could do if they put their shoulders to the wheel, and were clever and active.
8514. And Mr Macleod, Scudaburgh?
—He is a very clever man too.
8415. He is a man who has risen ?
8516. Can you mention any others?
—There is Mr Macdonald, Skerrinish, who has made a good deal of money, and I believe many tacksmen have made a good deal of money.
8517. Is there any case at this moment in Skye, except the Scotts of Drynoch, where the father and grandfather have been tacksmen?
8518. I don't mean such men as Mr Macdonald, Tormore, or Mr Macdonald, Ord, but Lowland sheep farmers, who hold ground which their fathers and grandfathers held?
—Of course those who came from the Lowlands are not descendants of Highland people.
8519. Can you name any Lowlander, apart from Mr Scott of Drynoch, who is now possession of his father's farm?
—I don't remember any lowlander, because we generally hold our own with them here, and they stay for a while and then they go. Generally speaking, I think I know that several have gone, because they were non-resident, and we prefer local men to non-resident Lowlanders.
8520. Are you making that a condition now?
—Distinctly. We are discouraging non-resident local tenants, which may account for their not being able to hold their own here.
8521. Mr Cameron.
—I want to ask you a very few questions, because the answers you gave to the Chairman have mostly anticipated the questions I wished to put. You mentioned something about subdividing, and you said you thought a law might judiciously be made to render subdividing illegal?
8522. I think you also stated that you are in favour of leases being granted to the crofters. Now do you think the landlords in Skye would object to having leases made obligatory, provided subdivision was made illegal?
—Well, there are so many different characters amongst the crofters that it might be injudicious to grant a lease to every crofter. There are some men who are known to be extremely litigious and others extremely troublesome to their neighbours, so that to grant leases indiscriminately would be very much objected to, and found impracticable and bad in working amongst the crofters themselves.
8523. You think then the question of granting leases should be left optional ?
—Yes, but I believe every proprietor in Skye would at once grant leases to crofters. I have myself frequently offered leases to crofters, but they seemed to be quite secure of their places in Skye, and not to care much about them.
8524. But I suppose in any case you would confine leases to crofts above a certain size?
—I think so.
8525. You say you have frequently offered leases to crofters ?
—I have, and there are a great many crofters, men of most excellent character, to whom no proprietor need have the slightest hesitation in granting leases, and there are only a few to whom I think it would not be judicious to grant leases.
8526. Have these crofters to whom you offered leases accepted your offer ?
—They never took any notice of it.
8527. Can you tell us why so few crofters sow grass seeds on their crofts ?
—I think the crofters of Skye understand agriculture very badly, and they don't see the advantage of it.
8528. Do you think it might be carried out on an average sized croft in Skye?
—I am told that in Ayrshire it is carried out in crofts of two or three acres, and I don't see why, with a moderate amount of fencing, it should not be carried out in Skye. Crofts of three or four acres could
easily be made into shifts.
8529. It has been stated, and I think truly, that the crofters have suffered a good deal in times past from not having sufficient milk for their children. Has it not been the case on the Macleod estates that of late years in several townships, where formerly the crofters had no cow's grass, they have lately been given land on which to graze a cow ?
—They have been given land at a considerable loss to the proprietor, Macleod of Macleod, and from the disposition which Macleod entertains towards his tenants I believe that more will follow of the same kind.
8530. Now, do you think, with regard to all the large tacks, that land might be taken from those farms to be given to crofters to divide into moderate sized holdings, without greatly deteriorating from the value of the large holdings ?
—I think the proprietor would lose considerably by anything of that sort—by giving the tack land to crofters; but, as I said before, I believe that most proprietors are quite willing, from regard to the people, to make certain losses.
8531. Would there not be some difficulty in letting the higher portions of a sheep farm if a great deal of the lower land were taken for crofters ?
—Most distinctly. Everybody knows that who knows anything about sheepfarming.
8532. I want to know whether some arrangement or system might not be introduced by which, where the crofters got some of the low land from the large sheep farmers, the sheep farmers might obtain the right of wintering their sheep over those crofts, and so not altogether lose the valuable land which they would otherwise lose?
—Perhaps that could be done, but really I don't know.
8533. Are you aware that on many estates on the mainland the crofters have got wintering for which the tacksman of the adjoining farm, or any farm, pays a certain price to the crofters, and the crofters derive great benefit from the sums so obtained ?
—That has not come under my notice, but I think it is a very good thing.
8534. Do you think in that way the difficulty of dividing the low ground on large tacks amongst small crofters might to a certain extent be obviated ?
—Well, it is possible, but I have not considered the subject in that light. It is a new light to me on the subject entirely.
8535. You were asked by the Chairman about enclosing the deer forest of Sconser with a wire fence, not only as regards the arable land, but also as regards the pasture occupied by adjoining townships. If the crofters had the power to demand a wire fence outside their pasture land, would it not be equally fair to any tenant, who was contiguous to the deer forest, also to demand a wire fence as against the deer forest?
—Yes, most decidedly.
8536. And if that were done would it not be almost impracticable to surround the deer forest with a fence?
—Yes, the expense of such a fence would be enormous.
8537. And I suppose deer within such a fence would cease to be wild animals. They would be like deer in a private park ?
8538. Then with regard to the tenants falling into arrears; I presume it is not the case only upon the estates with which you are connected that they should receive notice, but that on all estates in the Highlands, where tenants fall considerably into arrear, they receive notice, and some times that notice is taken advantage of, and they are removed, and at other times it is not enforced against them ?
8539. I mean, that practice is not confined to estates in Skye1?
—No; everybody wishes to get payment of his debts as well as proprietors do.
8540. You stated that you consider the produce of the soil had been considerably diminished of late years. I wish to ask you whether you think that the diminution in the productive power of the soil has been at all commensurate with the rise in the prices of stock to which you have alluded ?
—I do not think so —nothing like it —because the arable is a very small proportion of the gains of the crofter.
8541. You think he has gained far more by the rise in stock than he has lost by the deterioration of the soil ?
—Distinctly, and also the change in the value of money, and all the other circumstances connected with them. On most estates in Skye, rents have not been raised for the last sixty or seventy years.
8542. Have the millers, in consequence of the diminished demand for grinding corn, never asked for any reduction of rent of their mills ?
—Major Fraser voluntarily granted a reduction of 25 per cent, to the miller on his estate. I don't know of any other case.
8543. But you attribute the want of employment on the part of the millers to the badness of the last few seasons ?
—Yes, if we had a few good years it would change the views of the crofters immensely.
8544. And they would then be in a position to send more of their corn to be ground ?
—I must admit that the land will not yield, on account of bad agriculture, so much as it used to yield, but they could send a great deal more than they can send now, on account of the bad seasons. I should say that the small tenants have lost in Skye, for the last two or three years, not entirely by the deficient yield of the land, but also probably to fully as great an extent by their crops being swept off the ground by dreadful storms after the corn had been cut. For two or three years the crop was swept into the sea in a great many places. I know that as a positive fact, and the crofters themselves will say so.
8545. Do you think the crofters sow too much of the seed of the potatoes which they grow themselves, and neglect to provide themselves with fresh seed, and if so, is that not partly a cause of the potato failure ?
—Most certainly. The potato is well known to deteriorate by the same seed being constantly sown; but this year the proprietors have provided the tenants with great quantities of champion potatoes, which ought to produce a very considerable change for the better for the next few years.
8546. What is the general practice among the crofters? Do they generally change their seed or not ?
—Not to a great extent. They generally just sow the seed they raise themselves.
9547. They might change the seed more with advantage?
8548. Sheriff Nicolson.
—It is only within the last three or four years that any of the tenantry of Skye have lifted up their voice in a decided manner claiming any redress of alleged grievances ?
8549. It began at Kilmuir ?
—It began at Kilmuir with the township of Valtos; and I should state with reference to that township, that it arose in consequence of an allegation made by the tenants that the ground officer upon the estate gave in for the summing of the township two cows more than the real number. When Major Fraser was satisfied about the correctness of that, he at once agreed to reduce the rent; but that was the
beginning of it.
8550. And the feeling which then arose has been gradually spreading all round Skye ?
8551. But do you think it began then for the first time, and that they had no such grievances before as those which they are now expressing?
—Well, there was always a certain amount of complaint about the rents, but there is that everywhere; and, as I have said, tenants who have made large fortunes to my knowledge, and bought estates, have said to me that the rents were too high.
8552. But the crofters were never in the habit before of holding meetings and putting their heads together?
—There was no combination till after the Irish affair.
8553. Do you consider that an improper or wrong thing for them to do—to combine together in order to obtain redress of any grievances which they believe they are labouring under?
—-It depends on the manner in which it is carried out.
8554. But so long as it is carried out within legal limits, is not agitation necessary to produce any reform ?
—Within legal limits, and provided it is carried out legally, and that the law is not infringed, but I cannot say that about Skye.
8555. There has been no infringement on Major Fraser's estate ?
—Well I know that the officers of the law at the time of the Valtos agitation were afraid to go there, and would not go on account of threats used against them. At the same time, I must say that the tenants on Major Fraser's estate are a most respectable and excellent body of men.
8556. There have been no outrages there to furnish paragraphs to the newspapers ?
—Well, I don't think there was any deforcement there, so far as I am aware.
8557. Do you think that the expression of their feelings and the statement of their case which they have given to us are not entirely to be relied upon, in consequence of influence which has been used by persons who have been assisting them in preparing the statements of their views!
—I do not go that length. I say that I think these outside influences stirred up a great many things, and made grievances of things which would otherwise be viewed with perfect equanimity, and made the people discontented.
8558. You said, and said truly I believe, that it has been a principle in the management of crofterslands in Skye, by landlords and factors, not to raise the rent ?
—I have frequently refused increased offers of rent for lands.
8559. Is there not at least one exception to that ?
—Well, every rule has an exception, but I don't remember any.
8560. Is Kilmuir not an exception ?
—-Most distinctly it is not.
8561. Can you state what was the rent of Kilmuir when Major Fraser became laird of it?
—I misunderstood you; what I mean to say is that the crofts are not put up to competition.
8562. Has not the rental of Major Fraser's estate been doubled since he got possession of it 1
—I know it has been greatly raised. I don't want to conceal anything in the slightest degree, and I think it has been very nearly doubled. I can put in the exact figures.
8563. Then it has been the only estate in Skye on which the rent has been nearly doubled within such a short period ?
—Yes; but that is not to say that Major Fraser is asking a farthing more than the value of the lands. It may be that the other proprietors have not asked the value of their lands. I know they have not done so for the last sixty years.
8564. And I think it was an exceptional matter with him, of which he was quite entitled to boast, that there were no arrears on his estate—that there were only two irrecoverable pounds on his estate the year before last. Was there anything in his management of the estate that enabled him to be in that position more than any other landlords in Skye ?
—I do not think so.
8565. Did he not take stricter measures for securing payment of the rent, the whole rent, and nothing but the rent ?
—I do not think so. I have always made it a rule, in dealing with the small tenants, if at all possible, to exact the whole rent, because they fall into arrear very frequently if you do not do so, and the consequence is that they themselves get into difficulties. It is the best thing for the small tenants to exact the whole rent—not rigidly but with discretion.
8566. He has been so good to them that he did not offer their crofts to competition, but gave themselves the chance of paying double rent. If the crofts had been offered to competition, do you think there would have been many competitors for them on these terms ?
—I thoroughly believe there would, because the crofters I believe would offer enormous rents for the lands; whether they could continue to pay these rents, is another question.
8567. When Major Fraser had the valuation of the lands made, it was made by a very able and excellent man—Mr Malcolm from Nairn; but do not you think that a man acquainted with the land in Skye would have been a more suitable valuator than a man accustomed to the good land on the east coast ?
—I cautioned Mr Malcolm frequently to remember that he was not on the east coast.
6568. At what time of the year did he make the valuation ?
—I think it would be in harvest.
8569. And the country would be looking beautiful then, and there would be the appearance of crops. Was it not the same in the Braes also last year ?
—I believe that the Braes, with Ben Lee added to them now, at the present rent, are excellent value. I believe that honestly, and entirely irrespective of my situation as factor.
8870. But that valuation also was made by a gentleman from a distance not particularly acquainted with Skye or Skye soil?
—Well, he is acquainted with crofters in other parts. I must observe that it is extremely difficult to get any person in Skye to value crofterslands, because if a person in Skye values crofterslands, and raises the rents, the whole body of the crofters are down upon him, and abuse him for ever afterwards; so people in Skye are very reluctant to do anything of that sort.
8571. Then, as to the expenditure by Major Fraser upon roads, which I believe was considerable, did it all come out of his own pocket?
—-Well, proprietors very often have to borrow money. I don't know whether Major Fraser borrowed the money or not. I am not aware that it came out of any other pocket.
8572. Are not the assessments for that district of, roads handed over to him ?
—No, they are not; and these improvements were effected long before the passing of the present Road Act.
8573. Yes, I know that.
—Well, I think there was an arrangement by which he got £ 40 or £20, but I believe he spent a good many thousands.
8574. How much do you think he has spent?
—That was only for the maintenance of the roads—not the construction. He spent many thousands on the construction, and I may add further that the sum he got towards the maintenance did not half pay the maintenance. He lost by that arrangement.
8575. So it appears, as regards part of the road at any rate. How much has been expended within the last five or six years on the road from Stenscholl to Valtos?
—The road under the trustees only goes as far as a place called Loch Mealt. Up to that place the road trustees are responsible. The people of the east side are now appealing to the road trustees for assistance to extend the road as far as Valtos. I am very much in favour of the trustees extending the roads to these townships all through the island.
8576. Of course, you must be aware that it is a real grievance to the people beyond Loch Mealt that they have to carry everything on their backs or on poniesbacks for miles?
—Yes, but we have to get the road trustees to see that.
8577. Can you give us any idea in figures of the amount expended by Major Fraser upon roads and other improvements?
—A very large sum. If I had been told beforehand I would have been ready with it, but I am quite sure I am within the mark when I say that £20,000 or £30,000 has been expended there.
8578. But we expect exact figures ?
—I can get that.
8579. How much of the money you have mentioned has been expended for the benefit of the crofters?
—I would rather give in the figures.
8580. Has any of it been spent in trenching for the benefit of crofters ?
—I do not think so, because the crofters would not like to pay the interest upon the trenching money.
8581. Has it not been chiefly expended on the big farms and the grounds round about Uig where the major resided?
—Yes, a good deal has been spent on buildings and so forth.
8582. For the proprietor himself and for his big farms ?
—Yes, and on roads —probably more than for the crofters.
8583. We were told at Stenscholl that the mill was in bad repair?
—I know that it requires a couple of new stones. I have been trying to get them.
8584. Is that likely to be done soon ?
—I believe they will be put in before the present crop is ripened.
8585. To go back to the Braes; you of course were not factor when Ben Lee was taken from the people seventeen years ago ?
8586. Can you say whether, in point of fact, there were any other people served with summonses except those on the three farms of Beinn-a-chorrain, Gedentailer, and Balmeanach ?
—Well, I cannot speak with certainty. I would rather not say, because I am not sure, but I know the other townships claimed rights as well as them, and they will come forward and state that to the Commission if necessary. I am perfectly satisfied that those three townships never at any period had exclusive right to the hill, and I am more satisfied of that now than ever I was.
8587. When did the people of Camustionavaig and Penifeiler cease to exercise their rights ?
—Well, they got other places.
8588. How long ago ?
—A little later I think, or about the same time; but I think some have been cited to appear before the Commission from those townships.
8589. They have never claimed the hill since that time?
—They got other places instead.
8590. At the time it was a common, you say it was common to all Lord Macdonald's tenants both in Skye and Uist. Was it common to them all the year round, or only when there were markets at Sligachan?
—I state what I know about that as a Skyeman, and what I was told, when very young, —that any of Lord Macdonald's tenants might put their cattle there.
8591. But not to keep them the whole year round?
—Well, the people of Strath have told me frequently that they often used to send their cattle there to be wintered.
8592. On Ben Lee ?
8593. And did not the Ben Lee people take money from them?
—I am only stating what the Strath people say; I cannot tell whether, as matter of fact, it is true or not.
8594. I may refer to the evidence of John MLeod, Camustionavaig, who says, I do not say that we had right to Ben Lee, but our stock had liberty to graze there.Was there any fence to prevent them from going there ?
8595. You said that the first witness from the Braes, Angus Stewart, spoke wrongly about the old tenants there. He said there were five?
—I said I could not see anything of that in our books. If that was the case, it must have referred to a much more early period than I have a record of.
8596. His mother, aged eighty-one, told me last year that her father was one of the five tenants in her youth?
—Yes; that may be true.
8597. How far does your evidence go back?
8598. It was before that?
—It may be perfectly true, but I cannot say anything about it. I am satisfied those three townships are in a complete mistake as to having sole right to Ben Lee.
8599. Now, with regard to the trespassing in the deer forest, I think you said there was no prohibition upon people against trespassing on the forest?
—No, I did not go that length; I said we frequently give permission to them to cut thatch in certain parts of the forest at certain times of the year.
8600. But are the public generally prohibited from wandering over the hills of the deer forest?
—There is no occasion to prohibit them. They are allowed on the Macleod estate to go to Coruisk.
8601. But on the other side?
—There is nothing to be seen.
8602. There are some fine hills. Is there not a threatening notice in the hotel at Sligachan to the effect that trespassers will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law?
—It is very probable, and that notice may be very necessary; but I do not believe it is intended to be carried out in its full sense. I am sure that, if you choose to go up on the hills, we will not object to it.
8603. I beg your pardon. I and two friends were subjected to the indignity of being assailed by a gillie on these hills?
—I am sorry to hear it.
8604. And what is worse, we were called Glasgow tailors in a letter addressed by the lessee of these shootings, Mr Wolstenholme, to Mr Butters, the landlord, complaining of the intolerable trespass upon our native hills?
—But he was a Sassenach, and did not know better.
8605. You spoke of land that has been given by Macleod, at great loss to himself, for the benefit of crofters. Where is that land?
8606. How much loss will it be to him?
—I think it will be a loss to Macleod of probably £ 50 a year.
8607. Might he not have given it to them forty years ago, when the people were removed from Ulinish, and the place was given to Mr Gibbons?
—Perhaps he might, but I don't know.
8608. And they have been aU these forty years without milk for their children?
—Mr Gibbons was the factor then, and I do not know that Macleod knew very much about it personally.
8609. He handed the place and the people over into Mr Gibbons hands to do with them what he liked. It was afterwards let to Mr Robert Macdonald, that fine young man who died last year. Might there not have been a portion then given, as Mr Macdonald was quite willing that the people should have a cow's grass?
—Yes, but it should be understood that in those days the crofters really asked very little, and that this demand for more land on the part of the crofters has really to a great extent come as a surprise upon the landlords.
8610. It has awakened them up a little to a sense of their duty in some respects?
—Well, the crofters did not use to ask for it, and the landlords thought they did not want it. Now they ask for it, and the landlords ought to try and meet them as far as they can half way.
8611. Did they not lift up their voices when they were being removed against their will?
—I have no doubt they did in those days.
8612. And the landlords must have known it?
—The tenants in Minginish were not removed. If you refer to Boswell's Life of Johnson, you will find that the Macleods of these days were entirely against emigration, and did all they could to prevent it. There were leases granted, I think, of very long endurance to some tenants in Minginish, and it is said that those tenants, or tacksmen as they were called in those days, were the cause,—I don't wish to mention any names—but it is said, whether truly or not I can not tell.
8613. Don't you think it is a great disadvantage to a property and to the people living upon it when the laird himself does not reside upon it for a considerable part of the year?
—I think it is; but in the case of Macleod of Macleod he had to go away and leave his estate, and work harder than any of his crofters; and he did so.
8614. Why was he obliged to go?
—He thought he could improve his property immensely by spending money in draining, trenching, fencing, and enclosing, and I believe that the real cause of his difficulties was that that was overdone. He got practical agriculturists from the south, who advised him to do a number of things for the improvement of his estate, and he spent too much money on the estate. Consequently he fell into difficulties, and then he went to London, and worked very hard for a number of years, till at last he rose to the head of his own department, and he has now retired.
8615. There are several other proprietors who are non-resident; Major Fraser, unfortunately, is non-resident?
—Well, he comes down frequently to Skye. You know that his house was carried away by a flood.
8616. He has a very good house still?
—It is a shooting lodge. I have no doubt, if he had a house, he would reside here.
8617. Don't you think if he were constantly resident, the relations between him and his tenants would be much more satisfactory?
—Well, I know him to be a very kindly man, and I believe if he were living here the relations between him and his tenants would improve —that they would know each other, and like each other.
8618. You have a form of lease for crofters?
—Yes, a very old form, about the year 1830.
8619. Will you give us a copy of it?
—I shall be very glad to do so.
8620. Would it be suitable for the present time?
—It was prepared by my late grandfather when he was factor for Lord Macdonald, and I believe
it may be suitable with some modifications..
8621. There are fixed regulations for the management of the Macdonald estate?
8622. Have you got them in print?
—I have not any of the new copies.
8623. There are similar regulations on the other estates of which you are factor?
8624. Will you give us copies?
—Yes, I think the proprietors will allow me to give them; I have none myself.
8625. In the report of Sir John M'Neill of 1852 on the Highland Destitution, Mr M'Kinnon, Corry, gave evidence, and among other things he spoke of having established an officer—I suppose a ground officer —who went regularly round among the people to see that they carried on their cultivation as it should be done, and to see that they improved their houses and the surroundings of their houses. Is anything of the sort done now?
8626. Don't you think that it might be done advantageously, and tend to a little improvement in the houses?
—It is extremely difficult to get the tenants to change their habits, but it might be tried.
8627. To take an example, the houses at Sconser, which are the first thing in the shape of croftershouses that any stranger sees in going from Broadford to Sligachan, are they not about the worst habitations in the Isle of Skye?
8628. Would it not be possible, through the exercise of your influence, to induce the people to make some improvement, and could a little help not be given to them?
—I think it would be better for the Sconser people if they could get a better place than that altogether.
8629. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated there was a very large reduction of rent made in 1830 upon the crofts. Was the same reduction made upon the large tacks at that date?
—I believe it was.
8630. So it was the reduced rent of a large tack in 1830 that you quoted?
—I quoted the same rent.
8631. But you are not sure whether it was lower than it was five years before?
—I do not understand. I quoted for the very same rental and year the rent of the small tenants, and the rent of the tacksmen.
8632. In the case of the crofter, you prefaced that by the statement that five years before the rent was 25 per cent, higher?
—Yes; I had not the big tenantsrent for 1825, but I had it for 1830.
8633. You are not sure, then, whether the rent of the big tenant was reduced by 25 per cent, between 1S25 and 1830?
—I believe it was.
8634. So it would have been the reduced rent that you quoted?
—It was the rental of 1830 that I quoted in both cases.
8635. Reduced by 25 per cent.?
—In both cases, distinctly the quotation was perfectly uniform.
8636. You stated that the marches of the townships were as you find them now?
—I selected the townships specially for that purpose.
8637. Are you able to say with the same absolute accuracy that the marches of the large farms you quoted were the same then as now?
—Yes. I selected them for that. I put in only those that I knew and could speak about.
8638. The march of Scorrybreck, for example?
—I looked very particularly about that.
8639. It ha3 not been changed since 1830?
—I am not aware. It is possible I may be wrong, but if I am wrong I shall be very glad to be put right and to correct my statement; but I think it embraces every township, unless there may be very trifling exceptions. I know of none.
8640. Of course it is merely for comparison?
—Well, I looked as minutely as possible, and I think the statement is correct.
8641. Since 1811, I see the population has increased very much, though it has diminished for the last twenty years. I suppose it may be held as proved now that the croftersarea is considerably diminished since that date - I think it has.
8642. That of course would account a good deal for the subdivision of crofts, because the population has increased very considerably since that date ?
—But a number emigrated.
8643. Still the population has largely increased since that date, and the croftersarea has diminished?
—But there is a considerable increase in the towns and villages besides.
8644. You said that when the crofters area was given to the large farms, the chief if not the sole reason was that the people could not put a proper stock on the place ?
—That is what I have been told and read.
8645. Do you know if they got the chance ?
—I have stated all I know about it. It was not in my time. I know they could not at the present day take all the big farms. I should like very much if the people would show that they could take them and stock them, as then there would be a great deal of our difficulty removed.
8646. You spoke of a positive enactment to prevent subdivision; would you make that enactment binding upon the landlord ?
—I should think the public prosecutor ought to take it up, because the landlord or the factor, unless he is a man of iron, could not prevent subdivision.
8647. But you would make it binding upon the landlord as well as upon the tenant?
—1 think the fiscal should have it in charge —it is so difficult to prevent it.
8648. So that, if the landlord or the factor should afterwards subdivide a croft, the fiscal should take him up ?
—Most distinctly; I do not think that any subdivision should be allowed at all. I know I never could prevent it entirely.
8649. It has been stated to us several times, in the course of this inquiry, that three crofts were worth three rents more than one croft was worth anything at all; and I think Mr Malcolm's views, in the paper which you read, are very much to the same effect —that a large croft is worth very much more per acre than a small croft is ?
8650. Then you yourself wish that the crofts should become £12 to £ 30 crofts, but you do not believe that the crofters could pay the same rent that the large tenants pay ?
—No, but I should be very glad to see facts that would change my opinion.
8651. And your experience was the proof you gave for that statement. Will you give us your experience of crofts from £12 to £30?
—I mention the township of Glenhinnisdale, where the rents are from £12 to £30 just now. I know we could get more rent for Glenhinnisdale than we are getting just now from those tenants if it were let. We do not want the tenants to remove, if they just continue to stock the place and pay their rents; I know that for a fact.
8652. So that even, with the enlarged crofts of from £12 to £30 you think the large farmer could give a bigger rent?-
—I honestly think so, from my experience; and if the reverse could be proved, I think at once there would be a great revolution in the north.
8653. How many crofts are there at £30?
—Not many. There are some at £27, 10s. and £50. I daresay there are some at £30 too, but very few indeed.
8651. So that it is rather difficult to get experience here?
—I have found in Glenhinnisdale very great complaints. I have no doubt, if it comes to be found that the crofters can pay as good rents as the tacksmen, it will make a great change in the opinions of proprietors.
8655. Is it the case that for the last two or three years there has been far less demand for the very large farms than for the very small ones?
—Farms from £ 150 to £ 210 let better than any other farms.
8656. And crofts from £30 to £50?
—I told you of my experience about Suishnish; I had not a single offer from all Skye to come forward and take those crofts at £ 30 each.
8657. What was the rent you asked ?
8658. You would not have taken one man for one sixth part of that?
—No, unless I got the whole, because the rest would be all in our own hands. I think it reasonable to expect that in all Skye, with a population of 17,000, there would be six men to take that farm.
8659. But supposing you tried the same thing with a £600 farm you surely would not expect six men to come forward and take the farm jointly?
—I would sooner let a £600 place at £100 each than I would let a £200 place at £ 30 each.
8660. But would it be more difficult to get six men to join for the £200 place or the £600 place?
—I did not want them to join if they had just come forward about the same time. Taking Suishnish and Borroraig, which were divided into six lots, if six men came forward and said they would take it, and could pay for the stock, I would recommend Lord Macdonald to let them have a trial of it.
8661. What arrangement would be made with regard to houses and fences?
—We would do something in that way as an experiment to see whether it would suit.
8662. Is there one house just now?
—No. We were to build the house for one tenant if he would come forward.
8663. But you would not let the sixth of it separately?
—We would not do so, and retain the remaining five sixths. I would like to do that but if the £ 30 crofting system would do at that, surely there are six men in Skye who would take it.
8664. One man, before he could take up a share, would require to get other five men to come along with him to make an offer ?
—Yes, out of the 17,000 there are in Skye.
8665. I think you said, as to the deer forest, that the shooting tenant was entitled to follow his deer on the crofter's hill pasture. Is the crofter entitled to follow his sheep into the deer forest?
—Whether he is entitled to do it or not, he generally does it.
8666. Does he?
8667. And of course the shooting tenant has a lease?
—Sometimes he has a lease, and sometimes only one year of it.
8668. But the others have no lease?
—No, but we will be very glad to give them leases if they want them, and undertake to improve their crofts. I believe I am right in saying that the proprietor would do that.
8669. They come to us complaining that on their own hill pasture they were not entitled to walk at a certain period of the year?
—That is ridiculous.
8670. In another case, they said they were afraid of accidents, because guns were going off to right and left of them?
—I think those statements are to be taken cum grano.
8671. But there is no fence?
8672. And the shooting tenant is entitled to go upon the ground?
—To follow the deer, but not to shoot the tenants.
8673. I think we have had an example of his exercising the right of shooting a dog?
—We cannot be responsible for all that English sportsmen coming up here do, or Highland sportsmen either. I suppose people very often do a great deal more than they are entitled to do.
8674. But my point is this, that the crofters have no lease, they have only a yearly tenure, would you be prepared, as factor on the estate, to back them up in upholding their rights, so that the shooting tenant will not be entitled to shoot their dogs or trespass upon their land ?
—I would never consent to the shooting tenant having leave to shoot the tenant's dogs. Before we shoot their dogs we ask their leave. I never had a dog shot in my life without asking the owner's leave and consent. They generally will not consent. I have known crofters shoot each others dogs, however,
8675. So that if the shooting tenant were to follow his deer upon the hill pasture of the crofter, you would uphold the crofter as against the shooting tenant?
—No, I do not say that. I think there is a legal right on the part of the tenant to follow the deer on to the crofter's ground. I believe that is quite the law. It is no hardship at all, not the slightest. If the deer runs, what is the harm of the sportsmen going after it?
8676. But the crofters object to the deer going among their corn?
—No true sportsman would ever dream of shooting a deer standing in the corn. I would no more do that than I would shoot at a sitting grouse.
8677. It came before us in evidence?
—There may be occasional cases of that sort, but he is a very poor sportsman who would shoot deer in the corn. It is only on the hillside that the deer are shot.
8678. One of the men stated in evidence that it was done before his eyes?
—It may have been done, but it was utterly unsportsman-like and unusual, and a thing I never saw or heard of.
8679. In that case, would you back up the crofter as against the shooting tenant?
—Distinctly, if the shooting tenant was doing any harm. Most certainly we would protect our small tenants against anything that is done wrong to them.
8680. As regards voluntary emigration, you mentioned that the emigration should be conducted for the benefit of those who go away and for the benefit of those who remain. I suppose you mean by that to enlarge the holdings of those who remain?
—I think that wherever a lot has been divided, if possible it should be brought back to its original condition.
8681. Was it not rather the opposite policy that was pursued in the past?
—Yes, by the crofters.
8682. And by the factors too?
—Well, the factors did not wish to be hard on the tenants, and did not evict them. I can conceive that factors in the old times were not so strict, but subdivision goes on in such a way that it is difficult to prevent it.
8683. I think you stated there were eighteen removals from this deer forest, and that the people were provided for on other parts of the estate?
—I believe so.
8684. Was that upon new land, or by subdividing old crofts?
—I think the tenant from Braes stated—I never heard of it before—that a crofter was to be put on his lot for the sake of a man at Tormichaig, but that he resisted it, and that another person had been turned out, that is all I know about it; but I understood, in a general way, that they were provided for in some way.
8685. You are not aware that there was any new land given to them?
—Not so far as I know.
8686. Well, it must have been by subdividing crofts?
—They may have emigrated.
8687. But you said that the eighteen were provided for on the rest of the estate?
—So far as I know. It was long before my time. Some of them may have emigrated.
8688. I do not exactly understand how you say that the change in the value of money benefited the crofters. Will you explain that ?
—Because, though there is a change in the value of gold, the rent continues the same. He will earn £ 2 instead of £ 1 , but his rent is the same.
8689. You mean the change in the value of labour?
—Money and labour.
8690. Is not the expenditure almost keeping pace with the increased value of labour?
—I understood from the accounts I had of the crofters in my early days, that they lived in a different and much more frugal way than they live now-a-days. But it is not confined to the crofters, because all classes live in a more luxurious way than they used to do.
8691. You said that they are better fed and better clothed than they used to be. Do you mean they are more comfortably clothed now-a-days, or only more expensively?
—I believe they are better clothed.
8692. More comfortably?
—Yes, and better fed. I believe they themselves think otherwise, because any class of people in looking back upon old times praise the old times,—from the days of Homer downwards,—instead of the present time; but all the histories we have show that the crofters live much better now than they did in older times, because they used to bleed their cattle to keep them through the year Martin says so
in his History of the Western Islands.
8693. I am confining it to your own experience?
—I have been told by those who lived immediately before me that the crofters look better and live better and are much stronger than when they lived on potatoes; and I believe that to be true, because oatmeal is a much better food than potatoes are.
8694. You go back thirty years, but we have examined men much older, and their evidence comes to this, that the people are more expensively clothed now?
—-I believe that is true.
8695. But perhaps not to the same extent more comfortably clothed, and that they are not so well fed now, that there was formerly more milk and eggs and occasionally meat?
—There were more eggs, because they did not give the eggs for tea, as they do now
8696. What I arc pointing at is this, was not their food better and more substantial forty years ago than it is now?
—I know that is the popular opinion; but when I read what Johnson, Boswell, Burt, and others say, I
find that the children were not half clad and the men were not half clad, and accounts are given that would horrify us in the present day.
8697. But you would believe a trustworthy crofter speaking from his experience of sixty years ago?
—If I did not believe that old men were prone to think that things were better in their youth than now, I would believe what the crofters say, for I do not believe that they have stated otherwise than truthfully —whether it is true or not.
8698. Taking the small crofts and large farms relatively upon the estate of Kilmuir, are you able to tell us upon which of the two classes the reuts have been most increased?
—I cannot tell relatively, but I know that the large farms pay much more per acre.
8699. That is not what I mean. Are you able to tell us whether, since Major Fraser entered upon his property, the increase had been greatest upon the large farms or upon the small crofts?
—I cannot do it without making a calculation, but I think the increase must have been more upon
the large farms. I cannot state it positively.
8700. I suppose it is upon the large farms that the whole expenditure was made. You said already that there was no expenditure made upon the small crofts in the way of trenching and improving?
8701. I have a receipt here which has been handed up to me, and the man who hands it up says that it is exactly for the same croft. It appears that in 1856 the bare rent was £ 2 , 18s. 6d., and in 1878, £12. The receipts are for No. 2 and No. 3 lots, but the man says it is the identical croft?
—It may be; he is a very respectable man. But the question is, whether the croft was worth £12 in 1878, though the rent was only £2, 18s. 6d. in 1856. I observe, however, that the £2, 18s. 6d. is only for the half year.
8702. Then the rent was £5, 17s., and in 1878 it is still a little over the double. Now, has the value of the estate been a little more than doubled within that time?
—That is very easily seen by the valuation rolls and rental. I think it is about it. But that same rent of £5, 17s. was not changed before since 1830.
8703. Do you know the rent of Duntulm?
—No; I cannot tell you the rent of it separate from a number of other places.
8704. But no expenditure by the proprietor in the way of trenching has been made on the croft to which I have referred within that period?
—Not so far as I know.
8705. What has been done in regard to the big farms?
—Very little indeed was done upon the big farms except upon buildings, with the one exception of the farm of Monkstadt, upon which a considerable sum was expended by the proprietor in draining the loch. I know of no other expenditure upon the large farms of Kilmuir except on buildings.
8706. Was anything done upon the buildings of this croft?
—No. I do not suppose John Mackenzie ever asked it, or would wish it, or would pay the interest upon it. I fancy he is quite contented with his house.
8707. Observe, his rent is doubled. Would not that be fair interest upon the small croft, as upon the large farm?
—Not if the place is worth the double rent. A place that has not been changed since 1830 may possibly be changed without any hardship.
8708. Mr Fraser Mackintosh.
—Who made it double the value?
—I fancy it was not the crofter; it was the change in the times.
8709. Professor Mackinnon.
—In the matter of Suishnish, was there any one at all who came forward to offer for the one-sixth of the place?
—No one. There was a man who came forward from another property, who said he would take one half of it, but none came forward for one sixth.
8710. So really, before you could let this place, you must find six men of the same mind to come forward, which would be rather a difficult thing?
—Six tenants to come forward out of about 17,000 people is no great matter. Surely if all the crofters in Skye want more land and can stock it, six could be found to take Suishnish, which is beautiful land.
8711. With regard to the statement about the shooting tenant, if it came to your knowledge that the shooting tenant was preventing the crofter from working freely upon his own hill pasture at the shooting season, or otherwise owing to fear of accident —whether on the part of the shooting tenant or his gamekeeper, —would you support the crofter as against the tenant?
8712. And would you send the shooting tenant back to his business?
—Most distinctly. I would never dream of allowing any shooting tenant to interfere with any crofter's use of his own grazing land.
8713. Does the shooting tenant not interfere with it if he follows the deer upon it?
—No, that is an old hunting privilege which any Highlandman will be glad to allow to his neighbour, and he will be glad to see him stalking deer on his ground if he is a true Highlander. I think he would be a very poor crofter who would not enjoy seeing a man stalking a deer.
8714. On his own ground?
—Yes, or on any ground.
8715. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I must ask a question, which I forgot, about my remarkable and troublesome old namesake Donald Nicolson. You stated that the expense of the case against him came to £501?
—The whole sums decerned against him by the sheriff for damages, expenses, and one thing and another, came to £55.
8716. How was that made up?
—What was the amount actually due to the laird for rent ?
—The sheriff decerned against him for all matters due to the laird, £55; but the sum due for rent was £8, 3s. Id. I think. And he continued in possession for six months in spite of law and everything. The incoming tenant complained grievously of not getting possession at Whitsunday, and made a claim of damages against us. The laird did not get a single farthing but his rent, and anything that was over the incoming tenant got. It was put to his credit for the value of the houses.
8717. How much would that come to ?
—Just a few pounds after paying law expenses.
8718. You took off £25?
8719. Who lost by that?
—Major Fraser had a decree, and we struck it off. We did not want to be hard upon the old man.
8720. You were so good that you only took £10 yourself?
—I do not think I took £10.
8721. But you cut down your bill a little ?
—I think the bill was taxed. I think I got the taxed expenses, or near about that but I was not very
particular in making up the bill, knowing that Donald Nicolson was a very obstinate old chap, and that it was his obstinacy that put him in this scrape more than anything else.
8722. The Chairman.
—We were told there was a charge made upon him for double rent, or something called violent profits, was that the case ?
—There was £16, that is to say two rents, but we did not get that; we credited that to the incoming tenant.
8723. Did you, on behalf of the landlord, receive these violent profits or this double additional rent in any degree at all ?
—Not for the landlord. The thing is this —we got £16 for the rent; that is to say, we got the whole year's rent; but we did not get this at all, it was credited to the incoming tenant, and it was perfectly fair, because the incoming man had to keep up a stock elsewhere by not getting possession at the term, and he suffered a lot of damage by it. We only got the rent, and no more than the rent, and £6, £7, or £ 8 was credited to the incoming tenant. We did not get a penny but the rent.
8724. You did not get.anything but the single rent due to you at the term at which the man was warned to go out ?
—Not a copper. It was all credited to the value of the incoming man.
8725. That is so far as the landlord was concerned. He got nothing but the rent due to him at the term?
8726. What did you get as legal agent?
—I think between £9 and £10.
8727. As expenses?
—On three occasions. There was a summons to remove, an action of interdict, and an action of breach of interdict, with concurrence of the procurator-fiscal.
8728. Was part of the £9 or £10 court expenses'?
—Court expenses, and taxed by Mr Maclachlan, the sheriff-clerk depute, and passed by him as right. I did all I could do to prevent that man ruining himself with expenses. I begged of him not to do it, but he would not listen to me, or to his own agent.
8729. Where did he get an agent ?
—He got Mr M'Lennan.
8730. But he was on the same side as you?
—No, he acted as agent for Nicolson, and told him he was acting in a most ridiculous way, and advised him not to run himself into expenses and trouble. Many clients are not satisfied when they are told to make peace; they prefer to be egged on to war; and Nicolson went to Inverness.
8731. But the fiscal concurred with you in the action for breach of interdict ?
—He was bound to do so.
8732. So the old man had no agent then ?
—1 do not think he had; and it is a good thing for him that he had not, because his expenses would have been three times more than they were.
8733. Extreme litigation is a thing much to be deprecated, but still I think it is remarkable that a poor man in the Isle of Skye should be in circumstances in which both the practising agents may be in a position in which it is impossible for them to take up his case?
—Well, I have no doubt that the two practising agents will be delighted if another agent will come here and start.
8734. But you say he would not make enough to keep him in tea?
—I do not think he would.
[Mr M'Lennan, procurator-fiscal.
—As my name has been mentioned, I may say that I was bound officially to give my concurrence to the application by Major Fraser, for which I got a fee of 2s. 6d. I had acted for Nicolson for a considerable time. I tried to persuade him to be reasonable, and I failed. I was bound to give my concurrence as procurator-fiscal when it was asked, but at the same time I state distinctly, and I wish the Commission to understand, that if he had had a defence, considering there was no other agent to defend him, —notwithstanding that I had given my official concurrence to the petition, —I would have done all in my power to defend him.]
8735. Mr Cameron.
—Are you aware it has been a common cause of complaint among the people who have been before us as witnesses that the farms in Skye are as a rule too large, and that it would be advisable in the public interest to divide them into smaller farms?
8736. Then was this at Suisnish not an honest attempt to meet the public wishes by dividing Suisnish among smaller tenants?
—Most distinctly. Hearing the cry for land, I thought this was a good opportunity for establishing what I myself theoretically considered a good class of tenants, but I failed.
8737. The Chairman.
—Did it occur to you that having failed in letting it in £30 crofts, you might offer to let it in £15 crofts?
—No, that did not occur to me. In letting a new place I think we should try to do better than that. I think £ 30 tenants a better class than £15 ones.
8738. Before you leave, it is perhaps right that I should communicate a letter to you. You may remember there was a delegate of the name of Alexander Cameron, who made a statement at Bracadale to the effect that on a certain occasion you had used some harsh or impatient expression which he interpreted to be that Macleod of Macleod did not care though the Cuilore people should be put into the sea, and you offered a distinct contradiction to that statement, saying that such an expression never passed your lips. As the accusation was made in public, and as the contradiction was made in public, I think it is my duty to communicate the letter which I have received from Alexander Cameron, in which he states he is ready to give his oath before the sheriff that you said that Macleod of Macleod did not care although all the Cuilore people should be put into the sea, and he alleges that your two clerks heard you say the words?
—I can only say that I still most distinctly adhere to my statement that such an inhuman expression as that, I am perfectly certain, I never gave utterance to.
8739. We are aware that things are imperfectly repeated, and are liable to misconception and misinterpretation, especially after a certain length of time, and it is not our duty to cross question anybody, or pit witness acrainst witness in a case of that sort, so we will let the matter rest. We are quite willing to believe that you did not say so, and that there was a misunderstanding?
—I must have been misunderstood; there must have been some misconception.
8740. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—About this matter of Suisnish, I should like to know what arrangements you proposed. Are there any buildings upon the ground at present?
8741. What scheme had you in your head?
—I had a certain view if the tenants came forward and said they were willing to take it. I had been observing that the crofters wanted more lands, and I thought this was a good opportunity, and that if six men came forward I would recommend Lord Macdonald to give it to them, and to help them in the building of suitable houses for themselves —to give the wood or a little money, and to do something
—but not a single one appeared. I wrote to two or three personally, but they did not come.
8742. And you were prepared to give a lease also ?
—If the persons could satisfy me that they had the means of stocking, I would give a lease
8743. For fifteen years, or what?
—Yes, or ten years. The whole thing would be an experiment, and I think there would be no difficulty about the lease at all.
8744. What is the general length of the lease in the case of the bigger tacks?
—Ten or fifteen years.
8745. With a break?
—No, not as a rule, unless by special stipulation. There may be a break sometimes.