Portree, Skye, 24 May 1883 - Lachlan Macdonald

LACHLAN MACDONALD, Proprietor of Skeabost (50)—examined.

9098. The Chairman.
—Have you got a statement to make to the Commission?
—I did not prepare a statement, but I would like to make a few remarks on the evidence given by two of the delegates at Skeabost on the 8th. They drew a very dark picture of affairs at Skeabost, reflecting on my character, as if I had committed certain acts of hardship upon them. I want to show you everything that has been done. One of the delegates, Mr Maclure, remarks that I made them pay for the sea-ware and that I prevented them from gathering shell-fish. Now the fact of the matter is, that in 1868 and 1869 there was a great demand for oysters in England, to lay down oyster beds. Consequently some speculators came from the south, and induced the people to go and gather the oysters off the beds at all times of the year, not only in the winter months but during the spawning season, and consequently destroyed the beds. In 1870 they poured down in hundreds on the oyster beds, and completely destroyed them. I remonstrated with them. They said they had a right to the foreshore. I said they had not. A case was instituted against them in Portree, and they were successful —the case was dismissed. I then appealed to Edinburgh, and the case was given in my favour. They declared that they had always had possession of the shore. In the course of the evidence that I had to give, it came out that one of the former proprietors had planted some stones on which sea-ware had grown, and that they formerly used to pay for the sea-ware, which they did not acknowledge at first, and by way of a sort of punishment, I charged them for the sea-ware. That was the reason they were charged. Another delegate, Mr Beaton, in the course of his remarks, said —It is only a few weeks since a poor crippled man was sent to gaol for gathering half a score of oysters on the shore. Now, that is wrong. No man was ever sent to gaol for gathering oysters on the shore, but in 1874 there was a man unfortunately sent to gaol, and I was the cause of sending him to gaol. He was only sent to gaol for a week, and this delegate had no right to mention the matter. He mentioned it without the authority of the man. I shall not mention the man's name, because he came to me on Saturday, and said he was particularly sorry that this person had unwarrantably mentioned his name; but as he mentioned the circumstance, and a certain amount of harshness is implied in my conduct, I may say that (though it is distasteful for me to say so) that during his week's imprisonment I gave £ 1 to his wife to support her, and when he himself came out of prison I gave him £5 to buy a sewing-machine, in order that he might prosecute his trade in an honourable way. Again, it is said that I demolished the yair. I have a map of the foreshore here, if it will be of assistance to the Commission. You will see the position of the yair. It is at the mouth of the river, and people were constantly coming and taking salmon, and that was the reason why it was demolished, because yairs are illegal. I don't believe the people thought it illegal, because I cannot say —and it is greatly to their credit —that ever since those two cases were given against them, they have been thoroughly law-abiding, and I have great confidence that whenever any point of law is settled, and they are thoroughly satisfied the law is against them, they are law-abiding, and will continue to be so —at least I hope so. That is all I have to say about the foreshore.

9099. I want to understand the map, where is the yair?
—The yair is marked by a thin red curve. With reference to the other statements, Mr Macleod said—The people are too crowded in Bernisdale. Fifty years ago they were in a prosperous condition. I had two lots once, and one of 1 them was taken from me and given to another man. Mr Beaton said —I had a croft for more than forty years. My father had the croft from 1707.[I am quoting now from the Scotsman.'] 'We are very much straitened by the smallness of our holdings, and the crowded state in which we are. There are many crofts on which nine souls live. On one croft there are eighteen souls, and some have twelve on them. The population is double what I have seen it in my younger days. When I was here first we were well off. We had plenty of ground, plenty of corn, and plenty of pasture for our cows. Well now, I hope before I am finished with the few remarks I am going to make, that I shall be able to vary these statements you have been listening to, and show that matters, instead of going from bad to worse as they represent, are improving, and that the present condition of these two gentlemen is much better than it was in their younger days. To give a short history of the village, unfortunately the village has changed hands within the past one hundred and two years seven different times. Therefore I have only statistics from the year 1843. It was sold by Macleod of Macleod to Norman Macdonald, Scalpa, in 1771. He resold it to his son Sir John Macdonald in 1823. Sir John Macdonald sold it to Donald Macdonald of Skeabost in 1836. This gentleman had possession of it for seven years. He then became involved in his finance, and sold it to a Mr George Gunn in 1843, who held possession of it till 1849. Mr Gunn then sold it to a Mr Robert Christie, who possessed it for twelve years. Mr Robert Christie sold it in 1861 to the late Kenneth Macleod, Grishornish, who possessed it for three years; and it was sold to me in 1864, and I have had the misfortune of owning it since. I did not come into possession of it, however, till 1870. The traditional history of the village is that before Norman Macdonald, Scalpa, bought it, it was occupied by three tenants, and when he bought it those three tenants left and went to America. He owned it as a farm on which he reared black cattle —I cannot say for how many years, but I have proof that in the year 1813 it was in his possession. There were no tenants placed upon it. It must have been between 1813 and 1823 that it was peopled. It was then peopled by twenty-four tenants or families. It has now got seventy, but the families of neither of the delegates were among those twenty-four. The parents of one of the delegates, Mr Maclure, came from Strath.

9100. In what year were there twenty-four families in it?
—I cannot tell the year; it was between 1813 and 1823, when it was bought by Mr Macdonald of Skeabost in 1836 ; be brought in people. The father of one of the delegates, Mr Bethune, was a short time at Bernisdale, and he then left. His father was a pensioner, and had £18 or £20 of a pension, and no doubt was very well off, but his own history —Mr Beaton's history—I have got from 1845. His position in 1845 was this, that he owned half a lot in Bernisdale. His rent was then £4, 10s. He was 9s. in arrear. In 1853 his rent was reduced to £3, 18s., but he had run into arrear £13, 6s. 6d. He worked well, and reduced his arrears in 1880 to £5, 4s. 2d. His rent stood in 1880 the same as it did in 1853. In 1870 it was increased by Mr Macleod, Grishornish, to £4, 6s., and last year again it was reduced by me to £3, 18s.; and he is not in arrear. He paid up his rent. The position of the other delegate, Mr Maclure, was as follows : —In 1843, when he must have been very young, perhaps eight or ten, he said they were prosperous and in happy circumstances. His rent was £7, 7s. It was altered and adjusted in 1844, and his rent was made £6, 6s. He was in arrear, or rather his mother was in arrear to the amount of £35, 12s. 8d. This debt I cannot find from the books was ever paid. It stands in a column by itself. His rent was reduced in 1853 to £4, 15s., and then he had run into fresh arrears to the amount of £9, 12s. 9d. He was then a young man about eighteen, evidently a good workman, and he reduced his arrears to £5, 13s. in 1860.

9101. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Was he in the same position all through?
—Yes, the same position.

9102. With the same size of croft?-
—Yes. In 1880 his rent was £4,15s., and in 1870 it was increased to £5, there being an addition of 5s. made on account of statute labour. They were compelled to give so many day's work to the proprietor, and the proprietor Macleod of Grishornish commuted that into a money payment, which he thought would be more convenient for them. In 1883 his rental is £4, 10s. I reduced it last year, and he is now free from arrears.

9103. The Chairman.
—Is that a permanent reduction, or is it a casual reduction?
—It is a permanent reduction. Now, we have been hearing a good deal of rents being increased, but in these circumstances, from the figures I have given, you will see that in my unfortunate village, instead
of the rents being increased, they have been decreasing every year. In 1843 the rental of the village stood at £440, 15s. It was adjusted that year to £367,16s. 6d. The arrears on the village amounted to £914, Is. 2d. Well, a few of them paid off a little, but £811, 10s. was a dead loss to the proprietor. They ran out between 1844 and 1853, and failed in the sum of £ 363 18s 11d. Their arrears in 1853 amounted to £557, 5s. 1d. They also ran out between 1853 and 1860 to the amount of £27, 8s. 7d., and the arrears in 1860 were £367, 4s. 11d. These arrears the late Macleod of Grishornish took over. He gave £80 to the trustees of Mr Robert Christie, the former proprietor, and never collected anything from the tenants, but let them all off; so in round figures you see that high rental brings its own punishment. The estate lost £811, 10s. They ran out £363, 18s. 11d. ; they ran out again £27, 8s. 7d. ; total, £1201, 17s. 6d. Add to this the debt taken over by Macleod, £367, 4s. 11d. ; total, £1568, 2s. 5d. of dead loss in arrears since 1843. They say they are more crowded now than they were in their earlier days. I do not know what they could have been fifty years ago.

9104. Can you give us the gross rental at four different periods between 1840 and 1880?
—In 1843 it was £440, 15s.; 1844, £367, 16s. 6d.; 1860, £367, 4s. 11d. ; 1870, £343, 18s.; 1883, £292, 9s. 8d. I cannot give the sum in 1880, but it would be the same as in 1870.

9105. Just before the last reduction, how much was it?

9106. Was there any rise between 1870 and 1880?
—No rise; there has been a constant reduction. There has been a reduction in forty years of £140, 5s. 4d.

9107. Perhaps it would be convenient, as we are still on the question of rental, to ask whether these different rentals apply really to the same subjects, or whether there has been during that period of forty years a withdrawal of hill pasture?
—I have been most particular in seeing that they apply exactly to the same subjects—not one acre of difference. The next charge they make is that they are more crowded now than they were in 1843. In 1843 there were eighty-six families on those very holdings, which are now possessed by seventy-one or seventy-two. There are actually sixteen fewer families now than there were in 1843, and you have seen that their financial position is very much better now than it was then. Another thing I have to remark about the evidence is, that they said nothing about compensation. Now, if there is a single point on which I hold very strong views regarding the land question, it is on the subject of compensation. I think it is most necessary to give compensation, and I have been for the past ten years telling the people that I would give them compensation, and I have given them compensation; and a fortnight previous to the day on which the delegates gave their evidence, I actually paid £4 to a widow who had left her holding in that township represented by Maclure. I am disappointed he did not mention that circumstance. Another charge brought against me is, that I removed some of the tenants from Skeabost and crowded them into Bernisdale. For the information of the Commission, I have sketched two maps, one showing the position of Skeabost when I took possession of it in 1870, and when I was justified in removing them, and the other showing the position in which I placed the tenants whom I removed from Skeabost to Bernisdale. By the map of Skeabost it will be seen there were twenty holdings, and of those twenty holdings only ten were occupied, and they were not occupied all at one end or in one part of the town The first four were vacant, and in my hands. Of the ten tenants Magnus M'Innes and Angus Macdiarmid became insolvent in 1870, and could not retain their lots any longer. John Macdonald became insolvent in 1871. There were then only seven left. Those seven I removed from Skeabost to seven other holdings in Bernisdale; and one of them was sent to Glen Bernisdale, three were sent to a place called Woodlands, and other three were sent to the Mains of Bernisdale. They were put upon lots that were unoccupied. There was no one removed on account of the Skeabost people. The only one who suffered in the least was one of the delegates, Maclure, who said in his evidence that he had been in possession of two lots once, and that he was deprived of them. He was in possession of two lots only for three years, from 1870 to 1873. In 1873 the people were removed. His brother-in-law occupied one lot in what is called Glen Bernisdale, and he became insolvent, and then Maclure got it ; but as his own lot was at No. 10, and the other lot he held was No. 1, with nine lots between them, I thought it was not doing him much of a hardship to deprive him of that lot and make room for Peter Stewart; but if he had remonstrated with me very much at the time, I certainly could have given him a larger holding, and I may be able to give him a larger holding yet. I have now finished with the question of removals.

9108. Are we to understand that in effecting these removals from Skeabost to Bernisdale, none of the parties removed were placed upon the land of Bernisdale in such a way as to circumscribe the previous holdings of the Bernisdale tenants?

9109. The old tenants in Bernisdale remained in possession of the same area?
—Of the same area that they had. It was only on vacant lots that the new comers were put. Maclure's was one, but Maclure had possession only for three years.

9110. Were any of those removed from Skeabost put into any place except Bernisdale and its dependencies?
—No, there were only seven moved, and I have accounted for them.

9111. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Were the places as good as those they were taken from?
—The places were not so large, but I think they were as good, and I will tell you why. I gave each of them a present of a house, and I made him a present of a half share of the joint stock in the sheep, which might be worth about £2 a year, and in that way the rental is very light. One of them, I believe, a widow, has to pay out of her own pocket only 15s. I certainly think that their position was not made worse. On the other hand, I think it was made better, and no third parties suffered.

9112. The Chairman.
—What became of the ground at Skeabost from which they were removed?
—I took possession of it, and it is in my possession.

9113. As a farm?
—Yes; but I am quite willing to let them have it again if they build these houses. There is another matter that I would like to bring to the notice of the Commission, namely, the insolvency of the tenants. During the period between 1870 and 1883, no fewer than ten became insolvent, and unable to pay rent, and were compelled to throw up their ground. I have now finished, and I will be glad to answer any question that may be put to me.

9114. You have given evidence upon the question of the amount of rent at successive periods, and evidence upon the subject of removals, which you state you have effected with every consideration for the wants of the people so removed. But though the area remained the same, and the rents have not been increased but rather reduced, is it the case or not, that the quality of the ground has deteriorated by overcropping in such a measure that what was once not a high rent may be practically a high rent now?
—No doubt of it ; but that is entirely their own fault, because they do not cultivate the ground properly, and do not manure it.

9115. The quality of the ground has deteriorated?
—Most certainly, for they do not manure it.

9116. I want to know whether with their resources, and under their circumstances, they could manure or improve it in such a degree as to maintain its productive power ?

9117. Would you state how?
—By a rotation of crops and manuring it —by having potatoes one year, corn another year, perhaps peas another year, and grass seed put down. I know one of the tenants who pays £4 or £ 5 for a small lot, and he entirely supports himself out of the croft; but he is a remarkably good cultivator.

9118. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is his name?
— Malcolm Macdonald.

9119. The Chairman.
—Then you state that you know individual cases of men who by their industry and their intelligence, without more capital or extraneous resources than the others, have maintained the productivity of their holdings, and are much better off?
—Yes, I know that instance. Any man who will work his ground, and devote himself exclusively to working the ground, will make it pay ; but he must manure it —he must put out a certain amount of money yearly in manuring it.

9120. Do you mean he must purchase artificial manure?

9121. But we hear in the south of Scotland that artificial manures are themselves the cause of exhaustion of the soil?
—Well, that may be a question, but then they might raise green crops, and dig them into the ground. There are various ways of manuring the soil. They do that in Italy and in India.

9122. But those methods of improved farming to which you allude may imply the erection of fences?
—No, I do not think so.

9123. You think not?
—Yes. I tried to have fences once ; I suggested fences. I wished to fence all their holdings, but they objected, because they said the sheep could not wander over the ground in the winter time.

9124. They liked to have the ground unfenced for the convenience of the cattle and sheep wandering over the ground in winter time?
—Yes. My opinion is that they want security that they themselves should get the benefit of anything they improve and that they should get compensation. The result of the laziness we see is the fact that for hundreds of years they have been in this miserable condition, because if they improve their holding the rent was bound to be increased.

9125. But you have stated yourself that you have always recognised the principle of compensation, and you now mention that it would be a great advantage to them to have greater security of tenure. Have you ever offered them leases or discussed that question with them?
—Yes, I offered leases ten years ago, and anticipated the present disturbance.

9126. What did they do?
—One offered to take a lease. I asked if he would give me a rise. He said he would. I asked what rise he would give. He said a rise of a pound, and I wrote out a lease. This was the man Malcolm Macdonald. I gave him a lease, reducing the pound, which indeed I only mentioned as a joke. The others laughed at him, and no one has since come to me for a lease.

9127. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Can you explain their repugnance to a lease?
—Certainly, because they think it would weaken their holding on the ground, and that when the lease expired the owner had a right to turn them out.

9128. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What was the length of lease you granted?
—Ten years.

9129. With compensation for improvements?

9130. The Chairman.
—You have admitted the principle of compensation, and the principle of security of tenure or security of possession, can you make any other suggestion for the improvement of the people?
—Yes, I think there should be larger holdings. There are some very intelligent tenants who might rise in the scale, if there were holdings of from £20 to £30 that they could go into. I think it is too much of a jump for a crofter paying only £ 5 or £ 10 to take a farm that would require several hundred pounds to stock it; but if there were small crofts of say £ 10 to £30, it would be an inducement for them to save money and to try and take one of those crofts.

9131. That would be attained by the creation of larger crofts or the consolidation of smaller ones. Well, when you effected this movement from Skeabost to Bernisdale, you might perhaps have had an opportunity of making such an experiment on some other part of the estate ?
—I intend to try, but I have not perfected my scheme yet I am taking some time to consider it, but I think that holdings of say £20 or £30 should be consolidated in the same way as the smaller ones. I would not divide them, I would not give a man who had a £20 or £ 30 holding the right to wander over the field after his own sheep. I would have his sheep on the joint stock principle with the smaller ones, and I would not allow any man to wander after his own sheep if he did not pay a rental of at least £150 or £200.

9132. Then you are in favour of the principle of club farming?
—Yes, most certainly.

9133. In preference to individual shares of stock ?

9134. But though the club principle may be the better one theoretically, if it is not acceptable to the people, may not the worse system be the best for them?
—No, not at all. It is acceptable to the poor ; it is acceptable to the great mass; it is not acceptable only to the agitators, or these who would have no compunction at robbing their poorer brethren. These are the people to whom it is objectionable—people who would take advantage of their neighbours. It is repugnant to their feelings, but not to the mass of the people.

9135. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—To what do you attribute the number of insolvencies during the short time you mentioned ?
—Simply to laziness and discouragement.

9136. But they have had every encouragement, because you were ready to compensate them for their improvements ?
—Only for ten years. I think the encouragement must be given for a number of years. The next generation may improve, but I have no hopes of the present one.

9137. What became of those insolvent tenants)
—They are all settled as cottars on the place. Some of them I put into a large poorhouse which I built, and I have given them a large piece of ground free of rent

9138. How do they support themselves ?
—Some of them may do a little work, and some of them may get a little help from the poor law officer. Then they are fed by their neighbours, who I believe are very kind to them.

9139. Are they people who are fit to go to the east coast fishing?
—None of those who are insolvent are fit to go.

9140. Do you see any prospect of being able to teach the present generation to adopt a better system of cultivation?
—Not the slightest.

9141. But you hope to teach the younger ones?
—I hope to teach the younger ones.

9142. What measure would you adopt in order to teach them?
—I have taken measures; for instance, I have commenced building houses for them, and I should mention about the number of houses I built. On this matter I speak from memory. Their houses were in a very bad condition when I came. I built some twenty-nine houses, for which they pay rent. They pay me 5 per cent, and I think that is a sort of improvement. There are seven houses which I gave to those people whom I removed, and no fewer than ten houses have been built under terms of compensation. One of the delegates, Maclure, held in his hand a letter from me promising compensation, and he ought to have mentioned that. He built a very nice house, and he is in very good circumstances. His children are well educated, and I have no doubt that the next generation will be a very great improvement on the present.

9143. What was the cost of one of the houses you built for them?
—From £10 to £15.

9144. Does that cover the whole work?
—No, it does not cover the furnishing inside, which they do themselves. It covers the roof and the walls.

9145. What interest had they to pay to you upon that?
—Five per cent.

9146. That is 15s. a year in addition to the crofts?
—Yes; I keep that in a separate column, in order to show them that the land is not so highly rented as they imagine.

9147. On what system do you offer compensation when they build their own houses?
—To value the house when they leave.

9148. The walls?
—The walls, the roof, and everything belonging to them. The question of compensation for improvement of land is rather a difficult question. I have not exactly decided how it should be done, but I have calculated hitherto the little I have paid on account of compensation, and I have been thinking of charging only 3 per cent.

9149. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you reside a good deal at Skeabost?
—I reside about half the year at Skeabost.

9150. In fact, you may say you reside there except when business calls you away?
—Not business, but I go south in winter when the climate drives me away.

9151. Are you acquainted with all your tenants personally?
—I cannot say I am, but I am acquainted with most of them.

9152. You understand the Gaelic language?

9153. Did you give them any special assistance last season, in the end of 1882 and in 1883?
—Yes, I gave them seed oats and seed potatoes.

9154. Was that in the form of an advance or a gift?
—Certainly in the form of an advance. I should never lend myself to spoiling them by giving them gifts.

9155. Will you explain about those houses which you say you can build at a cost of £ 10 or £15? Are they built of dry stone?
—Dry stone, with windows, and thatched with rushes.

9156. Are rushes easily got there?
—No, but they manage to get a sufficient quantity for a house, and they sometimes thatch it with straw.

9157. There is no prohibition against gathering rushes?

9158. And none of the neighbouring proprietors have any prohibition against gathering rushes?
—I don't think so, but I think a neighbouring proprietor would object to my tenants going to his land. There is no prohibition against their own tenants that I hear of.

9159. How many rooms do these houses contain?
—Two, and a small closet.

9160. Where does the wood come from?
—I got a ship-load of wood for the roofs of the houses from Arisaig.

9161. Is it what they call cabers—rough wood about 4 inches in diameter?
—Yes, quite rough. They are simply an improvement on the old boltries, with windows and chimney cans, instead of having the smoke coming out at the roof and the door.

9162. Do you say you can really build those houses for £10 or £15?
—That is what I paid for them.

9163. Does it include gathering stones?

9164. And digging the foundation?

9165. One of the delegates, John Bethune, says—'The present proprietor has put a manager over our stock, and we cannot sell anything without his consent.’ What does that mean?
—The real reason I put a manager over it was that there was a manager formerly over it, and they came to me and said they should have the management of their own stock. I said, I am as great a liberal as you are, and, decidedly, manage for yourselves. They did manage for themselves for two years, and made a complete mess of it ; and I was obliged to put another manager over them. I gave them a trial, and they failed ; and then I appointed a manager, to whom I pay out of my own pocket £ 10 a year. He is an experienced cattle-dealer, and he sells their sheep very well for them.

9166. Do you consider a club farm, where the stock is the common property of the tenants, and where there cannot be quarrelling among themselves, preferable to a system under which each tenant has his own sheep?
—I unhesitatingly say that they are unfit to keep their sheep separate. The stock should be converted into a joint stock, and have one shepherd.

9167. Is the stock managed more satisfactorily for the tenants?
—Yes, they will hold their own against the big farmer in that way, but they cannot hold their own if they are allowed to keep their sheep as they like.

9168. What happens if one of the poorer tenants is short of means or gets into difficulties?
—Sometimes he may mortgage his stock, sometimes I have paid him for his sheep stock, and I have paid even for one of the houses, and advanced him money on his house in order to keep him in
possession of his ground as long as possible, in the hope that he might recover himself; I have known them deep in arrears, and yet recovering themselves.

9169. Do they ever raise money from the bank on the security of the stock?
—I am not aware what their transactions are in that respect.

9170. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You manage your own property. You don't employ a factor to do it?
—I employ a factor to collect my rents, but the administration is entirely in my own hands.

9171. And your land-steward acts under your orders?
—Under my orders entirely. I am entirely responsible for anything that goes wrong, and the factor is responsible for nothing but the collection of the rents.

9172. I have heard that there was too much in his hands,—is there no truth in that?
—I have heard many complaints against him, and tried many cases against him, and he has invariably come off best.

9173. Then, in the matter of education, you take a great interest in the education of your tenants?
—Yes, I take a great deal of interest in education, and I am sorry that there was one small matter I forgot to mention when making my statement, but I shall be very glad to answer any questions, especially regarding the school of Glenhinnisdale, if you give me the opportunity of replying to what one of the delegates said with reference to it

9174. By all means do so?
—This delegate, Peter Macdonald, said —The children, of whom there are twenty-five, have got no schooling for six months. The chairman of the school board is Skeabost, and the clerk is Mr Alexander Macdonald, Portree.
This implies a negligence on the part of the board, I admit. The circumstances of the case are as follow : —We had a Miss Falconer as teacher during last year. She was under obligation to give two months notice in the event of her quitting the school. On 23rd December she wrote to the clerk that she was to leave on 8th January. The clerk wrote to her on the 28th December, saying
—No, you must not leave on 8th January, you must work out your time, and give us time to get another. Then he called a meeting of the board on 4th January, and on the 4th, the very day the board had their meeting, Miss Falconer left the school, and left it without a teacher. The clerk immediately advertised for a teacher. Well, it took till the 6th of February to get in applications, and when the applications came in the clerk called a meeting of the board, and offered the situation to a young lady from Bridge of Allan —I need not mention names—and she came to Portree; but as she could not get a close carriage to take her to Glenhinnisdale she returned. We thought we were just as well rid of her. The clerk then made an offer to the next suitable person, but this young lady, on 27th February, declined his offer. On his receiving her answer he offered it to a third young lady on 6th March. She also declined. On 10th March he again advertised, and it took another month before he got in applications. He got in applications on 10th April, and called a meeting of the board. He offered the place to a young lady at Poolewe. She accepted and sent on her certificates, but when her certificates came they were found wanting. Looking into the matter of the certificates took seven days, and then, seeing the time was getting short, he telegraphed to another young lady, and she replied declining. This was on the 18th. Nothing daunted, he wired off at once to another young lady, and she also refused. He was now in despair, and so he advertised for the third time. Well, it took another month before he had applications, and he called a meeting as soon as he could on the 21st of May. This meeting I attended—the day before yesterday—and that is how the board accounts for the seeming dereliction of duty; but really, I think you will consider we have been more sinned against than sinning.

9175. The Chairman.
—Why did the clerk not try the other sex?
—I cannot say; probably he has got a weakness for the gentler sex.

9176. Why do you prefer generally at present a female teacher?
—For very young children we find they are very much superior to men.

9177. Have you greater difficulty in getting female teachers who know Gaelic than in finding male teachers who know Gaelic?
—-I cannot speak positively on that subject, but I don't think there is any difficulty in finding those of either sex who can speak Gaelic.

9178. Were all those who replied to your advertisements Gaelic-speaking teachers?
—No; I think there were some who could not speak Gaelic.

9179. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the salary that was offered?
—I think £35, and half the grant.

9180. Was it a regular board school?
—A regular board school, but in a most remote situation. It is in Glenhinnisdale, and it is very difficult to get a teacher to remain there.

9181. The Chairman.
—Reverting to the question of building these houses, which you state can be built for £ 10 or £15 each, is there no cooperation in the way of labour on the part of the township or on the part of the individual who is to have the house?
—Sometimes there may be cooperation on the part of the individual who is to get the house, in order
that he may pay smaller interest. Perhaps there may be a house that may cost £15, of which I may only have contributed £10, and the individual may have done the rest of the labour himself.

9182. But you are able to build such a house as you mention entirely by paid labour for £15?

9183. What is the floor?
—The floor is nature's earth —clay.

9184. Is the fire-place in the centre?
—The fire-place is sometimes in the centre and sometimes in the end. I believe it is more convenient to have it in the centre, because they can sit round it and warm themselves when they have not a change of clothing.

9185. Professor Mackinnon.
—Would you wish to make the principle of compensation compulsory?
—Yes, most certainly.

9186. And not leave it in the hands of the proprietor?
—Not leave it in the hands of the proprietor.

9187. And the same in regard to leases?
—I think that would be rather distasteful to them, but it would be much better if leases were compulsory.

9188. You mentioned a preference for larger holdings and for a club farm. There would be no difficulty whatever in combining the two—in having different shares —one, two, or three?
—Not the least; one man might have three shares and another might have four. I think of trying that, but I have not perfected my scheme.

9189. So that an energetic man like the man you mentioned might rise and become a farmer?
—Quite possible.

9190. You stated they might hold their own against the big farmer by keeping a club stock with one shepherd?
—Such is my opinion.

9191. I would like very much if there was good evidence of that, because the general opinion is the other way?
—I know the general opinion is the other way, but I have gone into the subject, and I have gone into
the figures —that is to say, provided the tenants will pay the rent —but if this foolish doctrine goes on which I hear expressed by them, that they have paid twenty-five years rent and ought not to pay any more, of course they could not hold their own against the big farmer. I think, however, that does not express the real feeling of the mass of the crofters, because it is nothing but communism, and they don't understand what they are doing. Fancy what would be said if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to say, We have paid more than the national debt, let us confiscate the rest; or, if a banker said, You have been depositing in the bank, and I have paid you interest for twenty years, but I will pay you no more, and I will keep the principal. You are going into French communism. Those people I look upon as enemies of society, and certainly they have misrepresented the crofters.

9192. You think the general feeling of the mass of the crofters is more reasonable than that?
—I hope so, otherwise they will be in danger of being extirpated.

9193. You made a very large reduction this year, I should think your preference would be for a smaller rent and exacting payment of it rather than for a big rent with arrears?
—The rent is really nothing. There are other subjects that trouble them much more than their rent, which I observe have not been noticed. One of these is the matter of luxuries, such as groceries. The rental of Bernisdale is £289. Now, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that there is yearly paid in that village for tobacco, tea, and sugar, fully £1000, or more than three rents. I may be wrong, but I will give any man a present of his rental who will prove to me that I am wrong.

9194. You stated that you had no hopes of the present generation becoming better farmers, but have you not one very good example?
—I have.

9195. Might not the rest follow that example even in the present generation?
—Some of them may, but he was a good farmer all his life

9196. When the tenants you refer to became insolvent, were you able to double any of the crofts? There is a competition for them I suppose ?
—There is, but in one part of my township where there are now twenty-four tenants there were formerly only sixteen. I have now determined, whenever a lot runs out, to keep it vacant until a neighbour can take it, and I have one of that kind at present vacant. I have applications from outside for it, but I said
—No, it is kept here as an inducement to the crofter to try and improve his condition and get possession of it, so as to get back to the original size—sixteen families instead of twenty-four.'

9197. And if they get a croft of sufficient size, you think the less they have to do with fishing the better for the croft?
—Yes, if they know something about agriculture, but some of them really know nothing about

9198. Might they not learn from that neighbour who knows it so well?
—They might.

9199. With respect to the complaint about the management of the sheep stock, is it the manager of the estate who is the manager of the sheep stock at the same time?
—The manager of the sheep stock is here, and I believe he is to be cross-questioned after me.

9200. Is he the manager of the estate?
—Yes, he is the manager of the estate; but I may tell you, to prove to you that it was necessary to put a manager over them, that when the late Macleod of Grishornish got the place, it had only one hundred and forty sheep on it, and this delegate who complains of having been in such a very good position and being now reduced, had actually only three sheep, and this management of ours increased the stock to four hundred in the year 1870, and that man has now eight sheep instead of the three he originally had.

9201. You think there are none among them elected by themselves, with absolute power as your manager has, who could be entrusted with the management for want of skill ?
—I cannot say there are any. Perhaps there are. They elected two, and I allow them to elect two. My man is simply over them, to see that they sell their stock properly.

9202. For their own good?
—Entirely for their own good.

9203. Sheriff Nicolson.
—It imposes a great deal of additional trouble on you to administer your affairs yourself and to have so many people under you, and it would be more convenient for you undoubtedly to have only one tenant to deal with instead of one hundred or so; but do you think it would be more profitable to you to have only one tenant instead of one hundred or more families ?
—Well, I was formerly of opinion that it would be more profitable to me really to have tenants, and I consider so still, if they will withdraw some of those foolish sentiments and those communistic ideas which they have got hold of, and which will make me go against them, as it will others. It will make every right-minded person in the country go against them.

9204. Don't you think the amount which those people contribute to the British revenue by the quantity of taxable commodities they buy does more good to the country than would be done by a single tenant with a few servants?
—No doubt of it, and that is the reason why they get all this assistance from the south Shopkeepers from the south assist them, considering that they will get from a small club farm perhaps £1000, whereas from a sheep farmer they would perhaps get only £60 in the year.

9205. The Chairman.
—I believe you have been in India for some time?

—Yes, as an indigo planter.

9206. And you are interested in the system of land tenure and in the welfare of the people?
—Yes; had it not been for my experience in India, I should certainly be inclined to turn them all out.

9207. It was your Indian experience which inspired you with an interest in the small tenants ?

9208. Now, comparing your Indian experience with your experience in Skye, do you think the ryot of India or the ryot of Skye has the greater share in the comforts and benefits of life?
—I should certainly say there is not much difference, but if there is it is certainly in favour of the ryot of India.

9209. He has got greater security of tenure?
—He has got greater security of tenure.

No comments:

Post a Comment