JOHN M'LEAN, Crofter and Fisherman, Oscaig (38)—examined.
7920. The Chairman
—You were freely elected a delegate?
7921. Have you got a statement to make on the part of the people?
—All I have to say is that our land is small and dear, and the rent too high.
7922. Mr Cameron.
—What rent do you pay?
7923. What is your summing?
—One cow and a stirk.
7924. Why do you pay so high a rent?
—Well, we have good comfortable cottages that Mr Wood has built for us there, and we are charged mostly for the houses; but then we have only a very small patch of land connected with these houses.
7925. Do you know what the houses cost?
—No, I am not entitled to know what the houses cost, but I know what I paid for them.
7926. What interest do you pay on the money?
—I cannot exactly tell that either. Mr Wood built them the first year he came.
7927. What was the rent before the houses were built?
—I had in my memory two tenants or crofters keeping the whole place I am in at the present time between the two. They had the common as well as the rest of the crofters that were on the land. They had liberty to have fifty to sixty sheep, and a pair of horses each, and they were keeping a summing of eight milk cows coming into their byres; and they had some yeld cattle on the hill.
7928. But what was the rent of your particular croft for which you now pay £14? What did you pay for that before the house was built?
— I did not enter into the croft until such time as the house was built. The houses are new and the crofts are new at the present time. But I remember when the whole place was occupied by two crofters; and there is one park now, which measures about nineteen acres, taken off the others, and occupied by Mr Wood himself.
7929. Professor MacKinnon.
—You remember when the hill of Oscaig was in the hands of two people, with a park of nineteen acres more than there is among you six now?
7930. And the total rent was what?
7931. And now it has been relotted into six, and the total rent is £60?
7932. The rent being charged chiefly because of the cottages, not because of the land?
7933. Mr Cameron.
—Do you get regular work from Mr Wood?
—Yes, I have no cause of complaint. We get regular work and wages; but, at the same time, we complain of the smallness of the wages as much as of the smallness of the land, because people depend merely on the day's wages, and we suppose 13s. a week is hardly able to keep a family, or a family of we such as I have. I have four and my wife and myself —it is six—and I consider 13s. a week is barely enough to support me in meat and clothes, and to pay the rent.
7934. Would you rather have a worse house and pay less rent?
—Well, most decidedly, if I was as comfortably off otherwise. I daresay I could live as my forefathers did live in the worst houses, and they lived as old as I will do; and my father died last year, eighty years of age, and I do not know if I will live that long.
7935. Do you think the test of happiness is to live as long as possible?
7936. Would you rather have a less rent and a worse house?
—I complain of the house even as it is. I would take the house.
7937. But you cannot live in the house without paying a fair rent upon what it costs to build. You cannot live in a good house, and pay the rent of a bad one ?
—I think there are houses that will do the like of a man of my income, and be less rented, for the income can never pay the outlay.
7938. You complain of that, and you complain that the wages are too low?
—We have to pay the expense that has to come out of them.
7939. Professor Mackinnon.
—I see your croft is £14. There is Donald Gillies, £14, and the other crofters are £8?
7940. Are all the houses the same ?
7941. That is, the houses of John Gillies and Murdo M'Leod are as good as yours?
—Yes, but these only hold one or two apartments —only half the house. They have a whole croft, but only the half of the house.
7942. So the houses have been subdivided as well as the crofts?
—Donald Gillies and I have a whole house.
7943. Donald Gillies and you are allowed to keep a horse?
—Yes; but I daresay, if you put the whole six of us together, the whole produce of the land would not keep a horse.
7944. How does Gillies, too, keep a horse?
—Because he has the roads, and he cannot work the roads very well without a horse.
7945. Do the six of you get steady work at 13s. a week?
—Yes, and I don't know of any man who has been refused work by the proprietor since he came.
7946. And your house and Donald Gillies' are double the size of the others; that is to say the others are half. Can you let any part of your house?
—I believe Mr Wood would not object to us doing it.
7947. But you don't make any money by letting it?
7948. You are not in the habit of letting it?
—Well, I am not supposed to do it.
7949. Do you take any lodgers?
—Sometimes I take in lodgers.
7950. For payment ?
— At 2s. per week, which is the regular rule of charge for lodgers, but it is very seldom I take them.
7951. The complaint is that the houses are rented too high?
—Yes, and the crofts too; because we are compelled to pay the extra sum of money for the croft, which is a very small portion. I don't believe it is much more than one and a quarter acres of arable land.
7952. The Chairman..
—What sort of house is it you have? Is it stone, lime, and slate?
7953. How many stories high?
7954. How many rooms are there in it?
—Two rooms and two bedclosets; a closet entering from each room.
7955. There is a kitchen?
7956. And a bed-room?
7957. And two bed-closets?
—There is a kitchen and a closet off the kitchen, and at the other end of the house they are the same—a room and a closet off the room.
7958. Is there anything upstairs in the loft?
—There is no stair at all ; no ladder.
7959. Is there any milk house or place outside behind?
—We are provided with a byre and barn for the benefit of the croft.
7960. Is there any washing house?
7961. Or any apartment outside at all?
7962. How large are these closets attached to the two rooms?
—About eight feet square.
7963. Is there a bed in each?
—You can put a bed in them.
7964. Is there a fire-place in the closets?
7965. But a fire-place in each of the other rooms?
7966. How much do you suppose such a house would cost to build!
—I heard they cost about £200.
7967. I speak of the house you inhabit, should you think it cost about £200?
7968. Including the barn and the byre ?
—I am not sure whether that is taken in or not.
7969. Perhaps it would cost £250 with the barn and byre?
—I don't know.
7970. Now, have you got a garden near the house for vegetables?
—We have part of our own croft. Each end has got a croft—a strip opposite itself —and then there is a piece taken off from every croft, and fenced.
7971. Within the potato ground?
7972. How much will the land keep, one cow or two cows?
—It is just one cow we are allowed to keep—the grazing of one cow.
7973. Any sheep?
— We are not allowed to keep sheep, but some have kept two or three sheep, mostly for petting.
7974. How do you provide the provender for the cow in winter?
—Just in the bit of land we have.
7975. Do you get enough to support her in winter?
7976. But nearly?
—Yes, but there are few of us who have not to buy something.
7977. Then you have a good cottage and a little garden, and a cow's grass, and enough land to produce food for the cow in winter, and you pay £14?
7978. If you ceased to work for day's wages to the landlord would the landlord remove you?
—No, I don't think it. We don't blame the landlord in the least, because I think the landlord is very kind to us, and very good to the people.
7979. Does your garden grow good vegetables? Could you grow, carrots and peas?
—I daresay we could grow carrots, but I don't see much good it would do us.
7980. Is there anybody about who is cultivating finer vegetables, such as carrots and peas, or do they grow nothing but cabbages and potatoes?
—Well, I don't know of any garden into which they have either put carrots or peas, except one, and I daresay that is more for curiosity than for the good of it, because carrots and these vegetables do no good to a workman when he has no meat to go with them.
7981. Don't they make broth sometimes?
—They can do that with meat.