Rev. DONALD MACCALLUM, Established Church Minister of Arisaig (32)—examined.
32920. The Chairman.
—You are a delegate?
—I was appointed to see that everything was properly arranged, and that those who were to make general statements appeared in time and properly prepared. I have only been two years here, and don't profess to know very much about the people, except by having had a meeting with them about these matters, at which I took down notes from the most of them. Most of the papers were composed by me from what the people told me, and contain no representations of my own.
32921. And did the meetings originate with the people or with you?
—With the people.
32922. And they asked you to assist them?
32923. Have there been any persons from outside present at these meetings?
—No; except when Mr Murdoch came here on Saturday last; and we happened to have two meetings when he came, and he was present. He went along with me, but he was not asked ; and the people did not know he was to be there.
32924. I do not wish to imply the least blame to you or to anybody, but I would like to know a little more about it. Have the statements now made originated at all with him or been altered in consequence of his presence?
32925. Are they substantially the people's?
—They had met before he came.
32926. Would you proceed with your statement?
—' Some notes on the district of Arisaig and South Morar, in the parish of Ardnamurchan, and in the possession of Mrs Nicholson, daughter of the purchaser, the late Mr Astley. The estate of Arisaig and South Morar has the misfortune to have passed through more than the ordinary changes of proprietors and factors within a couple of generations, and it is difficult to give a statement of the nature and causes of the present dissatisfaction among the people. There have been so many principals and agents engaged in the administration that it is all but impossible to state clearly who ordered certain things complained of, who began and who finished the work of infliction. But whether the part borne in the work by each be traced home or not, there is the broad fact that there have been so many changes that a certain uncertainty —strange as the phrase may sound —has for years disquieted the tenants and retarded all progress in the right direction. There is this one redeeming element, that we are relieved from the unpleasant necessity of piling up all the charges involved in the grievances at the door of any one proprietor or factor. It is not so very long since Clanranald reigned here, followed by Lady Ashburton, Lord Cranstoun, Mr Mackay, and F. D. P. Astley. Then came a trusteeship during the minority of Mr Frank Astley, who succeeded. He was not long in possession when he was succeeded by his sister; and now the state has the further change incident to that lady's becoming Mrs Nicholson. Morar has had the ill luck of having passed through the hands of two proprietors in succession who are still spoken of as " an da amadan," or the two fools. Then there have been Mr Eneas Macdonell, young Mr Astley, Miss Astley and Mr Nicholson. Time and space would fail us if we would give the names of the factors and local managers. The case of this estate is, to a large extent, another bundle of facts bearing out the general complaint of a very injudicious and unnecessary limitation of the area and quality of the land at the disposal of the crofters and humbler classes generally. There is excellent arable land in the hands of three tacksmen ; and under their sheep and the deer of the sportsman there is plenty hill pasture, while the great mass of the population is confined to the patches complained of. Rents are complained of as being excessive, and as having been increased in many cases, not by agreement, but by the one-sided order of the proprietor. The evils incident to the changes referred to are well illustrated in the case of John M'Donald, at one time tenant of Druimdubh, Bun-na-caim, where he held a croft at £ 15 of rent. Expecting assistance from the then proprietor, Mr. Eneas Macdonell, he drained, trenched, and fenced, carried stones a great distance, and built outhouses. Besides his own work he paid a labourer to help at the fencing in particular. The amount and weight of the toil cannot be estimated without a careful survey of the situation and of the work done; and even then, the money value set upon it would never be adequate compensation. All the landlord contributed towards the improvements was some timber, lime, and slates, and when, two years after the completion of these operations the tenant was removed, all he got in compensation was the sum of £ 9 , although the greater value of these improvements was asserted by the proprietor himself in that he added £ 5 to the rent of M'Donell's successor. This, be it noticed, was a decidedly improving tenant, and the case is all the more telling as illustrating the system of actual repression under which Highland crofters suffer. Macdonald is a man who can make a creditable appearance before strangers, and his proprietor gave him what was represented as quite a superior place—a sort of sheep farm warranted to support 300 sheep, at the rent of £100. As it turned out, it would not support 100 sheep. But having a spirit licence at the house, and the privilege of letting boats to tourists and sportsmen who fished Loch Morar, he was trying to make ends meet. Meantime, the estate gets into the hands of Mr Macdonell's trustees; then it became the property of Mr Astley, and the terms of Macdonald's occupancy were broken. The tenant was first forbidden to allow anglers to go beyond a line pointed out by Mr Astley; and, by-and-by, the interference was carried so far that the water bailiff was sent with notices to the gentlemen anglers; and the result was that visitors ceased to patronise Macdonald's boats, and he sank under the losses entailed. Mr Astley dies, but the repressive tendency of the management would seem to acquire increased force. Macdonald was reduced to the necessity of seeking shelter for his family, and a croft for their support; but so far from anything being done to make up to him for the losses and injuries complained of, the answer to his various applications for places was that he would get nothing, and he has only been on sufferance in a hut, far away from school, and when he sought a house about to be vacant near the school, he was told that he would have to leave the country. Young Mr Astley ruled for a time after the death of his father. Things were still tending in the same direction when he died. Applications to Miss Astley met with repulses; and when, after her marriage, application was made to her husband, Mr Nicholson, the refusal, he says, was accompanied by a statement against Macdonald that his rent was unpaid, although I have seen the receipt for the rent in the applicant's possession; and he is present to produce it, and to give personal testimony to the sad truth that proprietors may die, but the system under which the lands in these parts are administered continues, changing for the worse. The contract entered into by one proprietor with the tenant is broken by the man who buys the estate subject to the conditions of that contract. There is no binding obligation to do what is promised, if it be for the good of the tenant. So far this sample goes to show, however, there is some sort of tradition necessitating, if not a formal engagement, on the part of the succeeding proprietor to give full effect to, or perhaps increasing effect, to the preceding proprietor's grudge towards a tenant. It must be admitted that it was hard for the recent proprietors to be under any obligation to give land, or even a hut, to a man in whose person there was always to be seen, or heard, or felt, an accumulation of wrongs inflicted by the owners of the estate. Possibly this case will go far to show the necessity for some kind of constant interference on the part of the Government between crofters and landlords; and the time taken up with the narrative may not, after all, be thrown away. One thing is certain, that the changes have not done away with the old grievances, and they have brought with them an abundant crop of fresh causes of complaint. Some of the grievances, old and new, are detailed in the statements sent in from the different townships. Here the case of the Strath of Arisaig may as well be brought in. The nature of the grievances will be more easily understood when it is stated that the gathering of so many families into this narrow space is the result of the clearing of good lands now in the hands of tacksmen and sportsmen. These householders have no crofts, and with the exception of the few dealers and tradesmen —who are not always an exception—are dependent upon very casual employment. At one time there was some employment given, and there is an impression abroad that there have been large sums of money expended by the late Mr Astley ; but in this respect too the changes have been for the worse, from what was never very good. Even when there was some noticeable employment given, there were complaints among the workers that the wages due were sometimes difficult to get out of the hands of the paymaster. Of this sort of paymasters there have been more than one. The tradition is current in the district to this day that one man, who ended his days in extreme poverty, gave it as his dying testimony that Mr Astley's manager was owing him £26 at the time. Donald M'Donald, Back of Keppoch, is present to bear witness to that fact, and to others of the same kind. And that this kind of managerial disregard for the interests and feelings of the poor has not altogether ceased is rendered probable, if not certain, from the fact that when Mary O'Henly or M'Donald died (as is positively alleged of starvation) on 23rd February last, there were some 10s. due to her son in the hands of the present manager. This case has never undergone public investigation; and the rulers in those parts must lie under all the implications until they institute the inquiry required in the circumstances. We are not concerned to prove that the woman died of starvation, but whether she did or not, that is the general impression ; and any way the case goes, along with other things, to show the kind of feeling with which the people on the estate are regarded. If, instead of a human being dying of starvation, it had been the killing of a deer or the spearing of a salmon, that had become a matter of public concern. It would not have been allowed to lie over, as the case of Mary O'Henly has done—so people say. It is not merely that this kind of inhumanity is practised towards the poor people, but attempts are made to get them to practise inhumanity towards each other, and to dry up natural affection in the family circle. Fathers and mothers are required to turn out their sons and daughters if they get married. This, of course, is done under the colour of preventing overcrowding; but there would be no danger of overcrowding, excepting for the clearing of the people off the wider and better lands. The managers of the estate cause overcrowding, and after victimising the people, punish them. The spirit of this prohibition, however, comes out clearly at the present moment. A young man of the name of John M'Millan got married some time ago, and is living in a house with his wife by themselves. They are not in the same house with any one else, and there is no overcrowding. The prohibition against married sons being in with their parents has been stretched so as to apply to this case, and everything is being done to get the young couple out of the place. His father has been refused a fence in front of his house, because the son will not leave the country. This year a new refinement has been invented, as if to carry out the idea that every new proprietor should exceed the previous ones in the art of mismanaging the people. There has been a new code of estate regulations issued consisting of what have been called " The Seventeen Commandments." According to the 14th of these rules, “ the sons, after attaining twenty-one years of age, whether married or not, are bound to find accommodation elsewhere, unless allowed to remain with the written sanction of the proprietor." It is not merely that the people are " cribbed, cabined, and confined," as we have seen, but even within their narrow family circles the rent-drawer, the man who lives by the sweat of their brows, takes upon him to trample upon their judgment, their discretion, their affections, and to dictate to the fathers and mothers how they are to behave towards their own offspring. This code was handed to the crofters and others for their signatures at last rent collection, and some confess, with shame, that they adhibited their names. Lest it should be thought that these terms are too strong for the occasion, let us look into these rules a little further, particularly as they have been a bone of contention on the estate for some time. Rule 1 shows the disregard for the interest and feelings of the crofter class. After saying of the leaseholder that he shall have a year's written notice to quit, the crofters are tossed off with the intimation that six months' notice is all they are to get, and the cottagers without lease, three months. The poorer, the less able people are to bear hardships, the less consideration is shown to them. No. 3 goes into detail as to the management of the lease-holder's farm, and " any neglect or disregard " . . . . " shall in the option of the proprietor be held as a forfeiture of the lease," . . .just as if it were the practice in this country for landed proprietors to serve their time at farming, and had passed an examination in agriculture before a competent board—or that proprietors were born agriculturists and not made. No. 7 is so absurdly minute in regard to the permission and directions of the landlord which the tenant must have before he can reclaim or drain a bit of land, that it is a practical bar to improvement. No. 8 provokes another remark on the agricultural qualifications of the landlord, who is declared to be "sole judge"of the sufficiency of the tenant's stock for the land; and this is the slightest objection to it. The crofter is told that he must at all times have sufficient stock on pain of depositing a half year's rent in the bank six month's before it is due. No.9 showed that the poorer a man was the less consideration was shown him in the matter of removals ; but No. 8 makes a stride in advance even of that, for under it the poverty of a man is a reason for his being called upon to perform an impossibility, or submit to be, of set purpose, pushed further down in the slough of poverty. The presumption is that if a man has not sufficient stock, it is because he has not wherewith to buy it; and if he has not, he cannot deposit the money iu the bank to satisfy his "sole judge," the proprietor. This is plain enough, however, that the man's not having all the stock necessary to satisfy the demands of the proprietor, six month's before he has any right to make them, renders the poor man liable to eviction —this proprietor being litigant, " sole judge," and executioner. No. 11 holds the tenant bound to stay all improvement of houses until he has got the written consent of the proprietor; and, as if that were not enough, he is told that his house shall not exceed in value three years' rent of the croft. No. 12 restricts a whole township of crofters to one dog for each march ; and if this dog has strayed away from his owner, and has been found in the hills, there is no intimation that he shall be carefully returned to his owner. Oh, no ; the intimation is that the dog may be destroyed, without compensation to the owner. And so on —everything being, apparently on the assumption that the proprietor has to do with a whole population, every one of which is so ignorant, so stupid, so dishonest, and so dead to self-interest, that directions, restrictions, and written permissions must be given to keep them from running into all sorts of forbidden ways—we say nothing of the proprietor's fitness for this general and particular directorship. There is another example, in connection with the matter of employment
—and they are all comparatively recent. Even when there is work to be done, it would seem to be the set purpose of the rulers to exclude the natives, especially if the job be worth having. Not very long ago tenders were advertised for in connection with the fencing of the deer forest. Some persons on the estate wrote to the estate office for the specifications, intimating an intention to put in an offer. No answer was given to the application, and thecontract was given to a man of the name of Cameron from Lochaber. Any one hearing this would be apt to conclude that it was well known that no one among the tenants was fit to undertake the job. But the sequel will show. Cameron was not many days at work when he gave a sub-contract to John M'Innes, John M'Eachen, Donald M'Varish, and Donald M 'Donald, on the estate. When the contract was finished and the money paid, they found that they had 4s. 6d. a day for the time, and that the head contractor had cleared £ 100 by the job. There is no contradicting the fact of there being some incompatibility between the proprietorial and managing classes on the one side and the native population on the other. There is no satisfactory way of accounting for the variety of forms in which this sort of thing comes up. One does not like to say that these English and other folk have a positive hatred to the native Highlander; but there is something at the bottom of it which is not even so clearly understood as hatred. Rose, the factor under Lord Cranstoun, one of the great rent-raisers on the estate, insisted upon every one offering £ 2 additional on his croft, or that he would have to go ; and the insistence was supported with the declaration that, if they did not give the £ 2 , the land would be let to a Frenchman, rather than to them if he only gave Is. of advance. In Mackay's time an eviction of the Kinloid people was projected, and the moor went with his force to turn them out by unroofing the houses. In Lord Cranstoun's time, Rose being factor, there was an eviction attempted at Brunary. There happened to be an old woman lying dead in the house on which the attack was to be made first. The circumstance of no respect being shown to the dead or to the afflicted so roused the people that they seized the functionary, tore his clothes to bits, and soon chased him out of the place. But bearing out the idea that the changes have been for the worse, Mr Astley became proprietor, and his manager, Mr John Routledge, drove out sixteen families from Kinloid, as stated in the Back of Keppoch paper. These evictions are remarkable from the circumstance that they seem not to have been prompted by a demand, at the time, for a large farm; for it remained in the proprietor's hands for some time after being cleared. It is but right to state that when these evictions were complained of to the proprietor, he said they had been perpetrated without his knowledge ; he promised never to do the like again, and his sincerity was apparently confirmed by the dismissal of the manager. But there is a deduction to be made from his sincerity on account of two facts
—(1) The manager was promoted to the post of hotel-keeper; and to the excellent management of Mrs Routledge and her daughters tourists are indebted for cornforts and attendance such as are not excelled anywhere else.
(2) After a succession of not very wise selections of managers, a young Routledge rules where the father did such bad work. And worse than all these deductions, the people have not been restored to the land, although the farm remained in the proprietor's hands for some time after being cleared, and although it has been out of lease since —for the making of this big farm was an economic blunder, as well as an inhumane proceeding. The man who took it after the evictions failed ; and it is a question to-day who lost most—the evicted, the man who got the cleared land, or the man whose reputation has suffered by the carrying out of the eviction policy. I have not sufficient knowledge of the West and North Highlands to be able to say how far that which operates to so large an extent between the tenants and those over them is to be traced to sectarian prejudice The fact is, no doubt, that the mass of the people on this estate are Catholics. I can hardly think that this points to the cause of the practical antagonism to the people ; yet I am told, on Lord Howard of Glossop's little property, where the landlord and people are all of the one Catholic faith, things are managed in a totally different spirit; and we hear that the disputes on the Glen Uig and North Morar estates have been settled between the Catholic tenants and the Catholic Lord Lovat and Mr M'Lean. I am a Presbyterian, and the minister of the Established Church of Arisaig, and can have no church bias towards Catholic people or pro prietors ; but in trying to account for the very deplorable state of feeling between the two classes on this estate, I am obliged to make reference to the remarkable facts mentioned. If, however, this incompatibility be not traceable to the churches, and that the fact must be accepted as going, along with those we read of in Skye, Lewis, Uist, and Sutherland, to establish the conviction, that whatever may be the case in England and even in the lowlands of Scotland, the present system of landlords, factors, ground officers, consolidations, sheep walks, and small crofts, make up an incongruous mass, taken as a whole, which is utterly abnormal, and must give way to an arrangement more in harmony with the genius of the Highland people. Whether this system is to give place to one under which the people will be left, as peasant proprietors, to manage their lands, their houses, their families, and their cattle according to their own ideas, expanded by the experience now denied them under an antagonistic system, or that they will become the tenants of the Government, remains to be seen. So far as the treatment of the people on this estate goes, it would seem to leave nothing for the people but to seek the special protection of Government. I believe that any fair proposal on the part of Government would be gratefully accepted by the crofters and householders; but they certainly look to Government and Parliament to deliver them from the kind of treatment here described. No doubt, the proprietors, past and present, desire above all things that they should be relieved from all further trouble by the people emigrating. This might suit the proprietors In one respect; but these people say, first, that there is plenty land for them on their native shores; and, second, that it would be a wiser economy to give them the money which would be required to transport them, and that it would do much more good, as a help towards setting them up on farms at home. They say, further, that emigration is suitable for proprietors and capitalist farmers, who can settle down on stocked farms with houses ready for occupation, and not for poor people to be cast out and left to their fate on strange shores without a penny in their pockets. Proprietors and sheep farmers try to live alone in the midst of the earth, and I, as a teacher of righteousness, am constrained to justify the ways of God to men by saying that the rapid succession of proprietors and managers on this one estate indicate a striking execution of the divine sentence, " Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to
field, until there be no room, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." They have worked hard to take and to keep the lands which God gave to the children of men to be inhabited, and yield its fruits to fill the hearts of men with grateful praises of God; but the evictors and consolidators have been seized themselves, and their acquisitions have slipped out of their hands as if they were no more solid than vapour. But thanks, be to God, the land is there; a large remnant of the people is there to replenish the waste lands; and we have the Royal Commission, I hope, the harbinger of the restoration.
—Summary. The grievances are
—1. Insufficient land of inferior quality, and badly situated.
2. Excessive rents arbitrarily raised without any bargain being made.
3. Evictions from better and more land to less and worse—sometimes to none ; removals backwards and forwards, with their inevitable consequence of a feeling of insecurity.
4. Harsh regulations, which can serve no higher purpose than that of raising a few over the many, and degrading the native people in the eyes of the world and even their own eyes.
5. Prohibitions against young men remaining under the roof of their parents.
6. A general system of repression, restriction, and repulsion, as if the native people were an eyesore to
the other strangers who happen to have got power over them.
1. Land to those who have none, and help to stock it; more land to the many who have too little. There is plenty land lying waste.
2. Reduction of rent, the same to be fixed by Government valuators, well acquainted with the country. 3. Better houses, the landlord's money tobe expended on them by the tenant and not by his officials.
4. Fences to save crops from sheep and deer, if the latter are to be tolerated in this country.
5. No evictions without being very exacting as to the terms on which occupation is to be made secure.
Let an attempt be made to redress grievances, and the rulers will find that they have a docile and amenable people to deal with. I wish to add that in the foregoing paper no attempt has been made to excite bad feelings towards any one. I have merely attempted to state facts as they have borne upon the tenants. If the managers feel that facts fall too heavily upon themselves, they will, no doubt, shift the burden to the proper shoulders. What I, and the people who have asked me to write for them, desire is redress of grievances, the prosperity of all classes of the community, and not the censure of individuals.
32927. Have there been any evictions or arbitrary changes among the small tenants since you began here?
—No, these regidations were issued at Whitsunday and have not been in operation.
32928. There was a general complaint of the liability of the people to eviction before the regulations were brought under consideration ; and there have not been, since you came here, any cases of arbitrary eviction?
32929. Or arbitrary changes of tenants from one plot to another?
32930. How long have you been here?
32931. From what you have heard, how long is it since practices of this kind have been common upon the estate?
—Some of them about twenty years ago.
32932. Do you think that any complaints about arbitrary eviction or change of tenancy involving a loss and hardship to the crofter have occurred within a period of twenty years?
—Yes, or thirty, when a number of families were sent away. Thirty years ago one hundred and twenty families were sent away to America and elsewhere.
32933. But the people do not live under any distinct pressure or alarm of eviction at this time?
—No, but they have heard rumours that they were to be evicted.
32934. Was that in connection with any project for forming a forest or great sheep farm?
—My own impression is that it is because there is no work for them on the estate; and that those who wished to send them away thought it was for their good; that is my own explanation of it.
32935. But nothing of that sort has been carried out yet?
32936. In your statement there is an allusion to strangers —to the employment, or perhaps the tyranny, of strangers among the people. Do you refer to proprietors or factors?
—Yes, generally; people buying estates who have no interest in them so far as their connections are concerned—English people who buy Highland estates.
32937. But, do you think that there is a disadvantage necessarily attached to the purchase of property by a rich Englishman from an impoverished Highland family?
32938. Do you think that the English, or strangers, as you call them, who have purchased estates in the Highlands, are more careless of the welfare of the people, and less inclined to do them good, than the old families are?
— I could not say the families were were better.
32939. Is there any evidence here that strangers to the country are systematically chosen for all places of authority over the people?
—I could not say except that strangers have generally been chosen for this estate.
32940. Are they strangers at the present moment?
—They don't belong originally to the place.
32941. Are they Inverness-shire people—Highlanders?
—Some of them English.
329-42. You mean men employed as ground officers?
32943. Is there any hostility shown by the people to Englishmen particularly?
—Not the least.
32944. They don't dislike them because they are English?
32945. There was an expression in your statement which struck me about sheep being tolerated?
—I mean deer.
32946. Then you will tolerate sheep?
32947. Do you think it would be a benefit to the crofters themselves if they were allowed to keep more sheep?
32948. I did not understand the regulation about the sons of crofters in the way you put it. The memorial seemed to imply that no son above the age of twenty-one years was to be allowed to remain with the father?
—The last part of the rule I cannot interpret, it is put indefinitely, but it would give you to understand that no son was to be allowed to remain.
32949. To my mind, the first part implies that the oldest son, or one son, whether married or single, is to remain, at the option of the parent?
32950. And that all other sons, after attaining the age of twenty-one, are to go away?
—They don't object at all to going away, but they object to being told to go away. They want to go away and get work, and they consider that none of them will remain as long as it is for their good to
go away ; but they think it hard that there should be a law compelling them to do that, although they know it is for their good.
32951. I certainly don't advocate any stringent or offensive expression of policy or intention; but still at bottom is there not great reason for some restriction in that direction?
—Yes, very much.
32952. Supposing this article really means that one son, married or single, may remain, and that no other sons, married or single, should remain without the consent of the proprietor, can you really say that you think that is a vicious regulation?
—It is a bad thing for them to remain. But that regulation puts them all on the same level. It is given to those who send their children away as well as to those who would keep them ; and it would be far better to examine the houses, and enforce the rule where and when it was really necessary.
32953. Your objection is not to the substance of the regulation, but to the manner in which it is systematically applied?
—I object to its being said to every one that he must send his children away, although I consider it a good thing for them to go away.
32954. Do you think they would go away?
—I think they would if they got the chance.
32955. Perhaps you have heard that there are complaints connected with overcrowding in other parts?
32956. It states here that ' the crofters' houses shall not exceed in value three years' rent of the croft.' If that really meant that no crofter's house should exceed in value three years' rent of the croft, that might appear a most objectionable and inhuman regulation? But I don't understand that it really means that. It has been stated to me that it means that no outgoing tenant shall have a claim to reimbursement from the incoming tenant or the proprietor of more than three years' value?
—I don't understand it.
32957. Has any case ever occurred?
—These regulations are new and have not been enforced; and they have been objected to. The people delayed the payment of rent on account of these regulations ; and there would not have been so much about that had they not been in correspondence with Mr Nicholson about them. He said he might modify rule 14 for them, and they understood he was to enforce all the rest without modification.
32958. Do the small tenants complain of these regulations because they are couched in too technical and categorical a form?
—That is the great objection to them.
32959. Who is supposed to have been the contriver of these remarkable regulations?
—It is not at all known.
32960. From what part of the country do you come?
32961. Comparing the condition of the people here with other parts of the Highlands with your native place, do you find the people here in an inferior physical condition to those of other places?
—No, they are not inferior.
32962. Do you think the people here who are industrious and well inclined, generally find some resource of labour or employment during the whole year?
32963. Are the prices of the commodities that they produce rising?
—They don't sell many things; they fish and sell herring.
32964. They sell some small cattle?
32965. Prices for stirks are rising?
—Yes, of late years.
32966. And is the price of fish improving?
—It depends very much upon whether the fish are plentiful or not. In a plentiful year they get very little for them after great trouble, and when there is little they are almost at starvation; in a middling year they are more comfortable.
32967. They have cause to complain of excessive plenty?
32968. That is not desirable?
32969. Nor excessive scarcity?
32970. But on the whole they have the means of gaining a livelihood almost over the whole place?
32971. Is there any improvement in their method of fishing —are they getting a superior description of boats?
—I think not.
32972. Do they go further to fish?
—To Loch Hourn.
32973. Do they go to the east coast?
—I am not aware.
32974. Do any of them go to the lowlands of Scotland?
—Some young men do.
32975. Do heads of families go?
—I don't know.
32976. In that case the family is not, properly speaking, broken up by the departure of individual members?
32977. Do the young men go for employment to the south of Scotland?
—They go to service.
32978. Do they return home?
—Occasionally. They have the croft here is their home, and they come home when they are out of work.
32979. Do they assist their parents from their earnings?
—Yes, in my experience they do.
32980. And the moral condition of the parish is satisfactory?
—As satisfactory as any parish I know.
32981. Is there any intemperance?
—Nothing to speak of.
32982. Any public houses?
32983. How many?
32984. For the whole region?
—Yes, and it is extremely well conducted.
32985. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I suppose a person in possession of a croft requires longer notice of removal than a person in a house?
32986. Is that the reason the cottages should only get three months' notice former twelve months' notice?
—It occurred to me in this light; that the farmer was rich, and could do for himself at any time of the year, but the crofter and cottager are generally poor, and it is therefore a greater hardship to them than to the farmer to be sent away at short notice.
32987. Do you know if there is any difference in the term for which the crofter and farmer pay rent?
—I could not say; perhaps the crofters pay it oftener.
32988. Do the crofters pay a forehand rent?
—I cannot say.
32989. You say it is very desirable that they should have better houses?
—Yes; some of them have good houses.
32990. Is it not the case that the extremely high rents on this property are due to the fact that the people have been provided with good houses for which they have to pay interest?
—It is, partly. They tell me that their crofts would be too dear, although they had not to pay any interest, and some of them say the interest itself is quite sufficient rent.
32991. Can the proprietor afford to build houses without interest?
—No, of course not.
32992. We were told by one of the witnesses that it has been the custom here for a proprietor to give the materials —slates and wood and lime—that the tenant of the croft might make the house himself; that is generally considered a fair enough condition for the erection of crofters' houses?
—Yes, I think so. But in regard to the proprietor not being able to do it, of course not; but that don't make it easier for the tenant to pay it. They don't blame the proprietor at all. The proprietor, of course, cannot do it for nothing; but when it is built interest has to be paid, which, in addition to the rent of the croft, becomes difficult to pay.
32993. How would you propose, then, that better houses should be provided?
—That the rent should be reduced so that, even paying the interest of the house along with it, it should be a fair rent.
32994. But you mentioned that the interest on the cost of the house would be a fair rent for the croft, so that the land would go for nothing?
—If that way were taken—either the one way or the other.
32995. Do you think it is reasonable that the proprietor should be asked to give land for nothing?
—No, but I think it is reasonable that they should let it at its real value.
32996. You said just now they wanted better houses, and that the interest on the cost of those houses would be sufficient rent for the land?
—Some of them say so. Some of them pay £5 every year, and they say it is sufficient for their croft. They have, I think, only four cows.
32997. Assuming it is so, how could they be provided with better houses?
—Well, I could not say, I am sure.
32998. You made a remark with reference to the strangers who, as you express it, ' happened to have much power over here;' you also mentioned that you had something to do with the writing of the statement from the Back of Keppoch, in which these words occur ' our forefathers have been here from time immemorial, and we consider we have as much right to live in comfort as the proprietor has to be superior over us. Do you think the proprietor is bound to find cottages for these crofters at any cost to himself?
—No, but I think he should be.
32999. You think that, morally, he should be bound to find cottages, although the people cannot pay for them?
—No; but I consider he is bound morally to let them live at a reasonable rate on the estate. I don't say exactly what he should do for them. .
33000. There is a rule about tenants being bound to have sufficient stock. I suppose it is from the stock that the tenant pays his rent, or is supposed to do so?
—It is so supposed, but it is not the case. He pays his rent from the fishing; there are cases in which the cows have all died, and the people have had nothing. Now if the proprietor discovered that, the man would be sent away because he had no money to deposit; and if the proprietor would allow him time he might get his rent from the fishing.
33001. But these rules apply to the larger tenant as well as to the smaller one ?
33002. And in their case it surely is reasonable that they should be bound to have full stock on the land ?
—Yes. A person of the name of Angus Campbell lost a cow and had only another, which he also lost
recently. Having lost the first cow, should the proprietor say ' You have only one cow, you must go.' The man may be a carpenter, and he might make money by his trade and be able to pay the proprietor at the end of the year; and I think it is unreasonable, that he should be asked to deposit the rent before it is due. He does not know that the tenant shall live to get the value of it. The money should be in the bank to the credit of the tenant, who may die.
33003. The stock is the proprietor's security for the rent?
—It is on that assumption that the rule is made.
33004. You don't mean to insinuate that the proprietor would take advantage of a case of misfortune ?
—No; but no one knows what proprietor may come, and if these rules are in force, who knows that there may not be two fools, as on the estate of Morar. If a fool should come, and if these rules should remain, we do not know what might happen. The present proprietor is right and just, we consider, but we don't know who may come in his place and enforce these rules.
33005. Are there complaints of sheep worrying here?
—There was something about that.
33006. I suppose that is the reason why the rule about loose dogs was made ?
—It may be.
33007. Do you think it unreasonable that loose dogs should be destroyed?
—These dogs were destroyed. The fact is I really do not know when I heard of any sheep worrying, but I have heard of dogs being poisoned when they went astray.
33008. You did not hear that there had been sheep worrying?
—No, I did not hear it
33009. Mr Cameron.
—I think you say that six months' notice of removal is quite sufficient for the crofter?
—No; I objected to a distinction being made between the leaseholder and the crofter.
33010. Is it not a fact that at present forty days' notice is sufficient?
—It may be so.
33011. Supposing it is, the new regulation is a distinct improvement, and one of a liberal character, in favour of the tenant?
—Yes, but it has not gone the length that it should do.
33012. But, at present, without those regulations, the law says forty clays' notice of removal is sufficient, and these regulations alter the forty days' to six months, and that, therefore, is a distinct improvement, and more liberal?
—Certainly, but we are here to-day to get further advances, and to get the law so made that so long as we pay fair rent we shall not be removed at all.
33013. You complain of the regulations in regard to the draining?
—Yes, that they are too minute, and that there are so many regulations concerning it that really a tenant cannot undertake it for a small bit of land.
33014. Is not draining rather a hazardous agricultural operation, and one requires great care in its execution?
33015. And don’t you think the more minute the regulations are the more satisfactory the drains will prove to be?
—Yes, but I think these regulations are too minute.
33016. You complain of a general incompetency of landlords to deal with agriculture; but have not landlords the power of obtaining professional assistance even if they themselves are not acquainted with the matter?
—Yes, but he has to be sole judge.
33017. But I suppose there is nothing to prevent him getting competent assistance?
—Yes, but we cannot compel him to do so; and the man he might send might be worse than himself.
33018. But do you think it is likely, if he knows nothing upon the subject, that be will decide that matter without taking somebody's advice?
—That is what I consider so absurd.
33019. But he would be the loser?
—He might not.
33020. Do people generally usually carry on their affairs by plunging into an enterprise of which they know nothing without asking advice?
—It is to prevent that that we are here to object to the paper; to prevent his going headlong into things he knows nothing about.
33021. You state that the rents are arbitrarily fixed without any bargain being made?
—Yes, they were raised by the factor who was here, some years ago, and he said unless they would give him £2 more rent they would all be evicted, and it is remarked that he said he would give it to a
Frenchman sooner than let them have it unless they gave him more rent.
33022. Without any bargain being made?
—He came and said, 'You will have to go out.' Now I consider a bargain is between two.
33023. But when rents are arbitrarily made, the rule is, I suppose, that a bargain is also made. The tenant need not take the farm unless he chooses?
—No, of course not.
33024. In that sense there is a bargain?
—Yes, when he remains.
33025. The remedy, you say, is more land and ability to stock it?
—I am not definite on that point; I don't know.
33026. I should like to ask you to be a little definite because it is an important point. If the crofters are to get more land, to enable them to stock it it is clear the stock must come from some quarter. From what quarter should the assistance come which you request?
—In some cases the proprietors give them money to emigrate, and I think if that money which was given to them for emigration was given to stock and get a croft at home it would be a good change on that policy.
33027. But ought not the remedy to be sought, in the first instance from the proprietor himself?
—Yes, of course, they have no right to get it from anyone unless they are good enough to give it.
33028. What do you suggest to us should be the remedy in the way of helping the crofter to stock the land?
—Government might, perhaps, lend money.
33029. That is a different thing from the proprietor?
33030. You said you would recommend the proprietor to lend money; and, if he refused you would recommend the Government to lend it?
—Yes; but if the proprietor would be willing to do it I should say it would be better.
33031. You say that ' Everything is apparently on the assumption that the proprietor has to do with a whole population, every one of which is so ignorant, so stupid, so dishonest, and so dead to self-interest, that directions, restrictions, and written permissions must be given to keep them from running into all sorts of forbidden ways?'
—That is the general impression.
33032. Are not regulations in all matters made on the assumption that everybody is not perfect, and are they not intended to keep in order those who have certain imperfections of human nature, and who require these regulations to enable them to live as they should do?
33033. Are not the laws of the country based upon the same principle?
—They don't take for granted.
33034. Would you say that the law for the prevention, say, of cruelty to animals, is based on the assumption that everybody is liable to be cruel to animals?
—No; it is based on a knowledge of the fact that people have been so.
33035. It is based on the assumption that certain people, without these laws, would commit acts of inhumanity?
33036. And it does not assume that all the queen's subjects are given to it?
33037. Would you not apply the same to estate regulations of all kinds; that they are based on the assumption that some people require them although the majority of people don't?
—Yes; but, generally speaking, I don't think any person requires these; I mean the people on the estate.
33038. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have taken an interest in the people since you have come here, in respect of your position as
33039. And you have good means of ascertaining what their real views are?
—Yes, I asked them everything that I put into the paper.
33040. Are these regulations fair to the people of Arisaig?
—-I don't consider them fair.
33041. You said some 120 families were sent away from the estate thirty years ago?
—Yes; but there are others far more competent to speak of that.
33042. Were these people at one time in possession of good parts of the estate?
33043. And the first stage was to remove them from their holdings?
33044. And the next to send them out of the country?
33045. You were asked to explain whether it was advantageous or disadvantageous for rich Englishmen to purchase Highland properties?
33046. Was it advantageous for the district of Arisaig when a rich English gentleman came and removed the great body of the people, and turned the place into a deer forest?
—No, but that was not exactly because he was English
33047. A Scotsman might have done it?
—Even a Scotsman.
33048. But, in this particular case, the introduction of a rich Englishman into Arisaig was not for the benefit of the people?
—No. There were a great many of the proprietors here who were not for the benefit of the people, especially the managers that they had.
33049. You stated that the people in the place did not show hostility to the strangers who were temporarily placed over them?
—Not the slightest, so far as I know.
33050. Did these strangers, who had been for some time in the local administration of the estate of Arisaig, show the same feeling towards the people who were under them?
—I won't answer that question, if you please, except to say that the management has been very bad ; but I don't sav that they do it consciously with a will against the Highlanders.
33051. But the results have been unsatisfactory?
33052. In answering another question, you said it would be a good thing if some of the people, when there were several members in a family, went away?
—Certainly, they must go away.
33053. But may I put this question to you? As long as there is land in Arisaig suitable for cultivation, would it not be as well to keep them?
33054. You only meant that, under present circumstances, they cannot get land?
33055. You were asked a question about the proprietor, with respect to the number of stock. You were asked whether, if he did not understand it himself, he would be sure to get competent assistance. But is it not likely that any assistance, competent or incompetent, would be on the side of the landlord and not of the tenant?
—The rules would illustrate that.
33056. It would not matter whether it was competent or incompetent, it would be against the tenant?
33057. You were asked a question about forty days' notice being the law. Are you aware that there have been Bills before Parliament proposing to extend the period of notice to two years?
—I cannot speak distinctly to that, but I think that is so.
33053. And you think, therefore, that the proposed tying down to three months and six months is quite inadequate?
—Even that is quite inadequate ; of course, a few days was ridiculous.
33059. You have heard some of the crofters' delegates speaking of the limited number of cattle they had, and stating that consequently there was a considerable deficiency of milk for the children?
—I cannot speak to that In Strath the people have no cattle; they are householders without land.
33060. You heard one of them say they had little milk, and that what they had was bad?
—I forget, but they get no milk except what they buy. One or two have a cow.
33061. Is there always milk to sell?
—I don't think there is.
33062. Don't you think it is a great disadvantage, which nothing can overcome, in the bringing up of children, that they should want milk?
33063. Is there not a great deal of grass lying vacant in Arisaig which would pasture a great many cattle?
33064. Do you consider the position of the crofters and others who are represented to-day at all satisfactory upon the estate?
—No, not satisfactory.
33065. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you know whether there was more destitution here than ordinarily last winter]
—I could not say there was distinctly more ; it might be a little more.
33066. You are not aware, personally, that there was any case of extreme want?
—There was a case in which it was commonly said the woman died of starvation, but there are people here who can speak to that better than I. If it is so, I think it was the fault of the inspector of poor.
33067. What was the name?
33068. When did she die?
—In February last.
33069. Was it alleged that she died of starvation?
—It was commonly said.
33070. Was there any investigation into the case?
—The constable took some steps, but it didn't go far on. I think he wrote to the fiscal.
33071. Nothing resulted?
—No; the policeman examined some people.
33072. Did the fiscal not come and make inquiries?
33073. Who is the fiscal in this district
—Mr M'Niven, Fort William.
33074. Is the administration of justice here satisfactory to the people?
—Oh, yes; but the poor laws aro not—the inspector never comes to look after the people.
33075. Where does he live?
33076. How far is that?
—At the head of Loch Suinart.
33077. What time does he take to travel from that place to this?
—Almost a day.
33078. How often does he come?
—Twice a year, I think; he comes when he lifts the poor rates.
33079. Does he never come to visit the poor?
33080. And are there many?
33081. Do you know how many?
—No, I don't.
33082. Is this a separate parish?
—It is not; it is in Ardnamurchan parish.
33083. Is there anybody who looks after the poor in the absence of the inspector?
—There are members of the board appointed from the district.
33084. And do they attend to that duty?
—Well, there are complaints of them.
33085. Is it chiefly outdoor relief here, or are the paupers sent to the poorhouse?
—They get aliment.
33086. Where is the poorhouse to which they should go?
—I don't know—Tobermory, I suppose.
33087. Professor Mackinnon.
—When you stated that you were not satisfied with the management of the estate you?
—Made a general statement.
33088. I understood you to state that so far as you knew, there was no ill-will on the part of the managers to the people?
—No, but ill government.
33089. But no ill-will?
—No, I would not say that.
33090. So that while there is ill-will on the part of the people towards the managers, there is no ill-will, personally, on the part of the managers towards the people?