ENEAS RANALD MACDONELL, Advocate, residing at Camusdarrach, Morar, Arisaig (60)—examined.
33117. The Chairman.
—You wish, I believe, to make a spontaneous statement?
—I do with regard to one point. The first witness very correctly stated that I had promised some of them to build better houses. That was done when I had built some three or four good houses upon the farm for six of the tenants; and I had the full intention of carrying out my promise and of building good houses for the others. This was after I had divided the farm of Bunnacaimb into separate and distinct crofts. It had previously been on the runrig system. As time passed I was satisfied that instead of building new houses there it would be better to enlarge the occupation of the people, and add to it, in course of time, the farm of Traigh, and, of course, build good houses there. That would have given them large crofts, for I was satisfied that I had gone on the wrong system entirely in making the people labourers. After I had acquired the estate I employed them very extensively, and I had subdivided the land; and as they had stated, I took from them some of the hill pasture, not to the full extent that they said, because I occupied it myself, and I understood that they might share it almost as a common; but, as I bred sheep upon it, it was necessary for preventing the sheep being turned back too much that they should have the run over the upper part of their pasture. I do not kuow that I need say anything more. That is my explanation of how it came to pass that I did not build the houses. If circumstances occurred by which I was obliged to part with the estate, and I could not carry out my intention, it was for the benefit of the people. If I had continued and been able to do it, I should have
fulfilled my promise and built the houses for them.
33118. Your desire was to carry out in spirit your promise to build them better houses, and you had intended to accommodate them with larger holdings by applying a particilar farm to that purpose?
33119. And, before you were able to fulfil the spirit of this engagement, you parted with the estate?
33120. Did you make the parties who purchased the estate acquainted in any degree with this engagement under which you lay with the tenants?
—I can only say that I had no communication directly with those who became proprietors, except that I wrote to the factor strongly recommending that the farm of Traigh should be so devoted, and that I believed it would pay the proprietor much better, as well as bo advantageous to the people.
33121. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are well acquainted with this part of the country?
—I was born here, and have lived most of my days in the district.
33122. I put a question to a previous delegate, to which he did not give a very clear answer. Was it not a fact that the estate of South Morar was for a very long time possessed by insane persons ?
—It was, before I was born and for many years afterwards; by two different parties who were under curators.
33123. I believe it is also true that the estate was embarrassed?
33124. And I think it may be taken for granted that during the long period it was under this management nothing was spent on the estate?
—I may say it was almost in a state of nature when I acquired it.
33125. Besides giving the employment referred to by the crofters' delegates, you intended, did you not, to give constant employment in the peat manufacture?
—It was the case. I was under the impression that if a permanent industry could be created it would be of great benefit to the people in the country; but my views have very much changed from the circumstance that I myself have not been able to carry out my ideas. Mr Astley, a man of very large means, was most anxious to do everything for the carrying out of this idea of giving work for the benefit of the people on the estate; but when he died a stop was put to it, for of course trustees came in and could not carry out the thing. But I am satisfied that to try to make the people of the Highlands mere labourers is a great mistake ; I believe that the proper system to make them independent is to give them sufficient land on which they can raise crops, and also rear a stock of cattle and sheep—a system which, I have no hesitation in saying, could be very easily adopted in this district, for I know no district in the whole Highlands better adapted for making the people comfortable.
33126. You know the Rhu of Arisaig?-
33127. And are you aware that a lot of people were removed from that place?
—In Lord Cranstoun's time the first clearances commenced in this country, and I was then a young boy almost; but I shall never forget the feelings of awe and fear that came over the people of the country when the last occurred. All parties felt it, and my mother, who had then the farm of Traigh on South Morar, in her commiseration for some of the families, gave up Traigh for a year or two until they could get some other opening. That has been spoken to by previous witnesses.
33128. Is it not a fact that this part of Rhu Arisaig which was cleared, is admirably adapted for sustaining a considerable population in comfort?
—I have no hesitation in saying, and I have also said it to the previous proprietors of Arisaig in a quiet friendly way, that if that were done they might still have the deer on those portions of the estate not adapted for the use of the people.
33129. From your long acquaintance with the people, what is the general character of those who remain and are represented to-day ? Are they a well-behaved and industrious people?
—There is no doubt about that; but, at the same time, from my recollection of the people long ago in my boyhood, I should say that the old people were a finer race, I mean the fathers and grandfathers of these here. They were finelooking men, and men of a very independent noble spirit, who were on the most cordial and friendly terms with their chiefs; at that time it was Clanranald, and I have no doubt it was the same with Lochiel's people. They looked upon their chief as their father, and had no feeling of fear or awe such as they have of proprietors now-a-days.
33130. It has not been brought out that the majority of the people in Arisaig are Catholics ?
—They have always been so.
33131. You yourself are, I believe, a representative of the old Macdonald's of Lochshiel ?
—My grandfather was, on the mother's side.
33132. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—In consequence of your reply to Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, I ask whether you don't think that if there were remunerative industries of a permanent character in the Highlands, labourers would not prosper here as well as elsewhere?
—If you could establish a permanent industry, without doubt they would; but I don't think the country is adapted for that. At least, the efforts that have hitherto been made to establish anything like permanent industries in the Highlands have not succeeded.
33133. The Chairman.
—Do you think it would be a desirable thing to plant largely in this country?
—Certainly; as far as I am able to judge, the plantations have been exceedingly successful, and the timber has grown very well. There has been a great deal of that done upon the Arisaig estate and it has grown very well.