ANDREW MITCHELL, Rattagan (31)—examined.
32396. The Chairman.
—You heard the complaint made by one of the witnesses about the fences, and of your refusing to allow the cattle to go by the short road on to the pasture?
—Off the pasture.
32397. Explain that to us?
—In the first place, Donald Stewart said that I offered £12 for his pasture. The meaning of that is, that I got a bit that was planted added to the farm, and, there being no fence, the sheep came down to his crops and destroyed them, and I applied to the estate management. Going round his bounds would have made a pretty long fence. I did not want his land, and refused it. I said I would almost rather leave things as they were than put up a fence in that way, and be charged rent for it. I put up a fence on my own lands to keep the sheep off his crops, and put a gate upon it. These people whose cows were pastured there, instead of taking them round below the rock, broke down the gate at times, and the shepherd told them they must keep them below the rock, and, I believe, once went round that way to show them. With regard to the case he refers to, his brother came over to say he had broken the gate the night before with his cows, and that he had come over to apologise, and I believe he had spoken a good deal to the shepherd's wife. I said it was all right, that there would be no more about it ; but on his way home, I understand, he took his coat off to the shepherd, and told him to 'come on, and he would do for him.'
32398. First, with reference to the piece of ground which it was stated you and your family had taken off the original area of his croft?
—Yes, there was a piece taken off to straighten the fence, by the estate.
32399. In whose hands is that now?
—It is thrown into our farm.
32400. Are you paying an additional rent for it?
—£8 a year.
32401. You said something about a piece being planted?
—When I arranged for my lease ten years ago, I had not this bit that was planted; Mr Mackintosh of the hotel had it, and he and I exchanged it.
32402. But this bit planted had nothing to do with the bit taken off the crofters'holding?
—Nothing, but that it bounded the blacksmith's holding.
32403. You say you did not want to have any land taken off this man's holding?
—No, certainly not; but I wanted a piece of a fence put up.
32404. But still, by necessity, you find yourself actually in possession of his land against your will?
32405. Against your will?
—Yes; I did not want it.
32406. Supposing you had said positively to the factor, ' I won't take it,' what would he have done?
—There would have been the old fighting every day, because the sheep would be eating the blacksmith's crops, there being no fence to keep them out. I offered to do half the fence, but he would not because he had no lease.
32407. Would the proprietor have compelled him to do it?
—I do not think so, but I don't know. The other statement made by Donald Stewart was that my father took the land from the crofters. That, as I understand it, is not the case. The ground officer had the farm for some years, and sheep also, but did not succeed, and then my father got the ground. He got it in 1852, and in 1860 he got the other. One of them said I refused to give them a calf ; that is a mistake. I think they have all calves at present. They are very irregular in their payments, and I may have made some sharp remark to them. One of them pays very regularly, but he is not here.
32408. How many are there of them who have cows upon your ground?
—In that spot only three at present. There have been five or six, but they sometimes take them away.
32409. Are you not under any obligation in your lease to allow them to pasture?
—Yes, at 50s. a year.
32410. And, on the whole, it is a benefit to them?
—I think so.
32411. And it is one you would not like to deprive them of?
—Not at all, so long as they pay with reasonable punctuality.