DONALD FRASER, Schoolmaster and Inspector of the Poor (50)—examined.
32480. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long have you been resident here?
32481. As a teacher and inspector of poor?
32482. I suppose you are registrar also?
32483. You are well acquainted with the people and their way of living?
—Yes, I go occasionally through the parish in the discharge of my duties.
32484. Have you any particulars to tell us in addition to what has been already stated?
—No, I think you have got pretty full statements.
32485. You have heard all that has been said to-day?
32486. So far as you know, have the statements been correct?
—I think they have been pretty correct, on the whole.
32487. Without exaggeration?
—Yes, I think so.
32488. Has the condition of the people improved since you came here?
—I think it is rather the reverse. I find that we require to give a larger allowance to our paupers than when I came here. They live very largely upon their neighbours —the crofters —who are not in a position to assist them.
32489. What is the expense of keeping a pauper now compared with what it was at first?
—When I came here first the aliment for an old woman was about 6s. a month, but I find that we pay about double that sum now, besides clothing and shoes and that sort of thing.
32490. Is there a large number of paupers in the parish?
—We have just about 5 per cent, of the population; about 75 paupers to the population of the parish, which is a little more than 1600.
32491. The Chairman.
— What is the rental of the parish?
—£9700, gross rental.
32492. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has the average number of paupers increased in accordance with the population?
—No, I think not.
32493. Has the population of this parish decreased considerably?
—It decreased about 200 between 1871 and 1881. I had the charge of the taking of the census on both occasions, and before 1871 it was 1843, whereas at present it is a little over 1600.
32494. Did it decrease in the decade before that?
—Yes, it was going on decreasing.
32495. What has been the cause of the decrease?
—You have heard to-day that a good many were put out of their holdings, and that they left the country; and I suppose that has been going on.
32496. Has there been any voluntary emigration to the south of Scotland?
—Not very much in my time.
32497. And notwithstanding the decrease of the population, the condition
of those who remained has not improved?
—I don't think so.
32498. What is the reason of that?
—Well, in a part of the parish they are very dependent upon the fishing of Loch Hourn ; and, as they have no land, when the fishing fails them they must necessarily be very poor.
32499. How do you maintain the paupers here ; you have no poorhouse?
—We have some accommodation in the Oban Poorhouse as a test. We don't send paupers there, but we use it as a test. We just give them cash; that is the pauper relief.
32500. You don't make much use of that test?
—We use it in some doubtful cases, not in the parish, but principally for applicants chargeable
in the south. We use the poorhouse as a test for them ; but we don't send any out of the parish.
32501. Are you satisfied with the educational administration of the parish?
32502. Who are the members of the School Board?
—Mr Macdonald, who was examined to-day, Mr Mundell, Mr Miller, Mr Mackintosh, the hotelkeeper, and Mr Walker, the priest in Morar.
32503. Who are the members of the Parochial Board?
—Much the same. Of course we have all the proprietors as members, and some elected members. Mr Mitchell, who was here, is an elected member, and Mr. Moffat, another large farmer.
32504. Do they hold regular meetings?
—We have just the two statutory meetings, and other meetings as there is cause for them.
32505. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I believe you are an evicted crofter?
—Yes, I got a croft when I came to Glenelg.
32506. Apart from your own personal matters, can you say that the local administration of the estate for many years has been unsatisfactory to the people of the district?
—I think the local administration has been very unsatisfactory for the last fourteen years or so.
32507. May I say that nothing has been done, directly or indirectly, for the amelioration or benefit of the poorer class of the people, but rather the reverse?
—I am not aware.
32508. There is nothing in the position of Glenelg, so far as the quality of the soil is concerned, or the habits of the people, to prevent them from being very comfortable if the administration were different?
—Quite the reverse, for the soil is very good.
32509. And the people?
—They are very industrious, but there is no work in the district, and that is a drawback too.
32510. It may be said, then, that not only has nothing been done for them, but the local administration has been against them?
32511. Supposing that the administration had continued, what would the result have been?
—It is hard to say.
32512.. Still greater poverty?
—No doubt of it.
32513. And still greater discontent?
32514. From what we have heard to-day, and what you yourself know, does there appear to be a prospect, in the altered circumstances, of a more pleasant state of matters in the future?
—The people hope so, as the young proprietor is likely to come a good deal amongst the people. The late proprietor was only here once, and that was twenty years ago.
32515. Among other things in connection with the local administration, had it not a tendency to encourage litigation?
32516. Into which the people were drawn unnecessarily ?
32517. Did you yourself converse with the new proprietor when he was here?
—I did, a little.
32518. Had you any opportunity of representing matters to him ?
—I made no representation whatever to him. I only saw him for a few minutes. He was going away when I happened to meet him at the hotel.
32519. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You mentioned that the poverty of the people had increased since you came here twenty-two years ago?
32520. And you said you thought it was partly due to the administration of the estate?
—Yes, because the people get no work to do.
32521. Was there any alteration generally in the size of the holdings?
—No, no great alteration; only some people were deprived of their lands, which were taken possession of by the local factor.
32522. That has not been to any great extent?
—Not to any great extent.
32523. It is only rated at £ 10 a-year?
—But he had the value of £30.
32524. In a large estate that is not much. You said you partly attributed the poverty of the people to the bad fishings, has the fishing in Loch Hourn been bad?
—It has been remarkably good for the last two years, but for a series of years prior to that it was very poor.
32525. Do you remember its being better when you first came to the country?
—It was pretty good for some years.
32526. How many years did it remain so?
—They always got a few herring, but for several years only a very small quantity.
32527. And you think it is principally owing to that that the poverty of the place has increased?
—I think so.
32528. And you think also that the want of the rental of the estate being spent on the property has had much to do with it?
32529. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is this local factor, of whom we have heard so much, in the country now?
—No ; he has, fortunately, gone.
32530. Where is he?
—I don't know.