Glenelg, 4 August 1883 - Donald Macpherson

DONALD MACPHERSON, Crofter and Joiner, Kirkton, Glenelg (19)—examined.

31909. Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you a statement to make?
—I was working at Skye, or I daresay I would have been better prepared, but I lost the boat at Broadford yesterday, and I had to travel all night.

31910. This is Kirkton where we are now sitting?

31911. Is there a very considerable population about here?
—Not many; it is very thinly populated.

31912. How many cottars may there be?
—Very few; I may say two or three or four at most.

31913. Was a meeting held to elect you to come here to-day?

31914. How many were present?
—-Most of the people in the district —that is not many—I would say about forty.

31915. What did the people tell you to say to-day?
—They told me their greatest grievance was want of land. There is a great number of people here who have no land at all; they have not even ground on which to plant potatoes. Although the proprietor has good intentions towards his subjects, he trusts too much to his factors. They are not pleased with his factor; and there was too much tyranny in general.

31916. Upon whose farm is Kirkton situated—what is the name of the big farm nearest here?

31917. Is it a large place?
—-Yes, it extends about twelve miles.

31918. Is it in the possession of one person?
—In the possession of one person; but it is now in the hands of the proprietor. The tenant's lease
was out at Whitsunday last.

31919. Have you heard whether it has been let to any person?
—It has been let to no person.

31920. And I suppose the people consider this a good time to press their demand on the proprietor to do something for them?
—Yes, they were thinking that, now that it is in his own hands.

31921. Is there much of the land which was once under cultivation close to Kirkton which might be given back to the people?
—A great deal; there is not a district in the Highlands that is more fit for cultivation than Glenelg here.

31922. And close by Kirkton?
—Yes, and all now under rushes and sheep and wild grass. It might all be under cultivation, or a great deal of it.

31923. I suppose you have heard some of the delegates say they were paying £2 an acre; that seems a big price?
—It is very correct.

31924. But here you are only paying £ 1 an acre?
—Well, I have been reading the reports of the Commission at the different places you have visited, and I consider Glenelg has more grievances than any place you have visited yet in regard to the rents, for they are paying the double of what people are paying in other places.

31925. Even £1 is too much?
—Oh, indeed ; yes.

31926. Do you think the tenant of Eilanreoch is paying £1 an acre for all he has got?
—No. I think Mr Mitchell has about 33,000 acres (and he is present), and I was making a calculation of the rent —and it is mostly arable which he has got, indeed the one-fifth of it could be cultivated —and for the 33,000 acres he is only paying about 10d. an acre.

31927. I dare say you consider that it would not only be a wise thing for the proprietor, but would benefit you if you could get a moderate extension of your land?
—I think the proprietor is a big fool to be trusting so much to his factor.

31928. The Chairman.
—It would be more respectful to the Commission and the proprietor not to use language of an abusive character.

31929. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were going to say he trusted too much to local people and factors?

31930. But would it not be a wise thing for the proprietor to give the people more land in their vicinity?

31931. They would be willing to pay a good rent for all they want?

31932. And it would not break up the big farm of Eilanreoch much if they got all they want?
—It would spoil it very little if they got all they want.

31933. You said something about the people here being troubled by the local administration ; instead of making a general charge of that kind, I think it would be better if you would specify some particular case you have had to complain of in past times; can you do so
—Yes. I may to myself. I hold a croft down close to this place, and my house was broken up by the tide storm two years ago, when the house and barn were broken up entirely. We lost our blankets, shoes, and clothes, and I could not get a house from the factor in which I might live for one night; they would not make any provision for me, and I had to go to my neighbour's house. I was very willing to put up a comfortable house myself if I would get the stones for it, but he refused even that, unless I would rebuild the old house in which I was before, and of course we would not venture to live in it another time. Now, since the new laird has come in, he had promised me a new house, and we expect to live better under him.

31934. Has the new laird been here?
—Yes, once.

31935. How long did he stay?
—About two or three days.

31936. And did he go about among the people and speak to them?
—Yes, and they thought very much of him; but our old laird never was here but once, and that was twenty years ago.

31937. Can you mention any other case except your own?

31938. Take one more?
—They are so numerous that I cannot go over them. There is a neighbour of mine—I believe he is present— and he had a piece of land for which he was paying; but he is a delegate here, and can speak himself. There have been a great number of evictions in this parish.

31939. In your own time?
—Yes, it is not very long since, under this present factor too. I may mention two cases, although I could mention more. There is one Mrs Cameron, whose husband died. She had a croft beside me, and was paying £12 for it, and she was evicted out of it

31940. Why?
—Just because, I suppose, the factor wanted a part of the land for himself.

31941. Did the factor occupy the land himself?
—The local factor did, and he evicted other people for that purpose, that he might get their land himself. It seems so at any rate.

31942. At all events, he took the places?

31943. What became of Mrs Cameron?
—She built barns and byres at her own expense, and she got no compensation for them. Then this France was local factor.

31944. Did Mr France take possession of these barns and byres which Mrs Cameron left?

31945. He went into them?
—He took possession of the barn, and gave the byres to other people.

31946. What more?
—Her rent was £12, and he has let it to four people for cows grazing, and they are paying £17 between them for it just now, and he had the third part of it himself for nothing.

31947. Do I understand you to say that the widow was evicted, and a rise of £5 upon her rent got from the crofters, and that a considerable portion of the land went to himself?
—A piece of it. I may mention her neighbour, Jane Fraser. The same thing was done to her; indeed, she was used far worse.

31948. What happened to her?
—Her croft was taken from her. Her rent was £6.

31949. What became of the croft?
—It was made into three lots; I believe my brother has one part of it. He has about an acre, and pays £1 ; the doctor was paying £3 for the other bit in the middle; but the factor kept the most of it for himself.

31950. Jane Fraser's lot was originally £ 6 ; she was turned out, and it was divided, and Dr Macnaughton got a part?
—Not Dr Macnaughton, the one who was here before him.

31951. And some people got a small share?

31952. And Mr France himself took his own share?
—Aye, the best of it.

31953. What became of this gentleman who so acted, how long is it since he left Glenelg?
—He left it last Whitsunday term.

31954. How long was he here?
—Fourteen years.

31955. Was the administration of the estate during that period satisfactory or the reverse to the people?
—It was the reverse to poor people in general.

31956. You had no particular complaint against the proprietor, except that he did not come near you or visit you?
—The greatest complaint we had was against the factor; we all blamed the factor. We thought the proprietor was very kind and considerate if our cause had been represented to him. He was an old man, over 85, I believe, when he died, and we could not expect him to be so active in coming among us. But I believe he was kind enough; it was the factor we always blamed.

31957. Do you and the people generally upon the estate intend to make representation to your proprietor to better your condition?
—Yes. We have no hill pasture in the place in which I live here, and there is no work of any kind. We have to go to other countries to earn our livelihood. I am a joiner, and it is a number of years since I got one shilling from the proprietor; and the worst of it is that he takes inferior workmen from other quarters, and does not give the work to the people in the district.

31958. And are the people in the district quite willing to do whatever work is required?
—Yes. I have been engaged by the same gentleman for the last twenty-three years in Skye—Mr Bower. He sends for me, and that shows that he is quite pleased with me.

31959. Is the population about this fine estate getting less?
—Yes, it is.

31960. There were a number of people turned off and sent to America some years ago?

31961. Were those who were left behind anything the better of that?
—No ; I believe they were the worse.

31962. Glenelg is a fine rich country?
—I don't believe there is another country of its size in the Highlands so well adapted for cultivation. It is a pity to see it under wild grass and rushes.

31963. Have you heard your people before you speaking of Glenelg as having been thickly peopled, and by people in a comfortable position?
—Yes, and I mind myself when it was far more populous than it is now.

31964. Were the people comfortably off?
—Yes, but the land has been added to these big sheep farms.

31965. Have these big sheep farms been of any benefit to the smaller people or the reverse?
—Quite the reverse.

31966. Do you think that it would be a wise thing to revert to that old system and give encouragement to crofters ranging from £10 to £20 and £30, who would again be sent back to their former places?
—That is my opinion, and I believe the opinion of most people.

31967. Have you any fault to find with, or do you make any statement with regard to the Parochial Board or School Board, as they are administered here?
—I have no fault whatever; I think they are doing very well.

31968. Is there any representative of the crofter class upon the School Board?
—There are five members.

31969. Is there any one who pays less than £30 on the board?

31970. Are the people complaining of the education rate?
—No, they are not satisfactory, and the school is well kept. I have three children going to school myself, and I am well pleased.

31971. What school do you refer to?
—Mr Fraser's ; he is doing very well.

31972. Are there children frem Glenelg who have made progress in scholarship?
—Yes, some of them ; but the pity is that the people are so poor and cannot send their children to a secondary school.

31973. Have Mr Fraser's own children not begun to distinguish themselves already?
—Yes ; but the people are so poor that they cannot send their children to a secondary school. The nearest secondary school is at Inverness, and it costs a great deal to send them there. They cannot
afford it. The children in this place are generally clever.

31974 Is there an inn at all at Glenelg?
—Yes, there is a hotel in the vicinity.

31975. Is that the only one?
—There is another one at Kyle Rhea ferry.

31976. Were there not others?
—There were not so many; but it is doing no good to have a country hotel here.

31977. Are you a blue ribbon man yourself; a total abstainer?

31978. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many persons are there without land in Kirkton?
—A great number.

31979. Twenty families?
—Not quite so many, but about twenty.

31980. Do they pay any rent at all?
—Five shillings for their house.

31981. Had they ever land?

31982. And they were dispossessed when these crofts were made into sheep farms?

31983. How long ago?
—About fifty years, and it is even later since some were made ; some within twenty or even ten years.

31984. Are the widows Cameron and Jane Fraser living here still?

31985. Are they paying five shillings?
—Yes, and I may mention another. There is a widow Campbell living at Cosag, whose rent was paid by the Rev. Alexander M'Coll of Lochalsh, who was a brother or near relative of hers, and the factor just took the ground from her and gave it to another person, and she was not allowed to stay. She had a nephew living with her, who was her whole support. Of course, when the ground was taken from her, her nephew had to leave, and she had nothing to subsist upon. I believe that old woman died almost destitute. Of course, she was getting relief from her friends.

31986. Who got the ground?
—Another favourite of the factor.

31987. Why was he a favourite?
—I cannot say.

31988. What was his name?
—Hector M'Intyre.

31989. Had he no ground before Ì

31990. He was a man fit to work the croft?
—Yes, both of them were that.

31991. You mentioned, in answer to Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, that the people were turned off and sent to America?

31992. The previous witness said they were not turned off, but that they voluntarily emigrated, and that their passage was paid?
—I daresay he is partly right in that too. They were very poor at that time when the disease came on the potatoes.

31993. There was a great amount of poverty at that time?
—Yes. I believe the proprietor would oblige the people about here yet if they were representing things rightly to him.

31994. He would give them more land?

31995. You mentioned a Mr Mitchell; is that Mr Mitchell of the farm Rattagan?

31996. And do you think there is 6000 acres of arable land upon his farm?
—Yes, I think that.

31997. Do you mean land that could be cultivated by the plough?
— He has not that in Glenelg—part of the 33,000 acres is in Glenshiel; but I should say one-third of that would be in Glenshiel and two-thirds here ; and I should say about one-fourth or one-fifth of what is here could be cultivated.

31998. Then you think it would be about 4000 acres?

31999. What would that be worth per acre if cultivated?
—I did not make any calculation.

32000. You know the nature of the soil?
—It is good soil; there is no better soil about the Highlands.

32001. £1 an acre is not a high rent for good arable land?

32002. Do you think it would be worth £1 an acre for 4000 acres?
—No, I don't believe it would. The general grievance of the people here is that they want more land, and they are willing to pay the same rent for it as these big farmers are doing at present. They want a piece of hill pasture, and some of them who have got no land at all were wishing to have some land for potatoes and a cow's grass.

32003. You put 10½d. on that land, but that is taking both bad and good land?

32004. And if people got bits of land they would need to take a share of the bad with the good?

32005. And they would be willing to do so?

32006. Mr Cameron.
—Did I understand you to say that the people had already approached the proprietor with a view to obtaining a portion of the farm of Eilanreoch, which is cow in his own hands?
—They approached the factor, but not the proprietor.

32007. How did they approach him; did they write to him?
—I think they spoke to him personally, and I for one did speak to him for myself. I complained of having no pasture. I am paying about £10, 10s. of rent —near about £12 —and I can only keep two cows and a horse, and I was wishing for hill pasture, for which I would be very willing to give a fair rent, but he said I would not get it. I got a summons of eviction last Whitsunday, but I was not compelled to leave. Of course, the old proprietor died. He told me he wanted to turn my croft into common ground as grazing for sheep or cattle.

32008. To whom did he propose to give it?
—I don't know. It is likely he would have some favourite

32009. Like your brother?
—I could not say.

32010. He got a share of Mrs Fraser's croft, did he not?

32011. Is he a favourite?
—I cannot say he is, but he needed it. I believe the local factor was coveting it himself.

32012. Of course it was to Mr Molleson you made the representation about more land?

32013. It was not an organised representation by the people —only yourself and one or two persons?
—No. The whole of the people of the country were gathered, and there was a committee formed.

32014. A regular application made for part of the farm of Ellanreoch?
—Yes, there was a petition prepared, but it was not presented. We did not think it satisfactory.

32015. But you have such clever people here, could you not prepare a petition satisfactorily?
—Yes, but it didn't happen to please every one.

32016. You did not agree about it?
—No, but wo spoke personally to the factor.

32017. Have you had any answer to that representation you made verbally?
—He said, by word of mouth, we would not get it.

32018. Did he say why?
—No, he did not say. He said he wanted to have as few crofters in the county as possible, for the fewer crofters the easier a place was managed—the cultivation was easier managed.

32019. Professor Mackinnon
—Did he say that?
—Yes; he wanted to have as few crofters as possible.

32020. Mr Cameron.
—What do you consider a fair rent per acre for arable ground?
—I am not a good judge

32021. I mean, of course, in this district?
—I pay just now about £12, and I just keep two cows and a horse. You would think when I pay that rent that it should keep me, but it will not. I require to go to work in other countries, and the money I earn elsewhere I have to come and spend here.

32022. You cannot state what you consider a fair rent per acre for arable ground?
—I could tell you what a fair rent would be for a number of stock; say a person had four cows, a horse, and fifty sheep, for these I would account £10 a fair rent

32023. But that does not give me any information about the arable ground, because that refers to the grazing of these animals. What I want to know is how much you consider fair for arable ground, the stock being proportioned to the quantity of wintering you have?
—I would say about 15 s. per acre.

32024. Have you ever made any calculation as to the cost of improving the farm of Eilanreoch, to put it into such a shape as to make it fit for working?

32025. What would it cost to trench, drain, or lime it to the extent necessary?
—I would say about £ 5 . Of course you would require to class the ground.

32026. You are taking the best of it?
—No; it is the middle; some of it would require nothing but to put the plough into it.

32027. No draining?
—No; but other parts would require to be drained

32028. But 6000 acres is a large portion of a farm. Don't you think the larger portion would require a higher scale of expenditure?
—Yes; but I think it would be £ 5 on an average.

32029. Professor Mackinnon.
—You said the local manager got the place which Mrs Cameron had to herself?
—Yes, the best part.

32030. He took it all, and let it out again?

32031. How much did she pay?

32032. And for the piece he got he was getting from others £17?-

32033. Was that last year?
—It is ten years since she was evicted.

32034. But he continued to get that up till last year?
—Yes, up to the time when he left last Whitsunday.

32035. He also got a bit of Mrs Fraser's?
—Yes ; the most of it

32036. And was that all he had?
—No, he had another big park of about twelve acres besides that, and he wanted more. I believe it was all on account of that that I got the summons, because he coveted mine. Our lands were adjacent

32037. Had these people who paid the £17 any part of the land which he took from Mrs Cameron?
—Yes; one of them was evicted out of a nice croft which he had, and it was given to Mackintosh, the hotel proprietor.

32038. What rent would you put upon the land in Mr France's hand altogether, according to the rent you are paying yourself?
—Do you take in what the other tenants are paying?

32039. Yes; all that was down in his name in the rent book?
—That was not all in his name. I don't believe his name was in the rent book at all. It was not in the valuation roll at any rate. He didn't care if he got the rent for the proprietor; he wanted to have the rent for himself.

32040. Then it is not to Mr France these people were paying the £17, but to the proprietor?
—Yes, but he was getting it for himself, the best of it.

32041. What were the names of these people?
—Duncan M'Crimmon, Roderick Macpherson, Hector M'Intyre, and Malcolm M'Intyre.

32042. And these paid the rent to the proprietor, and not to Mr France?

32043. I understood you to say he got £17 for the portion which he let to others?

32044. Then it was no personal gain to him?
—Oh ! yes, it was ; he got the best of the ground to himself. May I be allowed to make a statement?
—I said 6000 acres of the farm were fit for cultivation; I think it would be safer to say 1000 acres.

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