Glenelg, 4 August 1883 - James Milligan

JAMES MILLIGAN, Farmer, Arnisdale (46)—examined.

32045. The Chairman.
—You are the tenant of a farm in this vicinity?


32046. How long have you been in it?
—Since 1874.

32047. Are you a tenant in any other farm of the Highlands?
—Yes ; Glenhuirich and Drimnaloram, both in Argyleshire.

32048. I think you have also some interest in land in the south'!

32049. In Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire?
—I have.

32050. Are these farms principally sheep farms?
—The Dumfriesshire farm is arable, but the others are mainly pasture.

32051. Having all these large concerns on your hands, you are not able, I suppose, to be a permanent resident in this district?
—Not quite.

32052. But is this your principal dwelling place?
—No, I live for the most part in Dumfriesshire.

32053. Do you come here at stated periods of the year?
—Yes, and my wife and family come and reside here for two or three months in the year.

32054. Do you keep a manager here, or simply shepherds?
—Principally shepherds; a manager and other shepherds.

32055. You have been here during the examination to-day, and you have heard it stated that a portion of the farm which you occupy here was formerly occupied as common pasture for small tenants?
—Yes, I heard that.

32056. Was it in that condition when you took the farm, or had it already been given to a farmer before you came?
—It had been for a long time in the state in which I got it.

32057. There has been no change since you got it?
—No, with the exception of ten acres that my predecessor Mr Mitchell got, which belonged to some of the crofters. I don't know whether it was rented as one whole field or in different crofts, but I know he had it separately from the rest of the farm.

32058. Is that now consolidated with the farm?
—It is.

32059. Do you find that the small tenants are very anxious to get pasture from you for their cows?
—They don't appear very anxious. I may state that the arrangement with the factor when I took the land was that it was to be enclosed for the crofters' cows ; and when I wished that part of my lease fulfilled, I said they were bound to do so; and the factor said they were not bound to continue the crofters' cows, but would rather do away with the cows than enclose the land; so that the cows remain as they were, and the prices fixed for the grazing also, and all is just as it was before I got it. I was unwilling that people's cows should be done away with. It is a great advantage to the crofters, or to any person with a family, to have milk, and they just remained as they had been previously under the former tenant.

32060. There was a condition in the lease that a piece of ground should be enclosed for a specified number of crofters' cows : how many?
—There was no number specified; it was to be enclosed, if it were required —a piece of the hill —for the crofters' cows. I could not give the exact words, but that is the sense of them.

32061. How were you to be indemnified for the loss of a piece of the hill?
—On the valuation the people appointed could not agree.

32062. But there was no site pointed out?

32063. Did you understand it was to be a large piece for many cows, or a small piece for three or four cows?
—I understood it was just to be for the cows there were. I think they had rather more then than now. They were done away with at the wish of the people; at least they did not put them on.

32064. And the terms —the £ 3 charged—were they contemplated in the lease, or was there any specification of what the people ought to pay?
—No, it was just the custom which had prevailed.

32065. The price of the grazing has not been raised during your time?

32066. The land was taken before?

32067. Is it the common custom in this part of the Highlands that the grazing for a cow is £ 3?
—I am not aware of any in this immediate district. At Strontian I have some, but it is only for summer grazing, and it is stipulated in. the lease that the price is to be £ 2 , 10s.

32068. Can these cows graze out during all the winter?
—No, only for the summer months ; and the £ 3 is for summer and winter.

32069. And must the cows be taken in in winter at short intervals or for long periods?
—They can almost always graze out. They require some assistance, but I believe Highland cows would live out almost without anything in an ordinary season. They are on the tether, and there is
plenty of heather.

32070. One witness said that his aggregate payments to the account of keeping a cow for the year had been £12, that would leave £ 9 for the purchase of fodder. That must have been a very uncommon case?
—I have no doubt but that he stated the facts of the case. He has a very good Highland cow, and he keeps it very well, and, I believe, gives it artificial food both summer and winter. The stirk is included along with the cow in that calculation, I should say —included in the grazing —indeed, I should imagine he includes the feeding he gives to the stirk, as well as that for the cow.

32071. When they speak of grazing a cow, does that mean that the calf remains along with the cow until it is a stirk?
—Until it is twelve months old.

32072. So that it is grazing for a cow and stirk?

32073. And then they sell the stirk when it is about fourteen months old?
—Yes; about that.

32074. There has been no alteration in terms for grazing?
—None, so far as I am concerned.

32075. Do you think the people desire to have more cows? Do you ever receive an application which you are not able to comply with?
—Never. I don't remember ever refusing an application.

32076. You have heard a very general expression of opinion that your farm should be reduced for the benefit of the small tenants—that a portion should be taken off and given to them for grazing sheep or cows; could your farm support a considerable diminution of that sort without being spoiled?
—It would depend on what part they took. Some parts of it might be spared ; but the kind of arable land which would be of most advantage to the crofters would entail a change of the present sheep stock from Cheviots to blackfaced. We could not keep Cheviots on the hills without assistance of the arable land.

32077. Could the diminution not take place in a discriminating manner so as to give them a small portion of arable ground and a larger portion of the high ground?
—It might be done ; but i t would be a disadvantage to the farm. It is a matter of money, so far as I am concerned —a question of rent. Only, one part of it is very near the dwelling house, and a resident tenant would not like very well to have the fields in front of his house taken away from him.

32078. Is that part of the enclosed ground near the dwelling house and offices also near the arable ground of the crofters?
—It adjoins the Cambusbain lands.

32079. Could they not get the hill grazing without taking any portion of that?
—Not of Arnisdale. The Cambusbain people would require to get it at Eilanrcoch as they had it before; and I don't suppose it would entail anything more than the loss of the land there. It lies more advantageously for an operation of that sort. At Arnisdale you would require to take it off the arable land ; and most farmers like a piece of arable land to grow potatoes for themselves.

32080. How long has your lease to run?
—Ten years still to run.

32081. You keep Cheviot stock?
—I have changed the outer part to blackfaced sheep.

32082. I suppose none of the crofters in this neighbourhood keep any sheep stock?
—Only a few.

32083. What class of cows are they keeping now?
—They were all crosses between shorthorn and Ay rehire at one time, but they are changed now; there are more Ayrshire's than there used to be.

32084. Speaking generally, what do you think are the prospects of the large store farmers in this part of the country? Are they unfavourable, owing to the fall in the prices of wool, or does the rise in the price of stock compensate you?
—The rise in the price of stock won't compensate us, and we are afraid that the rise in the price of stock will not continue; the great scarcity of stock in England has had a great deal to do with it.

32085. Supposing your farm were out of lease at this moment, would it probably be re-let at a great reduction, if re-let at all?
—I have no doubt of it.

32086. What percentage of reduction do you think would be made—20 per cent.?
—Not my immediate predecessor, but the one before him—Mr Stavert—paid £525, and my rent is £ 8 2s , and I think it would very likely go back to something like Mr Stavert's rent.

32087. Was that about 1860?

32088. It would revert to the rent of 1863?
—Yes. I am subject to correction in the date, but I think it was 1863.

32089. With this probably considerable fall in the rental of large farm, do you think the time would be rather a favourable one for appropriating portions of the large farms to the small tenants?
—I have no doubt of it.

32090. The loss to the proprietor would not be so great as it would have been at a previous period?
—Not so great as it would have been some years ago.

32091. Do you think the people, from what you know of them, are great sufferers by the want of grazing?
—Well, if they would cultivate it well they would not be sufferers.

32092. I rather speak of the land for grazing than of that for cultivation?
—It would require to be let in club farms. In a small way, I should be afraid it would not pay. If one man had only fifty or a hundred sheep enclosed by themselves, I am afraid it would not pay. I have no doubt small farms grazed with black cattle and blackfaced sheep, as used to be, would pay better than our large farms at present.

32093. Do you find upon the soil of your farm many remains of ancient occupancy and cultivation?
—Not on Arnisdale. There are a few, but not many. There is not much arable land on Arnisdale.

32094. Two or three hundred acres that might be cultivated1?
—Not much over one hundred that could be worked at all. What is arable land in Arnisdale is very good land, but all the remainder is bleak, rocky land, not adapted for cultivation.

32095. Why have you not broken up more if there is this good arable land?
—I break it all up in rotation, except one portion which lies in—a Cheviot hirsel, which, if I were to break it up, would necessitate a change from Cheviot to blackfaced stock, and at present would entail a loss of £1 a head in changing from Cheviot to blackfaced.

32096. We have heard a great deal about the deterioration of the quality of the pasture on the ground?
—That is a subject on which, I think, a great deal of misapprehension exists. My father had the Strontian land in 1836, and I think I am able to keep as many sheep on it as he did, and a few more; and I think they are of as good quality —at least, I get as much for them, considering my neighbours' sheep, as my father did. I don't think there is any deterioration in the hill grazings. Any deterioration that may be is where game abounds —rabbits and deer —or, what is more generally the case, where people have stocked Highland hill land with sheep which were not suited for it, and which should have been reared in parks. What are called high-class Cheviot sheep, with open skins and arched noses, are not able to live on the west coast, or on almost any hill land; but where you get them close in the coat, and with good chests, and able to protect themselves against the weather, the land will keep as many of those sheep as ever it did, excepting where it is overrun with game, or is injured for some other reason easily accounted for.

32097. You don't think the pasturing of sheep for any length of time deteriorates the pasture?
—Most decidedly not.

32098. We have often heard it alleged in the Highlands?
—I hold a good many acres of land, and all the land I have keeps as many sheep as ever I have heard of its keeping during this century, as far as I can trace it back.

32099. Mr Cameron.
—Do you not think that many portions of hill land in the Highlands is more covered with 'bog' than it used to be?
—No, I don't think so.

32100. Do you think that grass grows as abundantly and as sweet?

32101. Have you not heard contrary opinions expressed by any of your brother farmers?
—Yes, very often.

32102. Do you think those who think otherwise are in the majority or the reverse?
—I would not like to answer the question.

32103. In speaking of taking land from the big farms and giving it to the crofters, you stated that under present conditions you thought the land might profitably be turned to the purposes to which it was formerly devoted, namely, black cattle and blackfaced sheep?
—I have no doubt of it.

32104. What would be the requirements, in order to carry out that system, with regard to the subdivision of land, houses, or stock?
—There would not be so much in houses, because most of the old farmhouses are remaining; but I think the principal want would be the getting the class of tenants that formerly existed.

32105. But do you think that the system could be profitably adopted with the crofters as they are found in the vicinity? Do you think they would have the means to stock the farms with black cattle and blackfaced sheep?
—I am afraid not.

32106. What size of a farm do you think might be provided which would be most suitable?
—From 500 to 1000 sheep, and perhaps a score of cows.

32107. That would be a large farm, would it not?
—I would not consider it large.

32108. But taking in view the point to which your attention was directed, namely, the provision of land for the class of people called crofters, that would be a large farm, would it not?
—I don't think, for a district farm, 500 sheep would be very great.

32109. You mean that should be a club farm?

32110. And that each crofter should have twenty head of cattle?
—No; altogether, and their followers.

32111. But don't you think it would be better that a club farm should be confined to sheep, &c, and that each crofter should individually have his own cow?
—Yes, that is my meaning —to restrict every one to a certain number.

32112. What would each crofter have as his share of the cattle and sheep, according to your view?
—Perhaps four or five cows.

32113. And 200 sheep?
—Yes; from 100 to 200.

32114. Would not that process entail very considerable expense on the part of some one—the proprietor or the crofters themselves —in carrying it out?
—It would entail a certain expense at first.

32115. How much arable land would be required to winter these twenty cattle—the sheep would find their own wintering?
—The sheep would find their own wintering. They would get the advantage in winter of the arable land which was cultivated.

32116. How much arable land would be required?
—Fifty acres.

32117. According to your view, that would take away half the arable land of your farm?
—If it were done on my farm it would.

32118. I suppose you consider that where crofters keep sheep they should keep a ewe stock, and not a wether stock; or do you consider a wether stock might be kept?
—It would depend altogether on the class of land.

32119. But supposing there was a farm where part was under ewes and part under wethers, if the crofters took away the portion which was devoted to ewes, would it be difficult to get rid of the land which was grazed by the wethers?
—I don't think so. Most of the land grazed by wethers would be under blackfaced ewe stock, or mixed stock, or blackfaced stock.

32120. Has Arnisdale wether stock?
—Mostly wethers, or, at least, a good proportion of it.

32121. Could the crofters keep ewes on this wether land?
—The wether land is out of the reach of the crofters. Arnisdale is not a farm —at least, not much of it
—fit for the purposes of a club farm.

32122. You think Arnisdale would not be suitable to make the experiment upon?
—Part of it would.

32123. Could the remaining part be let?
—There might be a difficulty in that

32124. Could it not be divided in such a way that the crofters might take part of the high ground and part of the low ground?
—It might be; but you would take all the shore land, and leave the high land for an outrun—for wether ground altogether.

32125. How many cows were grazed by the crofters on your farm when you first went there?
—I could, not say. I do not think there were above five or six.

32126. And how many are there now?
—I think three.

32127-28. Would you find any disadvantage to the farm in grazing cows to the extent, say, of one cow for each crofter marching with Arnisdale, provided you were paid for it?
—I would rather not have them, if I am to take a mere money view of it.

32129. But do you think grazing twenty cows at the rate of £ 3 a head would do your sheep farm any substantial damage?
—It would.

32130. Do you think you would make as much as that out of the extra sheep you might keep?
—I have no doubt I could ; for this reason, that it is the wintering part of it that the cows graze on.

32131. Do the cows not, although they eat the grass, to some extent improve pasture by manure?
—Cattle of any kind do —cows less than young cattle, but the mixture of cattle amongst the sheep improves the land.

32132. And do you think twenty cows would be too much for your farm?
—Oh no; if they could be properly distributed over the land.

32133. But don't you think you might manage to graze these twenty cows at a fair rent and not be a loser by it?
—I might not be a loser, but I would rather not have them. I am speaking from my own point of view entirely.

32134. Would you require to winter away any more young sheep in consequence?

32135. How many do you think you would require to winter away in consequence of the twenty cows?
—Perhaps 200

32136. A couple of hundred ; and what do you winter them at, 7s. or 8s.?
—Not many of them come home at 8s. I always count them at 10s.; but young sheep are not so bad as hoggs. I might mention that this district is very much in want of telegraphic communication. Excuse my taking up the time of the delegates, but they did not seem to bring out that fact. Last year we had, perhaps, a couple of thousand fishermen here from all parts of Scotland, and there was no telegraphic communication ; and the postal communication is the worst you can conceive. It is not so bad this year; but last year letters from Arnisdale lay two nights at Glenelg before they were sent away, and they lay, I believe, another night at Strome. Now fish is a very perishable article, and yet that was the communication the people had, unless they went to Isle Ornsay. I think that is a great want in this district —the want of proper postal and telegraphic communication.

32137. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have been present to-day and have heard what the people have been saying?

32138. Do you think they have any grievances at all worth speaking about?
—I have no doubt they have.

32139. Do you think that a lot of people with only one acre of land with no cows among them worth speaking of, is a satisfactory state of matters for their comfort?
—Possibly it is not; it depends very much upon what they wish to be at. If they are fishermen, I think they should turn their attention as much as possible to fishing; although, of course, they require land to grow potatoes and to keep cows for milk. As a rule, the two don't go together to any extent.

32140. You admit that it is necessary for them to have potatoes and milk?

32141. Will one acre of ground such as they have enable them to have milk?

32142. And therefore to that extent they have a grievance?
—Yes; and I think £ 2 an acre is a very high rent.

32143. Do you consider it right in any proprietor to keep people on his property unless he gives them facilities in the way of potato ground and of milk, even if these are fishermen?
—Am I bound to answer that question?

32144. The Chairman.
—No; it is a question of general opinion. I think you may say, if you like, you are not able to answer the question, or that you don't wish to do so. At the same time, if you can do so, it will be desirable that you should, because it is a question which any gentleman of intelligence and independent opinion can answer perhaps?
—I don't think it right; but I would rather not enter into my views upon that.

32145. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Do you consider it unreasonable of many people who are on this estate to complain of only having an acre of land, paying over £ 1 or £2 of rent, considering the magnitude of land belonging to the same proprietor?
—No, I don't.

32146. Lochiel put a question to you about the crofters having club farms in the manner you suggested. Supposing this club farm were started and in operation, do you think that the crofters in that club farm would be able to compete with large farmers like yourself in the quality of their stock, whether of cattle or sheep, and so far as getting good prices for them is concerned?
—I have no doubt they would if they paid the same attention.

32147. You have stated that if your place were out of lease at this moment the rent would revert to about £300 less than you are paying at present?
—That is my opinion.

32148. And evidently at that rent you are not making much of it?
—That is a different question.

32149. I am not to come to the conclusion that you are not making anything of it?

32150. As a proprietor and tenant of land, having therefore double capacity to form a correct opinion, do you not think it would be a wise thing if you had a number of people on your property who were circumscribed in their holdings, to improve their position by enlarging their holdings?
—Yes, I would.

32151. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where do you think the telegraphic station ought to be erected?
—If we had such fishing at Arnisdale as we have had for the last two years, I should say Arnisdale is the best place. The advantage would not be alone to the immediate neighbourhood, but to all the fishermen on the west coast. If it had not been for the Loch Hourn fishing last year we would have had semi-starvation over the whole district.

32152. Would the telegraph be required during any other part of the year?
—Not except during the fishing.

32153. Where is the nearest telegraphic station?
—Isle Ornsay, and it is very rough crossing over to it. I crossed it one day last year in extremity, and I would not like to do it again under the circumstances.

32154. If a telegraphic station were established here at Glenelg, would it be sufficient?
—It would be a great advantage.

32155. Has any representation been made to the post-office?
—Not that I am aware of.

32156. I suppose you have no idea what the cost of it would be?

32157. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said you thought the great difficulty in establishing a club farm would be finding tenants of a suitable class?

32158. Of such tenants as formerly existed in the Highlands?

32159. I suppose you mean tenants with a capital of from £300 to £500?
—Yes, or £1000; of course, more capital is required now-a-days.

32160. The club tenants you thought of establishing are not at all of the crofter class, but capitalists more or less?
—Some of them would be of the present crofter class. A man must creep before he can walk, and people with comparatively little capital must go from less to more.

32161. You mean, if a man had £100 or £200 he would get help?

32162. But you think his stock should be a stock of £400 or £500 at least?
—Yes. I have no doubt smaller places might be advantageously put in.

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