Rev. JAMES M'DONALD, Minister of Glenelg (55)—examined.
32163. The Chairman.
—How long have you been in your present charge?
—Seven and a half years.
32164. From what part of the country do you come?
—My native place is the Highlands—Perthshire.
32165. You have been present here during the examination to-day?
32166. Have you any general statement respecting what you have heard on the condition of the parish which you would like to make?
—I may state generally that, so far as I understand the wishes of the crofters and cottars, they wish a little more land, especially hill grazing, to enable them to keep cows; and they complain generally of want of employment, I may say that I believe myself it would be a benefit to the proprietor to give more land, so as to make the people more contented before a spirit of socialism gets possession of the Highlanders. At present the proprietors could easily satisfy the people with some little concession if he came to visit them and gave them free access to state their wants. There is a strong attachment between the Highlanders and the proprietors; but there is less cringing, perhaps I may say more manliness, and they would like the proprietor to converse with them himself without the intervention of any other person at the time. I believe this spirit is manifested in the Highlanders just now, and if they had more access to the proprietors, and the proprietors met with them more freely, it would tend greatly to allay the spirit which has arisen. I mention this as my own opinion. I may also mention that the people of Glenelg were very much pleased lately from the visit from their young proprietor; and they were especially pleased with his accessibility and the kindly way in which he spoke; and they are strong in their belief that matters will improve under him. I may mention that the people consider it a grievance that all the large tenants are non-resident. Their money is spent in other parts of the country where they reside, and we want their assistance for supporting the schools ; I don't mean support from the assessment, but if there were tenants of credit they would support these schools very materially, and perhaps some of them would send their children to school, and would take an interest in and visit the school. That would tend very much to improve the condition of the poorer classes. It would also tend to make them more attached to the things that exist if the large tenants were resident. They would assist very much likewise in supporting a doctor. The doctor here has to be supported very largely from the rates, and, as there is no resident proprietor, and no resident tenants, he cannot be called in to their families, and any support he gets by way of fees comes principally from the poor people, besides what he gets from the assessment. The witness last examined by you —Mr Milligan—has, with his family, resided here for some years back, for a month or two on his farm of Arnisdale, and he is, I consider, a great benefit to the district, because he takes a kindly interest in the people here. I wish to corroborate what he stated with regard to the great want of the telegraph here. We are seven miles from Lochalsh telegraph office, and the ferry is between us ; and the road for the most part is over a hill —a sheeptrack, and in some places not even that. The post-runner who runs at present, told me that on one occasion, in winter, he sank into a pit so deep that the bag he was carrying was in the water; and we think the road should be so made that such accidents would not occur. With regard to the want of the telegraph, we have steam communication here, but sometimes, in the months of August and September, the steamers come into the lochs twenty-four or thirty hours behind time, and sometimes people have to wait on the quay where there is no accommodation further than the hotel. Many cannot afford to go there, and others would not wish to be there; and I have known families having to wait about for twenty-four or thirty hours for the steamer, because there was no telegraphic communication from other places to let them know when she might be expected. We also feel the want of a quay. There was one which served the purpose for a time, but it is not sufficient now ; indeed, it has been almost a wreck since the storms of nearly two years ago, as the Commissioners can judge for themselves. If you will permit me I should like to say a word or two in regard to some questions and statements respecting the destitution money and the timber. There was a sum of nearly £200 collected from friends, some of them at a distance and some near at hand, to aid the people during that time. There was also some timber at Loch Duich which had been blown down by the storm, and which was offered by the proprietor to the people of Arnisdale and Glenelg whose boats were destroyed. They were told that they would get the timber if they would themselves take it and convey it to their different localities. That timber was about thirty miles from the people of Arnisdale, and from twelve to fifteen miles from those of Glenelg. Some of those who wished for some of the timber came and asked for it, and, I believe, they were refused at that time, because they would not come in a body and get it themselves. It was difficult in Arnisdale and Glenelg to get the people to come in a body for it at one suitable time. Considering the difficulty of getting the people to come and take it themselves, the committee who had charge of the destitution money thought it would be advisable to pay out of that fund for the sawing of the timber into proper lengths, and rafting it. Some of the people of Arnisdale went and some of the people of this place gave, their services to raft the timber from the head of Loch Duich to Glenelg, the committee making some provision for them out of the destitution money. Then, after it was brought here, the committee held a meeting to try and ascertain the damage sustained by the people's boats, and what they required, and they allocated so much of that wood to the different parties, and it was left to Mr France, the local factor, to give that to the parties who came for it. I may mention that among the contributions to the destitution fund was
£ 10 from the proprietor, the total sum being something like £200. The eommittee who had charge of it consisted of the inspector of poor, the Free Church minister, Mr Mundell, the farmer of Eilanreoch, Mr Macintosh, the doctor, and myself. I think the policeman who was here at the time was also one of them, as also was the local factor. The local factor was asked first if he would become one of our committee, but he did not seem willing, and when Mr Morrison came, he thought he should be on, and he was asked again and appointed as one of the committee.
32167. Professor Mackinnnon.
—You agree generally with the description given by the people as to their condition?
—I believe generally the people have need of increase of grazing, and they would also be the better of some additional land.
32168. And you believe that they do not exaggerate their own condition with respect to.their being in comparatively poor circumstances?
—I believe the people are poor.
32169. With respect to other places in the country with which you are acquainted, how would you compare their condition here? Are they better than some and worse than others?
—I know a little about Lewis, and as far as I can give a fair estimate, I believe the people of Lewis are better off than the crofters here, in this respect, that they have more outlet for hill grazing and more land, and have access to sea-manure, at least in the greater part of the Lewis.
32170. There are not very many of the same class of crofters in Lewis which you also know?
32171. They are larger crofters there?
—Yes, and the holdings are better graded; there is very little gradation here.
32172. Here it is either a small croft or a very big farm?
32173. And in Lewis it is a big croft and a small farm?
—Yes, and sometimes a larger farm too.
32174. Which of the two systems do you think preferable?
—I think, speaking generally for the interest of the country, I would consider the system in Lewis far preferable.
32175. Could it be carried out as a practicable measure here?
—I believe it could easily be carried out as practicable, but whether or not at some loss to the proprietor, I would leave more practical men to judge.
32176. One of the delegates here said that the land about the place where we are sitting is very good, and that there is a good deal of it capable of profitable cultivation?
—I believe that is a fact.
32177. There should be no difficulty then, excepting the will of the proprietor, in giving the people what they wish in this neighbourhood?
—The will of the large tenant also, as long as he has a lease.
32178. So that the glen and the parish generally could maintain a far larger population in comfort than at present exists in it?
—I believe it might.
32179. In this parish you have not only an absentee proprietor, but also an absentee tenantry?
—Yes, and we feel that even more than the absence of the proprietor.
32180. That is a very great disadvantage?
—I consider it for the reasons I have stated.
32181. The fact is there are scarcely any people living permanently in the country but poor people?
—I may say so.
32182. What about the education of the parish? I know the school here is efficient, but what about the education of the parish generally?
—There are six schools and two itinerant schools.
32183. Are you a member of the School Board?
32184. And of course all the schools are under the board?
32185. And therefore under inspection?
32186. Efficiently taught?
—I believe so.
32187. Is there a great advance in the elementary education of the people for the last ten years?
—I have only been seven and a half years in the parish.
32188. Within that time has there been an advance?
—I believe there has.
32189. People are every year taking more advantage of the improved school system?
—I am not sure that they are taking the advantage of it that we should like to see.
32190. But are they improving in that respect?
—I am not sure that they are. There are some parts where one would like more facilities for getting them to attend —more compulsory power that the Act might be carried out. I may mention with regard to getting them to attend, that we feel a difficulty in taking people to Inverness if we were to prosecute, and we applied to the lord-lieutenant to appoint more justices, that we might have a justice of the peace court. We have not a resident J. P. to hold a court.
32191. There is not a resident justice of the peace in the parish, who is not a member of the School Board, before whom you can go?
—Mr Baird is resident for the most part of the year, and Mr Milligan is resident for a few weeks just now.
32192. But there is no resident justice of the peace all through the year?
32193. You could not bring children before a justice of the peace if he were a member of the School Board?
32194. And you would grudge the expense of taking them to Inverness?
—Yes ; we would rather allow things to continue as they are than do that. Elementary education, no doubt, is improving all over the country.
32195. Is the higher education of boys from thirteen to fourteen years of age affected? Do they remain at school as long as they used to do?
—Not so long as they did in my recollection.
32196. But that was in a different part of the country?
32197. Is it your impression that there are not so many of what one would call good scholars in the country schools about the age of fourteen as there used to be?
—I am at this disadvantage that I compare this place with places that have had greater facilities.
32198. You are not able to compare this with similar places in the past?
—No, not as I know this place in the present, and know other places in the past.
32199. The fund which was gathered for the replacing of the boats which were destroyed by the great tide of two years ago, was in this place a local fund?
—- We applied to right and left I wrote scores of letters myself begging for assistance, and we got some aid from the Glasgow Society ; we got considerable aid from the society.
32200. Do you think the delegate who brought it up to-day had any reasonable ground for complaint in the matter?
—There was ground for complaint in this respect that he came over from Loch Hourn for timber, and could not get it at the time, nor until they came as a body ; and some was promised in the month of December, and they did not get it until the month of May following. There was not time for them in consequence, to get their boats built for the succeeding M 'Donald, season.
32201. Of course, the distance was very long for them?
32202. And it was in the winter season of the year?
32203. The distance by sea in winter would be very long?
32204. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You said the crofters were in a worse position here than in the Lews, in respect of the want of outrun for the crofts; do you think they are in more destitute circumstances than the Lewis crofters?
—I think a number of them are poorer ; I think the crofters in Arnisdale are poorer than these in Lewis.
32205. Notwithstanding the fishing in Loch Hourn?
—Yes, the fishing in Loch Hourn is very uncertain. There have only been two good years since I came here. Some years the fishing was almost nil, and it is not good fishing ground for anything else but herring, and along the coast of Lewis they have good general fishing for the rest of the year, and herring at the season.
32206. But they have very poor harbours?
—In many places they have ground in the directions north-east from Stornoway —Bayble and Gress, they have access to the sea,
32207. You referred to absentee proprietors—was there ever a resident proprietor in this parish?
—Not so far as I am aware.
32208. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you know the acreage of Glenelg?
32209. It is very large, the whole parish?
—I should think the whole parish is twenty or thirty miles long —from this to Loch Morar.
32210. Have you any deer forests in the parish?
—Yes, I believe there is a deer forest at the head of Loch Hourn, and I believe there is one being formed in Knoydart.
32211. Loch Hourn, is that part of Glenquoich?
—No, in this parish.
32212. To whom does this one belong at Loch Hourn?
—Mr Baillie; it is occupied by Mr Borwick.
32213. That is a forest of recent formation?
—It has been there a considerable time, but I believe there is grazing on it also. It is more a shooting, with the privilege of deer shooting.
32214. Who has the sheep stock?
32215. There is also a deer forest is there not in Glenquoich?
—I am not acquainted with it ; it is not in this parish
32216. Are you sure?
—There is a very small part of it in Glenelg, I think. ' Lands of Wester Glenquoich and house, Loch Hourn Head, Sir Michael A. Bass, Bart., M.P. £300.'
32217. Has he anything of a forest, did you ever hear?
—I am not aware; but I would rather not speak about that, because I am not conversant with it.
32118. Have you the whole of the parish of Glenelg under your charge?
—There is the quoad sacra parish of Knoydart and North Morar.
32219. And you are not acquainted with them?
—I am acquainted with the Poor Law management and School Board management; I am only acquainted with the parish to that extent.
32220. But, altogether, I am correct in saying there are three deer forests in the whole of Glenelg?
—There may be a small part of a deer forest —Mr Bass's.
32221. Is there any one here "who can give information as to the extent of the deer forest?
—I think the inspector of poor may be able to give you that—Mr Fraser.
32222. Since you have been parish minister here has the local estate management among the people been of a satisfactory character?
—I don't think it has been satisfactory of late—the local management
32223. During your time here have you found that the proprietor or those under him took any benevolent interest in the estate in the way of contributing to the charities or anything else?
—As I said already, there was a contribution to the destitution fund, and some timber was given, and I believe there was a good deal of rent remitted to the poor people at that time ; I heard Mr Morrison stating that.
32224. But that does not exactly meet my question, what I meant was .
—But this was not properly an abatement, but arrears : arrears wiped off in consequence of the loss from the high tide.
32225. What I mean is, whether from your knowledge there is any interest taken by the proprietor or any one here in the general welfare of the people beyond what you have stated? Can you point to any particular act of charity or otherwise?
—The proprietor gave £10 to put furniture into the schoolhouse at Arnisdale. We wanted furniture, so as to induce young teachers to come; I believe Mr Baird put good furniture into the two houses in Knoydart.
32226. Can you refer to anything else?
—I think I made a request to the factors, and I believe they gave a little towards getting sewing material for the school.
32227. Anything else?
—I am not aware of anything else.
32228. And these different items are spread over the whole period of your incumbency here?
—Yes, but other things might have been done not through me, or without my knowledge.
32229. The Chairman.
—You referred to the pier here which we saw as we landed ; by whom was that pier originally constructed?
—I understand part of it was made at the time of the destitution. The destitution money was partly expended in that way; people got employment, and we paid them.
32230. And was its future maintenance entrusted to anybody in particular?
—There was no person who could do so, unless the proprietor did it. There was no money.
32231. There is no committee or corporation entrusted with the duty of keeping it up?
—Not unless it would come in under the management of those who had charge of the roads.
32232. Has any application been made to the proprietor for the restoration of the pier?
—I believe his factor was often spoken to about it.
32233. He did not offer to do anything?
—I don't think he was instructed to do anything.
32234. Do you think now, in a case of that sort, if the proprietor came forward, would he find any of the people willing to co-operate with him by giving labour for the maintenance of a work of that kind?
—I am afraid the people could not afford to give much labour. I cannot speak certainly in regard to it, but I understand the farmers offered to do so much and Mr M'Brayne, the steamer proprietor, offered to give so much money if a new pier were built.
32235. You spoke of the comparative poverty of the people in the Lews and Glenelg. We were very much struck by the deporable situation of the houses in the Lews, especially with reference to the want of separation between the cattle and the family; do you think the houses are as bad here as they are there?
—The same arrangement does not prevail. I am not aware of any houses where the cattle and the people enter by the same door or are without a division.
32236. We saw many houses in Skye, and elsewhere, where the people entered by the same door as the cattle, but it was only in the Lews that we saw the absence of a partition between the byre and the house. You say you have no houses here in which there is not a partition between the two?
—Yes, and I don't remember any houses where the cattle and people enter by the same door even.
32237. In that case the dwellings here would be rather of a superior kind to those of the Lews?
—I think they are, upon the whole.
32238. Is there any movement in this parish at present for improved dwellings?
—I am not aware of any.
32239. Have you heard of any encouragement being given in any case of rebuilding and amelioration of the dwellings of the poor?
—I have not heard of that; but I may mention that the people all expect that the young proprietor will give encouragement.
32240. Did you ever hear of any regulation on the estate by which the proprietor bound himself to co-operate in any way with the people in building houses?
—I have not heard of such a regulation, if there is one.
32241. Was the timber for the repair of the boats, or for the houses also?
—Simply for the repair of the boats —for repairing them and building new ones.
32242. You stated that the timber was promised in December and not given till May. Do you think if the people who were to be the recipients had been active and had bestirred themselves they could have
brought it forward before that?
—If they had all combined as one and come in a body they might; but still, a great number of these could not saw the wood themselves. It had to be sawn in lengths in order that they might lift it.
32243. Sawn at Loch Duich?
32244. But they are not very large trees; it does not require skilled labour. Don't you think if the people had really combined and set to work with a good will they could have fetched it much sooner than they did?
—It was the committee who sawed it. I believe if the people could have been got to combine they would have had it much earlier.
32245. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you think there is any crofter in the Lews paying £2 of rent for one acre of land?
—I don't know the rents there.