ALEXANDER MACKENZIE, Dean of Guild, Inverness (44)—examined.
41057. The Chairman.
—Do you appear here as a delegate?
—I do not. I just offered to give evidence as an individual.
41058. Were you not elected as a delegate for Gairloch, as I believe some portion of your statement may have reference to Gairloch?
—I was elected as a delegate for Gairloch, but I thought it was best that in Gairloch they should send local people forward to give evidence there ; but I promised that, in the event of certain evidence not coming out in Gairloch, I should present it to the Commissioners in Inverness.
41059. Then you appear in some degree as a delegate of Gairloch, and in a greater degree as a general adviser on this subject?
—I can scarcely assume that position.
41060. Well, will you kindly read your statement?
—'My Lord and Gentlemen,
—It may be well that I should state at the outset a few facts, in my own experience, with the view of justifying me in offering myself for examination before Her Majesty's Commissioners :
—I was born, and lived for nearly twenty years, on a west coast croft of about four acres, and I am one of a family of seven children reared upon it. During my youth I took an active part in fishing in the west, as well as in everything else a Highland crofter has to engage in. I afterwards left home, and engaged and continued as a ploughman for a few years, going through every stage of practical farming, from " orra man " to working grieve. After this experience I went as a hired servant to the herring fishing on the east coast and at Wick, for three seasons in succession, working during the remaining portion of each year, first as an ordinary railway labourer, but ultimately as a foreman, and as a plate-layer. I submit that I thus possess an experience and a personal knowledge of my countrymen and their manner of life, at home and from home, which fully justified me in asking the Royal Commissioners to afford me the opportunity, which they were pleased to grant me, of laying a statement before them. In addition to this, I have since made the position of my countrymen at home and in Canada a special study, having visited the Dominion a few years ago for the purpose of enabling me to do so there from personal knowledge. Further, since this Commission was granted, I visited most of the places where the Commissioners held inquiry, and this enables me still more to speak from recent personal observation and direct contact with the people as to their position and requirements. It is, however, unnecessary, after the mass of detailed evidence which has been led before the Commission, that I should go into further detail, except as to my own native parish of Gairloch, with which I shall deal further on; but I may be permitted to state generally the conclusions at which I have arrived, after having driven over and seen the ground and the country, in a manner which it was impossible the Commissioners could do, going, as they generally did, by sea. The first thing that strikes any intelligent observer who goes through the country is, that the fertile portions of the land—which still show unmistakable evidence of having been once under cultivation and occupied by a large number of people at no remote period —are now generally included in the sheep farms, and occasionally in deer forests, where the people are congested on rocky promontories and scattered patches on the sea-shore. This is indisputable. It is also indisputable that, in many cases, their holdings in these wretched situations have been curtailed—especially their hill pasture—without any reduction of rent; indeed, very often where the holdings were curtailed the rents have been increased, and that although, according to Sir John M'Neill's report (pages xiv. and xvii), the value of the products of the crofts has been reduced by one half in consequence of the failure of the potato. To this depreciation in value must be added the deterioration of the soil from constant cropping, which is so great that in many instances the land scarcely produces a single return of the seed. True, the value of cattle has increased, but to people who, in consequence of the smallness and barrenness of their holdings, cannot grow enough upon them to winter their "souming," this increase in the value of cattle —of which so much has been made—will not make up for the depreciation of the value of their crofts, and especially when the summering of their cattle is often made impossible by the curtailment of their hill pasture. The cattle are thus semi-starved in summer as well as in winter. An ordinary paseer-by will almost in every case, from the high-way, point out, from its black and barren appearance, the portion of the hill pasture now in the hands of the people from that in the hands of the sheep-farmer ; for the latter has not only succeeded in getting the best of the arable portion of the land, to let it out of cultivation, but has also managed to secure everywhere the best portion of the hill pasture. With this constant curtailment of their holdings and insecurity of tenure—as in the Isle of Skye, where every one of the population, as shown by the Sheriff-Clerk's books at Portree, has a decree of removal issued against him or her every twenty years, or three times in every two generations —the people have no incentive to work or to improve their condition; the consequence being that we have periodical destitution, and appeals to charity which, largely and necessarily, demoralises its recipients. Of this result we have had ample testimony this year, though the destitution has not, in my opinion, been anything like what it has been represented by landlords and factors in the west. On this point I can testify from personal knowledge obtained among and from the people themselves; but the demoralisation produced among a section of them, in less than a year, is as glaring as it is painful to their best friends. Many persons possessing property—heritable and personal —not only sought a share of the charity sent from the south for the destitute only, as a matter of right, but, I am sorry to say, in many instances, obtained it.
Effect of Decrees of Removal and Evictions.
—One removal would naturally paralyse a whole district, when every man knew that it might be his turn next, just as one arbitrary eviction of a proprietor from his estate, say by Parliament, would paralyse landlords and reduce the value of all their estates. Supposing this were possible, how many proprietors would spend any money on improvements? But what must be the effect in this respect on the poor tenants at will throughout the whole Highlands, when we consider not only the number of decrees of removal issued against them, but the thousands of them who were forcibly evicted from houses built and lands reclaimed from the waste by themselves or their predecessors, without any compensation whatever? No rational person will expect the necessary energy and desire for improvement and good cultivation of their holdings, by any people, under such conditions; and matters must continue to go from bad to worse, until we have a revolution in the Highlands, unless a change for the better soon takes place.
Gairloch under Dr Mackenzie.
—Though I would have much preferred that some of the proceedings which were carried on in my native parish of Gairloch should have been told by others, I feel in duty bound to refer to some of these. I do not know of anything that more completely shows the evil results of uncontrolled factorship than what took place in Gairloch during Sir Kenneth Mackenzie's minority. Before referring to these proceedings, however, in detail, I would mention that in the memory of my own father, still alive, fourteen families were removed from Isle of Ewe; five or six from Aerd-na-Faoileann; eight from Drumchorc; fourteen from Turnaig and Inverewe; and ten from Kernsary, all in the parish of Gairloch. I, myself, remember when the crofts were being surveyed and measured off, and the whole of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie's estate transformed from the "runrig" to the lotting system. I remember the failure of the potato crop and the destitution of 1846-47, and at that early age I was obliged to work on my father's croft —a great part of which was an actual quagmire —filling drains and removing stones, for which we got Indian and bad oatmeal in payment. This meal, I always understood, was " destitution " meal. But whether that was so or not, interest was charged for the improvements made, and my father had to pay it so long as we remained in that croft. Being the oldest of the family, I had to work in this way for years, so that I was never able to get a whole year, at one time, in school, but had to be satisfied with the winter months, and a few weeks in summer, after the crops were laid down and the peats cut, in the beginning of June. This meal was kept in the cellars at Charleston, until, as said by the people, it " became alive "; while many of those for whom it was intended were on the verge of starvation. It was a common saying in the parish, that the Diabaig, people—who had to come for their dole ten or twelve miles across the hill, " might stop at home and whistle for it, for that it could walk to Diabaig." Ultimately it was put into the sea, and being a calm night, it floated on the surface, and next morning, a border of meal was found all along the shore, while the people were still in a state of semi-starvation. Several persons, who knew the facts, have narrated them to me since, and refreshed my own recollections of the time; while I had the whole confirmed in March and April last by one of the men who personally threw the meal into the sea, and was alarmed to find it floating, and on the beach, next morning. He was one of Dr Mackenzie's subordinate officials, and had a personal share in all the meaner proceedings during the latter and more disastrous period of the Doctor's factorial rule. The leading features of Dr Mackenzie's scheme were —after getting the people to trench and drain their crofts—to insist upon a rotation of crops, sow grasses —clover and rye-grass —turnips, cabbages, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, and numerous other vegetables of which they never heard before, so as to enable them to feed their cattle indoors, and to have plenty green vegetables for their own consumption. The idea was a good one, but the instruments and manner of carrying it out were unsuitable, mainly because rigid rules were laid down all at once, and these rules imperiously enforced by subordinates entirely ignorant of agriculture, without attempting to carry the people intelligently along with them. The seeds were forced upon them, without any instructions as to how they were to use them, and they had to pay for them before they paid their rents. I well remember one occasion, on which some carrot seed was forced upon us, and shortly after, when my father was away at the herring fishing, Murdo Maclean, the official already referred to, called for the price of it, but having charge of a family of children, with scarcely anything to give them, my mother could not pay the sixpence demanded. Maclean, however, on coming out, espied a hen on the manure heap, and sprang at it, saying he would take it for the sixpence. He succeeded in capturing it, when I, quite a young lad, got in a rage, and freely abused him, saying that he was not to take away a hen that was laying an egg a-day for the family in such a time of distress, and I gave him a sixpence which a gentleman had given me that morning, and which I treasured much, it being the first coin of that value I ever possessed; and so the hen was left to us. But the most unfortunate act of Dr Mackenzie's factorial career —and what far more than counterbalanced any immediate good that might have been the result of his other proceedings, was when he virtually ruined the tenantry by taking away their cattle, and glutting the market to such an extent that the people received no benefit from their sale. He refers to these proceedings himself in Sir John M'Neill's report, where he says, " I found it necessary last summer to sell part of their stock to
pay arrears of rent." The manner of doing it was as follows :
—Two or three of his subordinates went round with paint pots and brushes, and marked, with large letters, almost invariably every animal in each crofter's possession, and intimated that they were, in consequence, the legal and absolute property of the landlord, while the tenants had to feed them until they could be sold, unless, in the meantime, they paid their arrears of rent, which, I was told, included an additional halfyear's rent in that year—one of unusual poverty and distress —so as to make the rent, hitherto payable after-hand at Martinmas, payable, in future, half in advance. Such a harsh proceeding could not have been carried out at a worse time, just when the people were beginning to have a chance of recovering from the effects of the recent potato famine, and when the prices for cattle were, even in ordinary circumstances, unusually low. Soon after this, thousands of cattle were sent to the local cattle market at Tolly, where, in consequence of the glut, scarcely anything could be got for them. The different routes to the market were literally covered with them. They were afterwards sent to the Muir of Ord market, but, for the same reason, prices were quite as bad, if not worse, there, while the expenses of driving the cattle thither had to be deducted from the nominal price obtained when a sale was effected; with the result that scarcely anything was placed to the credit of the poor people from whom they were taken —and who were impoverished for years in consequence—without form or pretence of law. In many cases, I was informed by some of the owners, that they were only brought deeper into debt. The factor himself then had the fine farm of Isle of Ewe —the finest on the estate—in his own hands, and from which, as I have already said, fourteen families were formerly evicted. Some of the best heifers were taken there to graze, while others were sent to the Island of Longa, with the result that they not only " ate their own heads off," but in some cases brought their owners further into debt. There are many still alive who can testify from personal knowledge to this unfortunate period of factorial reign in Gairloch, and some of the delegates examined at Poolewe, and others present, but not called, were ready to do so had they been examined on the subject. But they were afraid to volunteer evidence not only on this, but on many other important points, unless the information was - drawn out of them by the Commissioners. Fortunately for the people, very soon after this, their young proprietor came of age and got possession of his estates. The past policy was changed, or, at any rate, not enforced; arrears were wiped out in many cases, where parties had large and young families; the factors disappeared, at least for a time ; and under his rule I am safe in saying that Gairloch advanced in comfort, comparatively, and in many respects, more than any other property on the west coast. The proprietor is revered by the people, and if he loses any hold on their affections and respect now or hereafter, it will only be in proportion to the period of his absence from amongst them, and to the rising power, in consequence, of his local manager, whom the people fear, as they do in most places, much more than any proprietor. Indeed, a visit from an absentee landlord is generally looked upon as a welcome blink of sunshine through a constantly clouded sky on a harvest morning. One of Dr Mackenzie's managers, Macleod, from Gesto, was a perfect terror to the people, and there are persons still alive who heard him saying that he " would make the people eat one another " before he was done with them; but, fortunately for them, he died very suddenly a few days after. His memory is execrated by the people, and his deeds and himself have been commemorated in scathing Gaelic verse.'
41061. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What was the date of the poem?
—About 1850 or 1851.
41062. The Chairman.
—I have not arrested you in the course of this statement, with reference to the character of a deceased person, and of individuals employed at that time upon the estates. I was anxious, if possible, to allow the whole statement to be read. At the same time, I must say that I deprecate allusions to persons either deceased or aged, or absent, or unable to defend their own characters. These persons may have relatives still existing who may have great difficulty in vindicating the memory of their relatives from public statements of that sort?
—Well, if I do not refer to absent people, I do not know what I can say at all.
41063. It depends a good deal upon the nature of the reference?
—That is the end of that portion of my statement:
—It may be asked why, when Sir Kenneth is such a good landlord, the people should ask for a change in the law, such as I am going to ask. My reply is that Sir Kenneth will not unfortunately, always live, and that it is quite possible that the past may be repeated, at any time, in other places, if not in Gairloch, unless it be made impossible by an alteration of the laws which admitted of such proceedings as I have here detailed, and which are at this moment the laws of the land. I may state that the secretary of the Gairloch committee wrote to me, after their first meeting, intimating that it was their wish that I should be appointed a delegate to appear before the Royal Commission in Gairloch on their behalf. I at once declined, at the same time pointing out to them how much better it would be that some of themselves should go forward and state their grievances. I, however, addressed a public meeting afterwards in the parish, at their request, and on that occasion I promised, in the event of their not being able to get the evidence out at Poolewe, to state at Inverness what I have 1 now stated about the management of the property during Sir Kenneth's minority. The tenantry always thought that Dr Mackenzie himself was one of the trustees—not a mere factor; while his managers were invariably termed and looked upon as factors. One of these, Dr Mackenzie informs us, in his Letter to Lord John Russell, p. 17
—"had been nearly all his life in the Highlands as a shepherd," and that he left his situation because "he was unfit for it from want of firmness of character, and over good nature." Of the other, Macleod, already mentioned, the Doctor says, p. 18 of the same letter, "the present excellent manager was selected in the Isle of Skye on account of his well-known firmness of disposition, and reported capability of putting a stop to those Socialist views, now  so prevalent, as to the rights of tenantry superseding those of a landlord, which evil-disposed persons had been busy sowing among minds discontented with drainage, &c, without understanding its use and importance; when they would, no doubt, have preferred being entirely idle. He does not pretend to have any skill whatever, practical or theoretical, in agriculture." The last clause of this question Dr Mackenzie emphasises by printing it in italics. Such were the Doctor's instruments and the instructors of the people of Gairloch in those days, all armed, so far as the people could see, with full factorial powers. The present "Manager" is also factor, to all intents and purposes, in the eyes of the people; and, whatever number
of petitions and certificates may be got up to the contrary, I unhesitatingly assert that the people generally disapprove entirely of his operations as a meal, seed, coal, lime, salt, agricultural implement, and guano merchant on the Gairloch estate. Every reference made against his operations at my meeting was loudly applanded by those present. Not one of them believed that Sir Kenneth could be aware of what was going on. Petitions, my Lord, are easily got up when a factor is concerned. In my opinion, it should be made illegal for any such to hold a farm on any estate, or to deal in anything whatever. A factor should confine himself strictly to his own business as such.
—It has been asserted in anti-crofter quarters that the evidence presented to the Commission was tainted by having been prepared beforehand by outsiders. I think I may take it for granted that the Commissioners are aware that this charge is not true. If it were, to any material extent, I rnust have known of it; for I was in advance of the Commission in the whole of the Isle of Skye; in parts of North and South Uist; in Benbecula; and round all the north-west coast of the mainland, from Thurso to Lochcarron. During that journey I do not remember that I called on a single crofter or delegate, except clergymen, doctors, and men of such positions, at their own houses. I have not written a single word of a single statement presented to the Commission except my own. I have neither directly nor indirectly dictated what they should contain, beyond recommending that they should contain the truth, and nothing but the truth. I strongly urged that the truth itself should be understated rather than overstated. I advised, in many cases unsuccessfully, that the delegates should not be asking, in Irish phrase, for "fixity of tenure," nor for such an unlikely and, in my opinion, unreasonable thing as a loan of Government money to stock their crofts, in the absence of a better guarantee than they could possibly give under the present land laws. My meetings were always public, presided over by a minister, doctor, or some other leading local gentleman, and were generally attended by the ground officer, or by some other representative of the proprietor, and in one case by the proprietor's heir and some of his friends. Baseless charges to the contrary having been made in partisan quarters, I felt bound to say so much. This was due to the Royal Commissioners, to myself, and to my countrymen, in such an important crisis in our history as the present. Had not the newspaper which circulated the baseless charges refused to publish my denial of them, I certainly would not have troubled the Commission with them, as I have now done. I trust, however, that the Commissioners are satisfied on the point. At all events, I challenge any one to substantiate a contradiction of what I have now asserted. I must, however, state that I found the people generally very much afraid to come forward and give evidence, wherever I went, though they were most anxious to do so. I am not ashamed to say that I urged upon them the necessity of more manliness than their fears indicated, and that they should, like men, go forward and present their grievances to Her Majesty's Commissioners, who were so graciously coming to their very doors. But, though I have been to some extent successful, the whole truth has not been told; for those who, in many cases, had the worst grievances to tell, would not muster courage enough to present them, unless they were questioned regarding them in detail by the Commissioners; and it was, of course, impossible that your Lordship or the other members of the Commission could possess the local knowledge, in all cases, which would enable you to do so. I ought also to state that there are several districts in this neighbourhood that have not sent forward delegates, from which urgent appeals reached me to go and address meetings to explain to them how to act, but I refused, intimating that, after what has been done in other places there was no excuse for them; that they should have the manliness to come forward and say what they had to tell; and, if they did not, that they deserved to continue to wear any chains by which they might at present be bound. The atmosphere in which they move has, however, proved too dense for them; but it must not be concluded on that account that some of the people have not very decided and substantial grievances on several properties not far from Inverness. The free labour exacted from the crofters in the Isle of Skye, and other places in the Highlands, of which so much has been heard, should be made impossible by the infliction of a heavy penalty for its exaction. It may not be generally known that the practice is, already, utterly illegal, by 20 Geo. II. (known as the Ward-holding Act), chapter 50, section 21. This portion of the Act is still the law of the land, and it declares that no tenant or tacksman of any lands or heritages in Scotland, by virtue of any lease or tack which shall be made in writing, or by verbal agreement, tacit relocation, or otherwise, after the 1st of July 1747, or by virtue of the prorogation of any lease or tack, made before that date, nor any assignee of any such lease or tack, shall be obliged or liable to perform any services whatsoever to his heritor or landlord other than such as shall be expressly and particularly reserved and specified, and the number and kinds thereof enumerated and ascertained in some written lease or tack, or by some agreement made in writing, and signed by the parties thereto, or some persons authorised by them, any former law or usage to the contrary notwithstanding. I have pleasure in handing your lordship a copy of the whole section. The landlords of Scotland could, under the present land laws, join together, when the present leases expire, and evict the whole of the Scottish people, except those holding feus or perpetual leases, and then, if they liked, give it over, not only to deer forests, but to wolves and tigers. Is it not unjust that a legal power like this should be virtually possessed by a minority of the nation, composed only of about thirty landlords born into such unnatural privileges? And these are the only people, that I know of, who claim to do what they like with their own, independently of how their use of it may affect their fellow-subjects and the public weal. The proprietors of household property in towns would never dream of claiming such a right. If they did, they would soon find that, under the various Police and Burgh Acts, no such claim would succeed for twenty-four hours; though it is admitted by all the authorities that the rights of owners of household property are much more nearly absolute than the rights of those who hold land. In point of fact, neither Parliament nor the common law ever did admit of absolute property in land, because, for one reason, land is limited, and is as necessary for man's existence as water and air. But not only has it become necessary to show that it is impossible to admit this claim by the landed classes, but the tendency of recent legislation by which the landlords have been appropriating everything on or under the earth, in the sea, or in the air, worth having, or which could be turned into money, must be checked and perhaps reversed. Salmon and trout, foreshores (including the sea-weed), rights of way, wild animals, and the fowl of the air, have nearly all been appropriated in this way by law. They have even attempted to appropriate the herring. I do not see that there is anything wrong in curtailing, or even in reversing this tendency, always, of course, by other laws ; for no compensation whatever was given to the public for this transfer of national property and large incomes to the possession or pockets of the owners of the land. It is important to keep this in view in the event of its being found necessary to break down deer forests and huge sheep farms by compulsory legislation, so that the people might be re-possessed of the best portions of the country from which they were so cruelly removed to make room for these farms and game preserves. In that case no compensation should be given for the present inflated value of deer forests, entirely due, as it is, to statutory enactments, which by the preservation of wild animals increase the rental of the soil they injure. All increased value arising from the effect of Acts of Parliament should belong to the nation that gave it, especially when this was attained by laying waste the land to the serious injury of the general public. The landlords get it all now, though they have never done anything to create it. Instead of feeling aggrieved, should Parliament find it necessary, in the public interest, to take back what it has so long given, without any return, the landlords should only feel grateful for being allowed for so many years to enjoy property-rights and large incomes that unquestionably belonged to the nation. I shall conclude my statement by quoting two or three short extracts from an acknowledged authority on this question —Scottish Legal Antiquities, by the late Cosmo Innes. Referring to the appropriation of the people's ancient rights to the land, foreshores, and fishings, by the landlords, he says (p. 154)
—"I do not suppose that any cruelty or injustice was ever premeditated by the Legislature or the Government—that there was any intention to favour the rich at the expense of the poor, but there are things in the history of our law that I cannot help censuring—the more because I believe the evil was for the most part attributable to the straining of the law by lawyers. The books tell us what impediments the humane law in favour of the 'puir pepil that labours the grunde ' had to encounter from the practising lawyers of the day. I think as little humanity has been shown in the divisions of commons. Looking over our country, the land held in common was of vast extent. In truth, the arable
—the cultivated land of Scotland —the land early appropriated and held by charter, is a narrow strip on the river bank or beside the sea. The inland, the upland, the moor, the mountain, were really not occupied at all for agricultural purposes, or served only to keep the poor and their cattle from starving. They were not thought of when charters were made and lands feudalised. Now, as cultivation increased, the tendency in the agricultural mind was to occupy these wide commons, and our lawyers lent themselves to appropriate the poor man's grazing ground to the neighbouring baron. They pointed to his charter with its clause of parts and pertinents, with its general clause of mosses and moors—clauses taken from the style book, not with any reference to the territory conveyed in that charter; and although the charter was hundreds of years old, and the lord had never possessed any of the common, when it came to be divided, the lord got; the whole that was allocated to the estate, and the poor cottar none. The poor had no lawyers ! Something of the same kind, I think, is taking place now (1872) by lawyers extending the meaning of words used in charters. I am afraid the grant cum piscariis has been pushed lately beyond its original meaning; and the question still so fresh, of the right to sea-shore has been determined somewhat harshly against the poor fisher seeking for bait, while the interest of the Crown has been made a pretext to annoy both the proprietor of the soil and the poor commons, who used to be considered the proper enjoyers of the Crown property." Again he says:
—" I must go back for my great grievances to the time when wide territories that had long been held without charter first were sought to be held by parchment tenure. That was not a mere change in law and land tenures—it was part of a great revolution in society. Mr Maine lays it down, and truly, that the greatest revolution in the history of any people is when the patriarchal or tribe association is changed into the connection arising from land—the territorial, if you will —the patriotic bond, instead of the patriarchal. The misfortune was that in Scotland all such changes told against the poor. A clan in the Highlands before the fifteenth century lived in patriarchal fashion. The clansmen looked to the chief as their leader and father, but what we should call the common people of the clan held their crofts and pastures from father to son, from generation to generation, by a right as indefeasible as the chiefs." A Crown charter was taken in favour of the chief " who got the whole land of the tribe in barony. And in the charters of the lands of a great clan the Crown charter bestowed upon the chief all the rights of jurisdiction, civil and criminal, with pit and gallows, instead of his old patriarchal authority. It (the change) was an immense advantage, speaking merely commercially, to the lord. He could now raise money upon the security of his seisin, could provide for his family, could if need be sell the lands which he had thus acquired in property. But it was not so advantageous for the poor clansmen, who had never thought of writings to bind their patriarchal head, and who now found themselves with no title of property, often without any written leases or rentals. They became altogether dependent on the will of the laird, and fell a long way below the position which they had held before the lands were feudalised. That, I think, was the most flagrant injustice inflicted by lawyers carrying out to the letter the doctrines of feudalism, which they assumed were the same with the old patriarchal occupation. Other and smaller rights of the people have been encroached upon by lawyers stretching a written title beyond its meaning. Amongst these perhaps some of us may hold the law as now settled in the matter of trout-fishing. Craig, a great feudalist, allows an exclusive right of the feudal proprietor in all fishing, even trout-fishing, where practised lucri causa, but distinguishes the trout-fishing which is pursued only for recreation; this distinction, however, has been lost sight of in modern times, and the most innocent and cheapest of sports wrested from the poor. One popular question was fortunate enough to come into Court only after the modern restoration of jury trials, and after the minds of our educated classes had come to appreciate the poor man, and I think there is now no danger of the people being deprived of their old rights of road and way. Let us hope that these rights may be vindicated with moderation and without encroaching on the rights of property. In England the paths to villages and churches, with styles through the hedges, contrast with the stone walls and the threatening placards that confine the wanderer through Scotland to the dusty high road." In another chapter he says
—" I think it appears plainly that a large part of the population of the Highlands had no written tenures, and it suited the factors of those days—the Badie Macwheebles of the time —to represent and to treat those immemorial occupants and dwellers on the land as holding at the absolute will of the first chief who was knowing enough to obtain a Crown charter." It is unnecessary to add anything to these remarks, but they are well worthy of consideration by every one interested in the question now being inquired into by the Royal Commission which I have the honour to address. I fear it might be considered presumptuous on my part to suggest any remedies here for grievances, now admitted to exist by most, if not all, of those who, when this Commission was granted, strenuously maintained that there was no foundation whatever for the statements, made by myself and others, as to the miserable conditions under which the crofters generally lived. One prominent factor then courageously wrote as follows :
—" I am confident the result will not only prove beneficial to my worthy but misguided fellow-isleman, but will also vindicate many sorely-maligned proprietors and factors from the charges made against them by untruthful outside agitators, not to speak of others who, while personally conversant with local conditions, have not scrupled to throw out inferences which no view of the facts can justify." I doubt very much if this prediction has been verified altogether to the satisfaction of my friend. But the grievances are now very generally —I might almost say universally—admitted, and the time has, therefore, arrived when those who advocated the claims of the oppressed may fairly be asked to suggest the remedies. And if the Commissioners wish to know my views on that point, I shall briefly state them. I shall afterwards be glad to answer any questions put to me, to the best of my ability, on the subject of my experience among the Highlanders of Canada, emigration, the feelings and determination of the people, and any other point on which I have gained any experience and formed an opinion.
The principal remedies which I would propose are as follows :
—1st, To break down the present deer forests and great farms, compulsorily if need be, and divide them among the people in small holdings, ranging from a few acres to moderately sized farms, so that the man at the bottom may fairly hope, by industry and economy, to climb further up the ladder of success. Under the present conditions there is nothing for a man to hope for between a small croft and a farm that will take several thousands of pounds to stock. The system could not have been more admirably planned had it been intended to drive the people to despair, with the view of their being finally forced by sheer necessity to leave their native land.
2nd, I would have the present value of the land ascertained by independent Government valuators, and give it to the people at that valuation on a permanent tenure, and on such conditions that they or their representatives could never be removed so long as they paid their rents. In the event of their being unable to pay their rents, and having in consequence to give up their holdings ; or in the event of their leaving of their own will, I would have the value of the land ascertained, and on the landlord refusing to pay the difference, capitalised, between its original and improved values, I would allow the tenant to dispose of his holding to the highest offerer. Thus the results of the tenants' improvements as a class would be secured to themselves, 1 instead of, as hitherto, periodically appropriated by the landlords.
3rd, I would accept no leases, on any conditions ; for a lease only means that the landlord will get the tenants' improvements—the result of his expenditure of labour, brain, and money—for nothing, a little later on.
4th, Government should also form a scheme of peasant proprietary, by buying up estates coming into the market, and granting them in small holdings of various sizes to those who could pay a portion of the price down, the Government leaving the balance as a loan on the land at a moderate rate of interest—sufficient to pay up capital and interest in forty or fifty years.
5th, Landlords in legal possession of their estates, in the event of their being required by the State for a scheme of peasant proprietary, should get full compensation for the present agricultural value of their land, whenever any part of it may be acquired for the public by the nation. Thus the legal rights of those in possession may, to some extent, be brought into harmony with the moral and higher rights of the Crown and the people.
41064. As a considerable portion of the paper which you have read refers to particulars concerning a single district and a remote time, I shall first ask you one or two questions connected with this part of your statement. You have stated or implied, with reference to the distribution of charitable assistance in the West Highlands, —and, I presume, particularly the district of Gairloch, —that money subscribed by charitable persons was disbursed in the form of wages for labour in the improvement of the soil; and that, in cases of that nature, the rent was raised upon the improvements thus effected?
—Yes, there was interest charged on the money expended on this work that we did, and the payment that we got for that work was this meal.
41065. And you are well advised that the meal was the result of charitable subscriptions?
—It was called, in the district, the destitution meal.
41066. But do you feel yourself really enabled to state that the labour paid for in that way—we may say from charitable sources —was made the basis of an increase of rent; or might it not have been that this meal was purchased with the funds of the proprietor?
—That is quite possible. I don't commit myself to the statement. I say in my statement that this was understood in the district.
41067. But you are not perfectly advised that that was the case?
—I am not. I think, as a matter of fact, no money was sent. It was all sent in the shape of meal.
41068. In reference to the alleged conduct of Dr Mackenzie, who was factor on the Gairloch estate, one of the complaints seems to have been that he endeavoured to introduce a variety of small changes in a despotic manner; but I suppose it is allowed that his intentions in that respect were good?
41069. Do any traces of his endeavours in that way remain?
—Yes, I think on the whole, that the result of his proceedings has been beneficial. You will notice in my statement that I say so, but the act of taking away the cattle from the people in the manner in which it was done was indefensible.
41070. That is another subject, but I wish to know whether his proceedings in reference to the introduction of garden cultivation —though they may have been despotic or precipitate; I don't say they were so, but that they may have been so —have left any good traces behind them at all?
—Do I understand you to mean the garden part of the scheme, or the whole scheme, including the trenching and draining of the crofts?
41071. No; I rather mean the cultivation of vegetables previously unknown to the people. Have they become better gardeners and cultivators than they were?
—I don't think so. I don't think there is much trace of that left now.
41072. I understand also he was a great advocate of spade husbandry ; have they remained better spade husbandmen and cultivators than they were?
—I think the spade is hardly used now in the croft, except in the little plot of garden, and that very seldom. They use the cas-chrom or crooked spade.
41073. Then you don't think his views as to spade cultivation have left any traces behind them?
—Not any material traces.
41074. But his intentions at the time you ahow to have been good?
—I allow his intentions to have been good all through.
41075. You mentioned in connection with one portion of this property, and with reference to others, that there had been a good number of evictions, as for instance in the Isle of Ewe and other places mentioned by you in that connection; were any of these evictions carried out under factor Mackenzie's rule?
—I can scarcely give your Lordship a date. I rather think not; but there is one place —I don't know whether I should describe it as an eviction —I call it a removal. I think, in the district of Kemsary, the people must have been removed during his time or later. I am not however positive on that point.
41076. I believe Dr Mackenzie was not only a factor, but a farmer also. Are you enabled to state whether any removals or evictions were carried out by which he, as an occupier, personally benefited?
—I think not. I think it was rather the other way. I think, when he took the Isle of Ewe, he had to import labourers to the island to work on the farm.
41077. With reference to the confiscation of cattle for the purpose of paying arrears of rent; at the time that was done, was Dr Mackenzie factor?
—He was. I thought he was a trustee at the time, but I know since he was only a factor.
41078. Then may he not have been acting under the direction of the trustees?
41079. Is it not possible that Dr Mackenzie may have been obliged to take severer measures for the recovery of the rent as a factor, than the proprietor would have felt himself justified in doing, had he been in independent management of his own estate? May he not have been acting under some official constraint in the matter?
—It is possible, but my recollection of the time is that the Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch, who, I understand, was one of the trustees, in many cases reversed what Dr Mackenzie was doing in the case of the attempted removal of some of the people. Lady Mackenzie was considered to have behaved excellently to the people during the whole of that period, and I know myself that parties appealed to her when the Doctor wanted to remove them, and she insisted upon that not being done.
41080. Can you imagine any particular motive which Dr Mackenzie may have had for carrying out these measures with that unusual rigour? Was it in conformity with some rule of estate improvement and management, or was it just in the exercise of his ordinary functions as factor?
—From having read a good deal of what he has written, as factor. I should be disposed to think it was a peculiar hobby of his own that he wanted to carry out. I believe one of the trustees was Mr Mackenzie of Ord, who was never seen in Gairloch. I never saw him, and a stranger who came into Gairloch in those days would have been noticed by everybody—they were few and far between. My idea is that Dr Mackenzie was allowed to do almost anything he liked in the circumstances.
41081. To turn to the more general branch of inquiry, you have given us very interesting particulars of your own early life and experience, and you, no doubt, from your earliest years, have had a full knowledge of the feelings of the people, especially the smaller tenants, with reference to land questions. Your furthest memory goes back to the time when the runrig system was superseded by the lotting system?
—Yes, I remember it quite vividly.
41082. Among speculative writers, as you are well aware, there has been a reaction of opinion, and there has been an attempt made to show that some benefits or advantages were attached to the old system of cultivation by runrig. Do you think, from your memory, and from what you have since learnt, that the benefit of lotting, when properly carried out, is universally recognised; or do you think that some still look back with regret to the runrig system?
—I believe there are a few who look back to it with regret, but I do not think that regret is well-founded.
41083. You think, so far as arable ground is concerned, the separation of lots is an unmixed benefit?
41084. Well, with reference to common holdings in pasture, do you think that the possession of a common holding in pasture is of essential benefit to the crofting community?
—I believe that the crofting community cannot exist without it.
41085. But is there a benefit attached to the existence of the crofting community itself, or would it, in your mind, be preferable that the township should be, as it were, dissolved, and that the tenants should fall back on the possession entirely of individual tenancies—that all connection between the members of a township should be severed, and that they should be separate tenants; or do you think the preservation of a township, and what remains of it, is a benefit to the people?
—I am not quite sure I understand your Lordship.
41086. One link that constitutes a township, we may suppose, is the possession of common pasture?
41087. Well, do you think that is a feature that ought to be preserved, that the common pasture should not be divided and given separately to the people, but that there should be a common pasture preserved?
—Yes; from what I know of the country I think anything else would be utterly impracticable, apart altogether from the question of which is the best. I think that system is the best. They have been combined as they are now in holding the pasture, but even if it were not so, the other is impracticable. You could not divide the pasture between the various crofters.
41088. But it has been suggested to me that common pasture may have this bad effect, that it may induce people to rely upon the possession of a certain quantity of inferior stock, and may make them careless of the improvement of the arable ground, and that it may be in the general interest of the people that they should be deprived of the common pasture, and that they should be thrown upon arable cultivation more exclusively, and that then they would draw the greatest resources from the cultivated ground?
—I do not think so.
41089. Do you think that the arable lands of a township where there is no pasture would be in any degree better cultivated than the lands of a township which had pasture?
—I believe they might be better cultivated if the holdings were larger, and if the people were quite sure of getting full value for any improvements they made, and were sure of not being removed. But, as I said already, a small arable croft is, in my opinion, quite unfit to maintain anybody in decent prosperity. The fact is, I think, a man is on the whole, except among the fishing population, almost as weU off without a croft of that nature as with it, unless he has pasture.
41090. If it were possible in any way to promote the expansion of the small holdings or promote the restoration of land to the people as occupiers, do you think they would be more anxious, in the Western Highlands at least, to obtain it in the shape of arable or in the form of additional common pasture?
—Well, both are very much required, but I think it has always been the feeling of the Highlanders that they preferred pasture.
41091. Have you any personal experience or knowledge of the club farm system as distinguished from the common pasture?
41092. Do you think the people would be inclined to contemplate the institution of club farms, or do you think they would generally prefer personal shares in the cattle themselves?
—Possibly there might be some difficulty at first in getting them to agree about going into a club farm, because some will have more stock than others, and there will be other difficulties in the way. I have no hesitation in saying that the club farm system is by far the best of the two, and I believe the people, after a time, if that system were encouraged, would come into the adoption of it.
41093. Do you think, supposing tracts of common pasture were restored to the township, that the people would generally be able, in time, to stock the ground without Government assistance?
—A great many of them would be, if they had a permanent hold on the soil, because there would not be the slightest difficulty about getting money from friends, and money from bankers, if the parties lending the money knew perfectly well that the people could not be disturbed at any moment the proprietor thought proper. They would have something to fall back upon.
41094. It was suggested to us the other day that some change on the law might take place by which the people might be all able to mortgage their stock, and give a preferential claim upon their stock to parties advancing money upon it. Do you think it would be desirable to facilitate the practice of raising money upon stock in any way by law?
—In my opinion that is about the most practical suggestion I have heard since this Commission sat. I may state that in America that system prevails, and there is another by which a man can even mortgage the crop on the ground when it brairds. He can have money advanced on it, and it is a
heritable security as long as it is not cut. Immediately it is cut and removed from the ground it loses that character. Consequently it usually leads to short loans for two months.
41095. Are you well satisfied that a system of that sort for increasing and facilitating credit would succeed as well in this country as it does in the colonies, where there is such a rapid natural increase in the value of property?
—No, I do not think it would be wise to do what they do in the colonies in that respect, for the reason your Lordship states, as well as on account of the different way in which they hold the soil. That is to say, people will not trust them with money under present conditions.
41096. You don't think, then, the crofters have much to hope for from borrowing money to purchase stock, but rather from the natural increase of their stock, and the assistance of friends'?
—Not unless you give them a permanent hold of the soil
41097. You have spoken about the partition of common, and in speaking of that it would rather raise the question as to who possessed the common rights. As the lawyers interpret those rights, the common belongs to the proprietor, not to the occupier, and a partition has been effected between the proprietors without any reference to the claims of occupiers. Well, there is a good deal of common or commonty which is not yet partitioned between proprietors. Under the present law, how do you think
that that might be dealt with, so as to save the interest of the occupier in some degree? Granted that the commonty is shared among the proprietors, could any restriction be imposed on each individual
proprietor as to the appropriation of the common ground, so that he might be obliged to leave a portion of it at least in the occupancy of the small tenants?
—Well, I am not a lawyer, and that is rather a difficult question. My own position in regard to that is this, that, although I mentioned ancient rights and tenure, I only put them forward with the view of showing that the people, the tenants, have a moral right to look to the present owners of the land to meet them and do something for them in the present circumstances. I hold that any proprietor in possession for forty years is legally unassailable so far as his legal rights are concerned, and any discussion we may have about that, except in the sense in which I use it, as showing we have a moral claim, seems to me a waste of time in a question like this. At the same time, I hope our friends in this crisis will keep in view how they got possession of the holdings they now occupy; and though we cannot claim any of the land legally, that they will be disposed to meet the demands of the people, and behave to them as well as they can in present circumstances.
41098. What you look to, then, is a sort of benevolent compromise by which they will make all reasonable concessions?
—Yes; but stop them from appropriating in future anything belonging to other people. I want them to possess everything that can be proved to belong to them at present, but, from this moment not to be allowed legally to appropriate any single thing that belongs to others.
41099. That does away with all necessity on this occasion to enter into the question of the ancient tenure of land, and the period at which what you call feudal rights were introduced?
—Yes, for all practical purposes.
41100. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are a magistrate of Inverness?
41101. And you hold several other offices in connection with that position?
41102. You have taken a great interest in this Commission from the beginning?
—I have ; very much so.
41103. And I believe you make some claim to being the person who first suggested that it should be issued?
—I think you admitted that.
41104. How many years ago was that?
—I think it was in 1877.
41105. You have explained in the statement made what you have done yourself in going about among the people. Were you requested by some friends of the Highlanders to undertake that duty?
41106. May I take it for granted that the object of that was, that it being so very novel a procedure altogether, and many of the people being unable to speak English, and long depressed, there might have been a difficulty in getting proper evidence brought forward? Was that the chief reason that caused you to be employed in this manner?
—Yes ; and feeling as we all did who knew anything about the Highlands, that the people were in such a state of —I will not use the word terror, but the next thing to it—of the factors throughout the country, —and especially the ground officers, that they would be afraid to open their mouths even to
Her Majesty's Commissioners, unless they were roused up and encouraged to do so.
41107. And you and others considered that the issuing of this Commission was a matter of very great importance, or might be a matter of such importance to the Highlanders, that the people should be encouraged in every way to speak out?
—I think so, and I think indeed that it is the most important event for the Highlanders since the battle of Culloden.
41108. I suppose no ordinary commission would have prompted you and your friends to take the step you have done?
41109. I understand you to wish to make an explanation of something that appears in the minutes of the Commission, with regard to Mr Macdonald, Tormore. There is something in the minutes about a conversation or alleged conversation in a railway carriage?
41110. Is it correct or not?
—It is not. There is not a word of truth in it, as I can prove by gentlemen, some of whom are here present, holding the highest offices in Inverness, who were in the carriage with us.
41111. Now among the different things you say landlords have been taking, or trying to take away, you made reference to one subject which I don't understand very well, you said they tried to get possession of the herring; what do you mean by that?
—I mean that in the past, grants were given to the proprietors by the Crown of the white fishing along the coast, and that they often tried to establish their rights to the white fishing, which included the herring, and that they succeeded so far that they got their electoral privileges,—in fact, they managed to secure qualifications to vote on these rights to fishing herring and white fish, and Stair in his Institutes distinctly declares that they not only maintained they had these rights, but that they actually had the rights, and on the east coast of Banffshire, I think there are about thirty cases recorded in which sasines were granted on such bases as white fishing. But I am happy to say that recently, by a decision of Lord Cairns in 1875, the last vestige of that claim has disappeared, and our friends can have no claim to the herring and other white fishing at any rate.
41112. Referring to matters at Gairloch for one moment, in which Dr Mackenzie's name was frequently mentioned, has Dr Mackenzie, all his life, not had the reputation of being a most humane and benevolent man?
—Yes, he had.
41113. Another question. If I am not very much misinformed, Dr Mackenzie is a member of your Land Law Association?
—Yes, but he is not now a factor.
41114. You were asked a question by Lord Napier about whether you approved to some extent, or to any extent, of the system of mortgaging stock. Although it might be a dangerous thing in some respects to give such preferences, don't you think it would be very desirable to have some means, in tho event of a peasant proprietary being established, whereby, for the original stock necessary to stock the enlarged crofts, they might give such a security to their friends?
—Yes, I think it would be an excellent plan. There may be difficulties as to details, but the Royal Commissioners and members of Parliament could have no difficulty in regulating details in a matter of that kind.
41115. The system of mortgaging movable property is very much used in America and Australia, is it not?
—I am not so well acquainted with Australia and the other colonies, except from reading about them, but I know it prevails largely in Canada, where I have been.
41116. The persons there are proprietors, and therefore there is a difference?
41117. But there would be no difference if they were peasant proprietors?
—No practical difference.
41118. It is commonly stated that there would be a practical difficulty in establishing a peasant proprietary?
—I have heard that stated.
41119. Suppose, however, there were a peasant proprietary or fixity of tenure and compensation for improvements, is it not your experience that the crofter class have saved a good deal of money which is now lying in the banks?
41120. Take the case, for instance, of the Highlands ; is it not a fact, or is it not commonly reported as a fact, that a great deal of the deposits in the banks come from the crofting class, and those in that position?
—I have heard it reported, but it is a statement as to which I cannot say from any experience of my own whether it is accurate or not. My impression is that it is accurate; that the largest portion of the deposits are from the crofter class ; but I may be allowed to say that my experience is that those crofters who have deposits have earned those deposits, not from the crofts but from the sea.
41121. What I was pointing to is, that it is perhaps not the crofters themselves but their relatives,—people belonging to the crofting class, for instance, a daughter of a crofter who has earned some money in service, or the second or third son who is away from the croft altogether. Don't you think they have a good deal of money?
—Yes, there is no doubt of that ; and many of them who are away in the colonies possess a great amount of wealth, and would only be too glad to help their relatives if they saw them in a position where they could get a comfortable livelihood.
41122. From what class could deposits come in the north except from the crofting class? Could it come from the proprietors?
—We have not any evidence of it in the Highlands.
41123. Do you think the large farmers have much?
—Well, I think their days are about done.
41124. Then don't you think, following out this idea, that the relatives of the crofters, the people who could get enlarged crofts and become peasant proprietors also, would take their money out of the bank if they knew they had a safe security in giving it to their friends?
—There is no doubt at all but they would, but my idea is that no scheme can ever succeed unless you give the people full rights to the land. There is no use borrowing or talking about anything except on the basis of the people being secured in their own improvements.
41125. I am speaking of the proposed peasant proprietary?
41126. Are there any banks so safe as the land, according to your opinion?
—I believe not
41127. Talking of emigration, as long as there is land in this country capable of profitable cultivation, what benefit could it possibly be to a man to emigrate to any country where he may have, probably, the same quantity of hardships to go through that he has at home, if not more?
—As a matter of fact, the hardships which the early colonists in Canada suffered were much more severe than any labour that they would have to undergo at home in working the land here.
41128. You have carefully guarded yourself, I observe, against going into matters of title of estates beyond the prescriptive period. May I ask your views in regard to forests and game? I presume you are not in favour of disafforesting every forest in the Highlands?
—No, I should be very sorry to see all sport abolished. I have, perhaps, too much clannish feeling towards the old chiefs to allow me to desire to see them done out of their sport altogether.
41129. Then I presume that where the land is high and suitable for them, you have no objections at all to deer forests, and particularly where it does not in any way interfere with the possessions or the comforts of the people?
—None whatever ; at the same time, I look upon sport as a luxury quite as much as brandy and whisky, and I think those who use them should be very heavily taxed for them.
41130. Very good ; but you think the tax must be reasonable, because you don't want to destroy sport?
41131. With regard to grouse shootings may I take it that your views are much in the same position as those with regard to deer forests, —that so far as they don't in any way interfere legitimately with the people and their rights to the soil they occupy, you have no objection?
—No, I have much less objection to grouse shootings than to deer forests, because I do not think that in many places they do injury at all. They are often away from the crofts.
41132. We come now to another species, and that is what you call low country game. May I ask what your views are in regard to game upon cultivated lands; I mean not winged game, but four-footed animals? Do you wish to go any further than has been already done?
—That is a question I did not pay any attention to. I devoted my attention almost entirely to the crofter phase of the question, and I think you will find the large farmers are perfectly able to take care of themselves.
41133. But we are speaking of the small farmer with ground game upon his arable land ?
—There is no doubt ground game on these farms do an immense amount of mischief.
41134. Do jou propose anything further than the present law allows with regard to ground game upon the arable land of the tenants?
—I think, as the Commissioners would have seen very well throughout the inquiry, that there is no great use in legislating on the question of ground game so long as the people feel that they may be evicted next Whitsunday if they touch a rabbit or a hare. As you heard all through, the last Ground Game Act is virtually a dead letter in the Highlands. All a factor has to do is to lift his finger in a township, and the people will not touch an animal.
41135. Then you are not satisfied with the state of ground game law upon arable land ?
41136. You have been over a great deal of the Highlands?
—I think I have been over nearly all, at one time or another, except the island of Lewis.
41137. In what state of mind did you find the people you visited and spoke to in your recent journeys as regards their present condition; were they satisfied?
—Far from that, but I found generally (especially in the west) the people in a state of despair. At my own meetings people would come to the place, and say ' Oh, what is the use? What can they do?' The people seem to have lost all courage, and to be almost in a state of despair. They have no encouragement or incentive to live, and they simply vegetate, as it were, where they are, and they cannot see a door of escape in any direction.
41138. Not only in a state of depression, but in a state of despair, for the future?
41139. Do you think they are very much poorer in their circumstances than they were forty years ago? They generally told us themselves that they were?
—Well, as to their condition forty years ago I cannot speak from personal experience.
41140. I will put it to your own experience thirty years ago?
—Well, in Gairloch, where I knew people, I have no hesitation in saying they are much better off now than they were when I remember.
41141. Better clothed?
—Yes, I think they are ; but as to other places which I have only known within the last fifteen years or so, I could not make a comparison.
41142. Do you think the people in the Highlands are much better educated than they were in your younger days?
—Yes, they are.
41143. Don't you think a good deal of that education has arisen indirectly from their being obliged to go year by year almost to the south and east for work, and that they have thereby picked up a good deal of information?
—I do not kuow; I think you will find the Highlander is naturally shrewd. I think, speaking from my own experience, and from what Mr Jolly, Her Majesty's inspector of schools, told me, that with fewer
advantages the Highlanders progress in education much more than those in the south.
41144. Did you, in your recent journeys, find any feeling of what I may call political discontent at their position further than mere poverty?
—I do not exactly know what you mean by ' political.'
41145. Except their social discontent, did you find any symptoms of any other discontent?
—I found no discontent except discontent with the laws and with the proprietors and factors.
41146. But that altogether arose, I suppose, from their being poor?
—From their being poor.
41147. Do you .think they would be contented with moderate reforms in their favour at present?
—I am disposed to think that if steps were taken, and the people were satisfied with them, you might check the feeling which I know is getting very strong among the people.
41148. Then there is a feeling?
—There is a feeling, and a growing feeling.
41149. I shall put it in this form. Do you consider from your knowledge of the feeling of the Highlanders whom you have seen in this country, and what you may have seen and heard abroad from those who have gone abroad, that the present is a very critical period in the history of the Highlands altogether?
41150. And you think that now is the most opportune time for doing something to put matters on a different footing?
—Yes, and I feel and believe that if no steps are taken almost immediately, you will have a social revolution In the Highlands. I have heard expressions made use of by the people that I would not like to state publicly —a determination expressed in the event of remedies not being forthcoming.
41151. You have yourself seen a deal of the world, and I presume I may take it you are a Highlander to the backbone ; and without being very extreme in your views, I suppose you feel very strongly about the state of the Highlanders?
41152. And I suppose you represent many people like yourself when you say that you will be satisfied with a reasonable reform?
—Yes; we will be very glad to take all we can get, but I have no hesitation in saying that if no remedies are forthcoming there will be an agitation in the Highlands that there was never the like of. I know we had to keep it back instead of encouraging agitation since this Commission commenced,—I and others of my friends who take an interest in the question. We found people who were forcing on public meetings and a regular propaganda throughout the Highlands in connection with this question, and we had to put our foot down pretty firmly to keep the people from the south from coming here, and carrying on an agitation, independently of us, in the north, into every corner of the Highlands. We thought it only respectfid to this Commission that no such agitation should be permitted till this Commission was at an end; but the feeling exists very strongly in the Highlands, and among Highland people at home and abroad, —for I get letters from Highlanders in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada pressing us to go on and get up an agitation from one end of the country to the other; and not only so, but to send lecturers to the large towns in England to rouse the people there; because many feel that, until we get the English people to take up the question, we will scarcely ever get anything from our own representatives.
41153. Then your influence, and that of your friends who have taken the lead in this matter, has been of a restraining character in every respect? May I say so?
—Yes, entirely so.
41154. Are those recommendations that you suggest in the paper you have read to-day generally approved of by people in the same position as yourself in this movement?
—Very extensively indeed.
41155. And whatever reforms may be granted, should, in their opinion, go upon the lines there represented ?
—Well, I think so; and I know that is the prevailing opinion among those who take a leading part in the question.
41156. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—In the first answer you gave to Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, I think you stated that, in going round the country, your object was to rouse up the Highlanders to a sense of their duties, and in the last answer you said it was to restrain them. May I ask what was your object?
—I think you misunderstood me. I said my object in going round the Highlanders was to rouse the people to their duty, to give evidence before this Commission ; but in regard to my answer to the last question, I understood the question to be of a different character, whether we were keeping down agitation, while the inquiry was proceeding, in favour of a change in the land laws. The Crown having appointed this Commission, I went round and pointed out to the people the absolute necessity that they should come forward, and, like men, present their grievances to the Royal Commission; that was the burthen of my song.
41157. Are you the gentleman referred to by the Federation of Celtic Societies in their circulars as having been employed to go round the country?
—I am not; I refused to have anything to do with it.
41158. In going round the country did you find it difficult at all to arouse the people to a sense of their duties ?
—I did in some cases. They were perfectly sensible of their duties, but they were so much afraid that they were unwilling to come forward.
41159. You, I think, preceded the Commission in most parts of the mainland, and in a considerable portion of the islands?
—I preceded the Commission in the whole of Skye, and part of North Uist, iu Benbecula, and in part of South Uist, and then, on the west coast all along, from Thurso to Loch Carron.
41160. You have, in your paper, given us your proposed remedies for the present state of things, and among other points you remarked that you thought the people should have land at a valuation on a permanent tenure. Did you give no intimation of your views on these matters to the people whom you met on your rounds?
—Yes, I stated them sometimes at my meetings.
41161. Because in another part of your paper you say you dissuaded them from asking fixity of tenure?
—In the Irish phrase. I objected to the term, because I did not like the look of it.
41162. But you told them your own opinions?
41163. And so far you influenced them on that question?
41164. You also took a considerable interest in the question of evictions?
—Yes. Will you allow me to say, with reference to what you said about my going for a certain association, that I refused to go for any association whatever, unless I was absolutely untrammelled and left to use my own discretion in whatever I did. I went entirely free from any control of, or responsibility to, any association in the world.
41165. You stated rather broadly that the evidence was in no manner prepared by you. Now, you preceded us in the greater number of places where we went, and you admit that in those places you intimated your views?
41166. You also took considerable interest in the matter of evictions?
41167. Did you not take the trouble, as you went round, to find out what evictions had taken place?
—Well, no, I did not, because, as you are aware, I wrote a history of the Highland Clearances, and the book was published before I went out, and I had no interest in making that inquiry.
41168. There are certain statements about matters within my own cognisance, with regard to Gairloch, which, I need not say, fill me with indignation, but as to which I cannot enter into dispute, though I will ask you one or two questions respecting them. I refer to a point on which Lord Napier has already spoken—the statement that ' I was obliged to work on my father's croft —filling drains and removing stones, for which we got Indian and bad oatmeal in payment. This meal, I always understood, was " destitution " meal. But whether that was so or not, interest was charged for the improvements made, and my father had to pay it so long as we remained in that croft.' Do you mean to insinuate or allow it to be understood that it was possible that this money, which was advanced by the Destitution Committee in charity, was spent on the property, and interest charged for it?
—I know that was the feeling on the whole property at the time.
41169. Might you not easily have ascertained for yourself, before you made this charge in public, whether it was true or not?
—I do not know how I could.
41170. Might you not have put a question to some person who knew?
—I do not suppose, if it were true, that anybody would now admit it.
41171. But might you not have asked to have the facts explained to you if they required explanation?
—If I knew of whom.
41172. Are you aware that, at the time of the destitution, the trustees on the Gairloch estate borrowed £10,000 from Government, for the purpose of giving labour?
—I was aware that they borrowed money, but I did not know the amount.
41173. You are aware also that there was money got from the Destitution Committee for charitable purposes?
—I was not aware that money was got. I understood meal was got in considerable quantity. It was sent in the shape of Indian meal and oatmeal.
41174. At that time, I presume, the merchants in the country were unable to advance meal?
—I think at that time, there was only one merchant in the whole district.
41175. And when the potatoes failed it was necessary to provide the people with meal?
41176. But whether they were paid in money or the money's worth in meal, the question here is as to the money advanced, or meal advanced by the Destitution Committee for charitable purposes,—whether you wish it to be understood that interest was charged to the tenants for that, and paid to the trustees on the Gairloch property?
—All I can say is this, that we did work for which we expected to get payment in money. Instead of that we got payment in meal that was unfit for human food, and an additional rent of 15s. or 16s. was put on my father's croft for the labour for which we got that meal in payment.
41177. But that meal was not destitution meal?
—It was called so in the district. I was only from eight to twelve years of age, and I don't know of my own knowledge whether it was so or not,—and I say so in my statement.
41178. You mention that the seeds which Dr Mackenzie forced on the people were forced on them without any instructions how to use them. Did he not circulate a small pamphlet, at the time, containing instructions?
—I need not tell you, there were very few people in Gairloch who could read in those days.
41179. The ground officers could?
—Well, the ground officers were just about as bad.
41180. You refer to Dr Mackenzie seizing cattle and glutting the market; do you think all the cattle in the parish of Gairloch would have glutted the market?
—I do, at that time of the year.
41181. Is it not the case that the prices of cattle happened to be abnormally low over the country?
—I say in my statement the prices were unusually low at the time, and the consequence of these thousands of cattle having been put into the market at a time when prices were so unusually low was, that there was no return to the people, and of that I can produce evidence on oath from many people in Gairloch still living.
41182. The statement is that the Gairloch cattle glutted the market?
41183. Are you aware of the system on which the rents of crofts all over the Western Highlands, and I am surprised to find, in some parts of the Eastern Highlands, used to be paid—at what time they were paid?
—-I always understood it was afterhand in Gairloch.
41184. As a matter of fact, it is the case that all over the Highlands all the crofters' rents were forehanded. It was presumed to be an illegality on an entailed estate, and Dr Mackenzie, instead of exacting, remitted a half year's rent. Will you modify the statement now which says that Dr Mackenzie exacted an additional half-year's rent in the year of the destitution?
—You know the fact, and I don't, but I say that was the common report in the district. You having stated the fact that he forgave a rental, I, of course, withdraw the statement.
41185. But why do you give expression to common opinion in the district when you don’t know the real fact?
—I just say what I was told. The great fact remains that nearly all the cattle were taken away from the people, and the people were nearly ruined in consequence. There was scarcely a cattle beast in Gairloch, without a big patch of white paint on its side.
41186. Mr Cameron.
—You stated that the destitution last year in the Highlands was not such as was represented by the proprietors and factors ; what do you mean by that? Do you mean that the proprietors and factors were the means of calling public attention to it?
—Yes, nearly all the meetings that were called on the west coast were called by factors and addressed by factors.
41187. You are surely aware that public attention was first called to it by a Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons called The Seeds Bill, introduced by Dr Cameron?
—Yes, I know there was such a Bill.
41188. So you may say he was responsible, if anybody was, for calling attention to the destitution?
—Yes, in that case. Allow me to add that I made this same declaration about the extent of the destitution that prevailed, at the beginning at a meeting in Edinburgh.
41189. With regard to your own position, as I understand, you went round the crofters in the Long Island, and the north-west coast of Sutherland, with the idea of what is commonly called educating them?
—Well, you may call it that.
41190. But it was called so in the public prints?
—The Scotsman is the only paper that called it so.
41191. You don't call it educating them?
—No, I call it encouraging them to come forward and present evidence to the Commission.
41192. Then, if it was not for the purpose of educating them, may I ask for what purpose it was?
—Yes; I will repeat what I have said already. I went to encourage them, knowing that they were so much afraid of proprietors and factors and ground officers that they would be afraid to present themselves at all before the Commission. I went and pointed out to them the utter fallacy of this notion, and that the Crown had sent down gentlemen to inquire into their grievances, who would listen to all they had to say and protect them. I encouraged them in every way to come, and, if they had grievances, to present them to their Queen through the Royal Commission.
41193. But do you believe that without your presence the crofters would have been afraid to state their grievances to the Royal Commission in open Court?
—I do; and not only would they have been afraid to state them, but many of them would never have come before the Commission.
41194. But how is it that the Commissioners—at least I can answer for myself —have found no distinction as to the courage of the crofters between those places where they had the advantage of your presence and other places where they had not?
—There is a reason for that. I think I may fairly say that some portions of the districts which I did not visit were not so much trampled down as those districts that I visited, and further, that they had the advantage of seeing what the people in the west did, by coming forward manfully, and finding no bad consequences from their having come forward. I think these two reasons will account for the fact; and another reason is that although I did not go, other people did.
41195. With the same object?
—Well, I should think so; I fancy so.
41196. Although, of course, I am answering for myself, yet I believe I am answering for the rest of the Commissioners, that it made no possible difference in our views, or in our acceptation of the evidence which we received, don't you think that possibly it might have had a prejudicial effect on the public mind, this evidence being prepared by you and others going round in front of us and the result being, that papers were produced which were excessively like each other, and bore the traces of the same hand?
—I have already said that no evidence was prepared by me, but I have no doubt going did influence the public somewhat in that direction, but we had faith in the Royal Commissioners, and felt that they would not be so influenced, when they knew the facts; and we had to decide between two things—whether the evidence would be presented at all, or whether, having been presented, its weight would be diminished in consequence of our having gone forward in advance of the Commission.
41197. If the thing had to be done over again you would do the same?
—I do not think it would be necessary now.
41198. But with the experience you have had, would you do the same if it had to be done over again?
—I would, in similar circumstances.
41199. You say the crofters at Poolewe were afraid to give evidence; have you any evidence of that?
—They told me so themselves.
41200. But do you think they kept back any evidence we don't possess, in consequence of that fear1?
41201. There still is evidence which might have been brought before us, but which was not brought forward in consequence of their being afraid?
41202. In spite of your visit?
41203. Then in that case your visit does not appear to have done much good?
—Possibly not. The people were afraid to volunteer information, and expected the Commissioners to ask certain questions, which they did not ask, not knowing the local circumstances.
41204. Now, as I understand, one of your proposals is that you think all sporting rights of proprietors should be confiscated; I don't use the word in an offensive sense, but I mean they should be taken possession of by the public?
—I mean, in the event of the land being required by the people or the nation, that, in estimating its value, its value as a deer forest should not be taken into consideration by the Government or Parliament. I do not know whether you would call that confiscation or not; it is not long since these rights were established by Act of Parliament, and if Parliament could give these rights, I do not see why they should not transfer them to others, if necessary in the public interest.
41205. But at present they form part of the value of the estate?
—Yes, a very important part.
41206. You said, in answer to Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, that no bank is so safe as land. How do you reconcile your ideas as to what should be done with the land with the statement that no bank is so safe as the land?
—In what way?
41207. You suggest that what you admit to be the principal value of the land at present should be taken over by the public, and yet you say the holding of land is the very best security a man could have. If it is to be taken away, how can it be good security ?
—If you get full value, what could be better security f I hold you will get full security not only for the land, but for its agricultural value, but I hold that you have no right to expect value for this inflation—large sums of money given by wealthy people for the mere purpose of sport; and I may say, in many cases known to myself, mere brutality.
41208. But you admit that at present it forms part and a large and valuable part of the value of the land; and therefore, if that is considered as being a part of the value of the land now, if it were taken
away the value of the land would be reduced by this valuable portion of it?
—No doubt, the value of the land would be reduced to the extent of the value put upon the land—but which did not belong to the land itself—by Act of Parliament, but which is no intrinsic part of the value of the land itself.
41209. Still it would be part of the security which you say the land constitutes to the greatest degree?
—No ; I only say the land would be the best security—not the sources of revenue that you can plant on it to-day and take off to-morrow.
41210. With regard to these sporting rights which you would take away, is it not a fact within your knowledge that many proprietors in the Highlands really live by the rents which they obtain from
—I believe that is so.
41211. And that if these were taken away from them, they would be unable to do that amount of justice to their properties and their crofters—moderate though it may be in some cases—which they do at present?
—I believe they could make their properties equally valuable by encouraging the getting back of the people, whom the sheep farmers undoubtedly drove out of the country. My belief is the people will very soon drive the deer away, and get back to their old position; and I believe the landlord will be better off having the people cultivating the land, with the land as their only security.
41212. That is hardly an answer to my question; what I want to know is, if these sporting rights, which form an important element of value, are taken away, what is the proprietor to do in the meantime, and in what manner will he be able to do justice to the crofting population he may have?
—I suppose he will have to do as other people do. He has been getting an inflated income, and living up to it, and if it is curtailed he will just have to modify his expenditure.
41213. May he not have to sell the property?
—He may have to sell part of it, and very likely that would be a good thing for him and the country too.
41214. Would he not, in some cases, have to sell the whole of it?
—I do not think so.
41215. With regard to another remedy, I may assume it as a fact—indeed you have admitted that at present bankers will not advance money to the crofters to stock farms?
—No, I believe that to be the case. I believe more—that they will not even advance it to the sheep farmers, and consequently the farms when they fall vacant are not let.
41216. But you stated also, that if the crofter had a permanent hold of the soil, then the banker would be willing to advance money?
—I do, because I have spoken to bankers, and they said unhesitatingly they would advance it.
41217. I suppose you will admit, nobody can have so permanent an interest in the sod as the proprietor?
—I am not quite sure I understand you.
41218. You say that at present the crofter has not a permanent interest in the soil; will you admit that the proprietor has?
41219. Now, supposing you were told that a proprietor who has a permanent interest in the sod wished to raise money to stock a farm, and that he was told by the banker that stock afforded no security, and that he could not lend him money on such security, would you not modify your view as to the crofter being placed in that position —and being able to obtain money?
—No, I would not, because I assume that the crofter has a permanent hold of the soil and could offer as security not merely his stock but the improvements he may be making or going to make on his property; whereas the proprietor going to a banker may already have burdened his estate to the last penny he could borrow on it, and may not have anything to offer but the stock, such as the crofter has under present conditions.
41220. But do you say the banker would lend money on improvements which he was going to make?
—Not exactly that, unless they were in the course of being made.
41221. But even then, do you think a banker would lend money upon improvements that were not actually finished?
—I believe he would sooner lend money on these conditions than under present conditions, because a man may make improvements now, and next Whitsunday they may go into the landlord's hands; whereas, with permanency of tenure, there is more probability that the tenant will make them, and when they are made, they are his own, and cannot be taken away by any one else.
41222. I was not comparing the crofter of the present time with our ideal crofter of the future. I was comparing the crofter of the future with the position of the proprietor of the present time, who is surely in a better position for raising money than a crofter in the most favourable circumstances could be?
—I have no hesitation in saying, that if any proprietor goes to the bank for money to stock a farm, and if he can show he has not mortgaged his estate to the last penny, and gives a mortgage to the banker in addition to the security of the stock, the banker will be very glad to lend money on such security.
41223. I have not the slightest doubt he will do so, but the security of a property which now could be obtained without going to a banker at all, at 3½ per cent, is surely not the same as the security of a flying stock ?
—No, but we seem to misunderstand each other. My idea is, that if you give a permanent tenure to the crofter he can offer more than his stock, he can offer his interest in the improvements on his lands, they being his own, whereas now neither he nor the proprietor who is already mortgaged up to his ears can offer anything but the stock itself; and then there is the additional fact, that the proprietor can now come in and take the stock away from the crofter for his rent.
41224. Is it not a fact that the crofter will require to get the stock before he commences the improvements?
41225. How can he offer improvements which are not begun as security for the stock on which he wishes to borrow the money?
—--Well, there is a great deal of friendly feeling existing among Highlanders at home even yet, though it is deteriorating, and I have no doubt they would club together and become security for one another to the banks if they got hold of the soil in the way I suggest; and seeing this the banks would not hesitate to advance the money even on their personal security, and much less so when they know that those who become security have an incentive to go on and improve their holdings.
41226. In fact, you suggest that the crofter should go to the banker in the usual way with a collateral security?
—Yes, and say, - Here we are with permanent rights to our holdings, instead of being tenants at will, as we were before, and no landlord can come in and take all in the shape of additional rent, and leave nothing for you.'
41227. All I want to point out is that the stock is not sufficient security?
—No, if you look at my statement you will find that I call it an unreasonable proposal that money should be advanced on stock under the present condition of the land laws. I consider it most unreasonable of the crofters to ask such a thing.
41228. But even in the future you admit he will require some friends as collateral security; the tenure in the future will not be sufficient to give the security required by the banker?
—It would be sufficient after a few years, when he had made certain improvements, unless he mortgaged the improvements which he had already made.
41229. But he would want the money at once and not after a few years?
—You know that, in these crofts and small holdings, if you put a small stock on at first it will very soon increase if looked after by the parties themselves, instead of leaving it to other parties to look after.
41230. Do you believe that the consolidation of farms which has been going on to the detriment as you think, and as I think too, of the Highlands in general, is coming to a natural end?
—I believe practically it is coining to a natural end.
41231. Then, without coming to those remedies which you point out, can you suggest any other means of harmonious co-operation between landlords and tenants by which large farms may be again re-distributed among the smaller tenants?
—Well, it is very difficult, but I think it is made to appear more difficult than it really is. Two or three farms have been advertised recently to be given up to small tenants. There are two especially in the Isle of Skye, —one, I think, on the farm of Ullinish offered in six holdings, but I happen to know that they are asking the same rent for these six farms that the old tenant was paying.
41232. Do you know the date of that?
—I do not, but there is another, Suishnish and Borreraig, until lately in the possession of the Established Church minister of Strath, and it was paying so badly that he got the proprietor to take it off his hands, and put it into the market, and he was asking the same rent as the old tenant had paid for it. He was asking the same rent from six new tenants, and I know a gentleman who offered within £30 of that rent, but the negotiation was broken off, yet he expects crofters not only to give the old rent and build new houses on the place, but also to take over the sheep stock at valuation in a year like this, when the price of sheep is unprecedented in the history of the country. That is the reason. Old rents are asked, and the tenants are asked to take over stock when prices are unprecedentedly high. No sane man would do anything of the kind.
41233. Then you think the only way in which that should be done would be by the valuation of these farms?
—I believe proprietors could do a great deal just now, by breaking up these farms and offering them to people who would take them; not to insist on the stock being taken at valuation, but to put it in the market, getting the highest price which the market would give to the proprietor.
41234. Of course you know the proprietor is bound to take the stock at a valuation?
—Yes, I know that.
41235. Then that would be a loss to the proprietor at once?
—I do not know that it would. I believe this is the great obstacle at present against these small people accepting these farms even when broken down, and any representation made simply to the effect that the people will not accept them is not true. But they have to face the taking of these big stocks at an enormous price, which is not likely to be maintained.
41236. I am afraid I must adhere to my view that that would form the first obstacle. The next point would be whether the proprietor would not have to build. suitable houses for these tenants?
—I think not. I think with a very little encouragement the people would put up their own houses. My experience of them is that they are generally very well disposed to do that work themselves, if they get some help in the way of wood and perhaps lime, or a little in that way. I believe if lime and these things were given, and if they were met and treated fairly, and began to understand that the landlords wanted them to stop, instead of wishing them to leave the country altogether, they would erect their own houses.
41237. But you would require to have parks enclosed, and a good deal of fencing and draining done?
—No doubt a great deal of draining would require to be done in some places, but there are places where all you have to do is to put a plough or spade into the soil. In fact, it is better land now than when it went out of cultivation.
41238. You say yourself that the days of big sheep farms are over?
—I think so.
41239. Then don't you think it possible that the course of events, without any strong legislative remedies beyond what are absolutely essential to carry out the programme, would be sufficient, that proprietors and crofters might come to some harmonious understanding as to the disposal of these farms?
—If it were based on a principle by which each party was sure to have his own in the future.
41240. But if the days of big sheep farmers are over, proprietors are rather, to use the common expression, 'in a hole,' and would they not therefore be more disposed to listen to reasonable proposals on the part of the tenants?
—I think if they would look a little ahead they would, because these sheep farms having now virtually become a failure, there is nothing for the proprietor now-a-days but to turn his land into deer forests, and if he does that he will probably get a larger revenue; but I have no hesitation in saying that that will not be a lasting remedy, and that the country will rebel against it so soon, that the proprietor will find himself in a bigger hole than if he took the bull by the horns now.
41241. We agree about that. But I rather point to the impossibility of turning these lands which remain, and which are generally much lower than deer forests, into deer forests. I rather point to the impossibility of doing that, and I ask you if you see any chance of a harmonious cooperation between the landlord and the tenant without compulsory interference such as you point to?
—I do. If the proprietors make fair advances to the people, and communicate to them in an unmistakable way that it is their desire that a good relationship should be established, I have not
the slightest doubt there is an excellent feeling yet among the people —a strong clannish feeling
—and they would be very much disposed to rest and see how things would end.
41242. Then you think there is yet time, if proprietors in the Highlands are wise, for coming to an understanding with those crofters who desire to have larger holdings, and by that means avoid any compulsory interference on the part of the Legislature?
—Yes, I believe that if any good system, or any clear advance were made on the part of the landlords,
it would at least put down for the present any drastic agitation in the Highlands of Scotland.
41243. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are editor of the Celtic Magazine among other things?
41244. It has a considerable circulation?
41245. When this Commission was appointed, you expressed an opinion about the constitution of the Commission not entirely favourable to it?
—I did. I have, however, changed my mind.
41246. You thought that territorial influence predominated too much in this Commission?
—I did not think it was equally balanced. I did not object to the territorial members.
41247. But you have better hopes of it now?
—I have no hesitation in saying that everybody is getting ample justice and fair play in the inquiry.
41248. With regard to the inquiry which you made preceding us,—I believe you did not go entirely on your own responsibility. You went to represent certain people ?
—My outlays were paid by certain parties —virtually by a few friends connected with two or three associations, I myself subscribing a portion of the expenses —but I went on the distinct condition, and I refused to go on any other, that I was to express the opinions of no one but my own, I refused to go at all, except on the condition that I was free to do what I thought proper, and nothing else.
41249. These friends, chiefly in the south I think, were of opinion that the crofting population laboured at a disadvantage as compared with their superiors, in regard to this inquiry, and that they would be the better of some assistance in preparing the statements they were to make. Was that so?
—No, there was no idea about the preparation of statements.
41250. I don't mean to suggest that you helped them to prepare their statements, but that you went to assist them in formulating their ideas, which they were not accustomed to do in the shape of writing?
—No, the fact is, I went this length the other way, —at the meetings there was, as a rule, some minister or schoolmaster or prominent person present, and I even recommended these people not to go to the schoolmaster or their minister to prepare their statements. I said, ' If you go and polish up a statement, and do not put it in your own simple language,—bad grammar and everything included,—the Commissioners will at once suspect these statements are not your own;' and at every place I went to, I not only did not do anything of the kind myself, but I strongly urged upon the people that they should put them down in their own simple language, and present them in that state; and they would be more thought of than if they were the productions of educated men.
41251. Personally, then, you had no hand in the composition of any of these documents?
—None whatever, directly or indirectly, except expressing my opinions occasionally on certain points ; but I need not have done that. Their opinions were well enough formed on these points.
41252. Did you find in the Western Islands any traces of Irish influence having been there before you?
—Well, I found some Irish terms used.
41253. Do you think that Irish influence had been exercised to any considerable extent?
—I think Irish influence was attempted, but I do not think it was at all required. I think the people had all made up their minds before anybody from Ireland went among them; and I think the people are more resenting this Irish interference than otherwise.
41254. You visited the whole of the Western Islands, except Barra and Lewis ?
—Yes, and the south end of Uist.
41255. Was there any reason for your omitting these?
41256. Did you think the Lewis people were not so much in need of encouragement as others?
—No, I thought they did need it.
41257. But you had reasons for not going?
—Yes, I did not want to go when certain other people were there. That reason was stated publicly in the newspapers at the time.
41258. What, in your opinion, is the smallest amount of land on which it is possible for a crofter to live, in a comfortable and decent way?
—Well, before I would answer that question, I would almost require to define what I mean by a crofter.
41259. Well, do so?
—I have heard various statements made on that question with which I did not at all agree. In making a proper comparison I have always kept in view the position of a labourer in a town as compared with that of a man living on a plot of land in the country, and if I compare a man living in the country with a labourer living fairly well on the proceeds of his labour in a town, I think that a much smaller amount of land than has been stated before the Commission all over the country would be sufficient to enable a man to live better and more comfortably than he could possibly do as a town labourer; on the same conditions, however, that he should work as hard on his farm as a labourer has to do to provide a livelihood for himself in the town; and if a man gets about eight acres of arable land in fair condition, improvable land, and a sheep run upon which he could have twenty or thirty sheep, or perhaps a smaller number, from twelve to twenty, and a couple or three cows —two cows and their followers —my opinion is that a man working as hard on that land as he would necessarily have to work as a labourer in a town, is out of sight in a better condition than the town labourer. As to the farms that were spoken of here, 30, 40, and 50 acres, I do not call them crofts, as I understand crofts, at all. I call them comparatively large farms; but what I would like to see is crofts of the size I have stated, and a gradation of holdings from that up to considerable farms, so that these would be stepping stones for people ambitious to improve their position, and be an incentive for them to try to succeed in life; and I think that if people were placed in a comfortable position of that nature, instead of congesting, as they have been obliged to do, on the land,—immediately a man found himself fairly comfortable, or his parents fairly comfortable, so that he could leave them without fear of anything happening to them,—as soon as he began to find the taste of a £5 note, he would think it a good thing to have money; a great many would hive off and go to other places, and I don't believe there would be the slightest fear of any over-increase of population if the people were placed on that footing; but I believe that it would rather have a tendency to encourage them to leave, than induce them, in a state of despair, to remain at home.
41260. Take the Isle of Skye, for instance, where there is hardly any work to be had, what do you think is the smallest amount of land there on which it is possible for a family to live?
—I assume, in the answer I have given, that the labour I refer to is to be given on the croft itself,—
constant labour on the croft.
41261. And you think, that with as much land and stock as you have stated, it is possible for a family to be brought up comfortably and respectably?
—I say more comfortably than a town labourer can be ; and I think you know, as well as I do, that the people who have been brought up in the west in such circumstances are equal in physique to any people we find in the world.
41262. I need not ask you if you think it a more desirable position and a nobler thing for a man to occupy a croft and pay rent for it, than to be employed as a day labourer?
—I don't think there can be two opinions on that point.
41263. Are there not some of the islands, and perhaps some places on the mainland, on which there is overcrowding of population at present?
41264. Don't you think emigration to some extent absolutely necessary before there can be any great improvement of their condition?
—No, I do not. I think migration is necessary, not emigration; and I may say that I have always advocated emigration. I believe voluntary emigration is one of the best things for the people that can happen them; and I go further and say that if there should not be a change of the law in favour of these people, I would recommend every man of them to go in a body and leave the country, and settle down where they could carry their feelings, and institutions, and associations with them. I would rather see every man go abroad, and leave the country desolate, than stop in their present position.
41265. You visited, I think, all the settlements in Canada which were chiefly populated by Highlanders?
—I visited all the Highland settlements of any note in Canada, but I did not go to the north-west.
41266. You found their condition very satisfactory?
41267. Did you find any considerable number of people, who had emigrated within recent years, whose emigration had not turned out satisfactory?
—No, on the whole I found that the people, if it was not their own fault, were very prosperous. Where they were willing to work—as I find they all are, when they have an incentive to work, and get the benefit of their own labour —I found the Highlander at the top of the tree there. When they want a Premier he must be a Macdonald or a Mackenzie, and when they want a Governor-General he must generally be a Highlander. I found it was the same in regard to agriculture. Though they went away comparatively ignorant of agriculture, when they mixed with other people, and found that every spadeful they turned was to their own advantage, they set to work and reclaimed the land in a way which showed that if they had been able to apply their energies at home, there would never have been the slightest reason for going to Canada at all. When he is sober—and the Canadians will not look at a man who takes too much drink—any man of steady habits there is in a fair position. At the same time, I found all over a sort of acheing, longing'feeling for home. I found they were not nearly so happy in their minds, though comfortable in outward circumstances, as they would be at home in worse circumstances.
41268. Do you think Highland crofters could carry on a sheep farm as well as a man from Dumfriesshire or elsewhere?
—I believe, if you have, say any dozen crofters, you can get one among the dozen who can manage a sheep farm as well as anybody.
41269. Don't you know some examples of successful club farms in some parts of the west coast?
—Yes, there is a very comfortable one at Strath Carron, New Kelso, on Sir Alexander Matheson's property. I know the people there are in most excellent circumstances.
41270. What rent do they pay?
—I think it is something like £20 a piece, but I am not sure.
41271. But they have their stock in common?
—Yes, and there are several others. There has been another started on the same property within a few years, and I think nearly all these club farms have been a success.
41272. It has been suggested or insinuated that the love of the Highlanders for pasture rather than for agriculture is due to their inherent laziness of character; what do you think of that?
—I don't think it is true. As I said before, if you give the Highlander an incentive to work by letting him see that he is working for himself, he will work equal any class of men you can meet with. I have met Highlanders at the fishing who had work of the hardest description a man could perform, and I
never discovered that the Highlander could not work and command the highest wages going, so long as he saw he was getting the proceeds of his own labour.
41273. Are there any circumstances in their condition —hereditary circumstances—that account to a very large degree for what appears to be their inherent laziness?
—That is my opinion.
41274. Are there any circumstances, particularly in the winter season, making it almost impossible for them to work the same as if they were labourers getting regular day's wages in the south?
—In the first place, there is no outside work they can do, and, as I said before, if they do it, who is to get the benefit? There is no doubt their double existence, with one foot on the land and another on the sea, has a tendency to produce that fading.
41275. Do you think it is possible to create a fishing population on the western coast independently altogether of the land?
—I believe in time it might be, by giving proper facilities.
41276. What do you think should be done?
—I think there should be a system of harbours to make it possible for them to go out to sea, and, if possible, by some arrangement, to encourage them to get fishing tackle and boats.
41277. The men on the west coast who go as hired fishermen to the east coast are good fishermen, are they not ?
—They are always in demand by the east coast fishers before any other class of men.
41278. That is very laborious work. You have had experience of it ?
—I had. I think it is the last work in the world. If you could remove the moral stigma from transportation, the one occupation would, I believe, be as disagreeable as the other. I am speaking only of the herring fishing on the east coast, and of the hired men, which is the worst class of fishing labour.
41279. The number of men in the Highlands now who enter the army is exceedingly small compared with what it used to be ; to what chiefly do you attribute that?
—I am not quite sure. There are differences of opinion on that point. There used to be a strong feeling, so far as I can gather, on the part of the people in favour of the chiefs in the good old days, when the chief was the father of his people or his tribe; and when the proprietor or chief went to the people, and said, - Here is my son; I want a commission for him in the army, and if he gets one hundred men he will get a commission,' there was 'a feeling of patriotism roused, not only towards the nation, but towards the chief, to whom they looked as a petty king, and the people turned out with spirit; but I cannot say there is anything now that draws out that feeling, because the properties are now managed on the commercial system, and the common expression I often hear is this—and, I am sorry to hear it —that even if they emigrate they will not emigrate to Her Majesty's dominions,—they would rather go to the States. That is pretty freely said; and another expression is—- Let them send their sheep and deer to fight the battles of the country when they want a fighting force.' The reason, I think, is patent from these remarks to all.
41280. Don't you think something more could be done to make recruiting more productive than it is at present? If there were a little more eclat about it, don't you think it would have some influence on the Highlanders, instead of sending a solitary sergeant to pace about like a policeman?
—I am afraid my experience and the time I have devoted to the study of that question will not justify me in giving any distinct opinion upon it, but I think I am safe in saying that the new military system, which many people believe in, has virtually broken down that spirit in the Highlands, because people used to take a great pride in joining one particular regiment, and keeping up the spirit and reputation of that particular regiment; for they would go away in batches, and when an honour was gained by the regiment it was gained by the county, but when the man enlists in a Highland regiment now he may find himself in an Irish regiment next month. As to the short service system, I happen to have a brother in the Scots Greys. He enlisted for seven years first, and when his time was up he was dubious as to whether he should leave or not. He did not see quite well what he should do if he left after sacrificing seven years. I said, ' You are very foolish; you should continue your career, and take another term.' He did so. He got up to be a sergeant within five years of his first enlistment; his statement to was that only certain men were allowed to stop on, —that actually they had to go away at the end of the seven years, but they picked out some of the best men and asked them to stop. He was asked to stop, and he remained. But what is a man in this country to do who served seven years in Her Majesty's service, and is then thrown upon the public? I think that is one great reason why men will not enlist.
41281. I suppose that sentiment which some political economists make rather too little of, but which is a great power in life and in history, which formerly led men to enter the army from attachment to their chiefs, has ceased to exist, and is not drawn forth to any extent by the recruiting sergeant as representing the chief?
—No, I believe not.
41282. In an article in the Celtic Magazine for this month, giving the number of decrees of removal in Skye in the last forty-three years, you say that ' in the Isle of Skye every one of the population, as shown by the Sheriff Clerk's books at Portree, has a decree of removal issued against him or her every twenty years, or three times in every two generations.' Will you explain that?
—I speak of the average.
41283. Perhaps you would mention what the figures are: what number of summonses of removal have been issued?
—Of course, you understand I am not personally responsible for these figures. The number in fortythree years, from 1880 to 1883, is 1740 decrees of removal; but you may confine this to forty years, because during the three last years there were only six decrees of removal. Now, to understand the force of this, it should be explained that the practice is to issue these summonses in batches of six,
—that is, one summons of removal is issued against six persons, so if there were twenty-one persons there would be four summonses—three sixes, and a three. But the sheriff-clerk who prepared this statement was so anxious, that instead of taking the average at six or five, he took the average at four, and if you multiply 1740 by four —my opinion is that you would be perfectly safe if you averaged 5½, but he takes an average of four, —the result is that you have 6960 heads of families against whom decrees of removal had been issued in the island of Skye during a period virtually of forty years. If you take the average of families at five, which is under the average in Skye in my opinion —and I appeal to Sheriff Nicolson on this point—the total result is that 34,800 persons have had decrees of removal issued against them in the island of Skye virtually in forty years,—which is double the whole population of Skye, —man, woman, and child,—and it brings out exactly what I said, that on an average there is a decree of removal issued in Skye against every man, woman, and child in the island every twenty years.
41284. Is it possible to tell how many of these decrees were carried out?
—I believe a great many were not carried out.
41285. But the expenses would be all against the people on whom they were served?
—Yes, and the average amount is put at 10s. each, though I am told the usual charge is 17s. But it is not the actual removals I complain of so much as the constant persecution and feeling of insecurity on the part of the people, —that they cannot go and do anything to the land or raise their position when this constant system of interference is taking place at—I will not trust myself to describe —the rate at which these decrees have been granted.
41286. Professor Mackinnon.
—When you were answering questions about the pasture ground you said you had in your view only the breaking up of ground that was chiefly pasture, but in your first remedy you propose to break down the present deer forests and sheep farms j don't you include arable farms as well?
—Yes, and I ought to have included farms partially arable.
41287. In that case you would require to have crofts where there would be very little pasture ground upon them in some places?
41288. And your system would be quite as well adapted to that state of matters as to the places that you more particularly describe, where the pasture ground is the chief thing?
—Yes, because the large arable farms would be in the south, where the people were in the habit of cultivating them, and crofts in this particular position would require to have more of the land, to enable them to live upon them without the aid received from the cattle on the pasture.
41289. Your system would apply to arable crofts quite as well as to pastoral crofts or to mixed crofts?
41290. And you would wish that, while a large number of them should be comparatively small, there should be a regular gradation up to fairly sized farms ?
41291. Do you know any places throughout the country where such a thing exists with respect to the size of crofters' farms?
—I know of no place in the Highlands where such exists.
41292. All the places have the crofts too small and the farms too large?
—Yes, there may be exceptions, but that is so, speaking generally.
41293. Do you find that a great difficulty in bringing about the state of matters you wish for is the very great gap that exists between the crofter and the farmer ?
—Yes ; there is really no stepping stone; you can only go down ; you cannot go up.
41294. And you think that if small crofters saw before them the prospect of having larger holdings by-and-by, they would then have an incentive to work and to save which they have not got now?
—Yes, I think so.
41295. Will you tell us exactly what is the tenure you wish to see provided by law. It looks very like a peasant proprietary?
—Yes, that is practically what I mean, that you should have a tenure under which you could not possibly remove a tenant so long as he pays his rent. I know there are difficulties in connection with that question, which I did not go into, because I was not asked as to the natural increment of land and questions of detail, but these I think could all be got over.
41296. You seem here not to contemplate the idea of a rise of rent at any time?
—Well, I contemplate the rise of rent in this way, that the landlord should at all times receive the present value, which must necessarily be more money after a certain period of years, because money will depreciate in value.
41297. There are general conditions, and there may be general conditions in the future, that would affect the value of land, so that the rent paid ought fairly to increase to the proprietor more or less under the new system?
—I would not admit in principle that the real actual value should increase, but that the money representation of it should increase.
41298. The rent of it should increase. That is scarcely provided for here, but would you carry down that right of virtually permanent possession to the very smallest holding ?
—Yes, I think I should.
41299. Well, how would you establish the right of succession?
—I think I would require to leave that to the lawyers. I don't approve of the right of succession now. I don't know what the new system should be.
41300. It is chiefly with respect to what we found in the Isle of Skye and Lewis that I ask the question. At the present moment, without any tenure at all, these people have overcrowded the places they occupy. Supposing they had the indefeasible right you wish them to have, what security would you have that they would not crowd and crowd even more than they have done under the present system?
—I am so much opposed, and always was, to the breaking up of these small holdings among the people themselves, that I would make it almost impossible legally that these holdings could be broken up at all. There are certain cases in which it would require to be done.
41301. Even under any system?
41302. What I wish to direct your attention to is this, that there would be a peculiar temptation, in the event of one having a permanent right, and a peculiar difficulty in the way of preventing him from allowing his married son or daughter to squat upon his holding?
—Of course ; you can do nothing without special legislation, and in any legislation that might take place I would be disposed to make it illegal that a holding under a certain number of acres should be subdivided at all.
41303. By the proprietor or tenant, under any system whatever?
41304. In your fourth remedy, where you wish to see peasant proprietors, you would fence it round by the same conditions, that under a certain area and under certain conditions ground should not be divided?
—Unless in very extraordinary circumstances.
41305. Would you fence it round in such a way that the present state of matters could not be allowed to exist?
—Yes, because if according to that plan of mine you got the country populated as it ought to be populated, I do not see any hardship in the people hiving off and providing a living for themselves.
41306. In reply to Sheriff Nicolson, you stated you did not at present see any necessity for emigration, but only for migration. Don't you think there are some estates along the west shore where there may be a necessity for both?
—Yes, if you confine the system to estates, but if there is migration over the whole Highlands there is not the slightest necessity. I don't think the Highlands are half populated at present.
41307. You have the whole Highlands in view from side to side?
41308. You know there are some particular estates that are overcrowded?
—Yes, and there are some in regard to which, I do not know very well how any new system could affect them in giving larger holdings to the people, such as the one I am specially interested in myself.
41309. In all the remedies you suggest, there is underlying them a very material alteration on the law?
41310. Indeed, you expressed your opinion that good laws at present could be enforced, because there is no tenure to the crofters, —such as the ground game laws?
—Yes, you may place laws on the statute book, but they are a dead letter in the Highlands until you give the tenant a hold of his land.
41311. If you make a tenant more or less dependent on the landlord or the factor, it does not so much matter what the statute law may be; it cannot be so well administered?
—No. Allow me to say that I know most of the factors throughout the Highlands, and I wish to say that as men I do not know a better class of men. It is only when they become factors that they seem to me to completely change. As private gentlemen, I do not know nicer and more agreenble men than the most of them.
41312. You think, if there was a gradation of holdings such as you contemplate, the people by their natural energy and ambition, intelligence and education, would of course clear away, and that such things as we have at present would not occur again I
—I almost feel certain of it. That is my experience ; whenever they get a little better off at home they
immediately want to leave and go somewhere else.
41313. As a matter of fact, we find now that the poorer they are the more closely they stay at home?
—Yes, and the moment they get better off there is always a tendency to go away—I am happy to say not going away and forgetting their people at home, but constantly sending home means, without which their relations would in many cases be paupers.
41314. Have you found at home and abroad that there is a remembrance by folks that are going away of the poorer folks that are left behind?
—My experience is that generally Highlanders who go away and leave their parents at home are very mindful of them, and send them home considerable sums of money.
41315. So in that respect they stand well generally?
41316. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I have heard it said the Irish are better in that respect?
—I think not. The Irish send home more money, but for a different purpose. We have never appealed to the Highlanders to send money home except for their own relations, but I have not the slightest doubt if an appeal were made to them they would send money home for other purposes as well as the Irish.
41317. Professor Mackinnon.
—Have you accounted in your own mind for the extreme reluctance the people have to leave their homes when they are poor, although they have no reluctance to leave when they are well off?
—Well, I think it is the case that when people are poor they are, as a rule, comparatively distrustful of countries far away from themselves, and there is a kind of feeling, in addition to t h e despair and hopelessness of their existence, that they are going away, not merely to a strange country, but almost to a strange world. As education advances, in ten years we shall have a very different state of matters in the Highlands from what we now have.
41318. You recollect that thirty or forty years ago, emigration was rather a favourite scheme among the people?
—Yes, but at that time a great many of them went away in communities, and they felt, when they were going all together, that they would at least have some of the associations of their own country, and see some of their friends, but according to the present system there is no chance of doing that. When I was over in Canada I had the honour of an interview with the Marquis of Lome, and discussing that question with him, as well as with the Premier of Canada, and others, and I tried to impress upon them the necessity of giving an opportunity to Highlanders of going as a colony to Manitoba, but I found the Canadian Government had strongly put their faces against anything of the kind, and would not listen to any proposal on the basis of people settling in bodies, the principal reason being that they have given out the land in Manitoba in squares, every second one of which they have granted to the new syndicate constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, and they cannot give it out in districts. The Opposition party are of a different opinion, but they have very little chance at present of getting into power,
41319. Did you find the people who have gone there, and their descendants, very far in advance, in point of comfort, of those they left behind?
—Far; there is no comparison.
41320. Do you think, if a different policy had been pursued at home, of giving the lands of those who went away to those who remained behind, that those who remained might be more nearly the same in point of comfort as those who went away?
—Yes, they might in many cases be as comfortable. In other cases they might have been better off, so far as money is concerned, because a man can hardly make money in Canada. He will have as much as he likes to cat and to clothe himself with, but there is scarcely such a thing as making money. A pound of beef is sold for 2½d., and a first-class turkey for 2s. 6d. The produce of the farm does not produce much money.
41321. Did you find that a very large number of those who have the smaller holdings there are sorely pinched by mortgages upon their holdings?
—There are a good many. Those in Canada who are not shrewd, like those in other places, borrow money upon their holdings, and in consequence are very much hampered.
41322. I am told they have even rendered 'mortgage' into Gaelic?
41323. From what you know of the circumstances of the people there, and the inconvenience that attaches to heavy loans upon property, you would not have your views affected in the least with respect to the desirableness of having small holdings upon a permanent footing?
—No, because even with those mortgages on the land, the land is constantly increasing in value in Canada, as it would do here when improved; and when they hold it a few years it is free, and the improvement is not appropriated by anybody else as it is in this country.
41324. Would you have any fear that, if the people got very small holdings here, they would borrow money upon these holdings to such an extent that the interest of it would be a rent, and that perhaps the money lender would be a worse proprietor than the present?
—It is quite possible, in some cases probable, that that would happen; but the land, as I said, by being reclaimed would get improved, and be worth more money.
41325. You think the advantages would be considerably greater than any possible disadvantages?
—Yes; there is no rule where there will not be exceptions, and we shall always have the poor as well as the rich, make any regulations you may ; but with this scheme, speaking broadly, it would be a great advantage.
41326. It would give a decided advantage to the shrewd and energetic?
—Decidedly, and those that did not deserve it would not get it.
41327. When you were away among the people, in Skye and elsewhere, did you find that the evidence that was laid before us was virtually the expression of the ideas in the minds of the people themselves?
—I think I am safe in saying that among the people—among whom there are many intelligent men—those ideas, though they could not perhaps put them into very intelligible shape, were as clear in their own minds as they were to me, long before anybody went near them.
41328. And I suppose you would say the ideas are so few in number, and of such a well-defined character, that they would not require to be elaborated before being laid before us?
—Yes; you cannot have half-a-dozen different schemes when the simple opinion in the mind of all is ' give us 'a permanent hold of the soil. You don't require to go into any detail beyond that; everything else will follow.
41329. So the similarity of the case presented to us in the different localities was due to the nature of the case itself?
—Yes; and if you look into it, I do not see how you can get anything else.
41330. They don't require teaching from the outside to formulate their ideas?
41331. You stated as your opinion that the proprietors and factors rather encouraged the idea of excessive destitution last year?
—I did; they got up the meetings in the west.
41332. You think that those in authority there —proprietors and factors—rather encouraged the idea of its being supposed that there was more destitution than there actually was?
—Yes, I believe, and I said publicly before, that there was real destitution in the Lewis; in Skye there was poverty; but that the destitution there and on the mainland was nothing like what it was represented to be,- and I say so now after having gone over all the districts and come into contact with many of the people, not only in connection with this Commission, but seeing some of them with the view of giving them money sent me from New Zealand to be distributed among them. I observe a distinct and painful difference on the people when I was there a month ago compared with what they were last year, —people who would be ashamed to ask for anything a year ago came in clamouring for it then.
41333. I suppose that follows almost every indiscriminate distribution of charity?
—Yes; people who were pretty well-to-do got it; and, therefore, those who were not so well off thought they might as well get it too.
41334. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Then the landlords and factors in the west who encouraged the idea that there was destitution, are found in Skye. You admit there was destitution in Lewis?
41335. But you don't charge that against the landlords and factors on the mainland?
—-Not so much ; there were some.
41336. Can you mention any place where such was the case?
—In the Ullapool district.
41337. That the landlords encouraged the idea that there was destitution ?
—That their factors did so.
41338. In regard to this enormous number of summonses of removal in Skye, you stated I think that they were not all acted upon?
—I believe nothing like it.
41339. Do you believe any considerable proportion was carried into effect?
—Yes ; a great number were carried into effect, because I find it was within that period that a district in a fine portion of Skye was cleared—the Bracadale district—on the MacLeod estates.
41340. Then I have been misled by your statement that every man in Skye was removed every twenty years?
—No, I did not say so; decrees of removal were issued on an average every twenty years.
41341. But these summonses of removal were issued to a great extent during the time the Bracadale evictions took place?
—The earlier of them.
41342. Since the days of those great clearances for what purposes have these summonses of removal been issued?
—That is more than I can tell; but I have an opinion,
41343. Have you any reason to suppose it has not been on account of arrears of rent?
—I do not think that they would have been likely to be issued, unless the people were slightly behind with the rents in many cases; but there is a system there which I think will account to some extent for
them, —that often the same gentleman is factor and law agent, and that he pockets the fees for the decrees of removal as law agent, which decrees he issues as factor on the property; and so long as human nature remains what it is that is not to be wondered at, I suppose.
41344. At the same time, you admit it is not likely these would have been issued, unless there had been some arrears standing against the tenants?
—I think it is unlikely.
41345. And in your statement here you ask for a permanent tenure—that they or their representatives should not be removed as long as they paid their rents,—but in the great majority of these cases you admit they had not been paying their rents?
—I admit in the cases where these notices of removal were issued a small amount would probably be due ; but I know this, that, as a rule, with this class of tenants, there are arrears more or less wherever you go, although, as a matter of fact, the proprietor gets a full year's rent within the twelve months. There is always a little margin of arrears. Even some of the factors were good enough to show me their books, to show that this state of things existed, and, in many cases, they told me that while there was always a margin of arrears, as a rule a whole year's rent was paid in the year.
41346. Do you think it fair to state that these factors, who in private life are honourable gentlemen and friends of your own, when they become factors and law agents are sufficiently mean to take advantage of summonses of removal in order to transfer 10s. into their own pocket?
—I do not insinuate anything but what the facts suggest
41347. The Chairman.
—There are just two or three questions I wish to put to you in consequence of statements of your own. I wish to understand more distinctly from you what you consider a desirable minimum for the formation of a croft? Do you think that a croft, to be the source of useful and prosperous life to a family, ought necessarily to afford food for the family during the whole year, or do you think a
croft may be a useful auxiliary to a wage-earning family ?
—I think a small croft, a good-sized plot, is a useful thing as an auxiliary to other labour, but in the Highlands there is so little labour to be got, that as a practical question you will not often meet with the conditions where the labour is forthcoming. It would apply to fishing industry.
41348. You mean to say you do not think a croft would be a useful auxiliary to a wage-earning family if the members of the family are allowed to go beyond their native district,—for instance, if they go away to the Lowlands on wages for a time and return to their family, or if some members of the family go away and return and help the others. Do you think that in a composite life of that sort a small croft may be a useful auxiliary?
— I do; because the older members of the family must necessarily remain at home.
41349. We may look forward perhaps to increasing the area of crofts, but we must look forward very far indeed to be able to hope for the formation of crofts generally, which would afford complete sustenance for an average family. But, in your opinion, we may hope that in the meantime, till there can be a great consolidation of crofts, a small croft ought not to be despised, and that it may be a useful auxiliary to a labouring family, and still place that family socially above the level of mere labourers?
—I do believe so. I think it is a most important auxiliary.
41350. Then, particularly with reference to the fishing, the most discordant opinions and evidence have been given to us on the subject Some people think decidedly there should be a complete divorce of the fishing industry from the land industry, others think they can be usefully allied, and one, the other day, said that fishing could not be prosecuted without land. Do you contemplate, as an object at which we should aim, a complete divorce of the two industries or not ?
—I believe that if there were suitable harbours round the west coast, a fishing population would naturally grow up even with the crofting system, —that some people would take to the fishing and some to the land. I do not know whether you want my opinion as to whether the one occupation is compatible with the other.
41351. I do. I want to know whether the two occupations are compatible in the same family—I will not say in the same individual?
—Quite; in my opinion they are. But I have a different opinion as regards the same person.
41352. The question becomes one rather of family,—whether in the nature of things, in the same family some members—the older members or particular members of a family —might be usefully engaged on the croft while others are usefully engaged on the sea, and whether those who are usefully engaged on the sea at one period of the year may not be giving useful assistance on the croft at other periods of the year?
—They may, but I am rather disposed to think that that sort of semi-existence—half the time on land and half the time on sea —is calculated to spoil the party so employed for both occupations, because when I myself had to do both I felt, especially so far as the fishing was concerned, that there was a
sort of feeling on my part against going to sea on a very stormy night that was not entertained by the men who were virtually sea-birds, and who were constantly on the sea, and did nothing else.
41353. Then your opinions rather tend to a division of the two industries, in time and with prudence?
—Yes, so far as the same individual is concerned. At the same time, a family may be divided so that some may take to the fishing industry while the other members may adhere to the cultivation of the croft, and there is nothing to hinder a seafaring man giving assistance on the croft, though I think the life on the croft may spoil him for a fisherman.
41354. Is it not a fact that after a certain time of life exclusive devotion to fishing becomes impossible? By the time he is fifty a man is pretty well worn out; but he may be a very useful crofter?
—Yes, that is quite the case.
41355. Then if you take away his croft, what is he to do?
—If my ideas were carried out, there would always be openings for them to take crofts and settle down if they had made money as fishermen.
41356. But consider the precarious nature of the results of fishing. We have seen extinct centres of industry in the Highlands, —dead villages, created by Government interference, —all because the fish have forsaken their localities. Can you contemplate the creation of centres of fishing population which might become deserted by the very sources of their industry?
—I would not go the length of creating centres of this industry beyond giving fairly cheap harbour accommodation, which would be useful to the people in almost all circumstances. What you state about the fishing disappearing from localities is a thing quite well known, so far as the west of Scotland is concerned.
41357. I have only one more question to put to you. You have mentioned the great hardships, and I think you said almost the degradation, that attached to the life of a fisherman when hired as a servant on board a fishing boat. We, nevertheless, have heard that some of the most prosperous labouring people in Scotland are fishermen on the east coast; do you think there is anything in the fishing industry, where people become shareholders and part proprietors of boats, that is so laborious or degrading that it ought to be avoided?
—I think your Lordship misunderstood me as to it being degrading —morally degrading. I mean it is slavish, dirty work, and there is no rest night nor day for the man who is on the sea during those eight weeks. I referred only to the hired fishermen at the herring fishing. I do not think fishing generally is degrading, but rather the reverse.
41358. Do you think there is anything in the nature of the fishing labour that is so hard and so exhaustive, that when it terminates, and the man returns to the shore, it might account for the almost proverbial idleness of the Highland fisherman on shore? Do you not think there is a certain repose necessary to them?
—No, I do not, because if the fishing industry may be very hard occasionally, often when a man has to sail a long distance out to sea, it becomes rather a lazy avocation of itself in such circumstances, and I would be disposed to think that, perhaps, the long period of want of hard work the fishermen may have at the fishing industry may be more the cause of his want of industry when he goes on shore than any deterioration of bodily strength.