THOMAS PURVES, Farmer, Rhyfail (61)—examined.
41801. The Chairman.
—Have you got a statement to read?
—I gave you a statement at Bettyhill. I think you may hold that statement as read.
41802. Will you state on what point you desire to be examined?
—I was intending to criticise the evidence you had at Bettyhill, and some extraordinary statements you have received since at Helmsdale the other day.
41803. On what particular points with reference to the evidence at Helmsdale?
—I would not have been here to-day, but I was absent the second day at Bettyhill. You asked if any large farmers were present. I could not be present, and I wrote a note stating I would be glad to meet the Commissioners anywhere else. As regards the doings in Sutherlandshire, I consider Sutherland has been the one county that has been more maligned and ill-used than any other; and nowhere was there more provision made for the people than in Sutherland. Now, I saw that day the great animus—not so much in what was said as in what was not said—against the proprietor and his agents in large towns, and I should like an opportunity of contradicting it.
41804. You desire to confirm the utility of the large tenants in the county?
—Yes, and to show that they have not been in any way inimical to the interests of the small tenants.
41805. That the large farmers have not been in any way instrumental towards the eviction of the small tenants, assuming their eviction?
41806. And that they have not been inimical to the interests of the small tenants'?
41807. In what respect do you find the large farmers are useful to the small tenants?
—In giving them labour and employing them. We have spent—my neighbours and I—several thousands of our own capital, besides tens of thousands of his Grace's. Perhaps you would allow me to express my opinion upon the evidence you received at Bettyhill. The first witness you had there was perhaps the most bold and unscrupulous of the clergy in our district.
41808. I should not desire the word 'unscrupulous' to be used as applied to a clergyman?
—Well, I shall hold myself corrected. He said, amongst many things to which I object, that there was no labour to be got in the country. Now, the fact is that we cannot get labourers. I have drains on my own farm lying open for three years to a large extent, and I cannot get anybody to fill them. The Duke of Sutherland's factor has been trying to organise a statf of men for two or three years, and he has failed. I have nearly £2000 of his Grace's money to spend at the present moment, and I cannot get labour to do it.
41809. Where is the farm to which you refer?
—In Strathnaver itself.
41810. And a sum of money is available there for the drainage of land on your farm?
—Yes, about £2000, and that party knew perfectly well that there were thousands of his Grace's money spent on the farm of Melness; thousands of money on the farm of Skelpick; thousands more on Sire; thousands on Bighouse; and thousands on my own farm; and yet he said there was no labour provided. I have the authority of the late Kenneth Murray of Geanies for saying that in one season, when distress was prevalent, the Duke made the Helmsdale railway at great expense to give labour to his own people, and no men but Sutherland men were employed on that line. The next witness was another clergyman, and he stated he had been only two or three years in the country; and he deliberately told you that there had been very little improvement, if any, upon the houses in the Sutherland districts until the Commissioners heard tell of it. You called him in question for that statement Now, I have been twenty-live years in Sutherland, and before that on Mr Matheson's property in the West Highlands. I know the circumstances perfectly of Sutherland, Caithness, and Ross-shire, and I can speak to every property. The houses in Sutherland have been undergoing gradual improvement for the last thirty-five years at least. They first began to improve the houses by subdivisions inside; then substituting wood rafters for the old roofs which obtained; and then outside innovations began. Thatched roofs gave way to slated houses; and I may say that a comfort exists which I think is second to none in the Highlands or anywhere else. I shall refer to the evidence of the minister of my own parish by-and-by. In regard to the matter of bridges, you took some trouble to question the delegates on that point. Every delegate, I am certain, in that church that day knew perfectly well that the question of bridges had been virtually settled twelve months before, and not one of them had the honesty to tell you so. The Duke of Sutherland is to build those bridges at his own expense.
41811. You mean bridges where there are now ferries?
—Yes,—to which your inquiries were particularly directed. The next is a simple matter, but it very clearly shows how the wind blows. You had an old man, there who is a pauper in our parish, and he gave you a great deal of evidence about the evictions in Strathnaver. This party told you, amongst other things, that when he lived on the ground I now occupy the Sellars were burning there, and he took his little brother on his back to fly away from these burnings. You could not know that he was living on the opposite side to that on which the burning was, and if he flew down to the river he flew down to the burning party and not away from them, which vitiated his whole evidence. He could not have been flying towards the river, unless he had been flying towards the burning which was said to
have taken place.
41812. Might he not have been on the burning side?
—-No, he was on the side where the burning was not going on.
41813. However, I do not think it necessary to recur to the question of the evictions in Strathnaver, but we shall be very much interested to hear you upon the subject of improvements upon the sheep farms, and especially with reference to the difficulty of getting labour upon them. That is a practical question which will be interesting?
—These recent improvements commenced some ten or twelve years ago, and I myself was the first who proposed them. The Duke of Sutherland agreed to give us money at a certain rate of interest to improve the country. I laid a statement before his commissioner, Mr Loch, showing the amount of money spent in wintering sheep in Sutherland and Caithness, which might be partly saved and partly spent at home, and that to meet the difficulty he might on each farm take in a certain amount of land and plant a certain amount of timber to give labour to his people and at the same time to help this difficulty of sheep wintering, because sheep farming was in a very prosperous state in those days, and we could not foresee that things were to become less prosperous. Rents were rising in the low country; people were beginning to keep their own stock and going into sheep breeding themselves, which always rendered the difficulty of wintering our sheep greater; and the more money we could save by raising turnips and provisions at home the more independent we would be of the low country farmers and the more money could be spent in the country and localised on home labour. The Duke of Sutherland, through his commissioner, at once agreed to this proposal; and I may just remark that no agricultural society or chamber of agriculture has ever asked the Government for any terms such as the Duke of Sutherland has granted to his tenants of his own free-will. We have money at 2½ percent, interest. He makes the roads and houses free of expense. Of course, the tenants very properly perform the carriage, &c. He gives us lime also at the same rate of interest, which I don't think he ever charged.
41814. I wish to understand all that more particularly. The Duke of Sutherland provides the farmer with his dwelling houses and offices without any separate or distinct charge for interest on the outlay?
—Nothing on the outlay.
41815. Well, he supplies lime to the farmer for his agricultural purposes at what percentage?
—Two and a half per cent.
41816. Two and a half per cent, on the value of the lime, added to the rental during the lease?
41817. Then as to drainage?
—He provides money for drainage and fencing and trenching, all at 2½ per cent. The difficulty we have to contend with is the very poor soil when made, and the cost is three or four times the price of reclaiming land in any other country. I can show you the difficulty of making land in that country for crofters. The Duke of Sutherland has tried it and utterly failed in planting crofters. You can no more make crofters by Act of Parliament or artificial means than you can introduce steam mills to grind oatmeal.
41818. You say the Duke of Sutherland has tried to make crofters and absolutely failed?
—When I say absolutely failed I speak in this way, that the land he has made, intending it for crofters, cannot be let.
41819. You mean he has set apart some portions of land for crofters' holdings, and has not succeeded in letting them?
—Yes, I believe his whole intention in making these improvements, at Lairg especially, was to make provision for small crofters.
41820. I understood, in the area of improvement which we visited, that it was for the purpose, and a very good purpose no doubt, of making farms of about £150 a year?
—And from that downward; but there is this other consideration. When the Duke of Sutherland and his managers found that they could not let these small farms which they had made at Lairg, it led them to make the farms larger, and to make the more recently made farms larger, on account of the difficulty of letting the small ones before. (See Appendix A, LXIX)
41821. Now, I would like to ask you more about these improvements. You have stated the very liberal terms on which the Duke of Sutherland affords assistance to his enlarged tenants for the purpose of improving their land in the way of the drainage and liming operations you mentioned. Is
it for the purpose of breaking up the land and turning it into arable, or is the subsoil trenched and the lime laid on the natural turf?
—We first trench the land out of the natural moor at about £18 an acre. That is the contract price for 200 acres that I have been going in for.
41822. Trenched by the hand?
—Yes, by spade, and going about 2 feet or 22 inches deep. Then we pay about £7 per acre for fencing and for draining the whole land 18 feet apart. As to stones we fetched such a tremendous quantity that it has cost £ 7 to £ 10 an acre to cart them off.
41823. Is the land put under regular rotation or sown out with grass?
—It is put under regular rotation and kept sown.
41824. And that is the way in which the fields we saw in Strathnaver have been formed?
41825. You have no doubt seen the trenching or deep ploughing done by machinery?
41826. Comparing the work done by those engines and the work done by hand trenching, which is most effectual?
—Hand trenching, most decidedly. There is no comparison whatever, and I believe the cost is less. I am thoroughly sure of it.
41827. And when land is hand trenched, limed, fenced, and improved, in the district of Strathnaver, and turned into thoroughly good arable ground, what is a fair rental for it per acre? I understand it is difficult to put a separate rent upon arable ground?
—I am sorry to say that financially the improvements in Sutherland are not a success. That is because the land is naturally so poor. Perhaps I can grow the heaviest crops on the land of Seisgill, and these crops cost as much as they are worth before they are made. I employ the best bones and manure in order to raise the fertility of the land and at the same time get crops out of it. I find it easier to grow good crop at great expense than to grow no crop at half expense; so we consequently go the great expense.
41828. When you got the improved land under grass is it of great use to you as a sheep farm?
—Yes, tremendous use. I occupy two farms in Caithness, and I have my sheep to drive for about fifty miles. Now, having a certain quantity of land in Strathnaver attached to the sheep farm, I can draw down a score or two of lean sheep once a week, or when it is required, whereas if I had to drive them down to Caithness, fifty miles, it would destroy the sheep and be an enormous expenditure. Four days driving down and four days up means a loss of four months keep in condition.
41829. Have you got upon your farm in Strathnaver sufficient ground to save you from the expense or loss of driving off the sheep in winter?
—I have got sufficient to save me a certain amount of expense, but not the fourth part of what I require for the purposes of the farm. I grow 150 acres of turnips in Sutherland and about 130 or 140 acres of turnips in Caithness, all of which are consumed by sheep and a certain quantity of cattle.
41830. But you spoke of the advantage these farms give in the employment of labour for the crofting population. Might the crofting population not have the same advantage at the same expenditure in draining their own ground as they have it?
—Most decidedly; and I think it is a perfectly proved fact that they have much too little land. The thing is perfect nonsense. It wastes their energies and their time, and is a tremendous evil What I hold is that a man should have as much land as would keep a family, and that the surplus population should be drawn off to the coast, and independent fishing villages made there the same as on the Aberdeen and the Morayshire coasts. There is no more industrious or better class of people in the whole of Scotland than the Aberdeen fishermen are. They have the best boats of their own, and plenty money saved, and our Highlanders are just as good people as they are —perfectly good labourers and perfectly good subjects in every way, but they have no outlet for their energies. The other day I could not get a horse to hire. I found thirty carts waiting for fish from the nearest railway station, and these fish are abused and destroyed in the carts. There is not a better coast in the whole of this country, but the people cannot give it more than one day in the month for the want of harbours.
41831. You say just now that your Highlanders are very good labourers and active people if employed, but you told us at the beginning of your statement that you had a large field of employment open to them and you could not get labour?
—Labour is so plentiful, instead of being scarce, that they can get any amount of employment
41832. It is not that they are idle, but that they have employment elsewhere and therefore do not go to you?
—I did not say they were idle.
41833. The reason yon do not get labour is that the people are employed elsewhere?
41834. Has it nothing to do with the terms of employment? When these draining operations are offered to the people, are they offered certain terms at so much per piece, or are the people employed on day's wages?
—I have had them every way, at from 15s. to 18s. a week working on day's labour, and I have also contracted for each work. We employed a contractor, and he employed the people at a certain price, and he paid them the same wages that we were in the habit of doing.
41835. He employed them at day's wages?
41836. Well is that the way you cut drains—on day's wages?
41837. You don't do it at so much a rood?
—Of course, I should like to contract for it rather than do it on day's wages, but the people have been so unaccustomed to that work that they will not take it at a price per chain as we do in Caithness; and, again, the difficulties of the ground are such that in that country you may get a piece of ground which is quite easily drained, and you may get into another place where boulders meet you, and every chain may cost more labour than half a dozen in another part of the country. So you cannot fix a price in that way.
41838. You say the people are too much restricted in the area of their crofts. Are there any places in Strathnaver or elsewhere in your vicinity to which some of the crofters might be transferred from overcrowded townships and settled with any prospect of doing work?
—I have it on the best authority that this is what happened only last season in regard to the farm below me. There is not a more suitable farm in the whole Highlands for a club farm. There is a great extent of green land —at least a much greater extent compared with black land than there is anywhere else in the country—and this would be a very suitable place for small crofters. They applied to the Duke of Sutherland's factor for an addition to their . holdings, but they could not get the addition to their holdings because the dwelling house was on the part which lay nearest their holdings; but they were offered the whole farm as a club farm if they could show a reasonable prospect of stocking it and paying the rent, and there was no answer to that offer.
41839. No answer from the tenants?
41840. Have you any other statement you wish to make on the general question?
—A good deal more statement than you have time to listen to. For instance, I should like to show you the state of the country and the causes of the evils which do obtain in the country. For instance, would you like to hear how destitution cases are got up in our country?
—Well, this happened only the other day. I happen to have been a member of the Parochial Board of the parish for five years. The Free Church minister of the parish is also a member of the board. I may tell you that our board is the most liberal board in Scotland. Mr Peterkin, of the Board of Supervision, has said that according to the rent and population we pay £100 more to paupers in our parish than any other parish with which he has to do. In the district iu which I reside we pay a stated sum of £240 a year to our doctor, £40 from the Duke and £100 from each board, and we actually have never had any destitution in our parish. To prove it, in the month of March, when the crisis was at the highest in other places, we had just one extra case of application for relief at our board meeting. This was a case of a tailor, who was also a crofter, who applied for relief. He applied through the Free Church minister and urged his case as being a very necessitous one— that his family were starving, and that he was starving, and that he had been at his house that morning begging for meal, which he had got. Well, it was no case for the Parochial Board. The man was a crofter and a tradesman, and we would not put him on the board, but we subscribed as much money among ourselves as bought a boll of meal to stave off the case in the meantime. At next meeting of our board (I have the letter in my pocket) we were very much surprised—I could use stronger language—to receive a letter from Mr James Macdonald, WT.S., Edinburgh, whose grandfather was the minister of the parish during the evictions and long afterwards. This letter enclosed another letter signed by this Free Church minister, saying that there were seventy-three cases of destitution in that parish, and the people were in danger of dying of starvation, and that the Parochial Board had refused to give relief to every one of them. Not one case of these seventy-three came before us.
41842. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What was the name of the parish?
—Farr. Of course the chairman of the board wrote to say there was no destitution and no necessity for any money being sent there. After all that, they got £50 from some society or other, and that will show the south country people how their money goes in the Highlands. These are facts.
41843. Mr Cameron.
—Was no action taken by the members of the board?
—I took action in this way, that I asked the party if it was true, and before a full meeting of the board we proved before his face the falsity of the statement, and all his excuse when pushed into a corner as
that the tailor's case was a test case for the other seventy-three. Now there are no cases that come before a Parochial Board so that one case can be decided by another.
41844. Do you include the crofters of the neighbourhood of Bettyhill amongst those who are not in want of work, and who have, as you say, a superfluity of labour?
—I include the whole parish.
41845. You are aware that in our evidence at Bettyhill several of the crofters' delegates complained they were unable to maintain their families owing to the smallness of their crofts, and when asked whether there was any work going on in that neighbourhood they in many cases replied there was little or no work?
—That is not so. This work which I speak of had been lying undone several years simply for want of labour. The factor promised and repromised me to organise a staff of men, and he told me the day before yesterday that he could not get them.
41846. Have you heard similar complaints from other farmers in your neighbourhood1?
—Yes. The difficulty of getting labour is the same. If I want men even for harvest work or hay cutting, I have to go to a neighbouring parish to get them. I had to do so this year. I required some
men last week to drive stock, and I could not get them.
41847. How far is your farm from the neighbourhood of the crofts?
—About eight miles. There is accommodation provided for them by me, and they do not require to go back to their houses.
41848. What other farmers are there in your neighbourhood who are similarly situated as regards labour in the parish?
—There is Sire, and there has been a large amount of work on the farm of Skelpick; but, in fact, every farm has more or less work to do, and plenty of it.
41819. You mentioned a case in which the Duke of Sutherland had reclaimed land, and wished to convert it into small sized farms, and that it was a failure. Do you consider that any portions of your farm, for instance, could be converted into crofter's holdings?
—Plenty of it, but not to pay any rent—I mean not to pay the rent which I pay or a sporting rent.
41850. Not to pay the proportion for the portion taken away from your farm?
—Well, there has been tremendous discussion going on about crofters paying larger rents than the large tenants. If you allow me to explain, I think I can put it plain before you. I may say, to begin with, that my sympathies are totally with the people. I believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, and my opinions on the land question are pretty advanced. I am to state the truth as far as I know it, without bias and without regard to either side, and I shall put you in possession of the facts of this question of crofters' rents versus large tenants' rents. The crofters of Farr, I say, have far too little land to keep their families, and I shall be very glad to see them have more. And I may say the Duke of Sutherland is quite as anxious as anybody to enlarge their holdings on very much the same terms as he gives us, and there is a scheme in prospect for this purpose. But, in the meantime, they have each on an average in that district four and a half acres of arable land and sixty-eight acres of hill pasture, and the average rental of the whole is £2, 18s. Of course, when they calculate the rent of their land, comparing it with the large farms, they forget that I have only one acre of green land to 200. I have 30,000 acres of land, about the fortieth part of the whole county, and on my hill grazing of 30,000 acres there is not over 150 acres of green land. The factor makes it 125; I make it 150 to be sure I am not understating it; tliat is, one acre of green land to 200 acres of black land. Now, it is easy to make the rental of the crofters to be higher than hill grazings when you take four and a half acres of arable to sixty-eight of pasture put against one acre of green land to 200 acres of pasture. You had the most extraordinary statement the other night at Helmsdale that I ever saw in print—60,000 acres of arable land in two parishes. Now, you will be rather surprised when I state that the old evicted tenants in Sutherland did not leave over 6000 acres of green land altogether in the whole county.
41851. How do you make that out?
—Of course, I am not speaking to a question of one hundred acres or so, but still I will give you the basis of my argument, and you can give it the credit it is worth. I occupy 30,000 acres of land, which is a fortieth part of the acreage of the whole county, which is about 1,200,000 acres. I have 150 acres of green land on that 30,000. Forty times 150 is 6000. Now Strathnaver has ever been reckoned the finest strath in the county, and the strath on which there have been most evictions, and in which there has been most green land compared with the other land; but when I multiply the 150 in my own
holding by 40 it makes 6000 acres of green land, which was the quantity left by the small tenants.
41852. To interrupt you for a moment. The basis on which you make the calculation is that there is 150 acres of green land on your own farm. Of course, that you have ascertained to be accurately the fact?
—That is rather above the mark than below. On my neighbour's farm, which has. more green land than mine, I cannot exactly say the total extent of it, but he has 250 acres of green land on a stretch of about twenty miles of strath. Then there is another farm. Three of us occupy the whole of Strathnaver, minus the small farm now in the Duke's own hands and the small farm which I mentioned as offered to tenants and now let to a crofter's son. Of course, you have heard our friends, public agitators, who have been crying about the thousands of acres of land cleared in Strathnaver, and so on. There has not been 6000 acres of old cultivated land altogether from time immemorial.
41853. But now I should like to ask you a question as to the quality of the land. It has been stated frequently that the quality of the land occupied by the crofters is very inferior to that occupied by the large farmers?
—No. It is inferior now. If you put the crofters back to the green land which we occupy, the debris of eighty years' grass gradually being left unconsumed has added to the quality of the soil. The crofters' lands, unfortunately for them, have been wrought for fifty years back—potatoes and corn, and corn and potatoes—so as to be exhausted. The land may have been better at first, but now it is quite inferior to these straths.
41854. But with regard to the hill pasture, to which I was more particularly alluding, is the quality of the land occupied by the crofters not inferior to the land occupied by you?
—It is inferior. The more you go into Sutherland the better the land becomes.
41855. So your land is better?
—It is better sheep land.
41856. And for cattle too?
—No, I do not say it is better for cattle, because what makes good sheep pasture is not fit for cattle at all.
41857. I remember asking a question of the minister at Bettyhill —I think it was Mr Mackay—who seemed to understand the question rather more than one might expect from a gentleman of his profession. I asked him some questions about the possibility of converting those sheep farms back again partly into crofters' holdings, and he told me he had had a conversation with a large farmer, whose name I cannot remember, and the large farmer had told him there would be no difficulty in reconverting a portion of those large sheep farms in Sutherland to their original occupation. And then I remember asking him whether he meant that he was to take the low parts of the strath and leave the high grounds to the farmer —which of course would be a very unprofitable arrangement to the farmer—and he said, no, that this farmer had intended that strips should be taken from the bottom of the hill up to the top, giving a fair proportion of low green land and also grazing land, and in that way it would not interfere with the use of the remaining portion of the land by a large farmer. Can you tell me anything about that?
—Well, that is theory. We have the greatest difficulty just now in dividing the hill farms even in the way we work them—that is, getting a certain proportion of ewe land to a certain extent of wedder land. The small tenants can perfectly well do with the strath and a pretty large proportion of hill pasture, but when you come to a stretch of land eight or ten miles wide it becomes quite impossible for them to work it, because if I was to plough up in my holding in Strathnaver even ten acres of green land, it would destroy the hill pasture for sheep. We have so little green land to the extent of black land that actually one acre is missed.
41858. And, as I understand you, it would be to the detriment not only of the proprietor and of the farmer who occupied the remaining portion, but to the crofter himself—that he could not work land in that way, because if he was to plough up the green land he would not have enough wintering for his stock that occupied the upper land of the up and down strip?
—And that he could not make a proper use of the hill ground without the green land below. What could be done is this. We do not get above half the use of the land we occupy. Food is utterly wasted,
because the extent is even too great for us to occupy.
41859. Will you explain that a little more? I thought that was the great advantage of pasturing sheep over cattle?
—We have thousands of acres of one kind of grass which the sheep never touch unless it is turned—there is so much of it as compared with the green. If we had ten times the extent of green land that we have the sheep would eat the green land and eat this land along with it, and we could keep more stock; but we can ouly keep a certain amount of stock which can eat green land, and then the hill land is lost because we have no green land.
41860. You mean that if the land in Sutherland was better land you could keep more stock?
—The whole recent improvements in my opinion have been a gross mistake.
41861. You mean in Kinbrace?
—Yes. I am merely illustrating theone place by the other. The proper way to improve Sutherland would be to make fifty or one hundred acres of green land in any place where you can make 5000 acres of black land available. There are places on all the hill farms in Sutherland here and there where, by making fifty acres of green land you could make 5000 or 10,000 acres of black land worth double the money. When you make 2000 acres in one place it is all in one place, and you cannot get the full extent of good off the black land.
41862. Now, to come back to the matter of whether the crofters could be given this land with profit to themselves, I quite understand your point that the crofter, if he turned up the green land, would have no wintering for his stock, but supposing that instead of keeping a stock of sheep as you do he kept either a stock of cattle, or part cattle and part sheep, the sheep would then be diminished in numbers, and they might winter on that portion of the green land which he left unploughed, while the cattle might be wintered on the corn and the hay or straw grown on the land he turned up?
—Yes, but there is this difficulty, that you have to keep your cattle on the green land in summer, and if you eat up the green land with these cattle you starve the sheep in winter. I would not keep a single
cattle beast even upon the green land I have on any terms.
41863. Would not the cattle graze on the hill in summer?
—So, they would not. Sutherland is not a place where the grass is knee deep. It is deer heather and heathery moss. It is a purely sheep country and nothing else. The way to make the crofters better is to get harbours made aloug the coast. There is not a harbour at present where a steamer could land between Thurso and Loch Inver, and not even piers. There are one or two very safe places for harbour accommodation, and you should make two places where a steamer could land, and make piers at the fishing villages for the people to run their boats in when they are fishing, and then draw down the half of the crofting population to these fishing centres and give the land which you take from them to the others, and employ all the spare labour in trenching it more where it can be done. That is the only solution of the difficulty. Sutherland was never intended for a large population.
41864. But in former times there was a considerable population?
—And what was the consequence? If it had not been for the policy that was pursued, and so much talked about, it would have been much worse. Just allow me to give you one illustration of this position. It is evidence which cannot be controverted, and which is worth the evidence of a dozen parties who talk of what they know nothing about, such as Professor Blackie, Dean of Guild Mackenzie, and others of that calibre. I got this from Mr Mackenzie, the old minister of Farr, who was present during the evictions, and it was given to me not directly —it was a conversation which I overheard. I was put into a close place with him and four or five other Free Church ministers, and it was about the first time I was going to Sutherland. They did not know me, and I did not know them, and they were discussing the new tenancies. Half the country had been let at that time to new tenants, of whom I was one, and they were discussing the circumstances of the country getting worse, and the green land getting waste, and that the people would be so revenged at last upon Sellar, Purves, & Company, and so on. Of course, I was very much interested in the conversation and took a full note of it. A delegate whom you had before you, a minister, held up his hands and declared that he had no hesitation in saying that the tears were streaming down his face the first time he came down Strathnaver, on seeing the desolations which had there taken place. Old Mr Mackenzie looked at him and said
—Well, I was present at the time. No man can charge me with being in favour of the evictions. They were cruelly and harshly done, but I have lived to learn, and my opinions now are very much changed upon that subject. Before the potato famine came on, I was of opinion that the evictions were a gross mistake and a cruel evil to the people, but since then I have changed my mind, and I know that had something not been done with the population of Strathnaver at that time they would have died of starvation worse than in Ireland. I have often afterwards spoken to that man and had that evidence given, and, to make it stronger, before Sir John M'Neill's Commission, this Mr Mackenzie gave the very strongest evidence against the evictions. Mr James Loch, the Duke's then commissioner, wrote to Mr Mackenzie to prepare the people for the evictions. He wrote back saying he would do nothing of the kind. He was perfectly opposed to it, and would do nothing of the kind. Mr Loch wrote saying
—Do not put the people against these evictions, for I am determined to do it, and I alone am responsible for doing it.' Of course, it may be said there is nothing but my word for this, but I declare on oath it is true. I heard this old man who was present at the time state all this.
41865. Who was Mr Mackenzie?
—The old minister of Farr. He died many years ago. He was one of those muscular Christians whom we find getting scarcer.
41866. To hark back once more to Strathnaver. As I understand you, you do not agree with what the Rev. Mr Mackay told me, and what he stated was substantiated by a conversation with a farmer —that part of the large farms in Strathnaver could be profitably used by crofters, owing, as you say, to the peculiar quality of the grass in Sutherland, which is more suitable for sheep than cattle, and to the loss which would be sustained if the green land were broken up into tillage?
—Not profitably. Speaking of profitable occupation at the present time, the Duke of Sutherland is paying more rates on account of these crofters than he is getting in from them. The rates all arise from the crofting population. There has been only one case in twenty-five years of a pauper coming off a hill farm on to the rates. The paupers all arise from the crofting population. That is not their fault by any means; but still the fact remains, and if you fill the straths again with these people, in twenty or thirty years you would have the whole paupers of the country to keep, and no rents from sportsmen to keep them with.
41867. But it has been stated to us that the reason the rates are so high is because the crofters are so poor, and if they were better off the rates would be diminished?
—I hold the crofters are well off in Sutherland now, and I hold, if you put them back to the straths, you destroy them as fishermen, and must give them large quantities of land to keep them comfortable.
41868. Still, if men do not like the sea, you cannot make them like it?
—But they do like the sea. There is as good a class of men on that coast as in any part of the Highlands, and men perfectly willing to fish and perfectly willing to work when they get the opportunity. But they really have not the opportunity. It is a most intolerable grievance, the want of harbours.
—All along the Duke of Sutherland's property—the north-west coast; and this is a grievance which must be remedied either by the proprietor or by Government. The people cannot live without getting the benefit of the sea.
41870. Are there any other large farms in Sutherland, where the grass is not of the peculiar character which you describe, which would be more suitable for crofters?
—It is the same all over Sutherland. There is no difference. You have more grass on ten acres in Skye thin upon fifty in Sutherland, but we have ten times the quantity.
41871. How is it that the sheep runs in Sutherland are certainly higher rented than they are in Skye?
—Because sheep land is better.
41872. That means the grass is better?
—No. In Skye you have one sheep to one and a half acres. In Sutherland you require eight acres, and
the thinner you run them the better you make them. Don't overstock the ground. You must keep the stock so low that they can get a bite of green along with the hill grazing.
41873. But I have always understood that the reason why sheep runs are high rented is that there is a particular grass that comes out early in the spring which puts them in condition?
—Yes, that is so; but we do not get the use of that grass more than once in three or four years, because it is so far out. In some parts of the country you get it near the green ground, but in Sutherland I have to drive my sheep out for five miles to it, and the first storm drives them in again.
41874. But surely your deaths are not so heavy in Sutherland as in Skye?
—More in some respects than in Skye. We have as many sheep drowned in Sutherland as you have dying in Skye. You can easily understand it where half the country is sloughs and quagmires.
41875. I am afraid we did not get to these parts. We only saw the beauties of Sutherland?
—No, you did not see the worst of it.
41876. The estate officials rather gave us to understand that the Duke of Sutherland did intend, so far as he could, to make experiments in the direction of increasing the crofter population. Do you know what parts of the county he intended to make experiments in?
—I don't believe he could. He might make small tenants.
41877. I mean small tenants?
—Well, small tenants are quite right. One great evil in Sutherland is that we have no intermediate farms. We start from £4 up to £150 or £200. Now, no country is in a safe state where that is so. There should be farms from £ 10 up to £50 and £100. There is no doubt in the world that our large sheep farms are quite unmanageable and unwieldy, and the Duke would be pursuing a wise policy—though it is against my interest —by giving a tenant a hirsel of sheep. Let that be made a farm, and so on, or divide that perhaps into two farms.
41878. But that was not what Sir Arnold Kemball indicated. He indicated a return on a small scale, to begin with, to see how it answered, to a system of still smaller farms than that, and if that is the Duke's intention there must be some locality where he means to try it?
—I have yet to find it. I do not believe in it. Anybody going through the county must see that the county was never intended by Providence for cultivation by a large population. It is a grazing county from beginning to end, and cannot be made otherwise. The only way you can do justice to the crofting population is simply to make them fishermen, and make every acre on the sea coast available, and give these small tenants, say, ten acres of arable land and as much hill land as they can use. Then I urould insist upon getting a good class of boats, and having a good breed of sheep, and making the ground officers, with assistance if they required it, take charge of the accounts, dividing the profits periodically. At present every man does what is right in his own eyes. A man having a right to put on fifty sheep may put on only ten. Another having a right to put on ten puts on fifty, and the ground is sometimes overstocked, and sometimes there are too few. Every man goes out after his own sheep and the sheep are disturbed, and there is no good done.
41879. Then you think that crofters as crofters are badly off.
—No, I don't. Their rents are low, and there is no poverty—I mean destitution—among them. You will have poor people always, but still there are no hardships such as you find in Skye.
41880. Supposing you have a crofting farm of one hundred crofters, who you say are pretty well off under the rents they pay; if you were to move half of these crofters to an adjoining place of the same quality, surely there is every reason to believe that those fifty who were moved would be as well off as the fifty who were left or the one hundred who were there originally?
—They might, but where are you going to end it?
41881. The end would be when each had got enough so that they could all occupy profitably and bring up their families?
—Yes, but I tell you the Duke is paying more poor rate than he gets, and if he goes on extending it he will be a pauper himself before long.
41882. You think the amount they pay is so small in proportion to the rent he gets from the large farmers that it could not be carried out?
—That is so, and where are they to get the stock?
41883. Of course that is a difficulty, and a difficulty which the people see, but I am asking you whether it should not be done supposing the stock could be got. You do not advocate putting crofters upon sheep farms?
—I advocate it so far, that I say for myself that I will give the Duke of Sutherland up his land tomorrow if he gives me valuation for my stock and lets me out of it'; and I have my neighbours on both sides of me authorising me to make the same statement. We would be much the gainers by going out just now. If we hold on for three or four years we may lose thousands of pounds by the difference in the value of stock. So we are no obstacle in the way.
41884. I do not say you are; but if I wished to ask a question about the stocking by crofters I should not ask it of you, but of those who advocated the system. What I ask you is whether the thing could be
done provided the stock were found?
—There is nothing in the world impossible. I could divide my farm into a great many farms, and put crofters on them perfectly well, but they could not pay the rents. The fact is this, that the shooting rents in our country are equal in value to the grazing rents. Whenever you put on crofters, this as shooting ground is useless. That means doubling the grazing rents.
41885. Why are the shootings to be useless?
—Because the small tenants are eternally upon the ground, and no game will lie upon ground well stocked with cattle, and on which people are going at every hour of every day,
41886. Mr Fraser-Maclcintosh.
—One of your statements to-day has been that the crofters in Sutherland are rather well off?
—Comparatively well off.
41887. You have also stated that they will not be right in Sutherland without getting harbours. How do you reconcile thoss two things?
—They do not need to be reconciled.
41888. There is no necessity for harbours if the people are well off?
—I said nothing of the kind. There is a great necessity for harbours.
41889. For whom?
—For the crofters and for the fishing population.
41890. The present fishing population?
—The present fishing population and the population to be made fishers.
41891. Are you a native of Sutherland?
—No; I am a native of Berwickshire or Caithness, either of the two you like.
41892. How many farms have you got?
—Three—three too many at present, and for the last seven years.
41893. Did you begin with one?
—I may say I did.
41894. And you have added till you have three?
—I have, unfortunately.
41895. Are you surprised that a crofter who is rather scrimped in his ground would like to get an addition to his ground?
—I am not surprised; and I would be only to glad if he got it. I am no enemy to the crofter.
41896. He would only be doing what you have done yourself?
—And what I would like to see him doing. But I would like to see how he is to get it.
41897. Could not he and his class do it very well by getting two out of your three?
—Well, he can come down to Caithness, and ask the proprietor for one, and he can ask the Duke of Sutherland for the other.
41898. Are you speaking for yourself?
—I am speaking for the whole of the north of Scotland.
41899. Are you a delegate?
41900. And you appear here, taking an interest in the question, to represent yourself?
—I appear here because Lord Napier at Bettyhill asked if there were any large farmers present, and on the account of the great animus I saw displayed by the Free Church clergymen against large farmers and against the Duke of Sutherland's management throughout, to which I can speak very well.
41901. I am afraid you have a little animus against the Free Church yourself?
—I have a very great animus, for I say the Free Church teaching and the Free Church clergy are the cause of half the evils that afflict Sutherland.
41902. Did you read what a gentleman in Skye said about the Free Church?
41903. You do not approve of what he said?
—I approve of more, but not in the way he said it.
41904. Two or three times in your statement you seemed to like to come back to the question of the burnings, —to which I am not going to revert at any length. But take the case of the old man who narrated a story which on the face of it, had to my mind all the appearance of truth,—that he carried a brother down the very day the smoke and the burnings were going on. Have you any right to disbelieve it, as you do not know?
—I have a perfect right to disbelieve it, from my knowledge of the ground where he lived and where the burnings took place. He lives upon the Sellar side of the strath just now, and there is no doubt of the fact. Don't come here, and try to make me out a liar.
41905. The old man tells a fact there that occurred to himself at a certain period of his life. You did not see the circumstances he relates, and perhaps you were not born. What right have you to contradict that man now on the point of going to the grave?
—I have given you my authority.
41906. You draw an inference that he was wrong?
—I do not draw an inference; I state a fact. I say the man lived on the one side of the river and the burnings were on the other side, and he said he took his brother on his back to fly through the river, and if his story is true he was flying , towards the burnings, and that fact showed that the statement was worthless, and the man is not much more worthy himself. Thomas
41907. Will you go the length of saying there never was any burning?
—No, I will not.
41908. You stated you had a difficulty in finding labour. May I ask why you and others find difficulty iu getting labour?
—Because the Duke of Sutherland has spent so much money in giving employment that every man who wants employment can get employment in half a dozen different places. I have lost more stock than I care to mention through sheep fulling into these open drains during the last three years, and I cannot get men to fill them.
41909. I think you stated you were eight miles from any human habitation?
—I said nothing of the kind.
41910. I have marked down that you stated your place was eight miles from crofters?
—I did not say from human habitation.
41911. Do you expect, or is it reasonable you could expect, that at any moment you want labour people will come eight miles?
—I have plenty accommodation for labourers, and I never asked a man to come without giving him accommodation.
41912. And food?
—I have had as many as sixty or seventy men working for months on my own ground.
41913. And you give them shelter and food?
—I give them food also when they are in my own employment; and I always keep plenty food about me. I have never less than 1500 bolls of meal lying about the place, and they are quite welcome to it.
41914. Do you think it is right to expect respectable people to come and live in that way in large droves, which is apparently the way it would be done there, in bothies, if other respectable employment is to be had?
—Is it right for west coast fishermen to go to the east coast sea-fishing and live for weeks out of their own houses?
41915. Well, I understand they object to it very much?
—I never heard of it.
41916. They would rather stay at home on their own crofts?
—There is nothing to hinder their staying at home, but if I can give a man 18s. a week and accommodation, I do not think he is very hard up to leave home. He should be very glad to get it.
41917. You stated it is impossible to make crofters by Act of Parliament?
41918. It is possible to dispossess crofters by Act of Parliament?
—I have never heard of it.
41919. That is one thing you don't know?
—I did not say I don't know it.
41920. Will you again state a little more distinctly that the object of the Duke of Sutherland in his old reclamations was for the purpose of encouraging crofters and crofts?
—Yes, I have heard the Duke say so himself.
41921. Can you point out among those early reclamations any place where buildings have been erected?
—What do you mean by old reclamations?
41922. The earlier reclamations?
—Yes, go to Lairg and you will find plenty of cottages lying empty for want of tenants, which the Duke made for crofters. He cannot get a rent for the land which will pay the interest of the money spent on the houses.
41923. What rent was he asking?
—He was asking a rent that would not pay interest on the money spent on the house.
41924. What was it?
—I am not the Duke of Sutherland fortunately.
41925. Surely you know that?
—Say £10 to £20 crofts.
41926. Do you mean to say there are crofts about Lairg with houses upon them, and little farms, and that no tenants were got for them?
—Yes, I do. I am speaking of the time when the reclamations were made. Perhaps since I was there the Duke may have turned these places into large farms, and made labourers' houses of these houses.
41927. Take the case of Kinbrace. Was there any attempt in these reclamations originally to make places for crofters?
—That was the whole intention of the whole matter.
41923. Where were the buildings at Kinbraco that were intended for crofters?
—When the Duke found he could not succeed at Lairg he altered his system at Kinbrace. I was there at a large meeting he called of his tenants and others, and he distinctly said that was his object; and more than that; I saw him take letters from his pocket which he had received from Canada and other parts —and he laid them before us—from people who wished to get back to the soil possessed by their forefathers, and he expressed himself as very wishful that it should occur; and a very nice thing to do. I for one told him it was impossible to do it.
41929. As you sit in your fine farm at Strathnaver, do you ever look with regret at the former state of matters?
—I see nothing to regret, and never did. What was the former state of matters? In Mr Sellar's recently published book, and in Mr James Loch's work, written after his examination before the House of Commons on these subjects, he showed that the value of the timber of these very comfortable old buildings was 6s. What would the value of the timber in the houses of Sutherland be now? You speak about the good old times. I was in the house of a person well known to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, a Mr Cameron, a very worthy old Highlander, who made some money by farming, and is now living on his own land; and I said
—Let me hear some cases of things in the good old times;' and among other things he told me this of a district which produced the best Highlanders in the Highlands—the most respectable people there are to this day—that in his father's time, and they had been there for four hundred years on that land, there was just one linen shirt in the district, and when anybody went from home he got the use of that shirt, and it was washed occasionally for the use of others. There is nothing like that now. Why, in the parish where I come from there is £3000 spent on tobacco and drink every year, and £3000 would have bought up the whole implements of the tenant, stock, lock, and barrel, three years ago. I have excise statistics in my pocket to prove that.
41930. You have stated that you and the other large tenants received the houses upon your farms free of all cost?
—We did the carriage, which amounted to one-third of the whole, but still these are very liberal terms
on his Grace's part, because in Caithness we have to build the houses ourselves.
41931. Then he gives you two-thirds of the buildings?
—He gives the whole, but we pay the carriage, the cost of which is one-third above the Duke's outlay.
41932. And whatever money requires to be expended on the farm is only charged 1½ per cent?
41933. Is a similar treatment as to houses and fences acted upon with regard to the small tenants and crofters?
—There has been a great deal of money spent on crofters in improving their holdings, and especially their houses, but you see the same thing does not obtain on these crofts and upon hill ground where you have to make 200 acres perhaps at one spot; and more than that, the small tenant is not in a position in many instances to do it. Every acre which the Duke makes at an expense of £40 costs me £12 to bring into cultivation. Take a crofter that has three or four acres of land. It does not, in the first place, require draining; it is generally dry land. You saw specimens of it at Betty hill, and coming along the road. It does not require much draining. He can do nothing after that but employ more population in trenching out more land and adding to their crofts.
41934. What do you mean by the objection you stated to Lochiel that the land, if under small tenants, would destroy the game? You said the small tenants would be eternally on the ground; what do you mean by that?
—I mean, when each man has ten or twelve sheep, on the hill, and twenty or thirty people after them. Each man has his own sheep, and is daily out among them. They take their cattle into the house at night, and right out to the hill grazing through the day, and every day is the same process, and they are sometimes after their cattle and sometimes after their sheep. My own impression is, though I don't know much about game, that game are easily disturbed.
41935. Don't you lease game?
—I do, and re-lease it
41936. And I have no doubt re-lease it beneficially to yourself?
—Well, that is my business.
41937. Would you have any objection to the small tenants getting that power as well as you?
—No, not the slightest; and I tell you I will give them my farm to-morrow if they give me value for the stock; and perhaps they would have to give the Duke just a very little security for his rents.
41938. Would you have made the same statement a few years ago when prices were very low?
—I would not have been so ready to do it, and it has cost me £6000 or £7000.
41939. Then I suppose you do not take undue credit when you make the offer at very high prices?
—No, because I think, if we knew our business, we would retire and leave it immediately. I think every one is acting upon that, and there is not a farm that goes out of lease that is relet, and they are going out like doves out of their windows.
41940. Now, you tell the crofters that they should be content, but they are not content?
—Because agitators come among them, and the Free Church clergy have disturbed their minds and rendered them discontented, and this Commission is going to make matters worse.
41941. They are discontented, and sheep farmers are discontented, and what is to become of the country in these circumstances?
—The millennium. That will make us all right, and I am looking forward to it.
41942. Can you not suggest anything more practical than looking forward to the millennium?
—I have suggested a great deal; and, more than that, if the Education Act is worked properly in the Highlands, and the compulsory clause put into effect, a generation will see the country clear of the surplus population without any trouble. The great thing is to arrange for the present difficulty and get the thing tided over, because the Education Act will clear the country of the surplus population in twenty years, because no young man will stay in the country after being educated.
41943. Will an educated Lowlander stay in the country after that period?
—If he has a large sheep farm at a cheap rent. You will understand I am not in favour of emigration. I am not opposed to migration, but I am opposed to emigration. I look upon that as the greatest evil that could befall any country and any people.
41944. But there may be migrations and migrations, and I am afraid the migrations, so far as Sutherland crofters are concerned, have been to migrate them to the shores and make them fishermen whether they like it or not?
—No, you were never more mistaken in your life.
41945. Where would you migrate them to?
—Allow me to state something to you. The Enclosure Commissioners for England and Wales
published a few years ago their report, which showed that out of 20,000,000 acres of land under cultivation in England and Wales there were only 3,000,000 acres drained. Supposing 5,000,000 acres of that land did not require drainage, it leaves 12,000,000 to drain in England and Wales, which, at the lowest possible price of £ 10 or £12 per acre, would need £120,000,000 of money which could be spent on British land, and, but for our unfortunate system of land laws, would be spent. Now, I say
that 1000 Highlanders sent down to the points where these drainage works could be undertaken and carried out are as comfortable and as valuable in a national point of view as if they remained in the Highlands; and if we can grow wool and mutton in the Highlands to keep these people comfortable there, I think migration is a very good solution of the difficulty. I oppose emigration, because I think it would be as absurd as for a breed of horses or short-horn cattle to be shipped off gratis to America or the colonies. I think human beings are of much more value than sheep and cattle; and every man and woman raised in this country costs the country £500 before he or she is twenty-one, and every person we send out of this country to another is a dead loss to ourselves and adding already to the intense competition against us.
41916. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated that the average acreage of a crofter in the parish of Farr was about four and a half arable, and that the outside of the acreage that was under cultivation in Strathnaver long ago was 600?
—It could not be more than that.
41947. The general impression is very much the other way?
—Yes, that is just the difficulty which I see. I know it so thoroughly that when I saw this statement made at Helmsdale I saw the thing was absurd.
41918. You are quite of opinion that in the whole of that long strath there were not more than 600 acres under cultivation?
—That does not include the whole green land, because there are burns up through the country naturally green. There must be spots through the interior of the country which are naturally green. The water overflowing makes them so. I do not count that, but I count the old cultivated land.
41919. I must say my impression was somewhat different. Was the ground measured by the estate officials?
—It was, and to show how I could not believe it, I may say that there was near my house twenty-five
acres of green land, and I thought it was double the extent.
41950. Then you are convinced that the clearing of that glen long ago was absolutely an advantage to the people who were there?
—I would not go so far as that, but the people were in perfect misery in those days. There is no use talking about the good old times. They were under middlemen—people who leased the land and sublet it to those people —and there were perhaps 300 or 400 people in Strathnaver at the most populous time. If there was 600 acres the middlemen seized the best of it and kept it, and how much was left for the people?
41951. I understood you to say you quite approved of the policy of removing the people?
—I did, because if it had not been done they would have starved.
41952. Suppose the policy had been different. Suppose half of them had been removed and the other half left?
—How then could the proprietor get his rent out of them? As regards the soil, it is a very curious thing that in Sutherland there was scarcely one native who stood up against the south country invasion. Now, in Caithness, where I was born, there were hundreds and hundreds of south country men who came in spending capital for ever, and there was not one of them buried in the county except my father. Now, the subsoil was clay, and the people bowled the south country men over and sent them away wiser men. In Sutherland, when the southern invasion came in, the natives went down like nine pins, and it was simply because the whole bottom is gravel.
41953. So the real distinction is between gravel and clay?
—No, but I say that wherever you find gravel you find superstition, belief in the clergy, and a high state of morality. Wherever you find clay you find the opposite. In Caithness we have clay, but no gravel. In Sutherland illegitimacy is 5 or 6 per cent., while down in Kirkcudbright, for instance, it is 14 per ceut. Whenever the land gets better they will not receive truth at second hand without seeking it for themselves, and there is more intelligence, and their morality is not so high. You have heard a great deal about the morality of the Highlands. The clergy have nothing to do with it. It is the soil that does it. It is as certain as possible. Take a geological map of Scotland and you find it perfectly defined, and I defy any man to get over it.
41954. I suppose you did not inquire whether there was anything in the nature of things that would establish a relationship between gravel and religious belief?
—We have proof. We had total disruption in the Highlands.
41955. You did not extend your inquiry beyond Scotland?
41956. Because it is a question that would admit of a wide range?
—I am only giving it as a theory.
41957. Supposing, however, apart from the question of belief in the clergy, that that strath was only partially cleared, and that such arrangements were made as you would wish to see now made—and, so far as I can see, that is a regular system of graduated farms—do you think the present state of affairs in Sutherland would be now what they are?
—No, and I give you this reason against it. The Duke of Sutherland required to hold out great inducements to men to come from the south who understood sheep, and he could not get men to come without the largest inducement, and no man would take land from the crofting population if there was a crofting population among them.
41958. I thought this large holder in Sutherland was not a man from the Borders, but the Duke's own factor?
—He was a man who understood sheep farming, and in the same category with the man from the Borders.
41959. But the Duke did not require to go to the Borders for filling up this place?
—When I speak of the Borders I mean strangers.
41960. This tenant was in the country, and the Duke's own factor?
—He came from Morayshire as factor.
41961. But now, at all events, you would wish to see a regular system of graduated farms, from the small farm to the big one, throughout that country?-
41962. And you think it quite possible?
—There is nothing impossible. How it would work and pay the proprietor I cannot say, because you
cannot know until you prove it, but I know it would be better for the country in the long run and better for the people.
41963. At the present moment, however, when farmers are clearing away wherever they get the chance, it would be a fair time to try?
—I know in Sutherland there is a great opportunity. There is a great deal of land falling into the proprietor's hands, and I know there is no man who is really more anxious to make things right than the Duke of Sutherland is.
41964. And there would be no place in Sutherland more suited than Strathnaver?
—I do not say that. Sutherland is much the same all over. There is not much difference. You really cannot make a distinction. You have heard a great deal about fixity of tenure among tenants. Now, the question should arise here —this four and a half acres which the Thomas have—who made it? The tenants made it, and I daresay they got no compensation for it, and they have equal right to it. But then in Sutherland we have all fixity of tenure, not legal or written but really by custom. The Duke never does put out a tenant if he can possibly avoid it. He has not paid the tenants compensation for these improvements, but if he allows them to sit there at a nominal rent all along really he is compensating them by fixity of tenure. If a man expends £15 for improvement of land and the Duke pays £15 for improving it, he will charge £15, and if he leaves him with it and pays nothing it is just the same.
41965. With respect to the expenditure upon crofters' lands and upon large farms, are you aware, relatively to the rents they pay, upon which there is the greatest amount of expenditure in that district?
—There never was any expenditure on hill farms till recently. There never was a shilling spent upon them by the proprietor, and there did not need, except perhaps for houses.
41966. But you are not able to say what the amount of expenditure would be relatively to the rent upon large farms and small crofts in that district?
—I think you have all that stated in the documents the factor laid before you.
41967. I think you stated that if there was not the policy pursued that was pursued in the pas—that is to say, an absolute clearing of the whole of that glen—the parish in which you are would be as bad as Lewis?
—I think so.
41968. What is the difference between the parish in which you live and Lewis?
—In the parish in which I live the poor rate is 10d. per pound, and in some parts of Lewis it is 5s. In Lochs, I think, the poor rate is 10s. per pound. Property is of very little value there. In twenty years it will be far less if it goes on. In Sutherland the difficulty was met and overcome in proper time. The difficulty in Lewis is the squatting population. The squatters who have no land settle down among the crofters.
41969. In Lewis there is the small crofter at £4 and under, and the large farmer at £200 and over, and there is exactly that in your county?
—I believe in the Lewis the greatest mistake Sir James ever committed was that he employed some great improvers. What he should have done was to have few or no large farms. He should have gone in for making a fishing population all round.
41970. What is the difference between the actual state of society and kind of people we find in the two places at the present moment,—the people may be poorer in Lewis, but is it not the case that the population of the two places is divided into two classes, crofters and cottars, of £ 1 and uuder, and farmers of £200 and over?
—I think so.
41971. Only there are more of the poorer class in Lewis than in Sutherland?
41972. But you stated that in Sutherland they were very well off , indeed as well off as people almost anywhere?
—I do not say that; I say as well off as crofters anywhere.
41973. You say at the same time the Duke pays as much for poor rates as he takes from them for their rents?
—Poor and school rates.
41974. And that the poor are all out of the crofting population. Now, can that be a satisfactory state of matters?
—It is as satisfactory as it is possible to make it, and you would make it far more unsatisfactory.
41975. Do you not think it would be made more satisfactory by having the whole county under big crofters?
—How can you have the whole county under big crofters? I tell you they have never been able to work the sheep trade, and never will be able to make it pay.
41976. Well, under small farms?
—No, because you cannot get green ground in the straths without destroying the value of the hill ground.
41977. I thought you said your own farm could be easily split up into so many small farms?
41978. What would be the yearly rent of such a farm?
—I paid about £1200—not so much now—about £400 or £500.
41979. What would you split it up into?
—Anything you like, if you go down to the lowest strata.
41980. Would you make some £80?
—Yes, I would.
41981. Some £20 to £50?
—Well, if you go in for any quantity of hill grazing you must go in for £50 or £60. You could have no hill stock unless you did.
41982. Suppose you had your own hill farm treated as we had a farm of Sir Alexander Matheson's, where there was one man before and there are thirty now —suppose all these big farms of Sutherland had thirty tenants instead of one, and that the crofters were reduced by the same number—would you expect the poor rates to be the same as now?
41983. And that all the poor would still come out of the crofters?
—By gravitation they would come out of these people.
41984. We came upon a parish in Orkney where the conditions were somewhat similar—crofts of £20, some owning their own land and some having it rented; but the great bulk were about £30, and there were no paupers?
—That is about the most fertile country in Scotland and the least subject to storms. It is the finest climate for grazing in the north, and the finest land. You have that ridge of fine land which goes down through Scotland to the Lothian
41985. But my point was this, that here was a class of tenants of £20, £30, and £40, that produced no paupers?
—And I will give you the reason for that. One acre in Orkney is worth twenty, or ten at any rate, in Sutherland. Now, these people have the fishing as well.
41986. These people do not fish?
—Well, they have the finest land in the country.
41987. Now, when you find over the mainland of Scotland—you have them in Caithness and in the Highlands occasionally—crofters of £20, £30, and £40, do you find these have actually among their relatives many paupers?
—Not a £25 tenant —not a crofter. That is a good-sized farm.
41988. Suppose the policy of the past in Sutherland had been not the absolute clearing of the glen but the thinning of it, or supposing the policy of the future would be to spread them again, and make the future population of the place crofters and small farmers at £25 or £30, would you still believe these would be the breeders of paupers?
—Where would you draw the line in the crofter population?
41989. At £10?
—They will breed up again, and the old state of things will go on again.
41990. Is that the case, where you find them as they are in Orkney and Caithness and in the South Highlands? There they clear away voluntarily. They say themselves that they will not clear away out of the places where they are poorest and worst off?
—It is the Church again. Every man in the Highlands is worth 5s. or 10s. to the minister, and as long as the clergy are paid by the people their object is to keep the people there and stop education. Whenever the people clear out their vocation is done, and there is no more need for them.
41991. Don't you think Sutherland will keep its present population, differently arranged, well off?
—I say they are well off now. Any one can see that Sutherland was never made for a big population.
41992. After all the evidence, which no doubt you have read, you still say the population of the north and west of Sutherland are well off?
—How can they be but well off with the Duke spending a million of money among them, and when they have the sea beside them? Talk of the Sutherland crofters being ill off compared with Skye and Lewis; there is no comparison whatever.
41993. Well, they might be ill off, and a still lower depth?
—There is no depth there. I assure you the people are comfortable. Of course, we all wish to see them better off, but as crofters I think it is a wrong system to have men located upon less land than will keep a family. I wish to make crofters crofters and fishermen fishermen.
41994. Take Sutherland, and your own parish; don't you think that a considerably greater proportion of the area of the parish might be put under such men as you wish to see there than there is just now?
—I have no objections. Of course, I am simply giving my opinion.
41995. I am merely asking what would be a wise policy to pursue. Don't you think you could add to them, and say that a considerable portion of the area that is now under extensive sheep tracts could be apportioned out among them as small tenants or big crofters?
—I do not believe it could be done. It could be done perhaps to keep the people, but the land could not pay a rent to the proprietor. If you mean Government to buy the stock, you may force it that way. But that is like hand-loom weaving; it must come gradually.
41996. Is not sheep farming in Sutherland a drug in the market?
—It is; but what is the cause of it? When the great inflation of wool and sheep took place during the American war —when wool rose to three times its value and sheep were very high —we gave the whole profit back to the proprietor in the shape of excessive rents.
41997. Then, in that case, when you say it would not pay the proprietor, you require only to say it would not pay as much as you are paying to him at present, but as much as you would wish to pay in the future?
—But then you do away with the proprietors. They need all they have to live upon, and if you reduced the rents to a minimum you would soon have them off the face of the earth. They would be the worst off crofters on the property.
41998. So, though it is large crofters and small farmers that you would like to see, you think it impracticable to get them?
—I think it is impracticable. The fact is that Sutherland could not be wrought much differently than it is—that is, with men having 500 sheep up to 1000—but when you come down to the small tenants it is a very difficult question.
41999. Suppose you got Sutherland apportioned out into pieces with 500 sheep to every man, would it not be near about its present population?
—I daresay it would; but then, look again at this. Up at Kinbrace corn will not ripen. You have fifteen or twenty miles not worth 3d. or 4d. per acre. How are you to do in a country like that?
42000. You don't think you could break up the big farms and increase the small crofts?
—You cannot break up the large farms to make the present crofters' possessions larger.
42001. Or some of them?
—Well, if you could make them into £50 farms I have no objection, but less than £50 would not do.
42002. But suppose it was £50, would not Sutherland have about its present population?
—I suppose it might.
42003. And would you prefer such a state of things to exist rather than the present?
—You are asking me a very queer question for a man making his living the opposite way. As I said ten years ago in another public inquiry, I am perfectly prepared to submit to any change of circumstances for the benefit of the people. I have spent a vast deal of money among them in labour, and I am prepared to do more in the same way, and would like to see them better off' in every way.
42004. I put the question merely as matter of judgment on your part, having such wide experience?
—If I was a proprietor I would not attempt to restock the country with small crofts.
42005. Then what you would do would be to clear them away to the sea-shore from where they are, and make harbours for them?
—Well, they are on the coast already.
42006. But you would put them at the harbours?
—What I propose is this, that if these harbours were made by Government they might give these harbours and make it a proviso that the proprietor should give those people houses in fee simple or on long lease, and give them a bit of garden ground, and make them perfectly independent of the crofting.
42007. And what would you do with the ground they have just now?
—Give it to the nearest neighbour.
42008. Do you think that would improve their condition?
—Certainly it would. They would have double the land.
42009. Then would you not advocate an extension of that system beyond the present area of the crofting population?
—I would make every one of these crofters left from the fishing population small farmers.
42010. And would you expect their condition materially to improve?
42011. And would you not advocate also that the area of the small farming class should be increased beyond the present crofting area?
—I would give them as much land as possible.
42012. Right up through the whole country?
—Let them go as far as they like.
42013. The Chairman.
—What are the names of the places where you would have harbours made on the north-west coast?
—The other day, when the committee were fixing sites for these bridges, we fixed the site of a bridge close to the house at Bighouse, and the reason of fixing it there was that it was convenient to a natural harbour quite within a quarter of a mile of it. It would be a simple matter to make a road from this road to the harbour. That was one reason why we fixed it there, and it was at the suggestion of the Duke of Sutherland's factor, which shows they have it in their minds to erect harbours. That is one place.
42014. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—That is at the mouth of Halladale?
—Yes. Then there is another splendid situation for a harbour opposite Tongue; and there is another place where vessels can lie on the beach just now—that is Tarrasdale. Then you have Loch Armadale, which is a very sheltered bay at present, and where a harbour could be made. I may mention one thing more. There has been a great deal said about tyranny, and persecution, and so on, on the part of the officials towards the small tenants. Now, I had a pretty long controversy with Mr Mackay of Hereford, in the public prints last spring, and every letter he wrote he charged the Duke and his officials with tyranny and oppression of every kind. It was not my province, but as I was in the discussion I offered to send an honest lawyer to investigate the cases if he gave me from two to six cases, and oblige myself to hold the information secret, as his reason for not giving the cases publicity was a fear that the Duke or his factor might turn the people out for giving information. I gave him the challenge, and asked him to produce two cases or any number up to six on these conditions, and what I got in answer was unlimited personal abuse. Now, in the Tongue district there are between 600 and 700 crofts, all managed by one factor and two ground officers, and the grievances you heard at Bettyhill were the worst cases they could bring forward, no doubt, as showing mismanagement, and there has not been one eviction in that district for twenty years.