ANGUS MACLENNAN, Sub-Factor, South Uist (40)—examined.
42479. The Chairman.
—You desire to read a paper?
—These estates, consisting of the islands of South Uist, Benbecula, and Barra, and several small islands, contain 108,560 acres exclusive of foreshore, occupied as under:—
By proprietrix and tacksmen, 71,535 acres;
by crofters, 37,025 acres;
total, 108,560 acres.
Lady Cathcart has been proprietrix for over five years.
valuation roll is about £8000. And the taxes are—
Property and income tax: £200
Land tax: £43
County rates: £120
Poor and school rates: £1000
Leaving available balance of : £6872
The tacksmen on the estate occupy about 71,535 acres, for which they pay a rent of £4139 sterling, being equal to about Is. 2d. per acre. The following are the acreages and rentals on the different islands:—
5,477 acres, rents £525, rents per acre 1s. 11d.
South Uist farms:
51,344 acres, rents £2390, rents per acres 11d.
14,714 acre, rents £1224, rents per acre 1s. 8d.
Nunton farm, Benbecula, is let at 2s. per acre; Eoligarry farm, Barra, at Is. 9½ d.; The Glebe farm, Barra, at 6s. 4d.; Allasdale farm, Barra, at Is. 3½ d.;j Rulios farm, Barra, at Is. 5d.; Vatersay farm, Barra, at 3s. 5d. Nunton, when last let, gave an increase in rent of 16 per cent.; Ormiclate, 85 per cent.; Bornish, 80 per cent.; Vatersay, 23 per cent.; Kilbride, 25 per cent.; Milton, 16½ per cent. A "souming " of the tacksmen's stock was taken this year, when it was found that a tacksman kept about £ 10 worth of stock for every pound of rent he paid. Their stock were valued as follows :
—Horses £12, the crofters' horses being valued at at £6; cattle £12, crofter's cattle £7, 5s.; sheep £ 1 , crofters' sheep 13s.
On the basis of the above valuations, a tacksman and a crofter keep the same value of stock per pound of rent. There are little or no arrears due by the several tacksmen on the estate.
There are upwards of 970 crofters on the property, occupying about 37,025 acres, for which a rent is paid of £4030, or 2s. 2d. per acre.
11,637 acres, rent £1219, rent per acre 2s 1d
South Uist crofts
17,912 acres, rent £2134, rent per acre 2s 4d
7,476 acres, rent £677, rent per acre 1s 9d
It may be noted that Mingulay crofters pay 9d. per acre, and are nine years in arrears; Bernera crofters pay 11d., and are five years in arrears; Eriskay crofters pay Is. 7d., and are seven years in arrears. Taking an average each tenant has about 38 acres of land (including his share of the commonty) for which he pays a rent of about £ 4 or £4, 5s.
—The crofters' arrears, when Lady Cathcart came into possession five years ago, amounted to £8690. Since then, arrears have been struck off, amounting to over £200. The arrears are now over £10,700, that is an annual loss of over £400 in arrears of rents. The crofters generally pay their rents by cash or by labour, the largest share being by labour. During the past five years a sum of over £10,900 has been placed to the credit of the crofters rental accounts for labour, viz.:
— In 1878, £2,442
„ 1879, £2,948
„ 1880, £2,182 For kelp manufacture, . £3,590
„ 1881, £1,455 For estate improvements, . 7,310
„ 1882. £1,873
£10,900 In all, £10,900
The crofters rents as already stated, are £1030, less annual arrears £400, leaving £3630, which is paid by labour £2200, by cash £1430, = £3630. It is thus found that —
1. The average rent charged upon a crofter is 2s. 2d. per acre;
2. The average rent paid by a crofter is Is. 11d. per acre;
3. This payment is made by —estate labour credited Is. 2d.; cash 9d. —in all, Is. 11d. per acre. On the whole property the arrears are equal to fully over 2½ years' rents. The following shows the comparative arrears on the estate of Benbecula in 1862 and 1882 :
—Tenants under £ 3 rent were two years in arrears in 1862 and five years arrears in 1882; tenants under £ 5 rent were 1½ year in arrears in 1862 and 2½ years in arrears in 1882; tenants under £10 rent were 1½ year in arrears in 1862 and 1½ year in arrears in 1882; tenants over £10 were ¼ year in arrears in 1862 and ½ year in arrears in 1882. On the estate of Benbecula the arrears in 1862 were £1510. In 1882 they amounted to £2423, with the same rents. This increase of £910 arrears took place almost entirely on the various tenants under £5 of yearly rent, and more especially under £ 3 of annual rent. The rental of the estates in 1862 was £7500, and in 1882 it was about £8600, being an increase of £1100. The following statement shows that this increase arises almost entirely on the rents of the tacksmen's holdings, hotels, and fishing stations, only a small proportion of the increase falling to the crofters. :—
The increase of crofters'rents in twenty years is thus only a little over £100, but the extent of land occupied by the crofters in 1882 is greater than the extent occupied by them in 1882.
There are upwards of 400 cottars on the Long Island property of Lady Cathcart. They pay neither rates nor burdens of any kind, but keep a valuable stock of horses, cattle, and sheep. On the estate of South Uist alone 205 cottars keep the following stock:—
92 horses; 140 cattle, above one year; 84 cattle, under one year; 518 sheep; 46 swine, —being valued at £2556, as large a stock as would be kept by a tacksman paying upwards of £250 rent.
In spring last seven families emigrated from Benbecula to Manitoba.
They emigrated on the following conditions :—
1. Their effects were taken over by Lady Gordon Cathcart at valuation;
2. They got an advance of £100 each;
3. They got 160 acres of free land on their arrival.
The sum advanced by Lady Cathcart amounted to £1500, for seven families, as follows :—
Houses: £116 / 9 / 1
Furniture and implements: £158 / 2 / 1
Stock and crop: £406 / 4 / 7
Permanent improvements: £29 / 12 / 7
Manure and unexhausted manure,
Timber: £36 / 6 / 0
TOTAL £1464 5 10
Each crofter (who emigrated) had therefore a capital of about £110 sterling. Most of the emigrants' effects have already been realised by Lady Cathcart, but owing to many of the effects having been highly valued it is expected there will be a loss on the transaction of nearly £100 sterling. Most of the crofts vacated by these emigrants were added to neighbouring crofters' holdings. Craigstrom and Ledistrom.
— A sheep farm of 1100 acres was offered to twenty-five crofters in spring as a club farm, at a rent of £ 2 each. The Liniclate, Torlum, and Greminish crofters wanted it as an addition to their commonty. The objection to the club farm was caused by
(1.) Want of capital among the tenants;
(2.) Rent said to be too high.
Since then (May 1883), an offer of the old rent has been received from one of the crofters, but has not yet been accepted.
—Between 1839 and 1865 a sum of £32,000 was expended by the proprietor. Between 1865 and 1877 a sum of £5000 was expended, and during the past five years Lady Cathcart has expended upwards of £27,000 = £64,000. There has thus been a sum of £64,000 expended by the Gordon family on estate improvements and repairs.
Statement of Permanent Improvements executed at the expense of Lady Gordon Cathcart on her Long Island Estates during the five years ending 1882 :—
House for doctor: £750
House for ground officer: £260
Redbank croft: £100
Lochskipport road: £1780
Township roads: £1890
Benbecula drains and ditches: £860
Grogary drains: £200
Sandbanks and embankments: £1040
South Uist, 8: £1200
Barra, 4: £600
Benbecula school: £145
Askernish, Grogary, and Nunton houses: £1060
Church repairs: £30
Land reclamation, &c,: £1200
General works: £1450
TOTAL OVERALL 27,175
Lochboisdale Hotel was built in 1879, at a cost of £2300. The rent is £40 a year, being equivalent to an interest of 1¾ per cent, on Lady Cathcart's outlay. Additions have been made this year which will cost over £500.
Castlebay Hotel cost £1500 in 1879. Present rent is £102, 10s., former rent was £27. Interest on outlay is 5 per cent.
Gramsdale Inn cost £820 in 1879. Rent is £7, 10s., being interest of 1 per cent on outlay.
Lochboisdale Pier was erected in 1879, at a cost of £3050. After paying harbour officials' wages there is a net free income of about £60. Interest on outlay is about 2 per cent.
Castlebay Pier was built in 1880, at a cost of £2000. After paying harbour officials, there is a net free return of £45, being equal to 2¼ per cent, on outlay.
Lochskipport Pier was built in 1879 at a cost of £1950. Was erected as a convenient port for the north district of South Uist, and for Grogary House. The revenue is nil.
Torlum School.—This school was built about fifteen years ago, at an expense of £600. An addition was made in 1876, which cost about £180. During the past five years about £145 has been expended on improvements and repairs in connection with the school, and over and above this its management, including payment of teacher and assistant, costs over £150 annually.
The extension of the telegraph from Lochmaddy to Lochboisdale was executed in 1880, and has already cost the proprietrix £246, 9s. 2d.
Encouragement to Fishing Industry.—
Lady Cathcart has advanced the following loans to fishermen:—
1. £30, which has been repaid, after some trouble;
2. £100 repaid, with interest;
3. £600 (to three crews) still outstanding.
Readjustment of Crofts.
—The expense of resurveying and and realloting the crofts on the estates, including work in connection with the granting of leases, will be very heavy. It has already cost Lady Cathcart upwards of £650.
Loch Skipport Road was formed in 1877 and 1878. It cost about £1780 sterling, and is about five miles in length. The whole expense consisted of charges for cartages and labour, both of which were executed by tenants and others on the estate.
Benbecula Brickwork was built in 1879, for the manufacture of bricks and drain pipes, at a cost of about £350 sterling. It gives employment to a few men. Since its erection Lady Cathcart has paid about £800 sterling for labour in connection with the work.
Fencing and Planting.—
During the past five years, a sum of £510 sterling has been expended on fencing. Most of the fencing was erected in Benbecula, about Liniclate macher, Nunton Road, and Dunganachy. (The fencing about Dr Black's house, including garden, wall, &c, cost about £100 sterling.) The experiment of planting was tried, but with small apparent success. It cost upwards of £850 sterling, including fencing around the plantations.
Home-Spun Cloth Industry.
—This industry has been carried on simply to give employment to the people. It does not pay, on the contrary it is a source of loss on the estate. A large quantity of cloth is at present on hand, and cannot be disposed of.
—This industry is in the same position as the home-spun cloth. Thousands of pairs of socks (cost Is. 6d.) and stockings (cost 4s.) are on hand, and cannot be disposed of. There will be a loss to the estate on this industry
42480. Professor Mackinnon.
—From your own knowledge of the country, which would you say, acre for acre, take it all over, is the more valuable ground,—the ground in the hands of the crofters or the ground in the hands of the big farmers?
—Well, they are much the same, take it all in all.
42481. Which pay the bigger rent?
—Well, they are nearly equal.
42482. By the acreage the crofter pays the bigger rent ?
—It is something like 2s.
42483. It is Is. 2d. for the large tenants and for the smaller tenants about 2s. Then you would say that, acre for acre, there is more of the crofters' ground arable than of the larger farms?
42484. The number of crofters is 970; can you tell me what is the number of large farmers—deducting professional men, such as clergymen and doctors?
—Eight seperate tenants.
42485. You state there are 400 cottars in addition to these 970 crofters?
42486. And I suppose the cottars are upon the crofters' ground and not upon the big farmers' ground?
42487. And they are, of course, a serious burden upon the crofters?
42488. In the statement you read of the money expended for the last five years, during Lady Gordon Cathcart's time, you give a total of £27,000; does that come up to about the rental of the estates during that time?
—It is over it.
42489. So there is actually expended upon the property more than its annual income?
—Yes, a good deal more.
42490. That is hardly a thing you could expect to be done every year?
42491. In the very large sum given for drainage have you any idea of the amount expended upon the big and small holdings relatively?
—No. It was done before my time, and I cannot speak of that. I think the most of it is on the crofters' ground. What has been done this summer has been entirely on the crofters' ground.
42492. Of course, the large sum upon piers and hotels is more of a general kind?
42493. Now, seven families, you say, emigrated last year upon what would appear to be very liberal terms on the part of the proprietrix; are the same prospects held out to those who have applied for going away this year?
—No, it could scarcely be expected that the same prospect could be offered by any proprietor to a number of people. I have no doubt, some assistance will be given.
42494. I understand Lady Gordon Cat-heart's agent and commissioner are just now over in Canada seeing about the people?
42495. And there has been a very encouraging letter from the people?
42496. Have they come under any obligation to repay any of that money given to them?
—Yes, I believe they have.
42497. When they can conveniently do so?
42498. Their effects were taken over by Lady Gordon Cathcart, but fortunately that has been realised by the incoming tenant?
42499. Who got the land they left?
—It was given to the neighbouring crofters.
42500. There were no new holdings made?
42501. And I suppose that is the policy meant to be carried out in so far as it can be carried out?
42502. But the crofts are admittedly too small?
42503. In addition to enlarging the holdings in that way, are you aware whether there is any actual enlargement of them by taking from the surface of the large farms, or whether there is any intention to do so?
—I am not aware there is any intention to do so.
42504. But as opportunities offer, to consolidate the smaller crofts?
42505. At the present moment, upon these estates, as upon most we have visited, there is a very great and wide gulf between the small tenant and the large farmer?
42506. And so far as you know the policy on this estate is to endeavour to bridge over that gulf?
42507. Not by enlarging the crofting area, but by consolidating it?
42508. Will you give an opinion of your own upon that point?
—In my opinion that is their only salvation.
42509. Are you prepared to give an opinion whether it would be a wise policy, in addition to any consolidation you can make by removal of the people, that there should also be some increase of the area of these comparatively small holdings?
—Well, there are so many people that really it is only putting off the evil day; and so far as my experience goes there is no salvation for these people except by emigration.
42510. Admitting there are upon the estates a greater number of people than could be maintained there permanently in comfort, do you think some of those large farms in the hands of those people, instead of having an average rent of £300 or £400, might with advantage be broken up into holdings of £50 and £100?
—That might be done, if there were a chance of doing it.
42511. As a matter of wise policy?
42512. Do you think from your knowledge of the means of the people, that there are many or even a few of them who would be able to take such a holding, supposing they got it?
—There may be a few, but very few, I believe.
42513. Of course, there could be only a few such holdings?
42514. So that if there were such holdings on the property it is possible you might get tenants on the property for them?
—You might get a few of them.
42515. And you also admit that if it were practicable that would be a very desirable class of holdings to have?
42516. About this reclaimed ground, which was done at very large expense, is it still in the hands of the proprietrix?
—Yes, at present.
42517. Do you know anything about the ultimate intention with regard to it?
—It is intended to be given out as lots to crofters.
42518. What size of lots?
—Perhaps from six to fifteen acres.
42519. So far as you have been able to form a general idea of the place since you went there, what minimum rent of a croft, as crofts go in that place, do you think would maintain a family in comparative comfort, with hard work and industry?
—From £10 to £ 30 crofts, I would say.
42520. You would not like to put a crofter upon a holding of less than £10 in that place, where I suppose the rents are not very high?
42521. Do you think that a holding of £10, as rents go on the property, could maintain a family that would work and be industrious?
—It could scarcely maintain them without fishing.
42522. But with the adjunct of fishing it would?
42523. And it is crofts from that size up to £ 30 or so, that you are endeavouring to establish?
—Yes. I may mention that I think, if some people were leaving these islands, a Free Church minister or priest should go along with them. That would encourage some of them to leave,—if they got a clergyman of their own denomination. I know that from a number of the people.
42524. You think they would be more easily induced to go, if the clergymen would go along with them?
42525. Do you find that, even oh the favourable terms that have been offered, there is a reluctance to go?
—Well, some of them are willing to go, but others appear to have a reluctance to go.
42526. So far as you are aware, the policy of the proprietrix just now to improve the condition of the people who remain on the estate is mainly to be carried out by the emigration of some?
42527. And not by the enlargement of the area of small holdings upon the estate,?
42528. The Chairman.
—You said that this ground which Lady Gordon Cathcart has taken in herself was to be appropriated to small holdings?
—Yes, by and by.
42529. Was that ground taken out of the common pasture or out of the arable?
—Entirely out of the common pasture, except two fields which were taken out of some crofts.
42530. I observe, in one of the letters from people who have gone abroad, the writer said that the thing they missed most in their new settlement in Manitoba was the want of a clergyman and a church?
—I believe that.
42531. Is there any intention, do you know, on the part of the Free Church to send out a missionary?
—I have not heard anything of that, but I think they should do it.
42532. You think that would be an encouragement to the people to go?
—I am sure of it.
42.533. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have not been very long in South Uist?
—Not very long.
42534. How long is it since you went?
—About seven months.
42535. You were formerly under-factor for Baillie of Dochfour, at Kingussie?
42536. You were there during our late visit to South Uist?
42537. And, if I mistake not, Mr Macdonald, the principal commissioner spoke at considerable length at each of the three places we visited?
42538. Do you recollect I asked him, in consequence of the time he occupied, rather to the disadvantage of the local people, to come to Inverness, where I might cross-examine him?
—I did not take notice of that.
42539. But he is not here?
—He is not home from America yet.
42540. In point of fact, he was not cross-examined?
—I think he will be at the Edinburgh meeting.
42541. With regard to the money that was laid out on the improvements in South Uist, was it all given to people belonging to the estate?
—Most of it was.
42542. Were there not a good number of people imported from a distance?
—There was a contractor imported who gave work to the local people in budding hotels.
42543. Were tradesmen brought from the east coast to build, while native masons and joiners got no work given to them?
—Not since I went there—not to my knowledge. They were all local tradesmen that were employed.
42544. Could this have occurred before you went?
—It might have occurred; I cannot speak to that.
42545. Although those improvements were intended for the benefit of the estate?
42546. Can you answer this question, whether the wages, or some of the wages that were given to the people at those improvements were kept back for the purpose of paying off their arrears, or whether they were paid down their full money week by week?
—Some of it may have been kept off for rent; but I think most of the arrears are standing still all over the property.
42547. Do you recollect that Mr Macdonald made a public statement that anything which was stated before the Commissioners would not prejudice directly or indirectly the delegate giving evidence?
42548. Are you aware that that has been acted upon?
—Yes, I am aware it has been acted upon.
42549. Are you aware of cases or a case where a person has lost the favour of the proprietrix in consequence of giving evidence?
—No, I am not aware of it.
42550. Do you believe there is such a case?
—I don't believe there is such a thing.
42551. You never heard it before?
—I never heard there was anything of the kind, because since I went there we have never changed anything. Everything has gone on the same as before.
42552. The proprietrix has been in the habit of coming for the last few years to visit the estate?
42553. Supposing, then, in previous years she was in the habit of showing some attention or kindness to a person, and that person gave evidence to us, and this year the favour of the proprietrix has been
entirely withdrawn from that individual; are you aware of such a case?
—Well, there was nothing done in that way. We got a staff of gamekeepers into the island, and the fishing has been stopped from everybody except those who get permission. Now, that was not done for any reason whatever. It was done because we got a new staff of keepers and everybody fished and a good deal of poaching went on, and for that reason the fishing was stopped from all and sundry. Some may think it was done for a purpose, but I am bound to say it was not.
42554. You are a Highlander yourself?
—Yes, I am.
42555. And have every good feeling towards your fellow countrymen?
—Yes, my sympathies are very much with the crofters.
42556. What do you think of the people now that you are among them?
—I think that if they were let alone they are a decent enough class of people, and I would not be afraid of keeping.the South Uist people if they were left alone.
42557. You recollect the Roman Catholic priest, Mr M'Call, making a complaint at Iochdar of the number of squatters upon the crofts?
42558. Have you taken any steps in regard to that?
42559. What do you propose to do to relieve the crofters of that great burden?
—That is the difficulty, because these squatters are sons-in-law and brothers, and so on. They went there with the consent of the tenants. They are all related together, and what to do with them is the question. I don't know what to do with them unless some of them emigrate.
42560. You stated the proprietrix is disposed to encourage emigration; if the people should emigrate at all would it not be better to emigrate some of these squatters than to put decent crofters away?
—Well, we are trying to do that.