GEORGE MALCOLM, Banker and Factor, Invergarry, and Manager of two Sheep Farms, Glengarry (45)—examined.
Argyll: 2,056,400 acres
1831 – 109973
1841 – 97371
1851 – 89298
1861 – 79724
1871 – 75679
1881 – 76468
Number of owners in 1872-73: 2864
Rental: 1872-73: £430151
Rental: 1882-83: £515351
Number of sheep in 1881: 999732, in 1882 1017679
Number of cattle in 1881: 60442, in 1882 61048
Inverness-shire: 2,618,498 acres
1831 – 94797
1841 – 97799
1851 – 96500
1861 – 88261
1871 – 88015
1881 – 90454
Number of owners in 1872-73: 1867
Rental 1872-73: £361,845, in 1882-83: £432,277
Number of sheep in 1881: 686307, 1882: 703954
Number of cattle in 1881: 52567, 1882: 51855
Ross & Cromary: 2,003,065 acres
1831 – 74820
1841 – 73685
1851 – 82707
1861 – 81406
1871 – 80955
1881 – 78547
Number of owners 1872-73: 2043
Rental 1872-73: £281306, 1882-83: £319481
Number of sheep in 1881: 345578, 1882: 352148
Number of cattle in 1881: 43131, 1882: 43482
Sutherland: 1,297,846 acres
1831 – 25518
1841 – 24782
1851 – 25793
1861 – 25246
1871 – 24317
1881 – 23370
Number of owners in 1872-73: 433
Rental 1872-73: £71494, 1882-83: £97809
Number of sheep in 1881: 214534, in 1882: 213227
Number of cattle in 1881: 12875, in 1882: 12400
Caithness: 438,878 acres
1831 – 34529
1841 – 36343
1851 – 38709
1861 – 41111
1871 – 39992
1881 – 38865
Number of owners in 1872-73: 1030
Rental 1872-73: £136885, 1882-83: £159278
Number of sheep in 1881: 88372, 1882: 90522
Number of cattle in 1881: 20023, 1882: 19905
Aberdeenshire: 1,251,451 acres
1831 - 177657
1841 - 192387
1851 – 212032
1861 – 221569
1871 – 244603
1881 – 267990
Number of owners 1872-73: 7472
Rental 1872-73: £1,118,849
Rental 1882-83: £1,329,546
Banffshire: 410,110 acres
1831 – 48,337
1841 – 49,679
1851 – 54,171
1861 – 59,215
1871 – 62,023
1881 – 62,36
Number of owners 1872-73: 4025
Rental 1872-73: £227,025
Rental 1882-83: £241,624
Elgin: 304606 acres
1831 - 34498
1841 - 35012
1851 – 38959
1861 – 43322
1871 – 43128
1881 – 43788
Number of owners 1872-73: 2564
Rental 1872-73: £203705
Rental 1882-83: £229748
Forfar: 560087 acres
1831 - 139606
1841 - 170453
1851 – 191264
1861 – 204425
1871 – 237567
1881 – 266360
Number of owners 1872-73: 9343
Rental 1872-73: £1,243,109
Rental 1882-83: £1,330,039
Nairn: 114400 acres
1831 – 9,354
1841 – 9,217
1851 – 9956
1861 – 10065
1871 – 10225
1881 – 10455
Number of owners 1872-73: 537
Rental 1872-73: £41,767
Rental 1882-83: £36,995
Perth: 1617808 acres
1831 – 142,166
1841 – 137,457
1851 – 138,660
1861 – 133,500
1871 – 127768
1881 – 129007
Number of owners 1872-73: 7643
Rental 1872-73: £1,043,427
Rental 1882-83: £1,117,710
Orkney: 240,476 acres
1831 - 28847
1841 - 30507
1851 – 31455
1861 – 32395
1871 – 31274
1881 – 32044
Number of owners 1872-73: 1308
Rental 1872-73: £62,536
Rental 1882-83: £69,950
Shetland: 352876 acres
1831 – 29392
1841 - 30558
1851 – 31078
1861 – 31670
1871 – 31608
1881 – 29705
Number of owners 1872-73: 549
Rental 1872-73: £33559
Rental 1882-83: £42441
42269. The Chairman.
—Do you wish to make a statement?
—Some time ago, I sent in a statement to the Secretary. That statement is as follows :
—' The two following tables give statistics of acreage, rental, population, sheep and cattle, &c, in those counties which are usually known as the Highlands of Scotland, and which more particularly form the area of the present Government inquiry into the crofting system, &c. These are arranged into Group I. A separate Group—II.—supplies the same information for seven additional counties in which sheep of the same breeds as are alone reared in the Highlands are somewhat extensively distributed, and in which also are to be found a certain number of deer forests. Table III. gives a list of the deer-forests in Scotland so far as known to the writer, with statistics of annual value, acreage, and sheepkeeping capacity of the same, framed from the best information at his command. In the pages which follow, some remarks are offered on the subjects embraced by these tables, and on other points of the inquiry now being prosecuted by the Commissioners. (See Tables I. and II.)
—An examination of the following figures shows, as regards the counties in Group I.—viz., Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness—that there has, in the fifty years from 1831
to 1881, been a total decrease of population of 22,933, or about 7 per cent. It will further be seen that about two-thirds of this decrease occurred during the period from 1831 to 1861, which was mainly the period during which large sheep-farms were formed. During the succeeding twenty years, from 1861 to 1881, the decrease of population in these five counties was only 8044; and during the ten years from 1871 to 1881, the decrease was only 1254. As by far the larger number of deer forests have been formed within the past twenty years —a large proportion of them having been formed within the last ten years—it is clear that no depopulation of these counties can, as is sometimes alleged, be due to the formation of deer-forests. In point of fact, there has been very little diminution of population within the past fifty years; and such as there has been, is amply accounted for by the emigration which took place—greatly, as is now generally admitted, to the benefit alike of those who went and those who remained —about the time when sheep farming on a scale beyond the means of the poorer class of tenants was established, and by migration to the cities and centres of manufactures in other parts of the country, which in the ordinary course of things is constantly going on from these counties, where no industrial employments —except fishing and agriculture, so precariously and unsuccessfully pursued—are as yet available to the people. To this latter cause the slight diminution of population during the last twenty years is undoubtedly wholly due; and a comparison of the population in 1881 with the population in 1871, gives strong countenance to the inference that, had it not been for the operation of this migratory current (which, however, few people will think otherwise than beneficial to those concerned), there would at the last census have been brought out a sensible increase of population. It may be noticed, that in the county of Inverness, which is considered the county of deer forests par excellence, the population has increased during the ten years from 1871 to 1881 by 2439, or nearly 3 per cent.—and this during the period when the number of deer forests has been considerably augmented. Turning to Group II., it will be seen that during the same period of fifty year's there has been a very large increase of population—no less than 232,228, or 38 per cent. —with the exception (1) of the county of Perth, which, from 1831 to 1871, shows a decrease of 14,398, or about 10 per cent, (but in the remaining decade from 1871 to 1881 exhibits a small increase of 1239; and (2) fractional reductions in the county of Nairn from 1831 to 1841; and in the counties of Elgin, and Orkney and Shetland, from 1861 to 1871, the progress of increase of the population has throughout this group been uniform and continuous. It is interesting to note how similar the cases of the counties of Perth and Inverness are. Both are large counties, much more noted for their pastoral and agricultural, and shooting and fishing interests, than for their arts or manufactures, and are consequently found producing similar results on the population—very different from those counties containing teeming centres of industrial occupations, which attract thereto thousands of the population of those counties which are not so favoured. It has been stated above that there has been little or no decrease of population in the Highland counties during the past fifty years. But in point of fact, when the whole of the northern counties are considered, it will be seen that there has been no diminution at all, but quite the reverse; and if we consider by themselves the ten counties of Aberdeen, Argyll, Banff, Bute, Caithness, Forfar, Inverness, Perth, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland, in which counties alone the deer forests and large Highland sheep farms are placed, it will be found that during the past fifty years the population has increased by 23.3 per cent., which seems strangely to be always forgotten by those persons who are constantly referring to depopulation of the Highlands, arising from evictions and the formation of great sheep farms and deer forests. There has been really no depopulation. From the earliest times in which we have reliable record, the numbers of the people in the Highlands seem to have been steadily advancing. The following are the census returns of the population of the counties in Table I. for the three earlier decennial periods of the present century :
Ross & Cromarty
Combined totals of all aforementioned counties
Of all the interests which concern the Highlands, it must be evident to all who have any knowledge of that part of the country, the most important is sheep farming. In the five counties forming Table I, which are more particularly called "The Highlands," sheep are, according to the latest official returns, eight times more numerous than human beings; sheep are in the ratio of 1 for 3½ acres; while for each man, woman, and child, there are 27 acres. While there are notices of sheep, even the domesticated sheep, as old as history, in our own country little or nothing was known of the distribution or management of sheep before the Norman Conquest, and very little even then. Sheep were brought much more into prominence in Scotland by the introduction of turnips as a field crop in the last century; but as regards sheep in the Highlands, we really have very imperfect information down to the middle of the eighteenth century. Whence came the black faced breed of sheep, which at a not well-ascertained date supplanted the breed of wild or aboriginal sheep of the Highlands, or what was its origin, is involved in much obscurity. Little that is reliable was known about it till the middle of the eighteenth century; but for many years —down to the earlier years of the present century —blackfaced sheep and black cattle, or the Highland breed of horned cattle, were the only kinds of farm stocks to be met with in the Highlands, except a limited number of ponies of the small breed still to be found there, and some goats. But early in the present century it was found that there were many parts of the Highlands in which the Cheviot breed of sheep could be successfully bred and cultivated; and the introduction of this breed of sheep marked the period when sheep farming rose to be by far the most important agricultural interest of the Highlands. Men of capital, as well as of special knowledge of this breed of sheep, were attracted from the Lowland and Border districts to the Highlands, where opportunities of acquiring extensive sheep walks at very moderate rents were to be had. Then it was that the system of occupying and farming lands in the Highlands underwent a very extensive change. Large holdings —in some cases enormously large (over 50,000 acres) —were created, and in the creation of these many small holdings and crofts were effaced. Whether this was a wholly advantageous change, or whether it was a change carried to excess, will be afterwards referred to; but its effect then, and for many years afterwards, was unquestionably very profitable alike to the proprietor and to the occupier of the soil. In those days " foreign competition " had practically no existence for the sheep farmer. The idea of importing mutton, dead or alive, from America or any of our colonies, would have been considered the height of improbability; and the importations of foreign and colonial wool —which now have reached the enormous quantity of 488,985,057 lbs. (1882) —were then of small importance to the Highland farmer. If he never rejoiced in prices for his wool at all
approaching those which ruled during the palmy years from 1863 to 1873, the demand at least was steady, and the price never greatly fluctuated; nor was the market ever paralysed, as it sometimes now is, by excessive importations, by the operations of speculators, or the vagaries of fashion in woollen fabrics. Further prosperity to sheep farming in the Highlands was attained when the system of turnip-hogging—or the practice of sending the hoggs or yearling sheep to be wintered in the Lowland districts —was introduced. This system is now almost universally followed; and until the charge imposed by the Lowland farmers for the wintering of these young sheep became excessive, it materially added to the gains of the hill farmers, enabling them, as it practically did, to increase their flocks by about one-third at a comparatively small cost. Up to the year 1866, when prices of both carcass and wool, especially the former, were very high, the occupation of sheep-farming in the Highlands, for at least a generation previously, had been attended with not a little prosperity, and many modest fortunes had been made in it; but from that date to the present time, the condition of sheep farming the Highlands has by no means been so prosperous. There has been a gradual decline in the value of wool, which now stands at prices rather lower than those of twenty-three years ago, and less than half the prices of 1872, coupled with a very indifferent demand for it. Prices of sheep have varied a good deal, but they have never been very low, and in the last year or two have ruled very high, culminating this year in prices which, if not in the open market, at least in the transfers of stocks from outgoing to incoming occupiers, have never been equalled. Yet in the face of this it is found that sheep farming tenants in the north—and especially those of south country origin —are manifesting a very decided desire to escape from their business; and in the present year, of all the farms which fell out of lease, and were reoffered to be let, scarcely one has found a tenant. Excellent and most desirable holdings, which eight or ten years ago would have produced an embarrassment of offers, have been utterly without tenders for them; and in many cases no inquiries even have been made about them, although it was well known that landlords were prepared to make large reductions of rent. Proprietors of these farms have, in consequence of this, been obliged to assume the serious responsibility of taking over the stocks upon them, and farming them themselves; and so far as this operation has yet proceeded, the prices awarded to outgoing tenants for their stocks have been beyond precedent high. The causes which have in so short a time led to this curious but most serious pass in the business of the letting of pastoral land in the Highlands, well deserve a little further consideration; but before entering upon these, it may be well to give the following tables of average prices of the two breeds of sheep and the two corresponding kinds of wool which are raised in the Highlands for the past twenty-three years.
A glance at these figures shows that while the prices of sheep have during the last two or three years been rising, and have at the present time reached a point very satisfactory to sellers, the prices of wool, on the other hand, have during the same period steadily declined until they have reached very low rates, especially in the case of laid Cheviot wool, which is, in fact, all but unsaleable. There may be other and minor reasons for this, but there are two great causes of it—viz.
(1) for the enhanced prices of sheep, the diminished and diminishing number of sheep in the United
(2) for the lowered price of wool, the enormously increased importations of foreign and colonial wool, and the highly protective American tariff on wools and woollen goods. The decrease of sheep—which since 1879 has been nearly 4,000,000, and within the last two years 2,299,282 —is sufficiently accounted for by the decimation of many stocks in England by fluke or liver disease, by the preparation of animals for the butcher at an earlier age than formerly was done, and by the occurrence of several adverse winters and lambing seasons; while the tremendously enlarged importation of unmanufactured wool —amounting, according to the latest returns, to nearly 500,000,000 lbs.—is doubtless due in great measure to the effect of free trade upon a greatly augmented population, and to the fact that our colonial cousins, having carefully studied the wants of the British market, have succeeded in producing just the kinds of wool best adapted to the prevailing fashions in woollen fabrics of late years, especially a kind of cross-bred wool, which has rivalled, and to a great extent supplanted, our home-grown Cheviot wool, which it closely resembles, and upon which the Scotch sheep farmer formerly greatly relied. It is frequently remarked in these times that the sheep farmer would be in a better position were he to obtain 3s. or 4s. more per stone for his wool, even if he should receive 6s. to 8s. less per head for his sheep than at present is going; and there is no doubt some truth in this, seeing that the revenue from wool applies always to the whole flock of the farm, while that from the carcasses in any one year is derived only from sheep which have arrived at maturity, or at that age when in ordinary course they are sent off the hill farms. If this would be a benefit to the tenant, it certainly would also be to the interest of the landlord; for an excessively high rate of prices for the animal, coupled with a very low rate of prices for the fleece, is an abnormal conjunction which undoubtedly contributes not a little to the congestion of unlet farms at the present time. But i this is seen and felt in the ordinary transactions of buying and selling, it much more sharply operates, upon the landlord especially, in the cases of farms falling out of lease, and where the stocks have to be exchanged from the outgoing to the incoming occupier at a valuation. From the earliest times of systematic sheep farming in the Highlands down to the present date, this transaction has been effected between the parties by the nomination by each of a man of skill to value the sheep, and the appointment of a third man or oversman to determine any differences between the views of these two. For many years this mode of valuation worked very well, and in theory no fault can be found with it : it seems to be the most equitable course that honest people could adopt for the purpose required. But in course of time, and notably within the past fifteen or sixteen years, there have been, unfortunately, many valuations struck where it has been most difficult to say that only a simple desire to make an award agreeing with the current value of the stock has been at work. In some cases—not very many —the awards have been too low; but in far more numerous cases the awards have been manifestly greatly in excess of what they ought to have been, and great injustice and loss have in consequence been inflicted both on tenants and proprietors, but chiefly the latter. It is held that a good healthy working stock, already on the farm, and acclimatised to it, is more valuable than the same stock would be in the open market; and, within a reasonable limit, this is true, and no one objects to it. But, besides and beyond this, considerations are given effect to, and expedients resorted to, to increase both the number and the price of the stock to be valued, which are by no means fair or legitimate, and which, having been carried to great excess of late, are unquestionably at the present time inflicting great injury to the interests of sheep farming in the Highlands. It is unnecessary to enter here in detail into these objectionable features of sheep valuations, some of which may, however, be briefly enumerated,—such as
(1) the practice, now all but universal, of mulcting a landlord of 2s. or 3s., or perhaps more, for each sheep, than a tenant would be required to pay;
(2) the bringing on to the farm of a number of sheep —sometimes from a sixth to a fourth of the whole stock —shortly before the valuation, from any source they can be found, and palming these off as, and to be valued at the same rate as, the ordinary stock of the farm;
(3) the finessing and attempts at overreaching in the appointment of the oversman in the valuation;
(4) the wide divergency between the prices asked in the first instance on the one hand, and offered on the other hand,—which no practical judge of sheep could conscientiously or seriously support, and which is nvowedly designed ' to leave room' for the oversman fixing on prices which may be either higher or lower, according to his bent, than the true value. To such an extent have these improprieties been carried in recent years, that, as already said, while every tenant of a farm whose lease has come to an end of late has, as may be imagined, determined to give up his farm, and take advantage of the prevailing exorbitant valuations of stock; on the other hand, deterred as they are by these valuations, no incoming tenants for these farms can be found, and landlords have had to stand iu the gap, at very great personal sacrifices in some instances. Happening to have in my possession some reliable records of sheep valuations in the counties of Inverness, Ross, Argyll, and Sutherland, some of which refer to two, and in one or two cases to three instances of valuation, by the same method, of the sheep stocks of the same farms, I have compared the prices obtained, as far back as 1854, with the prices given at various dates since and down to the present date, and find such instances of advance as follow : four of 20 per cent., two of 25 per cent, one of 16 per cent., and one of quite recent date, amounting to no less than 97 per cent., upon a lease of nineteen years. The valuations of the present year are sure to show a very startling advance upon the prices fixed at the last entry to the farms in question. In many cases the subsequent sale of the sheep has, notwithstanding the utmost skill and care in management and marketing, led to very great loss, owing to the enormous discrepancy between current value in the open market and the valuation prices, which often reached to 10s. a-head, and in not a few cases amounted to far more, even over 20s. a-head. There have been many complaints of late about this unsatisfactory practice of valuing sheep at fictitious rates, and different suggestions have been made to remedy it; but the difficulties of abolishing a system so long in use, and, moreover, so equitable in principle if honestly worked out, are greater than may at first sight be thought. As far back as 1871, I brought the matter under the notice of the Inland Revenue authorities, in order to determine whether the practice of valuing sheep stocks by unlicensed and unsworn valuators was, in their view, quite regular and legal. The reply was, that while the practice was certainly irregular, they were not prepared to say it was illegal so long as it was confined to a solitary, neighbourly, and friendly act by one farmer towards another; but that if any one undertook such duties frequently or regularly, and derived a profit therefrom, or whether they were profitable to him or not, his doings would certainly come under the operation of the Stamp Acts. Seeing that these duties are now so frequently exercised by unlicensed individuals who are well known in their respective districts, it does seem that it should be incumbent on them to qualify themselves as regular and legally constituted appraisers. Some of the evil and injustice attending the present mode of valuing sheep stocks would probably be obviated by employing only one licensed valuator, judicially appointed by the sheriff of the bounds on the application of the parties concerned, it being competent to the parties to suggest a valuator to the sheriff if they are agreed upon one. The use of only one valuator would, I think, be a decided improvement on the present system of employing three men. Since this was written, several sheep valuations for 1883 have been fixed. In one of these cases there has been an advance on prices of the stock, in seven years, of 21 per cent.; in another case an advance, in five years, of 30 per cent.; and in a third case an advance, in five years, of 60 per cent. —and this in the face of a general fall in sheep farm rents of from 25 to 30 per cent. These farms failed to let, even at such a reduction, and have been taken into the proprietor's own hands. He would feel more responsibility when acting alone than when officiating as the oversman of two others; there would be no wide and wild views of practically partisan men for him to reconcile or get over somehow; and the result would no doubt be a just award in nearly every case. The judicial valuator would, of course, receive from the parties employing him a reasonable remuneration for his labours —equally apportioned on the parties, and regulated in amount by a fixed percentage on the number of sheep (not the value thereof) transferred from the one party to the other; and this also would be a material guarantee of substantial justice being done in the awards —for if any valuator acquired a reputation for unfair dealing, he would soon cease to be employed. In support of this view, it may not be out of place to mention that the employment of one valuator instead of three seems in other quarters to be rapidly making way. At both of the national agricultural shows of this year —the Royal of England, and the Highland and Agricultural of Scotland —the practice of single judging, as it is called, was tried with the most gratifying results. In no case in which this experiment was applied was there the slightest demur to the awards given; while in the only class in which any fault was found with the judges' awards at the Highland and Agricultural show, the old system of triple judging had been adhered to. This is a matter which has just had additional importance lent to it by the passing, in last session of Parliament, of the Agricultural Holdings Acts, in which provision is expressly made for valuing agricultural improvements by each
party appointing an arbiter, and those two arbiters appointing an oversman, precisely the system practised in the valuation of sheep stocks in the Highlands, which has been brought into so much disrepute of late. Some anxiety is felt lest, in the valuation of improvements and other subjects on arable holdings, a door may thereby be opened for the same abuses as have crept into the valuations of sheep stocks. The unparalleled and unjustifiable rates at which sheep are now valued, is no doubt the immediate and great cause of the practical deadlock in the letting of sheep farms which now obtains. But there are other elements at work, of which two only will here be noticed—
(1) The greatly increased cost of wintering sheep in the low countries. When the practice of wintering sheep away from the farm was first resorted to —without which now it is considered impossible to get along successfully —the necessary food and shelter for the young sheep sent to winter quarters were procurable at a very cheap rate—2s. to 3s. ahead at most; but gradually winterings rose to 4s. or 5s. a-head, and of late years it has not been possible to winter a hogg well under 7s. to 9s. or 10s. —which is a very crippling expense, necessitating a high price being got for the sheep when mature, to enable any profit to accrue. Undoubtedly very important advantages have been derived by the low country farmers who have been in a position to let the winter pasture of their holdings in this way. In the course of his business, the writer has been made aware, from indubitable evidence, of numerous cases where, from this source alone, from 50 to 80 per cent, of the whole rent of the farm has been obtained, and in several instances he has found that rents have been altogether paid from sheep winterings.
(2) A good deal has been said in certain quarters about a diminished capacity of some grazings to keep sheep. It is alleged that not only do these grazings rear a smaller number of sheep than they did, say, thirty to forty years ago, but that those now reared on the grazings in question are inferior in size and substance to, and carry a lighter and perhaps coarser coat of wool, than the sheep of the earlier period. In accounting for this alleged1 diminution of the carrying or sustaining power of certain sheep walks, some assert that it is the simple result of overstocking in the past; while others say (what amounts to much the same thing) that it arises from the fact that the raising of a sheep upon land of limited fertility —as all our hill ground is—involves, according to the only system of sheep farming pursued in the Highlands at all events, the extraction from the land of ingredients of a productive ciiaracter far in excess of any fertilising or restorative applications to the land,—which are simply nothing more than the sheeps' own droppings,—and that this continuous and excessive abstraction from the soil of phosphorus, potash, nitrogen, &c, in building up the frame and fleece of our sheep, without any compensatory applications to the land, is bound in time to produce a distinctly deteriorating and exhausting effect upon pastures. In this way many practical men account for the admittedly increased and increasing prevalence of fog or moss over hundreds of thousands of acres of hill ground in the Highlands. I am not sure, however, that this theory satisfactorily accounts for the general prevalence of moss in pastures; because it is found sometimes in excess overrunning private lawns and other places upon which no sheep or stock of any kind are allowed to graze. But whatever the real reason may be, I think there is a degree of truth—which is not unlikely to obtain much more notice ere long —in the allegation that in many places in the Highlands, chiefly on the thinner grounds, in high and inland situations, there are real and unmistakable indications of a lowered or deteriorated capability of sheep raising. If this is the case, it suggests various economical questions of a very interesting kind, which may well come within the scope of the present Government inquiry into the rural affairs of the Highlands and Islands—though, as far as known to me, complaints of this kind have emanated from the east side of the sheep farming districts, and not much from the west. These remarks upon the past and present condition of sheep farming in the Highlands naturally suggest the query, What, in the circumstances, is the best course for landlords and tenants alike to follow with regard both to the present and the future of sheep farming. If by reason of the unremunerative prices of wool, the excessive cost of winterings, the deteriorated capabilities of the grazings, and the extravagantly high valuatious of stocks, the old tenants are forsaking their holdings and no new tenants can be found for them, is there any other use to which these lands can be put, for a time at least, which will be more profitable to either tenants or landlords? Before the days of the general introduction and practice of sheep farming in the Highlands, the breeding and rearing of Highland cattle was almost the only use to which the grazings were put; but in the present day, when other breeds of cattle, more profitable to the breeder and grazier, have so extensively supplanted the Highland breed, and when still enough of the latter are raised apparently to satisfy all the demand there is for them, no one will seriously advocate a general return to the cattle system of pastoral farming. But there remains the question of afforesting the land, about which a few remarks will now be made.
—It has in recent years not been uncommon to meet with the most sweeping condemnation of deer forests, but rarely has any attempt been made by the authors of such attacks to approach the subject
dispassionately, or to try to consider both sides of the matter impartially. There has been nothing but unreasoning denunciation, by men whose position and pursuits have precluded them from acquiring that know. Since writing these observations upon the deterioration of mountain pastures, I have read with interest a paper in the last volume of the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society, in which this important subject is fully and very intelligently discussed by a writer of long practical experience of mountain sheep farming, and whose facts and conclusions fully confirm the foregoing observations. ledge requisite to a fair consideration of the subject of deer forests. The wildest statements both as to the extent and the working of Highland forests have been indulged in, which were certain to miss their mark from sheer extravagance of language, apart from other considerations. According to these persons, landlords in afforesting portions of their estates have had no other object in view, and no more pressing necessity laid upon them, than a desire to be ever increasing their rent rolls. The system is a most deplorable economical vice and public loss; it depopulates the districts concerned, and demoralises all who are employed on these forests, and so on. But when the facts are looked into and carefully weighed, without preconceived opinions in either scale, it will be admitted by reasonable men that quite enough can be advanced in favour of a certain extent of ground being utilised as forest as, to say the least, to attach a good deal of discredit to the opposite statements above alluded to. As to the economical side of the matter, or what is sometimes called the ' public wrong' of substituting deer for sheep, it has been shown above that there are reasons of a forcible kind which have, it may be said, obliged proprietors to let portions of their estates for this purpose. Influences are now at work so affecting the profitable management of sheep farms as not only to have very largely reduced the rents of these farms, but to have rendered many of them for the present altogether unlettable. In these circumstances, would it be otherwise than grossly unjust further to embarrass the owners of these lands by placing unreasonable restrictions on their letting their lands advantageously in any other way which may be open to them, and which is not obviously immoral or inimical to the State. No one would dream of applying such a restriction to urban property —whether lands or houses—or, indeed, to any other of our agricultural or mercantile interests. If there be foundation for the statements that a very widespread and well-marked deterioration of mountain pastures is going on from the constant and severe depasturage of heavy stocks of sheep, without any compensatory return of fertilising substances to the lands in question, then there is furnished by this fact a sound economical reason for resorting, for a time at least, to a different system of occupation of these lands, in order that they may recover their fertility. It has been shown that it will not remunerate in the present day either landlords or tenants to return to the old system of cattle-raising which probably never yielded over one-third the rents obtained in the best days of sheep farming. It would seem then quite justifiable, on economical as well as personal grounds, to devote these deteriorated lands at least to a period of use as deer forests. It is hardly necessary to mention that both deer and cattle crop much higher than sheep; and for reasons which need not here he particularised, much greater benefit is imparted to the pastures from their droppings. Lands depastured by deer and cattle do not therefore become deteriorated from excessive and incessant cropping in the manner in which it is feared is the case with regard to many sheep walks. A very frequent objection to deer forests is, that they necessitate, or at least lead to, depopulation of the districts afforested; but with regard to all the forests which have been created, in recent years at all events, no statement could be more inaccurate than this. This has already been shown by reference to Tables I. and II. in these notes which exhibit the official statistics of population of the counties concerned at each census for the last fifty years. And what is true of the counties would be found true of the separate sections of these counties called deer forests, I have no doubt, were it practicable to obtain returns of the fixed population on the forests at present as compared with the fixed population which was on them when they were occupied as sheep farms. On all the forests personally known to me this is so. The fact that no depopulation is traceable to the formation of deer forests, is too well known indeed, to all who have any practical knowledge of the matter, to require discussion. If any depopulation took place at all within that period, in the souse of removal of the people out of the Highlands entirely, —which is by no means supported by official statistics, —it must be attributed in part to the most ordinary natural influences, and in part to the formation of extensive sheep walks, thirty, forty, or fifty years ago. Parallel with incorrect assertions in regard to the number of people living on deer forests as compared with sheep farms, is the statement that such employments as deer forests afford have a demoralising effect on the employes, that they lead to indolent and often to drinking habits during the greater portion of the year when the men are not actively employed. These statements, which refer mainly to the gillies employed on forests, seem to imply that this class of men are retained the whole year round; but there is hardly an instance of this being done. The men who are employed as gillies are generally taken from the ordinary crofter population of the neighbourhood, and are engaged as a rule for not longer than two months. In many cases the crofters' horses are also engaged; and such employment is a source of great benefit to these crofters, and one which they would be the last persons to desire they should be deprived of. It is certainly untrue of these men that their moral character is in any way lowered by their relations with deer forests, and I believe it to be equally untrue of all the other employes of forests whether permanent or occasional. No distinct and reliable proof of these assertions of insobriety, &c, has ever been given. It may be right here to mention the usual custom as to gillies' pay and allowances. The usual daily wage of a gillie may be stated at 3s. for himself, and 3s. besides for his pony, if he has one. His pony is grazed in the forest while employed there, and he has himself a free bed, and fuel for cooking, &c, and generally, though not in every case, a lunch or dinner consisting of bread and meat, and one glass of whisky. Gillies seldom or never get more to eat or drink than this from their employers; and while in some cases employers allow nothing at all beyond the money wage, others, instead of providing lunch as above mentioned, make an allowance of Is. per day in lieu thereof—a practice which is finding increasing favour both with employer and employed year by year, and gives a substantial increase to the gillie's wages, for he is able to provide dinner for himself for far less than a shilling. With regard to the very important question whether sheep farming or deer foresting employs the greater amount of labour, and consequently pays the greater sum in wages, or whether farming or foresting is the means of bringing into and circulating in the districts concerned the larger amount of money, it cannot, I think, be doubted, whatever it may be open to say about the general or economical side of the question of deer versus sheep, that the local benefits
—the advantages to the Highlands alone—are out of sight in favour of the forests. At the present
time —as it has been in the past —it is too frequently the case that the grazing tenant is non-resident, and has his domicile and all his domestic interests far away. He visits his Highland farm only once or twice a year; and after he has paid his rent, and his shepherds their wages, and settled the few and trifling local bills the farm has incurred, he carries away the whole remaining proceeds of the farm, which are thus lost to the Highlands at all events. On the other hand, the occupant of a deer forest lives continuously in the district for at least two or three months in the autumn, and possibly he may make another visit at an earlier period of the year. He has the lodge and other buildings, which are often extensive, to keep up for the whole year; and in repairs, alterations, and additions to the buildings, in fencing, road and path making, in the purchase and conveyance of supplies and stores, and in various other ways, he necessarily expends every year a large sum of money, three-fourths of which at least—taking one year with another —goes into the pockets of local tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers. The following figures may more clearly bring out this point :—
1. Districts occupied as:
Sheep-farm paying rent of £1300
Grouse-shooting, paying rent of £700
Rates and taxes: £120
Six shepherds £200
Two gamekeepers £90
Dipping and clipping sheep &c, &c: £200
Upkeeping of buildings, garden &c: £100
Travelling of establishment and guests &c: £100
Stable, dogs &c: £50
Household supplies, fuel &c: £400
TOTAL : £3280
2. District of same character and extent occupied as
Deer-forest at same rent: £2000
Rates and taxes, same as above: £120
Seven permanent keepers, say: £340
Gillies for season say: £100
Garden and gardeners: £200
Stables – hire of carriages and horses for season and keep of horses for ditto and ponies for whole year: £200
Upkeeping of lodge and other buildings: £250
Household, say for 10 weeks: £1000
Coals for year, say: £150
Travelling of establishment: £100
Travelling and other outlay of guests £200
The foregoing figures purpose to show the comparative ordinary annual expenditure of sheep farms with grouse shootings and deer forests. The rents and taxes are in each case stated at the same figures;
but as it is generally the case that ground let as deer forest commands more rent than the same ground let as sheep farm and general shooting does, and consequently contributes a larger proportion of the rates of the district, it follows that not only landlords, but likewise the general body of ratepayers, are more benefited by forests than by farms. It is very frequently the case, moreover, that large sums are expended by lessees of deer forests in improving and enlarging the accommodation of the lodges and other buildings, in the erection of fences, and in the formation of new roads and paths for the improvement of the shooting, and in various other ways. Not only do the local tradesmen and contractors, and the working men of the districts, directly participate in the benefits accruing from the carrying out of these works, but in many instances the works are a permanent benefit to all the surrounding neighbourhood. Several instances of this have come within my personal experience. In one case there has been, during the past seventeen years, an ordinary expenditure, including rents and rates, of £28,250. And special expenditure on improvements of £29,091., total £57,341.
In another case the ordinary expenditure, including rents and taxes, has been for the past ten years £68353, and the special expenditure on improvements . £31,655, total £100,008.
In a third case the ordinary expenditure, including rates and taxes, has been for the same period . . . £19,016 And the special expenditure on improvements . £3,702, total £22,718.
And in a fourth case, where the tenant was non-resident but lived on an adjoining forest, there has been in three years an ordinary expenditure £5590 And a special expenditure on fences, paths, &c,
in three years of £1428 , total £7018.
All the details of the above expenditure are in my possession; and these cases are but types of what has been done in very many other deer-forests, from which great benefit has been derived by the local interests concerned. One word may here be said as to the taxation of deer forests and shootings generally. As the law now stands, shootings in the personal occupation of their owner are not subject to taxation, except to the extent of their value as grazing subjects; but the large rents obtained in almost every Highland parish for those shootings which are let, very materially lighten the public burdens to every ratepayer. In the three parishes with which I am more immediately concerned—which are all parishes containing shootings, both let and unlet —the rates recovered from the shooting rents are to the whole rates of the parish, in one case 19 per cent., in another 24 per cent., and in the third 8 per cent. These percentages, it may be added, do not include the values of other sporting subjects, such as salmon fishings, the value of which, in the first of these parishes, is equal to about 11 per cent, of the whole rental of the parish, and contributes to the rates in that proportion,—making 30 per cent in all for that parish as to the contribution of shootings and fishings to the rates. It is easy to see that this must greatly lighten the burden of taxation to every ratepayer of that parish. But it may be asked, What bearing has all this removal of sheep, and substitution of deer, upon the food-supply of the country? The creation of deer forests may be of solid, and undoubted advantage to all your purely local interests; but that is after all, but a limited benefit:—what is the general effect of the system of deer-foresting on the general well-being of the nation? Much has both been said and written about this in recent years; but not a little, it is feared, has been said and written by people who have been imperfectly informed of their subject, and who have consequently arrived at very erroneous conclusions, or more probably ventured on very ill-considered guesses concerning it. Minute inquiry was made into this matter by the Parliamentary Committee on the Game Laws, which sat in 1872-73. It was then conclusively shown, on the evidence of various witnesses —who were not all, by any means, the most favourably disposed towards deer forests —that all the mutton which could possibly be raised from all the deer forests in the Highlands then in existenee, could not in reality affect the total volume of meat-supply, and consequently its price, by more than the merest fraction. Shortly stated, the facts established by that inquiry and unanimously reported by the Committee (p. 11), were, that whereas, there were then, according to the latest official returns, 28,397,589 sheep in Great Britain, there had only been 400,000, according to the highest estimate given in evidence, displaced by deer-forests, or 1.4 percent. Since the date of that inquiry, no doubt some additional ground has been afforested; but these additions to forests may be taken as not of such extent or consideration as to vitiate or disturb to any practical degree the facts then established by the inquiry of 1872-73. I have already stated that during the past four years, from 1879 to 1882, there has been a decrease of nearly 4,000,000 sheep in Great Britain. In 1879 the number stood at 28,157,080, in 1882 the number stood at 24,319,768, decrease 3,837,312. In Scotland alone, however, the number of sheep in 1879 stood at 6,838,098 In 1882 the number stood at 6,853,860, increase . 15,762.
These figures certainly afford no corroboration of the assertion sometimes made that Scotland is being largely deprived of sheep by the creation of deer forests, for it will be seen that the whole decrease of sheep above brought out has arisen in England and Wales, and that there has actually been a small increase of sheep in Scotland during the last four years. Looking next at the ten counties above mentioned, in which deer forests alone exist, and making the comparison between 1872, when the Game Laws Inquiry took place, and when it was stated that the number of deer forests then in existence was between sixty and seventy, and the latest return in 1882, when the number of deer forests is ascertained to be 98, the following are the result:—
County: 1881 - 1882
Aberdeen 128,308 - 128,984
Argyll 1,039,627 - 1,017,679
Banff 45,683 - 49,236
Bute 41,999 - 41,557
Caithness 101,458 - 90,522
Forfar 116,109 - 122,740
Inverness 788,001 - 703,954
Perth 673,778 - 684,920
Ross and Cromarty 360,188 - 352,148
Sutherland 229,654 - 213,227
TOTAL 3,524,805 - 3,404,967
—equal to 3.4 per cent, or 1.75 per cent, of whole sheep in Scotland, 1882; or 0.49 per cent, of whole sheep in Great Britain, 1882. I have endeavoured to prepare a table of all the deer-forests now in existence, in the counties of Aberdeen, Argyll, Banff, Bute, Caithness, Forfar, Inverness, Perth, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland, which are the only counties in which deer forests are met with. In many cases the forests are in the actual possession of their owners, and never have been let; and in such cases the shooting values.are nowhere stated (only the grazing values), and have consequently to be estimated. Without an addition for shooting value to the grazing value, in such cases the published rental would be misleading; and this I have endeavoured to supply, from authoritative sources, as far as practicable.
[table omitted as many details cut off in print of report]
In considering the rental of forests, shown by the preceding table, it must not be forgotten that the amount includes not only the grazing but also the shooting and fishing values. The value of the shootings and fishings, and of the mansions and lodges, and accessories and amenities thereof, which exist only in connection with the shootings and fishings, may be stated at about three-fifths of the whole, or £86,125, leaving £57,417 as the annual value of the grazings occupied as deer forests. What may be the cultivated or arable acreage of land pertaining to these forests, it is hardly possible to ascertain accurately, but it certainly cannot exceed one-thousandth part of the pastoral or uncultivated ground. Of the pasture or hill ground of these forests it will, I think, be a liberal estimate to place two-fifths to the credit of good or valuable pasture, and not an excessive estimate to place the remaining three-fifths to rock, bog, and other rough and waste ground, from which neither sheep nor any other kind of stock could derive much sustenance or shelter. In considering the number of sheep and cattle which these forests are estimated to be able to hold, it must be kept in mind that at least one-third—consisting of the lambs or yearling sheep —would be bred elsewhere, and would have to be wintered off the forest ground for six months of each year; and that in some situations—e.g., the northern slopes of the Grampians—no sheep stock could be kept at all during winter. Looking further at these figures, what do they exhibit as the annual yield of mutton, which these forests might produce? Such lands are, as a general rule, adapted for wedder sheep alone; and, according to the system of sheep farming pursued in the Highlands, wedders are sold off the farm when three years old. We have thus 111,907 sheep as the annual produce or cast of these forests, representing probably about 6,158,130 lbs. Of mutton. according to the latest official returns, there were in the United Kingdom 27,448,220 sheep; and if the same rule as to age when marketed be applied to them—though, in fact, sheep other than those reared in the Highlands generally come from one year to eighteen months sooner to the butcher —an annual produce of 9,149,406 sheep is arrived at, representing about 548,964,360 lbs. of mutton; and adding to this 21,262,854 lbs. Of mutton imported in last year, we have a total consumption of mutton in the United Kingdom of 570,227,224 lbs. for 1882,in relation to which the quantity of mutton brought out above as the producing capacity of these forests is as 1.08 to 100. But in considering fully this question—viz., the supposed loss of food to the nation involved by these forests —regard must not alone be had to mutton, but to the whole meat-supply of the nation; and the following table will demonstrate how utterly inappreciable is the ratio of the amount of meat capable of being raised in these forests to the nation's consumption of meat. In this table no account has been taken of the importations of live animals for food, of which there were last year 343,699 cattle, 1,124,391 sheep, these being reckoned as incorporated with the returns of live stock within the United Kingdom. This was probably not universally the case, but it may be granted for the present purpose :
In 1882, there were 9,832,417 cattle in the United Kingdom, of which 3,277,472 were consumed, 600 lb per head. Total weight consumed: 1,966,483,200 lb.
In 1882, there were 27,448,220 sheep in the UK, of which 9,149,406 were consumed, 60 lb per head. Total weight consumed: 548,964,360 lb.
In 1882 there were 3,956,495 pigs in the UK all of which were consumed, 80 lb per head. Total weight consumed 316,519,600 lb.
Dead meat imported in 1882:
Beef: 692,383 cwt, consumed 77,546,896 lb
Mutton: 189,847 cwt, consumed 21,262,864 lb
Tinned or preserved 560,581 cwt, consumed 62,785,072 lb
Bacon and ham 2,904,400 cwt, consumed 325,292,800
Grand total weight consumed: 3,318,854,792 lb
Equal to 1,481,631 tons, or 93 lbs. per annum per head of the population (35,631,290) at last census. Comparing with this the possible output of mutton from the grazings comprising the forests enumerated in Table III., it will be seen that the proportion is as 0.186 to 100—an utterly inappreciable ratio. Even if we take the whole output of meat (beef, mutton, and pork) from the whole of the counties of Aberdeen, Argyll, Banff, Bute, Caithness, Forfar, Inverness, Perth, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland, in which the deer forests are situated, calculated on the same bases as in the above table—
Beef 101,745,600 lb
Mutton 56,887,970 lb
Pork 3,885,600 lb
TOTAL 162,519,170 lb
—the result is only 4.9 per cent of the national meat consumption. Looking in the same light at the proportion which the wool grown in these counties bears to the whole trade in wool of the United Kingdom, it will be seen to be still less important than the proportions of the meat trade. In 1882 the importations of wool and manufactured woollen goods reached the following enormous dimensions :
Raw wools: 488,985,057 lb
Yarns: 13,764,056 lb
Manufactured: 5,982,449 lb
Adding to this, home-grown wool as under :—
Number of sheep of all ages:. 27,448,220 less sheep under 1 year old: 9,908,905 equals 17,539,315.
And allowing 5 lbs. wool for each sheep 87,696,575.
The whole woollen trade of the country in 1882 appear- to have comprised no less than 596,428,137
I n the ten counties already mentioned the number of sheep of all ages was in 1882 : 3,404,967 less sheep under 1 year old 1,005,236 equals 2,399,731, Yield in wool, 11,998,656 lb or only about 2 per cent, of the whole woollen industry of the United Kingdom; and when this comparison is restricted to the produce of wool from the sheep stock of the districts used as deer forests, the percentage falls to the almost infinitesimal figure of 0.028. The main object of the foregoing calculations is to exhibit truly the relation in which the capabilities of the deer forests to produce human food stands to the whole wants of the British population as regards animal food. I have been most anxious not to understate that relation; and with that view I have left out of account several considerations which I shall do no more than mention here, but which render it certain that the meat-producing capacity of the forests has not been understated.
(1) In calculating the total food-supply of the nation, I have assumed that neither sheep nor cattle are brought to the fat market till they are three years old, being the age when sheep from the forests are sold; but in point of fact, as is well known, most of the sheep and cattle of the Lowland districts are brought to the butcher at a much earlier age.
(2) I have applied a very moderate average weight to the sheep and cattle of the Lowlands.
(3) I have excluded from the account all importations of live sheep and cattle, having assumed these as incorporated in the returns of live stock of the United Kingdom, though doubtless very many were not so incorporated, but were slaughtered and consumed immediately after debarkation.
(4) I have treated the whole of the ground comprised in Table III. as entirely cleared of sheep, while it is certain that some of it still carries a partial stock of sheep. And
(5) I have not stated per contra of the mutton which the forests might yield, the venison which they do now yield. From the best sources available, I have estimated the latter to be—
4650 stags at 12 stone, 781,200
4555 hinds at 7 stone, 446,390
or about 20 per cent, of the mutton which the forests are estimated to produce. It is true that only a very small proportion of this venison finds its way to the open markets, it being nearly all given away in presents; but it is nevertheless indisputably true that, in one form.or another, it is all utilised as human food, and a full half of it is bestowed on people—the crofters, shepherds, keepers, and cottars of the districts —who are not in circumstances to purchase except at rare intervals, mutton or beef for their families.
—It is greatly to be regretted that during the period of agitation on the subject of the crofting system in the Highlands which preceded the appointment of the Royal Commission, and during the period the Commission has already sat, statements have been made respecting the private character of many proprietors and factors —past and present—of Highland property, and their relations with the crofters, which are obviously intemperate, and, in fact, known to well-informed and impartial persons to be notoriously untrue. If there was one condition of things more characteristic of the Highlands than another, it was the kindly relations in which proprietors and tenants stood towards each other till a very recent date; and it is altogether preposterous to attribute the sudden, but still very partial, interruption of these relations to anything of the character of a natural growth of discontent fostered by acts of oppression on the part of the landlords. The causes of the present agitation are not to be looked for in this direction, but have, I believe, a deeper meaning and a firmer root. The people have in some parts been seduced from their loyalty to their landlords, and have been schooled into beliefs, and inflamed into making demands, of the most pernicious nature, if viewed only with reference to the future of crofting and to a continuance of the present system of things. These beliefs and demands,
together with the uninstructed and unscrupulous men who have so far seduced the crofters into such devious and dangerous paths, will in time be fully weighed and be found wanting, and will pass away. But may it not be, that some wholesome root of enlightment may remain, which, gradually spreading over the Highlands, may open the eyes of Highlanders generally to the fact that there are other and better ambitions than a Highland croft can present, even if it should be enlarged at the expense of their neighbours, and that they are likely to become better men and women, more prosperous in a material sense, and enjoying more of the consideration of the world, in other spheres than in that of a constant and too often hopeless struggle with insurmountable natural impediments at home. There are not a few people having knowledge of the Highlands who are inclined to believe that some such enlightening and blessed result as this may be the issue of the present agitation and inquiry; and he cannot be regarded as the true friend of the crofters, or a wise humanitarian, who will not rejoice if it should be so. In saying this, it is not necessary to question that the possession of a croft in the Highlands is not without its desirabilities. There are charms, no doubt, in its freedom from incessant toil, in the variety of its occupations according to the different seasons, and in the material comforts which it sometimes affords as compared with what may be obtained for the expenditure of a similar sum in rent in a crowded town. But after making ample allowances for exceptional cases of this kind, it is too evident to every unprejudiced persou that the system which obtains in the western seaboard and islands is one that it is most undesirable should be perpetuated with all its squalid misery, its tendency to indolence, its chronic poverty, cheerless prospects, and predisposition to disease. It is necessary, in making these remarks, to distinguish somewhat between crofters who live in crowded communities along the seaboard—who are in fact not crofters, but cottars or lottars, who are understood to depend more on the sea than the soil for subsistence—and the genuine crofters to be found all over the northern counties, each upon his own lot, and not huddled together in mutual discomfort. When the latter kind of holdings are not too numerous or individually too small, and when subdivision or dual occupancy is firmly prohibited and prevented, and when the occupants are required, and by every means encouraged, to treat and cultivate their lands with the same regard to good farming as their neighbours in the more extensive holdings do, there is not only nothing to be said against such a system, but it will generally be admitted by all who are practically concerned with the management of estates, that a certain admixture of this class of tenants is a decided advantage. I have not found it impossible in my experience to prevent subdivision of crofts, and have been fairly successful in inducing crofters to emulate the systems of cultivation of the larger tenants; but I cannot but recognise that there is, in cases where the crofters of an estate are numbered by hundreds, very great difficulty in stemming the tendency to subdivision, with all its accompaniments of over-population, want of room and sufficient occupation, and consequent acquirement of habits of indolence by the young, and the ever-present want or semi-starvation. In such cases all effort to cultivate the land in an advanced or approved manner is soon abandoned, and the pressure on the bare necessaries of life becomes painfully real. Much has been said in recent years to the effect that the application of considerable tracts of land in the Highlands to the purposes of deer forests leads to an unjustifiable loss of food to the nation. It has been elsewhere shown in these notes that this is not the case to any appreciable extent; but those who press this view should remember to what lengths it will carry them. If a comparison be made of farming under large holdings, or holdings of both large and moderate extent, with the results of farming by crofts, the conclusions, with scarcely an exception, will be found indisputably in favour of the former. Generally, the stock and crops of the crofter are quite obviously very inferior to those of the larger farmer, with his command of capital and superior methods of cultivation and management of stock,—from which it follows that the devotion of good cultivateable land to crofts, instead of too remunerative, highly cultivated farms, is in principle as much, and in degree probably more, an economical mistake than deer forests can possibly be considered. And if this be so, it would surely in no way mend matters to devote more land to such an unproductive system of crofting than is occupied already in this way. Even if the necessary capital could be found by the crofters for greatly extended holdings—which seems impossible —and the landlords were able and willing to provide the capital which would be requisite on their part for the inauguration of such a change —which is equally improbable —it is only too likely that such an extension of crofts would simply be found, ere many years were gone, to be an. extension and an exaggeration of the serious evils which are now entwined with the system. The truth really is —and it is as well known to all unprejudiced practical men as that two and two make four —that so variable is the climate in the West Highlands, so heavy the rainfall, and so late the harvests, that profitable arable farming is an impossibility there, and no wise man who can do better will attempt it. Any proposal, therefore, to coerce proprietors into taking such a step, would not only be spoliation of their properties, seeing that higher rents are obtainable relatively for large farms and farms of moderate dimensions than for crofts, and that rents of larger farms are to some extent affected adversely by the proximity of unfenced, ill-managed crofts; it would also, all too probably, be a grave economical mistake. It will not be here out of place to state that even in the upland districts of the southern counties, where the chances of successful cultivation are certainly superior to the Highland districts, the growing of corn is being largely abandoned in favour of laying these lands to permanent grass. This is clearly shown by reference to the agricultural returns for the past ten years. Thus it will be found that in the counties of Bute, Dumfries, Lanark, Peebles, Roxburgh, and Selkirk, the area of permanent pasture, exclusive of heath or mountainland, has, from 1872 to 1882, increased from 212,510 acres to 279,137 acres, or fully 31 per cent. But in addition to the personal advantages which a general return to crofter occupation of the land would, we are told, secure for the crofters and their families, we are also informed that such a system would be the mainstay of the British army. It would form an unfailing nursery for recruits of the very best material, as the Highlands were said to be in formers days, but now are very much the reverse. There are one or two considerations bearing on the view that the Highlands do not now contribute their proper quota of recruits for the British army, which may be briefly adverted to. First, it is indisputable that there is at the present time a much more numerous population in the Highlands than there was in those palmy days of the British army, When it was pervaded and invigorated, we are told, so largely by the Highland element. From this it follows that there must be more men in the Highlands available, or at least eligible, for the British army or navy service now than there were then, and that it is not because Highlanders are not in existence if Highlanders do not now enter numerously into our army or navy. But second, has it ever been quite clearly established that your Highlander, at any period of his history, has ever been a lover, not to say an enthusiastic lover, of military service? He has been credited very often, no doubt,—mostly by his own compatriots —with a consuming military ardour, and a devouring delight in military " glory;" but while it is quite true that during the wars of the Low Countries and the Spanish Peninsula, as well as in the East, before the Peace of 1815, certain of our regiments were largely composed of Highlanders, and it is equally true that these Highlanders acquired a reputation for steadiness and valour and success in action second to none, it nevertheless remains doubtful whether even then there existed among Highlanders an enthusiastic devotion to military service in the British army. There are certain circumstances, well enough known to people who have studied the social condition of the Highlands in those days, which rather point to the contrary as the fact, or at least somewhat weaken the evidences of that ardent love of militaryism which has been attributed to Highlanders. There was the bond of clanship, and the still stronger tie of kinship in those days, which no doubt impelled many a young Highlander, without the slightest love of military glory, or the remotest thought about the justice or the reverse of the cause he was to fight for, to follow his chief, or the brother or son or other kinsman of his chief, into one or other of the Highland regiments. There was also another reason, —not quite so natural or creditable,—for so many Highlanders being then found in the army. In the days of British military need, and when officers were almost as much in request as the rank and file, it was, it appears, customary to bestow a commission on the younger sons of those Highland families who could raise and bring with them a certain company or number of recruits; and it is asserted, —men still surviving being able to speak to this,—that the means taken to obtain the necessary number of recruits to secure an ensigncy for some younger son of the chief, or cadet of his family, were not always those of soft persuasion on the one side, or calm voluntary resolve on the other. It has, in fact, been roundly asserted that the " recruits " were made forthcoming willy-nilly, and that the means adopted to that end rather resembled the tactics of the notorious pressgang than a legitimate successful appeal to the patriotism and " inborn military ardour " of the Highlander. However this may be, it is at any rate not the case that Highlanders do not now enlist in the British army because there are no Highlanders to do so; it is rather that they are not by disposition a fighting race in the military sense, and very much prefer the freedom, along with the discomforts and miseries, of their present homes, to the constraints and doubtful advantages of the life of a soldier. Pity it is that they still cling to their present situation, rather than to the useful position and greater comforts and advantages which they and their families might derive from making common cause with the rest of the world in the business of life. How, then, are the difficulties of the situation—this hopeless congestion of population under conditions of great poverty and pinched existence, bordering at times on starvation —to be removed or mitigated? There has been no want of suggestions, especially of late, which were to be infallible remedies, but which, when examined in the light of practicability, have been clearly seen to be very unfitted to the end in view. They have not stood the
test of common sense. Nearly every one of these has strangely failed to attain to any insight into the reality of the sore, or has proposed to apply some heroic remedy or other which has failed to commend itself to the experience or sagacity of men most likely to be best informed about this question. We have had, for example, as an important element in nearly every one of these suggestions for the improvement of the crofter population, the proposition that the pressure of overcrowding which now subsists should not be relieved by reducing, but by increasing the population. True, the population is to be distributed over a wider area; but it has not by any means been established that such a course would prove even a temporary preventive of the positive want of the necessaries of life, from which the crofters at recurring intervals so severely suffer; while nothing is more certain than that, after the lapse of a few years, the same evils of overcrowding, and the same fruitless attempts to force from the soil more than the soil in such situations is capable of yielding, would be resorted to. These are defects inherent in the present system which some philanthropic but uninstructed persons would nevertheless seek to prolong; and so long as it is blindly left out of view that you cannot maintain in comfort, or in even the decencies of life, on an unkindly soil, in an unfavoured and baffling climate, more than a given population —which nature never fails to define, though man may for a time dispute the point with her —so long will such a mistake be made, with the painful results with which we are so familiar in the Western Highlands. When from any cause whatsoever there exists in any district a surplusage of population which cannot be usefully employed in the industries of that district, and when especially this dearth of useful employment is clearly seen to arise from insurmountable physical and natural causes, it surely must be best for the individual, as well as for the nation, that such surplus population should be transferred to a situation where, under fitter and more kindly conditions, it may be usefully employed. One would think that this is self-evident, and that those who counsel a contrary course incur to themselves grave responsibility. It seems not wisdom or kindness, but positive injury and cruelty, to urge or advise your crofter to stick to the sterility of his northern soil, and its rewardless tods, if he may do better in another situation. All who have thought about this problem are agreed that it is impossible that the present condition of the crofter population in the Western Highlands can be maintained as it is, and all are agreed that no relief which does not take the shape of a permanent thinning or partial dispersal of these communities can be effective or enduring; but all are not agreed as to the best means of reducing the congestion of population, and ameliorating the evils which are entailed by it. The proposal to attain this object by disposing of the people over a wider area within their own Highlands, has been seen above to be open to various grave objections, and little faith is put in it by those best qualified to know. By some it has been urged that the best solution of this question is to be found in a systematic cultivation of the valuable fisheries of the west coast of Scotland. They would practically have this as the sole source of livelihood of the west coast as it is of the east coast fishermen. There is no doubt much to be said in favour of this. That there are many rich and as yet untouched fishing grounds in the Hebridean seas is beyond question; but as these —saving herrings in some seasons—be pretty far to seaward, and as the crofter fisherman of the west has as yet neither the training nor the means needful for offshore deep-sea fishing —which requires no little enterprise and courage, as well as capital —it does not seem likely that the crofter-fishing population of the west —who are none of them able to command the requisite capital for such an equipment, and are further hampered by the absence in the north-west of suitable harbours —will for many years, at all events, be able to emulate their brethren of the east coast in the pursuit of offshore fishing. The utilisation of these undoubtedly valuable fisheries will be a work of time, not unlikely to be first undertaken by the hardy, enterprising, and well-equipped men from the east and south coasts, rather than by the native fishermen of the west, and dependent in some measure on the facilities for rapid conveyance of the fish which may be provided. While, therefore, it may be hoped that greater attention to the gains to be reaped from their seas will in time have its influence in the amelioration of the condition of the people of the west coasts, it is in vain to look to this for immediate benefit. There remains to be considered the alternative of removal of a portion, perhaps the greater portion, of the people of the poorer and more overcrowded districts to situations out of the Highlands, where they can find, in a more genial climate and amid more kindly surroundings, abundance of productive employments and an altogether better life. This may be either in our own land, or in other lands which are sought by Scotsmen, or in both. In the former case, the operation must be left to the natural growth of higher desires of life in the people themselves though much may be done in a judicious way by their natural leaders to enlighten them to a sense of the dulness and hopelessness of their present lot, and awaken them to the apprehension and appreciation of the better and wider field which is open to them all. In the latter case, however, to which many reflecting people look with most hope, it would seem that something more systematic, more effective, than waiting for the movement of the waters is necessary. Why is it that hitherto all recommendation of emigration as a relief of distress in the Highlands has fallen flat; and in the present day, when distress and discouragement at home, and prosperity and brightness abroad, combine to specially commend it, it seems to be less favourably received than ever? It can hardly be—though advocates of such a monstrous thing are not awanting—that Highlanders may do better by remaining in their present position, preferring misery to comfort, poverty to plenty, debt to independence, sickness to health, and ever-present and ever-felt depression and want to general well-being and well-doing. The contrary of this is clearly proved, if disproof of such an absurd proposition were required, by the fact that very few cases of Highlanders having made this exchange, and desiring afterwards to return to their former state, are met with. They value their enfranchisement too highly to be tempted to renounce it at the call of a puerile sentiment of patriotism, or for any other reason; and thus, among those who so thoughtlessly preach the gospel of what is called " repopulation of the Highlands by Highlanders," no instructed or emancipated Highlander is ever found. The preachers are men who, professing to know much of the Highland race, know in reality very little of them—men with a hobby, whose hobby is in this case not so harmless as hobbies usually are, and who are cruelly trying to ride theirs over the lives and fortunes of their unfortunate clients. That no systematic scheme of emigration has hitherto successfully recommended itself to Highlanders would rather seem to be due to ignorance, and the distrust which arises from ignorance, of the thing recommended, than from any positive or articulate objection to change. They know the worst at home, but they know not how they would fare abroad : kinsmen and friends, home and the religion of their fathers, they have here beside them, but they dimly suppose they would not have these, in the same sense or degree at least, in another land; and thus they think it better to hold to the present rather than adventure their future in a foreign land. Thus it seems to be an indispensable preliminary to the successful working of any proposals for emigration on an extensive scale from the Highlands to such countries as Canada and the United States of America, or Australia or New Zealand, that the people should be systematically and faithfully instructed in the advantages they are likely to derive from such a step. To this end the course most likely to be successful would be to despatch certain of the leaders and more trusted advisers of the people —for example, some of the more intelligent and observant pastors of the Free Church of Scotland in the Highlands —possessing the full confidence and respect of the crofter class, as pioneers to the proposed fields of emigration, there to be engaged for some considerable time, and not hurriedly or superficially, in acquiring all the information possible concerning the districts proposed to be occupied by their fellow-countrymen. On the return of these pioneers or confidential agents, with, it may be assumed, hopeful intelligence for the people, there would be some likelihood of considerable numbers of the people acting on the advice then given,—all the more, if these their ministers of religion patriotically determined, as very probably some of them would, to make common cause with their people, and accompany them to the land their adoption, and, so to speak, start together in the world afresh under far brighter conditions than those they had quitted at home. Instances of the happiest results of cases like this in the past are not awanting. At the present time, some of the most prosperous communities in Canada are direct descendants of bands of emigrants of a former generation from districts in the Highlands which were then in circumstances closely resembling those now being inquired into; and true it is that not one of the ancestors of these communities, who were the original settlers, ever expressed a desire to return to the miserable homes and surroundings they had left in the Highlands of Scotland. There is, of course, inseparable from every proposal of this sort, the serious question of wave and means. Not only would preliminary inquiries and costs of the voyage have to be met, but it woidd not be prudent to withdraw all help to the emigrants at that point. Uuder a well-devised scheme, some further aid in stocking their allotments and carrying on the labour thereof till at least a first crop had been reaped, would be a necessary supplement to the undertaking. Upon whom should the expense of all this fall? Certainly the proprietors of the soil from which the people were going would be justly expected to do their part, as proprietors in the past have done in similar circumstances. But more than this would be necessary; both the home and colonial Governments concerned might reasonably be looked to for financial aid in such cases. The Government of the country in which the settlements were made might, in granting allotments, and in supporting the colonists for a limited period, till they could maintain themselves, fittingly do their part; the Government at home might reasonably provide means of transport; and the landlords at home might be expected to bear preliminary expenses, and provide a modest outfit for the emigrants. There would not be wanting objectors to the granting of State aid for such a purpose. But of late years we have been made familiar with the doctrine of expediency—in the passing of the Irish Land and Arrears Acts, for example; and that it is sometimes prudent to legislate on grounds of expediency alone for exceptional and pressing cases, few people are now prepared altogether to deny. What would a grant-in-aid from the State for such a purpose as emigration from the Highlands be, in reality, but a certain measure of relief of clamant distress? For such relief we are not without precedents in the Highlands of Scotland as well as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, in the preceding as well as in the present generation. Until some comprehensive, liberal, and prudently executed plan of emigration hasbeen devised and successfully carried out, there really seems small hope of improvement in the condition of these crofters. Supposing such a removal to have been happily effected, one word may be said as to the future of those who would remain, for of course no district would be likely to be entirely denuded of population. Some, it might be hoped, would find their account and a comfortable livelihood in the pursuit of fishing, under improved circumstances and with improved appliances; and to the more industrious of those who remained by the land, would be given in larger holdings the lots of those who went away. Leases of moderate duration, with stringent prohibition of subdivision of the holdings, and binding stipulations as to draining and good cultivation generally, might be granted. There should on no account be any transactions passing between the outgoing and incoming tenants of the nature of payment for tenant-right, or for clearing off arrears of rent due by the away-going tenant, or for any other consideration than the purchase of stock, crop, or implements. What is called fixity of tenure (distinguishing by this term absolute ownership in the crofter from his mere irremovability from the soil conjoined with nominal ownership in the present proprietors) would be a gross mistake if applied to Highland crofts. It would infallibly prove to be a direct premium on indolence, and the foe of all enterprise and push in the great majority of cases.
42270. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In this very elaborate paper you have divided the subjects you treat of into certain divisions of Scotland?
42271. I think, I also observe you include the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, Nairn, Perth, and Forfar, inter alia?
—Yes, the counties in which deer forests are situated.
42272. But we have limited ourselves in the meantime to what may be called, properly speaking, the Highland districts, and the above are not included?
—They are in a separate group.
42273. With regard to the question of population, you bring out that the population of the district, including the counties I have mentioned, has very considerably increased?
42274. But if you take away Forfar, in which there is a large manufacturing population, and Aberdeen, I am afraid you will not hold there is that increase of population?
42275. Taking the county of Inverness, there is an increase, I believe, within the last ten years of something between 1000 and 2000 over the whole county?
—Yes, there is an increase of 2439.
42276. According to the census returns, the town of Inverness is included?
42277. Are you aware what was the increase in the last ten years in the town of Inverness alone?
—No, I cannot state it at this moment.
42278. Suppose it is 5000 and upwards, it will be found, if you take the 2439 over the county, that the whole of the rural part of the county, apart from Inverness, must have decreased?
—I am aware there is a decrease, if you take the rural population only.
42279. And this is not common to the Highlands, though it may to a greater proportion than in the Lowlands?
—It is found in larger proportion in the rural parts of the Lowlands where there are no manufactories.
42280. Even more than the rural parts of the Highlands?
42281. I will confine my questions to the matter of deer forests, on which you have entered very largely. How long have you been acquainted with the Highlands?
42282. From what part of Scotland have you come?
—I came from Edinburgh to the Highlands, but I belong to Fifeshire.
42283. But you have been twenty-three years in the north?
—Yes, connected with the management of estates all that time.
42284. On the estate with which you are more immediately connected, the estate of Invergarry, what is the total acreage of the estate?
—Close on 100,000 acres.
42285. How much of that is under forest?
—Less than half.
42286. I suppose it is not very long since the first afforesting began?
—It was before my time that Glenquoich was afforested, but there was an interval during which it was restored with sheep, and I should like to refer to that, as the last witness was questioned as to the effect of restoring sheep to forests.
42287. How much was put back under sheep during the interval you speak of?
—About 15,000 acres —the east of Glenquoich, which was for a long time in deer forest, and in the hands of the late Mr Ellice. It was replaced with sheep in 1865, and was kept under sheep for four or five years. Daring that time the sheep that were raised there were the best that were ever known to go out of that district, showing that the pasture of a forest being left for a time under deer does not deteriorate.
42288. If it turned out so successful, why did it go back to forest?
—Mr Ellice did not restore it to forest. He only gave his consent. It was the sheep farmer that, for reasons of his own, for some inducement held out to him, gave up his lease in favour of the deer forest tenant.
42289. He was bought out, in fact?
—I suppose so.
42290. Are there many forests in your neighbourhood that were formed within your own recollection, or were they formed before your time?
—There has been only one on our estate formed in my time, and I don't recollect any others in our immediate neighbourhood having been formed of late.
42291. Were there people once living upon the land that is now occupied as a forest?
—People living along the fringe of the forest, along the bottom lands, but that was before my time
—thirty or forty years ago—and before the deer forest was formed.
42292. Was there not a very considerable population at one time on the estates of Glengarry and Gleiiquoich?
—I believe there was.
42293. And traces of them remain to some extent yet?
—Well, there are a few traces of the old cottages. They appeared to be shepherds' cottages, as far as I remember.
42294. How long have the Ellice family been proprietors of the Glengarry estate?
—About twenty-three years, and of the Glenquoich estate between forty and fifty years.
42295. I suppose no parties have been removed during their time or yours for the purpose of afforesting?
42296. The Ellice family have always taken a very close interest in the poor people on the estate?
42297. Now, has there not been a forest formed near you at Inchnacardoch?
—Yes, I forgot that one. That has been made in addition to the one on our own property.
42298. That is on the land belonging to Lord Lovat, between you and what formerly was called Port-Clair?
—Yes, the farm of Auchterawe.
42299. There is another forest called Glendoe?
42300. In fact, it may be said that in your neighbourhood foresting has been very much practised of late years?
—I think you have named all the forests that have been made in our neighbourhood. I may be permitted to refer to a statement made at the sitting of the Commission at Glen Shiel. The minister of Kintail stated that you might walk from near Invergarry House to near the sea at Knoydart on forest ground. That statement was quite inaccurate. You may walk on one side of Glengarry for fourteen indes without touching deer forest. In fact, on that side of the Glengarry estate there is no forest at all, and on the other side of the estate there is only forest for about four miles. That is the Glengarry estate. Then there is Glenquoich forest further up.
42301. Has the population increased or decreased during the Ellice dynasty?
—It has slightly increased.
42302. Have you people of the class of crofters, which we have defined at £ 30 and under,—have you many of that class?
—Yes, we have between thirty and forty. There are only sixty odd tenants on the estate altogether.
42303. In what position are these crofters; are they in a fairly comfortable position?
—Yes, they are remarkably comfortable, I think. They live principally in two communities with separate arable lots, but with the hill behind them in common.
42304. Do you mean as a club farm or merely as common pasture?
—A club farm.
42305. Managed by one herd?
—Yes, they manage it among themselves, and they have remained in that condition from time immemorial. It has just descended from father to son.
42306. What are the names of these townships?
—Mandally and Balmaglaster.
42307. What extent of arable land may these crofters have?
—From four to six acres each.
42308. What will be the arable rent per acre, including the hill pasture?
—One of them pays about £15 in all, but he has more arable acreage. None of the rest exceed £10.
42309. Can you put it per acre?
—I cannot do it very well, because I do not know the extent of the hill acreage they have, but they have from four to eight acres of arable ground. I can state the stock they keep.
42310. Take a man who has got from four to six acres of arable land and a share of the hill, what may his stock and his rent be?
—He has, say, three cows and their followers, a horse, and from twenty to thirty sheep.
42311. What will his rent be?
—None of those rents exceed £10.
42312. Have you any difficulty in dealing with these people?
42313. If they want anything reasonable to be done, I suppose it is done for them?
—Yes, if it is within reason.
42314. Are their buildings in fairly good condition?
42315. Do you find any indications on the part of those people of a desire for an increase of holdings?
—No, none has ever been asked.
42316. And in any recent changes may I take it for granted that no hill grazing or arable land has been taken from those people?
—Not an inch.
42317. You have in your paper gone very much into the question of deer forests as showing that these are very advantageous. I am quite prepared to admit they are very advantageous so far as rent is concerned, but let me ask one or two questions as to how it affects the community generally. Do you approve of carrying the system of foresting still further?
—I don't think it is possible to carry it much further, for I don't think there is much more land in the Highlands to be taken up by deer forest—I mean, that is suitable for deer forest.
42318. Don't you see in the Highlands still remaining a few large farms for which there do not seem to be offerers?
42319. What are you going to do with them?
—If a better use cannot be made of them, I think the proprietor would be quite justified in letting them as deer forests.
42320. That would rather imply that a better use could be made of them?
—I do not admit that.
42321. You have heard the evidence of the previous witness?
—1 heard the most of it.
42322. You heard him state he was not aware that the produce of the forest was of any perceptible value to the community as a product; is that correct, in your opinion, or is it not?
—I may say this, that it bears a very small proportion indeed to the mutton supply of the country, if that is what you mean.
42323. And it is not the fact, I suppose—at least, I am not aware of it—that venison is generally sold by the lessees of deer forests?
—No, quite the reverse. I know of no one who does sell it.
42324. So whatever venison may be got here is more from the favour and kindness of the lessees of the forest in giving it away?
—Yes, it is given to the people in the district, and sent away as presents to friends of the lessee.
42325. Does your observation extend much beyond your own estate, or are you kept very much at home through the nature of your occupation as a banker?
—I am pretty much from home, and I have had to do with deer forests pretty extensively, especially of late years.
42326. With regard to the demand that is now so generally expressed by small tenants and crofters for an increase of land over the Highlands generally, are you aware there is such a demand?
—No, I am not aware there is of my own knowledge.
42327. Do you know Glen Urquhart pretty well?
—No, I know the Balmacaan district, but not the upper part.
42328. But you know it is a very populous glen, with a number of small holdings upon it?
42329. A fertile glen?
42330. I suppose almost the opposite in appearance and cultivation from Glengarry?
—Yes, so far as arable ground is concerned.
42331. Have you ever heard that the people in Glen-Urquhart are very comfortable and happy?
—I have heard they are very comfortable, and they look it.
42332. In your paper that you have given in to the Commissioners, you go very much into the question of sheep valuations, and so on. You complain of that, and I will only refer to it for a moment. You complain that the system of sheep valuations has become what may almost be called a scandal?
—Yes, I think that the prices have been fixed at much too high rates of late.
42333. Has that scandal of high prices and high valuations not arisen out of the system of large farms?
—Not entirely, because it applies to small sheep farms as well as large.
42334. Do you think it necessary now-a-days, when there is such a thing as fencing all over the country, that it should be imperative on the incoming tenant to take the stock at all, or the whole stock?
—I don't think it is right to make it compulsory, but as matter of fact it is of great advantage to the incoming tenant to get stock on the ground.
42335. The whole of it?
42336. Even at the high valuation?
—No; I think that part is wrong, but it might be rectified. It is an excrescence which has grown up on the system.
42337. Do you think the Highlands, taking them all over, are overpeopled at this moment?
—No, I do not see they are, except the particular districts where they are congested.
42338. Then where they are congested would you be in favour of emigration or migration?
—I think both might be applied with advantage. I would rather see migration, but I think that would perhaps not entirely meet the case.
42339. I presume you are in favour of emigration to some extent. I suppose you mean voluntary emigration?
42340. Suppose it were necessary to get assistance from Government for emigration or migration, which would you recommend as the more preferable way of applying Government assistance or relief?
—In that case emigration, if the Government were to assist.
42341. Why ?
—Because I think it would be rather a risky thing to commence to pay for migration in this country, and because so much assistance would not be required in that case. I mean the people themselves would be able to migrate, whereas in a great many instances they are not able to emigrate, and I see no other means of accomplishing it, but by their getting help either from the Government or some other source.
42342. Neither migration nor emigration is necessary on your estate?
—No, we have only the population we require, and no more.
42343. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You have given a table of all the deer forests in Scotland?
42344. What means did you take to ensure its being accurate?
—I knew many of them personally, and I applied to others for information, but I may mention that in lodging the paper I stated to the Secretary, that I should like to reserve power to correct the figures if I found it necessary afterwards. It was with great difficulty that information could be got with reference to some of the places, owing to their not being let.
42345. What number of forests are there in Scotland?
—I make out ninety-eight in all Scotland.
42346. Are these entirely in the Highlands?
—Entirely in the ten counties which are dealt with in the paper—Aberdeen, Argyll, Banff, Bute, Caithness, Inverness, Forfar, Perth, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland.
42347. Forfar is not now a Highland county in the same sense as the rest?
—No, but there are four deer forests in it.
42348. What number of acres is there altogether?
—In the ninety-eight forests, I make 2,006,926 acres.
42349. How much is that in proportion to the general acreage?
—It stands in the relation of 16.2 per cent, of the whole acreage of the counties concerned.
42350. And what percentage of the rest is arable, and what under pasture?
—I found it impossible to ascertain that, but I believe that the land under cultivation in the forests cannot be more than one-thousandth part of the whole acreage under forest.
42351. And what is the rental paid for all these forests?
—I make it out to be £143,542, but that includes value of grazings as well as value of shootings. The shooting, &c, value I make £86,125, and the grazing value £57,417.
42352. Is that a much larger rental per acre than the rental of the rest of the land?
—As respects the shootings the rental is higher than the usual rent of shootings. I may state that that rental is 2.7 per cent, of the whole rental of those ten counties.
42353. What is the number of persons in whose hands these forests are?
—I suppose just the same number as the number of forests, —ninetyeight. In one or two cases there are joint tenants, but very few,
42354. But there is one person in particular who has about a dozen forests?
—Yes; well, the total number of tenants will be rather less than the total number of forests.
42355. Do you think that the occupation of these forests by their tenants and their gamekeepers and gillies is as useful to the country as if they were under sheep?
—Quite as much, in so far as the circulation of money is concerned, and even as regards population. There are rather more people on the forests than there would be on them as sheep farms, and the amount of money circulated is infinitely more as forests than as sheep farms.
42356. And, speaking of them as a class, are the men who are employed upon deer forests as useful and good members of the community as shepherds?
—Quite as much so. I know of no people more respectable than the keepers and gillies in forests. As far as my own personal knowledge goes, the gillies are drawn from the crofter class themselves, and the crofters would really be the last people to wish for the abolition of forests, so far as they are personally concerned, because they derive a great deal of pecuniary benefit from them.
42357. We have had the opinion given us to-day that land occupied by deer is less productive than that occupied by sheep—that the pasture is deteriorated more by deer than by sheep; what is your opinion?
—I quite disagree with that. The complaint really is that deer forests are more apt to grow wild, as it is called, that the grass gets too luxuriant, instead of deteriorating under sheep.
42358. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated that the population of the northern counties has not diminished to speak of, if you take a range of fifty years; but, of course, that is to be qualified by the other statement that the rural population has very materially diminished?
—Yes, it has to a certain extent.
42359. Although perhaps not more than in the southern counties?
—No, not quite so much.
42360. And that the depopulation, so far as it exists, is not to be attributed to deer forests?
—No, not in any degree.
42361 The reason of that being that deer forests were only made out of sheep farms which were previously cleared?
42362. When it is said then, that the people have been removed to make room for sheep and deer, it is simply an inaccurate expression?
—Well, it is not accurate to say they have been removed for the purpose of making deer forests.
42363. Is it not merely an inaccurate phrase? Deer are there where people were ?
—That is the case.
42364. Have you any reason to suppose that if it had been people instead of sheep that were there, the forests would not have been made all the same?
—I don't believe they would to the same extent.
42365. To a certain extent, people have been removed for the sake of deer?
—I don't know of any cases myself.
42366. In your statement also, I find that the depopulation is said to be due to the emigration that took place, greatly, it is stated, to the benefit of those who went and those who remained. I think it is generally admitted that those who went away are better than if they had remained, but the people who remain say themselves they are if anything rather worse off?
—Well, 1 have never heard any one say that. I have heard many of that class say to me it was a good thing for those who went away, and that they themselves were the better of it, seeing they had more room.
42367. To what extent has your experience of that class of people gone?
—Well, on several estates,—on our own estate and on several others.
42368. How many have you got on your own estate of that class of tenants?
—Some hundreds altogether.
42369. How many families?
—About sixty to eighty families of that class.
42370. Holding land?
—Yes, more or less holding land.
42371. And how many are there whose portions have been enlarged because of emigration?
—I cannot state that, because it was before my time considerably.
42372. So you have no actual figures to dispute the statement of the people themselves, that they have been by emigration rather confined than otherwise?
—As far as my experience of the people goes, the opposite statement has been made to me.
42373. But you don't know of your own knowledge to what extent the holdings of the people have been enlarged by giving them the holdings of the people that went away?
—No, I have only the general statement to make. Malcolm
42374. Where the population is very thick in the Western Islands you have no personal knowledge?
—No personal knowledge.
42375. But within the district you yourself know, the crofting class has not diminished within your time?
—No, not at all.
42376. But it diminished before your time?
—Well, the number of people diminished,—the number of people who held crofts diminished,
—but the extent of land held under crofts did not diminish, as far as I know.
42377. You don't know any land just now under sheep farms or deer forests that were under small tenants formerly?
—Nothing, but what is occupied by the shepherds. I am speaking of our own estate. I know nothing but what the shepherds held. There were, no doubt, a few small tenants on the estates, but I cannot, tell to what extent they held arable ground.
42378. This statement, then, that emigration is generally admitted to be for the benefit of those who remain as well as those who went, you would confine to your own estate?
—No, I mean it to apply to the whole districts concerned, because, as far as I personally know and as far as I have heard, it applies to all the districts. It may be incorrect, but it is according to my information.
42379. Your information is that the crofts of those that remain have been increased through the emigration that took place?
42380. That is in the district with which you are acquainted?
42381. In the other districts with which you are not acquainted, the statement was made that while the area was not increased, a remnant of those who did not go away was thrown in upon the existing population, so that the latter end was worse than the first?
—I have heard statements to that effect, but it is not consistent with my knowledge.
42382. It is not the case in the districts you know?
42383. But of course you cannot speak as to the districts you don't know?
—No, except what I have heard from well-informed people.
42384. I see you notice the introduction of sheep into the country, and you say that little or nothing was known of sheep before the Norman Conquest; how do you know that?
—I have read it. It|is only from book knowledge that one can ascertain that.
42385. Are you aware that in the first book written in this country, so far as we have books now, there are sheep spoken of?
—You wont go far in the Bible without meeting with mention of sheep, but I still say as matter of fact, that sheep were very little known in this country before the Conquest.
42386. In the life of St Columba, to which I allude, not to the Bible, written some hundreds of years before the Norman Conquest, a countryman of mine going across to Iona to steal the Saint's seals, was prevented from stealing the seals, and got a present of wedders?
—I am not prepared to deny that sheep existed before the Norman Conquest. I only say they were not an important industry till then.
42387. Does this not prove the fact of sheep being of importance in Iona?
—It proves there were sheep there, but I do not take your statement to be that they were a very important interest in those days.
42388. Of course, we all know that as a great industry in this country sheep are of late importation?
42389. It commenced when?
—Systematic sheep farming was not practised in the Highlands, I suppose, till about the middle or beginning of last century.
42390. In your own district or country the system was rather unpopular among the people when it commenced?
—Yes, I have heard that.
42391. I suppose there is a sufficient amount of literature to that effect?
—Yes, I believe it was not liked at all till they recognised the advantages of it.
42392. Do you think the people have recognised the advantages of it,—the population of the country?
42393. In what respect?
—They found that sheep farming was much more profitable than cattle farming which was practised formerly.
42394. So you would not like to agree with what Mr Macdonald, a previous witness said?
—Certainly not, because it was found that the value of land in those days, or the rent derived from cattle farming, never stood higher than as about one to three compared with the rent derived from sheep farming, when sheep farming was in its best days.
42395. But, now, that things are taking a change, would you agree that it might be advantageous to have a little more cattle breeding?
—No, not to a great extent, because I believe it is the experience of all large sheep farmers that you cannot, with advantage, have a large cattle stock along with a large sheep stock, for this reason, that cattle going on the lower ground so foul it, that when the sheep come down to those lower grounds in the winter, they are sure to have a great deal of braxy, and the deaths from that cause more than counterbalance any advantage from the keeping of cattle.
42396. I suppose the people attribute the disappearance of that disease very much to the separation of the cattle from the sheep?
—Yes, it is less than it was formerly on that account.
42397. So that, even in its present comparatively unmarketable state, sheep farming is preferable to cattle rearing?
—Yes, if tenants could be found to go on with it.
42398. But how can you propose to carry it on without tenants?
—Well, at the present time there are a great many sheep farms unlet. That I attribute to the extravagant prices given for sheep at valuations. The fact is, any sheep tenant who has a chance of going out just now, whether at the end of the lease or otherwise, is sure to take advantage of it, because of the extravagant prices given for sheep, and that very reason deters new tenants from coming forward to take sheep farms. They are lying upon their oars at present, and I hold that to be a justification for proprietors letting, at the present time at any rate, those sheep farms as deer forests, seeing they cannot let them as anything else at present.
42399. Has not the size of the farm something to do with it?
—Of course; the evil of these extreme prices arises in an exaggerated form when a farm is a very large one.
42400. Might not another remedy be found, and an arrangement made by which the proprietor might not in all cases be obliged to take over the stock?
—I don't think that would be an advantage to the succeeding occupier of the farm. It is a decided advantage to him to have a stock upon the ground ready to go on with, and which has been acclimatised to the ground.
42101. What I am looking to is this, that your remedy for this unfortunate state of things,—tenants clearing out and the very high price of stock,—the only remedy you seem to have is to afforest the place?
—That is the only present remedy I can see.
42402 Would you look to that as being the only permanent remedy for the future, —to be afforested or disafforested according to the price of stock?
—-No, I look forward to the time when sheep farming may revive. The depression among sheep farmers is due to the very low price of wool, and the wool of the sheep forms a most important item to the tenant.
42403. But even after the revival of sheep farming, might not exactly the same state of things occur that prevails just now, and you could not always be afforesting and disafforesting according to the price of stock?
—Of course it might arise again.
42404. Don't you think a remedy might be found in giving tenants the liberty to agree among themselves about the stock, and not always obliging the proprietor to take the stock, and thus almost forcing him to afforest the land?
—Yes, if you got tenants to agree among themselves, the one to give up and the other to take the stock at the end of the lease, that would be the best plan.
42405. At present the proprietor is bound to take the stock?
—Not in all cases.
42406. Would you prefer that rule to the present almost forced practice of afforesting?
—Yes, I would prefer that the one tenant should give up and the other take the sheep stock voluntarily, and, if that were done, of course there would not be the same necessity for afforesting. The present difficulty is to get tenants to do that. I cannot get incoming or succeeding tenants at present to do it.
42407. Don't you think the very size of the farms has increased the difficulty?
—It has exaggerated the difficulty as regards the taking over of sheep stocks.
42408. Apart from all other economical considerations with respect to the population, would not that even point to the advisability of reducing the size of these farms?
—Yes, I admit there are too many extra large sheep farms at present. It would be better if there were more of a moderate size.
42409. But, as between sheep and deer, so far as the population of the place is concerned, you don't see it matters very much whether the place is under the one or the other; but for a crofter population it is rather an advantage to have deer than sheep?
—Yes, as regards the people, I think there is very little difference. For one thing, there are more people required for deer forests than for sheep farms.
42410. And do you think that the crofter population in the neighbourhood of the deer forest is greater than on a sheep farm?
42411. That is from your personal knowledge in your own district?
—Yes, because they derive more employment and benefit from the deer forest than from a farm.
42412. The sportsman is more liberal than the farmer?
—Yes, and he has more to do.
42413. I am assuming, of course, that the arable land is thoroughly fenced?
42414. Do you think it is better to be a gillie than a shepherd?
—Well, if he is living at home with his father it is a great boon to him to be employed as a gillie for two or three months. He gets almost no employment from the sheep farm.
42415. There was a statement made here as to the effect upon the general character by being employed for two or three months at a very high wage in an occupation that involves more or less going about, —not hard steady hand work, —and that that had a tendency to induce comparative idleness for the other eight or nine months, partly from the nature of the occupation, and partly from the wage received. Has your experience been sufficiently long or varied, to enable you to say whether that is a fair representation of the effect of gillie employment?
—I think it is very inaccurate. So far as my experience has gone, the gillies are as respectable a class of men as any other. In fact, so far as I have personal knowledge, the gillies almost entirely consist of crofters, and many of them are married steady-going men, and just as respectable as any other class.
42416. As matter of theory, to an outsider who does not know, the statement made has certainly a very plausible look, but you put your observation, as it were, to make the statement the other way?
—I have never seen or heard anything to support it.
42417. Have you seen a good number employed when they were very young, such as eighteen and twenty?
—No, there are very few, I think, employed at that age.
42418. Supposing they were employed at that age, would you see anything from the nature of the employment itself, or the exceptionally high wage received, that would rather have a doubtful tendency upon the life of a young man for steady employment afterwards at a lower wage?
—No, I don't see why it should. I know what takes place on a deer forest during the season, and I know of nothing that goes on to lower the character of a man, be he gillie or anything else. The usual wage for a gillie is 3s. a day, and if he has a pony, which he may have, he gets 6s. He gets nothing beyond that, except lunch on the hill, and some deer forest tenants allow a glass of whisky besides, but I am glad to say that that custom is being very much departed from, and many proprietors and tenants of deer forests are allowing gillies Is. a day extra, and allowing them to provide their own lunch for it.
42419. Supposing a young lad of eighteen were employed at that wage for three or four months of the year, and afterwards, from a change of circumstances in the place, he was bound to take employment as a shepherd or ploughman after twenty-five years, of age, do you think his previous experience would be of service to him for steady plodding occupation, without lunch, or scouring the hill, or anything else?
—I don't see why it should prejudicially affect him as such.
42420. The previous training is quite as good as though he were trained to that particular work?
—Of course, if he were trained to some other occupation, the three months during which he was at another occupation would be lost to him, but it would not materially affect him in any other way.
42421. You don't see anything in the occupation itself that would be prejudicial to his after life?
—Not at all
42422. The Chairman.
—You spoke of the sheep industry generally, as a thing of recent introduction into the Highlands. I perfectly understand that sheep farms in the hands of capitalists must be so, but surely the possession of sheep among the original small tenants of the country must have been a thing almost universal. How were the Highlanders fed, and how did they get their clothes?
—Of course they had what are called the aboriginal sheep in those days, which are nearly extinct now; but they were held in very small numbers, and on the introduction of the blackfaced sheep which came before the Cheviots, the aboriginal sheep were found to be so unprofitable that they naturally
disappeared. I do not mean to say there were no sheep in the Highlands. I only mean to say that when blackfaced sheep were introduced, systematic farming was introduced.
42423. And the clothing in the Highlands has always been woollen?
—So far as I know it has.
42424. Does history point to any period when the art of weaving was unknown in the Highlands?
—I cannot say when it was introduced into the Highlands.
42425. But you don't know whether since the introduction of weaving the Highlanders ever imported wool for their own clothes?
42426. Then they produced sheep enough to dress the whole country? At least they did not export any?
—Yes, that was always the case.
42427. Our time is so limited that I cannot ask you any questions upon the general question of deer forests, but there are two statements I should like to ask you a question or two about. At the end of the statement you say, ' The number of deer forests is not now likely to be much increased. There is not much more suitable land, and there are not many more people pecuniarily able to have deer forests.' Now, that is a very important question for us, because, as you must be aware, the idea that there might be in future a large expansion of deer forests at the expense, as it were of lower and more productive grounds, would, if entertained, produce a great share of public discontent. Why do you say that there is not much more suitable land? What do you understand by suitable land?
—I mean the highest land in the Highlands, because every one acquainted with deer forests knows that deer can only be found at their best if you have high, rocky, and to a certain extent, waste ground. You may have deer coming upon low ground, which may be called ground suitable for farmers or for crofters; but you will not get the deer to come there soon enough to be in what may be called first rate condition. They come too late to be shot. You must have a large extent of high and rough ground, full of corries, before you can have a good deer forest.
42428. The red deer prevailed at one time over the lowland hills, and is not unknown, even in England now. They don't seem to deteriorate by pasturing on low ground?
—But they are out of season. When they come down to the low ground in the Highlands they are not
fit to be shot.
42429. I understand that for a manly sportsman, an area of ground including a large amount of elevated and precipitous hills might be a much better deer forest,—better for his sporting exercises,—but still might there not be large tracts on the borders of the highest ground between the Highlands and Lowlands, which if cleared of sheep, might afford a very good area for the pasturing of deer, and a sufficient amount of manly exercise for] the sportsman?
—There is still some ground that might be devoted to that purpose, no doubt.
42430. And the ground to be devoted to that purpose in future would rather be, in an economic sense, better ground than has been devoted to it in the past?
—Yes, probably it would, seeing it would include a larger proportion of low ground.
42431. It would include a larger share of arable and possible arable than the present forests!
42432. Why have you got the impression that there are few persons left pecuniarily able to take forest? Granted that forests might possibly be formed, why do you think there are not in the centres of industry, in England and elsewhere, people who would be disposed to take a forest?
—Because the demand for forests has really slackened of late considerably.
42433. Supposing there were smaller forests at moderate rents,
—I don't mean moderate relatively to the value of the ground for other purposes, but I mean small deer forests, the rent of which would not be very high,—say £400 or £500 a year,—do you think a good number of areas of ground might not still be let at rentals of that sort?
—Well, a forest of that size, corresponding to a rental of £400 or £500, would be really of very little use for sport. The deer would be too confined, and a sportsman going out to such a small area would immediately drive off the deer, and two or three days' sport would do it unless the forests were fenced, and in that case, the forests being so small, the deer would very soon deteriorate, and not be worth the while of anyone to go after them; so I think very small deer forests are practically unworkable.
42434. You stated that there are still cases in which farms on being vacated by the sheep tenant may or must be let by the proprietor as deer forests. With a view to the nature and area of the ground which may in future be offered as deer forests, if such is the case, I would like you to state your opinion generally as to whether it would be safe or desirable for proprietors to treat this question entirely in an economic point of view with reference to their own interests,—that is to say with reference to getting a good rental, —or whether it is not desirable to treat the question in some degree with reference to the food supply of the country and with reference to the moral and political effect on the minds of the
—Well, I think all three considerations ought to be taken into account, but I am not prepared to say that if a proprietor cannot let his sheep farm, and if practically it cannot be let as crofts, he is not quite justified in an economic sense as well as on other accounts in letting it as a deer forest.
42435. You have intimated an alternative which I have not heard before, that it might be desirable for proprietors to try whether it could be let out as crofts?
—Well, I don't think it is feasible with regard to nearly the whole of the deer forests at any rate.
42436. But you think it would be desirable, from what you state, that an effort in that direction should be made?
—I was only putting the hypothetical case,—that if he could not let the farm as a farm or as crofts, he was justified in letting it as a deer forest.
42437. Mr Cameron.
—I think I understood you to mean, with reference to the future chances of letting additional ground as deer forests, that if you let the lower and what might be called in an economic sense the better portions of the land as deer forest, without surrounding them with fencing, the deer at the proper time for shooting would go away to the high ground, and the sportsman would be paying rent for very little result?
—Quite so. That is experienced at present by the occupants of low ground forests. They cannot get a deer at the proper time to shoot, and they come back in winter when they are not fit to be shot.
42438. So, in point of fact, the proprietor of a low ground estate would be wintering and affording shelter to animals which would afford his neighbour on the higher ground sport?
42439. I should like to know whether you have verified the figures you have given, or consider them tolerably accurate, as to the number of sheep whieh would be available in the market, supposing all the present deer forests were turned into farms?
—I have, and in order not to understate the number, I have given effect to certain considerations.
42440. As I understand it, the number of sheep you make out as displaced by deer forests is 335,900?
42441. You deduct one-third as neither being bred nor wintered in forests ?
42442. Leaving 223,934 ?
42443. These are sheep bred upon ground at present under sheepfarms, and that would be put upon the deer forests if again stocked with sheep?
42444. Of those 223,934 you assume that one-half are three-year-old wedders, and are those alone that could go to market?
42445. And that leaves as the annual produce, on ground now occupied by forests, 111,967?
42446. Have you compared that, at all with the number of sheep that are raised in Great Britain?
—I have compared it with the number as taken from the agricultural returns of last year.
42447. You have taken these tables from the agricultural returns?
42448. And I see by those tables that the number of sheep in the United Kingdom in 1882 was 27,448,220?
42449. And the number consumed during the year was 9,149,406?
—Yes, that is assuming them to go to the butcher at three years, just as our Highland wedder sheep do; but in point of fact the low country sheep are slaughtered when they are perhaps two years old, and some of them at eighteen months; but I have not taken that into account, which would, of course, still more diminish the proportion of mutton coming off the deer forests to the whole meat supply of the kingdom.
42450. So, if your figures are accurate, whereas there were 9,149,406 sheep consumed that were bred in the United Kingdom, the number of sheep that could be consumed -in one year from the deer forests as at present existing is 111,967?
—That seems to be the case.
42451. And that is, of course, irrespective of all the mutton imported into the country, and the beef bred in the country and imported?
—Yes. I have given that in the same table, and wrought out the relation of the numbers.
42452. In regard to the cost of wintering, the previous witness did not seem to say much from his own knowledge, but he stated he thought that fifteen or twenty years ago the price of wintering hoggs on
turnips was 3d. or 3½ d. each per week, and that it has not been raised since?
—I think it could then be got cheaper than that, and now it is very much higher than what he stated
—3d. or 3½d. each per week.
42453. What is your opinion of the relative cost of wintering hogs on turnips fifteen or twenty years ago?
—I think it is about three times the cost now compared with what it was then. I have had experience of it.
42454. I believe you managed two large sheep farms?
—Yes, for a long time.
42455. Then Mr Macdonald stated that the grouse in the deer forest might yield a good deal of income; is that your experience?
—No, I never heard of anybody who took the grouse into account in taking a deer forest.
42456. What I mean is, if they chose to take grouse into account, whether the ground occupied by deer forest does not consist more of long and green grass than of heather?
—Yes, it is mostly all green ground and rocky, and some moss no doubt, but there is very little sound heather in forests as compared with sheep farms.
42457. There are exceptions,—for instance, Glenmorriston,—there might be very good grouse shooting on the forests there?
—On the forests that have got low ground of course there is.
42458. And Glenmorriston no doubt is an exception. Good grouse shooting can be obtained in the forest there?
—Yes, the forest that runs down to Loch Ness has good ground on it for grouse.
42459. Then, taking the forests all over, would you say that the rent could be obtained from grouse and sheep would be equal to the rent given for the deer forest as it is?
—No, larger rents are got for the ground than as sheep farm and grouse combined.
42460. About the altitude of deer forests, did you hear Mr Macdonald's evidence on that point? He gave 700 feet as the highest altitude at which ground could be profitably utilised by crofters, and he stated that a considerable proportion of the deer forests in the Highlands was under that altitude?
—I think there must be very little indeed so low as 700 feet. I know that the ground on our estate, and on all the forests I am acquainted with, runs, much of it, up to between 3000 and 4000 feet, and that high ground is really the best ground for deer foresting.
42461. In a reply which you gave to Mr Fraser-Mackintosh upon the subject of migration or emigration, I understood you to say you would not recommend the advance of public money for purposes of migration, but you would do so for emigration where it was desirable?
42462. If it were found feasible to transfer the crofters from some of the very overcrowded holdings on land occupied either as deer forests or sheep farms, and if, in order to render that feasible, it were found necessary for the proprietor to go to considerable expense in building houses and reclaiming land, would you not think that Parliament might advance money as it did formerly during the potato famine, at a low rate of interest?
—If it were put in this way—as an exceptional case for relief from clamant distress, I would not object to it, but if it were done merely to assist the proprietors in removing the people I do think it would be a risky thing to initiate. There would be other interests wanting the same thing done for them; but if it were done to relieve distress, I do think the Government would be justified in helping them.
42463. If it were done to bring about a healthier state of matters in the congested districts, and if it were found that the land could be profitably used by crofters, and that the only difficulty was the want of money on the part of the proprietors to reclaim these lands or build houses, would that not be a case where Parliament might be asked to advance money at a low rate of interest to enable those benefits to be carried through?
—Quite so. I thought you meant advancing money merely for the purpose of removing the people from the north to cities.
42464. No, I mean removing them from overcrowded crofts to sheep farms or deer forests?
—If that were determined on, it would be merely a question of advancing money as the Government has been doing all along under the Lands Improvement scheme.
42465. But I don't know if the Lands Improvement Commissioners would lend money at the low rate of interest I contemplate?
—It would depend on the rate of interest. I don't see anything wrong in Government doing that.
42466. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You close your paper with the remark that what is called fixity of tenure would be a gross mistake if applied to Highland crofts, and that it ' would infallibly prove to be a direct premium on indolence, and the foe of all enterprise and push in the great majority of cases';—what do you understand by the words (fixity of tenure)?
—I understand it to mean a state of matters in which a lenant could not under any circumstances be removed from the land.
42167. Then did you form that opinion as to its proving a direct premium on indolence from experience, or is it a theory?
—Well, not from any personal experience, but from what has been experienced of it in other countries, and from knowledge of the effect that such a state of matters has upon the people generally.
42468. Have you seen the experiment tried anywhere on the property with which you are connected?
42469. Then you cannot speak of it from practical knowledge?
—No, I state it as my opinion.
42470. What is the ground of your opinion?
—The ground of my opinion is that if you give people the opportunity of sitting still, without any spur to them to improve themselves, a certain class of people are very likely to take advantage of that and not help themselves.
42471. Is it no stimulus to a man, and does it not make him take more interest in the land and work it better, if he has the assurance that he will not be disturbed there while he does his duty?
—It will have that effect on some people, I admit; but with a great many people, perhaps the majority, it would never have that effect
42472. Then, of course, the possession of the land as proprietor would have a still worse effect, and make him still more indolent?
—No, if the land belonged to himself, I think it might have a stimulating effect to do something for it.
42473. Then if it were possible that these people should become themselves proprietors of the land, that would have an inspiring effect upon them, and it would be worth their while to make the best of the land?
—Yes, for a person takes an interest in what is his own absolute property more than if he had only a partial interest in it.
42474. Is it correct then to say that fixity of tenure would necessarily lead to indolence?
—It is only my own opinion that it would be a mischief in the Highlands,—in present circumstances at all events. It would be better to grant leases.
42475. Is that not fixity to some extent?
—No, I don't consider it fixity.
42476. Is it not fixity beyond a year?
—It is fixity for a term of years.
42477. Would not a long lease be fixity of tenure so far?
—I mean a lease of not more than nineteen years.
42478. Do you think the character of the Highland crofters is such that it is better for themselves that they should be tenants at will, and in a position to be evicted yearly on forty days' notice?
—No, I don't say that I think, on the whole, it would be better to give them leases, and to give them encouragement to improve their places under leases.