Inverness, 13 October 1883 - James Mollison

JAMES MOLLISON, Factor for Dochfour (55)—examined.

42839. The Chairman.
—You have a statement?

42840. Will you please read it?
—'I come before the Royal Commissioners with the twofold purpose of giving my views generally on the great question now under their consideration, and of remarking upon the evidence given before them on the occasion of their sitting at Glenelg on the 4th of August last, by parties calling themselves delegates, and therefore supposed to represent the district for which I they spoke. And I shall also be willing to answer any question the Commissioners may wish to ask respecting any portion of the estates that have for the last fourteen years been under my charge, or in respect of any evidence that has been given at the present sitting. The district of Glenelg, which I believe was alone represented at the sitting of the Commissioners to which I have referred, has been largely under my management for the last fourteen years, and I am therefore intimately acquainted with whatever has taken place within the district, both in respect of ownership and occupancy, during the period I have named. I am not going to follow the delegates in their statements to the extent of repeating them, but I will give facts and particulars, anent the various statements submitted, which I must beg of the Commissioners to compare with those laid before them at their sitting above referred to. I should therefore like to notice —first, that there are about twenty crofters on the Kirkton and adjoining lands. The crofts vary in size from one acre up to seventeen acres, and the rents vary from £1 up to £10, 10s .; these crofts are wholly green land or arable, and in each case the croft includes the cottage and other housing of the
occupant. There are also about eleven cottars in the above district, and these pay rents varying from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per annum, wrhilst a few pay no rent at all. There are also a number of paupers' houses for which the proprietor has not been in the habit of charging rent, but the inspector of poor has been in the practice of allowing able-bodied men, not paupers, to occupy these houses, and the practice cannot be continued. The population connected with these crofters and cottars numbers about one hundred. On the 1st January last, the number of milk cows owned by the crofters was twenty-four, and the number of other cattle was also twenty-four; there were two working horses, and several swine, but no sheep. Besides the Kirkton of Glenelg district on which the above crofters and cottars reside, there is also the Arnisdale district on Lochhourne, which also belongs to Mr Baillie of Dochfour. In this district there are two fishing hamlets, with a population of about two hundred; these occupy about thirty-four crofts, varying in size from 1½ acre up to four acres, at rents varying from £ 2 up to £ 5 , 10s., but, with only three exceptions, the rents do not exceed £2 for both houses and land.A number of the houses occupied by these people are miserably poor, many comparatively unthatched, and otherwise greatly neglected; there is, however, abundance of thatch to be had at no inconvenient distance; as in the Glenelg district, rushes grow in great abundance on the carse lands, along the river banks, and to prevent these rushes injuring the pasture, they are largely mown down every year, and are allowed to lie on the ground, or to be carried away by the river to the sea. These rushes make excellent thatch, and might readily be tied up in sheaves, and carried —if not in carts, in the fishermen's boats, to the very door of every cottage in Arnisdale, so that not one need be without thatch; many are, however, in a deplorable condition, necessitating the removal of roofing every other year; yet young and able-bodied men may be seen on any day throughout the year, in groups at the eud of each other's houses, keenly discussing imaginary grievances, rather than attending to the improvement of their cottages or crofts, or the performance of any kind of regular labour whatsoever. Besides the crofters, there are in this district about ten cottars, some of whom pay 5s. per annum of reut, while others pay nothing. On the 1st of January last, there were only six milk cows and a few stirks belonging to the entire population of the Arnisdale district, a few swine also, but no horses, nor sheep. It appears from the evidence of some of the delegates that there is a desire for more land, so that more cows might be kept. I have to state in connection with this, that at Whitsunday last intimation was made that grazing would be supplied on the farm of Eileanreach, which comes close up to the village of Cambusbane at 30s. per annum for each cow or stirk, but up to this time only two parties have taken advantage of the offer. The village of Corran could be most conveniently accommodated with cows grazing on the farm of Arnisdale, where it is stated that the tenant Mr Milligan charges the very high rate of £ 3 for each cow. I find, however, that this charge covers not only the cow's grazing, but that of two followers, probably a stirk and a calf. It was also stated to the Commission that a good many years ago the villagers of Corran were deprived of a portion of the hill they had long enjoyed as grazing. I have made most careful inquiry as to this, and I am able to state that there is not one shade of truth in this statement. The system that now prevails is the same as that which prevailed about eighty years ago, and the charge for grazing is also the same as it was about eighty years ago. But by the now current lease of the farm of Arnisdale, it is provided that land may be taken and enclosed as a grazing for the crofters; but up to the month of August last I have not been asked for additional grazing, and then by one gamekeeper only; and in connection with this question of grazing, I may state that I find considerable quantities of hay are cut by the crofters off their crofts, and carried for many miles for the supply of neighbouring sportsmen, showing that there is grass and hay sufficient to feed more cows than are at present kept. I need not say that these statements are greatly at variance with those made by the delegates, but they are facts which cannot be gainsaid. I must also give my contradiction to other statements made before the Commission while sitting at Glenelg. For instance, it is not true, as stated by the delegates, that the Arnisdale crofters pay £ 2 for every acre of land they occupy. The Cambusbane and Corran crofts, which are the only crofts in this district, were laid off about eighty years ago; I believe they were laid off all of one size, and, with three exceptions, they are all of one size still, viz,, 1¼ acres. The rent for each, including the cottage each tenant lives in, is £ 2 per annum, and there has been no change in this charge since the crofts were first given off, —at any rate, there has been none during the last fifty years. It is also not true when it is stated that no work is given upon the estate. I can only speak for the last fourteen years, but I can say that during that time not a year has passed in which the proprietor has not given a consider- able amount of employment to labouring people; and at the date on which the statement was made that no work was given, there were no fewer than-twenty seven workmen in full employment by the proprietor upon the Glenelg estate. And I find, on referring to pay rolls, that as many as fifty different hands have been employed in different places since June last; and although the work generally in hand was largely unskilled labour, not a single man from the village of Cambusbane or Corran sought or accepted an hour's work. I have also to say, that in previous years I have been obliged to take workmen from Dumfries- shire and from Inverness, when those upon the estate, either from habits of sheer laziness, or from even worse causes, could not be intrusted with the work, although of the most ordinary description. It is very painful to have to make these remarks, but they are true, and in the true interests of the people ought not to be kept back, as has been far too much the case during the present inquiry. It was also stated before the Commission, that the crofters and cottars on the Glenelg estate have had to pay for rough timber for the repairs of their houses. I am not aware of a single instance in which timber for the repair of a crofter or cottar's house, for which the proprietor receives rent, has been either charged or paid for. It is true that timber has been refused for re-roofing of sheds and outhouses, and that for the reason that the occupiers will not thatch such buildings, and that roofs so neglected will only last a few years. I have to mention, however, while speaking of grants of timber, and I do it with regret, that on the occasion of the high tide of November 1881, when many of the Glenelg fishermen's boats were broken or carried away, the proprietor made a grant of a considerable quantity of larch timber for repairs and building of boats. This timber had to be brought from Glenshiel, as the larch in Glenelg was too old and too hard for the purpose. It was cut off the root by the proprietor, and he also offered to pay fifteen shillings per week to those of the fishermen who could work the strip saw, as several of them could, so that it might be cut up on the spot, and thus be more easily transported. The offer was, however, refused, and twenty shillings per week asked, showing an ingratitude that induced the proprietor to withdraw his offer of fifteen shillings entirely. The timber had therefore to be carried from Glenshiel in rafts upon the sea, but for this the fishermen were paid, from funds publicly collected; but when the rafts arrived in the bay at Kirkton, and while Mr Mundell, the tenant of Eileanreach, Mr Mackintosh of the hotel, and Mr Baillie the proprietor, had each a horse upon the beach ready to drag the logs on shore, not a man would giye a hand to assist in this operation unless paid for doing so, and Mr Mundell and others, in order to save the timber, had to do the work, standing knee deep in the sea until all was landed. Notwithstanding all this, I believe some of the delegates stated before the Commission that " had the fisherman got the money they could have bought the timber cheaper." And it remains to be stated that much of the timber may still be seen lying rotting behind the fishermen's houses, or by their potato plots, never having been used for any purpose whatever. I am sorry to have still mere to say of the indolent and improvident habits of these people. In June 1882, some seven months after the disastrous storm of November 1881, and at the rent collection for Whitsunday 1882, a number of the fishermen met me, every one of them able-bodied young men, and told me they were unable to pay any rent. I replied, " All arrears due at Martinmas have been struck off, in consequence of your loss of boats in November, but all succeeding rents must be paid." I asked if their boats and nets were ready for the fishing season drawing near? The answer was, " Neither boats nor nets are ready." I asked further, if they could themselves make and mend their nets? They answered, " We can; but," said they, " we can buy them cheaper." These men, and many others belonging to the place, had been all but absolutely idle during the winter months, and these are the men who asked for timber to repair their boats, and when rafted to their doors, refused to take it from the water. They ask for more land, while that which they have grows weeds and docks taller than the sturdiest fisherman amongst them. They ask for work, and when it is at their doors they refuse to do it. Might not their numerous advisers tell them that such habits would ill compare with those of our east coast fisherman 1 and that such can only lead to that privation and misery which too much prevails amongst the crofter fishing population of the Highlands, and that if such were practised by our low country labourers our poorhouses would be filled in less than six months. The counsel given is, I regret to say, of a very different character. There was still further evidence given before the Commission at Glenelg which I must notice, viz., that of Donald Macpherson, Kirkton. This man represents himself as occupying a croft. He has, however, no such occupancy. He lives upon a croft occupied by his mother. He is a carpenter to trade, but I am sorry to say far from being useful in the place, either to himself or his family. The croft occupied by Macphersou's mother extends to 17 acres, at a yearly rent of £10, 10s. The arrears af rent due at Whitsunday last were £31,10s. The croft is the largest in Glenelg, and the only one in arrears, showing that the larger the croft the worse for the occupant. Macpherson is a good fair tradesman, and he was some years ago given employment at Dochfour, with a house to live in, with the view of inducing better and more industrious habits, but after a short trial of six months it was, I regret to say, found necessary to part with him. He has since had the offer of a gratuity of £15, and his mother the offer of all arrears of rent written off, if he would remove entirely off Glenelg. This he refuses to do. His mother must, however, be removed from the croft, the buildings being entirely in ruins, and a cottage is now in course of being built, by the proprietor, to admit of this being carried out, without hardship to the poor old woman. Macpherson in his evidence stated that Mr George France, who was for the last thirteen years local factor on the Glenelg estate, evicted a poor widow, so that he might himself occupy her croft. There is not a shade of truth in this statement; there never was such an eviction. Mr France had no power to evict any one, his duties being to carry out instructions given him from time to time. But Macpherson was not the only one who in giving evidence attempted to reflect on Mr France's local management; I must therefore, in justice to a highly intelligent and faithful servant, say that beyond being so, Mr France was a true friend to the poor people, and the working men on the estate, and it is not too much to say that the latter class were in very different circumstances at the date of his leaving from that in which they were at the time he went to Glenelg. I never heard of a total abstainer in Glenelg prior to Mr France going there; ultimately, through his influence, there were at least a few, and I believe it would be no worse for Macpherson were he one of them. There are working men iu Glenelg at present, living in comparative comfort, having a cow for the use of their families, who had not 5s. in the world at the time Mr France went amongst them, and I leave these men to say whether his influence operated for or against them. I have also to notice some remarkable evidence given by the delegate Donald M'Rae. This man occupies a croft of about five acres useful land, within a few hundred yards of the village of Kirkton, and pays a rent of £2, 10s. Macrae tells wdiat he thinks is a clever story of the late Mr Donald Home, W.S., who he says turned him out of Kirkton on account of the clever point of this same story. Macrae can scarcely say he is out of Kirkton yet, although he had certainly to remove out of his former house, which was a little nearer Kirkton, and a little further from his croft than where he now lives. This removal was, however, in consequence of the house he then lived in being in ruins, and unfit for habitation. The house he now lives in is upon the croft, and the croft is the same he had when living in the former house. The removal, as he calls it, took place after Mr Home's connection with Glenelg management had ceased. Indeed, after his death, Macrae also goes on to say that he recollects 400 of the Glenelg people leaving it for America in one day. I believe it is safe to regard M'Rae's statement as untrue from beginning to end. I do not regard the foregoing statements, nor the contradicting of them, as of very great importance, because they really apply to comparative trifles, but it shows to what au extent the
truth has been evaded, and the most wilful misrepresentation set before the Commission, and in this respect it is to be feared Glenelg is far from singular. This must surely be looked upon with regret, for no one doubts that there is need for great amelioration in the circumstances of the fishing, labouring, and crofter population of the Highlands; but getting at a true and permanent cure for this can only be by getting at the true disease itself, and this cannot be by wilful misrepresentations, nor can it be by exciting hopes that can never be realised. I have lived thirty-three years in the Highlands, and during the whole of that period I have been very closely connected with the labouring, the crofting, and the fishing population of the counties of Inverness, Sutherland and Caithness, and I have closely watched and carefully considered the whole question now before the Royal Commission, and I am more convinced to-day than I have ever been that an extension of the crofter system will not be beneficial to the crofters themselves, but the reverse. One cannot, forget that the whole West Highlands, taking one season with another, is ill adapted for the growth of corn crops, and that even with good cultivation a boll of meal will cost much more to grow it than it will to buy it; still it is a fact that, in the estimation of almost every Highlander of the working class who has a home of his own, a great charm attaches to a croft, and while it is so it is surprising that in no other part of the kingdom will the labouring man's croft be found so slovenly cultivated, and to the occupier so worthless, as in the West Highlands. But what is most to be regretted is, that the worthless croft forms an inducement and an excuse for the occupier to stay at home, and waste time that would be so much more profitably spent in regular employment at fair wages. It is no doubt true that in the Highlands labour cannot be got without going some distance from home, but no more can it be for many in the low country. There also the labourer has often to seek work five to ten miles from home, which is about as bad as if it were thirty miles, for, in either case lodgings will have to be paid for, no doubt shortening the sum available for the use of the family at home; still it is much better than all that can be derived from a few acres of even the best of land in the West Highlands. My opinion is, that the most comfortable home for the working man in the West Highlands is, a cottage with potato land and grazing for a cow, nothing more than affording employment for his wife and the younger members of his family,—either that description of home, or a grazing farm sufficient to afford him full employment, and in such a case, the occupier would require to be fully experienced in the management of stock, and possessed of at least £500 of capital. It is really this class of holding that is being sought for by the Highland crofters and cottars at the preseut time, and that too without a thought of where either experience or capital is to come from. It is believed by many who are now zealous counsellors, and apparently anxious about the amelioration of these people, that it is a very simple thing to manage a small stock farm; but I venture to say it is very much otherwise, and those who now seek to aspire to it would speedily find it so, for without both experience and capital, coupled with incessant care and attention, ruin would be the result, and that in a very few years, even had they the land rent free. I speak with confidence when I say that the proper management of grazing land and sheep stock is now more a science than is the highest class arable farming. We have it stated every day by those who know very little of what they are speaking about, that the larger-sized farms are proportionally lower rented than smaller-sized holdings are, and that as a matter of profit to proprietors, the larger farms ought to be broken up; now, as a matter of fact, the larger-sized farms throughout the Highlands are in the hands of men of the highest practical skill, men who have been, and who still are, exerting every known means for maintaining their stocks in the highest perfection, both in respect of judicious breeding and thorough
management, both at home and at wintering. They know and adopt the best means for managing pasture land; they know also the best and most economical mode of dressing their flocks, so as to keep them free of disease, and promote the growth of the fleece; and it must also be kept in view, that shepherding, and also marketing, can be more economically done with large flocks than with small, and in spite of al that can be done in this way, many can tell with truth, that they have of late years been loosing money to the extent of double their cents. I could name a farm on the west coast
—and not a large one —on which a few years ago, a little over £2000 was lost in one spring by death in the ewe stock. The sheep stock in the Highlands was never in greater excellence than now, and never of greater money value; it is not too much to say that the stock on many farms is of considerably more value than half the actual value of the farm itself. Can it be possible that a gigantic interest such as this is to be tampered with, by making experiments such as many utterly unacquainted with the real question now venture to propose?—experiments too, that would certainly pauperise in a very few years the class intended to be benefited, and not only so, but the land and the stock to be experimented with would be so deranged and ruined, that a period of five-and-twenty years would not suffice to restore either the one or the other. These are no extreme views, but views arrived at after a long and intimate experience of the several questions evolved; but whether these views are believed in or not, I know they are not generally commended, but sometimes actually condemned. On looking closely, however, this condemnation will be found to come sometimes from those who-do not altogether practise what they preach. We have a rather striking instance of this in one jf the Glenelg delegates, who in his evidence somewhat significantly warns the Highland proprietors of coming danger, and tells them " to give their small tenants more land, before the spirit of Socialism gets possession of the Highlands." No one can fail to see the underlying dangerous influence of such a warning, particularly as it comes from the church. If, however, we look at the actings of this same speaker, we find that in place of supplying either cottars or crofters—although there are a few of the former living on his extensive glebe, who recently very urgently demanded an allottment of land from Mr Baillie —this speaker lets his glebe lands almost entirely, both arable and pasture, and to a tenant occupying adjoining lands, to the extent, as reported, of 30,000 acres. It might well be asked of this counsellor —seeing what his views are —whv the glebe cottars were not supplied from arable lands lying at their very doors, before these lands were let to one who is already the holder of so much? Every person of ordinary observance, who either lives in or frequents the Highlands, must see that there is need for improvement in the circumstances of the working and fishing population, and that it is a very easy matter with people in that condition to arouse that discontent and excitement that have of late been so conspicuous amongst a hitherto peaceable class; and well it would be, if
those whose privilege and duty it is to give counsel, would have the honesty and the courage to teach the propriety of more, diligence and industry, and even to tell many who seem to forget the fact, that misery and poverty are the certain outcome of morbid indolence and discontentment. Much of the teaching given of late has been on different lines, with already, in some cases, sad results. In nothing has this teaching been more successful than in rooting out and destroying the naturally good feeling and healthy dependence that have so long been cherished as binding elements between Highland lairds and their tenants, both great and small; and it is to be deplored that not a little of this teaching has emanated from a quarter whence it ought to be least expected. I have said that an extension of the crofters' system in the Highlands is not to be approved of, and I have given some of my reasons for so saying; and I believe that to raise the crofter from his present position to that of a farmer by any artificial means is impracticable, and even were it not so, it would certainly lead to disaster to the parties so treated, and that within a very short time. And all who know anything of practical sheep farming must know that large grazings, surrounded by crofters or small fanners, would be altogether unlettable at their real value, as well as unworkable. In such cases nothing could prevent trespassing, and the consequent abusive disturbance of stock, and the effects of this during breeding seasons would be ruinously vexations to large farmers; and besides all this, there would be great risk from disease that has so constantly to be guarded against, and which would be ruinous in large stocks, although little thought of in small. Something, however, may undoubtedly be done towards the permanent amelioration of the labour- ing and fishing population of the Highland and Islands, over and above giving them cow's grazings and potato land. Is it not the fact that deep-sea fishing is comparatively neglected along the whole western seaboard and sea-lochs of Scotland, and is it not likely that if properly prosecuted these would afford an enormous source of employment and wealth, as well as largely increase the food supply of the kingdom? I cannot speak from actual experience of this, but I am well aware that large numbers of well-equipped fishermen come long distances, and at very great expense, from the east coast of Scotland and elsewhere, and often reap goodly harvests under the very uoses of those who it may be said live upon the spot. This is more in respect of herring fishing, I admit; but these men would readily prosecute line fishing in the west, as they do at home, ha I they the same facilities for sending their fish to market. It is no doubt true that deep-sea fishing in the west is a perilous calling, as it is everywhere, and from this and various other causes it has never been prosecuted by local fishermen to an extent worth naming. But surely something can be done to promote this great industry in the west as has been done elsewhere, so as not only to give profitable employment to the superabundant population, who are almost to a man naturally seamen and fishermen, but also to increase the national food supply. Might not some thorough experiments be made, both in line fishing and in trawling, and made in the presence of local fishermen, who, if possible, ought to take part in the work. And if these experiments should prove at all satisfactory, or even encouraging, improved Jumps anchorage and the erection of landing piers, to a reasonable extent ought to follow. We know that some of the better varieties of flat fish, and also haddock, are not to [be found in the west coast waters; but cod, ling, saithe, lithe, mackerel, halibut, and many other varieties of excellent table fish are iu great abundance, and in large sizes, but unless for immediate family wants scarcely an attempt at fishing is made. Shoals of excellent mackerel were this season in abundance in several lochs in the west, but local fishermen said they were not worth the catching; they could not sell them, and they could not cure them. All this shows that the means for transport- ing fish in a fresh state to market is also required, and thus all the more should deep-sea fishing be prosecuted as it ought to be. The herring only is regarded as worth fishing for in a wholesale fashion in the west, and it is sad to see scores, yes hundreds, of able-bodied young men waiting day after day and week after week in idleness for herrings to appear. Sometimes this waiting is not in vain, and extraordinary harvests are reaped. I believe it is not too much to say, for there is good evidence of the fact, that during the seasons 1881 and 1882 upwards of £500.000 worth of herrings were caught and sold off one sea-loch in the west of Inverness-shire. This fact one can scarcely realise, for the sum named is larger than one year's total rental of this large county. Not so this year, however, for it is to be feared that the herring fishing in the west of Inverness-shire has been almost a blank, and the waiting spoken of has therefore been in vain. It is this waiting for a harvest they are accustomed to have for the reaping, that has proved the very bane of our Highland crofter fishing population. The provident outlook so requisite to enable the working classes every- where to provide for a rainy day, is almost unknown in the West Highlands, and the result of this cannot be otherwise than it is. The same indolent improvidence amongst the working classes in the low country would bring about a state of misery tenfold more than is known in the West Highlands, for there a wholesome fish diet can always be had by the very poorest. And while this is largely trusted to, and is the cause of much improvidence, it can hardly be doubted that had local fishermen in the west the means and the knowledge for prosecuting deep-sea line fishing or trawling, they would not be so often waiting in idleness, and although deep-sea fishing might be less a harvest than herrings, the regular employment thus induced would lead up to increased dilligence and more independence, as well as more real comfort to themselves and their families, and they would be all the same ready when herrings should appear to take advantage of their favourite calling. The worst for our west coast fisherman is, that when heavy shoals of herrings do appear, east coast fisherman are at once upon the scene, and these fishermen, with their superior boats and nets, and greater courage, all but drive our local men off the waters, and the gleanings of the field, so to speak, are all that falls to their share. It is in respect of all this that I think the most solid and lasting help might be given to the superabundant population in the west in some such way as I here suggest. Some have suggested emigration, but it is useless to talk of emigation to these people; they have not the courage to emigrate. Their fear would be that, as at home, tbey would be crushed aside, and thus left to starve. Their energies must first be aroused, and a spirit of greater independence stirred up, and if this can be done, the west coast Highlander has both intelligence and physique to enable him to " keep his own" both at home and in any other part of the world. At present his energies and his intelligence are comparatively lost both to himself and to the country at large.

42841. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I wish to put a very few questions to you with regard to the paper you have read. It is divided into two parts. The first is directed to counteract, in your opinion, the observations at Glenelg, and the next is giving your opinions upon the question generally?

42842. Are you not aware considerable dissatisfaction prevailed among the people in Glenelg with regard to the general administration of the local factor, Mr France?
—I am not aware.

42843. Did you not receive, now and then, when he was under you, complaints against the way he was going on?

42844. I believe he is no longer factor upon Glenelg?

42845. May I ask whether he left of his own accord, or did you wish to make other arrangements?
—He left of his own accord.

42846. You did not discharge him?
—Not at all.

42847. And you say that, during all that time, you received no complaints from the people about him?
—I never received a formal complaint of any kind. I knew quite well that there were bickerings amongst them—I presume that is not uncommon—but I received no formal complaint. I knew there was no occasion for complaint.

42848. Was there not considerable litigation between Mr France or the estate, and some of the people on the estate?
—There was no litigation in connection with the estate. There may have been between him and
private individuals, but it had nothing to do with the estate, or with the management of the estate.

42849. When he went away did he receive any testimonial from the people?
—He did.

42850. By the people generally?
—I am not sure how far it spread. I know it was very hurriedly got up. I was present at the presentation; and I know he got a presentation a few years before that of very considerable
value, from the people generally.

42851. You had another factor under you at the same time with Mr. France?

42852. He was present here to-day—Mr Maclennan?

42853. Can you really affirm distinctly that the estimation in which Mr Maclennan was held at Kingussie bears any relation to the estimation in which Mr France was held at Glenelg?
—Mr France had a very difficult duty to perform. The Kingussie people are feuars; and with the exception of half a dozen tenants, I don't know Mr Maclennan had anything to do with them in the way of control, but in Glenelg it was a very different thing entirely. Mr France exerted himself for the amelioration of the people in a variety of ways. It is well known that no man can deal with any affairs without giving offence somewhere, and I say that the people with whom Mr France came into contact —particularly the working people—were very much ameliorated from his residence amongst them.

42854. He was a great advocate for temperance before he went there?
—Yes, and he continued an advocate for temperance, and improved the circumstances of the people very much in consequence.

42855. You have, in your paper, commented rather severely upon the character of many of the people; can you attribute that to any particular cause?
—Well, I am afraid it can be attributed to a cause which is too general in that part of the country. I have heard it said that climatic influences are at work, but I don't believe anything of the kind. I have taken those people repeatedly, and given them periods of employment; and, though it appeared very irksome at first to keep our hours, they came to be tolerably good workers; but no sooner did they go amongst those at home inclined for idleness, than they became as ill-disposed to do a day's work as ever.

42856. Glenelg is a large district?
—It is a large acreage.

42857. And is chiefly occupied by three farms?
—Oh ! no—Eileanriach, Arnisdale, Scalisaig, Beolary, Kyle Rhea, and Balraid. There are half a
dozen large farms at least.

42858. What is the name of the farm in the big glen?
— Scalisaig on the one side, and Beolary on the other.

42859. Don't you think the consolidation of farms was carried in former times to rather too great an extent?
—I know there has been a considerable population in that glen at one time, by the ruins I see there.

42860. But don't you think the depopulation was carried rather too far in the glen in former times?
—Well, judging by the circumstances of those who have been left upon subjects as suitable as that, I would say the reverse, for there was anything but comfort among those who were allowed to remain. I should say that those who emigrated, did well, for judging by the circumstances of those who were left, there is not much inducement to say it was a mistake.

42861. Would it not perhaps have been better if you had sent a representative to contradict the assertions made at the time in presence of the people?
—I was not in the least degree aware of anything being said that required to be contradicted.

42862. And at that time you did not happen to have a local representative?

42863. Is there a local representative now on the estate?
—A temporary one.

42864. Has the new proprietor been among the people of Glenelg since his accession?
—Yes, twice.

42865. I suppose it is hardly fair to ask whether his opinion of the people is the same as yours?
—Well, I can only speak for myself.

42866. I observe in the latter part of your paper, that the increase of the crofting system is in your mind, if practicable, erroneous?
—I say I consider it would be a mistake.

42867. But surely all the complaints we have heard in different places of want of more land must have some foundation?
—I say distinctly that there is a great charm that attaches to a croft, and almost every one who has a home has the idea that he would like to have land; but from my experience I say he would be a great deal better without it, because it keeps him at home, and there is an inducement or excuse, and he does not take out of the land all he could take out of it. Considering the mode of cultivation and the climate, it is very little, so far as my judgment goes, that can be made out of a Highland croft.

42868. Did you hear the evidence of Lord Lovat's factor to-day?
—I did not hear it fully.

42869. The purport of it was that a good number of his crofters who had plots of arable land to the extent of £ 30 were uncommonly well off, paid their debts, and were anxious to get renewals?
—Yes, but that extends to something larger than we have any experience of in Glenelg.

42870. Do I understand your objection to the crofting system only applies to the west coast?
—Only to the west coast.

42871. I thought it applied generally?
—Not at all.

42872. Do you think that that great glen is not capable of sustaining in comfort more people than there are at present, if they would set their minds to it ?
—There is no doubt there is good soil there, but we have always to contend with the climate, and apart from growing green crops and hay for stock, I am not convinced by any means that it would be a profitable thing to grow grain crops there.

42873. Speaking generally, we have heard all over the country a great deal of this demand for land; what would you propose to do with the people who want it ?
—I would sooner see large arable farms cut up for crofts than talk of breaking up Highland grazings. I think it would create a disappointment and diminution of value that a great many of those who are speaking of it have no conception of.

42874. What I am speaking of is this, supposing it to have been ascertained that there is in this country additional land capable of being reclaimed, that could be given to crofters with some of the old lands attached to it, do you think, rather than that should be done, the people should be driven away from the country ?
—I don't approve of emigration at all if the people can be supported at home, and I repeat I would sooner see arable farms broken up and made suitable for the population than make any attempt to divide the grazing land, because the grazing land is only profitably worked in large sections. I know it is impossible to keep stock profitably and carry on a system of breeding as it should be without a large stock, and it would almost amount to the value of some of the subjects to attempt it. I see no reason why some of the arable land should not be made available; and if we were able to induce our Highland population, who have plenty of physique and intelligence, to occupy arable land in the low country, where they would see the operation done, they could not but be spurred up to apply themselves with more energy, and they would acquire skill when they saw it on every side of them.

42875. Then, I infer, you are rather in favour of migration from certain congested localities?

42876. Mr Cameron.
—You mention, in your paper, that no hill grazing was taken away from the place called Corran?
—None. I heard of it by mere report, because I did not see it in the newspapers. It was reported to me by people in Glenelg, that it was stated the Corran villages were deprived of land that was at one time allotted to them as grazing. I made particular inquiry on the two occasions I have been in Glenelg since as to whether these were facts or not, and the answer I got from two of the oldest men, was that there was no change whatever; that from all time—at least during the last fifty or sixty years—the arrangement was, that whoever took an animal to a certain grazing paid a certain sum for it.

42877. And no change has been made?
—No change has been made. The only change has been by the present tenant under his present lease
—they have had to give up a certain section of land so that it could be fenced as a common grazing for these villages, and what led Mr Baillie to adopt that, was what took place on the banks of the Spey. There we have common grazing, and as much as forty or fifty acres, at so much a head; and my impression is that, if these people want cows, that is the most simple and workable way. The ground is near their homes, where they could drive an animal and bring it in with little trouble, and make the whole thing more workable; but up to this time only one individual has asked for the privilege. If even half-a-dozen would ask for it, it would be at once supplied.

42878. As I understand, it is the intention and has been stipulated in the lease of the farm, that this privilege shall be accorded whenever it is required ?
—It is.

42879. So, in that case, the crofters are in a better position with regard to hill pasture than they were before?
—They might be.

42880. But you are certain no hill pasture was taken away from them ?
—If I am certain of anything I hear, I am certain of that.

42881. We had evidence from a factor a few days ago, who was asked whether certain hill pasture was taken away that the crofters said was taken away, and he declared positively it was not the case, and then the crofter appeared with a friend and maintained stoutly that it was so ?
—Well, here it is—surely a better provision than if they had had it.

42882. Will you tell us the circumstances under which this minister you refer to refused to give pasture to the crofters ?
—I don't say he refused, but I say he condemns such action as that, and I know he lets his glebe almost entirely with the exception of two small fields. He lets his entire glebe, pasture and arable, to the adjoining tenant.

42883. But you are not sure whether they ever asked for land ?
—No; but I know there are parties living on the glebe, and if they had asked Mr Baillie it would have been more convenient than part of the glebe lands.

42884. About the twenty-six people who were employed by Mr Baillie in Glenelg; what was the nature of the work ?
—We were engaged in the erection of a saw-mill and pitching a considerable stretch of the beach
where the sea had been encroaching upon the arable land round from the Established Church to almost the mouth of the Elg.

42885. Was the nature of the employment such as would be likely to last for a considerable time?
—It would last for so many months; it is not finished yet.

42886. And when that is finished, will there probably be employment of some other kind given ?
—There has been always employment on Glenelg estate duriug the last fifteen years. There has been from £300 up to £800 or £900 expended on labour alone. I have taken the trouble to inquire, and I have the notes in my pocket, if necessary, for every year since 1870.

42887. What is the population of Glenelg; I mean the district from which these people came that might be supposed te be benefited?
—There will be a population of 400 or 500,

42888. No more than that?
—I dont think the population of Mr Baillie's property is more than 450.

42889. We have heard a great deal to-day about sheep farms and deer forests. Is Eileanriach now occupied by a tenant?
—No, it is occupied by the proprietor.

42890. Can you state under what circumstances it fell into the proprietor's hands?
—I know it was at first from the death of one of the tenants.

42891. The lease was not out?

42892. And in consequence of a certain arrangement Mr Baillie had to take over the farm of Eileanriach. What steps did he take to get a tenant?
—The farm was advertised in the ordinary way in various newspapers.

42893. Had you any offers for it?
—Yes, we had offers.

42894. From people you would be inclined to accept?
—Yes, it was the rent that was the difficulty.

42895. Now, what percentage of what you consider a fair rent did the highest of these offers come to ?
—It was not more than half of what the farm was rented at a few years ago.

42896. About half ?

42897. And you did not feel yourself justified in accepting that on Mr Baillie's behalf ?
—--No. I knew there was an element in operation that was bringing about such a miserable offer as that, which in all probability would be out of the way in a short time. I heard of it to-day at this table. I refer to the extreme rates that have to be paid where stock is taken over at a valuation.

42898. How do you expect that system to come to an end?
—I think, if it does not come to an end the letting of sheep farms will come to an end, because very few men are able to pay such extraordinary rates.

42899. Do you allude to the extreme rates current in the market, or what are caused by what one of the witnesses called scandalous valuations?
—I call it a fictitious valuation.

42900. Do you allude to the rates in the open market or to the valuation ?
—I mean the difference between the valuation and the market value of sheep.

42901. How do you think that is likely to come to an end, —I mean the system of valuation ?
—I don't see any difficulty, as the farm gets out of lease, in adopting the principle of giving and taking stock and making it optional to both parties. If you have an incoming tenant, he might or might not take the stock. Every one knows that the stock bred upon the farm is of more value to the incoming tenant than to any one else. If it were left to the two men, the incoming tenant might say, I admit it is of more value to me than any stock I can buy in the market,' and the outgoing tenant would not be such a fool as to take them to the market where he would get no more than the market price.

42902. I quite agree that it would be a much more satisfactory and a fairer arrangement than at present, but how do you propose to get rid of the present system under existing leases, because in an existing lease the outgoing tenant is entitled to have valuation for his stock. The incoming tenant again might say, ' I decline to leave the farm upon different terms from those upon which I am bound to enter it'?
—There is nothing to prevent the proprietor implementing his agreement with the tenant that is going away, and making a different arrangement with the man that is coining in. Mr Baillie is doiug it. He is taking over the stock, and when the farm is let again I am bound to say there shall be no such system iu operation. I have been able to effect it with another farm when out of lease, that he shall give it to the incoming tenant without this system of valuation being maintained.

42903. Then every farm would have to pass through the proprietor's hands in order to effect that change?
—No, but you can surely step in between the two tenants, and say—' I take the stock from the outgoing tenant, and I can give it to incoming tenant by a mutual agreement between us,' and then he starts fair.

42904. But in order to change the system, the proprietor would either have to take the farm for a long or short period into his own hands, or he would have to pay a fiue upon every change of tenancy amounting to the difference between the valuation price and the price got from the in-coming
—It is so.

42905. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—It would be only once?
—Only once.

42906. Mr Cameron.
—Has Mr Baillie any crofters on the east coast here?

42907. What crofters has he?
—We have three little districts that are occupied by crofters—one almost in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, another right behind Dochfour, and another to the west of Dochfour.

42908. We have had a good deal of evidence as to the different treatment which various people have suggested with respect to the east coast and the west coast crofters, especially as regards hill grazings, and as to whether they should be in common or whether the pasture should belong to the tenants individually. It has been suggested that on the west coast common grazings are more desirable, and on the east coast they should have independent grazings ; what is your opinion upou that subject ?
—It would still depend upon the class of grazings. You might be disposed to give every low country crofter his pasture along with his arable land, but if it was to involve to keeping of stock separate, then, if the pasture were to any extent pasture such as a moor, I would say it would be just as right that it should be held in common in the low country as in the Highlands. I see no difficulty at all.

42909. Is the management of those crofting farms you talk about pretty much the same as the management of the crofts in Glenelg?
—I may mention that one set of crofts upon the Dochfour property at a former period had a common grazing attached to these crofts. That has not been in operation since Mr Baillie succeeded to th« property, but it was up to a very short time—up to the immediate period before he got possession of it. I allude to the crofts of Lochend to the west of Dochfour. These crofts at one time had a common grazing, as I understand it, and when the property was purchased by Sir John Ramsden (about whom one of the Commissioners knows) it was done with the object —or at all events it was done for the ostensible reason —of making an excambion with Dochfour, and during the interval of being purchased from Sir John Ramsden I am able to state that the crofters of this immediate district were deprived of their hill grazing. That, I believe, however much Mr Fraser-Mackintosh may have changed his mind since, was carried out by himself as commissioner for Sir John Ramsden, and those people were deprived of their hill grazing, and a very great hardship it was considered to be.

42910. But it was before your time?
—It was before I had anything to do with it, but not before my time. It was immediately before the
excambion was carried out of the Laggan estates.

42911. But what is the position of the crofters' community at Lochend? Comparing the west coast crofters, are they treated in the same way in the matter of having common hill grazing, or in a different manner?
—-As to the crofters in the immediate neighbourhood of the town here, there is no pasture attaching to them at all. Every crofter has so many acres arable land, and every crofter has his independent subject, with probably his horse and cart, and when he is not employed at home, he is employed at carting stones, or whatever labour may be going at the time, and these people are, so far as I know, in perfect comfort. I see from the papers it was stated by one of those who were examined on Thursday, I think, that this same set of crofts, at a recent period, was increased in rent 200 per cent. Now, I would tell the speaker that this statement was exactly 100 per cent, from the truth, for the increase was precisely the half of that or very nearly; and I have no hesitation in saying that if these crofts were exposed in the market, they would bring double the rent they are paying now. I myself had an offer at the time of £105 for the whole to be held as one, and it is let for £79, and the former rent was £10.

42912. Then, as regards the industry of the crofters, you speak in terms which I rather regret as to their power of cultivation; do you find the same to be the case with the crofters in the neighbourhood here?
—No, it is different altogether. They are an excellent, industrious class of crofters here, both in the immediate district and elsewhere.

42913. How many crofters have you?
—About twenty-eight.

42911. What average rent do they pay?
—About 20s. an acre. Five or six are just what are called black folds.

42915. How many acres has each ?
—From eight to nine acres. £78 is the present rent of those in the Sligachan district. It was represented
that it h i d been raised 200 per cent., but formerly it was £10, 3s. 0d. The total average is 78,875 acres. It is slightly under £ 1 per acre. The Lochend district has 98 acres, and present rent is £105, or slightly above £ 1 per acre —in fact, 22s. or 22s. 6d.

42916. Is that about the average rent paid by Mr Baillie's farmers'?
—Not very much under it.

42917. What is the average rent per acre paid by Mr Baillie's fanners in this neighbourhood?
—It will not be under 28s. or 30s. The greater part is rented at 40s.

42918. Do you consider it the same quality of land, or is it better?
—It is close by the town, and suited for dairy purposes a good deal.

42919. Big farms?
—Yes, and some of it used as dairy farms.

42920. Do you consider it better land than what the small tenants have?
—No, the land at Lochend is better than any of it.

42921. and that is rented at a little over £ 1?
—Yes, about 22s.

42922. Sheriff Nicolson.
—They have only six cows at Arnisdale among thirty-four families?
—That is so. That is what it was on the 1st of January, when I ascertained the exact number.

42923. What is the reason of that?
—It is impossible to tell. It may be that they have no desire for the bother of cows, or are not able to
purchase a cow; but it is not because there is not keep for a cow, because I made the offer when Mr Baillie took possession of this farm that cows and cattle should be taken iu upon this farm of Eileanriach at 30s. for each beast, and with two exceptions, that was all that was asked. As to the other village, there is no truth in the statement that the tenant charges £ 3 . I am satisfied that is for one cow and two followers, bat unless I am misinformed we are ready to give grazing on such terms as are reasonable.

42924. But there was uo grazing vacant until Eileanriach fell in?
—This grazing has been quite open. It is close to one village, while Eileanriach comes up to another village. There is a provision in Mr Milligan's lease that land can be taken off and fenced for cottars' and fishermen's cows if required, and if requested, it will be done.

42925. Do you think it would be taken, if there is to be an increase of crofters' land, to give them arable land rather than pasture land?
—I don't think that, not in the Highlands. I am confident that any attempt to grow grain will be disappointing there, compared to being without land altogether, so long as they hive a cow and land for a potato crop.

42926. Then, I suppose, the reason the people have not taken advantage of the offer of that grazing is that they cannot afford to buy cows at present?
—I scarcely think it is that, because with the extra-ordinary fishing last year and the previous year 1 am aware those people were not without money.

42927. But they had no fishing at all this year?
—No, there is no doubt they are in worse circumstances this year than last. It has been, perhaps, as disappointing a year as they have had for a long time.

42928. But if they were to get that grazing, would the arable land of Eileanriach go along with it?
—No, that part of Eileanriach that comes close to this village is about thirteen miles from Eileauriach, and there is no part of that land they could possibly get; but it is quite different with the other farm. There is excellent green land that comes close to them.

42929. Do you propose to let the arable part of Eileanriach without the grazing?
—No, the proprietor holds Eileanriach farm in his hands just now and it would spoil it to separate the arable from the grazing. It is twelve miles from Eileanriach proper, but it is still part of the farm that
comes in behiud the village and most convenient for them, only I don't call it first-rate grazing, because it is a very choice part that the villagers would be supplied from, and this part of Eileanriach is not really the same class of grazing.

42930. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You don't think, as I understand, there is any room for a class of labourers on the west coast except as fishermen?
—Well, there is no room at home just now?

42931. I think you say you object to extending the crofting system on the west coast?
—I do.

42932. Do you think the 1½ acres with cow's grass on the hill behind is sufficient for a crofter on the west coast?
—I won't say 1½ acres, because that happened to be the size that was let when these crofts were
laid off, and from what I read and hear, the proprietor at the time said he objected to give the fishermen, whose proper calling was the sea, crofts of any extent beyond what would supply them with potatoes and vegetables, and on that account this land was laid off in the sizes I have mentioned, and remains so, with- the exception of one or two that have fallen out, and I suppose fallen into the adjoining lot.

42933. What do you consider a proper size for a croft on the west coast?
—If it is a croft for the people situated as they are, 1½ acres is enough, but then they are fishermen.

42934. You don't think that a man with ten acres of arable, and pasture that would keep 200 sheep would make a fair living ?
—No, we have had experience of that too. One of the subjects Mr Baillie owns was fourteen years ago let to three tenants—one tenant having half and the other two a fourth each; previous to that it had been let in fourths. One of them failed, and gave up his position entirely. It was about the size you speak of, and the other offered for the subject as one. I took the lowest offer of the two, and now that party has failed also. This shows that that size of subject is not suitable, and it quite corresponds with my own experience.

42935. Is it not the case that the large sheep farmers have been losing money lately?
—I know if they had not great enterprise or means to fall back upon, they must have been ruined during the last five or six years, and I say that with any such period as that coming upon tenants
such as you now speak of, nine cases out of ten would simply be pauperism.

42936. Does not the same argument hold good against small crofters and small holders of arable land on this side of the country?
—I don't think it, because here, if the croft is too small to employ him, he can do something with his horse or by hand labour.
42937. But suppose a bad season comes or a long period of depression, so you think the large farmer is better able to withstand it than the small farmer?
—Yes, very much so.

42938. The grazing farmer?

42939. Is it not the same in the case of the arable farmer?
—No, not at all. I would be a strong advocate for medium-sized arable farms, but I would be the reverse in regard to grazing farms unless they are made unwieldy. I hold that shepherding, managing, marketing, and everything that follows the management of sheep stock, can be done cheaper on a large scale than on a small one, and it is not within my experience that those small tenants will maintain the breeding of sheep to that state of excellence that would command a price such as those command who know it by experience, and who are leaving no stone unturned to have their stocks in the best possible condition.

42940. Of course, a man brought up as a shepherd might have sufficient skill ?
—Perfectly true, and I am quite willing to admit that if you get a man of skill, with say £500, from my calculation, that would enable him to secure a possession that would be employment for him and probably one or two of his family; but unless he has full employment he is throwing his time away.

42941. You think it would require £500 to stock a farm of sufficient size on the west coast to give full employment throughout the year?
—I am confident of that. I have been at pains to ascertain it.

No comments:

Post a Comment