JOHN PETER, Factor for Lord Lovat (63)—examined.
42561. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement to make?
—I have a statement to make as to the condition and management of the smaller or crofter tenants on the Lovat estates in the districts of the Aird, Stratherrick, and Fort-Augustus, and also Morar on the west coast. Having seen so much diversity of opinion expressed before the Royal Commission on this subject, I have been induced to make the following statement on the success attending the management of the crofter population in the districts above referred to, as originated by the late Lord Lovat upwards of fifty years ago. His Lordship on coming into the personal management of his Inverness-shire estates in 1827, to which he had succeeded some time previously when a minor, found his crofter tenantry in a very reduced and helpless condition, and the cultivation of their holdings carried on in a very rude and superficial manner, many not even knowing how to handle a spade or a pick, and consequently the returns from their possessions afforded them a very scant means of living. The first step taken by his Lordship to improve matters was to find work for the people, and to teach them how to do it, and for this purpose he brought experienced workmen from his Aberdeenshire estate to instruct them, with the result that they soon became as good labourers as were to be found anywhere, and as able-bodied, through regular work and the better means of living, through the good and regular wages they earned. The next step was to have all the property surveyed and laid out in regular divisions, so as to be managed most economically, both in working and draining and fencing; the size of the crofts ranging from five up to fifty acres to suit the circumstances of the people going into them. At the same time, all grazings were cut off, as his Lordship found it was utterly hopeless to get any improvements affected while they possessed such, the object being to get each tenant's interest wholly centred in the reclamation and improvement of the land he had individual possession of. On the lands being so laid out, proper estate rides and regulations were framed, and nineteen years' leases granted to ever}r crofter, however small—except to a few on the west coast to be referred to later on —in which leases every crofter became bound to improve one tenth-part yearly of the muir ground attached to his croft from the beginning of his lease, by trenching 18 inches deep, clearing, draining, and liming, the trenching being done in the winter months when no other work was available; the muir ground being given to them at a nominal rent of Is. per acre, and on being reclaimed as above stated, became worth to the tenant from 15s. to 20s. per acre during the remaining years of his lease; and so well have these leases been appreciated by the crofters, that with the help given by the landlord in making roads almost to every croft, and all the open and outfall drains for the tenants, the arable ground on their holdings on the average has been doubled, and the crofters becoming the possessors of considerable holdings in many cases by the end of the first nineteen years; and some of the most successful, where the opportunity occurred by some crofters dying out, or removing from some special cause, getting two or more crofts conjoined, and made a small farm, and some giving up their crofts and taking a farm from Lord Lovat as it became vacant, as a reward for their labours. It may be further stated, in support of the success of the system, that fresh leases are always desired before the old are expired; and even in the recent depressed times, and bad seasons, when it was thought they would prefer holding by the year at the old rents, and not improving more for a time, it was found not to be so, and as soon as leases were obtained, fresh improvements in reclaiming and draining were set about with energy. It may be here mentioned that, in regard to the extent of ground improved yearly, Lord Lovat did not insist on one-tenth yearly as prescribed by the lease, provided every tenant was in his Lordship's opinion doing as much as he could. It may also here be mentioned that Lord Lovat, in the leases herein referred to, reserved power to remove any tenant on giving four months' notice previous to any Whitsunday term, and paying him for his improvements as specified in their leases, which payment is also made if the tenant gives up of his own accord, the object being to get quit of any one who would not do anything towards the improvements agreed for, or who had proved himself a disagreeable neighbour to the other crofters, or was dishonest, or a smuggler, sheep-stealer, and such like; but so little is this provision been acted on, that there are not ten cases during the last thirty or forty years among a tenantry of 600, and the crofters look on the leases as quite good for nineteen years, irrespective of the clause here referred to. All leases are made out at the estate office, and granted to the whole tenantry, large or small, without the slightest charge for them. Another strict rule on the Lovat estates may be here mentioned, that no squatting is allowed, any crofter taking any family to live on his croft beyond his own, being served with notice of removal at the first term; nor can any of his own family marry and remain on the croft, except the eldest son, if his parents are aged and require assistance. In giving this short account of the management on the Lovat estates in regard to the crofter tenantry, it would be most incomplete if another cause of the success was not specially mentioned,—the personal intimacy both the late and the' present proprietor have always had with their tenantry down to the smallest crofter, whose interests were as carefully looked after as the largest tenant on the estate, and indeed more so as being less able to maintain their rights; and it was the crofters' pride to show their improvements to their landlord, on his periodical visits to their several crofts, and which was usually rewarded by a helping hand from his Lordship in the next improvement they would point out as to be done; at other times it was the estate office the crofters came to meet their landlord, and obtain help in connection with contemplated improvements, all these helps being irrespective of any lease obligations, and no repayment ever asked in respect thereof.
The arrangement in this matter has been that the landlord gave the wood and the tenants put them up. In early times these houses were built with dry stone and turf, the roofs resting on Highland couples, and thatched with divot or turf first, and over this heather or broom; these were called black houses. They usually had no chimney or window beyond a hole in the roof and in the turf wall to let out the smoke and in the light, or so much of it; and frequently the cow was in one end of the house. These houses would barely see out a lease, and have now given place to what are called white houses, from the walls being built with stone and lime entirely, and with gables and chimneys at each end, and the landlord giving manufactured wood for them at a nominal charge to prevent its waste, and if properly applied, coming in the end to be given free; and from the difficulty of now getting thatch of any kind, the landlord is occasionally giving slates or sharing the cost of slates, by which the tenant has them as cheaply covered as with a common heath or straw thatch, and permanently, while the latter is so frequently requiring repair or renewal
On the Lovat estates no meliorations on houses or otherwise are allowed to arise, nor has been for the past half century and more. Whatever outlays are incurred are by the landlord, or the landlord and tenant jointly, which is the usual way, and in this case the tenant gets his holding at a rent that extinguishes his claim by the termination of his lease.
In regard to the crofters on the west coast property, a different cause has been pursued, the country and circumstances being so different. There being no extent of ground there under the old arrangement of the farms that could be improved, and the small portion that was improvable, the late Lord Lovat brought it in at his own cost in the years of the destitution in 1846-47, and gave it to the crofters; yet the extent was very small, and only served to grow potatoes, and some hay and oats for the bestial during winter; the arable ground on each croft being only from two to six acres, with a share of the adjoining hill as a common grazing to put their cows on during summer, when the crops are on the ground, and on the crops being reaped the cows and their followers are brought down to the crofts, and the hill ground is let as wintering for sheep, or grazed by a few sheep belonging to the crofters in fixed shares. Leases in this case have not been desired, the crofters having made no outlay on the ground. Their chief business is fishing, and the crofts are only for a house, with the keep of one or two cows and their followers for milk, and potato ground for their families. In addition to the reclaiming the ground by the late Lord Lovat in 1846 and 1847, a large outlay was also incurred at that time by his Lordship in making roads and a pier at Mallaig, without claiming Is. of the destitution money, the landlord always providing for the people on his estates entirely at his own cost. The present Lord Lovat has divided a portion of a farm on coming out of lease among a portion of his crofter people there who were over-crowded, and given them leases similar to the crofters around Hennfort and other places, but there has not yet been time to know whether the system will be equally successful there on the west coast.
42562. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Has there been a very great extent of land reclaimed since the late Lord Lovat came of age in 1827?
—Matters were not arranged till about 1838 or 1839.
42563. Since that time has there been a great extent of land reclaimed by the crofters?
—Yes, upwards of 1000 acres.
42564. They have received no actual compensation in the shape of money for that—only leases?
—Leases, and assistance in providing them with roads and drainage; open drains and outfalls.
42565. And material for houses?
—And material for houses.
42566. You mentioned that part of Lord Lovat's system was to cut off the grazings ?
42567. Had these crofters common grazings before that?
—Some of them had.
42568. Did their cattle graze on the hill pasture?
—They did, I understand. It was before my time.
42569. And you understand that was not found beneficial to the cultivation of the lands?
—No; his Lordship told me it was utterly impossible to get improvements done, when they had a piece of grazing ground to idle their time upon in place of devoting their energies to the cultivation of the ground.
42570. Then, as a first step to improvement it was found necessary to cut off the grazing land ?
42571. Do you think that would have been necessary if the grazing had been held independently and not in common?
—I think so. As long as a crofter has a piece of ground in the way of grazing he will go and idle his time looking after a few sheep, in place of devoting his energies to what would pay him much better.
42572. What is the size of croft to which you now refer?
—Perhaps from 20 to 30 acres, on an average. Here are some cases—14, 19, 21, 28, 23, 17, 32, and so on.
42573. Have the crofters who occupy these lands of 15 to 25 acres any other means of employment?
—It depends on the locality where they are situated. In some places they earn a great deal by carting and such work as that. At other places where they are too distant they must employ all their time on their croft.
42574. Is it your experience that a croft of fifteen or twenty acres is sufficient to afford a good subsistence to a tenant, though he has no other means of earning money?
—It depends on the croft, but I should say it would be too small to earn a living without other assistance.
42575. What size of croft would you consider sufficient to enable a family to live without assistance?
—From twenty to thirty acres.
42576. I think you mentioned as evidence of the success of this system that a number of the crofters had grown into farmers?
42577. Can you mention any particular cases where persons have begun with moorland and have held possessions of fifty acres afterwards?
—Yes, there are two in Kilmorack. One was Neil Thomson, who died the other day. He took in sixty or seventy acres altogether, and improved it.
42578. Do any of the crofters, when other crofts are vacant, offer for larger crofts?
—Yes, there was one man who was a contractor, and one way or another he made money, and he took one of these larger farms at £50.
42579. And you think you have sufficient evidence that those crofters who have employed themselves solely in reclaiming the land have made money by it?
—Yes, in many cases they have. Of course, it depends on whether a man is of economical habits.
42580. Have there been any cases of failure?
—No, very few indeed.
42581. And as to those that have occurred, do you think they are due to the character of the man or the misfortune of being settled down on a bad bit of land?
—Well, I hardly know a single case of failure. We have had a few cases in my time,—six or seven or eight,—but entirely from turning out bad characters, and being guilty of offences such as sheep stealing or smuggling.
42582. They have not devoted themselves to their proper work?
42583. What elevation is the land on which these crofters have been settled?
—The elevations are very very various.
42584. What is the maximum elevation where it has been found successful?
—I should think up to about 500 or 600 feet.
42585. You have heard the evidence to-day, and you have heard explained what is to be done with sheep farms when tenants will not offer for them?
42586. Do you think there are many of these sheep farms that could be peopled by crofters?
42587. For what reason?
—Because most of those sheep grazings are hill ground, and could not pay. I think it would be quite a mistake to attempt it.
42588. They are not lands that could be profitably subjected to the processes of reclamation adopted by the late Lord Lovat?
—Not at all. There is not the amount of arable ground that would warrant it at all.
42589. But I understand it was not arable ground on which this crofting population were settled?
—I mean, that could be made arable.
42590. You don't think the land on those hill lands could be made suitable?
—I don't think so, owing to the position of it, and the elevation of it being so steep.
42591. Mr Cameron.
—You said that on these small farms or crofts, on the east coast, it was found desirable that the crofters should not possess pasture in common, and that they should be self-contained, each man having his own pasture to himself; is that in your opinion also the case as regards crofters on the west coast, or do you draw any distinction between the two?
—On the west coast there is very little ground that could be improved, and we have not had experience. Lord Lovat was trying it about two years ago on a small piece of ground he had.
42592. I was not talking so much about improvable or non-improvable land, but of the system of crofters having common hill grazing or grazing individually on this new crofting farm, which Lord Lovat is seeking to establish on the west coast. Do you propose that each crofter there shall have his own grazing to himself, or do you propose that there shall be a hill grazing common to the whole?
—Each one to have his own croft, and no common hill grazing at all.
42593. I suppose the hill grazing on the west coast, acre for acre, is not by any means so good as the grazing which the east coast crofters would have?
—I don't know. It would depend very much upon the locality. Some grazings on the west coast would be quite as good as the grazings on the east coast. You are speaking of hill grazings?
42594. I am speaking of permanent pasture, as you would call it on the east coast?
—We have not such a thing among crofters on the east coast. If they have six or seven acres, we don't look upon that as it stands, it is only available for improvement.
42595. What I wish to point to is this, that on the west coast the quality of the ground is such, that if each crofter required to have as much land as would summer his beasts, it would involve rather a
considerable number of acres, if it was to himself alone?
42596. And therefore, perhaps, as they would require to be fenced, it would add to the expense of the croft?
—Yes, much beyond the value of it.
42597. Don't you think that, on the west coast, the system of common grazing might be more desirable than on the other side of the country?
—Except in the case of what is necessary for providing the families with milk —two cows' keep. I don't think it is at all desirable they should go in for grazings as farmers. In my experience small grazings have never been successful at all, even the grazings of small farms. There is too much time lost in looking after a few beasts to recompense the tenant.
42598. What size are these crofts on the west coast that you propose ?
—About the same as those on the east coast —about twenty to thirty acres.
42599. How much of the thirty acres would be arable?
—Perhaps half of it.
42600. And, of course, each farm would be separately enclosed?
—Yes, with a wire fence.
42601. How far has the experiment been carried up till now?
—It is only two years since it was done.
42602. Are the crofts occupied?
42603. How many are there?
42604. Is Lord Lovat satisfied with the result of the experiment?
—Up to the present time he is.
42605. And are the crofters pleased?
42606. Have they paid their rents regularly?
—Yes, they have paid quite regularly up to this time.
42607. There is not much congestion of population about Morar?
—Not much. There are not many tenants there altogether.
42608. The Chairman.
—You stated that under the system introduced by the proprietor or his predecessors, about 1000 acres have been reclaimed, and made arable by the instrumentality of the small tenants; what rental do you think the land was worth before it was touched by the improvers?
—Very little indeed.
42609. Would it be 3s. an acre?
42610. Then that is £150, multiplied by thirty years' purchase, which would make the land worth at that time about £4500, assuming it to be all done at once?
42611. Now what is the present worth of the 1000 acres in rental'?
—Perhaps from £800 to £1000—say £800; it is not all equally good.
42612. You think it may be fairly stated that this improved area is let, or could be let, without pressure at £800?
42613. And that at thirty years' purchase is £24,000. Well, the capital value of the land has been raised from £4500 to £24,000?
42614. That is to say the value of this block of property, so to speak, has been raised by £19,500. Now, how much of that rise of value is owing to the labour of the tenant, and how much to the co-operation and expenditure of the landlord? Can you give me any idea how much represents the expenditure of the landlord ?
—I cannot, but I should think a large proportion would be the expenditure of the landlord, between the work he has done in making roads and providing outflow and other drains, and providing wood for the houses.
42615. But you have never in your own mind endeavoured to form an estimate on this question?
—No, I have not.
42616. Do you think that the proprietor has contributed 25 per cent, or 50 per cent.?
—At least 50 per cent., and I think more.
42617. You think, then, the increment of value effected by the tenantry, might be calculated at something below £10,000?
—I think so.
42618. I should like to understand more particularly the system under which this result has been produced. When the land is first granted, under the improving lease, I find you state the muir ground is given to them at a nominal rent of Is. per acre, and on being reclaimed, as above stated, becomes worth to the tenant from 15s. to 20s. per acre, during the remainder of his lease. For how many years is the ground given out at a nominal rent of a Is.?
—Nineteen years. He holds it for nineteen years at Is.
42619. Because I find you say 'And on being reclaimed, as above stated, became worth to the tenant from 15s. to 20s. per acre during the remaining years of his lease?'
—That was after he had got it improved and made arable.
42620. But why do you use the word 'remaining '?
—After it became improved and came into cultivation so that he could reap the benefit of it. He had ten years before it was all unproved; that left nine years to run, during which he got the benefit.
42621. As soon as an acre or any portion of the ground is improved, is that improved ground charged with an increased rent, or does he pay Is. an acre for all the ground during the whole lease?
—One shilling an acre for all the ground during the whole lease. He might take it all in in one year.
42622. So he sits, during the nineteen years' lease, at the nominal rental of Is.?
42623. In the case of the tenant, during the course of the lease, leaving the ground through loss of health, or by death, or for any other reason, on what system is the value of the improvement calculated to him or his heirs?
—It is valued on a scale. If he remove five years after his lease begins, he would have £ 9 an acre paid to him on leaving; between five and ten years, £ 7; between ten and fifteen years, £ 5; between fifteen and nineteen years, £3, 10s.
42624. But without going into particulars, I understand the case is contemplated in the lease, or at any rate by the practice of the estate, that when tenants leave in the middle of their lease, and therefore in the middle of their improvements, they are reimbursed for the improvements they leave behind?
42625. Is that paid by the proprietor or by the incoming tenant?
—Always paid by the proprietor.
42626. Well, when the whole nineteen years of the lease are expired and the ground is to be let again, naturally at an increased rent, how is the value of the ground ascertained?
—It has been hitherto ascertained by myself.
42627. It has always been ascertained by you acting as valuator ?
42628. When you value the ground at the end of the nineteen years, do you value it to the resident tenant exactly as if he were a new tenant, so to say? Do you make the valuation of the land just as it stands, or do you in making the valuation, consider in any degree, the fact that the ground has been, in a manner, half created by his own labour ?
—I make it as it stands, and it is for the landlord to make any deduction. I make it on the value as it stands, just as if I were making it to a new tenant, and the same with all the farms on the estate—crofters and otherwise.
42629. But then, when it is re-lotted, is there practically a kind of favour shown to the old tenant?
—There is, by the landlord.
42630. When he comes to settle the rent?
42631. So these crofts are, in your mind, practically valued below the market rate?
—Yes; some cases have come up where they had to be advertised by reason of the tenants dying, and I found they always brought a higher rent than I put upon them.
42632. And, at the expiration of these improving leases and nominal rentals, you have not found any difficulty or any serious complaint on the part of the tenants, in taking a new lease, as to paving the rent which is asked for it?
—None. They are most anxious to get new leases. They do not care for improving to the end of the lease, and they ask for a new lease before the end of the old one, so that they can go on with the improvements.
42633. And, if for some reason the old tenant did not take it, you would be able to re-let it again immediately?
42634. At an increase of rent?
—Yes; I have generally a dozen or more outsiders applying to get in.
42635. And in letting these small areas, for many years past, the tenants, on entering them, perfectly understood their position?
42636. That they were to hold the land for a certain term of years, and at the end of it they were to take the land, if they did so, at a valuation?
—Just so; the same as any other farmer on the estate.
42637. There has been no misconception on their part?
—No, I have never had a single case of misconception on their part
42638. And the system causes no discontent?
—None. There are no people I have been more delighted to go about amongst than the crofter population.
42639. Has any discontent been raised by the discussion of these land questions, and unexhausted improvements, and so on?
—I have not heard a single word. Not a single tenant has made a remark to me about it.
42640. When the lease is renewed and taken at the new valuation, does it contemplate an extension of improvement?
—Yes, when the ground has not been all improved they just go on, and where it is all improved they are generally anxious to get a piece to improve still further; and if any of the adjoining crofts fall out not fully improved, his Lordship will give them to the man who is anxious to improve them.
42641. In the second lease what is the new form of improvement put on the ground? It has been all trenched, I suppose?
—Not all. It is seldom we come up to the strict mark of the lease. They could not improve one-tenth every year, and his Lordship, if he saw them going on doing what they can, did not press it. It might only be a twentieth part, and they might leave a third or a fourth of the land unimproved at the end of the first lease, and that forms the subject of the second lease.
42642. In coming into a new district we generally find new principles and new ideas, and this is the first place, I think, at which we have heard disapproval expressed of the system of hill grazing in the form of common pasture or club farms. I would like to understand your methods more perfectly in that respect. Why do you discourage the notion of common grazing or any grazing attached to the lot?
—When a man gets a piece of grazing, in place of going and reclaiming his ground, he will prefer walking about on the hill, smoking his pipe, with his hand in his pocket, and looking after his few sheep, and he fails to provide for himself a living. He is doing next to nothing.
42643. I perfectly understand that if tenants are confined to their arable lots they are stimulated to more steady application?
—They are obliged to do so.
42644. And that is beneficial to the landlord?
—And to the tenant too.
42645. Beneficial to the landlord?
—To the one as much as the other.
42646. But beneficial to the tenant too?
42647. But might some degree of union of the two systems not be beneficial to the tenant? Take the case of an arable croft in process of formation, and without any common grazing or any outrun at all. In the case of bad seasons, for instance, might there not be a useful alternative to the tenant? There might be a bad season in reference to the crop, and it might be a good season in reference to the sale of young stock. Would there not be a profitable alternative secured to the tenant if the two systems could be united?
—My experience has been this, that I never saw a small grazing but the sheep were very poor upon it, and the returns from the sheep were next to nothing. It is the name of having an income from a source from which there is next to no income at all. We have grazings attached to the farms beyond the crofts, and if I were to pick out those that were least successful, I would pick these out.
42648. But I have heard it stated in other parts of the country that really the stirk pays the rent, and wool supplies a useful source for making clothes, and so on?
—I am afraid they rely too much on the stirk, and do nothing to provide for what they could use.
42649. But that may depend a good deal on the climate and the soil, and a system which might be good on the east coast might not be good on the west coast?
—That may be so, but I have had a good deal to do with the west coast, and I don't think these small gazings are very successfully managed.
42650. Are not the crops very precarious on the west coast?
—Yes, they have nothing to rely upon except fishing and the grazing.
42651. Do you find that the people themselves like the idea of the outrun or common pasture?
—I do. I think it is very agreeable to their notions, because it gives them a sort of easy life —too easy.
42652. But some ease of life is, after all, a natural desire?
—It is, but I think those who live the busiest life are the happiest, at least I have found it so in my experience.
42653. And, on the estate with which you are concerned, is there a very great power of expansion of the system still?
—Not very much. The greater part within a reasonable limitation is improved.
42654. Have you in connection with tins system discovered in your experience a great improvement in the condition of the people and their welfare and happiness ?
—I think they are all very very much better than when I knew them first, thirty years ago. Their houses are very much improved, and everything is different about their surroundings.
42655. There is some proportion of the estate held under deer forests exclusively?
—Yes; there has been some for the last forty or fifty years.
42656. I think you stated that you don't think there is any considerable area occupied by deer which might be improved?
—I do not.
42657. There is a little on the sheep farms?
—Yes, and also on the deer forests,—little patches, but of no value for crofting purposes whatever.
42658. Has any of the ground of recent years been cleared of sheep for the purpose of making forest?
—Yes, a part at Fort-Augustus. We could not get the ground yet. The farmer wished to be relieved of it, and we had no alternative.
42659. Has any portion within the last thirty or forty years been cleared of any human habitations for the purpose of making deer forest?
—None; Lord Lovat was quite opposed to emigration, and believed there was work for every inhabitant of his property if properly arranged. Accordingly he set about giving them these crofts to improve. In the case of his own deer forest, some had to be removed, but he found out other and better places for them lower down.
42660. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have the rents on the estate been largely increased within the last thirty years?
—Yes, to some extent.
42661. To what extent?
—About £4000, equal to about 33 per cent., while the increase on the county is 90 per cent., showing that his Lordship has not increased them unduly. The increase on the whole county is £85,000—being 90 per cent.: while on Lord Lovat's estate it has been 33 per cent. A witness remarked to-day that the arable ground of Auchteraw had been taken into a forest there, which is not the case. The hill ground of Auchteraw was let to a tenant who had a deer forest already, and he enclosed it with a deer fence, and took the sheep off it; but that was his own doing. He was allowed to keep sheep on it if he pleased, and he preferred adding it to his other deer ground.
42662. The Chairman.
— I did not understand the witness to say that arable ground has been turned into a deer forest, but that the area occupied by the deer forest contained some ground that might be arable?
—I am under the impression he said it had been put in.
42663. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has the increase of rent from 1853 to 1883 been greater in proportion on the crofters' lands than on the large farms?
—Yes, and that arises from the improved ground. Where there is no ground to improve, it does not increase so rapidly as where the ground has been taken in from the muir.
42664. What are the proportions?
—About 38 per cent, in the one case, and 30 per cent, in the other, and the average on the property
is 33 per cent.
42665. How often have the rents been raised in that period?
—There were two lettings in my time—in 1857 and 1876. I think these have been almost the only lettings since they were first let out.
42666. A gentleman said yesterday that he had found in his experience that there is a decided difference of character between the inhabitants of the east and-the west coast of Ross-shire, as well as a difference in their land; do you find the same in regard to the parts of the east and west coasts on which Lord Lovat's estates are?
—Yes; their habits are quite different. On the east coast they farm like ordinary farmers, with rotation of crops. On the west coast, again, they have very small bits of ground, which simply afford potatoes and hay and straw for a very few beasts, and their main business is fishing.
42667. The quality of the land, of course, has very much to do with it?
—Yes. On the west coast in some parts you will get as good land as on the east coast, but it is difficult to harvest the crops on the west coast, and the difference makes it inadvisable to go in much for that.
42668. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In your very interesting paper you have devoted your attention chiefly to the crofter class about whom this inquiry has been instituted?
42669. Has it not been a profitable thing for the estate that the late Lord Lovat did encourage the crofting system?
—It was advantageous both to the landlord and to the tenant.
42670. Are you disposed to extend it still further?
—Certainly, as long as we have any ground to improve.
42671. How many acres arable are there upon your estate? I believe you have 160,000 acres altogether. How much of that is arable? Will there be 20,000?
—I have not the slightest idea.
42672. Do you think that is an excessive figure?
—No, I should think about that.
42673. Will you say then that on all your estates, lying in so many parishes, and in so many districts, no more can be profitably reclaimed?
—I don't think so—indeed I think we are almost going beyond the limit already, during the last eight or ten years. Owing to the seasons and the high elevations the crop has not ripened, and Lord Lovat has had to assist his tenants there very much in consequence.
42674. In answer to Lord Napier you have stated, in making a calculation of the increased value of these reclaimed lands, that the expenditure of the proprietor would be 50 per cent.?
—Yes, I think, quite.
42675. You stated in answer to a previous question that there were no pecuniary advances to the tenants by the proprietor?
—No money advances.
42676. You stated there were manufactured wood and lime given, and also roads and outfall drains made. Now is there not a deal of wood on the estate?
—Not much available for use.
42677. Is there plenty of lime on the estate?
—There is no lime. The late Lord Lovat tried for a lime quarry, and lost £500 upon it. It was too much mixed up with other materials.
42678. I suppose the crofters always pay road money?
—Those above £4 do, but Lord Lovat has not been exacting it during the last few years, owing to the times not being very prosperous. He paid it himself.
42679. Considering they pay road money, do you think it fair to include roads for them as one of the things the landlord did?
—Road money applies to the public highways, not to the roads leading to their own doors. Some of these do not benefit from the assessments.
42680. What would it cost the proprietor of late years to improve an acre of land. Is £20 too much to put upon it?
—Yes; of late years prices have been going up, and last year I think, it was £12.
42681. Taking the case of an acre at £12, suppose you let a piece of land to a crofter, as you are in the habit of doing, —say ten acres,—he would have expended £120 before he got it in?
—Yes. These are, however, recent prices; earlier prices were much lower.
42682. Then will you say £8 ?
—From £ 8 to £9.
42683. Then it would have cost from £80 to £90 for ten acres of land?
42684. Then, in reality, with the Is. he gave to the landlord, did it not cost him 8s. or 9s. an acre from the beginning, at that rate?
—It cost 8s. or 9s. for the improvement of it, but perhaps next year he took a crop of potatoes out of it that paid the whole outlay.
42685. But he must take it in, and if he did not take it in till late, so much the worse for himself?
42686. He was obliged to hand it over to you improved?
—He was not obliged to hand it over improved.
42687. But when you say he was only paying Is. an acre, I am afaid, if you take the cost of the reclamation, it cost him a good deal more than Is.?
—He was only paying Is. all through the lease, and he came to have it very cheap indeed; perhaps it was worth 15 s. or 20s. an acre after it was improved.
42688. When you mentioned that the late Lord Lovat in the rearrangement cut off the grazings from the people down below, I presume he let out these grazings to sheep farmers?
—No, he planted almost the whole of it.
42689. Is there a great deal of the estate planted at this moment?
—Yes, a very large proportion.
42690. I suppose you have got the rentals of the estate for the last forty or fifty years in your possession?
42691. And you have, no doubt, referred to these at different periods?
—Yes, every year.
42692. Is there an old factor on the Lovat estates—Mr Macdonald—still living?
42693. What do you suppose the rental of the estate was when he gave it up?
—Something about £12,000. I succeeded very soon after he left.
42694. And it is now nearly three times as much?
—No; you are speaking of the arable land. I should think the whole estate was about £15,000 at that time, and now it is about double.
42695. Are you sure it was more than £12,000?
—Yes, I think so, taking the shootings and fishings. The land rents were about £12,000.
42696. Then you say it was doubled?
42697. And also that a great portion of it has been planted?
—A great deal of it has been planted.
42698. The late Lord Lovat was, in the strict sense of the term, a resident proprietor?
42699. And the same may be said of the present proprietor?
42700. And both, as is known, have taken a great personal interest in the management of their estates?
42701. They are acquainted, I presume, with every tenant on the estate?
—Every crofter and every tenant on the estate.
42702. You also stated that during the last thirty years of your time here, there were few or no cases of evictions from the property, or removals?
—Yes, except the few cases I have already mentioned.
42703. There were a good many evictions in the old times?
—I don't know; I never heard of them.
42704. Were you here yesterday?
—I was, but not long.
42705. Did you hear Mr Colin Chisholm speak of Glenstrathfarar of old?
—Yes, but I have explained that already—that there were three or four tenants there who were removed, when Lord Lovat made the deer forest, to other farms on his property.
42706. But Chisholm was referring to a much older period, when a number of men distinguished themselves as far back as the taking of Quebec?
—That is much beyond my time; much beyond those I represent.
42707. Do you say that the present family are not responsible for anything that occurred prior to the accession of the late Lovat?
—I think clearly they are not.
42708. There is a very fertile part of the Lovat territory in the parish of Urray, though in the county of Inverness?
—Yes, Tomich and Barnyards.
42709. Have you heard as matter of history that there was once a very large population in those places?
—I have heard that at Barnyards, there were some old soldiers located by General Fraser, but that is all I know.
42710 Would it be a matter of surprise to you to be told, that in one year there were thirty-seven heads of families turned out of Barnyards?
—Yes, because I did not know there were so many there. I never heard anything about it.
42711. The late Lord Lovat acquired several estates during his lifetime?
—Yes; Struy, Eskadale, and Auchteraw.
42712. Do you know a place called Carnoch?
42713. How is it occupied at present?
—Captain Chisholm has it,
42714. Were there not a lot of people there at one time?
—I don't know of any. I know an old man named Mackintosh, who was succeeded by Captain Chisholm.
42715. Have you never seen the remains of old buildings about there?
—Yes, I have; but when they became vacant I cannot tell.
42716. Have there not been a number of people removed from the estate of Struy?
—I cannot inform you.
42717. With regard to the forest of Glenstrathfarrer, we have heard the name frequently of Mr Winans; has your property not the credit of bringing him to the north for the first time?
—Well, yes; but we cannot be answerable for all he did afterwards.
42718. But he has been extending his bounds a good deal since you gave him a location?
42719. Have you any idea what is the extent of his possessions or his forests?
—I have not the slightest idea.
42720. Have you any idea of the number of acres that are in these forests in Glenstrathfarrer and the adjoining grounds of Lovat?
—About 45,000 acres,
42721. As we are speaking about deer forests, what was the reason of forming the last forest at Glendo?
—The sheep farmer could not hold it all, and wished to give it up, and we did not see a possibility of getting a tenant for it as a sheep farm, and his Lordship decided upon making it a deer forest.
42722. Writh regard to your west coast estates, was the estate of North Morar for sale some years ago?
42723. Why was it not sold?
—Because his Lordship could not get the money he wanted for it.
42724. Was that the only reason?
—That was all I ever heard.
42725. You will not say there was no other reason?
—I know of none. I never heard of any other.
42726. It is satisfactory to think that, considering your estate is the largest in the county, we have had no complaint from it; but I want to ask you again, is there at this moment any demand on the part of your present crofters to get more land or new land altogether?
—None; none in the slightest degree.
42727. Don't you think it would be a wise thing, considering the great possessions of Lord Lovat,—I don't speak in any way in an invidious manner,—supposing a crofter with two sons, and one son succeeding to the croft,—would it not be wise and patriotic, and from a national point of view a good thing, to try and get a croft for the support of the second son?
—Yes, so his Lordship does; and when a croft is out of lease the first thing is to see whether any one upon the estate wants it.
42728. Could any of the lands of the larger farms be broken up with advantage for the younger sons of crofters?
—I don't think so. I think the expense of doing so would be so great,—providing buildings for each
croft, and so on, —that it would be of no advantage to anybody.
42729. You will no doubt, be cutting down some of those great woods; would it not be well to try something of that kind upon the place from which the trees are cut?
—Most of these plantations are on hill ground, and would not prove very advantageous for cultivation, except the policies about Beaufort.
42730. No one would presume to interfere in any manner of way with them?