Sir GEORGE MACPHERSON-GRANT, Bart., of Ballindalloch, M.P. (44)—examined.
43464. The Chairman.
—I believe you have a statement you desire to make?
—I am in this position. It was considered desirable that some information should be given to you and the other Commissioners respecting the question of deer forests on the north and western slopes of this high ground of the Cairngorm range, and we thought the simplest and probably the easiest manner for the Commissioners to receive the evidence was that a short general statement should be prepared, giving the acreage and other facts in connection with this tract of land. I only appear accidentally so far, to submit this statement to you, owing to the fact that I happen to be the proprietor owning the largest area of this ground to which the few remarks I wish to make apply. I ought to mention that this sort of general statement has been prepared by the different proprietors who are interested. They have all signed the statement, and I believe they coincide in it, with the exception of one of the five—the Duke of Richmond —who owns a portion of that land, but from whom I have not received any information, and therefore my remarks do not refer to him. In addition to the general statement, I have also short statements which affect each of these different properties, and which I propose to leave with you; and I may mention further that, being here, I am for my own part anxious and willing to answer any questions or give any information regarding the details of my own part of this question or my own property. I cannot speak as to the details affecting the other proprietors' lands, but I believe they are either here themselves or their representatives are here, and that they are ready to give the Commission every information regarding the land to which this statement refers. This statement is really practically a short description of the western side of the high ground of the Grampian Cairngorm range, which is the high ground in the centre of Scotland. The whole of the ground on the north side of the Grampian mountains in Inverness-shire let as deer forests lies contiguous, forming one block, and extending to about 200 square miles, or about 128,000 acres. It is owned by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, the Earl of Seafield, Sir George Macpherson Grant, Bart., Sir John P. Grant of Rothiemurchus, and Mackintosh of Mackintosh. The lands are situated in the parishes of
(1) Abernethy and Kincardine,
(2) Duthil and Rothiemurchus,
(3) Alvie, and
(4) Kingussie and Insh, all in the county of Inverness.
For purposes of general assessment, the gross rents paid are subject to certain deductions in respect of the value of furnished houses, &c, not liable to be assessed as " lands and heritages." The net values of the several forests, including grouse moors adjoining, let under the same leases, were fixed by the county assessor last year as follows:
—Duke of Richmond and Gordon (Glenmore), £1000;
Earl of Seafield (Abernethy), £1671;
Sir George Macpherson Grant, Bart. (Glenfeshie, &c), £5030;
Mackintosh of Mackintosh (Glenfeshie, &c), £1290;
Sir John P. Grant (Rothiemurchus), £1680;
and the local assessments paid on this rental for the year to Whitsunday 1883 are, per schedule annexed, as follows :—
Assessment for relief of the poor, £589, 2s. 4d.;
Educational purposes, £261, 9s. 4d.;
maintenance of roads, &c, £285, 17s. 10d.;
registration, £14, 3s. 10d.;
total, £1150, 13s. 4d.;
and while the general body of rate-payers are relieved to this extent, tenants and occupants of lands and houses in the said parishes, other than deer forests, are thus relieved of public burdens by tenants of deer forests to the extent of £575, 6s. 8d. It is important to bear this in view in forming any estimate of the value of forest lands of the description in question, treated by any other method. A great proportion of the ground exclusively under deer is high and sterile, and could not from any point of view be so advantageously utilised otherwise. Much of it stands upwards of 2000 feet above the sea-level, the surface above that elevation in a great measure consisting of bare rock and beds of disintegrated granite, without sustenance to vegetation of any description. There is of this barren ground, shown by a green line on map of the Ordnance Survey appended hereto, about 85,000 acres, or two-thirds of the whole forest lands. There is also within the forest boundaries about 24,000 acres bearing a partial crop of growing fir wood, for which much of the lower hill ground is peculiarly adapted. This forest of natural wood extends from Glenfeshie on the one side to the boundary between the counties of Inverness and Moray in Strathspey on the other, or along the whole length of the deer forests now dealt with, the forest of Gaick excepted. It is not a regular crop, and little of it could conveniently, and at a cost bearing a reasonable proportion to its prospective value, be protected from sheep by fencing, as is invariably done in the case of lands selected for planting. It grows in patches where the soil is dry and of a gravelly nature, and these patches are intersected by belts of moss or grass where stagnant snow-water lying for several months in the year prevents the seedlings from coming up, and renders the ground unfit for growing fir. There is thus left of the whole area under deer adapted for the grazing of sheep about 19,000 acres only. In several instances, in which the grazing of sheep was discontinued, the stocks were removed not for the purpose of converting the ground into deer forests, but, as in one instance, for the purpose of planting, ia a second for the preservation of trees of natural growth, and in others on account of the difficulty of procuring winter grazing at the early period at which it was necessary to remove stocks from the high grounds —a difficulty much increased at the present time by the high prices paid for wintering, which varies from 3s. to 4s. 6d. per head. The number of sheep which tenants were entitled to keep according to their leases was less than 10,000, but it is impossible to ascertain the number actually grazed, and it is also difficult to form an approximate estimate of the number which the high grounds, excluding woodlands, would graze for a period of from four to five months. It is, however, the opinion of graziers of experience that such a grazing, without winter and spring pasture for at least part of the stock, is practically valueless. Summer hill grazing lets in the locality at rates per head varying from ninepence to one shilling and sixpence. The value of ground which can only be relied upon for grazing for five, or at most six months in the year, is estimated at one shilling per head; and, assuming that the best portions of the lands in question are capable of grazing 10,000, this would yield to the landlords £500, or £75 less than their contribution to local rates effecting to deer forests' rental. Supposing that the grazier's profits amount to double the grazing rent paid to the landlord, or £1000, the sum is only one-seventh part of the money, other than rents, circulated by tenants of deer forests in the district. The number of heads of families removed from lands and houses now within the forest boundaries during the last forty years —and forty years reaches the date at which the first attempts were made to induce deer to settle on the ground —is fifteen, and they were all provided with other holdings on the same properties. There are at present employed in connection with deer forests permanently, forty-one individuals; during a period averaging four months, sixty-one individuals; occasionally twenty-five individuals, exclusive of household servants. The tenants of the forests have supplied for the purpose of the present inquiry note of the sums expended by them in the country, apart from rent. In one case it has on an average of several years exceeded the fixed rent. In the majority of cases it is equal to a rent, and in no instance is it less than one-half the rent. Taking the average at three-fourths of the net rental, the sum amounts to £7148 per annum. The evidence now tendered is given in this shape to show the utter impossibility of any profitable application of the great extent of high ground under deer in any other way; and besides the statistics upon which this general statement is based, there are appended hereto for the information of the Commission statements by several proprietors interested bearing upon their own particular cases. It may be added, that the deer forests in question are bounded on the south by the deer forests of Athole, Braemar, and Glenavon, in the counties of Perth, Aberdeen, and Banff. I should like now to read a short memorandum regarding my own forests of Gaick and Glenfeshie.
The forest of Gaick, which extends to upwards of thirty-seven square miles, or about 24,000 acres, lies high, and the part of it let to the present tenant by the proprietor was never let for grazing purposes. By an arrangement between the sporting tenant and the tenant of the grazing of Ruthven adjoining, the former acquired from the latter in 1877 about 4500 acres of hill ground then under sheep. This arrangement was acquiesced in by the proprietor at the urgent request of the grazing tenants, who received compensation from the sporting tenant during the existence of the then currant lease. The grazing tenant has since entered upou a new lease for the remainder of the subject formerly held by him. The Glenfeshie forest ground extends to about sixty-one square miles, or upwards of 38,875 acres. It marches with the forest of Athole, and has been, as well as Gaick, frequented by deer from time immemorial. The present proprietor is informed that forty-five to fifty years ago the then proprietor and agricultural tenants of the low grounds grazed a certain number of sheep in Glenfeshie, but the difficulty of procuring winter grazing at the early period necessary, and at the price now paid for it, would have rendered the summer grazing of little value. The price of wintering sheep from 1st November to 1st April is about three times the price paid for hill grazing during the seven months, and sheep would fall to be removed from Glenfeshie before the end of autumn, and as a rule could not with safety be sent back to the hill before the middle of April. In 1872 negotiations were entered into with Mackintosh of Mackintosh for an excambion of lands in the neighbourhood, which was at the time considered by both proprietors desirable; and as a preliminary to this arrangement, sheep were removed from about 5000 acres of Coriekoy, &c., the tenants retaining the low ground pasture and their arable farms at one-half the rents formerly paid by them, and right to winter sheep. No tenant was removed, and the several holdings are now large enough for the support of a family. I think I may say that, with this exception and the one I have already mentioned, in which an arrangement was made between the shooting tenant and the grazing tenant, the extent of deer forest on my property has not been extended by myself. I beg now to submit the following notes as to the Invereshie estate. The estates of Invereshie and Dalraddy extend to about 97,700 imperial acres, made up as follows :—
1. Ground under deer.
—Glenfeshie, . . 32,800
Gaick, . . . 23,800
Invereshie, . . 7,000
2. Ground let as farms at a rental of £30 and upwards each, 32,300
3. Ground let as small farms and crofts at a rental not exceeding £30 each,. . . 1,800
Overall TOTAL 97,700
—Grounds 2 and 3 are let for grouse and other shootings.
[table showing increase in rental from 1853 to 1883 omitted]
—With the view of carrying out a very desirable excambion with The Mackintosh, whose land in Glenfeshie is surrounded by Sir George's property, about 5000 acres of high hill pasture in Coise Roy carrying a sheep stock of about 700, were cleared of the sheep in 1872, but a large extent of fine low ground pasture and arable land, forming comfortable holdings, was reserved to the tenants, none of whom were disturbed in their possessions by this sheep clearance. These tenants have still the privilege of grazing sheep on their low ground pastures during six months each year. In respect of this clearance the rents were reduced one-half. In 1873 about 500 acres of hill pasture were taken off the farm of Balguise and put into Glenfeshie forest, to admit of a fence being erected between the forest and the farm on a proper line. The erection of this fence was a great improvement to the farm which still consists of a large extent of hill and low ground. In 1877, at the urgent request of the grazing tenant, the proprietor allowed him to put into the adjoining forest of Gaick about 4500 of the high hill ground at the far end of Ruthven farm, rising to about 3000 feet above sea-level at Mheall Cuaich. In respect of this clearance, the grazing tenant alleged that he had to reduce his sheep stock about 1500 (?) head, for which he receives £225 of annual compensation from the sporting tenant. The farm has still a large extent of hill and low ground. Not a single tenant was removed from his holding by these clearances. About forty-five years ago there were some sheep clearances in Glenfeshie, but it is believed the ground, in common with the adjoining forests of Gaick, Marr, and Athole, was many years previously under deer. Gaick forest had been under deer from time immemorial. About 1400 acres of wood of natural growth are within the deer forest boundaries. There have been no sheep clearances to any extent on the property for plantations. Since the present proprietor succeeded to the estate in 1860 he has enclosed and planted about 300 acres.
—There are no crofters properly so called on the property except at Drumguish, where there are sixteen tenants paying an average rent of about 30s. a year each. They have from one to two acres of good arable ground each, and every crofter is allowed to graze one or two cows and their followers on the adjoining common hill. They are tenants at will, and never desired to have leases. Except in cases of death changes seldom take place, the present tenants having generally succeeded their forefathers. The total rents of these crofters have not been increased during the past thirty years. When not engaged at home, they readily find employment as tradesmen and labourers in the district, and are more or less in contented and comfortable circum- stances. Evictions are unknown on the property. Large and Small Farms on the property are generally held on leases from fifteen to nineteen years. In most cases the farm buildings have been erected by the proprietor. When the tenants themselves erect buildings the proprietor is in the habit of giving them wood and slates free of cost. When the tenants erect fences at their own cust they are taken over, in the event of any change of tenancy, at valuation by the proprietor or incoming tenant. In recent important lettings the proprietor has agreed to give ten ante compensation for unexhausted improvements effected by them.
Outlays on Improvements.
—Since the proprietor succeeded in 1860 he has expended on permanent improvements on the estate the following sums, viz.
—On farms and crofts, . . . . . . £7,249
„ Shooting lodges, roads, and other sporting subjects, £10,046
„ Woods and plantations, . . . . . £2,185
„ Embankments, roads, &c, . . . . . £4,334
Total, . . .£23,814
43465. Is that all the written statement you desire to make?
43466. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You named the separate rates upon the forests; have you included the county rates?
—No, I have only, included the parochial assessments. I have only taken the rates that affect the local assessments, not the county assessments.
43467. Is there any profit made from the sale of any wood now-a-days in Strathspey?
—Yes, not to the extent there was, because very much of it has been cut down, but there is a certain amount no doubt still.
43468. Could any portion of this lower ground be profitably planted?
—Yes, a considerable portion has been. I referred to the one case where sheep had been removed from a considerable portion for the purpose of planting. That was done on The Mackintosh's estate, and I believe it has been done very largely on Lord Seafield's property, but I would rather answer these details only as regards my own property. I myself planted between 300 and 400 acres.
43469. Is it likely that that system of planting may be extended?
—-I think so, and I hope so.
43470. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have any complaints come to your knowledge from the farmers and others about the deer forests?
—No, I cannot say there are any.
43471. There are no substantial complaints?
—I don't think so, by my own tenants.
43472. Have you heard of any from your neighbours as a matter of rumour? Is there any general complaint?
—Not that I am aware of.
43473. There is no complaint on your own estate, and you are not aware of any on the part of your neighbours?
—No serious complaint has reached me.
43474. Do you know that Glenfeshie is an old Scottish forest mentioned in old Acts of Parliament?
—I believe such is the case.
43475. It is one of the old forests of Scotland?
43476. And quite incapable of wintering any stock?
—I believe the high forest ground is almost incapable of doing so.
43477. I don't think you actually stated how high some of the ground was; is not some of your ground over 4000 feet?
—I should think the ground on the Braeriach must be nearly 4000 feet.
43478. I think there is some over 4000. Look at the Cairntoul?
—4149 feet is the height given on the ordnance plan.
43479. Do you consider that these northern slopes of the Grampians are best adapted for, and most profitably used in the way which they are now used?
—I am quite sure we cannot put this ground to any more profitable or better purpose, if I am right in my contention that this high ground will not carry sheep to profit.
43480. Have you any experience of sheep farming; have you any sheep of your own?
—No, I have more experience in cattle than in sheep.
43481. Can you give us any information regarding the alleged deterioration of pasture ground by sheep?
—No, I caunot of my own personal knowledge; I have heard of it.
43482. From your knowledge yon are not able to speak?
—No, not from my own practical experience; but I have heard what a witness said to-day, and I know it is said so.
43483. Mr Cameron.
—We heard it from a witness that he had a serious cause of complaint because there was no fence between your deer forest and his sheep farm?
43484. On the ground to which he refers would a fence stand; could it be put up, or is the ground too high for the purpose?
—I believe a fence could be put up. I have no wish to go into this matter, but if I am asked about it I am bound to say that so far as I am concerned I should have had a fence up long ago. I am glad to say the neighbouring proprietor agreed with me in the erection of a fence. I believe that fence extends to between three and four miles. But our experience was not very encouraging, and the fence has never been prolonged.
43485. Then, so far as you were concerned and the adjoining proprietor, you were prepared to put up a fence?
—So far as I am concerned, if the damage done is serious, I should be quite prepared to carry out the obligations that lie upon mo as regards fencing this ground. But the adjoining proprietor and I agreed to put up three or four miles of fencing and it was done very much in the nature of an experiment. I did not think it desirable to carry a sheep fence over this very very high ground, because it is almost impossible to save it from absolute destruction in the storms of winter, and this fence was so far a failure, and I am sorry there has been any difference of opinion about it.
43486. In what way was it a failure? Do you mean it was destroyed by snow?
—I have no doubt it was probably partially destroyed by snow, but, rightly or wrongly, I believe it was understood by my shooting tenant that the fence had not altogether been very fairly treated, and the interdict which was applied for, and which has been referred to by the previous witness, if my memory serves me right,—I had no idea that question would be introduced, and I had no wish to introduce it, —was more to protect the fence, because it was plain that if the fence was to be destroyed because it did not suit any person, it was unwise for us to prolong the fence or go on with it in the meantime.
43487. But who was supposed to have destroyed the fence? Do you mean some one was supposed to have destroyed it wilfully ?
—Well, that was alleged, but I have no knowledge of it myself.
43488. Who was the person alleged to here destroyed it wilfully and for what purpose?
—It was naturally alleged that Mr Macarthur's shepherds and people had interfered with the fence. There were various disputes in connection with this fence, and it was in consequence of that that the application was made to protect the fence and prevent it being destroyed. I was surprised to hear Mr Macarthur say that that interdict was refused. My recollection of the state of matters was that the interdict was abandoned and the whole thing was abandoned, and I am glad to say, so far as I have been able to ascertain from my subordinates, that this year there has been no trouble about the fence at all. I have not heard anything.
43489. But what object could it have been alleged the farmer had in interfering with the maintenance of the fence, so far as his interests were concerned?
—Well, in putting up this fence, the fence was not put on the march, which is very easily understood. Instead of being a tortuous fence it was a straight fence, and I think the arrangement was —but it was very much carried out by my shooting tenant, more by him than by me —that the line of fence should not interfere with the sporting rights, nor, of course with the rights of property, but should only affect the grazing rights. Under this a certain portion of Gaick was put into Belleville for grazing purposes, and a certain portion of Belleville fell into Gaick for grazing purposes, but for some reason —I should not like to call it more than misunderstanding, and when there is a misunderstanding it is very difficult to get at the bottom of it —it was alleged there had been some interference with the fence. Well, steps were taken, and when I was told that Mr Macarthur claimed the right under his lease with his landlord to come across on to that grazing ground, I at once abandoned any proceedings in the matter, and the thing has remained in abeyance ever since.
43490. Was Belville willing to join you in making a fence at joint expense?
—He did so.
43491. But I mean the remainder of the fence?
—I don't know; I have not asked him.
43492. But I suppose you did not feel inclined to go on with this fence so long as this misunderstanding led to the destruction of the property?
43493. And you were clear the fence should not be broken down in consequence of misunderstanding on the one side or the other?
43494. But the remaining portion of the fence which requires to be made could be erected without the risk of being destroyed by winter storms ?
—I should not like to go so far as that. There is no doubt a considerable portion of it must be over very high ground, land where I have never been myself. It is very high and exposed, and I doubt very much if you could keep a fence there during the winter.
43495. What is the amount of rent per sheep you keep upon these very high grazings?
—I have no very high grazings on my own property, and I cannot tell you; but I know that, in the statement which has been prepared and which I have read to the Commission, it is put that for summer grazing it is 9d to Is. 6d. per head.
43496. That is in cases when the sheep would have to be bodily removed during winter ?
43497. And in cases where the old sheep could stand it in winter and the young ones would have to be removed, what would the cost be there?
—I know a case at 2s. per head.
43498. But your calculation is, that if these deer forests were all let for sheep, in that case the rent would equal only one-tenth of the present rent?
—That is so. If all this high ground were put under sheep, I believe that in certain cases you would draw almost no rent for the pasture.
43499. The Chairman.
—You mentioned a tract of natural wood; do you mean fir wood ?
—There is other wood, but fir wood is the only wood of any value in this country.
43500. Does that reproduce itself naturally, or has it to be planted?
—It reproduces itself.
43501. When it is cut for purposes of sale is the area enclosed so that it may spring again?
—No. It has been the case no doubt in the large forest of Abernethy, but the natural fringe that runs along the foot of those hills has not been enclosed.
43502. What pastures the ground; is it pastured by sheep?
—So far as regards my own property, there are sheep in the winter. There are no sheep in the summer.
43503. There are sheep in the winter, and the area partially occupied by the natural wood, or what was formerly occupied by the natural wood?
—It is occupied by natural wood now.
43504. Does the natural wood grow in spite of the depasturing, or do the sheep get the mastery over it and keep it down?
—No, the sheep have not mastered this belt of wood here.
43505. But the belt of natural wood really does grow and reproduce itself practically?
—That is so.
43506. To the full area?
—That may be going rather further than I should like to say, because my own observation is, that when wood has been cut down it grows very slowly; but all the wood in Glenfeshie, which I can speak of best, I believe, is wood grown in the course of nature, though from the blanks in the wood, where the wood has been lately cut, it has not reproduced itself, or at all events has not shown.
43507. But in the case of birch and other wood that grows from the stool, do you think that reproduces itself better than the wood that grows from the seed, or do you think it is just the same? Do you think the fir sprouts better than the birch in despite of the sheep?
—I have never had my attention drawn to that. My idea is that the seedlings would grow as well as the birch.
43508. But seedlings do practically reproduce themselves, and come out in considerable numbers?
—Yes, in this district.
43509. Do any cattle run in that area, or is it all pastured by sheep?
—In the wood I speak of, I suppose there is no regular pasturing of cattle. It is principally pastured by sheep in the winter, and there are no cattle there.
43510. Would the cattle kill down the wood, either springing from seed or stool, more than the sheep?
—If you have a heavy stock of either cattle or sheep, or both, you must naturally make it a slower process in getting up this timber again.
43511. With reference to the area above the 1800 feet line, that area had no practical value at any time, according to your account, except for summer grazing?
—I don't think it ever had,—not as a pastoral subject.
43512. And you think its value as a summer grazing is so insignificant now-a-days, for various reasons, that it is not worth considering?
—As a rule, I don't think it is.
43513. Above the 1800 feet line?
—There maybe exceptions; but taking it as one great block of country, I don't think it is.
43514. Some gentlemen at Inverness, who were great adversaries of the foresting system, contended that Highland cattle would go to any elevation to which deer would go, and I presume derive some benefit from the pasture; what do you think of that?
—I don't understand Highland cattle sufficiently well to tell you about them. I should not like to say how high they would go.
43515. Mr Cameron.
—Your polled cattle would not go?
—No, they would not.
43516. The Chairman.
—Above the 1800 feet line, do you think the land has any economic value for planting at all?
—I should doubt it very much, because we find it so happens that this line is drawn very much just at the termination of the natural wood, and it seems to me reasonable to suppose that if there was value for timber here, these natural woods would have spread further up the hills than they have done; but that is not the case.
43517. Do you observe, in the character of the wood which grows nearest the 1800 feet line, that the trees dwarf and seem to diminish in stature?
—Yes; they are better at the bottom of the hill than at the top, as a rule.
43518. So it looks as if the wood died naturally out at that elevation?
—Its struggle for existence seems to be such that it does not do much good.
43519. You don't think any of the old Highland forests were cut and profitably sold at a higher elevation than 1800 feet?
—I have no doubt they were, for we find the remains in the peat.
43520. You find wood in bogs, but that may be prehistoric. But as to the wood cut and sold last century in the Highlands,—I believe to great advantage, —would that be cut at more than 1800 feet?
—I fancy what you mean is in Glenmore or Abernethy, and I should not like to speak to the details of the elevations.
43521. You stated that the area of deer forest, except in one case, had not been of late years extended?
—On my own property.
43522. Has the area of forest been much extended in the neighbouring properties below the 1800 feet line?
—I would rather not be asked details about these other properties. The gentlemen themselves are here, believe.
43523. In this particular case, where your own was extended, to what elevation was it extended?
—The highest part of the corrie that was cleared in 1877, so far as I can make out, is somewhere about 3000 feet. The very highest point seems to be 3600 feet. I do not say there were sheep there.
43524. What was the lowest elevation of any part which was afforested in 1877?
—If you exclude the wood which was pastured during winter, it was practically between the summit of the hill and this 1800 feet line.
43525. So, practically, there was no area cleared in connection with your property at a lower elevation than 1700 feet in the year 1877?
—I don't think so.
43526. Of course I don't speak for a few acres, but I want to understand generally?
—I don't think so. I am afraid we don't quite understand each other. The whole of this piece of ground was cleared, but the greater proportion of the summer grazing was the upper ground in this corrie, ranging from 1800 to 3000 feet. Below the 1800 feet, although the sheep would be moved under this arrangement, they are still there for wintering purposes during six months of the year; but on the upper ground, from the 1800 feet to the top of the hill, which is 3600 feet, it is cleared of sheep, and was cleared in 1877.
43527. But at no great sacrifice of economic value in regard to the production of meat?
—I don't know what that would be; but I know what abatement of rent the tenants received.
43528. In the neighbourhood of these forests already constituted, are there sheep farms at present out of lease, or likely to be out of lease?
—No, not on my own property. There is one out of lease at Whitsunday next, but I have re-let it.
43529. Do you anticipate that, in case of farms falling out of lease in that vicinity, there will be the same difficulty in re-letting them as sheep farms which has been experienced elsewhere in the country?
—I have no great experience of sheep farms. I fancy it is no easy thing to let sheep farms, and I don't see why it should be easier.
43530. But in these parts are there not sheep farms which are thrown on the hands of the proprietor, and which he is obliged to hold against his will?
—None on my own property.
43531. But in your vicinity?
—I don't know any cases specially with my neighbours, but on my own certainly not.
43533. If any such cases occurred, I presume they would be farms are largely below the 1800 feet line. They would be sheep farms which are of material value for the production of meat ?
—These farms of mine are very small farms. With one or two exceptions, you can scarcely talk of them as sheep farms. There are only three or four farms you could really call sheep farms, as generally understood by sheep farms. The others are more mixed husbandry.
43533. So you have had no personal contact with that question of the difficulty of re-letting large sheep farms?
—I have had no experience of it; I let one the other day.
43534. You say you have got a small tenantry upon your property?
43535. Are they, properly speaking, crofters? Have you got crofters on the estate paying less than £30?
—Yes, I have. There are twenty-four small farms below £30—I mean in 1883. That would be inclusive of what I call cottar houses, which are principally houses and gardens.
43536. Do the cottar class hold direct from you or pay rent direct to you?
—Those I speak of in this statement do so. I have no return as to the number who may hold direct from tenants, but they are not numerous.
43537. On your estate has there been any withdrawal of common pasture from the crofting class?
—Leaving out what we have already spoken of, I don't think there has been.
43538. Are these townships of which you speak generally in the possession of common pasture?
—There is, strictly speaking, only what you would call one township. They have a certain amount of common pasture. There is a village which is held on a different tenure altogether.
43539. What is the nature of that tenure?
—It is an old building lease for ninety-nine years, which expires about 1920 or 1930.
43540. These are feus?
—Practically, but not perpetual.
43541. Do they hold any extent of land on that tenure? Have they any common outrun?
—No, they have what they call village acres, but these are not held on the same tenure. I don't think they have any hill ground, or very little.
43542. You mentioned you had planted in this district about 300 acres yourself; was that ground taken from the common grazing of the township, or from the pasture of a farm?
—From the pasture of a farm, not from common ground. The village of Inch is the village I alluded to. They are very small holdings.
43543. What is the average area of the holdings?
—The arable is about two acres—what we call the very lowest crofting class. There are a considerable
number of people paying less than £30, whom I should never mention as crofters. I know many of the crofting class who are as industrious as any person I am acquainted with. But there is a place called Rumguish, where the average is not above two or three acres, and they graze one or two cows and their followers. They are not the same as the village of Inch, and their tenure is quite different.
43544. Take the case of farmers paying £20, £30, and £40 rent, have those farms been reclaimed or made from wild ground by the tenantry in the course of years?
—They have been reclaimed for a long time back.
43545. In fact, none of them have been formed on what we call improving leases within your experience?
—No, I cannot say any one has been so formed. Some of them may have been added to undoubtedly by the industry of the tenants, but no farm I should say has been formed.
43546. What I wanted to arrive at was, whether there was any system going on in this country similar to what we heard of as on Lord Lovat's property?
—No. I have heard of that system. There is none on my place. Of course I appear before you so far as the representative of Sir George others, and I beg now to hand you statements of a brief nature regarding some of the other forests referred to. I believe gentlemen are here to speak to them if that is desired. In addition, there are schedules of the measurements of these forests, and the rates of local assessments, and the number of people employed in connection with the deer forests.
' Forest of Abernethy, belonging to the Earl of Seafield.
—This deer forest extends to 25,000 acres, of which about 10,000 acres are at the present time under a partial and irregular crop of wood. The extent under wood formerly consisted of about 5000 acres, and was never let for grazing purposes; but so long as the land remained unenclosed, it was found impossible to prevent trespass by sheep grazing in the neighbourhood. The remainder was, before 1869, held in common by a number of tenants in the district. Each tenant paid a fixed rent to the landlord, and was allowed to graze on the common pasture a number of sheep corresponding to such rent. Complaints were, however, constantly made that tenants in the immediate neighbourhood took advantage of their position to graze a considerable number of sheep in excess of their right, and for twelve years preceding '1854 there were litigatious pending in the Sheriff Court between the tenants themselves, which cost them £600. It was thus found that what is commonly known as the club system would not work satisfactorily, and at the general re-letting of the farms on the property the hill pasture was allocated to the tenants in its immediate neighbourhood, the holders of low ground farms being confined to their arable lands, which as a rule were sufficiently large to give employment to and support a family. This limitation of the number interested, and the adoption of precautions,—such as the appointment by the landlord of independent shepherds, to prevent differences between the parties, —did not wholly put an end to complaints, and tenants generally now prefer to have an exclusive right to the land grazed by them, even when the subject is less valuable than their former interest in the common. The letting of large tracts to several tenants in common has, therefore, so far as the nature and extent of the ground will admit of, been discontinued. In the district of Abernethy, the manufacture of timber, —much of which is of natural growth,—is next to agriculture the most important industry, and affords employment to about one hundred individuals. There are on the margin of the forest five water-power saw-mills in nearly constant employment; and as the extent under wood is being year by year largely increased, further employment will in time be afforded to an increased number of hands. It was found that the protection of the natural woods by fencing enabled young trees to make rapid progress; and as there was much land which could not be otherwise so profitably occupied several small grazings were added to the area under wood, the occupants being
invariably provided with holdings elsewhere. This change could only be properly effected gradually, and by keeping in view the claim and interests of particular tenants; but it has been accomplished without turning a drift a single tenant who desired to continue the occupation of farming. The following schedule gives the names of the tenants removed, their several rents, the complement of sheep allocated to each—being at the rate of five head to each pound of rent,—the places in which they are now settled, the rent paid, and the extent of arable and pasture land held by each :
[Schedule referred to not transcribed].
It may here be noted that while the rents of the tenants removed from the forest amounted to £93, the local assessments on the forest rent amount to £254.
Forest of Rothiemurchus—the property of Sir John P. Grant, K.C.B., &c.
This deer forest extends to about 28 square miles, or upwards of 18,000 acres, of which upwards of 5000 are presently under natural wood. The remainder lies high, and is not adapted for grazing purposes; indeed, it never was let for sheep or cattle grazing. In the early part of the present century the then proprietor put a stock of sheep on the part known as Glen Euich, but the difficulty which he experienced in procuring wintering for the stock at the early period of the season at which it was necessary to remove them from the high grounds, rendered the summer grazing almost valueless, and he was obliged to abandon this system. The sheep were accordingly removed, and the whole let as a grouse shooting in 1827 to the Duke of Bedford at a rent of £100, along with the mansion house and policies at a rent of £165, making together £265. It continued to be occupied in this way by his Grace's family till 1853. In 1841 the present proprietor, who then managed for his father, tried to induce deer to settle on the ground, and put a few on it. Deer from the forests of Braemar and Athole then began to frequent it. In 1854 the shootings, house, and policies were let to the Duke of Abercorn for £350. The ground was let for the first time as a deer forest to the Earl of Stamford in 1859, for £900 a-year for the forest, and £100 for the mansion house and policies. Some years ago a shooting lodge was built upon it by the proprietor, and it is now let for upwards of £2000. The only tenants
removed from the forest were—
(1) Donald Macgregor removed from Aldrua in 1853; he paid £5, 10s. of rent, and he was provided for at Coylum Bridge on the same property, and with a holding of about the same extent; and
(2) James Robertson removed from Incherchonie, rent £2, 12s. 6d; he was also provided with a suitable place on the same property. The local rates at present paid on the Rothiemurchus forest rental amount to more than any possible gross rental derivable from the lands in question treated by any other method.
[tables not transcribed]