Kingussie, 15 October 1883 - William Macdougall

WILLIAM MACDOUGALL, Merchant, Grantown (40)—examined.

43039. Mr Cameron.
—How long have you been established at Grantown?
—I have been there for twenty-five years.

43040. What does your business chiefly consist in ?
—In drapery principally, and in grocery and ironmongery, and the different things that are kept in large stores.

43041. You are well acquainted with the inhabitants of Grantown and the neighbourhood, I presume?

43042. You have dealings, I suppose, with all classes of persons —with proprietors, with shooting tenants, with farmers, and with small farmers and crofters?
—Yes. I did not come here as a delegate, but by invitation of the Commissioners.

43043. I am aware of that. The Commission asked you, as they thought you would be able to give some evidence about the condition of the people and the business in which you are engaged. Now, with which of these classes do you deal to the greatest extent?
—With the farmers of the strath.

43044. Are there many of what we call small crofters in the neighbourhood of Grantown?
—There are a good many small farms, but I could not say about the size of them. There are a number of farms from thirty to eighty acres in the country round about

43045. Do you have many dealings with those small farmers?

43046. What has been the result of your observation for the last fifteen years with respect to the condition of those small farmers?
—I should say they are better now than they were fifteen years ago; and they were getting on very well till about seven years ago, but since then they have had very bad years, and it has been up-hill work.

43047. Has your business shown a falling off in consequence?
—We do a large business outside the strath, but I should say it has not improved in Strathspey in that time.

43048. I am confining my observations to the small farmer; what has been the cause of the diminution in the volume of business?
—I do not suppose there is any. It is very much the same as it was seven years ago.

43049. I thought you said their condition was not so good?
—No, they have had bad years, but if good times were coming again I should say our trade will increase with them.

43050. But so far as your trade is concerned, have you noticed any falling off in the trade between you and the small farmers in the last seven years?
—Well, the trade is very much the same, but they do not pay so well as they did.

43051. You have more bad debts?
—More bad debts.

43052. But you believe that is caused chiefly by bad seasons?

43053. And you believe a recurrence of good seasons will mitigate that evil, if not altogether remove it?

43054. I want to ask you some questions regarding your dealings with shooting tenants; do you have much to do with them?

43055. I suppose you find they are a pretty good class of customers. You have not many bad debts so far as they are concerned?

43056. What class of goods do you supply to those shooting tenants?
—Tweeds principally, but we do a good deal in grocery goods also.

43057. But we were told at Inverness that the shooting tenants of late years had been in the habit of obtaining their groceries more from stores in London and elsewhere than in the district?
—A great many of them do, but they all buy largely in Grantown.

43058. Have you found the disposition to take groceries from stores increase of late years or not, or has it been much the same?
—I cannot say—I think very much the same.

43059. But has the volume of your business with shooting tenants increased of late years, and is it increasing?
—I should say it was increasing.

43060. A gentleman made a statement, which I could not quite understand, that not only were the shooting tenants in the habit of employing stores more than formerly for groceries, but they also got cloth from the south instead of from Inverness; is that your experience?
—They purchase furnishings and carpets from those stores.

43061. But I am talking of cloth?
—I am not aware.

43062. You mentioned cloth as one of the principal commodities with which you supplied them?
—Yes; l am not aware of their getting tweeds or cloths of any kind from the stores.

43063. Now, what is your opinion generally as to the effect of these shooting tenants upon the bulk of the population —the native inhabitants—do you think it is a beneficial effect, or the reverse?
—I should say a beneficial effect. During the two or three months in autumn they leave a great deal of money in the country.

43064. Have you ever noticed that the employment of the people, of the servants connected with the shooting lodges—gillies, and so on —has any demoralising effect upon their characters?
—I have often heard it said it has, but I am not aware it is so, and I cannot mention an instance.

43065. Have you heard it said by any person upon whose judgment you would be apt to rely, such as a minister, for instance?

43066. You do not recollect any instance of a minister telling you he noticed anything demoralising in the effect of contact with the shooting tenants by the people?

43067. I suppose they do employ a good many people of one sort or another?
—They do. In one lodge there are seven or eight gamekeepers employed.

43068. And how many gillies?
—I cannot say.

43069. Have you ever heard any general complaint made as to the conduct of any of these shooting tenants— any exercise of hardship or unfortunate misunderstandings between them or their keepers and the farmers or natives?
—I cannot recollect of any just now.

43070. Of course, you have often heard of damages done by game?
—Yes, but I am not in a position to mention them.

43071. But your impression, having mixed largely with the small farming class, is that they are well satisfied with the state of things that exists and the relations which subsist between them and the shooting tenants?
—I should say so.

43072. And they would not like to see them disappear?
—They would not. There is no feeling against them. For instance, in regard to the grouse shootings, there is no unkindly feeling that I ever heard.

43073. And with regard to the deer forests, is there any feeling about them?
—There might be more in the case of deer forests.

43074. But is there; have you heard of any?
—I am not prepared to mention any particular case.

43075. When I talk of shooting tenants, I include deer forests as well as grouse shootings, and your dealings are with both?

43076. And the deer forest tenants as a rule are the wealthier of the two?

43077. Though not so numerous?
—No. In Strathspey we have only two, I think.

43078. What is done with the venison which these deer forest tenants kill?
—Well, I think it is sent away in presents by the sportsmen to their friends.

43079. Do they give much of it away to the farmers in the neighbourhood, and innkeepers?
—Not in the neighbourhood where I am. They give it to the poorer crofters.

43080. They use it all somehow or other?
—They use it all.

43081. Do they kill hinds in the winter?
—I am not sure.

43082. Do you never see any hind venison about?
—No, I have never been in the forests, and am not posted up about the way they do.

43083. Have you any cattle shows in Grantown?

43084. Any other festive gathering of any sort?
—I think there is only the cattle show.

43085. Have you not games?
—Yes; they used to be held at Castle Grant at one time, and were very successful, but they have not been so successful latterly.

43086. Are there any games held at Abernethy now?
—-Yes, and the people turn out very largely.

43087. Do the shooting tenants at all subscribe to the festivities of the district and assist in the amusement of the people?
—Yes, but there is not very much money required. I know they all give cheerfully, and at our cattle show they give prizes very handsomely.

43088. Do they subscribe to the local charities at all? Perhaps there are none?
—Well, I am not very sure about that.

43089. Have you had anything to do with contracts for wire fencing?

43090. There is a great deal of wire fencing employed in connection with these deer forests, is there not?
—Yes, a great deal.

43091. You have had something to do with these contracts?
—Yes, we have had a good deal to do with several forests for ten or fifteen years.

43092. Can you tell me the number of miles of wire fencing erected in connection with these deer forests within the last ten years?

43093. But you have had something to do with these contracts?

43094. Are a good number of people employed in connection with these wire fences?
—Yes, a large number.

43095. Is that still going on?

43096. Do they make many roads and paths up to the tops of the hills, or partly to the tops?
—Well, occasionally; but there is not very much work in that way, I daresay.

43097. Perhaps the ground is sound, and they do not want paths?
—Yes, in many places they do not require paths.

43098. Sheriff Nicolson.
—-I have heard that people used to gather cranberries a good deal in Strathspey?

43099. And that they are prevented in some places by the shooting tenant?
—I have not heard of a shooting tenant ever keeping them back from gathering them, but I have heard that this year some of the keepers kept them back. I do not know whether it was with the consent of the tenants or not.

43100. Was that prejudicial to the industry of the people?
—It would have been this year, but for four years back there was no crop.

43101. I suppose gamekeepers can do a good many things disagreeable to people which are not ordered by their masters?
—It is in the interest of the masters. They wish to behave as kindly to the natives as is possible.
The people, however, gathered a great many. I am sure that several cartloads have been gathered in the different parts of Strathspey this year.

43102. But do you know any instance in which they have been actually prohibited?
—No, but I know the gamekeepers do not wish to allow them inside certain parts of the forest.

43103. Then it would be a loss to some poor people?
—Yes, but they would not make very much money out of them.

43104. Where do these cranberries grow?
—Just on the hill sides, always where there is heather, and it is only one year in three or four that there is a crop.

43105. At what time of the year are they gathered?
—From the middle of August to the middle of September.

43106. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are there any complaints in your district on the part of the crofters, do you hear, in the district of Strathspey?
—No. They have not had good years the last six or seven years, but they are certainly a contented class of people, and have been all their time looking forward to bad years.

43107. Have you heard any complaints about some of their hill grazings being taken away partly for planting and partly enclosing in forest?
—There have been instances, but I am not prepared to speak of them, because I am not a farmer, and from a business point of view I cannot speak.

43108. I wish to know whether people complain to you when they come to your shop?
—No, they would not make a complaint to me in a case of that sort.

43109. Supposing you were dunning them for a past due account, would they not give the reasons why they did not pay?
—They just speak of the bad years, and hope times will improve.

43110. Has there not been a forest within the last few years created in the parish of Abernethy ?
—Yes, a good many years ago.

43111. How many years ago?
—About twelve or fifteen years ago.

43112. How was that occupied before?
—-I cannot answer that. I was not the least interested in farming, and cannot answer.

43113. You are not able to give an opinion?
—No; I thought you would only ask questions of me in a business way.

43114. Are you acquainted with Badenoch and Strathnairn?
—Yes, I am a native of that district.

43115. What are the people there saying?
—I have not been there twice in seven years.

43116. Are they better off than in Strathspey; do they pay more readily?
—We have no accounts in Strathnairn.

43117. Which is the more flourishing district—Badenoch or Strathspey?
—I cannot give any comparison upon that.

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