CHARLES J. BREWSTER MACPHERSON of Belleville—examined.
43862. The Chairman.
—You wish to make a statement in consequence of something that has occurred elsewhere?
—Yes. At Inverness, before this Commission, reference was made to something which was stated to have occurred on my property at Glen Banchor. The person who made reference to me on that occasion was unable to answer the questions which your Lordship then asked in reference to that, and I thought, as you had come into this neighbourhood, it would be courteous in me to attend and endeavour to answer any questions you might desire to put. I should like to explain one or two points in reference to these removals. The statement which was made at Inverness appeared to convey the impression that the removals had been made with the express intention of forming a large sheep farm. That was not so. The removals were effected because, in the first place, the houses were all ruinous and dangerous to live in, the place was unsuitable for the cultivation of crop, and in the event of any scheme having been devised by the proprietor for making houses for the tenants the interest of these buildings would have swallowed up the rent which might have been obtainable for the land. Seven were stated to have been removed from Glen Banchor. One of these was removed for reasons which I consider, and which were considered at the time in the management of the estate, as sufficient and good. I have no wish to enter into them now. One was allowed to give up his lease, and we forgave him £42, 10s., five years' arrears. This was a miller whose mill had fallen into disuse, and was no longer used by the people. Two were given crofts on the property elsewhere.
43863. Then all the number stated to have been removed were practically provided for in one shape or another, and compensated for their losses in removal?
—I shall not go so far as to say they were compensated. I don't think they suffered loss.
43864. But one of them received five years' rental?
—Yes, he asked to be allowed to retire before the end of his lease.
43865. And he received five years' rental?
—He was forgiven between four and five years' rent. I may say as regards the general question of crofters, I have a very great belief in the capability of crofters to do well on crofts of a good size, and of the average kind. An intelligent, industrious tenant of my own told me he did not; think a £ 20 croft large enough for a man and his family to do well upon. I have a farm on my estate which I intended to divide into three or four small farms, but I am assured by men who understand the subject better than I do that the expense of building, and the fact that there are buildings to the value of £1700 already on the ground, make the scheme impracticable, and I can only afford to carry it out on a commercial basis. In the evidence given to-day reference was made by a witness who presented himself from part of my property. I specially use the word witness, for I do not consider him a delegate for the rest of my tenants. Among other things, the witness mentioned that land had been taken from the crofters' low pastures for the purpose of plantation, and he also said that no compensation had been made to the tenants, and that the land so taken was amongst the best of the pasture. I admit that the land was taken, but the other thing I contradict entirely. In the first place, the land that was taken for planting was of a very inferior description for the purpose of grazing. The enclosure of these places for planting was done not for any profit that was likely to be derived by the estate from the timber which might grow in the parts enclosed, but solely with a view to afford shelter to the crofts of the district and to the village. In one case which has happened recently a strip was enclosed at considerable expense, considering the size of the bit, solely with the view of protecting a small number of crofts of which the croft of the witness who appeared here to-day was one. In this case no compensation was allowed to the tenants. They fully acquiesced in the taking of this bit for planting. They understood the reason of it, and understood that the benefit derived from the shelter obtained from this wood would far more than counterbalance the small sum —perhaps Is., a year—that might have been returned to them by this very useless bit of ground. The witness who made a statement here to-day, and who was kind enough to criticise the management of my property, has had but one year's experience of it,—his brother and himself having little more than a year ago entered into the joint tenancy of a farm the rent of which is £42, 10s. I should like to add that the witness stated that the remainder of my tenants would have come forward to-day only they were afraid to do so. Many of my tenants are old friends of my own, and I take upon myself the entire responsibility of denying that statement in toto. I shall be glad to answer any questions.
43866. There was a complaint made, I think, in connection with this case, that the common pasture was not fenced off from the adjacent ground?
43867. Well, the witness stated that the pasture was run upon by stock from the adjacent farm, and that it would be a great benefit to the crofters if their common pasture was fenced by a wire fence, and he was asked whether they had ever applied to the proprietor for such a fence, and he said no; was your attention ever called to the expediency of putting a fence round this common pasture?
—No, I may say that to-day is the first occasion on which I heard it. At the same time, I may state that any fence I have been asked by my tenants to erect I have always put up. I have recently put up one at the request of the witness who made the statement.
43868. Without any expenditure or co-operation on their part?
—Except that they carted the materials to the ground.
43869. Was it not also in this case that a piece of ground had been given on the other side of the river?
—I imagine that must have been at the time the plantations were made.
43870. But do they actually enjoy a piece of ground on the other side of the river?
—I accept the statement of the witness to-day. I was not aware of it.
43871. Mr Cameron.
—Was this plantation we have heard spoken of made before the witness came to your property?
43872. Then you mean to say that when he came, the plantation was there already ?
—Yes, and about four years old.