Sir JOHN WILLIAM RAMSDEN, Bart., M.P, Proprietor, residing at Ardverikie (52)—examined.
43218. The Chairman.
—You desire to make a statement to us?
—No, I have no statement. I am only here to answer questions.
43219. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How long is it since you came to Scotland first?
—I first came twenty years ago—in 1864.
43220. You have now a very considerable estate in Inverness-shire?
43221. May I ask what your objects were in purchasing land in the Highlands?
—My first inducement was to obtain a deer forest, but I wished, in addition to that, to become possessed of a large extent of wild land which would give me the opportunity of planting and draining and improving it according to my own wishes.
43222. I understand you had some difficulty in acquiring the estate you now possess, and that it was necessary for you to purchase other estates and make exchanges. Is that so?
—Yes, the possession of Ardverikie was very complicated owing to a very long lease, and also some
other land which ran into it very much, which was entailed land, and in order to acquire the estate which I now have I was obliged to buy other lands to exchange for the entailed lands. In consequence of that, I had to make myself very minutely acquainted with the circumstances, much more so than if I could have bought the land straight off.
43223. In that way your attention was necessarily much more closely directed to the land than if you had got the land simply at once without any trouble?
—Much more closely.
43224. May I ask the extent of your lands in acres?
—The acreage I have round Ardverikie is 130,000 acres, and Alvie, which is a detached property, 8000—138,000 in Inverness-shire altogether.
43225. What did you pay for these lands?
—The 130,000 acres round Ardverikie cost £350,000, and the 8000 at Alvie cost £20,000, making £370,000 as the original purchase price.
43226. What state was Ardverikie in when you bought it; was it a forest ?
—Yes, the whole estate was a forest. It was entirely clear. There were no sheep upon it, and no people whatever, except the foresters in charge of the forest, and Ardverikie you may say was quite deserted.
There was only one old woman to take care of the house, and one forester to take care of the out-buildings.
43227. In going through the estate, do you find remains of ancient cultivation of any consequence, or do they appear to be merely summer sheilings within the forest?
—The remains that exist are chiefly remains of summer sheilings merely, but there are in one or two places traces of old cultivation which must have taken place,at some very distant time.
43228. I suppose no great extent?
—No great extent. I may say I have taken a good deal of trouble to ascertain the history of them if I could, and as to when they were thrown out of cultivation, but I have been quite unable to do so. There seems to be no tradition in the country as to when they were cultivated. The only case where I have been able to trace any sort of trustworthy tradition was this, that my late head forester, who died this year at eighty-four years of age, and had lived in the country all his life, told me that when he was a young man he remembered an old woman whose father was understood to have once had a small farm inside what is now the forest.
43229. I believe the forest is of considerable altitude?
—Yes, very high above the sea indeed.
43230. What is the level of Loch Laggan?
—The water level of Loch Laggan is 818 feet, according to the Ordnance survey.
43231. And there are a great many high hills within the forest; how many distinct peaks may there be over 3000 feet in height ?
—I had the curiosity to count them the other day, and there are nine peaks over 3000 feet. Fully half of the forest is above 2000 feet above the sea. A considerable part of it is above 3000 feet. There is hardly any of it that is lower than 1000 feet above the sea.
43232. Do not the waters run from Ardverikie in three different directions ? For instance, do some streams not run into the sea at Fort-William by the Spean?
—Yes; part drains to the west by the Spean, another part drains to the east by the Spey, and another drains to the south-east by the Tay.
43233. All finding their sources more or less in the forest?
—Yes, there is a hill just behind Loch Ericht lodge from which the water drains into three seas.
43234. When you got Ardverikie and the other lands, was there a farm called Strathmashie which ran inconveniently into the forest?
—Yes, it ran in with a narrow sort of tongue into the forest, and consequently made a march which it was very difficult indeed to keep.
43235. And when the pastoral lease of Strathmashie fell out did you put some of that farm under forest?
—Yes, I took the high ground of Strathmashie, about 8000 acres, off the low ground, and added that to the forest.
43236. And that is all the afforesting you have made?
—Yes, that is all the addition I have made.
43237. And, in point of fact, you deducted a very large proportion from the old forest for plantations and for the home farm?
—Yes, I have taken off a large extent for this purpose. Altogether, I must have taken off 5000 acres for the home farm and plantations.
43238. What became of the farmer at the time the lease fell out; was he provided in the meantime with another farm on your estate?
—Yes, I was able to make an arrangement by which he was undisturbed. It happened at the same time with the expiry of the lease of Strathmashie that the lease of the adjoining farm of Dalchully expired also. The tenant of Dalchully was an absentee. In fact, I never saw him and never heard of his being in the country. When his lease expired, he made no communication to me. He did not ask me for any renewal, and the farm consequently fell into my hands.
43239. And you arranged with the outgoing tenant of Strathmashie?
—I gave that and the low ground of Strathmashie to the tenant from whom I had taken the 8000 acres of hill ground, and he remained as my tenant until his death
43240. That finished the afforesting?
43241. Can you give us an idea how much money you may have spent upon the estate since 1870 when you came? We shall take plantations first. How many acres have you planted at Ardverikie?
—At Ardverikie I have planted over 6000 acres, on which I have planted 18,000,000 trees, and at Alvie I have planted nearly 2000 acres with 6,000,000 trees, making altogether 8000 acres planted with 24,000,000 trees; and that I am going on with as quickly as the seasons will permit.
43242. Your plantation operations are by no means at an end?
—By no means. My nursery is calculated to enable me, if the weather allows it, to plant 2,000,000 trees yearly for the future.
43243. What was the total cost of these plantations?
—I am afraid I cannot give you the cost of the plantations alone. I can give it to you with the other expenditure generally. As to fencing at Ardverikie, I have put up more than 76 miles of my own internal fences, and I have joined with neighbouring proprietors in putting up more than 34 miles of march fence. At Alvie I have put up 14 miles of internal fencing, and joined with other proprietors in putting up about 9 miles of march fence. I have done a good deal of draining, although I have a very great deal more still to do. I see I have made 37,834 chains, which is, roughly speaking, 473 miles of open drains. During the same time I have made over 20 miles of carriage road, and more than 18 miles of pony tracks and walks, without counting several miles which I have made at Alvie of similar walks. During the same time, without counting my own house at Ardverikie, or the shooting lodges which I have built or enlarged, I have built eighteen new houses and put into repair thirteen old houses. I have built two complete new sets of farm buildings, besides making considerable additions to three other sets of farm buildings. I don't include in these the ordinary estate repairs.
43244. What may be the cost of these works?
—The whole outlay I have made, exclusive of the cost of purchase, during the twelve years, has been £180,000, or an average of rather more than £15,000 a year spent in the country.
43245. Do you generally employ the country people in these works?
—I employ all the country people I can get.
43246. Do they come from as far as Skye and the Lewis?
—A good many of the road makers come from the west coast—principally from the island of Lewis. I don't think many Skye men come, but a good many come from Lewis,
43247. Is there barrack accommodation for them to sleep in?
—Yes. Of course these roads are away from any houses generally speaking, and I have to build a barrack near the work, at which they live during the summer months when it is going on.
43248. Are all your servants and employees Highlanders or natives of Scotland so far as you know?
—All my estate servants are.
43249. All the foresters?
—All the foresters are men of this country.
43250. And in fact you may say the establishment generally here is Scottish in every sense of the term?
—In every sense, except my own household servants, who travel about with me.
43251. Did you take on most of the old foresters?
—I took on all the foresters. I took them all on twelve years ago when I came into the forest and I have nearly all of them now. If I may be allowed to make a digression, I should like to say this —because I have seen in this inquiry it has often been stated that employment as a forester or a gillie is a demoralising employment, and that men become unfit for other work. As far as my own experience goes, I would ask permission to contradict that altogether, and I may say I have very good means of comparing the people here with those in the south, because I have a great many people employed on my estate in England, and I can compare the two, and I must say, that of all the people of the labouring class that I have ever employed, I know none whom I have found more thoroughly trustworthy than the foresters I have had in this country. I think the state of the forest is a proof of that. When I entered upon it more than twelve years ago, there were seven foresters employed. Five of these are still in my service. One of them emigrated ten years ago, and I filled his place by promoting his brother, who was at that time one of my gillies, and he is still in my service as forester. In all those twelve years, among all the men, I have only had one single instance where I had to discharge a man for misconduct, and that misconduct did not consist of any unfaithfulness in the discharge of his duties.
43252. The Chairman.
—In what sense exactly do you use the word forester? Is your forester a game servant connected with the deer forest exclusively, or does forester mean a man connected with the woods as well as the game?
—I use the word forester as a man simply employed in a deer forest as distinct from a woodman and as distinct from a grouse keeper; and I may add that my own gillies are really among the best of the
workmen. I employ them not merely for the time when they are gillies, but at my other work all the year round. They go on from year to year, and there are none of my workmen that I value more.
43253. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—These, I presume, may be said to be drawn from the crofter class?
—I believe they are. I should say they are entirely from that class.
43254. Before turning from this subject, may I ask you to refer to your late principal forester, Mr Cattanach. Was he not a man who was exceedingly satisfactory to you in the discharge of his duties, and was he not a man held in the highest estimation by the whole parish?
—He was a man for whom everybody in the country, I should think, had the highest respect. I can only speak of him as one of the most valued friends I ever had in the world. He died this year eighty-four years old, and he has been a very great loss to me.
43255. He was connected with game for fifty or sixty years?
—During his whole life. He began life as a fox-hunter in the parish of Laggan. When the Duke of Abercorn made the forest of Ardverikie he put him at the head of it, and he remained there under the Duke of Abercorn, under Lord Henry Bentinck, and under me up to the day of his death.
43256. I should like to ask you something about the population of your estate; has it increased or diminished, or is it stationary ?
—The population of the parish of Laggan, according to the census, has certainly not increased, it has diminished. I have no means of comparing the population of my own estate now with what it was ten years ago. I have no means of subdividing the old returns for the parish, but I think I have other evidence which must show that the population on my estate has increased.
43257. Will you explain your reasons for coming to that conclusion?
—First of all, I had to build a number of new houses, and every one of these new houses is fully occupied, and if I had more I could fill them very well. I not only built new houses, but I repaired any old ones capable of being repaired. Then, in addition to that, it has lately been found necessary to build a new board school close to my home farm, where no school had ever been before—a school which is attended by thirty children. Certainly twenty of them are the children of labourers and persons employed on my own estate. Then there is another school held now in an old inn at Garvamore—a much less populous part of the parish—which is attended by fifteen children, and all come from my estate. Then the parish school at Gargask, I believe, is almost entirely filled by children from my own estate. I say almost entirely for this reason, that Cluny has a school of his own for the children on his estate, which is only two miles from this school on my estate.
43258. Now, considering the nature of the ground—its altitude and otherwise, and what used to be done before—do you consider its occupation as a deer forest is the natural and legitimate use to which it should be adapted?
—I cannot myself see any other means of employing the ground that would be so valuable or so generally beneficial to the district, certainly
43259. Has the rental of the parish of Laggan increased very much within the last ten or fifteen years?
—Yes, it has increased very considerably. It is a remarkable point connected with this, that the increase of the rental has arisen almost altogether from the increase in the value of the forests and shootings, very little from the increase in the rental of agricultural land.
43260. What is the rise since 1870 in the parish?
—I have compared the last year in the valuation roll with the valuation roll of 1869-70, which was the last year before I became possessed of the place. In 1869-70 it was £10,925; in 1882-83 it was £16,175, showing an increase of £5250.
43261. Could you divide that money, showing the arable or pastoral rent and the shooting rent?
—I ought to say that from that increase I should take £370, which is merely a nominal increase on my own estate, owing to the farms in my hands having been returned at higher than their true market value, and this is to be corrected in the forthcoming roll ; so that the real bona fide increase in the thirteen years is not £5250 but £1880. Of that £1880, £1062 is due to forests and shootings, and
only £818 is due to land.
43262. That is the proportion between the two ?
—Yes. The case of the parish of Alvie, where I am also interested, is found to be still more striking. There the increase in the last thirteen years has been about 80 per cent., namely from £4854 in 1869-70 to £8752 in 1882-83. The increase on shootiugs and fishings is £3777, while the increase on land rents is only £121.
43263. Regarding the product of the forests, what is done with it—the stags that are killed in the season and the hinds in winter?
—A certain amount is consumed in my own household, but every bit not consumed in my own household is given away.
43264. Is a good deal given off in the country?
—The great bulk of it is given away in the country. Of course, I send a certain amount to friends in Scotland and friends in England, but that is a drop in the ocean. The great bulk is distributed among my neighbours in the parish.
43265. Among the tenants ?
—Among the work people and the poor people.
43266. And you carefully see to it yourself that such a distribution is made?
43267. You have unfortunately, I understand, got several large sheep farms on your hands. You have Glenshere and Braeroy?
43268. When these fell outdid you advertise them and try to get them let?
—I advertised them iu every paper I could think of.
43269. Did you get an offer, on one occasion, for part or the whole?
—Yes, I got an offer, and accepted the offer, but when it came to the point the man declared off.
43270. And you found you could not compel him?
—Yes. I was so anxious not to have the farm thrown on my own hands that I put it into my law advisers' hands to see whether the man, who was a man of considerable capital, could not be compelled to adhere to the offer he had made.
43271. So that, in point of fact, these farms have fallen upon you unwillingly, and I suppose you are quite prepared to accept a reasonable reduction of rent according to the state of the times?
—They have fallen upon my hands most unwillingly.
43272. And they still remain?
—They still remain in my own hands.
43273. Have you ever removed any one out of his holding since you got possession of the property?
—No person, unless you can call it so in the case of 8000 acres, when I gave the man an adjoining farm in return for what I took from him.
43274. You have stated you have built some cottages and several new houses and others; have you also repaired bridges which the public use, and one at considerable expense, which the county authorities have now taken over?
—Yes, I have practically rebuilt the old bridge at Garvamore, which had become impassable, and now the authorities have accepted it.
43275. Have you some tenants at Crathie who occupy common hill pasture?
—Yes; these are the only tenants, I think, who would come under the definition of crofters on the whole estate.
43276. They have a common pasture?
43277. Are these Catholics—old remnants of the Highland people?
—Yes, a number of them are so, and there is a chapel close by.
43278. Did you enclose a small bit of ground about the chapel for the purpose of allowing it to be beautified and ornamented by the people?
—I have enclosed and planted it myself. When I obtained the property there were simply the bare walls without anything round them —no enclosure of any sort.
43279. Have you, because some of your tenants are old Catholics, and to show your goodwill to them, given the priest who has charge some land at a nominal rent?
43280. I believe this farm is not a club farm in reality, though it ought to be?
—No, it is not what you would call a club farm —that is to say, the tenants have no common stock. Each man has his own stock.
43281. Whether do you consider it would be more advantageous for people like them to hare a common stock with one herd or to have a common grazing?
—I should myself think it would be very much better for them to have a common stock, and shepherds acting jointly for all of them; and I may say that under their leases these Crathie tenants are bound to come under that system, and I should have been very glad to put them under that system, but I found there was so much unwillingness on their part to agree to it that I did not press the matter.
43282. Have the leases of these small tenants fallen out since your time?
—They have not fallen out, because I have renewed them.
43283. But they did fall out?
—Yes, they expired, and I have renewed them for another term.
43284. Did you raise the rents?
—No, I renewed the leases at the same rents, and on the same conditions.
43285. Have you ever raised the rent of any tenant you found in the property when you bought it?
—I have raised the rents of the shooting tenants, but I have not raised the rent of any agricultural tenant I found there.
43286. Have you got all your deer forests fenced where necessary?
—Where necessary they are. My forests are peculiarly situated. There is a large lake at the north and another at the south, so I have twenty miles of water boundary. Then, the eastern end of it abuts upon agricultural and pastoral land, and is all fenced from the one lake to the other. On the west end it abuts on the property of two large proprietors, part of which ground is also cleared for deer. At that west end there is no fence, but I have offered to the proprietor whose ground is under sheep to join him in putting up a march fence if he wishes it.
43287. Do you consider that all forests should be fenced from the pastoral tenants?
—If you ask me the question I should carry it much farther. I should say that not only all forests should be fenced, but wherever one owner of land wishes to have a march fences put up the adjoining owner ought to be bound to bear his share, and put up a fence whether it is forest or sheep ground.
43288. Have you ever had any difficulty with your tenants or with your neighbours about game?
43289. Have you taken great pains in keeping down hares and rabbits all over your estate?
—Yes; I have taken very great pains in doing that.
43290. Might I say you have even got trappers or a trapper from England to keep them down?
—Yes. I have employed trappers, and when I was told I would get a better trapper from England, I imported him, and in all my shooting leases I reserve to myself the power of keeping down hares and rabbits of my own authority without permission from the shooting tenant.
43291. Did you give your tenants that had leases power to kill hares and rabbits?
—I did so directly the Act of 1880 passed.
43292. Can you say that in all the arrangements you have made about your estates here, you can look back upon them with this feeling of satisfaction that you have never injured anybody—any crofters or tenants, or pastoral or agricultural land?
—No, certainly, I cannot conceive that in any possible way I have injured any person whatever, though I hope it has done much good by putting a great deal of money into the pockets of the people here.
43293. Has pauperism rather decreased in the parish of Laggan?
—Yes, very decidedly.
43294. Decreased more than in proportion to the decrease of the population?
—The decrease of pauperism has been considerably more than the decrease of the population.
43295. Have you been told that you are entitled to a little credit for that yourself in consequence of the large expenditure that has taken place now for so many years?
—I am told that is so, and the proof that has been given to me is that people are now able to buy a more expensive sort of food, and more of it, than they could do before this expenditure was going on.
43296. Do you get applications made to you by any people in the parish in the way of alms?
—Very rarely indeed.
43297. Do you look back with satisfaction then upon having acquired the estates, and all you have done?
43298. And are you satisfied?
—Yes, I must say it has been to me a great interest, and I find it is an interest that grows greater and greater every year.
43299. With reference to a matter that occurred at Inverness the other day, I cannot tell whether your memory will charge you with it, but a person examined before us at Inverness stated as a great hardship that the people—crofters —at Lochend, while it was in your possession, were deprived of their hill grazings; do you recollect the circumstances, or can you give any explanation of it?
—I certaiuly have no recollection whatever of any crofter being deprived of his hill grazing. I believe there were some who had the privilege of putting out one or two horses on the hill—who were allowed as a favour to do that —and that ground on which they put the horses was enclosed for planting. Well, necessarily when that was enclosed for planting we could not allow horses to be turned out on it; but I remember further that those very tenants had their rents reduced, and I presume it was in consideration of little privileges being taken away; and I also remember that, till I got the property they had no leases. You yourself strongly urged they should have leases, and at your request I granted leases. Perhaps I may be allowed to add, in regard to this property at Inverness, that Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, who was living there, was good enough to look after it then; and I am perfectly clear that no people were turned off, and no hardship was inflicted upon them, because in all my conversation with him that was one of the objects Mr Fraser-Mackintosh urged upon me. He said
—' Whatever you do, don't inflict any injury upon these poor people. Let us make our improvements without in any way affecting them; and if possible give them a more permanent tenure than they had before; ' and in consequence of his representation I gave them those eleven years' leases. (see Appendix A. LXXVIII)
43300. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Has the population on your property decreased since you became proprietor?
—I have no means of comparing the population on my estate, since I became proprietor, as distinguished from the parish.
43301. Have you any reason to think the population on your estate has diminished?
—No; my opinion is that they must have increased, because I certainly have built a number of houses which did not exist before, and every one of those houses is fully occupied.
43302. Have you any idea of the number of families you have on your property altogether?
—I am afraid I have not got that. I could easily ascertain it, but I cannot state it just now.
43303. Or how many tenants you have altogether?
—Yes, I can state that. It is in the return I have made out for the Commission.
43304. According to this return, you have just eight crofters on Ardverikie?
43305. And paying rents of from £7, 15s. to £22, with from five to fifteen acres of arable land. Have they hill pasture?
—Yes; they have hill pasture above their arable land. I think it is stated there that their proportion of the common grazing would work out to be'1442 acres. That is their proportion of the grazing plus their arable land, and the rent they pay is £100, 15s., if I remember right.
43306. It has been raised from £79, 10s. in 1853?
—Yes; during the thirty years, but I have only possessed it twelve years. There have been no alterations since I became the owner.
43307. Are these people in comfortable circumstances?
—Yes, I think they are in very comfortable circumstances.
43308. Are they able to live by the land or by the work you supply to them ?
—Well, I employ their sons as my workmen, and I hire a good many of their horses. Of course, that must be an advantage to them, but whether or not they could live without it I cannot say.
43309. Are the houses good or above the average of ordinary Highland cottages ?
—I cannot say they are good. They are about the average.
43310. Thatched houses?
43311. Who built them?
—I don't know that. They are just in the state they were when I got the property.
43312. How many persons altogether are employed by you?
—I can show the number employed at weekly wages. Here is the return of those on day labour paid monthly from the 1st January 1871 to 1883. That is merely the day labourers employed on estate improvements. It does not take in any of the foresters, or gamekeepers, or carters, or any of the people we permanently employ; and it does not take in anybody who is working on contract.
43313. Do you think there are as many people employed on your estate, occupied as it is chiefly as a deer forest, as there would be if it were let out in sheep farms?
—Certainly a very great number more.
43314. Are there more men required for a deer forest than for a sheep tack?
—Well, I should say there are perhaps rather more required, but not many more required necessarily, only I live there, because the inducement to me to live there is the deer forest, and when I live there I carry on all those improvements on the estate; while the sheep farmer, of course, would limit his expenditure to the narrowest possible amount.
43315. Have all those employed by you a cow's grass?
—All the foresters have, and the keepers have. They have generally two cows each.
43316. But unlike those on other deer forests, your men are employed all the year round?
—The foresters are. The labourers are employed as long as the weather will allow.
43317. You get a good many labourers from as far away as Lewis; are there not sufficient hands to be had in the country round about you?
—There are not sufficient men for these works of mine—road making, and so on.
43318. And where are these men from a distance accommodated when at work; do they get lodgings?
—I build barracks for them wherever the work is, barracks which I can move about from place to place so as to let them be near their work.
43319. Of course, you don't look upon the deer forest as any contribution to the economic profit of Great Britain? It was altogether a matter of pleasure for you?
43320. So the amount of venison produced on this forest of yours cannot be regarded as an item of any importance in the statistics of the food produce for the benefit of the British nation?
—I have seen it reckoned in that way, but I should not lay stress on it myself.
43321. I suppose you don't sell any of it?
—No; it is all either consumed in my own house or given away.
43322. Do you think, in point of fact, that venison can be looked upon as comparable to mutton as an article of food for the benefit of the British public?
—Certainly not in an economic point of view —not as a matter of trade —but I would think that for the people in the parish of Laggan it is very much better, because there might be a great deal of mutton, but not a pound of it would be given away. I never think of giving away a pound of mutton, though I give the whole produce of the deer forest.
43323. So whether it is better or not for the British public generally, it is better for the people on your estate and for your neighbours?
—I should say it is better for the people of the district.
43324. The Chairman.
—You stated that none of your forest was below 800 feet above the level of the sea?
—None of it.
43325. And it runs from that to 3000 feet?
—The highest is the top of Ben Alder, which is 3757 feet.
43326. What is the extreme level of cereal cultivation here; is there any corn ripened or turnips cultivated above the level of 800 feet?
—There is some sown, but I doubt if there is any ripened above 900 feet
43327. At what level do we sit here at this moment?
—I think it is about 700 feet.
43328. But you look upon 800 feet, practically speaking, as the extreme level of profitable cultivation?
—I would put it at between 800 and 900 feet.
43329. So no arable land is lost by your deer forest?
—No, certainly not—so little that it is not appreciable.
43330. Then, with reference to the pasture, you say that the ground bears no traces or few traces of ancient habitation, but some traces of the existence of sheilings in former times, to which the people in the lower part of the country probably sent their cattle?
—-I believe that was the system.
43331. Do you think that the withdrawal of this liberty of summer grazing is the withdrawal of any considerable benefit from the people below? I mean, if it were restored, would the people be found to make use of it and pay rent for it?
—I suppose they would pay a certain rent for it. But the conditions of agriculture are so charged that one can hardly conceive it, because that would imply that you did not graze sheep. Of course the sheep and cattle would interfere with each other, and it is so much more profitable to graze the ground with sheep than with cattle that we can hardly conceive of the old sheiling system being restored.
43332. But do you think that sheep farming proper might be profitably practised within your area of forest with a blackfaced sheep stock?
—No doubt blackfaced sheep could be grazed there, but very few could be wintered there, and there we come to the difficulty. From the sheep farms now in my own hands I have to send away 10,000 sheep in the winter. Each sheep I reckon on an average costs me 6s., and there is £3000 a year spent in hiring wintering.
43333. Then, treating the question from an economic point of view, there is no loss of arable land—there is no appreciable loss by summer grazing—but there is a loss by the withdrawal of a regular blackfaced sheep stock?
—Yes, there is a certain loss no doubt, but if the forests were put back into sheep, of course the result of that would be that wintering would be dearer still than they are now, and what really limits the quantity of stock you can graze is the difficulty of feeding them in winter. You could, no doubt, graze a great deal more sheep than you have in summer, but they would starve in winter.
43334. Then again, in an economic point of view, the area of forest may have produced in former times a larger quantity of à valuable commodity, that is timber. Was the ground at one time largely timbered?
—At some very remote time no doubt it was, because I find a great deal of timber in the mosses, but those mosses are the very ground which will not now grow any timber at all.
43335. But you have no record that there were great cuttings of timbers in that district last century?
—No, I don't fancy there were any such cuttings.
43336. There are no contracts existing for felling timber in your area such as we have heard of in other places?
—No; in fact, Lord Abercorn afforested the ground before there were any means of communication with that part of the country, which would have made it pay to cut timber; and from the date of his afforesting, of course nothing could be touched, and therefore I may say I came into it as nearly in a state of nature as any piece of ground in Scotland.
43337. Well, valuable natural wood might also be said to be in a state nature; but there was none, according to your account, and if there was any loss of that commodity you are busily employed in restoring it by making plantations?
—I am planting every acre I can spare for the purpose.
43338. Do you plant for beauty or for profit, or for both? Have you a view to profit from planting?
—I certainly hope my descendants will reap the profit from it, but there is no prospect that it will in my lifetime be a source of profit.
43339. Do you plant larch extensively?
—Wherever the ground will grow larch I plant larch.
43340. Have you, up to the present time, ever arrived at any profitable sale of young timber? Do you get any rent in any form from your plantations?
—Not as yet. I have only been planting for twelve years.
43341. In connection with the plantations, do the woods or will the woods offer employment to a greater number of persons than the same area would have afforded if under pasture?
—Undoubtedly, to a very much larger number.
43342. I suppose there is some drainage done on the area of wood?
—Yes, a great deal.
43343. And in the making of fences?
—Making and repairing fences.
43344. And thinning of trees?
—I am sorry I have not come to the thinning yet, but in a few years it will begin, and no doubt it will be a very great work. I have begun thinning at Alvie, but there I began planting a year or two earlier. At Ardverikie I have nothing to thin as yet.
43345. So, between your improved farm, your improved arable cultivation, and your woods, you look forward to being able to give employment to a greater number of people than would have found employment under the pastoral system—under sheep farming?
—Certainly I do.
43346. You say you have fenced one end of your forest; what is the cost of the deer fence per mile from lake to lake?
—The most expensive deer fences, I have put up have cost about 3s. per yard —six feet high
with ten wires, and iron standards. Where I can I employ wooden standards, the cost is very much less.
43347. Do you think a deer fence should be constructed in an average situation for 2s. per yard ?
—With wooden posts certainly; a five feet deer fence.
43348. You heard, perhaps, a former witness state that he thought in the case of the sheep fence to be erected between a sheep farm and a deer forest it would be equitable, considering the nature of the forest, and of its occupation, and the high rent it pays, that the whole cost of the march fence should be defrayed by the proprietor of the deer forest; what do you think of that?
—Certainly, in my opinion, it ought to be equally divided between the two.
43349. You don't think it ought to be entirely defrayed by the proprietor of the deer forest?
—I see no reason for departing from the ordinary rule of dividing it equally between the two.
43350. It has been contended that if the two sides are alike sheep pasture there is no quarrel between the tenants; in fact, that the sheep rectify that among themselves, and the one passes over to the one side and the other passes to the other, the tenants giving and taking, and the want of a fence is not felt; but that, when one side is deer and the other sheep the sheep stray, and quarrels ensue, and the want of a fence is very much felt, and that it is felt in consequence of the deer being put upon the one side. Does there not seem to be some equitable claim, in that case, and also because the rent obtained from the deer forest is so much greater than the rent obtained from the sheep, so that it seems natural that the proprietor of a deer forest should pay a slight fine for his advantages in other respects. Does there not seem to be something equitable to that extent?
—I think the benefit would certainly be as great to the owner of the sheep as to the owner of the deer forest.
43351. Still, in consequence of its being a deer forest, he is asked to do a thing, and an expensive thing, which he would not be asked to do otherwise ?
—My own opinion is that we must be guided in that entirely by the circumstances of each case. Some marches between two sheep farms it is perfectly unnecessary to fence, but some marches between tenants, on the contrary, it is necessary to fence, just as much as between the deer forest and the sheep farm. Admitting that, I am bound to say that in some cases sheep will go from the higher ground on to the lower, and at certain times of the year they would always be nearest to the direction in which they are wintering. If the wintering is to the east, and two farms are divided by a march east and west, the sheep on the farm most to the west would about this time of the year encroach in hundreds upon the farm to the east of them, because they would be trying to get down to their wintering, and those to the east would not encroach at all on the farm to the west. I think it depends on the special circumstances of each farm.
43352. So you think it would be scarcely wise to lay down an absolute rule that the proprietor of a deer forest should undertake the whole expense?
—I think the fair plan is what I believe to be now the law—that it should be equally divided. May I add one qualification 1 If the owner of a deer forest required that to keep in his deer a higher fence should be put up than is necessary for sheep, then I should say he ought to pay the extra cost which he causes, but not in the case of an ordinary sheep fence.
43353. But in the case of land occupied as forest by one proprietor abutting upon arable ground belonging to another proprietor, do you think the proprietor of the deer forest should be obliged to put up a deer fence to prevent his deer getting on to the arable ground of his neighbour, or do you think that expense ought also to be shared equally?
—I think those cases would be so infinitesimally few where the forest borders upon arable ground—which is generally the lowest part of the ground —that you could hardly expect legislation to provide for that.
43354. You mentioned you had various sheep farms on your hands at this moment, to your personal inconvenience and regret; are those sheep farms, or any of them, lying at a similar elevation to your deer forest? Are some of them lying very high ?
—Yes; not altogether so high, but there is very high ground in those sheep farms as well, though they are not so high, nor wild, nor rough, as the forest.
43355. Would some of those sheep farms be tolerably valuable for the formation of a forest? Could you turn them into a forest with advantage?
—I have no intention of doing so.
43356. I don't speak of your intentions, but I wish to arrive at an impression of whether there is much land still under sheep in the country which might be turned into forest, and which may probably be turned into forest. You say that some of those farms or parts of them might be used as forest?
—No doubt they might be turned into forest, but I don't think at present anybody would do so, but, if there came to be a very great demand for forests, land which is not so well fitted for forest as other land would then probably be turned into forest.
43357. But would some of those sheep farms still be good deer ground or good sporting ground?
—Oh, yes; certainly.
43358. So that a man fond of sporting might still use them for purpose of sport?
43359. They would make good forest?
—Yes; I think they would.
43360. But you have no intention of turning them into forest?
—I have no intention.
43361. If you had, they would probably give you a larger profit than you derive from them as farms in your own hands?
—Always assuming the supply of forests was not overdone.
43362. Well, you could get a good return if you turned them into forest?
—Always supposing I could get a tenant for them.
43363. Do you think there would any difficulty in getting a tenant for them—always assuming proper lodges provided?
—It is so doubtful that apart from any other considerations, I would not undertake it.
43364. You spoke of other considerations; what other considerations would induce you not to make the best use of your property you could in another sense? What other considerations at this moment would govern your actions in that respect?
—That consideration would hardly come into play, because I should not do it merely as a matter of profit and loss, but I should also consider that I had two forests already, and did not wish to have another. I don't wish to let a forest. I would rather have the farms under sheep if I could possibly carry them on as sheep farms.
43365. Do you think that is generally the feeling of persons who possess land which might still be turned into forests and which is at present under sheep? Do you think the proprietors would be generally governed by the same considerations—that they would not desire to increase the area of the forests?
—No. For instance, if I had not a forest of my own at all, if I had only these sheep farms, and wished a forest for my own use, I should be very much inclined to turn some of those sheep farms into forest.
43366. Do you think the demand for forests has diminished? Is it more difficult to get tenants for forests than it was?
—I think that, owing to the great difficulty of letting land as sheep farms, a great deal of land has lately been cleared for deer, and the consequence of that is that there is a risk of the supply of deer forests exceeding the demand.
43367. You spoke of the population and the moral effect of foresting upon the population, and you said that the foresters and the persons exclusively or almost exclusively engaged in forests were as moral and respectable as any other class of their countrymen. Are the foresters of whom you speak employed all the year round in connection with the forests, or do they do any other labour besides?
—The men whom I call foresters are employed all the year round attending to the forest.
43368. What do they do in winter?
—They have to watch the ground, and watch the deer to take care they don't stray over the march.
43369. In fact, they walk round the ground and the marches in winter in all weathers and at all seasons?
—Yes, that is their duty.
43370. That is the class of foresters. Now, as to the class of gillies, will you define a gillie?
—I should define him as a man who goes out and attends upon the grouse shooter and deer stalker.
43371. And he is a casual servant, and not employed in sporting affairs all the year round?
—No, only for the sporting season.
43372. But in your case you take care to give him work for the other seasons?
—Yes. I take a certain number of my regular workmen and employ them during the season as gillies. If they are not out in the forest they go to work.
43373. So these gillies may be married men and fathers of families?
—Yes, just like other people.
43374. Is there any other class of men connected with the deer forest?
—I cannot recollect any other class.
43375. Foresters and gillies?
—Yes. Of course there is an infinite number of miscellaneous people who are employed about the forest, because there is generally a large lodge with a number of people with various wants living in it, but still that is not special to the forest. They get their employment because there is a forest there, but they are not employed on the especial work of the forest.
43376. I perfectly understand that, in the case of a resident proprietor—a proprietor residing on his own ground and taking an interest in the people, and having a forest at the same time—there may be no bad effects upon the morals and habits of the people whatever by placing them in connection with the game industry; but is it as certain that in the case of tenants who have not the same moral obligations towards the people in the country, the life of a forester or a game dependant may not be as
moralising a life as an ordinary one?
—So far as my experience goes, I cannot say I have seen any difference. When I first came here I came as Sir George Macpherson Grant's tenant under a seven years' lease of the forest of Glen Feshie; and all I wish to state in reference to the Ardverikie foresters I can say in reference to the foresters I had at Glenfeshie. Of course, as regards the gillies, my knowledge does not extend far, because they were only employed during the time we were in the forest. When we were out of the country, not being the proprietor, I had no work to give them.
43377. In fact, you have never seen or heard, in your experience, of any bad moral effects on the population from the existence of the game industry?
43378. It was stated to us in a written memorial the other day from a gentleman on the west coast, who took a darker view of the effects of game on the morals of the people, that it was a custom to throw away the meat upon the hill—that the venison which was killed on the hill was frequently left there. Have you ever heard of such a practice or such neglect in this part of the country or in your experience?
—I have never heard of it except in the case of killing very miserable hinds, some of which are really not worth carrying home. I daresay some of those may have been left.
43379. But you think it is very rare?
—Very rare —nothing that is worth anybody's while carrying home, so far as my experience goes.