ALEXANDER MACHARDY, Ground officer, Farr (43)—examined
26164. The Chairman
—How long have you held office as ground officer?
26165. You have heard some statements relative to the alleged undue use of your influence as ground officer?
26166. Especially concerning a School Board election?
26167. You desire to make a statement?
26168. Will you have the goodness to make it?
—In the case of widow Murray, on which so much stress has been laid, it is stated that I intimidated her. The old woman told me before the election that she wished to vote for Mr Crawford. She was an old frail creature, and on the morning of the election, in case of any blame being attached to me for taking her out, I called and wished her to stay at home. I had no idea Mr Mackenzie had her vote. It is said that we wished to put her out of her home. That is a wrong statement altogether, because, after the election, when her horse died, I gave her a foal myself and took the money by instalments. I wish to make that statement because it will go forth that we have been intimidating people. We did not wish to turn her out, but the croft was to be transferred to her eldest son; and a widow and eight children were staying there. Her eldest son is here. He was to give his mother so much weekly if he got charge of the lot, and now we have heard that we wished to turn the widow adrift.
26169. Did the widow ever receive at any time a summons of removal?
—She did; but it was to give the charge of the lot to her eldest son.
26170. Was the summons one of removal?
—She was not to be removed from the house, but the charge of the lot was to be conveyed to her eldest son.
26171. Was the summons of removal from the land sent to her after the School Board election?
—It was nearly three years after.
26172. Was there ever any desire or intention on your part to influence the vote of this widow in any sense at all?
—None. She told me she would give her right hand upon it that she would vote for Mr Crawford, but I knew he had plenty of votes without it, and told her to stay at home.
26173. When she made this declaration that she wished to vote for Mr Crawford, where was she?
—In her own house.
26174. Why did you happen to go on that occasion to her house?
—I am in amongst the tenants' houses every day, and there was a good deal of influence tried at that election, and the people were speaking to me, and I was speaking to them about it when the widow told me she was to vote for Mr Crawford. I told her on the morning of the election, I did not think there was any necessity for her coming out.
26175. When you paid her the visit on that morning had you any other business?
—I was going past, and was not going into the house at all, but I happened to see her son, and if it had not been for that I don't think I would have gone in at all.
26176. Did you originate the question of the election, or did she speak to you about it first?
—I cannot be sure about that. Perhaps I spoke to her, because there were four ministers wanting in and a fifth offering, and it was a general desire of the parish not to put in five clerical members.
26177. You may have spoken to her first?
26178. I would like to know whether you think it perfectly right or prudent on your part, holding the position of a ground officer, to canvas people with reference to elections?
—I am a ratepayer and a parent, and I have a good right, I think, to speak to anybody I think proper about that. I pay £ 10 of rent.
26379. There is a difficulty with reference to a person in your position in discriminating between your character as a parent and ratepayer and your character as a ground officer; your position is rather complex.
—I am aware of that. .
26180. You state now positively that you never had any desire to influence the vote of that widow in one sense or another, and that she was at perfect liberty to vote for anybody she pleased?
—Perfect liberty, I said to her that we did not want her vote, as I was sure Mr Crawford had plenty of votes.
26181. But when you said she had better not go, that might have prevented her from voting for the minister?
—She did not tell me she was going to vote for the minister.
26182. She was not obliged to tell you?
—I did not know she was going to do that. I told her if she was to vote for the factor, not to go out.
26183. Professor Mackinnon.
—Was it upon the faith that she was to vote for the factor and for nobody else, that you spoke to her on the morning of the election?
26184. You asked her to keep back because the factor did not require her votes?
—I asked her not to come.
26185. But it was not to deprive any other person of votes?
—No. I never mentioned any other soul upon earth.