ALEXANDER MORRISON, Crofter, Sangobeg (62)—examined.
26212. The Chairman.
—Have you any other trade besides being a crofter?
—I have been a carpenter amongst the crofters.
26213. Were you elected a delegate?
26214. From Durness?
26215. Were there many people present when you were elected?
—The whole town—thirty or forty of them altogether.
26216. Have you a written statement on behalf of these people?
—Ithink there is one with Rev. Mr Ross if he comes round.
26217. What have you to say on behalf of the people?
—I have been forty years at Sangobeg. There were tenants upon the whole of our ground, and Rispond was a fishing port. There were twenty-five families removed to make a sheep farm. Twelve of them were sent in to Sangobeg. There are now twelve families in Sangobeg, and there were only six before the change was made. We are deprived of the privileges of sea and land. The seaport is taken from us; it is two miles for the nearest fisherman. We fish for every kind of fish that is needed, and we don't get the proper use of them, because we have no proper means of conveying them to the market. The lobsters die before they reach the market. The lobsters require to go alive to the market, and we are sixty miles from the nearest railway station. There may be a merchant at hand for the fish which are brought ashore who will give an offer for what he wants himself, but the rest are left in our hands. If we had a pier, a telegraph station, a doctor, and some more of the land which has been taken from us, we think we might get through as our forefathers did. We are without any privilege, and it is very hard upon poor people. We must build houses and we only get one rent for building a house which will cost between £40 and £50, we buying lime from the Duke. It is only one rent that is granted us for the house, and —a thing that is very strange—upon the Tongue side they there get, from glass which goes into the window to the floor that goes under their feet, all the wood they required; and we have the same proprietor. The slates for the house are paid in three instalments.
26218. You said there were tenants brought in from another place and put into your township, where did the tenants come from?
—There were six in Rispond farm brought into Sangobeg in addition to the six who were there previously.
26219. When these six were brought in was the arable ground of the tenants divided and given to them or did they break up new ground outside the fence?
—No new ground could be made; it was the old ground that was given them.
26220. Your previous holdings were divided?
—Yes, two lots were made out of the one.
26221. How long ago is it since these six families were brought in?
—About forty years.
26222. Has anybody been brought in since?
26223. Has the number of tenants increased since, or are there just the same number of crofts as there were forty years ago?
—There are no more now than forty years ago; there is no place for them.
26224. Are there any cottars; people without land?
26225. When the new people were brought in and the land divided was there a reduction of rent of the six that were there before ?
—The rent was divided amongst them—equal rent. The two crofters had only to pay the rent of the one that was there previously.
26226. Had they good hill pasture?
26227. Is it large?
26228. Has any of it been taken away from the townships?
—None from our township.
26229. You say you want a doctor, would you be inclined to pay something more if there is a doctor appointed by the Duke?
26230. A small addition to your rent?
26231. You say you want a pier —what kind of a pier would it be? would it be an expensive thing, or a small place for boats?
—A pier that a steamer could come to.
26232. Is there a proper place for building a pier?
26233. How do you know that? Has it ever been examined by an engineer?
26234. Sherif Nicolson.
—How far are you from the doctor?
26235. What do you do when you want a doctor?
—Send for him.
26236. Where does he live?
26237. Why is he there?
—I cannot answer that.
26238. Are there most people there?
—I cannot tell. I do not know that part of the country.
26239. Have you never had a doctor nearer you than that?
26240. How have the people of Durness been doing without one? Are they better or worse?
—I think they would be better of one, as we have often to send for one.
26241. I suppose there are some cases in which there is great suffering because you cannot get one?
26242. Have your people any horses at Sangobeg?
—No. There is no need for them.
26243. Have you to send a foot messenger for the doctor?
26244. And, perhaps, sometimes he cannot be got?
—That very often happens.
26245. There is no horse in Sangobeg?
—None, but the back of a man. He must first go to the ware and then to the spade; he must sow the
seed and then harrow the ground after that, and go three-quarters of a mile up the hill for a creel of peats to make a fire that will make ready his breakfast.
26246. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—You stay in Sangobeg?
26247. Do you know a place called Laidh?
26248. Is it a very poor place?
—Yes, it is.
26249. Could a place be poorer?
—Everyone is so poor that he can scarcely make a living upon it
26250. How long is it since the road we have come by was made?
—I cannot exactly tell.
—[A Crofter]. Fifty-three years.
26251. I see the Rev. Mr Ross here; have you a written statement, Mr Ross?
—[Rev. Mr Ross]. I forwarded it to the secretary, Mr M'Neill.
—I think last night. I forwarded it to Kinlochbervie, as I scarcely expected to be present.
26253. Was this document which Mr Ross refers to read and approved of by the people ?
—[Alexander Morrison]. Yes.
26254. And it represents the feeling of the people ?
26255. Is there a man called Swanson present here to-day?
26256. And Ewan Mackay ?
—Yes, he is present.
26257. With regard to the other families who were put in upon you, was that done by the authority of the proprietor or the factor ?
—Yes, one Mr Anderson was here at the time—the previous factor.
26258. Did the six old tenants object to the new people being put in upon them ?
—They were forced in upon us.
26259. Was the place just small enough for six ?
—It was too small.
26260. Even for six?
26261. Have these families been struggling and in difficulties ever since?
—They were very poor.
26262. Did it benefit the six original tenants to have the six other men put in among them?
—It was a loss to them.
26263. Have you ever seen the proprietor ? has he been here amongst vou ?
—Many a time.
26264. Did you ever represent your state of poverty to him verbally or in writing ?
—We neither spoke nor wrote.
26265. Did any of the people in the township do so ?
—[Rev. Mr Ross]. Hugh Munro said at a meeting he was one of three who went about the land which was taken off.
—[Alexander Morrison]. There was a fifth part of land taken from us and a fifth part of the land was reduced at the time by Mr Anderson. The rent at first was £20, and it was taken down to £15.
26266. Is Rispond a big farm ?
—No, it is not a big farm.
26267. What rent is Rispond paying?
—I cannot tell.
26268. Was it a great loss to your township the loss of that one-fifth ?
—It was a great loss.
26269. Was it worth a great deal more to the people than £5 a year?
—A great deal more in the condition in which they were.
26270. Why did not you or your fellow-townsman, when you have been in poverty so long, represent your case to the proprietor, particularly when he has been in the country ?
—The reason is because anything we asked of him we never got.
26271. Do you refer to the present proprietor or to old times ?
— To the present Duke.
26272. Does it come to this that you think there is no use of making any application to benefit your circumstances ?
—We never got an answer to any application we ever made.
26273. Have you ceased making any applications ?
—In our township we have stopped.
26274. Do you know anything about what is commonly called the Durness riots, or does any other delegate know more about that ?
—There are others here who know more about them than I.
26275. Who knows best about them?
26276. The Chairman.
— How many acres of arable land are there in your croft?
—I am certain it would make one and a half acres.
26277. Is that all the arable ground you have ?
26278. What stock do you keep?
—Two cows and a calf, but I cannot rear these upon the produce of my own ground.
26279. Have you any sheep?
26280. How many ?
26281. What is your rent?
26282. Has you rent ever been raised since you became a crofter there
26283. Do you think £ 1 , 5s. too much rent?-
—I do.not think the rent too much, but what sort of a living can a man make out of 25s. worth of ground, and when he has to work it with his own hands?
26284. Are other crofts much about the same size as yours or smaller?
—About the same size.
26285. Have any of their rents been raised or have they always been the same?
—There are two in the township whose rents have been raised.
26286. Why were they raised?
—I do not know.
26287. When a father dies and a son succeeds in the croft is it the custom for the rent to be raised ?
—That is the reason ascribed to us for it, that the rent is raised on the son succeeding.
26288. How much is it raised ?
—Ten shillings on 25s. of rent.
26289. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—If you had four times the extent of ground would it be easier for you to pay £ 5 of rent?
—Yes, although it would be £ 8 it would be easier for me to pay than 25s. at present
26290. Is the acre of arable land all square, or is it lying in different places?
—It is just patches here and there.