EVANDER M'IVER, Factor for the Duke of Sutherland in the Scourie District, Scourie (71)—examined.
26792. The Chairman.
—How long have you occupied your present position?
—Since Whitsunday 1845.
26793. Were you brought up to the business in which you are now engaged?
—I was regularly educated for it.
26794. In what part of Scotland?
—I was educated for it in Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire. I was sent to these counties to be taught
26795. To what part of the country do you belong?
—I am a native of the island of Lewis, where my father had a large farm and an extensive business as fish-curer and merchant. I have had to do with crofters from my younger days.
26796. Were you a Gaelic-speaking man from your childhood?
—I was; I could speak Gaelic before I could speak English.
26797. You have been present here during the inquiry to-day?
—I have been present the whole day.
26798. And you have heard what has been stated?
26799. Would you make any voluntary statement in regard to any points which interest you?
—The first thing I have to state is with regard to the changes at Laid and Sangobeg. These changes were carried out by Mr James Anderson, tenant of Rispond, Lord Reay's factor. Mr Anderson held a lease of Laid and Sangobeg, when the Duke of Sutherland purchased the property from Lord Reay, and the Duke had no power to interfere. These changes were not made by the Sutherland family. The next subject I would allude to, is the grazing of horses by the tenants of Durness and Foinaven which was mentioned as a complaint or grievance. The people had the privilege of grazing their horses on this ground which was surrounded by the large farms of Eriboll and Baluaskail, and the Reay forest, and great complaints were made, that there was no proper herd and that the horses trespassed very much upon those grounds. I was asked by the late Duke of Sutherland and his commissioner, Mr James Loch, to go and see the ground and report upon it; and, after a good deal of consideration, it was settled that the generation of tenants then existing, should always have right to send their horses to this ground, but that, as each died, their successors should not have the right, because there were so many complaints made of the trespassing of the horses. This went on for a number of years until the number of tenants who were entitled to send horses there became very small, and then they found the herding became very expensive. Then the people met, and, without any intimation whatever to the proprietor, the whole of them sent their horses up to the grazing. It was then found necessary to have the subject gone into, and the Duke of Sutherland and his commissioner came up to Durness, and it was settled that the people should continue to send their horses there, but that they would require to pay five shillings a year, the Duke of Sutherland to pay a herd for them. The person they sent as a herd got Is. 6d. but the sum was so small that only a very inferior herd could be got, and the horses were not properly looked after. The Duke now has a party placed there to look after the horses and take care of them.
26800. Did it not occur to you to put a fence round the place?
—It extends over a great many miles, and the expense would have been very large.
26801. What length of fence would be required?
—Five or six miles perhaps. That is the explanation about the grazing of the horses at Foinaven. I don't think it is necessary for me to take any notice of what Mr Ross said about the appointment of the School Board at Durness, because the whole thing arose thus. The returning officer was not there, and he sent me the return and asked me to make it. I brought the return to the meeting, and we sat down for the purpose of constituting the Board. Mr Ross got up and said we must first appoint a chairman. I said we must first constitute the Board, and then appoint a chairman. I have since asked Mr Ross to come back to the Board, but he would not. With regard to Balnaskail farm, an excambion was entered into and was gone into in the most regular and orderly manner. A part of the land which the small tenants had, was added to Balnaskail, and they got a part which the farmer of Balnaskail had. A portion of the farm of Balnaskail was given back to the tenants, and a portion of the tenants' ground given to Balnaskail. That was before I came to the country, forty or fifty years ago. As to the island of Handa, it is opposite Scourie, and was occupied by ten tenants. When the potato disease occurred in 1846, these tenants came to me in a body and begged I would ask the Duke of Sutherland to send them to America, as they could not remain on Handa. They said they saw no prospect of their being able to live, in consequence of the failure of the potatoes. I conveyed their wish to the Duke, and he complied and sent them to America. There were two families who afterwards said they would not go. One of these was provided with a lot on Achresgil, and I don't remember what became of the other.
26802. What became of the island?
—It was opposite my farm and no person could get to it without going through my farm; and the Duke said, if that was the case it must be added to my farm if I would take it. I accordingly took it, and I pay the same rent as the tenants. With regard to Auchligliness, Alexander Ross who spoke to that, never was a tenant on this estate. His father was a tenant, and lived in the village of Scourie, where he had built a house. The factor who was here about 1839 or 1840, wished to remove the ground officer who lived on Auchligliness up to Scourie, and he gave the lot occupied by the ground officer at Auchligliness to Ross's father. The officer went to Auchligliness, but this man Ross remained in the house at Scourie. He got possession, and would not go out until he was put out by authority of the Sheriff. Then he went and lived with his family at Auchligliuess. There was a part of the farm of Scirba which this man thought the people of Auchligliness should get, but it was let with the farm. This man, however, would go with horses, cattle, and sheep, and in spite of all remonstrance would put them to this ground. This went on for several years, and ultimately I received instructions to say that if he would not comply with the rules of the estate they would be removed; and we were obliged to carry out the threat against our will.
26803. What about the mother?
—She was the tenant; she came to me at Scourie, and promised faithfully they would go off properly and legally, and I agreed that they were to be left, but that understanding was not carried out. The consequence was that we were obliged not to permit such an illegality to go on in the district.
26804. Did the old woman receive the option of remaining with the son on her holding?
—Yes, I think it was agreed that she should remain in one end of the house and the new tenant would go into the house with her.
26805. But the old woman was to lose the land?
26806. But on account of her son's fault?
—She was the tenant, he was not; but it was with her authority that the illegality went on—at least it was through her being tenant. With regard to the school at Insheigra, of which Mr Finlayson spoke, the school was built with the approval of the Board of Education, who were informed of the number of the children who would attend the school, and what the size of the school was to be. Plans were sent to them and approved of, and the school was built according to the rules of the Education Act. I never heard any complaint —and I am chairman of the board—as to children not receiving secondary education.
26807. Is there a class room, or is it a school house of one room?
—There are two apartments in the school. The people, Mi Finlayson says, complain if the want of a smith. They made that complaint on a previous occasion, and we assisted them to put up a little smithy, and it was arranged that the smith from Scourie should go down regularly on stated occasions, and do work for the people. The smith did so, and this arrangement went on for a year or two, until at last the smith found he was so ill-paid, that he gave it up and would not go. There is nothing else that I wish to remark on, but I shall be glad to answer any questions.
26808. You have explained with reference to the island of Handa, that it was not cleared with any view of benefiting your farm, but really on the demand of the people, who desired to go to America?
26809. There are one or two statements in detail—that one or two evictions on other small holdings were made in some degree or other for your benefit?
—There were two little townships of Clashfearn and Findlebeg. One of the tenants of these places came saying that he wished to go to America, and the other was provided with a lot in this neighbourhood.
26810. What became of the lot of the one who went to America?
—Both these little townships were added to my farm, which surrounded them.
26811. Can you give me any example of a lot in a township like that, where one being evicted was added to a crofter's lot so as to improve it and which was not added to a farm?
—There has been an immense number over this district.
26812. On this particular occasion on which the lots were added to your farm, were there crofters conveniently situated to which the evicted lots might have been added?
—There were townships beyond; there is another township called Findlemore beyond Findlebeg; but Findlebeg could not have been added to it.
26813. But the people were not evicted, but wanted to go away?
26814. Are you able to say that no one has been evicted and his lot added to your farm?
—Most emphatically; I deny any imputation of the kind.
26815. In filling up the vacancy created in the School Board by Mr Ross's resignation, who was elected?
—I forget at this moment; I am not quite sure. My son who was with me at that time is abroad now. I
think he was elected to the vacancy, but I am not quite certain. He was nominated by the board.
26816. As it was a case of nomination, don't you think on reflection, it might have been more discreet and more acceptable to the people that some one should have been nominated more identified as it were with the people and with their interests?
—I quite agree it should have been so; but at the time there was some difficulty in getting one to join.
26817. Are you able to state that there is no objection on the part of the management of the estate to the people having representatives of their own class whom they respect and wish to be on the board?
—I am quite able to state that; and if any of them had expressed any strong wish or feeling on the subject, it would have been considered and most likely agreed to. But it depends on the other members of the board as well as me.
26818. I am not mistaken in supposing you would have considerable influence. Supposing the people came to you frankly and manifested a desire to have a member on the School Board identified with their own class and their own views, are you able to state that if the person so selected was respectable and competent he would have your sympathy and support?
—He would decidedly.
26819. Who is Mr Chisholm, inspector of poor?
—He has been inspector of poor at Scourie for thirty years. He is a native of Ross-shire and was brought up in an agent's office in Dingwall.
26820. Is he quite independent in his position, or is he connected by family relationship or interest with the management of the estate?
26821. He is in a position, on an estate like this, to point out any abuse or imperfections connected with his department?
26822. Without favour or fear?
26823. Has he ever brought to the notice of the Parochial Board that there are houses in an unhealthy or insanitary condition?
—He has frequently complained that there was a good deal of filth, and that the houses were not so clean in the neighbourhood as he wished, and that he had great difficulty in insisting on getting them put into proper condition.
26824. Have the management of the estate acted on any complaints of that sort?
—It is the Parochial Board that has the sole charge of the sanitary arrangements of the parish.
26825. But I presume the Parochial Board would intimate to the management of the estate that there was something wrong?
—Mr Chisholm has several times mentioned to me the great difficulty he had in getting any improvements made or reforms brought about iu the sanitary condition of the houses.
26826. Does he pay attention to that branch of his duty?
—I would not say he pays strict attention to it, for I have sometimes complained that he was not so attentive to it as he ought to be.
26827. Complaint has been made of the consolidation of various head offices in the family of the ground officer at Durness; is that complaint well founded?
—The ground officer's daughter happened to marry the teacher, who was teacher long before he married. Of course we had no knowledge that such a connection would be formed. His son acts as inspector of poor, and his daughter teaches the female school. All these offices are consolidated, if one may say so, in one family.
26828. These things sometimes grow up : do you entirely approve of that sort of consolidation of various offices?
—No, I do not.
26829. If you had the opportunity, you would take it, to alter that arrangement ?
26830. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Will we have the pleasure of seeing you at our next meeting at Lochinver?
—I shall be at Lochinver. I have a good many statements I would wish to make, but perhaps you would wish to hear them at Lochinver.
26831. The Chairman.
—-If it is in regard to anything which occurred here to-day there is always an advantage in explaining things before the people who heard the accusation ?
—I wish to explain that this district of which I have charge comprehends the parishes of Assynt, Eddrachillis, and the greater part of Durness. A portion of Durness is in the Tongue management. Assynt has formed part of the Sutherland estate for nearly two centuries. Eddrachillis and Durness formed part of Reay estates which were acquired by the Marquis of Stafford in 1829. The population of these parishes by the last census is as follows: —Assynt, 1390; Storr quoad sacra, 1391 —together, 2781
Eddrachillis, 605; Kinlochbervie, portion 920 —together —1525;
Durness, 987.The whole population of the district, amounts to 5293 persons, I found on coming here in 1845, there had been a great deal of discussion about the small rents paid by the small tenants in the district, which amounted in 1839 to £ 2001, 4s. 4d. The arrears at that time had accumulated to so large an amount that the Duke of Sutherland resolved to abate them, and to begin in 1840, with a clear rental. The abatements made were as follows —
in Assynt, £2241, 11s . 2d.;
in Eddrachillis, £2255, 8s. 6d.;
in Durness, £571, 8s. Id.—
total, £5068, 7s, 9d.
That sum was abated by the Duke of Sutherland from the rents of the crofters in the district. I became factor in 1845, and I found when I entered that arrears had again accumulated to the sum of £840, 19s. 10d. The rental in 1845 for the small tenants was £1797, 3s. 5d. The rental of the small tenants has not varied largely since 1845 in these parishes. It is more; but I may mention, in explanation of the sums which were said to be added to the small tenants' rents on the death of a father and mother, that in 1878, the Duke appointed two skilled gentlemen to go over his estates and value every croft in the county of Sutherland. These gentlemen were Mr Macdonald, who was Sir John Orde's factor on North Uist, and Mr Thomas Mackenzie, tenant of Auchnahaird. In that year the rental of the small tenants in this district was £1928, 4s. 11 d . These gentlemen went over every croft and made a special report, and valued every one of them. They brought up the rents to £2227, 7s. 2d., adding to the rental £ 299 or £300 a year. The additions which these gentlemen made to the rents of the crofts are now added at the death of the father and mother, when a son succeeds. That is the explanation of what has been complained of. The potato disease which came upon us here in 1846 and 1847, brought on a very grave crisis and placed us in very difficult and trying circumstances, and entailed an amount of expenditure that was quite enormous. I have a little memorandum of it here which I may quote. When the Duke of Sutherland purchased the Reay country in 1829, it was almost in a state of nature, in a very poor condition. There was an absence of roads and a want of houses. Lord Reay was not laying any money on improving it, and the consequence was when the Duke of Sutherland purchased the property be found there was an immense deal to do. The first thing was to make a road through the country from one end to the other, which cost from £15,000 to £20,000. There have been since I came into this district, 49 miles of road made in various parts, and 52 miles of paths. These have been made at enormous expense.
26832. What do you mean by paths?
26833. Horse roads or cart roads?
—Just horse roads —bridle paths. The roads which were made have cost £10,408, 17s. 4d., and the brauch roads, £619, 10s. The paths, many of which are in the Reay forest, have cost £2936, 12s. 5d.
26834. What am I to understand by branch roads?
—Cross roads leading from main or public roads.
26835. Did they become public roads?
—Some of them are, and some are not; some are farm roads.
26836. How are the farm roads maintained?
—By the farmers.
26837. Are they maintained by the farmers, or are they sometimes made to townships?
—They are to townships in some instances.
26838. How are they maintained? Do the crofters and the landlord co-operate?
—When they are for crofters, the crofters maintain them themselves.
26839. Do the crofters appreciate that—are they desirous to have roads?
26840. Do they grudge the labour bestowed on them?
—What the Duke generally does now, when they ask for a branch road or anything for their own convenience, is to say—'That is a thing for you to do yourselves;' but he offers to provide an overseer and give tools for the work in various cases.
26841. He co-operates?
—Yes. In the year 1847, when the potato disease came upon us, there was expended upon meal and seed and grain by the Duke of Sutherland for this district, £10,441, 4s. 11 d .; and in 1848, £1748, 5s. 4d. Of these sums there were recovered or received by work or labour or money, £6856, 8s. 7d. leaving a balance of £5333, Is. 8d., which never was paid. In these years there was spent on emigration £4916, 4s. 7d. by the Duke of Sutherland, in sending people at their own special request to America. On trenching and draining, there was laid out £3073 over the district.
26842. Was that trenching and draining chiefly done upon the crofts ?
—No; partly upon the crofts and partly on the large farms—all set agoing, however, for the employment of the people. The poor rates and school rates are a very heavy burden on this district.
26843. Not quite so bad as in other places?
—That may be, but we consider it very heavy.
26844. Mr Cameron.
—What is the poor rate?
—In Assynt £1171, 16s. 6d. on account of the poor.
26845. Don't you know the rate?
—I think between school rates and poor rates it is four or five shillings per £. The total assessments last year were—
in Assynt, £1171, 16s. 7d.; Eddrachillis, £609, 0s. 11 d . ; in Durness, £571, 19s. 2d.
—together £2352, 16s. 7d., of which sum the crofters paid £229, 12s. 4d., or one-tenth portion, while the poor tenants chiefly from that class. Since the Education Act came into operation there has been assessed from 1873 to 1883
—in Assynt, £4972, 14s. 5d; in Eddrachillis, £2151, 9s. 9d., and in Durness, £1904, 5s. 3d.
—together. £9028, 9s. 5d. In addition to that the School Board of Assynt have borrowed £3164 for building schools, and Eddrachillis £1100—together, £4564. These two sums together represent something like £13,500, which has been spent purposely almost to educate the children of the crofters, and people of that class in the district. I suppose the returns made contain all about the stock and acreage of the land occupied by the crofters, so that I need not allude to that. One of the great difficulties in the management of the crofters is the constant tendency to subdivide and subset their crofts. The proprietor or his factor or agents may be as strict as they choose, or may lay down rules framed in the most stringent terms, but still in opposition to all rules, the people will contrive to have a married son or daughter or some relative in the house; and so the lot becomes burdened with two or three families where one cannot exist in comfort. We have done all we could—we have resorted to depriving the tenant of his lot for taking in a married couple; but it is almost impossible to check it. I don't exaggerate when I say that every person connected with the management of a Highland estate will bear out the truth of that remark; I speak only of the West of Scotland not of the
east. Another great evil, I think, is that the people attempt to carry on two occupations. They attempt to be crofters and fishermen, which I think is very much against their well-being, because they don't succeed very well with either. I see in a few cases where the tenants devote themselves wholly to their land, and industriously manage it and never fish, they are in a better condition and are much better off than those who go to the fishing. We have a very wild stormy winter here, and the fishing is very difficult and very precarious, and then again, being fishermen unfits the people very much from labouring on the land. They go to work on the land against their will. They think it a species of slavery to till the land —at least a great many of them do.
26846. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Taking the first matter which came up to-day, you say evictions took place in Anderson's time, and before the property came into the possession of the house of Sutherland. I suppose you don't know whether what is said to have been done by Anderson with regard to removing these people is true or not?
—I know he attempted to remove people, and I know by tradition and the talk of the country that
there was a very disagreeable riot in Durness in consequence.
26847. So that in point of fact all you can say is that you don't hold yourself or your noble constituent responsible for it?
—That is so.
26848. You don't justify what occurred?
—Oh dear, no.
26819. Still the people have their grievance?
—Yes. I can easily understand that this is a very sore subject with them.
26850. You have been present all day and have heard the people tell themselves that they are very poor in their circumstances, some of them stating they are gradually getting worse 1 How can you account for that?
—I don't concur in that opinion.
26851. Don't you think they are telling the truth?
—I think their condition this year has been bad and that that is working very much on their minds. I think they are materially better off, a good deal, than they were before.
26852. The population has decreased in Sutherland in your time?
—It has, and I think it has been a very great improvement that it has done so.
26853. But still, notwithstanding that, there is no doubt—whether it is true or not—that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the country at the existing state of matters?
—I think there is that upon every estate you will go to.
26854. You don't say it does not exist?
—I never saw an estate yet where there was constant satisfaction, and I am sure that is your own experience.
26855. And under every factor?
—Under every proprietor and factor, let them be as kind and good and liberal as they may, there will be some dissatisfied spirits.
26856. What are the arrears upon the property in your district at present?
—The rents of this district were never better paid than they were last year. The arrears at this moment are a mere bagatelle. I don't think they are much over £100. But we are very particular about the payment of the rents, not for the value of the rents, but for the benefit of the people themselves, because we consider that it is a very great stimulus to exertion on the part of the tenant, that he knows he must pay his rent at the proper time—it makes him industrious and strive to earn it.
26857. Are you aware that it is sometimes necessary for the tenant to go to his neighbours and borrow money to pay the rent?
—I have not the least doubt but a number do that.
26858. But still you stand to it that it is a good principle?
—I think so.
26859. Crop or no crop, the rent must be paid?
—The fact is the crop here is a very small affair compared with the stock.
26860. Then stock or no stock, they must pay the rent?
—There are cases of people without stock.
26861. You stated there was a large sum laid out upon roads—£29,000,—and another sum on bridle paths. Is it or is it not the fact that for these roads the tenants and crofters in the county of Sutherland have always been paying a tax?
—They never paid a farthing for the making of these roads, but they pay for keeping them up.
26862. Was there any such thing in old times as statute labour; was not the time of the people exacted for making roads ?
26S63. Which was afterwards commuted into a cash payment?
26864. How then is it that you take the whole credit for the roads when you find the people are taxed for them and have paid for them?
—The county of Sutherland has a special Road Act for itself, in which Road Act there was a clause to the effect that no new roads were to be made. The consequence was that all new roads made were made at the expense of the landlord. The landlord paid them wholly out of his own pocket and maintained them a great many years. But we came to have a general Road Act which passed a few years ago, and a number of these roads were added to the county roads, and are now under the management of the Road Trustees.
26865. Were there any roads made in Sutherland by the old Commissioners of Highland Roads and Bridges?
—There were, from Bonar Bridge to Tongue, and from Bonar Bridge to the boundary of Caithness.
26866. But the estate had charge of all the rest?
—The Road Trustees.
26867. I am speaking of the time before the Road Trustees were in existence. The estate had the whole management?
—I suppose they had, but that was before my day. When I came here there were Road Trustees.
26868. At the time the tenants were paying this assessment of a few shillings in place of statute labour money, to whom did it go?
—To the Road Trustees.
26869. And who were the trustees?
—Every farmer paying over a certain sum was a trustee, and every heritor was a trustee.
26870. Had the crofters any voice?
26871. You said—perhaps it was not intended, but it gave me the impression—when speaking of the expenditure under the Education Act, under that - all this heavy assessment was practically for the benefit of the crofting population ?
—These new schools principally, but not wholly.
26872. Is not that the same all over Scotland?
—It is the law.
26873. Then why did you single out the crofters as being more especially favoured ?
—Because it was the crofting population that created the necessity for the outlay.
26874. Are you quite sure of that, because we have found in our investigation, clergymen and others say the Act is one which never should have passed for country parishes?
—Well I think education has deteriorated since the departure from the old parochial system.
26875. Do you sympathise to some extent with what Mr Finlayson stated about education?
—It is a new subject to me.
26876. But if there was a young lad now-a-days who had some talent, he really would be practically shut off from getting any secondary education?
—He would, and that is the fault of the law, because formerly every parish schoolmaster was obliged to submit to examination, in order to ascertain if he was able to teach Greek, Latin and Mathematics, and all subjects suited to enable him to go into the profession; at present many of the teachers have no Latin or Greek, or any of the classics. The whole or a very large portion of the county of Sutherland here, is under sheep farms and has a very small population, and the population, such as it is, is very much dotted on the sea-coast.
26877. What was the intention—what was the object—of those who removed the people from Strathnaver to the sea coast?
—That is going back to a time before you or I was born, and it is a subject upon which I have no knowledge whatever. There has been no such removal in my time.
26878. You don't perhaps care about expressing any opinion in answer to my question?
—I think if the people were living in a bad climate and poor circumstances, where they could not support themselves, it was not such a cruel thing to remove them to where they could live better.
26879. Have you not heard it stated as an apology that the people in these glens were not very well off, and that if sent down to the sea-coast they would devote themselves to fishing and make a more certain livelihood than they did when living in their native glens?
—I have heard that stated.
26880. That being the case, what facilities were given them by those who committed those acts in the way of making harbours and quays where the fishing could be satisfactorily carried on by the people—in any place, beginning at Caithness until you come round to Ross?
—There was a great complaint made that there was no pier at Rispond, but there is a pier at Rispond for which the Duke of Sutherland paid a great deal of money.
26881. If it were alleged as the reason of removing the people, that they might become fishermen, what facilities were given to the fishermen to go to sea?
—I cannot answer that question; it was before my day.
26882. Are there any facilities?
—There are very fine natural harbours.
26883. Will people from the East Coast—Banffshire men and others—come to your natural harbours with their decked boats?
—There was a number of fishermen from that county fishing from Loch Laxford this year.
26884. Can you mention any more?
—I suppose here at Loch Inchard there is a very good harbour. Just inside where the steamer is anchored they come, and they can get to sea very easily from there. There are a great many places they come from. But I grant you this, that there is a great want of piers, and I think that is very much more felt since steam communication become so common, because steamers must have piers to go to at all times of the tide. They cannot remain till the tide will rise; they must go away; and there is an absence of piers along the coast of this district, which I have myself represented to the Duke of Sutherland.
26885. You have seen the necessity for it?
—I consider there is a necessity, and I think if there were those piers there would be much more likelihood of curers and fishing coming to the place,
26886. In this very locality they complain of the heavy carriage?
—Their communication is almost wholly by sea with Thurso.
26887. We have seen the great reclamations the Duke of Sutherland has been carrying on in some parts of the country. What is the general size of farms that have been constituted out of these reclaimed grounds, about Lairg, we shall say?
—They are very large farms. That is not in my district; but they are large farms. There have been a few crofters placed on that ground also, as well as farmers.
26888. Is there any intention, are you aware, or if not is there any reason why something of that kind should not be attempted, seeing that the people wish to get their crofts enlarged?
—Well, it is a very adverse climate. It has been found that the climate about Lairg is very unsuitable
for arable farming.
26889. But in other parts of the country?
—I can only speak for my own district, and I don't consider there is any soil or climate in my district
to which crofters could go and where I could say they could farm with advantage.
26890. But I am told you are a good farmer yourself?
—I don't profess to be so.
26891. But you have a fine farm?
—I have a very small farm.
26892. You have very fine stock?
—I cannot say they are, for they sell very cheap.
26893. Is it not the fact that in your own district here, although in a minor degree compared with other parts, there is a good deal of land now under sheep farms which once was turned over by the plough and is now lying idle?
—I don't think there is any which has ever been turned over with the plough. It may have been with the caschcrom and spade.
26894. But there is a great deal of that land lying waste?
—No, I don't think there is 500 acres in the three parishes which you could say had been so cultivated.
26895. Is there land that could be taken in?
—No; I don't think there is. The Duke of Sutherland came round this district to search for land, and he went away with the impression that there was no such thing to be had. And then the expense of taking in any land in a rocky, stony country of this sort is such that it will never pay either the landlord or the tenant.
26896. What are you going to do with the people in these bad times?
—I would recommend a number of people to do what I have practised myself. I am the father of seven sons, and not one of these seven sons has remained with me. They went to India and Australia and Cape of Good Hope and to England; they went to fight their battle in the world, and I would recommend very strongly to the crofters of this county that their families should go and do the same.
26897. But you would have liked to keep one son at home?
—I would, but I had no way for him. I could not afford to keep him at home.
26898. A crofter only wants to keep one son at home?
—I wish that were the case.
26899. They have told us so—that if they could get a big croft they would be willing, when the lot should be settled, that only one son should be left?
—If you give a new farm say to twenty crofters this year, in twenty years you will have forty families on it.
26900. Notwithstanding the rule?
—Let you lay down all the rules and laws you can. It has been the most trying subject with the management of this district; and I am sure it is the same on every other large estate upon the west coast.
26901. The population of Sutherland, you have said is decreasing. How low will it be necessary for the population to come before those who remain in Sutherland will be all comfortable?
—I can only speak as to this district.
26902. You have between 5000 and 6000 of a population?
26904-. How small must the population be before they will be comfortable?
—I think for their own good and the good of those who remain one half should go away.
26905. What will you do with the big sheep farmers?
—They are going away in spite of us. We cannot get the farms let. We will have all the sheep farms in the country on our own hands in a short time. I may tell you that the Duke advertised two farms this year, and there never was a single candidate for either.
26906. Do you think that is what was expected by those who constituted the big sheep farms originally?
—No, I don't think it is; it was a profitable business for a number of years, a number of people made
fortunes on them; but it is very much the reverse now.
26907. What benefit is a big sheep farmer to the country compared, we shall say, with fifty small people in comfortable circumstances?
—The benefit to the country is that it is always desirable for the landlord and the country that the tenantry should be thriving and prosperous. There is nothing more trying than a poor tenantry to the proprietor.
26908. But you don't find your small tenantry poor. They pay their rent; what more do you want?
—I want no more if they will conduct themselves according to the rules of the estate. I have every sympathy and every kind feeling towards them. I have been brought up amongst the same class all my life and anything I recommend I recommend for their good.
26909. When the large sheep farmer who has come from the south goes away at the end of a nineteen years' lease, what does he leave behind him in the way of improvement in the country unless a few sheep drains?
—Perhaps his farm was not adapted for anything else. There are sheep farms in this district that you could not make ten acres of arable ground out of.
26910. Is a big sheep farmer an improver of land?
—He drains his land.
26911. And leaves all the arable land out of cultivation?
—If there is arable land upon it; but it is a very scarce article I am sorry to say.
26912. He has no object in keeping his houses in particular order?
—Oh, yes, for his own good; and when he is bound by his lease he wishes to perform the conditions of it.
26913. Are the large farmers as a rule not very exacting upon the landlord for everything they want in the way of buildings and fences and other things?
—I think every tenant is exacting, if you come to that
26914. We have seen with our own eyes enormous houses, almost like palaces, occupied by sheep farmers?
—A tenant who pays £1200 or £1400 a year must have a good house. We charge a fixed rent and lay on a certain sum and charge no interest. We put everything into good order at the beginning of the lease and we fix the same which should be laid out, and the tenant is bound during his lease to keep the houses, dykes, and everything in good order, and so to leave them at the end of the lease.
26915. While the houses of the cottars and crofters seem to be getting worse and worse, am I correct in saying that on large sheep farms you will see a very respectable dwelling house and near it a very much larger one indeed, the sheep tenant not having been satisfied, and having wanted a bigger house?
—I don't know any case of that kind in this district. I can give you particulars of the improvements in Assynt, but I think it would be more proper to give them there, rather than here.
26916. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is it the case that the crofters' houses are getting worse and worse?
—I don't think that, because we are in the habit of giving away slates and lime to the tenants and re-building their houses if they are going to build. No doubt the crofters have to lay out a good deal of money in building the houses. It is a serious matter for a crofter to build a house.
26917. But are they getting worse and worse?
—I don't think so; that is not my opinion.
26918. A delegate stated to-day that the rules which give encouragement and assistance differed from those in the Tongue management. Is that so?
—I don't know what they are in Tongue. If a tenant is going to build a new house he gets wood and glass and slate on credit, payable in three instalments at the end of three years; and a very large sum has been expended in the parish on slates and given to the people, and a very great part has not been paid.
26919. Does he get wood for flooring?
—No; but he gets couples for the roof and wood for the windows and doors; that is all.
26920. Was it the late Mr Loch who laid down the rules under which you give assistance?
—Yes, Mr George Loch.
26921. And have you continued his system?
—Yes, there have been very few houses built in Durness, and there has not been so much given there as in other parishes; but there have been one or two good houses built in Durness, and the people have been assisted in the way I have described.
26922. You stated that you thought crofters should not be fishermen and that the fishermen should not be crofters; but have the crofters sufficient land to be able to make a living from the land alone at
—The crofts are perhaps too small as a rule, but where the croft has anything like 4 or 5 acres, and a man pays close attention to it, he can do.
26923. But if the crofts are, as a rule, too small in the meantime, the people must devote themselves to fishing?
—I suppose it is a necessity of their situation.
26924. And you don't see any means of enlarging the crofts except by reducing the population?
—What I should do would be to enlarge the crofts by adding vacant ones to others; but it rarely happens that we can do that.
26925. Have you found that the people have got their full summing on the place?
—Some have and some have too much,
26926. Have they on an average got the full summing?
—Very nearly, but not quite.
26927. Have they more or less stock than they used to have?
—I think not more.
26928. Do you think it is rather decreasing?
—I think so.
26929. That is not a sign of increasing prosperity?
—They are limited to a certain number, according to the rents, and they can only keep that number, however prosperous they are.
26930. But you say they have hardly their full summing, and they used to have rather more?
—I think they had a few years ago.
26931. Did they sell a great number last year owing to the high price?
—Yes, a great many cattle were sold last year owing to the good prices in the latter end, and even now that is going on. There are high prices going just now for cattle.
26932. Mr Cameron.
—I don't think you said anything about the doctor?
—Well, there is only the one doctor for the two parishes of Eddrachillis and Durness. The house built for him was at Badcall, and it is the fact that it is not in a central position. It was proposed that he should be brought to a central position at the head of Loch Inchard, but when we came to consider what it would cost, it was found that it would take £1000, and the Duke declined to be at that outlay.
26933. What salary does the doctor get?
—£55 from each of the parishes and the Duke of Sutherland gives £ 40 and a free house; and he has his chance of practice besides.
26931. You don't see your way to establishing the doctor within a reasonable distance?
—I would like extremely that such an arrangement could be carried out, but it is want of means that is the difficulty.
26935. Reference has been made to a direct representation of the crofter class being on the School Board. Is it not your experience that, in a wide parish like this, where there are so many schools, and where the School Board only consists of five members, a direct representative from the class of crofters might be difficult to find?
—Yes, but a man of sufficient education and intelligence would be difficult to find.
26936. Do you think the crofters would be likely to agree upon one man of their own class?
—I think it would be very unlikely for them to agree.
26937. Would not it be the case that a crofter in one district might perhaps act more in favour of his own district and against the other districts?
—There would be very apt to be such a feeling.
26938. Don't you think they are tolerably well satisfied when they are represented on the School Board by the minister of their church?
—I think as a rule in this district the people have every cause to have confidence in the School Boards as they exist
26939. But if they get in the School Board the minister in whom they have confidence, they consider that that is perhaps better than a representative from their own class?
—I should think so, their own clergyman ; and I have always been most anxious that there should be one of their own clergy upon every board.
26940. There was a remark made by the first witness to-day to the effect that the crofters never got a favourable answer to any application they made to you?
—I deny the truth of that. It was the Duke of Sutherland they referred to, but I deny the truth of the statement.
26941. The Rev. Mr Ross mentioned that when the question of the doctor came up at the Parochial Board meeting, the large tenants who happened to be members of the board did not support him, or voted against him, because they were afraid of losing their farms?
—I think it is a most unfounded assertion, I think it was a very unfair statement.
26942. Don't you think it unlikely that the large farmers would do that?
—I think that was a very unworthy remark.
—Rev. Mr Ross. That is an inference made from a statement of mine. It is in my written statement what I mentioned about the doctor. I made a motion, the terms of which I forget, and I mentioned in my evidence in answer to questions, that General Scobie always supported me, and that Mr Clark always supported me, but that when I made the motion it was not seconded. It was a statement of my own, easily explained, that the farmers were near the time of renewing their leases, and the inference which has been stated from my examination I don't concur in.
26943. I find, on referring to the shorthand writer's notes, that you were asked
—' They can, if they choose, insist on having a doctor in the parish ?' and you answered
—' I often said so, but it happened that it would be of no avail. At every change of doctor I fought for it, and once I made a motion, but it was not seconded. It was very near the renewal of the leases, and the large farmers quite naturally avowed they did not like to oppose the authorities at the time of the renewal of their leases.'
I withdraw that, if I said it; it is a mistake. I regret very much that I had not my written statement, for my memory and my faculties are failing. There is no doctor for the parish nearer than a remote corner of Eddrachillis, 30 miles off, and the parish of Durness pays onehalf of his salary for the benefit of Eddrachillis, as we get very little benefit. That is all the statement I made in the paper, and what I intended to say in my evidence.
—Mr M'Iver. Might I be allowed to make a little explanation about the doctor's house. There was only one doctor for the three parishes, Assynt, Eddrachillis, and Durness, and the house was built in the most central place for these parishes. It was found the doctor had often to cross the sea, and had great difficulty in getting to Assynt. It was then determined to have two doctors in place of one, and a house was built for the Assynt doctor at Lochinver, and the doctor for Eddrachillis and Durness remained in the old house. That is why the house came to be placed in such an out-of-the-way situation for the parishes.
—Rev. Mr Ross. With reference to what has been said about roads and the people paying no part of new roads, I wish to state that in the year 1831 all the crofters from Kyle, Stru, and Scourie to the parishes of Durness and Tongue had 5 per cent, put upon their rent for what the factor called town bye-roads. Then they paid one-fourth per cent, for district roads; and for other roads 4s. per cent. The factor told them, when these town bye-roads were made, this would be taken off their crofts and in place of that it was put into the rental, and the Duke of Sutherland gets that, or the factor, I don't know which. But you may say that the people are robbed out of that money or defrauded, because that was the very way it was done. Another factor put no taxes on for roads at all but made everything rent. The people were blinded out of their rights and all the rates have been put into the rents. They are paying the percentage still. The people also complain of being hampered in connection with the fishing industry. There was a circular sent out by the factor this summer that the poor fishermen could not fish when it was close time.
26944. The Chairman.
—You had your own examination, which, was of considerable length, and you had a fair share of our time, and I don't think that I can take your examination over again.