(See Appendix A, LXVI.)
38609. The Chairman.
—I believe you wish to make a statement with reference to improvements that have been recently carried on?
—Yes. I think it is necessary to explain, before proceeding with this statement, that the Duke of Sutherland's agent for this district has not appeared to-day. It is disappointing to mo that he is not here, because I have been told that a great many of the people are under the impression that I am here representing the Duke in this district. I wish clearly to tell them that I am not here representing the Duke for this particular district, and that I have come here to represent a particular subject, which forms my commission in Sutherland, and in regard to that subject I have thrown together a few remarks, which I will now read.
—In 1877 I received a commission from his Grace the Duke of Sutherland, to undertake an extensive land reclamation on the farm of Kinbrace, extending to 44,000 acres, and subsequently this commission, which was an absolute one, was extended to embrace the division of this large tract into smaller farms and to letting these to suitable tenants. The Duke expressed a strong desire that due consideration should be given to a much-felt want in Sutherland of a graduation of farms in size, so as it were to form a connecting link or stair between the large and small tenancies, and more particularly to consider how far the nature of the land and of the climate would warrant the formation of arable crofts of a better class. After considerable inquiry and experience of the nature of the land, I had no difficulty in deciding that any attempt at arable crofting of itself would prove a complete failure, but that small and medium pastoral farms with a portion of amble land of a. size to employ the whole time of one family offered great prospects of success. I regret that the time of the Commissioners does not permit my detailing the nature of the inquiry, of itself very interesting, which has led me to this conclusion. That portion of the county with which I am acquainted is admittedly suited only for pastoral purposes, excepting perhaps a small portion along the east coast where the sand and primitive limestone constituted a part of that formation. The Duke being desirous for a better class of arable crofts, in order to give relief to many of his present crofters on the coast who are rather hampered, I have had under very careful consideration the question. How far this relief can be extended to them by what might be termed pastoral crofts 1 and I am of opinion that the only practical way now open of relieving these over-populated crofting centres to which I have alluded would be to draft off the most energetic and industrious of them to small pastoral crofts or farms, and give their present holdings to those of their neighbours most requiring more land. If this policy were adopted, and the more suitable of the large farms divided into holdings of sizes on a graduated principle, so as to show to the people that they had an outlet for energy and enterprise, I have little doubt the present crofter grievances would gradually disappear, and the people would become more successful, contented, and hap'py. But this policy in the present circumstances of the crofter population is not one to be set agoing to any extent without considerable difficulty, and that because of the want of capital. Pastoral farming in relation to labour requires the most capital of any class of farming, and unfortunately the crofters' resources are not capital, but labour. As far as crofting is concerned, I cannot see much room for Government action which would not apply to land generally, but I think an exception might be made in the.law of mortgages being extended to hill stock. In America and Australia great impetus has been given to pastoral farming by the fact that the law allows the mortgaging of live stock, thus enabling men of small capital to hold extensive grazings —in many cases four times the extent which under different conditions their capital would warrant. If those gentlemen in the south who agitated the crofters' question from professed motives of patriotism and philanthropy (little doubt sincerely enough) would form an association to lend capital to the pastoral small farmers and crofters, at a moderate rate of interest, I feel sure the Highland proprietors would cheerfully meet them by giving land for suitable holdings at a rent less than that which can be got from the large farmers or capitalists; and if the law was altered to allow the mortgaging of the stock in respect of which the advance was made, the association would be secured from loss, and a great public and national benefit would accrue. Of the 44,000 acres of land the subject of my commission, I reclaimed 1300 acres by drainage, trenching, clearing, liming, fencing, road making, and building, and put it under cultivation and grasses, at a total cost of £46,000. The land thus reclaimed along with the hill land was subdivided into nine farms as follows :
|Name ||New |
|Suisgill ||7 ||5980 ||5987 |
|Kinbrace ||71 ||94 ||4500 ||4665 |
|Auchintoul ||503 ||61 ||14330 ||14894 |
|Tordu ||5 ||49 ||796 ||850 |
|Claggan ||255 ||100 ||6180 ||6535 |
|Baddenloch ||153 ||127 ||6290 ||6570 |
|Lochside ||100 |
|Knocfhen ||85 ||17 ||2365 ||2567 |
|1312 ||488 ||42591 ||44391 |
These were advertised to let, with the result that the only offer we received for the three farms specially laid out for small farmers, namely Bannockburn, Lochside, and Knocfhen, was-from a south country gentleman —his offer being for the three farms to bo combined into one. The smaller holdings of Kinbrace and Tordu have been let to local crofters, and Suisgill to a crofters' association. For the farm of Tordu, which was valued at £50, we had eight offers ranging from £28 to £45, and for the farm of Suisgill five offers ranging from £100 to £300. For the large farms we had no offers. This experience pointed to the necessity of a still further reduction in the size of the large farms, and this is being done with a view to advertising again. The farm of Suisgill, as I have said, has been let to a crofters' association, and for it a rent of £100 a year has been accepted, which is considerably under what was offered. This low rent was accepted in order to give temporary relief to the crofters of Kildonan and Loth in providing summer grazing for their stock, so as to enable them to husband their resources for the winter. The great want of capital amongst the crofters to stock additional land, which they are much in need of, has been exemplified through the operations of the grazing association by the fact that they have not been able to send half the stock which the farm is capable of carrying, necessitating on the part of the committee of management the borrowing of capital for stocking purposes. This fact is, I think, strong confirmation of the statement that more land to those most in need of it will not, without some,access to capital, afford any immediate relief. In 1877 I had an instruction from the Duke to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the circumstances of his industrials work at Brora, and to consider how far these could be extended, or whether other industries could be started to provide work for his people. At that time the industries at Brora consisted of a coal pit, a brick and tile work, carpenters' shops and foreign timber mills, engineering shops, a peat charcoal factory, and a tramway system. The capital account of these works stood at £24.327, and the annual loss in nursing was not under £3000. I give this statement to show what the Duke was doing for his people at one point of his property. I stopped the charcoal factory, and a woollen factory took the place of the carpenters' shops and foreign timber mills. An excellent system of water supply by gravitation has been introduced at an expenditure of £1500 of capital, and some farther capital was expended all round, with the general result that the works are now all let to thriving tenants. The Duke's attempt at fostering industrial works embraced almost every known industry, and his Grace has expended a large sum on experiments with a view to utilising : the immense tracts of peat which abound throughout his Grace's vast northern kingdom. In regard to the fishing population of Sutherland I have not much experience, but I can claim an intimate knowledge of the conduct and habits of fishermen generally in regard to agriculture. There is no doubt it was with the intention of improving the circumstances of the Sutherland people that they were afforded an opportunity of combining the industry of fishing with that of crofting, and although it may have answered for a time, the principle is I think wrong. The instincts and knowledge necessary for success iu these respective callings is altogether incompatible. A fisherman's farm should be confined to a patch of land for potatoes. It is well known that an active brave fisherman can employ the time of all his family in connection with his fishing. Sea fishing might be considered a national industry more within the range of being nursed by the Government thrm that of crofting, and if the Government can offer good harbour accommodation and other facilities so as to induce the hardy Highlander to desert the patch of land as his worst enemy, and rely exclusively on the fishing, a road will at once be opened up for the amelioration of the Highland crofters and fishermen, who in the general advancement of the people of this country has been somewhat neglected. These remarks have been hurriedly thrown together, and are very incomplete, and in case they may be misunderstood I wish to explain that while I sympathise with the crofter population of Sutherland in not having room for expansion, I don't intend by my remarks to infer that any of the Duke's people are suffering from privation or want. To do so would be a libel on an excellent people, and a noble generous-hearted proprietor without example.
38610. Before we proceed to the proper subject of your paper, I wish to ask you one or two questions in connection with the statements made to us by the previous witness. The gentleman who addressed us at the beginning of the meeting—Mr Sutherland—gave us an estimate of the quantity of arable ground which he believed had been at one period under cultivation in the Kildonan district by the native crofting population, and he described the district as containing an area of about 150,000 acres, and stated his impression and the prevailing impression of the country to be that about 60,000 acres had been in past times under the plough. I believe that, in the prosecution of your reclamation schemes you have made yourself acquainted with the area of ground generally alluded to, and I would like to have your opinion as to the maximum amount of land which, at any given period, was under cultivation in the district?
—I wish it to be understood that the remarks I make have reference only to the part of the Kildonan Strath which is the subject of my commission. In the printed statement which was provided at the time the 44,000 acres were offered to let, an estimate of the old land was given to those who chose to be offerers for the different farms. The quantity of acres taken up as old land of that 44,000 acres, was ascertained by means of a most careful man who was in my service. I told him to take the Ordnance plan and ascertain the quantity of old arable land, and to have that checked by personally going over the ground. I think the statement which we give in our printed advertisement of the quantity of land is correct. I think we may assume it as correct, and the amount is 488 acres within the area of 44,000 acres. In regard to the rest of the two parishes, to which reference was made, I am under the impression, from a discussion which took place on this subject some time ago with the Duke's agents, that the 44,000 acres at Kinbrace represent more old land in proportion to pasture than the other part.
38611. The 44,000 acres you now allude to are all included in the 150,000 acres to which Mr Sutherland alluded?
—The whole of Kinbrace is therefore included in the parish of Kildonan.
38612. And you think the 44,000 acres is a rather favourable representation of the whole of the 150,000, and that it would not be likely to contain a less proportion of arable land than the rest?
—I give you my reason for answering that in the affirmative. I have been advocating very strongly the policy of making the old arable ground the centres for the homesteads of small farms; and I have been met with this argument on the part of the Duke's other agents, that this portion of the property which is under my control has a much greater quantity of old arable land than the rest of Sutherland. My impression has been that there is as much old arable ground in Sutherland as would make very good centres for an excellent pastoral farming system of small farms.
38613. Then, as to the 488 acres of arable land out of the 44,000, at what period were these under cultivation? Do you think they were under cultivation subsequent to the clearance of the country generally, or do you think they represent the whole of the ground under cultivation while the large resident crofting population was in the country?
—My impression is that it represents the whole, because in my instructions to my surveyor who went over the ground I told him to take all the ground that had been under the plough without respect to whether it was green ground or whether it had gone back to heather. I wanted him to include the land that had gone back to heather along with the green ground.
38614. According to your estimate about one-hundredth of the general area had been at one period under cultivation. Now, in walking over the ground yourself and considering the appearance of it, do you see any traces of a larger proportion having been under cultivation than that, at any remote period?
—I think there is not any difficulty in ascertaining the quantity of land that has been under cultivation. I would not like to commit myself to say that these 488 acres include all the land, because of my own personal knowledge I could not state so. This is only the result of the instruction I have given to my surveyor to take it from the Ordnance plan, and to go over the ground, but I would be quite correct in asserting that 600 or 700 acres would exceed anything that had ever been under cultivation within that area.
38615. From your own personal inspection?
—From my own personal inspection, having been over the whole of these 44,000 acres a hundred times, and I know all the green ground that is upon it. I have not measured it, but I am prepared to swear that the amount of ground upon that farm which had originally been under cultivation would not exceed 600 or 700 acres.
38616. But do you think it is possible that the land may have been cultivated in ancient times, and that all traces of previous cultivation may be so obliterated that you could not see where it existed?
—Quite possible, and we had a very interesting instance of that. We reclaimed a piece of land that had been cultivated by the Picts, on which there were 14 inches of moss covering it; but I am prepared to say that my remarks have reference to all the land that was under cultivation within 200 years.
38617. We do not wish to go beyond 100 years at present, because the population was removed in 1814. Then you do not think it could have exceeded 1 in 50?
—I am certain —not on this farm.
38618. And, therefore, in the rest of the strath. There is another special point I would call your attention to, and that is that we had mention made of the farm of Suisgill, or the common pasture land of Suisgill, and it was stated to us by a previous witness that ho was under the impression tint this had been appropriated in some form to a club farm or common grazing, but that he did not understand what the system was, and that he was under the impression that the people concerned in it had not been sufficiently consulted —they had not been taken into consultation sufficiently. He also stated that he was under an apprehension that those who had taken part in the agitation connected with the crofter question were not perhaps treated with equal justice in the matter. I would like you to give me an account of the origin of this project of the farm of Suisgill and the manner in which this new appropriation has been carried out?
—I will very much have to go over the whole circumstances in connection with the formation of the association. The people of Helmsdale previously had a grazing they called Griamacharry, and after the present commissioner came to Sutherland this grazing was withdrawn from the people without any consultation, and I think very unjustly and unfairly withdrawn from them. I do not think there was any injury intended. I think it must have been entirely an oversight on the part of the commissioner, who was not acquainted with the circumstances of the grazing; but, nevertheless, it was a great hardship to the people at the time, and an agitation was got up here to have the matter represented to his Grace. The result of that was that the Duke put the matter into my hands with fall power to do anything I liked in doing justice to the people for that grazing which was taken from them. I came to Helmsdale and met a few of the leading people in connection with the original grazing, and had a very satisfactory meeting with them. I told them I was commissioned by the Duke to do whatever I thought was just between the Duke and them without consultation with his Grace, and that I was prepared to put this farm of Suisgill at their disposal. The result of that meeting with these few people was that subsequently they called a meeting of the whole crofters in the district. That was a meeting which I attended, and I estimate the attendance at 250 people. It was an open meeting, and everything in connection with my proposal was placed before them with the result that there was not a dissentient voice in connection with the proposals. I say it to the credit of the people of Helmsdale that I never, in connection with any business I ever undertook, had more satisfaction. They met me in a spirit which was highly creditable to them. In a manly spirit. It showed that the people of Helmsdale were people who could be developed to a much more satisfactory condition of things than existed at present, by being met in the right spirit. The result was that ultimately we formed our association. I wrote the articles for the association. I discussed with them what would be the machinery for the working of the association which would be most acceptable to them, and after that, I wrote out the articles of association in order that they might be successful in the working of it. My impression is that in connection with all these club farms and farms of that sort a great mistake has hitherto been made, in so far as the representatives of the proprietor have always kept a firm hold on the management. They have not thrown it on the people, and these associations have not met with that success which I think is in the future for the Helmsdale association. The principle which we adopted was simply to grant the association a lease the as we would to any other tenant, and on the same conditions, and from what I can learn of the management up till now it has been highly satisfactory, and promises not only to meet the wants for which it was formed in the way of giving temporary relief, but it is likely to prove a great success financially.
38619. There are a number of joint tenants. How is the farm to be managed; is it to be managed through a committee, or by one manager appointed by the shareholders, or in what form?
—They have articles of association similar to a joint stock company, which provide for all their meetings, for committees, for every contingency that could happen in connection with the management of an association or company.
38620. How, practically, was the stock put on, and were many of the partners in the association able to produce stock at once and send it there ?
—As regards the duty of the working committee, each represents a district, and there are as many districts as there are members of committee. Each member of committee brings at a certain date in the year a list of the quantity of stock in his district which is to be put on the grazing. After that is all arranged, the committee of management see what they can calculate upon from the people in the way of stock. This year, after the lists were all brought in, it was found the requirements of the whole of the crofters who were members of the association were not equal to half the capacity of the grazing. This necessitated the committee of management borrowing capital for the purpose of stocking.
38621. And how is this stock purchased ?
—The crofters are all enrolled as members of the association and their names are all in the articles. Then the committee of management appoint two or three of their number as the managing members of committee. These managing members of committee take in stock from the whole members of the association at a certain rate which they fix. This done, the members of committee proceed to purchase stock for the purpose of making up the deficiency in the stock, and the whole thing is managed simply on the principle of a joint stock company, the members of the association who are crofters having the first right to send stock to the grazing at certain fixed prices.
38622. Then the profits which accrue upon this purchased stock will be divided between the members of the association ?
—It is intended, I believe, by the present members of committee that there should be no division of profits until the association is in possession of as much capital as would, in the event of the crofters not sending sufficient stock, enable the committee to stock the farm without borrowing capital. They intend to accumulate the profits till they have a sinking fund which would meet any emergency in connection with the successful management of the holding.
38623. Their first duty will be to pay the debt ?
—Their first duty will be to pay the debt.
38624. Will any considerable inconvenience be felt in consequence of the distance of this farm from the crofts?
—It would have been very much more serviceable to the people of Helmsdale and the surrounding neighbourhood if the grazing had been lying adjacent to their holdings, but the position of this grazing is very much more accessible than the grazing they had previously. It is about half the distance.
38625. You had the goodness to state to us that you thought the object which ought to be aimed at was the formation of small pastoral crofts; that the land with which you are concerned was not susceptible or profitable appropriation to arable crofts; but you looked to the formation of small pastoral crofts. Will you state what the area and what the rental would be of these typical pastoral crofts to which you refer?
—In regard to the arable crofts, that is to say, crofts that have no outrun, having carried out a series of experiments with the new land —my experience is that they would result in complete failure; but if you give them a small piece of arable land with a large outrun, I am satisfied there is no way in which the grazing of Sutherland could be more economically managed, not only for his Grace but for the nation, as that of having a man that is interested in the stock living in the centre of it and managing bis own business. If that policy was adopted, I would recommend that not only small crofts but a gradation of crofts should be established. I would commence with a croft of perhaps about forty acres of arable land, with not less than 1000 acres of pasture. That would mean a rental, if you take the pasture at 6d. per acre, of £25 for pasture, and if you take the arable land at 15s. per acre it would mean £30 for arable. That would be the rental. That would be the smallest holding I could recommend to any family, and if assistance could be given to a great many of the present crofters in this country to start at that point, I am quite certain that before they finished a nineteen years' lease they would be able to take a much larger holding.
38626. Then the smallest holding you would recommend would be a £50 rent?
—Something like a £50 rental. Of course, I do not mean to say a man would not be much better with a place half that size than he is in his present circumstances, but I would like if possible to see the next step from the common grazing which we have laid out at Suisgill. That I reckon the first step to the assistance of the small crofter, and the next step I would like to see would be a farm of a rent of £50; and, rather than give a family a less holding than that, if I was a proprietor, I would assist them with the capital.
38627. Have you reflected on what a very small number of families this system would afford relief to, and how very few in overcrowded townships could ever be able to take a holding of that size ?
—Well, I reckon, if there were facilities given for them mortgaging their stock and getting assistance, it would be about as safe a business as any one could start, and I am satisfied if the tenants are selected for their character and ability to work a holding, the capital could be supplied to them, and land supplied to them, without much risk.
38628. Then you would not contemplate the advantageous formation of holdings of a smaller rental and area than £50 a year?
—I would not be disposed to recommend a much smaller holding. Of course, if you had a gradation of holdings once established, no doubt a man with half that size of holding who could be employed during part of the year by the larger holders, would be quite as successful as far as his holding went; but I do not believe in any industry which does not admit of the party who takes part in it employing his whole time at work. I do not believe in intermittent labour. I believe in people who are expected to succeed being employed the whole year round.
38629. But still, assuming the existence of the present race of small crofters, would you be inclined generally to add, as you have done in a particular case, a large common grazing to the present class of small crofters ?
—Certainly I would be disposed to do that as a stepping stone to something better.
38630. Mr Cameron.
—Is the association to which you referred composed of crofters from one township or of crofters from various townships ?
—It is composed of crofters from various townships. There are eight townships.
38631. And it has been found that hitherto the system has worked well, nd there has been no jealousy between the members of the association coming from different townships'!
—We have only had a very short trial of it. The association has not been in operation for more than six months.
38632. Is the working committee fairly representative of the different crofting townships?
—Perfectly representative of the different townships.
38633. Do you think, in a case where one township might not be able to supply stock for those summer sheilings, that it would be practicable to invite other townships to join and so carry on the association from different parts of the same district ?
—The principle of regulating the rights between various townships is very simple. Each member of each township has an equal right whatever size his present holding is, and the claims of the grazing are individually equal. In the event of a township having very few cattle to send to the grazing, another township or other townships would be allowed to fill up the blank, but when the state of business comes to that point where the demands for grazing are more than the capacity of the grazing, the committee of management will have to regulate according to the townships, and there is proper provision made for that in the articles of association.
38634. Do they stock the ground with sheep as well as cattle?
—They have a right to send cattle, sheep, and horses.
38635. Are these sheep separately marked as belonging to individuals?
—At the present time there are no sheep belonging to the individual crofters on the grazing. The fact that a new arrangement was made in Helmsdale in regard to the sheep two or three years ago deprived the people of their sheep, and in that way just at the present time they had not any sheep to send. There is a large quantity of sheep on the grazing, but these have been bought by the committee of management, and put on as belonging not to individual members of the association, but to the association itself.
38636. They are all under one mark ?
—Under one mark.
38637. But if the crofters had sheep of their own, would these be marked as belonging to each crofter individually, or would they retain the common mark?
—I presume the committee of management would naturally decide that each man's sheep sent to the grazing for each summer would be marked with his own mark.
38638. And would that man share in the profits of the sheep that were bought?
—He shares in the profits of the sheep that are bought simply through the fact that he is a member of the association. He would not share individually, but indirectly through the association. The profits of the sheep that are put on by the committee of management would become the property of the association, and as members of the association they would participate ultimately in those profits, but not otherwise.
38639. I assume that in the regulations provision is fully made for all those points ?
—I think I can state that very great consideration has been given to the drawing up of the articles of association to afford complete machinery to meet every contingency that might arise in connection with the successful working of the grazing.
38640. Do you know anything of the circumstances under which those sheep were removed from the farm of Griamacharry ?
—I do not.
38641. Will you explain a little further what you mean by legislative action with the view of putting movable stock in the same category as regard borrowing money as real property?
—The law of Scotland does not permit of the mortgaging of movable property which extends naturally to farming stock. In regard to the hill stock, I draw a decided difference between ordinary farming stock and hill stock. Hill stock as a rule belongs to the grazing, and cannot be removed from it. Proprietors usually hand over the stock to the tenant, and bind him to hand over that stock back agaiu, and in that way a very nice distinction could be drawn, I think, between movable property of that sort and other movable property. I myself do not believe it would be for the advantage of this country that we should promote any alteration in the law in regard to the mortgaging of movable property generally, but I think for the purpose of giving relief to the crofters, if for no other purpose, it would be worth while to promote a change in the law to this extent, that the crofter might be placed on the same platform very much as those men who have stocked the grazings of the colonies of America with such beneficial results. There are a great many of the crofters about this neighbourhood, I know, who would become excellent pastoral farmers if they could get the stock.
38642. You say that hill stock cannot be removed, but I suppose you do not mean they may not be removed. You mean, I apprehend, it is the practice in sheep farms to hand over the stock from one farmer to another; but that would not afford any security to the man who lent money. The farmer might remove the best of his stock or three-fourths of his stock, and how would you suggest that the lender of the money should retain that control over the stock which would prevent him being defrauded of the capital he had advanced?
—It would be done by the mortgaging of the stock upon that farm.
38643. How would the lender of the money prevent the stock being removed ?
—I simply point out a way in which hill stock is regarded by the various proprietors in Scotland, in relation to ordinary stock on a farm, and I say the distinction which could be drawn there would be one of the arguments I would use in making an exception of hill stock in asking for a change in the law.
38644. Would a change in the law satisfy the capitalists to the extent that they would be willing to lend money upon a movable property like stock?
—It is done every day. At the present time we find a large quantity of Scotch capital is going to America in bonds over movable property—in fact, bonds over stock—and we know for certain that a large quantity of the stock which is grazing the lands in the colonies is represented by money advanced by the bankers in the colonies; and I do not see why, if you gave the bankers in this country a right over the stock on the various farms, they should not lend money with as much security as over stock in the colonies.
38645. But there is no law in existence which prevents capitalists lending on stock in security and taking the stock in security?
—There is. It cannot be done. You cannot mortgage movable property by the law of Scotland.
38646. Has any case ever been brought under your notice where attempts have been made to borrow money over stock and the security of the stock has been refused?
—I am not aware of a single instance of any one having a security on stock for borrowed money, and I am quite aware there could be no such security.
38647. No banker would lend money upon it?
—No, because he knows the law would not protect him.
38648. And if the law were altered as you suggest do you think the bankers would be willing to lend money upon movable stock ?
—I do. I can only speak for myself, and I would lend money to crofters of good character if I had a mortgage over the stock.
38649. When you say you approve of farms for crofters consisting of 40 acres of arable ground and 1000 acres of hill ground, do you mean that those 1000 acres should be held independently by each crofter, or as part of a larger holding held in common ?
—I would have it separate from any other holdings.
38650. Do you think a farmer would be far more likely to manage his stock better if he held it all individually than if he held it as one share of the common grazing ?
—I do think he would manage it much more efficiently.
38651. There would in fact be one manager instead of many managers ?
—One instead of many.
38652. And I suppose that is one reason why you fix the figure so high as 1000 acres, so that it might be worth while for a man to have that amount of grazing ?
—That is one of my reasons.
38653. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have brought out a new fact, this matter about the alteration you wish upon the law as to mortgaging stock. Are you aware that in Australia and New Zealand it is competent and legal to register a mortgage over stock?
38654. Does it not afford very great facilities to the settlers who go to those places that they can borrow upon stock ?
38655. You would like to see that facility given to the crofters at
38656. No doubt a higher rate of interest would probably have to be given than would be given upon land?
38657. I suppose you would put ths law exactly in the same state as it is in New Zealand, where, once a stock is registered as being in favour of a mortgager, it is illegal and would bring a person under the law if he bought such a stock ?
—Yes, that is exactly how I would put it.
38658. So, in point of fact, you would create a real security over the stock ?
—A real security.
38659. With regard to this association, is it a fair question to ask how many are members of the association at present?
38660. I presume they do not all hold the same shares ?
—The shares are equal. It is an element in the constitution of the association, and the object of doing that was in order that the small people who were most in need of help should have a right equal to those who were best off.
38661. You heard Mr Sutherland's evidence to-day ?
—I was present.
38662. He indicated rather that there was a want of knowledge on the part of many of the crofters as to the constitution and workings of the association. Have you ever prevented the matter from being made public?
—I think I explained before that a public meeting was held where I read and described everything, not only in connection with the articles of association, but with the nature of the lease which was intended to be entered into on behalf of the association. I had the articles of association printed, and every member of the association has a copy of these articles at this moment.
38663. Will you hand in a copy?
—I am very happy to hand in a copy now.
38661. Can you state here if you have any authority or indications on the part of the Duke of Sutherland that those alterations that you now recommend in favour of the crofters are likely to be initiated?
—-I may say I have no authority from the Duke of Sutherland to come here and make any statement whatever beyond the instruction that I would have the same liberty at this meeting as I have had in connection with my commission since I came to Sutherland, and it was simply a white card. I had power to divide those 44,000 acres in any way I thought proper for the good of the Duke and his people, and I have carried out my commission entirely in that spirit. I have not consulted the Duke, but I think I am safe in saying that in those suggestions I have made to you, and those changes I have made in Kildonan, and in everything I have done, I have anticipated the spirit of the Duke; but as to having authority to make that statement, I have no such thing. I feel quite certain from the intercourse I have had with the Duke of Sutherland, that his disposition towards his people is that they should march forward in improving their condition, and that, if they do not do so, it is not from any want of a desire on his part, not only to give them every facility, but to expend large sums of money in assisting them to do it. I heard a reference made today to the conditions imposed on the Sutherland property in connection with the letting of land as being antiquated; I wish to state that I had perfect liberty from the Duke to write such a lease in respect of the farms I am letting as I thought proper, and to see and examine all the more recent modern provisions which have been applied to many properties in Scotland. In the lease which I have drawn and the conditions I have written, I have imported into them everything which the occupation of land in modern times has suggested. I shall send in a copy of the lease to the Commissioners.
38665. In your intercourse with the people of Sutherland, you have come very much in contact with them; what is your impression as to their character ?
—I have had considerable experience of people in Great Britain and also abroad. I have managed large properties in Spain, and have had some experience in America and other nations. Judging from the Sutherland workpeople who came to the reclamations, they are not good workpeople, but from what I have seen of their industry and their habits otherwise I can speak of them as of the highest character. My relations with them in connection with this grazing association, which have been very intimate, have been of the most agreeable kind, and I am quite satisfied there is no difficulty in getting them to do anything that is reasonable.
38666. They all tell you they want more land?
—They want more land, and they want to be assisted with more capital in order to stock it.
38667. Are you, so far as you are concerned, very willing they should have that additional land?
—I am quite with the people as to giving them more land. I am quite satisfied the Duke of Sutherland cannot do a better thing for himself and for the nation thau to give the people more land, and develop to a great extent the county of Sutherland with the Sutherland people.
38668. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You stated that the new place which has been given to them at Suisgill is nearer to them than the pasture taken from them before; where was that pasture ?
—It was in the upper part—in the furthest away part of the farm of Kinbrace—a place near Griamacharry; and the place at Griamacharry will be more than double the distance that Suisgill is from Helmsdale. Suisgill is perhaps nine or ten miles, and Griamacharry will be at least twenty-three.
38669. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where are the Suisgill stock wintered?
—All the cattle stock come back to the crofts, where the summer resources have been husbanded for their keep during the winter. A portion of the sheep, of course, will remain on the Suisgill grazings.
38670. Is the Suisgill grazing low enough to winter hoggs?
—Not for hoggs, because there is not much green ground upon it, but it is quite equal to wintering any class of sheep barring hoggs.
38671. And the association will take wintering for their hogs?
—I think the intention of the association is not to keep hoggs on the grazing. I think their intention is, as to any extra stock that is required, to buy hoggs in spring time.
38672. Does the association provide a herd for the cattle?
—-The association provides a herd.
38673. What does the association charge for the grazing of cattle?
—I have not a list of the prices. It is very like the prices they originally paid when they had the grazing at Griamacharry —horses 7s. 6d., cattle 5s. 6d., stirks 4s., cows on town grazing 15s. These are the prices they originally paid at Griamacharry.
38674. What does that last item mean?
—Cows on the low town grazing on the green ground.
—There is no price of sheep here. It might be very interesting for you to know what was the result of the Griamacharry grazing. The gross revenue during the last three years was about £40, and the expense of management £22, 10s., and that is a holding that would be worth over £100.
38676. The Chairman.
—Speaking of the mortgaging of stock in the colonies, is it the case that when stock is mortgaged to bankers or capitalists in the colonies, it is mortgaged by men who are holding the known stock on their own land, who are not farmers mortgaging, but who are proprietors mortgaging their stock?
—I presume that is so. I don't think it makes much difference. The only difficulty that would be raised, and it would be raised on the part of the proprietor, would be simply this, that we would have no security for our rent; but if I was a proprietor in the Highlands I would be very sorry to allow that question to interfere with the improvement and the development of my people.
38677. But after all we must sometimes interfere to protect the people against the bad consequences of their own enterprise. Might it not be a misfortune to see an honest man incurring such complex obligations as the payment of even a reasonable rent and a high rate of interest on the mortgage of his stock? Might you not be condemning a tenant to an impossible task?
—I think not. I think a working tenant upon a grazing farm would be able to pay 5 per cent, for his capital, while a tenant who did not reside on his farm and did not manage it would not be able to go on even without paying any interest.
38678. After all, stock is but a perishable security for payment of rent phis a high rate of interest. Is there any machinery by which stock could be insured?
—I think not, but I would not recommend anything of the sort. I do not think any tenant would ask his stock to be mortgaged for the amount of its value. I think if he was known to be a good manager he would be capable of mortgaging it to three-fourths of its value, and that would be a sufficient margin where the man's character was good,
38679. Is the stock mortgaged in the colonies insured or not?
—It is not, I believe.
38680. Mr Cameron.
—In the case of what is called a wether firm, you sell your three-year-old wethers in the autumn, and to supply the place of these you have to buy lambs in the autumn or hoggs in the spring. How would the mortgage extend over the sheep that were not bought? Suppose in place of buying to supply the place of those sold, he put the money in his pocket?
—I think the law could be so made that whether it was a regular stock, or whether it was a stock of a particular class of sheep. a registration in the neighbourhood where the stock is, or the county where the stock is, would be quite sufficient to cover the whole stock, and to allow the ordinary movement to take place as in the case of a regular stock. That is to say, it would not affect the mortgage, suppose
the man took away his draft stock and brought in his young stock. The mortgage would just transfer itself without any formalities to the stock that came in.
38681. But suppose no stock to be bought in À buys his lambs from B, but suppose A was one year hard up and did not buy lambs from B, B would have the lambs, and the mortgage would not affect the lambs of B, which were not sold to A?
—I think the question would he answered in this way, that it would be a matter for the party who made the mortgage to stipulate the conditions under which he was to move stock.
38682. All I wish to point out is that as one difficulty was pointed out by Lord Napier, this would be another case in which the condition of things in the colonies would hardly apply to the condition of things in this country ?
—In as far as it is tenants here and proprietors there.
38683. No, but in as far as regards the buying iu of stock. In the colonies each keeps his own stock 1
—If you make the law so as to allow me to arrange a mortgage with the tenant for his stock, my mortgage with him would stipulate all the conditions in connection with the movement of the stock, and I would have added to an ordinary mortgage au agreement on the subject of the management of his stock, which would be perfectly legal suppose you made the law to allow the mortgage, in the first instance; but at the present time I am not in a position to carry out any agreement with regard to the mortgage of the stock, in as far as it is against the law to make a mortgage of the stock at all.
38684. But if you come to the management of stock. I suppose you can hand over the management to a banker, and say, ' That stock is yours,' and the law would not prevent it?
—I think it would. If you were justified in doing that it would be taken advantage of in many cases in connection with people on the verge of bankruptcy. They would give a preference to particular creditors through that channel. I don't think such a thing could be done.