Rev. NORMAN NICOLSON MACKAY (45) —examined.
26945. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected a delegate by the Mackay people here?
26946. Was there a large meeting of the people?
—At some of the meetings. I was not present at any of the meetings except one; which was not large. I should say fifteen were present, but the people were away from home to a large extent.
26947. Did these people represent this locality or come from a larger area?
—They represented the locality in which they lived.
26948. Have you got a statement which you would like to read?
—Yes ; I was also appointed a delegate in other districts, without my being present.
26949. How far does the area of your charge extend?
—I have a church 24 miles from the one beside my house here.
26950. 24 miles from this?
26951. You are minister of a district 24 miles across, how long in the other direction?
—7 or 8 miles broad.
26952. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it a part of Assynt?
—It is Assynt proper.
26953. Is there another Free Church minister in the parish?
—Yes, at Stoer.
26954. And you two represent the Free Church in Assynt?
—In the civil parish of Assynt.
26955. The Chairman.
—Will you make your statement?
—Notes of grievances of the crofters of Assynt, and of proposed remedies.
(1) The crofters of this parish were, many years ago, swept with a clean sweep from an area of about 80,000 acres, and crowded on a narrow border of rocky land along the sea-shore, among crofters already occupying that part. Excepting the bleak mountain tops, this border is the worst land in the parish.
(2) But let me at once come to the present condition of the people. There are now in Assynt about 360 crofters. There are also about 200 cottars having no land; and there are nearly 100 paupers resident in the parish. The 200 cottars are a burden on the crofters, who out of kindness give them generally potato ground, a cows' grass, peat moss, &c, rather than see them want. This is a heavy tax. The paupers are also a great burden on the crofters, seeing that the general allowance for the poor from the rates is Is. or Is. 6d. a week. This of course will not support them, and the rest of their support remains to be supplied in kind by the crofters. The poor rates is upwards of 2s. in the pound, and it would be a serious matter to increase it. Indeed, justice requires that Government should at an early date give some attention to the uncommonly high rates in some Highland parishes. The school rate is 8d. in the pound (we have not the benefit of the favoured clauses); and all the rates together exceed 3s. in the pound.
(3) There is no compensation for improvements, e.g., the Duke may take possession of any of the crofters' houses at any time without compensation, because these houses are claimed as the property
of his Grace whether he gave assistance to build them or not. Again, if a crofter has a lot or croft which he can improve, and that he does so, it is alleged that it is usual to raise that man's rent soon; and it is certain that if a crofter gets money for improving his lot, the interest of that money continues to be charged in all time coming. The large farmers have got great reductions of rent in Sutherland within the last few years, but there has been no reduction to crofters. Some of them, who were in great distress this year, applied to the Duke for a reduction, but it was not granted.
(4) The crofts are so email, and so exhausted by constant tillage, that they are quite inadequate to produce food for a year for a family; and in most cases it is impossible to find any land among the rocks to add to them. The average crop which can be raised by the crofters of Assynt will support their families only for from three to four months. These crofts will keep the families at constant work
only for three or four months. The average rent of an Assynt crofter is a little over £3. It will thus be seen that the present crofts would require to be increased fourfold so as to supply sufficient food to the families, and to engage the energies of the people for the whole year. Were this done the rent would be £12 on an average, calculating from the present rent as a basis. And on such a croft a man would be able to keep four or five good cows, one good horse, and twenty-five good sheep. I say good, because their present stock is very inferior, being equal in value to one-fourth of the same number of good stock.
(5) There is plenty of land in Assynt for this addition. The rents of some townships have been excessively raised, e.g., Achmelvich paid, in the time of the father of one of the present crofters, £18, and it now pays £84, and there has been no addition of land. They feel greatly burdened by what they call the death premium or rate. This is au addition of about 10s. to the rent whenever a crofter dies and is succeeded by his son. This increase is charged yearly in all time coming. The man who enters
into possession of a croft has also to pay the arrears of the former occupant. (I could not get sufficient evidence of this, and I thought at - first I should strike it out; but it was mentioned by several people, and I afterwards thought it better they should speak to that themselves.)
(6) The old people remember when they had a full right to all the fish in the sea and the lochs and rivers around them. Now they dare not set lines or herring nets near where salmon nets are set. And their liberty to walk among the hills is now circumscribed. They feel it a grievance to have their former rights thus constantly diminished. The young people are becoming more intelligent, and their indignation at the wrongs done to their fathers and grandfathers, which still remain unredressed, and the fruits of which they are now compelled to reap, is fast increasing.
(7) The crofters of the township of Clashmore were evicted about twelve years ago, and there was an attempt to evict the crofters of Elphine and Knocken more than twenty years ago, but the attempt was unsuccessful
26956. More than twenty years ago'; does that mean about twenty?
—It means between twenty and thirty years ago.
(8) The crofters cannot get any of the large farms although they are loudly seeking land, pressingly in need of it, and twice petitioned the Duke to give them a large farm when the lease of it was out, and its tenant removing.
(9) May I be permitted to reverse two of the things in the above statement, so as to show how they would look from the landlord's point of view. There is, as has been seen, an increase of 10s. when a
crofter dies, but suppose this reversed, and that it was a decrease of 10s. for each crofter when a proprietor died. How soon would the proprietors cry out they would be ruined, and with good cause. Take an other case. The proprietors, with the assistance of the law officers, have thrown down hundreds of the crofters' houses, and left them homeless on the hill side; but suppose the crofters, with
the aid of the law officials threw down the houses of the proprietors, what a cry would the whole land raise over this cruelty and wickedness.
(10) The Duke encourages and assists the building of new houses; notwithstanding this there are too many houses in the parish still in which the people are under the same roof with their cattle, and enter by the same door.
(11) It is a great evil that there is not a rising scale of crofts at £ 10 and upwards. And perhaps a greater evil is that there is only one class of inhabitants, a middle and higher class being almost
entirely wanting. Proprietors or their commissioners, and large farmers ought to be resident among the crofters for half the year at least.
(12) This would greatly tend to prevent another hard grievance, viz., the despotic nature of the management of most of the Highland estates. The despotism may be often paternal, still it is a despotism. One man's will (the factor's) rules whole parishes in all their concerns without limit or check. I blame not the men, but the system and the circumstances. Factors find themselves placed in remote districts with enormous and almost absolute power over nearly every person there, and the more they exercise this power, the more the love of power increases, and impatience of all opposition increases; these men in these circumstances would be more than human if they did not sometimes commit excesses in the exercise of this power, and do things which it would be painful to bring to light, and which they can hardly see in their true colour unless set before the eyes of the public. There ought to be a check upon the management of crofters in the interest of proprietors, factors, and crofters alike. The best check would be one by Government such as the Board of Supervision is upon Parochial Boards, or something not very different.
(1) A business man, a lawyer, is needed for the Highland crofters, to be at first appointed and paid by Government to take their side (the crofters') in all arrangements and disputes with the representatives of the proprietors, for the factors are always sharp business men, who regard it as their duty to do their very best for their masters, and who thus make every arrangement as far as possible in the interest of
the proprietors, and generally against the interest of the crofters. Examples can be multiplied, such as settling cottars on the outrun of crofters, making them pay rent to the proprietor, and not reducing, but
increasing the rent payable by the township thus injured.
(2) The great need is more land. If the people are to be raised a large farm suitable for crofters would need to be looked out, and divided into lots, at rents of £ 10 and upwards, and offered to the crofters and cottars. The Government ought to come forward with a large and liberal measure, to co-operate with proprietors in once more getting the crofters and cottars settled in a fair measure of contentment and comfort. This would pay much better than wars with wild tribes. Let the crofters and cottars be settled on the land of their forefathers, and they will form a very effectual and cheap fortification of the coast; and supply splendid recruiting material for army and navy. At present there is only one Sutherlandshire man in the 92nd. But if a satisfactory settlement does not take place serious complications may arise which will require much money to put them right.
(3) The next great need is work. And, no work is so close at hand, and so much needed as the improvement of the large farms which are becoming fast deteriorated by brackens, heather, and rank grasses; these can be be subdued or removed only by trenching. Draining is also necessary. Government and proprietors could co-operate in this matter also, and both would be benefited as well
as the poor people. At present the people have to go far in search of work, and spend most of their earnings often in journeying to and from the works, and in wandering in search of work. Frequently their poverty is so great that many cannot leave home in search of work for want of money to keep them alive till they can get employment. Another work much needed is the constructing of quays at Lochinver and Oldney for fish curing. Those who have the larger lots are the most active workers as well as the most comfortable. And those who have plenty to do at home are very diligent. I wish the Commissioners saw the number who leave the parish in a year with their bags on their backs in search of work and the number of girls who go south to service.
(4) Another thing much needed is such a change of the law as would make evictions impossible as long as a crofter paid his rent, and along with this compensation for improvements would require to be secured. These things if granted would restore the courage, and confidence and activity of the people, and set an object before them which would inspire them with habits of diligence and thrift.
NORMAN NICOLSON MACKAY, Free Church Minister of Assynt.
26957. By whom was this paper drawn up ?
26958. Was it read in public to the persons whom you represent, or has it been communicated to them in any form?
—Yes, it was communicated to them. I forgot to take the scroll of paper with me, but I repeated it verbally to the people and they approved of it.
26959. So that it substantially represents their opinions?
26960. And I need not say that it represents your opinions exactly?
26961. The first and principal complaint is the smallness of the holdings—the necessity for extension?
26962. Do you think that the small holdings in which the people are now confined can be extended by additions to their present holdings, or would families have to be removed out of their present holdings into other regions?
—They would have to migrate to other regions. The population would require to be thinned very largely —three-fourths removed out of the present township and placed elsewhere.
26963. Could the present township, in any cases, be enlarged by the addition of land on their own borders?
—I don't know any in this parish except one district, two townships, where that idea could be carried out—Elphin and Culkin. I may correct that statement perhaps ; —it would also suit in Unapool, but not without removing the houses.
26964. In the case then of small tenants being transported from the present townships into new places and new townships formed, I understand you to say they would not be able to build their own houses or make their own improvements, in the first instance?
—Very few of them. The more comfortable of them who have holdings rented at £7 and £8 would be able, perhaps, to build houses, but there are not many of them.
26965. Then your proposal is that the landlord should undertake the duty, assisted perhaps in one form or another by Government?
—That is so.
26966. You stated that the people lived in a position of dependency upon the will of the landlord, and that one might be turned out at any moment without any compensation whatever?
—I said so.
26967. Practically, have there been cases of arbitrary eviction within your recent knowledge?
—Not since I came into the parish; I have only been in the parish for nine years.
26968. You spoke of the increase of rent imposed on the death of the holder, do you understand that the estate management intend that increase to be progressive, or does it only apply in the case of a death of the present holder—I mean, in the case of the death of the second holder, would it apply again?
—Yes, to the second and third and fourth; I don't think it has been continued steadily on, but there is a report (whether it is true or not) that the proprietor intends to change that.
26969. So that, in the case of a rapid succession of deaths, there would be a rapid succession of increases, without any reference to the increased value of the holding?
26970. Did you ever hear it stated that this rule, of increase at the death of the holder, was in consequence of a new valuation put upon the holdings, and that it would terminate as soon as that increased valuation was arrived at?
—The rate of which we are speaking was charged before there was a valuation of that kind. The valuation took place as soon as I came to this parish about four or five years ago. I am not quite certain of the number of years, but I should say it was five or six years ago. This rate was charged for a long time previous to that.
26971. Is it understood by the small tenants generally to be an unlimited and progressive rate of increase associated with death?
—That is so.
26972. You stated that it was customary on the estate for the arrears of the previous occupant, in case of removal or extension, to be paid by the incoming tenant?
—I have been told so, but that, as I have said already, is a point, which I could not get established to my own satisfaction.
26973. May it not possibly be a payment for certain improvements left by the previous tenant—the value of the house or offices or something of that kind?
—They insist that it is so.
26974. That the arrears of rent of the previous occupant are charged to the incoming tenant?
26975. Does the incoming tenant besides that pay the outgoing tenant of the landlord anything for the houses or improvements left by the previous occupant?
—Nothing, as I understand. It might be in that form perhaps, and possibly the representatives of his grace will explain it in that way. Perhaps that is their reason for charging the arrears, but I don't know.
26976. The arrears of rent belonging to the holding are paid by the incoming tenant; are they paid down or spread over a succession of years in the form of increased rent?
—I think they are paid very soon or at the time.
26977. In describing the hardships which were attached to evictions, and the removal of the population and of their houses, you stated it would be considered very hard indeed, and would create a great sensation, if the poor tenants or occupiers were to pull down the houses of the proprietors and evict them; and that, you say, would create a greater sensation than the corresponding hardship of the proprietors pulling down the houses of the tenants. Don't you think there is some distinction between altering the condition of your own property and of altering the condition of the property of others?
—Yes, there is a very considerable difference; but, at the same time, there is not such a difference that the law should come forward and allow the proprietor to do this to scores or hundreds of families at the same time. This may be said upon the other side, that the proprietor would be much more able to settle himself down in much the same comfort elsewhere, than these poor people could command. They might starve or die before they were settled somewhere else.
26978. I don't wish to deny the hardships which might be imposed upon the people, but it occurred to me that it was rather a dangerous thing in a public document, to set one case exactly opposite the other, without making the distinction of doing what you like with your own, however harshly, and doing what you like with the property of others?
—I am quite ready to allow that. At the same time I think I am bound, in doing anything, to look from the tenant's point of view in what I am going to do—to look from the point of view of the other side, and to look at the crofter's point of view as much as possible.
26979. You have alluded to the number of people who leave this county to seek for work elsewhere. I should like to know whether it is in any cases the head of the family who leaves and goes away for work, as well as the younger members. Are there cases in which a married man is obliged to leave his home and seek for work?
—Plenty, most of the people leave in that way.
26980. Most of the heads of families ^
26981. Go away for agricultural work elsewhere?
—Yes, as labourers.
Do you think that this long separation of the head of a family from his wife and children is felt as a great hardship?
26982. Do you think it is ever accompanied by any bad moral result?
—Our people are very moral. This county stands, I think, about the highest in Scotland in that respect.
26983. Did you ever know of a case of a man availing himself of this long separation to desert his family?
—Never a case of a native. I have known one case, but the man was not a native of the parish.
2698-i. In fact the people uniformly return faithfully to their families and bring their earnings with them?
—Yes, this man I refer to went abroad and never returned, and never communicated with his wife and
26985. And do the younger people who go out in many cases assist their parents with their earnings?
—They almost always do. I have known one or two exceptions, and I have gone to speak to one person myself who was at service in Edinburgh, about assisting his father. I think he did not do much for his father, but the cases are very few where children don't send home something to their parents.
26986. May it be said that the rent of the holdings is paid, and the home of the family preserved by the co-operation of the whole family with their earnings?
26987. You mentioned two particular cases of recent eviction or attempted eviction —one at Clashmore, from which the people were evicted twelve years ago—can you relate the exact circumstances of that eviction?
—There are delegates who can speak to it much better than I can.
26988. And the same with reference to the alleged attempted eviction at Elphin?
26989. Can you give the names of the delegates?
—William Mathison for Clashmore ; Hugh Mackay, Donald M'Leod, or Murdoch Macdonald
26990. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you, of your own knowledge known of the successive raisings of rent on the same croft?
—No. I never inquired into these matters except when the people spoke of them; and this brought these matters to my ears much more than they used to come.
26991. But these cases of successive raising were cases related to you ?
—Yes, and the delegates will speak to them.
26992. Is there any complaint of the amount of the rents—are they said to be too high ?
—No, most of the townships don't complain of the rents. They think the rents reasonable.
26993. Is it in the case of the heirs of the former occupant, or in a case of actual change of tenancy, that the arrears of rent of the former occupant are carried on to the new occupant?
26994. Have there been many cases of actual change of tenure?
—Not very many. There may be one in two years, or one in a year. Mr M'lver will be able to state that precisely.
26995. You cannot detail the circumstances of any of these cases?
—No, I don't know when new tenants are taken in, I have known cases, but I don't know how many. Don't let me be misunderstood, I don't mean that they are taken from other parishes or districts; I mean people who are not heirs of the people who died, who get the land.
26996. What becomes of the heirs of the people who die?
—Perhaps they remove; they have removed out of the district. I knew a man last year who removed from the district because he thought he could better his circumstances, and his land was given to another man.
26997. In that case did the second man pay the arrears?
—He did. I have not made particular inquiry, but there are delegates who can speak to that precisely; it was in Elphin.
26998. You stated, at the conclusion of your paper that ‘people would be inspired to habits of diligence and thrift if they had more land.' Do you think, in consequence of the smallness of their holdings, there is now any want of diligence in their habits?
—I think circumstances have made the people very much what they are; but I wonder they are so active and diligent under the circumstances. They can work their land in three months of the year; all the work that is required to be done about it, and unless they go away to work somewhere else they are for nine months in the year without very much to do. I don't mean that they are idle for that time; but I mean they are careless, supposing the work would not be accomplished in the time it could be. They know there is plenty of time to do it, and that, perhaps, they will not get much to do.
26999. In practice do they not absent themselves for five or six months from the country?
—It depends on the success of the fishing. If the fishing is bad they will be away seeking work a long time.
27000. How long does the fishing last?
—I should think about three months.
27001. If the fishing is bad how much longer time, do they spend outside the country?
—Perhaps six months more.
27002. Nine months altogether?
—Some of them will stay away that time..
27003. Do heads of families ever absent themselves for nine months'?
—I believe so.
27004. If they make enough money at the fishing, then they are only absent three months?
—Yes, usually a short time if they get work; but the difficulty is to get work.
27005. You think if there were work for them at home they would work?
—I am certain of it, because I find that the men who have large lands are very diligent men. I have spoken to one man, advising him not to work so hard, because I thought he would kill himself, and leave his poor weak family without anybody to take care of them. This is a man who has got a large lot, and who pays about £7 or £8 of rent. Another man beside him got a bit of land to cultivate for himself and he is as diligent as any man anywhere. The men would work if they had the work here.
27006. Are the bits of land they have, insufficient as they are, as well drained and cultivated as they might be?
—In some instances they are not so well drained as they might be. But the people have not been used at all to work the land in a proper way. They have not the quantity of land, nor a place where they are inspired to work it properly, and where they could make a good lot of it if they tried.
27007. But do you think they could get more produce off the land than they do if it were better drained and better cultivated?
—In some instances they might; but the most of them get all they can out of the land.
27008. I ask you that because you say that with more land they would be inspired with habits of diligence and thrift, as if they did not possess those habits at present?
—I say they have these habits, where they have land to give scope to their energies.
27009. What is the exact meaning you attach to the word ' proprietor,' throughout the paper?
—An owner of land.
27010. Lord Napier has asked you about the distinction you draw between the rights of the proprietor to knock down tenants' houses, and the right of the tenant to knock down proprietors' houses. What do you mean by ownership?
—That the possessor has a right to the property, to the goods or to the property.
27011. And has an occupier an equal right?
—In the Highlands I consider that the peasantry have a far greater right than elsewhere. In the case of a chief or head of a clan, I think the head of that clan came very likely into the position in which he finds himself through the assistance of the crofters all round about him. He and they have grown up upon the land; they have made him chief, and he has always felt that it was his duty to protect them. I don't say that either the chiefs or tenants have now the same feeling; still, I may say this before the Commission that I find the regard for clanship strong in the people here, and they are very loath to give up the idea that their proprietor won't do everything possible for them; they would rather lay it upon any man in the world than upon him. They are deeply attached to their proprietors.
27012. Mr Cameron.
—I suppose you don't mean that people would have the right to knock down the house of the chief, and not of any other proprietor?
—No, certainly not, but I should certainly say a greater right, if they have any right at all—that is, if the chief wishes to knock down their houses.
27013. It appears there is a great number of cottars in this parish, how did these people get there?
—The origin of them is very much the clearances of sixty or seventy years ago.
27014. Were there as many cottars in the parish at that time as there are now?
—I should think there were few cottars at all; the people had the whole land of the parish.
27015. The cottars have come here subsequently?
—The cottars have been formed out of the people who were cleared away —the people who
were cleared away did not all get land —and the increase of population. I might add that this parish is fast decreasing in population, because the young people are not allowed to marry or settle in the parish. For the last decade the decrease has been 225.
27016. But is not marrying and settling in the parish, the principal cause of the superabundance of cottars, and the poverty consequent upon that?
—I do not know indeed; I think it a most extraordinary thing when I look at the register of marriages and compare Dornoch with this parish. There are scarcely any marriages here at all in comparison with the parish of Dornoch.
27017. But I am speaking more about the cottars. As I understand you, the cottars are a source of poverty?
—They are a source of poverty.
27018. Then, does not the existence of these cottars arise chiefly from marriage and the settlement of the members of another family in the parish ?
—Sometimes it does.
27019. Then how can it be an evil to prevent these marriages and the settlement of these members of the family?
—The evil is this, that the people get none of the land. When a farm is vacant the people cannot get it with the same readiness that a large farmer would get it. There is never an advertisement for a large farm or any farm for small cottars or crofters; it is always for men of capital.
27020. But you recognise the existence of the cottars as an evil, and admit that they principally arise from intermarrying and the settling of younger members of the family upon the croft with their families?
—I do not agree with that
27021. You stated in relation to the taxation under the Education Act that the county of Sutherland was omitted from the favoured clauses of other counties in the Highlands?
27022. You are aware that an attempt was made in Parliament a few years ago, to get Sutherland included, so far as it could be done?
27023. But that was not successful ?
—No. I have spoken to one Member of Parliament, at any rate, about the matter, who was interested in Sutherlandshire, to see if it could not be brought forward again, and he told me the difficulty was that other counties were anxious to get the benefit, and that that would form a barrier.
27024. Do you see any reason why the county of Sutherland should not be included in these favoured clauses, seeing they were intended for the benefit of districts which were very sparse in population, and of which the rental was comparatively small?
—I cannot conceive of any reason.
27025. The county of Sutherland is as Highland as Inverness, Ross, or Argyle?
—It is so. And the west part of it fully as poor as any part of these counties.
27026. You are aware of no reason why, so far as is practicable, something might not be done to give Sutherland the benefit which these other counties have from these clauses?
—I am not aware, and I am hopeful it may be done.
27027. You said there was plenty of land in Assynt suitable for crofters, can you not mention the names of the farms?
—At present the farm of Glencanesp, with an area of 50,000 acres. Part of that farm is suitable only for a deer forest; it is all turned into a deer forest, but there are two parts of the farm which, in my opinion, it would be a very great pity to put under deer forest; it is very suitable for crofters indeed.
27028. Of this farm you think two-thirds might be a deer forest and one-third for crofters?
—Yes, or halt to the deer forest and half to the crofters.
27029. There are other farms suitable for crofters?
—Yes, one was vacant two years ago, and the present occupant took it for three years, and in a year it will be vacant again—the farm of Auchmore. The same remark applies to that farm. There is a part of it, a large mountain, which would be suitable for a deer forest.
27030. The same sort of property as Glencanesp?
—No, it could be joined to another farm of about the same size, and a forest could be made.
27031. What proportion of Auchmore might be made forest, and what given to the crofters, in your opinion?
—I should think about two-thirds to the crofters, and one-third not so suitable.
27032. Will you please tell us what the large farm was for which the crofters asked, and were refused?
27033. What is the size of that farm ?
—It pays a rental of over £400.
27034. You mention that you think, a remedy for one grievance of the crofters would be that a lawyer should be appointed to transact their business. I presume you have not thought that out. You are not prepared to say in what way he should be employed or paid?
—I think the difficulty is that, when the large farmer wishes to make an arrangement with the proprietor, or has a grievance, he has resources to enable him to cousult a lawyer, and he is sufficiently intelligent to know that he ought to go to consult a lawyer. But when a crofter has an arrangement to make or a grievance to state, it is not so, and he often thinks he has a grievance when he has none, and that the proprietor is doing a very illegal thing, when he is doing a legal and proper thing. If he had a lawyer, the lawyer would tell him at once the proprietor is quite right, or the factor is quite right.
27035. Has he not the same opportunity of employing the services of a lawyer as any one else?
—No, he has not, because he has not the means and has not the intelligence to enable him to go about it.
27036. Who should pay this lawyer'
—The Government at first; and I think, that in a few years, the people would find the benefit so great that they would pay the lawyer themselves. It would pay them very well, if they could only understand it, to do it now, and it would remove many a grievance.
27037. What sort of township or village is Elphin?
—It is a considerable township at the side of the road to Ullapool.
27038. Is it not rather a well-to-do village?
—It is better, because they resisted eviction.
27039. Are their holdings of larger size than the holdings of the other crofters in the parish ?
27040. And have they plenty of hill pasture?
—They have much more; they have about two-thirds of what would do for them.
27041. When this attempt at eviction was made, was it intended to add their township to a large farm?
—It was intended to form it into a large farm for a gentleman in the neighbourhood.
27042. What form did their resistance take ?
—They all met together and formed a sort of cordon around their township, and resolved several days beforehand, that the sheriffs officer should not enter the township unaware to them, and they had men there by night as well as by day, and when the sheriffs officer came, the women went out and grappled with the man, and I think, threw him down, and took the summonses out of his pocket, and they were burned in his presence, and then he was allowed to go away home.
27043. Professor Mackinnon.
—I suppose you have gone over the whole length and breadth of the parish?
—I have not over every step; but I have gone over it in every direction.
27044. Is there a very large area of it which was once occupied, but which is not occupied now?
—Very large; I should say three-fourths.
27045. The traces of occupation are still visible?
27046. Was there much of it cultivated in old times?
27047. It bears the mark of cultivation yet?
—Yes, green spots, now getting covered with brackens.
27048. I suppose you are not much of a practical farmer yourself?
—I have been trying it for nine years. I am about as good a farmer as the men in the holdings around me.
27049. Do you think these places could with advantage be cultivated again?
—I think the people would perhaps do as well by having stock, as by cultivating the land in this parish; they could make a very good living by keeping stock and cultivating as much as would keep the milk cattle during the winter.
27050. But make the bulk of their stock sheep stock?
—Sheep stock, and young cattle, to winter out nearly the whole year.
27051. Do you know any example of a grazing croft—a croft composed principally of pasture land for grazing —that is being worked with advantage?
—I know a croft where the people make most of their income by the stock; and in fact, here, the people make most of their income by the stock. It is the stock which pays the rent of many of them.
27052. You don't see anything in the nature of things to prevent a small grazing farm as well as a big grazing farm being worked with advantage?
27053. Where are these places in the parish chiefly —where the people lived long ago?
—I could give you the names of fifty townships, and there is a man here who can enumerate fifty townships which were at one time inhabited.
27054. I suppose there can be no idea of the population which inhabited them at one time?
—Oh yes, you can form an idea —a rough guess.
27055. They were not so thickly crowded upon one another then?
27056. They were spread over the whole place?
27057. Do you know if there are any of the delegates who would be able to speak to this statement in the paper about the payment of arrears by the succeeding tenants?
—I have no doubt of it. I think most of the delegates would be able.
27058. And is it the feeling of the people themselves that that is for arrears and not for value received in the shape of houses or anything of that sort?
—That is their idea.
27059. It is the exact amount of arrear and not the exact value of anything they get?
—Yes, simply because the proprietor wants this money, and wishes to make it a condition that nobody can get a lot until he gets possession of the arrears.
27060. The arrears are paid by the incoming tenant whoever he may be?
—Whoever he may be.
27061. I think you instanced the case of Auchmelvich where there has been a considerable rise of rent; is that an exceptional case?
—No, it is very nearly the same thing in Inverkirkag and Strathan.
27062. Have you any idea when the most material rise or rises of rent took place?
—I could not say.
27063. Is there anyone here who can tell?
—I think so; but I think it was duririg the time they were sub-tenants to Mr Macdonald.
27064. In the present administration I suppose there has been no rise in the place?
—The rent rose gradually by 10s. and sums of that amount. There was not, I think, a definite time, except when Mr Macdonald got them as sub-tenants, he charged them considerably higher rents.
27065. I might explain that the rise of rent took place very much in this way, by settling cottars on the out-run of the farm and making the township pay in that way—increasing the number of the holdings.
27066. So that, even supposing the actual croft was not raised in rent the township, taken as a whole, was?
—Yes. Auchmelvich when it paid a low rent had, perhaps, fewer than eighteen crofters, and now it has twenty-six.
27067. And this is really a rise of rent?
—Yes, it adds to the rent of the township
27068. So that, though a crofter's rent was not altered, the whole township's rent might be raised, so that his rent would be raised although it did not appear so ?
—Yes; and the rates are also a heavy burden.
27069. Do you think there are actual cases in which there have been frequent changes of tenancy within a reasonable period of time—since Macdonald had the place—where this 10s. was imposed?
—Yes, I think so. They happened every year.
27070. So that there might be a croft that would be 30s. or £2 dearer than its neighbour croft from the imposition of this 10s. within three shifts?
—Yes, the rents in that way are very unequal.
27071. And arising in that way?
27072. The average croft you would have for the future would rent about £12?
27073. What stock would be upon such a croft just now?
—Of the kind of cattle they have just now it would be fully twelve cows, two horses, and about forty or fifty sheep of the present kind.
27074. And the rent of that would be about £12?
27075. But you are of opinion that the place is at present overstocked; it would have been better if it had been a different kind of stock and fewer in number?
—I don't know, for this place has difficulties at present. It would, I think, on the most of the townships: if they were fenced it certainly would.
27076. Do you think that would be a reasonable rent?
27077. But how would you have that rent fixed?
—I would just have one farm, as I said, selected, and divided into lots of that size, and put out an advertisement that the young men or crofters able to take it could have it, and I have no doubt they could be got.
27078. Who fixes the rent?
—The proprietor himself.
27079. Suppose he should think it worth more than £12?
—They could easily get arbitration.
27080. In the event of there being a difference of opinion between proprietor and tenant you would have a third man brought in to split the rent between them?
—I don't thing it would be necessary on this property; I think the Duke is very fair in charging rent.
27081. You don't think the property is over-rented —the portion in the hands of the crofters?
—No, I don't think it. Perhaps in Auchmelvich which was thought to be convenient for fishing —salmon were allowed to be caught at that time—and because it was valuable for people on account of a good harbour, there was a rise of rent, and that was kept on after the herring deserted the coast, and the salmon were taken from the people.
27082. So that it was more a fish rent than a land rent which was put upon the people?
—Partly with regard to the rights of the fishing, which were taken away from the people.
27083. I suppose the fishing about here just now pays what one would call a fancy rent?
—There is a high rent, I think, for the fishing.
27084. I suppose the people scarcely ever take as much of that kind of fish out of the rivers as would be equal in value to the rent that is being paid for it now?
—They might take a great deal more; because formerly fish were much more numerous.
27085. How do you account for that?
—Well, there is a curious idea which was mentioned to me—I don't know whether I should mention it to the Commission—that the trout in the loch were much more numerous because the cattle were so numerous.
27086. Supposing the people got the right to these fishings back, do you think they would use it for their own pleasure or would they sublet them?
—I think the people are very reasonable and would be particularly so with the Duke or any of their old proprietors. I think they would have no objection that the proprietor should have the fishing if they were comfortable. The objection to their not having the fishing is this, they feel that other people are getting liberties here which they have not.
27087. So that, as a practical solution of the matter, you think things might remain as they are if the people were put into a comfortable condition otherwise?
27088. And leave the proprietor to get the fancy rents people choose to give?
27089. Has there been within recent times so much eviction in the place as to make the fear of eviction a real practical grievance, or rather a matter of principle, right, and sentiment?
—I don't think the people are now afraid, although it happened in the case of Clashmore; I don't think they are afraid of being removed in townships; they are more afraid of being removed singly.
27090. Even if single removals were frequent that might create a genuine feeling of grievance ?
27091. And do you think the people consider it a matter of practical grievance?
—They are frightened; they think there is something in which they might offend the proprietor or anyone who has power with the proprietor. They say, ' Are you not afraid you will be driven away from your croft.' I don't see myself that removals have been so frequent as to give cause for their being so much afraid.
27092. Would you expect, supposing there was fixity of tenure, as it is called, conferred upon the people, would you expect greater improvements to be made upon the crofts?
—Decidedly, that is, if the crofts were larger.
27093. In what direction could the improvements be made?
—Improvements could be made in trenching and draining.
27094. Have the people drained the crofts themselves?
27095. And you would also expect they would work hard at them?
27096. Too hard in some cases?
—I have no doubt of that—I have no doubt during the first few years some men might kill themselves.
27097. Might not that be used as an argument against it?
—There is nothing without evil connected with it.
27098. You would risk that evil?
27099. This matter about a Government lawyer; is that a thing you lay stress upon?
—The crofter's lawyer I would call him.
27100. Appointed and paid by Government; would that be a matter which the crofters would consider for their improvement; or is it more your own opinion?
—It is more my idea. I have not heard any of the crofters speak about it, but I have heard many things which could easily be settled in that way. I have heard people talking of grievances which were not grievances; and I have heard of things being done which would not be done if there were a business man to write two hues about it.
27101. Have you considered the other side of the question?
—I know there are two sides to every question.
27102. Do you think if there had been a sharp business lawyer opposed to a sharp business manager in fixing the rent of the crofters, the end might not be an increase in his rent?
—I don't think it, I think two equally sharp men would just come to about a proper meeting, the result
would come out in the proper place if the two sides were equal
27103. Don't you think higher rents could be got upon this property if they were asked for?
—I believe they could. The people are not able to give the fancy prices which a person coming here to shoot would be able to give
27104. And might not the fact of employing a sharp business lawyer be to take the highest rent that could be got?
—I don't think so; I think it would be the other way.
27105. You are quite in the belief that there is plenty of land in the parish to give the increased holding you wish to the people?
—I have no doubt of that. The parish has still sufficient for all the people.
27106. And about as suitable land as the land they have?
—More suitable; it is the worst land they have.
27107. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have been asked a good deal about one matter which has appeared in the paper. You were asked to try and explain the difference between the proprietor knocking down the houses of the tenants, and the tenants knocking down the houses of the proprietor. You said ' Take another case. The proprietor with the assistance of the law officers, have thrown down hundreds of the crofter's houses, and left - them homeless on the hill side, but suppose the crofters with the aid of the law officials threw down the houses of the proprietors, what a cry would the whole land raise over this cruelty and wickedness.' You did not intend that the small tenants should do this without the assistance of the law officers?
—Never, and I never expected the law officers to give them that help.
27108. You say there are 200 cottars depending more or less upon 360 crofters, can you give me any idea how many there are upon big farms?
—In most cases none.
27109. Crofters pay poor rates, don't they?
27110. Then, besides paying their poor rates they are saddled with the burden of the cottars?
—They are, and the paupers.
27111. You were also asked if some of the cottars were a source of poverty in the district?
27112. Was the cause of that not very much that the predecessors of those cottars were driven away from places which supported them?
—That was the cause actually.
27113. And it is not correct to say that it is the cottars being there that is the cause of the poverty; you must go further back to find out the origin?
—Yes; it is simply beginning at the wrong foundation; it is not the foundation at all.
27114. You were asked a question by one of the Commissioners as to whether the crofter's places were as well drained and cultivated as they might be. Supposing the crofter does drain well and cultivate his place and make it a very good place altogether, and the landlord takes it into his head to have a valuation of his estates, and sends for men from a distance to come and value it, what would be the effect upon that valuator's mind? Would he not value that croft higher than one which was not in a good condition?
—Certainly, such a case as that has happened, I suppose.
27115. Is that practically not a great deterrent from improvement?
—I should think so.
27116. Without any permanence in the holding on the part of the crofter, is it not really to his disadvantage to improve where he only stands from year to year?
—It might be to his disadvantage greatly.
27117. What do you understand by rent in reality? Do you mean a certain quantity of produce of the subject?
—I have always looked upon it as what the proprietor chose to charge for the land that he gave. I have not entered into the economic view of it to see how this was to be got, or what proportion it should bear to the produce of the soil. I have not considered much the economic view of it.
27118. Are you aware that most of the crofters here don't earn their livelihood out of their possessions?
—I am aware that none of them does that.
27119. May I come to this conclusion then, that the rents paid by the crofters to the Duke of Sutherland are earned out of the county?
—In a great measure.
27120. About the additional rent which is paid when the son succeeds the father; do you recollect when the valuation of the estates was going on a few years ago of Mr Macdonald of Newton, North Uist, and another gentleman going about?
27121. When was that?
—I cannot tax my memory exactly to the time, but I should say five or six years ago.
27122. Is the whole country completed now?
—I don't know. These gentlemen walked along the road and saw the land; they did not go over
27123. Was this increase put upon the people at the death of an occupant, in existence upon the estate years before that time —before Mr Macdonald of North Uist was going about?
—Yes, most decidedly.
27124. Supposing it were stated that it was in consequence of the increased valuation put by Mr Macdonald, North Uist, upon the crofter's land, would that be consistent with your own knowledge?
—I don't think anybody would pretend to make such a statement.
27125. You state with regard to several of the present crofters, that about three-fourths of them would require to be migrated?
27126. Are they willing to migrate, so far as you are aware, to better pastures?
—All the most intelligent of them are. This, I believe, would be the result; the most comfortable now would leave their holdings for bigger ones, and those who were not would be glad to have the medium
27127. What is the cause of the large number of paupers; are they generally old people?
—Some are old and some are young.
27128. Are the young people relations?
—Yes, of people so disabled that they are not able to do anything for themselves.
27129. Would you say that the proportion of the roll are people over 70 years of age?
—I have not looked carefully into that.
27130. There has been a decrease in the population of 225 in the last ten years; are the people a bit better off than they were?
27131. And the decrease is going on?
27132. And when is it to end?
—It would take a little more than a hundred years before they were all done.
27133. Where is this matter going to end —this increase of poverty and decrease of population?
—I don't know; I cannot solve the problem.
27134. It seems a very serious one, does it not, for the country?
27135. That there is a decrease of population and increase of poverty?
27136. And they are going on simultaneously?
27137. You are aware that the exclusion of the county of Sutherland from what we have been glad to find in other places is called Lochiel's clause in the Act, is a very considerable grievance?
—Yes; it is a loss to us at this time and it will continue to be a loss.
27138. As we are more particularly interested in crofters —it is a loss to the crofters?
—Yes, I am speaking for them.
27139. Do you know why Sutherland was excluded?
—I don't know that I have any opinion that it would be right for me to give in public; but I have heard reasons given.
27140. It was not a thing that was overlooked at the time, but rather done of purpose?
—I have been told so.
27141. And not by the crofters?
27142. Is there any deer forest in your parish ?
—There is one just formed. It is being fenced, and I am sorry for one thing about the fence. The highest wire is full of stobs. It is low enough for deer to jump into the corn of the tenants, but it is so high that if any cow tries to get over it will be stopped.
27143. What is the forest to be called?
—It will be Glencanesp Forest I think; some call it Drumsoundlin.
27144. What farms or places constituted the forest before?
—It was Mr Scobie's farm alone. Mr Scobie of Keoldale.
27145. Have you any idea of the acreage?
—Yes; counting the whole surface, about 50,000 acres.
27146. I presume the constitution of this forest did not involve the turning away of any small people?
27147. They were turned away before?
—Yes, long ago. It seems to me quite unreasonable to say that there is no objection to turn large farms
into deer forests because the people are not removed from them. People can be removed to put sheep on, but then sheep can be removed to put deer in their places.
27148. About this fence; are there crofts or hill grazing of any crofter adjacent to it?
27149. And practically the fence is not a deer fence?
27150. And the deer are already beginning to come into the crofters' lands?
—No, the deer have to be cultivated; there are not so many of them.
You only mean that they may do it?
—Yes, they may do it.
27151. Is there any other forest in Assynt?
—No; there are shootings, but the people have not the same objections to them shooting over the
ground and the farms also.
27152. Is there any other restriction, which we have found in other places, that they are not allowed to go upon ground when the hill sportsmen come there?
—It is beginning to be exercised in regard to the forest, but not in regard to the shootings. The shootings and forest they regard differently, and there is another thing which they feel. I don't think
the gamekeepers will be very willing to allow them to go in the old paths that they have been accustomed to use for generations.
27153. Are you speaking of the forests just now?
—I am. I don't think the gamekeepers will be willing to let them go by these paths.
27154. That then is a practical disadvantage to the crofters?