GEORGE CORMACK, Crofter and Fisherman, Bruan (39) —examined.
37960. The Chairman.
—You have been elected a delegate?
—Yes, by the tenantry on the Clyth estate. I have been elected to read a statement from the tenantry on the Clyth estate.
37961. Do you represent the tenantry, or do you principally represent an association?
—I only represent the tenantry. There are other district delegates who have delegated me to read this statement.
—To the Royal Commissioners, Highlands and Islands. Statement of the Clyth Tenants.
After bearing long with over-renting, until we have found it impossible to meet the demands made upon us, we petitioned our landlord several times for a revaluation of our holdings, and would willingly pay what the land is worth. Being refused, we considered the only course left us was to petition the Government for a Commission of inquiry into our case. We are glad now of having an opportunity of expressing our grievances to the Commission, and also our usage for the past twenty-seven years. Our chief grievances are rack-renting and the confiscation of our improvements. We wish to give a detailed statement, and show how unreasonable this over-renting is. The estate has a coast-line of about seven miles long and about three miles broad, with about 230 holdings at present In 1S55 Mr Sinclair of Ulbster, the present M.P. for the county, devised a plan of getting the estate relotted and new houses built. When this relotting went on the old zigzag lots were cut up, and on some of the new lots there were as many as five old houses and on others no house. The tenant who would consent to build a new house and steading, remove the old houses and dykes, and fill up ditches to the factor's satisfaction, would get a lease of fourteen years, £ 5 for building dwelling house and £ 5 for offices if roofed with shed covers, but if thatched nothing, with£15 of meliorations at expiry of lease; while the tenant who built a housewith a thatched roof got neither aid nor melioration, the proprietor givingslate and flag at the Clyth quarry and some lime for pointing, with the promise that it would be all for our own good and comfort. It was then discovered that we were done out of the meliorations of our old houses, which ranged from £ 6 to £15. The tacksmen, Henderson and Miller, who held the estate, did not pay the sub-tenants, and the proprietor would not pay us. At the same time there were more than 4000 acres still pasture taken from us and made into sheep-runs. In this change the rental was raised 30 per cent. Though these terms were so severe that several left the estate rather than submit to them, we, believing that it was for our good and comfort the change was intended, wrought to the utmost of our ability, until seventy slated houses and seventy-three thatched houses and steadings were built, and the remaining houses well repaired. If we put anything like value on our labour along with the money expended on these 143 houses and reclaiming and improving land, these will average £150 each. The rest of the tenants repaired their houses and reclaimed and improved land to the extent of from £30 to £100, while the proprietor only expended £18 on the slated houses and £5 on the thatched ones. The extent to which these improvements were carried on greatly improved the appearance of the estate; but instead of these alterations being for our benefit, we found that it gave the proprietor a good opportunity of selling the estate to advantage. Before the work was finished, he sold the estate to our present proprietor in 1862-63, and he began by raising the rents on yearly tenants, and when the leases expired, instead of our receiving compensation for our labour, our rents were in many cases doubled and some even trebled, so that in seventeen or eighteen years the agricultural rental was raised about 50 per cent. The £15 which should have been paid us at the expiry of our leases, instead of being given us, as expressed in our leases, our rents were raised and £5 taken off our meliorations. Rather than leave our houses, many of us agreed to these terms. This estate, so far as known to us, was higher rented than the rest of the county on account of the harbours and creeks on its coast. People driven from Sutherlandshire by the cruel evictions there gathered to this estate to prosecute the fishing at these harbours, and built houses and broke in patches of land, giving higher rents for them than they could otherwise do on account of their being near the stations. In 1862-63 these stations were rented at £160, and now the only place where herrings are cured is Clyth, which is rented at £11, so that this industry on which we depended is altogether removed from us. In Whalligoe, which was the least of these stations, there have been 4000 barrels cured, marketable fish, in one season, and these were all caught and cured by the people in the district. When we compare the roll 1862-63 with 1S82-83, we find in the former there were 135 tenants who were owners or part owners of fishing boats, and in the latter they are reduced to forty-five, which shows the altered circumstances of the tenants, and the rest have fallen out of material for prosecuting the fishing as shareholders. Those who fish prosecute it from the various stations from Peterhead to Shetland, instead of fishing at the estate stations as formerly, these having been allowed to go to ruin. Now we maintain that instead of the estate going 50 per cent, up it should have come 50 per cent, down from the former. About forty years ago the rental of this estate was not above £1000, and now the gross rental of the estate is £4307, 11s . In 1862-63, when we take the rent of harbours, shootings, and tenants under £2 off, it was paying £2730; but in 1882-83 it pays, with these off, £1116, which gives an increase of over 50 per cent. We know nothing our landlords have done to warrant these repeated enormous increases of rent. We are aware that Mr Sinclair can show a considerable amount of money expended on the estate. A large amount of it went to build a harbour at Occumster, which is long since in ruins, and in making the farm of Bruan Lodge, from which sixteen tenants were removed, but he did little for his tenantry except what we have already mentioned. As for our present proprietor, he has done next to nothing. Another grievance is the meal mill, which is rented at £100, but this rent is paid by the tenants indirectly; we are bound to go to that mill with all the corn we convert into meal, and there pay 1½d . per boll more than we can get it done for elsewhere, or that a tenant from another estate can get it done there. The mill should stand on its own merit. Those of us situated along the braes suffer from spring storms, which so fills the ground with salt that it destroys any crop we may put into it. The coast side is also subject to harvest blast, as in 1879 the oats were as low as 28 lbs. per bushel and very generally 31, while in through the county it was weighing 39 lbs. and 40 lbs. per bushel. We cannot see why we should be forced to pay four or five times as much per acre as farmers holding thousands of acres of good arable land in this county. We pay 30s. to 35s. per acre, and in some cases where not let by acre considerably higher. Ground set cheaper than that on this estate is not worth the name arable land. The usage we have received has put a stop to improvements, as those of us who improved most have suffered most. Taking off farms above £80 and sheep farms, in a census taken on the 18th September last, we find for a rental of £2674, 188 horses including foals, 277 cows, 95stirks, 241 calves, 213 sheep, which is something like 1 horse, 1 cow, 1 stirk, 1 calf, 1 sheep for every £14 of rent, and even this stock requires an average of £ 3 each holding of bought-in keep to maintain them. Much is said about freedom of contract, but the only freedom we have is to accept of the proprietor's terms or leave, which means to many of us to be without a home. We say under the present system the landlords are practically despots under the British Government, as hitherto they have done with the soil of the nation as they pleased, and the same will continue in future unless the Government interferes on our behalf, which they have never done hitherto. What we want is our holdings valued by competent judges, and an appeal court, compensation for unexhausted improvements, and to do any good to the present generation compensation must be retrospective. The breaking up of some of the larger farms to suitable holdings from 30 to 100 acres, and that each tenant should live on his farm; also breaking up of deer forests and sheep runs, where these are suitable for cultivation. Farther, shootings in the proprietor's hands should be rated as other property.
—GEORGE CORMACK, chairman.'
37962. Do you occupy a croft yourself?
37963. Have you always lived at Bruan?
—No, I have been in three places; I was born and brought up on a croft. My father had a croft, and then we shifted when that relotting took place which is spoken of in this statement. We had to leave the country altogether, and then we settled in a place on the north side of where I am just now.
37964. Where did you receive your education ?
37965. In the country?
—In my own place; I have never been anywhere else.
37966. You have never had any other occupation except that of agricultural labour ?
—I have been a fisherman from fourteen years of age.
37967. Now, as to the croft you are occupying yourself, are you tenant, or is your father the tenant ?
—I am the tenant.
37968. Is your father alive?
—No, he died seven years ago.
37969. What is the size of your present croft?
—The arable ground when I took possession of it was something like 11 acres, I improved it, and have put out £50 perhaps or £60 on it since I took a lease of it.
37970. You have a lease of it ?
37971. How long was the lease?
37972. How many years have elapsed?
—I took a transfer from another. I am not certain how many years have elapsed—perhaps eleven.
37973. You got the holding from another person?
37974. Did you make any payment to your predecessor on account of existing improvements?
—No, not on account of existing improvements. I gave £15 of meliorations.
37975. What does that mean?
—For the wood of the house.
37976. Since you have held the place what have you laid out yourself?
—Something about £50—between £50 and £60.
37977. Besides the value of your own labour?
—No, taking my own labour into account more than ordinary farm work.
37978. What have you done; what have been your permanent improvements? Have you trenched the ground?
—I have trenched a good deal of what I ploughed, and taken out rocks and stones, and drained it, and
removed old houses, and put the land together —removed dykes and put it in shape.
37979. Have you expended anything on the house?
—Yes, some on the office houses.
37980. Have you, in your lease, any security for compensation whatever?
—At the end of my lease I only got £10—£5 taken off for meliorations.
37981. You got the value of the roof ?
37982. But you do not get anything for improvements to the soil or the fences?
—Nothing, and I have asked for help, but I have been denied it on the plea that it was for my own benefit.
37983. What is the rent of the holding?
—£24, but there is a room on the place which makes it £25.
37984. For how many acres arable ?
—I have added to it since I came, but when I came there were eleven acres. There is some heath pasture; I cannot say how many acres, but it is very worthless so far as it goes.
37985. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Will there be twenty acres?
—Nothing like twenty acres. It faces the sea.
37986. The Chairman.
—How much stock will it keep?
—I never had anything on it but two sheep, what is above the road the cows sometimes go on. If it were enclosed, it might keep four or six sheep.
37987. Have you any common pasture?
—No, the common pasture was all taken off the tenants in 1855; what is in the statement is much too low. It says there are about 4000 acres, but there must have been 6000 or between 6000 and 8000 taken off the tenants.
37988. Is there any common pasture left on the estate at all for the use of the tenants?
—I think there are a few acres of common pasture in Roster, on the west end of the estate.
37989. When the common pasture was taken away from the tenants was any reduction made on their rents?
—No reduction, but something like 30 per cent, was laid on the rents.
37990. When the common pasture was taken away was there a large reduction in the number of stock kept by the tenants?
—All the young stock, such as sheep that went to that common hill, they had to cut short, because then their holdings were merged, and they did not go over their lots. They had to remain within their lots in those crofts. They had no hill pasture whatever except what I have mentioned.
37991. When the hill pasture was taken away did they reduce the amount of cattle they kept?
—Yes, they had to do away with all their sheep.
37992. I mean the other cattle?
—The other cattle became unsuitable, because it was what we call Highland cattle they kept on the hill; but they had to change, and keep the cattle on the lots.
37993. Do they keep much fewer?
—Yes; much fewer.
37994. But of a better kind?
—Not of the same kind. The one is Highland and the other is cross.
37995. Have you now to buy any provender for your cattle?
—Yes, we have to buy it in for them.
37996. What stock do you keep ?
—I keep one horse, three cows and three calves, and two sheep; and at Martinmas I have often to sell off some of the calves, just as this season I will have to sell off some of the calves.
37997. How many acres have you under grain cultivation?
—Since I have added to it I think there should be something like six or five and a half acres under grain.
37998. Do you observe a regular rotation?
—A regular rotation; a fifth year rotation.
37999. Are you bound under a lease to do that?
—We are bound to the rules of good husbandry—either fifth or sixth.
38000. What do you do with the grain? Do you grind it at the mill for the consumption of your own family?
—I thresh it in our own barns, and I mill it.
38001. You thresh it in your own holding, and grind it at the mill?
38002. Do you consume the grain yourself or sell it?
—We consume the grain in our own family, and it is very little I can afford; but I rather buy in more than I sell it.
38003. Are you married?
38004. And have a family?
38005. Do you find that, in a good season, you raise enough food for the family, or have you always to buy food?
—In a very good season it may do the family. The family is not very old. The oldest is only nine years.
38006. Do your potatoes last you the whole year?
—No, some seasons they are very poor. The potatoes, in general, are a very poor crop on our side of the coast. They don't agree well with the salt water spray that is dashed up.
38007. Then your rent being £25, do you pay it by the sale of animals or by the proceeds of your own work, or by fishing, or how do you manage to do it?
—Just by taking it out of the sea. I have been now on my third croft, and I wrought a great deal on the second one I was in; but I never could see yet that the land benefited me. If I can take the rent out of the sea, I can stay then in the winter season comfortably; but if I did not get it out of the sea, it was a pinch with me all the season—it impoverished me all the season.
38008. Have you a share in a boat yourself?
38009. You don't possess a whole boat yourself?
—Practically I do.
38010. How many men are in the boat?
—Six, and perhaps a boy.
38011. But the greater part of the boat belongs to yourself?
38012. How did you get the boat? When you began had you to borrow the money for the boat, or was it advanced to you by a fish-curer?
—The boat was not advanced to me by a fish-curer. I just began by entering along with my father, and by keeping my head above water, as we say—by being very careful—I have managed to do so, though sometimes pretty hard put to it.
38013. But, notwithstanding the high rent you have had to pay, you have been able to support your family in comparative comfort and become proprietor of a boat ?
38014. Well, comparing the rent of £25 which you pay for these eleven acres of ground with the rent paid upon other estates in the neighbourhood by men in such a position as yourself, do you consider that your rent is much higher than is the custom of the country generally?
—Much higher, considering the custom of the country.
38015. What do you think would be the rent upon another estate—on the Duke of Portland's estate or any other estate in the neighbourhood —for the same sort of ground?
—I could not be sure.
38016. Do you think you are paying twice as much or half as much again ?
—Along the coast there may be those who may be paying not so much as we do, though very high rents; but in the county their rents are much lower. They don't pay the half.
38017. You are paying £25 for eleven or twelve acres of arable ground ?
—I possessed that at first, but I have added to it.
38018. How many acres do you think you have added to it?
—I think I have something like five added.
38019. So you may have sixteen acres?
—About fifteen, I think, but I cannot be sure.
38020. You are paying about £ 1 , 16s. an acre?
38021. What is the common rental of the country for the same sort of arable ground; does it go above £ 1 or 25s.?
—In the other parts of the country there is not the same sort of soil that we have. For one thing, our elevation is very high. Most of the land of Clyth is about 300 feet above the level of the sea, and some as high as 500, and there is no real subsoil in it. All the patches of ground that are good with us, those who came before us carted the surface that is within a distance of a mile from it, and have laid it upon those patches, the same way as they cultivate on the west coast at the present time, and there was no regular rotation then. The regular rotation began when the lots were cut up.
38022. Are you paying a higher scale of rental than the other tenants on the estate, or is it just about the same?
—About the same, except the two largest farms the Mains of Clyth farm and the farm of Bruan Lodge. The one has only been raised 18 per cent., and Bruan Lodge something like 5 per cent.
38023. If you consider that your rent is so very much too high, and if you complain you have not got proper arrangements for compensation at the end of the lease, what has induced you to take in the additional five acres of arable ground?
—Just that I would make something to support my family.
38024. You just ran the chance ?
—Yes, of course I just ran the chance.
38025. What motive do you think the present proprietor had in raising the rents of his property so much more than other proprietors? Do you think it has been done with the view of selling the property, or for what purpose?
—There could be no view but for profit—to make something by it.
38026. You have not heard that it is his intention to dispose of the property?
—No; I may have heard a rumour, but I have no authority for it.
38027. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What is the ordinary weight of the oats you raise on your land?
—It varies very much according to the season, because in a season like this—in a late season—or when the harvest blast comes on it, when once the corn whitens beneath the ear, it fills no more, but sometimes it is about 39 lbs. or 38 lbs. or 36 lbs. or 37 lbs., and as low as 28 lbs. in 1879, or 33 lbs. or 35 lbs.
38028. How many bolls of meal do you usually make in the course of a year?
—I cannot exactly tell that.
38029. Do you know how many bolls you usually consume in the course of a year?
—I would say something like fifteen or twenty bolls of meal.
38030. And you generally get that off your croft?
—Well, in a poor year we will not make twelve, but if it is an ordinarily good year we get
that off it. If we get that we cannot allow anything to a horse or anything of that kind. We must keep it all for the winter, and buy in for the horse.
38031. How long is it since you entered upon this lease?
—Something like eleven years.
38032. Who had it before you?
—A brother-in-law of mine took it the season before that, but he never entered it. He had the quarry of Clyth rented from the present proprietor. I was then living with my brother in a croft on the north side of the present one, and we came there and broke in out of the heather something like twenty acres, and built a steading to the amount of, perhaps, fully more than twenty roods of mason work; and the whole would cost say not less than between £500 and £600, between the money and the labour we put out on that place.
38033. Did you take this lease of your present place to relieve your brother-in-law or for your own sake?
—Because my brother-in-law did not go into it, for some reason that I cannot tell, and because 1 wanted to be alongside my father and mother, as they were growing up in years, and because it was along the coast side, and none being in possession of the place except my brother-in-law, I took the place as a transfer from my brother-in-law.
38034. Did you think the rent very dear at the time you took it?
—I did, but I knew there was no help; if I wanted the land, I had to give it.
38035. It was worth your while to take it though it was so dear?
—It was for that very reason—just because I could get no other holding on the estate near the one I was into.
38036. And you are paying more than £ 2 an acre for the arable land as it stood when the lease was entered into?
38037. That is more than the average rent of the Clyth property?
—More than the average rent, of course, because there is land on the Clyth property that may be cheaper, but it is not worth ploughing or cultivating. In some spots that are good it is just the surface carted from other lands. There is much of it where you have to take the surface and put it on the rocks, the same as if-you were drying earth on a kiln.
38038. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You mention in this paper that the number of persons owning boats has fallen off very much?
38039. What is the reason of that?
—The people became poor in circumstances, so that they could not put properly to sea. If they go to sea they have to go as hired hands.
38040. Was it the increase of their rents that led to their poverty?
—The increase of their rents was one thing that led to their poverty, just the same as if a hair had been coming out of the head always —year by year paying heavy rents—and another thing was the industry of the fishing. The harbours allowed to go to ruin, and also the fishing itself took a change. The boats are now made much larger than they were.
38041. When these people came from Sutherland, the boats, I suppose, were of a smaller sort?
—Yes, but at that time when these people came, about 1853 or before 1853, there must have been more than 300 owners of boats on this estate, because no one would get any land there except some one who had a part of a boat. There were something like one hundred boats fishing in the creeks, when the tacksmen Miller and Henderson had these harbours and stations.
38042. Was it for the same reason that all these harbours were allowed to fall into disuse?
—Well, they were just allowed to go to ruin by not paying attention to them; and they were knocked down by storms. Take the harbour of Occumster. I was fishing twenty years ago, and a quay was put up then. It was no time after the proprietor Mr Sinclair had put it up and laid out a large sum of money—it was no time till it was upon the beach. There was a time when I was in Occumster, and it was put up every year.
38043. Who put it up?
—Either the proprietor or the curer. It was between the two—just temporarily; but whenever a storm came there was no safety there.
38044. In the period between 1862 and 1882, when the number of owners and part owners of boats fell off so very much, was there a great falling off in the fishery itself1?
—That is so. In that period there was only the one station they fished at in Clyth, and there were few boats there. There was no fishing from the estate constantly except in Clyth.
38045. Then the profits of their fishing were not sufficient to enable them to keep up their boats and material ?
—No they would not. The present system of fishing is on a pretty expensive scale. Fishing at the
present time, one of these boats with six men requires to expend, whether they fish or not, from £100 to £120.
38046. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—I see in your paper that the rental of this estate has risen very largely within the last twenty years?
—Yes, that is the case.
38047. Can you point to any considerable expenditure on the part of the proprietor upon the estate to justify that large rise of rental?
—None whatever that I can point to.
38048. In the case of the crofters especially, can you point to anything that was done for their benefit?
—Nothing that I can point to; but what was allowed to go away.
38049. Are you well acquainted with the large farms on the estate?
—Perhaps on the west end I am not so well acquainted, but I have been all my lifetime on the estate.
38050. Some of the houses seem to be looking rather ragged, also the fences?
—There is not much fencing into it.
38051. There seems to have been better fencing at one time than there is now?
—No, there have been some old dykes taken away, but there was never any fencing that I can remember, such as that which divided the old properties.
38052. But such dykes as there are at the present time seem to be in rather a dilapidated state?
—The old ones have been all taken away and put underground in drains, and the surface made plain to the satisfaction of the proprietor.
38053. The lotting was altered?
—Yes, 1855. The zigzag lots that marched with each other were made straight, and all the old houses were removed by the tenants.
38054. There has been some agitation on this estate, has there not, for some few years back?
—Yes, there has been much complaining for twelve or fourteen or fifteen years, ever since they have been feeling the rent to be a pinch, and it took the shape of public meetings about two years ago.
38055. Have you been connected with this movement?
—Yes, I attended meetings, and the tenants in those meetings asked me to be chairman, and, being present there, I did take a part for the benefit of the tenantry.
38056. You stated you got your education in this part of the country. You have been a fisherman from the age of fourteen. How far from this part have you been as a fisherman at one time?
—I have been in the Beauly Firth repeatedly year after year.
38057. Have you been in the south of Scotland?
—Never more than a trip for ten days at the longest.
38058. Are there many people on the estate of Clyth like yourself?
—Yes, a good few; I know no difference.
38059. They are all pretty well educated like yourself?
—Yes, and they employ their time in improving themselves j that is to say, at night.
38060. Have you ever addressed a meeting yourself?
—Yes, I addressed a meeting in Wick and in Aberdeen.
38061. Are there other young men like yourself competent to do so also from this neighbourhood?
—Well, they are competent enough to do it, but they may not have tried it.
38062. Then, altogether, it may be stated that the people upon this estate and in this neighbourhood are a remarkably intelligent class, —am I safe in coming to that conclusion?
—Yes, I think generally they are intelligent
38063. Such a class as would deserve encouragement upon the part of the proprietor?
—Well, I would say so; so far as I have known them, I hare found them trustworthy; and I believe where they have had their dealings they can get credit, and there can be testimony borne to their honour in the way of paying so far as they can do it.
38064. You have heard the evidence of the previous delegate, Mr Waters ?
38065. Do you concur with what he has stated that the large farms of the country have a very prejudicial effect upon the crofting class?
—Yes, I heartily concur with that. I believe it is a great degradation to the population. The very servants that are employed on these farms have not the same privileges, and they lose that honour that is connected with a man who is not a servant; and when they go away from service they cannot turn their hand to anything, because health and strength have gone, and they have nothing for it but what they had during the time they were servants,—nothing but the public to support them.
38066. You are pointing to this, that the life of a male or female worker on these farms has a tendency to degrade them ?
—Yes, it has, because, for one thing, where bothies are used, these are without any ruling head, and they have a very prejudicial effect upon the morals of the young people.
38067. Are you aware that there is upon any of the large farms what we have found in Orkney
—that there are certain houses upon the large farms where the families are bound to work?
—I am not acquainted with large farms so minutely as to say that.
38068. You have not heard it stated that there is such a rule upon the big farms?
—No, I have not heard it stated,
38069. Then where do the big farmers get their labour?
—By going to the market and hiring those that come to the market—men and women.
38070. Are they occupied all the year round?
—Yes, generally, on big farms I believe they hire for twelve months.
38071. Do you concur, so far as your observation has gone, in thinking that the large farmers pay much smaller rents than the crofters.
—Yes, I know they would stand a very short time if they had to pay the same rent.
38072. Is your proprietor resident?
—No; some seasons he comes to the lodge at Bruan, and stays there a short time.
38073. Has he an estate residence ?
—He has a lodge where the shooting men put up when they take the moors, and he stays there when he comes north.
38074. Does he keep up a permanent establishment upon this place?
38075. Have you any complaint, such as we have heard upon some estates, about game?
—No, he has not enforced game very strictly upon us —nothing but the common Scotch Game Law, and I never heard any instance where the proprietor was strict in regard to game with us.
38076. You don't complain of the rabbits?
—Well, the rabbits do us some evil, but I have no doubt he might have prohibited us from shooting. I cannot say whether he would. I have never asked him.
38077. But you have no particular complaint on the head of game?
—No particular complaint.
38078. What remedies now do you want?
—I want the land valued—our holdings valued. We believe it is a just thing, and we believe the proprietor can do that.
38079. May we come to this, that it is a question of rack-renting that the tenants of Clyth complain of?
—That is the chief grievance, and then those improvements which I made and laid out so heavily upon, instead of being a benefit, have turned out rather a ruin, because another man could come and give a higher rent although he sat ouly one year. But if we had compensation, such as £150 or £200—and one tenant says he has laid out £900—if such a thing were before the offerer he would not think of giving such a rent for the place.
38080. Are most of the tenants now on the estate, and were their predecessors descendants of those who had been on the estate for a considerable time?
—The greater part of them are.
38081. And attached to the estate no doubt, and, therefore, unwilling to move?
—Yes, attached to the estate; and there have been a great many that have gone away. I am safe to say that in my memory the estate has decreased by 100 per cent, of the population. It has decreased by 400 within twenty years.
38082. The estate itself?
—Yes. There are now something like 1100 of population on the estate according to the last census.
38083. What has become of the lands of the people who have removed?
—Well, our young people all go away. The women go to the south, and don't come back. They are in Australia, New Zealand, and America; and, of course, some hang on to their parents just to keep them in their holdings.
38084. Have the holdings diminished as the population has diminished?
—Since 1855 I would say the holdings must have diminished. I cannot be quite correct in what I say, but I think they must have diminished by something like 60 or 70.
38085. What has become of them?
—They are added to other places. I cannot be correct to a holding, but I think I am correct in saying 60.
38086. They have been added to other holdings?
38087. Are there any other large farms on the estate?
—The two largest are the Mains of Clyth and Bruan Lodge.
38088. The Chairman.
—I want to ask you a question connected with one which Mr Fraser-Mackintosh put to you. You said you thought there should be a revaluation of rental. Do you mean that that valuation should take place in each case at the end of the lease, or do you mean that the law should step in and break the present leases and value now?
—I believe that the law should step in and break the present leases, because it has brought us to the verge so that we cannot pay our debts.
38089. But I understood you to say that you took your present holding and signed your present lease because it was suitable to you to do so, and that, during your occupancy, you have so far prospered that you have been able to improve your position and live?
—Well, I cannot say I have improved it, but I have maintained my ground.
38090. But you have become proprietor of a boat, or nearly so?
—Nearly so; but in our calling of the fishing I may be proprietor of a boat this season, and next year it may be away. It is a precarious business, because if you don't make a fishing the expense is so heavy that it goes out of your hands all at once.
38091. But still you think it would be right for Government to step in and break a contract voluntarily entered into between you and the proprietor?
38092. And to give you his property upon easier terms?
—The greater part of the tenants have been forced into these engagements by the force of circumstances. That is why I believe the owner has power to value it, and should value it if he wished to have the people there. I believe the Clyth tenants, if they had the means, would emigrate, but I believe they would not emigrate until they would see the law changed.
38093. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You say the population has diminished by 400 within the last twenty years?
—Yes, or it may be a year or two more.
38094. And the condition of those who were left has not improved since then?
—Not improved, but the other way —every year getting worse.
38095. There was no increase of their land or their means of living although the population diminished?
—No increase, because it was eaten up by excessive rents year after year.