JAMES WATERS, Farmer, Bower, Caithness (65)—examined.
37887. The Chairman.
—What rent do you pay?
—I pay £42 of rent.
37888. Who has elected you a delegate?
—I was elected by the parishes of Dunnet, Bower, and Olrig.
37889. Do you represent the crofting class?
—Yes, I represent the crofting class as well.
—- In appearing before the Royal Commission to give evidence of grievances, I do so in the first place by the request of the committee of the working farmers and crofters of Caithness, a committee that represents every parish in the county. A large meeting was held in the Temperance Hall, Wick, on the 27th October 1882, where upwards of a thousand persons from all parts of the county attended, composed principally of small farmers, crofters, and labourers. Several resolutions were passed, which I need not trouble your Honours with. And in the second place, I have been elected as a delegate to give evidence before the Royal Commission by several parishes on the west side of the county. In the third place, I do so because I and my widowed mother and younger portion of the family suffered great hardship through factorial cruelty, being driven from a fair position in the world to hardship and poverty. And if I were to put it in this way, why or what was the reason this committee was appointed, well it was in order to bring our grievances through the Scottish Farmers' Alliance before the Government. We sent resolutions up to the secretary of the Alliance, and a deputation of our committee was asked up to Aberdeen in December last for a conference at the general meeting of Alliance. But the Alliance being principally composed of large farmers, they refused to help us or to recommend our case to the Government. At a meeting then a resolution was unanimously agreed to, that a representative that support our views be returned to Parliament next general election. But a Royal Commission being appointed to inquire into the grievances of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, there has been meetings held in almost every parish in the county, preparing delegates to give evidence to their grievances. And, Sir, what we complain of is, that in any parts of the county the small farmers have been evicted from their holdings, and the ground they occupied converted into large tracts of arable farms, and it is believed upwards of a thousand such tenants have been reduced to poor crofters and paupers; and what is the astonishing fact, that fifty-five of these large arable farms are held on rent by fifteen tenants. These fifty-five large farms are considered to be about the half of the cultivated land in the county,—yes, and certainly the most fertile part of it too, and held at a rent of one half, and in many cases at one-third of what the small farmers and crofters pay for greatly inferior land, giving one farm to each of the fifteen farmers referred to. There is forty large farms in this small county having no resident tenants, so that through this monopoly not only the social, but the moral character of the county has been much deteriorated. Let me refer to Dunnet, from where I have appointed a delegate, and where I spent the first nineteen years of my life, and what a sad picture does it show. About forty-five years ago it was a part of the county full of respectable happy families, a parish where poverty was not then much known, the people were all in a fair comfortable position, generally had farms sufficient to support their families. But the hand of the spoiler came over it. There were of long standing a few pretty large farms in the landlord's hands. But the time I refer to a change of factors came over the estate, and some of them having got unlimited power, set to work and drove out the smaller farmers, adding their holdings to these farms in the landlord's, or rather into the factor's hands. Whole townships were thus cleared out. On the estate of Lochend, owned then by Mr Sinclair of Freswick, there was a good home farm, three pairs of horses, twenty cows, and a large lot of young cattle; there were nineteen tenants, thirteen of these putting out ploughs, some two pairs of horses; six small crofters, these were turned out and their holdings added to the home farm, now all occupied by one tenant. North of the parish was the farm of Ratter, the property of Mr Traill, a farm of long standing, a farm second to none in the county. About fifteen farmers were evicted, and the ground they occupied added to this fine farm. Large tracts where I once saw families brought up, not a plough being put in it for the last forty years, it is now not worth half a crown an acre to landlord or tenant. Again, on the south side of the parish, is the farm of Reister. This farm is made up in my own day, by evicting seventeen tenants and making one large farm of them; these seventeen tenants all put out ploughs. This farm is on the estate of Mr Traill of Ratter. I fear I cannot enter into further particulars. West Greenland, at the time referred to the property of Mr Sinclair of Freswick, where there were a few excellent tenants, all turned out and given to one tenant, all but one. Sir, it may be a fair question, what became of these evicted people? Well as many as chose were allowed to put up small houses on barren hill, where nothing formerly existed but plovers, and not much for them; others on the edge of mosses, or on the rock heads, where sheep could not exist. Close by the Reister farm, on the edge of a moss, a lot of small huts; it would not keep as many sheep, as they would not be allowed there. It is known by the name of Beggars' Town, being likely all paupers. About a mile farther west there is another colony; it is known by the name Paupers' Town. The younger portion of the evicted families got work for a time about the large farms, —the males ditching and draining; when that was through there was nothing for them but to leave the country. The young women likewise got work at these large farms, which was the means of destroying the moral character of many; what destruction of morals has these large holdings been? Thirty-five large farms, where no resident tenant is to look after the best interests of their servants. They have almost ceased being a church-going people, and I have it on the most reliable authority that every twelfth person in Dunnet has become a pauper; and in my early days I believe there were not twenty in that parish needing aid, and there were hundreds more in it than now. At that time there were ten or twelve boats going to Wick to the herring fishing; but so crushed down by the iron heel of oppression have they been, that for the last number of years they have not been able to put one boat to sea. Their means are gone, and the young go off to other lands, leaving a lot of poor crofters and paupers. The principal part of the parish is kept as sporting preserves for a few non-resident tenants. The working farmers have been driven out of the fertile ground and reduced to poverty; and who has been benefited; not land- lords. On the finest estate in the parish, forty-five years ago, there was hardly debt, when a factor got unlimited power; now the same estate is hopelessly encumbered with debt. The majority of the population reduced to poverty, the landlord helpless with a burden of debt; it may be asked who has been benefited by this revolution. I do not mean to answer the question. Let me now mention a few of the hardships that took place in carrying out these evictions. An aged couple, who had brought up four sons and seven daughters on the said farm, fell a little in arrears to the landlord. The factor having unlimited power, hypothecated his subjects, and as soon as law would allow it was sold by auction for ready money; I was an eye-witness to this. The mother of this large family had been an invalid for years. The factor was looking on when all was sold off but the blankets; they were ordered to be carried out—I know not whether they were taken off the sick woman's bed or not; the people felt so disgusted no one would offer a shilling for them; had any one done so they would have got them. The factor ordered them to be carried away as they were to somewhere about the south end of the Dunnet sands. It was seen next year the factor's reason for such cruelty to this man. There were five families; he was the centre one; they were all turned out next year, and their farms made an outrun to a large farm. There has not been a plough in since; it has now become a barren waste. Another case of cruelty, two aged persons—man and wife —who had brought up a family respectably, were turned out of their home and their furniture together. They had no way to go; these two aged Christians lay six weeks beside a dyke amongst bits of furniture. At last the aged man became delirious, and wandered off through the hills; the neighbours went in search, and found him wandering with his Bible under his arm, saying he was seeking his father, who had been dead nearly thirty years. He then was allowed to put up a house in the bottom of an old quarry, and I understand is still living there. I might go on detailing of equal cruelty. Many of these small holdings have one horse, a cow, and a stirk; for a long time they had the grazings of Brabstermire, where they got them grazed for paying for. This grazing was a great benefit to the poor people all along the seabjard for about fifteen miles, and they had it, I suppose, for half a century. But recently it was all taken from them, and given to a farmer who had seven or eight farms besides, that he might have the
pleasure of keeping sheep on it, not to farm it. One of the finest grazings in the county deprived hundreds of the best support they had, and it did not benefit the landlord; he did not get one pound more rent than the keeper of the grass was getting out of it; it was as sure paid as the big farmer is doing. Again there are the grazings of the hill of Dunnet, which the people say they had for two hundred years; some three years ago a neighbouring landlord too took a fancy to get it to breed grouse on that be might have sport, and the factor merely appointed a most amiable gentleman; but it would appear cruelty and oppression if the poor follow a factor as the shadow does the substance. Well, this landlord got the hill of Dunnet, and put a wire fence around it. But in April 1882 the poor people, having nothing to give their cattle, broke the gate and put them in. Then there was a great noise through and through all Scotland that the Dunnet folks had become rebels. However, through the advice of the ministers, they took the cattle out and shut the gate; but this last spring the landlord sent for the Dunnet people, and told them that because of the agitation he was to let their cattle in, on paying him a small sum as grazing money, so when the agitation is over he can shut the gate if he choose. It is amazing how short-sighted some landlords are, how they burden the small farmers with rents and allow the large farmers to have superior land at half, and in many cases less than half rent per acre. There are several large farms in ray own neighbourhood who do not pay the half that I and the like of me do, so that the small tenant is burdened with the rents and taxes of these large farms. One of these farmers in my neighbourhood has his farm at 6s. 6d., another 7s. 1½ d., a third 8s. 11d., and the small tenants more than the double for far inferior land. True they all three drive their coach and pair; but if they were paying the rent the like of we are doing, they would soon not be able to drive. One of these three has a tract of arable land six miles long by three broad in parts; he has more arable land than the two hundred and ten tenants of Clyth at less than one-third of the rent they pay. Now, why is this the case ? There is surely something wrong in the tenure of land. These large farmers cannot plead better farming; many of them are most miserable farmers. There is another parish named Olrig in which the poor crofters suffer much hardship, but I need not waste the time of the Commission. I hand you a written statement by one of themselves, which I believe to be a truthful statement. I have just a few words more to say, and it is this, there is not a landlord in the county who allowed his working tenants to be evicted but is hopelessly in debt, but the landlord that kept the industrious tenants as a rule his estate is clear of debt. Sir, let me mention one instance to support this, and I shall name the estate, as I know the whole matter. The late Sheriff Home of Stirkoke had a fine estate clear of debt. He was sheriff of Haddington. He got a factor from somewhere from the south of Scotland. He, the factor, at once set to evicting the tenants; it is reported that he said he hoped to see the day when there would not be a reek on the sheriffs estate but his manager's and the shepherds'. In about twenty years he very nearly accomplished his object; but the sheriff became bankrupt; the land was all sold; the poor hirers lost six months of their earnings, and they never got one halfpenny. The labouring men on the estate lost many of all their earnings; the kind sheriff died on the bounty of his friends; but the factor went to Peebleshire and took a farm of £1200 of rent. This has been the fate of all landlords that gave unlimited power to factors; but whenever a landlord resided on his estate, and looked after the welfare of his teuants, he and them are generally iu a thriving state. But let me close these remarks by referring to Bower parish, where I have spent forty-five years on one farm. Bower has not suffered so much by evictions as some other parts have done. There are few paupers in it. The poor law has not been legally appliedto Bower, and small crofters generally have not much to complain of. But a great part of it, and perhaps the best part, has been converted into large farms, so large that it is often difficult for the tenant to put the crop down. One of the large plurist farmers was unable last year to do so until his neighbours and others sent horses and ploughs to do so; and yet he coveted a £ 50 farm last year, adding it to this farm —a farm not paying more than 7s. 3d. per acre, and has not paid more for the last thirty-five years, while the small tenants on the same estate are paying about £1 per acre. But I must close these remarks, thanking the Commission and the andience for their patient hearing. I have also a paper from a delegate from Olrig, which I got by post yesterday. It is as follows :
—' I was asked at a public meeting of the inhabitants of Olrig parish to give evidence before the Commissioners on behalf of that parish. There are four proprietors in it. The Earl of Caithness has now no crofters on his property there. They were all evicted, and their lots thrown into one large farm about thirty years ago, and some very fine arable land has been thrown out under sheep and nearly gone waste. Had the expenditure then incurred on that one large farm been laid out on the hencrofters, the proprietor's rent roll would be very different to-day, and the country would have been much better too. Sir Robert Sinclair has a lot of small farms on his property, and his tenants are very much over-rented and most shockingly housed; but I expect evidence to be given by one of themselves regarding their condition. Several cases of very heartless eviction without compensation have taken place on it. Mr Smith of Olrig has only about a dozen tenants altogether on his property. His father came to the county as a schoolmaster about the beginning of the century, and bought the property for £4000 or £5000. The rental is now raised to nearly £2000. One tenant occupies a farm for which his father paid £ 1 , 10s. to the proprietor from whom Smith bought it, and he now pays £22 for it; only a few acres worth £2, 10s. to £ 3 have been added to it. The extent of this farm is twenty-two acres, and a part of it will not grow crops of any kind. Some small crofters have been evicted, and their lots given to Mr Thomas Purves, who holds several large farms. Mr Smith will do nothing whatever to his tenants in the way of repairing or rebuilding their houses, drainage, fencing, or anything else. He will scarcely see any of them if they call, or answer any of their letters. He will do nothing to encourage his tenants, and it is good for the country he has not more of them. The Commissioners asked somewhere if tenants preferred the lairds of old families to these new ones. On this property they would most decidedly prefer the old lairds. They were always gentlemen at least, if poor. All his farms are overrented, and though several of his tenants have asked him to relieve them of their holdings he refuses to do so. Mr Traill of Ratter is the other proprietor. On his property near Castletown there are a good many people who have small crofts. They are employed as labourers in the proprietor's pavement quarries; and it being absolutely necessary that they should be supplied with milk, they petitioned the proprietor, who portioned out a number of lots among them, which Mr Purves, Lochend, himself tenant of several large farms, valued at from 30s. to 50s. per acre. The land was no better and much of it not nearly so good as he himself pays less than 10s. an acre for, while I see by the valuation roll than he himself received a reduction of £147 on one farm, but these poor crofters never got any reduction. But the poor workmen must have milk, and must submit to be rack-rented. Some of their lots will not grow white oats, a sure sign of the poverty of the soil. These poor workmen are only paid once in three or four months, their wages only being 2s. to 2s. 4d. per day of ten hours, and they are most of them over head and ears in debt. And they can never be otherwise, such long payments, low wages, and such an amount of truck, that no other working class in the United Kingdom can be found so wretched as they are. Even in the West Highlands wages are much higher. The great bulk of them are compelled to take their meal out of the laird's store, as they can't get money and can't get credit elsewhere, and must take it as it is, though they often complain of the quality. A very few of them who can raise money in any way or get credit never take meal from his stores, not on account of the price, which is not complained of, but the quality. And they must also take their coals from the proprietor at any price he likes to charge and any quality he likes to give. Sometimes they are so inferior he can't use them himself in Castlehill House, but they are good enough for the poor workmen and small crofters. And only one other person is allowed to import coals into the district, and only then a limited quantity, and if she sold at a low rate it is believed the permission should be at once withdrawn. And besides the high rent for their crofts they have to pay £2, 10s. to £ 3 for their houses, and also £2 for cow's grass, which has often been previously eaten by sheep. And when pay day comes round, after the proprietor and manager have made their deductions, some of the foremen try to have a little out of the poor workmen too. They get them to take several articles of household consumption through them, out of which they no doubt received some discount to themselves. No wonder the workmen are so miserably poor and so deeply in debt. And if it be thought strange that so much illegal truck should be allowed to continue, I cannot account for it. Only I may mention that the procurator-fiscal for the district is also factor on Mr Traill's property. Why not pay the labourers there as is done everywhere else, monthly, and let them provide themselves where they like, and why not pay them fair wages too? In Tain township there are a lot of crofters and small tenants paying very high rents in proportion to that paid by the large farmers around them, and only the poorest of the land is left in their hands. Some of the Tain tenants have so little house accommodation that on one farm several members of the family have had to sleep in a part of the barn for the last ten years.
37890. Do you think that the process of consolidation is now terminating? Do you think it is still going on, or that there is a reaction?
—Well, there was a £ 50 farm put into a large farm last Whitsunday; but, I suppose there is very little to add; it has been done in other parts of the country.
37891. You think there are very few small farms left?
—I believe I am quite correct in saying that half of the land of Caithness is now in the hands of fifteen tenants.
37892. But do you think that now there is a change of policy on the part of the landlords or not? Do you think they have seen that a mistake has been made, and is there an alteration or not?
—I have not seen any alteration, but there is not one of them but sees the mistake now when it is too late.
37893. Are there many of the large farms which are thrown upon the hands of the proprietor ?
—Not yet in Caithness.
37894. Do you know any example of a large farm which recently, within the last two or three years, has been re-let at the end of the lease?
—The farm of Ratter was let two or three years ago at a reduction.
37895. Are there no large farms out of lease at the present moment in the county?
—Not that I am aware of; I see some advertised. I think there are three farms advertised just now when the lease is out.
37896. Large farms?
—Yes, on Sir Tollemache Sinclair's estate.
37897-8. Is it reported there is a difficulty in obtaining offers?
—I don't know. It is just a week since they were advertised.
37899. Is there any difficulty in obtaining tenants for farms of between £40 and £100 a year?
—That is the reason the small tenants have been so much raised in rent. If there is a small place of £50 or £100, there will be a rush of half-a-dozen for it. That is what makes the small tenants too high.
37900. Then the great rise of rent in the case of the small farmers is partially owing to the competition of the tenants themselves?
37901. How do you propose to remedy that evil, if it is an evil?
—There is a very easy way to remedy it. There is plenty of waste land, if they would give it to the people to cultivate. There are thousands of acres I once saw cultivated that are out of cultivation altogether.
37902. You propose then that the proprietor should divide these large farms, and offer them to small tenants?
37903. Who would, in that case, put up the farm buildings and offices?
—Well, if you will allow me to tell two cases in my neighbourhood it will clear up the whole matter. Within half a mile of my place there is a poor man who came there. His family were growing up a good many years ago, and he was allowed to build on a piece of hill where the people were cutting their peats, for 2s. 6d. He was allowed to put up a house. The first he put up, you might have taken the corner out of it with your hand; but he wintered over in that, and begun to take in hill ground. He then put up a better house, and went on and on with his family helping him, and he has now a comfortable house, and he has improved the land. He has about sixteen acres taken out of the hill—one green spot —and he has built on this steading his dwelling house, barn, stable, and byre, and he has a one-horse threshing mill on it, and he says he cut 200 chains of draining, but never got a farthing from the landlord to help him at all, and he is in a very comfortable state.
37904. Has he got a lease?
—I don't know whether he has or not, but he pays £ 8 of rent.
37905. For how many acres?
—He says he has about sixteen acres under crop. That shows what a man can do. There was another man who was a farm servant near me for twelve years, and he got a piece of land from the late Sir George Dunbar. He was allowed to build on a strip of green, and last spring he asked me if I would buy any stirks. I went to his house, and to my astonishment the man had five excellent cows. I gave him upwards of £40 for his five stirks. He had three horses, and a two-horse threshing mill, and there was never a stone put down till he did it, nor a plough in the ground till he did it, and he got not one sixpence from the landlord.
37906. Had he any lease?
—He told me the landlord had never signed the lease, lie paid £3, and he pays £19 now. There are hundreds of families getting up in the same way in the county.
37907. And you think that, if the large farms were redivided, they would do it again ?
—Let there be a resident tenantry, and the landlord will find it to be to his advantage.
37908. What sort of lease do you think the landlord ought to give ?
—I have not considered that.
37909. You have not got before you what you would recommend as an improving lease?
—I cannot say anything about that. I suppose all the people want is to be allowed freedom to get the land, and they will put it in order themselves.
37910. You don't propose that the people should expend labour and capital on the ground without a lease?
—I don't say but they would do so rather than not get the ground at all.
37911. Do you know any proprietor at the present moment who has begun to break up a large farm and divide it ?
—No; these farms are now advertised with the option that they will be divided, if needed, into separate parts.
37912. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I think, perhaps, the most striking thing you mentioned in your evidence is that the large farms are let at 7s. 6d. and the small ones at £1. Is it your experience that the landlords in Caithness are fond of big rents?
—No doubt of it.
37913. Then why don't they let the land to the people who will pay £1 per acre ?
—They can't help themselves. The matter was put wrong owing to the foolishness of non-resident landlords and factors. Whenever they had the power they threw out the tenants and put the land in that position. It was little worth to the landlords at all, and they had to hand it over to those men who have it now at anything they could get out of it.
37914. But when a large farm falls out of lease, is there any difficulty in breaking it up?
—I don't know. It has never been tried.
37915. Are the landlords not aware that they get more money from the small farmers than the big ones?
—Perfectly so. .
37916. Then how do you explain the fact that they don't break up the farms?
—The difficulty is in the way of buildings. I have told them that they need not put out £1 in buildings. Give the land to the small tenants in farms of a fair size, with one or two pair of horses, and borrow money, and the tenants will pay the interest on the buildings. Give it at the rate the large farmers are paying, and they will pay interest on the buildings and make a comfortable living, and the landlord need not put any mouey out of his own pockets.
37917. In point of fact, the landlords could do it with benefit to themselves?
—Yes, it is the very thing that would benefit them. They would very soon redeem the land if they would do so.
37918. You have mentioned there are thousands of acres of land, once arable, now lying waste in the country?
37919. Can you mention the names of the properties'!
—Yes, on the farm of Ratter there are hundreds of acres; Reister; the township of Scoulary; and Hollanmay. I saw a lot of tenants on them, but they are all put out, and a large farmer has it for sheep. There were about 150 families turned out, and all the land is in the hands of seven tenants at the present day. I had a list sent to me which shows a very sad state of things.
37920. And the land that was under a regular rotation of crops is now under pasture ?
37921. You mention certain farms where this has occurred; on whose property are these farms ?
—Ratter is Mr Traill's.
37922. Are all these farms on Mr Traill's property 1
—No; Reister and Ratter are on it. There are others, but I only mention these, so as not to take too much time to go over them. There are many others in the same position.
37923. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have given in a very interesting paper, and I should like to put some questions in regard to it. You speak about the estate of Lochend, at one time owned by Mr Sinclair of Freswick, and you state that thirteen out of nineteen tenants who were there have been removed to other places, and it is now occupied by one tenant; what is the name of that tenant?
—Mr James Purves.
37924. Has James Purves the shootings of Lochend as well?
—I am not sure. The gentleman is here himself.
37925. Again, you say about the farm at Reister that there were seventeen tenants there, and they are now put into one farm; is that so?
37926. Who has got that farm ?
37927. There is also another farm of Greenland; who has got the greater part of Greenland?
37928. What is the name of the tenant, and what is the name of the place where the one man has more arable land than the whole 210 tenants of Clyth?
—That is in the parish of Watten—Mr John Davidson.
37929. Is that the person who is said to have twenty-seven pairs of horses?
—Yes, the same gentleman. He has twenty, but if he farmed it all he would require ten more.
37930. And the sum he pays is only about one-half what the tenants of Clyth pay?
—He pays 8s. l½ d . per acre.
37931. What property is that on?
—Sir Robert Anstruther's.
37932. We find, in other places, particularly in regard to sheep farms, that there is now a difficulty in getting tenants when large farms fall out. Is it the case that there is a difficulty in getting tenants for the large arable farms in Caithness?
—There has. not been any this long time with the exception of the farm of Ratter, where he had to submit to a reduction of rent.
37933. Was it a large reduction?
—About £100. I am not positive; but I think so.
37934. Is the reason, in your mind, likely to be this, that the price of cattle is still high, while the price of wool has gone down?
—The price of sheep was never higher.
37935. Have any of the large sheep farms hill pasture?
—Very little hill pasture in Caithness.
37936. And they are really and truly not sheep farms'?
—They are mostly arable farms.
37937. When you spoke of there being all these farms in the hands of fifteen men, do these fifteen men reside in the county?
—They are all resident within the county. Three of them live in the town of Thurso. I suppose Mr Clyne—that is Ratter—has twelve farms.
37938. Are they all adjoining?
—None of them join.
37939. How can one person manage such a concern?
—I don't know; but he is managing it, and an old man too.
37940. With regard to the crofting population, with which we are more immediately concerned, will you explain in what way they are affected by these large farms?
—Just this way, that there are so many persons upon the bit of land, if there is a small croft or a small farm to let, there is just a run of half a dozen after it, and they bid for it merely to get a home.
37941. It comes to this that the crofting farms have now been reduced so much in consequence of these big farms, that there is a great competition on the part of the small farmers—an undue competition ?
37942. Are there many crofters present in your mind that would be prepared, if land were given to them —even land that has never been taken into cultivation before—and if they got long leases or fixity of tenure, to go in and improve it without much expenditure on the part of the landlord?
—They would do so. I have just referred to two cases that have done it, and done it well. The last man I spoke of, who got the land from George Dunbar, has money in the bank. He was a ploughman, and he saw that green spot on the side of the hill, and Sir George Dunbar allowed him to take it for £3, and now he is paying £19 for it, and is comfortable, and he never got one sixpence from the landlord.
37943. Are the people of Caithness, like the natives of other counties we have come across, attached to their homes and their native place ?
—Certainly they are.
37944. As much so, you think, as in any other part of the north of Scotland ?
—No doubt of that.
37945. And there is an unwillingness on the part of that class, I presume, to leave the country if there is any means of making a comfortable living at home ?
—There is no chance for any young man in present circumstances to get any home for himself unless he leave the county. There is no chance in Caithness whatever in the present circumstances.
37946. It has sometimes been said that one of the great grievances in regard to the Highlands is that there is too much land belonging to one person; but apparently, that is not the case in Caithness. There are plenty of proprietors, but still there is a scarcity of land for crofters 1
—Yes, it is not the want of proprietors.
37947. You have taken a great interest in this matter for two or three years back ?
—I have. There were a few of us in the county that took it in our heads when the agitation got up two or three years ago. It was generally large farmers that went in for that, and a great many large farmers in Caithness got a reduction of rent, and they made believe that it was on behalf of the small tenants, but as soon as they got the reduction there was no more pleading for the small tenants. The small tenants could do nothing, because the proprietor would say ' If you go, I can get half-a- dozen to-morrow;' but the big farmers knew there were none to bid against them.
37948. Was it the undoubted grievances you saw to exist that compelled you, as it were, to take the active part you have done, seeing you don't belong to the crofter class ?
—It was purely out of sympathy, because I expect nothing, and do not want anything. I will not take more land, and I don't expect a reduction of rent. I am forty-five years on the present place, and I don't want another landlord than I have.
37949. With regard to another remarkable statement in your paper about the poor rate of the parish of Dunnet; are you well advised in saying that every twelfth person in that parish is a pauper ?
—I have it on the authority of two members of the Parochial Board. It was some two or three years ago.
37950. And in your early recollection the parish was an exceedingly prosperous one?
37951. It has a good deal of seaboard ?
37952. And you have stated that at one time there was a considerable fishing, which has now dwindled down to nothing?
—There used to be ten or twelve herring boats going from Dunnet; and for many years they have been unable to put out one. They have not the means to do it.
37953. Can you tell us from your experience what extent of land you consider is necessary for a crofter or small farmer to be able to make a living out of without outside earnings ?
—Well, a man could do with thirty acres, and keep a pair of ponies, two or three cows, and two or three stirks, and live very well on it.
37954. You don't include sheep?
—No; these small arable farms could not keep sheep.
37955. The 30 acres would occupy the attention of the farmer all the year round?
—Yes, that is what I mean. It would keep the farmer well, and give bread to the family, and keep the horses at work. A farm of fifty or sixty acres would be very desirable.
37956. But 30 acres is the minimum on which a person could bring up his family?
37957. What rate per acre would you put upon land—fairly good arable land—say for thirty acres?
—Well, 15s. is considered a fair average rent in Caithness for arable land.
37958. Would you think a crofter not over-rented at 15s.?
37959. A man with the extent of land you say, and the stock, and paying 15s. an acre of rent, would be able to live in comfort?
—Oh, yes; no doubt of that.