Golspie, Sutherland, 8 October 1883 - William Black and John Ross

WILLIAM BLACK, Crofter, Pitaxie (34), and JOHN ROSS, Crofter, Clunel, Parish of Lairg (26)—examined.

38813. The Chairman.
—You have been elected a delegate by the people of Gruids?
—[William Black]. I have.

38814. How many people took part in the election1?
—I did not count them, but there was a large assemblage.

38815. Was the paper you are about to read communicated to them after it was drawn up, and did they approve of it?
—Yes. 'The Crofters under the proprietorship of Lady Matheson.
—The grievance of the crofters of the township of Gruids is the smallness of their crofts, both arable and pasture. The overcrowding of the township is mainly due to the Clunel evictions sixty years ago to make room for sheep. The crofters had reclaimed the land, and built houses thereon at their own expense, and were paying rent to the amount of £ 84 annually, being a higher rent than ever paid since. When in our present factor's possession he had it for £ 30 a year. This certainly wounded the feelings of the evicted crofters and their descendants, to see the land from which they were ruthlessly driven in possession of the factor for less rent. Twenty-six years ago miles of pasture were taken off the crofters without any reduction of rent being given, as well as depriving them of the work done on the estate, which made their grievances twofold. The factor's practice was to send men from Dornoch to do all the work, while all the men of Gruids were allowed to go idle; still their rents would require to be paid, otherwise they would be threatened with eviction, or their effects poinded. We have neither lease nor valuation given us, or encouragement of any kind. We have to pay for the smallest piece of wood we require for houses, fences, &c. The crofts we occupy will hardly keep meal to each of us for six months, and for most no work on the estate to assist us for the remainder of the year. The first evictions carried into effect on this estate commenced about seventy years ago. Some of the evicted got crofts in Clunel, from which they were again evicted in the course of twelve years to the township of Gruids, others having to leave for foreign countries; and a third eviction was attempted on the township of Gruids. The above evictions were cruelly brought about. The people were forced out of their houses by a military force, and had to take to the hills. Old men and children were nearly starved in snow on their return. After the departure of the soldiers, they found that they had no houses to shelter them for the night, besides taking some, that turned back to save their effects, prisoners. The land from which those crofters were evicted amounts to about one thousand acres, for which the tacksman pays about sixpence an acre on an average, with hill pasture; while we pay 2s. 8d. an acre for ours, which is of very inferior quality, and all improved at our own expense. We are informed that there is a law in our country to protect us, but when such oppression as described in the above is in force we find no protection whatsoever from the present law. Therefore we earnestly advocate a thorough reform of the land laws. In advance of the Royal Commission, we had our winter stock taken up by the ground officer, which could not be done with justice to us, as we have to buy yearly for our winterstock. Second, we had a one-sided valuation in the month of August, when the crop looked at its best, never considering the amount of artifacial manure, &c, yearly laid on our unproductive soil, and then they think to oppress us as has been done in the past.

—Enlarged crofts of average quality, with sufficient pasturage and peat ground for the township, the crofter to be entitled to full cornpensatien for buildings, fences, and permanent improvements on well-defined principles. Absolute security from eviction so long as the tenant does not exceed two years in arrears, and performs his duty as tenant. The rent should be judicially fixed by valuation by parties mutually chosen, and it ought not to be raised or the possession restricted earlier than thirty years.

Personal Grievances.
—I produce one case out of many as an illustration to show you how improvements are stopped, and that we are not allowed to trench our own land. James Robertson, crofter and miller, Gruids, having about two acres in his croft which was not cultivated, he employed men to trench it. After he trenched one acre of the land and fenced it in, he received strict orders to stop improving his land, and he was compelled to pull up his fence, and this land is now only a common waste. Yet he has to pay for it. He has only been tenant there for five yeare, and the foregoing happened within the last two years. . James Robertson is present, and can substantiate this statement.'

38816. I want to understand more exactly about the successive evictions. You speak of three evictions here. You say the first evictions were seventy years ago?

38817. Is that the case?

38818. Who was the proprietor of the estate then?
—Sir George Gunn Munro of Poyntsfield.

38819. When the first evictions took place was the whole of the land in the possession of the crofters, or were there already large tacks at that time ?
—Not at all. It was all in the possession of the crofters; the whole place at that time was in their possession.

38820. The hill land was held as common pasture?

38821. At the time of the first evictions was the hill pasture taken and formed into a farm?
—No, I suppose they were evicted first, and both the arable and pasture combined were formed into a farm. They had both in their possession until such time as they were evicted.

38822. And both the arable and pasture were taken away?

38823. What became of the crofters at that time; were they not allowed to remain in possession of some arable?
—No, they were removed to Clunel, and some went further. We have one here who can substantiate
that statement.

38824. Was the whole place then made one farm?
—No, it is made into two farms.

38825. That was the first eviction sixty or seventy years ago; who got the farms?
—I can hardly state that; but I believe there is a man here who can state it.

38826. Were they given to strangers from outside, or to the people of Sutherland?
—They were not given to people of Sutherland. Certainly they were given to strangers.

38827. Then you speak of a second eviction. How long ago was that?
—Sixty years ago.

38828. What happened then?
—A most cruel eviction.

38829. Do you mean that the same people who had been evicted the first time seventy years ago were evicted again sixty years ago?
—I mean that.

38830. Where were they taken to?
—To the township of Gruids, and they are here to-day to prove it.

38831. Then you speak of a third eviction; when was the third eviction?
—Shortly after the same time.

38832. Then there has been no eviction for about fifty years?
—None at all.

38833. How long is it since the Matheson family became possessed of the estate?
—I think it will be about forty years ago. There were no evictions since then.

38831. From whom did they purchase the property?
—Sir George Gunn Munro.

38835. Since forty years there have been no evictions whatever?
—None whatever.

38336. Then since forty years has any ground been added to the crofters?
—It has been taken off them —miles of it.

38837. Since the Matheson family came?

38838. Common pasture ground?

38839. What was done with the common pasture ground which was taken off them?
—It was added to a sheep farm, and part of it, eighty acres, is planted.

38840. And when this pasture was taken away from them during the possession of the Mathesons, was any reduction of their rent made?
—None whatever.

38841. Was any other advantage given to them as a compensation?
—None whatsoever.

38842. To whom was the pasture given; who was the farmer?
—Mr Sellar.

38843. He is spoken of here as both factor and farmer. He was the factor for the estate?
—No, not at all.

38844. When in our present factor's possession?
—That is a different part of which I am talking—twenty-six years ago.

38845. When did the present factor obtain the farm?
—I don't know.

38846. Who is the present factor?
—Mr Fraser.

38847. Then Mr Fraser is both farmer and factor at the present moment ?
—No, he is not.

38848. How long is it since he ceased to be farmer?
—Seven years.

38849. But he was a long time farmer and factor?

38850. And who is factor at present?
—Angus Bethune, residing in Inverness.

38851. Who resides on the farm?
—The manager or a man in partnership with him. But I have a letter from Mr Bethune to the effect that he was misled in his offer for the farm, for he thinks it too dear; and certainly it is not out of place to think it too dear when we pay 2s. 8d. for ours.

38852. During the last forty years, since the family came into possession, there has been no eviction, but there has been a diminution of the hill pasture. Has there been any increase of rent?
—None whatsoever.

38853. What is the average size of the holdings? How many acres of arable ground?
—Well, I think the largest is eighteen acres three poles. But it is in the possession of the ground officer, as they have the fat of the land—all those officials. That is the point of the letter.

38854. Don't let us enter into reflections. I want to know the fact?
—The fact is that the largest who has arable land pays about 7s. 6d. William Black

38855. But generally speaking, what sort of crofts have they? Are they ten or five acres of arable? What is the full croft?
—I did not make up that, but the average rent is about £6, 10s.

38856. And what would be about the area of a croft at £6, 10s.?
—There are about 200 acres of arable land altogether and twenty-eight crofters.

38857. Then I suppose there are six or seven acres of arable ground a croft?
—Rather over seven.

38858. Is there a good hill pasture still left?
—No, it is bad hill pasture.

38859. Is it a large area?
—It amounts to 1200 acres.

38860. Do they run both cattle and sheep upon it?
—Both cattle and sheep and horses—in fact, too much,

38861. About how many sheep?
—I have only two myself. I cannot say what the rest have, but the quality of the sheep is such that they are nearly turned into goats for the want of pasture, and the one must rise before the other lies down.

38862. On a £7 croft what stock is kept on an average?
—I cannot exactly say. I did not study that point.

38863. Would there be three cows on a £7 rent?
—I believe there would be.

38864. And a horse?
—A horse.

38865. How many sheep?
—I know some that are only paying £3 have twenty-four sheep, but that is on account of the estate regulations not being carried into effect. .

38866. Would it be a usual thing to have three cows, one horse and twelve or twenty sheep?
—That is what we should have.

38867. Then whose fault is it that you have not got it?
—The officials. They do not look to that.

38868. They allow some to keep too many and others too few?
—They allow some to keep twenty-four sheep upon £3,-whereas I pay £13,12s. 6d. and have only two sheep.

38869. Still I don't get a general idea. A crofter who pays £7, say, would have about three cows, one horse, and a dozen sheep?
—Say a dozen sheep. The estate regulations carry two-sheep to the £1 , but that is too much for the extent of pasture we have.

38870. When the people were settled here did they receive any assistance in building their houses?
—None whatever.

38871. They built their houses and improved the ground entirely themselves?
—Yes. They got six weeks of Government money for what improvements they would do within the six months, and they have been paying for thirty-five years interest for the said money, so I believe they have done it all upon their own account.

38872. Some Government money was expended in improvements?
—All finished within six weeks were paid Government money. Some did improvements and some none at all.

38873. Is your hill pasture fenced?
—Yes, too hardly. It is fenced on either side.

38874. With a wire fence ?

38875. Does not that protect you from the stock of the adjacent farms?
—Yes, but it keeps us out of occupation of the land which we should have had, and which our forefathers had, and which they had for sixpence an acre, and which we pay 2s, 8d. for.

38876. When you say the adjacent farmer only pays sixpence an acre, does that include any arable ground on his holding?
—It includes all the arable land our forefathers tilled and gave to him in good order.

38877. Is any of that cultivated?
—There has been 1000 acres cultivated.

38878. But at the present moment?
—No, it is all grown with bracken and ferns and rushes. It will soon be a wilderness altogether, and a loss to the nation.

38879. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You say—' In advance of the Royal Commission we had our winter stock taken up by the ground officer.' Do you mean the stock was counted over?

38880. You are aware it was done for the Royal Commission ?

38881. Did you raise objection to it?
—Well, I did not do it at the present time, because I was not there. I was in Inverness, but if I was at
home I would not give them the privilege of numbering my stock, because I would think it was an imposition.

38882. You did not wish the Commission to know what stock you kept?
—I would not do anything against that.

38883. But you understand it was at the request of the Royal Commission that that numbering was done ?
—If that is the fact, it was all right.

38884. How long is it since James Robertson entered upon his croft?
—Five years.

38885. Did he get a lease?
—He did. He had a letter to that effect.

38886. Were any conditions contained in the letter?
—I am not sure. He is here present. But I know there is a gross injustice in the manner in which he has been treated. He has been a man that paid far more for his mill and land than any of those before him paid, and a persevering man, and he should be encouraged instead of oppressed.

38887. There is a statement you make, and other witnesses have made it in other places, that the crofters pay a very much larger rent for their land than the large farmers. Do you understand why it is that the landlord does not accept the larger rent if he has the opportunity of getting it?
—I understand that exactly, because the law is upon his side, and it is an unjust law, and that he has the power in his own hand of self-control, and he can do with the land what he pleases.

38888. But if he has an opportunity of getting a larger rent for his land, why does he not avail himself of that opportunity?
—Well, I have stated there that he does not get a larger rent.

388S9. If he accepted crofter tenants he would get a larger rent for his land?
—I believe so.

38890. Then why does he not do it?
—Because it is not in accordance with his own mind.

38891. Is it not a landlord's interest to get a larger rent if he can do so?
—Yes, but my statement does not confirm that; I say he gets a less rent for his land.

38892. But I want an explanation of the fact that the landlord is willing to accept a less rent from a large tenant. Why is it he is willing to accept that?
—Because he wishes to exclude us from the face of the earth, and send us over the ocean. I can see no other reason for it.

38893. You cannot see any object he has except getting rid of the people?
—It is his object. I cannot arrive at it, but I know there is gross injustice to us on that part.

38894. If you were to give up your croft would your landlord have any difficulty it letting in?
—No, he would not.

38895. There is a demand for it?
—Yes, and there is a demand for any land.

38896. And therefore he could let the large farm at a higher rent by dividing it among small tenants?
—I think he could.

38897. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many large farms are there on the estate?
—There are only two.

38898. What are the names of the tenants?
—There are Messrs Dobie and Martin, and Mr Angus Bethune, Inverness.

38899. How many crofters may there be altogether on the whole estate?
—There are twenty-eight, and there is a population of 184 upon that small piece of ground, 1400 acres.

38900. And what population is there upon the.two farms?
—A few shepherds. Messrs Dobie and Martin do not reside at all upon the land. They reside in Dumfriesshire. There are six or seven.

38901. Can you give me any idea how the land is divided. Do you know what is the acreage of the whole estate of Achany?
—I cannot exactly say, but there will be about 41,000.

38902. We shall say upwards of 40,000?

38903. How much of the 40,000 acres is in these two farms?
—Nearly the whole 40,000 acres.

38904. How much have the crofters altogether?
—1400 altogether.

38905. Arable and pasture?
—Arable and pasture combined.

38906. Are there any cottars upon the lands of the tenants who do not pay any rent?
—There is only one now, but till the last year there were a good many.

38907. Were they a burden upon the crofters?
—Certainly, and they were put in defiantly against the crofters. I suppose they were in favour with the factor and ground officer and were put upon the tenant's pasture, and at present they are the best off in the whole township.

38908. Do you feel sure you are right in stating there is 1000 acres of land which had once been tilled by the small tenants that is now lying waste, or nearly so?
—Yes, I believe I am quite justified in stating that. I suppose there would be no harm in referring to this letter which I received from Mr Bethune, and you can judge a little from that, which will confirm so much of my statement.

38909. Will you tell me for whom was the clearance first made in the time of Munro of Poyntsfield? What big farmer came in?
—Mr M'Gregor.

38910. Who was he?
—I cannot exactly state. That is too far back, but I have men present who can state it.

38911. At all events he was a stranger?

38912. Now, tell me something about the farm that Mr Fraser, who was long factor and is now factor, had?
—The farm of Clunel.

38913. Is that the one Bethune now occupies?

38914. Do you know what rent he was paying?
—I don't know. I think it would need to be a pretty small one.

38915. What reason had he for not giving employment when there was any farm work necessary on the farm? Why did he not employ the people on the estate?
—There might be reasons, but I cannot arrive at them assuredly, but he was a banker at Dornoch, and there might be bills in his bank, and if he sent men up who had bills in his bank he could redeem them. But the tenants were kept out of employment, as well as the pasture was taken off.

38916. Then though no rise of rent has been put on you since the time of the Mathesons, yet, at the same time, having been deprived of pasture, you consider yourselves aggrieved?
—-We do, and we are deprived of this melioration labour as well, which is bound to make us worse than in Sir George Gunn Munro's time. I put in a copy of the original melioration letter, which is as follows :
—-' I, George Gunn Munro, proprietor of the estate Poyntsfield and Gruids, bind myself and my heirs and successors whomsoever to pay melioration to the small tenants on Clunel and Pitarvie, Terry Mill, or any other stances thereabout, for any neat stone and lime cottages, byres, barns, &c, and stone dykes they may build, which shall be paid them at whatever period they may remove or be removed, the value of what they may be worth at outgoing to be ascertained by judges mutually chosen; this is provided all such will be finished by learned tradesmen. And as a further encouragement will make a present of a guinea note to each of tenants of six first finished with chimneys at each end of their said houses. Given under my hand, Poyntsfield House, on this 11th day of August 1834, and a separate letter to the above agreement will be given to each separately as their houses are finished (signed) GEORGE GUNN MUNRO.'

38917. You complain that upon the sale of the estate the new proprietor raised the rents?
—Yes. The old proprietor fell into debt and the estate was entailed, and he rented the Gruids tenants to the highest they could go, and they remain there yet, and all the privilege he gave them is taken
away from them. The hill pasture is taken away and eighty acres of plantation is put there, and there was more poiuted out last week which I could not get in my statement, and in the face of all this I see Lady Matheson is again pointing out some pasture to be planted.

38918. Do you mean that your remnants of 1400 acres are still to be diminished?
—Exactly, and it is one thing certain that with the privileges there stated and the miles of pasture we had, we must be in a worse state now than we were then.

38919. Is anything done on the part of the proprietrix for the people on the estate?

38920. Is any encouragement given?
—None at all; not even a handstake out of the wood, and that is little enough.

38921. Is any money spent in any benevolent or charitable way?
—None whatever. There has been no reduction of rent for all the bad years, and the game going away with the half of our crop. There has been nothing done whatever.

38922. The Chairman.
—I want to ask you again respecting this engagement to give compensation for a better kind of houses. This is a promise on the part of the old proprietor that he will give a bonus of one guinea to the first six who build improved houses, and that he will give them compensation for houses when built of a particular character. Have any such good stone and lime houses with two chimneys been built?
—They have been all built of that quality.

38923. Then in your township all the houses are improved houses with chimneys?
—Altogether, with the exception of one or two.

38924. Do you know any particular case in which an occupier has left his improved house and has asked for compensation, and has been refused compensation; has a case arisen?
—I cannot answer that question directly.

38925. Has this engagement of the former proprietor been distinctly repudiated by the present proprietor?

38926. You mean they will not give a similar engagement at the present day?
—Yes, none whatever. They refuse it altogether.

38927. They do not admit the validity of this engagement?
—No. The excuse they put to us was that it was not stamped.

38928. [To John Ross].
— Have you got a paper?
—John Ross. Yes.
—The grievances of the Gruids crofters are the smallness of their holdings, both of arable and pasture. Some of us pay as high as £1, 6s. an acre for very inferior soil. There is a population of 184 depending on about 1400 acres of land between arable and pasture for their livelihood, while the three neighbouring tacksmen occupy thirty times as much. Another grievance is bad dwelling houses and steadings, for if it rains outside for three hours it rains inside for six. Twenty-six years ago we were deprived of the most and best of our pasture, no reduction being given in our rents. At the same time we were threatened with eviction, unknown to the proprietor we believe, by a report published in a newspaper concerning the said threatened evictions. When the factor came to know of such a report being published he persuaded a few of us to sign a document to the effect that it was all a falsehood, and published the same in a newspaper. Shortly after we were deprived of the pasture, we inquired of the factor what to do with our sheep, the answer given us was " Eat them." Although we were needful of mutton at the time, ewes and lambs would not be very palatable to eat in the mouth of May, Another injustice done on the estate was that of exacting labour from men without paying them. A man having the value of £3, 5s. of land, arable and pasture, could not be supposed to work for nothing to the proprietor. Although the soil of his croft would be as productive as any in Scotland, it would not be adequate to supply the wants of a family of six persons. Our greatest grievance is want of land, arable and pasture, and the inferior quality of what we do occupy. It is not easy for people to keep the tenth commandment while they can see thousands of acres of good productive land in our neighbourhood, but nothing can be seen there but the ruins of crofters' houses and sheep roaming over it, and we poor people labouring among peat bogs and rocks. We don't blame proprietors, factors, or ground officers but only in a measure for the tyrannical oppression waged 'against us; but we blame the existing land laws, which permit such oppression to be carried into effect. We only say that proprietors, factors, and ground officers should be more humane than they have been towards their fellow-creatures. God says he has no respect of persons, therefore we understand the poor were not created to be persecuted and oppressed by the rich. No doubt, eviction is not carried on to such an alarming extent now-a-days, but the people are so much curtailed of the privileges they once possessed that they cannot live comfortably in their present circumstances. It would make people think of their wings and fly to the colonies, but behold their wings are clipped so that they cannot fly, andworse still there are no prospects of them growing under the present land law administration. What could a penniless man do on arriving in the colonies ? He could not erect a house, buy stock, seed, nor farm implements. As a remedy, we earnestly advocate the extension of the franchise; we further want, as remedies to better our condition, more land, arable and pasture, compensation for improvements and for damage done by game, also a permanent hold of the soil, so that eviction be heard of no more. Eviction is a disgrace to our nation; such oppression has not been perpetrated among the uncivilised tribes, and still it has been done in a country whose law-makers profess to be enlightened Christians.

38929. You belong to a different township?
—It is the same township, but a different part of the township.

38930. Mr Cameron.
—You complain here of the badness of the houses. Then these houses were not those spoken of by the last witness, which were good houses, and for which they failed to obtain the meliorations
stipulated for by the proprietor?
—The walls are good, but they are not capable of keeping out the rain.

38931. Is it a grievance with you or your neighbours that they cannot obtain those meliorations spoken of by the last witness?
—Surely it must be.

38932. If the houses were originally good, why do not the tenants keep them wind and watertight?
—There is nothing they can keep them watertight with.

38933. Cannot they use lime?
—They are thatched houses. There is no slate. They are built of stone and lime walls.

38934. Why cannot they renew the thatch as it gets old?
—They have nothing to renew it with unless they use their straw, and that curtails their provender for their cattle.

38935. Where did the thatch originally come from?
—It was turf.

38936. Could they not supply thatch from the same place that it came from originally?

38937. Why not ?
—Because it is not there.

38938. What was it?

38939. Is there no turf where it came from?
—That might last for a year or so, but whenever the turf is done it is as bad as ever.

38940. Not knowing the place myself I do not understand you; but on other crofting farms the crofters, as it is required, repair their houses and keep them in repair. What I want to know from you is what peculiarity there is in your circumstances which prevents you doing what other crofters in the Highlands do?
—We do as much as we can. But whatever can be done without the houses being slated, they will not be watertight.

38941. You were deprived apparently of the best of your pasture twenty-six years ago?

38942. That was a more recent period than was spoken of by the last witness?

38943. It was in the time of the late Sir James Matheson?

38944. Are your rents about the same on an average as the rents of the other part of the township spoken of by your friend here?
—Yes. Some of them are higher and some lower.

38945. And no reduction was made when your pasture was taken away?

38946. Was any arrangement made at the time or any remonstrance made by the tenants?
—No, I don't think it.

38947. They submitted quietly to it?
—The factor requested three of them to sign a document giving over their claim, and promised the piece we all occupy between us to the three men if they would sign a document that they had no claim on the rest.

38948. Did they get it?
—No, when they signed it he gave as good a right to the whole as to these three men.

38949. What was the piece of land that these three wished to sign away, provided they got it themselves, and which was afterwards given to the whole of the people that did not sign? Was that the land you complain of as having been taken away from your hill pasture?
—No; the land we now occupy was promised to three men if they gave over their claim to the rest.

38950. But did not you have it before?

38951. Then bow could it be promised to you if it was in your possession?
—They had it already in their possession, but the others had it in possession as well, but the others were not to have it in their possession afterwards.
—William Black The factor could not bribe the others.

38952. Who occupied this bit of land you say the factor tried to bribe the others to give away?
John Ross. The whole tenants.

38953. Then is this the land you complain of as having been taken away?
—Part of it.

38954. Then the factor got those three people to agree to give it away?

38955. And they signed this paper?

38956. And then the land, as I understand, was not given to the three but left with the whole of the crofters?
—Part of it we got back.

38957. But did the document signed by the three crofters refer to this part, or did it refer to the whole?
—To the one part. The half was to be taken off. They were to sign a document that they were willing to give away the half of it, if they got the other half of it among the three of them.

38958. And the result of it was that the half of it was left with the whole crofters, and the three men did not get the other half?

38959. Who got it?
—-The factor and Mr Sellar.

38960. You say one injustice on the estate was that of exacting labour from men without paying them; was that an old practice on the estate?
—No, it was not a practice, but it was done on the estate.

38961. Then if it was done was it the practice?
—It was done once.

38962. Was it constantly done?
—No, it was done once.

38963. You mean in the case of one man or in one year?
—More than one man, but only in one year.

38964. I suppose the people remonstrated against it, and it was not done any more?

38965. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said in your paper that you complained of game?

38966. What is the nature of your complaint? Is it of hares and rabbits?
—No, black game and grouse. The whole of us do not complain of it, but some of us who are near the wood; and in a late season there is a great deal of damage done by game.

38967. Have you any rabbits?

38968. To bring out a little clearer about this land taken from you twenty-six years ago, the factor took it himself?
—Between himself and Mr Sellar.

38969. Had they or either of them land before then in their occupation ?

38970. That was close by your hill land?
—Yes; our hill pasture was between theirs—a strip straight between theirs.

38971. And they thought it would suit them very well, I suppose?
—Yes, and so it did.

38972. Did the factor allege or give any reason why he was doing this against the people, or did he just call the three people quietly together to try and make this arrangement? Did he consult the whole of you about it?
—I am not exactly sure. I was not of age at the time. I have only other men's statements.

38973. What might it be worth to you at this moment —this pasture the half of which was taken away from you?
—It would be worth sixpence an acre to us.

38974. Can you give us any idea how many acres there are in it?
—No; there is a considerable amount.

38975. More than 1000 acres?
—About 1000 acres.
William Black. There are more than 4000 acres—four or five miles of pasture.

38976. Then they took away more than the half?
—Yes, we have only a small piece in comparison to what we had.

38977. [To John Ross],
—Do you carry on any other business besides being a crofter?
—-John Ross. Yes, in labouring work.

38978. Is it you that pays £ 3?
—- Yes.

38979. Are the most of the crofting tenants old possessors of the place? Have they been there from time immemorial?
—Most of them.

38980. Did you make any representation to the late Sir James Matheson, or since his death to Lady Matheson, about your possession, that you are now so very much scrimped for land?
—I did not, but others did.

38981. I mean did the crofters generally do sol
—Yes, to the factor.

38982. What answer did you get?
William Black. We were denied any reduction whatever.

38983. The Chairman.
—You complained about the difficulty of making water-tight roofs for the houses. Is there any rule on the estate about slating?
—No, not any.

38984. Will the proprietor give slates for a certain payment or on certain conditions to the crofters?

38985. There is no rule whatever?
—No. Although you would pay interest for it you will not get it. I have offered that.

38986. Is there any labour now exacted without payment?
—John Ross. No, none whatever.

38987. Are you cognizant of the particular case of the miller who was prevented trenching his ground? Do you know the circumstances of that case?

38988. Can you give any reason why he was prevented; can you imagine any reason? What was the motive of the proprietor in preventing this improvement?
—I think she was of the mind to plant it. That is my belief. She is planting quite close to it.

38989. Now, with reference to planting, the previous witness, I think, mentioned the project of planting as a hardship. Does planting give some occupation to the people?
—It might for a very short time, but that would not last as long as the pasture.

38990. Do the people obtain any permanent employment in connection with the plantations?
—Not any permanent employment.

38991. Are they not employed in thinning and draining the woods at all?
—No, not at all.

38992. Is the proprietor in the habit of giving any wood or branches, or any advantage of that sort, out of the woods?
—They have the advantage of getting some birch.
William Black. Oh, there is nothing whatsoever.

38993. I mean, is the existence of plantations in the country of any use or benefit to the people?
—Well, we are not so much against plantations as we are against deer forests and sheep farming, but at the same time, when it comes to taking away our small piece of pasture, and we think it a great grievance, because, although we get a few days' work there, we lose it altogether in the future.

38994. You would rather see the plantations made upon the farmer's ground than upon your own?
—I believe so, and I think it is but justice to us that are natives of the soil and loyal to our proprietors.

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