Bonar Bridge, Sutherland, 9 October 1883 - George Anderson

GEORGE ANDERSON, Farmer, Kincardine, Balnagown Estate (53)—examined.

40116. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement to make to us?
—Yes. With your Lordship's permission, I would like to state a few facts regarding some of the delegates' statements. The delegate Alexander Campbell, Kincardine Hill, is rather a discontented being, as his neighbours inform me. He came from Culrain estate a few years ago to his present croft on Kincardine Hill, which he got from the late Dr Gordon, who held the lease of Kincardine arable and Badaroou sheep farm, with the tenant's croft combined. At the expiry of Dr Gordon's lease Balnagown took the crofters into their own hands. This delegate, Alexander Campbell, pays to Balnagown a rent of £4, 5s. yearly. He has three cows, a mare, and a foal, and I offered to pay him £3, which I bind myself to give him yearly, for the liberty of my hogs running over his croft from the 20th October to the 10th of March each year; so that his actual rent will be 25s. His nearest neighbour, Kenneth M'Nab, pays to Balnagown a yearly rent of £4, 14s. I agreed with him for his outrun as above at £3, so that his actual rent is 34s. yearly. The other crofters on Kincardine Hill get similar sums from me in proportion to the size of these crofts; so that the rents on the Kincardine crofters are nominal. I cannot see that any of the Balnagown crofters, out from all others, have any cause for complaining, unless the spirit which is ruling our friends on the other side of St George's Channel has entered into them, —that is, to have their land for nothing. Their late proprietor, Sir Charles Ross, as is well known, was most indulgent to all his crofters and cottars; and as for Lady Ross, her generosity to the crofters and cottars on the different parts of her estate is well known. She often visits them, and annually gives them clothing, meal, tea, sugar, &c. The small sheep farm of Badaroon I took from the late Dr Gordon in 1859, who, as he represented to the late Mr Gardener, factor then for Balnagown, could not keep the farm owing to the tenants' sheep eating up his pasture. Mr John Munro, farmer, Fearn, whose hill joined Badaroon and the Kincardine tenants' hill, was in the same predicament. Mr Gardener sanctioned the subletting of the farms to me. I did not hold the farms for any time when I found myself in the same position; and at the expiry of my sublet lease some twelve years ago, I complained to Mr Forsyth, the present factor, that I could not continue as tenant if he did not wire-fence the tenants off me. The tenants' or crofters' rent for years would not cover the expense of a wire fence, so he had in his option to put Sir Charles Ross to this expense, or part with me as a tenant. At a meeting which he held with the crofters they agreeably parted with theirsheep, which I took from them at a mutually agreed on price; and they were granted the grazing of their cattle and horses only in common with me on the hill. But they are as often on my pasture as where they have liberty to go. The Kincardine, &c, farms, which I hold on the Balnagown estate, are much higher rented in proportion to the crofters' holdings. But I presume it will not better me should I give statements to the Commissioners to convince them of my farms being dear. Although it is out of their power to reduce my rents, I hope it will be in their power to get an Act passed this first session that will compensate farmers for improvements done on their holdings during the currency of their lease, when the said improvements are to benefit the estate. I may mention that I have no complaints to make against my proprietor or factor. I made as tight a bargain as I possibly could for all my holdings, and was satisfied it the time that I was entering on a safe investment; and if my holdings are now turning out contrary to what I expected, it is myself and the past bad seasons I have to blame, not the proprietor or factor. The statements I have made as to Kincardine Hill and Badaroon sheep farm apply to the Braelangwell sheep farm which I hold on the Balnagown estate, which is a similar holding in every way. I pay over £1300 of rent on four George different estates, viz., Balnagown, Ardross, Skibo, and Kindeace. From my experience, the factors on each of those estates are judicious men,—stamped with the same iron,—having the laird's interest at heart first, and the tenants' second. This ought to be reversed, and any wee advantages that might creep up should be given to the weaker side. Any remarks by me as to the proprietors are uncalled-for; they are all wellknown gentlemen, and I am sorry to see and hear of complaints made by some delegates and tenants against them, and that by those who have no earthly cause of complaining. I did not intend to trouble the Honourable Commissioners with any statements; but, having heard of meetings being held in our parish, where facts were misrepresented, I prepared the foregoing facts, and trust you will pardon me for encroaching so much on your time.

40117. How long have you been in this country?
—Since I was a boy, forty-eight years ago.

40118. Where did your father come from?
—I cannot say, but originally he belonged to Ross-shire.

40119. Did your father hold farms before you?

40120. You took the farms upon this estate of Balnagown yourself?

40121. The only complaint we have heard mentioned in connection with your farm, or yourself particularly, was this, that a certain portion of the hill pasture belonging to a certain township had been taken away from the township and added to your holding, which was already sufficiently large; was the common pasture taken from the small tenants on your demand?
—It was not taken from them; it was only as regards sheep.

40122. But was a change made?
—I would not hold my sheep farm if they had sheep, for their sheep trespassed into my farm.

40123. Then the delegate who stated that the pasture had been taken away did not explain that the small tenants were allowed to keep cattle and horses?
—Yes, they are; it is only taken from them as far as sheep are concerned.

40124. Well, when they gave up their sheep, were they able to keep more horses or more cattle, or did they only keep the same number?
—They could keep more, and I believe they keep more.

40125. Is there any portion of that pasture which is not appropriated for the pasturing of cattle and horses, but which is appropriated for sheep?
—It is for both. It is no good for sheep, and I have no sheep on it.

40126. I want to know your opinion. Is it just as useful to them to have more horses and cattle on the pasture, or would it be more useful to them to have some sheep?
—Yes, if the sheep strayed upon my land. They would not remain upon their own land. If it was fenced off from me they might hold sheep, but I would not hold the sheep farm and allow them the liberty of trespassing into my ground.

40127. But the ground itself was adapted for sheep?
—No, and I have no sheep on it.

40128. Even if there was a fence, still the ground would not be adapted for sheep?
—It would not.

40129. But still they seem to have kept some, and therefore we may suppose the sheep were of some use to them. Well, you say you could not hold your farm unless it was wire fenced?

40130. You told us you paid in proportion to the value of your respective holdings a higher rent than the small tenants?
—I do.

40131. And, generally speaking, I presume that the proprietors get good rents for their sheep farms?
—In general they do.

40132. Well, as the proprietors benefit by these large sheep farms and get good rents, do you think it would be an unreasonable thing for the proprietor to put up a wire fence between the large farm and the small tenants, so as to avoid all those quarrels and annoyances?
—It would not be unreasonable; it would be just and fair.

40133. Do you think, supposing the proprietor had offered to put up a wire fence, and so make you both contented, that perhaps the small tenants would have helped to carry the materials and to put up the fence?
—Possibly they might.

40134. Did you ever suggest to the factor that he might put the fence up?
—I did.

40135. It is true you suggested it, but you say it was too expensive?

40136. But supposing you had said it was not too expensive, and that it was a reasonable thing for the proprietor?
—He could do it as he pleased himself. He would not do it on my suggestion, but I think it would be quite reasonable.

40137. Since you have been tenant of these sheep farms on the Balnagown estate, hag any other advantage been taken away from crofters and small tenants and given to you at all? Has anything been done for your benefit to their prejudice ?
—Not for my benefit.

40138. No land has been taken from them and given to you?
—No; I am in possession of a stretch of about two miles in length, and 400 yards broad, that I wire-fenced at my own expense; but Balnagown pays for it, I expect, at the expiry of my lease.

40139. So nothing was taken away from the crofters for your convenience?
—The wire fence divided off between me and them, but sheep came at the back of this and strayed into my ground.

40140. When you put up the wire fence was any of their land given to you?
—A part of the hill.

40141. Was their rent reduced?
—I don't think it would require to be reduced. That is a question I cannot answer; the factor could
answer it.

40142. Well, when a piece of pasture was taken from that side and put to your side, did you pay an increase of rent in consideration?
—I did.

40143. But you do not know whether a corresponding decrease was made on their side?
—I cannot answer the question.

40144. Do you generally live on good terms with the crofting population and small tenants?
—Well, I think I do.

40145. Do you employ some of them upon your farm?

40146. You said you were instrumental in reducing their rents in this way, that your hoggs were fed in winter upon their land, and that you gave to one crofter £ 3 , and to another as much?
—Yes; some £6, some £5.

40147. And you rather represented that as a benefit which they derived from you. Now, what I want to understand is this, if they did not feed your sheep, could they put the same land to some other purpose?
—No, unless they let it to some one else for sheep.

40148. They could not use it?
—No. The cattle would not use it in winter. In summer it is different, but in winter they could not use it.

40149. Still, if they did not let it to you, they might let it to somebody else?
—Yes, and that would reduce their rent so much; a man paying £4, 5s. and getting £ 3 from me, only pays £1 , 5s.

40150. How long do the hoggs remain on?
—From 20th October till 10th March.

40151. But if you had not got the facility of feeding your hoggs on their ground, you could not keep them?
—I could keep them somewhere else.

40152. Mr Cameron.
—You said, in answer to the Chairman, that the proprietor could get a good rent for a sheep farm; are you sure? Can a proprietor who has a sheep farm to let now get a good rent for it?

40153. Then you mean that the price was better formerly?
—Yes, ten or twelve years ago.

40154. But now you cannot get a good price?

40155. The Chairman.
—Suppose a good sheep farm was to be out of lease now, one of your own farms, what percentage of reduction would it probably suffer?
—On a £150 rent, I would expect £50 down.

40156. Just 33 per cent.?
—Just one-third.

40157. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What rent are you paying to Balnagown for this land that was taken from the Kincardine tenants ?
—I pay for the whole hill and arable farm—a general rent for the whole farm.

40158. Are you paying anything at all for it?
—Yes, of course.

40159. But you cannot say how much?
—No; it is a general rent for the whole lot.

40160. Now, you have got several farms, you say. When you found you could not carry on this farm at a profit without getting the land of the small people, did it not occur to you that it would be better for you to give up the farm altogether?
—That is a wrong question to put to me. You ask me why wouldn't I give up the farm unless I got the land. I did not want the land.

40161. What did you want?
—I wanted this, that the sheep would not come in upon my pasture. There is no possibility of doing away with them without fencing, or the tenants being deprived of sheep.

40162. Is it the fact that you were dissatisfied with the old state of matters, and you went to the proprietor and talked about a wire fence?
—Dr Gordon complained of it before me, and I threatened to discontinue it too.

40163. Has the fact not been this, that in place of putting up a wire fence, which would cost the proprietor something, you by your action have not put the proprietor to any expense, but are actually paying him a rent, and have deprived those people of their pasture?
—They have their pasture. They have the liberty of the cattle and horses on it, but no sheep.

40164. Can you state now that they are able to make any use whatever in the way of putting extra stock upon that hill, when the hill has been taken from them?
—Well, I don't know.

40165. You put it as a very great act of generosity or favour on your part, that you are paying them so much for wintering. Now, did not they formerly use their own low grounds for wintering their own stock?
—Most of them did.

40166. And do you consider that the sum you are paying them for wintering is equal to the profit they were making off their own sheep?
—It is more.

40167. How do you know that?
—That is my opinion of it.

40168. But, on the other hand, you have heard the delegate to-day say they were very much dissatisfied and were impoverished in consequence?
—How can a man be impoverished with three cows and a horse, and
paying a rent of £ 1 , 5s.?

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