39589. The Chairman.
—I believe you have got a statement on a particular point connected with what occurred yesterday which you wish to make?
—Yes, I have a short statement to make with reference to the paper read at Golspie yesterday afternoon by the Rev. A. Mackay about the Rogart School Board. I desire, with your Lordship's permission, and in justice to the former members of that board, to submit some facts and dates that, I believe, do not appear in that paper. I have no intention to refer to the larger part of it, so personal to myself, farther than to express my regret that Mr Mackay did not submit those remarks to some minister or gentleman of acknowledged position in the Free Church. Had he done so, I venture to think he would have been advised to withhold it. At the time of the election of the first School Board in 1872, the Free Church of Rogart was vacant, and, in the hope that the vacancy might be filled in time, the election was purposely delayed as long as possible, and was fixed for the 25th June 1873. There was no contest, and the members elected consisted of the Free Church minister, Rev. C. Macdonald; the Free Church minister of Lairg; Mr Sangster, a large tenant farmer; Mr Macpherson, a merchant and crofter, also an office-bearer in the Free Church; and myself, as representing the Duke, who is almost the sole proprietor in the parish. This board, it will be admitted, fairly represented all parties concerned, and I was unanimously appointed chairman. The board devoted much time and attention to the work of introducing the Education Act into the parish, and their recommendations received the approval of the Education Department. During the period of that board's three years' tenure of office the Rev. A. Mackay was' inducted to the vacancy in the Free Church. Mr Macpherson retired from the board, and Mr Mackay, the new minister, was elected in his place. In 1876, the second board was elected without a contest, and consisted of the same members, with one exception; Mr George Barclay, another large farmer, was elected in place of Mr Sangster. In 1879 the third board was elected also without a contest, and consisted of the same persons, with myself as chairman. During that board's tenure of office some considerable discussion took place in reference to the school accommodation in the west side of the parish; and towards the end of the three years Mr Macpherson retired from the board, and Mr D. Menzies, another large farmer, was elected in his place. Without going into unnecessary detail, I believe I am justified, as chairman of the board during those nine years, in stating that their resolutions were the outcome of a sincere desire on the part of all concerned to do the best for the parish, and that these resolutions were approved of by the Education Department. In 1882 a new School Board was elected, consisting of the Rev. A. Mackay, Free Church, Rogart; Rev. J. Macpherson, Free Church, Lairg; Messrs J. Mackay, J. Munro, and A. Brown, crofters:—thus leaving the Duke and the large farmers entirely unrepresented—not in accordance with the principles of the Act. As to the actings of this board I have no desire to say a word. It is to be hoped that, in any future legislation, care will be taken to secure that the interests of proprietors in so important a matter as education shall be more carefully provided for.