ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, Crofter, Ardcromie, Balnagown Estate (69)—examined.
40080. The Chairman.
—You have a statement?
—' I appear as a delegate for the district of Kincardine, on the estate of Balnagown. I have resided in this parish for the period of sixty-eight years. The principal complaints are—
1st, We had been deprived of the use of a large extent of hill pasture which was attached to our crofts, and on which each family had between twenty and thirty sheep. Now we possess none, the pasture being added to a neighbouring farm.
2nd, Our crofts are too small, though there is abundance of moorland in the locality fit for reclamation; but in the absence of a lease we have no encouragement to do so, as our rents would be raised on the termination of the lease of the nearest farm.
3rd, There would be no compensation for any labour or money expended thereon.
4th, That our rents are excessively high. The oniy means we can suggest to ameliorate our
condition are —to have the hill pasture restored to us; assistance from the proprietor in the way of timber, lime, &c, for repairing our dwellings should they become decayed; protection against removal; holdings valued by competent judges in fixing the rent; sheep runs to be broken down, reclaimed and cultivated, where suitable; and that no crofts be added to farms as is contemplated in this parish.'
40081. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—For how many crofters do you appear here to-day?
—Between twenty and twenty-two.
40082. Are they all near each other?
40083. Who wrote this paper; was it one of themselves?
—A lad belonging to the place.
40084. Who has got this large extent of hill pasture which belonged to them?
—Mr Anderson, Kincardine.
40085. Was he there before, or has he only come to the place lately?
—We were there all before him.
40086. Has he got a large place besides what was taken from them?
—Yes, a very large place; a lot of farms.
40087. And he was not satisfied with the lot of farms; he wanted this piece from them?
—That is certain enough.
40088. What has become of the sheep they had?
—We sold them to him.
40089. You were compelled to do so?
40090. Had they heard it was to be taken from them some time before?
—We understood, when Dr Gordon died, who had the farm before, that there was this addition to be made.
40091. Did they not go to Mr Forsyth, the factor, to remonstrate against it?
—Yes, we spoke to him at the time of the settlement, but it was he himself who made the arrangement. He said that we were to have no sheep, unless the farmer of Kincardine allowed us to have them.
40092. Has it been a great loss to them, the taking away of this ground and their sheep?
—Yes, it was the greatest possible loss to us.
40093. Why should the Balnagown estate officials be so hard upon their own old tenants in favour of a new man?
—I cannot answer that.
40094. They would not expect that would be done upon them?
—We would not have thought or believed it.
40095. Has not the general administration of the Balnagown estate been a very mild and humane one?
—It used to be so always.
40096. And has not the present factor been there for a longtime?
—Not very long. I remember a good many factors in my own time.
40097. Do you recollect Mr Williamson?
—Yes, and others before him.
40098. How did they like Mr Williamson?
—I don't know; I was not on the estate at that time.
40099. Your second grievance is, ' Our crofts are too small, though there is abundance of land in the locality fit for reclamation." If it were found necessary to add their old hill pasture to Mr Anderson's farm, is there any other hill land he might give them?
—I don't know that there is any.
40100. Can you tell us what was the extent of the land taken from them?
—I cannot be precise; it was of large extent.
40101. How many sheep would be on it?
—I think it would keep about 200 sheep.
40102. What reduction did they get of the rent?
—No reduction. I was paying £4, 13s. before, and I pay £4, 5s. now.
40103. Were these few shillings taken off at the time the hill ground was taken from them?
—Yes. I don't know if it was so with the rest, but it was so with me.
40104. Whereabout is this hill you refer to; is it far from here?
—Just above the station at Ardgay.
40105. Was it necessary for them to take wintering for their stock, or between their own low grounds and the hill were they able to keep their sheep all the year round?
40106. What is it now that those poor people want; do they want their rents reduced, or to get the land as it was before?
—To get the land as we had it before, and also the right to take in new grounds.
40107. You complain in this paper that they have no leases; had they ever a lease?
—Not when I came.
40108. Supposing they got a lease, or some security in their tenure, are they disposed and anxious to improve the area of the cultivable land?
—We would be. I have reclaimed as much land myself as, if I got paid for it, would pay for the ground.
40109. You say there are twenty-two families in this position; how many souls will there be among them? Will there be 100 at any rate?
—There are some large famdies and others small.
40110. When did this happen?
—About ten years ago.
40111. Was it in the time of Mr Forsyth ?
40112. Has there been a new lease granted to this tenant since the land was taken from them?
40113. And it is now running on?
40114. Where does he live?
—At Bonar Bridge.
40115. The Chairman.
—There are other delegates from the Balnagown estate; are their complaints of the same nature as yours?
—I am not aware there is a difference of complaint.