A. S. BLACK, Commission Agent, Bonar Bridge (59)—-examined.
40069. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to read?
—I may state I have a letter from Mr Hugh Campbell, teacher, Aberdeen Grammar School, enclosing a paper for the Commissioners, and asking me to read it for him if he should not appear, and intimating that, if the Commissioners desire to cross-examine him, he will appear at Inverness on the following Saturday. His paper is as follows :
—' I have been elected a delegate for Creich, as I am the executor of the late Donald Fraser,farmer and miller at Uigdale, whose ancestors had occupied the farm of Milton for many generations, and who was evicted under exceptionally painful circumstances in 1877. The landlords of Creich differ from those of the west of Scotland, inasmuch as they do not and never did occupy the position of chieftains of clans, nor do the crofters here represent clansmen connected with the soil from immemorial antiquity. Tradition has it that the lands of Skibo were church lands previously to the Reformation; and that when the Bishop of Caithness was compelled to flee from his diocese during the Reformation struggle, Gray, the constable of Skibo, quietly secured for himself what he had previously defended for the bishop, and from being constables, the Grays thus became owners of Skibo. From the Grays this estate passed, about the beginning of last century, into the hands of the Mackays, and about the middle of last century, when Skibo was in the possession of Captain Donald Mackay of Scourie, the ancestors of the late Donald Fraser settled in Creich. Like many more of the Creich crofters, the Frasers hailed from Easter Ross. In 1785, the late John Fraser, on his return from the American war, where he had served, took by valuation the mill and lands of Milton of Migdale, the croft attaching to the mill at that time consisting of a few patches of arable land, and about fifty acres of waste land. In the following year (1786), the estate of Skibo was purchased by the late distinguished agriculturist, George Dempster of Dunnichen, the patron of Jamieson, and the founder of the British Fisheries Society. It was the policy of " Honest George Dempster" to encourage the tenants on his estate, and to improve the agriculture of the district. The crofters were encouraged to build good houses and fences. If they made good efforts to improve their holdings, a most satisfactory form of tenure was granted to them. The result of this was that a number of the Migdale tenants, led by John Fraser, Milton, succeeded in obtaining in 1798 a perpetual lease of their holdings. The original tack is in my possession. It granted perpetual tenure, with a readjustment of rent by valuation on the death of each successive tenant. Besides John Fraser, there were Robert Gordon, Alexander Leith, A. S. Black, Robert Mackenzie, John Leith, George Campbell, Hugh Matheson, and Alexander Chisholm, tenants in the township of Uigdale, who got leases on the same terms :
—" With power to them and each of them to improve as much waste land on their respective farms as they or either of them pleases, for which no additional rent shall be exacted from them during their lives, it being specially agreed on that when any of the tenants die, the tenant so dying is at liberty to leave his farm to any member of his family he pleases, by his will, provided he (the deceasing tenant) shall have enclosed his farm and built thereon a dwelling-house and offices of stone and lime, and covered the same with any other materials than divots, viz., with slate, or heather, or thatch; it being agreed that at the time of the tenant's decease two arbiters, mutually chosen by the new tenant and the landlord (or factor), shall value the farm to be entered on, and whatever rent they fix shall be the rent of the new tenant during his life, the new tenant to have the same liberty like his predecessors to enclose and cultivate the waste land, and on the same terms," &c. The proprietor reserved his rights to waste or common lands, which he might enclose for planting or for setting to other tenants, but until such lands were enclosed or settled on, they remained as common for the tenants both for grazing and fuel. The proprietor further bound himself to supply timber of the Skibowoods for building purposes, and for implements of husbandry, the tenant to pay the expense of cutting the timber. These liberal and enlightened terms were granted at Dunnichen in 1798. In 1802, the great George Dempster sold Skibo to his brother, John Hamilton Dempster, who entailed the estate, and died soon after. He was succeeded by his daughter, Harriet Dempster, who had married Mr William Soper, of the East India Company's Service. Mr Soper assumed the name of Dempster, and undertook the management of his wife's estate, but he adopted a different policy from George Dempster of Dunnichen. John Fraser, Milton, died in 1810, and was succeeded in terms of the tack by his son Hugh Fraser, the rent being readjusted by valuation. Hugh Fraser occupied the farm from 1810 until his death in 1876. During his occupancy the farm was greatly improved, large tracts of waste land were converted into arable, and new buildings and mills were erected. But the policy of the estate officials was now to reverse the liberal policy of George Dempster, and, if possible, recall the privileges that had been granted. In 1818, Mr Soper Dempster wrote a holograph letter to Hugh Fraser, offering meliorations for all buildings made during his lifetime, in the event of his being removed from the farm. Hugh Fraser was then lured into renouncing his perpetual tenure for a life tenure, and renouncing his claims on account of stone fences and trees, though a special promise had been given as early as 1804 that compensation for these would be given. The bait took, though the dreadful consequences were not to follow until sixty years had elapsed. William Soper Dempster appears to have received promises and renunciations from the tenants in return for promises on his part, and while their tenants were bound by their engagements, the Dempster family declined to be bound by the engagements of William Soper Dempster, as he was not the owner of the estate. The result was that the splendid tack of 1798 became a dead letter, while Hugh Fraser and his son Donald Fraser went on improving the farm in the belief, natural in the circumstances, that they were in possession of perpetual tenure, subject to the conditions of the tack. When Hugh Fraser died in 1876, there were a substantial dwelling-house, offices, and mills, with the most improved machinery on the farm, built with the knowledge and consent of the landlord, the timber being supplied off the estate. The buildings were valued by a judicial valuator in 1878 at £899, 15s.; there had been twenty acres of waste land improved at say £300; about 3000 yards of dykes had been built at £220, and trees worth £80 had been planted by Hugh Fraser. Altogether the improvements were worth £ 1500, and these had been executed on the faith of absolute fixity of tenure according to the tack. When Hugh Fraser died in 1876, Mr Walker of Skibo, who had acquired the estate by purchase in 1872, declined to pay meliorations, and raised an action of removing against Donald Fraser, the heir at law. The letter of 1818 decided the fate of Fraser. Decree of removal was obtained to take effect on 15th October 1877. The shock was so great, and the idea of removing so unexpected, that Fraser's health gave way, and he died broken-hearted on the 14th October 1877, the day before he should have had to remove from the home of his fathers. The executors of Donald Fraser raised an action in the Court of Session for £1000 of meliorations and expenses, but fearing the uncertain consequences of so doubtful an issue, they accepted a compromise of £300 paid in full of all claims. Donald Fraser having occupied Milton for a year after his father's death, in the belief that he succeeded according to the original tack, had to defend an action for damages at the instance of Mr Walker. Damages were given which, with expenses, amounted to £118, 9s. 5d. The expenses of the litigation amounted to £178, 19s. 2d., so that the net result was that the widow and orphan obtained instead of the £1500, to which they were in equity entitled, the sum of £2, 11 s . 5d. I may add, that the farm was let at an advance of £52, 10s. of rent. I may be allowed to state, that I consider Mr Walker was perfectly justified, in all the steps he took, as far as the law was concerned. But I hold that it is monstrous that in our country there should exist a system of land laws whereby such a chain of events as those narrated above could be at all possible. I shall conclude by stating my views as to the remedies required at present for the existing state of things. To my mind what is required is to deal with crofters on the lines of George Dempster's tack of 1798 :
—As to tenure, let there be continuity with periodical readjustment of rents. It was the belief in the continuity of his tenure that made Hugh Fraser increase the value of his holding 800 per cent. I believe his successor has very precarious tenure, and that as a consequence the farm wears a very different aspect. There is no inducement to him to improve.
2.Rents fixed by arbitration.
—I should follow George Dempster also in the manner of fixing the rents. A cheap mode of settling land transactions is the interest of landlord and tenant alike. The expense of Donald Fraser's litigation was over £200 to lawyers alone. If the sheriff granted certificates as land valuators to men of skill and experience in each parish, and if their scale of fees were regulated as those of lawyers by the Court of Session, a cheap method of valuation might be instituted.
3. Size of holdings.
—The holdings referred to in the tack of 1798, varied from thirty acres to fifty acres (enclosed), and excluding commonty. That may be accepted as a good average even now. I ascribe the present discontent in the Highlands not so much to failure of crops, as to the fact that the standard of comfort among the people is rising. When I was a boy the only light used iu many a crofters house was faggots of bog fir; now they use candles and paraffin oil. In dress the change is even more striking. This change is surely not to be deplored, and it is necessary for the landlords and the country to recognise that the old state of matters cannot possibly be reverted to. The size of the holdings must be increased in order that the people may live. In this connection, I may state, that I consider emigration, judiciously carried out, and accompanied with proper migration, ought to be for the advantage both of those that go and of those that remain
4. Hill pasture.
—Yet once more, the Dempster tack secured hill grazing and peat fuel to the tenants. This is absolutely necessary for the crofter if his position is to be tolerable. I can see little to excuse those landlords who have deprived their tenants of hill grazing and even of peat ground. The hill was certainly commonty at no very remote date. If Her Majesty's Commissioners were to order a complete return of the titles to all the hill country and deer forests in Scotland, and if this return were set before the public, a valuable body of information would be placed in the hands of those who study the land question. It would very likely be seen that many who deprived crofters of hill pasture had themselves but a shadowy right to the " everlasting hills."
—During the sixty-six years that Hugh Fraser occupied Milton, the average of his assessments for schoolmaster, stipend, and poor, may be set down at 3s. 6d. per annum. His successor has to pay local rates to the amount of about £6, i.e., an increase of 3500 per cent The average increase in the Highlands, though not nearly so high as this, is yet most oppressively high. It is a peculiarity of local taxation, that it is heaviest in those districts that are least able to bear it. In many parishes in Sutherland the school rate is over Is. 2d. per pound. I hold that the causes of the present distress are—
(1) That the standard of comfort is raised owing to increased intercourse with the south.
(2) The oppressiveness of local rates.
(3) The agricultural depression or bad seasons.
The remedy I propose is to tax deer forests and shooting rentals, and apply the tax to the relief of local rates. A tax of 10 per cent, on shooting rentals, and of 20 per cent, on deer forest rentals, would in the main fall to be paid by the lessee, who is usually a wealthy man coming to enjoy a luxury on account of which the community suffer. It is very improbable that such a tax would appreciably affect the rentals. The proprietor, as well as the crofter, would reap the benefit of the relief to the rates. In this connection I would also urge strict valuation of mansion houses and shootings, retained in the hands of the proprietor.' That is Mr Campbell's paper, and I hand in a copy of the tack to which it refers.
40070. The paper you have read to us has particular reference to a lease to the tenant of a mill, and a subject of such considerable value as hardly to bring it within the limit of our inquiry into the condition of the crofters; but we see here that there are other questions respecting leases which have been lost, perhaps in a similar manner, called the Craggandhu lease and the Tulloch lease. Have any of these leases reference to parties in the condition of small tenants and crofter?
—They are all small tenants—simply crofters. I refer to it in my own paper, if I am to be allowed to read it.
40071. Has that paper which you are about to read reference to a crofter's holding ?
40072. Could you state the substance of these leases verbally without reading them ?
—I was going to state this, that as regards the Craggandhu lease there were twelve tenants; the Tulloch lease, nine tenants; the Migdale lease, eight tenants; making twenty-nine. There were thirty
tenants who accepted those leases, and this lease is dated 1798.
40073. Are all those leases you refer to leases granted by the Dempster family at that period?
40074. With reference to small tenants?
40075. Have the heirs of those small tenants forfeited the advantages of those leases entirely?
—I was going to explain that. Only one tenant now holds by the Tulloch lease, and three under a similar lease of 1797. All the others have either been wheedled or wriggled out of them. The way in. the Tulloch lease appears to have been by adjusting marches between tenants, and, secondly, by fixing the rents. The marches no doubt required it, and then the factor straightened the marches, and by-and-by he fixed a new rent without employing a mutual valuer at all. This went on, and in effecting those changes the lease was first tacitly ignored, then repudiated, and by-and-by thrown overboard. The result has been that ninety-five tenants have been evicted from their possessions and stripped of the fruits of the labour of generations. They made the poor tenants believe that when the slightest change was made on the march they should have a fresh lease; or they flattered the poor tenants in this way
—' We need not be at the trouble of employing valuators. Will you be satisfied with such a rent?' That vitiated the lease; and to go to litigation is ruination to the tenants. That is the way they were wheedled out of those leases.
40076. Will you read us an individual case illustrating the general system ?
—"Well, the great grievance is the high rents, rack rents. The present rental of five farms formed on the foundation of those clearances, viz., Balblair, cleared of fourteen tenants; Fload, of ten; Little Creich, of six; Achany, of eight; and Clash-na-prountenach, of nine, amounts to £735; and if you add to this £223, Is. 6d. for the rental of three more farms formed by Mr Sutherland Walker by further clearances, viz., Swordale of six tenants, Moinghaor of seven, and Clashnashiuaig of three, you have £958, 15s. 6d,
40077. You are going on now to a different question, that is, the excessive rental upon the consolidated farms?
—I wish to show the industry of the people who had those leases. From this deduct the twentieth part as the annual value of the land as waste, and you have £910, 16s. 9d. as the annual income derived from the accumulated industry of these tenants during fifty years or so. This sum capitalised at thirty years' purchase gives £27,325, 2s. 6d.. or an average of £133, 14s. 7d. for each tenant, as an approximation to the amount of compensation justly due him, consistent with the provisions of this old lease, before he could be evicted. On the same principle, the following statement shows the accumulated industry of all the tenants on the estate, on account of the security held by them under these leases. The total rental of Skibo by the valuation roll of 1882-3 is as follows:—
Within the parish of Creich: £2712, 12/10
Within the parish of Dornoch: £1636, 18/8
Subtotal: £4349, 16/6
From this deduct for fishings:
Shootings being unlet: £353, 0/0
From this deduct for mussel scalps: £100, 0/0
Ditto For mansion house: £150 0/0
Ditto For home farm: £160, 0/0
Ditto For Skibo School: £11, 0/0
Subtotal: £774, 0/0
Leaves: £3575, 16/6
Add rental of Balblair, as once forming part of Skibo estate: £570, 12/0
Less rent of mansion house and shootings: £210, 0/0
Subtotal: £360, 12/0
Leaves: £3936, 8/6
Then deduct the whole rental of the estate in 1783, as per Statistical Account referred to: £750, 0/0
And you have the sum of £3186, 8/6 as representing the annual value of the accumulated industry of all the tenants, within a period of ninety years, or rather during the first fifty years of the century, for all the improvements that have been done since. This sum at thirty years' purchase will give £95,592, 15s. This has been brought about, if we are to believe what some say, by a lazy class of people who must have their dram at any price. However, it is a grand result, and in the face of it, what madness on the part of a proprietor to banish such vast producing forces from his estate, so long as there is the size of a croft left unimproved among his glens, and so many hands willing to do it, and that not for money, but simply if they get security for their industry. And what infatuation in a nation to allow it ! There is plenty of land as good as that which has been reclaimed, patent to any one who opens his eyes to see it. The number of families evicted within the last fifty years or so was—
by Mr Dempster, 95;
by Mr Sutherland Walker, 35;
by Mr Chirnside, 2;
and by Mr Hadwen, 2
The number of crofters on the Creich part of the estate at present is 125, in Dornoch part 12. Assuming that the evictions in the latter was in proportion equal to those in the other, then, as there are now 137 crofters, there would have been 147 evicted. Of the ninety-five families evicted by Mr Dempster, twelve went to America, six settled down in the neighbouring parishes, and five scattered over the country, all the rest squatted here and there, chiefly on the moors and fens on the estate. From this it may be roughly assumed that the crofters on the estate when Mr Dempster sold it, were the descendants of those evicted, for all the difference the few families that left the estate and those that may have been left undisturbed in their possessions would make. If this be so, then the right of those tenants or their interest in the land, in common justice, amounts to the sum of £95,592, 15s. already stated. This may well raise the question as to which is the owner —the man who pays from 10s. to 60s. per acre to buy the land, or the man who lays out from £15 to £30 to improve it. There should be no doubt at all events as to who should be the senior partner. It is said by some that the crofters of the present day, that is the descendants of the evicted crofters, are better off than the crofters of the olden time. If that be so, then it has been for their good that they have been stript of the fruits of the industry of generations. To this it should be a sufficient reply to say, that the holders of this doctrine should have no objection to undergo the same process. As a proof of their assertion, they refer to the condition of the crofters of Sutherland, meaning by that the results of what is known by the ' Sutherland Clearances.' These supply no proof. It is well known that the house of Sutherland ever since, down to the present Duke, has put forth splendid efforts to efface the evil consequences of what happened at the beginning of the century. But the great grievance of the day is that evictions are being carried on continuously in the face of a country's verdict against them, and in contrast to what the Duke has been doing; and the crying grievance of the tenants on Skibo estate is that they are being evicted for the second time, and from the second homes they have made for themselves among the moors and fens, and that by means of rack-rents three times screwed on —1st, by Mr Dempster a little before he sold the estate, again by Mr Chirnside before he sold it, and, for the third time, by Mr Sutherland Walker soon after he bought it. The truth of this will appear from the following comparisons and statements :
—There is only one township of crofters on the Duke's ground in this parish. It contains thirteen tenants, and between there they have seventeen ponies, thirty-nine cows or their equivalents with their followers, and 200 sheep, for a rent of £60; whereas the same number of tenants in Migdale district, as recently rented by Mr Sutherland Walker, have only fifteen ponies, twenty-seven cows or their equivalents with their followers, for a rent of £139, 5s., and no sheep at all. The rents of four of these were raised the other year —one from £ 5 to £7, 10s., with one pony and one cow; a second from £5 to £7, 15s., with one pony and one cow; a third from £5 to £7, 10s. with one pony and one cow; and the fourth from £8 to £12, 10s. with two cows or their equivalents with their followers. One of these tenants offered the proprietor to buy the seed, labour the land, tend the crops, harvest it, and then hand over the whole produce to him as rent, on condition that he would be allowed to remain in the house, which he built at his own expense. This offer was honestly made, but it was not accepted. The rise and progress of the rental of this district is as follows :—
Holding under Mr Chirnside’s leases not yet expired: 8 tenants
Cows or their equivalents and followers: 22
Number of ponies: 10
Old Rent about 1853: £46, 0/0
As raised by Mr Dempster about 1863: £65, 0/0
As raised by Mr Chirnside about 1865: £95, 15/0
As now raised by Mr Sutherland Walker: £95, 15/0
Holding under Mr Sutherland Walker’s leases and as rented by him: 22 tenants
Cows or their equivalents and followers: 38
Number of ponies: 22
Old Rent about 1853: £77, 13/0
As raised by Mr Dempster about 1863: £84, 14/0
As raised by Mr Chirnside about 1865: £107, 4/0
As now raised by Mr Sutherland Walker: £139, 11/0
Cows or their equivalents and followers: 60
Number of ponies: 32
Old Rent about 1853: £123 13/0
As raised by Mr Dempster about 1863: £65, 0/0
As raised by Mr Chirnside about 1865: £95, 15/0
As now raised by Mr Sutherland Walker: £95, 15/0
That is a fair specimen of what has been done over the whole estate. If, after all, the crofters are somehow or other better off now than they were long ago, then how much more would this be the case, if they had been left undisturbed in their possessions? But they are not better off. Modern inventions and discoveries, no doubt, brought us all alike many comforts, and made us all better off. In that sense the crofters are better off. In that sense they are better off than ever Job was at his best. In that sense our paupers are better off, but they are paupers still. But have the crofters kept pace with the other industries of the county; are they still on the same platform in the social scale with the artizan or ordinary tradesman? Is there not a deep and a wide gulf between them and the second class farmer?, let alone the big farmers, that is most undesirable. Had they been left to enjoy the fruit of their industry, why should they not to-day be like the tenants of Strathrusdale on Ardross estate, who are no longer crofters but farmers; or, like the descendants of the old crofters of Strathspey, who have developed their crofts into farms and themselves into farmers, and now largely supply the Highlands and Islands with Gaelicspeaking ministers for the Established Church of Scotland? But the crofter of to-day must toil on all the year round, except a short time in winter, at the rate of twelve hours a day, in order to make both ends meet. But it may not be correct to say that Mr Sutherland Walker ever evicted one tenant from the estate, for he offered them all leases, and regretted very much that they did not accept of them. Here is a specimen of the conditions of set—
A crofter is offered a lease of ten years for his croft of ten acres at a rent of £14, being £2, 15s. of an increase on the old rent; but in addition he had to pay £203, 15s. within the first five years as a premium. This premium consisted of the following items:—
1. To improve 2 ½ acres = one-fourth the size of the croft—trenching, draining, and clearing —would, at £20 per acre, if done according to estate regulations, cost . . . . . £50 0/ 0
2. To build a new house and farm offices, the old house being quite good and now bringing in rent to the proprietor, . . . . £100 0/ 0
3. To remove or bury the stones of the old march dyke, 150 yards at Is. 6d., . . . £11 5/ 0
4. To build 200 yards of new stone dyke, at Is. 6d.. £15 0/ 0
5. To forego his right to the yard-manure of the last year of the lease = to the straw of four acres, . £10
6. To forego his right to the straw of five acres as outgoing tenant, . . . . £12 10 / 0
7. To forego his right to 2½ acres of second year's grass, . , . . . . 5 0/ 0
Total £203 15 0
That was the way the tenants of Swordale were evicted. But it may be argued that a proprietor has a right to do with his land what he pleases—to go to the open market and get the best rent he can for it, the same as for a house or a horse. No doubt the law has been so administered as to give him that right, but, for all that, it is outrageously unjust, so far as the crofters are concerned. It is an easy matter for an outsider, with the fruit of his labour in his pocket, to outbid the old tenant, the fruit of whose labour and that of his father it may be is still in the soil. Mr Sutherland Walker did get the rent he wanted for Swordale from a hotel-keeper in the village, but he did not get his other conditions. The tenants would give the same rent. The leases, the ten years' leases of Mr Sutherland Walker, and those granted by Mr Chirnside, on the townships of Slearderdh, Migdale, Badbea, and Tulloch, containing fifty-two tenants —will be out in Whitsunday 1885 and 1886, and in all likelihood the tenants will be treated as those of Swordale have been, unless the result of this inquiry will prevent it. But in case the statement regarding the Swordale tenants be considered as exaggerated, I beg to produce two leases to show that that is not so. They refer to two crofts which happened at the time to be held by one family, and they still are so. The family consisted of the father and daughter and the daughter's husband. The young crofter married the old crofter's daughter, and this union having taken place the union of crofts followed. The old crofter took in every bit of his croft himself, and built a substantial house on it, which is there still as a memorial of the old man's industry, who died a year or two ago. I also produce a claim for compensation by one of the Swordale tenants amounting to £174, 10s., which the proprietor repudiates. The estimate that some people form as to what a Highlander is and what he is entitled to is very ungenerous, to say the least of it. Here are some suggestions which the Highlanders of this district wish to make as their estimate of what their requirements are, and what they should be considered justly entitled to, and which are at the same time fair and just to the proprietor, and moreover simple and practicable in their nature :—
1. The crofts as now held to be the basis to start from, with improvable waste land added where practicable, until the area within the marches of the croft reaches from fifteen to fifty acres or more
—the big farms to be left with their old or natural boundaries, with due regard to the amenities of the locality.
2. The rents to be fixed by valuators mutually chosen as soon as possible, and afterwards at the end
of every twenty-five or thirty years. The tenant to receive a certificate showing the extent of his improvements and the amount of compensation due thereon at the end of each period. Litigation in every case that may arise between the proprietor and tenant to be excluded.
3. The crofter to be entitled to will his interest in the croft or to dispose of its privileges to any member of his family or any other person he pleases, and, in the event of his dying intestate, his heir-at- law to succeed him.
4. The proprietor to have the right of feuing any croft or part of a croft, without consent of the crofter, for building purposes or for erecting manufacturing establishments, on due compensation being made for buildings and other improvements made by the crofter.
5. Provision to be made for settling additional tenants on the improvable waste land where there may be room, and for this purpose that kind of land should be lined off as soon as possible into lots. Provision also should be made for adjusting and straightening marches between crofts when and where necessary, compensation in such cases to be fixed by arbitration.
6. Club farms on the principle of joint stock companies, where practicable, should be formed of the unimprovable waste land, or other waste land, so long as it remains unappropriated as crofts. These,
if possible, should not be less than what might be sufficient to keep 400 or 500 sheep. The tenants to be entitled to plant belts for shelter, and the same to count as improvements. All the grazing-farms on the estate of Skibo are at present vacant, and conveniently situated, and very suitable for such farms.
7. The proprietor to have the right of enclosing for planting any part or the whole of the unimprovable land, on due reduction of rent being made, if occupied as a club farm. But after twenty-five or thirty years from the date of enclosing it, such plantations to be thrown open for pasture in connection with the crofts as before. Grown-up woods in the neighbourhood of tenants should never be reserved for deer forests, except in the immediate vicinity of the mansion house, and then they should be so effectually enclosed as to preclude every possibility for the deer to molest the tenants' crops. Besides the great waste of good grass, they are a continual source of annoyance to the well-disposed, and tempt the unscrupulous to be more unscrupulous still.
8. The tenant's capital. This is at hand, and will be forthcoming regularly by instalments from year to year. Bad years may, for a time, render it unprofitable, but never exhaust it. Once seven years of famine tried it hard, but eventually it triumphed. But the deposit-money is wanted to set the machinery in motion —that is, the borrowing powers necessary for the system. The capital is the bone and sinew of the crofter. Every ploughman or labourer to-day is worth from £40 to £50 a year, that is equal to a capital of £800 or £1000. Then a crofter from forty-five to sixty years, with two sons from eighteen to thirty years, represent an income of £120 to £150 a year, to be expended on the croft. But these require, while they are working, the means of subsistence, and therefore it is proposed that loans should be made to such as may require them, to the extent of the cost of improving the first twelve acres, but in no case to exceed £15 the acre for trenching, draining, and clearing, and £ 3 , 10s. extra per acre for liming, —the loan, with interest, to be repayable in thirty or fifty years, or sooner, at the option of the crofter, as he may be able. But who is to lend the money? Some of the proprietors may not be able to do it. But might not some of the working-man's savings be diverted to this purpose—would it not be a fitting thing that the funds of the working-man's bank should be applied for promoting the welfare of his class—might not the National Security Savings Bank be adapted for this
by being made lenders as well as receivers, under the supervision and direction of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt? Why should not small tenants be assisted, in their measure, on the same principle, and with the same security, as the proprietors have been. These are the suggestions the crofters of this district desire to offer as a basis for settling the crofters' question among them; and they consider them fair and reasonable, and such as should satisfy all parties every where. Surely such a settlement as this is not too much for the Highlander to expect from his country, after all the oppression and injustice he has so nobly borne for generations past. Give him this—it is all in the lines of the old lease previously referred to. Give him fair play and no favour, and leave him alone, and you will thus make him at once his own employer and his own banker. You will:
(1) help him to improve as much land as will produce as much food as will support the family; you will
(2) supply him with convenient work all the year round for many years to come, the fruit of which will be invested in a bank safer than the Bank of England and its dividends much larger; and you will
(3) form a splendid nursery of the noblest peasantry in the world for our colonies—well trained in every respect, morally and physically. By no system can waste land be improved more cheaply nor more profitably than by the crofter system. What the crofters have done on the Skibo estate is sufficient proof of that. There is evidence enough in this district to show what Highlanders will do when they have protection for their industry; and there is also evidence to show what some of them may do without such protection. There is a crofter within 600 yards of this (Bonar Bridge) who built a fairly comfortable house, and improved four or five acres of moorland about it, the cost of which to-day would exceed £200. If he had that sum in the savings bank he would consider himself a rich man; but he has it not there; he has it in the landlord's bank, and for that privilege he must pay a rent-tax for it of £4, 5s. There is another within the same distance, who, with his three grown-up sons, after earning their day's wages, may be seen on a summer evening, working up to ten o'clock, adding to their croft. And another within sight of this, whose father was evicted twice, and he himself evicted twice afterwards, yet, nothing daunted, settled down about sixteen years ago on a bit moorland, and took in six acres of it, and reared a family of eleven—five daughters and six sons. Two of the sons learned trades, and one of them holds an appointment in a bank in England. That is something like the stuff the Highlanders are made of. It is an easy matter to say that they are lazy, and to say every other bad thing about them, if they are in your way and you want to get quit of them. These are the arguments used against the Red Indians of America. The Highlander is not Lazy, but he refuses to be a serf—he refuses to be treated as a Red Indian, but insists on being a man, and as good a man at least as his oppressor. No man has a right to traduce his character in that sense until he sees to it that justice is done to him. Give him what he now wants, and he will come to the front at home as he does abroad, in spite of all difficulties; and if he does not, then why not? The reason cannot be in himself; it must be somewhere else. I have been coming in daily contact with his class for the last forty years, and I venture to say that a more industrious and sober class of people there is not on the face of the earth, notwithstanding all that friends and foes have said and written against them. I have now shortly to refer to the other proprietors in the district prescribed for me.
—1. Reference has already been made to the efforts put forth by the Duke of Sutherland for improving the condition of matters on his estate. These have not always been directed for the permanent benefit of the crofters. This is specially true so far as the vast expenses and extensive reclamations in Lairg are concerned. But his Grace has raised the hopes of the small tenants very much by announcing his intention of breaking down some of the large sheep runs into small farms, and they hope that a fair trial will be given to that system, and in order to that they would suggest that experiments should also be made in this neighbourhood, near the railway and market towns; and they think Achindrich and Strathcarnock suitable fields for the purpose. They are confident that the results will be satisfactory as regards the welfare of the tenants, and increase of rents in due time for the proprietor.
2. Ospisdale, with forty crofters; one ordinary farm and the home farm. The proprietor, Mr Gilchrist, is known to be kind and considerate towards his tenants. Some evictions took place on the Spinningdale portion of the estate and one in Ansdale, and some voluntary removals from Ospisdale Moor, on account of the rents being considered too high. But these rents were fixed, and the evictions took place under the factor that was appointed during the proprietor's minority. Two evictions happened under his father; they were cases where the tenants took up an themselves to differ from the laird, and that is always a serious crime. On Ardeens and Ansdale, which are by far the most important townships on the estate, the tenants are hopefully improving their holdings, under their second lease of nineteen years. Three crofts, however, in these parts, have been mentioned as being too highly rented; and unquestionably they are so. They are too high up, like eyries in the rock. The tenants of two of these improved every bit of their crofts. These cases must have happened more without the knowledge than with the intention of the proprietor; and if the tenants would state their grievances fairly before him, they would no doubt be redressed.
3. Balblair, with twenty-two crofters and two farms. The proprietor, Mr Hadwen's, treatment of his tenants is considered kind, but not considerate. He refuses them leases, and expressly discouraged
them from making any improvements; but the rents are easy. About two years ago he became an invalid, and committed the management of his estates to one of his tenants, who acted as the factor. Since then five grievances have been recorded against this management—
(1) A tenant was forcibly evicted from an estate recently acquired on the other side of the Kyle, where he and his father before him lived for the previous seventy years.
(2) Another from Maikle, on the estate of Balblair, for using the well water that supplied the family since 1806. This family was very helpful to the poorer tenants on the estate in supplying them with meal, seed oats, and potatoes, in time of need, and never pressed them for payment.
(3) A case of litigation against a poor woman for a ton or two of straw, which must have cost as much money as would buy all the straw that grows on the estate twice over.
(4) The roads leading to their peat moss through the woods were shut up and the public excluded, after having the use of them from time immemorial.
(5) Undue influence was brought to bear on the tenants at the last election of the School Board. The gamekeeper was sent round twice, in the name of the proprietor, to tell them to vote for the factor« and a lawyer from Tain was employed to lead them to the poll, and to see that they did their duty.
40078. By whom was this paper drawn up, especially that part which has the information as to leases?
—All the information was collected at a series of meetings of the tenants. They supplied me with the information, and I made it up.
40079. Can you supply me with a copy of the old Dempster lease?
—I produce a copy.