JAMES SUTHERLAND, Labourer, Clash-na-prountenach (63)—examined.
40028. The Chairman.
—Had you ever a croft in former times ?
40029. Have you a statement to read ?
—The Statement of James Sutherland, late of Clash-na-prountenach. My ancestors lived and died at Abercross, in the parish of Golspie, until 1819, when my father was evicted, and his possession was set on fire by Peter Sellar, at the instance of Countess Elizabeth Sutherland. He came to this parish, and bought a liferent lease, granted to John Ross, sawyer, Revra, by Mr William Soper Dempster, proprietor of Skibo, of eight acres of land at Clash-na-prountenach, on the estate of Polrossie. My father built a possession, and entered thereon in 1819, where he continued cultivating, labouring, and improving in a proper and husband-like manner, until his death in 1849, when his widow, and I his heir, were evicted on 22nd of February 1852. I was turned out, my wife, and child two months old, and my mother, under the heavens; the night pouring rain and sleet. All the neighbours were afraid of sheltering us one night, for fear of the factor James Forbes. Next day, I was granted a house and a lot of land by Mr Gilchrist, Ospisdale, at Spinnydale. I entered possession, and collected my things evicted at Clash-na-prountenach. I was driving my manure; but when the Forbeses found that out, their shepherd spread my middens on the land of Clash-na-prountenach. I had a peatstalk; I drove it half a mile out from the possession of Clash-na-prountenach. Next morning, before daylight, it was set on fire by the shepherd's son. I went to Dornoch, and stated the same to the procurator-fiscal, Mr Fraser. His answer was, that it was burnt by order of the factor. He made no prosecution. I thought the fiscal would say it was right, although the factor would order me to be burned in my own heap of peats. A copy of the lease of John Ross, sawyer.
Skibo Castle, 1814.
—I grant you a lease of eight acres of land at Clash-na-prountenach, north-east of Achueladcalcly, in the parish of Creich, on the estate of Polrossie, for nineteen years, and your lifetime —first nineteen years to begin at Whitsunday 1814 —on condition of your paying me, or my legal successor, the sum of Is. sterling per annum for the first three years, 2s. 6d. per acre per annum during the remainder of the nineteen years, and 5s. per acre per annum during your lifetime. But you are not allowed to sub-set the lands, nor any parts thereof, until the whole is sufficiently enclosed, and one-half cultivated, &c
—M. Soper Dempster."
"Skibo Castle, 1819.
—I transfer and assign over to David Sutherland, from Abercross, in the parish of Golspie, all rights and titles of this lease of John Ross, sawyer, Revra, who hath relinquished his lease in favour of the said David Sutherland. He is now bound to perform all its rights and titles, and all arrears of rents that may be due by John Ross."
He outlived my father sixteen years. These are my father's improvements at Clash-na-prountenach. During thirty years he lived there, reclaimed nine acres; 2600 yards of drains overlaid with stone; 1000 yards overlaid with sod; 600 open drains in the land; 460 burn channels; 800 yards sheep drains, to protect the land; applied to the land 100 bolls of lime; dwelling-house fifty-two feet long, twelve feet inside, built of stones and mortar; a barn, thirty-six feet; byre, thirty-six feet; sheep cot, thirty-six feet. All the timber was bought from Mr Dempster Forster, and I never received amelioration, valuation, or compensation. I was robbed of my father's legacy and my own labour for thirty years. I opposed the eviction of Clash-na-prountenach, and produced my documents to Donald Stewart, lawyer, Tain, but I was not able to bring my action to the Superior Court at Edinburgh. I was ejected fifteen years before the expiry of the lease of Clash-na-prountenach.'
40030. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You appear here only to state your own case, and not for any other people'1!
—No, I have the Spinnydale tenants' case to state too.
40031. There is nothing about them in this paper?
—No; it is only my own statement.
40032. What have you to state for those other people?
—I have another case—my second eviction from Spinnydale. In eleven years and three months I was turned out of this second possession I went to. Four or five years after the death of Mr Gilchrist, there
came in a manager on the estate under trustees, and I was turned out. He married a sister of factor Forbes, and six months after that, I was turned out of the possession, and the lot was added to another
40033. How long had you been there?
—Eleven years and three months, and I paid twelve years' rent—£48. I was the loser of three-fourths
of a year of being in possession, and the grazing of two and a half acres was taken from me, and the pasture that was on it; and on 23rd August, this man that got my place, came with his cows to take possession of a bit of the foggage that I had, and he took the land. He had no right to come and take possession of my foggage, for by all rights it was mine. He came when I was threshing barley; but I took the law in my right hand and the flail in my left hand, and I went and gave him a good thrashing, himself and his cows, and he went home with his head bleeding, and he went and sent for a policeman, and I got fourteen days' imprisonment.
40034. How long ago was that?
—In the year 1864. I have never had any land since then, and I never wanted land.
40035. Was there ever any complaint against you before that?
40036. Had you before that given them any reason to complain against you?
40037. Had you paid your rent regularly?
40038. And you have got no land since then?
—No; I did not want it under the system under which they are giving land now.
40039. Where are you living now?
—At Spinnydale, and working sometimes in Ross-shire and sometimes in Sutherlandshire.
40040. You have no land now?
—No, not an inch, only paying a rent of £1 for the house, and keeping the house in thatch myself.
40041. Then what complaint have the other Spinnydale people?
—There are eighteen crofters and seventeen dwellers, that have no land at all. There are thirteen paupers in it, and these tenants are in four different classes. There are three of them that succeeded in getting the lands of their neighbours and their friends. One added five lots, and he is not so badly off; another succeeded in getting four lots added together in a contract of thirteen miles of a road, and he is not so badly off. Another succeeded better than the two, in adding eight or nine together, and he made better than the other two. He has seven cows, when seventeen dwellers have no grass or land that they can keep a goat on. There are other eight of them, and they have those leases for ten years. These have two years to expire, and they have hopes that when they go into the hands of Mr Walker, they will come out paupers or emigrators. There are no other hopes for them. Their hill pasture was taken from them; they would be grazing their cattle 400 yards above my father's house. Clash is behind my father's house, and the cattle were going above his house 400 or 500 yards. My father was entitled and bound to keep it sufficiently enclosed. He would not be preventing the tenant's cattle and horses. Now, since my removal from Clash, they have no right to go over past their own lots, and there is a fence being put on the plantation and that will keep it from cattle and horses. The fence is
no higher than two and a half or three feet. It will keep out their horses and cattle, but it will not keep the deer and the roes out from their crofts. There are plenty deer and roes in the woods, and our potato
crops are eaten by the deer and roes, and they will be howking them out of the ground now, besides taking the crops in the months of May and June.
40042. Has the additional land which has been given to these fortunate men been all taken from their neighbours?
—Yes, this man who had nine got mine added to them. We would be very glad to get land on the right system.
40043. The Chairman.
—What do you think the right system would be?
—Just to get compensation and fixity of tenure, when we would not be afraid of eviction. The law of eviction is the law that ruinates this country. In nine years they will have 15,000 removed from the interior of Sutherland, and during the reign of Charles no more than 30,000 were removed out of the whole of Scotland by Prelacy and Popery.