KENNETH MACKAY, Factor and Hotel-Keeper, Portinleck—examined.
40169. The Chairman.
—Do you wish to make a statement in consequence of something which occurred yesterday ?
—Yes. Balblair Estate, Ross-shire.
—Statement of Kenneth Mackay, as acting for Sidney Hadwen, Esq. of Balblair, Reilonie, &c.
(1) The statement of Alexander Ross alias " Bard" is utterly unfounded. It became evident that he could not cultivate his croft, for which he paid £ 8 per annum, and that he was allowing the land to go to ruin. Upon seeing this, the proprietor requested me to intimate to him that he would get three acres of land, the grazing of a cow, timber to put his house into a better state of repair, and also to be paid £12 for every acre that he would reclaim in the immediate neighbourhood of his house; .the object of this was to provide constant employment for him at home. All this he was to get during his lifetime rent free, and without any charge for interest on the money to be paid to him for reclamation. But he refused this offer, and tried to put the proprietor to defiance. Hence we had to resort to legal measures.
(2) Adam Mackay has been crofter at Easter Relonie, and occupied one half of the township. When Mr Hadwen bought the estate this person thought that he would keep the other tenants under subjection to him. He went the length of preventing the other two tenants from carting manure or anything else to their lands. He closed up the public road against them, so that they could not cultivate their crofts, and altogether the quarrel between these people, for which Mackay was alone responsible, proved so very annoying that the proprietor was obliged to remove him for the sake of peace. His land was given to the other two tenants.
(3) The statements made by Black, the delegate from Bonar, regarding Margaret Matheson and Widow Alexander Murray are most inaccurate. The proprietor did not wish to remove Margaret Matheson, but he found it necessary to use legal measures to reinstate her brother, who had been turned out of the house by her and her brother-in-law. The proprietor was aware that Margaret's brother had made most of the improvements on the buildings and on the croft, and he considered it very wrong that he should be rejected and another person admitted, especially in view of the fact that this person had nothing'whatever to do with the place, and that the proprietor for sufficient reasons did not consider him a desirable tenant. In these circumstances, Margaret was informed that she would require to remove her brother-in-law and his family, and restore the possession to her brother, and that he and she would be allowed to remain joint tenants as formerly. This offer she declined, and she was then removed and her brother put in. This was done by the proprietor as a simple act of justice to a man who he considered was very much wronged. With regard to Widow Alexander Murray, in the former proprietor's time (Mr Dempster of Skibo), the whole of the Maikle tenants were prohibited from having access to the plantations, and as shown by these leases had to keep the one half of the fences in repair. During suitable weather, in the harvest time, they got the privilege of carting their peats through the plantation, each party being responsible for the gate opposite their land. This privilege was abused by the tenants grazing cattle, horses, and sheep, as well as by taking other liberties in the plantation; the proprietor was therefore obliged to have the gates locked and the keys handed to the keeper, with instructions to allow each tenant at the proper season to cart home his peats, and upon certain days to give them firewood free. I may mention that the statement with regard to the water has no foundation in fact. There is no spring where alleged by Black, but a small streamlet has been dammed up into a hole or pond about forty yards inside the plantation fence. The same stream comes through the fence within thirty yards of the houses at Maikle. Moreover, there is an excellent spring within two hundred yards of Murray's house, which has been always known as one of the best springs in the district. It is sufficient to supply the village of Bonar. The Murrays have been most troublesome to the proprietor, and have been for the last fifteen years constantly quarrelling with their neighbours, who have frequently complained of them to the proprietor.
(4) I deny the statement made by Black regarding the last School Board election. I was returned at the head of the poll, and received nearly double the number of votes recorded for most of the other members. At the former election I stood third, although my proprietor was a candidate, and returned. The number of votes on the Balblair estate could scarcely return one member.
40170. With reference particularly to the eviction of Alexander Ross, called the ' Bard,' am I to understand from this statement that the bard was to be allowed to remain in the same house in which he was before ?
40171. Without paying any rent?
—He was to get three acres and the grazing of a cow, and timber to put his house in tenantable repair, and to be paid £12 per acre for everything he improved, and all that to be free of interest during his lifetime.
40172. What was the reason that he declined an offer which seemed rather advantageous to him ?
—I cannot say.
40173. W'as he carefully informed of those terms?
—He was informed by both the proprietor and myself.
40174. Have you any other statement you wish to make with reference to the management of this property ?
40175. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are bards very common in that part of the country ?
—Not that I am aware of.
40176. Don't you think it would be worth while preserving the few that are?
—We were very anxious to keep him on, but we could not arrange with him.
40177. Is there no possibility of making an arrangement yet with him ?
—I am not authorised at present to say.
40178. You saw him yesterday giving his evidence at Bonar Bridge?-
40179. He does not look like a man who is very difficult to deal with?
—We always found him most difficult to deal with.
40180. But you are not authorised at present to make even the offer that had formerly been rejected ?