General Sir ARNOLD BURROWES KEMBALL, K.C.B., K.C.S.I.. Uppat House, Commissioner on the Sutherland Estates (62), and Mr JOSEPH PEACOCK, Factor for the Dunrobin District of the Sutherland Estates (59)—examined.
39270. The Chairman.
—How long have you been connected with the administration of these estates?
—Sir Arnold Kemball
Since June 1879.
39271. But you have had an opportunity of examining the history of its previous administration?
—Certainly. My experience is necessarily short, but at the same time, I have looked into it.
39272. And you are assisted by a local factor who will be able to supplement your personal information ?
—Yes, as regards all details beyond my own knowledge.
39273. I am sorry to have to ask you, in the first instance, some questions regarding what passed at Helmsdale the day before yesterday, when there was no representative of the estate present, or, at least, no one presented himself, so that I was not able to check some assertions at the time which I would gladly have inquired into ?
—I think I am in a position to answer these.
39274. There was a general allegation made there that whenever it was necessary to provide estate officials with some land, the land was subtracted from the small holdings and not taken from the larger ones?
—I can tell you nothing about that, because that must have been a long time ago. It came upon me as a complete surprise, and I was not aware of it.
39275. Perhaps Mr Peacock can give 6ome information about that?
My experience extends over the last twenty-five years, and the only case in which I am aware of any change of that sort was when it was necessary to square up the allotments in the neighbourhood of the ground officer's present croft. They are very irregular, and I believe there may have been some land taken from the immediately adjoining crofts, but not seriously to damage their value so far as I am aware. I would have been prepared with particulars if I had known what was coming.
39276. You might have had an opportunity by attending at the meeting, but, however, I can give you some particulars here. The first assertion was that some parts of the holdings of fifteen crofters were taken off some years ago to form a holding for the local ground officer; can you tell me what that alludes to?
—It alludes, I believe, to the present ground officer's holding, the boundary of which was, I believe, slightly enlarged at the expense of some of the adjoining crofts.
39277. But to an insignificant degree?
—I think to an insignificant degree.
39278. There was another assertion that the holdings of nine other crofters were modified under a statement that the ground taken from them was to be planted, but that the ground taken from them was actually formed into a holding for the harbour master?
—That was before my time, and I cannot speak of it.
39279. In connection with the general assertion that ground had been taken from the smaller holdings, it is stated that, after the great changes in the occupancy of the estate from the years 1814 to 1820, a piece of hill pasture was given to the evicted people settled near Helmsdale, called Breacachy, and then that was taken from them, and they received a better place called Griamacharry, but that that, which was extremely useful to them, was withdrawn from them about three years ago ?
—I believe that Breacachy was a place up in the interior of the country, not a common pasture in the ordinary sense, but a piece of ground that was let to the tenants of the east coast for a grazing, for which they paid so much per head of cattle sent to it; but, at some time subsequent, although before my time, this piece of Breacachy was taken away and added to a sheep farm, and the tenants got Griamacharry in place of it, which they continued to hold until three or four years ago, when a change was made by the Duke. The Duke put a herd there.
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
I know all about the Griamacharry case.
39280. They said Griamacharry was withdrawn?
—Griamacharry was a pasture which was not common pasture, but on which they were permitted to herd cattle at so much per head. Now, the consequence of that was that the richer few at Helmsdale, adjoining the common pasture, bought a large stock of sheep, and by their means ate up the grazing of the pasture. The consequence was that the poorer people, who had nothing but horses, must either go and pay money to feed their horses, or forego the pasture of their own hill. The complaints were frequent that the sheep were eating them up, and that they had no means of getting pasture at all. Then the Duke decided that this pasture, which is too limited, should be exclusively devoted to the cattle and horses of the tenants who had the right to it, and that if, thereafter, more land was necessary, it should be provided in another form elsewhere. These were the instructions given at the time. I went myself and met the lotters at Helmsdale. Their remark was, ' How are we to get rid of our sheep; we cannot sell them.' I then, of my own authority, undertook to buy their sheep and pay the price for them, and that henceforward that ground should be devoted to the cattle and sheep of the whole of the lotters. Later on, Suisgill farm —Griamacharry being part of Kinbrace farm —was given over to them upon the terms which have already been made known to the Royal Commissioners, and that is how that matter stands.
39281. What was done with Griamacharry when it was taken away?
—Griamacharry is still unlet.
39282. The new pasture given to the people is nearer their arable land Kimball and then Griamacharry?
—I am told that Suisgill is nine miles distant, but there are many here who could tell us.
—Mr Peacock. I think Griamacharry and Breacachy are equidistant from Helmsdale, and Suisgill is about half the distance—about nine or ten miles. Griamacharry is about twenty miles from Helmsdale.
—Sir Arnold Kemball. Well, they have it at nine miles now, and they had it at twenty miles before, and they have got it on very much better terms. Mr Greig told you that £120 had been offered by one person, and £300 by another; and the Duke let it for £100 to them.
39283. Then there was a general statement made with reference to the parish of Loth, that when small holders became extinct, the land vacated by them was not distributed among their own class for the enlargement of other small holdings, but that it was consolidated with the farm of Crakaig; and a particular assertion was made, that, during the last twenty years, thirty small holdings had been absorbed by that farm alone ?
—I have no knowledge of that. It has come upon me by surprise.
I know there were some small holdings in connection with the farm of Crakaig. By an arrangement with Mr Dudgeon when he got the lease of the farm, as these holdings became vacant by the death of the tenant, they were to fall into the farm. That was the arrangement under which Mr Dudgeon took the large farm of Crakaig, but I am very much surprised to hear that there were thirty. I almost think there must be some mistake as to the number. If it had been three I could have understood it, but I cannot conceive of anything like the number of thirty.
39284. There is a statement with regard to the crofters in a township called Whitehill, that those crofters had been supplied with an extent of grazing for which they were charged ls. separate rent, and that that grazing had been consolidated with the farm of Crakaig, and that the people had not received any reduction of rent ?
—That is part of the same arrangement I referred to just now; it is the same tenant and the same farm.
39285. But the piece of grazing, in this case, seems to have been taken from existing tenants, and not from those who had died out naturally ?
—I think the only grazing that fell into Dudgeon's hands is the grazing that appertained to the tenants now deceased. Having succeeded to their lots, he succeeded to their right of grazing.
39286. Then, there is a general statement with reference to the prohibition of keeping sheep, and the motive which prompted that prohibition?
—Sir Arnold Kemball. That is the case of Griamacharry. That was the case in which the sheep were taken away for the reason stated, and now they may keep as many sheep as possible on the ground of Suisgill.
39287. But, if I understood the statement correctly the day before yesterday, it pointed to this, that all the small tenants at Helmsdale, and generally in the vicinity, were prohibited by a general estate regulation from keeping sheep, for some particular reason?
—I never heard of that. After those three years, when this was done, all the sheep were taken off that ground in order that room should be given for cattle and horses which were legitimately entitled to the grazing—both to rich and poor alike. Then this place, Suisgill, was given, where they may keep as many sheep as they like. Indeed, Mr Greig informed you that they had not enough sheep to put upon it.
—Mr Peacock, It is the West Helmsdale grazing, I think, that you refer to, my Lord. As to the piece of grazing there, in 1880, and several years preceding that, there had been frequent complaints from some of the tenants who had no sheep, of the damage done belonging to the other tenants —that sheep came down from the hill and on to their arable lands. They complained very much of this, and said, We have no sheep; we don't want any sheep. Here are our neighbours on this part of the hill ground which was given for a graziug, not for their sheep, but for the benefit of the whole township.' The Duke had it carefully examined, and it was found that that piece of ground was about equal to the accommodation of the horses and cattle in these townships. Marrel had 22 tenants; West Helmsdale, 68 tenants; Gartamore, 59 tenants; and Port Gower, 30 tenants —in all, 179 tenants. Of this number, 111 possessed no sheep at all, and 68 other tenants had on about 356 sheep; and these 68 tenants I classify as follows, with reference to their stock: —46 owned among them 119 sheep, equal to about 2½ each; 14 others owned 108 sheep, equal to 7½ each; and 8 others owned among them 129 sheep, or about 16 each; making in all 68 tenants, with 350 sheep. In November 1881 correspondence and meetings took place with the owners of the sheep, and also with the tenants who had no sheep. Sir Arnold and I went down to Helmsdale on one occasion to urge that the hill was originally intended for the horses and cattle of all the township, not the sheep belonging to a part of the number. Sir Arnold offered to take the sheep at a valuation, for it had been explained that, in justice to their neighbours, they could not be allowed to continue the sheep. They ultimately agreed to put away their sheep, and Sir Arnold agreed to buy them. They agreed also to put them away by Whitsunday 1882, which they did not do —at least they were not appearing to do it. I went round among them with a memorandum of agreement, in order to put the matter into form, and some of them signed the agreement, but a great many of them refused. There were only eighteen that would agree to sign this formal agreement referring the valuation of these sheep to two practical men appointed, one by themselves and one by Sir Arnold. Many having refused to sign, in order to carry out what Sir Arnold had pledged himself to to the tenants who had no sheep, that this change should be made, summonses of removal were issued against nine on the 21st of April 1882, and it was explained to the people that if they did put away their sheep and sign the agreement, these summonses should not take effect There was no desire to put them out of their holdings, but there was a strong desire on the part of the Duke to carry out his promise to the people who had no sheep that they should be protected in that way. Ultimately the people agreed to carry out the agreement. I went down to Helmsdale with the valuators. The sheep were valued on the 20th April 1882, and the whole stock on the ground was handed over at a valuator and paid for, and since then the grazing has been kept for the horses and cattle only belonging to the whole of the tenants of these townships.
39288. Then I am to understand that the prohibition to keep sheep was a prohibition enforced in the interests more of a larger class of the tenants than of a smaller class?
—Certainly, and it being a violation of the original compact. When it was given to them it was not intended there should be any sheep at all on the hill. It was by degrees that the sixty-eight tenants got sheep.
39289. But you say a certain class of the tenants were molested by the sheep trespassing upon their ground; was that upon their arable ground?
39290. Then is there no sufficient fence surrounding the arable ground and dividing it from the hill pasture ?
—None; no sufficient fence against sheep or cattle.
39291. What is the practice in this part generally; is there no surrounding fence at the back of the arable crofts?
—No, there is an understanding among the tenants that they should herd their sheep and cattle off the arable when the crops are on the ground, and when the crops are off the ground it seems to be the practice that the sheep and cattle are allowed to go on the arable land. But that has become a great hardship, because many of the improving crofters grow young grass. They crop their lands in a more systematic manner than formerly, and they have their young grass in the spring; and it is a great hardship that the sheep should come down from the hill and eat up everything; and not only have there been instances of their eating the little grass there was, but they have come down to the kailyards and eaten every green thing in the gardens.
39292. No doubt they will do so if there is no fence, but is it not usual to provide a boundary fence ?
—The tenants of arable lands —crofters —fence their own lands, and if they chose they might erect among themselves a fence to keep off the sheep; but they don't seem to think that necessary, and practically there is no sufficient fence between the arable and the hill ground.
39293. Is there any regulation on the estate by which, by the co-operation of the landlord and the small tenants, a substantial fence could be erected?
—The Duke would be glad to see something of that kind done, but up to this time he has not felt called upon to promise assistance for the erection of fences.
39291. Are the people at all beginning to separate their holdings from one another by wire fences ?
—In one or two cases they have done so, but it is quite the exception, and not the ride.
39295. We have had several statements before us here, and also in other parts of the county, with reference to a system of increase of rental exacted upon the death of occupiers. There seems to be some misapprehension or a want of distinct understanding about that, at least so far as the subject has been brought before us. We would like to understand how the practice of increases upon the death of occupiers is regulated or limited. Some have represented to us that it was an unlimited and progressive increase. Others seem to be under the impression that it is a single increase taken and not to be exacted a second time. Can you state exactly how that is?
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
Mr Mackay has stated very accurately the rules of the estate, but he has given a colour to them and made one or two omissions which I am sure are quite unintentional on his part. He stated that a tenant and his widow would remain undisturbed in their lot during the period of their lives, and that the successor —the son—would then have his lot valued finally, and the rent charged accordingly. He seemed to think that, because the son worked with the widow, it was always a ground of claim to succeed; and therefore the son, having worked on that lot, and possibly made improvements, ought not to be charged an additional rent; but he forgot that the widow was probably paying a nominal rent, and that he had the benefit of that nominal rent during her lifetime. Had he been made tenant at once, he would have had to pay the increased valuation from that day. Now, there was an omission made by Mr Mackay in regard to wood and lime. These are given gratis to the tenants for the repair and construction of their houses. I am speak ing in the presence of all who know our rules. The slates are given at prime cost on payment deferred —half down, and the rest by instalments, or by instalments from the first. The wood and lime are gratis.
39296. I want, first, exactly to understand the extent of the limitations upon the increase of rent, and I will put it in this way. I will suppose for instance a widow, who dies, and she is succeeded by a son, and this son at the expiration of the old tenure at a nominal rent obtains the land 'at increased rent Well, suppose by some unfortunate accident this son dies, and is succeeded by a brother within three years, would there be a second increase of rent ?
—-Certaiuly not; and not only so, but the rents and valuations are fixed, and as far as I know, up to any future number of years they will be maintained at that rate. They were fixed in 1866 and 1867.
39297. Then the limit of the increase is defined by the valuation ?
—By a valuation actually existing, and said to be a very moderate valuation
39298. And how long is that valuation prospectively supposed to last?
—I cannot tell you. I received it as taken in 1866 or 1867, and so far as I know, there has been no intention to increase it. In the course of time, I suppose, there may be a change.
39299. How was the valuation made?
—By two persons appointed—Mr Macdonald and Mr Mackenzie—experts, who were employed especially for the purpose of examining the holdings locally, and who sent in a regular roll of valuation.
39300. And who heard any representation which the crofter or occupier made?
—I must presume that. The fact is that that is what I have received as the valuation roll.
39301. There was one particular case alleged of which, perhaps, Mr Peacock knows. When I asked whether there was any case known of a double increase of rental within a limited number of years, the witness instanced the case of a certain Margaret Macdonald, upon whose croft two increases had been taken within seven years?
I don't remember that case. Macdonald is a common name, but I shall be glad to look iuto the case and give all the particulars.
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
Have you any objection to take the case of a rental that was mentioned here —Alexander Gunn's case—because it is one in point?
39302. He says
—' When my mother died twenty years ago my eldest brother on getting possession of the lot had to pay death premium, or £1 of a rise of rent. This rise was put on on the recommendation of two of the Duke's ground officers who valued our lot. Three years afterwards my brother died, and I became his successor, and I was to pay a death premium of 4s., that being 4s. more than the Duke's servants or ground officers valued my croft at. Four years ago I received a summons of removal, when, on making inquiry, I found that this was an introduction to another £ 1 , Is. of a rise of rent, which I had to pay and pay still. The actual fact is that I pay £ 1 , 5s. per annum more than what his own servants valued my croft at.' That is an assertion of three rises, but not a rise on a change of occupancy?
He succeeded his brother in the first place, and then, of course, he was treated as a new tenant, and his rent was increased. It was also increased at a subsequent period. There had been some irregularity in that part of the parish and some inquiries were made, and there was very good reason for believing that this man was implicated in some irregularities that had been going on there, and the Duke really had it in view to put the man out of possession of the place altogether, but his Grace decided to leave him in possession, putting up his rent to the valuation as a sort of mild punishment in his case.
39303. It was a case of a penal increase of rent?
—Well, it was rather of that character.
39304. But I wish to get at the general impression. The general rule is that there is no successive or unlimited rise of rental?
—Not since this new valuation; but before Sir Arnold's time, and during the late Mr Loch's time, my instructions were that on each change of occupancy a nominal change was to be made on the rent, and these changes were sometimes no more than Is. or 2s.; the change was made just to mark a change of the occupation from one name to another, but they cannot be called increase of rental. They were merely nominal increases.
39305. That is all I have to ask at present about the points stated at Helmsdale. I would now desire, Sir Arnold, to ask you to make a general statement of the expenditure of the Duke of Sutherland for the benefit of crofter's holdings during the last thirty years ?
—Sir Arnold Kemball. This is a point of which no mention was made by Mr Mackay. In the course
of the last thirty years the expenditure by the proprietor on crofter holdings has been as under:
—Wood and lime, £15,519; repairs to houses, £5986; meliorations, £835; free, £22,340. Advances at 5 per cent, £6768; total, £29,108; average for year, £970.
39306. This is an expenditure for the specific benefit of the crofters' holdings ?
—Yes; but apart from that there has been an expenditure in the way of works—wage-bearing works.
39307. If you allow me, I should like to understand about the expenditure on crofters' holdings specifically. There is an average annual expenditure of £970 upon the crofters' holdings?
39308. Can you tell me what the aggregate rental of these holdings would be on which the £970 was expended ? About what rental, in general terms, would that be on ?
—It would be very difficult to find out the particular class of holdings on which it was spent. It would be the poorer class of holdings.
39309. Then this expenditure, for the benefit of small holdings, is an expenditure in buildings?
—Lime and wood, and repairs of houses. Wood and lime are given where a man wishes to construct a house. There are repairs to houses separately. With regard to meliorations, where there is an entirely new succession, a man has a claim to meliorations, but these successions are very rare indeed. A man and his wife having a life tenancy, and being succeeded by a son, there arises no question of meliorations for improvement. These are extremely rare, and in this case they amount in the Dunrobin district to £660.
39310. When these advances are made in timber and lime for the improvement of the houses, is any charge made upon them ?
—None; they are gratis. On advances for reclamations interest is charged.
39311. One or two witnesses have spoken of the sums advanced for reclamation as Government money ?
—I am surprised to hear it. Government money means the Duke's money, as I understand it.
39312. There were Government loans for improving land?
—It has nothing to do with that. It is money given by the proprietor, on which 5 per cent, is charged, for reclamation; I should presume they prefer doing it and retaining the life tenure of all their improvements. On the whole estate, for the last thirty years there was £6768 for improvements, on
which interest is charged.
39313. Is that exclusively in the form of trenching and draining?
—The usual way is that the ground officer goes and makes a valuation of what he thinks it has cost for trenching and draining, and the tenant pays the interest upon the sum he receives. If it is supposed to be worth £10, he pays 5 per cent, upon it.
39314. Are any fences put up between the common pasture of the crofters and adjacent farms 1 We have had one or two complaints about the aggressions of the sheep of the farmers upon the crofters, and so on?
—I am afraid there is a good deal the other way. There ought to be wire fences, but it is more probably the sheep farmer who has complained very largely of the encroachment of the tenants.
39315. There are probably mutual complaints ?
—Well, I think so.
39316. But with reference to the erection of fences, do you consider it would be a valuable improvement that the farms should be divided from each other and from the crofters' lands by fences ?
—Certainly; but if such a thing were done, the tenants should have some sort of responsibilty in keeping it up, because it is the interest of the small tenant to see that fence put down. His sheep will find grazing elsewhere, and therefore it is better some sort of responsibility should attach to the maintenance of that fence.
39317. Most undoubtedly, if a fence is put up, it should be maintained; but we have sometimes heard that when the small tenants' sheep encroach upon an adjacent farm they are very liable to be impounded, and the small tenant to be fined?
—I should like to know any instances. I am not aware of anything of that kind in my time; on the contrary, on the other side I have heard great complaints —in fact, there is one case pending now that
is likely to give us some difficulty with regard to the Suisgill grazings. It appears that horses and sheep graze over into the Culgower farm, and I have heard very serious complaints; and I believe it will have to end in a fence being put up. But in putting up a fence there must be some responsibility attaching to its maintenance, or that fence will not be maintained.
39318. You don't find, in fact, that the small tenants press you for fences between them and the large farms?
—No, I confess I have not. I have had plenty on the other side; and I daresay there are some farmers
here who could tell something about it.
39319. So much for the co-operation of the landlord in the improvement of the small tenancies as they exist. I would like now to ask you what has been done, or whether anything is being done for the expansion of the existing small holdings, either with reference to the arable or with reference
to the common pasture?
—In my time there have been three or four cases. There were two on the west coast, in the Strathan and Inverkirkaig townships. There have been proposals for some time with regard to expansion on the Armadale side, but as the lease is not out that cannot be effected. That is being submitted to the Duke's consideration. At Doll there has been a place attached to them, and also at one or two points—Breacachy and Golspie Tower —but otherwise none at present.
39320. Am I justified in stating that there is an inclination on the part of the proprietor, if it can be properly done, to afford an expansion of pasture to the crofting communities ?
—If you take those five instances as an earnest of the fact, I think I may say it is so.
39321. In the cases you mention, have the small tenants been found capable of supplying the stock?
—There is an expansion of ground for their existing stock. It may lead to further increase of stock, but the expansion of ground is for the existing stock.
39322. But if they had more ground, we may presume they would keep more head of stock?
—Certainly, I presume they would.
39323. In fact, you have not found they could use the additional ground given to them?
—No, I know you would not find that, because it would not come before you. This is not adding a piece of ground at a distance under lease, but adding it on no charge at all, because you must bear in
mind that no hill pasture is charged for on the Duke's estate. It all goes in the form of charge on arable land; therefore, when you see a man's rent is eight acres at £6 or £5, that is understood to include his share of the common grazing wiehout further charge.
39324. Then, in case of a piece of common grazing being withdrawn, there would be a reduction of rent?
—Certainly now that would be the case but I know of no instance. But what I mean is that the rent
is per arable acre, and that there is no specific charge for the grazing.
39325. But with the accessory benefit of the grazing?
—With the accessory benefit of the grazing without charge, in this sense that the rent he pays includes both.
39326. Can you give me examples of the creation of new holdings as a whole—not only the expansion of the grazing, but the addition of arable ground, or the concession of new arable ground, to small tenants for the purpose of forming new holdings?
—Certainly I can give you many instances of people improving their ground, I can give you one, and I believe the man is in this room—John Murray. I should like you very much to inquire how he has done it. Adjoining him there is a piece of ground which has been laid out for the purpose of being converted into crofts of ten acres, but he is the only one who possessed that portion of ground, and as yet we have had no offers for them. What is preferable, and what has occurred in many instauces, is that they have improved the waste land of their own crofts. One of the persons you examined this morning mentioned that he had only five acres of arable land, for which he was paying, he said, £ 3; but he forgot to mention that he had four acres of waste which was termed waste improvable, not hill, belonging to himself exclusively, and that the extra £1 he paid was on the advance of £25 he received for improving this land.
39327. You mentioned a block of land which was to be divided into crofts or holdings of ten acres each?
—I think ten acres each.
39328. I want to know whether you have experienced a difficulty in finding tenants for those proposed new buildings?
Yes.The Duke has a property called Langwell —East and West Langwell —and between these two townships there is a very considerable extent of ground susceptible of improvement; and the Duke, about fifteen years ago, with the view of encouraging the people of the neighbourhood, who had expressed their anxiety to get more land, employed a surveyor to make a report upon this specific piece of land. It was done, and the lots were all marked out on the ground by pins, and the people were made aware that these lots were to be let if they chose to come forward to apply for them, and I have only had applications at long intervals for crofts in that direction. I have sent the parties there to look at the land, and said I would be very glad to see them back again, when we could discuss the terms of their entry, but the thing has never gone further than their going to look at the land. They have never come back to make proposals for reclamation.
39329. Was it to be let on improving leases?
—It was to be let at a nominal rent.
39330. But with a lease or at will?
—The Duke probably would not have objected to give leases if they had desired them, but the tenants on this estate think it better to be without leases.
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
We should be only too glad if they would take it under lease, but of course where they get a life tenure they are generally opposed to taking leases, because a nineteen years' lease would place them on the commercial principle, and they might be liable to an increase of rent at the end of the nineteen years, irrespective of themselves or their widows. It would be a hard case if you imposed a lease. I may tell you that leases were imposed many years ago, but on their expiry none of the tenants would renew them. They prefer the life tenure; but if any of them wish to have leases, I believe the Duke would be perfectly willing to give them on the same conditions under which they could get them in any other county. But suppose the two cases of a man with a life teuure and a man with a nineteen years' lease, both working for the improvement of their land. At the end of the nineteen years the man who has occupied on a lease loses all the benefit of it, but the man who has a life tenure retains it for him and his wife during the natural term of their lives.
39331. Have the people regarded their position as one of actual life tenure?
—I have never heard a doubt expressed about it. Perhaps the best way of putting that is to see how many evictions have taken place since the Duke came into the estate. They are absolutely limited to eleven crofters, and many of these cases were on account of family quarrels. I make that statement here, and it is quite open for anybody to refute it. I believe no such thing is known as evictions, and that life tenure is the rule.
39332. We heard to-day—referring to the question of consolidation— of a small farm of eighty acres which had been constituted in the middle of the township, the area of which had been withdrawn from the small holdings in favour of a Mr Crawford, an inn-keeper?
—Yes, and the farm is below here. I know the farm, and I know the man, but as to the particulars of how that land was used I must refer to Mr Peacock, for I was not here at the time.
39333. When this farm was constituted we were told that there was no reduction of rent in favour of those whose lands were taken for the purpose?
—Mr Peacock. The reclamation of that farm was undertaken immediately after the completion of the railway. The railway passed along the one side of a piece of very wet, boggy, useless ground. Even the small tenants themselves attached very little value to it, and on the completion of the railway it became a very prominent eyesore. Everybody coming from Lairg saw this wretched piece of ground, and the Duke was desirous of improving it, and expended a very considerable sum on the improvement of that land. It extends from the plantation on the west side up to the railway fence on the east side.
39334. But the land on which the farm was formed was withdrawn from the occupancy of the small tenants?
—In so far as they chose to avail themselves of i t; but it was so wet and useless that I am sure I could not have found any tenants in Lairg that would have given any appreciable rent for it.
39335. You saw no value put upon it?
—I don't think it was susceptible of any value. There were some little bits of arable land that are now
absorbed in the farm, and that were cut off in the making of the railway, and there was an allowance made to the tenants for the actual arable land that was taken from them.
39336. What is the area of the whole farm?
—Under eighty acres.
39337. What is the rental?
—£92 or £93.
39338. As you say this land was of a very valueless character, there must surely have been a very large expenditure upon it to make it worth £93 a year?
—There has been enormous expenditure upon it.
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
It is part of our reclamations. The total amount of our reclamations is £254,900.
39339. What do you suppose the expenditure upon the land was to reclaim it?
—About £40 or £50 an acre. At Lairg it was £80 an acre.
39340. And this farm, which has been thus constituted, and rendered worth £93 a year, has been rendered so by an expenditure of what?
—£80 an acre; that is, taking it at the same rate as the Lairg reclamations were taken at, with the additional houses.
39341. It was subjected to the same process, in fact, as the rest?
—Steam ploughing and trenching, the same as the rest of the lands.
39342. Then the value of £80 a year, though it may be worth that to the present tenant, does not represent the value withdrawn?
—According to my calculations, it represents 1.6 per cent, of the outlay—the actual return on the three farms of Embo, Ballone, and Dalchork.
39343. Then will you kindly go on to the expenditure of the proprietor in wages for works indirectly profitable to this class?
—In one of the returns asked by the Royal Commission, I was required to state what was the rise of the revenue of the estate in a period of thirty years. This table which I now hand in shows the result:
Revenue and Expenditure, 30 years, 1853-82.
Estate rents - £564,555
Sporting rents - £124,145
Subtotal - £788,700
Surplus from Tongue management - £121,636
Surplus from Scourie management - £129,412
Total revenue - £1,039,748
Estate works - £677,671
Miscellaneous - £19,768
Reclamations - £254,900
Brora works - £47,516
Sutherland railway - £94,200
The Duke’s railway - £72,100
Sutherland and Caithness railway £60,600
General management, law expenses, donations and sundries - £58,967
Total Dunrobin management - £1,285,122
Deficiency - £245,374
39344. This is the expenditure on the estate during thirty years, as against the revenue?
—Yes. Tbe deficiency, after devoting the whole of the rental of the estate to works on the estate, was £215,371.
39315. You mean that, during the course of thirty years £215,000 has been expended in excess of the rental of the estate?
39316. Including the outlay upon the railway?
—Yes, and this is without making any allowance for the domestic expenses of the ducal establishment in Scotland, which you may take at a considerable sum every year.
39347. And those works, so far as labour is concerned, have given employment to the local population?
—Yes, and I think the result is seen in the improved condition and the material comfort of the tenants generally.
39348. Can you say what the returns have been in connection with this great expenditure?
—I have calculated that on the reclamations it is nil, and on the railways, taken in conjunction with the whole railway system, it is only 2 per cent., and that on a capital of £350,000, because the other portion was invested in the Highland Railway system, which does yield a return. The Sutherland and Caithness never yielded anything. The Duke of Sutherland's railway has yielded, on the last occasion, 2 ¾ per cent.; the Sutherland railway has yielded 1 ¼ per cent., and that since 1875 only.
39349. Is the result of this great expenditure at all evident in the improvement of the general rental of the estate?
—Certainly, the general rental of the estate has increased very much, but totally incommensurate with the vast outlay which has been made to produce that increase.
39350. Has the increase of rental upon the estate been in the direction of shooting and sporting profits?
—Yes, I suspect mostly sporting. But that must not be taken entirely as increase without outlay, because lodges and other expenses connected with it go a long way to reduce any interest on the outlay.
39351. Has there been of recent years any withdrawal of land from profitable occupation—such as sheep farming and otherwise—for the constitution of deer forests ?
—Yes, in two instances. One was at Loch Inver, where, on the lease falling out, and being unable to let it again, except at an enormous depreciation, after taking away portions to give to the townships it was made into a deer forest, but unhappily we lost the rent for three years, and it will probably take some time still before we can let it as a forest.
39352. In constituting any ground as a forest, has any ground in the occupation of crofters—either arable or pasture —been taken up?
39353. No ground has been withdrawn from small tenants?
—No, not in any form whatever. I am speaking of my own time, because we had never had any forest here before except the two old forests of Dunrobin and Reay; but, with regard to the forests that have been made in the last thirty years, there have been only the two that I have mentioned.
39354. And what has been done has not been in any sense to the prejudice of the small tenants'?
—In no sense whatever. Will you allow me to refer to the question of population? Mr Mackay talked of the congestion of it, and he seemed to regret that there is a reduction of the population, but I think that must be a sign of prosperity, particularly as represented in his own person. If there are means of occupation and employment, and if the railway furnishes that, it is surely a matter of congratulation rather than that the lots themselves should be divided and subdivided. I don't enter into the question of the clearances, whether they were right or wrong. They took place eighty years ago, and we have to deal with facts as they are. Now, we can imagine what would have been the state of matters if that population had remained to subdivide and subdivide lands declared at present to be too small, though, by the way, in Rogart the average is about seven acres to each person.
39355. Mr Cameron.
—Will you just answer one question about the labour that is prevalent here? What labour is there for the crofters? Is there plenty of it, easy of access?
—I should say that now they must go some distance to get it, because the reclamation works are stopped. All the railway works have ceased.
39356. Do you find as a rule, that they go distances to get labour to make money to bring home for their families ?
—Yes; and I will give an instance of a very recent case of smearers coming from the west coast to the east coast large arable farms. They have no proper arable farms on the west coast, and they come over and get wages. They are paid their expenses to and fro, and get 2s. 6d. a day.
39357. I am afraid that smearing is going out of fashion owing to the low price of wool. Don't farmers take more to dipping than smearing ?
—I daresay it may be so. I am merely giving that as one instance. There are no public works now except the Brora works, and a wool factory, where there is some small employment of labour, but all this large employment—such as the reclamations and the railways —has for the moment ceased.
39358. Do you anticipate from that cause much distress in the immediate future among the crofters?
—No, I hope it will give them a sport in improving the waste land attached to their crofts. It is quite in
their power to do that, apart from the hill grazings. It is called improvable land, and some have done the work very well indeed. I can instance a case at Helmsdale of a man named Mackintosh, and Murray whom I mentioned before, and others who have done the work very well indeed.
39359. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Can you state what has been the rise of rental in the last thirty years upon the Sutherland estates all over?
—I am afraid I cannot give that just now.
39360. I observe by the valuation roll of 1882-83 the total of the county, exclusive of railways, is £91,000. Do you think the Duke has £80,000?
—I should think so. I would not commit myself to figures, but I think it is more than £80,000.
39361. I want to contrast the expenditure with the increased value of the estate now; has it risen £20,000 in the last thirty years? In 1855 the valuation of the county was £44,789, and at the present time it is £92,564?
—Mr Peacock. You may take it that the Duke has 80 per cent, of the whole county.
39362. Then I would like to know what you think it would be twenty years ago; would it be £40,000?
—Sir A. Kcmball. Take four-fifths of £44,000, and it will give you the Duke's rental.
39363. That is about £35,000. Then, dealing in the same way with the £92,000, we have £73,000. Taking one from the other, we find that it is practically doubled?
39364. Now when you state that, with all these outlays on the part of the Duke of Sutherland, there is a deficiency of £245,000 in the matter of revenue and expenditure, must you not fairly consider the increased value of the estates ?
39365. Well, what ia the value of the property in Sutherland; is it thirty or thirty-five years' purchase?
—I suppose it would be thirty years, under present conditions.
39366. At that rate, don't you see the estate has risen in these thirty years to the extent of one million sterling?
—On an expenditure of more than a million to do it.
39367. You say there is only a deficiency of £245,000?
—But a deficiency of all laid out on the estate —not a deficiency of £245,000 with the rental employed to his own purposes, but actually laid out on the estate. I have given you the railways and .the reclamations, and these bring the deficiency above the rental. The rental has gone to pay that.
39368. But in this valuation the railways don't appear on the roll?
—They do appear on the roll.
39369. Yes, to a certain amount, but that is merely the land and not the value of the stock the Duke holds in them?
—But the value of the stock is nil for the Sutherland and Caithness railway at present; and, as to the others it is 2 ¾ per cent., since 1875, on the Duke of Sutherland's railway, which is seventeen miles long; and 1¼ on the Sutherland railway.
39370. You admit that, within the last thirty years, the Sutherland estates are worth one million more than they were then?
—With an outlay of nearly a million to get it.
39371. Will you explain what you mean by saying that you regard the decrease of the population here as a sign of the prosperity of the locality ?
—I am speaking of the population of the particular district, because the actual population since 1801 is an increase, not a decrease, over the whole county. But when Mr Mackay suggested that the place was congested, and that they had not room enough, though they had seven acres on the average, I suggested that those who would otherwise have been thrown upon this land, and the lots divided and subdivided, had found a good living by being able to emigrate—as represented in his own person. I don't mean to say it is an advantage that there should be a decrease of population anywhere.
39372. You stated that the rule upon the estate of Sutherland was a life tenure; whose life?
—The tenant and his wife, during their respective lifetimes.
39373. Suppose the Duke were to die during the lifetime of the tenant, what then?
—Nothing whatever. Their tenure would be as good as ever. I take three generations to prove it.
39374. Are you aware that a lease is not binding upon a successor if it is only from year to year?
—But there is no lease. It is the rule and practice of the estate.
39375. Are you aware that in Scotland the successor is not bound to keep on a tenant who has no lease longer than a year?
—I don't deny that. I say it is so, and if you go further, the Duke has the power now to eject them by law; but the rule of the estate —and a rule universally understood —is that a man and his wife shall have undisturbed tenure of that lot.
39376. As long as the Duke pleases?
—I think that is a most unfair way of putting it. If it is as the Duke pleases, instance any cases in which he has not pleased—either he or his predecessors.
39377. Recollect we are not discussing it in any heated or offensive manner. I merely put it as showing what legal eventualities might arise. I am not making it in any way personal to the present Duke?
—I thought your inference was that the Duke would do such a thing, because you said that, if the Duke should die, it might be done, or, if the Duke chose at the present time, there is nothing to prevent him by law. I say that for three generations they have not chosen to do so, and I appeal to this assembly in proof of what I say.
39378. The Chairman.
—Excuse me; you must not appeal to this assembly?
—I merely wish to say that my words are accurate.
39379. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I will leave the question at this point by putting one particular illustration to you. You said the tenants, as a rule, as soon as they have their names in the roll, are safe for their lives. At Helmsdale, on Saturday, we were told that certain tenants in a town called Marrel, because they refused to sign a certain paper presented to them on the part of the estate, were served with summonses of removal?
—I go further than that. They would have been removed if they had refused to do what was an act of justice to other people who were suffering from the want of their pasture,
39380. Are you aware that, while the estate management has deprived those tenants who had sheep of the privilege of grazing upon their own commonty, the sheep of the large farmers, at this moment, pasture upon that commonty without any check whatever?
—I am exceedingly sorry to hear it, if true. I should like to know if they mentioned names.
39381. I don't know if they mentioned names. I think there is one adjoining large farm?
—Is the inference from that that we have wished the large tenants to graze their commonty.
39382. No; but that when you took it from some of them you have not taken steps to prevent them from being overrun by the large farms in their neighbourhood. I put the question to the tenants who stated so, Did you bring the question to the notice of the estate management,' and they said they had not?
—I am glad they said that, for this is the first time I have heard of i t; but if the inference is that we wished the sheep taken off, I beg to say that is utterly unfounded, and that they have had another pasture given to them at a reduced rent, where they may have as many sheep as they please.
39383. But they stated that they did not tell the estate officials?
—It is possible that the people may think that, having removed these sheep, we are now favouring the large farmer, because it has always been a complaint that he is favoured at the expense of the others—that we have allowed the large farmer to go and trespass upon the commonty. Now, that is an inference wholly unjustifiable: and, not only so, but wholly unknown to me.
39384. The Chairman.
—Perhaps Mr Peacock would state whether he ever heard it alleged that the stock belonging to the large farmers adjacent, probably owing to the want of a fence, had trespassed upon the commonty of the people who were deprived of the sheep grazing?
have heard of cases on both sides; and, where there is no fence it is practically impossible to keep the sheep from straying from one side to another. It may be that one day the large tenants' sheep are on the one side, and the next day the small tenants' sheep are on the other; and, unless there is some good feeling between the large and the small tenants, a great deal of difficulty will arise. There is no fence, and it would be, in the case just mentioned, the duty of the small tenants to protect themselves. It is their grazing. The Duke, when he gives this grazing for nothing, does not say he will protect them from their neighbours. They have as much right to protect their grazing as the sheep farmer has to protect his large farm; and, if they were to come with a complaint to us, that Mr A. or Mr B. or Mr C. had been upon their ground, I should at once say, I would be very glad to communicate with Mr So-and-so on the subject, but they must understand it was their duty to protect their own common pasture.
39385. May you not draw another inference that it might be desirable to co-operate with the people in erecting a fence?
—That is a very large question—the erection of fences between the common pasture and the large farms.
—Sir Arnold Kemball. It will have to come. It is a large question, but it will have to come.
39386. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—About this large farm at Lairg that was taken in and reclaimed at the enormous expense of £ 9600; don't you think it would have been more prudent to have given something to the tenants themselves to improve it?
—I am not competent to express an opinion upon that. Unfortunately, the milk is spilt, and I have nothing to say about it.
39387. But you hear they are grumbling about it being taken away from them ?
—Well, it is a different thing from pasture. New arable is a very difficult thing to work. As regards the arable land at Lairg, we calculated and considered this —and I think Mr Greig told you it would be impossible for crofters to take farms on that new land —we calculated, and we found that, if you did divide any of these sheep farms, you would have to expend at least £200 for houses, and £ 250 to make these lots, and then, certainly, for some years the crofters could not make much out of it.
39388. Are you not aware that it is impossible to conduct any kind of farming profitably and well without fencing ?
—I am not prepared to deny or admit that fact. I may think fences of importance. I don't deny it, but I am not prepared to discuss the point whether good farming requires fences. I should say it did, as a private opinion.
39389. But surely one in your position—administering a very large estate—is bound to set an example to the small people, and I would have thought, perhaps, that fencing was one of the first things you would have devoted your attention to—the fencing of the people's arable lands?
—I don't doubt it, but if you know what that means in money you will perhaps make some allowance in that matter.
39390. Can you tell me how many crofters under £ 30 are upon the estate?
—I must refer you to my returns to the Commission for that. I think there are 2232 crofters proper.
39391. Under £30?
—Yes. 1 am giving these figures to the best of my knowledge; I believe I am right in saying so.
39392. Then I will take 2000 for the question I am going to put to you. You have told us that, for the last thirty years, £970 a year has and been laid out directly upon the crofters. That means 10s. a head upon each crofter?
—Not quite so much. I think it is well to say that this is not a donation of 10s. a head for a special purpose, but a gradual improvement of the whole estate by the tenants receiving in their turn these allowances to enable them to improve their houses and their condition. It is not a gift at the rate of 10s. a head. There is a certain allowance made in the case of crofters requiring to reconstruct, and they are always encouraged to do it, and to slate their houses, and I think the evidence is found in the country itself.
39393. I am quite aware, but this is only an illustration of the very question I put to you. I did not at all mean that each tenant got £ 1 or 10s. a head, but what I mean is that it comes to this —that there has been an average of 10s. laid out upon each crofter for the last thirty years. Now is it not a fact that a great deal more than 10s. has been laid upon the crofter in his rent during the last thirty years?
—I can give you the actual statement. Taking it at 3 per cent, instead of 5, the advance upon their rent has been 24 per cent. That is the major one.
39394. I want to ask you now about what is commonly called the death premium. I understand that two men—Mr Macdonald and Mr Mackenzie—have made a valuation within the last few years?
—Yes, in 1876-77.
39395. Are we to understand that when their valuation is arrived at that increase is to cease?
—Certainly, until perhaps thirty years, or whatever the term may be when the new valuation may be made. As far as I know, there is no intention of altering it.
39396. Is it a fair question to ask whether the rate that these gentlemen have fixed has been arrived at now, or is it nearly arrived at, or is it exhausted?
—I should say very nearly, in fact I will give you the exact sums. I think there may be 20 per cent, more, but there are some that are nominal rents. These nominal rents will become the valuation rent on a succession; therefore you cannot take it on an average; you must take it on a large class that are nominally rented at 5s., and these will have to pay £1 or £2 as the case may be, on a succession; but the way to put it is, how many crofters remain who don't pay that rent?
39397. You stated that these gentlemen went about and examined carefully every case?
—I cannot tell you, because I was not here; but I daresay Mr Peacock can inform you.
—Mr Peacock. These two gentlemen got instructions to go over the whole of the estate. They were not limited as to time or directed as to the manner in which they were to do it; but they were to go over the whole of the estate, and give in a detailed report of what they considered to be the fair value of every holding on the estate.
39398. Large and small?
—No, only the small tenancies.
39399. Do you know whether or not they spoke to the tenants and went over all the ground?
—I know they were a great many weeks at the work, and I believe they went into every township. I don't mean to say they called at every door, but they spent a good deal of time over the matter, and I have every reason to believe they did the work very carefully.
39400. I suppose they got every information you could give them?
—I gave them the Ordnance acreage and the names of the tenants, and that sort of thing.
39401. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you wish to make any explanation about the case of those two old sisters?
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
I should wish it very much, and I shall be very glad to ask Mr Peacock to give you full information as to all the points that were brought forward, because Mr Mackay was good enough to say that the Duke could do no wrong, but everybody else might do so. I maintain that, even though the Duke can do no wrong, no wrong should be done either in his name or without his knowledge. These things are now brought to notice, and let them be fully investigated.
—Mr Peacock. The case you refer to was, I believe, the case of Janet and Christine Ross. They were sisters, both infirm, and quite unable to work the land. They became paupers, applied for relief from the Parochial Board, and it was explained to them that they could not be admitted to the poor's roll as long as they were the tenants of this land, and that they had better give up the land. It was quite apparent that it was impossible for them to work the land, and they were doing nothing to it; in point of fact, they got notice that they must give it up. Summonses of removal were issued against them to compel them to give up the land of which they were making no proper use, and they were put out of legal possession. The two sisters were left in the house till another new house was built for them at the Duke's sole expense, quite close to the previous house. One of the women—Janet—is still living in it, and has been living in it ever since she went in. The other sister is dead. The present sister, and the other sister as long as she was living, got an allowance from the Duke of £3 to make up for the loss of that land, and that allowance has been continued down to the present time.
39402. How long was it before the new house was built?
—As soon as it could be conveniently done, within a few months.
39403. The statement was that half their old house was pulled down while they were living in one end of it?
—It may possibly have been done in connection with the building of the new house, but it is some distance of time, and I don't recollect the circumstances connected with it accurately just now; but I know they were put under summonses of removal, and that a new house was built for them, and that the Duke gives an allowance of £ 3 a year.
39404. A comparison has been made between the rents paid by large tenants and small farmers, and it has been said that the large tenants pay very much less than the small tenants?
—Sir Arnold Kemhall. The reverse is the case.
39405. Taking the arable ground, you heard it brought out that 10d. per acre was paid by large tenants and 1s. 10d. by small?
—He probably made the mistake of reckoning it all as arable ground, and then comparing the one with the other. If you take it all as arable ground you take it all as of the same value. But the rate of the arable ground of the crofters is 13s. as against 15s. and 20s. an acre in the case of the large farmers. In calculating the pasture of the small tenants the arable land is included, for which they pay 13s. 9d. an acre.
39406. But the statement is that in the large farms there is a quantity of land that was once arable and could be cultivated again?
—Very likely—what is called green land. I have no doubt these were old townships, and they form what is called green land, and it is included in their pasture.
39407. And it is let at the rate of pasture land?
—Yes, it is all included in the sheep farm. The total number of tenancies in this district is 978. These are crofters' holdings, and are classified according to the Royal Commissioners' directions. The total acreage of their arable land is 6060, which brings out an average for each tenant of 6.2. With regard to their live stock, according to their own returns obtained from them to enable me to fill up the returns for the Commission, they have 881 horses, 2494 head of cattle, 3313 sheep, and 350 pigs; and their total rents, including the common pasture for which no charge is made, amount to £3156, and that brings out the following average :
—On the whole, an average of 9s. 11d. per acre; and, taking the parishes separately, it brings out for Clyne, 8s. lOd.; Creich, 12s. 3d.; Dornoch, where I may say they have no common pasture, 8s. Id.; Golspie, 9s. Id.; Kildonan, 10s. 2d.; Lairg, 12s. 2d.; Loth, 16s. 3d,; Rogart, where they have 1900 sheep on their own common pasture against a total for the whole county, of 3313, 0s. 10d.; the total average for the whole district being 9s. 11d.
39408. Have you any idea what they pay for pasture ?
We don't charge them for pasture?
—Sir Arnold Kemball.
The rent is calculated on the arable land.
39409. According to your method of calculation, it is impossible to arrive at it?
—Yes. If you estimate it at 6d. you will find what the actual rate for the arable land is, but the rent is charged on the arable land.
39410. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Mr Mackay told us there were fifteen large farmers in the parish of Rogart, and that the crofters whom he was here to represent desired to have more land; that they had not enough. Are any of these fifteen sheep farmers non-resident?
—They are all resident.
39411. Then it is not possible, in the meantime, to take any of their land to increase the holdings of the crofters?
—Not during the leases.
39412. According to Mr Mackay's calculation, the crofters are more profitable tenants than the big farmers?
—I heard that statement, but I
have never been able to reconcile that statement with the facts.
39413. It was based upon a calculation that they pay more per acre than the big farmers do ?
—I have never been able to reconcile that with the facts. If you assume this, that there is a teeming population in the county, and that the land which is now worth 6d. an acre as pasture is arable land fit for crofters to occupy, and that they are all settled on that land—which is represented by so much on the Ordnance map—I have no doubt you will find the small tenant is a better bargain than the other, but taking the land as it is, you cannot put crofters on land that has no arable on it, and therefore you must take things as they are; and as such, I am unable to reconcile the facts with the statement that the small tenants pay more than the large tenants. The large tenants pay more for their pasture, and they pay more for their arable land; but if you convert it all into arable land, and cover it with a teeming population, of course you have a greater number of tenants paying a lower reut than the present number of tenants paying higher rent.
39411. Do you think it would be possible, when some of these leases expire, to extend the holdings of the crofters from them?
—It is not in my power to say anything on that point. I merely show what we have done during the last three or four years as au earnest of what may be done in the future; but I cannot commit myself to anything. I say everything has been in that direction for the last three years, and I have instanced cases in which this extension of land has been made. The Duke, I know, wishes well to his people, and will do what is good to them, but I cannot pledge myself to anything.
39415. So far as you have observed the style of agriculture practised by the small tenants, do you think it is creditable; do you think they are making the best of the land ?
—No, not on the whole. I think there are instances in which they have done it very well in Rogart—down on the low ground—but I should not say they make full use of it, and I am inclined to say also that possibly they may not have the means to do it. They must improve by degrees. If you allow me to draw a comparison between what this country was thirty or fifty years ago and what it is now, I think it will be admitted that there is a vast difference in the housing and comfort, and in the social and economic position of the people; and I hope, thirty years hence, you will see a different state of matters still. Nobody allows it is perfect by any means. Everybody admits very much remains to be done; but what has been done, I believe, is an earnest of what will be done. There is another thing I want to point out in connection with this expenditure, showing the rates and taxes paid by the Duke and in proportion to the rental. The charge for rates and taxes is leviable half from one proprietor, and, of course, the major part of the rest is leviable from the larger tenants. In the Dunrobin district the amount to be paid by his Grace represents 52 per cent, of the whole of the crofter rent; in the Scourie district 54 per cent., and in the Tongue district 59 per cent. The proportion is more than 50 per cent, of the actual rental we receive from the crofters, both poor rates and school rates being for their special benefit.
39416. The Chairman.
—There is just one point I wanted to refer to with reference to something that was said before. Speaking of the diminution of the population in a particular district, a previous witness seemed to regret that there was this large diminution in the population, but you seem to think that the departure of the people for more profitable scenes of employment was rather an advantage than otherwise?
—Yes, provided it did not amount to depopulation.
39417. But what I understood the previous witness to say was, that he regretted to see so many people going away who might be profitably employed in the development of their own country?
—That is perfectly true. What has failed to be done on one side may be done on another; but if no 'uore profitable employment is forthcoming, and as the land is certainly not available at present without subdividing, I look upon it as for their benefit.
39418. But when you say ' without subdividing,' though the subdivision of a small holding may be a misfortune, the subdivision of a large holding might be an improvement?
—Certainly, but are holdings to be made in a day?
39419. That is what I wish to refer to. If you could hold out the hope that this surplus population should be hereafter gradually employed in the development of their country, this would be to me very satisfactory?
—I have no doubt the tendency is that way at present; but to make holdings for a surplus population, say, double the present one, is a work of great time; and the population increases in very much larger proportion. If you lay down at the present time, say ten holdings, it will take a man ten or twelve years before he could make these profitable. He gets them at 2s. and 2s. 6d. The question is one of time.
39420. Now, Mr Peacock, I should like you to deal for a moment with the individual cases of hardship which were produced by the second delegate from Rogart. We have already dealt with one or two cases—Gunn's and another?
—Yes. I think there remains a third case—that of John Sutherland, whose father had joined the army. I did not follow what was the particular complaint—whether the son and grandson expected to remain at the same nominal rent at which the father held the land. The fact is that there was a John Sutherland, Muie, whose father joined the army. The widow continued as tenant till January 1880, at the same rent, and now her son is tenant of the lot
39421. The son of the wounded soldier is still in possession?
39422. Then there is the special grievance of Alexander Bain; will you kindly explain that case? He says he was removed from his holding with his delicate wife and children ?
—This Alexander Bain was a lodger or squatter upon that place. George Mackenzie was the tenant of the lot, and this Alexander Bain was married to a niece of the old man, and lived there in a small house attached to, or not very far from, Mackenzie's house. It was this Alexander Bain who worked the lot. He was the man who always came and paid the rent, though he got two receipts—one in the name of Mackenzie, and one in his own name. He was practically tenant. Then he wished to have his name put in the rental in place of Mackenzie's, to which I could not agree till Mackenzie's rents were paid, more especially as in this case it was Alexander Bain who wanted to get into the lot. He said that George Mackenzie had been bedridden for many years, and and that he was the man who was responsible for the management of the lot and he wished to have the management of the lot, and I said I could not agree to that until George Mackenzie had paid up the arrears on the lot.
39423. You looked upon Alexander Bain practically as responsible for the rent of the holding ?
— Practically, I did.
39424. And you refused, therefore, to include his name till he had paid the arrears, which you regarded as his own arrears?
39425. He being the husband of the niece of George Mackenzie ?
39426. You considered practically speaking, that the arrears were hereditary in the family ?
—Well, they had been so in that case unfortunately,
39427. And Alexander Bain now has got the holding?
39428. At a rent reduced to £ 6?
39429. And he has paid his arrears?
—I believe the arrears were paid up, but I cannot tell without referring to the rental.
39430. Are you in the habit of taking arrears from the incoming tenant?
39431. Arrears are not transferred?
—They are not transferred from the outgoing to the iucoming tenant.
39432. But they would be inherited by a member of the same family?
—Yes, children and near relatives coming in. One would expect them, as they had been practicaUy the tenants of the lot or deriving benefit from it, to make up the arrears; but the arrears on the estate are very light, and hardly worth speaking about. In one paper that is given in I think you will find the arrears stated.
39433. Was there any other special grievances?
—There were only two cases that Mr Mackay brought forward. It was said—though my name was not mentioned, I understood myself to be the person referred to —that I did on one occasion so far forget myself as to lift my stick to a minister. I most indignantly deny it, and say there is not a word of truth in it. I am ready to admit that, in a very heated discussion at a School Board meeting, I did emphasise some argument I was using. Happening to have an umbrella in my hand, I did lift it up; but, good gracious ! the idea of my lifting a stick to any minister of any parish in Scotland is ridiculous. There was another case, in which I am surprised that Mr Mackay did not make himself more perfectly acquainted with the facts, and that is the case of an assault committed in my office on a tenant.
—I only referred to one case.]
I believe you referred to two. You said that a factor was unfit for his position who would do such things, and two cases were referred to. One was a case of irritation in my office. The case is perfectly well known. A man came into my office, and gave me the lie direct as to a matter about the facts of which I was perfectly well informed. He so far forgot himself that he chose to use a very offensive expression to me, and I ordered him out. He refused to go out, and then I did so far forget myself as to take him by the collar and put him out; and when it was represented to me, as it was a day or two afterwards, that it was a mistake on my part, I at once wrote to the man and apologised, and he was perfectly satisfied; and I am very much surprised that a thing of that sort should have been brought up by Mr Mackay.
39434. I have now recovered the complaint of John Sutherland, the soldier's son. The complaint is not that the soldier was evicted, but that he was deprived of a portion of his holding ?
—I am sorry I cannot give a positive answer to that matter without having time to make the necessary
inquiry. I shall be glad to supply your Lordship with the facts of the case. I do know, as a fact, that the widow was tenant till January 1880, and the son is now the tenant. I don't say there has been no diminution of the holding. It may be or it may not be.
39435. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said there were little or no arrears due by the crofters in this district?
39436. They pay their rent regularly?
—Very regularly indeed. Last year the parish of Rogart was more in arrears than any other parish in the district.
39437. Did not the Duke give some abatement within the last few years on the estate?
—Not to the small tenants.
39438. But he did to the big tenants?
—Yes, for the very severe winters of 1879-80.
39439. How much did he give on the average ?
—50 per cent, on one years’ rent, and that has been followed by some reductions of rent in cases where large sheep farms were taken when prices for sheep ruled at the very highest. They have gone down so much that it was thought necessary to reduce the rent.
39440. But you did not think it necessary to reduce the crofters' rents ?
—No, seeing that they are so very moderate already.
The following tables were handed in by Sir Arnold Kemball:
Population of Sutherland.
Census of 1801 – 23,117
1811 – 23,629 + 512
1821 – 23,840 + 211
1831 – 25,518 + 1678
1841 – 24,782 -736
1851 – 25,793 + 1011
1861 – 25,246 -547
1871 – 24296 -950
1881 – 23,316 -970
Population of the Several Parishes and Districts in 1801 contrasted with 1881
Clyne 1643 / 1812 +169
Creich 1974 / 2223 +249
Dornoch 2362 / 2522 +160
Golspie 1616 / 1548 -68
Kildonan 1440 / 1935
Loth 1374 / 584
(boundaries of Kildonan and Loth altered, decrease 295)
Lairg 1209 / 1354 +145
Rogart 2022 / 1227 -795
Farr 2408 / 1930 -478
Reay Parish, 865 / 994 +129
Tongue 1348 / 1933 +585
Assynt 2395 / 2773 +378
Durness 1208 / 968 -240
Eddrachilles 1253 / 1523 +270
Totals, 23117 / 23326 +509
Return of Crofters' Holdings, Live Stock, and Rents, according to the Classification
fixed by the Royal Commission, with Averages thereof.
Parish of Clyne
No of tenancies: 212
Total acreage arable: 1048
Average acreage arable: 4.9
Cattle under 1 year: 233
Cattle over 1 year: 198
Total rents including common pasture: £467
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 8s 10d
Parish of Creich
No of tenancies: 14
Total acreage arable: 98
Average acreage arable: 7
Cattle under 1 year: 36
Cattle over 1 year: 11
Total rents including common pasture: £60
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 12s 3d
Parish of Dornoch
No of tenancies: 189
Total acreage arable: 1596
Average acreage arable: 8.4
Cattle under 1 year: 292
Cattle over 1 year: 165
Total rents including common pasture: £727
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 8s 1d
Parish of Golspie
No of tenancies: 49
Total acreage arable: 221
Average acreage arable: 4.5
Cattle under 1 year: 58
Cattle over 1 year: 39
Total rents including common pasture: £106
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 9s 4d
Parish of Kildonan
No of tenancies: 174
Total acreage arable: 621
Average acreage arable: 3.5
Cattle under 1 year: 185
Cattle over 1 year: 79
Total rents including common pasture: £320
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 10s 2d
Parish of Lairg
No of tenancies: 95
Total acreage arable: 794
Average acreage arable: 8.3
Cattle under 1 year: 260
Cattle over 1 year: 130
Total rents including common pasture: £490
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 12s 2d
Parish of Loth
No of tenancies: 47
Total acreage arable: 103
Average acreage arable: 2.2
Cattle under 1 year: 51
Cattle over 1 year: 11
Total rents including common pasture: £84
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 10s 10d
Parish of Rogart
No of tenancies: 198
Total acreage arable: 1579
Average acreage arable: 7.9
Cattle under 1 year: 539
Cattle over 1 year: 296
Total rents including common pasture: £902
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 10s 10d
No of tenancies: 978
Total acreage arable: 6060
Average acreage arable: 6.2
Cattle under 1 year: 1654
Cattle over 1 year: 840
Cattle total: 2494
Total rents including common pasture: £3156
Average per acre arable except grazings held individually 8s 10d
Poor and Schools Assessments 1882-3.
Paid by the Duke of Sutherland, as owner and part occupier :
Poor and schools total £2108
His Grace’s share as above, being nearly 55 per cent of the rents paid by small tenants
Amount paid by other occupiers £1837
Which in comparison with the total small rents received in 1882: £3859
Shows an excess of rates over rents of £106