Golspie, Sutherland, 8 October 1883 - Donald Simpson

DONALD SIMPSON, Crofter, Achrimsdale, Parish of Clyne (63)—examined.

39471. The Chairman.
—You are a delegate?

39472. Have you got a written statement ?
—Yes. "The township of Achrimsdale, which I am delegated to represent, consists of sixteen families, numbering forty-eight persons, with an area of about forty-nine acres, and is divided into allotments ranging from two to six acres for each family. Thus, there is an average of only one acre for each person, upon which it is almost impossible to subsist without other means of livelihood. Besides increased holdings, we desire to have fixity of tenure secured by Act of Parliament, and not as at present being dependent on the goodwill of the landlord as represented by his factor. We also desire to have our improvements credited to us, and not calculated as a reason for adding to our rents, when one of the family succeeds the parents. Some of us have built substantial houses without the slightest assistance from his Grace, except in cases where they are slated, when wood and lime are granted. This graut is given to assist in the erection of the dwelling-house only, and does not apply to steadings, whether slated or otherwise. In my own case I got wood and lime to the amount of about £16 in value, to assist in the erecting of dwelling-house which cost £120, the steading £35. I am here showing the little assistance we get, and the sacrifice we are asked to make in return. After we succeed in building our houses from the few materials supplied by the landlord, we are supposed to yield up all claims after one year's occupancy, and afterwards live on the hope and assurance that if we are good and obedient tenants we will be permitted to dwell in undisturbed possession in our houses. We possess in common with three adjoining small farmers and twenty-one crofters belonging to another township, the right of grazing on a hill near our crofts. This hill is supposed to carry from 250 to 300 sheep, besides horses and cattle, but is of such sterile nature and so unfit for pasturage, that those of us who can afford doing so are compelled to send our horses to graze elsewhere. This entails a cost of 25s. for each horse. During the winter and till the middle of spring part of us have to provide and cut whins to keep life in them, with a little straw and hay. We find the struggle for subsistence is getting sharp and severe. Some of us have also to complain of the manner in which we have to pay for a small burn, which had to be deepened to keep the overflow of' a few of the crofts, which we think we are not entitled to pay, as the adjoining farmer pays for the half and his Grace used to pay the other half. Part of us have paid upwards of 10 per cent, annually since two years for the cleaning of it, owing to the factor threatening that we were tenants at will.

39473. We hear from the commissioner that the tenants generally upon his Grace's estate would rather sit without a lease as life tenants than have a lease for a certain number of years; what do you think about that? Would you prefer to have a lease, or would you rather sit upon an understanding?
—I would rather have a lease, but a substantial lease—not a nineteen years' lease, because I have got £16 worth of lime and wood there, and I have sacrificed £189 if I am evicted any time. I cannot say whether we may or not. It is hardly worth their while to do it to an old man like me.

39474. But you don't think it probable you will be evicted?
—No, I don't think it would be consistent with any generous man, and I make no doubt that his Grace is a very benevolent man, but I am sorry to say there are some who have to do with him that are not so.

39475. But what I want to understand generally is whether a lease would be more agreeable to the people than trusting to the benevolence of the best proprietor ?
—No, I don't prefer a lease unless it is a substantial one. It would require to be a ninety-nine years' lease or a perpetual one.

39476. What has prompted you to lay out so large a sum of money upon a house without security? That surely shows you have great confidence in the management of the estate?
—Well, I had been forty-seven years in business, and as I had a little capital about me I thought I would make myself commodious in my later days, but I find it the reverse. If I was a young man, I would prefer to put 3000 miles of the Atlantic between me and the estate.

39477. You would prefer emigration?
—I would, in one sense

39478. In what sense?
—That I would not be annoyed, because it is not easy for a spirited man to put up with what he feels. I stated about a drain there.

39479. Is the drain not useful to you?
—No, not useful at all.

39480. But it is useful to the township?
—To two parties, no more; and we pay 10 per cent. The cleaning only cost £10, and the adjoining farmer paid £5, and the factor thought proper we were to pay the £ 5; and as he saw we would not do it I signed, but it was under protest I put down my name; and then we pay 10 per cent, and he charges that along with the rent.

39481. Ten per cent, upon what?
—Upon the £5. We pay 11s between us for it.

39482. How much do you pay yourself?
—I had 2s. to pay, but I would have to pay £ 1 if I was to pay it all.

39483. You have to pay 2s. every year?
—Yes. Besides, there is another drain to the west that men complain of very strongly. They are paying since thirty years for a drain, and there is one that paid £ 1 , 17s. 6d. since that, and he thinks it should come off him.

39484. The Commissioners cannot enter iuto discussion of drains or little things of that kind. Your complaint generally is that you would like security of tenure?

39485. Mr Cameron.
—Do you represent the people of the parish of Clyne?
—No, only my own township. The principal man is away; he had to go to Caithness.

39486. Were you elected to represent them?

39487. Did they tell you to say all you have said to-day?

39488. Do they agree with you about the 3000 miles you would put between you and the system that exists?
—Oh ! it is just a word of my own; but it is not pleasant for any spirited man to have to do many things.

39189. Do you hear the people talking much in your part of the district about emigration?

39490. They don't seem to take any particular interest in it?
—Well, they are pretty old people there.

39491. There must be some young ones?
—Not to marry. They have no encouragement now.

39492. You mean they get no encouragement from the young women to marry?
—Well, unless they be fixed by a young woman.

39493. Where do the young men go to ?
—They generally go to the south to work.

39494. Do they remain there?
—Very often. Most of them stay and assist their parents, and that is the way they build themselves houses of their own. There are a considerable number of slated houses in the parish now.

39495. And do the young women go out into service in the parish now?
—They do. It is not easy to get a woman to stop.

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