ALEXANDER MACGREGOR, Shipwright, Strath of Gairloch (35)—examined.
28712. The Chairman.
—Have you been chosen a delegate by the people of Strath Gairloch ?
28713. What kind of meeting was there of the tenants—how many were present, and how were you elected?
—I cannot tell the number present, but I can tell the way in which the meeting was called.
28714. Relate that, if you please?
—The crofters of the Strath had a preliminary meeting. I was not present at that meeting, but at the second meeting I was present, and one of the members proposed my name as a delegate to appear before your Lordship and the Commissioners.
28715. About how many people were present at the meeting at which you were proposed and chosen?
—There might have been thirty or forty.
28716. How many of those may have been heads of families or tenants paying rent ?
—I could not say how many; but I can say that, so far as I know, only three people were present who were not croftere themselves at one time, or sons of crofters. The three exceptions were the chairman, the Rev. Mr Mackenzie, Dr Robertson, and Mr Lamont the schoolmaster.
28717. So that there may have been twenty-five or twenty-six present who were either occupiers paying rent or representing them ?
28718. How many holdings or occupiers are there in the township?
—Maybe about fifty.
28719. You think that about half the people were present, or their representatives ?
—I am not sure that half the people were present; they were not at home to be present.
28720. Are the people away at the fishing just now ?
—It was during the summer fishing season. At present they are at the east coast fishing.
28721. Are you the son of a crofter or tenant?
28722. Is your father alive ?
28723. Can you tell me why the people didn't choose one of their own number—a tenant occupying land —to represent them ?
—I cannot tell; I never asked an explanation.
28724. You cannot imagine that they had any particular motive?
—I don't know any motive they might have unless that they thought I would just say what they wished.
28725. Were there any strangers at the meeting advising the people, or were their selection and their memorial a spontaneous expression of their own feelings ?
—There were no strangers present.
28726. Have you a written statement to present?
—It is hardly meant as a statement, but it was meant to include the conclusions the meeting came to :
—' The principal grievances of which the crofters complain are the smallness of their holdings, the insecure manner in which they are held, and that under the present estate regulations they cannot expect any compensation for improvement, as they limit and restrict compensation to such an extent that at the end of twenty years none whatever is granted, a state of things which we consider to be entirely wrong, for we hold that the proprietor has no right to appropriate the value of the tenants improvements after the lapse of any number of years. The hill and pasture has undergone a process of curtailing to gratify the farmers on both sides without any reduction in the rent, but when a piece was taken off the farm of Shieldaig, held by the Marquis of Bristol, the rent was reduced according to valuation. Present rents are too high. The township of Strath paying, including hill rent, estate labour, and rates, something like £230, and if the estate labour was exacted according to estate regulation, the sum would be considerably higher. Estate labour should be entirely abolished. The sea-weed which grows without trouble to anyone is mostly in possession of large farmers who do not require what they have of it, and the crofters not being allowed a sufficient quantity have to buy of them.
28727. What is the name of the particular township?
—Strath of Gairloch.
28728. What is the size of a complete croft ?
—About four acres.
28729. What is the stock—the summing—kept on the hill grazing?
—I wish to state now that so far as I knew it was not that I was able to give the best information that they put me forward. The time was rather short, and I have not the exact totals or the like of that, but I have no doubt it is all made up in the manager's statement. So far as I know the summing is two cows and about sixteen sheep.
28730. Two cows with followers ?
—Yes, and sixteen or twenty sheep.
28731. Any horses?
—Some of them keep horses, but very few.
28732. Is there any restriction with reference to the number of horses kept?
—I am not aware of any restriction.
28733. What is the usual rent of such a croft?
—The rents vary very much—from £1 up to £6.
28734. For the same sort of croft?
—According to the value placed upon them.
28735. According to the quality of the croft?
28736. What can you say is the ordinary or average rent for a whole croft capable of keeping this summing ? What did your own father pay ?
—My father occupied one of the dearest crofts in the Strath—number one croft in the Strath—it came to about £8 or £9.
28737. It may have been also one of the best. What would you consider the average rental for the average quality of croft?
—I did not think of speaking of the average so far as I have found them. I should think some of them are worth about £ 1 an acre —a few may be higher; that would be about £4 a croft—from £4 to £5.
28738. Are there many of these whole crofts subdivided, or are they all held undivided ?
—Very few are subdivided.
28739. When were the present rents fixed?
—I cannot give the exact number of years ago; but there are two other delegates present from the Strath older than I am, who can give most of the information.