JOHN MACDONALD, Crofter, Opinan (39)—examined.
29446. The Chairman.
—I see you have a statement?
—'We, the undersigned tenants of Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart., are very much surprised, grieved, and disappointed, to hear for our own and others sakes that an attempt is proposed to be made in the interest of certain shopkeepers alone, to object to Mr Donald Mackenzie supplying the tenantry with a change of seed oats annually, as he has been kindly doing to our very great benefit for some time past. Were it not for Mr Mackenzie, the one-half of the ground on this property would not be laid down; he is also a public benefactor in various other ways —for instance, he has compelled the meal-dealers to reduce the price of their meal very considerably, while, at the same time, he invariably kept very superior meal, and, whether people had money or not to pay for it, he always supplied them ungrudgingly. Moreover, Mr Mackenzie, for the convenience and great benefit of the Gairloch estate tenantry, kept eight superior bulls, for the use of which he makes a very moderate charge; but at the same time he never objected to the tenants keeping bulls themselves of the right kind, if able and willing to do so. Through his instrumentality the breed of stock has greatly improved, and fetched better prices in the markets than formerly, as we all very well know and appreciate. The Royal Commissioners and the outside public would have heard more of poverty in Gairloch, were it not for the forethought, consideration, and kindness of Mr Mackenzie. Every person interested in the prosperity and well-being of the people of Gairloch would be sorry that anything should be said or done against Mr Mackenzie's transactions, to dissuade him or discourage him in any way.
Signed by JOHN MACPHERSON.
29447. Who wrote this J
—A lady belonging to the place was the writer, but we ourselves are the authors of it.
29448. Thirty-six signatures, all made by the people ?
—Yes, these are the genuine signatures of the people.
29449. You never heard any complaint among the tenantry with regard to the dealings of Mr Mackenzie in me?
—No. It is from him I buy my seed oats and guauo. I have taken these things from him as a crofter for the last five years, and if I could get them cheaper anywhere else I would go there.
29450. Have you more confidence in the quality of the seed and the guano, because you get it from the factor for the estate ?
—No, not particularly because it is supplied by the factor, but because it turns out well every year.
29451. But surely you have always got the factor here whom you could reproach if it were not good. Is it not an advantage to have it on the spot ?
—I would take it from the one that I could get it best from, and cheapest.
29452. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How was it known beforehand that any such statement as that was to be made here to-day ?
—We heard it remarked about a week ago; and we were afraid it might be brought up, and we thought if it were brought up, the effect of it would be that he would cease to supply us.
29453. Would you like to see the business and mercantile transactions in Gairloch under the factor and ground officer ?
—I cannot exactly tell about that, but I know that it is from him that I get my own supplies.
29454. Would you or would you not like to see the mercantile transactions of Gairloch in the hands of the factor?
—It is quite possible that, if it were entirely in the hands of the factor, it might be the worse for us—that is quite possible; but at present there is opposition —and perhaps I may get advantage of it.
29455. Is it not more likely that the fact of business being carried on by the factor and ground officer will kill all opposition than the reverse ?
—That might be, but when there are a good number of merchants, as there are, there is opposition, and we get the advantage; we go to the cheapest man.
29456. The factor, then, is underselling the other merchants ?
—I think he is.
29457. You say in this paper the complaint has been made in the interest of certain shopkeepers alone; who are the shopkeepers ?
—I cannot tell who the traders referred to are, but we heard that traders were complaining that he was injuring their trade, and we did not want that he should be put down because we considered him the better man.
29458. Did any of the traders appear here to-day ?
—Not as delegates, that I am aware of.
29459. What was the meaning of getting up this paper then ?
—The reason of getting up the paper was, that we heard the matter was to be taken up as against the factor to-day, and we thought perhaps the effect of it might be used against him in such a way that he would cease to trade, and we consider him the best trader of them all. For five years I have been taking supplies from the same man, and I would not get credit from another man.
29460. By whom was it supposed that the matter would be taken up against the factor since no delegate from the shopkeepers has appeared?
—I cannot name any man who wan to have taken up the matter to-day. We were told the matter was to be taken up in the interests of the local merchants.
29461. Have the local merchants no right to make a complaint?
—Yes, and they have the right to make it here.
29462. Have they done so to-day?
—I did not hear it.