Poolewe, 31 July 1883 - Osgood Henry Mackenzie

OSGOOD HENRY MACKENZIE, Proprietor and Farmer, Inverewe (41)—examined.

29339. The Chairman.
—The last witness told us that their fishing boats were made in whole or in part of larch wood. I see you have been an extensive planter; have you ever made any estimate of what the value of the wood would be in this country ?
—No, I have not. At present I think the price of the wood is very low; much lower than what it was
some years ago.

29340. Is that the case even with larch wood?
—I cannot say. I have never sold any wood; my wood is all young; but I think it is all low.

29341. You have probably planted your wood with a view to ornament ?
—Yes; and the trees are quite young.

29342. How do you find the larch thrive ?
—It thrives very well in some parts, but I have planted it in rather bad soil. I think, however, planting would do a great deal of good to the country.

29343. And would be eventually profitable?
—I think so.

29344. If you had, at the present time, larch in a state of maturity, would you not find a good market for the sale of the trees ?
—I have heard that the market is not good for any kind of wood —not very good.

29345. But is there not a considerable improvement going on in the building of better houses ?
—Yes, all the new houses are good compared with what they were.

29346. And should that not create a demand for timber?
—It should.

29347. Have you planted a great deal of hard wood besides larch ?
—No, I have planted but little altogether. If I had more money I should like to plant thousands of acres, but it is rather expensive work.

29348. Planting involves not only the employment of labour, but a good deal of permanent labour?
—A great deal. That can be seen in Loch Broom, which will give work for many years, and it has given a good deal of employment in Gairloch for many years.

29349. Is the wood cut on the Gairloch estate used for the domestic purposes of the country as well as for roofing ?

29350. Also for fencing?
—Yes, for the posts.

29351. Is fencing increasing now in the country?
—Very much; every body wants fences, even the crofters.

29352. So that the demand for stocks for wire fences would alone make a considerable market for the small wood ?
—Except when people are using iron entirely. In this wet climate wood soon rots when it is not good.

29353. Are you a sheep farmer ?
—I am to a small extent.

29354. What kind of sheep ?
—About eight hundred cheviots.

29355. We have heard a great deal about the deterioration of the pasture in this country owing to the extensive use of sheep upon the ground, is that consistent with your experience?
—There is no doubt about it.

29356. What do you attribute that to ?
—Because the sheep feed during the day time and go up and lie on the rocks at night and leave the manure there; whereas cattle always lie on the best places at night.

29357. You mix the cattle and sheep ?
—Yes, but I have only lately taken to cattle.

29358. Do you find the introduction of cattle both useful to the pasture and profitable in the market ?
—It is certainly useful to the pasture, but I don't know that there will be much profit made out of them.

29359. What class of cattle do you use ?
— Pure West Highland.

29360. Do you find that shorthorn crosses are being introduced here ?
—We have not tried them here, but it is a very good cross.

29361. Has anyone tried it?
—Nobody in this parish.

29362. Do you think it is likely to be tried?
—I don't think it is very likely; it is so troublesome to be constantly buying in fresh Highland heifers.

29363. You would not like to see the cross propagate itself?
—I don't think that is a very good system, getting cross bulls to the cross cows. It has not been found good with sheep.

29364. Is there any improvement visible in the crofters' stock ?
—A great improvement,

29365. So that they are getting better prices?
—Yes, four times what they got thirty-five years ago.

29366. Mr Cameron.
—What other employment have the people besides what they obtain on their own crofts in this district—apart from the wood planting ?
—Very little indeed.

29367. I suppose, except upon Sir Kenneth's estate and upon his own works, there is, practically, none at all?
—Very little. I give a little, and Mr Bankes used to give a little, but nothing to benefit the people in any way.

29368. Do they get much employment from shooting tenants ?
—A good deal, for a short time.

29369. That only lasts while the shooting tenants are here ?
—Some of them have gardeners.

29370. Do tourists employ many ?
—Yes, a good many are employed by hotel keepers—they are employed as boatmen for the fishermen.

29371. And it gives them a fair market for eggs and poultry?
—Yes, it has raised the prices.

29372. What do they get for eggs at the present time ?
—About 6d. a dozen.

29373. And when the cattle were so cheap they got much less I suppose?
—I remember then getting 2d. a dozen.

29374. What do they get for a chicken ?
—One shilling.

29375. It was mentioned in the examination of the first witness that
the manager kept a shop in the village of Strath Gairloch ?
—That was a mistake; he certainly did not.

29376. Do you know anything about the privileges which the manager has ?
—He has no privilege whatever.

29377. Has anybody on Gairloch estate the right to keep a shop ?
—Every one.

29378. The Chairman.
—Is there any of the land in this parish now occupied as a deer forest which would be available for planting trees ?
—I don't think there is very much in the parish. There is a great deal of land under sheep available for planting, but I don't think there is any under deer.

29379. You think there is very little forest area?
—Very little of Gairloch or of Kinlochewe.

29380. Are remains of trees found in the bogs and mosses ?
—Yes, very large magnificent trees.

29381. Of what kind?
—Almost all Scotch fir, but some oak.

29382. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have no crofters yourself?

29383. What is about the acreage of your estate?
—About 13,000 acres.

29384. Did the whole of it once belong to the Gairloch family ?
—None of it, except Kernsery.

29385. To whom did Inverewe belong?
—To Sir George Mackenzie of Coul.

29386. In former times, before it came into your possession, were there not a number of small tenants in it ?

29387. Were they removed all at one time or at different times ?
—I think there were three sets of tenants removed within the memory of man.

29388. You stated to Lord Napier you thought there was not much of the acreage under deer that would plant, and you immediately added that the bogs were filled with wood ?

29389. Is not that a little inconsistent ?
—Where there is a great depth of wet peat you would require to remove that or drain it before trees
would grow, because the trees are mostly on the hard, the peat has grown since.

29390. But that would only apply to peat bogs ?

29391. Is there any reason why larches should not grow on the bogs ?
—There are a great many hard bits that would grow Scotch fir. I meant to say I did not think the deer forests in Gairloch were suitable —probably from their being on the higher ground and poor soil

29392. You have been present all day?

29393. And have heard all the people have stated ?

29394. Can it be considered that the present position of the crofters in this parish, apart from the earnings they make in the south, is satisfactory?
—No; I don't think so. We are always liable to poverty.

29395. Can you suggest any remedy?
—I should suggest that they should be encouraged to emigrate, and that fishing villages should be made.

29396. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You heard the witness from Laid speak of the want of a harbour for fishermen there; do you think there is, about the coast here, a want of accommodation to encourage fishermen ?

29397. Are there any particular places you would consider eligible for the erection of a quay ?
—I think Melvaig and Laid.

29398. Would it afford accommodation and protection to a large district of fishermen ?
—Yes, there are three large crofter townships there, which might be made much more comfortable if they had a pier.

29399. Could it be done without any great expenditure of money?
—I think the Laid one might, but that at Melvaig would be more costly.

29400. The Chairman.
—Is there any natural reef that could be used as a foundation?
—There is a rock which runs out, and, if there were a little bit put out at right angles from it ; it might make a good breakwater. Laid is about three miles from Aultbea.

29401. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you think if a considerable number of the crofters devoted themselves more exclusively to the fishing it would be an advantage to them ?
—I think it would. I think they would be better fishers, and the others would be better crofters.

29402. Has the mode of fishing here improved during your experience ?
—I should say not very much. There is one place at Isle Horrisdale where the people are more energetic. I don't think they are very energetic at present.

29403. The Chairman.
—Can you suggest any reason for the superior energy of the people there ?
—It is difficult to say what the reason is. They had very little land there; they were on an island —and had only a bit of potato land, and generally no cow, I think.

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