ALEXANDER M'LEOD, Crofter (formerly Fisherman), Polban (50), assisted by MURDO SHAW, Crofter (formerly Fisherman) (52)—examined.
28300. Mr Cameron.
—Are you delegates ?
28301. Have you any statement to make ?
—' The case of the Poolban tenants may be stated briefly to be —That they have too little land; that they have no security of tenure, and no compensation for improvements; and that their rents are too high. There are twenty-seven families on twenty-three lots varying in size from two to three acres arable. The only changes made have been for the worse. Some forty-five years ago, when the township was under Captain M'Leod, they had a part of Badintarbet, the whole of Old Dornie, and six islands for grazing purposes. These places, when Captain M'Leod gave up the place, were cut off and laid under sheep, and instead of receiving a compensation their rents have been raised. We now pay about £120 for the greatly reduced area. The fact is that this curtailment of pasturage has been one of the greatest grievances. Among the consequences are that such of us as are able to have more than one cow and six or seven sheep are obliged to pay for grazing for them elsewhere, although in all probability the officials on the estate will give in all these extra beasts of ours as part of the stock which we are privileged to keep. Another grievance is that we want suitable piers and harbours —a want common to all the Coigach townships. Although, as has been seen, the defective and deficient land resources of the district force us to look at the sea for a great share of our support, we are met by the want of piers and harbours. This want entails not only danger and loss but very serious injury. We cannot use boats of a sufficient size for proper fishing, because we must draw them ashore every landing. The seriousness of the want of a pier at which to embark for, and land from Ullapool will be easily understood from the description given of the mountains which stand in the way by land. The most obvious way of passing between this district and Ullapool is by sea. But there is no quay for embarkation although there is no want of suitable places for the purpose between Poolbain and the Big Rock. But, as already stated, the greatest grievance is the want of land. Twenty-seven tenants, for example, have only an area of one mile by one fourth for pasture and peats. This grievance is more easily remedied here than in many places, for the excellent arable and pasture lands of Badentarbet and Old Dornie are in the immediate neighbourhood of Poolbain, and, what is worthy of remark, although these places have been out of lease several times they were kept from us.
—ALEXANDER X M'LEOD, MURDO X SHAW.'
28302. It is stated in this paper that you have no security of tenure; have you much fear of beiug turned out?
—I don't know.
28303. Is not your great want rather more land with which to support your families than to protect yourselves against the danger of being evicted ?
28304. Have there been any arbitrary evictions of late years ?
28305. As the want of more land seems to be greatly felt, will you describe to us the nature of the land which you mention in your statement as suitable to be added to the crofters ?
—It is the land upon the other side of us that was taken from us.
28306. But I want to know the nature of it?
—It is of both kinds; it is suitable, part of it, for arable cultivation, and some for pasture land.
28307. Is it better land than what you have yourself ?
—Some of it is better.
28308. On an average is it about the same, or better ?
—I cannot tell very well until it was brought under cultivation.
28309. Who holds that land now ?
—A farmer has it.
28310. What is his name?
—He is a tenant, a man of the country name, Donald M'Leod; and we march with Baden Tarbet on the other side.
28311. What rent does Donald M'Leod pay?
—Probably he pays about £36, but I don't know the exact figure.
28312. He cannot be called a large farmer then. Is that the only farmer who lives on one side of your croft ?
—Yes, that is the only one upon that side.
28313. That land would hardly be available to add to the crofts ?
—Yes, that may be the case; but our chief grievance is that the wintering has been taken from us —the islands.
28314. But in the meantime you don't want to take Donald M'Leod's land away ?
—I am not able to say much about it ; it is chiefly pastoral, and perhaps for an increase of food to the people it would not be of much service although we got it.
28315. What is there on the other side which would be available
—Baden Tarbet farm.
28316. What is the size of it?
—It is a pretty large farm.
28317. What rent does he pay?
—I used to know the rent, but I don't know it now..
28318. Is it held by a man of the name of Cameron ?
28319. I see that he pays £115 a year of rent, if enough land were given to you and taken from Mr Cameron, do you think it would leave him with any land worth speaking of, or would he still have sufficient ?
—I really could not give an opinion upon that.
28320. Tell me about the islands ?
—The great loss arising from our being deprived of the islands is this, that we have nothing now to winter our cattle, whereas formerly, cattle could winter themselves upon the islands, the islands lie low, and the cattle could eat sea-ware and grass and heather.
28321. I have no doubt the islands would be a great benefit to you, but they appear to be comparatively small farms, and if you got them the man who occupies the islands would have to go ?
—They are not given to the same man ; they are held by different people.
28322. How many tenants occupy these islands?
—They are distributed between three or four tenants, but nobody lives on them; they always belonged to our place formerly.
28323. They have not belonged tc your place for forty-five years?
—It is some twenty or thirty years since we lost some of them.
28324. These islands which have no resident tenants upon them would be suitable for adding to the crofts ?
—Yes, it would be exceedingly suitable to add them.
28325. Have you brought this under the notice of the factor?
—No, it is not very long since the present factor came to the place. All these changes were made before his time.
28326. How long has the present factor been in the place?
—Seven or eight years.
28327. Is the place where you want a pier put up and a harbour to be made, the same we have heard of to-day already, or is it a fresh place ?
—It is at Baden Tarbat in the centre of the country and not in our own particular part of it at all. The anchorage would suit; it is a quay we require.
28328. Do you think the one quay would be sufficient and suitable for the whole district from which we have heard delegates ?
—It would suit by far the greater number of them, but perhaps it would not be very convenient for the whole of them
28329. If you were to choose one place, the most convenient for everybody, would it be the place you mention ?
28330. The Chairman (to Murdo Shaw).
—You have heard what your co delegate has said?
28331. Do you agree with it?
28332. Have you anything you wish to add ?
—No, nothing, except that we complain of the small holdings and the large rents; and it has been that way since M'Leod lotted out the land and fixed the rent. We have been deprived of our peat ground which is getting exhausted, and we have to go a long way for the peats now.