JOHN FOWLER, C.E., Proprietor of Braemore (66)—examined.
28169. The Chairman.
—How long have you been connected with this country ?
28170. Were you acquainted with the condition of the Highlands before you became proprietor?
—Yes, for thirty-two years. During the last thirty-two years I have spent several months of every year in the Highlands.
28171. And you have been a great employer of labour in various countries ?
28172. You have had occasion to study or observe the condition of labouring people in many parts of the Highlands ?
—Yes, the question of the condition of the labouring classes has always been an interesting subject to me, not only in the Highlands, but in every part of the world.
28173. In the course of our inquiries we have heard a very general statement of a desire on the part of the crofting population to obtain the occupancy of more land. Do you think it consistent with the welfare and improvement of the crofting population that they should have more land and live upon the land, or that they should have less land and live upon wages and auxiliary labour?
—That would depend entirely on circumstances. If a man has sufficient capital and sufficient power in himself and his family to provide labour —when I say sufficient capital, I mean not merely to stock the land but to carry him over one or two bad years —if a man is in that position he may look forward to living fairly and comfortably as a farmer. But nothing could be more disadvantageous to a crofter who depends on labour more or less skilled, or on fishing, to have more land than is just sufficient to support one or two cows for his family, and the necessary little corn and vegetables he requires, because he is neither a farmer nor a labourer nor anything else. That is the most unfortunate condition of all. I don't at all object to a man having more land if he has means of using it and of living as a farmer —that is with sufficient capital and power of labour. But for a man to have sufficient land to tempt him to leave industrial occupations on which he must mainly depend for himself and his family, I think it is the most unfortunate of all conditions of the labouring classes; and that is the result of thirty-two years' experience.
28174. You think that the addition of a small portion of arable ground to the croft would not be advantageous to the crofter, but might lead him to expend his labour uselessly upon the cultivation of the land ?
—Yes, if the quantity is more than that which would occupy him in what may be called surplus hours or surplus time. If it is to take him from earning money as a smith or carpenter or an unskilled labourer, or from his occupation as a fisherman, I am sure instead of being advantageous to him it would be distinctly disadvantageous.
28175. We have heard a very general expression of opinion that they might receive an addition to their land in the form of hill pasture which would be easily managed, which would not absorb much of their labour, and which would be very advantageous to their families ?
—In my experience nearly every croft has attached to it —in my own case it has besides a .small quantity of arable land, grazing for a cow or a horse, or two cows as it may be, on the hill, and that I consider is the best possible condition for a man to be in—a small portion of arable land and the means of keeping his cow on the hill. He must have means to provide summer grazing if he is to keep a cow all the year.
28176. And what about sheep?
—I think sheep are exceedingly doubtful matter indeed, unless it can be done by parties clubbing together and having a hirsel, or a number of sheep that require the attention of a shepherd. If that can be done the sheep could be managed with economy. But that would require the fencing in of the portion which was attached to even a club quantity. I think if that could be done it would be a good thing, and I see no objection to it. I think it a doubtful privilege, without some such arrangement, to have the power to send a few sheep on the hill.
28177. You think, if the hill pasture could be extended so as to afford to the township the means of forming a club sheep farm, that might be advantageous and would not absorb their labour in a disadvantageous manner?
—I think that is quite a feasible thing to do, because it would combine economy in management of the sheep with the profitable use of the hill. But any other way I don't think it can be done with any advantage. Of course, I need not tell you that there might be, and probably would be, very considerable difficulty in the details of management of such a club farm, because the sheep would have to be marked, they would be jealously watched to see whether one part of the sheep had better pasture or were better attended to, and all that in detail would probably present more difficulties than might appear at first. But in principle I don't see any objection to it
28178. Some of the delegates who have appeared before us have contended that the auxiliary industry of the croft could be provided for by the same family at the same time; the elder members of the family who were no longer able to fish attending to the husbandry, and the younger members going to sea ?
—That is really what is done now—that is to say, some members of the family not efficient as labourers owing to their age and infirmities, capable of doing useful work about their crofts, but still not in a position to hire themselves out for profitable labour. That is really the method of working at present. My only objection is, from my experience, not having the slightest jealousy of the crofters being comfortable, that if you expand the crofter into a farmer without the necessary conditions of successful farming, you ruin him and do him no good at all.
28179. As an employer of labour in this vicinity you have had occasion to employ crofting people as labourers?
—For the last eighteen years I have employed as much labour as the district could supply me with, and I am doing so now, and the great majority of the men who supply me with labour —at all events a very large proportion—are of the crofter class.
28180. What wages did you pay eighteen years ago and what do you pay now ?
—I am not quite sure that I can tell you that. I think there is very little difference indeed. Of course there is a difference in the value of different men's labour. Putting it at the very best there is a small difference between the amount eighteen years ago and now, probably 6d. a head. But before that there was a great difference. A great change in wages in the Highlands occurred when the railway was extended up to Inverness. Then the whole condition of the island became changed, because people were then able to go to the Highlands with their families for country houses and shooting lodges; and from that time there was a great accession of employment of labour by reason of the railways themselves and the roads connected with them, and the great number of estates which were then purchased, or improved by the old proprietors, for country houses, instead of old shooting lodges. Of course there had been changes previous to that, but to my personal knowledge great changes took place then.
28181. What is the common rate of wages in summer just now?
—I think about 3s. a day for efficient labour, and sometimes 2s. 6d.
28182. How does the labour of able-bodied members of the crofting class compare with the labour of a workman in other parts of the country ?
—As might be expected, men who are of the crofting class have not the same continuous training for any work, or the strong food of what may be called the navvy class who do the work on the railways, and whose sole business it is. I don't say that in the way of finding fault with the crofter class, because their occupation is a different one; but a crofter at 3s. a day would be at least as expensive as an English navvy at 4s. 6d. I could give you a very curious instance of the difference in different parts of England. In Yorkshire and Lancashire, the labouring classes are most efficient and do the greatest quantity of good work. In Devonshire and Cornwall and Somersetshire they do a very much less quantity of labour —at least thirty per cent less.
28183. You don't find any want of inclination to work on the part of the men ?
—It is difficult to distinguish between disinclination and inability. I have not been able to get as much labour as I desired.
28181. You mean as many labourers?
—Yes. I am not only improving my property in the way of building roads and bridges, but I also employ labour on permanently improving the land by trenching. I am willing to do that when I can find labour, but I have often great difficulty and sometimes it is altogether impossible to obtain it.
28185. You have a sheep farm on your estate?
28186. In the formation of that sheep farm you have had no occasion to remove any of the small tenants ?
28187. But you have some small tenants on the property?
—Eight or nine crofters.
28188. Do you find that the exhibition of a better description of husbandry on the arable part of your farm has had any influence in teaching crofters to cultivate their land better?
—I think so; I think there is a general disposition on the part of my crofters to cultivate their land better, and to have better houses and to pay for them. On that point I should like to make a remark, that my crofters, I suppose looking to other things and common sense, don't expect to pay only the same rent when they have good houses and improvements in the way of roads and bridges which makes their holding more valuable; they are willing to pay a fair and proper rent for the additional accommodation. An increase of rent is not necessarily a hardship to a crofter, but is very often to his advantage. But in answer to your important question I have no hesitation in saying that I see in my own crofters, and I have no doubt it is the same in the neighbourhood, a desire to improve the cultivation of the land, and of course their own personal comfort, and that of their families.
28189. When a house has to be improved among your crofters, is it done by yourself or the crofter or by co-operation ?
—I do everything myself; that is to say, all that is called landlord's improvements —building and
everything of that kind. I don't think we have any case of any one leaving. But I should like from my experience to say this, that what seems to me almost more wanted in dealing with the agricultural part of the question, both with tenants and crofters in the Highlands, is a good system of what is understood iu England as valuation by custom; that is to say that an out-going tenant shall receive full and proper compensation for all unexhausted improvements, at the same time being responsible for the dilapidations. If a tenant cross crops his land, or in any way gives up his farm in a condition in which the incoming tenant should not receive it as being in good condition, in the best parts of England the outgoing tenant has dilapidations deducted from his unexhausted improvements, and I consider that a most wholesome and proper system; and I don't know anything that would be more calculated to do good in the Highlands than some regulation or system of that kind. I have spoken to experienced valuers in Edinburgh and the Highlands, and all agree with me entirely in that, they say the difficulty is that the custom having been, not to punish out-going tenants with deductions for dilapidations except in very extreme cases indeed, it would be necessary to make a start; that is to say, the landlord probably would have to take upon himself in the first instance to give to the in-coming tenant a fair start, so that he should be responsible for dilapidations at the end of his lease, otherwise an incoming tenant would go out with great disadvantage. He would have the disadvantage of dilapidations andwould have them deducted from him in the end. Therefore it is necessary to make a start. But I commend that to the notice of the Commissioners as very important for the good cultivation of land in the county.
28190. Has there been any beginning of such a system on any of the older or larger estates in the Highlands ?
—Not that I am aware of. I am better acquainted in these matters with Yorkshire and the southern counties of England, and I know it has been the system there, and has been attended with great advantage.
28191. But the holdings I presume are very much larger?
—Yes in some case, and in some cases smaller. In England there is a greater number of middle sized farms. In the Highlands they are either very large or very small; but in England, in many parts, there is a greater number of moderate sized farms.
28192. Have you seen anywhere in England any class of occupiers answering to our crofters or small tenants here?
—No, not in England; it does not arise there because there are no such men. In England in nearly all cases you can get milk and the necessary things for your family from towns and villages. In a thinly populated country like the Highlands, unless a man is to a certain extent self-contained it would be a great hardship upon him; therefore I think it is a very desirable thing here that you should keep up the system of the crofter having his cow and his means within himself for his family interests, including vegetables. In Ireland I am very well acquainted —as well or better acquainted than with the Highlands of Scotland —and there you have the same class.
28193. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the total acreage of your estate ?
28194. How much of it is in forest ?
28195. Did you form the forest yourself?
28196. What was it before?
—One large sheep farm.
28197. You have heard, no doubt, that there was a considerable population in Braemore long before your time ?
—There must have been, from the old maps in my possession.
28198. Have you ever heard there were more than thirteen townships on Braemore at one time ?
28199. There may have been or there may not ?
—There may have been 1300.
28200. You spoke about your crofters ?
28201. A crofter, according to the definition of the Commission, is laid down as a man paying £30 of rent and under. I don't observe any such people in the valuation roll ?
—That I don't know. All the crofters on my estate are sub-tenants to the principal tenant, but they are crofters in every sense of the word.
28202. Do they pay rent to you direct ?
—My son is my tenant, and they pay to him.
28203. You made use of the expression a minute ago in a thinly populated country like the Highlands
—do you admit it is thinly populated ?
—Yes, but I think quite sufficiently populated.
28201. Although thinly populated, in your opinion it is still sufficiently populated ?
—I do indeed think so. With regard to the sheep farm, in changing from the sheep farm to the deer forest I have considerably increased the number of men employed upon the ground.
28205. Who are constantly engaged upon the forest?
28206. You have stated that crofts to be enlarged—which the people generally wish themselves
—would be a mistake without their having other means to keep them up?
—Yes; I assumed when it was put to me—I don't know that they generally desired it. My answer would be that those who desire it, except under the conditions I explained, would not obtain a profitable or desirable thing if they did obtain it. You must take it of course with my explanation. I have no desire to restrict any crofter from taking as much land as he can manage.
28207. Supposing the crofters themselves are of the opinion that it would be advantageous for them in all cases to get an increase, would you set up your judgment against theirs?
—If they state generally they desire it without at the same time stating that they were prepared with the necessary capital to deal with it, then I should say the conditions are wanting on which to form a judgment. We all desire to have more than we have, and we all desire to pay less than we pay; therefore, that general desire would have no weight with me.
28208. Do you think yourself qualified to pronounce an opinion upon that question against the opinion of the crofters themselves ?
—I feel myself quite competent to give an opinion on the subject, for what it is worth. I have for the last thirty-two years watched the growth, and I am happy to say the increase of comfort, of crofters in the Highlands of Scotland, with great satisfaction to myself, and I have endeavoured to inform myself
what leads to success or failure, and I think I am competent to have a very fairly good opinion on that point.
28209. You have been present all this day?
—No, I came in about one o'clock.
28210. You heard something of what was stated ?
28211. You heard several delegates mention that they were scrimped and confined in their occupation?
—I heard one man from Coigach who is employed on my estate.
28212. You did not hear anything before then ?
—I heard part of another man's evidence. Of course I need not say the Commissioners will hear the other side of that.
28213. As you have mentioned that labourer who is with you—He pays you Is. 6d. a week ?
—He says so.
28214. Have you many in that position ?
—Four. I am gradually improving the cottages, step by step, as I find the people desire them : and
I find there is no unwillingness to pay that rent. On the contrary there are applicants for the new houses.
28215. You have expended a large sum upon your house ?
—Yes, but comparatively small when you take the total expenditure on the estate into consideration. The expenditure on the house would not be a fourth of what I have expended on the estate.
28216. May I ask what object you had in purchasing the estate?
—I think it is rather, as you have put it apologetically, a personal question ; but in the first place, perhaps the greatest object of all was health. I knew from experience that if I put myself in a position to make it almost compulsory duty upon me to spend two months in the Highlands of Scotland every year, I should do much more good work in the kind of work I wished to do, namely public works. That was one great object. Another was a great weakness for improvement. I have always had all my life a great weakness for improving properties, and I don't remember, since I was a grown man, of ever being clear of bricks and mortar. I have always great pleasure in improving property, and making the land do everything it is possible for land to do either in regard to arable land or otherwise.
28217. These were two of your leading reasons ?
—Yes; land speculation was not one of them. With my eyes open I knew that improving the land the way I was doing was not the way to make money; I was not misled about that, and I don't in the least regret what I have done; and I hope to continue for a few years to do as I have done.
28218. Did you ever take into account the condition of the people you found on the estate ?
28219. Have you added to the population ?
—Do you mean personally? A very welcome grandchild came home last week. I think there is very
little difference in the population ; if there is a difference I should think it is a slight increase.
28220. How many people may be upon the estate altogether?
—I think about two hundred.
28221. When you spoke about the district being thinly populated did you apply that to the Highlands generally or to Braemore ?
—To the Highlands generally, because my experience of both England and the Highlands of Scotland is this, that in a purely agricultural district no increase of population takes place, nor, in my opinion, ought to take place, because if you put more people on the land than is necessary for cultivation, these must live in a more or less impoverished condition unless you can add other industries to it
28222. Two hundred people upon upwards of 40,000 acres—can you call that thickly populated ?
—I should say it is the utmost number upon that property. Of course when you talk of 10,000 acres I need not point out to you that nine-tenths of that is incapable of growing anything except for black-faced sheep, or deer or hares or rabbits, and from its elevation, and, therefore, from its climate and the absence of soil, it is entirely incapable of further cultivation. In point of fact I don't hesitate to say that, taking Braemore as it is, everything has been done that can be done to increase the productiveness of the soil, with the exception of a few fields which were trenched; but as to attempting to cultivate the sides of hills, or when you get two or three thousand feet high, it is absurd.
28223. You must not be depreciating your property altogether. Is there not as good land as you have ever seen which your son occupies at Inver Broom ?
—No, certainly not.
28221. Is there not very good land there ?
—No, all the land there is light and sandy. With care and cultivation it produces a very fair crop, but comparing it with the rich alluvial land of England it would be called very poor land indeed.
28225. But is it not as good as you find in the Highlands ?
—I have no doubt I have more than doubled the production of that valley since it came into my possession, by making river banks to save it from floods and by properly cultivating i t ; and I hope still more to improve it in a moderate degree.
28226. Does that not all show that if proper attention is paid to it, it is very rich ?
—That is what I have done; I have been paying proper attention to it. I don't hesitate to say that no poor crofter could have done such a thing, for this reason that some of that land on which I have expended large sums of money in trenching would never have paid any man unless he had the general question to deal with. I have expended upon some of the land as much as the fee simple of the estate. You may think it a foolish thing to do, but being possessor of the whole property I thought it proper to do it. But it is a thing you could not have done on the strict unassisted crofter system.
28227. Deer forests are increasing in this parish ?
—I don't know at all.
28228. Don't you know there is one being formed in your immediate vicinity?
—I don't know.
28229. Did you never hear that Inverlaul is to be turned into forest?
—I don't think there is anything settled about it. The last thing I heard was that it was not likely to be.
28330. Are you aware that a fence is being put up ?
28231. I happen to have observed more than you?
28232. Is there not a piece of Leckmelm enclosed for forest
—I don't know, I should think not.
28233. Are you aware that a great part of Dundonnell estate has been made forest since your time?
—Dundonnell forest has been slightly increased, but only very slightly.
28231. On part of the Duchess of Sutherland's estate has the forest been enlarged ?
—That I don't know. I should think you will have Mr Gunn, the factor, who will give you precise information upon that. I should prefer to speak upon what I know.
28235. You have given a positive opinion about the crofters?
—That is because I understand the question.
28236. Do you or do you not approve of the extension of deer forests that is going on all around you and everywhere in the Highlands ?
—That is a very wide question indeed, and exceedingly difficult to answer, because it must depend on a great number of conditions.
28237. I want you to look at it as an imperial question?
—I can only look at it step by step. Taking my own case, I am sure it is a good thing that part of Braemore has been made into forest. It may be the same in other places; I don't know. It is not necessarily a bad thing; it may be a good thing. These things must regulate themselves. If the price of sheep should be so low that a farmer cannot live, then no one would wish the land to be unoccupied, because there is this advantage in deer forests that labour is employed and people come for health —it is to the advantage of the people. It is better that land should be thus occupied than unoccupied altogether.
28238. You say that a good deal of labour is employed ?
28239. I should doubt very much whether there are as many people employed on any one estate in the parish of Loch .Broom as there are in the one township of Achiltubuie ?
—I think I do a most useful thing to you by giving you accurate information on localities and subjects I thoroughly understand, and I can give you information, and complete information, with regard to Braemore, and I don't hesitate to say that during the last eighteen years the condition of the neighbourhood has been greatly improved by my wise or foolish operations at Braemore.
28240. There is no one complaining here from Braemore?
—I don't know; there is no compulsion upon them not to come; they may come yet. I don't know.
28241. You think if they did come they would really have no serious grievance to complain of ?
—I don't know. I have never yet evicted a crofter, but at the same time if I had a crofter of bad character, or a bad neighbour, my crofters would expect me to evict him, and I should have a very bad time with my good crofters if I did not evict a bad one. Eviction may be the result of a hard landlord or a bad tenant.
28242. But as a rule, when you get a respectable crofter or tenant upon your estate you would be very unwilling to dispossess him without good cause?
—Certainly ; so I think would everyone else. I like to see old faces, and I think they like to see me, and I think everyone likes to live ; at the same time we are not all good, and I think naughty people are best sent away.
28243. Do you approve of periodical valuations and raising of rent without something being done in return ?
—No. But the rent question is a difficult one; I wish I could assist in any way as to what is a proper mode of dealing with it. There is no definition of rent except value, and as a rule I think crofters and tenants are very willing to pay additional rent for additional accommodation
28244. But the question I put was this, would you approve of the periodical valuation of estates and a rise of rents being put upon small tenants, when it is ascertained that not one farthing was laid out by the proprietor; or would you do it yourself ?
—No. I wish, of course, to be perfectly candid with you, and it is difficult to answer these questions
without a preliminary explanation, for this reason, that if the original rent was too low from any cause, then a revision of that rent bringing it up to a fair and proper rent, having reference to other rents and the general value of the estate, would not be an improper thing to do. But I think if you start with a fair rent and there is no alteration in conditions, in the value of stock, which is a very important thing to take into consideration or increase of accommodation, it would be rather a hard step to take.
28245. Mr Cameron.
—With refereuce to the question of comparative expenditure, would it be impertinent to ask you how much you have expended on the property since you went there?
28246. And I presume that with the exception of the highest skilled labour, all the labour has been drawn from the surrounding district?
—Yes, that is so. I have always employed the labour of the district if I possibly could. Wherever I could accomplish the work I had to do with the labour of the district, I have preferred to do so.
28247. Do the few crofters on the estate work their land in rotation as is practised among good agricultural tenants ?
—Yes, they do very fairly well.
28248. With reference to the question on this point asked you by the chairman, may you not perhaps attribute that in some measure to the example set them on the farm in the occupation of your son, and upon which good husbandry prevails?
—Yes, and then my son and myself are on good terms with them, and speak to them and discuss with them, and so on.
28249. So that in point of fact a farm occupied by a proprietor or by a near relative, which is the same thing, has a good effect upon the agriculture of the district?
—I think it must have, necessarily.
28250. It is not often that the crofters in the Highlands do pursue the best system of agriculture; they generally have not the means or opportunities of laying down sown grass and turnips ?
—No, I am afraid it often happens that, for instance, from a bad fishing season, the men are impoverished and for a time are not able to give that assistance to the land that they would like. But there is no doubt it is the case that the crofters' land is very often less productive by reason of defective management and deficient assistance than it would be; and for that reason I always like to see small crofters have some profitable industrial enterprise or trade in connection with their land.
28251. The Chairman.
—Do you think the want of enclosures is a very great discouragement to improve the husbandry amongst them ?
—I think land should certainly be enclosed if possible. The want of enclosures often leads to disputes amongst other things —trespass and disputes. It is very desirable to have the land enclosed if possible.
28252. With reference to the use of improved grass, I suppose an enclosure between two different tenants would be almost indispensable ?
—Certainly, the moment you get from their very primitive husbandry, then enclosure becomes almost a necessity. I should like to see every crofter's ground in the nature of a garden and cultivated as a garden should be, so as to get the greatest amount out of the soil. I was a few months ago in the island of Madeira, and it was beautiful to see the quantity of crop obtained from the small acreage of land by very careful husbandry, and I hope that, step by step, that will be the case in the Highlands of Scotland.
28253. Professor Maekinnon.
—The condition of things we find here is a very small croft and a very big farm. Are you acquainted with parts of the Highlands of Scotland where the condition of things is rather large crofts and small farms ?
—No, I am not.
28254. You are not acquainted with holdings of the class of from £20 to £80?
—No. I should be very glad both in this and every part of the British Isles to see as many of a certain class as could be arranged, and that is what may be called subsistence farms. Men who have got sufficient capital to provide for the farm in all its departments, and supply the labour of their own family. My experience of agriculture is this, that anything between that and a large farm is generally a failure. If you get subsistence farms where a man has sufficient capital and labour and no expense, that man does well. But if he has from 100 to 200 acres and has to employ labour he does not do well.
28255. But you are not acquainted in the Highlands of Scotland with farms ranging from £20 to £100.
—No, I am not.
28256. Supposing you were meeting with such a holding which was quite successful would you change your mind ?
—I have not expressed any opinion contrary to that; what I say is, that where a crofter or tenant can provide sufficient capital and means of labour for a farm of that kind, I think it is a very desirable thing, and likely to be successful; what I object to, and what I do most strongly object to, in the interest of the crofters, is giving them more land while they are not in a position to be the farmer you describe.
28257. Would you not think there may be some two or three found amongst the large population that extends over the whole of this country side, who would take first a large croft if they got it, or a small farm—that there are meu with means and energy and family that could take a holding worth £30 or £40 or £50, if such could be had in the country ?
—But they do take them.
28258. Are there many here about ?
—Not in this immediate neighbourhood. The very man who was my first keeper at Braemore has a farm of that sort at the present moment.
28259. But the great bulk of the rents of the country is made up of very large farms and holdings over £200 ?
28260. There is scarcely any middle class?
—That is so.
28261. Is that a benefit or otherwise?
—I think it is a necessity in this neighbourhood, and such neighbourhoods as this one, where the proportion of arable land is so exceedingly small.
28262. Is there anything to prevent a large pastoral croft —four of the crofts put together—and a corresponding quantity of pasture ?
—Not the least.
28263. How does it happen that it is such a rare thing in comparison with other parts of the country ?
—I don't think it would be a very tempting thing to do here, because if you put four crofts together here you would have five or six acres of land, and that would not do. Although I should be glad to see it, I don't think this immediate district is adapted to that arrangement, there is not a sufficient proportion of arable land.
28264. Would not there be the same proportion that exists at present for the small croft ?
—But that is scarcely what I say —the crofter's occupation ought not to depend upon the crofts; but a farmer must depend upon his land.
28265. So that you don't see your way to small farms or big crofts ?
28266. It would either have to be big farms or small crofts ?
—I think so. But there are neighbourhoods where the proportion of arable land is greater where that would be a desirable thing, and I have no objections to see it here, though I don't think this place is adapted for it
28267. Has it been tried?
—I don't know.
28268. The people say it was tried with great success sixty or eighty years ago ?
—I do hear such very contrary accounts of things sixty and eighty years ago. I heard that the villages were scarcely ever free from famine or fever; and I also hear that in good seasons they did very well, but in bad seasons they had a very hard time. But putting together all the evidence I have been able to collect, although there was sometimes a good deal of prosperity, yet they never escaped without very great difficulties indeed in getting through a bad season.
28269. May it not be that there was a considerable portion of the population in easy circumstances, and also a considerable portion almost destitute ?
—That is due to the then arrangement of things.
28270. Those who had the large crofts were in easy circumstances, and those dependent upon them were poor?
—Yes, because more than at present they were dependent upon the land, and the land did not carry them over bad times. You must be carried over bad times by capital; a man must have sufficient money in the bank to carry him over a bad time; he must make sufficient money in a good time to carry him over a bad time.
28271. Do you think in old times it was those who had the land who were badly off?
—I think they were in a desperate state both from famine and fever.
28272. Is there evidence of that?
—Yes; here and in Ireland they were in the same state. There was a very desperate state of things in
28273. I have thought it was those who were dependent upon those who had the land who were in that condition ?
28274. Those we would now call cottars, of whom there was a very large number?
—Yes, and those people were no doubt dreadful sufferers in a bad season. At the present time they have industrial enterprises by which they can earn money, and that carries them over a bad time. In former days they had nothing of that kind.
28275. But you would not be inclined to disbelieve the universal testimony of the people that there was a large number of people in good circumstances sixty years ago?
—I would not be inclined to believe it except subject to this, that there were periods of great trial and distress, because I know there were.