Ullapool, 30 July 1883 - John Mciver

JOHN M'IVER, Merchant, Scoraig (53)—examined.

27858. The Chairman.
—Are you a delegate ?
—I am not a delegate, and have nothing to say, only I would like to state three or four points about the tenants. I have very little to say on their behalf. The land we have is rented by us, but these other tenants that spoke get the use of it. Their own land would not pasture their stock, and when the proprietor gave the place to us he was for putting up a fence between us and them, and we would not allow him, because we knew that in that event the stock of these people would starve, all their pasture would not feed twelve head of cattle altogether. We are quite willing to remove our own stock off the place for their benefit, and we told to the proprietor a year or two ago, adding that that was more his business than ours, but that we would require to get a reduction of rent, and we did not get any hearing for that. I wish to speak a few words on behalf of the people generally, if I may be allowed. Although the poor people would get all they want; although they should get a reduction of rent and enlarged holdings these benefits would be of no service to them unless there were proper estate regulations going along with it to prevent the one crofter from injuring his neighbour. It may so happen that one is in good circumstances and may have a great amount of stock and pay only £1 or £ 2 of rent, while his neighbour might pay £12 of rent and have little or no stock at all.

27859. What place do you speak of'?
—The whole parish. The man that has this large stock usually has a very large family, and when the
sons marry the stock is split up and separated and scattered. Then another mischief is, that some of them keep no less than six dogs. We have sold the whole of our stock because of the number of dogs round about us, belonging to the people of the place. What I should like would be that there should be something like a club-farm so that the one who would only pay £ 3 of rent should have only his share, the same as the one who paid a larger rent, and that the stock should be placed under proper management and supervision, so that the poor man, although on a bed of sickness, should not suffer more than the man who was better off. We are sometimes blaming proprietors, but this must be said that some of the people among ourselves if they had the power would probably use it against their neighbours at least quite as oppressively. Many of the landed proprietors probably don't use their power to the utmost. No doubt the people have cause to complain, and they have that all over the country; but what I want to speak about would be some practical measure for their good. The people would benefit by many other things besides an increase of the holdings of land. We are in want of a quay, and we get no assistance whatever in order to build one, even supposing our boats should be broken and injured. I should like that the people should get increased holdings, and I don't see why they should not —there is plenty of land and to spare; but still I would like if these other things could come in at the same time, and along with that. But if any one thinks that we, my brother and myself, have too much land, we will be very glad to share it with our poorer neighbours, and we have always been so.

27860. Professor Mackinnon.
—Lots of Scoraig was a piece of old pasture land on Scoraig which was given to the people about forty years ago ?
—It was given to my father and another man forty years ago. We got Lots of Scoraig along with Scoraig.

27861. But about the place these two men who were examined before you, spoke about ?
—That is Lots. It was a part of Scoraig when we came to Scoraig; we got it along with Scoraig, although it is called Lots now.

27862. And then it was given to about twenty families ?
—It was given to my father and another man, and then Lots was cut off Scoraig and twenty lots made of it.
27863. How many people are in Scoraig now?
—My brother and I have the half of Scoraig and there are two families on the other half.

27864. The Chairman.
—The twenty lots which were made were given to twenty families at almost a nominal rent for a certain number of years ?
—Yes, for so many days' labour.

27865. And then they were given for a second period for an increased number of days' labour ?

27866. And now they are given at a money rent?

27867. Do you think it was fair that the people, after sitting for a number of years at a low rent, should pay a higher rent ?
—There are better judges of that here than I.

27868. But I want to hear your opinion, because you are recommended as an independent witness ?
—My judgment is that they are paying too much rent.

27869. But do you think it right that, after sitting a term of years at a nominal rent, they should gradually pay a higher rent?
—I don't think they should pay a higher rent; they should have it for the first rent—that is my opinion
—as they were improving the land and making it better. It is worth now more than £5 surely, when they improved it.

27870. You think they should always sit at the same rent?
—Well, I don't know about the same rent; but I don't think it should be put at such a high figure as it is now.

27871. I want to understand whether you think it would be wrong to put any increase of rent upon them, or whether it is the amount of increase you complain of?
—I don't see that any other thing is advancing, and I don't understand why rent should advance.

27872. Don't you see that the price of labour and stock is getting higher ? What is asked is. Do you think it would be a wrong thing to take a small increase of rent, or is it your objection that too much is put on ?
—I think there is too much put on.

27873. But you would not object to a little increase now and again?
—No; but that would be just as people would say it would be just and right to do it.

27874. Do you think it would be just and right to add any small thing now and again ?
—I don't concede that point.

27875. But in this particular place you think too much has been put on ?
—That is my opinion whatever.

27876. They stated that they paid for a croft supporting two cattle, £2, 12s. 6d,, and you think that is too much. What would you think a reasonable rent for a small croft supporting two cattle?
—Although I would mention a price for the lot just now, it would not be accepted. If I would be put out as judge for the place I would give an opinion, but I am not fit just now.

27877. You won't give your opinion to Her Majesty's Commissioners ?

27878. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you know where the twenty families that got the half of Scoraig came from ?
—The most of them came from Dundonnell—we came from that part ourselves—and from Kildonan,
and part from Rereoch. Kildonan is part of a farm now ; it is just on a right line over from the Ferry.

27879. Were they all put out of their places?

27880. Has your own half of Scoraig been raised in rent since you got it originally ?
—It was a little. When this £5 was taken for Scoraig I think we had it for two years or so and then the rent was raised. The notice was that we would require to pay double, but when my father went to pay the rent I think we got it for two-thirds, and it is at that rent yet.If anything was done it is not since our new proprietor came in.

27881. You heard what the previous delegate stated"?
—I heard part of John M'lver.

27882. Do you know that these people in Scoraig besides paying a money rent have to give labour ?
—They are wanting labour besides that.

27883. The proprietor is wanting labour besides that ?
—Yes, from all the tenants.

27884. Do you know the number of days he wants ?
—They are wanting six days of the men, and four or five days of those that will be at home just now, to cut peats and corn and everything of the kind.

27885. Are you obliged to give any service ?
—Yes, one must do it as well as the rest. That is for the croft we have in Scoraig.

27886. What payment do you get for these six days' labour ?
—Since these new people came from Australia the people are getting their dinner sometimes.

27887. No money ?

27888. Do you get a good dinner ?
—I never heard them complain.

27889. I think you seem to take it up that the previous delegates were complaining that you had' this hill pasture. I don't think they intended that at all; they merely said they would like to have it ?
—For my part I may say it is themselves that have it ; it is theirs as well as mine.

27890. On the contrary they rather state that were it not for the kindness of you and your brother it would not support twelve families besides twenty ?
—That is true.

27891. You made some remarks about your countrymen, that they might just go as far if they had the power as bigger men, and you wanted some regulations ?
—Yes, I think nothing will be of use unless there are good regulations to make the tether for the merchant as well as for other men as short as it can be done.

27892. Who could make the regulations but a proprietor ?
—If it would come down from the Government that a board would be erected in every parish to look after these things as well as the Parochial Board.

27893. That is what you are pointing to ?

27894. But hitherto the tenants cannot lay down any regulations without the consent of the proprietor?
—No, I am sure a proprietor would have no objections to a board of this kind—no right proprietor. It would benefit his own tenants and he would get the rent. I think he would get the rent, and he would get just all the kindness of the people.

27895. But every right tenant would like it too ?
—I think so.

27896. But not a man who put a great deal more stock on the pasture than he ought to ?
—Well, according as the place is just now, if I am able to put stock on the land I may put 200 or 300 sheep there. Is that justice for the poor man who cannot buy one cow ?

27897. Are the people about you rather poor in their circumstances'?
—They are, and they are poorer this year. I never saw them so poor. But I am hearing there are some gentlemen in this parish saying they are not.

27898. But you have very good means of knowing, because they are in your books probably Ì
—My books show a different story.

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