Rev. JOHN M'MILLAN, Free Church Minister, Loch Broom—examined.
28333. The Chairman.
—You have heard the evidence offered here to-day on the part of the delegates ?
28334. You have been here the whole day ?
28335. Do you generally agree with the substance of the evidence which has been given?
—Yes, I do.
28336. You have a statement which you wish to make?
—Yes, but I fear it is too long for the Commissioners to hear at present. But as it would save time and would form a foundation for cross-examination, it might be as well for me to give part of it. Let me first of all begin with a general statement of the parish :
—' The extent of the parish of Loch ' Broom is about forty miles square, the proportion of arable land in this whole area is not proportionate to its extent, chiefly because it is a mountainous and pastoral country, but such as there is, if properly laid out for the benefit of the people and not on behoof of wild beasts, there is enough to rear up a very large population in comfort and happiness. There are in all, it is supposed, under cultivation at present, about 2500 acres, but how much that was once cultivated and sustaining a prosperous tenantry, could be reclaimed again, any one who walks the parish 1 may see. At the last census, the population of the parish was 4191; in 1851 it was 4799; in 1861 it was 4861; in 1871 it was 4406. Thus it is seen that the population of the district is steadily decreasing. This is owing, first, to the gradual moving of the young to other centres of industry, and secondly, to- emigration, which has largely decimated this parish; and were it not for the influx from other parishes to the village of Ullapool and other parts of the parish, the population would be much smaher than it is. Of this population about 425 hold crofts, besides cottars and such as hold plots of land attached to their houses, which cannot be called crofts. These crofts hold an average of three acres of land, some have more and some less. They have all between them something about 1300 acres. These crofters, who are mostly at the same time fishermen, are poor, and gradually becoming poorer, both through the failure of the fishing industry and the crops, as was the case last year. When you add to this increasing rents and heavy rates, with a poor rate of 2s. 9d. in the pound, besides school rates, road money, police rates, and, as in the village, water rates, it is easily seen that a people having a small and precarious income have enough to do. There are, in all, about 260 registered poor, besides 44 casual poor in the parish. The cost of supporting these amounts yearly to about £2668. This is a very heavy burden on a people whose burdens are otherwise numerous enough. Besides this there are ministers and a doctor to keep up. The rental of the parish is £15,002, 5s. 9d. There are several smaller subjects (farms, twenty-four) in the parish at rentals from £20 to £200, covering an area of fully 200 acres arable land, with hill grounds adjoining. These are fairly comfortable, and there are six large sheep farms, the highest of a rental of £1000. One of them is without a tenant (£500). And of deer forests there are seven, covering at least 300,000 acres. Much of this is high hill pasture, but all of it well adapted for sheep and cattle, and much of it could, with advantage, be still utilised for grazing, either separate from, or in connexion with, the low ground, and much also of these glens was under tillage and covered with cornfields and a happy tenantry. Take, for example, Rhidorroch itself. That glen is six or seven miles long. It was at one time under cultivation and could maintain scores of families in comfort, but now, like most of the best of the land in this parish, it is turned into a deer forest' I have a sketch of the evictions which took place from sixty to seventy years ago in this parish, beginning at the big strath; but with your leave I want to state some of the grievances and immediate causes of the poverty of the people. The area occupied, first of all, is too narrow; that is one of the causes, and it is true of Ullapool; and if any of the delegates are examined they –will enter into this grievance themselves. Secondly, there is the unfruitfulness of the soil and the untoward nature of the seasons. Thirdly, the fishing industry has failed. Combined with these there is the distance to the markets from the fishing ground, so that the fish lose their value before they reach their destination. To show how our people are being impoverished gradually, there were, ten years ago, eighteen large boats fit to go to the east coast fishing; there are now only eight, except crazy boats which ply around the coast here. Again, among the grievances, there is first the want of roads in some of the country districts, particularly two places on the Dundonell estate. No doctor or messenger can get to these places except by sea, and the children can only attend school at the risk of their lives. This must hinder the education of the children to some extent, and make the attendance irregular. The next grievance is the distance of the medical officer from the people. The road round about is twenty-five miles long; it could have been made ten miles by taking it through the Big Rock—not through the precipitous rock, but round another way, which would not have cost more than was expended upon the twenty-five miles. My idea is this, that the road twenty-five miles long has been made mainly for the purpose of suiting the sportsmen ; it is out of the way entirely for the people. The people must come and go through that Big Rock as heretofore. I am not going to blame any person, but the fact is there. The road is useless for any of us, although we have to go sometimes. That is the great grievance.
28337. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How long is it since that road was made ?
—Eight years ; it is round about altogether. Then there is another grievance, and the marrow of them we might say —the insecurity of tenure ; the people are afraid to lift their heads. They are tenants at will and they don't know at what moment they may be put out of their lots. In this state of things they have no independence; they must just do as their superiors tell them, however much it may be against their own light and sense of duty. The power of the factors and lairds appears to me as a mill-stone upon the people, and my soul has been frequently pained by this incubus resting upon them which they have no power to throw off. This power ramifies itself into everything—School Boards, Parochial Boards, everything and anything. No freedom can be exercised without danger to the interests of the individuals. This power must be broken at whatever cost. It pains me to speak in that way, but I cannot help it. It is not so much against the men that I speak, as against the system on which they are working. As I said yesterday when intimating this meeting, even although they should put myself in as factor, I would be tempted to do some of the things that these men do —two of them of my own congregation, excellent men —but the system under which they are working tempts even a good man to do it. As for Mr Gunn, he is an excellent man and gentleman, and I have been very glad to meet him in the Parochial Board; a man who, I believe, would not do an unjust act, but the system under which he and others are working makes them do what they would not. It is not with these gentlemen I quarrel, but with the system under which they are working. If you wish to hear the history of the evictions sixty or seventy years ago, I am quite willing to enter into that
28338. I think if you would kindly give us that in writing, you might go on to give us any recent ones
—I have no recent ones except the Leckmelm case which is a world-wide business. These are all the recent cases here, but if I were to enter into the Braemore evictions long ago, before Mr Fowler came into possession, it would show how comfortable these people were before he occupied it. I have nothing but praise to Mr Fowler. He is a gentleman in manners and conduct, and has done great good to the place, but he has not seen it his duty to give the land to the ousted race. He said there were only about 200 souls on his property. There is no outrun to the hill. They are crofters and he supplies them with labour and the country round about. There is nothing to be said of him but that he is a gentleman. But there are 500 acres of arable land in his possession where there were thirteen townships, maintaining seventy tenants with the greatest comfort, and so many horses and everything; and although they had unpropitious years at times, yet the good years tided over the years of peril, and they were very comfortable, —much more so than the people are to-day. Coming to Inverlaul forest, there were sixty houses cleared there for one individual, the son of the proprietor of Dundonell, and be could not keep it three years. A Mr Home came after him, and now it is in the possession of Captain Mundell, and the half of it is turned into deer forest, and as I understand the fences are already finished on the top. The farm was rented at £600. I don't know how much the return is or what is the rent of the new deer forest, but that is the history of that. All these people have been scattered and thrown into the creeks and promontories of our coasts, while others went abroad. A large number of the Inverlaul tenants settled upon the glebe of Dundonell which is the second largest glebe in Scotland, and there they are to-day ; and if you call the delegates from that place there will be something told of that district. As to Leckmelm, I have nothing to say. That battle has been fought by me, and I am not to enter into it again. At Achnarerich there is a large part of the best arable land in the country in the hands of the adjoining farmer, and the people want that, and it was the proprietor's mind before he died to give them it ; but the factor came in, and the farmer said it would pay better if he had it. The people want to get that back. That is the history of these things, and I need not go further; but if you ask what is the remedy in my opinion, I will state what I think should be done :
—One practical way in which they could be remedied is, by the breaking up of large farms when the leases are out, or even buy them up at this moment, and turn them into club farms. This may be supposed to be a hobby of ours, but we are deeply convinced that there is no other way apart from peasant proprietary, of satisfactorily working the crofter population. I find most lairds and factors against this system, and I think it is easily guessed the reason why. It is well known that club farms give a greater hold and interest to the people in the lands. There is a union and unity in such clubs which have a greater power of resistance against high-handed oppression, which is not found among men working to their own hands. That is plainly the reason, as we take it, why club farms are so much disliked. But the want of them is the ruin of the Highlands and evidently it is the ruin of this poor, ill-managed parish. It is a little troublesome also to establish them. This system has this to recommend it, however, that no arrangement we have seen tried, keeps down the subdivision of crofts, and acts at the same time as a safety-valve to let off the ever increasing population of a district, like it. I need not wait here to explain the system I advocate, as I presume all the members of this Commission know fully the details of its working. I am happy to see in this Commission one gentleman whom I have the honour to claim as a countryman and a neighbour, and on whose estate there is such club tenantry, I mean Lochiel. You sir, have such a club farm at Kinlochiel and Corribeg, opposite which I was brought up; and let me say before this Commission, as I have on another occasion, that I know no other crofter tenantry so comfortable as these are, and long may they continue so. They never require to look after even local fishing, their sheep and lands pay their rents and sustain them in all their other requirements. The same kind of farm was on the opposite side of the loch, on the estate of the late Colonel M'Lean of Ardgour, one of the fatherly proprietors of the Highlands, but alas how the times have changed ! It is now under the foolish administration of Lord Morton, who has a mania for deer-shooting and deer-rearing. Miles and miles of this club system is laid waste under deer, and that once splendid tenantry, the like of which I have not yet seen anywhere is now ruined and impoverished, and could not for the life of them re-stock the ground though they were to get the chance. In fact the whole Highlands are ruined by such foolish administration of affairs. If the Royal Commission would allow me, I would humbly impress upon them the importance of the club-farm system with all the earnestness of which I am capable. Of other remedies I have none to suggest; nothing but what I know to have worked in the past and will work at all times and places if properly and perseveringly managed ; but it requires all that, strict rules and a firm hand to guide affairs, only I would suggest this further, which is an essential condition to its working efficiently, viz., a permanent hold of the land. More leases of a few years will never do. Few people know why Highland crofters dislike leases unless they be perpetual leases. Indeed, practically, it was ever so under the old Highland lairds who loved their people and were loved and honoured in return. I would suggest then a perpetual lease of the land and full compensation whenever one leaves by his own good will, or forced out for some serious cause. Of other remedies, as we have said, we have none to offer. We believe there must be proprietors of some kind, unless the land be made the property of the nation and apportioned to the people as Palestine of old. Our Government can do anything they please, and if they are wise they will attend without delay to the interests of the people. It is not our business to prescribe remedies; we point out the disease. It is theirs —it is the work of this Commission—to discover both the disease and the remedy; but let them depend on this, that if no redress come —if deer forests are not curtailed if not altogether suppressed, and if factorial power be not exercised with a little more caution and softer hand, the time will come, nay, it has already come, in which the people, so long groaning under a yoke of bondage, will and must assert their rights, and not with bated breath either. Such a conflict between the people and those above them and over them can have but one issue. But before that issue is reached many and serious evils may be produced as the fruit of the contention. There is nothing wiser for any governing body than to give way when they see dangers ahead, if that be not done, the consequence will be what happens to the fair bark driven by the heedless and recklese steersman on to the rocks which lie before him. The whole is shattered and wrecked. It is a grave evil to put class against class, landlord against tenant, and tenant against landlord; but this must be the inevitable result of all laws relating to land being in favour of the monied few and adverse to the interests of the many, only because they are less fortunate in their lot—in other words, that they are poor. We are all interdependent on each other. No man can say I have no need of thee. The rich are dependent on the poor, as they are called, as well as the poor being dependent on the rich. Every human being has necessary relations with some of his fellow-creatures which he can no more repudiate than he can deny his own existence or his debt to our mother earth. It is time now these relations were understood. It must be the aim of all right-minded men to insist on this point; to preach the duties of property and now that its rights are beginning to be realised as wrongs, after having served for centuries as a catch-word to justify a thousand forms of oppression. The great and ignorant cry is, I can do what I like with my own, No, we say there are scores of things in a man's possession and which he calls his own, he dare not do with it what he likes. I dare not do what I like even with my own life, nor my children's, nor even to that of the very horse I employ, much less with property in land which God intended for the benefit of all his creatures. Let us not be considered wild or radical when we make these statements, we speak the words of truth and soberness, we are no agitators in the sense that word is generally used, but we must agitate until we receive redress. The radical spirit is abroad, and the Highlander who would allow any one to rule him, however weak in horsemanship, has at last learned to kick, and will no longer allow every novice to take his seat on his back. If laws are to be made, let them be made not for one clan, let them be just and impartial. If not, as Professor Blackie says, we may awake some morning and find ourselves sitting on the verge of a social volcano.
28339. Professor Mackinnon.
—How long have you been in the parish ?
28340. In addition to this place and the part of the country where you have been brought up, is there any other part of the Highlands you are acquainted with ?
—I have travelled through the most of the Western Highlands. I have been much in Sutherland and Caithness. I know Argyleshire well, and the islands of Lewis and Skye and other portions.
28341. And there, and here, and in your own native place you have given a great deal of attention to this question ?
—I have within a few years, and incidentally before, as a crofter's son I might say, and I know the question well by experience, and since a few years ago I have been forced to pay attention to it.
28342. In addition to the evidence which was led before us to-day, I suppose you have read more or less the evidence which was led before us elsewhere in those places you know ?
—Yes. I have followed it as closely as I could, and as my time would allow me.
28343. And so far as you are able to judge, you think the people have been on the whole giving a fair representation of their condition ?
—Yes, I honestly say that ; that they have not overdone it in my view.
28344. They say they are poor and that the cause of their poverty is the little they have of the land ; do you agree with them in that opinion ?
—Yes, that is one of the main reasons of their poverty—the narrowness of the area which they occupy.
28345. And you also agree with the almost unanimous request they make, that they ought to have more land?
—Yes, but under different arrangements. It will never do to give one man a little more, and less to another. You must have club farms; you must have one shepherd, and one mark upon the sheep. It would never do to let one man get on and another sink down. I have no indictment to bring against the factors; their position is a difficult one ; but the great thing is the rent—to supply the rent to the proprietors —and other questions are lost sight of entirely.
28346. You are aware that club farms have been worked to advantage elsewhere ?
28347. Of course that plan is chiefly suitable for a district where a great proportion of the land is pastoral and not agricultural ?
28348. You would not advocate it in places where the croft was chiefly if not wholly agricultural ?
—No, I would not, because no scientific agriculture will do with hill pasture. It is the sheep on the hill pasture, and the cattle, that pay the farmer, even the large farmer.
28349. You would have this stock on the common hill grazing, and you would have the arable portion fenced?
28350. As it is being done mostly here ?
28351. And one of the advantages of club farms would be that they would act as a chief inducement to prevent the subdivision of crofts ?
—It would never be done if the laws of the property were properly worked, and I would insist upon that. Too indulgent a proprietor may spoil a tenantry as well as a despotic one. Things go to sixes and sevens where there is a too indulgent proprietor.
28352. He allows the people to subdivide too much ?
—Yes, as in the Lewis. Things are allowed to go too much their own way, and there is a lack of a proper guiding principle or rule. There must be rules, and they must be exercised with a very firm hand —I would insist upon that—and no subdivision.
28353. Even supposing you were to have a club farm, you would require to increase the holdings very much from what they are ?
—Yes, to perhaps double or three times their extent
28354. And your plan of increasing them would be by removing some of the people who are there to other equally suitable places ?
—Yes, in the parish—to the glens. But even although you were not to enlarge the crofts at all, if you were to give a large portion of the hill and sheilings, and keep the low ground for wintering purposes,
—in that event, with small lots, they would get on very well.
28355. You think the small crofts they have would carry more hillstock at present ?
28356. Then how would you do ?
—I don't perhaps take you up —the present hill pasture is it ?
28357. No, but the present agricultural area could carry with advantage a greater amount of hill pasture than there is along with it just now?
—Oh yes, to be sure. If those grazings which were cut off by deer forests and sheep farms were given to the people, even with the crofts they have, they would be twenty times better off than they are. Everything depends on the stock in the Highlands.
28358. So that even without transplanting them, you could improve them?
—Yes; if the proprietor would give the hills to the people, the people would rise up ten degrees and more in prosperity.
28359. Do you think there are some places throughout the parish under pasture just now that could, with at least as equal advantage as many of the crofts, be cultivated and made crofts of ?
—No doubt of it. There are a great many stretches that could be turned with the plough. The slopes of Inverlaul itself could be brought in, a great part of them.
28360. The description the people themselves give of their condition is that they are so poor that even although they got those enlarged holdings, they could not stock them ; how could you get over that 1
—They could not stock them unless they got some means—unless they got the loan of money some way. But could not the proprietor do that and get interest, as Sir Alexander Matheson has done? Stock the ground and let the people pay up the stock and everything until they get upon their legs ; and now they are going as gentlemen to the markets with gigs ; they are as well off as the proprietors themselves. That is the only feasible way I see of giving money to the people, not to all but to the best. Some people cannot do anything but lounge. But let it be given to men who can use it ; give them money and let them pay it back by degrees. We have scores in this parish who could do that.
28361. But you agree that the proprietor should maintain so much authority as would be sufficient security for the advance of the money ?
28362. Control and management of the stock ?
—Yes, under proper and just laws—if he would let club laws be administered; and I would not say not to evict. I would evict a man who would not pay rent or who was guilty of a misdemeanour. You must have strict rules and abide by them, and that would teach the people to be more diligent in their
28363. With respect to fixity of tenure, I think you gave your opinion in favour of a perpetual lease ?
—Yes, that is the best way I could see.
28364. How then would you fix the rent ?
—As to the working of a perpetual lease, I first of all thought of a life lease. Then I saw that would end with a man's life and would not stand for his son. Then I changed the expression to a perpetual lease or fixity of tenure —that is that no man should be put out of his holding except for misdemeanour or not paying his rent.
28365. Supposing you get the rent fixed at what was reasonable and fair, how would you proceed in fixing the rent for the future ? you would not mean that the same rent should continue for ever ?
—Well, of course, with club farms it would require to rise after perhaps a number of years ; but there would require to be a sliding scale to regulate that, which I cannot enter into at present. But although I don't go into any remedy except club farms I hold that our Highlands will never get on until our people have some individual interest in the land. Whether you can give them that interest by a club farm or not, I cannot say. But whatever be the method of working, I want more interest in the land, that the people may settle down for ever if they wish to die there.
28366. Of course times might come when the rent, instead of being raised might have to be reduced, so that the arrangement under a perpetual lease would have to be such as would apply either way —that would have to be done now and again?
28367. Who would be the proper person or persons to fix what would be a fair rent ?
—My poor opinion is this, that an independent person or court would be the proper way to fix the rent at different times when the restoration of the land should take place, and that it should not be allowed
to be in the hands of the factor and landlord —that there should be some guiding principle for factors and lairds. It is a difficult thing, and I only lay down a general principle, but there are many other things which would require to be settled.
28368. You know the present rule with regard to the transfer of stock on big farms. When the lease is out the incoming tenant is obliged to take the stock of the outgoing tenant. In your club system when a tenant would leave voluntarily would there be any obligation upon the remaining part of the township or the incoming tenant or the proprietor to take the outgoing tenant's share of the club stock ?
—This is the way I have seen it done, and Lochiel knows this perfectly well —the proprietor is tenant in place of the tenant that leaves. He takes everything and holds it as for the person who has left, and when the fresh tenant comes in, he gives it over to him, and of course if the new tenant leaves, he gives it back to the proprietor again, so that the co-partners have nothing whatever to do—they have no loss whatever.
28369. The proprietor holds the share until the new tenant comes in?
28370. Would there be any difficulty in a thing of that kind in one man holding two or three shares ?
—My own father held two shares.
28371. There would be no difficulty about that?
28372 So that a strong energetic man with a strong energetic family could so improve as to run up and make a good thing of it ?
—He might get the whole perhaps himself through time.
28373. But that might be too much ?
—- If things would allow it, but it is not generally the case.
28374. There is nothing to prevent it ?
—No, but when there is a croft vacant there are hundreds after it ; and when you have a farm vacant today rented at £500 or £600 you cannot get an offer. But let there be a croft of from £12 to £ 30 vacant and you will get scores of offers.
28375. I asked the question of Mr Fowler about large farms or crofts ; I see upon the valuation roll there are about a dozen such in the parish. Do you know the tenants of these ?
—I know some of them, and they are fairly comfortable, every one of them showing that if you rise a little you will make the people comfortable. I differ from Mr Fowler on that point.
28376. Do you think it would be possible, where so much of the surface of this parish is pastoral and so little arable, that there might be some considerable number of prosperous tenantry occupying holdings from £50 to £100 of rent?
28377. Without loss to the proprietor ?
—No loss, but gain I believe, if deer forests were put out of the question. Mr Fowler himself has 500 acres of arable land, and that could with great gain be put into the hands of the people. The proprietors consider it is better to have it in their own possession. But if you look to the prosperity of the country, which is to have many stalwart people upon it, it would be the best thing to give the land to the crofters.
28378. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have just stated that Mr Fowler himself has got 500 acres ; do you mean that within the forest?
—No. I have the figures from good sources, and I understand there are 500 acres in the little strath and 500 in the big strath.
28379. A thousand acres altogether?
—Yes, in the hands of the proprietors themselves ; and about 1300 in the hands of the crofters.
28380. Do I understand you to say there were sixty houses in Inverlaul cleared away ?
28381. And in Leckmeln fourteen?
—Sixteen crofters in Leckmeln if I remember well, and about one hundred souls.
28382. Is there any one of them now holding land ?
—Each of them has about a quarter of an acre as garden ground.
28383 We have heard something of the early history of that place. What has become of these one hundred souls ?
—They are still most of them on the ground. They have their houses, and their children are in the employment of Mr Pirie. I must say for Mr Pirie —and I had to do with him as going to do what I considered wrong —that he has proved a very kind master to the people under the new regime of things.
28384. Of the one hundred people who were there before the changes took place, how many have been obliged to leave ?
—A pretty large number of the young. Some have gone to America, and they are scattering here and there just day by day.
28385. You stated there were about one hundred souls; how many may there be now in your opinion Ì will there be fifty souls ?
—Oh yes ; there are two men here who may be examined
28386. But several have left ?
—The young have left
28387. We now come down to a place called Corrie; has there been any depopulation there ?
—Yes, long ago. There is only now a shepherd's house, and that place could maintain a number of families in comfort. It is upon the Duchess of Sutherland's property.
28388. Why has Ullapool such a deserted appearance ?
—There are many reasons for that. I did not go into this because there were other witnesses to be called; but a great number of the people have come into the village of Ullapool.
28389. Dispossessed people ?
—Yes, it is commonly the refuge for these poor people, and every one when he comes, if he can, keeps a cow by paying so much for it, and consequently there is far too much stock upon the hill, which is limited already. The reason of the impoverished state of the village is the number of poor people thrown into it, and the breaking down of houses.
28390. Are you able to state from your own knowledge that pauperism, which seems extensive in this parish, arises in a great degree from driving the people out of their homes?
—There is no doubt of it, and I told that to the members of the Parochial Board, that they should try and prop up these men in the holdings instead of driving them out.
28391. Do you know the estate of Dundonell pretty well ?
—Yes, pretty well
28392. Is there much land in forest or sheep farms there which was formerly occupied as arable ground ?
—Yes, 500 acres, and there is a farm worth £500 of rent vacant just now.
28393. There are 500 acres now vacant ?
—Yes, between the farm and what is in the hands of the proprietor; and there is a very large deer
28394. Can you tell me what extent of ground has been recently added to the forest of Dundonell ?
—A very large amount, but I could not give the exact acreage. I believe the whole put together is worth about £2000 of rent.
28395. Has there been an addition made to the Duchess of Sutherland's forests?
—Yes, in Coigach.
28396. At the expense of a sheep-farm or crofter's ?
—At the expense of a large sheep-farm. It was not in the hands of crofters. It was threatened also to take the crofters land from them, but it did not come to that.
28397. What township was that?
—Auchiltibuie I think, and a large tract of the Coigach district.
28398. Was Auchiltibuie threatened?
—I am not sure, but there was a large tract of the Coigach district. I think it was behind Auchiltibuie, between Baden Tarbat and Auchiltibuie.
28399. You have heard what Mr Fowler stated to-day, and you have yourself borne testimony that so far he is a good landlord and gives employment ; do you concur in his idea that the parish of Lochbroom is quite sufficiently populated ?
—Yes ; as it is, too well populated. I don't say it is that, if the poor people would be allowed to scatter here and there into the glens, and get the land they were dispossessed of back again.
28400. It is a very large parish ?
—Yes, the extent of the parish is forty miles by forty miles, and that is a great deal of pasture.
28401. Four thousand of a population is not very much for these thousands of acres. It was 4191 at last census.
28402. That does not seem a very large population?
—No, with the number there is in the village of Ullapool following the fishing. There are about 900 souls here alone, on the property of Lady Matheson.
28403. I suppose you are not against the people emigrating voluntarily to other countries ?
—No, and that will work by itself if you have proper rules upon the estate ; it will work by degrees as it did in my own country. You need not force them ; they will accommodate themselves.
28404. Do you consider that, if the status of crofters was improved and enlarged, and there was a regulation made that there was to be no further subdivision of the enlarged crofts, the people would be disposed again to subdivide and bring about again the misery many of them are now in ?
—No, they would not ; they would not be allowed to do it ; and I don't think, on Lochiel's estate, I know of any such thing.
28405. In well-regulated club-farms you are not aware that this system of subdivision does prevail ?
28406. Even without the state interfering, do you think the good sense of the people themselves would go against it?
—Yes, but it belongs to the rules of such club-farms that they are not by any means to be subdivided, and of course that is enough.
28407. Were you obliged this year to apply for some of the money which was subscribed in the south for the destitute people ?
—I was, and I was very reluctant to do it, it was a matter of necessity.
28408. You were pretty active in this matter ?
28409. Did you do so before you were fully satisfied of the necessity of the step ?
—I did not. I called the attention of the proprietors first, and they came forward, and then generous friends in the south supplied what the proprietors did not do.
28410. Would it not seem strange to an outsider that in an enormous parish like this with a limited population, it was necessary to apply for external relief?
—Yes, and to show that what I advocate is the thing, none of our crofters who were in good condition came forward to ask one pound of meal or money. No one got it but the poor people who had no land or only patches of land. The people who had any stock had as much credit as tided them over.
28411. I suppose, as a Highlander, you don't like to make application for charity ?
—I do not, and I hope I will never have to do it again ; it was very much against my grain to have to do it.
28412. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I don't know whether you understood Mr Fraser-Mckintosh's question; but do you mean to say there are 500 acres of arable land in the Dundonell forest?
—No, I mean round about the laird's house, and down to the river—down to the sea. I mean the whole strath of Little Lochbroom between what is occupied by the laird himself and the farm of Dundonell, as I understand about 500 acres.
28413. But it is used for productive purposes, and is not turned into forest ?
—No, but the other side is a forest entirely.
28414. But the arable land is still used for productive purposes ?
—Oh, yes, it is not made forest; it is contiguous to the forest.
28415. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it now under cultivation ?
28416. Is it turned by the plough?
—Yes, and the proprietor has the rest under grass and under sheep.
28417. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Where was the principal destitution?
—The most of it was in the village of Ullapool. I must say to the honour of the crofters, that very few from the country came forward for relief. They would have taken it if they could have got it in large measure, but they would not condescend to take two or three stones of meal, and they would not get more than that at a time. Those who got any of it were broken-down people in the village, and those who had no land and whom we knew thoroughly well to require it.
28418. Did the people from the Big Strath or Leckmeln get any?
28419. Mr Cameron.
—You mentioned that the large fishing-boats have been reduced in number ?
—Yes, from thirty to eight, and they cannot get gear for them ; they have not the money. They cannot be trusted for it from the bank, because they are so poor.
28420. If the fishing is a paying concern, how does it happen that these persons have not been able to get their tackle replaced ?
—Of course the fathers got old, and the sons went away because the fishing was not paying, and there are various other reasons.
28421. The fishing was not paying?
—It was not, and the people were poor, and everything combined made them give it up.
28422. Are the eight boats they have now of the new class ?
—I think there are eight of them going to the east.
28423. Are they of the new class?
—Most of them; because they must be all decked now.
28424. You stated that the land added to the Duchess of Sutherland's forest was a sheep-farm ?
28425. But you did not mention whether what was added to the Dundonell forest was also a sheep farm ?
—I suppose it was.
28426. I understood you to say the land had been lately added to the deer forest ?
28427. It was not taken from the crofters ?
—No, from the farm; when the farm became vacant the proprietor made half of it into the forest.
28428. You are aware that sheep-farms are difficult to let just now ?
28429. In such a case as a sheep-farm falling vacant, do you object to the proprietor making it into a deer forest when he can find nothing else to do with it ?
—Not when money is the thing in view. When a man must replenish his purse, he must do it.
28430. But it is a question of doing something with the land ?
—But if it is broken up and given to smaller tenants, I believe that might be done.
28431. But I am alluding principally to land not suitable to be broken up?
—I don't know any land in Lochbroom that could not be broken up for small tenants.
28432. Is it the fact that in forming a deer forest you take always the highest and worst land—land that could hardly keep sheep, and leave the more profitable land in the hands of the sheep-farmer? Would not the natural inference be, that if crofters are to get land, they should get first the more suitable and better pasture, and when they filled that up, that they should go to the deer forests ?
—Yes, but I have shown that the low ground will never pay the crofters; they must have a large out-run.
28433. Have not the large sheep-farms a large out-run ?
28434. Then would it not be more suitable to give the crofters, if they are to get additional land, the large farms, out-run, and all ?
28435. I presume you would not have any objection to let the deer forests in the meantime remain as such, rather than be quite vacant?
—To be sure I would, and where I would have sheep the deer would be allowed to go. The deer were wilder formerly than they are now, and it was better sport, for it cannot be called sport now. It was better sport when the deer were in the corries and far off wild places. They are now like sheep, and you can kill them with a stick if you like.
28436. You have nothing more to add to what you stated to Professor Mackinnon about the possibility of arriving at some conclusion with regard to stocking the farms, because, I gather, you are convinced that the pastoral system is adapted for the Highlands, and that it should be in the hands of the crofters and not in the hands of large sheep farmers ?
28437. You have nothing to add as to how you would stock these lands if they are to be given to the crofters?
—No, I have nothing to add. Of course there arc some here who could take small farms of from £16
to £17 of rent.
28438. I suppose you are aware that stock is never considered available security, being a kind of floating subject?
—I know there are great difficulties; but something must be done.
28439. But what that something is, you are not able to say ?
—I have just given my opinion. I don't go into ethereal remedies. Let the whole of Auchiltibuie be turned into a club farm up Strathkennar. I know some people object to that, and the reason of it is, that there are two or three big fellows who object and keep up with the factors and say ‘ No, down with it,' and the factors keep a deaf ear and a shut eye to all the clamour of the poorer people. Let club farms be the ride and not the exception, and you will see that they will renew and reform things in the Highlands without going into the difficulties of peasant proprietory. I want practical things which I have seen carried out, and nothing else.