Rev. WILLIAM CAMERON, Established Church Minister of Lochbroom (80)—examined.
28701, The Chairman.
—Do you desire to make any remarks on what as been stated by the two last witnesses ?
—I have to remark with regard to the young man who spoke, Captain Mackenzie, that he is a son of a
crofter. The same man has another son. Both the sons are yachtsmen. Alexander Mackenzie has been for many years yachtsman to Mr Morrison, and has been receiving handsome wages. His father is immensely in arrears to me, and Alexander Mackenzie has never contributed a single sixpence to his father's rent. He had nothing to do with the land. He erected a house upon his father's croft without my permission, and there he lives. The other son put up a house adjoining his father's house. He has no land either, but he is in constant employment. Both of them are exceedingly well off, and the father is a poor man. With regard to Allan Mackenzie, he told you that he was turned off his lands, but he forgot to tell you why. Both he and a neighbour of his were people of some substance in money. They had grown-up families beside them and were able to work their land more efficiently than some of the people; and not only so, but they kept heavy stocks of sheep upon the land —more sheep than the land could possibly carry. I objected to the sheep altogether for this reason—that the hill ground which they had was too limited even for their cattle, the other tenants had, I believe, no sheep. They have a few now, back and forward, but these two men to whom I refer had, I am pretty sure, upwards of 300 sheep between them —a number of sheep that was too large for the ground on which they were. I remonstrated with them year after year on the subject of reducing their stock and removing it, but all to no purpose or effect. At last I summoned them to see if that would bring them to terms. I had no wish to remove them, but I summoned them both, and then they promised that they would remove their stocks, or reduce them at all events. But still, instead of reducing them I rather think they increased them. They were allowed to go on in this way for a year or two more, and I saw how the other tenants were suffering; the grass of their cattle being completely destroyed and eaten up by the sheep of these two people, who gave their fellows no compensation or recompense. I summoned them again to see if I could bring them to terms. The officer, on going with the summons, was met by a large crowd made up of the families of these men and some of their neighbours, who took possession of the officer's papers and tore them up before him. The officer had nothing for it but to return and to report that he had been deforced. The authorities at Dingwall took up the matter and sent a party of men, who took the offenders to Dingwall; but I had nothing to do with that. The men were confined a few days in Dingwall jail. I could not keep my face to this kind of lawlessness, and told these men that both of them must go out ; and out they went. But they took their own time. Allan Mackenzie kept violent possession of his lot for several years. From the first time of the summons, I understood I was entitled to charge double rent when he continued to retain his lot and he got notice of that, but still he never paid a single penny. I rather think he did not pay even the old rent; I think there was a
balance against him. After this affair of the officer from Dingwall, I summoned the two men to the court for their arrears of rent. They appeared there and both of them solemnly declared before the Sheriff that they had not a single penny of arrears due. I saw that I could not keep my face with them any longer, and I insisted on their removing and they did remove. Allan Mackenzie, and the other man too, have been doing a good deal in the way of droving, and it is not with an empty hand a man can drove in this country. They were making a good deal of money no doubt in that way. Allan Mackenzie, after he removed to this submarine house of his, still carried on his own affairs, and was acting as a fiesher. Notwithstanding that, I believe ever since that day he has had two cows on the place and a number of sheep. He has and always has had sheep on the place; but the number I don't know. I believe at this present moment that a man who pays not one penny of rent has two cows on the place.
28702. Would you desire to make any general statement upon the subjects which interest this Commission?
—I think that Mr Fowler of Braemore has anticipated any remark I would have wished to make on the subject. I heard what Mr Fowler stated, but I could not hear what some of the other witnesses said. I would be inclined to endorse almost all Mr Fowler said. The people's crofts are small, but I believe, small as they are, the population being a fishing population, find it difficult to manage even those sinall crofts. They cannot work at them in winter on account of the weather, and they are generally employed then preparing nets for fishing. Then spring comes on and they have the whole work of the lot to do in a few weeks in order to get it forward so as to enable them to go to the fishing. They labour hard then, no doubt. They go to the Lewis fishing in the early part of spring when they have got their land sorted and sown and their peats cut. Then they leave the whole work of the lots to the members of the family who are left behind, their wives and children. Their lots are small, but if they continue to be fishermen as well as landsmen, I don't know that it would be a great advantage to them to have much larger lots. I should like to see them comfortable, but I don't think it would be an advantage to them to have a very large lot, and for this reason —if they have a very large lot, they require more hands and more time to work it, and the best part of the fishing season is past before they can engage in fishing. But if it can be arranged that they could get throughout the parish nice sized farms so as to make them a kind of middlemen, I think that would be desirable; because there is a great gulf betwixt the higher and lower classes. If there were farms, I should say, of not less than fifty acres, with a considerable stretch of hill ground attached, I think they would be able to keep their family comfortably. But then they would have to confine themselves to the land. They would have work for a pair of good strong little horses. With less land than that I don't see they could support a family and be able to send their sons to trades. I would like to see a gradation of classes,—small tenants, middle tenants, and large tenants, and shooting tenants besides. It was remarked by Alexander Mackenzie just now that there were lands that could be given to the tenants. I don't see where these lands are. The lands that Allan Mackenzie and the other man had I have divided and made into small lots. There were several young men who got married and who were hanging about their fathers' houses, and I thought it was much better that they should have something of their own, however small, than be hanging about that way, and I divided the lands for them. I would like to give them more land, but I cannot give them what I do not possess. I am trying to make the best of it in that way. Alexander Mackenzie said there was some land of people who went to America. There were three families went to America a good many years ago, and I was exceedingly sorry to part with them; but it was a matter of necessity with some of them. They had to labour and were not able to save their families. They had relations in America who were in very comfortable circumstances, and their relations induced them to go to America, and they did, and upon the whole they were, some of them, in rather comfortable circumstances. But there was one family, a young married man, who had for a long time to support his father and mother, and his family was increasing and he saw he could not manage at all. He was corresponding with his brother who told him there was a lot of land waiting him in America if he would only go out. The young man saw he could not manage at home, and engaged his passage for Quebec or Montreal. He engaged his passage before he went to the fishing —he had a share of a boat—and when he came back he found that he could not manage after all to go, and that he would forfeit something like £ 5 which was a great consideration for the poor fellow. I saw him and he told me this. I said
—' Don't lose heart, but after you have made such preparation, wind up your affairs and let me know how matters stand.' He did so, and after all he found that he would be a few pounds short. I said
—' Poor fellow, I can't see you at a loss; go on with your arrangements and I will give you what shall enable you to go away.' I gave him what he wanted, £5, and said 'you had better take this £1 over; I am sure you will stand in need of it.' He would not take a penny more. He said he thought he would have what would do. He was about £12 or £15 in arrears at that time; but that was nothing at all.
28703. Who got the lands which those people rented ?
—This ground I have got in my own hands, as it adjoins ground in my own possession ; but there are two tenants yet. With regard to this poor fellow, I may mention that when he got to Glasgow he ran short; he had only two shillings when he went on board ship. He wrote me two lines saying he wished I was there. He got on with his family, but I fortunately took the precaution to give him a letter to the Emigration Society. I did not know who they were, but I gave him that letter simply states that he was a decent good fellow, very poor, and that I was afraid he would land in poverty in America, and that if he called at their office they might rely on what he stated. He did call at the office. He had 800 miles to go up the country, and they sent him forward and provisions along with him.
28704. Did he do well after that ?
—He got on very well at first, but the poor feHow was killed by a tree which he was cutting down.