WILLIAM GUNN, Esq., Factor on the estates of the Duchess of Sutherland, Countess of Cromartie (44)—examined.
28440. The Chairman.
—You have been present here to-day during the course of the inquiry and have heard what has been stated ?
23441. Do you desire to make some statement?
—I do. I have a written statement which I should like to read:
—On the Coigach or Cromartie portion of the parish of Loch Broom, owned by the Duchess of Sutherland, Countess of Cromartie, there are nineteen townships comprising 237 crofters and 5 cottars. The crofters occupy as nearly as possible 700 acres of arable land, and close upon 30,000 acres of pasture, at a yearly rent of £1067, 10s. 9d. or about 8d. per acre overhead with the arable thrown in. This gives an average of 3 acres arable and 120 acres pasture to each crofter at an average yearly rent of £4, 10s. The total rental of the Duchess of Sutherland's property in this parish is £5460, of which £1690 is derived from sheep grazings and £2700 from shootings and fishings. There are only two farms of any size—one rented at £550, and the other at £500. There are nine smaller grazings ranging from £35 to £115 of rent. 1 have traced the rental of the crofter holdings in Coigach back for forty years, during which period, and probably much longer, the rents remained unchanged until 1878, when they were revised and a re-valuation made. Prior to 1853 the Lotters of Achiltibuie, Badenscally, and neighbouring townships to the north of the Big Rock, were sub-tenants of Messrs Mackenzie, general merchants, Ullapool, to whom, in addition to certain money payments, they were under certain obligations paid in kind. In 1853 all these sub-tenants, I believe, much to their satisfaction, were taken on as holding direct from the proprietor, at the old rents. This continued until 1878, when, after an outlay of many thousand pounds on roads and other useful works of improvement, it was felt that the time had arrived when some small return should be obtained for so large an expenditure. The most important and costly of these improvements was the opening up of the district with new roads, which, with branches to and through the various townships along the coast line from Coulnacraig to the extreme point of Rieff, extend in all to close upon forty miles, constructed, much of it, through a very rocky difficult country—at a cost of over £11,000. If we exclude the loop line to LochInver, which connects the counties of Ross and Sutherland, there are seventeen miles, thirteen of which, may be regarded as specially for the accommodation of the people of the district The cost of these branch and purely local roads may be put down at £3000. An improved meal mill, with accommodation for cartwright and carpenter business, cost £940 —a rent, but a very inadequate one, is got for this last outlay. Timber, lime, and glass, are given free to crofters who rebuild their houses on an improved plan, and slates are supplied at a reasonable rate of interest. This assistance has produced most satisfactory results. During my own connection with the district (I became factor in 1867) over one hundred houses have been either entirely rebuilt or substantially improved, and a number have been slated. That the tenants themselves who are at the whole expense of the erection —on an average about £30 for each house—should have done so much affords the best evidence of a commendable desire to better their condition, while it is,at the same time, most gratifying to the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, that so many of their people have been able to take advantage of the assistance offered for the improvement of their dwellings. I have already stated that a re-valuation of the crofter holdings was made in 1878. This task was entrusted to me by the Duke of Sutherland and his Commissioner (the late Mr Loch) partly I suppose because of my knowledge of the district acquired during the previous eleven years while the new roads and other improvements were being planned and constructed, and partly because there was no desire to rack-rent, and it was probably thought that as I should myself be the person to impose and collect the new rents I would probably be more careful than strangers not to exceed what might be regarded as fair and just to all concerned. There being a strong tendency on the part of well-to-do crofters to overstock, the first and most important step was to fix a summing for each township and each lotter therein. One great advantage of this is that the poor man, who is unable to have his full complement of stock, can get value for his grazing from the well-to-do tenant. We experience, however, very great difficulty in putting this into practice owing to the unwillingness of the people themselves to give information as to overstock. Although there are very few lots but what can be turned with the plough, the rates fixed for the arable land do not exceed 10s. on an average, with the patches and borders of green pasture thrown in. The rates for stock vary according to the quality of the grazing, and are as follows:
For cows, from 7s. to 10s. each; young cattle, 4s. to 6s. each; sheep, Is. 6d. to 2s. 6d. each; horses, 15s. to 20s. each. Low as these rates certainly are they yield an increase on the old rent of £176, or an average rise of 15s. on each allotment. On one township of eight letters (Auchnahaird) a reduction of 20 per cent, was made on the old rent, levied by the tacksman whose sub-tenants they were. On Isle Martin —seven lotters—there was no rise; while in numerous instances old men having no able-bodied sons to work for them and pay the rent, the increase has been allowed to stand over. I should also add that in all cases brought under my notice, care was taken not to impose any increase of rent in respect of land reclaimed or otherwise improved by the tenants within the previous fifteen years. Although the croft rents may be said to have been stationary for fifty years, the farm rents in the same district have in several instances risen 100 per cent, and in some cases even more. It will, I think, be admitted that the small tenants get fully a half more wages now than thirty years ago, while they get nearly double the price for their cattle that they could have got even twenty years ago. This is very much the result of the great improvement in the breed brought about by the introduction in recent years of well bred bulls at the proprietor's expense—a system of helping the people which cannot ,
be too strongly recommended. The desire to slate their houses is also on the increase and deserves to be encouraged, as the constant flaying of the surface for divot required for thatched roofs is ruinous to pasture. To show that the new roads are of use to the people I may mention that carts and ploughs are much more numerous and are yearly on the increase—while the labour provided in the making of these roads has done good in various ways. It has taught many of them to use a pick and spade to advantage, and it has encouraged them to set about improving their crofts by trenching waste, draining, and removing boulders, &c. It also enables their children to get comfortably to school, of which there are no fewer than six on the Coigach property. I must not omit to mention that with the exception of one or two inland townships the great bulk of the population live near the sea and that many of them are more dependant upon fishing than upon their crofts. I am glad to be able to bear testimony to the fact that while doubtless there are some indolent people among them as there are in most communities, there are many very industrious, and strive hard to better their condition, and if there is one thing more than another that retards their progress, it is the want of good harbour accommodation and regular facilities, which they do not now possess, of getting the produce of the sea to a ready market. At present there is no telegraph and only two posts a week to this important district, with a population, according to the last census, of 1615. I trust that you gentlemen will have the goodness to represent this to the proper quarter and recommend that Government aid be given towards providing these facilities which are so much required. If you will now allow me I would like to make one or two remarks upon the evidence which has been given. Allow me first to refer to the delegate John M'Lean. This crofter is entitled to keep one horse, three cows, two followers, and twelve sheep. In inquiring for the return given to the Commission, the stock actually kept was found to be two horses, four cows, one follower, and fourteen sheep. This man has 3½ acres of arable land at a rent, including pasture, of £5, 8s. He made reference, as did some others, to the charge for horses. I wish particularly to explain that. There are many crofters here who I am sure will bear me out when I say that there is nothing so ruinous and destructive to the best part of the grazing than the keeping of too many horses. Frequent complaints were made by these that their neighbours kept too many horses, and we found that unless a limit was made to the number, and some charge made, the evil would go on increasing. Therefore when this valuation was made, and some time before it was completed, intimation was given to all who then held horses, and any others who might desire to hold them, that it was very desirable in their own interests to put a limit to their number, and that a charge varying from 15s. to 20s. would be added to the rental of those who desired to keep them. This man M'Lean's father had a horse, and I believe M'Lean had one at that time also, or shortly before. He may have been without a horse at the time the charge was put on, but he made application to have one, and he did not give us to understand so far as I know that he had not one for two years. It is singular if he was not able to purchase one for two years that he should have immediately afterwards bought two. He has one on his croft and another somewhere else. The same delegate referred to the want of security. Now I am not aware of a single instance of eviction, or enforced removal from the Cromartie estate within the last fifty years but one. That case happened in my own time. It was the case of a man M'Leod who lived in Glenstrathan. He was a man who had a family, and a very idle man; his circumstances are well known. He allowed his dwelling-house to tumble to pieces, and it was for nothing else but an example to his neighbours that he was removed; and to make sure that a good case was made out, the Duke of Sutherland's late Commissioner, Mr Loch, accompanied me to the spot, and when we arrived there, his roof was covered with a sail as the only protection he was able to give his wife and children; and yet he was an able-bodied man, and I believe is so still. Reference was also made, by the same delegate I believe, to a feu on the Isle of Tanera, and to the ruinous state of the fences. Well, I have a distinct recollection of the condition of those fences having been brought under my notice some time ago, and at that time I represented the matter to the then proprietor of Letterewe, to whom the feu belonged. The delegate also made reference to the boats, and I may mention that last year £ 60 was contributed by the Duchess of Sutherland towards the repair of boats damaged by the severe gale of October 1881. Other delegates complained of the great scarcity of arable land. I believe that the small tenants of Coigach have all the available land in the district, with the exception of some forty or fifty acres, and the great bulk of that is attached to small farms. The same delegates also complained that there was no harbour or safe port. It so happens that within a quarter of a mile of this man's residence there is one of the safest little ports of the whole district, and we have only lately completed a road to that port. It is opposite Isle Risdale in the near neighbourhood of Altandu. It was also stated that they were charged for sea-weed from Isle Risdale. That island belongs to Lady Matheson, and I was not aware it was the custom to make a charge for sea-weed. It was said that the tenants of Auchnahaird were paying a tax of 7s. 6d. for sea-weed to the tacksman of Auchnahaird. This is the first time I have heard of it, and if a charge is exacted it is a most illegal one. I shall now refer to the evidence given by Murdo Stewart, Auchiltibuie. He has five acres of good arable land on the shore, and his share of 14,000 acres of pasture. He is entitled to keep four cattle and six sheep. He actually keeps seven cattle and thirty sheep. In his evidence, if I took him up properly, he stated he only owned one or two cattle beasts, and that he never owned half a dozen sheep in his life. But the explanation is this, that although he is the tenant, a brother of his owns the rest of the stock and shares the lot with him. For the five acres of fair arable land he pays only £ 2 of rent ; for the grazing of seven cattle 30s., and for the sheep he only pays 15s. Reference was made by most of the delegates, and very strongly by the Rev. Mr M'Millan, that a great mistake was made in not taking the road as they call it through the Big Rock. Now, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie will bear me out that he heard the evidence of the most competent road contractor and road engineer in the Highlands, the late Mr Lewis Russell, who was employed to look out for the best and most advantageous line of road through the district. He examined with very great care this particular road from Kinchillish, and his verdict was that it was impossible to make a safe road there ; in fact he said it would cost more than most railways —over £1000 a mile. And further, he said if the road was made there, it would be dangerous and would not be there long, as the rocks are very precipitous, and it would be constantly liable to injury. Allow me now to refer to the case of Alexander Grant. He complained that we refused to give him compensation for his buildings, and I believe he stated that he expended £ 40 on improvements. He was two or three years in the place, and left of his own accord. I am not aware that he expended £2 or even £1 upon the land, but he did build a shell of a house. When he left it, it was a house without a single division in the inside, and so badly constructed that before we could make it habitable we had to pull down the couples and 2 feet of the front wall to make it at all useful. The byre and barn at the time he left —I saw them myself— were also in ruins and propped up with wood. When these props were removed, the building tumbled to pieces, and at this moment there is not one stone above another. He spoke to me about compensation, but my answer was that he owed twelve months' rent, and looking at the state of the buildings, I thought the one was a very good set off for the other. But if it could be shown that the buildings were really worth more than the rent in arrear, the matter would be taken into consideration. His reply was that a Royal Commission had been appointed, and he would take good care to bring forward his case. That being so, I thought it better to let it stand over and have no settlement under such a threat as that. A statement was made by other delegates that the best of their land was taken and added to Badentarbat and Auchnahaird. I made inquiry, and my information is that no such changes have taken place within the last fifty years. Deer forests were referred to by the Rev. Mr M'Millan, and I would wish to explain the circumstances under which the last clearance was effected. I refer now to Drumraonaidh or Coulmore. It was cleared in 1879. The ground cleared was very high, and formed part of the farm of Inverpolly. The lease of that farm was out, and as sheep farming was not paying and this high land was very risky, the tenants refused to renew their lease. We advertised the farm as a whole and did not get a single application for it. We discovered that the reason was that the farm was not self-supporting and that there was too much high ground in proportion to the low ground. The idea then occurred of clearing the high part and leaving as much of the high ground with the low as would make the farm self-supporting. As such, the farm was advertised, and even then we were unable to let it, and we were obliged to take it into our own hands. The value as sheep grazing of that part which was cleared could not be put down at more than £200 or £250. We let it for the first year as forest at a rental of £600. Reference has also been made to Rhidorrach forest, which I believe was one of the first cleared forests in the Highlands. I believe there are people here now who can bear testimony to what I say, that a great part of the land forming the forest of Rhidorrach was regarded as very unhealthy and unsound for sheep. I believe it was good grazing for cattle, but for sheep it was regarded as very unsound. It was cleared gradually and by degrees. It was cleared by the late Cromartie, then proprietor of Coigach estate. He was a man who was extremely kind to the crofters on his estate, and I am sure those of them now present will bear me out when I say so, and that he would have been the last to have evicted or be unkind to any of the small crofters on the place. As it happens, there were no crofters on Rhidorrach. There were a few small sheep farmers, for whom other farms were provided on the estate, and there was no question, as far as I can ascertain, of any complaint by any tenants about their removal. I have only further to state that the delegates who appear from Coigach, I have the best reason to believe, have not given expression to the opinions and views of the Coigach people generally. They are at most the outcome of a few discontented individuals, of whom there are doubtless some in every parish and district in the
28442. Why do you say that the delegates who have appeared to-day do not express the real sentiments of the people —what ground have you for saying that ?
—I was at Coigach within the last week, and I was informed that at a meeting cahed for the purpose of appointing delegates only two people appeared.
28443. Was that one particular case, or was that the case in several places ?
—It was in the most important townships of the whole district —Auchiltibuie and Badenscallie.
28444. The township we visited on Saturday?
28445. And there was no general meeting at all?
28446. How then were the delegates elected ?
—I suspect they were a good deal self-elected.
28447. Do you think there may possibly have been other meetings of which you were unaware, at which the delegates were elected ?
—I believe there was another meeting at Ullapool at which people were appointed without acquainting the people in the district of it.
28448. Were there persons present from those townships?
—There may have been one or two present, but nothing like a fair representation of the people.
28449. You mentioned the system under which new houses are built, if I understood you correctly, lime and wood for the roof are given in those cases ?
28450. These are given freely without any price ?
—Without any price whatever.
28451. Where slates are asked for, are they supplied on credit?
28452. How long are the occupiers allowed to pay?
—Just as they are able ; we take £ 1 or £2 as they are able, and they pay a low rate of interest on the sum.
28453. What proportion or value of the whole cost of the house is supplied by the proprietor, and how much is left to the occupier ?
—I should say the average cost to the tenant of erecting a house is about £30, and the average cost of the material supplied by the proprietor would be about half that sum.
28454. The whole house would cost about £45 ?
—Yes, not a slated house, but a thatched house.
28455. Adding the slates, how much would it be ?
—That would add about £15 or £16 to the cost.
28456. In that case, the whole cost would be £60, of which £45 would be at the expense of the tenant?
—Yes, that would be about it.
28457. Have such houses ever been built ?
—Numbers of them.
28458. In which the tenant has supplied that ?
—Yes, but I am merely putting a money value upon what the proprietor would have to do.
28459. The occupier naturally attaches some value to it ?
28460. In a case of that sort, is there any verbal or written engagement taken on the part of the proprietor that the tenant, in case of death or voluntarily leaving, or eviction for failure to pay rent, is to receive any indemnity for his outlay ?
—We have no written agreement with any of the tenants, but there is always a distinct mutual understanding that if the buildings are worth anything to the ingoing tenant, they are paid for. I don't know of a single instance, except the case of Alexander Grant, of a house which has been so built where there has been any change. Changes are very rare on the Cromartie estate, and any changes were changes from buildings which were dilapidated or nearly so, and of little value. In such cases as these it is a usual thing if the buildings are worth anything to the incoming tenant, that he pays one rent for them. We charge no rent for the buildings. If they are of any value to the incoming tenant there is a distinct understanding that whatever value is in the buildings it is paid over to the outgoing tenant.
28461. Who pays it?
—The incoming tenant.
28462. Does he pay it down on the spot or by instalments ?
—As a rule ho pays it on the spot, and if there is any difficulty in settling the value, it is referred to their own neighbours as arbiters mutually appointed.
28463. The proprietor pays no compensation for improvements; it is the incoming tenant ?
28464. In the case of one of these improved houses worth £60, supposing a vacancy did occur by death, without any natural heirs to hold, and that it occurred shortly after the building was raised, and the building was not much impaired, the incoming tenant would have to pay the value assessed by arbitration which might be £40 or £50?
—Yes, and failing him, the proprietor would have to do so.
28465. Supposing that no incoming tenant could be found to undergo this expenditure and enter the holding, what do you think would be done on the estate ?
—The proprietor would step in and pay the valuation.
28466. To the heirs whoever they might be ?
28467. But no such occurrence has ever taken place ?
—There has not been a single instance I can recall of any new house or really substantial house having to be taken over.
28468. In the case of the roads, you have mentioned two kinds, main roads and branch roads ?
28469. By main roads, do you mean the public roads maintained by the county ?
28470. And what are branch roads ?
—They are not so maintained : they are maintained at the expense of the proprietor.
28471. How were those branch roads made; were they made entirely at the expense of the proprietor ?
—Entirely, and the main roads also.
28472. The crofters did not give any labour or assistance whatever ?
—None whatever; they were paid very good wages for all the labour they gave, amounting to many thousand pounds.
28473. The delegate Robert Grant stated that he had not been allowed to take away the timber of some portion of the house ; do you remember anything about that ?
—I don't remember anything about the windows. The house was so badly built that I don't think the windows would have been worth taking away.
28474. But you don't remember anything about that ?
28475. In the case of the horse which is alleged to have been paid for for two consecutive years, although it was not kept, were you aware that you received rent for these two years when there was no horse kept ?
28476. Did you hear it to-day for the first time?
28477. You stated that horses were apt to be kept in greater numbers than was good for the common pasture, or necessary for the cultivation of the crofts, and therefore it was thought desirable to restrict the number of horses kept, and that an additional pound of rent was imposed ; but might not the number be restricted by regulation instead of imposing a rent upon the horses ?
—It is very difficult to enforce a regulation of that sort unless there is some consideration paid; the difficulty would be in deciding who were to keep them.
28478. We understood from the delegate that the ground officer bad, as it were, made up a list, and decided who were to keep them ?
—He was asked to go round and ascertain those who wished to keep them.
28479. If a man had come to you and said he had been unable to buy a horse for two years, would it have been consistent with the regulation of the estate to charge him with a horse which was not kept, or would you have remitted the rent of the horse to him ?
—It would be impossible to have people changing their horses constantly in that sort of way. Once the thing is fixed, it would require to be fixed for a period of years, , or we should never know who had horses or who had not.
28480. If a man's horse died, would you charge him with the dead horse for the rest of the time ?
—If he had not a horse, he would have so many more cattle.
28481. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—It was stated by the witness Grant that his byre, which you said was in ruins, had been turned into a dog kennel?
—That is not the case. The dog kennel, as several here can testify, was built on an entirely new foundation and some distance away. It might be on the same site but not above the old building.
28482. You made reference to the fact of my having been on the Road Board of the county, and of my having known about Mr Russell's report. Mr M'Millan has mentioned the road might have been made round the back of the rock, a shorter way than the present ?
—I think it was the face of the rock Mr M'Millan referred to.
Rev. Mr McMillan.
—I understand Mr Russell reported upon the face of the rock. He nearly broke his legs when he was making the examination, and he came to the conclusion it was impossible to make a road there. It never was contemplated to make a road there; but the other way it was quite possible.
—It is not likely the Duchess of Sutherland would have gone round thirty miles if a shorter road was possible.
28483. Mr Cameron.
—As I understood you, in answer to the Chairman, you said a house might be built but not slated for £60 ?
—£45, —£30 contributed by the tenant and £15 by the landlord.
28484. For a non-slated house ?
28485. Built with dry stone walls or mortar?
—Mortar supplied by the proprietor.
28486. What would that house be thatched with ?
—Thatched with divots and rushes.
28487. What can the house be built for where the wood, lime, and slates are supplied by the proprietor, and the stones carted and all the work done by the tenant?
—The slates would add about £15 to the cost.
28488. Would heavy wood be required?
—The wood would be heavier also.
28489. What would a slated house of two rooms cost ?
—Considering that the wood would require to be heavier it would be fully £70 for a slated house.
28490. Could it be done for that?
—I believe it could in that quarter. There is native stone close by and they have no expense of
28491. What would the proportion of that come to for the landlord's share ?
—About £20 I should say, exclusive of the slates, which of course are paid by the tenant.
28492. Twenty pounds for lime and wood for the roof?
—Yes, and sarking.
28493. Do the people here prefer the old houses, or do they like slated houses ?
—They are getting more into the way of slating now; they see the advantage of it, that a slated roof does not require to be repaired after every gale. And they see too that the practice of flaying the surface of the ground for divots is ruinous to the best of their own pasture.
28494. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You made in the conclusion of your statement some reference to the character of the delegates. Now, it is the duty of the Commission to do all they can here to protect those people who come before them. Do you know the Free Church minister of Auchiltibuie ?
28495. Is he a person of honour and credit?
—I believe he is.
28496. Do you think he is likely to be a party to anything in the way of misrepresentation of the people ?
—No, I don't think he would willingly.
28497. Look at that paper (showing); is that his writing ?
—I believe it is.
28498. That is a statement from Coigach and was handed in to the Commissioners by one of the delegates, and it was stated it was written by the Free Church minister. Do you suppose that the minister for one moment would be a party to prepare a document of that kind if he did not suppose the people who asked him to do it had a good status to do so ?
—That might be so.
28499. I think you stated the reason that the pound for the horses was put on was because there was a complaint an the part of some of the crofters that too many were kept ?
—That is so.
28500. Does it not occur to you if it was to be put on, that the pound should be given to the crofters whose pasture was destroyed by the extra horses, and not put into the landlord's pocket ?
—There were always so many horses kept in each township on the grazing. If there were no horses there would be cattle and sheep, for which the proprietor would receive rent.
28501. But I don't see that the complaint of the crofters, that too many horses were kept and their pasture spoiled, was any way improved by a pound for the horses going into the pocket of the landlord?
—How can you make out that it should go into the pockets of the tenants?
28502. Because it was their pasture that was destroyed ?
—It was the proprietor's pasture from which he would be deriving rent if they had more cattle or sheep.
28503. It is not a fixed money rent ?
28504. How is the rent fixed ?
—I have explained it in my statement very fully; it is fixed by putting a certain price upon the arable and pasture land, and a certain price upon each beast. I don't know of any other proper way of doing it.
28505. Do you make the rent separate ?
—Yes, for each holding and for each township.
28506. But do you do it separately for each animal ?
—We do; there is a limit fixed of stock for each tenant.
28507. That is what is called the summing ?
28508. Is that really observed at Auchiltibuie, because the person we met said, one of the great complaints was that there was no such thing ?
—It certainly is observed, and our great difficulty is to prevent the people having more than the summing; that is the difficulty we complain of, and that some of themselves who are unable to put on the full complement of stock complain of also, that others who are more able put on more than they are entitled to.
28509. Why did you select the horses and not charge a pound for a cow?
—Because they must have a certain number of horses to till their land, but they are apt to have too many.
28510. Must not they have a certain number of cows and sheep ?
—Yes, and they have.
28511. Do you show that pound in your receipts separately ?
—No, but our summing shows it, and the tenants are quite well aware of the stocking they are allowed according to the rent.
28512. Supposing a man kept another horse more, would you put another pound on?
—No, but we would object to his keeping it.
28513. Supposing he kept a horse less, would you take a pound off?
—I am not so sure about that, unless there was an understanding. I don't know that it would do to let thorn alter their rental at any time as they chose.
28514. The Chairman.
—If they kept a horse at the house or purchased food, would you charge them the additional pound ?
—Certainly not, but that is not the case; it is well known that all the horses graze upon the common pasture.
28515. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—About the rise that took place upon the crofts about three years ago, the number of crofters altogether was 237, and you added to the rental £176. Upon consideration, was it worth while for such a small sum to disturb all these people ?
—Well, I don't think they could expect to get so much done for them and pay nothing in return. I believe that small increase represents not one per cent, upon the money laid out to their advantage.
28516. I think you stated that the principal money laid out was for roads ?
—It was, the greater part of it.
28517. But don't those people all pay road money?
—Not now; I am not aware that they do.
28518. How is that?
—Because we have not charged it ; whatever we may do, we have not done it in the past.
28519. You don't exact anything in the way of statute labour?
28520. Was that because you had some kind of pity upon the people ?
—I think we have shown our pity by doing a great deal for them during my connection with them—during the last sixteen years. I believe their condition is very much improved from what it was when I first knew them.
28521. We saw a number of houses very greatly improved, no doubt; we saw houses in four stages, and we entered one house of a man M'Leod, as a specimen. He has I think three rooms below and three above. Do you know the person I mean ?
—I believe I do.
28522. We were informed he got no assistance for the house?
—That may be so; there are some who are above asking for assistance, and I think that is the best evidence that they don't need it. I believe his house is slated. It was not for a number of years, and we offered to give him slate. He is a well-to-do man and was above asking for assistance.
28523. I now come to another house below the road. Were you ever in a house occupied by an old frail man?
—I know the house perfectly and have seen it repeatedly; the owner is James M'Leod. He has two allotments and on several occasions we have offered him assistance to rebuild his house. His house is without exception the worst in the whole district.
28524. You have stated that Drumraonaidh or Coulmore was cleared in 1879, but you don't say how many acres were cleared?
—Speaking from memory I really cannot say, but I should say from 25,000 to 30,000 acres.
28525. You also stated that you were unable to let a part of Inverpolly although you advertised it in the market. Did it ever occur to you to try if the smaller people would take it ?
—I have never had an application for more land since I was connected with the Cromartie estate; I never heard that the people considered they had too little land until to-day.
28526. We were told there were a number of families at one time on the ground of what is now the Rhidorrach forest; have you observed remains of old buildings there ?
—Very few; there are remains of an old fence and the like of that. I see no evidence of small tenants. .
28527. Your own words were srnall farmers, graziers?
28528. Were any of these men paying £30 rent?
—They were all above £30 I believe.
28529. Is there any arable land fit for cultivation in Rhidorrach ?
—There are about 40 acres, but it is flat and level and without drainage outfall, and in a moist climate I believe it would never pay to cultivate it, and as far as I know it never has been cultivated.
28530. You stated it might be good for cattle but not for sheep ?
—That is my opinion.
28531. What is the extent of Rhidorrach ?
— 25,000 to 30,000 acres.
28532. It used to let?
—It was, and it is let now.
28533. What did it used to let at?
—I am unable to say; it is so many years since it was converted.
28534. Was it ever let as forest before?
—Yes, it is a very old forest; one of the oldest in the Highlands.
28535. What was it let at before it fell into the family's own hand?
—I am not aware that the rent of it as forest has ever been under £700, but the forester is here and can gay.
28536. Do you recollect the name of one of the oldest tenants before the present man? has it always been let?
—It has, except perhaps an occasional year when the proprietor might keep it in his own hands, which
was very rarely.
28537. And it was never under £700 ?
—I am not aware; it may have been, but I cannot speak back for a number of years.
28538. Why is it in the valuation roll of this current year at £350 ?
—This year it was unlet, and that was the grazing value. It was valued as grazing. The proprietor, when the forest is unlet, is bound to return it at its grazing value, and that was £350 as far as I could ascertain. Its value as forest is £850,
28539. Can you inform us of the acreage of Coigach?
—I can not.
28540. Is it roughly 200,000 acres?
—No, I should say nothing like that?
28541. Is there a considerable portion of hill land there belonging to crofters ?
—As I have said, there are close upon 30,000 acres entirely under crofter's stock.
28542. (To Rev. Mr MMillan.) Mr Gunn said, ' I have only to state that the delegates who have appeared have not given expression to the opinions and views of the people generally.'
We wish to understand by what process these delegates were elected?
—I don't know exactly how they were elected, but at Coigach I believe they had meetings themselves in the absence of the Free Church Minister. They had meetings before that, immediately after the minister left for the fishing station, with Mr Murdoch, I may say.
Subsequent Note by Mr GUNN, dated 7th January 1884.
Some of Alexander Grant's statements are worth noticing, in view of the general cry for more land. For a rent of £6, 6s. he held a superior lot of arable land, and grazing for 1 horse, 7 cattle beasts, and 30 sheep. Compare this with his admission, that to Mr Fowler of Braemore, he now cheerfully pays £4 for a cottage, without even a garden attached. He complained that he could get no work. This is very strange, seeing that so many thousand pounds had been expended by the proprietor in that district on employment for all willing to work. As a matter of fact, no tenant could be more considerately treated. Some ten years ago the small sheep farm of Keanchulish fell vacant, when a preference was given to Grant and a brother of his, both natives. They were, however, only three or four years in possession when they quarrelled, and we had to take the farm off their hands, paying them some £900 for the stock. It was then that he applied for and got the lot at Coulnacraig. At his outgoing from Coulnacraig we had an offer of a higher rent for it, but we thought it better to divide it among the adjoining tenants, who were well able to stock it.