KENNETH MACKENZIE, Crofter, formerly Fisherman, Lots of Scoraig, Little Loch Broom (74), assisted by DUNCAN MACKENZIE, Crofter's Son, Lots of Scoraig (35)—examined.
27754. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected delegates?
27755. What have you to say?
—In the first place when the township of Lots was formed in 1840 there, twenty men put down having a lot each.
27756. That was the first formation of the Lots?
—The first formation on the Black Moor, the rental for the twenty lots was £5.
27757. £5 each ?
—£5 for the whole—5s. for each, that was the case for the first nine years, or, rather, instead of 5s. it was six days' labour. There was no rent paid in money, it was six days' labour, equal to 5s. In nine years the rent and labour was put up to twenty days, and it continued at that till 1884.
27758. Could the twenty days be taken in money instead of labour; was there an alternative ?
—-There was no money value put on it then, merely twenty days labour.
27759. Were the people in the habit of affording the labour or offering the money?
—They were supposed to give the twenty days' labour for the rent.
27760. But what did they do generally, labour or money ?
—They gave the labour at that time.
27761. Until 1880?
—Yes. In 1880 there was money rental imposed, varying from £2, 12s. 6d., to £3, 10s. per lot, which they considered a very hard case indeed. Instead of raising the rents the people ought to have got compensation for their improvements. They have no communication by road, only by a dangerous rocky mountain which is a hazardous way of travelling even in daylight; and there is no pier to land at with boats. The people wish, if it can be got through the Royal Commissioners, to have a road there which would benefit upwards of sixty families, beginning at Scoraig right through the townships of Lots, Carnoch, Pereoch, Achmore, and Badraloch, and joining the ferry of Dundonnell on the top of the hill at Mulbuie. They also want more pasture, security of tenure, and reduction of rent. Although I am not an old man I have never seen anything done there by the proprietors to benefit the people, although they have been oppressed.
27762. You mentioned three periods—the first period in which the people received their land during nine years for six days' labour ?
27763. Then the second period in which they received their land for twenty days' labour; and in the year 1880 a third period began with a money rental ?
—A money rental.
27764 During the two first periods the land was actually paid in labour ?
—Paid in labour.
27765. When the ground was first apportioned to these people had they a written agreement with the landlord ?
27766. But was it explained to them at the time that they were to have their land on an improving lease for lower terms at first and higher terms afterwards ?
—Not on these terms. They were put there to make the best of it, and told they would never be put out unless for a crime.
27767. Is there any written statement of that kind ?
27768. Is there any one here who can speak to it ?
—I think my father can speak to it.
27769. Would you ask him if he was one of the original settlers ?
—Yes, he says he was.
27770. When he received the land originally was any promise made to him that he should remain there on the same terms as regards rent?
—The terms that were given were that we were to have it for nine years for nine days' work.
27771. The other delegate said it was for six days' work; why do you say for nine days' work ?
—Then when these nine years were over twenty days' labour was imposed on us.
27772. When you got the land originally were you promised to have it for nine years for nine days' labour ?
—There was no promise except that so long as we would not be charged with any crime we would always remain there—the nine days' service was to last for nine years.
27773. Did you understand that at the end of nine years other terms might be made ?
—We did not know about that.
27774. What did you expect to happen at the end of the nine years ?
—We did not know; anything that the proprietor might choose to impose.
27775. When the nine years were over and the twenty days' were asked what did the people do
—did they consent to it or make any protest against it?
—They did not oppose i t ; they just accepted the terms and worked the twenty days.
27776. Did they always give it iu work, or did they sometimes give it in money ?
—We never gave money.
27777. When the heads of the families were otherwise engaged were they allowed to find substitutes?
—-Yes, a substitute would be accepted.
27778. Was the work exacted from women and men and the whole family, or only the head of the family ?
—They would require the services of a man.
27779. When the second period finished in 1880 and the money rent was imposed, what did you do then ?
—We just paid the rent.
27780. You did not protest against it?
—We did not protest against it, but the reason of the new arrangement was that we were not able to attend upon the day to give the work which the proprietor wanted; we were engaged in other employment. We were ready to do it upon a subsequent day, but meanwhile the proprietor got rather irritated and said he would not be bothered with conduct like that, and he imposed a money rent.
27781. During the whole period of thirty years that you paid a labour rent, did you receive any assistance from the proprietor in building or improving your houses, or in any other way?
—No, he gave us no assistance.*
* A voluntary declaration has since been made by this witness to the effect that his answer to question 27781 is not in accordance with facts. See Appendix A, No. LXXI.
27782. No materials for building the house?
—I don't know many that got wood.
27783. Did any get wood?
—I am not aware.
27784. To Duncan Mackenzie.
—Are you aware of any who got assistance in building houses ?
—I am not aware.
27785. There were twenty families originally, how many are there now? is there the some number of lots, or have the lots been subdivided?
—[Kenneth Mackenzie]. There were twenty families went there originally, and there are twenty yet.
27786. What is the area of arable land, and what is the amount of stock now kept upon the full lot ?
—We got £5 worth of black, stony ground which was brought under cultivation at the beginning, among the whole twenty families of us.
27787. How many acres of arable land are there in each lot ?
—I have myself perhaps a little over two acres; some have less and others have about that.
27788. How many cows do you keep?
—One head of cattle was put down in my summing when I got the place.
27789. How many have you got now?
—I keep two head of cattle. I have no horse nor sheep.
27790. Do you mean a cow and stirk, or two cows?
—Two milk cows.
27791. Have you any stirk?
—Well if I have it is not upon the croft. The croft cannot keep the two cows either. How could it do so when all the pasture we have is just the breadth of the arable ground back on the hill?
27792. Is there any hill pasture?
—No. If the neighbouring places would preserve the marches strictly, the whole twenty of us could not keep ten beasts upon our own pasture.
27793. But as a matter of fact is there some hill pasture upon which you drive out your cows ?
—The breadth of the arable land behind.
27794. How far does it go back?
—It goes back the same breadth —it forms a square.
27795. What do you think the croft would really keep itself without buying anything from the outside
—would it keep one cow ?
—Two head of cattle.
27796. So that you have a croft which keeps two head of cattle, and you pay £2, 12s. 6d. ?
—The rent of the whole township is £55, my rent is about £ 3 , and others pay more, and some less.
27797. To Duncan Mackenzie.
—You have heard what Kenneth Mackenzie has said, have you any explanation to offer about the six or nine days' labour?
—There are three days I did not take into account—two days for cutting peat3 and one day for harvest
—besides the six days of manual labour.
27798. Is his statement correct that each croft will keep about two head of cattle ?
—They will, by what grows upon them for winter keep.
27799. And they pay from £2, 12s. 6d. to £3, 10s.?
—Yes, exclusive of taxes. |
27800. Is that a higher rent than the common custom of the county would warrant?
27801. It is a higher rent than usual?
—Yes, the township when we went there was given for £5, taking off Scoraig.
27802. But it must have been a sort of improving lease, on the understanding that when it became better it was to be more ?
—There was no agreement to that effect.
27803. Must there not have been something of that kind?
—It is worth more than when they got it
27804. Do you think they would have objected to pay something more, or it is the additional amount that they complain of?
—It is the additional amount, and the want of pasture for the cattle. They have no place to put cattle behind the dykes, except about fifty yards.
27805. They would be contented to pay more than they paid in the first period of nine years?
—Certainly, if they got pasture.
27806. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you represent the people of Scoraig only or other people besides ?
—The township of Lots, not Scoraig.
27807. Is there not a village of Scoraig ?
—Lots was taken off Scoraig, it has been distinctly apart from Scoraig since 1840.
27808. Are there delegates from other parts of the Dundonnell property ?
—I dont know.
27809. You have no reason to believe there are complaints in other parts ?
—I have reason to believe there are, but I cannot speak on that point.
27810. Twenty days' labour was what was latterly given for the croft, I see the proprietor of the estate of Dundonnell estimated the value of the days' labour at 2s. 6d. ?
—I don't think they value it so much in the conditions of lease.
27811. They mention that the rate of labour having risen, the twenty days' labour had become worth £2, 10s. What is the value of labour here now-a-days ?
—You would not get an able-bodied man to work days' labour under 18s. a week, and provide everything himself.
27812. Then twenty days labour is worth £3 now?
—Yes; certainly, and often they have to waste six weeks in making out twenty days, owing to the bad weather.
27813. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What property are you on?
—I live at Advie on Spey.
27814. What is the property you represent here to-day?
27815. Are you well acquainted with it?
—I have been brought up on it, and my father is still living there,
27816. Is any part of the estate under forest?
27817. How much?
—I have no idea of the acreage.
27818. A large part?
—A good part
27819. How long is it since it was made forest ?
—It is a good many years—but not into a forest proper for letting until twelve years ago.
27820. Are there any sheep in the forest now ?
—I cannot tell.
27821. To Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are there any sheep in the forest?
—There are none.
27822. To Duncan Mackenzie.
—What was the name of the sheep farm that was there before it was turned into forest ?
—It was all under the name of Dundonnell.
27823. Who was the last big tenant?
—There was no tenant in that forest.
27824. Who was the last tenant of the sheep farm that is now the forest ?
—A Mr Urquhart.
27825. Do you know what he was paying ?
—I cannot tell.
27826. Were there any lands taken from small crofts at the time this forest was made twelve years ago?
—Not for the forest.
27827. Not so far as you know?
27828. Is there only one forest on Dundonnell ?
27829. Are you acquainted with the other forests in the parish of Loch Broom ?
—Not very well.
27830. Is Braemore a forest ?
27831. Does it lie in Loch Broom ?
—It is in the parish of Loch Broom.
27832. Is it a big forest?
27833. Were there tenants there once ?
—I cannot say, but to all appearance there were in old times.
27834. Is there a place called Inverlaul in this parish?
27835. Was it a sheep farm until lately ?
—I am not aware, but it is so yet.
27836. Are you not aware that it is to be converted into forest1?
—I cannot tell.
27837. Do you know it?
—I have passed through it.
27838. Has it all the appearance of having been once thickly populated with small tenants ?
—Yes, it has.
27839. Do you know Leckmelm ?
—I have passed through it, but have not much acquaintance with it.
27840. Do you know now that the whole ground was enclosed ?
—I was not aware.
27841. The rental paid by the township of Scoraig is between £50 and £60?
—It is £55 odds.
27842. It has been made out of barren moor?
—Yes, heather and stones.
27843. Did the proprietor contribute one farthing directly or indirectly to make this township which is now paying £55 except giving the waste land ?
—Not that I am aware of.
27844. You have stated that you want several things done for you in the townships ?
27845. Do you say so because you think something ought to be done for the rent you pay ?
27846. Do you think you should have a road ?
—Yes, we want a road.
27847. Do you pay road money?
—I don't know whether they pay actual road money. They think themselves they do, but I am not aware of it
27848. With regard to the narrowness of the pasture, it is said that the hill pasture is about as broad as it is long behind the crofts ; is there any reason why the people should not get more ?
—No reason whatever.
27849. To whom does the ground on the other side belong?
—To a distinct tenant, and not resident.
27850. Is he a big tenant ?
—Fairish, —a man paying about £30 rent; it is merely pasture for him.
27851. Do you mean summer pasture ?
—He keeps cattle and sheep and horses on it.
27852. Would it be worth the while of the twenty families that are there to pay a little more rent for the purpose of getting a good slice of the grazing ?
—They ought to get the breadth of the lots until it strikes the sea on the north side, and a reduction on the present rental, that is the only thing they could get for pasture directly behind their township. It would be the highest-rented piece of ground on the whole property although they had all that.
27853. How many proprietors does the other delegate recollect on Dundonnell?
27854. The Chairman.
—Does the township march with the deer forest at all ?
—No, it is on a different side of the Loch.
27855. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Who is the tenant of Unapool ?
—Mr M'lver, Scoraig.
27856. How far is it from the farm ?
—A mile and a half.
27857. Is it quite separate from other land ?
—It adjoins on the pasture.