CHRISTOPHER MACKENZIE, Crofter, Lower Ardelve (63)—examined.
31147. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement which you wish to make ?
—' Statement by the Tenants of Lower Ardelve, We are greatly pleased that the Royal Commission has come to visit us and to hear our grievances. We may safely say that the lot occupied by Christopher Mackenzie is more highly rented than any other lot of an equal size in the county of Ross. For this lot he (Christopher Mackenzie) pays £7, 10s., besides rates; and the extent of the arable land in his possession goes under the name of five acres, and is nothing but black peat-moss. He possesses no pasture, and the one cow he has must therefore be kept on the tether. The lot is supposed to support two cows, but will not do so; and when he does keep two cows, as it is sometimes necessary for him to do so, he has then to buy food for them. About twenty-four years ago the proprietor made some improvements on our lands; but after some drains were opened and tiles laid down, they were afterwards removed and taken to Killelan farm, and we have ever since been paying interest for these improvements, which were never finished. All our rents vary, but we each got a reduction of 2s. 6d. in the pound two years ago. There are six of us, and between us we pay £36, 10s.—from £9, 5s. to £5. We require the rent reduced to the value of the land, and security of tenure, so that we might be encouraged to improve it. Some of us made considerable improvements, for which we never got any compensation. And the delegate may state that he has not got twelve bolls of meal out of his holding for the last fifteen years. He nearly killed himself working and trying to improve his holding, and is now an old man, and unable to bear up against his misfortunes any longer, unless he can get some ease from the burden which he has so long laboured under. We had each a pasture at one time; but about eighteen years ago it was taken from us and added to the large sheep farm of Conchra, and the rent was not reduced to compensate us for our loss.
31148. You say that about eighteen years ago you had each a pasture. What do you mean ? Was it hill pasture, or that each of you had a particular piece of low ground?
—It was one piece in common between all the tenants, and it was added to Conchra.
31149. Was it in the hill or on the low ground?
—Near the land we have.
31150. But how large was it?
—Between six and seven acres.
31151. And when it was taken away and given to the large farm of Conchra, had you any reduction of rent ?
—Nothing; no reduction. We were paying the same rent when the proprietor reduced it two years ago.
31152. What sort of improvements have you made?
—Draining and taking in the land, trenching the land, and doing the best which we could.
31153. What sort of drains have you put in—stone or tile drains ?
—Stone drains mostly.
31154. You say that the proprietor began to make some improvements upon the ground, but that the tiles were taken away and carried to another place. Why was the improvement given up and the tiles taken away?
—Improvements were being done on Conchra, Balmacara, and Kilellan, and our tiles were taken away, but not all.
31155. The whole improvement was not destroyed; some of it remained behind?
—The most of it was done.
31156. And did the improvement which was made do good to your ground ?
—Very little. It was peat-moss in which they were laid, and they did not continue to run clear for three years.
31157. Is there any vestige of them left now?
—Nothing which is of any use whatever. We are always opening these drains; they are continually stopping.
31158. You say you are an old man, and unable to bear up against your misfortunes any longer. Have you been able to pay your rent up to the present time ?
—They have not much against me, and I have been paying rent since I was eighteen years of age.
31159. Have you got anybody to help you —any family?
31160. Does he labour your ground with you?
—Yes, when he can afford to remain at home.
31161. Does he fish sometimes?
—I fish often myself.