KENNETH FINLAYSON, Crofter's Son, Avernish (38)—examined.
30116*. Mr Cameron.
—Is your father alive ?
30117. And holding a croft and paying rent ?
30117*. Does the summing of the crofters correspond with the head of stock kept by the tenants ?
—Yes, undoubtedly ; our own statement.
30118. Is it according to the stock they are entitled to keep?
30119. How many tenants are there?
—Five tenants in that small village.
30120. In Avernish?
—No, there are other three besides that, and the mill croft.
30121. How many tenants are there altogether?
30122. Your father's name is George Finlayson. What is the number of cattle he keeps ?
—One cow, a follower, and a calf some years, and some years not.
30123. At the present moment?
—One cow and one calf.
30124. And a two-year-old or one-year-old?
—It is only two or three months.
3012.5. He has only a cow and a calf ?
30126. No other beast ?
30127. Do you know how many cattle are kept in the township altogether?
—Some of them keep more in the winter, and put them to grass with the sheep farmer in summer time.
30128. Do people keep more stock in winter than they do in summer?
—Yes; some of them.
30129. What do they do with these extra cattle in summer?
—Send them to grass to the big farms wherever they can get grazing.
30130. So that you have wintering for more cattle than you have summering for?
—Some of those who keep the extra stock have to buy winter keep for them in addition to their own produce.
30131. Are there any of the crofters who keep extra stock in winter?
—Some buy cattle and others rear them; and then they buy from neighbouring tenants, in order to feed them in winter.
30132. So that the arable ground is more than sufficient to winter the stock allowed by their summing to be kept on the hill pasture ?
—Nobody need understand that; although there is land for them to stand on, it will feed them in winter without buying.
30133. But in point of fact the arable ground is more than sufficient to winter the stock which you are allowed by your summing to keep on the hill pasture ?
—No, it is not the fact that we have more arable land than will support our proportion of cattle for the summer grazing.
30134. If you buy cattle to keep in winter, surely that implies that you are able to keep extra stock in winter?
—We have byre room for them and outrun room for them to stand on, but not to feed them; but we are entitled to buy food for them.
30135. Do you think the rents which you pay are too high?
—I say that the rents are too high in comparison with the big sheep farms or tacks; but, per se, I don't consider they are too high.
30136. That is, compared with the usual crofting rents in the district?
30137. I suppose what you really want is this additional farm to enable you to summer more stock ?
30138. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it not really the fact that the value of an animal may increase from the time you purchase it until the time you sell it, and that you buy cattle and keep them in order to turn an honest penny ? Is not that what you mean by taking in these pasture beasts and paying for their food?
30139. And the croft itself really affords nothing to that animal except the standing room of the byre ?
—The summing of the place is one cow and calf, and the extra cattle have no right to be there; only we agree among ourselves to tolerate each other for having an extra one.
30140. Does it harm the proprietor or anybody in any way when you buy a beast and buy its food from other quarters ?
—I am not aware that it is any loss.
30141. What is the name of the small farm adjoining what you would like ?
30142. Do you know what rent is paid for that farm by Messrs Brown ?
30143. Have the Messrs Brown got a great deal of land in this country ?
—They have land in Kilellan, but not so much as they used to have; part of it was made into deer forest.
30144. Have they a good deal yet?
—I believe they have
30145. Quite enough to enable them to dispense with this small piece at any rate ?
—Yes, if they were so inclined.
30146. Do you think that you or your father and the other crofters are quite able, if you get this land, to take it and do it as much justice as this non-resident sheep farmer?
—Yes, if we got it at a reasonable rent.
30147. How would you like to get this reasonable rent fixed?
—By comparison with the big sheep farms about.
30148. You are willing to give acre for acre?
—Yes, according to the rental paid by the big sheep farms in the parish.
30149. You don't want to hurt the proprietor by this request ?
—No, it cannot hurt him.
30150. You would not like to hurt him ?
30151. Is he a good landlord ?
—Yes ; but I would hardly know him although I met him on the road.
30152. What is the name of the son of the factor who wanted to get the farm from your predecessors ?
—I think it was William M'Lennan.
30153. Where is he?
—He went abroad, I think.
30154. Did he ever get the farm ?
30155. Who got it when the people lost it?
—Mr Brown of Kilellan.
30156. Was that all before Sir Alexander Matheson came ?
—It was for some years in the hands of the proprietor himself, and I believe it is since Sir Alexander came that Mr Brown got it.
30157. Did the people in the township make any direct application to the proprietor or factor when they heard that Mr Brown was willing to give it up ?
—They went to the factor, Mr Watson, who promised to represent their wish to the proprietor, but whether he did so or not we have not heard since.
30158. What do you do yourself besides farming—are you a fisherman?
30159. Do you earn most of your living by the sea ?
30160. The Chairman.
—Do you remember the trees being planted upon the hill ?
30161. Did that give a good deal of employment to the people?
—Yes, they did get a good deal of employment then ; but there were local factors in this district who would give them employment. But since then matters are chanced, and now no one can get employment of any importance except strangers.
30162. Was there any draining done in connection with the planting ?
30163. Has there been any employment given in connection with keeping the drains open and thinning the wood ?
—Yes, thinning the wood.
30164. Is the wood well fenced, or has the fence been now thrown down ?
—It is up round some parts of the wood, and in other places it is broken down.
30165. Is the ground inside the wood pastured?
—There was one part taken from us formerly, and we have got authority this year to pasture cattle inside that part of the wood.
30166. Is the pasture inside the wood as good as outside on the hill ?
30167. Are you paying additional rent for pasture in the wood, or do you get it gratis?
—I cannot say ; we only got it at the last term.
30168. What stock did you put into the wood?
30169. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—At what fishing are you engaged ?
—The east coast fishing at Peterhead.
30170. Is that fishing not going on at this moment ?
—Yes, but I did
30171. What employment are you engaged in this year?
30172. Is it from want of health that you are not employed?
—I am quite healthy.
30173. If you are not living by your croft, nor by fishing, how are you living?
—That is a question I am not bound to answer to anybody.
30174. You come here as a crofter's representative; what have you to do with the croft ?
—That I work it every year.
30175. Have you any brothers working at it too?
—My other brother was working along with me on the croft
30176. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have between you in the eight crofts and the mill croft forty acres of arable land which you cultivate: how much has your father ?
—Three acres, as far as I am concerned.
30177. There are three who pay a higher rent than the others; how much arable land will they have ?
—Something about the same, or maybe four acres.
30178. How do they pay higher rent ?
—They have more pasture.
30179. Is not the pasture common?
—No, the pasture is separate.
30180. And is the pasture of each separately enclosed?
30181. Whether is your pasture ground or arable ground the larger and wider?
—They are much about the same.
30182. And your summing is one cow and a stirk ?
30183. Do you sell the stirk ?
—Yes, sell it when it is a year old.
30184. And you never keep more than that stock on the summing?-
—Some years they keep them on the sheep farm.
30185. I mean within your own pasture?
30186. But if your own ground is separately enclosed it does not really very much matter whether you keep extra stock or not; it is your loss if you don't keep it, and not your neighbours' loss ?
—They are divided into two sections, and each has not a separate pasture at all ; the pasture is in common in two divisions.
30187. But you don't keep more than your summing in summer upon the common pasture ?
—No, it would not carry them.
30188. How about the wintering? Your crofts yield a crop that could winter more beasts than there is summer pasture for?
30189. In that respect, if you had more summer pasture you would go on with the crofts as you are and winter more cattle ?
—They would keep as much again as we have summer grazing for.
30190. There was a far greater amount of stock upon the ground last winter than there was summer grazing for; were the people of Avernish able upon their own crofts, without going outside to buy anything, to winter the whole of their stock ?
—No, some of them had to buy; that is according to the labour they do in the spring time in the way of putting on manure, sea-weed, &c.
30191. But if the crofts were well cultivated in an average year, would they winter the stock yon had last year?
—I could not say.
30192. Off and on?
—Well, the place is so small that nobody hardly can wait to lose that much time in the spring as to put the place in order.
30193. Suppose you got the place you are wanting, is it sheep stock you would put on, or cattle and sheep ?
—Cattle altogether, as far as I am concerned.
30194. Is there arable ground upon the farm you wish to get?
—It is all arable land; the most of it is arable land.
30195. What stock is on it just now?
—200 sheep, I believe.
30196. But you would turn it into arable ground?
—Part of it.
30197. And put cattle upon the grazing?
30198. You don't mean to keep sheep?
—Not so far as I am instructed by the rest.
30199. You expect there is as much ground capable of cultivation upon that place as would winter well the cattle that would graze upon it in summer ?
30200. And you think you and your neighbours would be prepared to give the rent for it that is at present given by one man?
—No, by no means.
30201. Supposing you got it at a reasonable rent, you would be able to stock it ?
—We would try and do it.
30202. The whole eight ?
—What would become of the four cottars who had none ?
30203. I thought you said the crofts you have are not too highly rented looking at themselves alone ?
—I don't know whether you would call them highly rented or not; they are very small.
30204. Do you think that this farm is too highly rented?
—I am thinking it is.
30205. Does Mr Brown think it is ?
—I don't know; I never asked him.
30206. How would you arrive at what you call a fair rent ?
—Take the crofts acre for acre with Auchtertyre or other places.
30207. You think at present the farm is over-rented ?
30208. But you would be willing to give the rent going in other places ?
30209. The Chairman,
—There is a mill in the township?
30210. Are the tenants obliged to carry their grain to that mill?
—No, we are not bound to go there; but the mill is useless.
30211. Why is it useless?
—Since the big farmers in the country gave up sending the corn to be ground, the mill has been neglected, because there is only bere sent to it and it is almost useless. I had corn there, and it was seven weeks before I could get it ground this year.
30212. Is that owing to the want of water or machinery?
—Want of water and bad machinery both.
30213. Could water be brought to the mill ?
30214. How many people were supported upon this farm of old before the clearance ?
30215. How many acres do you suppose in this little farm were once under cultivation—regularly cropped ?
—I could not say.
30216. Would there be fifty acres?
—I am certain there would be and more.
30217. Is that land which was once in cultivation as valuable to-day as it was at the time it was put under the sheep?
—No, nor half so valuable.
30218. Is it getting worse every year?
—Every year since the sheep were put on it is getting worse.
30219. Will a day not arrive when the proprietor won't get anything for it if it remains as it is under sheep ?
—It is very probable.
30220. And is it also probable that you and others who are willing to take it will not be able some years after this to give the same rent as you could give now ?
—I cannot say anything as to that, because we don't know what is to come, but we know what is.
30221. If it is bad to continue it as a sheep farm, must it not be equally bad ultimately for the purpose of making it arable ground ?
—I believe if it is cultivated it will be improved again.
30222. But if it is bad to continue it as a sheep farm, I ask you, must it not be equally bad ultimately for the purpose of making it arable ground ?
30223. But if you began to put it in cultivation and put manure upon it, it would recover itself ?
—That is quite easily understood that it would.