RODERICK MACLEAN, Factor to Sir Alexander Matheson of Lochalsh, residing at Ardross, Alness —examined.
30948. The Chairman.
—Do you desire to make any general statement ?
—I do. The system of division of Highland property which Sir Alexander Matheson advocates, and which he acts upon as opportunities occur, is to have crofts of £ 4 rent occupied by tradesmen, labourers, and fishermen, who would consider these holdings merely as homes for their families, and by outside labour paying rent and family requirements beyond the produce of their crofts. He would have no crofts at rents between £4 and £10, but from £ 1 0 to £15 for occupants who might occasionally hire themselves for labour when available, crofts from £15 to £ 30 self-supporting their occupants, middle-sized farms from £30 to £100, and large farms from £100 to £300 or £400 occupied by resident tenants, but not to exceed the latter, circumstances permitting. The following is a classification of the rents on Sir Alexander's west coast estates:—
154 crofts under £4
72 - from £4 to £6
38 – from £6 to £10
43 – from £10 to £20
24 – from £20 to £30„ .
9 farms from £30 to £100
10 – from £100 to £200
7 – from £200 to £325
1 - at £600
1 - at £900
Sir Alexander came into possession of his property in the parish of Glenshiel in 1840, of Inverinate in Kintail in 1844, of the parish of Lochalsh and the estate of Eilandonan in Kintail in 1851, of his property in the parish of Contin in 1856 and in the parish of Lochcarron in 1861 and 1867. Since he became proprietor in Ross-shire he expended upon his estates all the income derived from them annually (including his east coast estates), amounting now to £23,000, and which has on several occasions been supplemented from other sources, thus affording employment to all of his people who were able and willing to work. Of the above outlays £86,867 were expended for the benefit of the tenants in buildings, draining, reclaiming land, fences, and roads. From 1870 till 1882 he wrote off £1326, 17s. 3d. of arrears. In 1880 he reduced the rents by £480, and since then made a further reduction of £290.
30949. Are there any remarks you wish to make upon particular statements?
—Yes, I would like to make some remarks. The first delegates that came before you were, I think, those from Avernish. In regard to them, I have to say that the people left Avernish in Mr Livingstone's time, and the reason was that they would not submit to his regulations for cultivating the farm by spade labour. They preferred to go abroad rather than submit to the rules he put forward, of which we have a copy. The lands were in the proprietor's hands under sheep when Sir Alexander bought the property. He let them to Mr Brown, Kilellan, who still keeps them under lease at a rent of £ 60. With regard to the improvements upon Avernish, made by the proprietor without charging interest, one house was built by him last year, and timber and lime were given to another, the brother of one of the delegates. The land was enclosed with a wire fence for the benefit of the tenants two years ago, at a cost of about £80. With regard to Kinnamoine, I was sorry to hear Mr Sinclair, who was spokesman for them, and who knows the internal management of the property, state that it was only a few weeks ago, when it was known the the Royal Commissioners were to come, that the fence was thought of. The erection of the fence was under consideration for three years, and it was at the urgent request of the Ardelve crofters that it was erected. But owing to the large amount of money always spent upon the estate we thought it better, instead of trenching upon Sir Alexander Matheson's other resources, to wait until the proceeds of the property would enable us to erect the fence. Besides that £ 110 have been expended upon the tenants' lands in improvements. At Alt-na-stu there are twelve tenants. There was £ 31 , 9s. 4d. of arrears when Sir Alexander Matheson came to the property, the rent being £44, 9s. 4d. He reduced the rent to £40, 2s. 6d. a few months ago. He gave them, in addition to their rent taken off, the grazings of Sallachy to endeavour to assist them, and there has been no rent charged for that yet. He would give them more land if he could. They spoke about getting land from Conchra, but you will see that the boundaries of the farm are such that it would spoil the amenity of the estate if that were done. With regard to Duirnish, in 1851, the rent was £ 114 or £ 115 ; it is now £ 108. There was £ 8 put upon Portnanaon, but no rent taken of. £10 8 and £ 8 make £116, so that there has been £1 of a rise since 1851; while £ 164 , 18s . were spent on improvements previous to October last, and about £ 2 0 during the current year. In Port-a-chullin there are eight tenants. They got an addition of land in 1878, and the rent, which at the time of the purchase of the property amounted to £36, 8s. 10d., besides an addition to the land, has been reduced to £32. One man built a new house, and the proprietor gave him timber and lime. They got as much land as they could without destroying the amenity of the surrounding farms. A wire fence has been erected to protect them from the sheep of the neighbouring farm, and a good piece of hill grazing has been added which they had not before. I think that is all I have to say with regard to what was stated by the witnesses. There was mention made about deer forests; and with regard to that I should say that in 1878 Mr Brown, Kilellan, declined to
renew his lease of the upper portion of his grazing, a place called Pait and Mealvoy.
30950. About 15,000 acres?
—Yes, about that, extending from the bridle-path crossing Mealvoy to Loch Monar. It was then let to Lord Lovat as a deer forest. I n 1881 Messrs Weir and Kellie were, at their urgent request, relieved of the farm of Nonach, Ben-Droneg, &c, and as no grazing tenant could be got at the time to take the farm, Sir Alexander made a forest of the upper portion, allowing Weir and Kellie a year rent free to clear the ground. He has added the low portion of this farm to the grazing of the seventeen neighbouring erofters of Salachy.'
30951. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the extent of this last forest?
—12,606 acres. In 1881, MrMaclennan, Lienassie, voluntarily gave up the higher portion of his farm, retaining the lower portion. Sir Alexander had no other means of disposing of the portion given up than adding it to the neighbouring forest.
30952. What is the extent of the last?
30953. The Chairman.
—What does it make altogether ?
—34,000 acres. As is seen by the accompanying map, the ground forested is lying far inland from the inhabited portions of the property. There are within the bounds only about ten acres of arable land, which had been occupied by shepherds as potato plots. The hills are high, six of them ranging from 2900 feet to 3771 feet, and the average elevation is over 2400 feet. The increase of rental derived from these forests has lightened the parochial burdens on Sir Alexander's property by about 25 per cent.'
30954. Do we correctly understand now that it is the practice, and has been the practice of Sir Alexander Matheson, to spend the whole net rental on these Highland estates on this property ?
—It has been his practice since he became proprietor to spend every penny derived both from the east and west coast estates somewhere on the estates, and that largely supplemented from other resources.
30955. Putting aside the expenditure upon his dwelling-house and plantations and gardens, and all that contributes to the amenity of the place, could you give us any idea,of the gross expenditure on the whole estate during his time ?
—On the whole of the west coast estates £205,000, and of that there was for improvements for tenants' benefit, £86,867; mansion-house, pleasure grounds. &c, £74,367, 17s. 3d. ; shooting lodges, £6718, 15s. Id.; hotels, £10,733, Is. 3d.; roads, £11,300, 18s. 7d.; plantations, £14,097, 12s. Id.; Commercial Bank office, £806, 8s. 9d.
30956. Can you give us any general impression of what proportion of the £86,867 has been expended upon holdings of above £ 30 a year of value, and how much upon the smaller class of occupiers below £30 ?
—£5397 have been expended on tenants under £30, say £5400 upon the
crofters and small tenants.
30957. In regard to the large expenditure upon the mansion-house and plantations of the proprietor, was local labour extensively employed on these works ?
—Yes, all the labour in forming the plantations was local labour.
30958. And was the unskilled labour connected with the house and grounds also local ?
—I am not very sure. There must have been some natives employed; but I was not present at the erection of the houses. At the garden and other works local labour was employed.
30959. How many thousand acres have been planted ?
—I am not able to tell you.
30960. In round numbers?
—There are about 2500 acres underwood at the present moment.
30961. Including all the plantations ?
—Yes. The plantations were all, with a very few exceptions, made by Sir Alexander Matheson.
30962. Was the land now occupied by wood taken for the most part off sheep farms, or was there any land of the small tenants absorbed ?
—There was some rocky ground along the shores of Loch Long taken off one of the holdings in the parish of Kintail, and I believe it has been a benefit to the people to take the land from them, and prevent their sheep from falling off the rocks.
30963. In the case of small portions of hill pasture being taken from the occupant of a farm, has some compensation or consideration in rental or otherwise always been made to the people ?
—No land has been taken from any of the crofters except this portion I mentioned at Camusluinie.
30964. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—None from Plockton ?
—I am speaking of the property in this direction; Kintail is in the proprietor's hands. The land in Glenshiel is now used as grazing; at Camuslunie I cannot say what the arrangements are.
30965. The Chairman.
—There was one small piece of twenty acres alleged to have been taken off the crofters ?
—I am coming to that. At Monach there was a large piece taken off a large farm, about fifty acres. At Avernish there was a reduction made on the rent when the land was taken. At Duirnish there were twenty acres of rocky land, worth from fourpence to sixpence an acre, taken. I am not aware of any compensation being given for that.
30966. Would the land where the wood grows be of any use to crofters in the way of shelter ?
—Of great use.
30967. Why was the plantation made ?
—To occupy the place, and with the view of getting some benefit from the ground where none was got before, and also with the ultimate view of affording shelter for the cattle of the crofters. Without the wood there can be no shelter.
30968. With reference to the strip of land which was enclosed by a fence along the river side, what was the reason that the fence was put on the crofters' side and not on the other ?
—To get a walk along the burn as part of the pleasure grounds. To get a walk inside the fence, and a belting of wood between the walk and the fence.
30969. The intention was to plant the margin of the stream ?
—It was planted last year.
30970. Was any little allowance made to the crofters for that land being taken away ?
30971. Do you think they are prejudiced at all in their interests by the land being taken ?
—I don't think so ; but I think the reason of the statement made by the witnesses is, that they are continually quarrelling among themselves—they cannot agree among themselves. They are now coming to an agreement on account of regulations made about two months ago.
30972. Will the trees when they grow up be of any use to the crofters holdings as shelter, or will they be merely ornamental ?
—They will be of use for shelter.
30973. Would you generally state that it is the principle of your estate management, and your proprietor's desire, when any small portions of land for general purposes are taken from the crofters, to offer them indemnity or some compensating benefit ?
—In general they always get that.
30974. There was a statement made that in one township the people had been deprived of the natural sea-ware of their own shore, and that it had been granted to an adjacent place; was that done ?
—I may say shortly, that in the management of the west coast estates I am not well up in these details, but Mr Watson will be able to explain that.
30975. We are to understand in general that since Sir Alexander Matheson's proprietorship of the estate there has been no consolidation of small holdings in the form of a large sheep farm ?
—No such thing at all.
30976. And has there been any case of the addition of crofters' ground to deer forest ?
—No; no such thing at all.
30977. One delegate said that a portion of the hill pasture of the township had been taken and been put on to a deer forest ?
—He goes back to the time of Mr Lilliugstone and Sir Hugh Innes.
30978. You have stated the different categories of holdings into which Sir Alexander Matheson desires to divide his estate in an ascending scale toffarms of a maximum rental of from £300 to £400. He has not yet been able to arrive at his ideal; there are exceptional farms still ?
—Yes; and these cannot, -without a great deal of expense, be reduced; and indeed they ought not to be reduced, on account of their natural position. On one of them there is a farm-house, and the land extends in a narrow strip about ten or twelve miles inland. It would be too narrow to make two farms at the one end, and it would be exceedingly expensive to make a road to the upper end and to build a steading.
30979. Is there any portion of ground on that farm or others which in your mind might be granted for the purpose of making an addition to the crofters' common grazing ?
—I don't think there is.
30980. You don't think there is a single case on the whole estate by which the crofters could be benefited by the addition of ground ?
—No. The estate is quite compact, and it is impossible to do that without disorganising the system of management.
30981. We heard of a small farm held by an absentee tenant which the crofters said could be added ?
—That is Avernish, and the tenant is resident; but it is an outlying place which, Sir Alexander having had in his own hands, the crofters were not able to take, and he let it to Mr Brown. That could be reduced to make four crofts of £15 each.
30982. Could it not be given to a township in the form of common grazing ?
—It would not do.
30983. Why ?
—Because it would be destroying the system Sir Alexander has in view of making crofters self-supporting from £15 to £30 of rent: and by giving it to townships they could not be able to stock it. It would be rather too expensive for them to put up steadings, and Sir Alexander's view is to have three or four crofters, if such could be arranged, and he would not wish to go outside his own people to get them.
30984. Are we to understand from you that you don't think on the whole estate, in any part of it, there is any prospect of Sir Alexander being able to restore or grant any larger amount of common pasture to any crofters?
—No, there is not.
30985. In fact, the system is closed ?
—It is closed.
30986. With reference to the deer forests which have been formed recently by the cession of sheep farms, is any portion of these deer forests handy for crofters in the form of common pasture ?
—No. The furthest off end is eighteen miles from here.
30987. Are these deer forests all under tenancy, or does Sir Alexander retain one in his own hands'?
—Lord Lovat has a portion taken from Kilellan, Major Crosswell has a portion of Lochalsh, and Mr Winans has the part which Mr Maclennan gave up.
30988. What is the system on which the improvement of houses is conducted ? Are there any estate regulations with reference to the improvement of houses ?
—The proprietor offers timber and lime to any of the poor people who will build houses for themselves, but in general he is allowed to do the whole of it.
30989. Can you give me any idea how many new or improved houses are erected in the course of the year, or in any period ?
—I cannot tell. I know that at one place which will come before you to-morrow, —Camusulinie—he offered slates, timber, and lime to every one of the tenants who would build houses. Two have taken advantage of that offer and Sir Alexander gave them £20 in money along with the timber and lime and slates.
30990. What is the cost of building an improved crofter's house on a croft of say £ 4 or £ 5 rent ?
—It is difficult to answer that question, because, whatever way it happens, what we get for £100 in the low country costs £150 here. We cannot get labour done cheaply here.
30991. But I suppose the people are contented with less : they don't expect such good houses as they would get in the low country ?
—They would like to have them if they could get them without costing themselves much.
30992. Tbey do appreciate an improved dwelling ?
—Yes, when they get it for nothing.
30993. Are they not inclined to spend something themselves in the way of building as well as of carrying stones and that sort of thing ?
—Not very much.
30994. You find it is necessary that the proprietor should undertake almost all the outlay ?
—Almost; that is what has been done hitherto. But I believe the tenants now are beginning to see that it is necessary for themselves to do something, and the proprietor encourages them to make themselves self supporting. In previous years they have been depending very much on the proprietor.
30995. Do you know any example of houses built by co-operation between the tenant and proprietor ?
—Yes; those two I have made allusion to at Camusluinie.
30996. What share of the expense has the tenant borne, and what has fallen to the proprietor ?
—The tenant would expend about £20 in money and about the same in the value of his labour, and the proprietor contributed about £100.
30997. In the case of a house of that sort, is there any understanding, in the case of the death or departure of a tenant, under which his expenditure or unexhausted improvements would be reimbursed to himself or his heirs ?
—That question has never been raised, because they know that Sir Alexander is not in the habit of ejecting any one.
30998. But they might be ejected by death?
—There is no written understanding.
30999. The case has never arisen ?
—No; there is mutual confidence. The people are confident the proprietor will never do any harsh thing to them.
31000. I have the same confidence, but I would like to know what your idea is. Suppose a man had expended £40 on building a house upon Sir Alexander Matheson's property, and that his sons were abroad and did not take up the place, and that it was let to another; would there be any compensation for the £40, and, if there was, would it be paid by the landlord or by the in-coming tenant?
—The question has never been raised, but I am certain no injustice would be done the heirs of the person who died.
31001. Has there been any case of eviction on this property since Sir Alexander acquired it ?
31002. Not even in the case of non-payment of rent?
—No, when the case becomes extreme, Sir Alexander Matheson writes off the arrears.
31003. Mr Cameron.
—With regard-to the farm which the people of Avernish wanted to get which was valued at £60, the delegate stated that he thought the people would be able to stock the farm with their own resources. Is that your belief?
—I don't think they could, because the stock would cost a good deal of money. It is possible they have more money than I am aware of, and if so the better for themselves.
31004. But you have never had an application from them for the farm, and you never made them an offer of it?
31005. So that you have not considered the question?
—No; I don't think they could stock it from their own means, but they might get help.
31006. Would some of them be able to stock it?
—It is possible; but I don't know.
31007. Can you explain exactly about the difference between the summing and the stock which they actually keep ?
—According to the return which was furnished to the Commissioners, instead of one cow there were
three cows kept, and the delegate said they took these on for wintering. The summing is, we will suppose, constantly upon the farm, then they have an idea of making a little profit by buying a young beast, and keeping it all the winter through. Possibly it may be a loss to them, but in general it is a profit, because they get the manure to manure the soil.
31008. Then was a return which you furnished to the Commissioners taken from the stock in possession of the crofters at the end of winter, or was it what they had during summer and winter?
—On the 1st of January.
31009. You took what you found on the 1st of January?
31010. With regard to the case of the Kirkton tenants, was there any misunderstanding about the lease?
—The delegate said that to the best of his belief no lease was offered to the tenants, and that none existed. They had leases of ten or twelve years, but they expired in 1872, and they have had no leases since then.
31011. What was the arrangement made when the leases came to an end ?
—There was no arrangement made.
31012. They went on at the same rent?
31013. Did they ask for a renewal of the lease?
—I don't know. But allow me to state that the expenditure on Kirkton in 1858, when it was held by four tenants, was £68. In 1859 the old glebe was added, at a rent of £30, making the whole rent divisible amongst the tenants £98. The sum of £802, 2s. 4d. was expended on buildings for them, and £2252, 11s . 6d. on improving their lands, —together £3054, 13s. 10d. In 1862, after the completion of the improvements, the rent, which was rising gradually, reached £180 = £2, 13s. per cent, on the outlay. In 1881, the rent was reduced by £36, so that it is now £144, leaving only £1, 10s. per cent, on the outlay.
31014. So that in fact the rent which the tenants pay is not equal to interest at 5 per cent, on the money expended ?
—No, it is not.
31015. In your opinion, was that money all profitably expended?
—I did not see the improvements going on. It is from the books I have taken these figures.
31016. But can it be fairly said that any of that money was wastefully spent, or spent in an unscientific or improper manner?
—No, it was not.
31017. You believe it was all required?
—Yes; but it was very expensively done, and the reason of that was that it was mostly done by home labour.
31018. Were the materials used all good of their kind?
31019. Were the drains properly laid?
—I have not seen them, but I know they are very much neglected. They say they are out of order, but it is their own fault. There was one portion, going down by the side of the churchyard here, and the burn was causewayed for carrying the water into the sea, and some of the tenants put stones into the bed of the burn, charging its channel and cutting up the roads. Sir Alexander, this last spring, at his own expense, cleared out the damaged burn, and repaired the road to see if that would stimulate the people to take better care. They are allowing their houses and dykes to go to wreck. Their houses are dirty, although a few hours a day in one week about their houses, and two or three days' labour each during the year would keep the drains and ditches right and their houses clean and tidy.
31020. How much of the sum of money you mentioned do the tenants pay interest on ?
—One and a-half per cent, on the whole.
31021. Do you find there is any disinclination on the part of the crofters to have improvements made for them by the landlords, the landlord charging interest?
—They wish to have it done for them, and when they find the interest is rising up they want the interest taken off; and some say they would rather not have the improvements.
31022. In point of fact, the tenants, instead of paying, as I thought when the witness was being examined, 5 per cent., are only paying 1½| per cent ?
—One and a-half.
31023. Aere any of the tenants paying 5 per cent.?
—None that I am aware of. The Plockton tenants are charged 5 per cent, upon the drainage and fences.
31024. Have they complained of it at all?
—No, there is no delegate from Plockton here.
31025. I understand you to say that the grazings which Mr Brown declined to renew his lease of, would not be suitable for crofters ?
—No, when Mr Brown would not take them for sheep.
31026. And the same thing woidd apply to the grazings abandoned by Messrs Weir and Kellie ?
31027. And the same to Mr Maclennan's?
31028. These farms were all given up voluntarily ?
—They were. Mr Weir not only gave up his voluntarily, but he was endeavouring for two years to get Sir Alexander to relieve him, because he was constantly losing money.
31029. They all consist of high ground?
—An average height of 2400 feet.
31030. And you found it impossible to let them as sheep farms?
31031. And they are all unsuitable for crofters?
31032. Supposing there had been no such thing-as deer forests, what would have been done with these farms?
—They would have lain on the proprietor's hands, or he might have taken any small rent he could get. Mr Brown was paying £1050 of rent for the whole farm, including those parts. But in 1878 he offered £900 for the portion he now has, and the forested part he was only valuing at £150. Sir Alexander Matheson made a general reduction of rents two or three years ago, and took off the rent £60, leaving it at £840; and £60 for trenches makes £900, £160 remains for the grazings and the portion forested, and the valuation roll will show that Lord Lovat is paying £1600, and that is what helps to reduce the rates of the parish.
31033. We have heard from several delegates that they consider, if portions of the sheep farms were given to crofters, the proprietor would not be a loser, because he would obtain the same rate per acre for those lands as is now paid by the sheep farmer ?
—I believe he would.
31034. Therefore, if there were suitable lands in the district which might be added to the crofts, you would not hesitate to recommend Sir Alexander on the score of rental to do that ?
—Oh no; and Sir Alexander has done that when he had the land to give them. As the old man from Sallachy stated, Sir Alexander Matheson has given him a portion of ground ; and at Loch Carron, on the estate of Attadale, a farm which was occupied by one tenant is now subdivided, and occupied by three respectable tenants and a few small crofts. Sir Alexander is not in favour of large farms, but the contrary; and he is not in favour of non-resident tenants.
31035. But you still adhere to the answer you gave to the Chairman, that in your opinion there is, at the present moment, after what Sir Alexander has done, no suitable ground now in the occupation of sheep farmers, whose leases might shortly be out, and which might be added to the crofts ?
—There is none except this portion of Avernish, which Sir Alexander would give to crofters who would be self-supporting. I may further state that a year ago last spring, Sir Alexander sent Mr Watson and myself along the crofts on the west side of the estate to see if it was possible to get an acre of land to give to the people; and after going for days over the place we could not see one acre of land to improve.
31036. You saw no place which you could turn into grazing for the crofters ?
31037. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—You state that £6400 was expended upon improvements on the small tenants. That includes Kirkton; there were £2500 spent upon other small holdings. I took down from you that there were 154 crofters under £4, 72 from £ 4 to £6, 38 from £6 to £10, 45 from £ 10 to £20, and 24 from £20 to £30. In that way the number of crofters under £ 30 is close upon 350?
31038. The expenditure of £6400 goes from the period from 1852 to 1882 ?
31039. And you make out that the average is £18 a year spent on the crofters ?
—It was not annually spent, it was done all at once.
31040. But it is an average of £18 a year ?
—Very probably it is.
31041. And if you reduce that a little more, you will find all you spend on each crofter per annum is something between 10s. and 15s?
—There are some to whom nothing at all has been given.
31042. But I want the average of the whole?
—That average won't work.
31043. I want you to make your own calculation. Take your £6400 and divide it among the 335, and I think you will find the average is not quite £20 ?
31044. Divide that £20 over thirty years. I want to ascertain what has been expended per head per annum over the crofters?
—I cannot work the question out, because I don't see the force of it. Some years there was no expenditure at all.
31045. You have come forward to make a statement showing there is a large sum laid out on the crofters in thirty years ; I want to show what it comes to—that it is 15s. per crofter per annum, and I want to know if that is right ?
—Just about that.
31046. I want to ask you how long have you been principal factor for Sir Alexander Matheson ?
—A year last February.
31047. But you have been long connected with the estate?
—I have been thirty-six years in his service.
31048. But not on this part?
31049. So that you don't know much about this estate from personal observation ?
—I know a great deal for the last fifteen years, but it is only during the last year that I have taken so much interest in it.
31050. You have a copy of the census returns. I think you will find that there is a decrease during the last ten years in the parish of Lochalsh of 547 ?
—Yes, and an increase of 400 in the century.
31051. Is Sir Alexander Matheson sole heritor in the parish?
31052. Are you quite content with the present state of matters in the parish generally ?
—Yes, the people and we are agreeing very well.
31053. That being so, how can you explain that such a large decrease in the population has taken place in ten years as 547 ?
—You are mistaken, it is in the last forty years that the decrease has taken place.
31051. It is not shown from 1851?
—No, but there is a deduction of somewhere about 200. Say we take 1861, being the first period after
Sir Alexander Matheson became proprietor, the population then was 2413, and it is now 2050.
31055. There is a considerable decrease even in that time?
31056. Will you explain how that decrease has arisen?
—I cannot tell; natural causes, I suppose. You always see when things go to an excess, they remedy themselves by going perhaps to the opposite extreme. I believe, considering the whole, Lochalsh is not under-populated.
31057. What is the acreage of the parish altogether?
—51,000 odd acres.
31058. How many of the population of 2050 is in the town of Plockton ?
—About 440 at last census; so that there are 1500 throughout the rest of the parish.
31059. You said with regard to Avernish, that you understood the people went away to America in the time of the Lillingstones, because they would not submit to certain rules?
—That is what I have been told.
31060. Did you ever see the rules?
31061. Will you send us a copy ?
31062. Was it, or was it not, the fact that Mr Lillingstone had almost the whole of the property in his own hands when Sir Alexander Matheson got it ?
—He had a good deal of it. I believe Kilellan and Avernish and Balmacara and some other parts were in his own hands.
31063. A great part of the estate was in the proprietor's own hand in consequence of the rules?
—No, not in consequence of the rules.
31064. But it is a fact that it was in his own hands?
31065. Was there a great deal of dissatisfaction expressed on the property?
—I cannot say.
31066. Can you tell me whether it is true that a number of the people who were sent off to America died on the passage ?
—I have heard so. They caught an infectious fever in Glasgow before sailing, and the fever broke out in the ship, and since then the people in the district there have an antipathy to emigration.
31067. You think it is owing to that that the antipathy to emigration has arisen ?
—The Highlander, I believe, particularly has stuck to the soil, and has an antipathy to emigration.
31068. You used an expression which I wish you would explain: you said that if there was any interference with the larger farms, and they were broken up, it would ' spoil the amenity ' of the estate; what do you mean?
—I mean the manner in which Sir Alexander has the whole estate so well arranged—large farms and small farms mixed together.
31069. But you said he did not like the large farms?
—I told you the size of them.
31070. There are two over £400 ?
—They cannot be broken down.
31071. You said there was a general reduction of rent some time ago, but the delegate from Port-a-chullin had not got any advantage. Why did he not get a reduction ?
—His arable land had to be drained, and that was done.
31072. And that is the allowance?
31073. The rent was so small it was not worth giving a reduction in money ?
—It was considered that it was cheap enough.
31074. What was the rent of Roderick Macrae ?
—£4, but the arable land had to be drained where required, and that was done.
31075. You stated that Sir Alexander was good enough to give a general abatement of rent ?
—Not to all the crofters; he gave it to the Alt-na-stu crofters and others.
31076. It is very convenient is it not for a proprietor, when he cannot get his large sheep farms let, to get a sporting tenant to take it in the form of a deer forest ?
—No, it is not very convenient in this quarter.
31077. Is it remunerative?
—Undoubtedly it is.
31078. What would happen under your new system, supposing that anything be done by Act of Parliament or otherwise, which would diminish the powers and rights of letting game ?
—That is too wide a question to answer off-hand ; it requires consideration.
31079. You are not disposed to offer any solution of what you would do in the circumstances?
—Not without thinking.
31080. Would it be wiser and safer in the circumstances to revert to things as of old ?
—I don't think it would, because things as they were of old were very badly managed. The people were dissatisfied, and quarrelling among themselves, as far as I can hear from old reminiscences, and they were not so well off. They might be better off than they are now if they were prudent; there is a great deal of imprudence amongst them. But things as they were before were not at all consolidated, and I don't think it would be a benefit to the people to go back to the old system.
31081. But the old man whom we had to-day stated that in his younger days a Kintail man was worth half a dozen of those of the present day ?
31082. Don't you think he was in earnest ?
—Yes, and telling the truth.
31083. Would not you like to see that state of matters restored?
31084. What better way can you do that than by giving them the glens ?
—By continuing to take the fine solid food the old people used to take, and throwing away slushes of tea. They are destroying their nervous system, and that causes the complete degeneration of the present race. Unless they go back to the old system of food, the race of the Gael will soon become extinct as the Gael.
31085. Are they not becoming extinct very rapidly?
—No ; but it is one good thing that the bloods are mixing up.
31086. Taking the population of the different populaces in 1841, the decrease of the population has been very serious. Gairloch has decreased 386, Glenshiel 381, Loch Carron 574 ; where is it to lead ? —It will soon come to the minimum, and then it will end, according to the gradation. I think in ten years more it ought to come to a minimum, and it will probably remain so.
31087. You think at the end of ten years there will be a proportionate diminution such as has occurred before. There will not he too many people then in the country ?
—I think not.
31088. You would not go so far as a brother factor of yours, who said that in his districts—namely, three great parishes —one.half of the population would still require to go ?
—That is a mistake. It would not be the case in my district.
31089. Still you think it will require a little thinning yet?
—I think so, because there are some poor people who cannot make a living, and there are no representatives here from them.
31090. Why ?
—I don't know.
31091. There is no one to represent them?
31092. Have you any particular township in view ?
—Prumbuill and Ebersaig. There are twenty-one crofters on the former and nineteen on the latter. When Sir Alexander Matheson bought the property there were twenty-two crofters in Ebersaig and now there are nineteen, and he can do nothing to better them, though he made a good deal of work for them too. There is one park he enclosed for them some years ago, but I am very sorry to say they don't take care of it ; they have allowed the fence to go to the ground.
31093. You would not like to see your countrymen obliged to leave their own land against their own wish if they could make anything of it ?
—No ; but I know i t would benefit them very much to go.
31094. Would it benefit the country generally that they should go ?
—In many cases it would.
31095. Is it not the fact that Strathbraan was once very populous?
—I believe it was.
31096. Why should not people be sent back there ?
—It is too high.
31097. The railway runs through it ?
—Yes ; but that it is not a place I would like to see broken up again, because the people would not be comfortable there.
31098. Is it not the fact that these people were removed under circumstances of harshness against their own will?
—I believe they were.
31099. Has a book not been written on the subject ?
—I have not seen it.
31100. Do you not know that the Rev. Dr Kennedy of Dingwall has made very special reference to the clearance of Strathbraan ?
—I have not seen it.
31101. Is your only objection to Strathbraan that it is too high?
—The people would not be comfortable in it.
31102. Were they comfortable before?
—No, they were not ; and one of them is now on Sir Alexander Matheson's property, a man of about seventy, and he told me that he and his mother were in Strathbraan. He was one of sixty people, and he said the place was very cold in winter, and very wet; and that the produce of the soil, sheep, and grain crop, were very dear, and the potatoes very wet
31103. Is it not within reach of where we are at present sitting; what is the watershed there between the two seas ?
31104. Do you consider that high?
—It is not the elevation so much as t h e place being so stormy. The nearest station is Auchnasheen, which means Field of Storms. It is very cold and very wet, and just suitable for grazing purposes.
31105. It would plant well?
31106. Would not that shelter the people ?-
31107. And would help to ameliorate the climate?
—Yes. But you must not make a pet of a man, or you will destroy his independence.
31108. Are the whole of Sir Alexander's deer forests, extending to 34,000 acres in this district, in possession of one person ?
31109. Who is the second tenant ?
—Major Cresswell of Attadale has 12,000.
31110. And the other is occupied by Mr Winans ?
31111. How much has he got?
31112. Does all that is in the possession of Mr Winans lie in the county of Ross ?
31113. What forest has that gentleman got immediately adjoining you?
—He has the lands of Mr Mackenzie of Kintail and the land of the Chisholms—Sir Alexander Matheson, He has 200,000 acres altogether.
31114. You made use of this expression as a reason why they would not be suitable for small tenants, that they were very high hills : are these places not on the borders ?
—Mr Maclean. No, there are some of them inland ; two of them are on the borders.
31115. What is the highest inland ?
31116. What is the name of that one?
—Mealvoy, that is the part that is forested.
31117. You have been present all day, and have heard the delegates?
31118. Do you think they have any grievance whatever?
—They expressed them.
31119. But you don't concur in them ?
—No. There were some statements brought forward that were imaginary. For example, Mr Sinclair did not know what we knew, and he took his information from the parties who gave it, and they did not know. People don't know what money has been expended for them.
31120. But I am afraid it is not very much ?
—But you go over the whole people for whom nothing has been done, and people for whom something would be done if it could. There are many for whom nothing has been done.
31121. When you stated that the sum of £6400 has been laid out in thirty years for crofters under £30 a-year, do you take credit for that to show that some people have taken a great deal and others nothing; you must take a fair average ?
—But something would be done for those people if there was a way of doing it, but there is no possibility of doing it. If these crofters were reduced about one-fourth, they would be all comfortable, and something could be done for them.
31122. You say, after full consideration, that the idea of replacing them is imaginary, and that they must emigrate ?
—That is so, or remain as they are. The proprietor won't put out one of them.
31123. But they are not comfortable, and the next thing is to see what is the best way of making them comfortable
—[Sir Alexander Matheson]
I want to end this discussion by making a statement.
31124. The Chairman.
—Excuse me. Will you have the great kindness then to come and sit down here ?
—I only wish to say a few words.
31124*. Then I would wish you would rather do it as any other witness.