Sir ALEXANDER MATHESON, Bart., Proprietor of Lochalsh (78)—examined.
31125. The Chairman.
—I believe you wish to make a statement?
—I want to make a short statement. When I bought this property it was not for the value of profit or making money by it ; it was entirely from the love I had to the country of my birth, and to the country which formerly belonged to my ancestors. I was anxious to get it back when I had the means, and the moment I got the property I laid down a plan which I have been carrying out ever since, that is, to have tenants of all descriptions upon the estate. I don't wish to have any over £400 or £500 a year, and I wish to have the land occupied by resident tenants. I am very much in favour of small tenants paying £ 50 to £100 a year, and I encourage them as much as I can. Club farms also I encourage, and men paying £20 of rent each; but I don't think it is desirable to have a number of small crofts where the people can only subsist, and where there is not sufficient labour for them to make a living by. At this moment I consider we have rather too many of that class on Lochalsh, and I would be glad if some of them would leave and better themselves elsewhere. I have made up my mind on no account to break up a farm to make crofts. I won't make a single small croft in addition to what is here; at the same time, I won't evict a single tenant I have so long as they pay their rents.
31125*. Perhaps there may be some member of the Commission who may wish to put a question to you ?
—I merely wanted to make this statement because talking about breaking up farms is utterly useless as far as I am concerned, for I won't consent to it.
31126. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You know I wish to put some questions about the state of the Highlands, but I think it would be better if you could come at a later period ?
—Yes, I would prefer not to do it just now. I merely want to state my firm determination to follow out the plan I laid down when I bought the property. I want to make all my tenants comfortable. I do not wish any of them to pay more than the land is worth. At the same time, I don't encourage small crofters where there is no employment for them. I think it is cruelty to make small crofters of two and three pounds rent, when you don't see a prospect of being able to employ them and give them a living by giving them work. My work is decreasing every year now, and by-and-bye there will be comparatively none, and the crofters will have nothing to do. I would be glad if one half of them would go to America or somewhere. I see it reported in the Inverness Courier that, at a meeting at Dingwall the other evening, Dr Kennedy stated that he understood I was to turn off the estate all the men who were engaged in the riots at Strome Ferry. I want to state distinctly that that is an utter falsehood. I never thought of such a thing, and I don't intend to do it. There was no foundation whatever for that statement.
31127. The Chairman.
—I don't suppose anybody would give any credit to it ?
—It is in print, and I want to contradict it.