FINLAY MACKAY, Crofter, Drynie Park, Mulbuie (30)—examined.
40891. The Chairman.
—Read your statement?
—I, Finlay Mackay, Drynie Park, Mulbuie, am appointed delegate for this district. The place was first colonised about the year 1834, when a general clearance in Strathconou under gross circumstances sent the people adrift, and a number of them, my late father among the rest, settled here. The people got the land in lots of from six to eighteen acres. The land was under wood previously, so that the roots along with an enormous quantity of stones made the land very difficult to reclaim. For the first seven years they had the land at Is. 3d. per acre, for the next seven years at 2s. 6d., and for the next seven years at 5s. A nineteen years' lease was then given at 10s. an acre, and it expired in 1876. The rent was then raised to 15s., which was about the time our present proprietor came into possession, No lease was given, and the rise of rent was laid upon our own improvements. Most of the houses built at first have been rebuilt, and no help whatever was given by the proprietor till the present year, when some of the tenants got a few trees. The ground is very light and of the poorest kind, the return of oats not being over 2½. There is only one well on this part of the estate that will last the whole year, and it will do for only one croft when the season is dry. I have to cart water about a mile for cattle, as well as for household use, during six months of the year. Those having no horse have to carry it in pails a great distance. Our chief complaint is that our rents have been raised too much on our own improvements, and what we want is a fair rent, fixity of tenure, and compensation for our improvements.
40892. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You had this place for forty years under the first two leases ?
40893. And then you got a new lease ?
—No, we have not got a lease.
40894. But you are paying now 15s. an acre for ths land at Drynie Park ?
40895. Is that the case with all the tenants at Drynie Park ?
—Yes, except a few.
40896. Is it all improved now ?
—All except three or four acres.
40897. Are you paying 15s. an acre for the arable only, or for the whole area?
—Yes; those that had two acres improved got a reduction.
40898. Do you consider that 15s. an acre is too high a rent after fifty years' possession ?
—Yes, by one-third.
40899. What would the land be worth to any one going into it?
—I cannot say for that ; to cultivate the land as we do, it would be hardly worth cultivating.
40900. How many acres have you got?
40901. What stock do you keep?
—Three cows and a horse and two calves, but still on the average I spend on corn and straw £ 10 to £20.
40902. Are you able to make any wages ?
—Yes, I get work, but not regularly.
40903. Would it suit you to have a smaller croft?
—Well, in one way I would be better off. I require the horse for the sake of the water; I may say that is all the use of it in summer.
40904. Have there been any new tenants coming into Drynie Park in your time ?
40905. No one has given up his lot?
—-There are a few gave that up.
40906. Do you know what rents the remaining tenants gave for these lots ?
—They were paying the same rate as the rest.
40907. They were willing to take it at the old rate. They did not need to take the extra land unless they chose to take it ?
—I cannot say. Some say they were compelled to take it.
40908. Have you asked the proprietor for a lease ?
—Yes, I asked for a lease. We spoke to Mr Cameron the factor.
40909. And he declined to give you a lease ?
—Yes, he said there was no occasion.
40910. You have no fear of being turned out?
—Oh, well we may be careless of that, perhaps the sooner the better.
40911. But if you went to-morrow would not somebody be ready to take the place ?
40912. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What estate were your father and the others turned out of?
40913. Whose time was that in?
—I cannot say. It was before the Balfours got into possession of it.
40914. How many were turned out of it?
—There were twenty-one turned out of one township,
40915. Was that the township your father belonged to?
40916. Mr Cameron.
—How many crofters are on this estate besides yourself ?
40917. Do you represent them here to day?
40918. Are they all in the same condition as yourself ?
40919. Have they the same cause of complaint ?
—Yes, I may say the whole have the same cause.
40920. Too high rents ?
—Too high rents.
40921. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there any remedy for your grievance about water ?
—The present proprietor spent £20 on one well, but got no supply.
40922. Where can it be got from ?
—By going down to the rock.
40923. There is no loch or stream from which you could be supplied?
—Well, it is a long distance off.
40924. Did you ever dig for a well?
—Yes, myself and my neighbour dug a well thirty feet deep, and it keeps no water in summer.