JOHN M'GREGOR, Crofter, Loch Ussie, Brahan (60) —examined.
40842. The Chairman.
—Will you read your statement?
—We got our various bits of moorland at Loch Ussie on a lease of thirty-one years. We are to pay 2s. 6d. per acre for the first five years; the next five years 7s. 6d. per acre; for the next eleven years 10s. per acre; and for the remaining ten years 20s. per acre. We had also to build our dwelling houses and offices, getting from the landlord the wood for roofing and half slating. The landlord was also to make large ditches to carry away the water of our field drains, which were to be of a depth of three feet to three feet six. These ditches have been made, but their depth is such that they are useless. In some places they do not even carry away the surface water. We are now in possession for six years, and on an average we have taken in about one-third of our lots, and we find that the cost of taking in the land per acre is from £18 to £24, which would amount to £ 1 per acre for about twenty-two years, leaving out the expenses we were out in building. Part of the ground of our lots is under water, owing to the defects of the ditches made by the landlord. The landlord was also to erect fences sufficient to keep away the deer., which are very destructive to our crops ; this has not been done. One of our number had last year about three-fourths of an acre of potatoes completely destroyed by deer. He never lifted a potato out of the plot so destroyed, and our crops are also much damaged by other game, and we are not allowed to protect ourselves from their ravages. We were also deprived of a considerable portion of hill pasture which we had the use of. It is now given to another farmer. We consider that we should have our lots at the amount we are now paying for the whole lease, and even then it would be hard on us to make a bare living out of them. We believe at the end of the lease, even on these terms, we would leave at the end of the lease poorer men than when we entered. To show that we are not making
mis-statements, we are quite willing to give up our places to-day or to-morrow if we get compensation for the improvements we have already done.
40843. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long is it since you entered upon this lot ?
40844. In what sort of employment were you before you entered uponit?
—I was a mason.
40845. You were living in a village ?
—Yes, in Dingwall.
40846. And you took this lot thinking it would be a good bargain?
40847. You took it voluntarily?
40848. You gave up mason work?
—Yes, because I was getting rather old.
40849. And you thought you could improve this land at a profit to yourself?
—Yes, by the help of my family.
40850. How many acres have you improved in those six years ?
—I daresay there are about twenty-five turned over.
40851. You will have twenty-five in crop next year?
—Hardly twenty-five; it takes three years before we can crop it.
40852. How many acres have you now of unimproved land?
40853. You took sixty acres at 2s. 6d. for the first five years ?
40854. Will you have means to reclaim the other thirty-five acres ?
—I think we could improve it by our own work in time.
40855. And if you are able to carry on till the whole is cropped, do you think it will pay you?
—Well, I don't believe it will. It cannot pay. It is very wet and boggy.
40856. Were these ditches made by the landlord of sufficient depth at the beginning ?
40857. Have they filled up since they were made ?
40858. Who is bound to keep them clean ?
—The tenant, when they will be at a certain depth.
40859. But they never were at that depth, in your opinion ?
40860. You mentioned you had some pasture along with the place at the beginning?
40861. Was that included in your lease?
—No, it was given to us after the lease was granted.
40862. To help you at the beginning ?
40863. And now it has been taken from you ?
40864. Has it been planted?
—No, it is into another farm.
40865. And you only had it till it could be let, in fact till such time as a tenant could come to take it ?
—No, we got the promise of it for the lease time, till such time as Brahan would require to plant it ; but it is now let to another farm instead of being planted, and then the place had to be fenced round to keep out deer.
40866. Then if it had been planted, you could have had no complaint ?
—No, we had no complaint if it was planted; but we had a complaint when it was set to another farmer.
40867. What kind of deer are those that do you harm ?
—Fallow deer, most of them.
40868. What sort of fence is between you and the deer ?
—Very small fences, and the deer will come through in all cases.
40869. Does your lease specifiy that the land was to be fenced so as to keep deer out ?
40870. And why don't you claim that clause to be fulfilled ?
—The factor is far away from us, and we cannot be always at him, and they have no time to listen to such poor men as we are.
40871. And now you are willing to give up the place if you got paid for it ?
—Yes, if they are thinking they will make a better of it we don't want to keep it from them, for it is not going to benefit us very much.
40872. But if you got full payment for your labour it would benefit you ?
—Yes, it would if we could get compensation for our labour.
40873. But perhaps it would not benefit the proprietor if he was to pay you for what you spent on the place ?
—Well, it would pay the proprietor by time
40874. Would it not have paid him better if he had planted the land at first ? Would not the wood have been of more value to him than to improve that land, paying day's wages for the cost of improvement?
—Well, I daresay it would be far better to have the wood in time.
40875. And if the landlord had not made the bargain he made with you, he probably would not have let it to a tenant at all?
—He could not have got it let.
40876. He would not have been likely to improve it himself ?
40877. Mr Cameron.
—Is there a local factor on the estate?
40878. Have you ever had recourse to him about such matters ?
—Yes, once or twice.
40879. Have you ever asked him about the deer fence?
—Yes, only he commenced to mock us instead of helping us.
40880. Was the deer fence damaged ?
40881. Was it broken?
—Yes, it is broken in different places, and they jump over it.
40882. And I suppose that is where they come through ?
40883. And they jump over it also ?
40884. How high is it ?
—There is a dyke three feet six, and then wires three feet in height.
40885. Do they jump over it?
—Yes, from the inside, but they cannot jump back, and that leaves it worse on us.
40886. What becomes of them if they don't jump back ?
—They get away by the holes that are broken in the fences.
40887. If the holes were mended, do you think the deer would have sufficient intelligence to kuow that if they got in they could not get out ?
—Oh ! deed, they would try it again.
40888. Then they would be caught in a trap ?
—Oh, we cannot catch them, and we are not allowed to catch them.
40889. But if you could persuade the local factor that he ought to repair these holes in the fence, then the deer if they got in could not get out ?
—They could get away to another estate, and then back again at night.
40890. So, in point of fact, it would not do you much good if the holes were repaired unless the fence was made higher ? To repair the fence would be of no use ?
—It is of no use unless the fence is made higher.