DONALD MACLENNAN, Ground Officer (recalled)—examined.
30018. The Chairman.
—We want to understand thoroughly the nature of the tenure of land in this village of Shieldaig—from whom the people and what the nature of their tenure is. Are they feuars or tenants at will, or how are we to regard them ?
—As far as I understand, some of them have leases, fifty-seven years leases granted by the late Thomas Mackenzie of Applecross. There were about half a dozen such leases in the village of Shieldaig; and as far as I can understand they have all expired.
30019. Were there any feus for 99 years or 999 years?
—None except the Government property, which speaks for itself; and the Free Church, I think there is a new feu for that.
30020. What do you mean by the Government property—-what is the Government property?
—Sir Kenneth can explain.
—[Sir Kenneth Mackenzie].
The church and manse quoad sacra and a little bit of ground.
30021. The Chairman.
—What are the people here at this moment—tenants at wilt, like the other inhabitants of the township?
—That is my understanding of it.
30022. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—And the leases have expired?
—-As far as I understand, they are all expired.
30023. The Chairman.
—You said you knew nothing at all about the alleged Government regulations which the first witness spoke to?
—I never, heard of them until to-day.
30024. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did the Government acquire any right from the Applecross proprietor for the Fisheries Society?
—I have heard about some Fisheries Society ; that there were four or five villages of such on the west of Scotland, but I know nothing further about them; just mere talk; I never found anything to prove that.
30025. Since all the leases have expired, why is it you do not charge more than 5s. or 10s. for the houses, because I persume tliey are worth a good deal more ?
—Most of the houses have got land, and we charge for the gardens and not for the houses. Suppose a man lives upon his garden he has the house and garden combined.
30026. Have the rents of the people here been lifted at all ?
—Not in my time.
30027. The Chairman.
—I see something like the foundations of a large stone pier here ?
—There were two or three such built by the Commission at the time of the destitution in 1844-45-46-47.
30028. What has become of them ?
—They are falling into ruin. There is an application just now by the crofters of Shieldaig to the new proprietor for the repair of those piers, and I believe he has a mind to do what he can, with their assistance.
30029. And will they be inclined to give a proper amount of assistance ?
—They are willing to do it.
30030. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many souls may there be in this village?
—I should say over 100.
30031. What do they do chiefly ?
—They are a fishing population.
30032. Under what circumstances were the houses built, because they are much better than are generally to be found in the West Highlands ?
—As far as I understand this was a very prosperous fishing village about fifty or sixty years ago. I am told it was one of the best, and that there were several fishing smacks and good large vessels such as schooners, and someway or another they have fallen into wreck and ruin; the people have fallen back and the vessels have disappeared.
30033. I suppose it was the encouragement of the fifty-seven years leases which probably induced the people to build better houses than usual ?
—I could not say as to that. I think a fifty-seven years' lease is a very dear lease for a good house; but it is better than nothing,
30034. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I see there are ten people in the Valuation Roll who sit in the position of feuars, who are stated to pay feu duties of 5s. and 10s.; for instance, the merchants here, Peter and Duncan Grant, pay a feu-duty of 5s. a year—is that to Mr Murray ?
—No, they pay 24s. a year to Mr Murray.
30035. Who do they pay this 5s. to ?
—Not to Mr Murray. I have nothing to do with the return. I often find the assessor going wrong. There is always a mistake about these things. Mr Grant is here and can explain.
30036. Did they get a renewal of lease lately ?
30037. Have they a lease ?
—Not that I am aware of
30038. Do they only pay 24s. a year for the house ?
—And the land along with it.
30039. But is not that house worth more than 24s. a year, if it is Mr Murray's house ?
—It is their house —they claim it, and so did their father before them.
30040. And without a lease they are allowed to remain in the house ?
30041. And they pay 24s. ?
—Yes, for the garden ground.
30042. The garden does not appear here ?
—No, it comes under another head.