JAMES WATSON, Local Manager for Sir Alexander Matheson (42)—examined.
31706. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you wish to make any statement ?
—There was a statement made by the Avernish delegate yesterday, that none of the natives would be employed on the estate, and I beg to say that there are no other parties employed on the estate but natives, except a few who are employed at skilled labour. These we were obliged to import, to carry on the works. Those people we imported at the time when we commenced the heavy works, and we have still kept them on to do our work ; but we have not imported any labour from any place. We have always employed native labour to do the unskilled work; we never have any occasion to employ foreign labour when we can get natives to do our work. At present some of our best artisans are natives —carpenters and others— it is only the foreman that is foreign to the place. The tenants and cottars of Avernish made overtures to me to get a portion of the ground at present leased to Mr Brown. They are cottars as able as most of the present tenants to pay for a share of this land, and the cottars came as well as the tenants. I represented this particularly to Sir Alexander Matheson, but he did not feel disposed to divide the place into so many small lots, and the matter was left over without anything particular being done. The tenants did not say what rent they were prepared to pay; but a resident on the place, who made overtures for about three-fifths, would not give more than £25, and the Messrs Brown pay £60, so that would have reduced the rent to a trifle over £40. The Kinnamoine delegate made a statement personal to myself, which, I beg to say, was a most unfounded fabrication, because such conduct as he attributed to me I would not use to the lowest creature. I know this country, and I don't know any person I would be inclined to do such a thing to. There is no people that I respect more than the crofters, and I think the statement which was made was a downright fabrication. Again, he said that they improved all their crofts. Sir Alexander Matheson expended £100 on their crofts for enclosures, draining, and trenching, and to this delegate's father the late Mr Mackenzie gave £ 10 to improve his house; and all the others are offered wood and lime to build their houses and barns if they wish it. Again, he said they male overtures to me to get barns built; but on these small holdings Sir Alexander does not wish to build barns on interest, because would raise the rent so much that the people could not by any means pay. We offered hawthorn wood and lime free to do these works. Again, there was a question put by Lord Napier to Mr M'Lean which he did not answer satisfactorily. I think, in the interest of the proprietor. Lord Napier tried to say
31707. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You must not use these words 'Lord Napier tried to say.'
—Mr Watson. That there were ameliorations paid to the tenants in several cases where the tenants had been removed to another place. It has always been usual to give ameliorations for the houses.
31708. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Lord Napier asked whether ameliorations were given?
—Yes, and Mr MLean did not say.
—He said no cases had ever arisen?
—In my experience cases have arisen.
31709. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—And ameliorations have been given ?
—Yes, I think that is all I have to say. With regard to the bridge at Camusluinie, I may say that a bridge to suit the people would cost the proprietor at least £500, because the stream is very considerable—nearly 700 yards wide.
—Why did you not contradict the statement of the delegate from Kinnamoine yesterday in his presence?
—I did not observe it until it was pointed out to me afterwards.