Rev. RODERICK MORRISON, Minister of the Parish of Kintail—examined.
31264. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any statement which you wish to make ?
—I wish to submit, at the request of the people, a copy of the petition which was sent by them in March last to Sir Alexander Matheson. I think, although it may take up a little time to read, it may economise your time that it should be heard now. If you will permit me I will read it, and also the answer which was received.
31265. Please to read it.
—'To Sir Alexander Matheson, Bart., of Ardross and Lochalsh, M.P., the petition of the undersigned householders in the villages of Carndubh and Bundaloch, in the parish of Kintail, humbly sheweth
(1) That your petitioners are and have long been reduced to great poverty and hardship by the want of any land sufficient to grow potatoes for the use of their families, or to enable them to keep cattle for
supplying them with milk, which may be regarded as one of the necessaries of life.
(2) That in the year 1852 your petitioners or their predecessors were deprived of the lands which they then possessed on the ground that they were in arrears. These arrears, however, arose during a period of exceptional pressure and destitution, consequent on the failure of the potato crop, and were owing by only a portion, believed to have been a minority of the tenants, while they were incurred chiefly, if not wholly to the previous owner of the lands, who does not appear to have used any strenuous efforts to recover the same.
(3) That in the villages above mentioned there are at present twenty heads of families who have no lands whatever, except certain strips or " stances" adjoining their houses, the yearly value of which is only about 5s. each. There are five others who have small lots which are not sufficient for the keep of a cow.
(4) That in consequence of their being so deprived of the lands they formerly possessed, they have been under the necessity of begging for bits of potato land wherever such could be obtained —some going to Camusluinie, which is six miles off—others to Letter, in the parish of Lochalsh, and elsewhere—and there by favour of the tenants planting a few potatoes in what would naturally be the least valuable portions of their crofts.
(5) That whereas under the former system there were about fortyfive milk cows kept at Bundaloch, there are now none except a very few, for which rent is paid to the tenants of Bundaloch farm.
(6) That while your petitioners are extremely desirous of possessing enough of land to enable them to keep one or two cows each and to plant a sufficient quantity of potatoes for their own consumption, they do not wish or expect to depend upon crofts for their living, as they look for their livelihood chiefly to fishing and labour away from the crofts, and merely want land as a means of procuring certain supplementary necessaries or comforts which can not otherwise be obtained.
(7) That your petitioners are confident that you are desirous of seeing them as comfortable and prosperous as is consistent with their position in life, and disposed to meet their reasonable wishes, when respectfully and peaceably expressed, and that they therefore hope that by arrangements with the present occupiers of the land in the vicinity, or in such ways as may be most expedient, you will provide for their having an amount of land sufficient to enable them to live with a degree of comfort to which they have long been strangers, —and your petitioners will ever pray.'
Letter sent by Rev. Messrs Morison, M'Coll, and Cameron to Sir A. Matheson, Bart., M.P., along
with petition from the householders in Carndubh and Bundaloch.
—' Sir Alexander Matheson, Bart., M.P.
—Sir, we beg to forward herewith a - petition from the inhabitants of Bundaloch and Carndubh for some land to enable them to live with reasonable comfort. The movement has not been in any way originated by us. It has been entirely spontaneous on the part of the people, who held meetings among themselves, and appointed deputations to call upon each of us and ask us to meet with them and advise them to their best course of procedure. With this invitation we considered it our duty to comply, as we feel for the people in the miserable state to which they have been reduced, and sympathise with the desires expressed in their petition. We are also of opinion that the people are more likely to act in a reasonable and becoming way by accepting our guidance than by seeking that of outside agitators, and acting on it—and we consider it an evidence of their desire to approach you in the most respectful manner possible that they have asked their respective pastors to become the channels of communication with you. We believe that while there may be certain practical difficulties in the way of acceding to the wishes of the petitioners, these will not be found insuperable, or even to prove a very serious obstacle. —We are, sir, your obedient servants,
(signed) R. MORISON, Minister of Kintail; ALEXANDER MACCOLL, F.C., Lochalsh; JOHN CAMERON, Priest, Dornie.
—Dornie, Kintail, March 9, 1883.' These letters were intended to go direct to the factor. The people wished to send the petition direct to Sir Alexander Matheson, but we pointed out that that would scarcely be courteous to his agents, and the letter was accordingly sent to the factor. Letter sent by Mr Maclean, factor of Sir A. Matheson, in reply to above.
To Mr Archibald Macrae, Bundaloch.
—Dear Sir, I this day received your letter of the 9th inst., enclosing two petitions which you request me to forward to Sir Alexander. I am pleased to see both the documents couched in such sensible and courteous terms, but you place Sir Alexander in a difficult position. Bundaloch is possessed by Mr John Macrae under lease and we you break a stamped contract. The Carr tenants have no lease, yet it is not his policy to oust tenants against whom he finds no fault. The subject requires careful consideration, and I do not think it prudent to send the petitions to him till I see the practicability of acceding to them. I shall, D.V., endeavour to go to Dornie first week, and have a quiet conversation with a few of the people, when I may see my way to present the petitions to Sir Alexander, when he comes north about the end of this month. Meantime I remain yours truly, (signed)
—Ardross, Alness, March 12, 1883
'Bundalock and Carndubh.
—The grievances of which the people of Bundaloch and Carndubh complain are pretty fully set forth in the above petition, and there is not very much to be added to it. They, however, complain that when compelled to sell their sheep, they were valued at amounts much less than they were worth, the price allowed for each ewe and lamb being about 7s. 6d., whereas the current value at the time was from 18s. to 20s. Further, that even this miserable price was not properly paid. Having no lease they could not compel the proprietor to see them paid, as he was not bound to take over their stock, and the incoming tenants paid only in instalments, and not at all in full. They further complain that they
have been refused employment when there was work for them, and that people from other places have been preferred to them for the doing of work they were competent to execute properly. They also complain of the heavy charges made for permission to cut sea-ware for manure, amounting to as much as 4s. per boat-load.
—The township of Inverinet contains twenty houses, with families of two or more individuals. Seven of these families have cows and sheep, and are sharers in the club-farm, two having only half shares therein. These shares carry the right to three cows and about forty sheep each, the rents varying from
£12, 15s. to £16, according to the value of the arable land held by each. The rents were reduced from 10 to 15 per cent, at Martinmas 1881, the reduction not being the same to all the tenants. The rents are still considered too high, considering the fall in the value of wool. Last year the share of the gross drawings of the farm received by each partner was much less than the rent, which had to be made up from other sources. The tenants complain that the best of their pasture was taken from them in 1860 to form a lot for one of their present number, and that since then they have had very little benefit from their cows. The value of the crofts has also been deteriorated by the proprietor having broken up and
removed the parish mill, in consequence of which any corn grown cannot be turned to proper account. They also complain that their rents have been raised in consequence of improvements made by themselves in the way of draining, &c. There are six families which have small lots, for which they pay from £2 to £4, 15s. Scarcely any of these will support a cow along with growing any crop. The crofters have in consequence to purchase fodder to the amount of £ 3 to £ 4 every year, and also to pay for part grazing elsewhere, each cow thus costing them £7 per annum, exclusive of their labour. There are seven householders (having no land), two of whom have large families of young children. One (the delegate Finlayson) was evicted from his land sixteen years ago, in consequence of arrears which arose in consequence of his having to support his grandmother, who was refused parochial relief. He has since been in great poverty. Others of the persons mentioned are the descendants of persons who have been deprived of their lands. Two are incomers from other parishes who have never had land, but have been long resident in the township, being employed as labourers (one being a mason). These people without land have to beg for potato land in all directions, and scarcely ever get enough to serve their families, and are consequently in great poverty. The above statements are those of the crofters themselves, and I cannot speak to the accuracy of all of them from my own knowledge, but from the unanimity of the people in making them, and my general knowledge of their character and circumstances, I have no doubt they are in the main correct.
—R. MORISON, Minister of Kintail.' That is all I have to preface to the statements which may be made by the delegates.
31266. May I ask about these letters; the petition of the crofters is to Sir Alexander Matheson?
31267. The letter of the ministers is also to Sir Alexander Matheson ?
31268-69. But these were enclosed to the factor by one of the crofters?
—Yes. They came into his possession to get the signature of Mr Cameron, and he thought the factor did not know us, and that he would introduce us to him. I never knew about the reply until I learned it had been sent to him. Mr M'Coll and myself were both ignorant of it.
31270. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have brought this forward on behalf of the delegates of Bundaloch ?
31271. That is like their statement?
—Yes, I might have made it in a statement, but I thought it better to let it appear in the form of a petition.