Letterfearn, 3 August 1883 - Rev Roderick Morison

Rev. RODERICK MORISON, Minister of the Parish of Kintail—examined.

31380. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you a statement which you wish to read?
—Yes. 'I am a native of the parish of Kintail, and have resided in it all my life, except for about fourteen years, during which I was settled in other parishes. During that time, however, I was in constant communication with the parish, and visited it frequently. I am therefore intimately acquainted with the condition of the people, with almost every individual of whom I am personally acquainted. The population at the last census was 688—of these about fifty are paupers; there being, including lunatics in the asylum and paupers resident in other parishes, about sixty persons on the poors' roll —of these twenty-three are resident in the villages of Bundaloch and Carndubh. I attribute the excessive pauperism of the parish to the large number of people who have no land 1 worth speaking of. The population has decreased in round numbers about one hundred in each decade during my time, except in the last, when the decrease was sixty-five. The parish is said to contain 213 square miles, which gives an average population of a little over one family to two square miles. I consider that the condition of the people has materially improved in respect of comforts since the earliest times I can remember. My recollections, however, date from a period of exceptional severity, which followed on the failure of the potato crop. The causes of this increased comfort and prosperity are not easy to define, but the fact is beyond question. The people are better clad, fed, and educated than they were a generation ago. They have learned to do more for themselves, have more intercourse with the south, and more friends and relatives there, have better fishing gear, and get better prices for anything they can produce. Some of them are, however, in great poverty still, and how they manage to support themselves it is very difficult to see. There is an almost entire absence of crime among them. During the five years I have been minister here, there has not been a single case before the courts unless one or two trifling breaches of the peace—the most serious of which was, I believe, punished by a fine of 10s. There have been no evictions from houses within my time; but besides the general eviction at Bundaloch, of which evidence is to-day before the Commission, there have been several evictions from lands for non-payment of rent and for keeping shebeens. I think that the management of the estate of Sir Alexander Matheson has been, split from the Bundaloch case, on the whole judicious and kindly, and does not at present afford much ground for complaint. The tenants have been assisted to build better houses; in many cases feus or building leases have been granted to suitable persons, at the village of Dornie substantial reductions of rent have been granted, and generally it appears to me that all that could reasonably be expected has been done for those who are tenants. The whole of the inhabited portion of the parish belongs to Sir Alexander Matheson—the portion belonging to Chisholm of Chisholm being entirely deer forest and a sheep farm. A large portion of the grazing land in the heights of the parish has been turned into deer forests. £1905 is paid for forest land in the parish by one person, who in this and the two adjoining parishes pays £3395 for forest land, besides a large sum for the shooting of land farmed by tenants. I entertain very strong opinions as to the injurious effects of deer forests on the country and the people, and if the time at the disposal of the Commissioners admits (or if they will receive a written statement from me on the subject hereafter) should much desire an opportunity of stating my views on that subject

31381. You state that the management of Sir Alexander Matheson's property has been in the main good, with the exception of the eviction of Bundaloch?

31382. And you say there were other evictions for shebeening and non-payment of rent ?

31383. Did these evictions at Bundaloch not take place for non-payment of rent ?
—I don't know; they were before my time.

31384. And you make these statements without knowing the circumstances?
—I know the people were in great poverty, and likely to be in arrears.

31385. That time followed upon the destitution of 1847-48?

31386. Were arrears common throughout the country at the time ?
—I presume so, but that is rather previous to my recollection.

31387. Mr Cameron.
—With regard to the subdivision of the crofts, I suppose you would like to see the cottars enjoy a certain portion of the land ?

31388. Do you think the land near where they reside is suitable for their occupation ?
—Yes, but there is not enough for them in the neighbourhood.

31389. How many cottars without land are there altogether in the parish ?
—I should think about forty; but that is only a guess.

31390. In what portion of the parish could these cottars find land suitable for their occupation?
—Some of them about Bundaloch.

31391. Could any of these cottars obtain land without subdividing the farms?
—No, I think not; all the land is let to somebody.

31392. Are the farms which require to be subdivided large farms or moderate sized ones ?
—We have only one farm which can be called large—Kilellan—which pays £840 I think.

31393. Could any portion of that be suitably given to form crofts?
—I think so.

31394. Are there any cottars resident on that farm?
—Yes; I think three or four.

31395. Is the land in the immediate vicinity of where these cottars reside suitable for cultivation —the land on the large farm ?

31396. What is the size of the other farms on which the cottars reside ?
—Most of them reside on Bundaloch, which pays a rent of, I think, £130.

31397. Would Bundaloch farm be suitable on which to establish a township of crofters ?
—I think so.

31398. Do you think these crofters could profitably occupy the arable land belonging to this farm without the grazing ?
—Yes, but not without some of the grazing.

31399. Grazing for what stock would you suggest?
—One cow each.

31400. Do you think that might be done and leave Bundaloch farm a suitable holding for the tenant ?
—I cannot offer any opinion as to that.

31401. Are these people of whom you speak likely, supposing they get crofts, to subdivide them ?
—Yes, unless they were prevented.

31402. Do you think these people here have any great inclination to subdivide ?
—No, I think not; they have not had the chance.

31403. Do you think that by proper estate management the subdivision of which we have found to be one of the greatest evils in the Western Highlands, might be prevented ?
—I think so, but I don't think it would be difficult to prevent. We have not many marriages going on or many new families springing up. I think most people consider their crofts small enough.

31404. You say the cottars to whom you refer are in tolerably good circumstances—that is better circumstances than they were in twenty or thirty years ago ?
—I think so.

31405. You say it is difficult to account for that. In what way do they earn wages, or do they earn wages ?
—Well, there is very little employment going in the parish; fishing is the chief source of income.

31406. Do many of the people go south to get work, and come back in spring ?
—No, none I think.

31407. They all reside here the whole year round ?
—Yes, very much

31408. How do they live?
—Really it is hard to say.

31409. Have they any land ?
—They are very frugal in their habits, and make a little off the fishing; and sometimes they get an occasional chance of labour.

31410. But they have no land except potato ground?
—That is so.

31411. They have all get a bit of potato ground?
—They have all a patch.

31412. Do many of them have a cow's grass?
—Nearly all of them.

31413. And they don't go south to get labour?
—Not much.

31414. Must not labour in the district be very scarce ?
—There is a little sometimes in Lochalsh parish, but very little in the district; but then the number of able-bodied men is not large.

31415. How many able-bodied men are there out of this number of cottars ?
—Perhaps twenty-five able-bodied cottars.

31416. Do they sometimes do work for the better class of crofters?

31417. Do they do any work for the big farmers?
—Some of them do, and a good many of them go to wintering hoggs.

31418. So that they do get in point of fact employment ?
—They get the means of living somehow.

31419. And they eke out what they get by labour of this character by fishing?

31420. Herring or deep sea fishing?
—Exclusively the herring fishing.

31421. Do the herrings come to Loch Duich now ?
—Not for some years; but they went to Loch Hourn.

31422. There was a good season there last year?
—There was, but our people didn't get much advantage of it, and they were run off the ground by the big boats. The heavy boats and large crews were too many for them, and many of our people had to give it up.

31423. Are they not good fishermen?
—There are better fishermen than they are.

31424. Do you think if they had better boats they would perhaps be encouraged to fish more and better ?
—No doubt they would, and they are improving; they are getting better boats.

31425. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were good enough to say you would send in a paper at a later period, but I wish to ask you a few questions. You have stated that there are 213 square miles in the parish of Kintail, that would make 130,000 or 140,000 acres. Can you tell me how much of that in your parish is under forest?
—I cannot give the acreage, but I should think something like one-fourth of this parish. We are at this moment iu the parish of Glenshiel, but I mean my own parish of Kintail.

31426. Betwixt where we are now sitting and the head of the loch there is the farm of Rattagan ?

31427. There is the appearance of a considerable population having been there at one time ?
—Yes, there are some traces of cultivation.

31428. Do you know anything about the time the people were removed from Glenshiel ?
—No, I don't.

31429. Was it before your time?
—Yes, long before.

31430. Have you heard there were great evictions?
—Yes, the people were removed somehow by eviction.

31431. Who was the person that removed them?
—I think some of them were removed by Mr Dick, who held the property at one time. I know he removed some from Rattagan, but I don't know how many. These things were long before my time.

31432. Your family have been ministers of Kintail three or four generations?
—Three generations.

31433. Is it not the fact that this man Dick was threatened to be shot for his cruelty to the people ?

31434. I believe you have taken a good deal of interest in connection with deer. Is it not a fact that from within about a mile of the Beauly Railway Station you can walk without putting a foot on anything but deer forest land till you reach the Cro of Kintail?

31435. Practically from sea to sea?

31436. Do you know it to be the case that there are also some fourteen miles of continuous deer forest land in Glen Cannich alone?
—Yes, I have ridden all over it.

31437. Is it not the fact that the whole of the north side of Glen Affric is one vast deer forest extending also to the Cro of Kintail ?
—The farm of Lienessie comes into it.

31438. Are not the whole of Guisachan and its glens, except the mains or home farm on the estate, under deer ?
—I believe so.

31439. And it reaches also to the Cro of Kintail?
—No, I think not.

31440. What is between?
—Inchancrow and the farm of Knockfin, occupied by Mr Winans as a sheep farm.

31441. Is it the case that from Inver Moriston, the south side of Glen Moriston, is one unbroken deer forest, reaching to Kintail?
—It does not reach to Kintail, but to the parish of Glenshiel.

31442. Is it not a fact that from within about a mile of Balmacaan in Glen Urquhart you can walk on forest ground till you reach Kintail?
—I believe so.

31443. Is it not also the case that from Inver Garry House you can walk on forest land all the way down to the sea at Knoydart ?
—I think so. I may add that I have been told that from a short distance of Loch Broom you can walk on deer forest land until within a short distance of Perth.

31444. Do you consider that the extension of afforestment at the rate at which it is going on, is for the public weal ?
—Certainly not—not for the ultimate welfare of anybody.

31445. Since your family have been so long resident in the same place, and must necessarily have handed down traditions from father to son, I wish you to state what your own opinion is of the condition of the people in Kintail, and the adjoining places hereabout, prior to the introduction of
sheep farms ?
—I think there would be a much larger number of people in circumstances of comparative comfort than there are now, but I think there were perhaps some people poorer than any that now exist.

31446. How would you distribute the proportion of those that were in circumstances and those who were worse off than they are now?
—That must be a mere guess. I should say half the people were better off and half worse.

31447. There is a deal of poverty about here just now?
—Too great.

31448. Did you hear what the people of Morvich said to-day?
—I did.

31449. It seems rather a pitiable case, is it not?
—Very much so indeed.

31450. Is it not the case, at all events, with regard to them that so far as the soil they possess is concerned, if they were dependent upon it they could not exist ?

31451. Taken all in all, is not Loch Duich with its mountain surroundings, perhaps the most beautiful in the West Highlands, or any part of Scotland ?
—I think so.

31452. And along with that there is unfortunately a deal of poverty?

31453. In the finest scenery in the Highlands?

31454. How would you reconcile the two things, insuring in this beautiful place a happy and prosperous people ?
—By giving a moderate holding of land to a certain number of them; those who are able to work.

31455. And the land is there ?
—And the land is there.

No comments:

Post a Comment