RANALD MACDONALD, Factor on the Estate—examined.
12052. The Chairman.—You have a statement to make to us ?
—I may mention that this island of Benbecula is my native place, and I am better acquainted with the people here than with any of the people in the Western Islands; and I am quite certain, though they may have been led to make mis-statements, that arises not from any deliberate intention to mislead the Commissioners, but from want of information, and probably relying upon inaccurate reports and rumours which have been circulated from one to another. I shall endeavour in dealing with the matters brought before the Commissioners to be as brief as possible ; and in order to do so, I shall classify the complaints which have been made by those who have come forward, who, I may say, are known to me, and who, I believe, are truthful men, although I have distinct evidence here to the contrary effect, having collected information regarding some of the points which they have stated to your Lordship and to the other Commissioners. The complaints made divide themselves mainly into land being taken from them and increase of rent. I shall deal with these first, and I have no doubt that in instances here and there changes may have takeu place in regard to the boundaries of townships from time to time, and some of them may be perfectly correct in saying that pieces have been taken from them. But, in order to look at the question in the shortest and most satisfactory way, we should consider what the extent of the farm of Nunton was when the estate of Banbecula was sold, and what the present acreage of that farm is. Now, without entering into details or dealing with individual statements made, I have before me the particulars of the sale of the estate by Clanranald, dated 1836, and I find in these parts that the farm of Nunton is described as follows :
—There is part of the farm of Nunton—11 acres arable, 500.61 acres pasture, and 12.15 lochs = 551.29 acres Scotch. Another detached part of Nunton consisted of 275.71 acres and 3.10 of lochs = 279.11.
Another part of the Nunton consisted of 519.97 acres arable, 161.96 pasture, 2118.15 hill pasture, 373.56 lochs = 3506.61. Balfinlay, which was then, and is now, part of Nunton, 117.60 acres. The total acreage, excluding the lochs, is 1067 acres Scotch, and in a rough way that is equal to 5200 acres imperial. Now, from the survey of Nunton, which I got from the surveyor, I find the total acreage is entered as 4077 acres in 1882, so that when the sum total corresponding to the one period, and the sum total corresponding to the other period are taken into account, though I don't doubt that here and there in several townships there may have been changes of marches and pieces taken off, still, upon the whole, the farm of Nunton is less now than it was when the estate of Clanranald was sold. And as it is well known that the whole of the estate of Benbecula may be said to be in the hands of the crofters except Nunton, the rest of the estate must necesarily be in the hands of the crofters. I may mention that Ledistrom and Cregton are places which were offered to the tenants, provided they could pay a certain proportion of the stock upon the place. I had a twofold object in offering it in that way—the first being to give an opportunity to the crofters to put the management of their sheep stock
upon what I considered a proper and a profitable footing. In the meantime, the whole of that general commonty is open, not only to the crofters from all parts of the island, but open even to strangers,—open to cottars, open to anybody. They may put their stock there at any time, and there is nobody to regulate or protect it in any way. I am perfectly satisfied, and I have told the crofters in the different townships from time to time, that I was sure and certain that if they would take a little trouble to put that common pasturage upon a proper footing, and have their sheep stock put under the management of some person who would look after the stock, and manage the sheep the same as sheep belonging to large tacksmen are managed, the profit would be very largely increased. An attempt was made to do so, and Mr Walker, the factor, went the length, with the consent, I understand, of some of the leading crofters in the different townships, of encouraging the men, with a view to adopting these new regulations, and getting a better class of sheep in order to improve the stock; but, on account of some misunderstanding or neglect, or indifference, it has not been carried out. I may take this opportunity of again urging in the strongest possible term upon the crofters of Benbecula that they should lose no time in taking steps for the more profitable management of their sheep stock. While making these few remarks about the sheep stock, I may again say with regard to Ledistrom and Cregston that the offer is still open to them. If any of them come forward and offer the old rent for these places, they will get the preference before any one. Offers have been sent in by individuals for that piece of ground, but the consideration of them was postponed in order to give an opportunity to the crofters of acquiring that piece of ground for themselves. Having, as I think your Lordship will be satisfied, disposed of the complaints about
' land being cut off the townships,' and being desirous not to encroach too much upon your time, I shall now deal shortly with the rents. One after another has come forward complaining that the rents have been increased, or, iu other words, that the rents have not been reduced while portions of the land have been taken off them. From time to time slight alterations may be made in individual cases, but I presume the Commissioners, instead of basing any kind of opinions upon what may turn out to be an exceptional case, would like to know generally how these changes affected the whole body of the crofters, and I will again refer to the rental of the estate of Benbecula at the time the purchase was made by the late Colonel Gordon of Cluny. I find that some changes have been made in the boundaries of some of the townships, but when the whole are taken together, and a comparison is made between the whole of the townships then and now, we can see how a fair and just comparison can be made. But in some other townships the changes in the boundaries are not so great. Uachdar and Gramisdale, and what is called the inn at the ford, were entered into the particulars at £236. I find that the present rental is £180. That is a reduction, as compared with the time of Clanranald, of £56. Uachdar remains very much as it did before, but Gramisdale was let in connection with the inn, and could not be said to be, as people understood it to be, a croft. But, in order to give an opportunity to increase the holdings of some of the people in the other townships, when the changes were made a few years ago, the grazing of Gramisdale attached to the inn was set apart for the crofters. Crofters were removed from other townships and got crofts at Gramisdale, and the crofts from which they were removed were added to those of some of the neighbours; and thus, I have no doubt, a benefit was conferred. I come now to Dungannichy, and I have very great pleasure in stating that the crofters in this township are among not only the most prosperous but most enterprising and most pushing crofters, not only of this island, but, I hold, of the estates belonging to Lady Cathcart in this part of the country. The rental of Dungannichy in 1836 was £153, 6s., and now the rent is £81, and the tenants pay an average of about £ 10; and I was pleased, when I was here last year, to see the stock at the market, for they would almost compare with the stock of any tacksman. I think it is not out of place to mention that they were so pushing that they joined with a neighbouring township to buy a bull for the improvement of their stock, which cost £-10. I trust some of the other crofters, seeing the effect of this in improving the stock of these people, will be encouraged to do what they can to improve their stock also. I now come to Balvannich. Balvannich does not lie contiguous to Nunton
farm, and there could not be very much taken off Balvannich at any time. The rent of Balvannich in 1836 was £207, 5s., and the rent of Balvannich now is £133, 5s. I come to Aird. I know very considerable changes were made on the township of A:rd. When the emigration took place in 1851, a portion of the moor of Aird, which was certainly the worst part of the township, and under small crofters, was added to the farm of Nunton, and the rents paid by these people vanished when they removed. The rental of Aird in 1836 was £294, 14s. 2d., and the rent at the present moment is £156, 5s. I find in the old particulars that the township of Griminish is not mentioned at all. It is all included in the general term of Torlum, and the rent entered for Torlum is £370, Is. The rent of Torlum now is £134, 12s., but Griminish is £146, and I have no doubt what is now Griminish and Torlum are included under the general description in the old particulars. Again, Linicleit, which in 1836 was £319, 8s., is now £180, 6s. There were other places which were made into crofts after the new road was made through the island. Hacleit is now under crofters, and the rent is £67, 3s., and Flodda is £34, 10s. I find that the rental of the townships entered in the particulars of the estate in 1836 amount altogether to £1580, 15s. 2|d.; while the rent of these townships now, including certain pendicles which were then commonty, and are now let to tenants near the new road and near the sea up at Hacleit and Flodda, amounts to £1176, showing a reduction of something not far from 50 per cent. While the rent payable by the crofters has diminished in this respect, it is a very striking and noticeable fact that the rent of Nunton has increased from £213, 12s. 2d. to £405. But even after taking into account the very large increase, amounting almost to 100 per cent, upon the farm of Nunton, there is a reduction upon the rental of Benbecula now as compared with what it was in 1836. I don't think it is necessary that I should take up your time in referring to some of the other complaints, such as about bad water. In fact, I think any complaints about bad water should be less now than they were a few years ago, for a very large sum of money has been expended in recent years in putting the flood gates into as perfect order as it was possible to do, improving the drainage, and at the same time preventing the salt water from coming in and doing any injury to the stock, and I don't think auy crofter got more benefit from these changes than the crofter who brought the matter under your Lordship's notice. It is quite true that the rents in 1836 may have been, to a certain extent, based upon kelp. I have heard it said that some of the rents were what were called kelp rents; and I have little doubt the tenants could not have been able, in those times, to pay the rent entered in these printed particulars unless they had such a profitable industry as the kelp ; but I may, without unduly detaining you, apply another test to the rents paid by the crofters in the island of Benbecula. I find that the whole of the rents payable by crofters amount to £1176, and I mean to compare that with the stock which these crofters keep upon the land for which they pay this sum. I may mention I have not to speak of the outside pendicles, and in comparing the rent I would be obliged to take £1191, because that is the rent of the crofts on which the stock is. The rental being £1191, 10s., the stock is as follows:—687 cows and heifers at £6 = £4122 ; 326 stirks at £4, though I may say some of them
sold at £6, 10s. at last market = £1304; 1529 sheep, which ought to be worth upwards of £2000, if properly managed, but I have put them down, and I know they are miserably bad, at £1200. I regret to say the number
of aged horses amounts to £305. I put them down at £8 = £2440.
12053. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Why do you say you regret ?
—Because I am confident that the number of horses kept by the crofters is very much against their interest. Even if they have only half a croft, they are in the habit of keeping two horses and perhaps a colt; and keeping up so many horses eats up a very large proportion of the produce of the croft, and it is therefore impossible for them to keep their ordinary stock of cows and heifers and stirks in the condition in which they might be, in consequence of the quantity of straw and other provender that these horses require. I have been urging them as often as I had an opportunity of doing so, to do their utmost to reduce the number of horses, and explaining to them how, in other places, where the system of agriculture is admitted to be carried on in a satisfactory way, the tenants of small holdings are careful not to keep more horses than they absolutely require. There are 105 colts or young horses which I put down at £ 5 = £525. The total value of the stock is, then, £9291. I have here an estimate of the value of the crops on the crofts of Benbecula, which is got up with very considerable care. The extent under potatoes, turnips, oats, barley, rye, mixed grain, and pasture upon every lot in Benbecula is entered in it as accurately as possible. The abstract shows the totals. There were 148.219 acres under potatoes, valued at £1422, 19s.; turnips, 22.235 acres (but I may say to the credit of the crofters that that is a great deal more than the extent of land under turnips by crofters in either South Uist or Barra, and I trust that, in a short time, they will find the profit arising from having land under turnips in order to provide winter food for their cattle) value about £ 6 ; oats, 612.258 acres, valued at £956,15s; bere, 563.660 acres=£1515, Is. 6d.; rye, 3.500 acres = £ 2 ; mixed grain, 45.450 acres = £60, 5s. The arable pasture is put down, but nothing is placed opposite it, and the total value is £4084, 9s. 6d., adding the value of the crops to the value of the stock, the amount is £13,375, 9s. 6d., and when compared with the rent of these townships, excluding the outside pendicles, which are not taken into account in this calculation, it will be seen that it is a very large proportion indeed, and a very satisfactory result in one way, but it is also, I take it, a proof that the rents are not excessive. Indeed, I may say from my own personal knowledge of the rents paid in other parts of Scotland, that whatever may be the cause of any grievances the tenants may have in the island of Benbecula, it is not the rents. I shall not say a single word more on this point further than to state that if arrangements were made for increasing the holding as far as it were possible.
12054. May I ask what are the arrears at this present moment upon the crofters ?
—I will give in a note of them afterwards. I may state that before these modifications were made, with a view of benefiting the crofters of Benbecula, a very careful report was presented on each township in the island, and the report has a printed heading, showing, first, a social and industrial census of the inhabitants within the township, and distinguishing families who pay rent and those who do not pay rent. Secondly, a statement of the acreage formerly let as crofts, and I may explain that that embraces the portions of ground which were exclusively and absolutely the holding of the tenants. The tenants have, besides the croft proper, very often a share of common upon the macher, that is the sandy portion of the island on the west side, and also a share of commonty belonging to each particular township, and besides the commonty that belong to each particular township, there is that large piece which is a general commonty, to which the crofters from one end of the island to the other may go when they please. The extent used as common ground for cultivation and pasture connected with the crofts was considered common land for general pasturage for sheep and cattle. The statement was illustrated by plans, showing not only the present crofts, but also the boundaries of the proposed new lots, and accompanied by a classified report on the quality and capabilities of the soil. Thirdly, a report of the summing of the stock belonging to the tenants, taking an average of years, and comparing one period with another, and the varieties and quantities the crops produced annually within the township, and there was an expression of opinion as to the improvement of the stock, the possible increase of the crops by improved cultivation, drainage, and fences, and general observations applicable to any townships not embraced in any one of these heads. Careful reports of each township were made, and an accurate survey, and then the whole townships were very carefully considered, and as far as possible, according to the circumstances of the tenants, in regard to means and likewise the extent of the families, the lots were given off. There may be a few who are not satisfied, and I find that the most of those are persons who, probably from no fault of their own, but in consequence of having weak families or otherwise, or not being so healthy or so able to work as their neighbours, had not been in a position to take large holdings. These have probably less ground now than they would wish to get, and these may feel that they are not in the position in which they would wish to be, and in the position in which we would wish to see them. But I can only say this, that after the most careful investigation—the most minute investigation—I may say, of the points bearing upon the land capable of division among them, and the capabilities of the tenants, the distribution of the lots was made and given to the tenants of Benbecula. Your Lordship and the other Commissioners have found in other places which you have visited that the crofters there refused to take leases. I am proud that the crofters of my native isle have had more intelligence than to refuse what was calculated to bring such a boon to them, and what has been a boon to the tenantry of Scotland. Notwithstanding the climate, and I may say the comparatively poor soil of Scotland, the cultivation of Scotland is on a level with, if not above, the cultivation of any part of the known world. And I do hope and trust, and I don't at all despair of saying, that the crofters of Benbecula,
taking advantage of the security a lease gives them, by first fencing their land, which I consider to be one of the most important things they can do, and which must be done before they can enter upon any other improvements, will very soon double the amount of produce they get from their soil. I have been often grieved when I have visited the lands to find the unskilful way in which the ground was tilled, and added to that the want of fences, and the young cattle and sheep and colts driving through the little crops they had, and reducing them in many cases by half, while with more skilful cultivation and protection by fences they would have double the produce for winter keep which they have now. I am glad to find that, especially in Dunginnachy, some of the crofters have already seen the benefit of these improvements, and I trust that others may follow their example. I have only one other observation to make, and it is this, that after the lots were as carefully divided aud considered as it was possible to do, instead of the proprietor's representatives putting the rent upon these crofts, Mr Macdonald, Newton, North Uist, who is known not only as a man of very great experience, but as a man of thorough fairness and impartiality, and a man who, if he erred at all would err in the way of making the rent such as the industrious crofter would be able to pay, was asked, with the full consent and approval of the crofters of Benbecula, to inspect the whole of the crofts, after the boundaries were marked off upon the ground. I hold in my hand his valuation, which, I may state, reduced the former rent by something like £200. Lady Cathcart was willing, and did not grudge at all, that the tenants should get the
benefit of the rise, as she felt that, especially when they were commencing to make improvements in the way of draining and fencing, aud improving their houses, it was right and proper that their rents should be moderate, in order that they might have encouragement, and have the means of devoting a portion of what they might save to these permanent improvements, which, though they might not come in immediately, would be a great pleasure to any landlord to see, and would ultimately, no doubt, add to the value of the estate. It may be interesting to the Commissioners if I mentioned the acreage of some of these crofts. Beginning with Gramisdale, which I stated before was the portion of land attached to the inn, and let to nine tenants, the extent of the crofts was—I shall read a few:
16 acres, rent £4, 5s.; 31.7 acres, rent £6. 5s.; 27 acres, rent £3, 5s.; 28 acres, rent £4. And we then come to the place which I believe was the dearest place in the island of Benbecula, namely Aird. The acreage of a croft there is 14 acres, £ 6 ; 21 acres, £9 ; 18 acres, £7, 15s. ; 18 acres, £7, 4s. The total acreage of the township of Aird—of the crofts—is 605 acres, divided among thirty-seven crofts, and the total rent £156, 5s.
12055. Mr Cameron.—Is that all arable land
—Yes, and in addition to that was their share of the common. I have only to refer now, and I do so with very great pleasure, to the improvements made by the tenants of Benbecula since they got these leases.
12056. Mr Fraser Mackintosh.—When was that?
—1880,—from April 1880 up to this time. The list is so long that I shall summarise it. ' In Gramisdale built new dwelling house,' ' built new byre/ ' built new ' dwelling house and byre,' 'building new dwelling house.' In Uachdar there are nine who built new dwelling houses and byres, and some of them made drains, some turf drains, aud some open drains. In Dungannichy I find a tenant there made turf dykes and open ditches ; another built stone dykes and improved and drained land near a lake; another put up a wire fence; another made some drains ; another built as much of a stone dyke as enclosed his tack ; another made open drains; another built a new dwelling house and byre, and made a turf dyke and ditch. In Aird some excellent new houses have been built. There is a long list. At Griminish there were new houses built; ' turf dyke built; ' ' built new house and reclaimed land; 'built new house and made some open drains; 'new houses and byre built,' Linnicleit:—Some houses and stone dykes built there, and one slated house, and fifty yards of a stone dyke, and so on. So that though the work of improvement has not gone on in Benbecula so fast as I think it ought, still there is so much done as to afford very great encouragement ; and I am satisfied from what has been done that the people will find the benefit of it, and that they will go on increasing it year by year.
12057. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—What assistance was given by the proprietrix in these improvements? —The proprietrix offered wood to some and slates. There is a general clause in the estate regulations, which are attached to every one of those crofters' leases, applicable to fences. The clause is as follows :
—' The ground thus set apart is to be enclosed by ring fences of dry stone dykes, where practicable, or of wire, or of a ditch and earthen fence in low situations where dykes are impracticable or unsuitable. These fences are to be paid for at the mutual expense of proprietrix and tenants after the lines, specifications, and estimates are approved of, and the work completed to the satisfaction of the factor. The tenants are to pay interest at £ 3 sterling per cent, per annum on the moiety of the expense paid by the proprietrix, and to keep the fences throughout the lease in good condition ; and if not kept in good order the proprietrix reserves power to repair them at the tenants' expense.' There have not been claims made under this clause, but we shall be only too glad when they come in. I may observe that the rate of interest was made unusually low, with the view of inducing what was believed to be a sort of improvement that was most needed, and was calculated to effect the maximum of good to the crofters. As regards drainage, the clause in the lease is to this effect:
— The tenants shall be bound to improve and drain efficiently every year one-tenth part at least of the lands let requiring such improvment, and remove from said lands and lay down the stones suitable for dykes in lines marked out by the factor, and use the smaller stones for drains. The expense of these improvements is to be paid mutually by the proprietrix and the tenants : but in no case shall the moiety payable by the proprietrix exceed £ 3 sterling per imperial acre; and for the sum which may be thus advanced by the proprietrix after the improvements are completed and approved of by the factor, the tenants shall pay interest at the rate of £4 sterling per cent, per annum.' As to houses, they are to be kept in repair; and with the view of encouraging the tenants to erect good houses, or to give substantial assistance in erecting and maintaining farm houses and garden fences in good condition, it is stipulated that ' meliorations will be ' allowed to the extent of the amount of two years' rents, the one half being payable at the end of the first five years of the lease, and the remaining half at the expiry of the iease, provided the houses and garden fences are found, by valuation of arbiters mutually chosen, to be of that extra value, exclusive of carriages, quarrying, and excavations for foundations, over and above the amount of the heritor's inventory, the tenants to pay interest at £ 4 sterling per cent, per annum on the meliorations advanced at the end of the first five years of the leases. The tenants shall be bound to insure the buildings against fire to the extent of two-thirds of their value, and exhibit to the factor the receipts for the premiums when asked to do so.'
12058. What is the length of the lease ?
—Ten years. Then there are clauses referring to the way-going crop, over-stocking, rates, and so on. There is another clause which is a little unusual in leases, but I think it is a very useful clause. It provides that improvements should be registered. It often happens that when there is no registration of improvements made, nothing is said about them till the end of the lease, when sometimes the outgoing tenant may not be inclined to look at things so favourably or so fairly as when he is an occupying tenant, and, in order to prevent misunderstandings, there was a clause put into the leases as follows:
—' The amount of the cost of the improvements for fences, drainage, and houses shall be fixed by the factor, who will register these improvements from time to time as the work is done in a book kept for the purpose, and send a statement to the tenant within six months after the work is done, and the tenant will be held as approving of the same, unless he intimate his objections within one month after receiving the statement; but should any tenant intimate within one month that he is dissatisfied with the statement as made out by the factor, an arbiter, mutually chosen, will be appointed, whose decision shall be final, the expense of such arbitration to be divided equally between proprietrix and tenant.' There is another clause providing that nothing shall prevent the tenants from being paid for substantial improvements made under any of the clauses in the leases. Energetic tenants get leases confirmed at the end of the first five years. This clause was put in to reserve a certain amount of power if it should be found that some of the tenants were not improving tenants, and were not fulfilling the conditions of the lease; and power was reserved, in short, and there should be a break in the lease at the end of the first five years. But there was a clause put in to give every possible encouragement to the tenants to go on with these improvements, so that even if a break in the lease should be taken advantage of, he might be perfectly sure he would be paid for improvements effected by himself. The clause is
—' As the foregoing conditions are framed specially with the view of benefiting the tenants, by giving them reasonable security that they will reap the benefit of their own industry, and giving facilities for the introduction of a better system of agriculture, and more comfortable farm buildings, it must be provided that those who do not exert themselves to take advantage of these priviliges shall forfeit their leases ; and so as to encourage the energetic and industrious, and distinguish between them and those who fail to act up to the conditions of lease relating to the improvement of the land and houses, it is stipulated that there will be a break in every lease, at the option of the proprietrix, at the end of the first five years;—but even in the case of those who forfeit their leases, an equitable settlement will be made with them, based on a report by arbiters mutually chosen, but only those permanent improvements are to be taken into account as shall appear from the arbiter's report to have added to the letting value of the subject. The expenses of valuation and arbitration are to be paid by the tenant, and all expenses of every kind connected with the settlement shall form a preferable claim against the
sum which may be awarded to the tenant.' These are the special clauses in the leases. Before leaving Benbecula, I may state that when the extent of land capable of distribution into crofts was being considered, it was found with regret that it was necessary to make the crofts of a smaller size than we would like. It was quite impossible to accommodate the number of people who would require to be accommodated in the best way it was possible or practicable to do so. The only way in which we could think the crofts could be enlarged was by getting some of the people voluntarily to remove to some other place. Mr Gordon of Cluny was then alive, and he and Lady Cathcart were desirous to do the most they could for the people; but they were most careful and guarded not to do anything to convey the impression that they wished any one to leave the island against his will, but they would have been pleased if some of them had seen their way spontaneously to remove to some other place, in order that it might be practicable to make the crofts", larger. Accordingly, when the matter was considered, two men from Benbecula were set apart by the people themselves—at all events they were not selected by any person connected with the proprietor—and they proposed to go out to the north-west territory to see the place for themselves, and come back and report truthfully to their friends what their opinion was as to the prospects of some of the Benbecula people if they spontaneously made up their minds to go there. An offer was made to them then that their arrears and current rents would be cancelled, and that substantial assistance would be given to them to enable them to enter at once upon lands in Canada if they thought of going. They knew that Government ottered 160 acres of good arable land free, and that an equal extent would be given at a very moderate price, and in such a way that they could pay the price by convenient instalments. But none of them thought proper at the time to take advantage of this offer, and consequently there was no alternative except to divide these crofts the best way we could, distinguishing those who were considered able in regard to their families or in regard to their stock, &.C—giving them the larger crofts—and taking care not to remove people and put them to extra expense in building new houses except in cases where it was impossible this could be avoided. I think it is due to the Crofters in Benbecula that I should publicly refer to the manner in which they settled among themselves all the little questions that arose in regard
to the houses received and houses sold by those who shifted—where two crofts were put into one, and where others had to take lots upon what was formerly the common. I was very much afraid there would be considerable difficulty in settling these matters between them, but I was pleased and relieved to find that the whole matter was settled without any difficulty at all, and I think it proper I should testify to that on this public occasion. Before leaving Benbecula it may be interesting, if I should in a word refer to the valuation of the effects of the emigrants who came forward this year, and asked that the offer which had been made and rejected should be repeated, and who left for the north-west territory. I was very glad the day before I came away to the west coast, to receive a letter confirming the intelligence which had previously come by telegram
announcing their safe arrival on the other side of the Atlantic, and intimating that they were in very excellent spirits—that they were just proceeding upon their journey to their destination. Ten families in all left, but three of them were young people who had no effects, except perhaps money. There were seven crofters who had houses, furniture, implements, stock, and crop, and who had other things which were taken over from them under the arbitration of men mutually chosen. The value of the houses belonging to these seven crofters amounted to £116, 9s. l½d.; furniture and farming implements, £158, 2s. 0½d. ; stock and crop, £406, 4s. 7d. Some of those, I may explain, were tenants who had got leases a few years ago, and who had made substantial permanent improvements on their crofts, for which they got £29, 12s. 7½d. Some of them
had made preparation for this year's crop, and they got for unexhausted manures £56, 6s. There was also allowed for timber £17, 11 s . 6d.; total sum paid to them by Lady Cathcart, £754, 5s. 10½d.; and the advance of £100 each makes the total sum £1456, 3s. 4½d, Having had the pleasure of accompanying them on board the steamer, I may say they seemed in very good spirits, and very anxious that their houses should be as near to each other as possible. When it was explained to them that the extent of land which each one would get would be nearly as large as the township from which they came, their only regret was that their dwelling-houses would be so far apart, and that tney would not have the opportunity of visiting each other so regularly as they had had in their old homes, but they were still planning that they should make their houses near the corner of their lands, so that there should be four houses not very far from each other. I shall now refer in a general way to the other estates, and I may mention that they were purchased between 1839 and 1841 by the late Colonel Gordon of Cluny from Clanranald, from Macdonald of Bornish, Macdonald of Boisdale, and Macdonald of Barra, the price being £173,729. Up to the time in 1865 when these estates were exposed for sale the permanent improvements effected amounted to £32,000. These mainly consisted
of the formation of the leading line of road from the Sound of Barra to the Sound of North Uist, with branch roads, and also openings for draining portions of the land already under water; 'and some of these having become filled up, a considerable amount has been expended by Lady Cathcart lately in opening up and putting these drains in proper order. She has expended upon piers, hotels, cottages, farm buildings, and the expense of materials given to crofters to assist them to put up houses, the sum of £19,000.
12059. In how many years?
—In about five years—amounting in all to upwards of £51,000. The rental of the estate of Clanranald in 1836 was £4531, 6s. 4d,; of the estate of Bornish £235, 4s,; and of Boisdale, £1053, Is. 4d,;—total, £5819. The rental now of the same lands, taking the valuation roll of 1882, is £6587, 3s. 4d. There is thus an increase
over all since 1836 of £767, 11 s . 8d. I may explain that there has been a very large increase of rent on the grazings, equal in some cases to from 30 to 80 per cent. But for upwards of thirty years there has been no material alteration upon the extent of land under crofters. In 1872 the rents payable by crofters—by 516 crofters—amounted to £2002, 6s. 1d.; in 1882 the same number of crofters were upon the land, and the rent
was substantially the same, the difference being only £2. The stock held by the crofters in 1882 is as follows.
12060. Can you give us the increase from 1872?
—No; I have only the stock for 1882. I am giving the totals for the whole island of South Uist. There are 3661 inhabitants, 1098 horses, 1841 cattle above one year old, 1010 cattle under one year old, 4624 sheep, and 404 swine. This stock represents what belongs to crofters and cottars, the amount in all being £30,503, 10s. I may mention that the stock belonging to cottars on the island of South Uist consists of 92 horses, 140 cattle above one year old, 84 under one year old, 518 sheep, and 46 swine. The horses owned by crofters are 1006. The. value of the stock belonging'to cottars in South Uist amounts of £2556, 10s., and the value of the stock belonging to crofters amounts to £27,947. This is on what is considered to be a moderate valuation. The horses are valued at £8, the aged cattle at £7, 10s., the young cattle at £4, the sheep at 15s., and the swine at 20s. I shall very briefly refer to the rental paid by the tenants. The rental of the tenants who have this stock is as follows :—Under £3, £502, 14s. 7d.: between £ 3 and £5, £539, 14s.; between £5 and £10, £873, 18s. 9d. between £ 10 and £20, £224, 2s.; over £20, £ 60; total, £2200; so that if the value of the stock is compared with the amount of the rent paid, it will be found that the tenants of South Uist have a much larger value in stock than the tenants of either Benbecula or Barra; in fact, they have a larger value in stock compared with their rent than any class of tenants that I know in any place whatever.
12061. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.—Does the stock which you have given in South Uist include that of large farmers ?
—No, merely crofters.
12062. Does the population you gave include large farmers
12063. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh—Is there a crofter population of 3661?
12064. Professor Mackinnon.—Have you taken the acreage and stock of the large farmers?
—No. The number of persons who are connected with the crofter class is 2948, and with the families of the cottars 713, making 3661. I am sorry I cannot give the value of the crop in South Uist, but I am safe to say that it will be less than the crop in Benbecula relatively to the amount of rent, for I am satisfied that the Benbecula tenants cultivate their land better than those in South Uist, and that the value of the crop is greater in proportion to the rent than in South Uist, though I have come to the conclusion that the South Uist tenants are cheaper rented than the Benbecula tenants are. I shall now compare the rentals of some of the townships in South Uist at the present time with the rentals when the estate was purchased. There are some changes in
the names. There is more included, for instance, under certain names than was included in 1836. Certain places were entered under one general name, which are now entered under two names, so that it is very difficult for me to make a very distinct comparison between individual townships. However, I shall select some of those townships which stand out by themselves at a distance from the other grazings, and which may be supposed to be now substantially the same as they were in 1836. I may refer first to Stilligarry. The rent of Stilligarry is the only one in which I find an increase, and it is remarkable that Stilligarry may be said to be one of the most prosperous townships in South Uist. In 1831 the retals was £55, and the rent now payable by eleven tenants is £69, 15s. I take these figures from the printed particulars of the estate in 1866, an I do not
think there is any substantial difference on the place since that time. I may give the rate per acre of the different townships. Garabsillie, 87 acres in the crofts, 84 macher, 100 arable—271 acres altogether; rent,
£29, 5s, 9d. = 2s. 1¾d. per acre ;—Dalibroge, 460 acres in the crofts, 258 macher, 200 common arable—total, 918 acres; rent, £171, 7s. 6d.; rate per acre, 3s. 8¾d.;—Kilphedar, 402 acres in the crofts, 280 macher, 200 common arable,—total, 882 acres; rent, £210, 6s.; rate per acre, 4s. 9d. ;—North Boisdale, 746 acres in the crofts, 124 common arable,—total, 870 acres; rent, £220, 7s. 4d.; rate per acre, 5s. 0¾d.
12065. The Chairman. —As you have given us a few specimen cases, it is not necessary to go over all ?
—I think that those I have given may be held as specimen cases. There is a class which I find to be striking and of some importance, and I may bring it under the notice of the Commissioners. It shows very clearly the classification of the arrears, and that as the rents decrease beneath £10, and especially beneath £5, the arrears
proportionaUy increase, except in the case of the small rents payable be fishermen at such a place as Castle Bay, or tradesmen who have small lots for the convenience of supplying themselves with milk and potato ground. But in the case of all those tenants who depend mainly upon their crofts for their livelihood, it is very manifest that when the rents, which may be taken as an index of the size of the croft, are below £10, and especially below £7 or £5, their circumstances are such that their arrears do increase. Their arrears may be taken as an index of their circumstances, and they show that if there was any possible means of increasing the crofts to such a size as would provide work for an ordinary family, and also provide them with food so that they would not have to purchase meal, theu they would be in the position not only of being comfortable themselves, but of being able to pay their rents to the proprietor. It is perfectly evident to crofters and others that it must by the interest of proprietors and those acting for proprietors to do everything in their power to increase the crofts to this extent, where it is possible to do so. I find that in the case of those who hold land in
South Uist from £ 10 to £20 the arrears per £ 1 are about 9s ; in the case of tenants paying from £5 to £10, the proportion is 30s, per £1 ; in the case of those from £3 to £5, the arrears are about two and a half years'
rent; and although I know that there are a number who pay small rents, and who pay these small rents regularly—and some of those are included in the amount I have here for tenants under £3—yet, when
these are included, the proportion of arrears due by tenants under £ 3 is equal to four years' rents; so it is perfectly manifest that the interests of proprietors and tenants are promoted by increasing the crofts when it is
possible to do so. It also shows that it is exceedingly short-sighted and foolish on the part of crofters to settle down with their families upon very small pieces of land, which, notwithstanding all their industry and diligence, cannot possibly either provide them with work or provide them with food. It would be very much better for those people to do something else than to settle down upon a very small piece of ground which is manifestly too little to provide them with food. It is also against the interests of the families that they should be situated in a position where the families cannot have steady employment. It leads the family to form habits which cannot be for their interest in after life. If people are well, there is nothing better for them than to have steady employment. If they are placed in circumstances so that they cannot have steady employment, the formation of the habits which necessarily attach to such a position must be very much against those families; and I have no hesitation in saying that crofters who have insignificant and small pieces of land, and who are so placed that their own means and the circumstances of the locality prevent the crofts from being made of a proper size, should in the interests of their family get into some position whereby they would get steady and continuous employment for themselves and their families. I was very much struck by a remark made by Dr Black yesterday, when he gave evidence before your Lordship and the other Commissioners, to the effect that their condition in regard to food and clothing acted upon the health of some of the crofters, and he said what appeared to me to be very remarkable and very striking, that not only those upon the larger farms, the farmers themselves and the members of their families, but their servants, were exempt from what he attributed to the circumstances which necessarily attach to the condition of the crofters who are of the poorer class. It is perfectly evident therefore that even being in service, as regards their health, as regards their position, and as regards the interests of their families, is very much better for the crofters tban to remain in a condition in which there is really no hope for them. I wish to refer to a few of the complaints which were made by the tenants in South Uist, and the first one to which I wish to refer is the complaint made by some of the Kilphedar people, and as the tenants from the other townships merely re-echoed what the Kilphedar delegate said, I shall allow the remarks which I make with reference to Kilphedar to apply generally to other townships. The only point to which I think it necessary to make a very brief reference is that as to the reclamation fields in South Uist. The changes which were made forty years ago or longer are really matters regarding which I have no personal knowledge, aud it is not necessary I should take up time in referring to these matters. But as the reclamation
fields relate to a matter regarding which I must take upon my own bead any blame that may attach, I think it necessary I should say a few words in regard to this matter. When the kelp industry failed, it became a very severe question what should be done to provide employment for some of the people who were accustomed to pay a considerable portion of the land by the work they got in making kelp ; and after carefully considering this matter, I could not think of any sort of work that would bring in any return whatever unless we could reclaim some of the waste ground which was in peatbogs and on the roadside near the public road. I was very anxious that those places which were an eye-sore near the public road should be the places selected for this purpose. I consulted people in whom I had most confidence as to the time an ordinary workman should take to do such work, and fixed the rates accordingly, and I endeavoured to get the work done by the contract system. Without entering into details, I shall refer to a statement which I have in my hand, and give the totals in the abstract. It shows that in 1882 at eight different places there were fields extending to 79½ acres. The amount paid by Lady Cathcart for the work in connection with these fields was £951, 5s. 10d. Mr
Walker sent in an estimate which is dated 1882. That must be the one referring to last year. The income was £ 385 , and it shows a loss of £565, 14s. 10d. This was submitted to Lady Cathcart, and though it would be
always more satisfactory that any work done, even of the nature of relief work, should be made as near self-supporting as possible, yet she did not grudge to go on with the work, being satisfied that it was a benefit to the people, and being also satisfied that it would produce an area of the estate in which not only the proprietrix but the tenants must be interested. I have only further to say that instead of sending the produce of these fields out of the island, the people this spring, in consequence of the scarcity of provender, petitioned to get the stacks of corn fodder and hay which were taken off these fields last year. As is well known, this spring the scarcity of seed potatoes was such that most proprietors had to buy them from a distance. Lady Cathcart provided her tenants with 2554 barrels of potatoes for seed, which were given out at the moderate rate of 5s. At places on the mainland 10s., 12s., and even more was charged for a barrel of potatoes. In addition to that there was a large quantity of seed—wheat and oats—and a large quantity of strong corn unthrashed in spring, so that the amount of the produce of these fields given to the crofters this spring exceeded £1000. I ask the indulgence of the Commissioners when I take the liberty of mentioning that it was I who suggested the whole
scheme, and I was willing to take the responsibility of it, and I must say I regret that the tenants should convert into a ground of complaint what was intended, and what I believe really was, a beneficial work for themselves, in first giving them employment, and then giving what was very necessary for them this spring,—namely, fodder for their cattle and seed for their ground. I regret that the feeling of ingratitude shown may have a tendency to discourage Lady Cathcart from repeating anything of the same kind, and I should regret extremely that the tenants should be led inadvertently to do anything adverse to what was intended to be, and
which could be seen by any person looking at it from an impartial point of view, to be decidedly for their own benefit. As I may have another opportunity of submitting in detail certain statements to your Lordship and the Commissioners, and as it would probably be convenient that I should hear the other delegates in this island, it will be easy for me to supplement what I have said on another occasion. Therefore, though there are several points which I wish to bring under your Lordship's notice, I think it expedient that the people here should feel I make room for them, and therefore I shall cut short my statement at present.
12066. I think it is my duty to thank you for the very full statement which you have commenced to make, and which has contained a great deal that is extremely interesting with reference to the re-partitioning of the land of this estate between the different classes of tenants, with reference to the resources of the small tenantry, and with reference to the system practised by Lady Cathcart in promoting improvements by the crofters themselves. We regret we have not been able to hear you at greater length on this occasion. There are many questions which we would have liked to put, and which we are obliged to defer to another time, but before we part I should like you to give us in general terms a statement on one head, and that is—can you state in presence of the Commission and of this assembly what has been the annual proportion of the gross rental of this estate expended in works of public utility and benevolence during the last four or five years?
—I feel a difficulty in stating definitely in figures what the amount may be, but I may state generally that Lady Cathcart has expended out of her own private pocket several thousand pounds beyond the rental of the property since she succeeded, and that has all been expended on the estate. She has annually drawn from the estates of South Uist, Benbecula, and Barra about £2500 since she succeeded, and though I could not state definitely just now what she has drawn on her own private bank account for expenditure here, I am safe to say it is double the amount she drew from the estate account for other purposes. I am safe in saying that the whole rental of the estates has been expended on the estates since Lady Cathcart succeeded, and about £2500 more. The sum expended includes the additions made to the house at Grogary, which may be said to partake of the nature of personal expenditure, but the great proportion of the money expended was on what may be termed general estate improvements.