ANGUS FRASER, Crofter, Balemore (49)—examined.
12949. The Chairman.—You have a written statement to submit?
—' Unto the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of the Highland Crofters, and meeting at Loch Eport on 30th May 1883. - The Statement, Petition, and Complaint of the Crofters of Balemore, North Uist.—In 1814 Balemore was divided into eighteen crofts, but twelve years after the then factor, Mr Allan Cameron, cleared several townships for himself, and seventeen families were placed in Balemore, and the land subdivided among the thirty-five, without any reduction of rent to the former tenants, in which state it has since continued. Shortly after we were deprived of a grazing pendicle at Loch Eport, which was given to crofters cleared from other places, and still no reduction of rent. Another complaint is that our crofts are so small that we require to plough them every year, consequently the returns are very small indeed.
We complain also that upwards of thirty years ago a loan was obtained from Government for the purpose of drainage, to be repaid, principal and interest, in twenty years, but this charge has been made a permanent
addition to the rents. We complain also that cottars are placed on the crofts and paying rents to the proprietor, without a corresponding reduction to the crofters. We complain also that for upwards of fifty years
we have had to pay rent for a hill called Marviall, which formerly had been held as grazing ground by us and neighbouring townships, and to the possession of which the townships were entitled without any additional
rent. What we would require to live comfortably upon is at least double the size of our present holdings. The land would thus get rest and become more fruitful, yielding both more provender for our cattle and meal for ourselves. Our cattle would be in a better condition, and yield better prices than they do at present, having to sell them lean for small sums to pay for the meal, &c., which we have got on credit. Besides increased holdings, we would require leases, and in case of removal compensation for improvements and unexhausted manures. Were these granted and land sufficient (and there is plenty in the parish) there would be peace and plenty, instead of living from hand to mouth, and contracting debts, as many of us do in the best of years, with scarcity and hunger for man aud beast on the failure of potatoes and other crops as this year's. There would then be no need to go a-begging for money, meal, and seed to rich aud sympathising friends in the south. We would have comfort, if not luxury, within our own parish. Though we lodge complaints and make demands, we have no fault to find with either our present proprietor or factor. The former has made no addition to our rents, or taken any lands from us since his father bought the estate, and the latter deals kindly and leniently towards us.—ANGUS FEASER, EWEN M'LEAN, ' NORMAN M'LELLAN/ LOCHEPORT.'
12950. You say there are cottars that have been placed upon your lands and who pay rent to the proprietor. Are these the natural increase of the crofters, or are they strangers ?
—Some of them came from Ireland, so far as I have been able to learn, and they were settled there without leave asked, by order of the then factor.
12951. How long is that ago?
—About thirty years ago.
12952. Why did the factor bring people from Ireland?
—They came to the country from Ireland as tinkers, and the factor allowed them to remain.
12953. Do they pay rent to the proprietor, or do they pay to the crofters ?
—Those of them that had horses and some stock at first paid rent to us but since the proprietor, some seven or eight years ago, took matters into his own hands, they ceased to pay rent to us, and said they would settle with the proprietor.
12954. What do they pay to the proprietor?
—The rent varies—30s., 20s., 10s. Some never pay any except taxes; others, so far as I am aware, pay regularly.
12955. Then what you want is to get more land for the improvement of your crofts ?
—The very thing.
12956. Have you heard generally what the other delegates have stated here to-day ?
—I heard the most of it.
12957. Do you agree generally with all they have stated ?
—In so far as their statements concern matters that are within my own recollection, I quite agree with them, but I am unable to say about events that occurred before I was born.
12958. Sheriff Nicolson.—Where is Balemore?
—West from here.
12959. Is it near Houghgarry?
—Balranald and Knock-an-Torran lie between it and Houghgarry.
12960. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.—Does the paper which you have given in contain the substance of your complaint and grievances ?
—Yes. The smallness of our holdings is the chief complaint. When our crofts were subdivided, that was the date upon which our affairs got into such a condition that they have not recovered since