Barvas, Lewis, 6 June 1883 - William Mackay

WILLIAM MACKAY, Chamberlain on the Lewis estates—re-examined.
14946. The Chairman.
—You wish, I believe, to make a statement to us?
—Yes, I do so, in the way of accounting for the small number of what I call squatters or cottars that appear in the statement I have to make. I am speaking of 1881. In opening a new rent ledger, I entered the names of squatters and cottars who had been about ten or fifteen or twenty years as such paying rent, not directly to the landlord, but to the crofter, though perhaps both of them would appear at the rent collection day. That led to trouble and sometimes confusion. I entered the whole of them in our ledger. The number now in the rent-roll in the parish of Barvas is 812.

14947. Paying directly to the landlord ?

14948. Mr Cameron.
—And they were cottars before?
—They were squatters.

14949. The Chairman.
—About how many were admitted at that time?
—Probably about one-third of 812. Since 1881 up to this date I find there are eighty-seven squatters or sub-tenants.

14950. Mr Cameron.
—These are not entered in the rent-roll?

14951. The Chairman.
—Have they all built their houses since 1881?
—Yes, so far as known to me. The rental of the 812 crofters is £2330, 4s. 6d., or an average of £2, 17s. 4d. per crofter.

14952. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you included in the list all under £30 of rent ?
—£30 and under. I may explain, that in comparing the rent of the present day with that of 1844, there is a considerable increase of rent in this parish, on account of land reclaimed by the landlord. That land was let to a number of the people in this district and towards Ness at a rent of 2s. 6d. per acre for the first five years; 5s. for the second five years; and 7s. 6d. for the third five years, with interest on the outlay for improvements. The first and second rises were charged, but not the third.

14953. So it remains at 5s. ?
—Yes, with interest on improvements. It was the belief that by this outlay we could make arable land or crofts for crofters, by which they could live independent of the moor pasture. The lots were originally given out, perhaps, six or seven acres in extent, but they are now of course by subdivision reduced to much less than that.

14954. Mr Cameron.
—At what date were the improvements made?
—From 1849 to 1852 inclusive.

14955. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Were the leases to be for fifteen years ?
—For fifteen years. There have been so many changes by the reclaiming of this land, which is attached to the former townships, that I cannot compare one township to-day with the township in 1844 as to the rent, to show the increase.

14956. The Chairman.
—You can only show the gross increase on the whole parish ?
—Yes. The area of the parish of Barvas, in which we now are, is 85,043 acres. That is exclusive of water. I deduct glebes, manses, manse sites, and churches, which amount to 940 acres. The only farm in this parish is Galston, 7290 acres; lands attached to the mill at Dell, 160 acres; leaving 76,653 acres under crofters paying £ 3 0 and under, divided among 812 crofters paying rent. They pay a rent of £2330, 4s. 6d., or at the rate of 7¼d. per acre, arable and hill pasture. Galston farm, containing 7290 acres, at a rental of £315, 9s. 6d. gives 10¼d. per acre. The 160 acres attached to the mill at Dell is rented at £88. The crofters stock in 1882 consisted of 3421 head of cattle, 13,795 head of sheep, 580 horses, and 285 pigs. The tacksman's stock for the same period was 71 head of cattle, 1643 sheep, 6 horses, and 2 pigs. I give the stock of 1881, because it is somewhat larger. Crofters : 3591 head of cattle, 14,238 head of sheep, 549 horses, 300 pigs. Tacksman, 47 head of cattle, 1716 head of sheep, 4 horses, and 4 pigs.

14957. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do these include young and old?

14958. At what time was the enumeration?
—About the end of September or 1st of October. It is taken annually.

14959. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you any idea of the number of acres that were reclaimed by Sir James Matheson in those three years you have referred to ?
—No, but I can get the information.

14960. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—And the sum expended?
—Possibly I may.

14961. The Chairman.
—Would you describe the nature of the reclamation?
—Trenching and draining.

14962. Were there main drains made to evacuate the general water?

14963. And then were there underground drains cut, or were there merely surface drains all over the surface?
—I cannot speak definitely just now, for I was not seeing it at the time. My object to-day is merely to simplify matters—to show that there are new townships, and that there is only one tacksman and the miller.

14964. Mr Cameron.
—What became of the eighty-seven squatters? Are they entered on the rental ?
—Not the eighty-seven.

14965. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you think they were overlooked by you ?
—They might be overlooked, and they have increased since then. There were two families perhaps that have gone out and built a separate house since I made the entries.

14966. The Chairman.
—As regards the area of this improvement by Sir James, was it taken from the common pasture of pre-existing townships ?
—It was attached to pre-existing townships, but both the old and new townships were lotted and rented in 1850 and 1851, and valued according to what they were worth then with these crofters upon them.

14967. When these new lots were formed and improved by Sir James, were the new crofters placed there admitted to the privileges of hill pasture formerly enjoyed by the others?

14968. Was that very extensive?
—In some parts of the parish it was very extensive, but not at the extreme Butt, towards the point of Ness.

14969. Has the rental of 5s. per acre on the inproved ground been easily and punctually paid ?
—No, there is a considerable amount of arrears in this parish.

14970. Did the improvement turn out well? As regards the improvement of the soil did it answer expectation or fall short of expectation ?
—I believe it was a mistake; I don't think it is possible to have an arable farm in the Lewis that will pay. Even the proprietor cannot make his manor farm pay as an arable farm.

14971. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—But that is no test; no home farm ever pays ?
—No, but there is not an arable farm, properly speaking, in the Lewis, except one or two near Stornoway, and their great stay is dairy produce for the town.

14972. The Chairman.
—But these improved farms were not solely arable farms, because they had rights of hill pasture also ?

14973. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any idea what the rent per acre came to, including the interest and the 5s. ?
—There were some of them up to £ 5 and £6 for the croft altogether.

14974. But can you tell us what was the rent of the improved croft per acre ?
—I believe some of the land would be close on 20s. per acre, with the 5s. and the interest.

14975. Not more than that?
—Not more than that.

14976. Mr Cameron.
—What rate of interest was charged ?
—I am not certain as to that.

14977. The Chairman.
—Has the capital expended been all reimbursed ?
—It has, but all this was not done by Government drainage.

14978. No, but still the capital expended has been reimbursed?

14979. Then was it understood that when the capital was reimbursed, the rental was to be correspondingly reduced, or was it to continue at the increased rate?—Well, I cannot say as to what arrangement was made, but it has been continued on the forms when the leases were out—principally upon the large arable farms about Stornoway and Galston.

14980. But with reference to these improved crofters' lands?
—There was no change made.

14981. That is to say; they continued to pay as rent the 5s. per acre, plus the whole of the charge for interest and reimbursement of capital ?
—They continue to pay the same rent as in 1853 or 1854, when the improvements were completed.

14982. Mr Cameron.
—Can you say whether the rate of interest charged was 6½ per cent. ?
—I am not sure of that.

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