RODERICK FINLAYSON, Crofter and Fisherman, Maravaig (55)—examined.
17495. The Chairman.
—What number of families are there at Maravaig ?
—Twenty-three families have land, and there are twelve in addition without land.
17496. Did these freely choose you to come here to-day?
17497. Were they all present at the election?
—Yes, except some who were at sea.
17498. Did they tell you what to state here to-day?
17499. Then will you state it?
—The one thing we want is relief from the present overcrowding; and if land could be got to those who have it not, that would relieve in a great measure those who at present possess it. If things continue as they are, it is my firm belief that we are on the verge of extinction through poverty.
17500. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Where did the twelve cottars come from?
—They all belong to the place except one.
17501. What rent do you pay?
—I pay £2, 6s. of bare rent, and taxes in addition.
17502. What do you pay for poor rates and school rates?
-There was a piece taken off my croft when the schoolhouse was being built, and I have not got an adjustment of rent since then, so I am unable to say what the Bchool rate is.
17503. Why was that piece taken off?
—The schoolhouse was built on my croft.
17504. Don't you know what the school rate of the parish is ?
17505. What stock can you keep?
—Two cows, a stirk, and five sheep.
17506, Is your lot about the same size as those of most of the crofters at Maravaig?
—Mine is rather above the average. There are a few larger, but there are a great many smaller.
17507. Wrhat is the highest rent paid in the place?
17508. What is the lowest that you know?
—About £ 1 .
17509. Are there any of the crofters that have no cows ?
—Yes, without cow or sheep.
17510. How many?
—There is one man in that condition.
17511. Have the cottars auy cow or other stock ?
17512. Have all of them a cow?
—I cannot say for all of them, but some of them certainly have.
17513. Are they all fishermen, both crofters and cottars?
17514. Do they fish at home about the coasts and lochs?
17515. What sort of fishing?
—Cod and ling, and sometimes herring.
17516. Are they at the Stornoway fishing just now?
17517. Have they any of the big boats like the east coast ones?
—Most of them have big boats.
17518. How many men in each boat?
—Five, and sometimes six.
17519. Do those boats belong to themselves?
—There are some of them that are secured by the curers, others are swallowed up in debt; some of them are their own property.
17520. What is the cost of a boat of that size?
17521. With all the nets?
—Without the nets. It is the boat with mast and sail, but without nets.
17522. Is it with the Stornoway curers that you deal?
17523. Is there any one in Maravaig who takes the fish from you?
—No, but they sometimes have a curing station for cod and ling. They used to have a curing station for herring, but the herring have left the place and they have withdrawn the station.
17524. What do you get for the fish ?
—8d. and 10d. for a ling and 4d. and 6d. for a cod.
17525. Do they know what price they are to get for fish when they begin the fishing ?
—Yes, we make our bargain at that time.
17526. Are they obliged to take meal or anything else instead of money from the curer ?
—The man who is able to make his own purchases independently of the curer can go where he pleases to purchase, and the curer pays him in money.
17527. What do those curers charge for a boll of meal?
—I have not bought a boll of meal from the curers myself for a long time, but what I hear said is that the meal that is purchased for 20s. is given out on credit for 24s., and sometimes as high as 28s.
17528. Do the curers charge the same price ready money as other shops do ?
—Yes, they sell it for the same price as a shop for ready money.
17529. When do you know the price for the meal?
—Some know the price at the time they take away the meal, and some do not.
17530. When do you settle generally?#
—There are different times at which these settlements are made. For the herring fishing they make a settlement before they go to the east coast fishing, but for the cod and ling fishing they very often make a settlement when they return from the east coast fishing, about the autumn.
17531. Do you keep pass-books?
—Many of them do. Many of them keep no account either of what they sell or buy. They have entirely to trust to the curer, only their own memory assists them more or less.
17532. Do they sometimes complain of mistakes being made?
—They sometimes do.
17533. The Chairman.
—Is there any land near which you could get to extend your present holdings ?
—Nothing nearer than the Park.
17534. Does Park march with you?
—No, the townships of both Gravir and Garivard come in between us and the march with Park.
17535. Then all you want is that the cottars shall be removed, and a place found for them ?
—Even if that were done, the place would not be comfortable unless some of the crofters were removed as well.
17536. How many of the crofters would you like to see removed?
—It would make perhaps twelve families comfortable.
17537. Then twenty-three would have to be removed ?
—Yes, that is quite the case, before those who remained would be comfortably off.
17538. How long is it since the population there rose above twelve families ?
—My memory does not go so far back; there were six lots originally.
17539. Were there not more than twelve families living on the place at the time of the allotment?
—It was made into twenty-three lots. I believe when it was in six lots there were two families to every lot, and I believe there were even more.
17540. How long is it since the school was built on the land taken from you ?
—About four years ago.
17541. Have you lost that piece of your land for four years without having got a settlement about the rent ?
—There have been four years, and there has not been a complete settlement of rent since that time.
17542. Was £ 2, 6s. the rent before any land was taken away for the schoolhouse ?
17543. Do you think there has been any reduction made since that time?
—I heard I got 5s. of reduction. I heard that from my neighbour, who got 5s. of abatement for a bit that he lost in connection with the building of the schoolhouse.
17544. Did you never ask the factor whether you were to get any reduction ?
—Well, the chamberlain and myself differed about the crops. I sowed the place after the site was marked out, because I did not know when the schoolhouse would be built, and I went with the rent and paid it, and I cropped it again, and I did not know that I was to be disturbed in any way uutil I could remove the crops from the ground. Then they came and cut down my crop. Well, I brought two constables to look at it, and they valued the damage at £ 4 , 10s. This was within the fence. Well, the chamberlain would pay me no portion of this amount. I then went to the contractor who built the school. I asked him if he would pay me. He said it was the chamberlain who ought to pay that amount,—was I so blind as to think it was his business to pay it,—that it was his duty to pay for a school site for them ? That was the cause of the difference with respect to the rent.
17545. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—With regard to the surplus people here, are they willing to pay a fair rent if they got a piece of the Park ?
—I don't think that anybody would expect anything else than to pay a reasonable rent.
17546. Would they expect the proprietor to do anything additional in the way of buildings or otherwise, if they got suitable places ?
—So far as I judge, I don't know that they have much expectation of that from the proprietrix.
17547. Would they be willing to do that at their own cost if they got a suitable places at a moderate rent ?
—Yes, they would.
17548. The Chairman.
—What do you mean by a reasonable rent ? Do you mean such a rent as the sheep farmer pays ?
—So far as I have heard of the rents that the sheep farmers pay, I believe that the crofters would be willing to pay an equal rent
17549. Would they consider it a reasonable rent?
—I can only speak for myself in that matter. My own view would be to value the land, and have a reasonable rent placed upon it by people appointed by both the proprietor and Government.
17550. Mr Cameron.
—What would you do with all the high land in the interior of the farm in that event ?
—I don't think that the people would covet it. They would leave it with the deer as they had it of old.
17551. Do you think the tacksman would covet it either if the low land was taken away ?
—Well, the fact is that I was myself for a long time in this Park, and I saw that the sheep and deer herded there together, and the people were paying their own rent in proportion to the amount of ground they occupied. [Question repeated.] I don't think the tacksman would covet the place without having the up-lands as well as the low land.
17552. But would he take the up-land without the low land?
—I cannot say, but my opinion is that he would.
17553. But you said just now that you would not covet it?
—It is he who would covet the hills if only he got low land as well.
17554. The Chairman.
—How would you propose to utilise the high land if the crofters only took the low land ?
—The former tenants of Park were very well off when they had the up-land as well as the low land. Aldinish, of which you have spoken, was a small township. There were only three tenants in it, and when they left it they took away twentythree cows each out of it.
17555. Then do you think the crofters would be willing to take the uplands as well as the low lands at the present rent ?
—That is a hard question, but if once they got upon their feet they would be glad to do so; I mean if they got assistance.
17556. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—As you were in Park, can you give us the names of some of the cleared townships that have not been already enumerated ? Do you know Caolas-an-eilan ?
17558. Bunachoreavig ?
17560. Cean-na-voir ?
—I don't know the west side.
17561. Can you give any more names'?
17562. Gilavicphaig ?
17563. Sgealadale-vaig ?
17564. Sgealadale-more ?
17567. Chulcbreag ?
17568. Can you give us any more that were cleared ?
—The shepherd with whom I was employed would name at least thirty.
17569. Have you any idea what number of people were removed?
—I have no idea.
17570. Would there be 100?
—I believe there would be, but I have no knowledge whatever of the west side.
17571. Is there any person living who knows ?
17572. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have said that you went to the contractor who built the school and asked him if he would pay you, and that he said it was the chamberlain who ought to pay you, and that it was not his (the contractor's), business to do so ?
17573. Now we understand from that evidence that the contractor gave you no money ?
—He gave me no money, and he said it was not he who ought to supply me with money.
17574. Do you say distinctly that you got no money for the crop from the contractor who built the school ?