WILLIAM MACKAY, Chamberlain on the Lewis Estates—re-examined.
17265. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to make to us?
—I stated at Uig that no person who might come forward and state their grievances would suffer anything in consequence. I thought perhaps the Chairman would have mentioned it at Breasclete, and I did not do it there. I was not asked about it, neither was I asked at Barvas; but I gave such an assurance at Ness, and now I give it here. It was said at Stornoway that there were certain townlands taken from the townspeople. It is the case that they occupied land at one time—tradesmen, merchants, and others in the town of Stornoway—on which they grew potatoes. They also had a great number of cows. That was done away with. They began to give up the lands at that time on account of the failure of the potatoes; and I have to mention that in 1849, on account of these lands held by townspeople, there was £500 of irrecoverable arrears wiped off. Now, what was done with that land ? A portion was added to the manor farm, and a portion made into parks round the town, still let to townspeople. A portion was converted into pleasure grounds, made over to Stornoway. Two of them are immediately behind Bay Head, and for the approach to the castle a portion had to be taken off a feu to the extent of 27 poles, for which £325 was paid. Then it was said the people were in doubt whether those removed from the Bay Head houses ever got compensation. I can say that they did,—those who came into the town,—and others were provided with new crofts outside the town. I wish to explain my own views with regard to this waste land outside townships, which we have been told is called cultivated. I have here a plan of a small place such as they described down at Bayble. A man stated it was taken from them. Now, it was only given to the existing tenants to extend their lots out into this back ground themselves. They did so, and the rest of the township immediately complained on account of the trouble it would give them to go round a certain piece with their cattle. There is a great deal of such land farther along, and complaint is made that the crofters are not allowed to get it. New tenants are not allowed to get it, but these old tenants are allowed to extend out there, and leave the lower portions of their lots under grass. I have just one other remark to make. I mentioned a good many things which Sir James Matheson did, and which I considered were for the benefit of the island, and I may mention some things which Lady Matheson has done. In addition to £1500 given to the destitution fund, she supplied potatoes to the extent of £100 privately to the people, of which no notice has hitherto been taken. She expends £58 for each parish in private charity—clothing and the like of that. She also sent the Volunteers at her own expense to the Review at Edinburgh. She kept the Reserve men while the Duke of Edinburgh was here; and she contributed to the boat disaster fund. I have not the amount. Lately she sent six men to the Fishery Exhibition at her own expense, to whom she paid wages at the rate of 20s. per week, and it cannot be said that she is behind with her subscriptions on any occasion. I have also to say that there has not been a case brought before you of a man not getting compensation for a house, or who was deprived of a house without getting
compensation. Another thing I may mention is, that all the crofters, and tacksmen as well, are supplied with tiles for draining free.
17266. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You mentioned that there were some parks about Stornoway now at the disposal of the townspeople ?
—They are permanently let to the townspeople, and on these parks they have some cattle.
17267. How many are there?
—I cannot tell just now.
17268. You do not know the total acreage?
17269. Or the rent?
—The rent of some of them is pretty high—perhaps as high as £2 per acre. It is good pasture.
17270. Could not the giving out of the grass parks be enlarged with advantage to the estate when a tack falls in?
—It would not be enlarged unless they encroached upon the Goat-hill farm or the manor farm.
17271. Is the Goat-hill farm in the proprietor's hands?
—No ; it is let to a tenant.
17272. And that is the only part really that could be given off, if it were thought advisable to do so ?
17273. Mr Cameron.
—The large farm of Park is now in Lady Matheson's hands ?
17274. How did it come to be in her hands?
—The lease is out.
17275. Did she try to let it again?
17276. Did you advertise it ?
17277. Did you get an offer for it?
—Not as a farm.
17278. The Chairman.
—I have heard it stated that small tenants applied for that farm ?
17279. What did they offer for it?
—There was not a formal offer made. They asked if they would get part of it.
17280. What is the rent of it ?
—The grazing rent of it is £850.
17281. Did they give you any reason to suppose that they would be able to pay such a rent ?
—We never came to question of rent at all.
17282. Why did you not come to question of rent?
—Because we refused to let the place to crofters.
17283. You thought it would be inexpedient to put crofters there?
—It was thought so.
17284. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Has Lady Matheson power to set a lease for a period of years ?
—For nineteen years.
17285. Professor Mackinnon.
—Was this the reason you did not entertain the crofter's offer, that the farm was not considered suitable for a crofting farm ?
—Yes, that was what was considered—that it was not suitable for crofters. There was not an offer; it was an application.
17286. But your reason for declining to entertain the application was that you did not consider the farm suitable for that class of tenants ?
—Yes, and that more could be got for it otherwise.
17287. You thought the question had not reached the stage of rent?
—It did not.
17288. The consideration did not go to the extent of the question of rent at all ?