Rev. ANGUS MACIVER, Minister of the Established Church (50)—examined.
14161. The Chairman.
—You have been elected a delegate for the township of Islavaig?
—Yes. That township is at the other end of the parish contiguous to Braenish.
14162. How long have you been in Lewis?
—I am a native of the Lewis. I have been some twenty-eight years resident in the Lewis.
14163. Have you been a farmer yourself, or held lands in your own hands?
—No, I cultivate my own glebe.
14164. So you have some practical knowledge of country affairs ?
14165. Is it within your knowledge that, in consequence of the overcrowding and continual cropping, the land of the small holdings is deteriorating in quality and productive power?
14166. Have you long remarked that ?
—Yes, it would produce no crops were they not forced with manure.
14167. The manure is entirely sea-weed?
—No, not entirely.
14168. Farm-yard manure ?
14169. Do they import any lime, or have you any in the island?
14170. Have you any knowledge of any case in which lime has been applied to the soil here ?
—No; I applied a little to the sandy soil on my glebe, but I don't know that any of the crofters use it.
14171. You have heard the evidence which has been given here to-day?
—Yes, except the chamberlain's, which I could not hear very well. I heard part of it.
14172. You have heard it stated that at a period comparatively remote, generally before the time when Sir James Matheson became proprietor of the lands, there were a number of evictions and consolidation of small holdings for the sake of sheep farms. Do you think that course was carried so far as to inflict a permanent injury upon the condition of the population ?
—I have no doubt whatever.
14173. Do you think, if the proprietor were inclined to restore a portion of the consolidated land, either in the form of common grazing or arable ground, the people would be willing and able to take it up, stock it, and bring it under cultivation in the form of enlarged holdings ?
—Well, my idea is that the crofters could not in the meantime. They have got into such a depressed state that they could not stock the waste land unless they were helped by Government, and I don't know whether that would be feasible or not. But it struck me that the only way in which the families here could come to a position in which they would be able to stock the ground and pay their rents is this, that there should be a scale—if the people, for instance, were to get a £5 lot, and give them half a dozen of years of a scale, to pay for the first year £2, 10s., for the second £3, and so on till the scale was completed, from then revert to the £ 5 originally assigned to the lotter. That is the only way in which I think they would get on in that direction, unless Government did something.
14174. You would advise an improving lease with a gradually ascending scale of rent ?
14175, Supposing the proprietor were inclined to enter upon a course of that nature, and enlarged the holdings of the small tenants, do you think that the whole population of the island could be permanently provided for in that form without the additional resource and remedy of emigration and improved fishing communities, and so on, or do you think it would be necessary to employ various means for their improvement ?
—I have thought over the subject very minutely, and I have come to the conclusion that the whole population of the island, which is very great notwithstanding the present position of things, if the rents were brought down, and something of that kind adopted, would likely come to be perfectly comfortable ; so far as I can make out, crofters should be comfortable. I have no doubt in my own mind, after careful consideration on that subject, that as crofters they would be perfectly comfortable; and along with education, if the education is properly worked, and the land is divided in some form or other, where the people could settle down upon it,—on arable and grazing land,—I have no doubt the present population could be accommodated well enough.
14176. And live in an improved condition on the land ?
—Yes. I have made this a subject of conversation with intelligent people in the parish. Mr Mackay has given different statistics; but the conclusion was that the deer forests and sheep farms occupied about two-thirds of the land, and that the sheep farms are undoubtedly the best grazing land, and in summer no doubt the deer forest is equally good. We have in the parish about 4000 souls, and if the estimate of these people is correct, these 4000 people have to live on one-third of the land of the parish. Mr Mackay has different statistics.
14177-8. Mr Mackay has given us the acreage of three different categories of land,—land held under crofters, land held by tacksmen, and land held as deer forests—and he has stated they are calculated upon the Government survey. Have you any ground for doubting the accuracy of that statement ?
—No; I am not going to dispute Mr Mackay's figures.
14179. You have also stated that the land occupied by the deer forests and the tacksmen was by far the best land, but you qualified that with reference to the deer forest ?
—Yes, the deer forest is now for summer grazing, not much for winter. I believe at one time, my forefathers really wintered the cattle out on the Morsgiel deer forest, and brought them home about the end of winter, and put them into the islands.
14180. You say you think that the people could all live in comparative comfort on the land in the parish, if it were properly parcelled out among them ?
14181. But that opinion was formed under the impression that they were now living on one-third, but according to Mr Mackay they are living on more than one-half. If that were so, would not your opinion be materially altered ?
—Well, I allow Mr Mackay's figures to take their own place, but I know every inch of the parish. I know every farm and I know the cottar's places, and the deer forests, and I simply make a calculation in my own mind as to the extent of the country. If we leave this church, and go along to Islavaig, there are about ten miles of coast land all along there. Now, here is a population of about six hundred people into a narrow place, and I find there is only a space of about a mile in extent for that number of people. There are other sheep farms —there is Mr Mackenzie, Linshader, who pays between £500 and £600 of rent.
14182. Still you don't dispute the acreage furnished by Mr Mackay?
—No, I am not going to dispute his figures.
14183. Then, granting for the moment that, according to your scheme, the whole crofting population could be for the present comfortably accommodated on existing land in the parish, what do you think with reference to the natural increase of the population ? What would become of them in the next generation?
—My opinion is that what has taken place in the past will never recur, and my reasons are these. When I knew the parish first there were very few people who could speak English. Now there are a great many who can speak English. I find also that now the people are leaving, the country more than they did formerly. I find that there is hardly any who are properly educated who remain on land. They move off to other places. The only difficulty in that case is the poverty of the parents, in giving them encouragement. If the Education Act is properly worked, along with the material comfort for the people, I have no fear in my own mind of the consequences. I believe the thing will ease itself.
14184. You think that, in consequence of increasing intelligence in the next generation, the congestion of the people would be relieved in a natural manner?
—Yes ; and I go even further ; I go further, and say that this island would become scarcer of people.
14185. With the increasing intelligence?
—Yes; but of course, if the people are left in this depressed state, educate them as you may, there is no possibility of their moving. Suppose a boy comes of age, what has he to do ? He must simply take the end of the oar; there is no alternative. Let the people be put into a comfortable position, and their children will undoubtedly move off. That is the natural tendency of the young men here.
14186. But in the course of the process you advise, the larger tenantry or tacksmen would be wiped out entirely ?
—Yes, that is the case.
14187. Do you think there would be no disadvantage in removing almost all the persons of superior education and intelligence belonging to the middle classes of the country ?
—The fact is, these are not intelligent at all. The man who pays a rent of between £500 and £600 in this parish cannot write a letter, and most of the other farmers in the parish are equally behind. I say with the greatest confidence, that a great number of those crofters are far above them in intelligence. I have no hesitation in saying that. A further grievance is that these people have been introduced into the island,—all strangers to the island,—and it has always been a grievance to the natives that they have been put down here, and that it is they who are taken into the favour of the people of the estate.
14188. You mean that all the tacksmen and larger farmers in this parish are persons of foreign extraction ?
—Yes, and all of inferior education.
14189. Have they done nothing at all to improve the breed of cattle and sheep in the country ?
—I suppose so. Mr Mackenzie, Linshader, has a very good stock of cattle.
14190. Are they of no use in local administration as forming members of boards ?
—Yes. They are just put on to these boards because they are sheep farmers—because of their position in that respect—not on account of their intelligence.
14191. Do they give any work to the cottars or labouring classes ?
—They give two or three men work at smearing sheep in the autumn.
14192. Are they generally kind to, and on kindly terms with the poor tenants ?
—I suppose they are much about what ordinary neighbours are. That is all I can say. The people simply visit them, as they visit one another.
14193. Your memory probably extends thirty or forty years back here. What change in the circumstances and condition of the people do you observe ?
—There is a great increase in the population. That is one thing. Another this, that I was brought up seventeen years of my life in the island of Bernera, and there is scarcely any improvement in the circumstances of these people—in their houses or anything else. They are never looked after. Their houses are never cared for by the people of the estate. The houses of these farmers are attended to, and roads are made to their places, but none of that attention is given to the crofters, and I find the houses are as far behind to-day as I can remember.
14194. Do you find no substantial change in the character of the crofters' houses ?
—I find that the people are improving their own houses, but there has been no encouragement given to these people since I remember. I know that by their own exertions and their own work, and any means they have, it is wonderful to me the improvement they have made on their houses. I will say that for the people in my own parish. I believe in other parishes in the island they are not so far advanced.
14195. Do you observe any change in their dress or food?
—Yes. They dress more gaudily, but we don't grudge them that.
14196. Are they better dressed than they were at a former period?
14197. What about their food?
—Their food is not so substantial as it was. The food is tea and bread, and if they, happen to get fish, but there is no meat. I remember when the people used to kill their cattle and sheep regularly at Martinmas. Now they cannot afford to do it. They don't eat substantial food ; and I find that the young people cannot stand hard work as they used to do. I find a good many of the young people have lung complaints by hard work in connection with boating, and other things,—and that was scarcely known when I was a boy.
14198. Are any of the children prevented from going to school for want of clothes, or are any of the adults prevented going to church for want of clothes ?
14199. Do you know if there is a want of bedding in the houses?
14200. Is it still the custom to manufacture cloth to a great extent in the houses, or is that going out ?
—They do manufacture cloth, but a great many of them have no material.
14201. Could they not buy the wool in the country?
14202. Do you think the habit of weaving in the houses has diminished, or is it sustained ?
—They send a good deal of wool away to Greenock and Wick, and other places to be manufactured. They find it more profitable. But they do weave still.
14203. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You are a native of the island of Bernera?
—I came there when I was one year old.
14204. And for some time you have taken a material interest in the condition of the people ?
14205. Do you approve of the demand they generally make, and which we have found in other places, that there is a necessity for getting larger holdings ?
— Undoubtedly I do ; I think it is the only remedy.
14206. Although there maybe a minimum croft for some people, would you have a gradation of crofts in order that the more enterprising and wealthy of them might rent crofts up to £30 or £40 ?
—Yes. The only danger is that it would throw out too many, who would come on the island as a burden.
14207. Then what is the maximum rent of the croft you would consider right ?
—Well, it struck me that if Lewis were put into the position in which it was in 1843, and the island reduced to this.—given out in lots ranging from £4 to £6 or £7,—that would make them perfectly comfortable.
14208. You made a remark, in answer to Lord Napier, that the big tacksmen are nearly all strangers to the island of Lewis
14209. Can you say that that class of people have been of any particular benefit to the island or to the parish?
14210. What is the population of Uig?
—About 3500, I think; it is not 4000, at any rate.
14211. You also stated you were well acquainted with the whole parish ?
14212. And you are prepared to assert, of your own observation, that the lands in the hands of the tacksmen are much more productive than those in the hands of the crofters
—Yes, except Valtos, where but for overpopulation the grazing would be equally good. I think the sheep farmers have the best grazings in the parish, apart from that. But it is just reduced from the over-population.
14213. Have you any idea of the number of acres, once under cultivation, which are now under sheep in the large farms and not under cultivation
—Yes, in sight of my manse there are three townships that used to be well cultivated.
14214. I presume you cannot condescend on the number of acres, but you can say they are very considerable
14215. And their utility as a corn-producing country is lost?
14216. From the chamberlain we had 63,000 acres occupied by crofters, 39,000 occupied by large farms, and 18,000 under the forests, so they are about equally divided into two. Putting the whole altogether, it would make 120,000 acres for the parish of Uig. There are 4000 of a population. Surely 120,000 acres are fit to support 4000 people in comfort ?
14217. And a good many more?
—We could take a good many more from other parts of the island.
14218. So that in reality the figures of the chamberlain don't alter the conclusions you have come to ?
—No, undoubtedly not.
14219. Could you name anything that has been done for the crofter population in this parish on the part of the proprietor—anything directly for their benefit—within the last twenty years ? What money has been expended, and in what form, if any ?
—I don't know. I got a subscription of £10 from Lady Matheson to build a church in Bernera, and that is all I know of for the last twenty years.
14220. That is all you can say as to direct benefit
14221. We have been told there is a good deal of consumption of tea at present, and we have heard in other places that there is a scarcity of milk. Does that scarcity exist in this parish?
—Very, very much.
14222. Is that not a serious disadvantage to children in their upbringing?
—Yes, they don't look like children at all.
14223. Mr Cameron.
—You mentioned that the people were in a very distressed state. May I ask whether that state has been going on gradually, and since when you have noticed it? —It is going on gradually, and it is in a very critical condition this year. For instance, I made up a calculation last week with the fish-curers in this parish, and I find there are thirty-six large fishing boats that cost about £110 each, and a crew of eight men for each, and after I made a calculation I found from the fishcurers that they only made out eight and a half months. Now, of course, the charge of laziness will be brought against them; but to prove they are not lazier than other people, there is a boat that came from the east coast to fish at Valtos three months ago—a much larger boat than the Valtos boats. They are there for three months; and I find some of the Valtos boats have beat them. That is just owing to the boisterous nature of the sea and the currents, and I must say for those people that they show the greatest courage in facing the sea. They get up at two in the morning sometimes in winter. I only make that remark to show that this depressed state of things has not come upon the people by any fault of their own. Their boats have been launched for the last six months, and they have not been able to fish even what would be able to keep one individual alive during that time.
14224. Do you think they are more depressed than they were ten years ago
14225. And you think that ten years ago they were more depressed than they were twenty years ago
14226. Then the depression has been going on gradually?
14227. And you attribute that in a great measure to the increase of the population, and the want of means of subsistence
14228. I suppose that increase of population arises chiefly from natural causes, from the subdivision of the holdings ?
14229. How do you account for the people not discovering for themselves that this constant subdivision and increase of the population would be sure to lead to these lamentable results
—I do not think they calculated in that way ; it has been going on gradually and very slowly.
14230. Don't you think it might occur to them, that if their grown-up sons would either go away to the mainland or emigrate, that would be for their interest and happiness!
—They are so attached to each other—that is one reason; and another reason is that families cannot exist in a poor state if you take away the strong part of the family. The rest will crumble down. They have no people to pay the rents, and the one supports the other. I believe that is the reason for this state of things—not but that they would move off. The fact is, many of these young men require all their earnings to keep themselves and their parents and friends in life, and they have no money laid by. They simply keep alive, and in a very short time they have no money at all.
14231. I gather from what you stated in answer to the Chairman, that you think that in process of time, when the people become more educated, they will see that the subdivision of the land and increase of the population is not for their benefit
—They will see two things, I think. They will see they will be better off in other parts of the world, and they will be encouraged by their circumstances to move away to other places, to better parts of the world. I find in my own experience, in the school we have been teaching in Valtos, that, after fourteen years' absence, very few of the young men are there now. Some are away in England and America, and making fortunes there. Another striking feature is that those in very poor circumstances don't go off. I find they are still fishermen here.
14232. You don't seem to have a very high opinion of the intelligence of the tacksmen and large farmers; and therefore I won't ask you if they have done anything to teach the people to better themselves. But I will ask if the ministers have ever endeavoured to persuade them how much better it would be for their grown-up sons to betake themselves either to the south or some other country to better themselves
—I can speak for myself. In the presence of 1500 lately, I said to them on the platform that from my knowledge of the world I would only be in the Lewis till I could get away.
14233. Do you think the gentlemen of your cloth, so far as you are aware, follow that course
—-I don't know.
14234. Did I understand you to say that £4 to £6 crofts would make the people perfectly comfortable ?
—Yes, at a reduction of rent.
14235. We will call it a fair rent You think a fair rent of £4 to £6 would enable a family to live in comfort without any outside land ?
—Yes, of course, that would mean a very considerable reduction of rent. I understand that the rents in Lewis are more than doubled, between shootings and farmers and everything else, and if 50 per cent, or less were taken off, and then give the people holdings of £5, they would be perfectly comfortable.
14236. Have you been reading in the newspapers the evidence which has been laid before the Commission in other parts of the Western Islands ?
14237. Have you noticed that crofters in several cases have stated to us that these crofts of the size they had, even though they got them free, would still be insufficient to enable them to earn a livelihood
—I am not sure I saw it exactly in that form.
14238. Now, as to this scheme of yours, of dividing the large farms. I suppose under your scheme the rents would be very considerably reduced to the proprietor
14239. Have you formed any idea how much they would be reduced?
—I took it in a comprehensive way of looking at the total population of Lewis, which is now in a critical state, I formed the idea that if they are to come out of this it must be by a great reduction of rents, and giving them the lands, and then things will come right,
14240. But have you made any calculation by what amount it would be necessary to reduce the rents
—~I have said already, by one half.
14241. Do I understand you to mean the proprietor would get half as much rent for a large farm if it were subdivided among crofters
—Yes, that is as far as I would go.
14242. Does that include the expense of building houses and making fences
—They would need to do their own houses. If they got it at that reduction, I should think they would be bound to build their own houses.
14243. If they are so depressed, do you think they would have capital sufficient to build houses and stock the land
—They are endeavouring as it is.
14244. But with holdings on a larger scale, would they be able to do it
—Well, that is the only way I see they could stock it. I don't see how they are to stock it unless Government came forward and took some scale such as I have indicated.
14245. So your plan is that the rent of the large farms should be reduced by half, and that the Government should besides assist the crofters to stock their land, and to go to the necessary expense beyond their own labour in building houses and reclaiming land ?
14246. By what process do you think you could induce the proprietor to make this sacrifice ?
—Well, I have thought of that, and I have been thinking as to what should be done between the two evils. Here I find these people, either through the mismanagement of the estate people or whoever have brought them to this—I find these people been driven away and forced into corners, and if that has come about under the management of the proprietor, and the people are in this stage that something must be done, they must make some sacrifice for those people who are actually being sacrificed in the meantime, for somebody must come to suffer. Of course, I grant it would be so far a loss to Lady Matheson.
14217. But how would you bring it about?
—I don't know unless you legislate upon it
14248. But what form should legislation take? It would be very difficult to make the proprietor reduce the rent of his farms by Act of Parliament
—I don't know. I don't see any difficulty about that. I look upon land as different property from anything else, that is my starting point, and I look to the comfort of these people first.
14249. You have not formed any definite plan of how it should be done ?
—I have not drafted a Bill.
14250. The Chairman.
—How do you propose to arrive at a fair rent?
—I would just arrive at it in that way. If I take the Lewis, and look at the state of the case, I would say it was rented a half too much for the people if they are to be comfortable as crofters. Of course, if they are to live from hand to mouth,]as they are now, it could be left at anything you please.
14251. Mr Cameron.
—But you mentioned that overcrowding was caused by their own action. How can you say now that it arises from the bad management of the estate?
—I charge them both with it. I say that the proprietor and the croftere are both at fault. The crofters were breaking through the regulations of the estate. I don't say whether that is right or wrong ; but I find the proprietors have allowed it, and that being so I have simply to face the question as it stands.
14252. Don't you think, if encouragement were given in some way or other to the proprietor to allow some of the lands which are now occupied by large farmers to revert to the crofters without any compulsion such as you indicate, the people would be in the position of being able to take advantage of it, and so greatly increase their holdings and diminish the number of people living in the present townships ?
—That is quite true so far as I can make out. That it would be a temporary relief, I have no doubt. Suppose the people were induced quietly to take these waste farms, they would likely resort to them, but my fear is that they would come back sooner.
14253. Professor Mackinnon.
—What would be the size of the croft for which you would consider £5 a fair rent ?
—Well, the land here is not, properly speaking, arable land.
14254. Take the stock of it?
—I would say six milk cows, fifty sheep, and a horse.
14255. Then to revert to the comprehensive survey you took of the island, what is the total population of the island?
—About 24,000, exclusive of Stornoway.
14256. That would be about 4000 families?
—I don't think it comes to so many.
14257. If it were about 4000 families, supposing you got a £ 5 croft for every family in Lewis, what would be the rent of the estate? Four thousand families at £ 5 would be £20,000. That is a bigger rent than the present?
14258. It is only £18,000 now, and you want the rent back to £10,000. Don't you see if you got the rent back to £10,000, as a matter of fact, the whole island, from end to end, would give only £2, 10s. a croft to every family, Stornoway excluded
—You need in that case just to make the rental smaller in proportion.
14259. I understood you had worked out the matter
—I just thought it out in my mind, but I did not work out the figures.
14260. If you require a £ 5 croft to maintain a family in comfort, that would give £20,000 of a rental, and the rental you would affix to the estate is only £10,000. I find there are 3811 families. Now, that would only give a £2, 10s. croft to each family
—Well, that would keep them all right.
14261. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The rent has nothing to do with it?
—The rent has nothing to do with it. It is the comfort of the people that I look to.
14262. Professor Mackinnon.
—You consider that a croft of £ 5 would be necessary for the comfort of the people
—That is perfectly true, so far as I knew at the time, without coming to figures; but what I mean is that the whole island, even with this population of crofters and cottars, the whole surface is quite sufficient. Reduce the rent by 50 per cent, to £10,000, and divide it between these 3811 families of crofters and cottars, and you will have a perfectly comfortable class of crofters.
14263. So instead of a £5 croft, you say that what would maintain a family in comfort would be the 4000th part of the surface of the island
—Yes; if the population is distributed over it, I am quite sure they will be all right.
14264. But you are quite convinced, at all events, that this parish is quite able to maintain its present population
14265. And you don't think it is to its advantage to have large farms at all
—No, I think, if they are continued, things will grow worse and worse.
14266. I understood you to make an objection to strangers immigrating into the island. What if Scotland should make the same difficulty—what would become of the Lewis ?
—The difficulty is that these strangers have been used to lord it over these people, and that they have been used as instruments to that effect.
14267. Are they all strangers
—There is just one native. I don't know there are more than two or three natives in the whole of the large farms on the island.
14268. You also stated it was your opinion that there should be a removal of some of the people. Should not the fact that some people are going away and doing well, and are able to maintain their people in more comfort than if they remained at home, influence the young men here to go away also
—Yes, and it has that tendency.
14269. Then how do you account for the population increasing year by year
—There are not a great many of them leaving.
14270. Why don't more of them go?
—But where will they go, and how will they go ? I see a number of young men here, and I don't know but I can count on my fingers the number who could bring themselves to Glasgow.
14271. But suppose they were assisted to go, do you think that would induce them to go ?
—I daresay it would induce some of them, but would you have the young men to leave and not families ?
14272. Would there be families willing to go if they were assisted?
—The state of feeling just now, so far as I can make out, in Lewis is to get the lands. I must tell the Commission that frankly. It is not emigration.
14273. Don't you think the two could go on together—emigration and getting the land
—I am afraid the people could not get it done just now. The land must be settled first. I think before you will get the others to go a foot. It is one in a thousand that will consent while such a movement is being made towards getting the land. There will be very little chance, until some arrangement is come to, of the two going on together.
14274. And you share in the feeling that till the land question is settled there should be no emigration
—I say I have no feeling in the matter. My feeling is to see the people get the very best done for them.
14275. Are you not convinced that, no matter what permanent arrangement of the land may be made, it would be of the greatest advantage to them and their families that a great many should emigrate ?
—No doubt of that. Having seen a great deal of Canada, I often say that to my people, and elsewhere.
14276. And any influence of yours you would use to encourage them to set it agoing ?
—If I could see that those people could be settled down with some degree of safety and comfort; but to take them in their present depressed state of circumstances, and bundle them off to the forests of Canada or to the plains of Manitoba, I would take no responsibility in that, unless I could see them fairly settled down and having some hold of the ground, because I know that in emigration which was carried on here thirty years ago to Canada very serious consequences took place.
14277. You would like a readjustment of the laud at home as well as emigration ?
—Yes, I would like any people who go to go voluntarily. But to use the slightest pressure upon them I would be no party to.
14278. I don't mean pressure—I mean suasion. When you know it is so much for their good, you would endeavour to use your influence, when a readjustment was made at home, to get them to face emigration
—I have been trying the use of suasion upon them for the last seven years, and what are the consequences ? None.
14279. The Chairman.
—But if the people saw there was a serious and substantial desire to afford means of improving their condition at home, do you think that would make others contemporaneously more inclined to emigrate, if they had encouragement to do so, and support in America
— Well, my idea of the state of feeling among the people is, that they would all see the land readjusted first before there was any movement. I mean to tell the Commission frankly the feeling of the people—-that the first thing they would like to see is the settlement of the land, but that some would move off contemporaneously with this arrangement I don't believe. I don't think that that is the feeling at all.
14280. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you think the people believe that if the land were entirely redistributed there would be enough for them?
—Yes, that is their feeling.
14281. Do you know any crofter in comfortable circumstances in this parish ?
14282. Could you name him?
—There is one crofter at Valtos—John Buchanan.
14283. What rent does he pay?—I don't know; but of course the comfort in connection with it is from the young men he has. He has three able-bodied young men who are fishermen, and work the land as well.
14284. But do you know any one in the parish who has sufficient land to be comfortable ?
—I am not aware just now. I mean that I would like to see the crofter so that he could pay his rent and feed his family as a crofter should do, and pay his way.
14285. I quite understand that. I merely want to know if you know of an instance of such a crofter in this parish ?
—Well, I cannot remember just now any one more than another. There was one brought forward to-day as a member of the school board—Mr Angus Gillies, Kirkibost. He is a comfortable crofter.
14286. Do you know what rent he pays
14287. Do you think that if all the other people in the island had similar crofts at £4, 10s. they would all be comfortable?
14288. And you think there is land enough in the island to give all those people similar crofts ?
—That is my decided settled opinion ; of course I have not gone into facts.
14289. And Mr Angus Gillies' croft is not too large
14290. The Chairman.
—It may be right to say that as you seem to be under the impression that the large farmers were all, except one, not natives of Lewis, a paper has been put into my hands stating there are seven farmers with above £30 of rental in the parish of Uig, and that four of them were born in the island of Lewis and three of them were born elsewhere
—The only one I know is a farmer in Mangersta—Mr Donald Mackay.
14291. Perhaps you mean by strangers persons of strange extraction?
—There may have been some of these born in the island. I understand what that is driving at. The fathers of these were the first who really depopulated the place, and the people look at the children of these as really not natives of the island.
14292. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Children of the stranger?
—Yes. I am only expressing the opinion of the parish, which I am bound to do as a native, and which has been in existence for the last fifty years in this
14293. In regard to emigration, you stated that a number of the people in this parish are supported by their children, who go away and earn money in other quarters ?
—Yes, to the east coast fishing.
14294. Then would it not be a cruel thing to send away those young men and deprive their parents of their support ?
14295. And if there is to be any emigration at all, I presume you are in favour of emigration by families who are willing to go?
—Yes, by families. Of course, my idea is this, that in the present state of the people emigration is out of the question—either the one way or the other—in the meantime.
14296. You were asked a question about what assistance the Government would give in the event of these crofts being enlarged. If any assistance were given, I presume you mean that in time the crofters would pay it back ?
—Yes, they are ready to repay it with interest.
14297. They don't expect to get eleemosynary aid?
14298. In your parish there are 120,000 acres and 4000 people—30 acres for each man, woman, and child—is that not sufficient ?
14299. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What do you mean by saying that emigration is out of the question at the present moment ? Suppose a wise and judicious scheme were organised, would that not be a great benefit to the island ?
—It would be a great benefit, granting you get the people to agree, and if you saw they were properly settled in the places where they were going.
14300. Have the results of former voluntary emigration—for there has been nothing but voluntary emigration within the memory of any of us—been satisfactory?—The results have been satisfactory so far as the circumstances of the people in America are concerned. They are in comfortable circumstances.
14301. A good many were removed by Sir James Matheson with their own will, and were very well provided for ?
—Well, I am not going to say as to that. Some people say it was voluntary. But there was a great deal of forcing, and these people were sent away very much against their will. That is very well known, and people present know that perfectly well. Of course, they were not taken in hand by the policemen and all that, but they were in arrears, and had to go, and remonstrated against going.
14302. Is there any particular reason why the people of Lewis more than those of the other Western Islands, or of Scotland, should be kept at home and not helped to populate our colonies ? Have they any particular claim to be astricted to their native soil ?
—No, but I don't want to see our colonies populated first, before we get our own land populated.
14303. Then when would you commence emigration from Lewis?
—Just when they commenced themselves, and there is a very serious difficulty in this island in this respect. For instance, we have 1600 Reserve men drilled in Stornoway. The country knows the eulogy pronounced upon them by the Duke of Edinburgh. I don't think he would like very well to see those people taken and sent away to other places.
14304. But does it follow that they would all need to go?
—If there was a removal, say of 2000 or 3000 of the inhabitants of Lewis, would there not still be a larger population in it than there ever was before?
—But is this emigration to be carried out on the same principle as it was thirty or forty years ago, to clear the ground, and not to give them lands which are waste in the meantime?
14305. If it were done with the view of giving more land to the people that were left, would not that be a benefit, even supposing you did not touch the big farmers at all ?
—I would like to answer that by asking how could it be done.
14306. The Chairman.
—By encouragement and by offering them favourable terms. I am not suggesting emigration without corresponding measures in the country for the benefit of the people who remain, but why should they not emigrate from an island like Bernera, with encouragement ?
—Well, I am telling the Commissioners what is in the minds of the people, and that they are not for that in the meantime. What they would have in the meantime is the lands at home, and for my part I cannot see that that is a wrong or an unjust demand.
14307. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—At half rent?
—Well, they want a reduction of rent.
14308. Fifty per cent, in fact?
14309. The Chairman.
—You say you have some experience of the colonies. What are the colonies to which you think the people of this country, having regard to their habits of industry at home, could emigrate to with the best advantage ?
—Lower Canada. I don't know further.
14310. Are there any portions of Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, or the countries nearer the seaboard, in which land could still be got in considerable areas and at moderate prices ?
—I think so.
14311. It seems to me that the climate at Manitoba is so severe, and so unlike the climate of this country, that it almost amounts to a hardship to send the people of this country there ; or do you think they would accommodate themselves to it ?
—From all I can gather, I don't think there is much difference between the climate of Manitoba and South Canada. I have been out in Lower Canada at 34° below zero.
14312. I think there is a great difference in the duration of the winter?
—Yes. If there is to be emigration from this place, and if they are disposed to go, so far as I am concerned, I would go at the head of 2000 of them to Manitoba.
14313. Don't you think Australia and New Zealand offer some advantages superior to Canada ?
—Yes, but the distance is so very great. I understand it costs about £100 to send a family to Australia.
14314. And it would perhaps cost £40 to send them to Canada