Obe, Harris, 31 May 1883 - Thomas Brydone

THOMAS BRYDONE (27)—examined.

13384. The Chairman.
—You are local factor for Lord Dunmore?

13385. How long have you been factor?
—Six months only.

13386. You have not had much time then to ascertain the wishes or condition of the people ?

13387. Has there been anything said to-day in your presence on which you wish to make any remark ?
—No, I don't thiuk there is. As far as the crofts are concerned there seems to be some misunderstanding, because the blame seems to be laid on the proprietors and factors as to the size of the crofts. A crofter, in general, if he keeps a croft, in most cases divides it with some of his sons, who get married, without the consent of the proprietor or factor. It stands to reason that a whole croft will carry one family better than two or three, divided up, and I think if only one family lived on a croft they could make a comfortable living, but it is the cottar that ruins them, and it is cottars who deteriorate the land by constant cropping; and with the most of the laud, if there were only one family on it, they could leave perhaps a little of the land out for two or three years, and leave it under grass, and then bring it in again.

13388. Then you think the subdivision of the crofts has generally been the result of the people settling their own children upon them ?

13389. Are you aware whether in former times the proprietors have made systematic efforts to provide for the younger branches of these families elsewhere ?
—I don't know, but I think young men ought to have enough courage in themselves to go forth, as I have doue myself, and many a one besides. It is much better than getting married and settling down on an acre of land.

13390. Can you tell us the nature of the relief works which Lord Dunmore has provided with a view to the present necessities of the country ?
—Draining, fencing, and building dykes, repairing piers, and so on.

13391. We heard from Mr Davidson a great complaint about the want of a road along the eastern shore of the island. Has that want been brought to your knowledge ?
—There has been nothing said to me about it; I know the road, at least the most of it.

13392. Is it now in a very bad state ?
—Yes; there was a road made part of the way at one time, but it is mostly all broken up. It is not passable for vehicles.

13393. Has any of the recent work been bestowed on that road?

13394. Would it be very useful?
—Well, they have got no horses on the east side of the island, and they mostly do all their work with boats. Unless for foot passengers, I don't think it would do much good. They could have ponies, certainly, if the road were made. They could not take a pony there now, but if they had it right they could.

13395. In other parts of the islands are wheeled carriages used?
—Only along the main road to Tarbert.

13396. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you in a separate district of roads ? Who has the charge of the roads ?
—The trustees here. I am not sure, but I think Mr Macdonald, Scarista-vore, has something to do with it.

13397. Is Harris a district of itself, or is it connected with the Long Island ?
—I cannot say.

13398. You have stated that for the subdivision of crofts you hold the landlords are not responsible in any way ?
—I cannot say, but in most cases they are not in the meantime.

13399. Have you seen any estate regulations bearing upon the management of farms and crofts ? Is there such a thing ?
—I have not seen such a thing.

13400. For the work which has been given by the Dunmore family, do the people seem to have been very thankful and wUling to get it ?

13401. Was it paid in money, or put to account of arrears?
—It was paid in money.

13402. Probably there would be cottars who would not be much in arrears?
—Some of the cottars get money also.

13403. If they were not in arrear they would get the money?

13404. Are you authorised to intimate, or are you aware, that there are any further improvements or expenditure going on on the estate ?
—Well there may be, I expect, in another year.

13405. But you don't know what the nature of those may be ?

13406. The Chairman.
—What value is the labour here, compared with the labour in Aberdeenshire? Do the people work as much or do as much ?
—No, and they are not paid aa much.

13407. For a long day's work in the summer, what are the common wages of the people here?
—Twelve shillings to fifteen shillings a week for common labour.

13408. And you would be paying in Aberdeenshire from 18s. to 20s ?
—Yes, they get from 18s. to 25s.

13409. Do you think the amount of wages has much to do with the amount of work done ? Is it the custom of the country ?
—Well, I think they are fully as well paid on the mainland as they are here.

13410. I mean, if you give a man higher wages, will he do more work ?
—No, I don't think he will.

13411. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do the family, either one or other of the members of it, live here a good part of the year ?
—Yes, his Lordship lives pretty often here.

13412. Will he live here four or six months of the year, in the course of the whole year ?
—I can only speak of the time I have been here myself, but he has been here I may say a few months since last Martinmas.

13413. But he is always here every year?
—Yes, and he stays some time, and he knows the most of the crofters, and takes a great interest in them.

13414. Does he speak Gaelic?
—Yes he can speak Gaelic.

13415. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Can you speak Gaelic yourself?

13516. The Chairman.
—How did you learn it?
—I was born in the south of Aberdeenshire, and I was brought up in Athole, where there was nothing but Gaelic spoken, and I was obliged to learn it.

13417. Sheriff Nicolson.
—And you find it a decided advantage to know it, to make what you intend to convey to the natives clear ?
—Yes, it is not suitable for one in my position to be without Gaelic in this country.

13418. Don't you think there might be a great injustice done without any intention, through people not understanding what was attempted to be conveyed to them in a language they did not understand ?
—Yes, I quite believe it.

13419. The Chairman.
-What do you think are the prospects of planting in this country; do you think it will be possible to establish any plantations ?
—I think it would never pay.

13420. But without paying, would they grow?
—Well, in some parts of the island they would; in sheltered places they grow very well.

13421. But you don't think it could be a source of profit or improvement to the island ?
—I don't think it would.

13422. Do you think that much good could be done by fencing—by the erection of stone fences ?
—I don't know where they are required much. Wire fences would be more suitable for marches in this country.

13423. That is between the tacks and the crofters, for instance?

13424. But with reference to the arable ground of the crofters themselves, would a good stone fence not be of any value ?
—Well, they have good turf fences as it is ; they are pretty well fenced in Harris as it is.

13425. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are there any prizes offered by the ladies of the family for neat houses and neat gardens ?
—I think there are. It is not that I know it, but I hear the Countess has been giving prizes to those who have the neatest gardens.

13426. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are you much struck by the character of the houses here, as compared with those you have been accustomed to see ?
—Yes, there is no doubt of that.

13427. Do you know whether Lord Dunmore has done anything to improve the houses of the people, and stir them up to improve them themselves
—Yes, I have heard of his doing that himself.

13428. Does he give them encouragement to make the houses more neat and clean than they used to be
—Yes, he does that; I have heard him speak about it when he was here lately.

13429. Does he give them any encouragement in the shape of lime or wood ?
—They don't get wood ; as for lime I have not had any experience.

13430. The Chairman.
—Have many of the cottages on the estate got fire-places in the wall, or are they generally warmed by the fire in the centre
—I have not been in many of the houses, but I think most of them are in the centre. It is the best part of the house, as they can all get round about it.

13431. And what about the smoke?
—They don't mind the smoke, as it keeps them warm, they say. I think their houses are much warmer than most of the slated houses here.

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