ALEXANDER MORRISON, Commission Merchant, Stornoway (29)—examined.
16425. The Chairman.
—You appear here on the behalf of the people of Stornoway?
—I appear on behalf of Bay Head and on behalf of the Stornoway branch of the Highland Lewis Land Reform Association.
The principal grievance which the Lewis people have got, in general with the whole of the West Highland crofters, is that any one buying an estate buys them, and has got the power of turning them out of their native soil, without compensation or anything else but sending them off. When a man buys the Lewis land and 26,000 people, he buys the rights and liberties of the people, with the right of turning them out; and it is the wish of these poor men that the right of eviction should be stopped entirely so long as they pay rents. The principal grievance also is that there are lots of land in Lewis to support from 60,000 to 70,000 people, and instead of that land being given to the crofters, it is wholly under deer and sheep farms, and let. These crofters are willing to pay a fair rent for that land if they only got it, and there is plenty of it for them. If any crofter is put into a bit of bog land, and reclaims that land with the sweat of his brow for thirty years, as the law exists at present, he does not get a cent for compensation for improvements, no matter how it goes, so far as I am led to understand. The Lewis people are overcrowded, and put down to the worst pieces of land, down to the sea-shore, and the best land in the island is under deer and sheep farms. They wished Lady Matheson to give this land at a fair rent, and subdivide it out to the tenants, for they were willing to pay, but they were refused ; and I understand they did not get it, and what they wish is that they humbly pray Her Majesty's Government that they would compel the proprietors to give them the land at a fair rent. There is no part of the west coast like the Lewis. They are the finest race of men we have got to recruit the army and the navy. The people are loyal subjects, and willing to fight for Her Majesty the Queen and their country, and it would be a pity to
exterminate them all from their native soil for the sake of deer and sheep. I may further say they are not Revolutionists, Communists, or Socialists. They only want what is fair and just, and what they are willing to pay for. They are loyal subjects. There is a spirit of discontent all along the West Highlands at present; and unless the Government step in and make some concessions to the people by way of giving them the lands for which they are willing to pay, and fixity of tenure, they may be led to break the law, and a spirit of discontent may get up that no Government could put a stop to So it is the wish of the people that their grievances should be remedied, in order to put a stop to the system of oppression and slavery under which they are labouring at present
16426. Mr Cameron.
—You state that the first and principal grievance of the people is, that when a proprietor buys an estate he buys the people with it, and has the power to evict them. Are you of opinion that that power has been largely or at all exercised within the last few years in the island of Lewis?
—I am certain that the people are more frightened of the proprietor and factor than they are of the God that created them.
16427. But I wish to know whether this fear of being evicted is wellfounded or not—whether it is founded upon experience ?
—Those people and their forefathers occupied the sod for hundreds of years, and they consider it a case of hardship to be under the sway of any man who has it his power to exterminate them out of the land of their birth.
16428. But has the proprietor of the Lewis practically exterminated the people out of the land of their birth ?
—In some districts of the Lewis they have been compelled to leave, and emigrate to foreign shores against their will.
16429. Will you state to what extent that was prevailed?
—They have been forced to leave parts of Uig against their will, and they have been forced to leave Ness and Galston, over at the Butt of Lewis, and they have been forced to leave other districts.
16430. You mean they were evicted, that they were simply turned off by the arbitrary will of the proprietor?
—In some districts they were, and in other districts they were put out to take bog land, and to commence reclaiming it again.
16431. When did these evictions take place?
—Some years ago ; I am not exactly sure.
16432. Have any evictions of that nature taken place within the last twenty years—I mean evictions in an arbitrary and wholesale manner, such as would naturally produce the effect to which you allude in your statement ?
—I am not exactly sure as to twenty years, but I know it is within the last twenty or thirty years.
16433. Is it your opinion that Sir James and Lady Matheson have managed this property in such a manner as to create a bona fide fear that people who pay their rents and are well-conducted will be arbitrarily evicted?
—The 26,000 inhabitants of the island are principally people at the bidding and beck of one single individual, and it is to take the power from them by a proper measure being passed by Parliament, that it is the only hope and cure for a present state of matters.
16434. With regard to arrears, you say a law should be passed by which no crofter should be evicted so long as he paid his rent. Have you any idea what the arrears of rent on the island of Lewis are ?
—I have no idea what they are.
16435. Have you any reason to believe they are very considerable?
—I cannot say.
16436. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the arrears were very large, would not the effect of such a law as you indicate be that large numbers of the people under this law you suggest might be at once removed from the island of Lewis ?
—We would have a clause in the Bill for that matter of it, that every man who had three or four or five years' rent to pay should be evicted. People don't want the land for nothing.
16437. Do you think the people under such a law would be more secure in their holdings than they are under the present management of the Lewis ?
—Certainly I do.
16438. With the power given to the landlord to evict them if they were in arrears of rent ?
—Provided there were three or four or five years' rent against them.
16439. Do you think, on any estate of the Highlands, a proprietor who wished to buy that estate for sporting and other purposes would not be more willing to purchase the estate under such a law as you suggest than under the present state of things, where the matter is left to the good feeling and generosity of the proprietor?
—As to that I cannot answer.
16440. Have you ever taken any means of comparing the value of Highland properties where there are crofters and where there are no crofters ?
16441. Has it ever been brought under your notice that Highland property where there are no crofters very often fetches as much as fifty years' purchase?
—Well, it is a grievance of the people. It is the people's grievances we are talking about; it is not a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence.
16442. Then I only ask you a simple question. Have you ever studied the question of the value of Highland properties that are brought into the market ?
16443. Do you believe if some of the Western Hebrides were now in the market, that they would find a purchaser at all ?
—The Lewis, I am certain, would be sold. If the parties who are acting for the trustees, or whoever they are that the island belongs to at present, sold it, I am sure the whole crofters would go in for it, and buy it right off, if they got it at a moderate price. It would only cost about £7, 18s. a head, and give £10,000 more than was paid for it.
16444. I may assume that though you profess not to know that the crofters in the island are in arrears of rent, you in common with the public at large are aware that there are very large arrears of rent due by the crofters in the Western Islands ?
—I was not aware of it. They are paid up here, so far as I know.
16445. Then do you not consider that if, instead of relying upon the kindly feeling which subsists between landlords and tenants, and under which wholesale evictions have not taken place, you were to pass a law by which you would destroy that kindly feeling, and enable any landlord to evict any tenant who owed him rent, it would be a very simple means of at once clearing a large portion of the Western Islands ?
—What the people want is that they wish the Government to pass a law to put a stop for ever to eviction, and have fixity of tenure, and the land at a fair rent.
16446. But in your statement, you proposed that no evictions were to take place except for non-payment of rent ?
—That was admitted before, that in the case of any crofter being three, four, or five years in arrears of rent, be should be evicted,—because they do not want the land for nothing. They want the land at a fair rent
16447. Then you mean that, in addition to the law by which crofters are not to be evicted except for non-payment of rent, they are to be allowed to run a certain number of years in arrears of rent ?
—Certainly, to give them a chance.
16448. And therefore the mere non-payment of rent would not form a ground or justification for the landlord to evict. It would require to be cumulative arrears?
—I said that in the event of four or five years' rent being against them, Government or the law would permit them to be evicted then; but not under four or five years, because they might have a few bad years, and might get into difficulties, but might pull up and pay it afterwards.
16449. So you would alter it, and say not that no crofters are to be evicted except for non-payment of rent, but except for non-payment of four or five years' rent. That is practically what you would have ?
16450. You would also pass a law by which proprietors are to be compelled to give the crofters land at a fair rent, and I presume you mean some rent that would be fixed by an impartial person ?
—Yes, or compel the parties to sell their estates to the people, the one or the other.
16451. Do you think that the kind of the Lewis, let out at what you call a fair rent, would fetch anything like the rent it brings now ?
—I am sure it would. I am sure if the people got the land, and if they were certain that they would not be turned out, instead of the Lewis supporting 26,000 people in misery and poverty, as they exist at present, it would be able to support 60,000 or 70,000 people in plenty, and quite contented.
16452. And that the fair rent alluded to would be equal, taken on an aggregate, to the whole rental of the island of Lewis at present ?
—Yes. They are not Communists or Socialists; they want to pay for what they get.
16453. That I quite believe, but what I am trying to get at is your own notion of the value of the rent, and you think that what you call a fair rent to be paid by the crofters, would be equal to the total rent now derived from the island of Lewis ?
16454. Have you ever gone into the question, or made any calculations, or studied it, to enable you to give that answer, which, I must say, does not coincide with any of the previous evidence we have had from crofters or representatives of the island themselves?
—I have gone through every part of the island, and I know the best parts are under sheep and deer, and the worst patches are occupied by the crofters down at the sea-shore.
16455. We had it from one witness who lived on the spot, and might be supposed to know, that he considered the larger portion of the deer forest called Morsgiel, which is now let for £1000, would be to the crofters in his parish worth £40. You don't coincide with that?
—I don't see that the crofters could interfere much. They don't want to do away with the Game Laws in that way.
16456. But it has nothing to do with the Game Laws. What I meant was to try and ascertain from you upon what basis you founded your opinion that the land of the Lewis, if divided among the crofters, would produce the same rental as is now obtained under the present system ?
—If all the large sheep runs and other farms and islands that are laid waste at present were given to the people. I say and maintain here, the rental would be quite as high as at present.
16457. But, taking the sheep farms and leaving out deer forests, because they may be considered, perhaps, as waste, why do you apply the word - waste ' to sheep farms ?
—They produce mutton do they not ? Most of the land that is under sheep runs in the Lewis was at one time cultivated with the sweat of the brow and with the daily toil of the poor crofters, who had to work for the land, and never got compensation for improvements, and after it was taken into a state of cultivation they were driven out, and sheep and deer put in their stead.
16458. That is not exactly an answer. I want to know why you apply the word ' waste' to land that is grazed by sheep—which are the produce of the land, the same as any other?
—Because it is waste. The country is getting wild, and the grass itself does not grow right, and the heather is coming to grow again.
16459. But on what proportion of the land which you say is waste could corn be grown ?
—The finest portion of the land is over at Uig, and is laid waste, and over at Park, and several other large tracts of the country that are under sheep and deer, and the people down on the seashore.
16460. But I want to know what proportion of the land that is under sheep could be cultivated by the plough and be made to produce corn ?
—A considerable proportion. I cannot give you a proper answer to that.
16461. Supposing crofters had this land, would they not be dependent upon the rearing of sheep in a far larger proportion, in the same way as the tacksmen are dependent upon sheep ?
—The crofters want the arable land, and the moorland besides for their cattle and sheep, for which they are willing to pay.
16462. Sheriff Nicolson.
—In your estimate of the capacity of this island to support double its present population, have you calculated what quantity of land is necessary for crofters to possess in order to enable them to live upon it ?
—I would consider six to ten acres of arable land, and the moorland in connection with the crofts.
16463. Have you estimated what ought to be a fair rent for that?
—No, I did not.
16464 I suppose you know the acreage of the island of Lewis?
—I do not know the acreage.
16465. Have you not made a calculation, on the above estimate of the number of acres that would support a crofter, to enable you to show that the island would support twice its present population?
—I have been calculating so many people. I have been thinking a great number could be put upon the sheep runs that are under one man.
16466. But that is a vague estimate. Unless you know the number of acres in the island, and have calculated exactly whether the acreage of the island would yield that number per croft which you consider necessary to support a population of 60,000, a mere vague statement is of small value to us. We want to ascertain facts, and we expect people who come and make these large and generous statements to have looked well into the statistics of the island, to know the number of acres that are arable, and the number that are fit for pasture, and to make a rational scheme for laying it out as they propose for the benefit of the people ?
—There are vast districts in our island that are not occupied by the people at all, and in former years they used to have their crofts there, but now all these districts are under sheep and deer. Instead of supporting 26,000, it would support 70,000 or 80,000.
16467. But it is quite impossible to say that unless, with the knowledge of the number of acres in the island, you can apportion it among the population fairly. Would you be surprised if it were discovered from the statistics of the island, that it could not give anything like the number of acres you think of land fit to be lived upon?
—I know the districts
16468. But you do not know the number of acres and the value of the acres ?
—I do not know at the present time.
16469. But it is necessary to know that in order to speak for the whole island and the whole population of the island. Then, supposing the island were so distributed among the whole population, each of them having as much of the land as you think necessary for them to live upon comfortably, what provision would you then make to prevent the reduction of the quantity of land occupied by those people, because the population, of course, would go on increasing ? What provision would you make to prevent the subdivision of the land ?
—At present the people are ignorant, and the majority of them cannot even talk the English language, and the system that would be suitable for them at present would not be required in a few years, because when their children are educated and have a knowledge of the world, they would not condescend to wait upon their present crofts. But our people at present are not in a position to pick themselves up in the Colonies. They are not educated, they have not got the English language, and in every way they would be an unsuitable lot to send away to the Colonies.
16470. Do you mean to say that the majority of the people of Lewis, who are among the best peasantry in the West of Scotland, are not good subjects for emigration, to be sent to a suitable colony, merely because they do not speak first-rate English ?
—I say no, that they will be far better under present circumstances, when they have the sea to fall back upon as well as the land, and that they never would
be as comfortable in any part of the land as they would be in the Lewis.
16471. Are you aware then that all the people who have emigrated within the memory of man from Lewis to all parts of the world are living worse than they would be at home ?
—I am aware that a considerable number of those who were evicted and exterminated out of the land of their birth were in a worse plight in the country of their adoption than they were in their old country.
16472. From what source have you derived your information on this subject ?
—From various letters and information which have come.
16473. There was some emigration in Sir James Matheson's time?
16474. Was it to any considerable extent?
16475. Was that voluntary, or forced?
—So far as I know, they were compelled to go.
16476. On what account?
—Why, in the Lewis, if the people are deprived of their land they must go somewhere. It is as well for them to leave the country altogether.
16477. Do you mean that Sir James Matheson sent them away against their will ?
—They were deprived of their lands against their will.
16478. Was that not because they could not or would not pay their rents ?
—They were willing and able to pay, and they are so still.
16479. Are you quite sure that those people who emigrated in Sir James Matheson's time were not in arrears?
—I am certain of it.
16480. All of them?
—I am not certain of the whole of them; but I know the majority were the same as at present. And there was no reduction made of the rent this season when the crops were an entire failure, and every proprietor along the coast gave a reduction; our proprietor gave no reduction at all.
16481. Do you know what was the rent when Sir James Matheson bought this property ?
16482. Do you know what it is now ?
—About £23,000 or £24,000, I believe.
16483. Do you know, in point of fact, whether Sir James Matheson greatly increased the rental since he bought the estate?
—I know he did.
16484. To what extent do you know?
—To a considerable extent. I know the whole crofter and fishing population would buy the island if they got it at a fair price; and £15,000 or £20,000 more than he paid for it.
16485. How have you ascertained that?
—Through coming in contact with the people all over the island.
16486. But you have already said, though I must take the liberty of doubting the accuracy of the statement, that the people of Lewis are in a state of poverty and misery. There may be many, and too many, in that condition, but do you adhere to the statement that the majority of the people of this island are in a state of misery ?
—I do—poverty and misery.
16487. Is that consistent with the fact that a great many of their houses which we have seen are among the best houses we have seen in the Western Islands, that their land appeared to us to be as good land —such as there was of it;—as we had seen in some other places, and the people themselves as well and tidily dressed as we had seen in other places ? We saw that on a considerable scale in several parts of the island. Is that consistent with the fact that the people to whom those houses belong are in a state of poverty and misery ?
—The people would build better houses and reclaim the land and have everything in order if they had fixity of tenure.
16488. That is scarcely an answer. Do you say that a man is in a state of poverty and misery who has a house and a piecehouse and a piece of land at a moderate rent—paying £2 or £ 3 for it, on which he manages to keep two cows and a few sheep ?
—I say that taking them as class altogether, they are in a state of misery and poverty.
16189. Are you aware that in the island of Skye, where we have been, we have found people paying rents treble those of, I believe, the majority of the crofters in this island, and who are not able to keep half the same number of cows, and some of them no cows at all ?
—Yes, I am aware that the evil is wide-spread all over the Western Islands.
16490. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You hold some office here connected with the reform of the land laws ?
—Yes, I do.
16491. In what manner were you elected?
—I was elected by the free will of a number of the Stornoway people.
16492. Was there a large number present?
—There was a considerable number present
16493. There was a meeting here last week, or a fortnight ago?
—There was a meeting here last week.
16494. Did you take any part in it?
—Yes, I did.
16495. Was the meeting unanimous?
—So far as I could see, it was.
16496. How many might there have been present?
—According to my calculation I fancy there would be about 4000 people present.
16497. I presume you are a native of the island?
16498. You have been here all your life, off and on?
—Yes, and I have been out of it for a good bit too sometimes,—for six or twelve months.
16499. Where were you when you were away generally?
—I have been about Scotland and over England.
16500. Have you been abroad ?
16501. You stated you were pretty well acquainted with the island all over, and have travelled a good part of it, and your means of knowledge therefore, I presume, are pretty considerable ?
16502. You have been questioned about the removals of the people. Am I accurate in stating that removals may be of two classes—that is, a complete extermination out of the country, and also a shifting of them from one place to another ?
—Yes, we have both of these systems here,
16503. In fact, they vary considerably; but still I presume they are never for the benefit of the person who is removed?
—It always tells against the person who is removed.
16504. You state you have no objection that, in the event of their not paying arrears for four or five years, there should be the power of eviction. When you speak of the arrears, do I understand you don't mean arrears in the present circumstances, but under the new system of fair rent ?
—Under the new system of fair rent.
16505. You also made a statement about sale. You think the people are very anxious to become proprietors of their own ground?
—Yes, rather than remain under the present state of existence in which they are.
16506. In your travels all over the island, though you are not able to condescend upon the number of acres that are now waste, but formerly cultivated, are you not satisfied there are a very large number of acres—particularly in Uig—that are now unturned by the plough ?
—A considerable portion of the Lewis islands are laid waste in that way.
16507. Are you aware that in former times the crofters generally supported their families out of the produce of the croft—that they had their food out of it and their clothing?
—I am aware they combined that they fished at sea and worked on land besides.
16508. And made their clothes to a certain extent out of the wool ?
—To a certain extent they might have done so.
16509. Is it not a fact that in all the removals that have taken place, it is out of the best lands that the people have been put and crowded into places that it was not worth while for the big farmer to take ?
—Yes, they have been driven out of the best portions of the Lewis, and driven down to the most barren places—the same as they were driven out of Park and put in upon Crossbost, a place which they reclaimed with the sweat of their brows, and nothing at all for their labour.
16510. We have been informed in several places that we have visited in the north of the island, that the crofters have a very large proportion of hill pasture; but is it not a fact that the pasture generally is of a very inferior class ?
—Yes, it is.
16511. So if a man had an out-run of 500 or 1000 acres it might be of very little value indeed ?
—Very little indeed.
16512. Whereas in the case of a farmer with a similar out-run elsewhere, it might be worth a very great deal more ?
16513. You were asked also about the expenditure which the late Sir James Matheson had made upon the estate. I suppose there is no doubt of that ?
—He never expended any money upon crofters.
16514. We are coming to that, but let justice be done. There was money spent on the island ?
—Money was spent in works which were a failure, I understand.
16515. Can you point to much of the expenditure that took place for the benefit of the crofters other than the roads ?
—The crofters derived no benefit from it. They only were paid 10d. to 1s. 2d. a day, and no labourer would work for 1s. 2d. a day. That was about the wage they got when the improvements were going on.
16516. Except roads, can you point to anything that was done for the direct benefit of the crofters ?
—There was nothing done for the benefit of the crofters, as far as my knowledge goes, all over the island. I mean their lands were not improved, and they got no houses, and there were no improvements done of any kind that I know of ; and I know of districts in the Lewis where there are no roads at all, and where these people are paying road money for the last thirty years, and where there has never been a road at all.
16517. Are you aware that a charge has been made upon all the tenants of 5s. for road money, or the most of them ?
—Yes, I am.
16518. Are you aware that of late years, with regard to the houses, by the regulations of the estate, those who improved their houses with the consent of the proprietor and his approbation are entitled to a certain melioration ?
—I am aware that the people have no confidence themselves in building houses, or laying out money, because they may be turned out of those lands at any time, and they have not got security or fixity of tenure.
16519. But in the clause I refer to it does not say how long they may be, but when they are turned out they are to get compensation for their houses?
—I was not aware of that
16520. If you look at the articles you will find there is a clause to that effect ?
—Those articles might have been in existence ; it is well to have it on paper, but it is a different thing to have it in facts.
16521. You made a very strong statement, which I beg you will reconsider; when you were asked if there were many cases of eviction within the last thirty years, you said people were more frightened of the authorities than of much higher power. Do you adhere to that?
16522. Has that feeling, which you say prevails here, a very depressing and demoralising effect upon the energies of the crofters ?
—It has a very demoralising effect upon the people.
16523. Is it consistent with your own knowledge that some of the authorities—I do not mean any of the present authorities—were such as not to command the confidence of the people ; rather, on the other hand, to keep them in a state of terror and alarm.
16524. I suppose that is pretty well known ?
16525. Would such a thing as fining a man 5s. for being late in keeping an appointment, and threatening that he would be turned out if he did such a thing, not have a very demoralising effect upon the people, particularly if there was no redress?
—Yes, that was a very common occurrence.
16526. You were asked about the poverty of the people. Some may be in possession of a couple of cows and sheep, but may not they be in debt to the merchants?
—They are in debt to the merchants. It is the merchants who support them, and they are the ruination of the mercantile community, through taking meal and everything they want on credit, and they are not able to pay; because if they had the land they would be in a first-rate position, and without it they are in
16527. Would the mercantile population of Stornoway not be better by a large thriving population being among them, than with a few tacksmen who do not expend much money?
—Yes, it would revive trade in the town, and would be the best thing for business. If the people got the land back, with the thriving population, it would benefit the country, the wholesale trade as well as the retail.
16528. I suppose you have no personal interest in the crofting community. You are not personally connected with the crofters ?
—No, I derive no benefit by this agitation ; I am not paid for it.
16529. But you would desire to purchase a small place if you had the opportunity ?
16530. And I suppose many people would be delighted to get an opportunity to acquire land ?
—Yes, all over the island.
16531. Is there any complaint in Stornoway about getting grass for cows ?
—Yes, the people of Stornoway, at the time Sir James Matheson bought the island, had grass round the town, whereas they have not got it now; and the majority of the tradesmen and working men had an acre or two of land and a head or two of cattle, whereas now they have got nothing at all, and there is now a spirit of discontent all over.
16532. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated you were quite convinced in your own mind that by a redistribution of the estate it would maintain 70,000 people ?
—That is my opinion
16533. We were told that the rental of the estate was £18,000 Now, I think you stated also that the people would give about as much rent for it, or about as much purchase price for it, as what was paid for it ?
16534. Would that imply that, the present rent all over was not too high ?
—It is not a matter of rent so much.
16535. I mean all over the estate, and the fact that the people could pay for it as much as Sir James Matheson paid for it, would not that imply that the present rental, as a mere matter of commerce, was not so high ?
—They would allow the same price for the island as Sir James paid for it, and it would be only £7, 18s. a head.
16536. Supposing they did that, would the interest of the money that would go to purchase it at that rate—a fair interest for the money,—represent as much as the present yearly rental ? What was the purchase price ?
16537. And that at 3 per cent, would give nearly £6000 a year. Now, 70,000 people represent 12,000 families. With the present rent of £18,000 that would only give a croft of 30s. to each family ?
—I say, that instead of the island supporting 26,000 people in misery it would support 60,000 or 70,000 in a contented way.
16538. The Chairman.
—You have repeated that several times, and we want to satisfy ourselves as to the reasonable grounds on which such an opinion is formed; will you be good enough to answer the questions that are asked ?
—Yes, I am endeavouring to do so.
16539. Professor Mackinnon.
—That would be about three times its present population, or nearly three times. Now, I would like to ask you whether you consider there is about three times the amount just now under sheep and deer of the surface of the island than there is under crop ?
—I say there is, in my opinion, about three times more land under deer forests and under sheep than the crofters possess.
16540. Considering the moorland pasture that they have also?
—Considering the moorland pasture they have.
16541. Then, acre for acre, and farm for farm, between the sheep tack and the croft, between the deer forest and the croft, which pays the higher rent—the crofting farm or the sheep farm of the same size?
—It is my opinion that the crofting townships pays a higher rent, or quite as high as any tack that would be held by any tacksman or shepherd.
16542. Or deer forest?
—I do not say deer forest.
16543. But you have no place particularly in view, that you can give as an instance where we could verify that instance ?
—The land is there, and men are there to show it to you, and the whole district is waste.
16544. But if you could show me a crofting township and a farm much about the same size at the same value, to enable me to see which carries the bigger rent, that would enable me to make up my own mind as to your opinion. Have you any ground for the statement that the crofter pays at least as much, value for value, as the large tacksman does ?
—I expect they do. It is my opinion they do.
16545. For deer forests, you may assume, as we have evidence, they pay exorbitant rents ?
—They pay an exorbitant rent.
16546. Then, even supposing this place were redistributed among 12,000 families, with its present rent, it would only give a 30s. croft to each man in this island just now. Would that keep the man in comfort ?
—I cannot answer that question without knowing what the size of the croft would be.
16547. You yourself gave, as the size of a suitable croft, six to ten acres of arable land. What amount of moorland do you think ought to go along with that croft ?
—Give them moorland in common, if the whole township used the moorland in common,
16548. How many acres of moorland would you give with the arable ?
—I cannot answer.
16549. How many times the amount of moorland is there in the whole island in comparison with what you would make arable land out of?
—The half of it, any how.
16550. Do you mean that the half of it is capable of easy cultivation ?
—1 do not say the half is capable of easy cultivation, but I maintain there is a considerable proportion of the soil that could be cultivated, and a considerable amount of moorland is under sheep and deer which is fitted for a crofter population.
16551. But you are not able to give me any figures?
—No, I am not.
16552. You are of opinion that the people could perfectly well go and occupy these places inland as well as along the shore, and build houses, and maintain themselves in comfort
—Yes, they want to get their lands back that their forefathers were deprived of, and I do not suppose they would have any objection to pay a fair rent.
16553. Do you mean to say there is any evidence that there ever were 70,000 people in the Lewis ?
—I never heard of 70,000 people being in the Lewis, but I know that if the people got the land, the Lewis would be able to support 70,000 people contentedly and in a good way, and that the place would be a splendid recruiting ground for the army and navy, and that it would produce a race of men without their equal in the whole United Kingdom.
16554. You say that in the future the people would be educated so that they would not remain in the place ?
—I maintain that when the people do get educated they will not remain in the place at all.
16555. Even in the improved circumstances of the people that you map out?
—That is my opinion—that they will not remain.
16556. So that the position of the island is to be like this,—that in the immediate future there will be some 70,000 who will afterwards voluntarily clear away ?
—No, but any overplus or overcrowding— the balance which the island would not be fit to maintain—would emigrate of their own free will and accord when they get educated, and when they know what the world is doing. But at present there is no use of the people emigrating, because they cannot even talk the English
language, and they are not educated, and have not been brought up to hard labour.
16557. Are you prepared to state that the people who emigrated from here in 1851 are at present less or more comfortable than those whom they left behind ?
—Those whom they left behind, in my opinion, and so far as I know, are far more comfortable than the majority of those that emigrated; I do not mean educated men from the town.
16558. I do not mean such either; I mean those from the country districts. Are they and their children worse off than their neighbours whom they left behind?
—I maintain on authority that they are worse off than those they left behind,
16559. And you say that those in the Lewis are in poverty and misery and in debt to the Stornoway merchants ?
16560. Then those who have emigrated must be very badly off indeed ?
—Yes, they are.
16561. You spoke of reclaiming land under present circumstances as penal servitude ?
—I mean that parties working for ten or fifteen years reclaiming bog, when they get nothing for their labour, are suffering what I call penal servitude.
16562. We had a witness here yesterday who stated that he himself built upon his croft a house worth £90. Don't you consider that that man had in his own mind a reasonable assurance, either that as matter of fact he would not be turned out of that house, or that he would get something for it when he left ?
—He may have had a private arrangement.
16563. He said he had none. Did not the mere fact of building that house indicate a reasonable assurance in that man's mind ?
—He might be fool enough to do it, but there were others who built houses and were kicked out, and got no compensation at all.
16564. Can you give me the names of any such?
16565. Who built these valuable houses, aud were turned out?
—I did say valuable houses; I said houses.
16566. But it was a valuable house that I mentioned. Well, give us the name of a man who built a house and was turned out, and got nothing for it?
—I have got the name to give, but I will not give the name without asking his consent, in case summary vengeance might bo taken upon him otherwise.
16567. You represent particularly the district of Bay Head. Have you any particular grievance from the Bay ?
—The principal grievance is that the lands they had were taken from them, and they want them back again. In common with the workmen of the town, they would like very much to get back the lands from which they were driven, and which they are willing to pay for.
16568. Where were these lands?
—All round the town.
16569. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were asked what extent of arable land would be sufficient for an enlarged croft, if the man would be able to live upon it?
—I said from six to ten acres of arable land, with moorland in connection with it and in common.
16570. The extent of the arable land is quite fixed?
—From six to ten acres is the average of crofters' land of good quality.
16571. But it is impossible to tell by acres what the moorland would be, because the hill pasture varies very much, does it not?
—They use the hill pasture in common.
16572. But supposing a crofter could get a piece of hill land to himself I suppose it would depend very much upon the nature of the hill pasture what extent it would be necessary to use along with the croft ?
—It would depend upon the nature and quality of it, because in some districts the hill pasture is better than in other districts.
16573. Then is it not the proper way to ascertain what would make a croft comfortable in the way of pasture, to know how many sheep and how many cows it would pasture in summer ? Is not that the proper way to get at it?
—The proper way to get at it is to give them the hill pasture and the land, and they can arrange those matter themselves.
16574. What stock would be necessary for the crofter to live in comfort ?
—I should fancy from six to ten head of cattle and from forty to fifty head of sheep.
16575. Would they require a couple of horses?
—Not necessarily; it might require one horse.
16576. Then that is the size of croft which would enable the crofter to live in comfort ?
—Yes, that is what I consider.
16577. You were asked some question about what should happen in the future. If such enlarged croft were laid out, I presume you would prevent subdivision of the croft ?
16578. And you believe that emigration would voluntarily take place?
16579. That the people would see the evils of subdivision so much that they would not permit subdivision to take place?
—Yes, that is what I mean.
16580. Would you make that compulsory?
—Yes, I would make it compulsory to have whole lots without subdivision.
16581. To a certain extent, you would prohibit subdivision by law ?
—Yes, I would.
16582. The Chairman.
—What roads were in the island when Sir James Matheson bought it ?
—I know that the people worked at relief works—making roads.
16583. But were there any roads in the island; and if so, to what points did they lead?
—Yes, there were roads in the island.
16581. Where to?
—I think there were roads all the way from here to Ness.
16585. A road you could drive over?
16586. Any other roads?
—Yes, there were other ones.
16587. But you do not know them?
—I am not confident about them, because it was before my time.
16588. Did Sir James Matheson build any schools in the island?
—He may have done so, but I am not aware of any schools.
16589. Was there steam communication with the mainland when Sir James came here ?
—Yes, there was.
16590. I am afraid you are mistaken. Are you not aware that Sir James put on the ' Mary Jane' himself, the first steamer that traded with the island ?
—No, I was not aware of that till now.
16591. You mentioned that Sir James made certain improvements at a certain time, at what time were those improvements made ?
—I suppose about fifteen years ago.
16592. Do you mean he paid 1s. 2d. per day fifteen years ago ? Are you not speaking of the years 1848 to 1852?
—The only improvements he did in the Lewis that I know of were on the grounds round the castle.
16593. That is within your recollection; but you have been talking of things far beyond your recollection. In improving the castle grounds within your recollection, was he in the habit of paying people 10d. per day ?
—So far as I know, and have been told, the wages on the average were from 10d. to 14d. per day,—within the last ten or fifteen years,—in my own day. That is what I have been informed.
16594. Where did you get your information ?
—I come in contact with a great deal of information. I am always on the move.
16595. Was it from the people who received these wages?
—Well, I have been hearing about it all round.
16596. Did you get it directly?
—No, I have not got it directly.
16597. Are you aware that at no distant period a shilling a day was the usual wage for labour in this country ?
—Within the last forty or fifty years the working wages in this country for unskilled labour were two shillings a day.
16598. You are not aware that the rise in wages from a shilling took place in 1848?
—No, I am not aware of that.
16599. You mentioned that the people were quite willing to go inland, to take crofts inland as well as on the shore ?
—They are willing to take the land that was under cultivation before, and is now under deer and sheep.
16600. Is there such land inland ?
16601. Where is it?
16602. That is on the sea-shore?
—It is inland a good deal too.
16603. Are you aware that an attempt was made to settle crofters at Little Deanston and failed ?
16604. Is the Rev. Angus M'lver a member of your association?
—He is not.
16605. He gave it as his opinion that the crofters to be comfortable should pay only half the present rent, but I think it is your opinion that the rent over the whole island is not too high ?
—I say the matter of rent is not the principal grievance; it is the matter of land. They want the land altogether.
16606. But rent has really a good deal to do with it. Do you think that the island is not too highly rented, or is it too highly rented?
—Some of the crofters complain that the rents are high enough; but it is not the rent question that is agitating the people at all
16607. The acreage of the island is 417,000 acres. You think that would hold 70,000 people comfortably?
—I think it would.
16608. Have you divided 417,000 acres by 70,000, and found how many acres it would give to each ?
—No, I have not
16609. It gives between 5½ and 6 acres to each, and you know yourself the character of a great deal of the land. You mentioned the stock which the people in your opinion should have. Now, taking 70,000 people, or say 12,000 families, with one horse, eight cattle, and forty-five sheep for each family—the total stock which the island would need to carry would be 12,000 horses, 96,000 head of cattle, and 540,000 head of sheep. Do you think the island would be capable of carrying that stock ?
—I say there would be a considerable proportion of those people who would be at the fishing industry.
16610. Say half of them ?
—Perhaps half of them.
16611. Then do you think there is sufficient land to carry the half of the stock I have mentioned,—or 6000 horses, 48,000 head of cattle, and 270,000 head of sheep?
—I am not prepared to answer that.
16612. You say that each family ought to have from six to ten acres of arable land and a share of the hill pasture attached to it. Well, with the stock above mentioned, it has been calculated that you would require, some three and a half million acres instead of 417,000 acres. But you have given us your statement as matter of opinion, you are not prepared to give the ground of your opinion ?
16613. Sheriff Nicolson.
—We have had evidence enough to show us that, in the late Sir James Matheson's time, there were many things done which were perhaps not to be approved of, by persons who perhaps very ill represented him. I wish to put a question as to what good he did; I do not think that the good things men do should be entirely forgotten, or unknown to a new generation. You said that Sir James Matheson had done nothing to your knowledge for the benefit of the crofters. Was it not for the benefit of the crofters to expend large sums of money on the schools in the island ?
—The Free Church expended large sums.
16614. That is not an answer. Was it not a thing for the benefit of the crofters to spend money for the education of their children ?
—I was not aware that sums were expended in the country districts by Sir James.
16615. Did you never hear that for years before the Education Act was passed Sir James Matheson contributed liberally to the support of every school in the island, and that he expended thousands of pounds in that way ?
—I was not aware of that till now.