GEORGE GRANT MACKAY (57), Proprietor, Glengloy—examined.
45093. The Chairman.
—You desire to make a voluntary statement, do you not ?
—I do. I should ask your Lordship's permission to occupy ten minutes in answering a number of people in three counties in the north of Scotland with which I have to do; and then I shall, if you will allow me, give my own views on the subject. ' Before making any statement of my own, I wish to reply to statements made by delegates from the island of Raasay, from Rosehall in Sutherlandshire, and from Strathkyle in Ross-shire; I shall do this in the fewest possible words.
A complaint was made at Raasay that I had raised the rents. I intimated to them that I would charge them £1 each of an Increase, seeing that their rents had not been raised for eighty years —and that all sorts of produce were doubled in value within the last thirty years. I stated at the time I wanted no money from them, but that they should each have to work eight days for it. There were a hundred able-bodied men in Raasay, but I could get very few to work. I had to get a large force of men from Easter Ross to carry on improvements, because they said they did not need to work, as they had made £12 at the fishing. They said “they were not in the reverence of working;" these were their words. In reference to the alleged increase of rent, I have to state that they never paid me any increase of rent, or indeed any rent at all except the first year. For the three years in which I knew anything of the islands, they only paid one rent. The year I entered they owed Mr Rainy's trustees a year's rent, but with the exception of one man, none of them paid it. I had the islands for two years, and gave employment to every man who chose to work. They paid the rent the first year. They paid nothing the second year, and I never prosecuted them —so that I cannot think they had much to complain of during these three years —and now, when my successor Mr Wood has been pouring in money among them, at a rate quite unprecedented in the Highlands (more than £5000 a year), still they complain.
At Rosehall, Angus Ross, crofter, gave evidence which is totally untrue. This man had been employed by me as superintendent of works, and I dismissed him from my service. He said when I bought the estate every tenant received a notice to quit his holding within forty days. That statement is not correct. In conjunction with two gentlemen of repute, I bought the estate for the purpose of giving any one who wanted land perpetual fixity of tenure, and of course where feus were adopted, tenancy at will had to be given up. Ross says "that the township of Altas (where all the small tenants on the estate were congregated), which in Sir James Matheson's time yielded a rental of £200, under Mr Mackay was increased to £700, a sum which looked very respectable on paper, but which never could be got in." The statement is utterly untrue in every particular. I cannot find the rental of the crofts when I got possession, but the total amount of the feu-duties charged by me to the Altas crofters was £211, 5s. A fraud is suggested here on my part, when it is said the sum only looked respectable on paper, but never could be got in. I have to state that every shilling of feuduty was regularly paid in my time, and I have been informed that it has been paid since. This man says, Mr Mackay "looked upon the crofters as ordinary stock, to be bought a certain price, and sold to those who would give a good enough profit." In reply, I have to state that the whole design on my part was to make the crofters independent of any landlord, and they are now independent. He says next that Mr Tennant was plucked as mercilessly as the crofters. Mr Tennant made an offer for the estate, which I accepted, and he was quite as able to manage his own affairs as I was. The Rosehall tenants begged of me to give them nineteen years' leases instead of feus, and that they would pay the same amount as rent. They wished this, as they did not understand feus. I declined to do this, entirely in their own interest, and to my serious loss. I should have £2640, 12s. more money than I now have, if I had given them leases instead of feus, because Mr Tennant's offer was 22 years' purchase for the feus and 35 years' purchase for the ordinary rental. This man goes on to say that his own holding is six acres, for which he pays £17, 10s. as against £3, 6s. in the time of Sir James Matheson. That is certainly untrue, so far as I am concerned, because I let or feued no land to him. If he has such a holding, he must have taken it from somebody else.
The next witness was John Sutherland, feuar, Rosehall, and his evidence in the same way shows the same utter disregard for the truth. He said I spent very little money on improvements. That is notoriously untrue. I never was anywhere that I did not spend a great deal of money in improvements. He goes on to say that the first thing Mr Mackay did was to cut down all the wood on the estate. That is not true, as any one can see who goes to Rosehall now. I cut a considerable quantity of wood, but it is still one of the most beautifully-wooded estates in the Highlands. I cut nothing but what ought to be cut. In conclusion, this man says, in answer to Lord Napier, " Greater improvements had been effected when they were tenants at will than since they got feus." If this is true, it is a sufficient answer to the present outcry for fixity of tenure. The feu I gave Sutherland for £20 made a man of him. He was a working shoemaker, who is now in greater comfort than he ever was, and he has time and leisure to be a member of the School Board of the parish.
The next witness is Adam Mackay, crofter, who is a tenant of mine on the estate of Strathkyle in Ross-shire. There are twenty tenants there, paying rents from £30 to £8. This witness said he had no hill pasture; " it was all taken from them as the leases expired." He never had any hill pasture from me. He was not a tenant of mine until two years ago, and he was an utter stranger to me. I had a croft vacant, and he begged to have it, and offered to give £ 30 for it, which was the former rent. He says
—" The crofters considered they were rented twice as high as they ought to be. In his own case he paid 10s. an acre for the meadow land. It was not worth anything like that amount. An ample price would he 5s. for the meadow land." Now, if this were true—if my land is not worth more than 5s. per acre, why did he take it at 10s. and entreat of me to give it to him, and use influence to secure it ? I consider every acre of meadow I have to be good value for 12s. per acre. I never asked this man to take my land. Adam Mackay, in answer to Lord Napier, said the tenants generally would provide stones for fences if the proprietor would erect them. I feel specially aggrieved by this statement, because I have built more stone dykes for crofters in proportion to the size of my property than any man in the Highlands, and I charged no interest. Instead of these statements, the facts are these :
—I gave nineteen years' leases of all these crofts at Whitsunday 1874, and the rents were regularly paid without a farthing of arrears until last December, when all the tenants suddenly found that the land was too dear, and each and all of them withheld part of the rent. This state of matters has been produced by this agitation. I found that the hill ground previously attached to those crofts was very little worth as a
grazing, but that it was valuable for planting. In fact, it was not worth 4d. per acre as a grazing, but it will certainly yield 10s. per acre per annum under wood, and a considerable extent of it will yield 20s. per
acre. But if it should only yield 5s. per acre, that is fifteen times its value to the crofters. I planted eight millions of trees on that ground, but it seems to be thought by this witness that I should have left it with the crofters yielding next to nothing. On looking through my papers I found a statement that, from Whitsunday 1874, when I leased these crofts, up to 31st December 1880, I expended £1002, Is. 9d. on these crofts alone in trenching, draining, building houses and dykes, &c, being at the rate of £167 per annum for these six years, while their whole rental was £259, so that, whatever their rents were, I returned two-thirds of the money annually to themselves for their improvements, which will never be any benefit to me ; and I never proposed to charge them with a farthing of interest, although I have myself been paying 4 per cent, interest for the money ever since. I have since then gone on spending more or less money in improvements, and very thanklessly, as it would now appear. The fact is that, while others have been making speeches and talking sentiment about the crofters, I have been trying practically to work out this very problem under the consideration of the Commissioners. I have given absolute fixity of tenure in perpetuity on one side of the Kyle of Sutherland, and I have given nineteen years' leases on the other. I thought I was working in the interest of the crofters, for whom, generally speaking, I entertain the highest regard. But everything that is now asked for the crofters I have, during the last twenty years, proved to be a mistake. The only thing I have not tried was to let themselves be the sole judges of what the rent should be, but I am very sure that if even this were granted, and if the rents of the West Highland crofters were by any means remitted altogether, no greater mistake could be made, or greater ruin brought upon the crofters. A 50s. crofter cannot be more than 50s. too highly rented, and if these 50s. were made a gift to him, that, in my humble opinion, would not make a man of him. H that were done, the result would simply be that they would work for 40s. less than they do now. The crofters are a fine race of people and rapidly improving, and they would go on progressing if outside influences were withdrawn. The very worst teaching ignorant people could have is to impress upon them that such ills as they have is not their own fault, but the fault of other people.' That is the answer to the statements that have been been made by the crofters, but in ten minutes I may state my own view, if you have no objection.
45094. If you please ?
—' I have written the above in reply to the statements made by the crofters with whom I am or have been connected; but if the Commissioners will allow me, I think I can show that everything that is demanded by agitators for the crofters would be injurious to them and to the owners of land and to the country. Whether my opinions are right or wrong, they are based upon the experience of my whole life. The demands put into the mouths of the crofters are
—1. Fair rent; 2. Fixity of tenure ; 3. Compensation for unexhausted improvements; 4. An extension of their hill grazings by cutting up the sheep farms.
1. Fair rent.
—This means their idea of rent; in short, that they and their friends should be the judges of what the rent should be. They say that they want the rent to be fixed by Government valuators; but, however it is accomplished, they wish their rents to be one-half or less than they are now. Adam Mackay, who gave evidence from my property in Strathkyle, is a case in point. He was an utter stranger to me. Two or three years ago he offered £30 for a croft, which I accepted. He now says that he pays 10s. for meadow land, and that it ought not to be more than 5s. I believe the land to be good value for what he pays, and he must have thought so too before the agitation began, else why did he take it ? I paid this year £7, 7s. for Highland year-old stirks, which I could have bought some years ago for 30s. What would the crofter who reared them think if I had proposed to buy them at valuation? My experience has been, that when a croft was rented too low it has been managed in a more slovenly, careless, thriftless manner in consequence. I can state without fear of contradiction, that the crofters' rents throughout the Highlands are, generally speaking, extremely moderate. In proof of this, I would point out that a month's snow or frost in the Highlands does not send the people a-begging as it does in England. No crofter works half his time, counting ten hours in a day and six days in a week ; and in what other business, I would ask, can a labourer live by working half his time ? I have written about the crofters and Highland peasantry generally twenty-five years ago, and I expressed the same views then that I do now.
2. Fixity of tenure.
—I have been an enthusiast for fixity of tenure, and have pretty extensively tried perpetual fixity and nineteen years, and I find both to be a mistake. I find a lease to be of no use to the landlord with this class of people, and that it hurts the landlord alone. The tenant does not heed its conditions, but he uses it as an engine against the landlord on all possible occasions. The delegate at Rosehall said that since the tenants got perpetual feus they have improved less than they did as tenants at will. No improvement of any kind can be made on an estate if the crofters are to have fixity of tenure. One or two illustrations will show how it would work. When I owned the islands of Raasay and Rona, I found things going on as they had done hundreds of years before. The tenants of Rona held their land in runrig. The arable land is only strips and patches among the rocks. No arable land could be had except in these long straggling strips. If there were ten men in a township, it might 4.be thought absurd that every patch of land should be divided into ten pieces. But that would be a trifling matter. The fact is, that if there was only one acre in a piece of ground the top of it would be divided into ten pieces, and the middle of it into ten pieces, and the bottom of into ten pieces, so that an acre would be divided into thirty pieces in all. The consequence was, that in the whole island there was not a piece of land bigger than an ordinary room. And, to crown the absurdity of the whole thing, every man changed his lot every year, so that the ground a man had this year he would not have again for ten years. I divided this ground among them, and gave every man his own lot, and raised his rent £1, and he would be much better off by paying the increased rent under the new conditions than if he had got it under the old system for nothing. But what could have been done in that case if the crofters had fixity of tenure. They abused me for what I did for them as heartily as ever they abused Dr Mackenzie for his labours among them at Gairloch, but I would not leave them as they were on that
account. Again : The townships of Balchurn and Raasay was about 500 feet above the sea. The crofters there carried all the sea-weed up these 500 feet on their backs to cultivate the land by means of it. I saw the utter absurdity of the whole thing. I took the land from them (another case of howling), but I left them in their houses, with patches of potato land, and told them I would employ them constantly at 15s. a week, and that they would have to pay me Is. a week for the holdings left with them. I did it in this way as some pressure to induce them to work. I really intended that their wages should be 14s. a week, and that they should have their holdings for nothing. And that is practically how it was. But if a man was too lazy to work, then he would have to pay me Is. a week for his holding. They never made fourteen pence a week by the ridiculous work they had had previously. There is no horse in the islands (except the proprietor's), and no fan to winnow corn. I calculated that the whole value of the crop they raised would not pay for their time and expenses at Portree, when they went there and waited until the corn was ground into meal. If the crofters had fixity of tenure the landlords could not do anything to advance the people, and I could give any number of cases similar to those I have stated. I shall now explain how perpetual fixity of tenure is not successful. Feus used only to be worth twenty-two and a half years' purchase, while ordinary land rents were worth thirty-five years' purchase. Highland estates won't now yield so much. Recent events have succeeded in driving capitalists out of the country, and already Highland land is almost as unsaleable as land in Ireland. If a landlord feus in perpetuity a piece of land for £10, for which he previously got £6, 10s. as rent, he makes no profit whatever by the transaction. On the contrary, he makes a loss, because superiorities are not so saleable as ordinary rents. Thus, then, unless the landlord's property is confiscated, tenants cannot have perpetual fixity of tenure for less than 50 per cent, above their present rents. Those waste lands at Rosehall which have been alluded to, which I feued at 5s. and 6s. per acre, were worth 3s. to 4s. per acre as an ordinary rent, including the shooting. But if the feuar does not instantly set to work to reclaim his land, the feu-duty must very soon ruin him, and I have always distinctly told them so. If, then, what the Rosehall delegate says is true, that they improved less than they did as tenants at will, that explains why the system does not succeed. Further, a number of the feuars took to borrowing money on the security of the feus, at a high rate of interest, amounting with expenses to about 7 per cent, (just as the Ryots do in India), and the interest of that money became heavier to bear than an ordinary rent would be. And land improvement companies in Aberdeen and elsewhere are much more inexorable creditors than Highland landlord. In fact, as long as land owning is considered a luxury (and it is a very costly luxury now-a-days), and men are found to be satisfied with 2½ per cent, for their money, it is impossible that poor people can afford the luxury. A feuar is, of course you understand, a landlord. The man who uplifts the feu-duty is called the superior, but he has no interest in, or rights over the land whatever, except to uplift the feu-duty. If even confiscation were attempted, and the lands ware parcelled out among the crofters, rich men would gradually buy them out, and things would by-and-bye go on precisely as before, except that the present generation of tenants would profit by the transaction.
3, The next thing proposed is to give compensation for unexhausted improvements.
Dean of Guild Mackenzie says
—" He would have the present value of the land ascertained by independent Government valuators, and give it to the people at that valuation on a permanent tenure, and on such conditions that they or then.' representatives could never be removed so long as they paid their rents. In the event of their being unable to pay their rents, and having in consequence to give up their holdings, or in the event of their having of their own will, he would have the value of the land ascertained, and on the landlord refusing to pay the difference capitalised between its original and improved values, he would allow the tenant to dispose of his holding to the highest offerer. He would accept no leases on any condition," and so on. Now, a wilder scheme than this, or more unjust and tyrannical, was never concocted. The tenant is to be fixed in perpetuity; in short, be made a feuar, at a valuation. That is, the landlord cannot remove him, but when any whim seizes him he can go when he chooses. And he is to be called upon to pay the capitalised value of the difference between two valuations at any time. The tenant may sell to the highest bidder, but the landlord must not do anything of that kind. Now, land is not a thing that can be accurately valued. No man can do more than give an opinion of its value approximately. So, if the Government valuator values a croft at £10, and the tenant wishes to leave next year, and if the croft is then valued by another valuator at £15, the landlord will have to pay him the capitalised value of the £ 5 of difference, or £150. This is the kind of thing that is euphoniously called compensation for unexhausted improvements. For my own part, I would have all compensation arranged for between landlord and tenant before the improvements are begun. If tenants are allowed to make what they choose to consider improvements without consulting the landlord, and then compel the landlord to pay for them, no man will care to own land if he can help it. Adam Mackay, who gave evidence on my property of Strathkyle, has two sons who are masons, and when they come home from time to time, when out of work or otherwise, they go on building without consulting me in any way. I have intimated to the tenant that these buildings are of no value at all to me, because when he leaves I mean to let his whole croft as a grass park, as I intended to do before I was induced to give it to him. It will be a grievous burden to me if I am some day held bound to pay for this work, which I not only don't want, but which I emphatically object to. Any idle fellow can in this way go on running up a bill against his landlord without his knowledge, concurrence, or consent, and I think that it will be an encouragement to unreasonable and designing people of all kinds, if legislation on these lines is introduced. The last thing demanded is to increase the hill grazings of the crofters by cutting up the sheep farms, and this demand has been emphasised all over the country. It is, however, a wild dream that can only end in disaster all round if it is attempted. I have had much experience in this matter. This is what the crofter would like, because, as I have said already, his great failing is an indisposition to work. If these grazings are given to the crofters they will have an excuse for going up the hill and idling away their time there, under the pretence of taking care of their sheep. That is work much more congenial to the West Highland crofter than pick and spade work. But why not make shopkeepers and tradesmen of them ? It requires much less skill and capital to keep a shop than to be a sheep farmer. It seems never to be doubted that any ignorant fellow can manage a sheep farm. Everybody thinks so except those who have tried it. It takes more brains and skill and capital to keep the wolf from the door in a sheep farm than in any other business or profession I know of. Where a skilled sheep farmer produces a sheep worth 60s. a crofter will produce one worth 18s. Whoever heard of crofters paying £20 for a good sheep to improve the blood. But the whole thing seems to me too absurd for argument. If this is done, it will ruin the landlords and the crofters too by one stroke. I have many years ago been employed in cutting off tens of thousands of acres of hill land from crofters and raising their rents at the same time, and these crofters have been enormously benefited thereby. Formerly the crofts were neglected and the hills were mismanaged, the landlord was robbed and the people in poverty. Now all that is changed, and from the districts I allude to there are no complaints before the Commissioners. What I would respectfully suggest for the amelioration of the condition of the crofters is this
—1st, That the so-called friends of the crofters would let the crofters alone, and direct their attention to the grievances and dissipation and immorality of the lower orders in the towns, where there is ample field for any amount of patriotic effort The Highland crofter, with all his drawbacks, is in happy circumstances compared with these people.
2nd, That landowners would direct their attention more than they have hitherto done to the condition of their crofters, and assist and encourage them. What crofters have had to complain of in many places is not
oppression, but neglect.
3rd, That Government would take steps to assist and encourage emigration from those districts on the west coast where the people have become overcrowded; that it would direct the post office department to extend very largely postal and telegraphic facilities throughout the Highlands; that it would entirely do away with the law of entail; and lastly, that it would adopt measures to develop the fishing on the west coast. That Providence, which has lain down any amount of wealth all around the crofters in the sea, has denied them soil or climate suitable for farming; and if the people are put in the way of taking their harvest from the sea, they will be prosperous and happy ; but no Acts of Parliament will ever make arable farming, or any kind of farming by crofters, successful in the West Highlands of Scotland. What is mainly wrong with the crofter is his dislike of hard work, and in many districts the want of constant employment. The very thing that above all things would benefit the poor crofter is, I fear, driven off for a generation by this unfortunate agitation. I mean the infusion of new blood and more capital into the Highlands,—-the introduction of more men of wealth and enterprise and benevolence, like Lord Tweedmouth, who has enormously benefited Strathglass in every possible way. If one or two hundred more Lord Tweedmouths had come to the Highlands, this Commission would never have been asked for. But the native landowners have the interest of their people at heart, and are as desirous to benefit them as any stranger can be. I doubt if any other part of the world can show anything to equal the princely and benevolent and considerate rule of the great landowners in the Highlands who have crofting tenants; such men as the Duke of Sutherland, the Earl of Seafield, Sir Alexander Matheson, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, two of the members of this Commission, and many others whom I could name. Where there are wealthy or resident landlords there are no difficulties with the crofters, but where there are landlords with a large extent of territory, and no funds to keep the people in profitable employment, it is in these cases that as a rule much poverty is to be found.
45094*. I don't remember very accurately the circumstances under which this system of feuing was introduced upon your estate; I should like to ask you a few questions about it again. What is the name of the property upon which this system was adopted ?
—Rosehall, Sutherland, and Culrain, Easter Ross; they amounted to 50,000 acres between them.
45095. But I think it was to Rosehall you principally referred ?
45096. Which is occupied both as feus and as crofts, the crofts having leases of nineteen years ?
45097. Would you kindly state with reference to the estate of Rosehall in what year you made the purchase?
—About 1870, I think.
45098. Who did you purchase it from ?
—Sir James Matheson.
45099. In effecting the purchase, with whom were you associated ?
—Two gentlemen in Inverness.
45100. Who may be regarded, in so far as they were co-purchasers with you, as your partners ?
—They were—two of the principal solicitors in the north of Scotland in fact.
45101. What was your profession at the time?
—I was an engineer and valuator of land.
45102. And the other two gentlemen were solicitors?
45103. And you, in partnership, purchased the estate of Rosehall; can you, in a few words, describe to me exactly in what condition you found it?
—I found the shooting let for £200, with the mansion house, which, I may say, cost £10,000 to build; and there was a large sheep farm, rented about £600. I think there was only one big farm; and the rest was in the hands of crofters or small tenants.
45104. About how many small holdings would there be?
—About twenty, I think.
45105. And were these twenty small holdings in one group?
—All in one group at Altos township.
45106. One may call it a township?
45107. And it had hill grazing attached ?
45108. How large was the hill grazing?
—I could not be sure, perhaps a thousand acres; I cannot be positive, but something like that.
45109. What was the gross rental of the estate ?
45110. And the crofters paid of that about £200?
—Yes; I state that in my paper.
45111. May I take the liberty of asking for what purpose you and those two gentlemen were associated for the purchase of this property ? Was the object in any degree a commercial one —was it a land speculation?
—Yes, it was largely. But I took advantage of the land speculation to see what I could do about the crofters, because I had taken a great interest in that question all my life previously. It was my doing entirely all that was done for the crofters; it was at my instance it was done.
45112. What next? How long did you three gentlemen hold the property together ?
—Some two or three, or perhaps four years. I held it after they went out.
45113. Did they sell out their interest in it to you, so that you became sole proprietor ?
—They did ; and then I sold all my interest to Mr Tennant.
45114. May I take the liberty of asking what you three gentlemen paid for the estate?
45115. Did you buy it in equal shares?
—No; I had the largest share.
45116. And you bought up the shares of your partners?
45117. What did the estate stand you in altogether yourself ?
—I could not tell exactly that; I had more than the half of it at first, and at the end I had it all.
45118. But did it cost you the £50,000 ?
—Yes, between us three.
45119. But when you took over their shares, did you pay them more than they gave ?
—Of course, a great deal more, because it yielded about £100,000 at the end; it was worth double the money we paid for it. The shooting rent explains that. There was a mansion house, which, as I have said, cost £10,000, and it, with the shooting, was let for £200 and since then the shooting alone has been yielding £2000, and it was that which principally made the profit upon the transaction —it was
the shooting rent.
45120. When you became proprietor of the whole—you are not in the least bound to answer me unless you like —what did the estate cost you, the whole of it ? You bought up the shares of your friends, and
you had originally a considerable proportion, what did it cost you ?
—I don't know that I can exactly answer that. I gave one of my partners £10,000 of profit, and the other £5000.
45121. So that it cost you altogether about £65,000 ?
45122. And have you sold it ?
—It was all sold to Mr Tennant; he got the last of it.
45123. What have you received for the property for which you paid £65,000 ?
—Roughly, about £100,000.
45124. There has been a profit of about £35,000 ?
45125. But the great part of that profit is to be accounted for by the increased sporting and pleasure rent ?
45126. For the mansion house and buddings?
45127. How much do you estimate that at—of the £35,000?
— It is very difficult to say from memory; certainly £20,000 of it.
45128. So that your profit, as it were, on the land separately considered would not be above £15,000?
—It was not nearly so much. I sold £12,000 worth of wood, which should have been cut down fifteen years before; a great deal of it was ninety and one hundred years old, and it was rotting on the ground. Some of it certainly should have been cut down thirty years before I got it. I cut £12,000 worth of it when I bought the estate, and you would not miss the wood now; it looks as well as ever it did.
45129. When you got the estate in this condition—I do not refer to the large farms, or mansion house, or the shooting, or anything of that sort—you found the crofters paying £200 a year of rent ?
—I cannot be sure of that.
45130. Or nearly. How did you deal with this area which was divided between the small tenants?
—I got a plan made first, and then I divided the land, giving each man his house and his arable land, and a certain piece of the improvable hill ground in addition to it, for the very purpose that he might have work during his idle time when it would cost him nothing, and that at last he would have a compact parallelogram to himself ; whereas formerly they all held their land higgledypiggledy.
45131. You gave each an arable croft and a piece of unimproved ground conveniently situated and susceptible of improvement?
—Yes, always adjoining.
45132. I presume it was imperative upon them to accept these conditions?
—Not at all.
45133. I mean, if they remained on the estate ?
45134. They were to take your conditions or leave your property ?
—What they would have liked was to be let alone.
45135. I am merely speaking as a matter of fact to realise the thing exactly to my own mind. They were to take these conditions you offered them or leave the estate ?
—I suppose so.
45136. Then your object was to convert these little crofts with the adjacent improvable hill pasture into feus as much as possible?
45137. Did you give the tenants of these little new holdings which you created the option of accepting feus or remaining as tenants under lease ?
—My statement said expressly that they asked me to leave them on nineteen years' leases instead of giving them feus, and that they would pay me the same rent if I would do so. They were afraid of the feus, because they were a new thing, and they did not understand them; but they understand them now.
45138. But still there were feus created and leaseholds?
—No, I did not give any small tenants leases; I gave them all feus.
45139. You did not retain any as leaseholders?
—No, except those who had leases before.
45140. Then you gave them the option of taking a feu or leaving the property ?
—Well, it never was an option in that way. Highland crofters never think of leaving on any consideration. There was no talk of option.
45141. But that would have been the result?
—I don't know; I am not very sure. If they had all stood out I don't think I would have been so hard as to turn them away. I am sure I would not. If they did not like it, and did not understand and did not trust me, I certainly would not have faced the idea of turning out twenty crofters. I have brought in crofters largely, and did not want to turn them away.
45142. I don't want to impute harshness to you; I wish merely realise the terms you made ?
—I did not do such a thing, and am not capable of doing it.
45143. If these men had said, ' We don't want feus ; we prefer leases,' what then ?
—They said they did not want feus and would prefer leases, but I knew better than themselves what was good for them ; it was very much better for them to have feus than to have leases. They are very much better off now with perpetual feus than with leases. There has been a change in the ownership of the estate, and there may be another, but that won't affect them now.
45144. You would not give them leases, but for their good insisted on making them feuars ?
45145. I also understand from you that if you had said, 'We don't want the feus ; we would rather remain tenants at will,' you would have left them as tenants at will ?
—Certainly, I never would have removed a whole township.
45146. You would never have removed them as a body ?
—Certainly not. I never did such a thing, and would not do it ; I would have given in if they had combined in that way, even although doing so would not have been for their own good.
45147. If they had struck, then you would have let them stay as they were ?
—Yes, I would ; I have often done it.
45148. You completed, or nearly completed, this work, and you converted the whole area occupied by these twenty small tenants into a large plantation ?
—No, none of it was made plantation. I did not plant any of the land.
45149. I think the hill ?
—That was another estate ; my own estate in Ross-shire.
45150. Had the Rosehall people no hill pasture?
—About a thousand acres.
45151. That is not planted ?
45152. What became of that?
—It was feued out in separate lots as moor ground alone.
45153. Then the whole, including the thousand acres of hill pasture, are feued ?
—Well, not the whole of it, but a good deal of it was ; most of it was, I believe. It was all thrown open to the public as feus, and they took it up where they liked.
45154. Were the whole of the twenty tenants converted into feuars ; I understood some remained as tenants?
—No, I think they all got feus, every one of them.
45155. After they became feuars and the transaction was completed, what was the aggregate rental of the area which formerly paid £200 ?
—I don't know—the hill ground and all; I did not count that up. Somebody said it was £700 ; perhaps it was. I cannot tell.
45156. You cannot tell by how much the rental of this area was raised by your operation ?
—No ; you see it gets mixed, because they got the shooting, and that was the most valuable thing on the whole property. They got the shooting as well as the land, and that was paying a couple of thousand pounds a year. But that has been deteriorated now by these crofts. I cannot single out what the crofts would be alone. The shooting rent is the most valuable part of that moor ground; it is worth more as shooting than grazing.
45157. But there was no shooting rent included in the original £200 ?
45158. You know what the shooting value now is?
—Well, it is sold to three or four different parties; but after I had sold two-thirds of the estate I got about £550 of shooting rent, I think, for the remaining third. The proprietors who bought the other parts shoot over them themselves, so that I cannot say what the rent is. I know one shot 700 brace of grouse last year; but, as I said, I calculate that the shooting, which formerly yielded about £200, now yields about £2000 —would do so in the market.
45159. You cannot tell me what increase of rent there was upon the agricultural part ?
—I think they just about paid their old rents, except that the hill was taken from them.
45160. About the same as they paid before, but without the hill?
—Just so ; which they were much better without, according to my humble opinion. It was doing them no good, and it was a great loss to me. I don't think it is a good thing for small tenants to have big ranges of hill.
45161. They actually pay about the same amount for the arable land as feus which they were formerly paying as tenants at will ?
— I think so, roughly. I am only speaking roughly from memory. I think it is about that.
45162. Then your operation converted these tenants at will into proprietors without any increase of payment whatever?
—Well, there might have been a little. I don't hke to say definitely, because somebody might bring up statistics showing it was different.
45163. But very little?
—Not much. I feued the land at £ 1 an acre, and charged 5s. or 6s. for moor; so that the arable land was not raised at all. They were not paying more than they were paying as rent.
45164. Then how do you account for the people being worse off, less industrious, and less happy on land which is their own than they were before when they were on another person's land holding as tenants ?
—It is very marvellous ; I don't believe it. This man, John Sutherland, is a gentleman now, and he was a very poor man when I took him up, and yet he comes and makes a complaint that he was ill-used. I never was so astounded as at that man coming up. I made a man of him.
45165. But you said yourself that giving them perpetuity or fixity of tenure does them no good—you repudiate security or fixity of tenure ?
—Well, as a rule. You see this man was about the most successful of the whole of them. When I feued the land this man came in first and got the best of it, and now he is well off; and then the next who came in did not get so good a piece, and so on.
45166. But, on the one hand, you say, as a general principle, you repudiate fixity of tenure, and that it does them harm; while, on the other hand, you say that on this particular area or spot the people are better off and that their complaints are false ?
—I don't say they are all false. I was referring to this man who made a complaint. If they don't improve the crofts it cannot do them any good to have a feu: but a man who will work industriously will make himself comfortable. An industrious man it pays to have fixity of tenure, but not a lazy fellow.
45167. An industrious man will get on better everywhere and a lazy man worse ; but does the fact of having fixity or security of occupancy naturally induce a man to be more industrious ?
—I think it does, and it should, and it did there. A number have done remarkably well
45168. Then fixity of tenure has been beneficial ?
—Yes, to a good many of them; but I have been disappointed to find that to some of them it has not. The old tenants who had houses already and arable land to begin with—it suited them admirably; but to men who had to do everything on the open moor, to begin life and build houses,—it was too heavy for them; they had not enough money to bring them round. They had to keep their families when all this was going on, and build houses, and they went and borrowed money from improvement companies in Aberdeen and elsewhere, at enormous interest, and that crushed them.
45169. On the moor which they brought in themselves what was the feu-duty or rent per acre ?
—The feu-duty was 5s, generally. Some say I charged 6s., and it may have been so. From 5s. to 6s. an acre, never more.
45170. But we have heard of land which has been let on improving leases at a nominal rental, in fact for nothing at all; and we have heard of land which has been let at Is. to 2s. 6d. an acre, all of which experiments succeeded, and the people more or less prospered, especially where they paid nothing; but we have never heard anywhere of wild land being given to the people at 5s. an acre and their prospering on it, because 5s. an acre at the beginning is half a rent ?
—But your Lordship never heard before of feus having been given off at 5s. an acre ; it was always leases. Nobody but me ever gave a feu off at 5s. an acre.
45171. But if you gave a man a good long lease at nothing an acre, or Is. an acre, he may be prompted to greater exertion, and become a more prosperous and successful man than a man who gets a feu at 5s. an acre?
—Yes, but then he does not interfere with the shooting; the lease does not give him the shooting, which is worth 2s. 6d. an acre, and that makes a great difference.
45172. How do they manage the shooting; do they put it all under one direction, and let it together and divide the proceeds ?
—Some of them—it is one of the greatest damages to the estate of Rosehall—take out their whole feu-duty in trapping game, and that is what damages the whole estate. They put out stacks of corn at this time of the year and set traps —anybody who knows about sport knows that in that way you can gather in all the black game round about the country —and the game which they get they sell, and pay the feu-duty. Nobody can punish them, because it is their own land; and that is one of the greatest evils connected with that plan of feuing land. They are doing that now, and are spoiling a shooting which was one of the finest in the whole Highlands.
45173. It may have spoiled the shooting and spoiled the people ; but supposing you had acted otherwise, and provided that it should be a club shooting—that the shooting rights should be let together and the proceeds divided, might not that have been a benefit ?
—I could not do that; I cannot reserve anything when I feu; when I feu I sell.
45174. According to the existing law, you cannot feu and reserve shooting rights ?
—No; if I could I would. I wanted to give them fixity of tenure. I knew the shooting was of no legitimate value to them; and here is the way they make an illegitimate use of it
45175. So that your experiment in feuing the land has in a great measure faded ?
—I am sorry to say it has : but I could not say it may not be successful yet, if you have industrious people. I would not think of giving a whole township feus again; but if there was a smart man I would give him a feu where it would not interfere with the shooting. But as a rule, it would not do to give the whole body of them fixity of tenure.
45176. The experiment has in a great measure failed because the selection was not good ?
—Yes, pretty much; and it won't do at all unless they have a start with houses and some arable land to begin with. I don't believe in squatting a man on the moor and giving him a piece of land, at any price and telling him to do good with it ; they cannot do it.
45177. We have the strongest evidence that that has admirably succeeded on the estate of Lord Lovat ?
—You mean in feuing land ?
45178. No, but putting them down upon nineteen years' leases ?
—That is what is going on all over the Highlands; and his leases are not so good as almost any in the Highlands, because he can give them notice to quit at four months by paying them for improvements.
45179. Then you think the system of improving under leases really succeeds because the proprietor has the active control and management of the people, and can direct them?
—Exactly; that is the main point,—looking after the property and seeing it is not neglected.
45180. These people are not fitted for independence ?
—They are not, I am sure of it. They are people who ought to be taken in hand by intelligent men and managed just as you would children.
45181. In giving us your remedies, putting aside the minor remedies suggested, such as fishing facilities, harbours, and so on, you have suggested that proprietors should treat their people liberally, intelligently, and well. But supposing the case where the proprietor were so burdened, or were indifferent, or were absentees, and could not treat their people liberally and well, or would not do it ; have you any suggestion to meet a case of that sort ?
—Yes; I have often thought of it —if there were any means by which an Encumbered Estates Act could be brought in, as it was in Ireland, and give every facility to some of these landlords who can do nothing for the people to get rid of their estates. It is where the landlords are excessively poor and have no money to spend that the misery is; you never hear of misery where there is a solvent and resident landlord.
45182. So that you look to the transfer of estates ?
—I would ;'it would be a great boon to the Highlands if there were greater facilities given to people who, like the dog in the manger, cannot get rid of big estates. Some landlords would hail it, though they don't ask for such a measure; but if the Government would bring it in a great number would take advantage of it, and it would greatly benefit the West Highlands of Scotland. Your Lordship has seen no destitution, I think, except on estates of that kind, unless on an estate that is utterly neglected, and many of them are utterly neglected.
45183. I am not quite prepared to admit the accuracy of your statement in that respect—that we have never seen distress or misery or destitution upon estates which were in the hands of intelligent and rich men —resident landlords ?
—Lewis is the only exception, and the cause there is mismanagement and neglect entirely.
45184. I only say I have seen destitution and poverty upon great estates?
—I know most of them in four counties, and I have looked round and where the proprietor is resident and solvent, I don't see anything the matter with the people.
45185. As you say, there may be errors of judgment or errors of system which may have almost as bad effects as the want of means of doing good ?
—It is not so much want of judgment or of means as just simple neglect—ignoring them; that is the worst thing the crofters have to complain of. It is not oppression, but neglect they have to complain of ; that is the thing—when the landlord does not take any interest in them. Where the landlord takes an interest in them, there they are thriving and prosperous; where he takes no interest in them, there they are all going
45186. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You are aware that from time immemorial there have been periods of scarcity among the population on the west coast ?
45187. How would you propose to put them into a position that would obviate that state of things ?
—They are fast getting out of it, if they were only let alone. They are getting on splendidly. There is an enormous difference within the last twenty-five years in the condition of those people. When I began to employ labour I could get any number of men at 8s. a-week, and I cannot get them now for 15s. or 18s. a-week; and tea, sugar, and all the necessaries of life are cheaper now than they were then ; so that whatever condition the crofter is in now, he is in the best condition he has been in since the creation. I say it advisedly; there is not a doubt about it. If there is poverty in the Highlands now, there was much greater poverty before.
45188. You think they are gradually working their way out of it?
—Every Skye man I employ gets 2s. 6d. a-day, and being industrious, frugal good men they live on fourpence a clay, and save the 2s. 2d. every penny of of it. They never spend a penny in drink or anything else, but go back to their families in Skye, and live in a dormant state till the 2s. 2d. is done ; and then they come and work to me again. They don't take any improvement in their condition as a stepping stone to move upwards; as long as they have meal and potatoes they won't work.
45189. How do you account for the fact that they work with industry when they come to you, and that their industry ceases when they get home ?
—I don't know why it is; it is a very curious thing. I offered to build houses for these men—I suppose you have seen the dens they live in in Skye —and let them bring their families to my property —I thought
it was hard for them to have to go back and forward —but not one of them would look at the proposal; they would go back to Skye and vegetate there. That is their enjoyment, and it is a great pity other people should interfere with their enjoyment, if they enjoy themselves that way.
45190. Mr Cameron.
—What employment do you give these Skye men on your property ?
—They were building a silo for ensilage.
45191. Do you find they are ready to take any employment?
—Any; there are no better people than they are that way. They are tractable and industrious, and never get drunk or give trouble.
45192. You have employed them a good deal in road-making, have you not ?
—Yes, and planting.
45193. Are they good hands at planting?
—Capital at anything; but they are like children ; I have always a skilled man over them. I never put a Skye man over them. A Skye man is only a machine, but a useful machine.
45194. Do these Skye men come regularly in spring and ask for work, or do you make known to them that you have work ?
—They write and ask if I will take them on, and my man writes back that he will.
45195. Do you get the same people?
—Yes; and they go when they like. If they get tired of it and want to go home and enjoy themselves, they will go off the next day, and I never hear any more about it ; and when they come back I employ them again.
45196. Professor Mackinnon.
—Have you tried to account at all for the condition of mind of these Skye people—that they will work when away and not at home ?
—They would work at home if the proprietors would go ahead with all sorts of work the same as I do. If the proprietors would do that, and put their properties right at home, the Skye men would not need to come to me; but when the proprietors cannot do anything, then the men must come out. If they could get meal and potatoes at home they would not.
45197. You think if there was work at home they would work at borne ?
—Certainly, just as well as they do away, if they were put under direction in a squad. There is any amount of work in Skye if there were men of wealth to do it. The island is in a state of nature; there is no improvement in it. Thousands of pounds might be profitably employed in Skye.
45198. Mr Cameron.
—Draining perhaps ?
—I could not point out all the ways. There is not a bit of land in the island which would not yield three times the crop it does if it were properly worked, but it would require people to take an interest in that.
45199. Professor Mackinnon.
—You think the people are better off than they were thirty years ago, even in Skye ?
—I am sure of it; they never were so well off in the world as they are now.
45200. Even supposing they say the very opposite themselves?
—I don't believe them. It is always fine to speak about old times; old times are always fine times with everybody —the times of our grandfathers. There never were any times in the world like the present.
45201. This year no doubt was exceptional, but you know that over all these parts of the west it was admitted on all hands there was so much distress that the locality could not provide for the people this year ?
—It has been frightfully exaggerated. This spring I wanted a lot of work done, and I wished to have Skye men, but they preferred to stick at home this year waiting for the Lord Mayor's money, and I saw afterwards they got doled out to them 6s. 8d., whereas they might have been earning £10 with me in the spring. This is what came of collecting money for them in London. This kind of thing, making the people suppose they are to get money from others to support them, is the worst thing that could possibly happen them; I would rather the Lord Mayor's money had been put into the sea.
45202. You are quite convinced that the people of Skye and Lewis could have lived without outside help this year ?
—I don't know about that; the proprietors would help them. There never was a Highland proprietor who would allow his people to starve if other people would let them alone. A gentleman once asked me, did you ever see a Skye man who did not look as if he got porridge and milk ? I went to hear Professor Blackie lecturing in the Grassmarket on the Sunday night, and if they had seen the congregation he had, they could have seen nothing like it in Skye. I wish the worthy Professor and all the other agitators would
only look at the slums of Edinburgh, and let the Highlands alone. You never saw anything like the destitution and misery there is in the low parts of Edinburgh and . There is no end of room for patriotic
effort there if it were only taken up. The Highlander at home is in paradise compared with the people in the alleys and closes of a great city.
45203. Probably you are quite right, but let us take one thing at a time. A gentleman who has charge of an estate in the island of Lewis was at the head of the movement for getting outside help?
—I don't think it was very nice of him then; he ought to have applied to Lady Matheson.
45204. I understand she subscribed very largely ?
—If the estate were properly managed, there ought to be nothing of that sort wanted. Lady Matheson is a lady, and cannot manage much, but efficient management would avoid it.
45205. Would you suggest what sort of management it should be to put things on such a footing that there would not be the necessity for appealing to the outside world now and again for help ?
—I don't know; the worst thing that happens them is when help is given. There is a worse
thing than destitution, and that is ill-advised charity.
45206. This year, when charity was resorted to, it looked like charity or starvation ?
—I don't think it would have been starvation ; you never heard of a case of starvation in the Highlands. I never heard of one, and I have lived all my life there. They always get porridge and milk, and they look well upon it. There never was a case of starvation. I challenge anybody to show a case of it. There are cases in London and Edinburgh, and nobody knows about them. But in the Highlands everybody knows where there is necessity, and they help one another, and they let others know about it.
45207. You think the population of Skye and the outer islands are quite as well off as the people in Edinburgh and Glasgow?
—I would infinitely rather be in the worst place in those islands than in the closes of Edinburgh, whatever the wage might be.
45208. Don't you think the very poor people in Edinburgh are only a small proportion of the population ?
—I don't think so. There are 40,000 people in Glasgow living in houses of one room. Conceive the condition of things where that is the case. Mr Bright stated that the other day, and I think that indicates a state of things infinitely worse than anything you could find in the West Highlands.
45209. You think the best thing that could be done with Skye and Lewis would be to let them alone?
—I think so. The best thing that I think can come out of this Commission will be that proprietors will have their attention turned to the crofters, and look after them more than they have done.
45210. There was one part of the west coast you alluded to, the island of Raasay. You told us you raised the rent £1 upon each crofter, because the rent had not been raised for eighty years; how many of these years was the estate in your possession ?
—Two ; but I have the books.
45211. I mean before the rent was raised ?
—I have the books of the old Macleods of Raasay for eighty years.
45212. But the estate was in your own hands only two years?
—Yes ; I did not buy it to speculate, but I got into bad health, and was advised to leave the island.
45213. Previously for eighty years the rents had not been touched ?
45214. During those two years the rent was changed how much?
—A trifle; about £1 a-piece; and the average rent about that time was 50s.
45215. That would be how much per cent. ?
—It was called about 40 per cent; but it does not matter although it was 500 per cent, £ 3 is nothing for a crofter to pay for three cows' grazing. When they were paying 25s. of rent a lot were complaining they were too high ; 25s. would not do much good to a starving man.
45216. So far as I have been able to follow the evidence, there was a complaint now and again in these parts of high rent, but that complaint was very little in comparison with the complaint about the small holdings. One man, for example, stated that he would prefer to have three crofts for three of his present rents rather than the croft he had for nothing ; so that really the complaint of high rents was not so great. During these two years when you were making improvements upon the estate of Raasay, you did not think of enlarging the crofts of the people ?
—Increasing the arable land ?
45217. Increasing the holdings ?
—No; they have thousands of acres of pasture land now. They have far too much ; it is the very thing that is doing them mischief.
45218. What stock do they keep ?
—Not one of them had not three cows and stirks, and a few sheep, and that kind of thing ; and if he had
nothing else surely 50s. is not a big rent for all that.
45219. Do you think a holding that keeps three cows and a few sheep is sufficiently large to maintain a family?
—I think any man would be a fool who expected on a 50s. croft to maintain a family. I have heard a great deal of talk about that, as if a 50s. croft could keep a family. Nobody intended that; it is impossible ; it is intended as a home for a man from which he can go and work otherwise, at fishing or labouring, or as a tradesman or anything else. He could not expect to support a family out of a 50s. croft.
45220. During those two years you were improving the estate of Raasay, you did not think of putting the crofts in such a position that the crofter could maintain a family ?
—Some of them did support their families.
45221. What would be the size of croft that was supporting a family ?
—I don't exactly remember the rents; they would be 50s. rents on an average.
45222. So that a crofter of 50s. rent could maintain a family ?
—In a way they did ; but they generally fished. I don't know what proportion of their time was spent upon the croft and what upon fishing.
45223. Perhaps it would have been better if they had fished more and crofted less ?
—-That is what I have always said; make fishermen of them, especially in Raasay, where there are plenty fish. I did everything I could to get them to fish.
45224. Did you ever turn your mind to the other side, and try to get them to croft more and fish less Ì
—No, because I would be a fool to do that; it would be the foolishest thing in the world to make crofters of them instead of fishermen. The thing is to make fishermen of them, and give them houses and potato land from which they can go to fish; that is the thing to make men of the West Highlanders.
45225. In all the districts of the country that you know pretty well, along the east and west coasts, have you not come across crofters who are pretty well off?
—My own crofters are pretty well off at Kyle, and they keep their sons when they come home, and are pretty comfortable.
45226. Don't you think the crofters in the west could do that ?
—No; the land and the climate are not suitable.
45227. All over?
—All over. I have hundreds of acres of land I could improve at Glengloy, but I would not be such a fool.
45228. At Kilmuir?
—You could grow oatmeal far cheaper on the prairies in America than you could at Kilmuir. It is a splendid country for sheep, and that is what the crofters know nothing about ; but it is not a place for growing meal. Let them take their food out of the sea.
45229. Can't they grow sheep in America ?
—No, they have no grazing there like ours.
45230. You have no fear of foreign competition?
— No; not in mutton.
45231. Nor in beef?
—It may in beef; but they cannot produce a blackfaced piece of mutton like ours ; it is impossible.
45232. You think Skye should not be cultivated ?
—I am certain ; it is the wildest dream possible to speak about cultivating the land there. It is a splendid country, and nature has adapted it for sheep; and I cannot understand any wise person suggesting that it ought to be cultivated, because nature has not adapted it for cultivation. It is fighting against nature altogether. You can get meal for 15s. a boll from abroad, and you cannot possibly cultivate corn at such a price; it would cost five times the money sometimes.
45233. And the people who should be maintained in Lewis, if there are to be any there at all, should be taking their living out of the sea entirely ?
—Yes, they should most certainly. All the people on the West Highland coast should take their living out of the sea, except trifles for milk for their families. Any man who begins to enlarge the crofts I think will only be doing the crofters mischief.
45234. Over what area upon the west coast would you apply that observation ?
—I don't know —beginning at Mull, opposite Oban, and up to Cape Wrath.
45235. You would diminish their crofts rather than enlarge them ?
—I would not do that until you make them better fishermen. I think the wise thing is not to develop farmers, but to develop fishermen.
45236. In the diminished holdings you would propose, would you give them any security of tenure ?
—No ; they are not fit for it. I tried it on the east coast, where they are more intelligent, and a better class than on the west. They are like children, and would get into a state of torpidity.
45237. Although it is a good thing, it is not a good thing for them ?
—That is so ; they are not fit for it. You require to have a man of some intelligence before you give him that.
45238. Don't you find there are a large number of intelligent people not fit for it too—lazy men ?
—Always; that is it ; and that is the way I say you must select the man you would give fixity of tenure to. Some men it is a capital thing for, but not for those West Highlanders; you must get them educated first.
45239. So far as you know it has not, at all events, been tried ?
—To give them fixity of tenure, it has not, and I hope it never will.
45240. So that you have no experience to guide you in that opinion ?
—I have experience with much better men than they, and if it fails with better men it cannot help failing with them.
45241. Where were these men?
—On the east coast, Rosehall and Culrain.
45242. Do you think it is bad for them!
—It has faded. It has failed with some, and not with others.
45243. Is that not the way it is with proprietors; don't some of them go to the wall ?
—Yes, there is a lot of bad proprietors as well as tenants; but an Act of Parliament won't make bad proprietors nor bad tenants good.
45244. It is a good thing in itself, but not for the west coast people ?
45245. Nor even for east coast people ?
—Some of them do very well on the east coast, but not all round. I would not give indiscriminate fixity of tenure on the east coast; but I woidd not give it at all to the people on the west coast.
45216. Would it not adjust itself in the same way as on larger properties, every person who was not fit for it would just go?
—I would not begin by putting a foolish man in power at all; I think it is beginning at the wrong end.
45247. Don't you think these things would adjust themselves in the market:—that some would just misuse their property and go?
—Yes; but it would take a long time. It would be the very thing for the man who started it; but if you know beforehand it would fail.
45248. If you believe it would fail?
—If you are sure it would fail, it would not be wise to try it.
45249. But you have no experience of the matter in the west?
—Not in the west; yes, I have in Oban.
45250. How did it do in Oban ?
—Very well; but they are a different—class of people there.
45251. I am glad to hear there are some on the west coast that are worthy of the privilege?
—People about the towns are different; the ordinary west coast Highlander is a slow coach.
45252. I should be sorry to believe it?
—I don't know if you know them as well as I do.
45253. Anyhow the experiment has not been tried?
—No, and I hope it never will.
45254. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You spoke of the number of people who may be described as occupying the slums of Edinburgh and , and you referred to something which took place last night; is it not possible that some at least of the occupants of these places are themselves either dispossessed crofters or the children of dispossessed crofters ?
—It would be deplorable to think that any west coast Highlander could ever descend so far ; it is possible, but I should be slow to believe it. I should hope not.
45255. I think you have written several times and published matters about the state of the Highlands with which you are so intimately acquainted. Am I correct in saying that not long ago you expressed yourself somewhat in this form, that there is at this moment a great part of the Highlands in a state of nature, and thousands upon thousands of acres therein which might be profitably reclaimed?
45256. You have expressed that opinion ?
—Yes, about twenty-five years ago. I have modified that view to this extent, that it would cost more than double the money now to improve land than then.
45257. Did you not say something to that effect within the last two years ?
—I don't recollect it.
45258. In a letter you addressed to the Inverness Courier ?
—That it might be profitably reclaimed—hundreds of thousands of acres
45259. Not hundreds of thousands, but thousands upon thousands of acres in a state of nature ?
—I hold that still; but I don't think there is the same extent that can be profitably reclaimed now. Circumstances have altered, and labour is more than double what is was twenty years ago.
45260. If you made such a statement you modify it now ?
—I do. I cannot remember that I made the statement -within two years; I hardly believe I can have said it within that time, because labour has so much increased in cost. Formerly an acre of ground could be reclaimed for £10; now it costs about £25.
45261. You say in your paper that in congested districts considerable emigration would be desirable ?
—I think so.
45262. Are you not aware from your own experience of what you have seen in America that there is a great deal of hardship to a settler who has little or no capital—that he has a deal to contend with ?
—No doubt; he will have to work when he goes there; no mistake about that.
45263. Will you go this length, if there be in the Highlands a great deal of land susceptible of profitable reclamation, would it be right to send people away against their will ?
—No; I would never like to see a man going away if he is profitably employed at home; certainly not.
45264. Just one question about the estate of Raasay; is it not the fact that at the time you were proprietor of it the greater and most valuable part of the land was under lease ?
—One large farm.
45265. Therefore it was impossible for you to extend the area of your crofters ?
—No, I had no power; it was all under lease. But if I had had the power I could not have done it. I think it would have been going backwards.
45266. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What is the reason that you employ so many people from Skye ?
—Because they are the finest people, I think, on the face of the earth,
45267. Do you choose them, or do they come to you?
—It is both ways.
45268. Can you not find people roundabout you on your estate equally good ?
—No, I cannot; not equally good for working. They are a first rate people —a fine people.