GEORGE AULDJO JAMIESON, Accountant in Edinburgh (55)—examined.
45383. The Chairman.
—Have you got a statement which you desire to make?
—I have. In my capacity as curator bonis for Mr Mackenzie of Kilcoy, my attention has been called to ertain evidence before your Lordship and the Commissioners at Dingwall; and I desire to make a statement in reference to that, and also with reference to the management which has been pursued on that estate for the last thirty years in regard to the. crofters thereon, during which time I have been directly or indirectly connected with its administration. With your permission I will read the statement:
—' Mr K. Davidson appeared as the delegate of crofters on the estate of Kilcoy, and made the following statements as to their condition:
—First, that there had been evictions of crofters, of which he remembered a great many himself, in order to add their crofts to the possessions of the larger farmers. Second, that most of these evictions had taken place during the time I have been in the management of the estate of Mr Mackenzie. Third, that in one case a widow paving 20s. an acre for her possession had been deprived of some acres of it, and had been allowed the abatement of only 20s. from the rent. Fourth, that a tenant had been deprived of 15 acres of pasture without any compensation at all. Fifth, that the houses of the crofters were so bad that their cattle had to be taken out during any storm, lest the houses should fall on them. Sixth, that the crofters have serious grounds of complaint of damage by game, for which they receive no compensation. One of the cases referred to by Mr Davidson I was able to identify, the others I could not ; and I therefore directed the local factor, Mr Cameron, to write to ask whether I was right as to the one case I recognised, and to ask for the particulars of the others referred to. Mr Davidson has been good enough to furnish me with this information, and I beg to offer the following comments on his evidence :
—First and Second.
—There have been no evictions at all during my term of office ; no croft, so far as I am aware, has been added by me to any large farm, with two exceptions at Kilcoy Heights and one on Tore; the rent of the former is £10, and of the latter about £5. I was appointed in 1867. Some of the cases of eviction referred to by Mr Davidson are stated by himself to have occurred twenty-eight years ago, or eleven years before my appointment; others in 1850, or seventeen years before my appointment, and four years before the estates were under the charge of the Court. Mr Davidson cited ten cases of eviction. All of these so-called evictions took place long before my appointment; three of them in 1850, and of the circumstances relating to these I can give no special explanation ; one of these parties has since occupied his house rent free ; a fourth was Mr Davidson's own father, who was evicted from his croft about twenty-eight years ago. Donald Davidson's lease came to an end in 1856 ; he held 6¼ acres arable and 2 acres of pasture at a rent of £5, and his croft, along with an adjoining one of about half the size, was added to a neighbouring croft of about 24 acres, altogether making a holding of 38 acres. The rent of the whole in 1856 was £14, 18s., and the factor reported that if let in one division, it ought to continue to fetch that rent; but so far as I can now see from the notes taken at the time, we agreed to accept £12 from the new tenant. It appears from Mr Davidson's statement that his father got another croft on the property, taken for him apparently by a brother-in-law, from which I would gather that he had not the means of taking a croft for himself; that croft is now held by his son. The fifth was a case exactly the same,—of the tenant of a small croft being removed in order that the adjoining croft might be made large enough for a tenant to live on. Roderick Davidson held, in 1854, a croft of about 9 acres, for which he paid £ 5 ; that, with another croft of about the same size, it was proposed, in 1855, to add to an adjoining croft extending to about 29 acres. The sixth and seventh cases are those of two men apparently removed in 1856 ; and on referring to notes made by the factor and a reporter in 1847, I find these two tenants mentioned as having made no improvements on their crofts, and I presume that, in consequence, on the expiry of the leases their leases were not renewed. The eighth case is that of a woman who was removed. On inquiry I find that it was believed she was in the habit of selling whisky illicitly, and was no doubt removed on that account. The ninth case is that of a man who had a lease for thirty years, which did not expire till 1868; but he left in 1862, six years before the expiry of his lease. I cannot at present state why, and he could not of course have been rein during the currency of his lease, except for some reason sufficient to justify the lease being brought to a premature conclusion. The last named, who, he says, was also the last evicted in this district, I find entered in the notes made at the time as a "worthless tenant, both as regards payments and improvements," and he therefore did not get his lease renewed when it expired. From this explanation it will be seen that Mr K. Davidson was entirely misinformed in every particular which he stated as to evictions on this estate ; the only cases cited by him in which crofts were added to a larger farm took place thirty-three years ago; in none of these cases has there be m any forcible ejection of the parties, in all the other cases the removals were made in pursuance of regular estate management, or because the tenants themselves were unsuitable. There have been within the knowledge of myself, or those who have assisted me in the management of the estate, just three cases of ejection or eviction on the estate in the twenty-nine years I have known the property. One of these is the case of a tenant who was in difficulties, much in arrear, and had to be removed; the other two were two small crofters at Istiane, who were considered by the factor and myself to be unsuitable tenants for their possessions, which were added to the adjoining croft so as to make a small farm; one of these tenants has now got a croft on the estate, and the other occupies his house rent free.
Third. —With reference to the third statement, I have to state that the widow in question held a house and 10 acres 2 roods 23 poles of land, for which she paid £6. This was 11s . 3d. per acre, not 20s. as stated by Mr Davidson. There was taken off for planting 2 acres 30 poles ; an abatement was given of 20s., with which the tenant expressed her satisfaction, and her rent now for 8 acres rood 33 poles, besides the house, is £5, or 11s. 10d. per acre.
Fourth.—With reference to the withdrawal of 15 acres of pasture without allowance, having obtained from Mr Davidson the name of the tenant, because I could not identify the case, I have to state that the lease held by the present tenant's father expired in 1874. It contained, along with 23¾ acres arable land, 17 ½ unimproved pasture; in reletting it we reserved 15 acres of the pasture intending to plant it, and we bound the new tenant to improve the remainder. I produce the lease signed by the tenant showing the reservation of land for planting, and I explain that it was considered a benefit to the tenant to plant the ground rather than stipulate for its improvement. From 1871 till it was planted, the tenant probably occupied the ground; but when it was planted, there was no withdrawal of anything the tenant held,—it was reserved for planting when he took his lease.
Fifth.—As to the condition of the crofters' houses, I give the most unqualified contradiction to the statement of their wretched condition. Speaking generally, these houses are at least as good as any of the same class in the Black Isle, and no unbiassed person who visits the district will corroborate the statement of the delegate in this particular.
Sixth.—As to the game, if there be any ground for complaint I must accept the blame, for the game is not let. I know what is killed, and it is against my strict orders if any quantity of game is kept of which any tenant can complain. In point of fact, I have never heard a single word of complaint for many years, and I am satisfied no ground of complaint exists.' With reference to general management, I think it may be of some benefit to your Lordship and the Commission if a statement were submitted regarding this estate, which has been under the special management of the Court for thirty years, and in which a regular system has been pursued under the best advice which could be procured, and I have therefore prepared the following notes, which, with your permission, I would also read :
—' Memorandum by George Auldjo Jamieson, curator bonis for Mr Mackenzie of Kilcoy, respectfully submitted to the Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands), Scotland, October 1883.
In June 1851, my predecessor in business, Mr Donald Lindsay, was appointed curator bonis for Mr Mackenzie; on Mr Lindsay's resignation in 1867, I was appointed his successor ; I have thus been intimately acquainted with the position of Kilcoy for a period of thirty years. I am aware by information derived from Mr Cameron, who was factor on the estate for many years, that there had been for long a population of squatters rather than crofters on many parts of the estate; but in the early part of this century, the number of these was materially increased on the tenants in the upper parts of the country being turned out to make way for sheep, and I believe Mr Mackenzie's father rather encouraged this immigration into his estate. No regular arrangements seem in many cases to have been made as to the terms on which either the original or the imported crofters occupied their lands, and their payment of rent was very irregular, and I rather think was obtained, when paid at all, by taking labour and produce in payment. In many cases, however, there were leases under which meliorations were payable to the tenants for improvements they executed on their crofts. This system went on in a listless kind of way until both landlord and tenants were startled by the destitution of 1846. Then the native poverty of the district was brought into strong relief, its native resources were quite inadequate to cope with the misery and starvation which then revealed rather than developed themselves, and but for the timely and liberal aid of the Destitution Fund, famine must have prevaded over a large part of the estate. To provide labour for this population, the proprietor of Kilcoy obtained a loan for drainage of £10,000, and those then in the management of the estate had already, perhaps somewhat in advance of the times, taken means to improve the agriculture of the district, and to introduce a vigorous and enterprising tenantry. In doing so I have no doubt crofts were added to existing farms, and there must have been some displacement of population, but this had been effected prior to my personal acquaintance with the estate ; and although at one time several small crofts have, in pursuance of the policy I will immediately explain, been added to the existing farms, there has not since 1854 been any regular system on what has been designated as evictions to create large farms. The district is mainly an agricultural not a pastoral district, and, therefore, the clearing out of whole glens referred to as having taken place in some districts has had no place here. It would appear that leases had been granted, or were understood to be granted, in favour of many of the small tenants which expired in 1856, and immediately on his appointment, therefore, Mr Lindsay had to deal with the question of what was best to be done with the numerous tenantry who had only shortly before been literally starving, and who could not possibly exist on the miserable holdings they had. So impoverished was the district at this time that I find in the accounts small payments for meal, no doubt to some of the smaller tenants, who could not get on the poor roll unless they had given up their little stocking. The rental of that date showed upwards of 186 tenants paying rents between £30 and £ 1 , averaging £4, 4s. 6d., and some (32) under £ 1 . Mr Lindsay resorted for advice to Mr Peter Brown of Linkwood, then the great agricultural authority in the north of Scotland; and it may be interesting to quote what, in his report of 18th November 1854, Mr Brown says on this subject:
—"In the opinion of the reporter, there ought to be no holdings of a size between that of a house and good garden and the farm which supplies labour to at least one pair of horses, for the very obvious reason that there can be no economical division of labour on a croft or farm of smaller extent than from forty to fifty acres, and this the factor seems to have held in view when framing the scheme alluded to. If the projected re-arrangement of the crofts be adopted, some outlay for buildings may thereby be found necessary; but if the factor's suggestion of supplying the small tenants with wood can be acted on, this outlay would be but trifling, as the tenants would in that case take the greater part of the expense on themselves."
I recollect at that time spending a long time on the estate with Mr Cameron, the local factor; and I have referred to the report by Mr Cameron which embodied his recommendations. Having in view the information now desiderated, I have prepared the following abstract of the results :—
It will be observed that in few cases is there any material increase of rent; and from the notes made at the time, I see our chief object was to secure good industrious tenants likely to improve their possessions, because we contemplated that no small part of the value of these crofts had to be taken in labour, and were satisfied that the labour bestowed at their own convenience on their own crofts would be more valuable than any labour stipulated for other purposes. Acting on the lines of the policy suggested by Mr Brown, leases were granted to the tenants selected in 1855 and the subsequent years. These leases were for nineteen years, and provision was invariably made for the retention by such of the old tenants as wished it of their houses rent free as long as they would stand. At the present moment there are fifty seven such houses occupied rent free by former crofters or their widows. In 1873 these leases began to expire, and we had then to consider what course was to be taken. In the meantime the system pursued had operated satisfactorily, and in the main the results we anticipated were, generally speaking, realised. But formidable difficulties presented themselves in carrying out the next stage of Mr Brown's suggestions. At that time Mr Beattie of Aberdeen, a gentleman of large experience, was employed to advise us and to report on the values of the farms, &c, and his report on the subject of these crofts, dated July 1873, was in these terms:
—"I now proceed to report on the small farms on the estate, the leases of which expire from Whitsunday 1874 and following years up to Whitsunday 1880. The greater portion of the lands under notice forty or fifty years ago consisted of barren moors. At that period illicit distillation was suppressed, and the inhabitants of the district and glens finding whisky smuggling no longer possible were dispersed. Some emigrated to the colonies, others went into the army, but many families settled on outlying lands, where lots or crofts were allotted to them, and the estate of Kilcoy became a favourite squatting locality, which seemed to have been pursued without much attention to regularity up to 1838. A considerable extent of the moorlands, however, were in a manner cultivated, but the houses erected were of the meanest description. At that date the estates were surveyed, and plans laid down for their more regular occupation. This gave rise to many of the aged and infirm having to give up their lands to their sons or successors, and they retained the original dwellings only, many of which still remain in the occupation of themselves or descendants, many now in very poor circumstances and receiving aid from the parochial poor funds. The readjustment of the crofts in 1838 induced a more substantial improvement of the land and the erection of a few rather better houses, although many at this date are but wretched hovels. The tenants, with but few exceptions, are industrious ; some are young, and cultivate the land very well; and the cattle throughout are very good crosses of the Highland with the Teeswater breed. There are about eighty possessions in all, seventeen of which extend from 30 to 65 acres, and the remaining sixty-three from 1 to 30 acres.
[table omitted]To retain so numerous a tenantry on this extent of land would evidently prevent the substantial and permanent improvement of the estate. It is equally evident that a radical change cannot be effected at once. Several of the tenants complained of the limited extent of their holdings and their miserable houses, indicating that their time was lost in such a position. I shall endeavour, in dealing with the farms of each district, to point out the manner in which I would recommend the land to be arranged into permanent farms and crofts, so that by an adjustment of the periods upon which the holdings shall be let, the proprietor may have it in his power to conjoin possessions from time to time, in order to form farms of extent worthy of suitable and substantial houses. In those localities suitable for small possessions only, improved buildings may at once be gone on with." On considering this report, and having, in the meantime, visited and gone over the estate with Mr Cameron, I did not consider it expedient to give full effect to Mr Beattie's suggestions. I find in a memorandum sent to the factor, I said
—" In sanctioning the foregoing leases, particularly in Knockbain and Drumsmittal districts, the curator is aware that this infers an abandonment, to a great extent, of the plan proposed by Mr Beattie of conjoining the crofts into larger sized farms. The curator, however, has come to be satisfied, after hearing the factor's views and giving the matter much consideration, that it is most for his ward's interest to adhere to. The system of smalter crofts, at all events, for a time." And, in reply, Mr Cameron said
—" Mr Beattie recommended that the crofts, particularly the Knockbain and Drumspittal districts, should be conjoined and made into larger sized farms. This plan, if carried out, would necessitate the building of new houses, and the trenching, draining, and complete fencing of all the lands, and, to a great extent, the removal of the present tenants. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that if this system were carried out in its entirety, particularly in Knockbain, the percentages would fully absorb the whole rental of the district, and create a scarcity of valuable labour for both landlord and tenant. I think, therefore, that the curator has acted wisely and for the interest of his ward in adhering to the system of smaller crofts." In submitting, therefore, to the Court the proposals he ultimately resolved to adopt, the curator took occasion to explain fully both the policy and the details of the course he deemed best in the circumstances, and this is recorded in his report to the Court of 4th July 1873, as follows :
—" When, in 1854, the predecessor of the present curator was appointed by the Court, among other difficulties which presented themselves for his consideration was the question of what ought to be done with the numerous crofters on the estate, who had been brought many years before from the upper glens of the county, to whom small patches of moorland had been allocated, and by whom as frequently such patches had been appropriated. These small tenants had done little good to themselves, and none to the estate; and, as they began to get old, and unable to procure a subsistence, they gradually became chargeable on the poor-rates, which had in consequence become exorbitant. In these circumstances, Mr Lindsay, availing himself of the best advice and assistance he could obtain, removed a few of the least eligible of these crofters; added their possessions to those of the adjoining crofters most likely to work them efficiently; and he granted leases in the form of which a copy is herewith produced, for nineteen years, at such fair but moderate rents as he deemed adequate, and on the condition of the tenants, in the course of these leases, improving their possessions by trenching and draining. The old tenants who were unable or unfit for such crofts were allowed to occupy their houses; but as they gradually died out these wretched huts were removed, and the sites added to the adjoining possessions; and, as opportunity offered, the smaller crofts which fell in were added to the larger possessions, or to those of the more active and industrious tenants. In this manner, during the currency of the leases which are now about to expire, not only has the redundant population diminished, and the poor rates correspondingly decreased, but the value of the estate has been materially enhanced. The poor rates in 1854, and for many years after, were Is. 6d. per pound; they are now 10d. The former curator, and since his appointment the present curator also, have carefully insisted on the fulfilment of those obligations as to the improvement of their possessions imposed on the tenants by their leases. This has been a more difficult task than the collection of their rents, and the Accountant of Court is aware that annually, along with the curatorial accounts, there has been submitted a statement showing the extent of land improved and drained in terms of these obligations during the preceding year. The results thus annually exhibited are summarised in the report by Mr Cameron submitted herewith, from which it will be seen that upwards of 430 acres of arable land have been added from waste, and upwards of 50,000 yards of drains made by the crofters themselves. The careful and judicious superintendence of Mr Cameron himself has largely contributed to this result. The time has now arrived when the future policy in dealing with these possessions has to be determined, and the subject is one to which naturally the attention of the curator has been anxiously directed for some time, as probably the most difficult and delicate part of the management of his ward's estate. When, in 1855, Mr Brown of Link wood and Mr Cameron looked forward to 1874, they anticipated that the proper management would be to convert these crofts, with their improved land, into larger farms—large enough to give constant employment to a pair of horses—and to do away entirely with the smaller possessions or crofts; and this policy no doubt commended itself very strongly, in view of the great evils which had arisen from the poverty and inertness of the former crofters. But the result of nineteen years' experience has effected a great change. The pressure of the poor rates has been reduced, the redundancy of the population has been got rid of, the habits of the people themselves have undergone a change, and they are in general active and industrious, as is evinced by the results of their labour on their possessions ; and an element, which was certainly not present to the minds of those who reported in 1855, has recently been introduced into the question by the state of the labour market, and not only the enhanced expense, but the growing scarcity of agricultural labour in all districts. This subject has of late formed the subject of much anxious communication between the curator and Mr Cameron, the local factor, who has put his suggestions into the form of the report herewith submitted; and the curator has asked from Mr Beattie also such advice and suggestions as he can afford. Guided by this assistance, the course which the curator is respectfully of opinion ought to be pursued is to combine a few of the crofts in suitable localities, but in general to maintain the present system for a time at any rate. To adopt at once the suggestions made in 1855, and to throw all these crofts into small farms, would infer the removal of many deserving and industrious families who have cultivated their possessions well, and who supply valuable labour to the neighbourhood; while it would necessitate the outlay of a large sum in new buildings and improvements of a character probably in advance of the people, who have not got either the capital or the skill to avail themselves of the accommodation which would be thus afforded. In going carefully over these crofts there are probably one or two instances in which, as at present advised, the curator would propose to create new farms of a size necessitating any considerable outlay. These are (1) adjoining Tore, where a part of the present farm of Ryefield, if not let along with Tore, would be advantageously combined with three of the larger crofts in that neighbourhood, and form a very nice farm of 150 acres or thereby; and (2) at the east end af Muckernich, where three crofts may be combined into one small farm of 80 acres or thereby. In other cases the combination of the crofts proposed by the curator will rarely raise them to the rank of farms ; and while he would propose to afford liberally drainage and such improvements, he does not contemplate any outlay on buildings, and very little on fencing, which, for a time, at any rate, the tenants will provide more cheaply and advantageously for themselves. In another important respect the curator would propose to alter the course pursued in 1855; leases were then given for nineteen years, and were necessary where obligations for improvements were laid on the tenants, the advantage of which could not be derived within a shorter time; but now these possessions are improved, and there is no reason why leases of such duration should be granted which are not suitable or convenient in the case of such possessions, and are often not salutary in the case of such tenants. The curator proposes, therefore, in most cases, to give leases for seven years or for twenty-one years, terminable by notices on either side at seven and fourteen years. In terms of this report, the small tenants hold their possessions, and the curator is not aware of any dissatisfaction with their tenure. He is aware that of late, owing to inclement seasons, their cultivation has not been so profitable as formerly, and when he recently met some of them he expressed his desire to help them by any assistance he could afford them ; and he intended to spend money in draining without requiring any interest On consulting with his legal advisers, however, he found this was ultra vires unless he could allege and prove absolute necessity, and, as matters have unproved, the curator has felt that it would be improper for him to submit a proposal to the Court which he could not justify on the only grounds on which the Court could sanction it. Should circumstances have got worse in place of better, the curator would have made this application, as he believes these tenants are entitled to every consideration that can be afforded them. The improvements executed by the crofters themselves since 1873 have been trifling, only some 40 acres trenched and some 30,000 yards of drains made; but there is not much land now left to improve. In conclusion, I submit a statement contrasting six of the principal crofter districts on the estate in 1882, with their position in 1854. In 1854 the poor rate was 3s. per pound, in 1882 it was Is. 6d. Yet between 1854 and 1882 there had been laid out on the crofts by the proprietor, including the value of manufactured timber supplied, £4328, 12s. 8d. In 1854, the population on Kilcoy of the crofter class, after a lengthened period of destitution, had only a few years before just escaped from starvation, and were steeped in poverty : in 1882, I believe the population is generally welltodo, industrious habits have been created, and their possessions are well cultivated, and the people are active and enterprising, and until I read Mr K. Davidson's evidence I believe contented.
STATEMENT of the Rent and Acreage of six Crofter Districts in 1854 and 1883.
45384. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—The late proprietor of Kilcoy, Sir Colin Mackenzie, -was, by all accounts, a very good-hearted man, was he not?
—Yes, he was; he took a great interest in the estate, and in all public matters.
45385. It appears, then, from the statement you have read, that a great number of people were removed from the upper glens and settled upon Millbuy?
—Not on Millbuy, at Knockbain and Drumsmittal; but hardly with his consent —his consent was never asked, though he acquiesced.
45386. There can be no doubt that a number of people were removed in the early part of the century from the upper glens ?
—I have always understood there was a considerable removal in the early part of the century.
45387. The estate of Kilcoy lies in the parish of Knockbain?
—It lies almost entirely, that part we are now speaking of, in Knockbain and Killearnan.
45388. In point of fact, there has been a great reduction in the population of these two parishes within the last forty years ?
—I should apprehend there was ; but I have not looked at the official returns.
45389. I have them here, and I observe the reduction from 1841 to 1881 in Knockbain is 699. What was the other parish?
45390. The reduction there in the same time was 584. Now must not these two removals within the century have involved a good deal of distress to the people ?
—Much less distress than their remaining where they were in those cases under my knowledge.
45391. Apparently the system that you followed yourself since you got the management was to retain the small crofters as much as possible; and I think you can state that the reclamation of land by them has been very considerable ?
—If you combine Mr Lindsay's management with mine, it has been. I have given you the figures; it has been very considerable.
45392. The area of the cultivated land has doubled?
—Oh dear, no. The area of cultivated land occupied by crofters may have doubled ; in 1854 it was 703 acres, and in 1882, 1142 acres.
45393. A very considerable increase?
45394. The rent has also very considerably increased?
45395. These two things have gone together ?
—They have, with a third element—outlay by the proprietor.
45396. I don't know that you mentioned that very particularly except that there was £10,000 borrowed at the time of the destitution. Have you been in the habit of spending a good deal of the income of the property upon the crofters ?
—The total sum expended since 1854 on the crofter class of possessions has been about £4250, including the value of manufactured timber supplied from the estate.
45397. You have yourself, and I think correctly, acquitted yourself of any putting out or eviction or removal of the people ; but has there not been a very great reduction there in the population upon the estate of Kilcoy in these two parishes ?
—I trust there has been. I think the only management for such an estate was materially to reduce a starving population.
45398. That might be very judicious for the estate, but was it judicious for the people ?
—I have less doubt about the people than about the estate almost, because the people who were starving in Kilcoy found employment elsewhere, and are earning wages.
45399. The estate has been under the charge of the Court for a long time ?
45400. And I presume that the expenditure is very sharply looked after by the accountant, or whatever ho is called, of the Court of Session?
—Certainly; no expenditure of the nature of improvement can be undertaken by me unless it has practically the double sanction of the Enclosure Commissioners as improvements which ought to be made, and of the Accountant of Court as improvements which are judicious.
45401. During those thirty years when people were removed or went away, were you able to give them any help ?
—No, it would have been ultra vires.
45402. Following that out a little further, the estate has now been under curatory for thirty years?
45403. And may be a good number of years yet ?
—I hope it will, for Mr Mackenzie's sake.
45404. And for your sake?
—I don't doubt.
45405. Do you not think, speaking generally, when an estate is under the charge of the Court, whether from minority or any other cause, the population suffer a good deal from those in charge not being able to spend money in improvements and otherwise, the same as an ordinary possessor of the property would ?
—I don't think in this case they have; but they have suffered very much necessarily from the absence of that kindly, considerate treatment and intercourse which a landlord in full possession of his estate would no doubt have been able to bestow. But in the stricter view, in which you are now looking at the matter of improvements and outlay on the estate, I think as much has been done as any judicious proprietor would have done.
45406. You called in some years ago a gentleman from Aberdeen—from your own county—and he rather wished to consolidate small crofts, and you set your face against that. Have you any reason to regret that you followed your own good instincts instead of carrying out this idea of the consolidation of crofts ?
—I have not; but with this qualification, that I think the time may come, and probably has come, when what Mr Beattie suggested will be the proper management. The keeping up of a very large number of small houses on these lands is a burden upon somebody; it is a heavy burden upon the tenants when they begin to get old, as they will be in another nineteen years; and it is an intolerable burden upon the landlord who derives such small rents comparatively from the land. Therefore the problem is not solved, in my opinion; it is only deferred.
45407. I should like to ask one or two questions which may be of importance to the Commissioners. You have taken a good deal of interest in the question of land tenure in Scotland generally, have you not ?
—I have for many years.
45408. And I believe you have published a small pamphlet on the subject ?
—I read a paper before the Royal Society this spring, which I was asked to print privately, and of which I took the liberty to send you a copy.
45409. I gather that you indicate that the people of this country have no right, or no real rights in the soil; is not that your view ?
—Certainly, the result of my reading upon the subject has been to convince me that the idea that the predecessors of the present crofters had any real rights in the soil is contradicted by all the evidence of history.
45410. But let us go back a little further; let us go back before the introduction of the feudal system —before we had regular kings in Scotland, I presume the occupants of the soil then must have had certain rights to possession of the land on which they dwelt ?
—Certain of the occupants had certain rights.
45111. In course of time it came to this, did it not, that the people who were in possession of the soil did give over their entire rights of property to the king nominally?
—I should say, from my reading, that was a mistake. I apprehend that the fact is that the land —any rights in the land which grew out of the growth of society —were unquestionably vested in the sept, or clan, or tribe, or whatever may have been its designation, and that these were rather usurped by the king than made over to him.
45412. But whether the property in the sod was in the hands of the sept or tribe, or the people themselves, in course of time it came ultimately to be entirely in the hands of the king ?
—I think not; I think it was widely different from that; the king's rights in his lands were very clearly defined. He had his own right as a member of the tribe, and he had in addition to that his right as king to lands which were the kingly lands, devoted to his maintenance as king, and which the king at the time took ; and there was sometimes a sub-king, with lands devoted to him. It was a most elaborate system. But it is a mistake to say that the king held the whole of the property that the rest of the clan held of him. On the contrary, he held in his own right as an individual, and held also for the endurance of his office, what was dedicated by the tribe for the maintenance of their sovereign.
45413. If it be the case that the king had no such right, will you explain to me why it was that about the end of the sixteenth century, about 1596, the king called upon everybody to exhibit their charters?
—But you are making a tremendous leap ; that is away many hundred years from the time I was speaking of.
45414. Take it then your own way?
—I was referring to the period prior to the breaking up of Scotland into the seven original earldoms; I was looking at the time when the tribe first began to emerge from barbarism into civilisation and to cultivate the lands it had formerly merely wandered over as savages. During that time, my reading has led me to form a clear conclusion that the right to the land was vested in the tribe; that the kingly lands were set aside for the king, the priestly lands for the priest, the piper's lands for the piper, and so on through an indefinite gradation; and that thus they were held when the feudal system burst in upon them.
45415. We will not come down so quickly. But take the time when the whole of Scotland became under the domination of one king, the time of Malcolm Canmore and immediately afterwards, when charters began to be granted. At the time when charters began to be granted did the Crown not assume the property of the whole of the soil of Scotland ?
—Certainly as the foundation of the feudal system the king, on paper, made himself the lord of the manor of the whole of Scotland. You are perfectly right about that point; but that was only for a mathematical point of time, in order that he might give it out again to the great vassals of the Crown, and that they in turn might give it out again to their vassals. But it cannot be said that at any time the king of Scotland had possession of the dominion utile of the land, because he only claimed to have the right of superiority.
45416. Let me put it in this form. At this moment, when there is land—I believe there is not much of it;
—to which no title can be shown, by charter, or otherwise, is that not held to be the property of the Crown?
—Certainly ; I apprehend that is the creature of statute.
45417. When charters began to be granted—we shall say shortly after the time of Malcolm Canmore —to great potentates, it was a grant from the Crown, was it not ?
—It was. I do not think the Crown would have been very wise to have refused them; I think the vassals would have been very ready to help themselves.
45418. Was any pecuniary payment expressed in the old charters as a consideration for the Crown granting the charters ?
—From my knowledge of the circumstances I should think not, but I don't know. The granting of the charters, according to my view, was a mere matter of form, in order to lay the foundation of the feudal system.
45419. But in any charter you have seen you cannot say it was for a pecuniary consideration ?
—As a matter of my own general knowledge, I should say no ; but I have not looked at the matter so carefully as to give such a distinct answer as I should like to be pledged to.
45420. In old times Scotland was in the habit, was it not, of being invaded occasionally by the English ?
—Yes, occasionally, and by other people too.
45421. Supposing that the charters of the nobles were so absolute as to give no right whatever to the people, and that the nobles could remove the people, as they are now doing and have been for a considerable period, where would the people have been who would defend Scotland from the invasions of England ?
—I think, sir, that a great fallacy underlies that. The paper and parchment rights of the great nobles of these days to the land were just about worth the paper and parchment they were written on; they held them by their sword and by their strength. They held them by their vassals; and in order to understand their position I think you must go back to the expiry of the previous period in which the original members of the clan or sept were the proprietors in fee simple of the great part of the sept land. Those were the original members of the sept, or the clan, and that is a very different thing indeed from having been the people, because there was nothing more exclusive than the Celtic clan or sept unless it were the Saxon gemote, which was equivalent to it; and nobody had any right in the sept lands except they were born within the strict purple of the sept, or the Saxon equivalent. And those clansmen who came to hold the lands of those days held them under the great vassals of the Crown; and we see them now in the lairds and other people who hold of the great vassals or of the Crown. But the common people who formed the great mass, who defended Scotland, were the dependants of those great houses and of their vassals; and they had no personal right in their land ; they were the dependants of those who had.
45422. Were not the terms of the charters of the great nobles, what are called ward holdings or military tenure, held for military service?
45423. The king gave out his lands to his nobles upon condition that they would give him so many men when called upon, and if they did not bring the men did they not forfeit their charters?
—Of course, if they did not fulfil the obligations imposed upon them, then their corresponding rights would fall.
45424. Supposing then that those great nobles turned away everybody and banished them out of Scotland and off their places in consequence of their having no right to the soil?
—They had no right to do that to those to whom they had granted the lands, unless they forfeited by irritancy. But there was a vast number of the poorer classes in Scotland who were not of that class; they were dependants of that class, and they were very much in the habit of doing with them as they liked, as all early communities did. Every early community in the world did so, and the more the matter is studied the more clearly that appears.
45425. Do you think the kings of Scotland, when they gave their original charters to the great nobles, over contemplated for a moment that people upon those lands were not to have a certain hold or right, or were liable to be removed at the will of those parties from the soil?
—Unquestionably. A very large proportion of the population of Scotland in those days were persons who were in the position of serfs, of which there were two classes—one allodial serfs attached to the land, and who went with the estate, and the other personal serfs, whom the great lords of the day employed as their personal servants to cultivate their domain lands. That was the class of people who made up the noble peasantry of that day; and, no doubt, the relations thus stated roughly seem to our modem ears very severe, but in those days the relations between man and man were more close than they are now, they were more of a family than a legal connection.
45426. Do you assert that at any period from the time of Malcolm Canmore, the people who lived upon the lands had no title or absolute hold upon the lands ?
—If by people you mean those below the rank of landholders, I answer unhesitatingly, yes; there were no such rights known to the Scottish people of that day.
45427. And it would have been perfectly within the power of those landowners holding these charters to remove every person when they chose from their estates and banish them abroad ?
—That is a somewhat deceptive view of the case ; it might have been their right, but it would have been their wrong too, because they would have been doing irreparable injury to themselves; their whole strength lay in maintaining the population about them, so that the question could never practically assume the position you are now putting.
45428. Then the moment the people were of no use to them they began to remove them ?
—That leads up to a very different question. As you put it, it would seem as if it was a matter of policy, of choice, on the part of the landowners ; it was the force of circumstances which was more powerful than their will, when society developed. If you will think what a Highland chieftain was in those days, or even a Scotch laird, he depended on his own home and those around him for his maintenance in every way. There was no exchange at all almost of commodities; in those days men lived upon themselves, and were self-sufficing and self-contained. When society advanced and circumstances arose which forced foreign commodities upon them, and the local necessities which had employed a great many of these men, and made them at once the retainers and the necessary allies of their landlords, came to an end, their employment ceased, because their place was taken by others. The chief got his coat from Galashiels instead of from his own glen, and the man who wove it was not dismissed from the glen because he was no longer necessary there, but was dragged, by the irresistible force of modern circumstances, to Galashiels or elsewhere where he could ply his trade.
45429. You have stated that for a time it was the interest of the great landowners and others to keep the people. Will you say this, —May circumstances not arise when it may be the interest and duty of the State to keep the people in the country, if, as you say, they have no hold whatever upon the soil upon which they are?
—I hardly follow the question.
45430. The people were useful, you say, and the landholders never thought of removing them from the land; but may the time not come when the State may think it proper to retain those people for certain purposes ?
—That assumes that the State is to take charge of these people, as the Highland proprietors took charge of their population.
45431. Any way you choose to put it. May not the exigencies of the State render it right that the State should take some means to protect the people and keep them in their own land, if they have no hold on the soil at present ?
—I can see no such duty devolving on the State with reference to any part of its population. And if you say that that devolves upon the State, as regards part of the population, it seems to me to lead up to a system of direct communism—you have no halting-place. I cannot, and I don't think you would propose that a distinction should be made by the State in favour of any section of its citizens at the expense of the rest, —that it should subsidize crofters out of the taxes paid by other labourers.
45432. It would be a pity if there were any mistake upon the question. I am merely following out your own statement that, in former times the large landholders did not think it necessary; in fact, it was their wisdom to keep the people on their estates. Now, I want to carry that farther; may the time not come when it may be necessary for the State, for the purpose of preserving the people in the country, to keep them just as the Highland proprietors did before ?
—Certainly not; and that would be coercing the laws of nature instead of co-operating with them. Economic laws are are just as powerful and irresistible as those of physics, and you may just as well attempt to stem the ocean as to stem the progress of events and social circumstances; they are equally beyond control, and the wise policy is to co-operate with and not to thwart them.
45433. Take the case of Russia, was it not thought advisable within the last few years to give the peasants their freedom and an undoubted hold upon the land, which they had not had before ?
—I understand it was; that was deemed necessary for the safety of the imperial empire.
45434. I suppose you have read what Mr Cosmo Innes has written about the commons of this country ?
—I have not read it recently, but I am familiar with his views.
45435. Are you aware that there are thousands upon thousands of acres of common land in England now reserved and inalienable to the people ?
—I believe there are numberless commons in England, and it is one of the beauties of the country.
45436. Are there any such in Scotland of any extent ?
—Not of any extent that I know of.
45437. Have not all the commons been divided by a process of division of commonty, and divided among the landlords, and amongst them alone ?
—That is so.
45438. Do you agree, or do you not, with Mr Cosmo Innes, that, in the division of the commonties, the lawyers of previous days stretched the question of parts and pertinents to such a degree as to deprive the people of their right to their commons, or many of their commons ?
—I won't venture to express any opinion upon the legal question, but upon the moral and political point I have no doubt he was right. I think, in the division of commons, more regard should have been had to that innominate right which the public had as to their use, and that this has in many cases been lost sight of.
45439. You know there was a great division of the commonty Millbuy in the Black Isle about thirty years ago?
45440. All that has been divided amongst the proprietors in the neighbourhood ?
45441. Would it not have been well that there should have been one little piece in the vast county of Ross left to small people to send their cattle to graze upon ?
—That is a matter of right; I was speaking only of what lawyers call the servitude ludendi. The people, I apprehend if the people had any right, no lawyer on earth could defeat it ; but the right which the law has not recognised, and which I regret it has not, is that innominate right which the people possess by long use of using commons as places of recreation and resort and amusement, which we so much want. It was to that I referred, and not to a pecuniary right, such as the right to use it for the grazing of a cow. If a man had that right ho was entitled to have it protected.
45442. The Chairman.
—You have described to us the administration of an estate which, during the last thirty years, if I have understood you correctly, has been one of very gradual, and I suppose considerate consolidation?
—It has ; you are referring to the question of small crofters.
45443. But gradual and considerate consolidation, which has resulted in the number of separate holdings being reduced to about one-third of what they were thirty years ago; and we may presume the average size of them is three times as large ?
45444. Or perhaps more ?
45455. That has, of course, been accompanied by the removal or dispossession of a certain number of people. I presume it has not been the case that these families have been naturally extinguished ; they seem to have been in part removed at the end of leases ?
—At no other time, of course.
45446. They have not died out from time to time, but have been systematically dealt with —in part removed and in part kept on at the end of certain periods ?
—Yes. The old people remain in their old houses until they die, and the young people provide for themselves elsewhere.
45447. The old people remain as cottars?
—-As cottars paying no rent.
45448. In the little houses which they had formerly inhabited as farmers ?
45449. And a certain number of the people went elsewhere ?
45450. In the case in which these small holders, for the general good of the estate and of their neighbours, were reduced to the position of cottars, did any of these people fall into the condition of paupers ?
—A good many of them ; some of them were paupers before, and a good many of the 57 people who now occupy their old houses I have no doubt now are upon the poor's roll
45451. So that, although the estate and the remaining number of people have probably been benefited, there has been, by the consolidation of the small holdings, a certain class reduced to pauperism ?
—No ; the result has been that the poor rates have diminished one-half over the whole of these lands, therefore everybody in these two parishes has benefited in that respect by the operation. The paupers who are now on the roll, I have no doubt, would have been on the roll although they had continued in their crofts, and it has not been because of their removal from their crofts that they have been reduced; but as years crept upon them, and they were no longer able to work, they would naturally have fallen into that position.
45452. But in some cases, had they remained in their crofts, their families or the young people who went away to other places might have remained on the farm and cultivated it till the time of their parents' death, and so supported their parents ?
—They might, and no doubt in some cases they would ; but it does not quite follow as a necessary result that they would. I think the tendency would have been for them to have gone where they could have carried their labour to a better market, because these small crofts were quite incapable of recompensing fair labour.
45453. You think they would have deserted their parents ?
—I have no doubt they would have followed the natural bent of every man to better himself, and would not have wasted their labour on crofts which would not repay their labour.
45454. You think in that case the small tenants whose holdings were consolidated were agreeable to this process of gradual and considerate consolidation—that they themselves wished it ?
—I do not say in all cases ; I am afraid far from it. Those who got the crofts adjoining their own liked it. and others did not That is just human nature.
45455. So that this consolidation has been attended with some degree of human suffering and human depression. Now, I would ask you how were these people dealt with on the small crofts with reference to any improvements that existed ? First of all, had these crofters originally broken any ground—built houses, cultivated the ground, and executed some simple improvements ?
—Going back to the original crofter, I have no doubt he came to the ground finding it nothing more than a moor; that he built a very bad house, and gradually broke in land round about about him; and that he paid no rent. After a while, his position there, no doubt, attracted the notice of the ground officer or the laird, and a rent was imposed upon him. At a further stage he would rise to the level at which he would require a lease, and then economic laws would begin to operate. Where that lease was granted, in many cases provision was made according to an elaborate system in the north of Scotland of meliorations ; and for several years after Mr Lindsay's appointment we had a considerable number of people to settle with on the ground of meliorations. That was one type. Another type was where the rent was modified in respect of the improvements effected. That was the type which Mr Lindsay and I preferred, and which we have invariably acted upon.
45456. That is to say, instead of letting the farms at the beginning of the first or second lease at the market value, or what you considered the market value, you let them at reduced rents in order that the people might be gradually compensated for their meliorations ?
45457. And you yourself have seen on the property .-onsiderable sacrifices
of rental for the purpose of reimbursing the people ?
that is the raison d ètre[oi the form of lease which we have, which imposes
on the tenant the obligation to bring into cultivation certain land,
and that is as much a part of the rent as a money consideration.
45458. And in consideration of that he gets the land at a lower rent
for a certain number of years ?
45459. But you say there were other cases in which some compensation was given?
—Yes. During the time of the predecessors of Mr Mackenzie such obligations were given, and it devolved upon us as representing Mr Mackenzie to deal with them. But Mr Lindsay and I had no power to give obligations which would have affected the successors of Mr Mackenzie; and therefore, even if we had preferred that system, it was not in our power.
45460. So that in the case of these people losing their crofts, and falling into the position of cottars and partly into the condition of paupers, there was no compensation given to them at the time that they fell into that condition ?
—There was no compensation due.
45461. Because their rights were consumed by the favourable terms of their previous tenure ?
—That is so.
45462. Were the people who fell into this condition regarded as objects of particular indulgence and commiseration on the part of the management of the estate ? Did they receive any donations or any means of support, or what ?
—-In the position in which I and my predecessors stand we have no power whatever to be indulgent; but in all these cases there is a certain latitude permitted, and I think I stretched that to the utmost.
45463. Do you think it would be possible by any alteration of the law or statute—could it be safely permitted to curators to transport themselves altogether into the position of a benevolent landed proprietor?
—I think it would be extremely dangerous, and I don't think the Legislature could be induced to pass the law.
45464. Professor Mackinnon.
—I think it was alleged as one proof of the improved state of matters on the estate that the poor rates had
decreased from 3s. in the pound to Is. 6d. ?
45465. In the comparative rental you gave us the rent during the period was doubled ?
—The rent from the crofters.
45466. Can you say if much the same state of things existed over the whole estate ?
—Oh, no. The rent, of course, was very much increased in consequence of the bringing in of arable land at the end of the crofters' leases. The rental of the estate has increased, but nothing in that proportion.
45467. Have you any idea of the proportion in which the rent has increased from 1854 to 1883?
—There has been a very large increase on the Highland part of the estate in that period; there are two distinct parts of the estate. I think the increase has been from about £4700 to £8000.
45468. So that it has very nearly doubled ?
—Yes; but that must be qualified by this statement that it represents a very large expenditure of money. There is nothing like that increase in the net return to the proprietor, because out of that he has to pay a very large sum annually for money borrowed for improvements.
45469. Do you think that, taking the parish in which the estate is situated, the rental has about doubled in these thirty years also?
—I think it very likely.
45470. I find in the parish of Killearnan a reduction of population during that period from 1794 to 1000, or fully more than one-third ?
45471. And in Knockbain a reduction from 3000 to 1800, fully more than a third also. Now, although the poor rate has decreased from 3s. to Is. 6d., is not the yield of the poor rate much about the same, the rent
being doubled ?
—Yes, but the expenditure upon the poor has materially increased in the interval.
45472. So that really, although there is a third less people, there is as much spent upon the poor as there was thirty years ago ?
—Yes; but the poor are very much better off.
45473. I have no doubt of that ?
—Which I am glad to say.
45474. I hope everybody is better off; but although the population has been reduced by a third, we have as much money spent upon the poor as ever ?