Rev. WILLIAM HALL TELFORD, Free Church Minister, Reston,Berwickshire (35)—examined.
(See Appendix A, LXX.)
45573. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to read?
—No statement; I have some notes I intend to lay before the Commission, in connection with the evidence which has been given in regard to the Tongue district, especially in connection with the state of the crofters there, and the evictions that took place in 1819.
45574. You have also something to say respecting harbours, have you not ?
45575. Considering the lateness of the hour, and the amount of evidence we have had regarding the Sutherland evictions, I would ask you to speak preferentially upon the harbour question. I don't debar the question of the Sutherland evictions entirely, but I would ask you, considering the lateness of the hour, not to be very long upon that subject ?
—My statement upon harbourage is based upon the present condition of the crofters in Tongue factorage. When the evictions took place it was held out to them as a reason why they should be evicted, that the only industry within their reach was the wealth that belonged to the ocean. But after they were sent there, no steps were taken to further their interest in that respect; no proper harbourage was provided; they were left to take their places in little creeks or distant bays, on exposed parts of the coast; and ever since 1819, downwards to the present day, although the Duke of Sutherland has 140 miles of sea-shore on his estate, there is not one single harbour for the benefit of the fishermen. There are several places where a fishing population is now located, and where, if a harbour were built, a special industry would grow up in the county, which would have a beneficial effect in changing the present system which prevails in the county, and might be the means of breaking down the exclusiveness which borders round about the crofters in their little districts. Take the district of Port Skerra, where there has been a fishing population since the evictions took place. The rent first was only £2, 0s. 10d.; and Melvich £2, 10s., and they themselves have increased their holdings in value to £122. Altogether the capitalised value of what the crofters have done for the benefit of his Grace is £9870, being the capitalised value of the crofts which they have made by their own labour. That has cost his Grace nothing, and yet there is nothing done for the people in the way of providing for the only industry which is within their reach. I also find that, because this industry is lacking to them, they have to get 8s. 6d. of every pound they spend in the county outside the county. Their rental is £2127. Each croft is supposed to bear three rents. Taking two of them for their support, and adding to that the amount of money his Grace is said to have expended among them yearly for the last twenty years, makes £8721. Adding to that £3000 as the value of their regular fishings, brings out about £12,000. Then adding to that any other sum they are able to get out of the neighbourhood—local labour from those who are able to employ them —I find that comes to about £16,000. In this fishing locality there are 800 families, and those 800 families cost each year £28,000, so that four-sevenths of what is required for their support is got within the county, and three-sevenths must be got outside. That argues that the locality does not support the population, and something must be done in order that their support will be by the earth again. I know nothing that will bring that about so readily as harbourage; and I think some means might be taken to secure harbours for the three principal places on the Tongue coast. Port Skerra, Armadale, and Skerray ; or leaving out Armadale, which is a small place, take Palmin, where an excellent deep sea harbour might readily be built. These remarks I venture to lay before the Commission, in connection with the special matter of harbourage, because they show that if his Grace were prevailed upon to halve the population —to make a distinct fishing population, and a distinct farming population—that would be the best possible means of opening up the resources of the county, and bringing back the state of matters to what it used to be when, in the days of the tacksmen, there was a graded population from the chief downwards. The men who were known as tacksmen in those days were men of culture and men of some refinement, which linked society together in such a way that confidence was preserved amongst them. But now the population of Sutherlandshire find themselves all together along the sea-coast. There is nothing permanent for their industry or work ; they are dependent upon outside labour and resources for their support, while they ostensibly pay rent for their little crofts to his Grace. There were some other matters which I thought it might be desirable to bring before the Commission in connection with evictions; but as the hour is late I will beg leave to hand in a statement on that point.
45576. With reference to the question which we have frequently heard agitated at these meetings, that is the division between the industry of fishing and the industry of agriculture, what is your opinion generally? Do you think that fishing ought to be practised as a separate industry on the north and west coast; or do you think it ought to be allied with some possession of land?
—Quite distinct, if there were harbours. Already his Grace has tried that in a small way at Port Skerra. He
built four or five cottages there some fifteen or twenty years ago, and they have never lacked tenants though they have no land.
45577. When you say no land, do you mean not even land for one cow ?
—Not even for a garden, in this case I specially refer to.
45578. Would you therefore restrict a purely fishing population to a cottage, and not even give them a bit of potato ground or a cow's grass ?
—Personally, I should like them to have half an acre or an acre for garden ground attached to their little cottages.
45579. But not for pasture at all?
—Not for pasture or special agricultural purposes.
45580. They should have no stock?
—Personally, I think it would be a hindrance and encumbrance to them in prosecuting their calling.
45581. Should they be encouraged to acquire their dwellings themselves as feus —to buy up and become actual proprietors of their houses, or should they remain as tenants at will of the proprietor ?
—Having a right to look upon their holdings as their own. I can adduce a case in Berwickshire, at Burnmouth, where the people have secured a harbour for themselves. The fishing population there, numbering 371, spent £9000 on a harbour, and last year the white fishing amounted to £5000; and the greater part of the fishermen hold their houses as feuars.
45582. What area of ground is attached to the cottage ?
—At this place no area ; the houses are as near as possible to high-water mark, beneath the brae or cliff.
45583. They have not even a cottage garden ?
—They have not.
45584. In that way they avoid the danger of subdivision, and the building of additional dwellings on their small feus ?
—They are prevented from that.
45585. But in the case of the feus you are speaking of, with the stances of the houses and a quarter of an acre or half an acre of land, do you think they might not be in danger of subdividing and building additional houses?
—That could be restricted. I don't see there would be any danger if the houses were built on ground properly feued and arranged.
45586. In constituting a feu for a house and a small area round it in the form of a garden, can you restrict the purchaser of the feu from building an additional dwelling?
—Not if the feuar has the right; but feus could be granted without that right.
45587. You are in favour of establishing or creating a separate fishing community, but subject to that condition, that it is to be in the neighbourhood of a competent harbour, and, I presume, that the fishermen shall acquire a class of boats which will enable them to prosecute the fishing at a distance, and all the year round ?
—Only in such circumstances.
45588. How do you propose that your fishing communities are to be provided with this good class of boats ?
—If a harbour were provided for them, I have no hesitation in saying their own industry and thrift would speedily provide that for them.
45589. But still the initiatory step must be taken. Do you think, in that case fish-curers would come and provide the people with boats subject to gradual acquisition or purchase by the crew ?
—-In the past, that has been the case to some extent. This little village I spoke of had twenty years ago twenty herring boats, as they are called, manned by five men and a boy each; but the fishing has declined since then, and there are only ten there now.
45590. Have you ever considered any project by which Government could either advance directly to the fishermen for the purchase of such boats, or advance to the fish-curer on condition that he should supply
the boats ?
—Never. In the north, we have been accustomed to look upon the fish-curers as interested in such advances, and as being willing to make them, if the fishing were promising and favourable.
45591. And not to require any extraneous assistance whatever?
45592. Except the credit they might get from local banks?
45593. You mentioned the disadvantage of having a population ranged all round the coast; you seem to point to the settlement of some of the people in the interior?
45594. Do you mean by that the constitution of larger crofts ?
—Larger crofts not renting less than £20, however much above.
45595. How do you propose to arrive at the constitution of such crofts ?
—If liberty were given to have land on lease, and that that might grow as the natural outcome of the progress of the country in consequence. The adjoining village of Ross is included in this enumeration of the increase of the fishing industry, I have no doubt, even in Sutherland, in the course of nineteen years, that would very materially show itself.
45596. The goodwill of the proprietor is the first thing?
—That is the main thing; and the natural prosperity of the people would lead up to it.
45597. Have you ever considered the proposals, of which you have perhaps heard or seen something in our proceedings, for Government advancing money to crofters upon security of their stock?
—No, I desiderate that much.
45598. You desire it?
—Personally I am not in favour of such,
—I desiderate it. I think the crofters have made a great mistake in speaking so much about Government aid.
45599. Do you think it would be a misfortune to settle a new body of crofters, who would not be able to stock their crofts from their own resources ?
—I think it would be a mistake. I look upon the fishing industry upon the north and west coast of Sutherland as the great hope of the country; fishermen might acquire such a competency as would enable them to take to farming; or the natural outcome of the country that would result from such townships.
45600. The fishing people having realised gains by the sea would expend these gains upon the land ?
—Possibly; there are cases round about the Scotch coast where there is that seen.
45601. Men who began by fishing, and when the fishing period was past, took to land ?
—Not the fishing period, but their own lifetime of fishing.
45602. At what age do you think a man ceases to be an active fisherman?
45603. And do you think a man, at that age, would still be fit to engage in farming—in rural pursuits ?
—That depends on the money he has on hand.
45604. If he has the money he would?
45605. Do you think a man can work much longer on land than on the sea ?
—I believe he can.
45606. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are you a native of Sutherland?
45607. Did you live a long time amongst the people there?
—I lived there from 1850 till I finished my college course, and came to settle in the south.
45608. Of late years you have lived in Berwickshire?
45609. And is there a fishing village close to you?
45610. Is the population of the village a purely fishing population?
45611. Do the people intermarry with the agricultural population?
—I am not in a position to answer that question.
45612. But are the fishing population of the east coast of Scotland not generally a distinct race?
—They are distinct from the west coast fishermen.
45613. From the Highlanders?
—From the Highlanders. The Sutherland Highlanders who are now fishermen are the descendants of those who originally inhabited the straths of the country.
45614. And do you think these Sutherlandshire Highlanders will ever devote themselves to fishing in the same way as a native fishing race ?
—They would if they had secure harbours.
45615. Do you know of any instance of that sort?
—I know several at our own little village at home; there are several families in it who are fishermen, and have no land; they have no other means of livelihood, within their reach, except fishing.
45616. And do they devote themselves for twelve months in the year to fishing?
—So far as the weather permits. They go to the east coast during the herring fishing, and when they come back they go to the white fishing, and in spring they take to the lobster fishing.
45617. They fill up the whole year?
—So far as the weather permits.
45618. And are they able to make a decent livelihood ?
—I hope they do. But they are very much impeded in their labours by the lack of harbour accommodation, which necessitates their dragging up their boats, and by the risk from the surf in launching them again. All that might be prevented if they had deep sea basins.
45619. On the west coast generally the Highlanders have natural basins ?
—These are arms of the sea—lochs.
45620. And yet they don't become permanent fishers do they ?
—But on the west coast of Scotland the fishing is different from that in the north; there is little white fishing inside the Minch. There is one other matter I should like to advert to; I am anxious to refute a statement, made some time ago by a witness who appeared before your Commission, with regard to the late Rev. Mr Mackenzie of Farr. I hold in my hand a copy of a letter by the Rev. David Mackenzie. In regard to his opinions ere he died, I had the pleasure of knowing him personally, and I know that up to the hour of his death he never ceased to regret and deplore the fact of the clearances. The statement he made, in his original letter, which I hold in my hand, to the late Mr Loch, the Duke's commissioner in 1819, fully expresses the position he maintained at the close of his life with regard to these clearances; and with your permission I should like to read that letter, and Mr Loch's reply to it. Mr Loch wrote to Mr Mackenzie on 17th February 1818, in these terms:
—'106 Great Russell Street, 17th February 1818.
—Rev. Sir, Mr Suther has forwarded to me a plan of a new manse for the parish of Farr, which I have laid before Lord and Lady Stafford, and it has met with their approbation. Mr. Suther will contract for it immediately, and Captain Mackay will take care it is begun to as soon as the season will permit. You are probably aware that a considerable change is to be made in the settlement of the people of your parish, which is to be completed by Whitsunday 1819, by removing the inhabitants of the upper parts of the Strath to the sea coast, extending from the mouth of the Naver to Strathy and Armadale. None of the changes may, without the consent of the people, be accomplished sooner, as arranged by Mr Suther and Captain Mackay. Of the propriety of the measure there can be no doubt. It is as much for the advantage of the people as the benefit of the landlord. Nay, much more so. The experience of the last season shows the miseries to which the inhabitants of the hills are exposed. I have the satisfaction of knowing that this is now the opinion of some of the best informed gentlemen of Sutherland, and who formerly had some doubts on the subject. Indeed, I am satisfied that you and every other reflecting man must perceive that such high situations are ill calculated for the habitation of man, and that nothing but adventitious circumstances, which have ceased to exist, could have forced them into them. You must be fully aware that, in contemplating these changes, the welfare of the people has never been once lost sight of, as you well know that no proprietors more anxiously desire the happiness of those placed under them than Lord and Lady Stafford do. And I must beg to direct your attention to this matter with some earnestness, as I do not think that the amount of Lord Stafford's kindness to the people of Sutherland is felt as it deserves. It is satisfactory to know that in England his Lordship's long-extended bounties to the people settled on his Staffordshire and Shropshire estates have keen fully felt by the people themselves, while it has called forth the approbation of the bench of magistrates at Shrewsbury. But his Scotch tenants have no less reason to be grateful when it is considered that besides the sums expended by his Lordship in the purchase of cattle, and besides the very great arrears now existing on the estate of Sutherland, the amount of his Lordship's relief to that property exceeds £11,000. The recurrence of such an expense, and of so great an advance, I am bound if possible to prevent, by putting the people in a situation where they will be out of the reach of such a calamity. And it is the duty of every man to reflect that many circumstances might have occurred to have prevented the possibility of such a supply. Deeply indeed is the man responsible, in my mind, who adds, without reflection for interested motives, to such a population, without a thought of how they are to be maintained in years of scarcity. You must see from what I have stated that the changes which are in progress are dictated by the kindest feelings for the people. And you will pardon me when I say that I think it fair to them, and only justice to Lord and Lady Stafford, that you assure them of this fact, by calling to their attention what has been so lately done for them, and to point out to them the very favourable terms upon which their removal is accomplished for them, and which removal is intended to prevent the occurrence of those miseries from which they have so lately emerged. You will also at the same time assure them, that the measure has been too well considered not to be fully acted upon, and too well arranged not to be carried into effect. Indeed, the lands they hold are already let to others from Whitsunday 1819. I trust therefore they will make good use of the time which has been given them, and be ready to occupy their new habitations by that time. If they do not, they have themselves alone to blame. I not only give you leave to show this letter, but beg of you to make it as public as possible.
—I am your faithful servant, JAMES LOCH.
45621. Has that letter ever been published?
—Not that I am aware of : I have the orignal in my possession now. This is an exact copy. Mr Mackenzie's reply is dated March 1818, and is as follows:
—'Manse of Farr, March 1818.
—Dear Sir, I received your communication of the 17th ult, by which I was glad to find Lord and Lady Stafford have been pleased to order a new manse for this parish. I have no doubt but Mr Suther and Captain Mackay will take the necessary steps for forwarding the work in due time. It is proper to mention to you that all my offices, including barn, byre, stable, and kiln, require a complete repair, and that my garden wall is an entire ruin. Captain Mackay should be authorised to cause proper tradesmen to inspect all these, and to give in a report of what repairs they require, that the work may be done at the same time with the manse. I beg leave to suggest to you the propriety of either slating the offices, or else thatching them well with heather. The practice hitherto in this place was to thatch them with divot, which will not last for more than three years, so as to keep out the rain. The consequences are, as I clearly see in regard to the offices here, that a good roof will decay in a few years, that the walls will be destroyed by rain and damp, and that a frequent supply of divot is required, by which a considerable surface of pasture is destroyed, and considerable expense increased; so that I consider it for the advantage of the heritors to supersede-divot entirely by a more durable thatch. I perused with the necessary attention that part of your letter which refers to the important changes which are to take place among the tenants of this parish. I have complied with your wishes in giving publicity to your letter, by showing it to some, by reading it to others, and by satisfying the inquiries of many who only understand the Gaelic language. I am quite sensible of the propriety of directing the attention of the people to the amount of Lord and Lady Stafford's kindness to them during the unprecedented distress of last year. The seasonable supplies which they had been pleased to send to the parish were instrumental, under Providence, for preserving the lives of many. But although no public acknowledgment had been made for these bounties, let me assure you that during the anxious moments of distress, when I informed many of the people that a supply was coming, and in the enjoyment of these supplies, they seemed grateful to their noble benefactors; and I have the satisfaction to state that they were and still are sensible of the obligation. The indulgences given to the tenants in their rents and price of victual are striking instances of kindness which I know have excited the gratitude of the community generally. And I believe the people will duly estimate and feel grateful for any favourable circumstances in which their removal will be accomplished for them; but as you did not specify particularly these circumstances, I cannot say to the people what they may be. In my humble opinion, the mere process of removing them from the upper parts of the Strath to the seacoast, then to leave them to depend for subsistence on the natural productiveness of their new stances, will not ameliorate their circumstances, so as to put them beyond the reach of the calamities which they lately suffered, and which may yet recur. I presume you know that the lands on the sea-coast, with the exception of Strathy and Strathy Point, are already thinly inhabited; and let me assure you, as a positive fact, that the calamities of last year were as general and as severely felt among the inhabitants of the coast as among those of the upper parts, and that at this very period the necessaries of life are as scarce on the coast as in the upper parts. From what I know of the circumstances of the majority of those around me, since so many were sent down from the heights to clear Mr Sellar's farm, I do not perceive how the great addition which is intended to be made to their number can live comfortably, as you anticipate. The lands on this coast are not extensive, neither are they in many places good; the surface of the ground is extremely rugged, and incapable of improvement to a great extent. There is no lime, no marl, and but a scanty and precarious supply of sea-weed for manure. The coast, as you know, is remarkably bold and rocky; the landing places are few, and some of them far from being safe. There is no kind of traffic, no industry, nor any opportunities of earning money by day labour. So that the local advantages of this coast are by no means equal to the southern shores of Sutherland. The great population of the heights removed to such a coast will have to contend with all the inconveniences arising from their new situation. From what I have heard of the quantity of land which can be given them according to the new arrangements, it will not produce of corn what will support some families for half the year; and being totally unacquainted with seafaring, their supplies from the ocean must be very precarious, particularly during the storms of winter and spring. The difficulties which they must encounter before they build houses, furnish themselves with boats and fishing implements, will be very great, and although boys and young men may in the course of time learn the art of fishing, yet those advanced in years and the very aged will not, and of these there is a great portion among those people to be removed. With my knowledge of these circumstances, and because I am yet ignorant of anything to be done for the people, further than that upwards of about 1000 inhabitants are to be added to the population already on the coast, I beg leave to be excused from giving any assurances to them of the change being for their advantage. I decline this task, not from any reluctance to execute your orders as connected with the interests of Lord and Lady Stafford, but merely because I am not convinced in my own mind that the measure will be for the advantage of the people. I have endeavoured to contemplate the change in all its bearings upon the interest of the people, as far as I could penetrate, and must confess that I am fully persuaded in my own mind that the sea-coast of the parish of Farr, with its present local advantages, will not secure a permanent subsistence to the great population to be removed to it. These are my real sentiments, and I submit them to you with all due deference. Should the experience of the people after the changes take place prove my opinion to be false, I shall readily acknowledge to you my error. But pardon me when I suggest to you the propriety of furnishing yourself with the most accurate information from authentic sources regarding the different circumstances connected with this important change. You will readily allow it is a serious matter to remove at one term in one parish upwards of 200 families who are still struggling with the unavoidable difficulties in which they have been placed,—low price of cattle, the reduction of the profits of day labour, and above all the failure of last year's crop, together with the unexpected deficiency of this present crop. It is to be naturally expected that a change so extensive in immediate prospect would excite anxiety in the minds of those who must experience it. The people are indeed anxious, but I hope they will be excused ; they are submissive, and are inclined to be so. I have to ask your pardon for trespassing so long
on you patience. I am willing you lay this letter before Lord and Lady Stafford.
—I have the honour to be, D. M.'
Mr Loch answered Mr Mackenzie, on 30th March 1818, in the following letter:
—' 106 Great Russell Street, 30th March I818.
—Dear Sir, I have this morning received your letter of the 19th, and have read it with all the attention the importance of the subject to which it relates deserves, and which every communication from you will ever, I trust, meet with from me. I have also laid it before Lord and Lady Stafford. I am much pleased to find, from your assurances, that the people of your parish have not been insensible of what Lord Stafford did for them. I am also gratified to learn that the terms upon which their removal is to be accomplished is seen in the light I wished it to be, and which I think it deserves; and though I have to regret that I cannot carry you along with me entirely to the extent 1 could wish, yet I am well assured that you will explain fully to the people, and it was this I urged particularly in my last letter to you, that although they might not view the change in the same point of view, yet that the same was not undertaken in the mere wantonness of power, but that, in the opinion of those under whose direction it was carried into effect, it would prove beneficial to them, and that in its execution it was the particular orders of Lord and Lady Stafford that every attention compatible with the completion of the measure should be shown to them. This explanation calls for no expression of opinion from you, nor involves any compromise of deeply rooted feelings. From what I have said, you will perceive that I continue firm in the opinion of the propriety of the measures I have recommended ; and in doing so, I beg to assure you it is from no feeling that it would be unmanly or wrong to retract an opinion erroneously or too hastily formed. On the contrary, no one is more ready than I am to do so, when convinced of the propriety of what is urged in opposition to my own views, and no one is more desirous of hearing all that can be urged. But upon the present occasion, the subject has received too much consideration, and has occupied too much of my most anxious thoughts, not to have been viewed by me in all its bearings, and I am equally convinced of the necessity of what I have advised, from general reasoning as from arguments derived from local circumstances. And I should wish it to be understood, that I wish the responsibility of this measure to rest entirely upon myself, so that its unpopularity may neither be cast on one hand to the door of the landlord, nor on the other hand to that of the local factors, nor when I do so do I wish to undervalue the extent of such responsibility. In reply to your letter, I would only observe, that it appears to me to signify little (if I were to grant to you that the landlord must continue to support the people) whether he had to do so upon the coast or among the hills, but that to him it would make a material difference, whether he was enabled to do so, by receiving a considerable rent from the hills or no income whatever. That the people when they get to the coast are to support themselves easily, or entirely on corn, never occurred to me. I knew it to be impossible, and I have ever thought the former lots too large, as it enabled them to obtain a wretched livelihood from their land, without obliging them to have recourse to that great source of food and wealth, the ocean. I am also aware that nothing but the strongest pressure of necessity would induce so great a change of habits as I allude to. The old cannot be expected to embark in such occupations, but the means afforded to the young will furnish something to all; and the lots will contribute much to their support if planted with potatoes. You have assumed as a fact that which I by no means meant to convey, that there was any desire to oppose the wish of those who had a desire to settle in the colonies. I am authorised by Lord Bathurst to say, that it is by no means the policy of His Majesty's Government to oppose any obstacle to such settlements, and I enclose a communication to this effect from the Colonial department. The indulgence given to the tenants, subject to removal, of not being called upon for any rent for their possessions, either old or new, for the year ending Whitsunday 1819, will equally enable those who wish to settle on their lots to purchase shares in boats, or allow these who wish to go abroad to comply with the terms offered them by Government. But the latter must comply with such conditions as Captain Mackay may think proper, so that they may not afterwards throw themselves upon him for lots. I make no apology for the length of this letter, which the matter must justify, and will only further trespass upon your patience by adding, that I hope you will assure the people not to deceive themselves by thinking that the plan can or will be changed, and that therefore they must make the best of the ensuing summer.
—I am yours very faithfully, JAMES LOCH.'
45622. The Chairman.
—The correspondence is certainly very interesting, and Mr Mackenzie's letter proves his sincerity, and I believe his wisdom. But Mr Loch's letters also seem to be written in good faith, and as if he was convinced of the wisdom of the step that was being taken ?
—That seems so from the letter; but there are one or two very interesting facts in it—first, that the holdings were large, and second, that it was only the exceptional year of scarcity (1816) that caused the change ; Mr Mackenzie says 'the unprecedented disaster of the former year.'
45623. I don't think Mr Loch's letter quite implies that that was the only year of scarcity, or that this had been impressed upon him by the fact of a single year of scarcity ; and we also know that these clearances were merely a continuation of a policy which had been initiated years before ?
—Quite, in Sutherland.
45624. The letter is very interesting, but I wish to know, although it proves the sincerity and wisdom of Mr Mackenzie at that time, does it prove that his opinions may not, after a long course of years, have been in some measure modified ?
—I am assured he never changed them. I enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance until his death, and have conversed with him on the subject of the clearances.
45625. And did you often hear him refer with regret to that period ?
—Often with regret. He often lived in my father's house, and I have spent long nights with him talking over old days.
45626. Yet we have, as far as I remember, a distinct declaration from another person who had access to him and his conversation, and who heard him distinctly state that his opinion was in some degree modified ?
—Then, in answer to that, I can assert the knowledge of Mr Mackenzie's own family—the members of his own family —and they express what I have personal knowledge of, that he never changed his mind from the statements and sentiments written to Mr Loch in 1818.
45627. People sometimes, under the impulse of the moment, express inconsistent opinions ?
—These were rather too sad and sorrowful times, and the remembrance of them was too bitter for him to regret the opinion he formed in 1818.
45628. Mr Cameron.
—What year did he die?
—About 1857 or 1858.
45629. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did he preserve all his faculties ?
—Perfectly, and discharged his parish duties to the very last without assistance.
45630. I presume he was a nominee—that he was presented by the Sutherland family to the charge
—was he not ?
—He was ; but he was engaged before Ms settlement in Farr in doing work in the heights of the Strath.
45631. The Chairman.
—Do you remember ever hearing him speak as to the normal or usual condition of the tenantry in the higher part of the valley, irrespective of that great year of scarcity ?
45632. What did he say about their condition?
—That they were a happy, contented peasantry; and he always spoke of the tacksmen as educated gentlemen, who were able to write out their own deeds, as the charter chest in Dunrobin Castle proves. A century ago the tacksmen were able to sign their own names and adhibit their own signatures.
45633. He did not think the small tenants were then oppressed by the exactions of the tacksmen?
—No, he never gave expression to such an opinion.
45634. Professor Mackinnon.
—We always used to hear about the great numbers that lived in this Strath. Now Mr Mackenzie states, and Mr Loch does not contradict it, that there were 200 families to be removed at once ?
—Yes ; that is the second clearance.
45635. He does not say how many were removed from the other parts, but he implies that there was a considerable number —' Now from what I know of the circumstances of the majority of those around me, since so many were sent down from the heights;' so that in addition to the 200 in 1818, there seems to have been a considerable number before, though the number is not stated ?
—No ; Mr Mackenzie expressly says that all the sea-coast except Strathy Point and parts of Armadale were thoroughly peopled.
45636. When you talk about the large numbers who occupied that glen, can you tell me if this is about the best evidence there is of the numbers who occupied it ?
—It is the best written evidence I have seen; and in addition, from my conversation with the people who were evicted out of the glen, I know that the population must have been large.
45637. This letter says it was considerably over 200 families?
—That is only a section; that is from Achnabourin up to the Skail farm, on the right hand side going up the Strath.
45638. You were yourself in the parish at the time of Mr Mackenzie's death ?
45639. And you were old enough to remember his conversation?
—All his conversation.
45640. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—From whom did you receive those letters ?
—From his daughter, Mrs Macdonald, who resides in Edinburgh.
45641. Professor Mackinnon.
—He remained all his life minister in the parish, and as a matter of fact he was of the country, and always held in high respect by the people ?
—Yes; he was the Free Church minister all along; he went out. When I spoke of being in the parish, I meant that I lived in Strathy, and he had charge of the district, and was our minister virtually.
45642. So that you knew him thoroughly ?
45643. The Chairman.
—Which of the two sides of the river would have the larger population, the west, or the east which looks towards the setting sun ?
—The west side, the Skail farm.
45644. When we went up we rather thought the east side looked more valuable for cultivation ?
—Only from Skelpick ; from Rhifail, further up on the east side, there is very little green.
45645. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did the family of Mr Mackenzie feel rather annoyed about the statement which was made ?
—They did, and all who knew about it.
45646. And they wished you to come forward and contradict it?
45647. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you know whether Mr Purves, in the statement he made to us, may have been confounding Mr Mackenzie the minister with Mr Mackenzie the catechist of the same period ?
—Possibly. I did not know Mr Mackenzie the catechist, and I don't know if Mr Purves knew him.
45648. Where were the tacksmen you referred to in Strathnaver ?
—One in Langdale, one in Achool, another in Klibreck, and another in Modal
45649. And were they removed at the same time ?
—From the upper end first—Kilbreck and Mudal —and the people went to Orkney; and they were the progenitors of the Mackays of Orkney. The Mackays in Orkney are all Sutherland men, who were evicted during the time of the clearances.
45650. These clearances were made to make large sheep farms ?
—Yes; and to-day the Strath is held by three sheep farmers, and the Tongue factorage by eleven—5000 people, and only eleven families holding the land.