JOHN MACKAY, Hereford—re-examined.
45889. The Chairman.
—You wish to read a statement ?
—I do. ' The Statement of John Mackay, Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Railway Contractor, born, reared, and educated in the parish of Rogart, Sutherlandshire, till twenty years of age, son of a crofter, one of nine in a family brought up on a croft of about seven acres. It is an admitted fact that the physical configuration and character of a country greatly influences the physical and moral character of its inhabitants, and in a great measure determines their pursuits, as well as their history. The divisions of the Highlands of Scotland into so many valleys, straths, glens, and islands separated from one another by mountain ranges, or by arms of the sea, naturally led to the divisions of the inhabitants into various little societies, termed clans. Those amongst them possessed of superior property, superior talents and courage, naturally became leaders, eventually chiefs, around whom the rest of the community would rally, under whose protection they would settle, and, when necessity required it, under whose leadership they would fight in defence of honour and home. The secluded situation in which these clans were placed rendered intercourse very difficult, and made each small society independent of the other. Each had its own requirements within its own borders, and hence became, as it were, an independent state, regulated by its own or general customs, and to all intents and purposes self-supporting. They were very abstemious, —really nature's wants are few. Their means of subsistence were various. The valley, the mountain, the lake, the river, were free alike to all, for agriculture, pasture, hunting, and fishing, and this continued to be the practice till the beginning of this century. The government of each community was necessarily, under such circumstances, patriarchal. The head was the chief. Members of his family with the wisest and bravest of the community became the chieftains and tacksmen under his sway, essential to him in regulating the affairs of the clan, in promoting and preserving internal harmony, in defending the integrity of the territory and the honour of the community. While thus situated, and thus regulated, harmony and tranquillity prevailed. Cheerfulness and contentment abounded. The harp shed its soul of music in the hall, and hearts in humble abodes beat high for praise, and felt its pulses. Under these influences, when feeble governments gave way and political intrigues ceased, setting clan against clan, and creating discord and feuds amongst high-spirited people, progress was made; and though education, as we know it now-a-days, was only the possession of a few, yet there was a vast fund of traditional lore, epic and lyrical poetry, scarcely less effective, preserved and disseminated by seanachies and bards, and by wandering minstrels, recited and sung round every fireside in the long wintry nights, and on festive occasions, that animated the minds of old and young to an extent that may not now be believed, inducing the people to regard courage and bravery as the highest virtues, and meanness and cowardice as the rankest vices. The fair fame of the clan, the good name of the community, were ever a serious consideration; and woe betide the clansman that betrayed this sacred trust, or brought disgrace upon the community to which he belonged. The chief usually dwelt in the midst of his retainers, who regarded him as their protector and adviser. At his castle every clansman was made welcome, and treated according to his station with a degree of courtesy and regard to his feelings unknown in any other country. It was the same in the houses of the chieftains and tacksmen. This condescension, while it raised the clansman in his own estimation and drew closer the ties between him and his superiors, seldom or ever tempted him to use undue familiarity. He was thus taught to respect himself in the respect which he showed to his superiors. He felt convinced that he was supporting his own honour in evincing his gratitude and duty to the generous heads of his clan. Thus it was that Highlanders, before and at the commencement of this century, carried in their outward appearance, and in the outward expression of their manners, the politeness of well bred-gentlemen without their vices, and in their hearts the high point of honour without its follies, and it was thus that the extraordinary attachment evinced by Highlanders for their chiefs and superiors was produced, preserved, and maintained, and such a kind and cordial intimacy, and a disposition of mutual support existed between them in a way totally unknown in modern times in communities elsewhere, vaunting of higher civilisation. The results of these relations will be touched upon further on. It would be well for modern society if it more closely studied the relations that existed between high and low, gentle and simple, in the not remote past, and in some measure assimilate their manners accordingly. If that were so, many of the grievances now complained of, and justly complained of, would be redressed without a Commission of inquiry, without irritation or agitation, without invoking the force of the Gaelic proverb —" Is treasa tuath na tighearn" (tenants are stronger than lairds), and running the risk of a social convulsion. The influence of Highland chiefs remained politically and socially paramount till 1748. Nevertheless, shorn as it was, at that time, of its political and juridical power, their social influence between themselves and their retainers remained intact till after the commencement of this century. It was after Culloden's fatal day, so glorious to the vanquished, so humiliating to the victors, that the attachment of clansmen to chiefs, chieftains, and tacksmen, shone forth most conspicuously, proving at once beyond any doubt the affectionate relations that existed between them, and the mildness of the sway exercised and felt. This surely should convince sheep men that chieftains, tacksmen, or middlemen as some of these gentlemen are pleased to term them, were not the oppressors, tyrants, or money grabbers they would for purposes of their own make them out to have been. Innuendoes, insinuations like these, are simply intended to palliate cruelties perpetrated upon an unoffending people, more like the ravages of war than the legalised abuses of the rights of property. My Lord, I entertain too much respect for Her Majesty's Commissioners, I have too much respect for myself as the representative of many of my country-men, at home and abroad, to enter into a controversy here with these gentlemen upon these and other questions. There is another arena at our command, but to the credit of Highlanders, now so much maligned by these interested persons, and now seeking the protection of Her Majesty's Government from extirpation, be it said, that when their superiors were in their power after Culloden, none of them were so base as to take advantage of it, none forgot his duty to accept the price of blood, or take the proffered bribe from any quarter to betray prince, chief, or tacksman; all of them were equally safe; and while rents from forfeited estates were paid to the Crown with the one hand, outlawed and exiled men were frequently supported, by their ancient tenantry, with the other; and this fidelity to ancient heads of clans and families was exhibited in another manner when the Crown and the nation were in dire need of men to defend the flag of Britain, and restore the lost prestige of its arms. The Government of that day became sensible of the influence dispossessed chiefs enjoyed with their clansmen and retainers, and of what value to the nation that influence could be exercised. This influence, and the proved fidelity of clansmen to their hereditary chiefs, procured to several of them the restoration of their estates and titles, forfeited for rebellion. Clansmen enlisted in their thousands at the call of these chiefs and tacksmen, and upon the shoulders of their devoted adherents many of them were raised to positions of eminence and renown. At this period 13,000 Highlanders were regimented in two years, officered by chiefs, chieftains, and tacksmen. These were the heroic days of the Highlands, as honourable to the people as they were to their venerated superiors. The ancient bonds that bound and united them together in one grand whole had not then become unloosened. It is a singular fact in the history of the Highlands, that within the last sixty years, since the grand social ties that united society together in ancient and modern times have become unloosened and broken, more estates have been lost to Highland chiefs than in the previous six centuries of turbulence, bloodshed, and rapine. It is recorded that the eighteen Highland chiefs who fought with Bruce for the civil and political independence of Scotland, had till within recent years preserved their estates and influence, a fact creditable alike to all concerned. Individuals might change, but the bonds that united chiefs and retainers together were strengthened in each succeeding generation, resembling the leaves and branches of a tree, fading in autumn, but acquiring fresh strength and vigour in spring. When improvements became necessary, when the ancient order of things required a change, those chiefs, who had and felt a regard for the feelings of their ancient tenantry who had done yeoman services, brought those changes about gradually, softened them to their people, and thereby preserved for themselves the ancient affection, respect, and veneration of their dependants, and the esteem of all wise patriotic men. The names of all those proprietors are well known; here it would be invidious to mention names. In all great social changes, such as the Highland clearances have been, surely the feelings and idiosyncrasies of the people ought to have been considered, otherwise such changes, conducted as they were, may justly be termed revolution and confiscation, for which, as it always happens in a reaction, due retribution will be demanded and exacted. The Highland clearances were revolutionary from every point of view. To illustrate further what has been already said, permit me again to refer to the ancient regime. The influence of chiefs, and the devotion, attachment, and fidelity of retainers—never at any period were these more conspicuously displayed nor more usefully put forth, than in the service of the country in the era between Culloden and Waterloo, the most momentous in the history of this country. This was the result of it. In that period were raised the following corps or regiments for permanent service in the Highlands, nine regiments of the line—the 42nd, 71st, 72d, 74th, 78th, 79th, 91st, 92nd, 93rd. War office returns show that in the period above mentioned 14,000 men, four-fifths of them Highlanders, entered the 42nd alone in drafts and reinforcements. Sixteen regiments for limited service—Loudon's Highlanders in 1745-48; Fraser's Highlanders in 1757; Montgomery's Highlanders in 1757 ; Keith's Highlanders in 1759 ; The Gordons in 1759; Johnstone's Highlanders in 1760; Fraser's Highlanders in 1775; Lord Macleod's in 1777; The Aberdeen Highlanders in 1777; Royal Emigrant Highlanders in 1777; The Argyll Highlanders in 1778 ; The Macdonalds in 1778 ; The Athole Highlanders in 1778 ; The 2nd Battalion 42nd in 1780; The 2nd Battalion 78th in 1793 ; The 2nd Battalion 93rd in 1803. Some of these regiments were over 1000 strong. They served their country in Germany during the Seven Years' War, others in America and India, breaking the power of Hyder Ali when the Carnatic was overrun, and restoring the prestige of the British soldier in that country. It would be superfluous here to record the achievements of the line regiments, or to say aught of how gallantly they upheld the honour of Scotland. The prestige acquired by these incomparable soldiers still remains. The influence of the principle of nationality in our regiments has by them been proved to be of unmixed benefit It led to emulation; it had no disintegrating effect. In the hour of trial, the appeal to remember their country and the reputation of the corps had an all-powerful response; but is it not the fact, that only the shadow of former days now remains in the shape of kilts and tartans ? The substance is gone ! Unless the policy so destructive of the substance be reversed very soon, a few short years will suffice to do away with the shadow itself, and then it will be seen what a blunder has been committed. No country can afford to despise the risks of war and invasion. While there are crofters in the Highlands there will always be the best raw material for soldiers, either by voluntary enlistment or by a mild conscription. What a burlesque did we see enacted a few years ago, noblemen and gentlemen connected with the Highlands meeting to frame a petition to the Queen not to permit the War Office to discard the kilt and the tartan. Might not Her Gracious Majesty indignantly have retorted, " Nobles and gentles, what have you done with the substance, when you are so anxious to preserve the shadow 1 Kilts and tartans will not defend the interests of our common country; the same men must adorn them in the future as in the past. The prayer of your petition is granted, in the hope that one and all of you will be able to produce the men when required; you have enjoyed the privileges of your high position, but you have neglected its duties, and abused rights given you for your own benefit, and the welfare of the commonwealth." Nor was this ah that patriotic Highlanders had done for their country in danger. In addition to the above twenty-five regiments raised in the Highlands for permanent and limited service at home and abroad, within the same period, that is from 1760 to 1794, twenty-six regiments of Fencibles were raised in the Highlands, composed entirely of Highlanders, for service in Great Britain and Ireland. Caithness supplied two, Sutherland four, Ross-shire three, Inverness and the Isles six, Argyll and Dumbarton six, Perthshire three, the territory of the Gordons two. These regiments, averaging 1000 strong, served from four to eight years in various parts of Britain and Ireland, evincing, wherever they were, the soldierly qualities inherent in the Highland race, creditable alike to the men themselves and their com-manders, and to the country of their birth. It has been computed that the Highlands of Scotland in the fifty years 1760 to 1810 supplied 80,000 men to the British army, men of stature, men of vigour and endurance; and yet sheepmen in the past and present tell us the Highlands were steeped in poverty, ever on the verge of famine; not so much oatmeal in Strathnaver in 1812 as would make a breakfast for one sheepman's dogs. Insult added to injury—the weapons of an advocate in a failing cause. We admit that the Highlands, like other districts of the country, were visited by seasons of scarcity such as 1814, still called the Black Year; 1838, called the year of the Big Snow; 1846, the year of the potato famine, but the inhabitants were no worse off than those of other districts. I found these words in a statistical account of Morayshire—" Famines or years of comparative scarcity, in spite of the natural fertility of the soil, were far from infrequent." Even as late as 1782 the province severely writhed under the scourge of scarcity. The plea of famines was merely the pretext to cloak foregone conclusions with regard to evictions. When we natives of the Highlands look upon the past and the present, need it surprise any one that we should adopt all and every constitutional means of reversing a policy so nefarious, and so destructive of the manhood of our country, carried out in so heartless and cruel a manner, and so injurious, not only to those more intimately concerned, but to the high interests of the State. Where are now the stalwart men who not so long ago were the pride of Caledonia, and the boast of all true-hearted patriots ? Is it not a sad and mournful reflection that, while those brave and gallant men were fighting the battles of their country in every quarter of the world, the happy homes in which they were born, the homesteads of their fathers for many centuries, were being burnt to the ground, and their parents and relatives mercilessly expelled from them —homesteads, however humble, that were associated in their minds with all that was dear to them in the traditions of many generations ? Having referred to and described the system that produced such devoted and gallant men, permit me in a few words to give you a description of the social training they received in their humble abodes in the north. I cannot do better than quote to you the very words of a Sutherland lady written in 1828, a few years after the completion of the evictions in Sutherland, equally
true of other districts in the Highlands. She states —" I have frequently of late heard strangers express their surprise at the marked intelligence of the people in this quarter, devoid of every degree of early cultivation. To this it may be answered that the state of society was very different in the latter part of the last century from what it is now, progressively retrograding as it has been for some years in this country. Before the commencement of this century, lords, lairds, and gentlemen of the county, not only interested themselves in the welfare and happiness of their clan and dependants, but they were always solicitous that their manners and intelligence should keep pace with their personal appearance. The fact was, the chief knew his affinity to the different branches of his clan, and it was deemed no inconsiderable part of duty in the higher classes of the community to elevate the minds as well as to assist in increasing the means of their humbler relatives and clansmen. I am aware that many unacquainted with the dear ties of such a system argue largely that the distinctions of rank appointed by God could not be maintained by such indiscriminate intercourse. Still the habits of that day never produced a contrary effect. The chiefs here, for many generations, had been 'men fearing God and hating covetousness.' Iniquity was ashamed, and obliged to hide its face. A dishonourable action excluded the guilty person from the invaluable privilege enjoyed by his equals in the kind notice and approbation of their superiors. Grievances of any kind were minutely inquired into and redressed, and the humble orders of the community had a degree of external polish and a manly mildness of deportment in domestic life, that few of the present generation have attained to, much as has been said of modern improvements."I can endorse every word of this from personal recollections, and could add many incidents of the intelligence of the old people without the adventitious aid of school education. I well recollect seeing some of the grand old men evicted from Strathnaver. They were very intelligent and highly religious men. I recollect them conducting prayer meetings. Those men, before the Gaelic version of the Bible came into use, translated the English into Gaelic for the people from the English Bible, and other English books. Being the intelligent, law-abiding, God-fearing people they are proved to have been, is it not surprising that so terribly a revolutionary wave should have been made to fall upon them so suddenly? May we not ask, if it would not have been a wiser, a juster policy, from every point of view, to gradually educate them out of antiquated habits that generally obtained at that period, and lead them into the new ways of progress that were making themselves felt in more favoured districts of the south? There were neither fords nor bridges nor any means of communication then in the north. The inhabitants of the Highlands were simply what their chiefs had made them. Had a generous and enlightened policy been adopted, there can be no doubt that, with their native intelligence, the wealth of stock they possessed, the example which might be given by practical agriculturists, and the willingness and obedience of the people to obey authority, a vast progress would have been made —a change effected in a very few years that would have redounded to the credit of proprietors themselves, and incalculable benefit to the people and to the country; but so sudden was the revolution, so terror-struck and disheartened were the people, that many years had passed before much attempt was made to fall into the new order of things even in favoured localities. No greater refinement of cruelty can be conceived than to thrust out of their inland homes to sea-shores men who had no previous training for fishing operations, without boats or the means of obtaining them, and when obtained there were no harbours provided for them, the consequence being the loss of many Uvea. The sufferings of these communities were very great. Yet, notwithstanding all this, such was the abstemiousness of the people, such the affection, parental and filial, that each helped the other, and endured in silence privations of no ordinary kind. It was after the evictions that the potato was brought into cultivation, which for thirty years enabled them to eke out an existence such as it was. Nevertheless, so strong and sturdy was the race evicted, that for many years they supported themselves under every privation, their high-toned feelings induced them to assist one another, and for any of their friends or relations to accept parish relief was considered so great a disgrace that pauperism had not increased to any great extent. Twenty pounds a year on the average sufficed to maintain the poor of any parish in Sutherland; but on the introduction of the poor laws in 1846, pauperism has been on the increase, till £400 a year has been exceeded in several parishes in the county of Sutherland, showing a great deterioration, and a want of resources, calling loudly for a change of policy, and showing that the people are justified in asking and clamouring for it. The ancient tenantry are reduced to a dead level, with no encouragement to aspire. All tacksmen are strangers, who come into the county to make fortunes in sheep farming, and then retire, who have no sympathy with the people, who do all they possibly can to vilify them, in order to maintain an erroneous system for their own benefit. Born and reared amongst this people, fully conversant with their condition before and since the clearances, knowing their wants and requirements, appreciating the value of a brave and hardy peasantry to the country and the State, and that this the duty of the State to protect the peasant as well as the peer—each in his own condition equally valuable in his own sphere to the nation —that it is also the bounden duty of the State to protect the weak against the strong, that laws made by interested law-makers cannot naturally be equal, hence, being found to be unequal, and proved to be much abused to the deterioration of the people, and the detriment of the country, we have the right to call upon the Government, through Her Majesty's Commissioners, to adopt measures to put an end to an egregious evil, in order that rancour and agitation shall cease upon justice being done to a portion of Her Majesty's subjects who have well deserved of their country, by their devotion to its prestige, their love of order, and their hitherto submissiveness to authority. I may be permitted to say that Highlanders up to a certain point are the most docile of men j but that point once passed, irrepressible anger may take the place of gentleness and docility. I entertain the belief that Highlanders would prefer that proprietors of their own accord might initiate the reforms required; but having been so scurvily treated in the past, they see no certainty of any substantial reform of their condition without the interference of Parliament. The demands are modest enough—general extension of their holdings, arable and pasture; fair rents; and compensation for improvements effected by themselves upon land and buildings. There is land enough in the Highlands and to spare, capable of cultivation, to support a larger population than there is now, if properly dealt with and properly administered. Surely it is a disgrace and a stigma upon the administration of property in the Highlands to be said that the ryots of India are in a better position and condition than the majority of Highland crofters, descendants of men by whose fidelity many Highland estates have been preserved, and by whose devotion many wars have been brought to a successful issue for the country. And what has been their reward ? Has any consideration been shown them I Has any gratitude been evinced Ì It need not be a matter of surprise that Highlanders clamour for more land, seeing how they had been congested and huddled together to make way for sheep runs and large arable farms, and seeing that year after year wild animals and wild birds are preferred to themselves, that these receive and command the attention and protection of Parliament, while they themselves are left to the tender mercies of landlords, who seem to desire their extermination in the preference they show for quadrupeds and bipeds for sport, than in brave men, whom, by the feudal law, proprietors were bound to preserve and protect in the interests of the State. If it is the duty of the Government of this country to frame regulations for the proper treatment of wild animals and birds upon land, and fish in the river and sea, surely it is its high duty, upon irrefragable proof of bad treatment of men, to take steps to cause maladministration of land, primarily belonging to the nation, to cease; and enact that occupiers of that land shall be treated in a way conducive to the interests of the nation, and that a sufficient portion of it shall be allotted as may be found necessary for the due subsistence of the occupiers, willing to pay fair rents for it, upon equitable conditions, and able to make the best use of it, and not to be compelled involuntarily to emigrate from the country they love so well and defended so bravely, simply because modern proprietors, imitating the nefarious practices of the old Roman patricians, see themselves obliged, to maintain inflated incomes, to make desolation more desolate, after the Roman peasantry had been cut off in war, or sent to the colonies to inhabit them and defend them to the empire. The social history of Rome, republican and imperial, seems to be repeating itself in this country. The vast dimensions of the British empire, the vast extent of its commerce, demand the most serious consideration from the statesmen of this country, be their politics what they may, be their social standing plebeian or patrician. In the first serious reverse of fortune in war to this country, the patrician influence, if not the first to suffer, will assuredly be the next. With a discontented tenantry all around them, their position will be a very unenviable one. With a sturdy agricultural population, balancing in proper proportions the urban and industrial population, a more healthy state of matters can be preserved, and the raw material of the best kind for the defence of the country can be more easily obtained. The Government of the country has interfered in various ways, and at various times with the regulation of factories, mines, and other industries, possibly the creation of their owners. Is land, not the creation of its possessors, a matter too sacred, not to be interfered with, when its administration is proved not to have been beneficial to the subject in all the interests concerned in it. And I here, in conclusion, avow my firm belief that great injustice, great oppression, have been practised in the Highlands, which loudly calls for reform and amendment, and that the sooner attention is given to the condition of those for whom this Commission of inquiry had been granted, the better it will be for the peace and the tranquillity of the country. I have here also the names of all the places cleared on Strathnaver. and the number of families who were evicted. It is not quite complete, because some could not be ascertained, and the people would not put down fictitious figures. Townships on 'eastern side.
—Taobh Mor Mudale, two families; Altnaharra, three; Clibric, six; Rhihalbhaig and Rhichopaig, twelve ; Coirre-Chiuran, four; Achool and Altnaba, nine; Altlaoghard, Coirre-na-fearn, Ach-an-Eas, and Halmadary, nine; Baile-Mhuillin, one —families cleared for Marshall.
Trudarsaig, sixteen ; Dalmalard,two ; Dal-Harrold,four; Rossal, eighteen ; Achnanradh, two ; Achaphris and Dalvina, three ; Rhiloisg, five ; Ioshlandaidh, four ; Rhiphail, five ; Rhilhigil, Upper and Lower, nine ; Dunviden, six ; Ach-an-Eilean, three; Skelpick, twelve ; Rionnabhidh, three; Ach- an-lochie, four; Ach-cil-nam-borgan, five —families cleared by and for Sellar.
Total families, one hundred and forty-seven.
Townships on western side
—Bad-an-t-Sheabhaig and Taobhbeag Mudale, three; Cnocan dubh, three ; Grumb-Mhor, six ; 'Grumb-bheag, five; Dulhurich, three; Cean-na-coille, seven; Rhidhorach, Kedsary, and Rhichoire two; Syre, fifteen ; Langdale, sixteen ; Scale, nine; Newlands, five; Carnachaidh, ten; Ach-cheargraidh, four; Dalbhiogais, 4 ; Dalthorisgil and Apagil, five; Achnabourin, four
—families cleared by and for Sellar. Total families one hundred and one.'
45890. Does that refer to the evictions on both sides of the river and in a succession of years ?
—Yes, and on the map I have put down the years in which the evictions were done. With your permission, I have also been requested to read a little statement here contradicting something that Sir Arnold Kemball said at Golspie, when he said the crofters did not pay any rent for hill pasture. 'At a meeting of crofters held at Farr on the 10th inst., a statement was read in which Sir Arnold Kemball, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission at Golspie last week, denied that the crofters pay any rent for their hill pasture. The meeting heard this statement with astonishment, and in contradiction beg to state that over twenty-five years ago the Farr crofters petitioned Mr Loch, the Duke's then commissioner, for an addition to their hill pasture. The petition was favourably received, and Mr Douglas, sheep farmer, Clyth, was appointed valuator by the Duke. In accordance with his valuation, £66 was added to the crofters' rent and distributed over them at so much in the pound. The chairman and clerk were authorised to sign this statement on behalf of the meeting, and forward it, through Mr Mackay, Hereford, to the Commissioners.
—Farr, Bettyhill, 15th October 1883.'
45891. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have been already examined ?
45892. Therefore, it will not be necessary for the Commission to put many questions to you. You have taken a great interest in the state of the Highlands and the Highland people for a long time ?
—For many years.
45893. And I suppose you may be considered to some extent as a representative man both for your countrymen at home and abroad ?
—Yes; I have a large correspondence with my fellow-countrymen in the colonies.
45894. Do you think the statements which you made at Golspie and have made here to-day represent the feelings of your countrymen at home and abroad ?
45895. You don't think you have stated anything that the great number of them, if brought together, would not homologate ?
—No, they coincide with every word I said. The sentiments I expressed are from letters I received from the colonies.
45896. I think it was stated somewhere that the Duke of Sutherland paid in rates and taxes more than the whole rent he got from the crofters ?
—Yes, Mr Purves made that statement.
45897. Let me put this case before you. Is it not a fact that the Duke of Sutherland has reduced the rent of almost the whole of the sheep farmers of Sutherland by 50 per cent.?
—Yes; I have heard that.
45898. And that extended over some five years ?
—I did not hear about five years.
45899. Supposing an arithmetical question were put, would it not be found that this reduction to those big farmers on the part of the Duke would come to a great deal more than the rates and taxes paid by the farmers?
45900. So that the taunt thrown out against the crofters by the person referred to has no real foundation in fact, as contrasted with the other tenants on the estate ?
—No; and he included the education rate, so as to make it appear worse.
45901. I suppose the big farmers don't require any education?
—Well, that is the worst of it. They send their children away, and the money that ought to be spent in the country is spent elsewhere.
45902. You don't get the benefit of the grant for the children of such men ?
45903. With regard to your own name, is it a fact that in the county of Sutherland a very large proportion of the surnames is Mackay ?
—Yes. In Scotland there are four and twenty thousand Mackays and only nine thousand Sutherlands.
45904. Territorially the Mackays have lost their chiefs for a considerable period ?
—Yes, ever since I remember.
45905. But it is a fact that never was the clan so far united as it is at present?
—Yes. I had a good occasion to test that in 1874, when, in conjunction with others, I was called upon to get the clansmen to subscribe for a testimonial to Charles Mackay, the poet, and I succeeded astonishingly. I think I handed over about £200.
45906. Are you firmly of the belief, you and others, that there is a better day coming for the Clan Mackay than there has been for many years ?
—I should like to see it.
45907. Do you believe you will see it ?
—I believe I will, but I regard the Duke of Sutherland as being as much my chief as Lord Reay. If my father was a Mackay, a Sutherland was my mother; and I daresay if the truth were known, I had a greater love for my mother than I had for my father.
45908. One of the ancient titles of the Sutherland family is the title of Lord Strathnaver ?
—Yes, that was acquired in 1630 when they inveigled Strathnaver from the first Lord Reay.
45909. There are not many men in Strathnaver now?
45910. You heard it stated, I believe, on the part of the Duke of Sutherland's engineer,—Mr Greig, the superintendent of the reclamations —that there were some important projects in view by his Grace with regard to the amelioration of the people ?
—Yes, I heard so ; and I heard other evidence in the statement submitted to you by Mr Purves that, with regard to the small crofts which the Duke of Sutherland had at Shiness, the crofters all left them. That is really a deliberate falsehood.
45911. The Chairman.
—Excuse me. I cannot allow that language to be used here. I hope you will substitute other words ?
45912. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You do not mean to impute deliberate falsehood to Mr Purves. You mean that he made a statement that is not the case ?
—That is what I mean.
45913. What you and others feel with regard to the crofters in Sutherland is that they would hail with approbation and acquiescence any steps taken by his Grace in the way of improving the condition of the
crofters by adding to their arable lands or giving them increased hill grazings?
—I would, and I have been trying for the last three or four years, in my own humble way, to impress upon his Grace the necessity for it
45914. Can any one who has ever spoken to the Duke of Sutherland on the subject have any doubt as to his Grace's desire that the people on his estate should be happy and comfortable ?
—I believe that is what he wishes, but for some years hitherto he has not given that attention to the condition of the crofters that the proprietor of so large an estate is bound to do. He has left too much to the factors. I believe myself that the Duke of Sutherland is most benevolently inclined, but, being –benevolently inclined, why does he not take any action ? It was said, and it was hoped most sincerely, in 1872 and 1873, when he began those reclamations about Shiness, that he was going to take some of the congested population away and plant them at Shiness, but when they saw that those 2000 acres there were divided into 500 acre lots their hopes fell at once.
45915. It has been stated that in the early period, going back to 1810 and 1820, the condition of the people there was very poor and very miserable. That was contradicted by two old gentlemen, one of whom I see here before me, who recollected the circumstances. Did the people who supplanted these poor people thrive and live well afterwards ?
—Astonishingly. It has been said that Sellar alone, in two leases of thirty-eight years, left the county with £150,000, and he must have done so.
45916. The Chairman.
—I think it would be wiser to enter into details of that sort as little as possible. Sums of money are things that can only be matter of report ?
—Well, after he left Sutherland he bought great estates.
45917. He may have borrowed money to buy them. None of us can know the pecuniary circumstances of our neighbours present, much less of those who lived forty or fifty years ago ?
—That is true.
45918. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is the feeling of hostility against the evictors, on the part of the descendants of those that were evicted, as active at this moment as it was at the time, so far as you are aware ?
—Yes, and more intense now than when I was a boy.
45919. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do I understand you to deny the scarcity of 1812?
—I never heard of 1812 particularly, but if there was such it was not peculiar to Sutherland. It touched the whole country, and Sutherland was not any worse off than the people in other counties
45920. Were not the circumstances of other parts of the country very much the circumstances of Strathnaver? Was not the mode of farming very much the mode of farming in Strathnaver ?
—Very much. I have read the statistical accounts in the Scottish Gazetteer to ascertain what was the state of the population in other counties, and I find that in Morayshire the state of society was almost intolerable —much worse than in Sutherland. I read again about Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, and Forfarshire, and really in Morayshire in 1782 they were in a more rude state than the population of Sutherland.
45921. We will admit that. In 1782 famine prevailed over the whole northern counties ?
45922. And at that period the mode of agriculture in the high country of Morayshire and Easter Ross was very much the same as that which prevailed in Strathnaver?
—As well as I can make out from the accounts I read in gazetteers, it was the same.
45923. But in the present day the system of farming in Morayshire and Ross-shire has been entirely changed; do you think there is any probability of famine occurring there again ?
—I don't think so.
45924. Do you not think, if the old system of Strathnaver were re-established, there would be a risk of famine?
—I don't think so.
45925. Why not?
—Because the people who suffered worst farmed too near down the river side, and mildews would be frequent and spoilt the crops. But in Strathnaver now you would find that the crofters with their present knowledge would cultivate the flanks, and leave the river side for grazing. They would be higher up, and protected from mildew, which only rises a certain distance above the water.
45926. The improved system of cultivation in Morayshire and Easter Ross has resulted in the removal of the old race of inhabitants entirely ?
—No doubt of it. They were driven to the hills.
45927. In fact, it has not been possible hitherto to create these improvements without almost changing the population?
—Well, that was almost a matter of necessity. There was more labour given to the people, and the old race were sent half-way up the hill side.
45928. You mentioned the demands we have met with for fixity of tenure and fair rents ; but you did not refer to the very general demand we met with on the west coast for Government advances to stock enlarged holdings. Are you prepared to recommend that crofters should receive such advances ?
—I don't think the Highlanders have come to such a pass as to ask the Government to help them.
45929. We met with that demand ?
—I know that. I am talking of Sutherland and part of Ross. I know that on the sea-coast the inhabitants are in a worse state that in the inland places. Take the parish of Rogart, which naturally was so sterile that it did not attract the eye of the sheep farmers, hundreds of the people were huddled upon it, but by their own industry there is as good agriculture to be seen in the parish of Rogart as you will see in Ross-shire on the large farms.
45930. Do I understand you to say that the demand for Government advances for stocking larger farms should not be acceded to ?
—I should not like to go that length, because it is possible if a change of policy were to take place
—if the landlords were unwilling to help—the Government might give a certain amount of help, but not much.
45931. You think that the rent of the land should be fixed by valuation?
—Well, that is the idea that has got hold of the people.
45932. But in your own mind?
—I think something of the sort might be done.
45933. Would you place a limit on the amount of rent that should be fixed by valuation, and taken out of the region of free contract ?
—That would depend on the nature of the soil and the locality. If there was a croft near a town, it would be more valuable than a croft at a distance.
45934. But would you fix by valuation rents of £500 a year just as much as of £ 5 a year, or would you place a limit on the amount of rent that should be fixed by valuation ?
—I think if rents were to be fixed by law, the large farms ought to be valued just the same as the small farms. I think that ought to be done.
45935. Then on what ground would you fix them by valuation?
—The present discontent. .
45936. But do you think the large farmer is not able to take care of himself ?
—He is very much better able to take care of himself than the small crofter is ; and now when the Agricultural Holdings' Act has been obtained for Scotland I don't think the large farmer requires any further protection, because he makes his rent for himself by offering so much for a farm, and it is his own fault if he gives too much.
45937. Do you think a labourer does not require as much protection as a crofter? Do you think the wages of a labourer don't require to be settled as much by arbitration as the rent of the crofter?
—I think not. The labourer is engaged or hired for the year. If he is dissatisfied he can take himself off at the end of that year.
45938. But has he not the same difficulty to move that the crofter has ?
—No ; the crofter has his stock.
45939. That is a saleable article ?
—True, but the farm labourer has no interest at all in the soil. All the interest he has in doing his duty is to get the wages agreed upon, but the crofter may have improved his croft, and would be unwilling to leave it.
45940. In fact, if you give him anything like fixity of tenure, the rent must be fixed by valuation?
—My own personal opinion is, give them compensation for improvements and they will secure fixity of tenure. I don't think it is possible that evictions—wilful evictions—will or can take place in the Highlands in the future. Public opinion is too strong.
45941. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You have seen and are well acquainted with the land reclamations carried out by the Duke of Sutherland ?
—Yes, I have been to see them four or five times, and I did not give a very favourable impression of them to his Grace. I asked how much these were costing per acre. He told me. I asked him how much rent he expected to get for it. He told me. I said, ' My lord Duke, that will not be 1½ per cent upon the outlay.' What was his reply? The reply was this —' Oh, we in this country are not like you Englishmen, looking out for dividends.'
45942. Was not the scheme intended for the benefit of the inhabitants as well as of the estate?
—I am not acquainted with the intentions.
45943. Was it not intended to let out the land in small farms ?
—I don't think so. If that was the primary intention, it was very soon abandoned; but I think the real intention was to provide winterings. The sheep men were complaining that they had not sufficient wintering for their sheep. The had previously to that raised his sheep rents very much, and when the Duke sheep farmers began to complain of the very high rents he took this means of giving them wintering at hand. Some were sending their sheep to Ross-shire to winter at very great expense; then it was thought he would get wintering for the sheep farmers at home, which would be very much better.
45944. But practically it has not turned out a success, I believe?
—Practically and financially, it is a disaster.
45945. Was the system adopted a practical one ? I mean, was it better to attempt to reclaim the land in the expensive way in which it was done than if it had been given to the inhabitants to reclaim in the way they would have done with their own exertions?
—I believe if it had been trenched in the way I have seen Highland land reclaimed —trenching from 16 to 18 inches deep by the pick and the spade —it would have been done at a cheaper rate, a very much cheaper rate.
45946. And I suppose there is a good deal of land in your native district that is capable of being reclaimed in that way —in a less expensive way than has been done in these places ?
—There is not so much land now in the occupation of crofters in the parish of Rogart that can be reclaimed. I believe they have reclaimed almost all that they can within their own reclamation bounds. Reclamation by crofters themselves, without any aid from Dunrobin, goes on, and has gone on in the parish of Rogart for the last twenty years, I may say, at the rate of between £200 and £300 a year, and that the crofters added to the value of the estate.
45947. And the results have been satisfactory ?
—The results have been satisfactory certainly, because I recollect some of that land as worthless, not producing 6d. per acre. They have drained it, and fenced it, and now it is producing excellent crops, especially turnips. There are as good turnips produced by the crofters of Rogart as by the large farmers in Rossshire, and better.
45948. Is the climate of that country very different from that of the Isle of Skye ?
—I never was in the Isle of Skye, and can hardly say. I should say the Isle of Skye was moister and milder.
45949. But you are not able to give a practical opinion as to the value of Skye for agricultural purposes ?
—No. I never was there, but it is an island I should like to visit. It is an island for which I have the highest
regard. Skyemen as soldiers are A1.
45950. The Chairman.
—You have described the processes by which land has been recently gradually reclaimed by the labour of the small tenants, and rendered valuable, upon the Sutherland estates ; is that under a lease ?
45951. It is a life tenure?
—All tenants at will.
45952. But it is under an estate regulation that during the lifetime of the persons so improving the rent will probably not be raised ?
—I have no knowledge of rent being raised during a lifetime, but on the son succeeding the father there have been great rises —as much as from £4, 15s. 8d. to £ 10 all at once.
45953. If the life of the improver is prolonged, and if he is sitting at a nominal rent, he may be reimbursed for his outlay of labour and capital, but if his lifetime is short his successor suffers ?
—Yes, and loses the value of the industry of his father. I have known men in Rogart work with such assiduity, and taking little care of themselves —working in wet and so on—that they shortened their days very much. My own father was an instance of that. He began those improvements in Rogart, I believe, and I have now his lot, and I am going on the same as my father did, reclaiming an acre every year.
45954. Would you consider it a great improvement on the existing system there that a lease should be substituted for a life ?
—I don't think so. I made this proposition to the Duke of Sutherland —' If you will give me my father's place I will spend £1500 upon it, if you will give me a long lease.' He said, ' What do you mean by a long lease ?' ' Thirty-eight years,' I said. ' I cannot give you that,' he said. I said, ' Very well, I will not spend the £1500.'
45955. But what I want is your opinion as to what ought to be substituted for the present system. You say that when a life is short the improvement and outlay are lost, or partially lost, to the family; have you
got any distinct proposal for the calculation of the value of improvements under such a system ?
—I don't think that leases would benefit the people of Sutherland a whit. Although their rents may be raised, according to what was stated, by a death-rate, I don't think there was really any great oppression about it. Under the Duke of Sutherland the crofters are not, except perhaps in some circumstances, too highly rented. The average rent of the two hundred crofters of Rogart is £5, 8s. 6d. That is the average. Some pay £14. On the average they have about seven and a half acres, with hill ground, and every croft in Rogart has 60 acres of arable and hill pasture. The two hundred crofters occupy 12,000 acres, which gives 60 acres to each crofter. The most of that is hill ground, which is not very valuable.
45956. Then under the sway of the Sutherland family you don't think the substitution of regular leases and estimates of the value of improvements would be a good change from the present system ?
—I don't think so. In saying so, I simply express my own opinion and the opinion of the people. Better let them be as they are without leases than with.
45957. And without legal claims to revaluation and compensation for improvements'?
—No, no; I would have compensation for improvements. That, I think, is the greatest grievance.
45958. Then what definite project have you for ascertaining the value of unexhausted improvements on such a property?
—I would say that, supposing they are as they are without leases, if at the end of a father's life the son succeeded, regular returns of improvements every year should be kept, and then it would be seen whether the tenant had received a return for the improvements he had made during his occupancy. That is to say, supposing there were twenty-one years, divided into three parts of seven years each, I should say the improvements made during the first seven years might be considered as not entitled to any compensation. On the improvements made in the second period of seven years, I think the occupant, if he left at the end of twenty-one years, ought to have one-third of the cost, and then for the improvements made in the third period he ought to get two-thirds of the value of the improvements.
45959. Would you include in the value of the improvements the value of his labour expended in making the improvements, or the value of the improvements in so far as they increased the letting value of the land ?
45960. That is your view of it ?
45961. And not a cumulo calculation, of all that the man had expended ?
45962. But an estimate of the increased letting value of the land?
45963. Professor Mackinnon.
—I presume the statements in your paper, and what you have said since, we may quite regard as the opinion of the people of Sutherland at home and away from home ?
45964. That is, the great mass of the people, the native population ?
45965. You gave us a description of the old life in Sutherland, I have no doubt perfectly accurate for that region?
—Perfectly accurate, and I have a perfect recollection of it myself. A more quiet, more submissive, more law-abiding people there were not from Land's End to John o' Groat's. There were no policemen in the county in my boyhood, and they were not required. There was not a lock upon a house, and it was not required. Clothes put out to bleach were as sure as possible to be found in the morning.
45966. A great many things have happened since that time, and I am afraid for good or for evil we cannot restore that condition of life ?
—The people morally are the same now as then, and what they were fashioned into in the days of old they can be fashioned into in the time to come.
45967. What is the present population of the county ?
45968. Have you any idea how many of that population are of the class called small crofters?
—I should say 20,000.
45969. And upon the west and north shores, and also on the east side, these holdings, with very few exceptions, are probably under £4 or £5?
—The average rental in the parish of Farr is £2, 6s. ; Tongue, £3, 10s.; Durness, £2, 2s. 6d.; and before I went to see them I thought they must be well off paying so small a rent, but when I beheld the miserable plots of land on which they were perched, I said it would be much better for the Duke of Sutherland to get the " Great Eastern, " and take those people off and send them to America.
45970. Can you give me a rough idea, all over the county, of the number of large farms ?
—I could hardly do that just now.
45971. They will be very few?
—Very few. There are only three large farms in the parish of Rogart, and they are very extensive.
45972. And between the small croft of £2, £3, and £4 and the great big farm of £600 and upwards, there is really nobody in the county, if you deduct the people in the villages and the class of medical men and clergymen?
45973. And I suppose you feel that to be the great evil socially of the whole county of Sutherland I
—Certainly; and not only socially, but I look at it from a higher point of view—I look at it nationally.
45974. Now, do you see anything in the nature of things why that state of matters should not be remedied, as yourself and the people of Sutherland at home and abroad would wish to see it done ?
—-I see nothing to prevent it. The only difficulty I see is that leases cannot be broken without compensation ; but if a desire were manifested that such a thing should be done and if a real attempt were made to reverse the policy of the past, we would all hail it with the greatest delight; and not only so, but we would contribute to help the people on. I, for one, would, and all my brothers would.
45975. The policy of the future would be to give them the land in larger holdings, graduated up ?
—Just so. The people of Sutherland are in a most deplorable condition —all on the same level. The wonder is that they are so submissive and orderly. They govern themselves. They have no governors. They have the advice of their ministers certainly.
45976. Do you think, in past times, say seventy years ago, when there were tacksmen, middlemen, and crofters, there was this wide gap between the small tenant and the big farm ?
—Oh, dear no. There was an excellent order of society before this sheep farming mania began. There was the chief, and he was always at home. He was surrounded by members of his family, chieftains and tacksmen, and these were men of knowledge and intelligence. Many of them had been in the army, and many of them even had been in the Dutch army, and had returned with a great deal of knowledge of the world.
45977. Suppose a year of very great scarcity were to come, with the state of affairs that we have now—such a year of scarcity as 1816, for example—which state of society, the present or the past, would be able to stand it best in Sutherland ?
—If such a year were to happen now the effect would be simply deplorable.
45978. It would strike a far greater portion of the people ?
—Certainly, only there is this difference now, that there is better communication, and assistance from without would come; but supposing there was no communication now in Sutherland, or that the communication was the same as at the beginning of the century, I believe half the population would be starved out. They had great resources in the past. They had immense flocks of cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. They kept as many sheep as provided them with food and clothing.
45979. Supposing a traveller, like Pennant in the end of last century, found a considerable number of people more or less in a starving condition, may it not be also true that there is a greater percentage of the population in the county at the present moment in a state of actual poverty than there was then ?
—The poor rates show that; and not only so, but the people now are not so kindly disposed towards each other as they were in the past.
45980. But there was at that time a greater number of people relatively to the total population that had means than there is now ?
45981. And you would like that state of matters restored as far as possible ?
—Yes, in a graduated state. Why, it is the misfortune of the Duke of Sutherland that he has not a gentleman of his own blood surrounding him in Sutherland. All are strangers,—a serious matter to the
45982. There was a matter mentioned by a witness, that in Strathnaver the amount of cultivated land within that strath at no time exceeded 600 acres ; can you tell me about the actual population ? What evidence is there about the population of the glen ?
—The population of Strathnaver was always reckoned at about 3000; and for the oldest of those Fencible regiments I mentioned, it could turn out 270 men at any time —the finest men in Sutherland, and noted to be so.
45983. I notice, in a letter by the minister of Farr at the time to Mr Loch, that there were over 200 families to be removed from the west side of the glen. That statement was unchallenged by Mr Loch, and I suppose we may regard it as quite true ?
—I should say so. The returns I gave would show 240, but you will find the names of places there where the people were so honest that they would not put any fictitious numbers down. So if you take the names of places without any number of families attached, and add a number for each township, you will find there were in Strathnaver, from one end of it to the other, 300 families.
45984. From all the evidence that is available now, I suppose that statement may be regarded as pretty much about the truth?
—As near the truth as can be ascertained now.
45985. Do you see anything in the nature of things why, without a very great amount of expenditure, or at all events with an expenditure that might be recouped, there should not be at least more than one-half
that number there again ?
—I see no reason why that should not be, and I see a reason that it should be so, and that some expenditure should not be grudged so as to retrieve the past. If the natives of Sutherland who supported the dignity of the house of Sutherland were so cavalierly treated in the past, surely the Duke of Sutherland ought now to make amends for it.
45986. Do you think that such an undertaking would entail upon the noble Duke a loss as great as the reclamations that have been carried out?
—Oh, dear no ! —not half the money.
45987. And Sutherland people all over the world would hail it with great joy?
—Not only hail it with great joy, but would assist.
45988. You mentioned a peculiar feature of the old life, —that the people were very intelligent, though in our modern sense they were not educated. There was a rather remarkable instance of that in the case of your own county bard, who could not read ?
—He could not read.
45989. I suppose you know his works well?
45990. Of course the man was a man of very great talent, but his poems struck me as containing a very great amount of information with regard to the current politics of the day.
—That is so.
45991. That could not be the case now with a man who could not read ?
—No, but such was then the feeling with the chiefs and tacksmen—their intercourse was so familiar that they educated one another.
45992. I must say the favourite bard of my own country, M'Intyre, was fully as well informed, and he could not read either ?
—The only secular bard of the time of whom we have any knowledge as educated was Alexander Macdonald.