Edinburgh, 24 October 1883 - Ranald Macdonald / Outer Hebrides

RANALD MACDONALD, Commissioner for Lady Gordon-Cathcart of Cluny—re-examined.

46124. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to make to us?
—Yes. I was sorry I was unable to attend at your Inverness meeting, but I am now taking the earliest opportunity after returning from Canada to appear before you, in accordance with your request when I attended the meetings in the Outer Hebrides. Having already replied to the evidence at the Barra meetiug, and partly to the evidence at the Benbecula meeting, I shall now be as brief as I can in making a few remarks regarding Benbecula and the evidence at the South Uist meeting, and will then allude to my visit to Canada, where I have seen the crofter emigrants who left Lady Cathcart's property this spring. With regard to Benbecula, I am desirous to trespass as little as possible on your time, and abstain from repeating whit was formerly brought under your notice regarding the leases granted to the crofters, encouragement given to drain and enclose, and other plans made with the view of introducing a better system of agriculture. In carrying through these important changes great opposition and local prejudices had to be overcome. Two modes of action presented themselves, namely, to adopt what is popular or what will please the people best; the other mode, to adopt the course best calculated to promote the interests of the people, even though not the popular course. To illustrate this I may give you an instance. The township of Liniclate had an island for grazing as part of their common land. When the kelp industry nourished the sea-weed growing around the island was all reserved for kelp. I pointed out to the tenants the advantage of utilising the sea-weed, and recommended that they should begin to improve the island by making potatoes on the lazy-bed principle, which is now the only mode for improving waste land in the Western Islands without incurring serious loss. They were very much opposed to any change. I made careful calculations as to the labour and expense of improving the lands in the mode proposed, and also a moderate estimate of the produce, and endeavoured to convince them that it would be for their interest to adopt the scheme proposed. I told them I had no doubt it was for their interest that the experiment should be made, and that each one would get as much land and sea-weed as he would be able to utilise. I then took down their names, and left instructions to set apart for each one ten times the quantity broken up the first year, so that for a period of ten years they would always have new ground, what was first broken up being sown out in corn and then grass. When I went to the island the following year I found only a single individual had broken ground. I was, however, much pleased to learn the experiment, in his case, had been successful, and being assured by him that the improvement was to go on from year to year, I gave him the whole island to himself. The following year he employed some of the people to assist him, and planted a considerable quantity of potatoes on this island, and in spring of this year, while others were paying unusually high prices for seed potatoes, he had a large quantity for sale, a portion of which he exported early in the season to the market, and a portion of the remainder was purchased by Lady Cathcart and given to the crofters for seed. It was very gratifying to find that the experiment proved both successful and profitable. I may also mention that the Benbecula crofters who got leases have had an agricultural show of stock this season, and it is satisfactory to know that otherwise they are directing their atteution to the improvement of their stock. I will now refer to the evidence taken before the meeting in South Uist. As it must have been apparent to the Commissioners that the complaints or grievances emanated mainly from one source, it is quite unnecessary to make a detailed reply. I may explain that after the leases had been given to the Benbecula crofters, Lady Cathcart, at considerable expense, got a careful survey made of the island of South Uist, with reports of the land available for crofters' holdings. The object was to increase, as far as practicable, the size of the crofts. Carefully prepared statistics were also obtained relating to the circumstances of the people to be accommodated, Every possible effort was made to ascertain how the social condition of the people could be improved. I had meetings with the crofters in all the townships in the south end of South Uist, and I suggested to them to elect three from each township, who would be called upon to suggest, and thereafter to assist to carry out, such changes as might be thought conducive to the welfare of the people within the township. I asked the men thus elected to hand me a written statement of whatever they thought required consideration. It will thus be seen that Lady Cathcart has been engaged in a regular organised effort to do the best she could for her crofters, and last year the whole of the people appeared fully to appreciate this; but I regret to say that in consequence of outside agitators, and more especially the action taken by the Roman Catholic clergy, a section of the people have changed their attitude, and have made the attempt to distort into the shape of grievances what had been done exclusively for the benefit of the people. I shall take one township as an illustration. This is the township in which the Rev. Alexander M'Intosh, Roman Catholic clergyman, resides, being the one in which the most agitation existed. In September last year, when I had meetings with the people, neither priests nor people had any complaints to make against the administration of the estate. The first complaint of injustice and grievances was received on the 29th March, coupled with a demand that the whole of the common land should be settled on them as it was settled by Mr Macdonald of Clanranald. I now submit a copy of this petition. "Ranald Macdonald, Esq., Secretary to Lady Gordon-Cathcart of Cluny.
—The humble petition of us the undersigned tenants of Kilpheder, humbly sheweth, That we have suffered much injustice during the last forty years, through having been deprived of a great extent of hill pasturage by Dr Macleod, the then factor of Colonel Gordon, for which he promised us compensation, meaning a reduction of our rent. At the following Whitsunday he was expelled from the office of factorship, without fulfilling his promise. We claimed the compensation from the succeeding factor, but was refused, saying he would not make any alteration in the books, but leave them in the same way he got them. We approached every succeeding factor with the same result. We now approach you on the subject, claiming compensation for the land deprived from us as above mentioned forty years ago, there being upwards of forty-two crofters and cottars located on it in the meantime, while we pay the same rent yet as we were paying forty years ago, without any reduction whatever. ,That if we will not get such reduction, let all the above crofters and cottars be removed, and the whole common land settled as it was formerly settled on us by Ranald Macdonald of Clanranald. That further injustice was done to us, and which greatly vexed us, and that was the making of the potato parks on our rented land, and of situating seven or eight cottars (who have neither horses nor cattle wherewith to pay rent) on our former peat stance, while some of them engage crofters from other places to cultivate the land, and others trespassing already on our new peat stance, making potatoes. That, finally, whether we shall receive the former settlement of land or the new lots as was proposed and promised four years ago and also last year, at all events we desire the removal of all the cottars on our peat stance and adjoining thereto, because, as you may understand by the foregoing statement, that we are without hill pasture wherein to put our sheep and cattle at any time of the year, but only a small summit of the hill, and no sooner are our cattle and sheep placed there than they are driven in to our corn by the cottars' dogs. That, in conclusion, we hope to receive satisfactory redress for our grievances ; and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."
[Signed by 30 persons.] The first name appearing on the petition is Alexander Maclennan, who was the township constable, and paid by Lady Cathcart for superintending the reclamation fields now complained of as "further injustice" done to the crofters. This constable was the local representative of Lady Cathcart in the township, on whose advice the resident factor to some extent depended for carrying on the works intended for the benefit of the crofters. On receiving this petition I sent for the constable and for the three men elected by the general body of the crofters as their committee. I expressed my surprise and regret that these matters were not mentioned when I had meetings with them the previous year, and I entered into certain explanations which appeared to satisfy them. I had thereafter a meeting with the whole of the Kilpheder tenants, when I pointed out to them that the crofters' rents remained practically unchanged for upwards of forty years, whereas the rental all over England, Scotland, and Ireland had very largely increased during that period. I had with me one of Sir James Caird's books (the best living authority on agricultural statistics), and I read to them the percentages of increase of rents which had taken place in other countries. I also directed their attention to the increased rents now paid by the tenants of the large farms in South Uist, which in some cases is nearly double the amount paid forty years ago. I further alluded to the large sums expended by the proprietor on roads and other improvements, for which not a single penny of interest has ever been charged against a crofter. I referred to the new landlord's burdens, such as school rates and poor rates, which now considerably reduce the net income derived from crofters' rents. I then pointed out the large increase in the price of labour, and the extraordinary increase in the price of stock. I read to them from an original statement sent in by Dr Macleod forty years ago the prices realised by stock purchased from the crofters and sold by him at Falkirk Tryst. For 150 horses he got £219, 13s., being an average of £1, 9s. 3d., and for two-year-old cattle, after being grazed at Barra, he got an average of £3, 18s. 8d. With regard to their complaint about the cottars, I pointed out the great difficulty the estate officials had in dealing with these cottars, more especially as the crofters themselves used every means in their power to get married sons and sons-in-law located near them, either on part of the croft or on the common lands ; and while they objected to cottars collectively, the most of the crofters were individually interested in cottars whom they wished to retain near them. I referred in a general way to the proofs Lady Cathcart had given of her earnest desire to do the best she could for them. I then frankly told them that I was disappointed to receive such an absurd and unreasonable petition, and I assured them if they knew how gladly tenants in other counties paid interest for the expense of all improvements which benefited them, besides paying largely increased rents, they would, after considering all this, come to the conclusion there were very few tenants so indulgently treated as they had been during the last forty years. After this not one said a word in support of their petition, and the only practical step they wished carried out was to prevent certain cottars from interfering with their cattle. The only other practical step arising out of the petition was an intimation to the constable and one of his neighbours, who took an active step along with him, that they would be removed to another township, where they would be free from all such grievances as they had experienced in Kilpheder. These two were served with summons of removal iu order that the proprietrix might be in a position to enter into new bargains with them." I have now to read a letter received from the constable referred to, and I may remark that this letter is not only written by, but also signed for Maclellan by Rev. Alexander M'Intosh, Roman Catholic clergyman. For the first time I now learned this constable was compelled to sign the petition against his will, and I think it right to direct the special attention of the Commissioners to the circumstances revealed in this letter written by the priest as explaining the different attitude adopted by the tenants, and the influences which have been at work in getting crofters committed to complaints and petitions about alleged grievances. In these cases which have been specially investigated it has been found that the tenants were obliged by external influences to take up a position of antagonism to the proprietrix, for which they expressed their deep regret.
" Kilpheder, South Uist, April, 16,1883.
—Ranald Macdonald, Esq., Cluny Estates Office, Aberdeen.
Dear Sir, I received some days ago notice of removal from the lands and houses at present occupied by me in this township. This notice, I understand, has been sent to me because my name appeared, along with the names of others subscribed to a petition (regarding certain lands) presented to you during your recent visit to Uist. I am sorry that no explanation was demanded of me as to the reason why my name appeared on that paper, as I think it probable that I could have given such an explanation as would induce you to take a more lenient view of my conduct. I have not hitherto, and I do not now, complain of the lands which I at present occupy, and I have never expressed myself as dissatisfied with the lands which were pointed out as my probable lot under the new system which is shortly to be carried out. I have al ways been a diligent and peaceful tenant, and have always paid my rent. My name was put to that petition, not for reasons of discontent or anything of that kind, but because of the seven men who came to my house for my permission to let my name be put to their petition; several had in presence of witnesses mentioned their determination to do serious damage to my cattle and property in the event of my refusing to let my name be put down. Of their malice and ill-will I have on former occasions had ample proof, and fearing loss and injury I allowed my name to be put down, and counted on having, before your departure, an opportunity of explaining why I had done so—an opportunity which I failed to find, when so many were gathered from all quarters and had business with you. In order to show you how much reason I have to fear the malice of certain persons in this township, I may mention that, in the spring of last year, a report was got up and diligently circulated throughout this district to the effect that I had persistently appropriated to my own use, and sold for my own benefit, large quantities of potatoes from one of Lady Cathcart's parks of which I had charge. Messrs Walker, Askernish, and Maclean, Milton, made a searching inquiry into that report, when it was found to be utterly false, and got up by malicious persons in order to damage my character and bring about my dismissal from the office of constable. Again, in the month of November last, one of a certain number of cornstacks belonging to Lady Cathcart and in my charge was deliberately knocked down, in order to cause me trouble and annoyance. At a subsequent period, while one of my cows at calving was tied in the byre, the door was by some evil-disposed person thrown open and my other cattle allowed to make their way in, and had I not by the merest chance come that way, my cow which was tied would in all probability have been gored to death. I mention these things in order to let you see that I had every reason to fear that the threats which had been made to damage seriously my cattle and property would be carried out. I trust then, that, taking into consideration my past good character and conduct, and the means which were brought to bear upon me, you will kindly overlook a fault which has arisen from weakness or imprudence, and not from any desire to give trouble or encourage others in giving trouble, or raising discontent of any kind, and be good enough to allow me to remain in my present house and lands, where I shall strive so to live as to cause in no trouble to you or any one else. I am very sorry for what has happened, but I need hardly assure you of my intention to let nothing similar happen in future. Hoping that, considering my circumstances and the influence brought to bear upon me, and also my regret at having allowed myself to be so influenced, you will be good enough to take as lenient a view as possible of my fault, and permit me to remain in occupancy of my house and lands.—I am, Dear Sir, your obedient servant
My reply was as follows :—
Cluny Castle, Aberdeen, 16th May 1883.
—Dear Sir, Absence from home and pressure of term business prevented me from replying sooner to your
letter of the 16th ultimo. I have to point out that you are mistaken in supposing that the simple fact of your name appearing subscribed to the petition handed to me on the 31st March last was the cause of your being served with a notice of removal. The petitioners complained of 'much injustice during the last forty years,' and that further injustice was done by the making of the ' potato parks;' and they also complained about cottars, and demanded that they should be removed, and the township restored to the state in which it was in Clanranald's time. You say no explanation was asked from you, but you forget that you had been allowed to make an explanation. You are aware I sent for you, being the constable of the township, and discussed with you and the members of the committee selected by the crofters the different matters referred to in the petition in a very frank and friendly manner, and afterwards I met the whole of the crofters, along with you, and substantially repeated to them what I had previously stated to you and the township committee. You will recollect I said I knew nothing whatever about any alteration of marches made by Dr Macleod forty years ago, but I produced a list of cattle and horses got by him in 1844 from the tenants for arrears of rent, and sold by him at Falkirk. For 150 horses he got only £219, 13s., being an average of £ 1 , 9s. 3d.; and two-year-olds, after being grazed at Barra, on farms then in the occupation of the proprietor, realised an average of £3,18s. 8d. each. I asked you to think of the money expended on roads and other improvements during the last forty years, and you will also remember that in addition to the extraordinary increase in the value of stock I pointed out that according to the best living authority on agriculture the increase of rent all over Scotland in eighteen years, from 1857 to 1875, was equal to 26 per cent.; that the rents of tacksmen had even in South Uist in some cases been doubled, while the crofters of Kilpheder paid the same rent now which they paid forty years ago. With regard to the cottars, I said I would be glad if any practicable mode could be got of removing them, and I stated very frankly that no one had pressed me so much to give land to cottars as yourself and Roderick M'Intyre, - whose son is married to your daughter, and I thought it was wrong to try to mislead me in this respect, and then come as ringleaders complaining about the cottars located within the Kilpheder township. These cottars have increased in consequence of the action of the crofters themselves, in using every effort to locate married sons and daughters near them. As to the complaint about the potato fields, I admitted that in so far as you or any one suffered injustice I would accept the whole blame; and I explained that when the kelp industry failed, Lady Cathcart was anxious to provide some employment for the crofters, and I suggested the formation of enclosed pieces of waste land to be reclaimed by lazy-beds, which it was expected would not only benefit the crofters by giving employment, but would also add to the food-producing area of the township, and show the benefit of having enclosed parks, and thus induce crofters to make parks for themselves. The whole of the produce of these parks had been given to the crofters this season, including about three thousand barrels of potatoes used for seed, and the corn and fodder was given away this spring to those who had no provender for their cattle. You were the superintendent of these reclamation parks, and no one in South Uist got more benefit from them than you did, and yet your name is the first on the petition complaining of this scheme as an injustice to the crofters. When these views were presented to the crofters at the meeting we had at Dalìburgh, they admitted the reasonableness of them, and stated they would be satisfied if a few cottars were removed who they said turned back and disturbed their cattle. These cottars had no right to interfere with the crofters' cattle, and it was promised this would be stopped. I must confess that I am unwilling to believe that your action was entirely caused by fear that your cattle would be maimed if you had declined to co-operate with the seven persons whom you say came to your house and pressed you to get up an agitation about alleged grievances so far back as forty years ago; and I should be glad if you would kindly give me the names of these seven persons, that the whole origin of the agitation may be investigated and remedied so far as found to be based on substantial grounds. You are aware that great pains were taken last year to consider how most advantageously to divide the available land among the Kilpheder crofters, and lay out the crofts so as to encourage the tenants to enclose and improve them, and you and the township committee were specially asked to suggest all you could think of what would be an advantage to the crofters generally. I have the written memorandum by your committee, of their suggestions, signed by John Mackellaig, John M'Aulay, and Donald Martin, being the representatives elected by the whole body of the Kilpheder crofters. The circumstances of the crofters and the proposals for improving their position were anxiously considered. The stocking belonging to them consisted of 84 horses, 202 cattle, and 114 sheep, moderately valued at £2123, 16s. The rent of the township is £215, 6s. 8d. If the value of implements, crop, &c, is added to the stock, the total value would be thirteen times the rent, which is more than can be equalled on any cluster of small farms on the mainland. The cash received from Kilpheder crofters last year amounted to £59, 13s. 7d., barely sufficient to meet the taxes and local burdens payable by Lady Cathcart affecting the township. The arrears amount to £292, 18s. 9d., being nearly three times what the amount due was twenty years ago. Taking the whole circumstances into account, any impartial person will admit that the Kilpheder tenants were indulgently dealt with, and that they ought to consider themselves in a better position now than they were forty years ago; and you and Roderick M'Intyre were the last who ought to raise a cry of injustice. Although each of you keep a very large stock of cattle, I find that not a penny of cash was paid by any of you last year. In 1881, 1878, 1877, you paid nothing in cash. As you are both discontented where you are, it was determined after careful consideration to change you to another township, and to pay you for the value of your houses and any other substantial improvements you may have made which adds to the letting value of your croft. Mr Maclennan is prepared to offer you a croft at
Stilligarry, with good houses and fences, and the houses on both crofts can be valued, and any difference in the valuations can be settled in the usual way between you after the amount is fixed by arbiters mutually chosen. Or if you prefer to remain in your present house, you will get from six to eight acres at 7s. 6d. per acre, provided you will undertake to enclose this piece of ground, and not to encroach beyond the enclosure. You will be paid at removal for the ring fence by mutual valuation. You will thus get the full benefit of the land enclosed, and you can have no difficulty with cottars or others after your rights are clearly defined.—I am, Dear Sir, yours truly (signed) RANALD MACDONALD.
—Mr Alexander Maclellan, Kilpheder, South Uist."
For a time the crofter agitation in South Uist seemed to subside, but immediately before the meeting of the Royal Commission, the Rev. Alexander M'Intosh convened meetings and renewed the old agitation, repeating again the same complaints which the Kilpheder tenants had acknowledged to be unreasonable. I will not enter into detail in dealing with the evidence of the delegates brought forward by Mr M'Intosh; I think it sufficient to direct attention to the fact that mainly these complaints referred to a period eleven years before Mr M'Intosh was born, and the fact that the witnesses dealt almost exclusively with this period may legitimately be taken as the best proof that they found it difficult to find fault with the recent and present administration of the estate. As I wish to be brief, I shall only allude to the first three witnesses put forward by Mr M'Intosh. The first two referred to this period forty years back, and I wish to point out that these witnesses were sixteen years and five years old respectively at the time to which they referred, and none of them could have then occupied an independent position, and the younger one could not personally have known much of what was going on around him when he was only five years old.

46124*. It is rather difficult for us at this stage to enter into details, and also we must remember that Mr M'Intosh is not here ; and even if he were, we should not be able to afford him an opportunity of contradicting the statements. I would ask you, therefore, to omit as many personal details as possible?
—Yes; I am almost through with this. 'The third witness had learned his lesson very badly. Like the rest, he presented a paper, but when he was cross-examined it was found that he didn't know fully what the paper he presented contain 3d, and he positively denied some of the statements in the paper. The only grievance of which the tenants complained, and for which I am personally chargeable, refers to the reclamation fields. The Kilpheder people collectively admitted that this was done for their advantage, and further that it was calculated to benefit them
—(1) by providing work, (2) increasing the food supply of the island, and (3) adding to the extern of arable land. The Rev. Mr M'Intosh, when cross-examined, still adhered to the opinion that these reclamation fields were against the interests of the people, even though paid for the work done, and said no amount of wages compensated people for doing this work when they ought to be working their own crofts. It is, however, very well known that the people cannot be fully employed working on their own small crofts, and one of the chief objects in view in making these reclamation fields was to prove to the people the advantage of beginning their tillage early in the season, and it was expected these fields would be completed before the time when crofters usually commence tillage on their own crofts. I will not say another word about these fields, as the Commissioners have seen this year's crops, and can compare what was within the fence with the waste useless ground outside. I turn now to a more pleasing subject, and will briefly allude to my visit to Canada. Mr Edwards of Edinburgh, who is Lady Cathcart's principal law agent, went out at Lady Cat heart's special request, and I accompanied him. The first thing we did after landing was to have interviews with the Government officials at Ottawa and the Canadian Pacific Railway officials at Montreal, then we proceeded to Winnipeg, and immediately thereafter to the Benbecula settlement near the western boundary of Manitoba. I can never forget the very hearty welcome we got from the emigrants. It was to me most gratifying to find that they had got excellent land in a beautiful part of the country, with sufficient timber and water on the places. They are located near Pipestone Creek, where each one has got 160 acres of homestead lands free, and some of them have also got homesteads for their sons. Thus one man who has two sons has 480 acres of good arable land free. They are situated within 8 miles of Wapella station, on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which in a .short time will connect the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. Both the officials of the Canadian Government and Canadian Pacific Railway have been most obliging in giving every assistance to Lady Cathcart's emigrants in journeying from Quebec to their destination, and in assisting to select suitable lands. I was exceedingly glad to learn that these emigrants have made a most favourable impression, and without a single exception all those who have come in contact with them say they only want for the development of their country more settlers of the same kind; and from what I have seen myself I am proud that the Benbecula emigrants have since they landed in their new country acted throughout in such a way as to deserve the praises lavished upon them. They reached their destination on the 28th May last, and immediately commenced temporary habitations for themselves. They then lost no time in commencing to plough, and planted potatoes and sowed oats and barley. One of them told me that when he was turning over the ground, and placing the potatoes below the sod without manure at such a late period as the second week of June, he did not expect his labour would be of any use. In seven weeks and four days after planting, the potatoes were quite fit for use. The fields of oats and barley were also looking wonderfully well, although, having only commenced to plough in June, the settlers had not an opportunity of cultivating in the usual way. We then spent several days inspecting lands in Southern Manitoba, accompanied by Professor Tanner of the Agricultural College, London, and again visited the Benbecula settlement. After seeing so much of the country, it was most gratifying to us all to find that the selection of the lands for the Benbecula emigrants was judiciously made, and that they themselves were contented and happy, and had every confidence that in a few years they would be comfortable and independent. Their reply to Professor Tanner was
—" This is a godly country," and " we have so much grass that one cow here is worth three in the old country." We all stayed with them during the night, and we were not made so comfortable for several days as the night we passed with the Benbecula settlers. Besides grain producing I was pleased to find these settlers had directed their attention to stock breeding. They have already purchased a good shorthorn bull, and I have no doubt whatever the breeding of stock will be a considerable source of profit, as well as the production of grain. There are portions of the level prairie in the north-west territory specially suited for growing wheat, oats, and barley, but on account of the want of shelter and scarcity of water not suited for stock. The lands on which the Benbecula emigrants are located are eminently suited both for producing grain and maintaining stock. I saw within a few miles of the Benbecula settlement the finest crops of wheat and oats ever I saw growing anywhere. The weather since they went out was most enjoyable, and as they found all the reports about being " burned in summer and frozen in winter" were false as regards the summer season, I was afraid they might not make their houses sufficiently comfortable for winter. After being upwards of four weeks in Manitoba and the north-west territory Mr Edwards and I returned to Winnipeg, and on the 14th of last month we passed a most interesting afternoon at Kildonan, in the neighbourhood of Winnipeg, where Lord Selkirk's original settlers got their lands in 1815. We found that there are seven individuals of the original settlers still alive. These old people still speak Gaelic, but their descendants speak English. They are all in most comfortable circumstances, having good well-furnished houses. Some of the descendants of these settlers occupy influential positions at Winnipeg, and are highly respected. We had an interesting interview with Mr Robert Macbeth, who was born in Sutherland in 1806. He told us they sailed from Thurso, and were landed at the Hudson Bay and travelled from Hudson Bay to Winnipeg in Red River carts. I may explain that these are the carts used by half-breeds and Indians, all made of wood, not a nail or single piece of iron about them. Mr Macbeth told us that he had land producing good crops continuously without manure for forty years. On being asked about grasshoppers, he said there had been five visits from these in sixty-eight years ; and on being questioned about the winter, he replied, " We like the winter as well as we do the summer." The Hon. John Sutherland, a descendant of one of the original settlers, was examined before a Committee in 1876. He was then fifty-three years of age, and gave his designation as being a " practical farmer." He said
—" From my long experience and from what I have seen in other provinces, I have come to the conclusion that the soil, climate, and other natural advantages of Manitoba are conducive to successful farming, and that a poor man can more easily make a living there than in any other part of the Dominion." He added, "I consider the country healthy." In the course of our visit Mr Edwards and I ascertained that there are hundreds of thousands of acres of good land within a few miles of a railway, where thousands of families could be comfortably located, each getting 160 acres of good land free from Government. We think there could be no risk whatever in advancing 500 dollars to each bona fide settler ; and if a Government loan could be obtained on terms similar to those indicated to support Irish emigration, those who take an interest in the Scotch crofters would run no risk whatever in associating themselves together to give the Government the necessary guarantee that the advance would with moderate interest be repaid within ten years. A scheme of this kind could be placed on a sound financial basis, and would be the means of securing comfort and independence for the crofters who might be disposed to take advantage of such a scheme. It may be said—"Why not supply the ; money for the improvement of land in the old country?" It would, however, be most difficult to get any one who has a practical knowledge ; of the expense of reclaiming land in Scotland to become security for the payment of the amount advanced, if the money were expended in the old country, where the produce could never meet the expense of reclamation and cultivation, and where the crofters would be utterly unable to repay the principal. While I have no hesitation in referring to emigration as one of the chief means for improving the Scotch crofters, I wish to say that I am as strongly opposed to what is termed depopulation as any one can be, and I think every one who has true patriotic feeling would like to see as many in the old country as the land can maintain in a position of comfort; but when we come to districts where it is impossible for the population to get steady profitable employment, and where seasons of famine and distress are of periodical occurrence, then it becomes a most serious question whether the surplus population should not be helped to go where—in the course of a few years —they will certainly attain to positions of comfortable independence, if they are industrious and sober. When I saw, in America, even the negroes, the descendants of those who came there as slaves, in a prosperous condition, it made me sad to think of the misery of the population in the Western Isles of Scotland. No class of people will be made more heartily welcome than the Scotch. In many parts of Canada the manners and customs are more Scotch than in Scotland, and in travelling through Canada it is very difficult to realise that you are thousands of miles from Scotland. It is difficult to go anywhere without meeting Scotchmen; and as a rule they hold the best positions, even from the prime minister downwards. The syndicate who have the control of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which, including branches, extends to upwards of 3300 miles long, are all Scotchmen; and we were told that in the new town of Winnipeg on St Andrew's day over 300 Scotchmen are in the habit of dining together, cheered by the music of the bagpipes. Emigration to Canada with large and fast ocean steamers, making the passage in about nine days, and the railway to take emigrants from the port of landing to their destination, is different altogether from what emigration used to be in former days ; and as arrangements can be made for hundreds of emigrants to travel together, and to be located so near each other as to get the benefit of schools and churches, the disadvantages formerly connected with emigration may be made to disappear altogether. This affords an opening for the cottars, of whom the crofters as well as the proprietors complain, and if these cottars had any idea of the advantages they would reap by going to Manitoba they would not remain a day in their present miserable position. The Canadian Government are most desirous to afford every facility they can to Scotch emigrants. They say what is true, that the land, however fertile, is of no value till cultivated, and hence their readiness to give good land free to bona fide settlers. It was my intention, while referring to emigration, to refer to some of the reforms that would be necessary for those who remain, and there are one or two things which I wish in a sentence or two with all earnestness to impress upon the Commissioners. In the Western Islands the fisheries must be looked to as one of the means of providing a livelihood for a considerable portion of the inhabitants, and unless postal arrangements and steam communication are provided it will be utterly impossible to develop the fishings in the manner in which they could be developed. At present the steamers going to the Outer Hebrides leave those islands on the Monday morning, the very worst day of the week. It is impossible to send fish or perishable articles away on the Monday, and consequently the people are debarred from sending these to market. If any arrangement could be made to improve the postal communication three times a week in summer and twice in winter, the steamer carrying the mails might be used for conveying fish or other articles to market,—a much greater benefit to the people than any aid that might have to be sent to them from time to time in seasons of distress and famine. The extension of the telegraph also to these places is a matter of very much importance. I believe this has been brought under the notice of the Commissioners by fish-curers and others. So deeply impressed was Lady Cathcart with the importance of the question, that she came under an obligation some years ago to the Post Office to pay a considerable sum, which extends over a number of years. Through the assistance thus given the telegraph has been extended to Loch Boisdale; but Barra is the principal place, and a cable would be necessary to extend it to Barra. I have only, in conclusion, to refer in a few words to what came under my notice when I was going across to America. I had the pleasure of meeting the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingston, who is intimately acquainted with the Highlanders in Glengarry county and other places in Canada. He says they are comfortable, and a deserving class of people. He told me that the first bishop was the Rev. Alexander Macdonnell, whose history is very remarkable. He (Rev. Alexander Macdonnell) was a native of the west of Scotland. He had first the charge of a congregation in Dumfriesshire, and removed his flock from that place to to get better employment for them. Depression of trade took place sometime thereafter, and he transferred his people to London, and went along with them. They did not succeed in London so well as expected; and rather than see them in poor circumstances, he went out and established them in Glengarry county, Canada. On account of his devoted services, he was consecrated a bishop in 1819. He was the first bishop of Kingston, and at that time his diocese extended to the North Pole on the one hand, and to the Pacific on the other. The church he built, called St Raphael, is still standing near the boundary of the township of Lochiel. There are now in the western portion of what was originally the diocese of the late Bishop Macdonnell, seven different bishoprics and three hundred priests. When Canada was threatened with invasion, Bishop Macdonnell offered to place himself at the head of his place, and guard a certain portion of the boundary. On account of his loyalty he was made a member of the privy council. He was a true patriot, a devoted Catholic, and a loyal British subject, and his example is one eminently deserving of imitation.

46125. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—To whom did the lands belong on which the Benbecula settlement was made?
—To the Canadian Government.

46126. What stock did the settlers put upon their lots ?
—Most of them had a pair of oxen to work the land, and all the others have got one or two cows, except one crofter. I was very much disappointed to find that one of the crofters had got everything else, but was not able to get a cow.

46127. What was the value of the implements they required ?
—They would require as a start from £75 to £100 between the cattle and the implements.

46128. And the house?
—The house they put up themselves.

46129. How did they live before the house was erected?
—They lived in a tent for a week or two, and then put up a sod hut. They arrived there in May, and when they had time they put up a wooden house.

46130. Who provided the tent?
—They provided it themselves.

46131. Had they money to buy it?

46132. Is there ample wood for building houses upon these lots?

46133. And for fuel ?

46134. You remarked that these lots had been selected with great judgment. You have travelled over the district. Are there many lots of the same kind to be had ?
—There are not a great many to be had so near the railway. There were a great many vacant lots at the time they went there, but the best lots have been very fast taken up.

46135. Are there other lots well wooded and well watered?
—Yes, the only disadvantage is the further distance from the railway, which is a great disadvantage.

46136. Now, these people took £100 to stock their lot of land; do you think a settler could advantageously settle down on such a lot with less than £100?
—Not less than £100. I have given very considerable attention to that subject, and after making inquiries as to how the people succeeded who had perhaps a smaller sum, and others a larger sum, I am inclined to think if they have enough to give them a start, it is not a disadvantage to have but little. It is generally those who commence with small capital that are in the end the most successful.

46137. Did you hear of any who were unsuccessful from the smallness of the capital with which they started ?
—Not a single one.

46138. You think £75 is the minimum ?
—I think so.

46139. The Chairman.
—Do you think the Highland settlers, from the nature of their previous life and habitations, are more competent to put up the first house than people who come from other parts of the country, and are accustomed to better houses ?
—I have not the slightest doubt of it. No class of settlers can more easily get into the way of making a start in such a place as Manitoba than the Highland crofter.

46140. Do you think there is any advantage in the poorest class of settlers starting on a small area, or do you think the more land they get the better as long as they get it for nothing ?
—I think they should not take less than 160 acres. In Glengarry I ascertained that the extent was 100 acres, and they all regretted that it was so small. It is admitted by all that 100 acres is too small, and I should say 160 is the minimum extent that they should begin with. If they have even a daughter above a certain age they could take 320, and if there are two sons and a daughter in the family they could get 640 acres of excellent land, and nothing to do but begin to plough.

46141. A family so constituted might consistently with the regulations in force there get a square mile all at once. So much the better for that family. But does not the concession in advantageous positions of such large areas to a single family with various members rather operate prejudicially to other people who are coming at their heels, and who want to be provided for too ? The land is after all not inexhaustible ?
—That is a most natural observation to occur to those who are acquainted with the small extent of land in the old country, but any one going there, and seeing the vast extent of excellent land only inviting people to come and cultivate the surface, would never have to complain that 160 acres was too much, or 320.

46142. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—With reference to your very interesting statement about the emigrants whom you sent out, what is done with the places that are vacated by them ?
—The instructions were to add them to the adjoining crofts.

46143. In all cases?
—These are the distinct instructions—add them to the adjoining crofts.

46144. And if emigration to any extent will now go on, such as has been begun by you, it is Lady Gordon-Cathcart's orders that the places they vacate be added to the neighbouring crofts?
—Her most distinct and imperative orders.

46145. That was not the case of old, I think, because, from a statement you yourself rendered, when some emigrants were sent away from Barra, their possessions were not given to the crofters that remained, but were incorporated into the farm of Eoligary?
—From my own knowledge I cannot say. It was long before my time.

46146. This is what you stated yourself on 26th May
—“I have made inquiries as to what changes had taken place since 1836 as to boundaries ; and otherwise, and I have noted the result of these inquiries in pencil on the original copy. I find that the following townships and islands then under crofters have been added to the large grazings, viz., Hillesay, Fuay, Nigh, Green, Cliad, Fuday, and Gigha,—in all, sixty-one crofters; rent, £446, 8s. ?'
—Yes ; I made inquiries at your request, and gave you faithfully the result of my inquiries.

46147. But no such thing is intended now?
—No, certainly not.

46148. Now, did you satisfy yourself, after the most careful inquiry, knowing the dislike of the people to leave their native place, that it was not possible when leases of large grazing farms fell out, to distribute these farms among the remainder of the people with advantage to themselves and the estate?
—I have given that matter very careful consideration, and it would be rather difficult for me to compress my answer into a few words. But I may say this, that I don't think any scheme could be devised by either distribution or exchange or migration from one place to another, within the limits of these islands, that could possibly benefit the people to any extent to be compared with the benefit they would certainly derive, if they were sober and industrious, by going where they would become at once the absolute owners of the soil they till, and get such a large extentof land that one would think they would almost be unable to make use of it.

46149. Lady Gordon-Cathcart is giving them £100 each; will she give £100 to any of the other crofters if they remove from any of her estates here without compelling them to go abroad ?
—I don't think so.

46150. To enable them to take a croft in some other part of the Highlands?
—No, I think not; at least I could not recommend her Ladyship to do so. My desire to benefit the crofter who might go to some place on the mainland and the crofter who might wish to go to Manitoba would be exactly the same; I would wish to benefit the one the same as the other, but if a crofter went and settled down upon any place in Scotland known to me with £100, and another went to Manitoba, the difference is simply this, that I feel convinced and satisfied that the one who went to Manitoba would in a few years be perfectly able to pay back the money with interest, whereas I should be very much afraid that the crofter who merely migrated to some other place in the old country would not be in that position, even if the one was as honestly inclined as the other—the circumstances are so different, and the opportunities of getting on are so different altogether.

46151. Then emigration is your great panacea?
—Well, I know that to many people the word emigration is a most unpopular one in the meantime, but as long as I hold the convictions I do hold I don't wish to shrink from the position of saying that I think for a man whose capital is his arms—for a sober working man—to go to Manitoba is infinitely better than anything he could do at home.

46152. Supposing that to be so—and I have no doubt you conscientiously hold that opinion—what about the aged parents or the young families ? What are you going to do with those dependent upon them at
home ?
—Supposing a man who had four or five young children asked my advice, I would say,' You should not go to that country till your children are older and able to help you.' If there were two aged people who had no person to support them there, I should say, ' Don't go ; ' but, if they had sons and daughters able to maintain them, I would not say to an old man who had pluck to say ' I will go,' —I would not say ' Stay at home.' From what I have seen of the people there, I believe notwithstanding the climate it is a very healthy place.

46153. You made one or two remarks which rather grated upon my ears about the Rev. Mr M'Intosh the priest, and you spoke about the delegates as the M'Intosh delegates. Now Mr M'Intosh, I understand,
was examined at Loch Boisdale ?
—He was.

46154. And we had a third meeting at Benbecula the day after?

46155. Would it not have been better for you to have made those observations then, as you were present at all the places within a reasonable distance, and given Mr M'Intosh the opportunity of answering them ?
—Well, I am quite sure, from what you have seen of me at the different meetings, you must know I am desirous to act with perfect fairness to everyone. I was unwilling to appear before you repeatedly or to take up too much of your time, and it was for the very reason to which you have adverted that I came to Lord Napier, and he was good enough to give me an opportunity in Barra to reply on the subject of some statements made there. In South Uist I was not afforded that opportunity, and at Benbecula there were so many anxious to speak, that I abstained from finishing my statement, and I arranged to meet you at Inverness. I regret I had not an opportunity of referring to those statements on the spot, but it is not my fault; and I regret extremely that I felt called upon to refer to them at all, but I thought it was proper to do so, because I stated nothing but what was strictly true.

46156. Professor Mackinnon.
—I suppose you are more satisfied since you came back than before you went away of the suitableness of the northwest territory for emigrants ?
—I would not have taken upon myself to give expression to what I have stated before I went and saw the country.

46157. And I suppose with your very great knowledge of the Outer Hebrides, you are satisfied there is a very large number of people there who would be the better of removing to a richer country ?
—I have not the slightest doubt whatever that if they were voluntarily to say - We want to be helped to go there,' in the course of a few years they would bless those who had given them assistance to go to that place.

46158. From the accounts we have already had of the estates that are under your management, it is quite manifest that the expenditure of the past cannot be continued. I understand Lady Gordon-Cathcart spends more money on these estates than she takes out of them as rent ?
—Yes, it is quite impossible to continue spending the money that has been expended.

46159. I have no doubt there are many proprietors who have the will to benefit the people that she has, but comparatively few who have the power; but these things have their limits, and you think a large number of these people in their own interest ought to leave these estates and go abroad ?
—Well, I have no hesitation in saying it is for their interest. I will never say anything to Lady Gordon-Cathcart beyond offering to assist them, and if they, after hearing what their friends write, and considering the prospects they would have by staying at home or by going away—then if they come to a conclusion in favour of emigration, without any pressure being put upon them to go, they would get every assistance possible.

46160. You are quite satisfied it would be a very great advantage to those that remain that their crofts will be enlarged ?
—I have not the slightest doubt of that.

46161. If they were trebled and quadrupled all the better?
—They would require to be quadrupled.

46162. Well, looking to the utmost extent that it is reasonable to look to, the overplus of the population toeing provided for by emigration —taking the most favourable view of it —don't you think that as a matter of policy, if it were practicable, alongside of emigration there should be more of the land in these parts put into the hands of the people ?
—Well, we have been endeavouring to work in that direction. During the last few years Lady Gordon-Cathcart felt there was something wrong when there was nothing to supply the gap between the very small crofter and the large sheep farmer, and we have within the last two years been endeavouring to supply this gap. At Barra the farm of Allosdale is given to seven people, and that, practically, would be a step of the ladder, and offering an inducement to the industrious to step up higher and higher. At Gramisdale we were unable to give the land to the middle class people, because we had so many of the small class to be supplied, and I made that into crofts so as to increase the size of the other crofts. Then there are other lands made as club farms for sheep ; but we have the greatest difficulty in getting people to take the ground except on the old system.

46163. At the present moment matters are roughly in this way, that the estates are just about in equal parts divided between large and small tenants, acre for acre?
—There is a larger extent of the arable land under crofters, and a larger proportion of the hill ground under sheep.

46164. But it is about the same in acreage?
—There is more under sheep.

46165. And the small crofters number?
—Upwards of 900.

46166. Along with 300 or 400 squatters ?
—Well, the number of squatters is indefinite.

46167. And the number of large farmers is short of a dozen?
—Something like that. These statistics have been prepared and given in by Mr Maclennan.

46168. Now, I suppose, by no possible scheme of emigration could it be expected that the number of small tenants would be reduced to anything approaching the number of large tenants ? By that scheme alone you could not provide the regular system of gradation you wish ?

46169. Then, to carry out the scheme you wish, it would seem almost necessary that alongside of it the other process should have to be adopted too ?

46170. And you think the two might perhaps be attempted together?
—Well, gradually.

46171. And with a fair prospect of success, because I suppose the small mixed farm—half arable and half pasture —at £100, in these parts, would have as many competitors as the big farm ?
—Possibly more ; but there is this difficulty. If you have a large piece of hill ground you could not so easily let it into small farms as you would do with arable land. In fact, the physical features of the ground have to be taken into account, and the places capable of subdivision.

46172. You would yourself approve, as a matter of policy, where practicable, that not only should every opportunity be taken for increasing the crofts, but also and at the same time that every opportunity should be taken of giving to the smaller tenants a greater portion of the area of those estates than they have just now?
—Yes, to supply the middle steps of the ladder—having more of the middle class farms.

46173. So you would have a double outlet—on one side by emigration, and on the other hand by spreading them out on the surface of the land where they are ?

46174. You think that would be a wise policy to carry out in all these places with which you are best acquainted in the Western Islands ?
—I have no doubt of it.

46175. And you would like to see it carried into effect?
—I would like to see it carried into effect in such a way that there would be some reasonable prospect of the people being benefited by it. I am quite satisfied that certain propositions have been made for the distribution of the people iu unsuitable places, and though I don't wish to appear to make anything like a prediction, I would have the greatest fear that if these people were squatted down upon sheep pastures, the result would be very disappointing; and I think no one would seriously propose such a thing as has been
proposed except people who really had no practical acquaintance with the subject.

46176. But where the places would be suitable for mixed farms or the like of that, you would like that there should be a larger number of substantial crofters or small farmers on these places than there have been for a generation back ?
—I should like exceedingly to see in the where the ground and soil are both suitable for such an arrangement, something like what we have in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. We have large farms with tenants paying £300, £200, and £150, but the great bulk pay from £80 to £150.

46177. And considerable tracts of the Hebrides are suitable for such a distribution as that?
—Well, they are not so easily distributed in that way as on the mainland, but there are portions, and these portions might be selected.

46178. Of course, it is no secret that that was not the policy of the past ?
—It was not, either in the isles or on the mainland.

46179. And you are quite convinced from your own experience that that past policy was not a wise one?
—I am quite satisfied, from my observation on the east coast of Scotland as well as the west coast of Scotland, that the farmers who are the strongest —I mean those who will stand bad times —are not either the very smallest or the large farmers, but what I would term the medium-sized farmers. I have found during the late period of agricultural depression, not only in places which came under my own official notice, but from inquiries I made in regard to other localities, that the farmers who complained least throughout the east and west of Scotland were the tenants of medium-sized farms. I don't propose that
an estate should be all divided into medium-sized farms. I think the sizes should be various, but my idea is that there should be more of the middlesized farms than of any other class of farms.

46180. And that would just mean a reversal of the policy of the past as it has existed for the last thirty or forty years ?
—To a large extent it will be.

46181. And you would gladly see that carried out?

No comments:

Post a Comment