Sir WILLIAM COLLINS, Publisher, (66)—examined.
46056. The Chairman.
—Will you have the kindness to make your statement ?
—' I have read with great interest and attention all the evidence laid before the Commission relating to the condition of the cottars and crofters in the Western Highlands. As I think there are one or two points of importance which have not been brought under your notice by any of the witnesses who have appeared before you, I venture to come here to-day. I have been in the habit of spending a portion of my holidays during the last eighteen years in yachting in the Western Highlands, and have repeatedly visited the districts from Barra to Stornoway and from the Ross of Mull to Lochinver. During my visits the question has been forced upon me as to whether anything can be done to raise the social conditions under which many of the crofters and cottars live with reference to their dwellings and the limited extent of their holdings, which seem to me, from the nature of the ground, to make it impossible for them to raise sufficient food for their own support, or give them a chance of rising in the social scale. While I admit that even in our large towns there is always a large impoverished class, in the one case this is very often the result of imprudent and improvident habits ; while, in the case of the crofters and cottars, it is more the result of circumstances over which they have almost no control, and may therefore be described as honest poverty. As your Honours are probably aware, a storm of unusual severity, accompanied with an extraordinarily high tide, swept over these districts on the 22nd of November 1881, damaging or destroying boats to the number of about 1200. Appeals were made from various quarters and relief committees were formed in Edinburgh, and other places for assistance to relieve those who had suffered from this disaster. Money to the extent of £5355 was raised, which was expended in the purchase of second-hand boats, obtaining material for the building of new ones, and the repairing of those which had been partially damaged ; while in other cases cash was given to a proportion of the loss and according to the circumstances of each case. In several cases the landlords met the whole loss, in others they supplied material. As sub-convener of the Committee, and possessing a certain amount of local knowledge, I undertook a fair share of the work of distributing the fund. In the following season I personally visited every district to which we had sent relief in any shape, having resolved to devote my entire summer's holiday to that object. In carrying out this purpose, I came into contact with a large number of parties of different classes, including members of school boards, clergymen, factors, and ground officers, as well as those who had had their boats repaired through the aid of the relief fund. With the question already referred to constantly before my mind, I took this opportunity of obtaining additional : and I believe reliable information as to the condition and prospects of the cottar and crofter population. From all these sources I gathered there was a general agreement of opinion as to the ultimate effects of the Education Acts in extending the knowledge of the rising generation as to the condition and resources of other countries, which might render them less indisposed to leave their present homes, and possibly even to create a feeling of discontent with their present uncomfortable condition, and thus stimulate them to increased efforts to raise themselves in the social scale. Another important element towards their social improvement is to be found in the fact of the wide-spread influence of temperance principles among all classes of the population, and as showing in a very pleasing manner the habits of thrift thus acquired. I may instance a call I had from a clergyman, who was collecting subscriptions for the re-building of his church in one of the parishes in Lewis, who stated that some time previously he had been led almost to abandon the scheme owing to the poverty of the people. He was, however, pleasantly surprised lately by a call from a number of the young men of his congregation, who stated that from the savings consequent on their becoming abstainers, they now saw their way to aid him in carrying out his laudable purpose. Later in the season it was apparent that the potato crop would be a partial failure, and in the beginning of October heavy rains and violent gales destroyed a large portion of the grain, which was then still exposed in the fields. And thereafter deputations came to and Edinburgh, and submitted statements to public meetings as to the destitution which was again beginning to be felt, and the prospect of its increase before the new crop could be secured. Owing to the absence of sunshine and the prevalence of wet weather, the potato crops in many places never came to maturity, so that provision required to be made for immediate wants as well as for securing seed corn and potatoes fur the ensuing spring. The appeals which were then made were liberally responded to, both in the east and west of Scotland, and a sum amounting to £5544 was subscribed and expended in the various districts, principally among the cottars and smaller crofters. In addition to this, I believe about an equal amount was raised by the Lord Mayor of London. The returns sent to showed that 3326 families of the crofter class and 1914 families of the cottar class received relief—some partly in money and in kind, and some wholly in kind—estimated number of persons in all 24,055, a large proportion of those belonging to the Lewis. The Relief Committee, acting under competent advice, recommended a change in that description of potato seed from that which had been previously in use in many of these districts, which I believe will be an advantage to the crofters for years to come, as better fitted to resist the climatic influences than those formerly in use. The landlords in those districts in many cases supplied seed to the crofter class, I believe, in many cases, to be paid afterwards with the rent. As formerly, I devoted part of my holidays this season to visiting as many of the places where assistance had been sent as I could, and was happy to learn that the crops promised exceedingly well, and in every place I was informed that, but for the timely relief afforded by the , Edinburgh, and Lord Mayor's funds, the destitution would have been felt most severely —in many cases such as had not been experienced since the great destitution in 1846-47. In some places very interesting scenes were witnessed, in one populous district the whole of the inhabitants coming down to the beach to welcome the arrival of the vessel with the potato cargo. As already indicated, during my visits, I had special pportunities of discussing various remedies for improving the present condition of things. Several of these have already been urged upon your Honours, such as the increase of the extent of holdings and compensation for improvements made by the crofters. This latter seemed to be more desired than leases by those with whom I came into contact, and seems to me to point to what is considered by many as the greatest grievance. It has often been alleged that the cottars and crofters in the west coast are more indolent in their habits than those in other districts. In answer to this, I would respectfully submit, that being in most cases simply tenants at will, and at the same time resting in the belief that advantage had often been taken of the improvements they made to increase their rents or to evict them, it would be looking for too much from human nature to expect them to labour where they had no security that they would reap any reward for their exertions. This, therefore, I consider a reasonable explanation as to any want of energy they may display. In corroboration of this view, I would only refer to the fact that large numbers of cottars and those holding small crofts, so industriously prosecute the herring fishing both in their own and in the north-east coast of Scotland. It is also worthy of remark that when they come to our large towns and cities they are able to hold their own with those from other parts of the country. In the course of my inquiries as to the means they had to enable them to tide over this destitution, I ascertained that in many cases they were receiving substantial assistance from members of their families resident and working in , and but for this the destitution would have been much more difficult to meet. It has been suggested that many of the large sheep farms might be subdivided into small farms or crofts, but there is no doubt there are some difficulties in the way of carrying out this proposal. The chief among these may be mentioned—existing leases, and the erecting of the necessary houses and offices for the additional number of crofters who would then be settled on what was formerly one large farm, especially in cases where the property is under trust, or where the proprietor is unable to meet such an increased expenditure. At the same time, such a subdivision would not meet the requirements of those small crofters whose present holdings are totally incapable of affording the necessary support for themselves and families. While it appears that in many cases the rents in these districts have been considerably raised within the last twenty or thirty years, yet I am of opinion that a proportionate reduction would not meet the necessities of the case, or remove their present grievances, or elevate them to that social condition which is so urgently desiderated, the saving of 10 or even 20 per cent, on small rentals bearing a small proportion to the whole amount of a year's expenditure of a family. I am not an agriculturist, and therefore cannot form an opinion as to what extent waste land may be beneficially reclaimed, but I may perhaps be allowed to refer to an experiment made by the Corporation of in 1879, while we were suffering from a great depression in trade, and had a very heavy unemployed to whom we wished to employ a labour test. There was a peat moss on the line of the Greenock Railway that had been in a state of nature ever siuce I can remember. We obtained a lease of 100 acres for thirty years at a nominal rent, and within two years we had splendid crops of potatoes—so that while the experiment will be a gain to the corporation during the lease, and it will be a great gain to the proprietor at the end of the lease. As to the vexed question of deer forests, I observe an expression of opinion has been given, that these are not likely to be extended owing to the want of demand, but I confess to have had a feeling of regret in driving last season through a considerable extent of country in which everything that is beautiful in nature was to be found, but where I was informed that at that very time the tenants were under notice to remove in order to make room for another extension of a deer forest. I take it that the primary use of land is to provide food, not only for the population living on it, but for the country generally. I understand it is the case that proprietors derive a larger revenue from converting land into deer forests than they could obtain by utilising it for the sheep. But while this may be true, and while there may be certain portions of land unsuitable for any other purpose, I maintain that higher considerations ought to guide in the disposal of such a commodity as land, as the carrying out of this principle of a cold political economy, in allowing a landowner to dispose of his land to produce the greatest amount of personal gain,—irrespective of the higher interests of the country,—might if fully carried out lead to disastrous results by making the country wholly dependent on foreign countries for our food supply. I have incidentally referred to estates under trust, and this is a question to which I wish to direct your serious consideration; and in dealing with the late destitution, I found, notably in two cases, that, while other proprietors were aiding their tenantry, the tenants of a proprietor resident in Australia, and those of an estate under trust, were thrown wholly on our relief fund, as those in charge of these estates were unable to give that relief which was afforded by resident proprietors. I would therefore venture to suggest that in such cases the courts should be empowered to authorise the same relief being given by trustees as resident proprietors under the same circumstances are expected to give, and without the dread of beneficiaries before them. As an illustration of the grievance to which I have just referred, I find that Mr Auldjo Jamieson, in his capacity as curator bonis of an estate under his charge, admits that "during thirty years the curators had not been able to give the crofters anything as it would have been ultra vires, " It has been suggested that some of the difficulties arising out of the present condition of things might be met by the complete separation of the two industries of fishing and husbandry. In certain circumstances this may be possible, but there are several practical difficulties in the way of carrying out such an arrangement —much, for instance, would depend upon the situation of the parties, whether full employment could be obtained at either occupation. Were fishing made the only occupation of any large class, it would necessitate, as in other districts, the acquirement and maintenance of different kinds of boats adapted to the fishings of the different seasons of the year. While again, without such aid as fishing can afford, the condition of many of the crofters would be much worse than his been described in the evidence submitted to this Commission. Still as a general rule there is much to be said in favour of a person concentrating his thought and energy on one particular industry. The last remedy to which I would refer is that of emigration. I am fully aware of the unpopularity of this remedy, as it has generally been associated with clearances and evictions. I wish, therefore, distinctly to state that the only system of emigration I would advocate would be of a purely voluntary and, where necessary, an assisted character. While I think that such emigration would be highly beneficial in many districts to a moderate extent, both to those who leave and those who remain, and whose holdings it would naturally increase, yet it appears to me in the case of the Lewis, unless the proprietrix is prepared to throw some of the farms held by sheep farmers into crofts of a moderate size, I don't see how that large population can be maintained on that land, considering its character and the large natural increase of the population during the last thirty or forty years. I observe that it was stated by one of the witnesses examined in , that the rule should be strictly enforced that there should be no subdivision allowed. I cannot see how such a rule can be enforced, unless by assuming that the younger members of the family are to emigrate. I have observed expressions of regret in several quarters that emigration should be resorted to, lest the country should feel the want of its stalwart sons in time of need, but I confess I do not share such fears so long as our fisheries can supply such splendid defenders as comprise and recruit our naval reserve, which from our insular position must always be our first line of defence. It has always appeared to me that a certain amount of emigration —that is, voluntary emigration—instead of being disadvantageous to this country, is the reverse. This country will always continue to be dependent to a large extent on its manufacturing prosperity, and I hesitate not to say that a given number of people emigrating from these shores to one of our colonies, whether to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, will within a short period of their settlement become customers for our various manufactures to the extent of not less than five times what they would ever be if they remained at home ; nay further, they would become cultivators of that raw material and produce for which we are at present dependent so largely on other countries.'
46057. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You have a very large Highland population in Glasgow ?
—We have a large Highland population. Incidentally I was talking over the matter with one of our clergymen, and I think he spoke of about 25,000 being connected with our churches more or less. They are largely employed in our boat yards and other outdoor industries, and we have a fair number of them in our police force.
46058. Is there any fair proportion of them employed in higher kinds of work or as foremen ?
—I am not aware to what extent they may be. I rather gather they act as unskilled labourers, and probably there would be a drawback in many cases where they had not an intimate acquaintance with English as well as Gaelic.
46059. They generally come to as adults untrained for any except ordinary labourers' occupation ?
—I think so. Of course, there are a good many young women who come from Mull and Skye, as well as Lewis, for domestic servants —a very considerable number.
46060. There is a regular system of migration from the island of Skye, is there not?
—It has varied very much with the demand for labour. When business was brisk in , I daresay our larger employers were only too glad to get them. At other times I have had many painful instances of them coming without knowing how to look out for work.
46061. What islands do they chiefly come from?
—A good many from Mull and from Skye.
46062. Islay ?
—Yes, I think so, but I don't know so many come from May.
46063. There has been a greater decrease in the population of Islay than of any of the other islands ?
—Yes, but I don't think that has been by migration to . Of course, the circumstance that it is so accessible may cause them to remove, but the facilities are so great from the Lewis that there is no difficulty about it.
46064. And generally are their circumstances in tolerably comfortable for the positions they occupy ?
—I think so. I don't think any large proportion of them are among what you may call the sunken classes. Of course, there is a natural clannishness which prevents them, I daresay, from falling away from the position they have been accustomed to maintain.
46065. Is there any peculiarity in their habits to distinguish them either favourably or unfavourably from their fellow citizens ?
—There are Gaelic missions and Gaelic societies, that pay considerable attention to prevent their sinking down into a lower stratum of society.
46066. Are there any of the islands besides Lewis which you think require emigration to relieve the population?
—I scarcely think so. There may be some where there are complaints about want of sufficient ground, but I presume they are probably under the same conditions of sheep farms being allocated among crofters, and that they should be quite able, as far as I am able to form an opinion, to maintain all the population at present upon them.
46067. Would it not be possible to have a migration scheme to give them an opportunity of settling in instead of removing to Canada ?
—Well, there is no use coming to unless they are to find work there.
46068. But would there not be means of providing them with regular occupation there ?
—That must be regulated by the law of supply and demand. You will not get employers to hire men on day's wages unless they get profitable use of them.
46069. So far as you have observed the condition of the islands for the last eighteen years, do you think the condition of the people generally in these islands, and on the west coast, has improved or otherwise during that period ?
—It is very difficult for me to offer an opinion, but I have had always the feeling that they are not rising upwards in social position. It appears to me that the poverty they live in the midst of is increasing. There are other drawbacks. There are a great many social matters connected with them that I feel are a drawback. Their mode of dealing, their system of barter, and many other things, must be adverse to their rising in the social scale, but these are questions perhaps—with all respect for the Commission—that are beyond their powers.
46070. Have you observed any improvement through the educational development of the last few years ?
—It must be so, though I can scarcely say I am in a position to observe that.
46071. Do you find more English spoken?
—Well, I think I may gay that I very rarely have any difficulty in finding a person able to speak English. Generally I have my captain or some of the crew with me where I am likely to fail, but I think I may say I never find there is any difficulty in the case of any person I address—of middle age at all events—as regards speaking English, though I can say they have a preference for the Gaelic.
46072. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any acquaintance with the rural population in the neighbourhood of Glasgow?
—I cannot say I have.
46073. Does it ever happen that subscriptions are required in years of scarcity for these populations ?
—We have had no destitution in that has called for assistance. After the failure of the City Bank, which happened simultaneously with a general depression in trade, we had great pressure from the rural districts. People pressed into , and we had to be careful with the funds at our disposal; but I don't remember we had any general distress which required public aid in the shape we had then.
46074. The poverty you refer to did notarise from the failure of crops?
—No. Of course, at that time, we had an enormous destitution to cope with. At the highest point we had to find food daily for 39,000 people in .
46075. You mentioned that you think curators should have power from the court to exercise charity ?
—I say the trustees of estates that are under curators are placed at a great disadvantage. While the next in succession would be perfectly willing that assistance should be given of course the trustees have no power, and as a fact we felt we were bearing a heavier part of the load than we otherwise should if these parties had had the same freedom to give assistance in cases of extreme want as other proprietors were doing.
46076. I quite understand that, but do you think it would be right to encourage the increase of the population when you have to look forward to the necessity of giving charitable relief from year to year?
—I presume this was exceptional both about the loss that had to be met in regard to the boats, and the failure of the potatoes and grain that were in the fields. But I have at the same time been told that, in many places at all events, there are many of the people just bordering on semi-starvation, and that was the reason that was given me by perhaps one of the most intelligent men I ever met in the West Highlands. He was the son of a crofter. I asked, 'Why don't the landlords give them leases, and that would induce them to improve their crofts and would benefit the landlords ?' His answer was, ' I am the son of a crofter, and I would not accept a lease for this reason—that the crofters will have perhaps a few good seasons, and get their heads up a little, and they are sure these will be succeeded by a bad season, or succession of bad seasons, that will break them down to starvation again, and they don't want to be fettered by leases.'
46077. Do you think that a correct description of the climate and condition of things in the West Highlands ?
—It is very difficult for me to say. I have mentioned that as the opinion of about the most intelligent man I ever met with, and who took a very broad view of the whole question.
46078. If that is a correct opinion, would it be desirable to retain a population in these districts at all ?
—If you ask me that question, I believe it would be better for all concerned that emigration, voluntary and assisted, should to a much larger extent prevail than I have ventured to indicate. I mean that where there is actual destitution these men will never rise very high in the social scale. If there were a kind of rising scale, different sizes of farms, so that the intelligent and hard-working man might be able to increase his holding from time to time till he got into the possession of a farm, that would be a great benefit; but if there is not to be a re-arrangement and a better opportunity than at present of improving their position, if I were in their position I would not remain in the country a day, and I believe they would be more comfortable and really have an infinitely better prospect for their families as well as themselves by removing.
46079. Are their circumstances affected mainly by climate and surroundings or by the laws of the land ?
—The only alternative I can look forward to is in the matter of reclamation of land. I am not able to form an opinion as to the value of reclaiming land, and as long as we have such tracts of it within reasonable distance the wiser policy would be rather to transplant them to where they could produce a much larger return from land than they can do in this country. I happened last Monday to meet with a gentleman who had returned from New Zealand, having gone out five years ago, and he was in the company of an agriculturist of great experience when he mentioned this fact. He mentioned the amount of cattle he had on a farm of one hundred acres, of which eighty were devoted to pasture ; and the number of horses and cattle and sheep he had perfectly astonished this Scotch gentleman. He said there was no land in this country that would carry the number of cattle, horses, and sheep that these eighty acres were carrying and likely to carry.
46080. The Chairman.
—You referred to the bad effects on the western coast of something which you called a system of barter; will you be so kind as to explain that ?
—Well, I understand that, except in the towns, the people are largely dependent upon barter for the supply of various articles required for their household use, and merchants deal far more by barter than by ready money. They receive articles, such as eggs or sheep, from the people, and give the parties the supplies they want, whether groceries, or boots or shoes, or whatever it is. I have heard instances quoted of the unsatisfactory results of that. I understand in some cases they run on accounts without having balances for many years, and it is very difficult for them to keep accounts. I don't say the tradesmen who supply them are dishonest, but I suppose they lose so much money in that way that they find it necessary to charge very long prices.
46081. Does that extend to the payment of wages in commodities?
—I don't think it would be in a case where these parties are receiving wages. I speak more of cottars and crofters that are not employed at regular employment and receiving wages. I know, in fact, that there is one price which they put down in their books and a different price that they would accept in ready cash, and I don't say they are to blame, because I don't believe these men make rich on that system, but I believe it is a very disadvantageous system to both parties.
46082. In what part of the country do you understand that system of barter or truck to prevail most?
—If you keep off the larger towns like Stornoway and Portree—and I cannot speak so much about the mainland—but in the other islands it prevails.
46083. You think in the small local shops a great deal of business is transacted in the shape of an exchange of commodities ?
46084. Or rather an account current, which is settled by the delivery of commodities on either side?
—I believe so, and never squared. I have heard of accounts running on for twenty years, and I was told that on the very best authority.
46085. Can you foresee any termination of that system except a termination by a rise in the rate of wages, general industry, and a greater amount of money in circulation ?
—It is very difficult to suggest a remedy. It is not a question of dealing with parties who are receiving regular wages. It is just as they have a sheep or some farm produce to sell that they take them to the party. It might be open to objection if a proprietor were to undertake some mode of supplying them. At the same time it would be a great improvement on the present if proprietors, where there was not a large population settled, were to have stores where they would supply their own tenantry at, I don't say cost price, but cost price including expenses.
46086. We have had examples of something of that kind. But would not the management of such establishments virtually be in the hands of the factors, and would not then suspicions arise of undue profits made by them ?
—I think, unless it was being carried on solely on account of the proprietor, it would be very unwise to place the factor in the position of being a middleman in the supply and disposal of goods.
46087. But I don't see how the proprietor could do it. He could not do it in person ?
—Not in person, but he might appoint a manager, who would have no interest whatever in the concern, pay him or her a salary, and see that the person whom he appointed was competent to manage such a business.
46088. But if the proprietor were to make no profit on the one side and pay salary to a manager on the other, it might be a very expensive transaction ?
—I don't think it could be more expensive than on the present system.
46089. Before we went to Shetland and Orkney we had heard a great deal of the evils of the truck system that prevailed formerly between the people and the fishcurer and shopkeeper, and that with the increasing
prosperity of the country these evils were being gradually remedied, and had in a great measure disappeared, and we were not asked or recommended to do anything about the matter ?
—I understand one gentleman did a great deal to alter that system in the Shetlands and Orkney. He felt they did labour under this disadvantage.
46090. But don't you think it very likely that the evils of which you complain on the west coast may disappear with-the increasing prosperity of the country gradually in the same way?
—Well, probably they will disappear as the population become more accustomed to read newspapers and see the prices of commodities.
46091. It is a curious thing that in the course of our inquiry I do not think that subject—except in connection with the island of Tiree and the local industry there—has been once brought under our notice?
—I did not observe any notice taken of it.
46092. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In your yachting expeditions among the islands, I suppose you had occasion to deal with those country shops ?
—Not much, because I generally had a supply of stores with me; but I could easily see that the crofters and small cottars were very glad to get a little ready money put into their hands.
46093. Their system, I presume, is this, that those small shopkeepers are obliged to give undue credit, and they charge undue prices ?
46094. They have two prices. They charge a good deal for the things they sell, and getting something for sale they resell it at a profit?
—I cannot answer for that.
46095. A gentleman told us two days ago, with regard to the distribution of the moneys raised in public charity, particularly the moneys that came from the Relief Committees for the island of Skye, that it would have been better if they had been put into the sea. There is no doubt, we may take it, that in , like other large cities, there is a great deal of benevolent feeling on the part of the wealthy merchants towards their poor countrymen ?
46096. But, on the other hand, I may assume, particularly with regard to , that these rich merchants are not at all people to throw away their money without knowing exactly where it is going?
—More than that, I am afraid that if there were repeated applications of that kind our pockets would be stopped.
46097. In the matter of what may be called the destitution committee in the end of last year and the beginning of this year, were all the applications for relief carefully and minutely considered by different members of the committee before any money was granted ?
—The rule we followed was very much this. In dealing with the moneys sent for the repair of boats and otherwise, we had arranged that a committee should be formed, and that it should be fairly representative of the leading people. For instance, we tried to get the members of School Boards to take charge of the funds, and in many cases they did so. In the like of the Lewis and Skye, there were local committees which were entirely representative ; and we thought that having no personal knowledge of these cases, it would be far wiser in fact to leave it in the hands of parties who were appointed and who had the confidence of the whole community. In addition to that, I had letters from many clergymen over Skye who gave me very strong accounts of the destitution. One told me of parties waiting in his kitchen till they got a little oatmeal to take home with them.
46098. Taking it ah over, I presume you can mention that no moneys in the Western Islands or other parts were given by the Committee without the committee being either satisfied themselves or having precise local information as to the necessities of the people?
—The largest proportion of the amount was given away in kind.
46099. I include kind in money ?
—- I don't know how we could have aided the people except by intrusting it to parties there who had a standing. The School Boards generally included the clergymen as well as medical officers and ground officers, and I may state that one reason I had for visiting the whole of these districts in 1881 was just to satisfy myself in the first place, and to be able to satisfy the committee that the moneys we sent had been well administered; and I reported at the end of that season that I had reason to be satisfied that at every place I visited we had been exceedingly fortunate in the hands through which we had passed our funds.
46100. And that applies to the money or produce that was sent in 1883 ?
—We have not been in the same position yet, and it has not been scattered over so many places. I may mention that in the Lewis the number of families that received relief were 2128 families of crofters and 653 families of cottars. I estimate that fully half the population in the island received relief. If you multiply these by 4 ½ it is about half the population of Lewis, and I know Lady Matheson's chamberlain at one time when he came to Glasgow was very deeply distressed about the amount of destitution he would require to cope with.
46101. Were there any of your moneys distributed in Mull?
—There was, but not very much.
46102. Did you or the committee satisfy themselves as to the necessity for so doing?
—The first application we had was from the chairman of the Parochial Board about the Ross of Mull, who made a very strong representation and backed another representation about the destitution in the Ross of Mull.
46103. Can you tell us anything about Tiree?
—That is the only place we have not received returns from. We sent £ 102 there to be distributed by Mr M'Diarmid, ground officer.
46104. Was any money sent to Iona ?
—No, not at this time. We gave considerable assistance to Iona previously in the matter of potatoes, and
we made an exception in the matter of Iona —we supplied them with fuel. The high tide had swept off the whole store of peats, and the people were really suffering in health for want of fuel.
46105. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated you would only approve of voluntary and assisted emigration, but you think at present that Lewis is over-peopled ?
—I do, looking at the character of the land of the Lewis.
46106. And that, while other places under a different arrangement might put themselves to rights, it might be to the advantage of some of the people in such places also that they should remove to better land ?
—Well, they would better themselves. I don't say they could not remain there and do comfortably, but they would be able to reach a higher level in the social scale by removal.
46107. We met with great reluctance on the part of many of the people to emigrate ?
—I am quite aware of the unpopularity of mentioning the word.
46108. You stated, I think, that a different state of feeling might be brought about by the operation of the Education Act?
—That was the general state of feeling represented to me by members of the School Board ; that was the only remedy that seemed to be agreed upon by everybody I met with.
46109. The people themselves usually stated to us that their reluctance to emigration arose from this, that they had not been a whit bettered by the emigration of former times, and that instead of giving them the lands left vacant by the people who went away these were converted into sheep runs, and that the latter end was worse than the first?
—Of course, if that was so, it would not serve what was intended by emigration.
46110. When you recommend emigration you would recommend a different policy—that the land of the people who emigrated should be given to those who remained?
—I have intimated that in my evidence.
46111. Thirty years ago emigration was not unpopular in the Western Islands, and some of the most popular songs were emigration songs, have you any idea what has brought about the change of feeling ?
—I am afraid they may have had a kind of prejudicial feeling against emigration, considering the nature of it at that time. They went away in sailing vessels, and endured great hardships before they crossed the Atlantic. That is all done away with, but they are in ignorance of all these changes now.
46112. I think you stated also that you found out the want, through the whole of the northern islands along the seaboard, of any middle-class people ?
—I have heard that stated.
46113. You did not observe it so much yourself?
—No, I was not in a position to judge the extent of their holdings.
46114. The state of affairs we found obtaining in most of the places was that these crofts upon which a very large proportion of the people live were very small—that is to say, north of Ardnamurchan?
—Yes, that is so.
46115. And that between them and the big farms there was no break?
—That is one of the things I indicated—that there is no means of advance for the intelligent or prosperous crofter. The step is too large at present.
46116. Do you think that might perhaps account for the reputed lethargy and indolence of the people ?
—One cause of it I have indicated was that they had no incitement to exert themselves in the way of improving their holdings,—in fact, that they might be worse off if the proprietor were to take advantage of the improved land by increasing the rent.
46117. And even if they became successful, there is not an increased holding within reach for them to take and so get on a bit ? We talk of the ladder of life;—the Highland ladder has only two rungs,—one at the bottom, where the great mass of the people are, and one at the top, where there are only very few ?
—That is so.
46118. And it is almost impossible to leap from the one to the other?
—Yes, they are too far apart.
46119. The Chairman.
—We have a very strong statemeut to the effect that the extensive distribution of relief in connection with the last destitution had produced a demoralising effect; do you or do you not think that the independence and honesty of the people in the Western Highlands have been seriously marred?
—If there should be a continual repetition of that it might impair their spirit of independence, but in the exceptional circumstances I cannot think it will very seriously do so. There was only a complaint in one place about the distribution of food, by a person connected with some society; but I had evidence otherwise that he was not fairly representing the state of the case, and was not doing justice to it.
46120. You don't think that up to the present time the independence and energy of the people have been seriously impaired by this ?
—I am not positively able to say to what extent. It may be to an infinitesimal extent, because all eleemosynary aid has that tendency, and I don't know they are more unwilling to receive assistance than any other class. At the same time, I don't think, when we came forward in such a case as this, that that feeling is likely to be created or to exist. You might as well say that the shareholders of the City Bank felt their independence destroyed when we raised a large sum of money to meet their position.