MALCOLM FERGUSON, Crofter, East End, Iona (46)—examined.
44065. The Chairman.
—Do you usually reside in Iona?
44066. Are you personally occupied in tilling your croft?
44067. Have you been engaged in that business all your life?
—Mostly all my life.
44068. Where have you lived besides?
—In the Ross of Mull, where my father and grandfather were tenants.
44069. Have yon been elected a delegate by your own people ?
—Yes, by the people of Iona.
44070. To represent the whole island ?
44071. Have you a written statement?
—Yes. It is as follows:
—Statement of Grievances submitted to the Royal Commission by the crofters on East End, Iona.—
That (1) in the year 1847 our rent was increased 50 per cent.
That (2) in March 1872 the ground officer and clerk of the late factor came to the island and made us sign a paper to the following effect:
—" I will remove from house, crop, garden, and every thing in my possession, at Whitsunday term next." Some time after this, we were called to the factor's office to sign another paper, to the effect that we would be liable to any rent he would think fit to impose upon us, otherwise we would not be to remain longer in our holdings; after that he laid an additional £50 upon ten crofts, so that our rents are now more than doubled since 1847.
That (3) we had a piece of land on the Creich common for grazing our horses during the time we were carting our peats; part of which was taken from us by the late factor, and put into his own farm. Seeing that we are now deprived of our peat moss, and allowed only £2, being the third of what is required for our fuel, we feel that our burdens are iu no way lessened. To cart our peats from the moss to the shore, a road was made, for which we are taxed by so much extra being put on our rents; but although the road is now of no use to us, no abatement has been made.
That (4) it was customary and compulsory on the estate to make us work with our horses and carts whenever our services were required, without either food or wages.
That (5) the late factor was owing to some of us, and to other crofters and cottars in this island, from 30s. to £ 10 for kelp work, which he never paid either in money or in kind; he refused payment on the ground that the kelp did not pay.
That (6) some of us did not send any grain to the mill for the last eighteen years, while in former times we could make as much meal as our families would need for the year through, but for a number of years past we require to buy seed for the ground, and food for our cattle as well as for ourselves. Our own produce will not support our families for more than three months of the year, particularly when there is a failure in the potatoes. The soil is so much deteriorated in value of late, on account of constant cropping and incessant rains in wet seasons, that it does not yield remunerative returns.
That (7) were it not for the long credit we get from merchants at home and in , we could not stand our holdings so long. Our rents must be paid regularly; the local merchants often lend us money to pay it when due, although we are heavily indebted to them for meal and other necessaries.
That (8) our island is very bare, and exposed to storms, which cause much damage and destruction to property; owing to such occurrences, we suffer occasionally by the loss of boats, crop, &c.
That (9) the extent of our holdings is about six or seven acres of arable land, with a summing of eight cows and one horse for each croft, and the average rent is about £20, which we consider fully double what the place is worth. Our request is fair rent, security of tenure, and compensation for improvement. The population of this island in 1847 was above 500, but at the last census in 1881 it was only 250. A statement by the crofters of the west end of Iona, and also a statement of the villagers of Iona, were forwarded to the Secretary of the Royal Commission by post.
44072. You have alluded to two other memorials or statements from the crofters of Iona ; did you see them when they were made ?
44073. Look at these two papers and see if they are the same ?
44074. This is a 'Statement of grievances by the cottars of Iona, to be laid before the Royal Commission. 1. We are crofters by rights not cottars. We pay our rent to Mr Wylie, the Duke's factor. Our rent was raised to 10s. in the year 1853. We cannot keep any stock, because our crofts are limited to the one-eighth of an acre; we pay rent at the rate of £ 4 per acre.
2. In the year 1855, 20s. was added to our rent for the houses which were built by ourselves or by our predecessors, raising the rent to the rate of £ 12 per acre.
3. In the year 1859 written summons of removal were sent us from the Duke's factor to be signed, and, if refused, we were served with summons from Tobermory from the sheriff, 22s. 6d. being the expense of the said summons ; that sum we had to pay.
4. In the year 1881, November 22, owing to the excessive high tide, we lost our boats, also our peats. We humbly submitted our losses to the Duke. We were informed through the chamberlain that he did not recognise our tenancy; whereas others who were paying a higher rent got compensation for losses sustained. In the same year, some of us having failed to pay their half year's rent at Martinmas, letters to the following effect were received :
—" I hereby intimate, that unless your rent is paid you run the risk of losing your house."
5. In the year 1882 we were prohibited from cutting our peats, which we were in the habit of cutting from year to year from time immemorial. Our allotted mosses are now cut by others in Mull, and we are allowed no compensation for same; seeing that we live in an island in which there is no work to be had, and that we must now buy coals which we cannot do, we would require at least five tons of coals, which comes to £ 3 , 10s. at the rate of 14s. per ton, the price paid for them this year. Our peats we prepared ourselves, and consequently we had not so much outlay of money ; coals we must pay on delivery.
6. In the spring of 1883, the ground officer had been going round the island inquiring of the crofters how much oats, barley, rye, and potatoes they would require; we were told that we would get none. These seeds arrived, and were distributed among the crofters, but none to us.
—ALEXANDER MACDONALD, ARCHIBALD BLACK, LACHLAN M'LEAN, ARCHIBALD M' PHAIL .
And here is another.
—' Statement of grievances submitted to the Royal Commission by the Iona West End Crofters,
1. That in the year 1847 our rents were increased 50 per cent.
2. That in the year 1849, a bull infected with foot-and-mouth disease was bought in the south by the late factor for his own stock in Mull, but on observing that he was infected with the disease, was landed in Iona, by which our cattle in the whole island became infected, and some of them died by it.
3. That the late factor sent sheep which were infected with scab and other diseases on to the island to winter ; these sheep strayed on our crofts and common pasture, and infected our sheep with those diseases which were never known before on the island ; and fearing we might drive them away he ordered our dogs to be killed, and actually sent his gamekeeper to kill them.
4. That we were forced by the late factor to work for him with our horses and carts, without food or wages, any time he thought proper to ask us.
5. That in the year 1860, the hill contiguous to the schoolhouse was taken from us, by which our whole pasture was in a manner spoiled.
6. That in the year 1864 the late factor wanted each of us to pay 16s. for the common pasture of a croft belonging either to Duncan M'Phail or to himself ; this we refused to do unless he would allow us to stock it; this he would by no means allow us to do, but sent a sheriff officer with a warning to each of us. We then petitioned the Duke, and whatever answer the factor received from his Grace, we were obliged for fear of losing our holdings to submit to an additional £5, by which our rents are doubled, and in some cases nearly tripled since 1847, so that our burdens are heavy indeed.
7. That for many years before the late factor came, and some years after, our crofts were so productive that we were going to the mill twice a year ; but being compelled by him to part with one of our horses, which is a great disadvantage in tilling our crofts, this and the change in the weather, and other causes perhaps unknown to us, makes our crofts less productive, so that we shall be glad if we shall have what will sow them over again, in bad years especially, so we must have meal and other necessaries all the year round, though rented about £20, and some above it, exclusive of rates.
8. That all this outlay and much more must be met by the produce of the stock that we are allowed to keep.
9. That being now deprived of the peat moss, which for generations was in our possession, though allowed a reduction of £2, which is about the half necessary for our fuel, we feel that this adds to our burdens.
10. Finally, dwelling on a sea-girt island, we suffer many inconveniences and hardships which cannot be specified in this statement; also, as far as we know since this present Duke came into possession of the estate, he remitted no arrears, unless he may have done so to those evicted, and those who may have felt compelled to leave for foreign land in the shape of assistance, and those of the crofters that remain did not, and do not feel any benefit to them for these clearances.' (Signed by twelve persons) '
P.S. We feel it right and just to mention that the Duke, four or five years ago, ordered potato seed to be distributed among us gratuitously; and two years ago, on account of that destructive storm and high tide, by which the people suffered so much, the Duke paid a share of those losses to us, but they were not paid in full; and last year we got seed potatoes, oats, and barley, which we promised to pay at first rent, but we did not pay it yet.'
Then there are two statements from crofters, and one statement from cottars ?
44075. Are the two statements from crofters from substantially the the same people?
—There is a slight difference between them. The two places are, as it were, two townships.
44076. The two statements from crofters are from two different townships?
44077. One is called East End ?
—Yes, and the other West End. That is the reason why two statements are given in.
44078. Well, the complaint is that in the year 1847 the rent was increased 50 per cent. ?
44079. And in the year 1872 a paper was sent round by which people were to bind themselves to pay any additional rent they were asked, and generally to do what they were told, or else they would have to go. Is that it ?
44080. Have you got a copy of that paper?
—No, we had only just to sign the paper, and deliver it to the factor's clerk.
44081. In 1872 ?
—Yes, but as far as I recollect, I gave the very words that were written in the paper I signed.
44082. Was the paper generally signed by the crofters of the East End ?
—Yes, they all signed it.
44083. And it was given back to the factor?
44084. And I suppose it is in the factor's possession now ?
—I think so. I asked the clerk, was it imperative we should sign it, and he said yes.
44085. Did you sign it yourself ?
44086. In that respect you bound yourself to pay anything ?
—I did not sign. It was my father. He signed the other paper I refer to, the first paper I saw, saying he would remove from house, crop, land, and everything in possession, and so forth.
44087. The paper says
—'I will bind myself to remove from house, land, &c, if required to do so.' It did not mean he was to go away at once ?
—I suppose so.
44088. Do you remember what it really meant ?
—What I understand is this, that it meant if we did not sign it, a legal process would be served upon us, and then we were under his power, and we had either to agree to his terms or to leave the place.
44089. But did that first paper contain any other conditions? Did it say—' I agree to sign such and such conditions ; ' or was it just a general , statement?
—Just a general statement, to the best of my recollection and belief.
44090. Then there was a second paper ; what was the nature of the second paper ?
—I did not see the second paper at all.
44091. How do you know it existed ?
—I know the people were summoned and called to the factor's office to sign it.
44092. Were you not summoned?
—My father was alive, and it was his name that was to be subscribed to the paper.
44093. Did you ever hear what the second paper contained?
—Not exactly the wording of the paper, but just what is stated in the statement I gave.
44094. ' That we would be liable to pay any rent he would think fit to impose, otherwise we would not be allowed to remain longer in our holdings. After that an additional £50 upon ten crofts.' Did they sign that paper in the factor's office ?
44095. And that paper, I suppose, was left in the factor's possession ?
—Yes. They did not know the rent at the time that they were to pay, but they bound themselves to pay any increase of rent.
44096. Then the privilege of cutting peats upon the Ross of Mull was taken away from Iona, but the people received a compensation of £2 ?
44097. Was that £2 a remission of rent to each crofter?
—Yes, a reduction of rent.
44098. But you say you did not consider it sufficient compensation ?
44099. Was any remonstrance at that time made to the factor about the amount ?
—Yes, to the factor's official.
44100. But when the people were in the habit of getting their peats from the Ross of Mull, did they waste valuable time going backward and forward, and was it accompanied by danger and hardship ?
—Most decidedly it was.
44101. Then not only they wasted time, but it was accompanied by danger ?
44102. Were any lives ever lost?
—Never, except the lives perhaps of horses in swimming them across. I remember one horse being drowned.
44103. But even the lives of horses were of material value to the crofters; may it not have been a better bargain for the crofters to get a remission of £2 and to save their trouble and to save their horses, and at the same time buy coals ?
—Yes, but by having the peat moss they were saving the price of coals. I would say they would require £5 for coals in the year, according to the price of the coals. They were saving that price, because they were carting and ferrying them with their own boats.
44104. Was the waste of time, and the risk perhaps, not worth £ 5 ?
—The money was of more consideration to them than the time wasted. If there was any other employment, they could be at where they could take that money, it was preferable to give up the peats, but there was no other employment that they could be at.
44105. You think they did the peat work at a time when they had nothing else to do ?
—Certainly, they did.
44106. And do you mean that some members of the family might be profitably employed on the peats, and others on other work ?
—-They cut their peats always when they were done with the sowing, and they were ready for drying as the season would turn out. Then whenever they got their potatoes weeded out and well set up, the peats were ready to be carted.
44107. Did the women go to cut the peats ?
44108. They went across in boats?
44109. Where did they live when they were over there?
—They came back at night. They left Iona at three or four in the morning, and got back from Ross or Mull at nine o'clock in the evening.
44110. Had they no sheilings over there?
—Nothing at all. They breakfasted at three in the morning, taking lunch with them.
44111. But it may have been bad weather with them sometimes?
—Sometimes; and if the weather was not suitable they would stay at home.
44112. What was the nature of this compulsory work, by men and horses and carts, which you say was unpaid by the factor; was it work upon roads ?
—Any kind of work that belonged to the estate.
44113. What kind of work was it generally?
—Supposing, for instance, that the proprietor was to put up a dyke or the like of that, the crofters were obliged to cart the stones where it was of no benefit to themselves. If it was to improve another place, it did not matter; or if a crofter would leave the place and the crop was in the proprietor's hands, the other crofters were bound to secure it when they were requested to do so.
44114. Do you mean that if the proprietor wished to get some work done upon one township, he would oblige the crofters upon another township to help to do the work, or were the crofters always employed on their own township, for work upon their own township ?
—Well, I don't know. All I know is this, that all the work that has been done by the crofters in this respect was done on the factor's farm.
44115. When they wanted work done upon the factor's farm they called the crofters to do that work ?
44116. Was that regulated at so many days, or was it unlimited ?
—As far as I recollect, I think in the year 1876 we signed printed regulations, that we were to give six days' labour in the year if it was required.
44117. Was that for particular work or for any work ?
—Any work. There was no kind of work specified, so far as I remember, in the printed regulations.
44118. Has that sort of service or obligatory work always been exacted upon the estate from time immemorial, or is it a modern introduction ?
—I think it is since I remember.
—Always; but for a member of years past the people were not asked.
44120. Then it was an old custom of the estate ?
—I think it was an old custom.
44121. And the people held their crofts under that obligation?
44122. And it has not been exacted of late years?
—Not so far as I remember, at least in Iona; but I believe it was exacted in the Ross of Mull.
44123. Restricting ourselves to Iona, it has not been exacted of late years ?
—Not of late years.
44124. Well, since they ceased to exact the work, have they asked any additional rent instead of the obligation to work ?
—No, they have not.
44125. Now, there is a complaint that no grain has been carried to the mill for eighteen years ; I want to arrive at the reason of that. Is there a smaller area cultivated with grain now than there used to be ?
—The same quantity, so far as I understand.
44126. You think the area is the same?
44127. There has been no diminution of the arable area ?
—Not a yard, I believe.
44128. Then why is the grain not carried to the mill now? Is it on account of the inferiority of the quality of the grain, or less quantitv ?
—Less quantity. It does not grow now the same as it did many years
44129. Do you think the quality is inferior too, or is it the same?
—The returns are much lower. In some cases there are no returns at all.
44130. Is that owing, do you think, to the exhaustion of the soil?
—Yes, and to the wet weather. I have seen in wet weather, particularly in the winter time, the sea quite dark for fifty or sixty yards round the coast, with the substance of the soil washed away altogether with the floods that were coming.
44131. Then you think the weather has been getting worse ?
—Oh, most decidedly. At least I am told by older men that they used to see heavy falls of snow and frost for a long time in the winter time.
44132. If the soil is getting worse is it in consequence of less manure being put upon it : or in consequence of change in the way of cultivation, or is it that the soil is exhausted and washed away ?
—I think the soil is exhausted, and I think the weather has something to do with it as well.
44133. Had they, in Iona, the habit of bringing turf from the hill and putting it upon the arable ground in former times or not ?
—I don't think it, because I do not know any place they could bring earth or turf from.
44134. If they do not carry the corn to the mill, what do they do with it ; do they thresh it, or do they give the straw and grain together to the cattle?
—In some cases they give the straw and grain to the cattle as it grows.
44135. The grain in the straw?
44136. And if there is a good market for their cattle, may it not be more profitable to them to feed the cattle with this stuff, and sell the cattle well, and buy better meal for their families?
—Well, I would think so. That is my own opinion. It is far more profitable.
44137. So, though they lose the grain for food, they may recoup themselves in selling a better description of cattle ?
—But there is not, I believe, the fourth part of grain raised now in the island, or the sixth part that used to be.
44138. Although the same area is cultivated?
44139. You say that the population has decreased from 500 in 1847 to 250 now; are there only 250 now ?
—That was the number at last census.
44140. What has become of the others?
—They emigrated in 1847.
44141. Where did they go to?
44142. Did you hear the previous witness, Mr Grahame?
44143. Did your people succeed and prosper?
—Some did, and some did not.
44144. What do you think they generally did?
—A great number, I know, that were sent away at the time, died before they arrived at their destination, by fever and other complaints.
44145. How many went away; did they all go together in one ship?
—I don't think they did. I was not in Iona at that time. I did not go there till 1851.
44146. Did you ever hear any number mentioned ?
—I have heard that in some cases about seven or eight died in one family.
44147. Then the whole family must have died?
—Well, there might be
perhaps eleven or twelve in the family.
44148. However, the descendants of those people are over in Canada?
44149. Do they ever write to their friends in Iona?
44150. Now, when all these people went away in 1847, what was done with their lands; were their crofts added to the other crofts, or were they consolidated into some large holding?
—Some were and some were not.
44151. Is there any large holding in the island?
—There are now three large holdings.
44152. How big?
—What I mean by that is when three or four crofts are put together.
44153. What do you call a large holding; a farm of £50 or £60 a year ?
44154. What is the largest holding in Iona?
—-I think £80 is the largest.
44155. But, in general, was the land vacated by the people who emigrated employed in enlarging the other small crofts, or were they all put into a large farm ?
—-I think that no changes have taken place in the crofts, because on many a croft at that time there were three or four families, and when the people went away, the croft went to one family. In other cases, in two or three instances, I know that two or three crofts went to one family.
44156. Well, there were no people brought in from anywhere else ?
44157. What I want to arrive at is this, are the fewer people who remained better off now ? Have the 250 people larger crofts generally than they used to have when there were 500 ?
—The same size of crofts, only that] on the crofts before there were three or four families where there is only one family now.
44158. Then each family has a larger area than it formerly had?
44159. And in consequence of this emigration, the people who remained behind are better off ?
—Well, I cannot say that.
44160. If they have more land, does not that do them good?
—But the land they had before was more productive. The land is now less productive than in former times.
44161. But that is the result of nature ?
44162. You don't blame the factor for that?
—Oh, no; not at all.
44163. Well then, the chief complaint I find is that the rent is too high ?
—Yes, that is the chief complaint.
44164. You mentioned eight cows and one horse,—any sheep?
—Well, there were no sheep allowed at one time. The late factor made us put away our sheep.
44165. What have you got now?
—I think now we can keep any stock we like.
44166. But I want to understand what an active well-to-do crofter actually keeps ?
—Eight cows, or a summing equivalent to eight cows.
44167. And one horse?
—Yes, that is his summing.
44168. Any sheep, as a matter of fact?
—A few sheep.
—No; perhaps half a dozen —from that to ten.
44170. Eight cows, one horse, and six sheep, and he pays £20. Giving a horse and six sheep for £4, the rent would be about £2 per cow?
—Just about that.
44171. Does the croft keep those cows all the year, or have the crofters to buy provision?
—Yes, and still the cattle are almost in a state of starvation.
44172. But do they as matter of fact buy provision in for the winter?
—In bad years they manage to buy provision for the winter.
44173. But not in ordinary years?
—Not in ordinary years. Last year we had to get hay and bean meal from for the cattle.
44174. When a man wants to hire the summer grazing of a cow from another man or from a big crofter, how much does he pay ?
—Well, I am not very sure. We have, no grazing let on our land.
44175. That never occurs?
—Oh, yes. When I remember, it was 30s. That was the rent for a cow for grazing for a year through.
44176. But if anybody wanted to hire grazing for a cow from another man or from a farmer, how much would he pay for the cow for the year ?
—That is for wintering?
—They never let the grass that way in Iona.
44178. How much would a farmer charge in the Ross of Mull?
—I have heard that £ 5 was charged.
44179. Then the Duke charges £2 for a cow, and a farmer in the Ross of Mull would charge £5. Is that about the difference ?
—I think so.
44180. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You say the late factor was owing you cottars and crofters certain sums of money for kelp work, and that he never paid them ; do you state that of your own knowledge ?
—Yes, of my own knowledge.
44181. Was he owing yourself anything?
44182. How much?
—I think all the work I ever did at that came to 30s. Others had £3, £4, and £5, and others above that.
44183. What year was that?
—I believe it is about fifteen or sixteen years since. He had a man to look after the making of kelp in the place at the time, and of course some were paid; for their work. Some were regularly kept at the work, but the crofters when they had time to cart the kelp were promised so much a day, and they expected to be paid, but when they went to ask payment, the factor told them he could not pay, because the kelp did not pay him.
44184. Was it for himself he was getting kelp made?
—I don't think it.
44185. Was it for the Duke ?
—I believe so, but I am not sure, and I do not like to say anything I am not sure of.
44186. Are you quite certain then that these sums were never paid?
44187. Were they asked for more than once?
—No, there is no use asking them more than once.
44188. How long was it before the death of the late factor ?
—It would be about five or six years before his death.
44189. Was it mentioned to his successor?
44190. Why did you not insist on getting it deducted from your rent ?
—Well, supposing we would ask that, there would be no attention paid to what we would ask in that respect.
44191. But if that money was due to you, you were not bound to pay your rent till it was deducted ?
—But I believe there were no accounts. I don't know if there were any. I know this, that since it was not settled in time, his successor would not recognise our claim. I am perfectly sure of that.
44192. I suppose you are acquainted with the circumstances of the cottars as well as your own. They say they are paying at the rate of £12 per acre for their ground. Is that so ?
—I believe they are.
44193. Their ground, I suppose, consists of a kailyard ?
44194. How do they support themselves?
—By fishing and by working here and there. Of course there are some who are tradesmen among that class, but they are not all so.
44195. In saying that their rent is £12 per acre, can you say what is the actual amount of rent paid by each of them?
—Thirty shillings, including house and garden ground. £1 is charged for the house, which they built and keep in repair themselves, and 10s. for the ground attached to the house.
44196. What kind of houses are they ?
44197. Did they build them all themselves ?
44198. How long since ?
—I believe many generations past.
44199. Then the rent must be charged for the ground on which the house was built?
44200. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you know if that second paper which the tenants signed, when they bound themselves to pay an unknown rent, was a submission to valuators ?
44201. It was a submission to arbiters, binding themselves to abide by the decision of the arbiters?
—When the £50 was laid upon us it was submitted to valuators to divide that. It was not equally divided at all,—the £50 upon the ten crofts. It was left to themselves to see if they would lay the extra £50, so much here and so much there, according to the value of their ground. The people themselves did not agree, and three valuators were sent to Iona to settle the matter.
44202. And this paper which they signed was a paper agreeing to abide by that valuation ?
—No, but that they would be liable to pay any rent that would be laid upon them.
44203. Not that they would be liable to pay a rent which was to be fixed by valuation ?
44204. Had the factor a farm of his own in Iona 1 It was supposed he had a farm of his own in another man's name. That was believed to be the case, whether it was so or not.
44205. And when the tenants did work on the factor's farm was it in making march dykes ?
—Yes, they had to carry stones for building that dyke that was between that large farm and the land supposed to belong to the crofters.
44206. But was it for internal fences or was it for a march fence ?
—A march fence.
44207. There is a reference here to the factor having introduced disease into the island by having sent a diseased bull to Iona, but he sent this to his own farm ?
—It was brought from the south for his own farm, but it seems that when it was seen the animal was diseased it was landed in Iona.
44208. Had he no stock on his own land in Iona ?
—I am not aware he had at that time. It was not many years after he came to Mull.
44209. Is it likely he would have a farm without any stock upon it ?
—I don't think he had.
44210. You think he had a farm and had no stock upon it?
—Not at that time. It was after that that some tenants or crofters left the place, and the place was made a large farm, when the crofts became vacant.
44211. He took the crofts ?
44212. And you think he was aware this bull was diseased when he sent it to Iona ?
—I think that was the object, so that it would not go to his own farm.
44213. It did go to his own farm, but it was a farm, you say, where there was no stock ?
—Yes. Of course, I cannot give any satisfactory answer about the bull, because the bull was in Iona before I ever was there.
44214. The Chairman.
—Is there any foot-and-mouth disease there now ?
—No, I never heard of any foot-and-mouth disease in Iona since.
44215. Or scab ?
—Yes, the scab is very prevalent in Iona.
44216. Is it more prevalent in the Ross of Mull?
—I don't think it is.
44217. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you the only delegate from Iona here to-day ?
44218. Had the Commission been able to go to Iona, I presume several people would have come before us?
—Yes, I think two delegates were to be appointed from the east end, and two from the west end, and one from the cottars. That was the arrangement if circumstances had permitted the Commission to land in lona on 9th August last.
44219. In all those papers there is mention made of a factor; what was the name of the factor ?
—Mr John Campbell, Ardfinaig.
44220. Will you explain a little more fully about this bull. Was the bull taken, in the first instance, to the farm of the factor in the Ross of Mull ?
—I was not in Iona at the time, but I understand it was in this way. The bull was bought in the south of Argyllshire, and was brought to Mull, and when it was found that the animal was diseased it was landed in Iona, so that the disease would not spread through Mull, or through the factor's stock there.
44221. So, to save the Ross of Mull, Iona was sacrificed ?
—Yes, that was the way we understood the matter.
44222. About this farm which you say the factor had, was it his own farm or was it an estate farm ?
—I think it was his own farm.
44223. He was paying rent for it ?
—Yes, and he had other two farms added to it in Mull.
44224. You have stated that the population has very considerably decreased since the time of the potato disease. Are the people as poor now as they were in your younger days ?
—They are not so poor as they were in 1847 and 1849, and perhaps 1850, but in my younger days the people were better off than they are now.
44225. Supposing the half of the population were put away, and even that the remainder got their lands, would those that remained be a bit better off if their rents also were doubled or trebled ?
—Well, I don't think it, because the soil is now less productive. It does not yield any returns.
44226. Is there much less stock now in Iona than there was in former times ?
—I believe it is the same, but the ground will not make so much stock as it did in former times.
44227. But you think the same number of head are there now that there were in former times ?
—I think so. I had always an argument with the people that they were keeping too much stock. They said
—' Well, we have to pay such a heavy rent, and if we do not keep a full stock we are not able to pay the rent.' But it is my own opinion that it would be far better to have a less stock, and to have them always in good order.
44228. You said there were two or three largish farms in Iona; do these belong to natives of the island or to strangers ?
—One belongs to a native of the island and the other two belong to strangers.
44229. Are the smaller people that you represent here to-day, the descendants of people that have been long in this historic isle ?
—Yes, every one of them.
44230. Can you state anything that is regularly done by the proprietor in the way of encouragement to the poorer class of the people, to the crofters ?
—"Well, I don't remember anything just now.
44231. You cannot charge your memory with any such thing, can you ?
—Not in the meantime.
44232. Are your rents pretty rigorously exacted ?
—Oh, they must be paid when the gentleman comes to collect them; but there are sometimes he may perhaps allow three months longer, if they promise to have them exact at that time.
44233. You got grace for three months at times ?
44234. Are there any arrears at this moment?
—I don't think it, but the people would prefer to borrow money rather than be in arrear.
44235. Is it the fact that they are obliged to borrow money very often to pay their rents ?
—Yes, I know that of my own personal knowledge.
44236. Do the authorities of the estate know that the rent does not really come out of the produce of the croft but out of borrowed money ?
—No, I don't think they know it, and they would not believe it supposing it were told to them.
44237. But you know it?
—Yes, I know it from my own knowledge and experience. For the last fourteen or fifteen years, I did not put a shoe on my foot, a shirt on my back, or a bonnet on my head, with any profit I derived from the croft.
44238. What rent are you paying yourself?
44239. With regard to the paper that the people were asked to sign that they would pay whatever rent was chosen to be put upon them, there is a reference in that paper to valuators; but the business of the valuators was not to fix the total rent ?
44240. They merely allocated among the crofters whatever the proprietor chose to put upon you ?
—Exactly. That is just what was done.
44241. Did you and the small people agree to those terms, because they could not help themselves, and because they had a pretty good idea that if they did not agree, out they would go ?
—Oh, there was no alternative; and that was always the answer they would get —' If you are not satisfied, just go away'—if they made any complaint.
44242. Do you think that some of the people who are now in Iona were there at the time it belonged to the Macleans of Duart ? Were their forefathers there from time immemorial ?
—I don't know. I believe one of the oldest families in Iona is an uncle of mine, whose forefathers were there from time immemorial; and I think there is a family called Black, that is said to be the oldest in Iona.
44243. Were they there in the time of the Bishops of the Isles ?
—Well, tradition says they were, and that they came from Ireland along with St Columba.
44244. I hope they may continue there?
—I don't think it. There is only an old man there, and he has only one son who is a doctor in South Uist.
44245. Professor Mackinnon.
—I suppose, although there are two statements from Iona, and although you belong to the one side of the island, you know the other side quite as well ?
—Yes, in most cases.
44246. The whole island is not so large but that one person can know it well?
—Yes; but anything that took place before 1851, when I came to Iona, I am not prepared to answer a question satisfactorily about.
44247. Your father removed to Iona in 1851 ?
44248. And you succeeded him in the croft ?
44249. And you have been paying the rent ever since ?
44250. Now, both papers state that the rent of the island was increased 50 per cent, in 1847. This was before you went, but I suppose you are quite satisfied it is a true statement ?
—Yes, because I have heard it often represented by very old men in the place.
44251. What was the year of the potato disease ?
44252. And the year after when its effects began to be seen and felt by the people, the rents of Iona were increased 50 per cent. ?
44253. Who was factor at that time ?
—Mr John Campbell.
44254. Do you know any other place where the rents were raised that year ?
—No, I am not aware of any other place.
44255. Your own rent is £14, 18s.; what is your summing?
—The summing is the same as the rest, but the place will not carry a full stock.
44256. You would be allowed to keep the same stock as a £20 crofter ?
—Yes, the very same.
44257. Only you don't keep it, because the croft is either not so good or not so large ?
44258. Eight cows and one horse, or their equivalent in sheep ; what is the equivalent in sheep of a cow in Iona ?
44259. Is your summing eight cows bare, or eight cows with followers?
—Eight cows bare, or what is equivalent to them.
44260. You are certain it is not eight cows with followers ?
—Yes. There is no one in Iona, with one croft, that keeps eight cows with followers. From five to six cows, and the rest in heifers, is what they keep.
44261. What do 'followers' mean in Iona?
—Young animals under three years, heifers, stots, and queys.
44262. An heifer counts as a cow when it is over three years of age ?
—Yes, or when it has a calf.
44263. But at present your cows are not allowed followers in the summing ?
44264. Your summing does not include followers ?
—Not at all; just eight cows, or what is equivalent in other beasts to eight cows.
44265. You say the soil has deteriorated very much of late years; is that entirely owing to the change of climate?
—Yes, I believe it is the constant cropping.
44266. Are not your crofts large enough in Iona to give the land rest ?
—I don't think it.
44267. Are not the bigger crofts that pay £40 or £50 big enough to give the land rest ?
—Yes, when two or three are put together. They give the land rest then.
44268. But I suppose in the old times, when the crofts were smaller than now, the land must have had less rest than now?
—That is true enough, but I would think that by having it all under crop the soil must be quite exhausted now.
44269. I suppose your own memory is quite distinct since 1851 ?
44270. And you are yourself convinced that your own land is less productive now than it was then ?
—Yes, I remember thirty years ago when they would put six or seven quarters of barley and bere and oats and rye to the mill to make into meal, and perhaps would sell in the market three or four quarters besides ; but now, supposing they would thresh every sheaf they have in their ground, in some years they would not take more than two or three quarters off it altogether.
44271. But taking an average year, how many returns on an average do you take from your barley crop ?
—An average crop in general will give a return of from one to four or five.
44272. In an average year, it will give four or five ?
—Yes, some parts of the land will, because some parts are better than others; and in some cases I have seen there was no return at all.
44273. But you are convinced there were greater returns thirty years ago, than can be had now out of the same soil ?
—Yes ; I don't think the average return would exceed two or three.
44274. With respect to the peats, you used to cross over the sound of Iona and cut the peats near the shore on the opposite side ?
44275. And you did this in the early summer before you began to work ?
44276. And you got a reduction of £2 of rent in return for the deprivation of that privilege ?
44277. If you had other work during that time—supposing you could be usefully employed during the period you were in the habit of being employed at these peats,—was it not, on the whole, an advantage to make the change ?
—Yes, if there was any other work where we could be employed profitably, it was certainly an advantage; but, seeing there was no other kind of work, we are so much out, the outlay is so much.
44278. How many weeks did you work at these peats ?
—One family would cut their peats in four or five days. Then they were left to dry, and they would be employed one day in lifting them up, and would cart them to the shore in four or five days.
44279. And for the corresponding days and weeks, since you have been deprived of that privilege, I suppose the whole population are doing nothing ?
44280. With regard to this work that you were obliged to do on the estate before 1876, was it always upon the estate that you were obliged to do it?
—Sometimes on the island, and sometimes we were called from the island. I remember a long time ago, when we were called to the factor's farm of Fidean to work in digging potatoes the whole day ; and although he had plenty potatoes growing, he did not offer us a dinner of them. That was in connection with the farm of Ardfinaig.
44281. And I suppose Fidean is a very good place for potatoes?
—Yes, as good as in Mull.
44282. When you did work on the estate, what work was it that you used to do ?
—When some of the houses down in the village were vacated and had to be pulled down, we had to carry the stones away to some place or other. Sometimes we had to work about the Cathedral in clearing away rubbish, and works like that.
44283. There is no doubt that, as compared with twenty years ago, the Cathedral is now an object of beauty?
44284. And that was done at very great expense by the Duke of Argyll ?
44285. And the Cathedral is now well preserved and in very good order ?
44286. And under the charge of a native of lona ?
44287. Apart from that, can you tell me what amount of actual work, in the way of improving the land in Iona, was done during your and your father's tenure of the croft ?
—Well, I don't know.
44288. What amount of money was expended by the proprietor on your own father's croft since 1851 ?
—Not a single penny.
44289. And all over the island, in improving the crofts, —in the way of fences or trenching or draining or the like of that?
—Well, two years ago a fence was put up, for the march between us and the tenant who took the lease of the farm that was marching with us. There was then a fence put up at the Duke's expense between us, the east end crofters and that farm.
44290. Before that time, how much do you remember of that kind of work being done in lona?
—Nothing of the kind. That was the first thing I knew of.
44291. Do you have leases of the crofts?
44292. Do you want leases ?
—Not at the present rents,
44293. But if you got your rents reduced to what you consider a proper amount, you would wish to have leases then ?
—We would wish security of tenure, that there would be a law passed that would not allow any proprietor to put a tenant away, as long as he would pay his rent, and as long as he would behave himself.
44294. Now, to come to the actual practice on the estate, ever since you came to Iona in 1851, has there actually been a tenant removed during the whole of that time ?
44295. Was he able to pay rent?
—I don't know whether he was able to pay rent or not, but a good many left since I went to Iona.
44296. But you don't know whether they were in arrear of rent?
44297. There is no insecurity of tenure in Iona at present when one pays one's rent, is there ?
—I don't think there is.
44298. It is not the removing of you from your crofts, but the raising of your rents that you wish security of tenure against?
—That is what we were afraid of. I believe the feeling was through the whole estate, that if any one expended money and labour on his croft, they would be sure to put more rent upon it. So there was no encouragement to industry at all in that way.
44299. Do you attribute to that the fact that the crofts have gone back in value rather than increased in value of late years ?
—They did, without a doubt.
44300. Well, in addition to the constant cropping and the climate, do you attribute the backward condition of the crofts to the discouragement people have in making improvements, and the fear that their rents may be raised ?
—Well, they could make improvements ; but still, as to those improvements I refer to, I don't mean it would make the soil to yield better returns, but I mean improving their houses and building dykes and the like of that.
44301. But that would make the croft more valuable and desirable?
—But perhaps it would not make the croft more productive. It would make the holding more valuable.
44302. Before 1876, when you subscribed a paper for six days' work, were you sometimes obliged to work more than six days and sometimes less ?
44303. You were obliged to work when you were asked?
—Just when we were asked. There was no number of days mentioned.
44304. But as a matter of fact, of late years there has been no work ?
—We are not asked, but still we are under the obligation the same as before.
44305. But because the greater portion of the work was done upon the factor's farm, and the present factor does not farm, there is no chance you will now be asked to do the work you were asked to do before ?
—That is the very reason.
44306. You stated the late factor was tenant of the farm of Fidean, was that actually the case ?
—Yes, he added that to Ardfinaig shortly after he came to Mull. He was also tenant of two farms in the island of Tiree at the same time.
44307. Was that upon the same estate upon which be was factor ?
—Yes, upon the estate of the Duke of Argyll.
44308. Do you pay poor rates in Iona?
44309. Have you any paupers there?
—I think there are only three in Iona.
44310. That shows the people are in good condition?
—Yes, but we are rated all the same, and have been rated all along.
44311. Some years ago the rates were very heavy?
44312. Were there more paupers in Iona at that time?
—No. The number of paupers in Iona since I remember was just about the same. They were not decreasing or increasing.
44313. Does not the fact that the rates have decreased of late years show that the condition of the people has improved ?
—Not for the last few years, but between twenty and thirty years ago the rates were very high then.
44314. Don't you think then, as between that time and now, it is one proof that the people are better off now than they were then ?
—There are less people now, I believe. .
44315. That accounts partially for the reduction, does it not ?
—There might be more paupers then than to-day ; and there is another thing too, the rates are better managed, I believe, now than they were in former days.
44316. Who managed them in former days ?
—There was the board and the inspecter of poor, but people are perhaps getting better up to political economy than they were then,
44317. The factor is not at present chairman of the board?
—No, he is not.
44318. Who was chairman at the time you considered the administration of the poor was not so well managed as now?
—I think the late factor was a long time chairman of the board. I don't know if he was chairman at the time the rates were very high, but I believe he had full control over the affairs of the board.
44319. Who was inspector at that time?
—One Graham, and one of the name of Boyd succeeded him; but I believe the inspectors then were not very well up to keeping accounts very regular.
44320. You are quite satisified with the efficiency of the administration now ?
44321. Have you a member of the poor law board from Iona?
44322. Why does not Iona claim a member ?
—They could put in a member if they liked.
44323. Have you a member of the School Board ?
44324. It is the same School Board you have for Iona and the Ross of Mull ?
44325. But you don't claim a member for yourselves ?
—Sometimes they thought of returning a member for themselves, but there is not one that would be willing to go the length of Bunessan. There would be some expenses connected with it.
44326. There would be a ferry to cross ?
44327. Your crofts are of the size that the people (throughout almost all the islands we have been visiting wish their crofts made up to?
44328. And still you have your grievances ?
44329. What would be your remedy for the whole matter ?
—My remedy is this, that if we had encouragement from the Duke that we would not be removed, and if we would get the ground at a reasonable rent—at a lower rent,—and that if we were able to build very nice cottages in Iona we would take the rent out of the place, supposing we had not the croft at all, by keeping lodgers in the summer time.
44330. You think that, if you had security, you would build houses, which you could let in summer, and make an income out of these ?
44331. Has the place of late years been becoming a favourite resort for summer visitors ?
44332. Is the hotel always full?
—Very few stay in the hotel; but the other class of people, that are not in such a high position as to stay in the hotel, were taking up a good many houses in the island.
44333. Those who come to lona seem to prefer living in private cottages ?
44334. And you think, if you had a good lease of the place, the tenants would be encouraged to build such houses as would let ?
—Yes; I think it is the best way the place would pay, in my opinion.
44335. Do you remember what was the rent in 1847 of the present croft you occupy
—Well, it would be up to £8 or £9.
44336. And it is now £14?
—Nearly £15. Crofts that in 1847 were paying £8, 10s. and £9, were raised to £15 that year.
44337. And are they at £15 now?
—No, some of them are above £20.
44338. They say themselves that the rents have been doubled and sometimes nearly trebled ; is that actually the case ?
—I don't know but it is true enough, because I believe there were crofts that were very cheap in 1847 that were raised since to the present rent.
44339. And during that time, so far as your croft is concerned anyhow, there was no expenditure by the proprietor upon improvements ?
—No, and some of the crofts I do not think could be improved, because there is no earth or soil to be got that would deepen the ground. In most of the one we occupy ourselves there is not more than two or three inches of earth altogether, and in wet seasons the grain I may say is almost dying. If the season is too warm again, there is not depth in the soil, and it withers up and does not grow.
44340. The Chairman.
—When the rent was raised in 1847, did you understand that that was done in consequence of expenditure of money upon famine works and relief works in connection with the scarcity of those times ?
—Well, what was supposed was that it was the intention of the proprietor to put on so much rent that they would not be able to pay it, when they would be under such a burden they would leave the place of their own accord.
44341. Did you ever hear there had been expenditure on famine works at that time on improvements which might justify an increase of rent ?
—I never heard of any improvement that was made on any place except the factor's own farm. There was a great deal of money expended upon his farm or upon his farms.
44342. But the people may have got employment there ?
—Yes, but they got very poor wages. I remember when they were paid at the rate of from 8d. to Is. a day, and getting meal in exchange at 3s. per stone of 17½ lbs., or at the rate of £2, 8s. per sack of 280 lbs.
44343. But none of this expenditure was done upon the crofts' properly speaking ?
—In some cases or in some crofts there were some drainings made, but they were, I believe charged for the expenses at the rate of 6½ per cent.
44344. Besides the general rise ?
—Exactly, at least I was told so by the people themselves. On the croft we occupy there was never a penny expended in my day.
44345. Now, in connection with the alleged high rents for small cottars, you say 30s. is paid for a small cottage with a quarter of an acre of ground ?
44346. And that the people built their own cottages ?
44347. Is there no assistance given by the proprietor towards the erection or improvement of those buildings?
—Not that I am aware of.
44348. You don't know of it ?
—No, I don't know of it.
44349. Have the people who live in these cottages some great advantage from the position of the cottages for fishing or for any other branch of work ?
—There is no other work that they can get in Iona, unless they get a day's work here and there from some of the larger tenants in the harvest time. They get a few days' work now and then; but as for fishing it is not a place fitted for fishing, because there is no proper landing place.
44350. What like is the cottage for which they pay 30s.; is it a black house or a white house ?
—It is whitewashed anyhow. I know the Duke was giving them lime at times to whitewash them.
44351. Did he give them any timber or any lime to build them?
—I have no doubt the Duke would give them timber or lime to build, or assist them in building.
44352. So that the increase of rent may in part be looked upon as interest for the Duke's expenditure for the cottars ?
—Well, I don't know. I am not aware of much expenditure.
44353. But if he gives them materials, is that not a kind of expenditure ?
—I only say that I believe he would give it if it were asked, but I don't know of any cases where it was ever asked, where the demand was made.
44354. When a man improves his house on a croft, or builds a cottage, has he any security for reimbursement if he leaves the place ?
44355. Is there any rule ?
—There is no rule.
44356. But what is the practice? I suppose the people sometimes leave their houses. Do you know any case where reimbursement has been made ?
—No, I can say that my father, before I went to Ion a, built a dwelling-house, barn, and byre, and got no compensation when he left the place. When we came to Iona, we found the houses in a dilapidated condition. We built the dwelling-house, and built a new barn and a new byre at our own expense ; and such was the custom throughout the whole district.
44357. And if you emigrate now, you have no security that any portion will be repaid to you ?
—No ; at least we have no claim whatever to it, unless it would be the proprietor's own free-will to do it.
44358. Is there any article in the regulations of the estate by which a tenant is bound not to ask for compensation ?
—I cannot say, because we were never served with a copy of the regulations.
44359. Did you ever see the regulations ?
—Yes, I saw the regulations one time when I was made to sign them. That was the first and last time I saw them, and it was such a long statement that, though I went over it, I did not remember all that was in it.
44360. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
— With regard to the services that you and others had to give in former times, did you get anything in return for them ?
44361. Did I understand you to say that some of the Iona people were employed in clearing rubbish out of the Cathedral ?
—The last time the rubbish was cleared out, the Duke expended a large amount of money, and every one that was working then was paid. It was regular paid work; but any time before then, whenever we were required or requested to go out with the horses and carts, we had to do it, and got nothing for it.
44362. So whatever credit there is, if there be credit in clearing the rubbish from the ruins of Iona, a certain portion of that credit must be given to the crofters who did it gratis ?
44363. Do you know whether that has ever been known to the public before ?
—I believe it was not known to the public before. But when the last work was done, which continued for two or three years, every one working then was well paid.
44364. Will you repeat more distinctly what you said about some destitution works and meal; did I understand you to say that many of the people were paid at the rate of 8d. and Is. per day ?
—I say, when that improvement was done that I was referring to on the factor's estate, people were working at the rate of from 8d. to Is. a day, and they were getting meal in exchange.
44365. At the rate of how much per boll ?
—Say 24s. Meal was very dear at the time. But I remember another thing. I remember that men in a place called Caraich, were employed in carting sand from Fidean to Ardnaig at 6d per cart, a distance of four miles, and it was only three carts that they could manage to perform in a day. That was Is. 6d. per day
wages of the man and horse and cart, and they had to do that in the famine so as to get meal from the factor.
44366. Do you know that the paupers used to be paid occasionally in meal?
—Yes, that was the custom at first.
44367. Whose meal was it?
—I cannot say.
44368. Was it any of the meal grown in the country ?
—No, it was meal got from the south country, so far as I remember —Indian meal and oatmeal.
44369. What kind of meal was it that the workmen got that you refer to ?
44370. Which was sold by the factor ?
—Yes, at 24s. per boll. But the factor was selling the meal then as cheap as they could get it anywhere else.
44371. In answer to a question from Lord Napier as to what money was expended, you said a good deal was expended on the factor's farm ; but that was not in Iona ?
—Not in Iona. Nothing was expended in Iona since I remember, except two years ago, when a wire fence was put up.
44372. And when you said a good deal of work was done on the factor's farm at the time of the destitution, it was in Mull ?
—Yes, in Ardfinaig. There were a great number of Galloway dykes put up, and deep ditches made, and sheep drains in the hills. That was all made on the factor's ground, and roads as well.
44373. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What was the common wage in the country at the time you were paid 8d. and Is. a day ?
—From Is. to Is. 6d. The price of labour was very low at the time.
44374. Had you the opportunity of going and getting this labour elsewhere?
44375. You were not allowed to go elsewhere to get it?
—I believe they were, but they were so poor that they could not afford to leave the country. They had not the means of taking themselves away from the country at that time.
44376. They would have had to go away from home to get Is. and Is. 6d. ; they would have had to go south?
44377. But were the wages in Mull given by farmers and others higher than the Duke was giving?
—At that time there was scarcely anything given by farmers at all, because they would get plenty people to do the work for them without wages.
44378. In fact, they were glad to get 8d. or Is. a day ?
—Well, if they did not get money, those who worked for the farmers, they would be paid in some other way.