JAMES M'NAB, Crofter and Fisherman, Port Wemyss, Islay (50)—examined.
44804. The Chairman,
—Have you got a written statement to make ?
—No, I have no statement except what Mr M'Neill brought forward.
44805. Will you be so good as to make a verbal statement ?
—I have only to state that we are in a poor condition; that we have too little land, and that little is not good. The fishing has done very little good to us for the last twenty years. If we had more land we think we would be better off. We are paying interest for drain money for the last thirty-two years, and we would like that remitted. There are twelve families in the village who built new houses, and they have no land at all. The park that we have to graze our cattle is not good. It is small —too small to pasture a cow if each had a cow, and then it is bad, so bad that the cows require to be hand-fed, and the getting of that hand-feeding takes up the services of one to look after the cow, when one has a cow. Mr M'Neill has said everything else that is necessary to be said.
44806. Mr Cameron.
—What size of croft have you?
—Two acres. Some of it is very rocky. Probably about one-third of it is rocky. Some of it is very, very bad ground—ground where the peats have been cut off the surface, and where the people themselves have worked, and it is very unprofitable.
44807. What estate are you on ?
—Mr Morrison's estate—Port Wemyss.
44808. Do the two acres you talk of represent the whole ground, or have you any pasture ground besides ?
—This is the arable ground. There is a common park in which those of us graze our cows who have cows, and we pay separately for that park.
44809. What do you pay for the two acres and the right to graze the cattle in the park ?
—I pay 34s. for the two acres, and £1 for my share of the park.
44810. What beasts do you keep in the park ?
—A cow and a calf. The calf is allowed with the cow till it is about a year old; but we pay 8s. for the calf. It is 34s. for tho arable ground, £1 for the cow, and 8s. for the calf.
44811. And you sell the calf at what age?
—We sell the calf when it is a year old, and if we keep it longer we pay a higher rate for it.
44812. Are they black cattle you keep?
—We are going into the Ayrshire cattle for the last few years. It used to be black cattle.
44813. Why do you describe this as a park; is it enclosed?
—Yes, it is enclosed.
44814. How many crofters are in the same position as you yourself?
—There are thirty-eight who have land, and each of them has the right to send a cow to the park, but they have not all cows, and if they all had cows the park would not feed them all.
44815. Then do those of your neighbours who have no cows pay only the 34s. for the two acres, or do they pay anything for their right to the park which they don't use ?
—They only pay for the arable ground in that case.
44816. Do you think that, putting aside the cow and the park, 34s. is too dear a rent for two acres of such arable ground ?
—I think it is too dear.
44817. By how much?
—The first rent was £ 1 . Then the late Mr Webster raised the rent by 14s. This addition was not known for two years, and it came upon the people in a lump sum, which bore rather hard upon them. I think that the original rent is quite sufficiently high, if not too high.
44818. When was the rent altered from £1 to 34s.?
—About forty years ago.
44819. Have not a good many changes occurred in the value of agricultural produce in forty years ?
—That is the case in some places, but it is the reverse in ours.
44820. In any case, the rent has not been altered or raised for forty years ?
—No, except interest for drain money.
44821. What interest do you pay on the drain money?
—Five per cent.
44822. Do you think you have paid it long enough ?
—Yes, we think we have paid it too long. We were told we would only have to pay it for twenty-one years, but now we have paid it for eleven years more than that.
44823. Do you know on what terms or conditions the drain money was borrowed by the proprietor, if it was borrowed ?
—I cannot tell that.
44824. Are the drains in working order now ?
—Some of them are; many are not.
44825. You state that you and your neighbours would like to obtain more land ; is there more land in the immediate neighbourhood of your residence that would be available to give to you and your friends ?
—Yes, there is a piece that was promised to us by Mr Campbell when the village was built.
44826. How large a piece ?
—About eighteen to twenty acres of arable ground. There is a suitable piece of hill ground that is at present
in the hands of the neighbouring tenant —the tenant that marches with us.
44827. Do you know what stock this tenant keeps on the hill ground you allude to ?
—He at present lets it to small tenants in the village adjoining ours, and they keep cattle upon it.
44828. Then that piece of hill ground would not be available to you and your neighbours, if the other small tenants have got it already?
—That is true, but this is upon another estate. The other village is upon another estate, and the other estate ought to provide for the tenants of the other village.
44829. Then you would suggest that these small tenants who now occupy the hill should be removed, and that the small tenants in your neighbourhood should be placed in their stead ?
—Well, that depends upon the will of the proprietor; no doubt but that would be our wish.
44830. But would it be the wish of the people who occupy this hill already?
—The people of the adjoining village would wish that they would get a park of their own for their cattle.
44831. Do you think an arrangement could be made by the proprietor of the other village which would be satisfactory to them, and which would compensate them for losing the hill ground which you are anxious to
—That is a thing I can scarcely give an opinion about; but there is no doubt that the tenant who is now in the neighbourhood has plenty of pasture if it could be got for the tenants.
44832. And would you be willing to take the pasture which you say this tenant has got, and pay a fair rent for it in the same way as those villagers now pay a rent for the hill ?
—Yes. I think so.
44833. Then that process would be of some benefit to the crofters who have already got cows, but I suppose it would be of no benefit to the crofters who are possessed of no cattle ?
—Well, it may be that they may have a cow next year, though they may not have it this year. Some of them may have a son in a foreign land, who may be able to send home money to them to buy a cow.
44834. Do you think that the crofters, taken altogether, would be able to stock any considerable portion of the hill ground which you are anxious to obtain ?
—Some could put the necessary stock upon it. Others would do everything they could to stock it also, but while pasture ground is very desirable, additional arable ground is equally necessary.
44835. How are these eighteen acres you allude to now occupied ?
—The same tenant has them.
44836. And the land is better, I presume, than what is in the occupation of the crofters?
—Yes, it is better.
44837. Has this tenant's lease got many years to run before it expires ?
—I cannot well tell, but I believe the greater part of it is run.
44838. Have you ever approached the proprietor with a view to endeavour to get some of the land now occupied by this tenant at the expiry of his lease ?
—We did not ourselves meet the proprietor upon the matter; but the man who manages local affairs in our village told us that the factor told him that upon the expiry of the lease he would endeavour to arrange matters so that we could get that ground.
44839. What rent does this tenant pay?
—£240 or thereabout. It is over £200 anyhow.
44840. The Chairman.
—You stated you have about two acres of ground, and that you keep one cow and a calf, and pay £ 1 , 14s. for the arable, £ 1 for the cow, aud 8s. for the calf; does the £1, 14s. include the rent of the house ?
—We pay additional for the house. We pay a feu duty of 15s. Our lease is for sixty years.
44841. How much do you pay for the site of the house?
44842. So your whole rent is £2, 9s. ?
44843. Who built your house; did your family build it themselves ?
—My father bought it from the man who built it.
44844. Can you tell me how much he paid for it?
44845. How do you dispose of the two areas of ground; how much have you under potatoes?
—About half an acre under potatoes. We plant about four or five barrels.
44846. And the other half in corn?
44847. Where does the cow feed?
—There is a common park—an enclosed park.
44848. Does the produce of the croft feed the cow in winter?
—Sometimes. I require to buy fodder from one of the neighbours who has no cow.
44849. Do you observe any rotation in the cultivation of the little croft?
44850. Is any portion of it allowed to rest in grass?
—Occasionally a small bit, but there is so very little of it that it is difficult to allow any portion to rest.
44851. Do you find that the soil is becoming less productive or not?
—Yes, it is getting exhausted. Constant cropping has done that.
44852. Is there any general complaint in the place that the soil is becoming less productive ?
—That is the general complaint, and the general belief among the people. It is a very rocky place, and constant cropping has made the soil lighter and thinner upon it, so that the pieces beside the bare rock, although sown, are very seldom reaped.
44853. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh,
—Mr M'Neill mentioned there was a great deal of land once under cultivation which is now lying untitled under sheep; do you know that to be true of your own observation ?
—Yes, I know that.
44854. In other places we have been told that after lands have been in that position for a certain time the very pasture becomes deteriorated; have you observed that?
—Yes. That is the case in Islay. It is getting under rushes for want of being ploughed up again.
44855. Is that going on and extending from year to year?
—Year after year, every year.
44856. How much of the two acres of land for which you pay £1, 14s. is really capable of being turned over by the spade?
—The third of it cannot be turned with the spade.
44857. Do you believe that the large farmers are paying anything like that rent in proportion to yours ?
—Nothing like it.
44858. Do you know what the rental of the island is ?
—I cannot tell the rental of the whole island, but I know some of it goes from 4s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. per acre, and some of it even at a lower rate.
44859. Have you any relatives who emigrated or were sent away in former times ?
—Yes, I have relatives in America.
44860. Do you hear from them ?
—Yes. There are some of them dead, but their families write now and again.
44861. Are their circumstances good ?
—Yes; they write that they are pretty well off.
44862. Is there a disinclination on the part of yourself and others like you to leave the country so long as there is any land that you might cultivate with advantage?
—Yes, they are all of that opinion. There is a backwardness to emigration. They think that if they got the chance they might make a living in their own land without being asked to go to foreign lands.