ALEXANDER M'INTYRE, Proprietor and Farmer, Ardalanish(60)—examined.
35277. The Chairman.
—How long have your family been settled in this country ?
—For the last 300 years.
35278. Have they been settled on your own property for that time ?
—No; they were born and bred on Ardalanish.
35279. Have they held land under the Argyll family for 300 years?
—During that period.
35280. Are you now extensively engaged in farming?
35281. Have you got any farms now which have been given to you during your lifetime, or have you inherited them all from your forefathers?
—I cannot say that any of them were inherited. I only succeeded my forefathers.
35282. In the whole of them?
—In the whole of them.
35283. Have any of them been increased in your lifetime by the addition of crofters' holdings ?
—Not since I occupied any part or portion of them.
35284. Have you held your farms in lease ?
35285. Have you any statement to make about the condition of the poorer class of the tenants in the country; is there any opinion which you would like to give ?
—When I left home I had no intention to be examined, but whatever questions you will be pleased to ask directly, I will try to give an account.
35286. You were born and bred in this country ?
35287. And you have long known the condition of the poorer tenants on the property?
—Thoroughly —too well, some of them.
35288. And you have a sympathy and regard for them?
35289. What is your opinion of their condition now compared to what it was when you began life ?
—I consider they were never worse off than they are in the present year. Last year was a serious year to all who had any farms in their possession. The mortality among the sheep and cattle was very great, consequently the tenants must bear that.
35290. But that refers to two particular years; irrespective of these two years, over the whole course of your recollection ?
—This year particularly was the worst that I recollect since I was born.
35291. Do you think the poor tenants are better able to pay a higher rent now on account of the rise in the price of stock than they were—thirty or forty years ago ?
—I believe not. When I compare my own vouchers, I know that I stand more in arrears than I did about twenty or thirty years ago, owing to t h e mortality among sheep and cattle.
35292. You have heard it stated that the tenants are much more highly rented now than formerly ?
—The valuation shows that clearly.
35293. And that especially a rise took place in the year 1876 ?
—I am not very sure that I know the date.
35294. It was stated that the last rise was in 1876 ?
—I cannot exactly give any definite answer to that; I bad not an interest in that.
35295. Do you think that the crofters are suffering in consequence of any reduction in the area of their crofts in consequence of land having been taken away from them ?
—I believe some of them ought to be very thankful it was taken from them, because it would be ruination to a good many of them.
35296. Do you think they are not capable of managing their crofts ?
—For the want of means, and rents are considered there very sharp. Of course, if times were good, they would be able to pay the rent; and the price of wool at present is very low, and formerly it was a great help to
all the farmers.
35297. Do you think it would be any advantage to the crofters generally if more hill pasture was given to them?
—Yes, at a more moderate rent.
35298. Then do you think that the particular evil under which they suffer is the high rent ?
—Partly. If any one is sharply rented and losing by a farm, he has not the same interest in it as if he were accumulating some wealth.
35299. Do you think it would be any advantage if they had security of occupancy—if they had leases ?
—I heard it to-day distinctly described that they would not take any leases on the present rental. But I heard one individual say he was paying £18, 10s., and if he had the croft at £13 he would take a lease.
35300. Did you think that was a reasonable statement ?
—I think when he tries to live at a rent of £18 he ought to be more comfortable at £13.
35301. Have the rents of your own farms been increased during your lifetime ?
35302. If farms such as you have were out of lease at this moment, would the proprietor find tenants to take them at the same rent ?
—Perhaps double that; it would be in the power of the proprietor and the one who would be so foolish as take them. But that would not pay the party. That shows that my rent is too high.
35303. But supposing a farm was out of lease, or supposing a tenant died or went away, and the farm was to be relet to a new person, would they find it easy to let it to a new tenant ?
—I believe it could be let at the same rent even at the present date, so far as I see. I don't see any changes on that. All the vacant crofts to have big rents, and farms equally so.
35304. If it be easy to relet farms at the present rents, does not that prove that farms are not over-rented ?
—I mean to say, which is very clear, that a present tenant would not give the present rent of his farm although it was out of lease in the morning, so far as I understand.
35305. Professor Mackinnon.
—Can you tell me anything about the condition of the people in this place when they had a greater amount of
the land in their own hands; do you think they were better off then ?
—I think they were more independent and better clad.
35306. Did all these crofters hold their land from the proprietor, or were they sub-tenants of tacksmen round about ?
—Very few had leases from the proprietor on this property long ago ; it was only large and extensive farmers, such as Scoor, Fiden, and I believe long ago Ardtun. I think these were the farms that were held under leases.
35307. Were the crofts held directly and paying rent to the Duke, or held from a tacksman, and paying to him?
—I am not sure as to that long ago.
35308. They all hold direct from the Duke of Argyll now, and pay rent to the chamberlain ?
—No, not all.
35309. Are there still some sub-tenants ?
—Yes, a few who do not pay a penny at all. They are independent.
35310. Can you tell me how it happens that there is such a very large number of people without any land at all upon this estate ?
—The want of means. They are very poor, and what they have is perhaps not their own lawful property.
35311. Those are very poor who have no land at all?
—They are uncommonly poor.
35312. And the distress among them this year was especially great?
—It was; of course, they got relief from London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.
35313. And that relief was very much required?
—It was, and did a great deal of good. At the time of planting potatoes they got a good many seed potatoes which they all planted —and they suited very well,—sent by his Grace the Duke of Argyll
35314. There was a large number of people who left the estate and went abroad to foreign parts ?
—A great many long ago. They were in good circumstances then, and they left this country for Canada,
35315. And from the accounts they have sent home they are much better off than those who remained behind?
—50 per cent, better.
35316. You have been a member of the School Board since the Education Act came into operation?
35317. Comparing the present state of affairs with old times, do you say the education of the people is improving ?
—I do not consider that in the rural country the Education Act has made any improvement. It has levied a great deal of assessment on all the ratepayers of the parish. Children now do not attend very regularly, and must have a compulsory officer to cause them to attend, and before they would attend of their own pleasure.
35318. Are there not a greater number of children receiving education now than when you were a young man?
—According to law, they must attend now.
35319. This place had very good schools in the old times?
—Very excellent, even at the present day we are considered to have the best teachers in Scotland here.
35320. And there was a large number of people living on the estate in your early recollection who were good scholars, and pushed their way in the world by their scholarship ?
—Yes, who showed very brilliant in their colleges.
35321. And is that practice still more or less continued ?
—There is not so many of them as there used to be.
35322. The school rate is pretty high?
—Very high indeed.
35323. So that you do not consider the new administration altogether an advantage to this parish ?
—I never took the view of it that it was a good thing for this parish.
35324. But still I suppose the children are in greater numbers every year attending school ?
35325. And you have very good schools?
35326. The Chairman.
—You said his Grace had sent down a large quantity of seed potatoes to the people ?
—Yes, in the month of April last.
35327. And that was very useful to them ?
—Most useful; it was a very great boon to them that.
35328. Do they give promise of a good crop ?
—I never saw the potatoes more promising than they are at present.