ANDREW MITCHELL, Proprietor and Farmer, Drumderfit, Inverness (41)—examined.
35121. The Chairman.
—Do you wish to make a statement ?
—I heard one of the delegates making a statement or two which I think not correct. With reference to the horse park, it was my brother who had the property before we got it, and there was a horse park which belonged to the small tenants previously, and when he came there in 1873 the stone and turf dyke was knocked down in many parts, and, I understand, my brother offered the tenants the park the same as formerly, and that he put materials upon the ground to erect fences again if they choose to do it ; and they did not choose to do it, and hence the reason they have not the park at present.
35122. If the tenants choose to assist in restoring the fence would the park be resigned to the tenants now ?
—I won't say that, but this was in 1873. I could not say that upon my own part, because I am only joint proprietor.
35123. How long have you been in joint possession of the estate?
—Since January 1880.
35124. How long was your brother previously?
35125. Did you hear the statement made respecting the alleged successive reductions of the area of the small holdings and the number of the small holdings ?
—That was before my brother's time.
35126. Since your family came into possession of the management of this farm or property, has anything been taken away from the small tenants ?
—No, not that I am aware of —nothing whatever. Some of them have retired, and we have one or two of the crofts in our own hands, which we were willing to have re-let if the tenants had wished.
35127. Since the place came into the possession of your family has there been any increase of rental ?
—Yes, I believe my brother increased the rent a little; but since then we have been giving them a cow each for the winter for the use of the crofts, so that the increase has not been very much —perhaps £ 1 or so, or perhaps 30s. in some cases.
35128. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the extent of the estate?
—2500 acres. We offered the whole ground to the small tenants this year as a club farm if they choose to give us security for the stock, and offered them two years to pay the stock.
35129. What was the rent you proposed charging them?
—The old rents.
35130. That in the valuation roll ?
35131. How much is that?
—£95 for the one end, and £240 for the other. That includes the inn, however, which is let separately.
35132. And if they gave £295 as a club farm ?
—We would give it all to them, and give them two years to pay it.
35133. Would you have allowed some of the older people who were there before to have come back again ?
—I don't think there are any of the older people there. Those that were there previously are away out of the country, as far as I am aware. We would allow the tenants who are there to take it between them.
35134. What answer did you get from them?
—They could not do it, I suppose.
35135. But since you were so kind as to put it into their power to get the whole, woidd it not be better to give them a little encouragement by giving them a small quantity, so that by-and-by they might take it all ?
—It could not be done easily, the marches would not suit. You could not make a distinct march unless you put up a fence.
35136. I suppose your family purchased the property for the purpose of working it with other land ?
—No, my late brother bought it as a place of residence and as an investment.
35137. The Chairman.
—I understood you to mention two places, one of £95 and the other at £200 or something ?
—Yes ; when my brother had the property he farmed part of it himself, the west end, Glenleedale, and it is in the valuation roll at £95, and the east end he let, which was in the possession of other parties.
35138. This experiment of a club farm interests us particularly if it could be made, and I want to understand more clearly from you whether it would not be possible to deal with the subject of Glenleedale farm without the other; is there no natural march ?
—No, none ; it was very difficult to keep between my brother and the tenant at the other end.
35139. But they seem to have been separate holdings?
—Yes; but the sheep were always mixing, and it would be more difficult if tenants went in.
35140. Would it be possible to divide them with a fence?
—Yes, possible ; but very expensive.
35141. It is not for me to advise you about the management of your property, but it would be interesting to see whether the tenants could not take the £95 farm?
—I am afraid they could not. They say they are very poor ; they are very lazy, I know. I don't think they take the advantage of fishing that they might The loch is at their door, and it is full of fish.
35142. Do they fish ?
—They do; cuddies and white fish.
35143. If they had a superior description of boat would they be able to keep that boat in security ?
—Oh yes, quite well.
35144. Is there a natural harbour?
—There is a little loch at the head of Loch Scridan, and it is quite protected, and the upper side of it is sheltered from the west and south-west wind.
35145. If they had a big boat they could keep it safe?
—I think so. There is nothing in the way of a harbour or pier; it is all shore.