Lismore, 13 August 1883 - Alexander Buchanan

ALEXANDER BUCHANAN, Labourer, Killean (60)—examined.

36876. The Chairman.
—You wish to make an explanation?
—The last witness did not explain exactly about the grass. When Mr Cheyne commenced to remove the tenants, he made them lay out a piece of arable land for a year under grass, what the tenant should have had under cultivation; and he made the tenant sow this piece every year with rye grass; and after he got the whole arable land under rye grass he sent the tenant about his business, and took all to himself for stock. That was the reason for his making them sow it under grass, that he might send the tenant about his business and take the croft to himself; and he did so until he had the whole estate cleared except a part of Auchnacroish and Killean.

36877. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Did he make them also pay the full rent ?
—Yes, the full rent,

36878. The Chairman.
—Did the tenants get a crop of hay ?
—I cannot say for that.

36879. He made the tenants prepare the ground for the sheep farm?
—Yes, and sow it down with grass.

36880. And then sent them away?
—Yes, one by one, until he had the whole estate to himself.

36881. Did he begin this process before the potato famine ?
—I believe he did. I think the potato disease commenced about 1848 or 1849.

36882. 1846, was it not ?
—There might have been symptoms of it then.

36883. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are you one of the tenants ?
—No; I am on the estate of Captain Campbell.

36884. The Chairman.
—Where did Mr Cheyne come from?
—Fifeshire, I think. He was an advocate. He had Woodcockdale, in Linlithgowshire I think, and another estate in Fifeshire.

36885. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were never upon his land?
—No, but I recollect it.

36886. Do you recollect what he did creating a great deal of sensation at the time ?
—Yes, when I was young the population in Lismore was 1800. The parish schoolmaster we had told me, a year or two before he died, that when he came to Lismore the population was, I think, 1650, and now it is not much more than 637.

36887. That would be in 1821 ?
—I think 1816.

36888. Professor Mackinnon.
—He would have come in 1816, but the first census would be in 182?
—Perhaps so.

36889. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is Lismore as fertile as it was?
—Equally as fertile, to give it justice, as it ought to get.

36890. Do you know whether any of those who were dispossessed ever represented the propriety of repopulating a part of the estate ?
—It would be of no use, because the present tenant—Mr Paterson—has a lease, and during his lease the Duke would not do that.

36891. Has it been under the same family ever since the Duke got it?
—Yes. There was one Mr Stewart, at one time a Dumfries farmer, but it is since Mr Paterson took it that the Duke of Argyll bought the estate. Mrs Cheyne had the estate for a good number of years, and then it was bought by the Duke of Argyll.

36892. When did the Duke buy it?
—Not many years ago. I don't know the exact number, perhaps seven or eight.

36893. Has the Duke ever visited the estate ?
—Often; once every year almost, although he has not been here this year yet.

36894. Has he shown any attention or kindness to the crofters who remained ?
—Well, he does not encourage great improvements, so far as I know.

36895. Professor Mackinnon.
—Are you able to say how many years were allowed the tenant in Mr Cheyne's time to convert his croft from an arable croft suitable for himself to a grazing croft suitable for Mr Cheyne ?
—Maybe two years, until he got the ground in order for himself.

36896. Was the preparation going on at the tenant's expense ?
—At the tenant's expense.

36897. For the good of Mr Cheyne ?
—Yes, and sometimes he sent the tenant away and took hold of everything. I had an uncle who had a croft, and he might be £ 10 or £15 in arrears. He was getting old and of a religious disposition, and Mr Cheyne was always bothering him for arrears, and he sent horses and cattle to Mr Cheyne, and he never got a farthing back, although they would have brought a good deal more than the amount of his debt.

36898. Was it a general rule that Mr Cheyne himself took the stock of those who went away ?
—I could not say; but he took the stock of those who were in arrears.

36899. And those who were not in arrear he allowed to make market where they could ?
—Yes, I believe so.

36900. Are any of those who were on that estate still in Lismore?
—Yes, but I cannot say whether any one of them is to speak to-day. Some may have gone to America, but not very many, I think.

36901. Do their relatives at home ever hear how they are prospering?
—They are doing pretty well, I believe.

36902. And what became of those who went to the large towns?
—They are work ng away as best they can—some of them doing well, and some indifferently.

36903. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there any crofters on the place where you live ?
—Yes, there are a number of crofts in Killean on the Duke's estate. I had a croft in Ballyveolan, with my brother, but I am not in it now.

36904. Did you give it up willingly ?
—I cannot say. I was in a manner forced to give it up, because I was an old bachelor, like a great many others; I don't know whether you are one or not. There was a disagreement in the family, and the factor was helping me. The factors are the greatest evil in this country—our landlord we seldom see—although he is a fine man, Captain Campbell But we have a bad law in Lismore with regard to crofts. A poor tenant has here to build his own house and paper it, and do everything, and he may be removed next year, because there is no lease; we are all tenants at will. For instance, I built a new house, byre, and everything, and perhaps I would get a few cabers to put upon it ; the next year, if I had to leave the house, people would be sent to see what it was worth, and I would have to pay the difference and march; and dykes the same way.

36905. You are referring to the Ballyveolan estate?
—Yes, and that of almost every other proprietor in Lismore in my young days. I don't know exactly how they are now.

36906. What is your occupation now ?

36907. Where do you work?
—With Mr M'Intyre, the lime merchant.

36908. Constantly ?
—Yes, I am happy to say, constantly.

36909. The Chairman.
—Does he give you good wages ?
—Pretty good, as good as what are going in the country, and I am willing to have it as it is. Work is not easy to get in this island.

36910. Do you work by the piece?
—No, so much a week, a day, or year.

36911. What are the current wages at this place ?
—About 18s. or £1 a week, less or more.

36912. Would it be possible to give work by the piece, or would the nature of the work not allow it ?
—Sometimes they did work by the piece in the quarry where I am, but not now. The people are as well off working by time as on piece work. I believe they are as happy, and it is as good as if we were on piece work.

36913. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Is 18s. quarrier's wages or that of labourers ?
—That is the wages here, and it is more in some places.

36914. Is 18s. the ordinary wages for general work?
—Farm labourers don't work by the day or week. I don't know how much the farmers give the labourers; but when I had a farm I used to give 2s. 6d. or 3s. a day for their services during harvest; I never employed labourers at any other time of the year.

36915. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you a house of your own?
—I am in lodgings.

36916. That is because you don't marry?
—Yes, it is my own fault.

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