CONNELL CONNEL, Crofter, Balnagowan (77)—examined.
36801. The Chairman.
—Have you been elected a delegate ?
36802. What do you wish to say on the part of your people ?
—That our land is too highly rented; and it has been increased of recent years on the property on which I live
—that of Mr Fell. Our peats have become exhausted, and we are obliged to buy coals, which costs us £ 5 or
£6 a year.
36803. How many holdings are there in the township ?
36804. Has it always been a crofter township, or only recently established?
—It has been there for a very long time; my father and grandfathers were crofters there before me.
36805. In those days were there more holdings or fewer than there are now ?
—There were neither more nor fewer —just the same as now; the township was divided into four parts.
36806. Since your grandfather's time has any of your land been taken away from the township for hill pasture or arable ?
36807. You complain of the high rent, and of the increase of rent: what was the rent when you began life ?
—When I first paid rent after my father, twenty-four years ago, the rent was £18, 19s.
36808. What rises of rent have occurred in your time ?
—There has been no increase in my time.
36809. What increases were there in your father's time ?
—I cannot tell what the increase of rent was in my father's time, but it was raised; There was a great deal of smuggling going on in the Highlands in those days, and barley brought a good price, and rents were increased in consequence, and they have not been taken down since.
36810. What stock do you keep?
—Three cows and a horse, which I feed in winter, but have to send out to graze in summer.
36811. Have you any young cattle?
—Two calves and a stirk.
36812. Any sheep?
36813. And how many acres of cultivated ground?
—It has never been measured in my time ; but, so far as I know, there are twenty acres altogether, including pasture.
36814. How long is it since the peats failed ?
—Thirty years at least.
36815. There has been no increase of rent in your time; there has been no diminution of the area of your croft; and the peats failed more than thirty years ago, and you have been sitting in the farm yourself more than twenty years. I fail to understand exactly what your complaint is ?
—Our complaint is that we have to buy coals instead of the fuel we had formerly when we paid the same rent as now.
36816. Have you had a lease ?
36817. During the twenty years that you have been paying rent yourself has the price of stock increased ?
—The prices have gone up and down in that time.
36818. But with an inclination upwards?
—There were times when they fell as much as they rose.
36819. Has the proprietor done anything for the improvement of your house or farm offices—has he made any expenditure ?
36820. By whom was the house built—your father ?
—My father built it. At that time all the tenants built their own houses.
36821. Who is your proprietor?
36822. When improvements are made in the houses does the proprietor make them ?
—I don't know his practice, because as regards myself there have been no such improvements made.
36823. Have you ever applied for improvements to the proprietor ?
36821. Has any draining been done upon your land ?
—No; it is not a place for draining—hard, rocky land.
36825. Is there any regulation on the estate providing for compensation for improvements ?
—I believe that, where such improvements were made, the tenant paid the half; but I cannot speak certainly, as I have made none myself.
36826. Have there been any arbitrary evictions or removals in your township or the townships round about in your recollection ?
—There have been no evictions from any township, so far as I know. There are others who can tell better than I can as to other places with which I have no personal acquaintance. There has been nothing done in my time at this end of the island.
36827. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Has the proprietor ever offered you a lease ?
36828. Have you ever applied to the proprietor for a reduction of rent?
—We have complained to the factor about it.
36829. How long since ?
—We have never, until now, laid our heads together to do so; but each of us has always complained for himself to the factor of the highness of the rent
36830. Have you complained ever since you were in possession of the place twenty-four years ago ?
36831. When did you begin to complain?
—Perhaps we complained every time that we paid the rent—complained that there was too much of it to pay.
36832. Have the four occupiers in this township any pasture land ?
36833. Is your arable holding held in common, or does each crofter hold his own ?
—Each has his own land surrounded by a dyke.
36834. You say you put your horse out to graze in the summer; how much do you pay for it ?
—About £2, 10s. for the half year.
36835. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said you had about twenty acres altogether; can you distinguish between the arable and the pasture?
—It varies accordingly as the ground is suitable.
36836. May you, if you choose, turn over the whole of the twenty acres ?
36837. How much is arable ?
—I cannot give any estimate of the extent of it. There is a good deal of it quite unfit for cultivation, being very rocky.
36838. Is there half of it that cannot be tinned over?
—No, not quite so much.
36839. How much do you pay in a year for coals ?
—Sometimes more, sometimes less —about £4.
36840. Are you obliged to buy food during the year for any of your animals besides the horse ?
—No, my crop is for the feeding of the cattle in winter.
36841. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What class of cattle do you keep ?
—Highland cattle. It is always Highland cattle we keep here, but not always the same as they used to be. If they were the same as they formerly were they would be of very little worth.
36842. You say the breed has improved ?
—Oh, yes; and I believe I may say they get fresh bulls every year.
36343. Do any of the larger farmers keep improved stock—shorthorn crosses ?
—I don't know that any of them keep any other stock but Highland, and they are good cattle.
36844. What is the selling price of a stirk this year?
—I don't know until I see it.
36845. Is your own condition as good as it was in the time of your father and grandfather ?
36846. How were they better before?
—I was young then, and the world was not giving me so much care, and therefore I lived better.
36847. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What would you consider to be a fair rent ?
—If the price of the coals were deducted from the rent I would be content. We use between seven and eight tons of coal in the year, and, when the price varies from 15s. to 18s. a ton, it comes heavy upon us.