DUGALD M’INTYRE, Farmer, Frackersaig (41)—examined.
37159. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You are ground officer as well as a farmer?
37160. I see your name in the list of delegates; were you present at the meeting ?
—I was present, but I only knew this morning my name was entered as a delegate.
37161. Who told you?
—Mr Livingston told me this morning.
37162. I suppose you are not prepared with any statement if you were
not told ?
—I have no statement on paper, but I shall be glad to answer any questions.
37163. You were present at the meeting?
—I was present at the first meeting, but there was a second meeting at which I was not present.
37164. Did they at that meeting discuss any complaints which they should make to the Commission ?
—No, it was at the next meeting they did so.
37165. Do you think the people of Lismore have reason to complain of their treatment by the proprietors ?
—Well, I do not believe they have so much reason at present as they had some time ago.
37166. What is their principal cause of complaint at the present time?
—I believe that the principal cause is bad houses. They complain of high rents, and no doubt the place is very highly rented. In these good years, when there are good prices for stock, there is not so much complaint; but when the prices of stock fall they have reason to complain then.
37167. What size of farm do you hold ?
—About 400 acres.
37168. Of arable ?
37169. How much is arable?
—Perhaps about one-sixth of it, including rocks and bogs, and waste land.
37170. Are your houses not satisfactory?
—Mine are; I have new houses.
37171. On what principle were they erected ?
—I did part of the work myself and the proprietor did the rest. I was near about the half and the proprietor the other half.
37172. Are you bound to maintain them?
37173. Have you a lease?
—Yes, I had a nineteen years' lease, and I have now a renewal of the lease for the same period. I had a nineteen years' lease when I built the houses.
37174. And you have nineteen years more ?
37175. Are the houses generally very bad here?
—Most of them are very bad.
37176. Do the people themselves complain of them?
37177. Would they erect better houses for themselves if they got leases ?
—I believe they would.
37178. On the same footing as you have erected yours ?
—Most of them would.
37179. Are leases refused to them ?
37180. Why do they not receive them?
—Some of the small crofters do not care for it, because they consider it too much expense in drawing out a lease.
37181. The cost of the lease prevents them taking it?
—Yes, some of them.
37182. And yet you think if they had leases they would improve their houses ?
—No doubt, it would be an encouragement.
37183. In what way do you estimate the rent of lands in Lismore; is it in relation to the stock or acreage ?
—It is in relation to the stock.
37184. What do you put upon a cow ?
—A cow's rent generally is from £3, 10s. to £5.
37185. That is winter and summer keep?
37186. And that includes one follower?
—No, that would not take any follower, nothing but the milk calves.
37187. And what do you put on the followers—year-olds and two-year olds?
—About £2, 5s. in the year; sometimes we require to make a little provision if the winter comes severe.
37188. In offering for a farm that is how you would offer —in that form ?
—We know the farms, and do not very often calculate upon the stock.
37189. Do you sell grain here ?
37190. Potatoes ?
—Some potatoes some years.
37191. Your principal sales of produce are cattle ?
37192. And sheep?
—Yes, on the large farms, but not the small ones.
37193. Have you a stock of sheep?
—Yes, a mixed stock of sheep and cattle.
37194. What rent is paid for sheep grazing ?
—Fifteen shillings for some of the half-bred sheep.
37195. Are they all half-bred sheep here ?
37196. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you heard what has been stated here to-day ?
37197. Do you know most of the people who spoke ?
37198. Do you think they represent the feelings of the class they belong to ?
—I have no doubt, some of them perhaps have gone a little too far.
37199. Are you a native of the island yourself?
37200. And have been here all your days ?
37201. You stated in the beginning to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie that they have not now so much to complain of as they might have had, do you recollect what has been stated in the case of the Cheyne evictions ?
—Yes, I remember some of them. My father was a tenant on that estate.
37202. Would you say that these evictions were unreasonable in every way ?
—I believe they were.
37203. Upon the two estates that you are acting as ground officer for have you any special instructions on the part of the proprietor except to look after matters in the ordinary way a ground officer has?
37204. You have no special instructions ?
37205. Do you allow the people under you as much of their own way as is consistent with what is right ?
—I give them almost altogether their own way.
37206. The Chairman.
—We have not seen much of the island, but as we drove along here I was much struck by the inferior character of the dwelling-houses of the farmers with regard to the amount of rent that they paid. I was told, for instance, there were farms there paying from £30 to £100 of rent, and the houses seemed little better than Highland crofters' houses. Do you think it would be possible for the proprietors to give some encouragement to better the buildings both for the lodging of people and stock?
—Yes, some of the proprietors are encouraging the tenants. Mr Fell has put up a good many new buildings on his estate, and he is intending to put some up this year.
37207. On what system is that done; if the proprietor makes the whole outlay, what interest is charged to the tenant ?
—I believe he charges 6½ per cent. I do not pay any interest.
37208. When the tenant and proprietor co-operate and pay each a half, then we were told that at the end of the occupancy the depreciation on the whole was valued to the tenant, and he had to pay for the depreciation
on what he had himself paid for ?
—No, that is only deficiency upon the houses; if they are neglected to be properly looked after, there is then deficiency charged upon the outgoing tenant, but no depreciation during the time he is in occupation.
37209. You mean that they pay then only for culpable neglect ?
37210. Or abuse of the buildings ?
37211. Are there any cases in which a tenant goes to the whole expense of the buildings ?
—I am not aware that there is at present.
37212. Neither on the dwelling-houses nor on the farm offices?
—Not at present that I am aware of ; but about twenty-five years ago my father built upon the late Mr Cheyne's estate upon his own account entirely. He had no lease, but he had the promise of not being removed.
37213. Would he have been held liable at the end of the lease for the depreciation of the offices which he had entirely built himself ?
—He was just charged deficiency upon the houses for anything that they require at the time to put them in proper order; not to put them like what they were when new, but he had to make a payment on account of depreciation of offices, the whole of which he had built himself.
37214. Do you mean depreciation or deficiency ?
—It is deficiency, disrepair.
37215. But still in connection with buildings the whole of which he had erected himself ?
—Yes. These were thatched houses.
37216. But had he to pay for any defect in the buildings instead of the proprietor paying him for the improvement he had made ?
—Yes, and he was turned out of the farm against his will.
37217. About the stock in the hands of the smaller tenants, do you think the stock would be susceptible of improvement, could they bring up better description than they do ?
—I don't think so. I think the stock are very suitable for the small crofts, the stock they have.
37218. They have not any shorthorn cross ?
37219. You don't think they could maintain that description of stock ?
—No, they would be too heavy for the crofts here; too expensive for wintering.
37220. We heard from a previous witness that there was a great diminution of the population, which he ascribed to the discouragement to marriage which the condition of the island was supposed to offer, what do you think of that ?
—I cannot say anything in regard to that. The only thing I can say is, that if they got married they have no houses to take up in.
37221. What becomes of the younger members of the families generally ; do they emigrate permanently to the south or the colonies ?
—They generally go to the south to service.
37222. And remain away ?
—Most of them do. Sometimes they come back.
37223. Has there been any emigration from the island to America or Australia ?
—There was a good deal of emigration to America ; but they emigrated with their own free will.
37224. And have they done well in America?
—Some of them have done pretty well.
37225. Do they maintain any correspondence with their relatives here ?
—Yes, there were some of them back to this country a few years ago.
37226. And did they give encouragement to their friends to emigrate ?
—Some of them did, and others did not.
37227. Is there any great reluctance or repugnance to the idea of emigration, or if a man could afford it would he be generally glad to go ?
—I could not say. I know they have a feeling for their native country, to stay in it if they can.
37228. Professor Mackinnon.
—Do you think the small crofts are relatively rented about as high as farms of over £100 or about that ?
—I think they are fully as high as the large farms.
37229. And what one would call a small farm—£50 to £100 : I see by the valuation roll there is a considerable number of these in the island—are these fully as highly rented as the larger farms, of which there are only two or three ?
—Just something about what the larger farms are.
37230. But you think the small crofts, relative to their size and worth, are about as highly rented or more so than the big farms ?
—That is my idea. I know that the best part of the land is laid out waste under sheep. The Duke of Argyll's estate is the best part of the island.
37231. That farm is very large ?
37232. About £1400 rent ?
37233. In that case, looking to the circumstances of the people here, supposing there was an inclination to split up a large farm, there would be quite a reasonable expectation that as much rent could be had for it after
it was divided into crofts ?
—Yes ; there is a good number of the small farmers able to take larger holdings if they got an opening.
37234. And some of the crofters might then take the place of the farmers, and some of the cottars could take the place of the crofters ?
37235. The people upon the east end of the place, Port Ramsay, complained that their rents were too high because the place was so bad; is it worse generally than the rest of the island ?
—It is about the worst part of land in the island. There are some spots very good, but upon the whole it is the worst.
37236. The land is so very good over the whole of the island that it can afford to pay a high rent ?
—It is pretty highly rented.
37237. You think it is fully rented all over ?
—I believe it is.
37238. With regard to the quarry in which so many people are able to obtain work, I hope you do not lose yourself by providing for so many of the people who could not be otherwise provided for ?
—Sometimes I am only too glad to get hold of them, as I cannot carry on work without them but in the busiest time, when I need them most, I cannot get them ; they have their own work to do.
37239. Is there difficulty in getting cottars when labour pays so well; do you think there would be more population in the place if it was easier to get a cottage ?
—I believe there would.
37240. A man from Killean rather stated there was a large number living there without land or a cow Ì I suppose it is quite the case ?
37241. And he said that in the surrounding district there was not a sufficient supply of milk for people of that class ?
—That is on account of the land being put in large farms.
37242. If there were more substantial crofters round about the cottars could get milk for payment ?
—Yes; and tenants could get work done cheaper than they can at present.
37243. But the want of population all over the place makes the rate of wages pretty high ?
37244. Is it higher than in the surrounding districts upon the mainland?
—It is higher than in some parts.
37245. The rate of wages is from 18s. to 20s. a week?
—Well, I employ some of my men at 17s. a week ; new hands not well up to their work—17s. to 19s. a week.
37246. The state of affairs one of the delegates spoke to with respect to houses evidently does not exist now ; nobody builds houses entirely at his own charge ?
—Not just now, but I believe they used to do some time ago.
37247. As I understood, the case of your father was this ; he built the steadings at his own expense entirely; he was then evicted, and he was charged for putting the dwellings into what one would call a tenantable condition for his successor ?
37248. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Perhaps there was no successor ?
—Yes, there was another tenant. My father offered, but this tenant offered a few pounds more, and got it.
37249. Professor Mackinnon.
—Looking to the fertility of the place, the soil, and the general circumstances of the people all over, and supposing there was an intention to break up one of those big farms into smaller holdings, what size of holding do you think would be the most suitable in this island to break them up into ?
— I know upon this estate, where there are no houses at present, it would be very expensive for the proprietor to put new houses upon smaller holdings, and I think from £50 to £100 would be the smallest he could afford to make.
37250. Except with regard to the houses, there would be no difficulty in getting the same rent even supposing they were made into smaller holdings?
37251. But you think making them into places from £50 to £100, houses could be erected and tenants got, and that tenants from a lower stratum would be got for the holdings which would become vacant ?
37252. There are plenty of men and capital in Lismore to take up readjusted holdings ?
—Yes, but not the whole.
37253. And you believe the place would keep more men, and upon the whole fully as well off as they are at present ?
—I believe it would.
37254. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—A farm of £100 would require hired labour ?
37255. What size of farm could be worked by a family without hired labour ?
—A farm of from £50 to £70.
37256. The Chairman.
—What do you think a fair rent for average arable ground per annum ?
—I believe the arable ground in some parts is up to 30s. an acre, but not taking it on an average all over. There is a great deal of waste land and rocks and so on.
37257. Sheriff Nicolson.
—There is no public-house in this island ?
—None at present.
37258. How long since?
—About seven or eight years.
37259. Did there use to be always one?
—When I remember about thirty years ago there were five.
37260. Is it considered any grievance by the inhabitants to have none ?
—Not that I am aware of. If it were they would have told us. It was at first, when the last public-house was done away with, but not now.
37261. Do you think it is any inconvenience to strangers?
—Not the want of a public-house; but I believe a temperance hotel would be better.
37262. How many policemen are there?
—None in the island, but there is one in the parish.
37263. Has a policeman ever to come to the island ?
—Not very often—not since the public-house was done away with.
37264 Did he use to come oftener ?
—Yes, pretty often.
37265. Are the habits of the people generally quiet and correct?