Lismore, 13 August 1883 - Dugald Carmichael

DUGALD CARMICHAEL, Labourer, Balamaillachean (34)—examined.

36917. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How many crofters do you represent?
—I only came into the place at last term; we were put out of the place in which we were.

36918. How many people chose you to come here to-day ?
—I was chosen at a general meeting here to speak with respect to the condition of the whole place.

36919. What special means had you of becoming acquainted with the condition of the people ?
—I am the son of a tenant, and I have been at tenant's work all along, and I am able to speak of that ever since I remember.

36920. Was your father removed from one place to another?
—No; my father was forty-six years in the place, and he died ; but my mother was evicted from the place at the last term.

36921. Where was your father?

36922. And your mother ?
—The same place.

36923. And she was evicted at last term by whom?
—Mr Fell.

36924. Why—because she was a widow?
—Yes, she is a widow.

36925. But was it because she is a widow that she was sent away ?
—I am not aware of any other reason; there were no arrears.

36926. Is that a regulation of the estate?
—Yes, it is ; this year at any rate. None of the widows this year or last year, after they were removed, got a house upon the estate of Mr Fell.

36927. Has that been a practice in this island ?
—No, it was not the practice; and others who built their own houses—the whole of them—the regulation has been made that unless you pay so much for them, you will be turned out, although you might not have any means whatever,—the worth of a hen.

36928. What have they to pay the money for ?
—For the houses.

36929. Do you mean rent?

36930. How much have they to pay?
—According as they think the tenant is able to pay —some 5s., some more ; you could not expect a poor woman to be able to pay very high rent. But although she might have to beg for it, pay it she must, or go she must.

36931. When did your father die ?
—About four years ago.

36932. And how long was your mother left in the croft?
—Four years after his death.

36933. And was there any reason given for evicting her at the end of four years ?
—Not so far as I know; I didn't hear any reason given.

36934. Were you able to work the croft for her ?
—Yes, and I am working at the corn there yet. We have potatoes and corn in our own hands yet, and I am lodging here.

36935. And have you got any other croft?
—My brother has got another one, but I have not.

36936. Have any other people been treated in the same way in the same place where you lived ?
—Yes, there was another widow treated in the very same way this year.

36937. How long was she left in possession before she was evicted?
—She was only one year in possession during her widowhood.

36938. Where does the proprietor live ?

36939. He is a clergyman, is he not ?

36940. Of the Church of England ?

36941. What else have you to tell ?
—The first thing which I have been requested by the people to state is, that there are three fresh water lochs in Lismore, and there was a mill upon each. Now, fifty years ago, these three mills were in working order, and each of them ground three times as much as the one mill now grinds for the whole place. There is only one mill now. Now, since place was added to place, and since the holdings were taken from the people, there is only room for shepherds to work ; there is no farm work going on in the place for young men.

36942. Did you hear the last witness tell how he got good wages?
—It is very good for the man who is able to get that work, but it is only one in twenty who gets that kind of work. This kind of work commenced since I remember first when Mr Fell got possession of the property. He
ejected a widow who was in possession of the mill at the time—that is the mill which is now in working order —some ten years ago, and she would not get a house upon the estate when she left. Again, there were three tenants in that same place called Firefour. These three were sent away, and they would not get a place upon the estate; it was made into one lot and given to a farmer—a tenant. The reason given for clearing these townships was that there was fever in the place, and one family got their death in consequence of the fever, and then the other two were turned away ; and the place was offered to that other tenant at a reduction of some £7 or £ 8 last year. He would not take it at that reduction, and it was he who came and got my mother's holding. There is another township beside that again called Balucrachdagh. The tenant in one of these lots
died last winter, and the widow was ejected at the term, and she has not a house upon the estate yet. This is the widow whom I mentioned formerly. She was not in arrears of rent, and she had a family who could keep up the place, just as our family could have done my mother's place. Then the people specially complain of their bad houses. With respect to the houses, if the proprietor expended any money upon them, interest was laid upon this outlay, which would virtually become an increase of rent, for it never was taken off. Then, if the tenant himself expended anything on it he did it at his own expense, and was not to get any compensation for it ; rather the other way, for if the house had deteriorated meanwhile he had to pay the difference.

36943. Has the landlord given any assistance to people in building houses at all ?
—In some cases he has provided half the expense and the tenant the other half; but, when the tenant removes, he gets nothing for the other half—the property becomes entirely the landlord's. We have had frightful storms here for the last two or three years, which injured the crofts of the tenants very much in this district, especially upon this estate of Mr Fell. Some of the tenants down by the sea-shore had the potatoes taken out of their very beds by the sea. Mr Fell gave a little reduction upon the rent; and one man who was not able to pay the rent for that year, the full rent was charged against him without any abatement being made, and interest as well. Then, upon the last place, my father built a slated house. The proprietor paid half of the expense and we paid half the insurance money, the proprietor paving the other half. I expected some indemnity when we left for this half. We also built a barn last year, and the proprietor provided a roof. We ourselves did the mason work and added £ 7 more, and the proprietor did the rest. Now, instead of getting any indemnity at all for our outlay on this building, the proprietor is going to insist upon a valuation of the buildings, and make us pay the difference between their present value and their value when put up. Now, when my father entered upon that croft, there was no grass seed sown. It was a soft place, and there were peats there, and the whole estate had the right to cut peats there—so much had ground for every cow. My father began to drain this place, and the people who were cutting peats there were obliged to cease cutting them. Some of the place is still undrained bog, as any passing man can see. Now, my father entered upon a lease, and I asked that I should get the lease, in order to see that the terms of the lease were adhered to when I was leaving the place, and I was told that the lease was lost; that it was not to be found.

36944. Who told you that?
—Mr M'Intyre, the ground officer. There was no copy made of the lease.

36945. What was the extent of the lease?
—The first lease was for nineteen years, and that lease was drawn out in form, and at the expiry of the lease there was only a written agreement between the proprietor and my father that the tenure was in terms of the previous lease. I believe that the second lease was only for eleven years.

36946. Were there four years of that lease to run when your father died ?
—No ; two years.
36947. So your mother was left two years beyond the term of the lease ?

36948. Was there no change in the agreement made for these two years ?
—No. Now, about nineteen years ago, when Mr Gregorson was factor, he made certain laws in Oban, and he sent two factors round here with them, stating that any person who would not submit to these statutes would got notice to quit.

36949. Were those rules printed?
—Yes, they were printed, and the people were signing them ; but there were no copies left with the people.
One of the conditions of these rules or statutes was that the cultivation was to proceed by rotation—oats, potatoes, oats, ryegrass, pasture; and if we brought in any new ground we were only allowed to take one crop of oats off it. Now, this is one of the chief grievances that the people here have, that they are not allowed to take two oat crops off such a piece of ground, because they are not near enough to the market town to sell their corn and live chiefly by their stock.

36950. What was the extent of your father's croft ?
—I could not say; I think about one hundred acres.

36951. What rent did he pay ?

36952. That is not a croft, but a farm. At one time there were three crofts in it. After my father's lease was out it was raised to £100, the very man who has it now having competed for it and raised the rent; but it was reduced to £90, because the house was built upon it, £ 10 being taken off in consequence. The ground was cultivated at that time without any grass seed; there was no grass when we went in; and under this new regulation they would not allow us —the factor and proprietor brought an interdict in Edinburgh to prevent us —to plough any more than a certain amount, the rest to be left out in grass. We were not allowed to sow under oats, except a certain amount, which was measured out to us, and where there had been one crop of oats before we were obliged to plant the place with potatoes or leave it vacant, and, as everybody knows, potato seed was very scarce last year. My grievance is that I was not allowed to sow more oats; and I would have planted more potatoes if I had had more seed.

36953. But your grievance is not that of a crofter, but that of a farmer ?

36954. Was it in your father's time that what had formerly been three crofts was made into a farm ?
—No; a tenant had it before my father. Then we asked the laird if he would give us one of the places that had become vacant if he should remove us out of the place, and he did not give us any of them, nor would he give us any reason why. He did not tell us if he had anything against us.

36955. Why did the crofters choose you to represent them when you are not a crofter ?
—I am just looking out for a croft and a wife at the same time.

36956. I suppose the reason why they chose you was that your mother had been evicted although not from a croft, and that you were able to state their views to their satisfaction ?
—I could not say, but I was appointed in the meeting. The chief grievance that the people who elected me impressed me with was, that they are made to pay interest for any outlay by the proprietors in improving their houses. This increases their rent, and makes it impossible for them to keep by their holdings; for the rent is getting dearer and dearer, and never getting cheaper.

36957. The Chairman.
—Do I understand you rightly when you state that if a tenant or crofter builds a house and offices himself, and the proprietor contributes nothing, and the crofter goes away, he has to pay the proprietor for any depreciation in the value of the buildings as assessed ?
—I answer yes to the general question ; but I know of no case where the total outlay was made by the tenant. It is in the case of a divided outlay that the complaint is —where the proprietor provides about half, and the tenant by labour or outlay the other half; and the complaint is that when the tenant is being removed a valuation is made upon the whole property, and the tenant pays for any depreciation.

36958. Both upon the proprietor's share and his own ?
—Upon the whole property.

36959. And if during the course of occupation the tenant improves the quality and condition of the buildings does the proprietor compensate him ?
—No, that is not the way we proceed. The mode of procedure is this: the factor comes round once a year or every six months, and he sees something needing improvement in the buildings, and he sends a person from Oban to make the repairs, and charges me with these when I am paying my rent, say, at the next term, and then at the end of the tenancy a valuation is made, and I am made to pay the difference in value between the property at the beginning and at the end of my tenancy.

36960. But if the difference is for the better and not for the worse?
—I have not seen a case where that would hold. We built our own barn only last year, and we are asked to pay 10s. for deterioration in the twelvemonth.

No comments:

Post a Comment