DUGALD M'GREGOR, Cottar, Ardtornish (67)—examined.
(See Appendix A, LXXXV.)
36103. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are there many persons living at Ardtornish?
—There is no one living there just now except the proprietor and his servants.
36104. Are there any other persons near Ardtornish in your own position ?
—They have houses in the village of Lochaline, and work for the proprietor.
36105. Who sent you here?
—I was elected by the people of the village.
36106. It is by the villagers of Lochaline that you have been elected?
36107. What did they wish you to say?
—They complain about the land having been taken from them, and of their being put into this place.
36108. Are you speaking for the people of Ardtornish or of Lochaline village ?
—I speak for neither the one nor the other; but they sent me to say that I myself was upon Ardtornish and was removed to Lochaline by process of law. I now occupy a small place, and make my living as I can
36109. Have you come here to speak for yourself, or for the people living in the village here ?
—I came to speak for myself.
36110. What have you to say for yourself ?
—I don't wish to say much altogether, but I am willing to answer any questions that may be asked.
36111. How long is it since you were turned out of your croft at Ardtornish?
36112. Who owned it at that time?
36113. What was the extent of your holding ?
—A croft and a cow.
36114. Have you been left in the house?
—I was removed altogether when the property was sold.
36115. Was that forty years ago ?
36116. Was it then that Sheriff Gregorson bought the property?
—Sheriff Gregorson's father had it before Sheriff Gregorson,
36117. Who removed you; the person who purchased the estate or Sheriff Gregorson ?
—It was Sheriff Gregorson.
36118. You spoke about being removed when the property was purchased; who purchased it ?
36119. Was it Patrick Sellar who removed you?
—I got the notice of removal from Sheriff Gregorson at the time when Sellar bought the estate, so that the estate was to be cleared for Mr Sellar when he came in.
36120. Where do you live now ?
—On the estate of Lochaline.
36121. How did you make a living when you had a croft and a cow ?
—I was a weaver to trade, and I was working at my trade and the croft at the same time.
36122. How have you made your living since you lost the croft ?
—For the last thirty years I have been working as a labourer for Mr Smith, the proprietor of Ardtornish.
36123. Have you given up the loom?
—Yes; when the people went away the loom ceased.
36124. Are you getting good wages as a labourer?
—I get 2s. 6d. a day as a labourer, but I have now ceased to work—this year.
36125. You have not liberty to keep a cow?
—I have not asked the proprietor for a cow's grass.
36126. Are you able to purchase milk ?
—I buy milk.
36127. In old times did you get much produce off your croft?
—I could get as much produce off my croft as would very nearly keep my family.
36128. Meal or potatoes ?
36129. How much meal were you making off the croft?
—I could get two bolls of meal off the seed of the croft, and I planted four bolls of potatoes.
36130. What did you pay for that ?
—£3 a year.
36131. When you were removed did you get work immediately?
—Yes, but not on this property; it was over in Mull.
36132. Did you get a house there ?
—No; my family was here on this side.
36133. How long were you in that homeless state and obliged to go away for work ?
—At the time I was removed I was not married.
36134. You are complaining of what happened forty years ago ; what do you wish to-day ?
—I would like to be the way I was before, if it were possible; that is, I should like to have a croft and my cows back again as before.
36135. Did you not say you had never asked Mr Smith for that?-
—I do not live on Mr Smith's property now. I had a house from him so long as I was in his employment; but not being in his employment, I have had to get a house on the Lochaline estate. I was removed from the house when I ceased to work.
36136. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many proprietors of the name of Gregorson have there been at Ardtornish ?
—The father bought the estate, and the son sold it.
36137. Was the father, the first Gregorson, a writer or lawyer in Oban ?
—He was the sheriff in this district; he was not a lawyer in Oban ; his nephew was a lawyer at Oban.
36138. How many people were turned off from Ardtornish when you were sent away ?
—I cannot tell the number just now.
There is a written statement to be read here to-day.
—' Statement of Grievances by Crofters and Cottars in the district of Morven, Argllshire. Lochaline.
—Our principal grievances are as follows :
—1st, That we have been removed from lands occupied by ourselves and our forefathers, and that we have
been huddled together in this miserable village; and through that and several other causes we have been reduced to great poverty; and were it not for the kindness of the late Mr Smith, and of his son, the proprietor of the adjoining estates of Acharn and Ardtornish, who, for more than thirty years, gave work to as many of us as he could, we do not know how we could have existed. We consider it a great hardship that we cannot get any land to cultivate, although abundance of good land, formerly under cultivation, is going waste at our very doors. This land from which some of us have been evicted about seventeen years ago, we are sorry to see going back again into a state of nature, and overgrown with heather and rushes. We feel very much the want of milk for our families. Many of us would be very glad if we could get a cow's grass even without arable land at a reasonable rent which we could pay. The rent for a cow's grass, without any arable land, charged by the late proprietrix is £ 3 a year, which we consider an intentional discouragement against any one aspiring to the dignity of keeping a cow. We know that the want of good milk, such as most of us have been accustomed to in our younger days, has a deteriorating influence upon ourselves, and more especially upon our children. We are aware that a certain medical gentlemen in another part, while being examined before the Commission, recommended cheap beer as a substitute for milk. The use and introduction of such a substitute for milk in rearing our offspring we, and we are sure all Highlanders, will repudiate with scorn. We look upon such a suggestion as an insult to us ; and we cannot perceive why we should be deprived of the means of having a supply of good milk, so that the proprietor may obtain a few pounds more rent
2nd, Our next grievance is in regard to fuel. Under former proprietors, the poorest of us had the privilege of cutting peats on the hill as near hand as we could find them; but now we are prevented from doing this, and compelled to go to the top of the hill to cut them. The poorest and most destitute of us dare not gather a few tufts of heather to keep up the fire in case the game be interfered with, or be put to the least inconvenience. Our Lord and Saviour said, " How much more valuable is a man than a sheep ?" But our landlords say, " How much more valuable is, not even a sheep, but a game bird than a man ?" In consequence of the above restrictions as to fuel, we are at all seasons of the year under the necessity of buying coal, and in this remote district, so far situated from the coal centres of the south, coal is a luxury which some of us can ill afford. As an instance of the petty tyranny exercised over us regarding these matters, we wish to refer to a case which happened about two years ago, when a man belonging to our village, who is both a cripple and in receipt of parochial aid, was found on the road with a bundle of heather for his fire, and was unmercifully deprived of his heather by one of the estate gamekeepers and shoved along the road. We therefore consider it a great grievance that we, being loyal subjects of Her Majesty, living under what we are taught to believe to be the glorious British Constitution, living in a country which is supposed to be the best governed country in the world, should be left so much to the mercy of landed proprietors, and, still worse, their factors, that we can scarcely call our souls our own. We cannot reconcile all the boasted freedom to be enjoyed by all Her Majesty's subjects alike with what we know to be the truth in our own case. From our experience, we are more inclined to believe with Lord Macaulay, that the country, and Scotland especially, has the worst constitution in Europe, at least so far as the land laws are concerned. We therefore trust that Her Majesty's Commissioners shall take our case into consideration.
3rd, Evictions. We specially beg to direct the attention of Her Majesty's Commissioners to the miserable condition of this district compared to what it was forty or fifty years ago. The population of the parish at that time was over 2000. At last census it stood at 828. Fifty years ago, with such a large population, £11 sterling per annum from the collection at the church door was sufficient for the support of all the poor and destitute people within the district, and now, with a population of 828, the poor rates amount to over £600 a year. These facts we leave to the consideration and wisdom of the Commissioners, as we consider they require no comment from us beyond showing the benefits conferred upon this district by what the Duke of Argyll calls
in scientific language " economic conditions," and that we are not to be bamboozled by his Grace's scientific conundrums. The first eviction which took place in this district happened between fifty and sixty years ago, when the late Miss Stewart evicted all the tenants in the township of Ferinish, Mangostell, Barr, and Innemore, numbering in all twenty-five families. The second eviction happened between forty and fifty years ago, when the tenants of several townships on the estates of Acharn and Ardtornish received summonses of removal from the proprietors before they sold the estates to Mr Patrick Sellar of Sutherlandshire. There were forty-eight families evicted at this time, so that the loss of population sustained by the parish must have been considerable. There was another cruel and very harsh eviction which took place in this district about seventeen years ago. When the late Mrs Paterson came into possession of the estate of Lochaline, there were in the townships of Achabeg and Knock a well-to-do crofter population, consisting of between twenty-five and thirty families. The families, owing to some whim of the proprietrix, were evicted wholesale, notwithstanding the oft-repeated remonstrances of the late Dr John M'Leod, then minister of the parish. The crowbar and faggot were here, let us hope for the last time in the history of the Highland peasant, brought into requisition to demolish the dwellings of men whose forefathers occupied the land long before Mrs Paterson came into the district, or had the means which gave her the power of buying the land and turning out the people. There was yet another eviction on the estate of the late Lady Gordon of Drimnin, and as this was a peculiarly hard case, which took place only about fifteen years ago, we feel in duty bound to refer to it as showing how completely the Highland crofter is in the power of his landlord, and however unscrupulous the landlord may be in the present circumstances there is no redress. The circumstances are as follows :
—About forty years ago, when the sheep farming craze was at its height, some families were removed from the townships of Aulistau and Carrick on Lady Gordon's estate, as their places were to be added to the adjoining sheep farm. The people were removed on to the most barren spot on the whole estate, where there was no road or any possibility of making one. They had to carry all manure and sea-ware on their backs, as the place was so rocky that a horse would be of no use. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, they contrived through time to improve the place very much by draining and reclaiming mossy patches, and by carrying soil to be placed on rocky places where there was no soil. During the twenty-five years they occupied this place their rents were raised twice. Latterly, with the full confidence of their tenure being secure, they built better houses at their own expense, and two or three years afterwards they were turned out of their holdings on the usual six weeks' notice, without a farthing of compensation for land reclaimed. In justice to the present proprietor, Joseph Gordon, Esq., we wish to state our conviction that such an injustice would not have been permitted on the estate since he came into possession, as we regard him as a kind and considerate landlord to the few crofters on his estate. It has often been advanced by landlords, factors, and others that the Highland crofters are lazy and do not improve their holdings ; but where is the inducement to
improvements under such circumstances as we have here related and as the Commissioners are well aware that this case is not a solitary instance, as it is quite common in every district throughout the Highlands, that
if a crofter improves his holding he has to pay for it by having his rent raised, or his holding being given to the first man who offers more rent on account of such improvements.
4th, The remedy which we in this district would respectfully suggest for the improvement of our condition
is, that the land which is lying waste on every side of us, that is to say, the townships of Achabeg, Keil, and Knock, at present in the hands of 'Mr s Paterson's trustees, and entirely out of cultivation, should be divided
into suitable lots; that the trustees build suitable cottages on such lots. We consider they have a right to do so, seeing the proprietrix caused all the houses to be destroyed seventeen years ago that these lots be let to us at a reasonable rent, such rent, in cases where the landlord and tenant cannot agree, to be fixed by arbitration, or such other arrangement as the wisdom of Parliament may see proper. While much preferring to have the State as our landlord, and while thoroughly convinced that the land question shall never be properly settled until it is settled on that basis, we should still be glad, in the meantime, to have matters settled on the lines indicated above; that is, a re-allotment of the land in suitable portions, security against arbitrary evictions, compensation for improvement in case of removal, a fair rent, and arbitration in case of disagreement between landlord and tenant. We have heard this statement read, and we agree with all it contains.'
36139. Have you heard this statement read before?
—I heard it read before.
36140. Was Mr Gregorson the proprietor of Acharn as well as Ardtornish?
—Acharn belongs to Mr Smith.
36141. Did Mr Gregorson sell Acharn to Mr Smith ?
—-Sheriff Gregorson sold the whole estate of Acharn and Ardtornish to Mr Patrick Sellar.
36142. According to this paper, forty-eight families were evicted from the two estates of Ardtornish and Acharn ?
—That is so.
36143. In fact, the whole estates were cleared?
36144. What was the object of clearing them?
—Acharn was bought by Mr Sellar; the people and fee could not agree about the leases, and on that account they were removed. At that time Ardtornish was in the hands of Sheriff Gregorson, and there were not many crofters on it.
36145. Were you yourself upon Ardtornish or Acharn?
—I was on the estate of Ardtornish.
36146. Did Mr Sellar himself remove anybody?
—Mr Sellar evicted the tenants of Acharn himself after becoming proprietor of the estate.
36147. How many of the forty-eight families were upon Acharn ?
—There were only four crofters on the estate of Ardtornish, and the remainder on Acharn.
36148. In point of fact, was it Sellar and not Gregorson who put them out ?
—Sheriff Gregorson removed four from Ardtornish.
36149. Were the rest removed by Sellar from Acharn;
—That is so; two or three years before that.
36150. What became of the forty-eight families of the two estates?
—Some of them were removed south to Glasgow and the large cities; a few of them got shelter here on the Lochaline estate, and the rest went wherever they could get a place to go to.
36151. And the remainder were allowed to remain upon these two estates ultimately ?
—There were a few poor cottars who remained upon the estate, but the rest were evicted because they had no means of removing anywhere.
36152. Are there any crofters or cottars now living upon these two estates ?
—There is just one croft on the estate at present.
36153. Is Mr Smith, who bought the place from Mr Sellar, alive ?
—He is not living, but his son is in possession of the estate just now.
36154. What connection have the Sellars with Ardtornish now?
—One of them is married to Mr Smith's daughter.
36155. Is Mr Smith married?
—Yes, it is my opinion that he is.
36156. Was the land, of which these families were dispossessed, in Acharn and Ardtornish, suitable for crofters, and were the crofters well off in Mr Gregorson's time ?
—Yes, they were very well off at the time.
36157. Who was the proprietor of Acharn and Ardtornish before Gregorson ?
—I cannot answer that; it was in possession of the Gregorsons for as long as I remember.
36158. Have you not heard the names of the old proprietors?
—I believe the larger portion of the property, previous to Sheriff Gregorson having it, belonged to the Duke of Argyll
36159. Is there any other Acharn in this district except one?
—No, there is only the one Acharn in the district.
36160. Did you ever hear of any other Acharn ?
—I never heard of another place in the country called Acharn.
36161. Have you ever heard of a Stewart of Acharn?
—No, I never heard of any Stewart being in this Acharn.
36162. You have been staying a long time on the estate of Lochaline?
—I have been residing here, on this side of Lochaline estate, since I was removed from the croft I held on the Ardtornish side.
36163. You state that the people of Lochaline have been removed from lands occupied by themselves and their forefathers, and huddled together in this village; how old is this village ?
—When I remember first there were only four small houses in the village below here.
36164. You state that the people in the parish now are not able to get any land, that they are crowded in here; could Mr Smith if he felt inclined give any land to the people of the village ?
—There is plenty of land lying waste, if Mr Smith or the other proprietors were willing to give it.
36165. Am I correct in supposing that many of the people in Lochaline were not removed from lands belonging to Mr Smith ?
—No ; there were not many of these residing on the Smith estate, the larger portion of them were on the estate of the late Mrs Paterson.
36166. What is Mrs Paterson's estate called ?
—It is called Lochaline estate.
36167. Upon whose property is the village in which we are now?
—It belongs to Mrs Paterson's estate.
36168. Where is the boundary between it and Mr Smith's property?
—It is up about three miles from here, at a place called Kinlochaline,
36169. Does one side of the loch belong to Mr Smith and the other to Mrs Paterson's trustees ?
—That is so.
36170. In point of fact then, it is with the Paterson's trustees the Lochaline people have to deal and not Mr Smith, this village being on the Paterson's trustees' property ?
—That is so.
36171. Is there anybody here to-day representing the townships of Achabeg and Knock ?
—There was no one appointed specially for these districts, because there is no one residing there; the people who were there are residing in the village here.
36172. Is it consistent with your knowledge, as stated in the paper, that the late Mrs Paterson evicted from Achabeg and Knock twenty-five or thirty well-to-do crofter families ?
—I don't wish to take anything to do with these questions at all, as there is another delegate appointed to
speak about them.
36173. What is his name?
36174. Professor Mackinnon.
—There are no tenants upon the estate of Mr Smith now ?
36175. What is done with the estate ?
—It is in the hands of the proprietor, and stocked with sheep, and deer, and cattle.
36176. Is there not even a single tenant?
—No, with the exception of one crofter.
36177. Do you know about that crofter?
36178. Do you know what rent, he pays?
—He pays £ 8 rent, I understand.
36179. And that is the only tenant of any description upon the whole estate ?
—Yes, that is the only one I know of.
36180. What is his name ?