Lochaline, 11 August 1883 - James Thomas Shaw

JAMES THOMAS SHAW, Farmer, Barr, Mongastell (31)—examined.

36651. The Chairman.
—Do you desire to make any statement with reference to anything that has passed here to-day ?
—I wish to make a statement with regard to the four crofters. I took them over along with the farm when I entered three years ago.

36652. Which crofters do you allude to ?
—The four crofters at Barr. This man Malcolm M'Lachlan who spoke to-day is not one of those crofters, and is not on the estate. He said I paid the crofters 2s. a day for their work. I give them that when they are working at home. I give them 2s. 6d. when they are away from home. He said they had two cows each and a stirk and calf. They have two stirks and two cows. He said I only give them fifty days' work. I cannot be quite sure how many days' work I give them, but I give them so much that some of my neighbours cannot get them ; they are so much employed by me on the farm. He spoke about their houses. Their houses are good. They are small, but very well made, and they have two apartments in each.

36653. What is the distinction which you draw between employment at home at 2s. and employment away from home at 2s. 6d. ?
—When they get work close to their own houses, they can come home at night, and they get their 2s.

36654. And they get 2s. 6d. when they are obliged to pass the night away ?

36655. Where do they pass the night; at the farm houses?
—Supposing I take them to another part of the farm, they have to get lodgings wherever they best can.

36656. The farm then is so large that they would not be able to walk home at night from some parts ?
—They would, but it would take them a considerable time.

36657. In fact, when they get 2s. 6d. a day do they work longer hours than when they get 2s. ?
—No, the same hours.

36658. But only in consideration of having to provide lodgings they get an additional sixpence. In giving these wages is that all the wage, or do they get any food ?
—They do not get food.

36659. Am I to understand that for an able-bodied man at this time 2s. is the ordinary wage of this part of the country, or do they get less because they are living upon the farm ?
—They get the wages they were getting when I entered the farm, that was the agreement with them. I took them over on the same terms.

36660. How long is your lease ?
—Four years to run.

36661. But how long was it when you took it over?
—Seven years.

36662. Then they made an engagement in fact that they were not to get any higher wages for seven years'?

36663. Is that disadvantage imposed on them perhaps considered in their rent; is their rent made easier in consideration of the fact that they bind themselves to labour without an increase for seven years—do they get
any advantage in exchange for this disability ?

36664. I would ask you to consider ; do you think it is quite right to bind working people over to abdicate all chance of an increase of wages for seven years ?
—There was no special bargain made with them as to charges, but that they were to be taken on by me on the same terms as I found them there.

36665. What is the rent that they pay ?

36666. Are you bound in your lease not to exceed that rent, or is it open to you to deal with these people exactly as you like ?
—Exactly as I like.

36667. Are you bound towards them not to raise their rent above £7 ?

36668. So they are bound towards you not to get any more wages, but you are not bound to them not to ask any more rent; I do not mean to say you would do it, but you have no obligation not to get any more rent ?
—No, I have no obligation.

36669. Are they bound in consideration of their position on the farm to give you any work at particular periods—harvest work ?
—There was no special bargain made as to that.

36670. But do you practically exact that description of work from them ?
—If they have no other work on hand, I expect them to attend at my work.

36671. At harvest, for instance?
—Well, I have no crop to harvest.

36672. The harvesting then of sheep—at clipping and smearing times—they would be expected to attend then ?

36673. Would they get extra wages then, or still 2s. and 2s. 6d. ?
—They would get food.

36674. Is it not rather the custom of the country at clipping and smearing times not only to give food but to give something additional in the way of wages ?
—If they work extra hours, not otherwise.

36675. If your people work extra hours you would give them additional wages ?
—-I would.

36676. I want to understand exactly the terms on which those people are, as it were, turned over to you by the landlord; do you stand in the position of landlord in all respects to them, that you can raise their rent or
remove them from the land?
—I believe I do.

36677. But you have not done so?
—I have not

36678. Do you find you get on well with them—that they are contented?

36679. Have they any unusual advantages which compensate them for those low wages by being on the farm or in connection with the farm ?
—They have not to go away to other districts to seek for work.

36680. You give them very nearly constant employment?
—I have done so.

36681. Have you ever employed them because you did not like to see them unemployed—in order to keep them working?
—I have employed them on one occasion rather than send for workmen to another district, for particular work I had to do on two occasions.

36682. Although you might perhaps have employed the other people more advantageously ?

36683. Have you employed them in surface drains ?
—Sheep, draining, and closed drains.

36684. Have they any sheep ?

36685 Do they ever, besides the cows that they regularly keen, ask for additional grazing from you ?
—One of them did.

36686. What is the price which you or any farmer would ask for the privilege of summer grazing for a cow, from a cottar or labourer?
—It depends on the grazing that the cow or animal might be put on, whether low or high ground.

36687. We will suppose the cow went upon the high ground for summer grazing, what would the price be in this part of the country ?
—There has been no instance of that in my experience.

36688. Then upon the better pasture or low ground ?
—Nor upon the low ground either. This one cottar who had the one beast, I did not charge him anything.

36689. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—If these cottars of yours can find employment at 3s. a day here, would they be prohibited?

36690. They might go if they liked?

36691. They are not bound to work to you for 2s. if they can get better wages elsewhere ?
—No, except at clipping time.

36692. They are bound to work to you then ?
—Yes, and lambing time.

36693. The Chairman.
—You have no power to call upon them to work for you whenever you like?

36694. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Supposing the price of labour fell, do you feel you would be bound to give them the same wages all through your lease?
—No, I would not consider I was.

36695. If you could get cheaper labour elsewhere?

36696. Do you know why your sub-tenants did not come themselves today?
—No. They were quite at liberty to come.

36697. Do you think they felt themselves at liberty to come?
—I don't see why they should not.

36698. You are on perfectly good terms with them ?
—Yes, and always have been.

36699. What is the distance they would have had to come ?
—Thirteen or fourteen miles.

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