Lochaline, 11 August 1883 - John Cameron

JOHN CAMERON, Schoolmaster, Lochaline (52)—examined.

36700. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long have you been here?
—Eighteen years.

36701. You came as one of the General Assembly's teachers?

36702. Has there been any difference in the population since then ?

36703. In what respect ?
—The population is less now.

36704. Has that affected your labours as a schoolmaster?
—Not so much now because I am differently paid; I am better paid now than I was before, owing to the new Act it did not affect my emoluments, but it affects the number.

36705. What used to be your attendance when you came first ?
—The first year I have seen a weekly attendance of ninety-two —that is the highest weekly average I ever had.

36706. And now?
—Now the highest weekly average will be about thirty.

36707. And is that as good an attendance as can be expected under the regulations of the new Education Act?
—Not quite so good.

36708. If all the children were attending, how many would you have ?
—Probably an average of twenty-seven on the year.

36709. But a weekly average ?
—Thirty-five or thirty-seven.

36710. Do you know exactly the decrease of the population since you came ?
—I could not exactly say.

36711. Have many families gone away since you came?

36712. Did they go all at one time, or has it been gradual?
—A good many went away at one time, as far as I recollect, and a number came to the village, and those who could not be accommodated there went somewhere else.

36713. How long ago was that—I suppose the removal we have heard of?

36714. Did you know those people before they were removed?
—No, it was the year before I came.

36715. What were their circumstances when they were removed to the village ?
—I could not say, they did not appear altogether empty; indeed most of them had a little money, so far as I could understand, arising from the sale of their cattle. And some were better off; they had larger farms which they had left—twenty-eight pounders.

36716. I suppose the village has increased in size since then?
—There has not been a house built since that, so far as I recollect.

36717. And has the condition of the inhabitants of the village improved, or otherwise?
—I cannot say what it was previous to that.

36718. But within the last eighteen years ?
—I cannot see any difference.

36719. You don't think they are in a worse position?
—No, I don't.

36720. Do they all find employment?

36721. We have been told that there is a number of families who occupy one room; was that the case when you came first ?
—I am not aware of it.

36722. Were you sufficiently cognizant of the way in which they lived at that time to be able to tell us how they lived ?
—I could not say there was any more than one family in one room.

36723. And now are there not a good many?
—I cannot say there is more than one family in one room. There may be an exception; a young man may have married, and brought in his wife temporarily.

36724. I mean a whole family occupying one apartment; are not there many families in that condition ?
—A good many, I think.

36725. What is the cause that there are more in that position than there were when you came first; what has made it necessary?
—Because the houses have been allowed to fall into disrepair. The roofs are off the old houses.

36726. What kind of houses are they?
—The feuars' houses are fairly good; and those of the proprietor, the people have to make them decent themselves. They have to keep them up, I suppose, themselves.

36727. Are you personally acquainted with any of those in which a family occupies a single room ?
—Yes, I know a family or two who occupy one room. They have generally a room and a closet.

36728. Are there any vacant houses in the village?
—With the exception of one, I think not.

36729. Why is that one vacant ?
—Because it could not be let.

36730. Do you know to whom it belougs?
—Yes, it belongs to Mr M'Callum, writer, Tobermory.

36731. Is that the gentleman who appeared before us yesterday at Tobermory ?
—I don't know.

36732. Are there two writers of that name in Tobermory?
—I don't know.

36733. What rent does he charge for the house?
—I don't know; I know what he was asking.

36734. How much?
—£4, 10s

36735. For one room and closet ?
—That is what I understand.

36736. Then even in Lochaline that is considered rather too high a rent ?
—Yes, it is.

36737. Do the children attend fairly well at your school?

36738. Does the compulsory officer do his duty?
—We have no compulsory officer.

36739. Is there a sanitary officer?

36740. Does he do his duty ?
—So far as I know. That rests with the Board of Supervision.

36741. Do you know whether there has been any disease in the place arising from the people being crowded?
—No. There was a case or two of measles lately.

36742. Does the School Board of the parish look after your school to your satisfaction ?

36743. Of whom does it consist ?
—Colonel Cheape, Mr Gordon, Captain Shaw, Mr Elliot, and Mr Robertson.

36744. Do any of them visit the school occasionally ?

36745. How many other schools are there in the parish?

36746. Are they all placed in the most convenient situations?
— I think so.

36747. How many is your school fitted to accommodate?

36748. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You stated there has been a decrease in the population in your time; do you know what the condition of the population is to-day, such as remain, compared with what it was when you came ?
—Of the population at that time, there are very few now living, with the exception of some labourers.

36749. But is there more or less poverty now than there used to be?
—There are more paupers, I think.

36750. And those who are not paupers, are they better or worse fed and clothed than they used to be ?
—I think they are equally as well fed and better clothed. They may have been quite as substantial formerly, but they appear better clothed.

36751. And they are as well fed?
—-I think they are, so far as I am aware.

36752. How do you account for the increase in the number of paupers ?
—I admit that some of those poor people when they left their crofts were getting old and frail and a number of them came to the village, and they became objects of parochial relief.

36753. And you think, if they had retained their crofts, their friends might have supported them?
—Possibly so.

36754. At this present moment you are passing through a phase of pauperism which will disappear after a time ?
—Very soon, I believe.

36755. Professor Mackinnon.
—What part of the country do you belong to?
—To Ardgour.

36756. Do you know the condition of life in Lochaber ?

36757. And you were for a while in Caithness?

36758. Was there a crofting community in Berriedale ?

36759. Of the three districts where was the most comfortable and substantial set of people—crofters ?
—Ardgour in my time.

36760. The next?
—I cannot speak as to the crofters here before I came. I know no crofters in the parish, and can't say.

36761. Do you anticipate a greater decrease in the population in Morven ?
—I hope not

36762. You think it has reached a minimum ?
—I think it has taken a turn.

36763. And do you expect an increase ?
—I expect an increase on this particular estate.

36764. And that the progress will go on, and that the people will get better clad and fed in the future ?
—Yes, so far as labourers are concerned; I cannot speak as to crofters.

36765. It is as to the labourers you expect there will be an increase?

36766. You expect there will be more work and an increase of labourers ?
—Exactly so.

36767. We have heard of labourers sometimes, when they had steady wages, saying that they preferred to be crofters, even when they would scarcely have the same steady employment; do you think that is the feeling of the labourers here ?
—I believe it is.

36768. To what do you attribute that feeling?
—I cannot exactly say.

36769. But the feeling exists?
—So far as I am able to judge myself.

36770. I suppose you would not care to give your own opinion as to the relative merits of the two, whether you would sympathise with the feeling of the man who would prefer to be a less opulent crofter rather than a better paid labourer?
—I would not be inclined to do it.

36771. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said just now there was a prospect of more labour being had here, and stated pay to labourers?

36772. But is it not the fact that the class of paupers almost entirely springs from the labouring class when they got old ?
—I am not aware of that.

36773. What class do they generally come from, those on the roll ?
—I believe they come both from labourers and crofters.

36774. Do you know of any case of a crofter coming on the poors' roll who was allowed to retain his croft?
—No, I cannot charge my memory at present with it.

36775. I quite admit there may be people, once crofters, now paupers ?
—That is what I meant.

36776. As you have known the crofters in your early days in your own native district, and as you have known the family life of the labouring people here for the last twelve years or so, which would you consider the preferable condition of life in which to rear up a family ?
—I would like to know whether he was a crofter with four cows or one cow.

36777. Just as you know them?
—Two cows then—I would prefer a crofter in my own day with two cows to a labourer of the present time.

36778. The Chairman.
—You said you were satisfied with the management by the School Board—with your relations with the School Board ; but you were asked a question whether the members of the School Board ever visited the school except on official occasions; did I understand you to say that they never looked in ?
—They might have come in, but they have never visited me by surprise or in that way.

36779. But have individual members'of the School Board shown a kindly interest in the progress of the children ?
—Oh, yes, speaking to me they have done so.

36780. But have they come in to hear the lessons while the children were being taught ?
—Not in my school

36781. And yours is a public elementary school?

36782. Would you feel it an encouragement to you in your work if persons of superior station and official position occasionally looked in to see how you were getting on ?
—Not a bit.

36783. You don't want them?
—No; I endeavour to do my duty conscientiously, and I do not care whether they come or not.

36784. Are there any prizes given in the school?

36785. Nor is there any examination held excepting the examination of the Government inspector?
—None whatever.

36786. Neither in secular instruction nor in religion 9
—Not now.

36787. Do you think it would be any advantage to the children that there should be prizes given and a kindly extra examination ?
—I certainly do think that prizes should be given.

36788. You would not object to the members of School Board and others coming in order to give prizes ?
—By no means, the oftener the better.

36789. Perhaps I may have conveyed an erroneous impression to you in a previous question; I did not mean to ask whether you wanted other persons to come in to see how your own teaching was conducted ?
—That was the impression it made upon me.

36790. I meant to convey the impression, to see how the children were getting on and to show a kindly interest in their progress ?
—Certainly I do not object to that.

36791. What you would object to would be a critical inspection of your own method ?

36792. You would have no objection if members of the School Board and others endeavoured to encourage the children by giving prizes ?
—Not the slightest.

36793. Do you think that would be agreeable to the parents of the children ?
—Certainly, that is my impression.

36794. Is it ever done in this part of the country?
—It has not been done for the last ten or twelve years. It formerly was done when there was a Presbyterial examination.

36795. There was a more kindly interest taken in the schools in that direction ?
—Yes, every year.

36796. You are surrounded by proprietors here; do the proprietors not come in?
—At last examination there was Mr Sellar, M.P. for Haddington.

36797. Last year?
—Either last year or the year before. It was at the Government inspection he came.

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