Lochaline, 11 August 1883 - William Henderson Hardie

WILLIAM HENDERSON HARDIE, Managing Trustee on Lochaline Estate (51)—examined.

36491. The Chairman.
—Have you any statement you wish to make connected with anything that has occurred here to-day?
—Yes, I would like to make some explanations. With regard to the statement that was read on behalf of the crofters, I am perfectly certain it was worded in a way that no crofter in Morven would understand, and I take it for granted it must have been the production of Mr Macdonald who gave evidence last. He stated in connection with the property I have charge of that the people were summarily evicted. Now, I can give my testimony to the contrary. The people got notice that they would require to leave their holdings in March of 1865, but an arrangement was made with them that they would be allowed to retain their holdings not only till Whitsunday but to the year following, that they might have an opportunity of seeing what they could turn their attention to. Intimation was made in March 1865, and they were allowed to remain until 1866. With regard to stating that they got no compensation, their sheep stock was taken over by the proprietor at a valuation. The houses belonged to the proprietor, and it was understood that when one tenant entered a house it was valued for him, and any depreciation upon the house he had to make good; the house belonged altogether to the proprietor, so (hat they could not expect any compensation. One statement was made that the proprietor deprived them of the privilege of cutting peat. That, I am happy to state, I can deny. What was put a stop to, and what every proprietor would put a stop to, was the cutting of turf on the surface of the rock, baring the rock. But to this day they can cut peat to their heart's content, although certainly we will prohibit them cutting the turf and baring the ground. It was also stated—I do not know whether I heard correctly or not —but the impression was conveyed, as has been conveyed in letters which have appeared in the country newspapers —that the proprietor by the use of the crowbar and faggot turned people out of their houses, which is quite contrary to the fact. It was also stated that the ground now, compared with what it was when the crofters sat upon it, is comparatively useless; whereas if you turn to the valuation roll when the property was bought and the valuation roll as it now stands, it is now paying a taxation on several hundred pounds more. With regard to stating that the people are in poverty in this parish and badly off,' for this part of it I can say there is no district in Scotland where any man who is able to work is better off with regard to wages; and I think even if Mr Macdonald was here, if he was jimp of milk at his birth, he would get more than he had then. I may say that, after Mrs Paterson got possession of the property, she rebuilt workmen's houses and slated them; whereas formerly the most of the houses were dry-stone houses with turf roofs —thatched roofs. And since the property came into the possession of the trustees by Government order we have been able to build a pier at an expense of £3000, and a roadway which has cost above £700. We have also opened up a freestone quarry, and are offering feus to the public; and if there is anything which the Commissioners can recommend that the trustees can carry out we shall only be too glad.

36492. You first stated that the people were not summarily removed. I did not understand the expression of the word summarily to mean that they were instantly removed, or at the end of forty days, but that they were removed altogether against their will; however, whatever meaning the expression has, I understand the people were allowed upwards of one year to prepare themselves for the removal ?

36493. How many persons were removed with this warning of one year—how many heads of families ?
—I cannot say. I take for granted that what they say is correct.

36494. Were you acquainted with the country at that time yourself?

36495. Suppose there were about twenty heads of families, what was the object of this wholesale clearance of the people?
—So far as I can understand it was a disadvantage to a sheep farm to have little bits of corn expand where the sheep were all going round.

36496. Did it ever suggest itself to the minds of the managers or proprietors at that time that a fence might have been put up ?
—It might have been, but the buildings themselves were of so little value—none of those crofters' buildings were valued above £ 8 or £10.

36497. The reason of their removal was that their presence was inconvenient to the neighbouring sheep farmer ?
—Not only that, but they were not employing themselves in any occupation, such as fishing or that, to bring them in a livelihood.

36498. They were removed from their little farms in order that they might obtain profitable employment for themselves ?
—Those were not little farms, but crofts.

36499. What sort of average value do you suppose they were ?
—Between £3 and £4, I suppose, except one part of the property where there was a sort of club farm.

36500. Had they any hill pasture attached to them, those small crofts ?
—Not the small crofts. The club farm had the whole arable and hill ground too.

36501. You state that it was an erroneous statement to say they were removed without compensation, and the form of compensation which you say was given to them was that their stock was taken over at a valuation?
—I said that no compensation could be expected for the houses when they belonged to the proprietors.

36502. But you did state, as an advantage which was given to them, that their stock was taken over at a valuation ?
—The crofters had no stock except their cows.

36503. And it was taken over ?
—No, but I sold the sheep stock.

36504. But you do not state that as any form of compensation?

36505. Had they liberty to sell the sheep stock in any form they pleased ?

36506. You said they had no claim of compensation on account of the houses, but you also said that they were bound to make good to the proprietor any depreciation in the value of the houses which might occur during their tenure; did they on leaving their houses pay to the proprietor any compensation for injury to their houses?
—On looking over the comprisement book, I did not come upon any cases where the houses had been improved.

36507. I understood you to say that they were bound to pay the proprietor compensation for any depreciation of value the houses incurred while they were there ?

36508. Did they on leaving the place pay the proprietor any compensation on account of depreciation ?
—I say I did not see, in looking over the comprisement book, any improvement they made upon their houses.

36509. Did the proprietor build the houses originally?
—The houses belonged to the proprietor. I cannot say how they were originally built.

36510. You do not know whether it was by the proprietor or tenant?
—From any books I have seen that belonged to the former proprietor, I should say he gave money for them to build houses.

36511. But you did not find any evidence that the people who left paid the proprietor any indemnity or compensation for their own removal ?

36512. As I understand your statement, the people were removed for the benefit of the sheep farm, and you may say for the benefit of the estate ?
—And for the benefit of themselves.

36513. But the people were not made the judges of their own benefit?
—They were not asked in the first place.

36514. What I want to arrive at is this, the people were virtually and substantially removed for the benefit of the estate, in order that this sheep farm, or some other part of the estate, might be more profitably administered and held ; in removing the people did the proprietor, in consideration of their number and poverty, and the difficulty of obtaining other places, make them any allowance or gratuity ?
—Not to my knowledge.

36515. Do you know what became of them at all ?
—Some of them removed to Glasgow and other centres of industry, and some of them removed to the village here.

36516. You say the people were partly removed for their own benefit, in order that they might become more industrious, or have a profitable employment m the future, did the proprietor pursue these people with any
care in order to assist them in their future amelioration ?
—I am not aware.

36517. Those that settled here in the village, how were they dealt with ?
—There was abundance of employment for them.

36518. What was the nature of the employment given them at that time?
—I understand Mr Smith, Ardtornish, employed every man he could get in the neighbourhood.

36519. They wars maintained by the assistance of a neighbouring proprietor ?
—They were getting work from him, if they did not get it upon the property.

36520. With reference to the peat, it is stated, I have no doubt correctly, that they were not prevented cutting peats, but prevented cutting sods and spoiling the surface of the ground; have the people now convenient access to the fuel here ?
—Yes, as much as they ever had.

36521. Do they make any payment, or do they cut them freely?
—They make no payment, but there is very little peat used now.

36522. It is stated that workmen's houses have been rebuilt upon the place. We heard to-day something of the rents paid for houses here. What are these new houses which were rebuilt, do they belong to the class of thatched houses or are they slated ?
—These are not houses in the village, but houses used by shepherds and ploughman living on the property.

36523. The houses which have been rebuilt here were not rebuilt for the benefit of the class of persons evicted, but for the benefit of the dependants of the sheep farmers ?

36524. Bat there are a good number of cottages here, and some decent cottages ; have they not been rebuilt of late years ?
—No, there has been no house built in the village for several years.

36525-6. Are you acquainted with the rents which are taken in the village here on the part of the proprietor or feuars ?
—From 25s. in the village, to £3, I think.

36527. A pretty good cottage with two rooms and closet we were told would be rented for about £3, that would be a superior class ?
—There is no superior class in the village.

36528. You mean there is no superior class of cottage in the village ?

36529. But if there is a good substantial house with two rooms and closet, compared with the cottages we have been in the habit of seeing, that might be called almost a superior house ?
—The most of the thatched houses in the village are just one apartment, and are rented at 25s. to 30s. a year.

36530. By one apartment do you mean really one room or a room divided by some sort of partition Ì
—Just one room.

36531. Are there many families living in a house really of one room ?
—One family.

36532. But is it a common thing?

36533. Without a loft over the room ?
—Without a loft.

36534. It was also stated to-day that there were in some houses single rooms let to families; are you aware of any house in which there is more than one family living in a room?
—No; I know some of the villagers at present have lodgers.

36535. They take in lodgers ?

36536. Would they take in lodgers in a single room ?

36537. You mean that a family occupying a single room take in lodgers besides ?
—I believe some of them do.

36538. Have you any idea what they charge ?
—No, I never needed to inquire.

36539. These are not, I suppose, houses belonging to the estate?
—Yes, but we have nothing to do with them doing that.

36540. Is there any supervision or estate regulation about taking in lodgers ?

36541. We heard to-day that as much as £ 3 was given per annum for a single room ?
—In one of the slated houses.

36542. But that was not stated to be on the estate?
—The trustees bought it ; it was in the market, and the trustees bought it.

36543. And hold it ?
— Yes.

36544. Without any control as to the number of persons or families occupying it ?

36545. Turning to a more agreeable subject; would you tell us about the pier which has been constructed at an expense of £3000? Constructed by the proprietor?

36546. And, with reference to the class of persons employed in building, it gave, I suppose, employment to the local people ?

36547. As well as to skilled labour ?

36548. With what view was this large outlay particularly made—what trade is it to serve ?
—It was a great disadvantage shipping the stock of this district. It had to be travelled to Corran.

36549. Then it has reference to general trade, export and import, not particularly to fishing ?
—There are no fishermen living here ; the people never devoted any of their attention to fishing.

36550. There are charges taken at the pier?
—Yes, by sanction of the Board of Trade.

36551. Is there any hope that there will be a remunerative return for this large outlay ?
—We look to that in the way of developing the estate, and if feus are taken up it will help to give a return for the money. The pier has been let for three years, and it gives about 2 per cent, of a return.

36552. And with the hope of a better return ?
—I should hope so.

36553. What is chiefly exported from here—did you say stock?
—Stock and wool.

36554. Cattle ?

36555. And increasing ?

36556. You mentioned roads; have there been roads created in the vicinity and on the estate at the expense of the proprietor ?
—Yes, there was a road made to the pier at an expense of about £700.

36557. Available for the general use of the people?

36558. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—You mentioned a comprisement book in which there was entered the value of the houses occupied by the crofters who were leaving ?

36559. Was that value entered in the view of giving them compensation if they improved their houses as well as of making them keep them up to the point ?

36560. Do you know if they ever got any compensation for improving their houses—do the books show it ?
—The books show that very rarely, if ever. I do not recollect of an addition to the value of a place which had
been made during the holding —to the house; a few shillings generally for a broken window or injured door.

36561. Were the houses valued when the people went away?

36562. And the value compared with the entries in the comprisement book ?

36563. Do you know how they stood ?
—The comprisement book was in the management of the former proprietor.

36564. And how did the valuations stand when the parties went away—were they less or more?
—They averaged from £7 to £10.

36565. But compared with the entries in the comprisement book, did the valuations vary at all at the time when the people were removed ?
—I said they averaged from £7 to £ 10 in the comprisement book.

36566. Is that the old value taken over from the old proprietor or the entry made at the time of the removal ?
—The old proprietor.

36567. They were valued at the time of the people's removal again?
—No such system was carried out by the present proprietor. But that was to show that the houses entirely belonged to the proprietor, even in the time of the firmer proprietor. There is another thing I wish to state,
that wherever there is labour required for a property, crofter labour is of less value than the labour of parties living solely by week's wages, for this reason, that at the time their services are of the most value to the
employer they require to leave to go to attend to their own crofts ; it makes an immense difference to an employer of labour that he can command the labour at the time when it is of most value for his purposes.
And another thing, within the last twenty or thirty years there has been so much improvement made in working land with regard to even cutting hay or corn, or gathering it in, with horse rakes and so on, that the great advantage is to economise hand labour and make use of implements to lessen the cost as far as possible of working the land.

36568. Professor Mackinnon.
—How long was the estate in the hands of the present family before these clearances were made ?
—It was bought in 1863, and they left in 1866.

36569. And even although the people remained on the estate, there was no work carried on by the proprietor at the time to occupy them ?
—I cannot speak of what work was carried on.

36570. Has your statement that the labour of a common labourer is of more value than the labour of a crofter, any point with reference to the administration of the estate ?
—I am stating what I find in my experience :n working here and the labour I employ.

36571. I wanted to know whether it had reference to the past?

36572. It did not enter as part of the theory of clearing the crofters out?
—I am not concerned with that, and cannot state anything connected with it.

36573. But as matter of fact, there was.little or no work to employ these men ?
—They could not have been in want of work, for there is no party who has lived in that village for, I may say, thirty years that ever needs to lose a day's work.

36574. From the proprietor of the estate?
—Of this estate or the adjoining estate. You perhaps may not understand sufficiently that there are no houses except a few that were built by Mr Smith from which he could get his labour except from this side of the loch.

36575. The people who were removed from this estate, those of them that remained in this place,—was there after they were removed, in the years immediately succeeding, work provided for them on the estate itself?
—I cannot state anything about that.

36576. Do you know the amount of work which was being carried on on the estate at the time ?
—I cannot say; I was not acquainted with the estate.

36577. So far as you know then, they might or might not be employed upon the estate ?
—They might.

36578. You stated that the places from which they were removed are paying hundreds of pounds of rent now more than they were before; are you able to give us the rents of the dispossessed crofters ?
—You will find it in the valuation roll for 1865.

36579. You are not able to give it ?
—I could get it from the valuation roll.

36580. And was it after making a comparison between that and the actual rent paid by this ground now that you made the statement ?

36581. It is paying now hundreds of pounds more?
—Yes, about £300.

36582. Have you any idea of the rent paid before?
—About £2130.

36583. And it is paying now £300 more?

36584. That is 27 per cent, or so in seventeen years; do you think the rents of the large farms has not increased above 26 or 27 per cent. ?
—Perhaps they may, and perhaps they have increased to an extent that they have not been paying the occupants, as I know has been too often the case within the last ten or twelve years.

36585. Do you think it would be unreasonable that, had the place been under crofters for the last seventeen years, the £300 additional might not have been realised from them ?
—I cannot say what improvements they might have made upon it within that time that would have raised it. It is merely a supposition one could make.

36586. You have no idea of the amount of money spent upon the ground, with buildings and everything else, within the last seventeen years?

36587. And you are not able to form an opinion whether, if the same amount of money was spent upon the ground, and if left in the hands of the crofters, it might not fairly have been expected to yield £300 more rent than seventeen years ago ?
—No, I cannot say. There is one thing I can say, the stock is of much more value now than it was then.

36588. Supposing that the same amount of money was spent upon it under a crofter population as was spent upon it within the last seventeen years, buildings, drains, and everything else, would it have been unreasonable to look for £300 of rise on a rent of £1100?
—I cannot form an opinion upon that.

36589. What was your reason for saying that the ground now was worth £300 more ?
—The statement said that the ground was in a worse state now than then.

36590. You don't know the general rise of rent in that number of years ?

36591. Of the one-roomed houses in the village some belonged to the estate and some to feuars ?

36592. And houses of one apartment are let by the estate and by feuars ?

36593. And in some of those let by the estate, a family who has only one apartment is allowed to sublet to a lodger ?
—No restriction.

36594. Is there any great competition for those one-roomed houses when one of them becomes vacant ?
—I think there is a demand for rooms in a slated house much more than in a thatched house. Parties always ask whether they can get a room in a slated house.

36595. With respect to houses which the crofters possessed, you stated that in the comprisement book they were entered at from £7 to £10 when the estate was bought ?

36596. I suppose the estate was throughout in the hands of the proprietor between this time and the dispossession —that there was no change of tenant in auy of these places ?
—I cannot say as to that.

36597. You don't know of a second value being put upon a house?

36598. Was the tenant taken bound to keep up the house always ?
—Yes, he had to leave it in the same condition that he got it—pay the depreciation of it.

36599. Of that thatched house?

36600. Built without lime ?
—I am talking about the things conducted by the former proprietor, not under the present management.

36601. But were these arrangements practicable?
—Their houses are very difficult to keep up.

36602. Could a man keep up without depreciation a thatched house of dry stone walls ?
—It is quite possible to keep it up, if he bestowed enough of labour upon it.

36603. So that it would never grow old or fall ?
—Well, if he required wood for the support of it they would require to renew it.

36604 Would it not require sometimes to be rebuilt ?
—I never heard of them having been rebuilt.

36605. Perhaps because you had experience for only three years?
—I never heard of them being rebuilt when in the hands of the former proprietor, and I have looked over the comprisement book for thirty or forty years.

36606. Do you think it would have been entered ?
—Yes, he was a very particular man—even a broken window was entered.

36607. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Would you tell us how long the estate is to remain in trust ?
—I think that is a question no person has anything to do with

36608. My object is with regard to a resident proprietor; that is more advantageous than for it to be in the hand of trustees ?
—The proprietor is resident—the principal proprietrix is resident. We are managing the estate for the beneficiaries, and they live here.

36609. The proprietrix is living here?
—One of the proprietresses.

36610. It does not appear who she is, that is why I ask?
—The trustees are the proprietors.

36611. You do not feel at liberty to mention how long it will be under trust ?
—How can I tell the thing I don't know, and no one in the world knows ? It depends upon contingencies.

36612. You have given us a full and frank statement about the estate so far as you know it; have you ever heard the statement made with regard to property, ' I can do what I like with my own’ ?
—Yes, but I don't believe that.

36613. Have you heard the other statement that property has its duties as well as its rights?

36614. And which of these do you go upon?
—Property has its duties as well as its rights.

36615. I may take it for granted in this case that the rights of property were exercised when these people were put away?

36616. Take the alternative now; what in the nature of duty was done by the estate for those people?
—I tell you I can give no information about it further than I have done.

36617. Is there any use in beating about the bush; is it not the fact that those people were removed solely and entirely because they were in the way of sheep ?
—Certainly not.

36618. If not, what other reason was there?
—It would have entailed very considerable expenditure upon the proprietor to have built houses and put up fencing to have carried out any system of farming.

36619. That is what I say, the people were in the way. The proprietrix did not choose to spend that money, and therefore they must go and make room for the sheep; is not that so ?
—I have given you all the facts I can.

36620. You stated, in answer to his Lordship in the chair, that it was to some extent for the benefit of the people themselves, that they might be more regular and more industrious in their work ; might I ask you what particular occupation in the world was pointed at by those in charge of the estate at the time that those people should turn their attention to ?
—I cannot give you information that I do not possess myself.

36621. If the estate wished to benefit them and turn them into fishermen, did they provide them with any accommodation to pursue that calling, or did they give them anything to do whereby they could exist
upon the estate ?
—I do not understand how you are continually putting questions to me which I cannot answer. I do not possess the information.

36622. I do not wish to press you unduly, but you yourself have volunteered to come forward and give explanations ?
—And I have given you all the explanations I possibly can.

36623. But I am afraid you must answer some questions. If you cannot answer them that is enough. Practically, was not the effect of the removal of those people off the estate to relieve the estate of their support and maintenance in all time coming?
—It would not have been a burden upon the estate any more than upon the rest of the parish.

36624. Is that your answer to my question ? If you find a person go on some years following a certain profession, the pursuit of agriculture in their own way, and you of a sudden put a stop to that which they have been accustomed to, what is the result with these people ; can they at one moment turn their attention to another profession?
—I was not aware those crofters had a profession.

36625. Had not they the profession of agriculture ?
—I was not aware they had land in their possession except a garden and a cow's grass. I don't know what profession you call that.

36626. They said themselves they were happy and contented with their lot and made a living ?
—They were always that, and yet periodically they were in great destitution, and every now and again, as Dr Macleod told me himself, subscriptions had to be got up to assist them.

36627. And that being the case, the estate thought the best thing for them would be to deprive them of what they had ?
—I cannot say what the proprietor then thought. I am merely giving you the information I have. I cannot state what the proprietor thought when I was not made aware of it.

36628. The rental of the estate has increased, has it not ?

36629. The people have been swept away, is that not so ?
—I hear.

36630. The people have been swept away ?
—There is some of them in existence yet; you have seen them.

36631. They have been swept off the estate?
—There are some of them hailing from Lochaline village yet. You have had delegates here living in that village ; they are there yet.

36632. Living in that village?
—I don't know where you have swept them away to, but there are some of them there still.

36633. Was it for the benefit of the crofter people that the pier was built ?
—It is for the benefit of the whole district. It was urgently called for.

36634. By the owners of sheep and cattle?
—By any party who had to land in a small boat.

36635. Was not it in reality just a mere pecuniary speculation for the estate ; you thought you might get feus let, and draw dues ?
—If you think it a good speculation, 2 per cent, for some years, I don't know, but I believe that ultimately it will be advantageous both for the estate and district.

36636. Have you been getting any feus taken off?

36637. What rate do you charge ?
—Various rates.

36638. Is it per acre or foot ?
—There is no sum stated ; no hard and fast line.

36639. You have heard some of the delegates state that they would like to get some of the land back ?
—Every one does that.

36640. Have you thought of the propriety of indulging them in any way in that light ?
—So far as I have got the management of the property, I have to carry out the system that is being carried out.

36641. That is, matters must be carried out on the policy previously laid down ?
—I could not think of encumbering the estate by raising money that might not prove remunerative, and for which trustees might be called in question. Trustees cannot act in the same way as an individual proprietor.

36642. That is exactly why I wanted to know how long the trust might subsist ?
—Well, if you or any other gentleman were to offer a good price for the property, we might bring the trust to a termination before long.

36643. It can be sold?

36644. You stated you had some conversation with the late Dr Macleod, minister of the parish, in regard to the people ?

36645. How long is it since you have been resident here ?
—Two years ; but I have been acquainted with the district for a good many years.

36646. Did Dr Macleod ever remonstrate or express any regret that the people generally in this parish had been removed ?
—All ministers must take an interest in keeping their flocks together.

36647. I am afraid the flocks you look after are not men ?
—I think I take as much interest in my workpeople as airy farmer or proprietor has ever done.

36648. Are the quarries likely to give steady employment to the workpeople?
—They certainly are, and I hope they will be developed and give employment to a great many more.

36649. How long are these open ?
—This season.

36650. Do they look as if they were to carry out well ?
—Yes ; it is the best and only stone in the district.

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