Tiree, 7 August 1883 - Alexander Buchanan

ALEXANDER BUCHANAN, Surgeon, Tyree (46) —examined.

33692. Professor Mackinnon.
—How long have you been in the parish?
—Twenty-three years.

33693. I suppose you have charge of the neighbouring parish of Coll?
—I had for twenty years, but I gave it up two years ago.

33691. You know it almost as well as Tyree ?

33695. And I suppose you may state that your interest in the place is not that of medical officer entirely, but your relatives are connected with the district ?

33696. And have been for a long time back ?

33697. You have been continuously in Tyree for the last twenty-three years ?
—I have.

33698. And you know the condition of the people thoroughly well?
—Pretty well.

33699. You have heard the evidence that they gave here to-day ?
—I have since you resumed after lunch.

33700. The outcome of it is that perhaps some time before you came to the place, and also since you came to the place, there has been a good deal of consolidation of small crofts into big farms, that there has been a raising of the rents, and that there is a large number of people in the island without land at all ?
—Not since I came. There have been only two farms cleared since I came —Scaranish and another.

33701. The tradition of clearances was quite fresh when you came?

33702. So that the evidence led in that respect was quite true ?
—Quite true.

33703. Would you like to say whether you know that the rents have been increased?
—They have not been much increased since I came, except in some isolated cases.

33704. But before you came there was an increase?
—There was an increase before I came.

33705. And you are quite aware that there is a large number of people in the island without any land ?
—I am.

33706. What is the condition of this cottar class that are without any land at all, are they very poorly off ?
—A great number of them are poorly off, and some are as well off as the crofter class.

33707. I suppose those who have strong young families are well off?

33708. And those who have no strong men are just not so well off ?
—They are badly off.

33709. What is the general condition of those of the crofter class whose rents are £12 to £15 ; are they in such circumstances that they are able to carry on from year to year, and perhaps stand a bad year ?
—The crofters who pay £15 are not so well off as those paying above that sum; but where they have families in the south they support them, and some of them are pretty well off. Of course, their crofts are not able to pay their rents as well as crofts say of £25 or £30.

33710. As rents go in the place, what kind of croft—what rent —do you think would be the minimum upon which a crofter could live fairly just now ?

33711. And what would be about the size of that croft?
—Say about thirty-two acres or so.

33712. And what would his stock be?
—Two horses, eight to ten cows, and some sheep.

33713. They complain that they have no sheep, and that the outrun was taken from them ; do you think that is a reasonable grievance?
—No ; because they would quarrel among themselves with sheep in their outruns. That has been the case as far as I can see.

33714. Do the cottar class live mainly by fishing?
—A number do; but a number have families in the south, at sea, or working as agricultural labourers, and they send them home money from the south to support their parents. There is a good many of that class in the island.

33715. Are there many able to make a living by fishing off the shore ?

33716. And do you think, if they had good shelter for their boats, as the last witness spoke of, a greater number would be able to make their living ?
—Certainly, and they would have larger boats.

33717. That is very much required ?
—It is.

33718. I suppose as boatmen at home and sailors away there is not the beat of them ?
—-They are really very good.

33719. They are strong men ?

33720. I suppose with respect to their physical condition you would say they are very strong men ?
—They compare favourably with any of the other islands as regards physical condition.

33721. And healthy ?
—Yes, averagely healthy.

33722. Do you draw any distinction between the crofter and cottar class in respect of their physical condition?
—Yes, I do as to the children The cottar class children appear to be in want of milk a good deal as compared with the crofter class.

33723. And I suppose that would tell in the future?
—Of course.

33724. There are a large number of them whose crofts are less than £20, and they would all wish to make them of reasonable size; is there sufficient land in the place to supply those people with land, and still not break down large farms ?
—There is not; but if they had a large outrun for cattle, they could cultivate their crofts.

33725. And is there such a large outrun in the place ?
—There is not a large outrun vacant, as far as I am aware.

33726. What would be your own opinion with respect to the amount of the estate under large tracts and the amount under a large population of crofters—whether there is really too much of it under the large tacks ?
—According to the population, there is at present.

33727. The farms are not so very large in this district as they are in others; what is about the rent of the biggest farm in the place ?
—About £400.

33728. What is the rent of the smallest of the large farms ?
—I suppose about £98 or £100.

33729. And are there crofts at £30, £40, and £50 ?
—There are some crofts of £40 and £50.

33730. So that in that respect there is a fair gradation ?

33731. So that a large portion of the surface is under farms, under and over £100 rent?

33732. Do you think that if the people would get increased crofts in the event of a farm being out of lease, or the like of that, there are many in the place who could take a croft ?
—There are a few, but a large number would not be able to take them, —that is, without outside assistance.

33733. You speak about the present population of the place; of course you know that the place is not peopled to such an extent as it was forty or fifty years ago ?
—-No; there was then a population of something like 5000.

33734. Do you think it is still, considering its capacity, sufficiently peopled ?
—There is sufficient population for the land.

33735. Rather too much population than too little?
—Rather, to make a living.

33736. Even supposing that the land was more evenly distributed among them than it is now, would that still be the case ?
—It would be still the same.

33737. Has there been much emigration from the island since you came to it?
—Not much emigration to foreign parts.

33738. There was a great deal before you came?
—A great deal.

33739. And you have yourself been abroad?
—I have.

33740. Have you seen any of those people when you were abroad ?
—I saw one or two who had gone, but they had only newly gone.

33741. Have you heard often of the condition of those who emigrated long ago from relatives at home ?
—I have.

33742. What is their general condition ?
—Their condition is that they would not return, although they would get their land back again for nothing.

33743. You are quite convinced that those who went are better off than those who remained ?
—I am.

33744. Those who remained were not much improved in their condition by their neighbours going away?
—No; in fact, there was no improvement

33745. It was rather the other way they say ?

33746. Are you a member of the School Board ?
—I am.

33747. And have you been since the commencement?
—I have been since the passing of the Act.

33748. How is the Education Act administered in this island?

33749. Any complaints about children not going to school ?
—There is difficulty in getting them to go at certain times of the year.

33750. Are there a sufficient number of schools in the island for all the children in the place ?
—There is.

33751. Good schools?
—Yes, but there is one township complaining a little—at least there was a complaint—it was a Free Church school, and they wanted a board school, and there were some complaints, but the place was well enough supplied at the time, and we did not think it desirable to erect a board school in the meanwhile.

33752. We heard elsewhere that although children were perhaps taught more regularly now, and although a greater number got the elements of education, there were formerly better scholars ; what have you to say to
that in Tyree ?
—Tyree was well off as regards education before, because the Free Church sent students here regularly ; and they sent good men. And we have been so far fortunate in getting some good teachers since the passing of the Act, and I do not see much change.

33753. Are you able still out of the island to send young men to college ?
—We are.

33754. And do they take a good place after they go?

33755. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Has there been much poverty or distress this last winter in the island ?

33756. Did the potato crop fail?

33757. And notwithstanding that the people were able to find subsistence?
—Yes, they were able. Their friends assisted them from the south, and their families did not come home this year as they used to do. Some of them come home that have been serving in the south as agricultural labourers, but last year they did not come, and so were able to send more home.

33758. Is it common, except when they are in good circumstances, to come home at the end of the year?
—Yes, a number come in the winter time.

33759. And they remain away all winter when they are pushed ?
—Yes, a greater number remain now than when I came here first.

33760. Do you think those who get into the habit of remaining away all winter will absent themselves altogether when their parents die?
—They will.

33761. And in that way there will be a natural decrease of the population?
—There will.

33762. I observe in the report of Sir John M'Neill thirty years ago, it is stated by a number of people, including Independent and Established Church ministers I think, that 2000 would be a sufficient population for this island ; is that your population ?
—It is at present 2700—I would say it would carry about 2400 or so. If there was a decrease of 300, it would be enough.

33763. Do you think all cottars should be removed, and that crofters should receive larger holdings ?
—Certainly not.

33764. Would you give the crofters larger holdings?
—I would only increase the holdings of the crofters as one crofter died out —adding the one to the other.

33765. You would not break up the large farms ?
—I might where there was a very large farm.

33766. I think there are three tenants in the island who hold arable farms altogether, worth about £600 a piece ?

33767. Are these farms which you think might be judiciously reduced in size ?
—Some of them. Others could not very well be given to crofters, such as Hynish.

33768. If the people are tolerably well to do—and they look so—have they much ground for complaint, do you think ?
—They have ground for complaint for want of a proper harbour and want of small harbours for fishing.

33769. That, you think, is really the principal practical grievance ?
—I think so.

33770. Are those small harbours to be easily made?
—Not easily without a good deal of money, but they have never been tried.

33771. What do you call a good deal of outlay?
—Say for a principal harbour it would cost £8000 or £9000 to make a pier.

33772. But you would require subsidiary small harbours'?

33773. And they would cost a good deal of money too ?
—They would.

33774. In fact, you contemplate an outlay of not less £10,000?
—Not less than £16,000 or £ 17,000.

33775. Would that add very much to the prospects of the island?
—Certainly it would to the fishing and cottar class; they would get larger boats, and prosecute the fishing to a larger extent and go further out.

33776. There would be no direct profit from these piers ?
—The principal harbour would pay good interest, I have no doubt, upon the produce that leaves the island.

33777. It would not pay 3 per cent, on an outlay of £7000 or £8000, would it ?
—It would pay 2 per cent.

33778. On £7000 or £8000?
—-I think so.

33779. The Chairman.
—You mentioned that although there had not been many clearances or evictions, within your own recollection two farms had been cleared—did you mean two townships?
—Two townships.

33780. How long is it since these were cleared ?
—Eighteen or nineteen years ago.

33781. Was that during the tenure of the present Duke?

33782. Was there any particular reason for clearing those townships ?
—I suppose arrears of rent, that is the only reason I heard at the time.

33783. That there were long arrears of rent ?

33784. We have heard a great deal in the course of our inquiry, and very different opinions, upon the question whether the fishing industry can be best prosecuted by a separate class of people or by people associated with the crofting class. What is your opinion upon that question ?
—My opinion is that a fisherman could not prosecute his fishing successfully with a croft.

33785. Your opinion would be that if the fishing industry was established here upon a solid basis by the creation of convenient and safe harbours, then there might be a separation of the classes ?
—Yes, that is my opinion.

33786. But you don't think that there could be a separation of the classes until these improvements were carried out ?

33787. I do not wish to suggest that opinion to you —is that your own opinion ?
—It is my own opinion, but I believe that in a township where fishermen are, they would require a small outrun for a few grazing cows to give their families milk.

33788. You think every fisherman's family should have grazing for a cow ?
—Not every fisherman a cow, but that so many in a township should have cows, so that they would be able to get milk.

33789. You would have as many cows as families?
—No, just a few, that there should be plenty of milk in the place for their children.

33790. What is your idea of a fair rent per acre for arable ground in this island?
—Between 10s. and 12s.

33791. Do heads of families, apart from fishing, ever go to labour outside, or is it only the junior members ?
—--Only the junior members.

33792. In your recollection, do you observe any decline in the physical condition of the people ?
—No decline.

33793. Is the quality of the food improving ?
—A few more of the luxuries have crept in among them. Their food has changed a good deal. Now they have tea and coffee twice a day, instead of porridge and milk.

33794. Is the use of baker's bread increasing ?
—Yes, it is.

33795. Is the bread baked in the island ?

33796. Where is it imported from?
—Oban, Tobermory, Bunessan, Glasgow.

33797. Is the consumption of bread in that way increasing ?
—It is of late years.

33798. Is the consumption of wheaten flour for making wheaten scones increasing ?
—It is ; it was only lately imported here.

33799. Do you consider that the substitution of wheaten flour for oats and bailey is beneficial to the people, or is it indifferent ?
—My faith is in oats and barley as yet, because you cannot make wheaten bread into the forms that you can make oats and barley,

33800. Is there any disease in this island connected with poor dietary and bad lodgings ?
—No ; no cases of the sort, so far as I have seen. I have only seen one case of scurvy within the last ten years.

33801. Any remains of cutaneous disorders ?
—Oh yes, a good many cutaneous disorders.

33802. Is that associated with a peculiarity in the food ?
—Not, so far as I know ; only cases of infection, or local cases.

33803. Have you had any fever ?
—Not for a long time. The last fever was typhoid, seven or eight years ago—a little of it.

33804. When it occurred did you find it possible to isolate the cases ?

33805. How did you do it ; did you clear the house ?
—No, I said that no person must go near it.

33806. You did not place the individual cases in isolation ?
—No, we left them in their own houses, and when it was known that it was fever all the people kept away.

33807. But if it was typhoid it was not infectious ?
—Yes, it was infectious. I have found typhoid to be infectious.

33808. Have you had to treat typhus here at all ?
—No, not typhus.

33809. When the fever occurred did you find, on the part of the Parochial Board, every desire to afford people liberal assistance ?
—I did.

33810. Was any skilled nursing obtained for the people ?

33811. It was not necessary ?
—It was not necessary.

33812. You mentioned that the people in the last season had not returned as much as usual from the south; do you mean to say that individuals in families remained away at service for the specific purpose of assisting their parents ?
—I do.

33813. In consequence of the greater distress?
—Because they heard there was a failure of the potato crop here, they did not want to come home and burden their parents.

33814. You said it might still be useful that there should be a slight decrease in the population of the island ; if a decrease took place, and the ground vacated by the people was added to the larger farms, would it still be useful in that form—if when people emigrated the lands they occupied were added to the larger lands ?
—No. I would add them to the crofts.

33815. It would only be useful in the case of land vacated being specifically distributed amongst the crofters?
—That is what I mean. A crofter with forty or fifty acres is nearly as well off as a large farmer.

33816. Would you say, on a general review of the situation, that the management of the estate had been a liberal one, in reference, I mean, to a fair proportion of the rental having been spent in benevolent and useful
work in the island ?
—I would rather not answer that question.

33817. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In Sir John M'Neill's report, which is now thirty years old, it was stated that the population, which was
then 4000, might properly be reduced to 2000 ; but are you not aware that since that time the population has decreased very considerably ?
—I am.

33818. Is it also not the fact that a great deal of the land of the remaining population has been consolidated and added to large farms?
—Not since I came here, twenty years ago.

33819. I am speaking of the date of Sir John M'Neill's report ?
—Yes, it has been since that time, I think; but I can only speak from 1860.

33820. So that what Sir John M'Neill pointed to, in the matter of population being reduced, was not at all consistent with adding farm to farm, was it ?
—I do not understand quite.

33821. Was not the idea that must have been prevailing in the mind of Sir John M'Neill, or those whom he consulted, when suggesting that the population should be reduced, that the reduced population should have
the full benefit of the island of Tyree ?
—That would be the sense of it, I think ; that the island would support 2000.

33822. Would there be any use in reducing the population to 2000, or to the 2300 you suggest, unless the lands occupied by the population to be removed were to be given to the small people ?
—Certainly not.

33823. Can you instance any case within your own recollection, or have you heard, of any lands being added to the crofter class ?
—No, not that I am aware of.

33824. So then any pretence of saying that emigration is good for the country would be of no value unless it benefits those that remain behind ?
—No, certainly not.

33825. Supposing, for instance, that farm was to be added to large farm in the island of Tyree as people went away, you might reduce the population to twenty people ?
—You might.

33826. You state with regard to the food of the people that it has altered a good deal, and that, in place of the good old porridge and milk, tea and coffee have been introduced ?

33827. Whose fault is it that that food has changed ?
—It is no fault of the people, it is the good communication with the south—with the towns.

33828. In former times had not the most of the people land which was able to supply them with meal, and also cows to supply them with milk ?

33829. And therefore they took their own produce?

33830. But then, when their lands were diminished and their cows taken away, where could they get the meal or milk ?
—Supposing the lands were not there they gave the crop to the cows, and that got them tea and sugar and meal from the south.

33831. But don't you think the change is to be more attributed to the altered circumstances in which the people were placed by the deprivation of their lands than to any new-fangled idea of luxury ?
—No, I place it all to the communication with the south.

33832. How is it then that people in a better position in life are very fond of taking porridge and milk?
—Because times have changed. Gentlemen now have taken to porridge and milk, and the poorer classes
have taken to tea and coffee.

33833. It is merely a whim of fashion you think ?
—I think so.

33834. You were asked a question just now about the state of the island generally, and whether large sums or any sums of money had been spent in benevolent and philanthropic objects; is there anything spent directly for the benefit of the poorer people ?
—Not much that I am aware of; there may be a few things.

33835. Who is the representative of the Duke of Argyle in the island ?
—Mr M'Diarmid.

33836. Does everything centre in one gentleman locally ?

33837. Is there any society of any kind in the island whereby the crofter and cottar class, by coming in contact with them, might have their social position improved, and their ideas and views elevated; is there any
society in Tyree ?
—Not much.

33838. Are there any prizes offered for nice houses or gardens, or agricultural shows ?
—Yes, there are; the Duke gives in the summer for agricultural shows some £20 every year.

33839. That you can point to as one direct act ?

33840. Are you in favour of large properties with large populations, when the proprietor does not reside amongst his people?

33811. How often has the Duke of Argyll been in Tyree ?
—Lately, I think, he has been here every August

33812. Within the last four or five years, how long does he stay ?
—A day, or perhaps two days.

33843. Does he go about speaking to the people ?
—He does.

33844. Can you trace any benefit in the position of the people by his appearances here ?
—No, I see no change from his coming and going.

33845. What is the character of the people of Tyree generally ; is it a place where crime is comparatively unknown ?
—Crime is unknown. The people are quiet and peaceable.

33816. Do you yourself find satisfaction in going out and in among them ?
—I do ; I never get an uncivil word.

33817. About Coll; what population is there there now ?
—About 700 or 800.

33818. Are the people there in a comfortable condition ?
—As far as I know, they are; I hear no complaints.

33819. Are there any big farms upon it ?
—Yes, large farms, say about £500 rent. There is one farm of that extent, and others down from that to £45.

33850. Coll was the ancient heritage of a family named M'Lean?

33851. It was then purchased by John Lome Stewart, chamberlain for Argyle ?

33852. What did he do after he came to Coll?
—Commenced to improve it.

33853. What did he do with a lot of the people ?
—Of course, these things were before I came here. I suppose some of them were removed, or removed themselves ; I cannot say which.

33854. Did he not improve a great number of people off the face of Coll ?
—I am not aware of that.

33855. They were improved where ?
—They voluntarily left. By improvement I mean he built good houses and introduced dairy farming.

33856. Was it for the benefit of the people that he put them out, or his own convenience and comfort ?
—Both, I think; to make a little money and to bring Ayrshire farming perhaps into use there.

33857. And did the remaining people of Coll benefit by the dairy farm ?
—Do you mean the original people ?

33858. Yes ?
—No, not a great many, because they did not take kindly to it at first; they preferred Highland cows. .

33859. Where did Mr Lome Stewart come from ?

33860. Was he a Perthshire man originally ?
—I believe so.

33861. Is it his son who has the place now?
—Yes, and I hear no complaints.

33862. Is the population of Coll now much less than forty years ago ?
—It is.

33863. Do you know whether any notice was given to the people of Coll that the Commission was to sit here to-day ?
—I believe there was, but I don't know.

33864. What communication is there between Coll and Tobermory ?
—The same as there is here, by sailing ship and steamers once a week.

33865. When we came in to-day we came into a pretty creek where there is some appearance of a quay. It looks rather old. Can you give me any idea when it was built ?
—I don't know.

33866. Is it beyond the memory of man?
—I don't know.

33867. Has anything been laid out upon it?
—Oh, yes; it has been repaired by cement being put into the holes.

33868. Who did that ?
—The factor, I suppose.

33869. He did not put a new stone, do you think, into it ?
—There might have been, but it would be on the top.

33870. Do you know that the people have been petitioning about this matter of the harbour over and over again to the Duke of Argyle without effect ?
—I am not aware that they petitioned very often, but the place has been surveyed two or three times.

33871. Did they petition the House of Commons complaining that they had no proper harbour ?
—I am not aware of that.

33872. Profesor Mackinnon.
—You stated that there was no increase in the area over which the crofters' ground extended within your time, but I suppose there have been several instances of a croft being made larger ?
—Yes, individual crofts made larger.

33873. Then, with respect to Coll, I suppose there is no crofter, as we understand the term, upon the portion of Coll that constitutes Mr Stewart's estate ?
—There may be one or two, but that is all, under £30.

33874. All the crofters are still upon the east end portion with which you yourself are connected ?

33875. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who is proprietor of that part of the island ?
—My wife is.

33876. What is the property called ?

33877. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many crofters will there be on Cornaig under £30 ?
—Twelve or fourteen.

33878. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—These are the old people ?
—These are people who were removed from Mr Stewart's ground.

33879. Did your family take them on?
—My father-in law did.

33880. What was his name?
—Colin Campbell.

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