ALEXANDER M'LEAN, Crofter, Balmeanoch (73)—examined
33573. The Chairman.
—You have a statement to submit to the Commission ?
—I have. ' I, Alexander M'Lean (74), elder and crofter at Balameanoch, Tyree, humbly beg to bring before the Royal Commissioners the following facts and grievances, and crave their attention and consideration to the poor circumstances unto which I have been reduced through the ill-treatment I have received from time to time. About forty years ago I bought the first of my crofts for the'sum of £95 sterling, the yearly rental of which was at that time £6 sterling. I afterwards got possession of other two crofts, but for one of them I had to pay £5, and for the other £8, before I was allowed to take possession of them, these sums being equal to the yearly rental of the crofts. I held possession of the three crofts for a good number of years, and, although they were but small, having been together, I was able to live comfortably, and was perfectly satisfied. But a few years ago the last two mentioned crofts were taken from me, without either compensating me for improvements made, or even giving me back my own money which I paid for them, and this for the direct purpose of extending the ground of a stranger, who is not content by reducing me into my present poor circumstances, but who now uses all means to deprive me of my remaining one. The rent of my present croft is now £12, 11s . 6d., as compared with £6 thirty years ago, or upwards of £1 per acre of poor soil. I have
now so little land, and what I have is so dear, that I would be utterly unable to fight against poverty, were it not for the support I get from my children in the Lowlands. My prayer is that I should get back my two crofts, and that the rent of the other one should be reduced to the old standard; and were this prayer answered I would be perfectly content and fairly comfortable.
33574. What do you mean by saying that forty years ago you bought the first of your crofts for the sum of £95 sterling ?
—I bought it, as I stated, from the outgoing tenant. He went away to America at that time, and he had the right to sell the croft and everything that was upon it. There were two horses and one cow of stock, and there were the crops and houses; and when I valued the amount I paid him £95, and when I valued the amount of seed and labour that he expended upon the croft for that year and the houses, I considered I was over £40 out of pocket beyond the value of everything that I received.
33575. Did the sum of £95 include the cattle, horses, and growing crop ?
—Yes, it included the stock, crops, and houses.
33576. How much were the houses valued at?
—There was no valuation.
33577. How much did you count out of the whole £95 was for the houses and offices ?
—They were not much worth ; they were in a very backward condition, and I had to repair them and put them in order again, and I believe they were not worth as much as I expended in putting them in repair.
33578. The rest of the £95 was for stock?
33579. Why did you say you bought the croft for £95 sterling, when the money was for the purchase of stock on the croft ?
—I bought it in order to have a dwelling there, and that I should cultivate it myself afterwards.
33580. You got two other crofts; who did you get them from ?
—From the factor of the day.
33581. Who did they belong to before?
—It was other two men that had the crofts that I had before. One of them removed voluntarily to take up the croft his father possessed before, and the other one left, I don't know why or how.
33582. But you got them from two crofters?
—Yes, it was two crofters occupied that before.
33583. They were taken away from you and given to somebody else; who were they given to?
—They were given to the British Sea-weed Company.
33584. What use does the company make of the land ?
—They cultivate it.
33585. Is it the company that cultivates it, or has the company given the two crofts to two tenants, or to one tenant ?
—They keep it in their own hands.
33586. When the two crofts were taken away from you, you say you got no compensation for improvements. What improvements had you made?
—Well, I cultivated them; then they were drained; but they were drained at the factor's orders and his expense j but I paid interest all the time I was in possession of the crofts.
33587. Did you build any walls ?
—There were fences, and I kept them in repair.
33588. You say there is a stranger who is not content with reducing you to your present poor circumstances, but wishes to deprive you of your present croft. Who is this stranger?
—The manager of this seaweed company. He wanted to get the only one I have.
33589. How do you know that?
—The factor told me.
33590. When the manager asked the factor for the croft, what did the factor say ?
—I cannot tell that; I did not ask that.
33591 Do you think you are in any danger of losing your last croft?
—I cannot say very well. Of course, I did not know that I was in danger of losing those that I lost. But what I particularly wish now is to get them back again.
33592. But the people from whom you got them might come and ask to get them back again ?
—Well, they have another place.
33593. So have you?
—Oh, yes; but it is very small I consider it far too small. If it was large enough, I would not ask these crofts back.
33594. Lots four, five, six, seven, and eight are in the possession of the stranger. Do you mean the company?
33595. What use does the company make of those five lots ?
—They cultivate them.
33596. Are these five lots necessary for the trade of the company —for their business?
—They must have considered that themselves anyhow before they asked them or got them.
33597. What do you think?
—My opinion is that they might have done without them. Their allegation is that they required them in order
to feed the horses necessary for their work ; but they had two crofts before these, and they might have fed their horses upon these.
33598. Does the company do good to the people ?
—I believe in a sense they do some good, to some of the people at least. They employ some of the people; they keep a store, where they provide goods for the people.
33599. Do they give good wages ?
—The wages do not seem large, and the people complain of it.
33600. Do they ever give money, or do they always pay in goods ?
33601. What is the reason the company do not pay in money ?
—It is likely that they make profit off the goods, and that they prefer to give goods rather than money.
33602. Do the people complain that the goods are bad or dear ?
—They complain that they are dear.
33603. But is the quality of the goods good ?
—I believe they may be about as good as are going; but when they pay in money they only pay half. For a ton of kelp they only give £2 in ready money, but they give £4 worth of goods.
33604. If a man refused to accept the goods in payment, would he get any employment from the company, or would the company turn him off ?
—-I really cannot tell.
33605. This paper is all about your own case. What have you to say about the other crofters in Balmeanoch ?
—There is only one other tenant and myself and this company in the whole township. He has his two crofts still; he was not deprived of any of them; but I believe he complains of the high rent.
33606. Have you been deprived of any hill pasture ?
—No; the township has the old hill pasture.