DONALD SINCLAIR, Cottar, Balphuil (40), assisted by ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL, Cottar, Balphuil (49)—examined.
34280. The Chairman.
—Would you please to make your statement?
— The principal grievances or hardships of which we have to complain are the following :
—The most/of us, and our fathers before us, had crofts, and without any reason being assigned they were taken from us. Our crofts were then added to the neighbouring sheep farm. We then had to build new houses at the shore, without any compensation for the houses left. The only means of living then left us was fishing, and owing to the want of a safe harbour we are unable to prosecute the fishing to any great extent. On that account we have only small boats which we must haul up every night so as to be out of danger. Again, our houses are nearly a mile distant from where our boats land, and that being the case we have many a time to go even at midnight to look after them. On coining from the fishing with these there is none at shore to render any assistance, as our homes are so far from the sort of quay we have. This again gives us great inconvenience when we go for meal, salt, or coals, with our boats to where the steamer lands, that is a distance of six or seven miles, and on coming back we have to pay dearly for a horse and cart to take such goods to our homes. The inconvenience would be great had it only been that; we have to carry the fish home on our backs. It may be mentioned that the Fisheries Board built a quay previous to cur crofts being added to the neighbouring sheep farm. It is at that quay, although in a very ruined condition, that our boats are still landing. There are no signs of said quay being repaired, although the proprietor promised to keep it in repair after the board built it. What we now want is a safe harbour, and our houses built near it, so that we could prosecute the fishing in a right style. We also want as much land as will enable us to keep a cow and plant some potatoes, for which we are willing to pay a reasonable rent.
34281. You say that the meal in the company's store is 8s. per bag higher—how much is the oatmeal at the company's store per boll ?
—It is over £ 2 per two bolls.
34282. How much would that be per boll ?
—£1 per boll.
34283. Is that higher than the current price in the country ?
34284. We have generally heard that the price of oatmeal is either over £ 1 or 21s. per boll?
—We do not get that kind of meal here.
34285. What is the chemical work of which you speak ?
—It is in connection with their work south—the manufacture of iodine.
34286. Are you employed at so much a day or per week in this work ?
—We do not know.
34287. Does the company never show you the account in which the value of your work is written down?
—The only way to know your wages is to go and ask for more provision, which usually consists of Indian meal, tea, and sugar, and the only account that is rendered is that you are told there is nothing to your credit.
34288. Does the company buy things as well as sell ?
—They take eggs in return for provisions.
34289. Do they take eggs from the families of the people whom they employ ?
—Yes, from any one.
34290. Do they pay for the things they buy ready money, or do they enter that into the account ?
—Goods in return for the eggs—goods only.
34291. You never got money from the company for your work or for the eggs or other commodities'?
—Well, we got occasionally Is. or 2s. to put half soles upon our shoes, or the like of that ; but we must tell what we want the shillings for before we get them.
34292. Have you ever complained of this system to the factor?
—No, but we complained to a member of the company who was here recently, either to give us more wages or to give us the meal at the current rate of the country.
34293. What did he say?
—His reason was that it would be so much money into his pocket if there were none of them working at all, implying thereby it was out of charity that he employed us at all.
34294. When did this company come into the country?
—About twenty years ago.
34295. Do they hold their storehouse and premises as tenants from the proprietor, or from some farmer or tacksman ?
—We understand that they hold direct from the proprietor, and pay him rent for the shores as well as for the land.
34296. You speak of working in gathering tangle or sea-weed; is this a new kind of work in the country ; was it introduced in connection with the company ?
—Yes; but the kelp was manufactured before that time, and when the kelp was being made in the country the proprietor bought it. We got £ 5 a ton for it
34297. But did you gather tangle in the same way at night ?
—They did not use the tangle for the manufacture of kelp at that time.
34298. Do you frequently gather the tangle in the middle of the night?
—Yes, I was at it myself; of course, we-must attend as the tide suits.
34299. Do the women and children work at night ?
34300. Do you really say that women and children occasionally at least go out at midnight to gather the tangle upon the shore ?
—Yes; my sister was a widow with three children, and she was out with me gathering those tangles at night. The night was so dark that if I did not see it I could feel it among the sea-ware.
34301. Was that in the winter?
—Yes, it is in the winter that we take it.
34302. How much is it possible to make by the day or week at this work—you named 4d. per yard ?
—I believe if there was a very strong young man and a very strong young man along with him they could both possibly make 2s. 6d. each in a day; but very often we can get none for weeks ; sometimes not for a month —sometimes only an armful.
34303. Did your sister's children work at this work at night with her ?
—Yes, her children were along with her; and that is customary all over the place, as the tide suits.
34304. Does the company sell coals ?
—Yes, it is always dearer than the current price of the country.
34305. (To Archibald Campbell).
—What is your case?
—In addition to what is stated in the paper, we think that if the quay in our place was put in order and kept up we might have larger boats, and might prosecute the fishing with greater success. We live a mile from the quay. We were removed at the time the nine crofters were cleared away, as was spoken about in the former part of the day. My father had one of those crofts. When my father lost the croft he was sent to a smithy that was in the place. He gave that croft to another man to crop it for the year. We had to begin to quarry stones and build the house for ourselves. We would not get a stone or a stick that belonged to the place when we left.
34306. Have you anything more to say on the part of the other people ?
— Yes, we think that if, in addition to the quay being put in order, we were removed down close to it, and got some bit of land with cow's grass, we could be able to make our living as fishermen.
34307. (To Donald Sinclair.)
—What do you pay for oatmeal at the company's store?
—About £1 the boll, more or less ; sometimes 19s., and sometimes a little over £1.
34308. How much would it cost if you bought it at a shop in the island ?
—Eighteen shillings sometimes ; sometimes higher.
34309. Then the two prices are very nearly the same ?