LACHLAN M'PHAIL, Farmer, Kilmoluag (50)—examined.
34100. The Chairman.
—How long have you been tenant in your present farm ?
34101. During that period has it always been the same size?
—Yes, an adjacent croft was added to it since that time.
34102. How large is it now?
—I cannot very well tell you the exact extent of arable ground. There was a good deal of arable ground once,
but the sand drifted and I gave up cultivating it, and I have it mostly under pasture now.
34103. Have you got hill pasture?
—All the grazing is enclosed—the whole land is enclosed, grazing and all. There was a strip that used to be
common pasture to the remaining crofters in the township, but it was a cause of difference between us, and it was valued and added to the rest and fenced in.
34104. Was your father or any member of your family a tenant there before ?
—No. myself and my brother had it at the beginning.
34105. Was the croft which was added to the farm of great use to the farm?
—No, it was not of much use to the farm or to me, and I did not ask it. But the marches suited to put them together.
34106. What became of the previous tenant of the croft?
—The tenant of it is still upon the croft. He had to give it up, for he had no stock and fell back. He gave it up of his own accord.
34107. Have you got a lease?
34108. What is your rent?
—£49, 3s. 6d.
34109. Has the rent been the same during the whole period of your occupancy ?
—Yes, the same.
34110. Do you find farming more profitable at present prices than when you began ?
—No, not so far as the arable cultivation is concerned, because we are subject to the drifting of sand on the place; but the grazing stock is more profitable now.
34111. A tenant was asked by Sir Kenneth Mackenzie what he thought the proper rent for a cow was, and he answered from 25s. to 30s. I want to know whether the cottars or the poor ever ask the farmers here for
the grazing of a cow for the summer or during the whole year?
—It is quite a common practice.
34112. How much do the cottars, where they graze a cow on a farm, pay for the grazing?
—The practice is to give the grazing for the six months of summer and autumn. It is not the practice to charge for winter grazing. And the price depends exactly on the condition of the outrun for the time being, whether the tenants keep a greater or less amount of stock upon it. Sometimes it is down to 7s., as this year, and sometimes it is as high as 16s. There is not, so far as I am aware, a single crofter in Tyree who would give pasture for a cow within what we call the ring fence, within the arable portion ; he might allow it to graze upon the outrun, but not to pasture within the croft.
34113. Then the price upon the outrun would run up to 17s. for six months?
—Seven shillings to 16s. for as much as a cow would pick up. It has sometimes been down to 5s.
34114. How does a cottar sustain his cow during the other six months of the year ?
—On the goodwill of his neighbours.
34115. Does he pay for the goodwill?
—I am not aware. The cow is allowed to feed as it may; as much as it can gather outside without any charge, but any hand feeding is paid for.
34116. Do you know how much a cottar would usually pay for winter fodder ?
—It is very difficult to say what the outlay of a cottar is; a cow would require, to be well fed, £4 but no cottar lays out that amount.
34117. Do you think he would lay out £ 3 for winter food?
—I really cannot tell; there is many a one I know who feeds a cow has not £ 3 to spare ; how he does it I don't know.
34118. Would it be any advantage to you to have a lease; or are you quite satisfied as you are?
—No, I am not dissatisfied. I have no fear that I will be dispossessed as long as I pay my rent.
34119. Were your houses and offices built by the proprietor or by yourself, or by both together ?
—The houses were built before I went there; but I believe they were built by the tenant, and that the proprietor had nothing to do with them.
34120. Did you pay the previous tenant anything for them?
34121. Then if you went away you would not expect to get any compensation?
—I really cannot say what may happen in the future, but that has been the practice of the place.
34122. There are no regulations on the estate for compensation for buildings ?
—I am not aware that there has been for small holdings like ours.
34123. Professor Mackinnon.
—Had your father a holding?
34124. What was his rent?
—£5. He lived in a different township.
34125. Do you remember any of your neighbours in this island at the time of the potato disease that had a large croft ?
—No, I don't remember any that had a very large holding; an ordinary croft.
34126. You remember perfectly well the time that has been spoken of to-day when the people were removed and went away to America ?
34127. Was it entirely of their own free will that those people went away ?
—So far as I know, many of them went away of their own free will.
34128. Did the whole of them go of their own free will?
—I am not aware.
34129. Are you aware that many of those who emigrated were in arrear of rent when they went away ?
—I believe some of them were in arrear. I know others went away and sold the croft. The phrase 'selling the croft' means of course selling the crops and the stock and the houses; but there is also something of the nature of goodwill that perhaps is rather difficult to explain—a sense of possession that grew. One would give more for the crops because he was to enter into possession of the land.
34130. You heard the things that were said to have been done under the management of the former factor?
—Yes, I heard, and I saw the men.
34131. Are you aware that there was great dissatisfaction with the management among the people ?
—Yes, I know that there was great dissatisfaction, but whether the cause of that might be justified of course
would be another matter. The people spoke of great dissatisfaction. I had no land at the time; I was young and without care, and did not take much heed of the matter.
34132. Were you aware of many people that were able to come well out the distress following the potato disease in Tyree ?
34133. And are there some of those in the place yet?
34134. And have they bigger holdings now than they had then?
—There are plenty of their descendants still in the place.
34135. There have been a good number of large farms made since that time ?
—They were made about that time.
34136. And do you think the people would have been better off if they had got the lands of the crofters who went away instead of these lands being turned into big farms ?
—I know that some of them would be very glad to have them anyhow, and would be able to take them. Others would not have been able to take them.
34137. Those who pay rent from £30 upwards like yourself, are they not in a better position than those who have the small crofts ?
—They are in a much better position.
34138. In a bad year like last year those people did not require assistance?
—Well, they are all present here, those who asked assistance last year. Each man can answer for himself in that respect, but I neither required nor asked for assistance.
34139. Between those who have laud and those who have not, are those who have no land much poorer than those who have ?
—Some of those who have no land are quite as well off as some of those who have. Some of them in the cottar class, with a trade or the like of that, are better off than the poorer of the crofter class.
34140. But take them class for class?
—Any person can understand which class is best off; of course it is the crofter class.
34141. And the bigger the croft the better he is off?
—The small crofter invariably says so.
34142. But does the big crofter say the opposite?
—Well, he would get the opportunity of having his choice pretty often if he did say it. It could be turned to a small croft any day if he pleased.