JOHN M'CALLUM, Solicitor, Tobermory (62)—examined.
35395. The Chairman.
—Do you appear as a delegate from the people of Tobermory ?
35396. Have you a written statement which you desire to put in ?
35397. Would you have the kindness to read it?
—'Statement by John M'Callum, Solicitor, Tobermory.
The estate of Tobermory, formerly the settlement of the Society for Extending the Fisheries and improving the Sea Coasts of the Kingdom, was commenced and established in 1789, and sold by the Society in 1842 to David Nairne, Esq. Of Drumkelbo, who purchased it and the estate of Aros at about £33,000 ; and by him in 1845 at the same price to Alexander Crawford, Esq. of Aros; and by his heirs in 1856 at the same price to Farquhar Campbell, Esq. of Aros ; and by him in 1874 to Alexander Allan, Esq. of Aros, the present proprietor, at £98,000. The estate of Aros, belonging originally to the late Hugh M'Lean, Esq. of Coll, marched with Tobermory; and he was the first landlord that coveted the privileges of the settlers by getting the Society's factor to advise them to sell him a large portion of the hill grazing to add to his domain of Drumfin, modernly called Aros House, valued at the grazing of twelve cows, for which he agreed to pay £12 a year to the Society. This was done against the remonstrance and resistance of the settlers, who turned off the men who were sent to form the marches of this acquisition. The estate was laid out and planned by the Society to accommodate sixty settlers, who came and settled there from the adjoining district with from eight to twelve acres of reclaimable land for crops at from 3s. to 7s. 6d. per acre, the grazing of two cows on the hill or moor at 5s. each, and a horse at 20s., with building ground in the village for dwelling house and offices at 6d. per foot of frontage in lower village, and Id. or 2d. per foot in upper village, and back garden and right to cut peat in the mosses at 2s. 6d. per year, as the copy printed regulations produced will instruct. (I can lay one of these printed regulations before the Commissioners). About the year 1828 the most of all the lots were taken up; and a number of additional parties wishing to settle there, the Society, against the advice of their factor, Mr Maxwell—instead of taking lots for these off the hill, taking advantage of the clause in the lease reserving-to the Society the right of subdividing—resolved on dividing the existing crofts into two. At this time the Society owned the island of Calve covering the harbour of Tobermory, and was given out in crofts to the settlers, the latter having right to cut the sea-ware thereon for 2s. 6d. annually; but Mr 31 Lean of Coll, the proprietor then of the Aros estate, also acquired the island from the Society, and let it to one tenant for £45 yearly. The rent now is £100 yearly. Till about the year 1840 they had one hundred and twenty crofts in Tobermory, with the privileges in the hill subdivided also; and when more settlers applied after 1840 the agents were instructed to leave the settlement intact, and grant no more lots to settlers. Shortly after the Society sold the estate in 1843, Mr Nairne, the purchaser, sold his highly improved estate of Drumkelbo in Forfarshire, aud bought Aros and Tobermory, to try his agricultural experiments on them. The price had to be borrowed, as the heir to the purchaser of Drumkelbo disputed. The purchaser did not pay, and they entered in litigation in the House of Lords, brought down a civil engineer of the name of Blackadder to value the crops, instead of a valuator acquainted with the usages of the country and value of its land for grazing, &c. He raised the rent of the croft lands from 3s. to 7s. 6d. per acre to 20s. and upwards per acre ; and of the croft land of about ten acres held by me for £4, 9s. to £13, 5s. of rent. Mr Nairne besides stipulated that I should pay the 6.} per cent, payable by him to Government in payment of capital interest in twenty one years, —I considered it rather hard that I should have to submit; I had an affection for the croft; I am a crofter's son, and I was a crofter, and my heart was in it ; and from affection I was induced to adhere to it, —alleging that the more rent crofters were made to pay, the better they would work; and as the settlers held on leases of thirty years or a life rent which had expired, they were advised that the law would not protect them in possession at the old rent. Though it was a hopeless undertaking, some of them remained and submitted, but the most of them had to quit, in consequence of the exorbitant rents, the croft lands which had been reclaimed off the hill and brought into cultivation, and fenced and dyked by themselves without any compensation, the dykes being still standing. Mr Nairne attempted to meddle with their grazing on the hill or common, but this privilege being in connection with their tacks of their building ground of ninety nine years, renewable for ever on payment of a year's rent, the settlers turned their cows on to the hill, when he drove them off, and latterly he desisted from interfering with them. He, however, fenced that portion of the hill and moss below the public road lying between the croft land and the old lodge, which he used for his own purposes, and attempted to erect a sod dyke round a portion of the hill next the Baliscate crofts. There is a clause which had a great effect in the action, a clause of reservation to the Society—that is that in certain events they would be allowed to take the hill for certain purposes —that is improvement. We considered that, and I think every unprejudiced person considered it would be impossible for a locality such as this, which has now become an important town ; but instead of that we were quite disappointed in our action before their Lordships in the Court of Session. Their Lordships believed that if a man merely put a fence round a portion of a hill for sheep, that was an improvement. We did not consider that an improvement. Sheep were not contemplated when these regulations were made ; and we were disappointed with ourselves and the Court of Session ; and now we are before your Lordship and the Commissioners. But a settler of the name of Peggy Macdougall succeeded in getting the workmen to cease the erection. He also evicted crofters at Scribruadh near the Poors' House, and converted these into a farm for his friend, a Forfarshire innkeeper of the name of Mr Petrie, to whom he let the Mull Hotel here. There were perhaps about twenty crofters evicted to accommodate this lady, who was a favourite. When the estate was sold to Mr Crawford in 1848, this gentleman considered that the settlers had as good a right to their croft lands and grazings, (fee. as he had himself, and indeed granted feu rights to some of them with these privileges ; and if all the settlers had been properly alive to their interests, they should have taken titles from him. Mr Crawford allowed 20 per cent, down of the rent assessed by Mr Nairne and his engineer Blackadder. Captain Hugh M'Lean and one Duncan Cameron were the only two who availed themselves of Mr Crawford's lenient proprietorship. Captain Campbell, in 1856, became the purchaser, and carried on the letting as left by Mr Crawford, only he was advised, as he told a committee of the settlers who waited upon him as to the hill grazing, that he had the best legal advice in Scotland and England that he had a legal right to the hill grazings, and that he would act up to that advice, and the settlers should act up to theirs; and at the close of the interview the agent for the settlers expressed regret that he and his clients had to fight, but hoped they would be able to fight as civilly as they could. They were immediately served with sheriff summonses of removing, which were successfully defended on the plea of want of jurisdiction, the pursuer having been found liable in expenses. Then came a declarator and interdict against all the settlers, numbering upwards of one hundred and twenty defenders, termed " an army of martyrs " by their Edinburgh counsel, to have it declared that the lands of Tobermory and Baliscate were the property of the pursuer, so far as the defenders could not instruct a valid title to the same, the conclusions of which were latterly restricted to the question of cows grazing on the muir or common, and the right to cut peat in the mosses. I can produce the documents in the action if desired. The defenders, the most of whom had no written title, having by reference to the regulations and rental of accounts and descriptive rentals of the Society with the Act H49, cap. 18.' Precious Act!
35398. The Chairman.
—I understand this to be a memorial with which you are entrusted by certain parties of whom you are the delegate, and I accept it as such, but if you introduce a number of spontaneous remarks into it, you appear to me to vitiate and alter the character of the memorial. You will be at liberty, after finishing the memorial, to make any remarks you think proper. I may also say that I would advise you not to introduce any remarks reflecting upon any individual. I heard you a short time ago allude—although I did not perfectly understand
it—to a lady or a woman as a favourite ?
—Well, I think I was quite right.
35399. You may be right, but I beg you will avoid it, because I cannot allow any woman to be spoken of as the favourite of anybody ?
—I did not look upon her either as a man or as a woman ; but she was a favourite, in my opinion.
35400. It is not a question of your opinion, but of the Commissioners' opinion. Will you be good enough to continue reading the memorial ?
—I took every care I could, and I hope your Lordship will sympathise with me, because I was conducting this law plea twelve years, and cannot help having some feeling. But I think landlords are public persons, and I am
35401. I must stop you again. If you will give me the memorial I will read it myself ?
—I should be sorry to give your Lordship the trouble I will read it myself. ' The defenders, the most of whom had no written title, having by reference to the regulations and rental of accounts and descriptive rentals of the Society with the Act 1449, cap. 8, made out a valid right of lease to their building lots and privilege of cows grazing and peat cutting before the Inner House of the Court of Session, with expenses on an appeal from the Lord Ordinary, who decided against them. Captain Campbell appealed to the House of Lords, but their Lordships affirmed the decision of the Court of Session, with expenses. The settlers then thought that they would have been allowed to possess their grazing and cut their peats in peace, but they were mistaken, and they were obliged to raise an action of declarator and interdict against Captain Campbell to enable them to exercise these privileges. Their agent selected a representative pursuer, Donald Gillies, but shortly after the action was instituted Captain Campbell's local agents influenced Gillies to withdraw from the action. The settlers' agent got him to agree to repudiate this withdrawal, but Captain Campbell's agents got over him the second time, and the action was latterly prosecuted by a man of the name of Angus Henderson, settler in Tobermory, a seaman. The words of the tack are:—
Moreover the said and his foresaid shall have a right by his tack to pasture one cow during the summer months season, viz., from the 12th day of May to the 11th day of November inclusive yearly, on such parts of the said Society's muirlands as shall not be set off in lots for cultivation or enclosed and improved from time to time, subject to the power reserved by the Society in their minutes of the 22nd day of November 1792, for enclosing and improving the muir ground, and taking away the summer's grazing for cows in the events therein mentioned. Captain Campbell, the proprietor, had commenced and did enclose with a wire fence the best portion of the hill for sheep grazing, while the question was sub judice. This ground lies on this side of Lochnamian, which he afterwards drained of its waters, where the cows on common went to in the heat of the summer days. He further attempted to dyke and enclose the upper portion of the hill, where the settlers were in the habit of grazing their sixty horses; but having been interdicted, he did not proceed any distance with the dyke; and the Court of Session having interpreted the improving the muir to mean the fencing of it off for sheep grazing as Captain Campbell had done, and not the letting of it as agricultural lots to additional settlers, as the settlers construed it, and as the Society undoubtedly intended it, he was allowed so to fence off portions of it ; and his successor, Mr Allan, in the first year of his possession, finished and completed the dyke. Captain Campbell had commenced round the horse grazing and added it to his neighbouring farm of Lettermore, and added a greater portion of the hill to that fenced off by Captain Campbell, till the extent of grazing in the hill for the settlers at 5s. per cow is reduced to a mere nothing, and is indeed valueless, and let to all and sundry. The settlers are also deprived of their peats, and merely allowed to cut these at inconvenient places, wherever the landlord or his factor or manager or ground officer chooses to point out, and on this reduced portion of hill upwards of 120 cows graze. After the action was decided in the House of Lords, some of the settlers, against the advice of their agent, assembled and broke down the fences around the ground taking off their grazing on the hill by Captain Campbell. They were wrong in taking the law into their own hands, and on the evidence of the police officer before the sheriff substitute they, principally women, were convicted of rioting, though they did no rioting (unless the rejoicing over the fall of the fences and the freedom to their cattle could be called rioting), and sentenced to ten days' imprisonment. It must, however, not be forgotten that the offending settlers did not get the benefit of the fact that Captain Campbell had no right to erect these fences—particularly while the question was sub judice—and that it was an industrial settlement that was contemplated by the Society in their minute and not a sheep walk, the adaptation of Highland lands thereto and for deer, and high rents, having been of recent discovery or occurrence. The letting has, since the Society sold till to-day, been in a most dilapidated state. During Captain Campbell's reign there was only one feu granted in the village, and another for a combination poorhouse of about two acres for £24 yearly, the pastoral, not mentioning its agricultural, value of which in a most secluded, remote, and damp locality, would not be more than Is. 6d. or 2s. 6d. an acre; and for a court house on the top of a hill in the outskirts of the town, instead of being built in the centre of the lower village where the new Free Church has been transferred to by Mr Allan, the present proprietor, from its former site in Mr Caldwell's lands. The croft land is now let to " Tom, Dick, and Harry," at the exorbitant rent of 20s. and 30s. an acre and upwards, in numerous instances, being light Highland soil not worth more at best than from 7s. to 10s. per acre. What was very remarkable as to the original settlers in Tobermory was that from their having a small stake in the country as householders or proprietors, none of them have become chargeable to the Parochial Board as paupers, though one or two of them in late years have had to submit as they were deprived of there privileges; while there has been since the passing of the recent Poor Law Act a great influx of poor disabled cottars and others who were evicted from the neighbouring lands of Mull, Ulva, &c, that has tended to press hard on the original settlers and the Poor Law Boards. Previous to 1848, and the failure of the potato crop, and consequent introduction of the poorest of the country cottar population, Tobermory was a valuable nursery for seamen. Some of the houses of these original settlers having become almost valueless from having been stripped of their other privileges, are being bought up by the proprietor, rebuilt in cottages of two rooms, and let at a rent of £8 per annum—rather a heavy rent when the poor, road, police, burgh, and water rates are added thereto, or sold under a feu of 2s. per foot of frontage for the lot that only paid formerly Id. per foot of 30 feet frontage, or 2s. 6d. yearly. The first sale of property made by the present proprietor, Mr Allan, was the smithy and smith's house, both of one story, at Ledaig, with the bare ground on which it is built—a single house or run about 30 feet long —to the sister of the then smith, since deceased, who wished to secure it for her brother, the other smith, and who, according to the landlord's own purchase, had to pay for her whistle and affection for her father's bothy in the shape of £160 for the building (not worth more than the half or third of that sum), and 2s. per foot of 30 feet frontage or more, amounting to £4 or upwards of feu-duty for the ground. Should feuing and letting proceed at this rate the fanciful price of £98,000 may be recouped; but how this rate of feu is fairly to be paid is more than can be seen at present in a place without any trade or industry whatever except a distillery—if that can be called an industry. This proprietor, with the assistance of our police commissioners, of whom ho is chief, is constructing or has constructed an extensive water and drainage scheme, without even consulting or getting the consent of the rate-payers, at a cost of from £5000 to £6000 if not £7000, fully more than the original price of his estate of Tobermory altogether, with a view to make it a resort for summer tourists or others in search of health from our centres of population; but how far this may succeed is quite problematical. One thing that will be accomplished by the drainage scheme is that the soil from it will find its way to the only bathing ground we have, if it does not return to the village again; while there was not a better drained place than Tobermory before, with a superabundant supply of the finest spring water from innumerable springs, if these drains and springs were kept properly. Several of these wells used by the inhabitants have had their waters sunk into the new drainage pipes. Tobermory derives its name of "Tobarmhuire" from a mineral well superstitiously termed " St Mary's Well." The north side of the village of Tobermory is built on the estate of Mishnish, formerly belonging to Colonel Donald Campbell, who feued the portion next the shore of it at 2s. per foot of frontage, with croft land in about sixty lots of about two acres each on the finest plot of arable land in Mull, with the privilege of cow's grazing on the hill, for £5 yearly rent aud right of cutting peat. Three or four of these were, in 1840, feued to Mr Nisbet, the factor, procurator-fiscal, bank agent, &c, for his house, and other two for land connected therewith. Mr Nisbet was also factor for the Tobermory estate, forming the settlement of the Society, and the north portion of these crofts was, in or about the year 1848, to the extent of about twenty crofts taken from the householders and crofters and added to the farm of Erray, then rented by the deceased William Robertson, Esq., sheriff substitute of the northern district of Argyllshire, and residing there for a year, by rent of £30, what the crofters paid £5 each for, or £100 per year. These crofters were then also all deprived of the hill grazing, which was let to a flesher in town, and is now added also to the farm of Erray along with the farms of Ardmore and Reraig. Reraig, formerly let to nine tenants in three crofts, three in each croft, with the hill in common, with six cows each, twenty-five sheep, and a horse, at £15, 5s. rent each, or £137, 5s. yearly in all; Ardmore, to eight tenants in two portions, four tenants in each portion, at £120 yearly rent, reduced by Mr Caldwell to £90—stock six cows, twenty sheep, and one horse each, the hill in common. Other four of the remaining crofts were rented by Mr Sproat, writer, then clerk to Mr Nisbet, the factor, &c, and now also his successor in the offices of factor, solicitor, procurator-fiscal, bank agent, clerk and treasurer to the road trustees, secretary to the Tobermory Combination Poorhouse, &c, and on part of one of which he has feued and built a dwelling house, offices, and garden. Mr A. M'Donald feus a croft, and Mr M'Lachlan, Badenoch, another. The croft rents now without the hill grazing is reduced to £4. The farm of Erray, enlarged as stated, was after Mr Robertson's death let at a higher rent to Mr M'Lachlan, Mingary, Ardnamurchan, along with the farms of Ardmore and Reraig at £440 yearly; and when Mr M'Lachlan gave it up in 1880 it fell into the proprietor's hands, like many of the lands in Mull at present; and it has been let this year to Mr M'Kill, the tenant of the Tobermory distillery, at the reduced rent of £300, who has taken upon himself —whether with the proprietor's consent we cannot say —to, not only place a gate on the walk to Rhunagaul lighthouse made for the inhabitants, but also to put up a card prohibiting dogs, and shutting up every other road and access to his lands or their shores, which were formerly used and walked upon by the inhabitants and strangers resorting to the place without let or hindrance, and certainly without any injury to these or to the stock and cropping thereon or detriment to the owners ; and we have no doubt Mr M'Kill, in his great anxiety for the protection and security of his letting, it would have these equally as well protected if he had allowed these to be used as they were, as parties will get access to the shore through his lands in spite of all his barriers. The inhabitants of Tobermory are thus hemmed in on all sides like a city besieged; while if they had retained their crofts, so far as not required for feuing, they would have been as they were at one time a healthy and happy community, and would not only pay three times more rent to the proprietor, but be able to take from the ground double what the large holders will ever be able to take. If the proprietors expect parties to feu their ground, or to get the place to become a resort for strangers, they can scarcely expect this unless these strangers, if not the inhabitants, are trusted to use these roads and walks. The ground on the top is offered for feuiug at the rate of £ 8 per acre and £ 5 the half acre—very handsome for such a sequestered spot in Mull—and, though the village has been made a police burgh under the Lindsay Act a few years since, we were amused if not annoyed to observe in one of the charters granted of recent feus, a whole regiment of regulations for keeping the roads free of obstructions and sundry other police regulations and provisions. While the proprietor seems to overlook the burgh commissioners are now in full authority to look after the town, which has since their appointment been in a most disgraceful state, the contractors for buildings being allowed to use the streets and roads as they choose, with whole streets torn up from end to end for receiving the pipes for the works to the great inconvenience of the inhabitants, while they should have been restricted to certain portions, and to have these closed up as they proceeded. There is another very objectionable clause as to what is termed casualties in the feuing, though this is by a recent Act declared to be unlawful —a clause binding the feuar on the entry of heirs and singular successors for one year to the payment of double the above not inconsiderate feu duty ; while the other proprietor has, according to the Act, an obligation to pay a certain defined sum in addition to the said feu-duty at the expiry of every fixed period of fifteen or twenty years. The object of this we cannot see, but likely our Edinburgh lawyers will be able to enlighten us not regarding the utility but probably the absurdity of the clause. Is not the yearly feu-duty in all conscience quite sufficient, and what superior office does the superior discharge for his consideration, or equivalent that he gives for it. Merely I believe that; he has the privilege of collecting this with his feus and rents. I need not remark that while all lands and heritages are now liable to be assessed for public burdens payable equally by landlord and tenant, though formerly paid principally by the landlord, yet feu duties on the rather peculiar plea that they are not property, or its fruits, are not so assessed. Then if they are not property or the fruits of property it would - be interesting to know what they are. Certainly they are no myth, though the value to the feuars is very questionable. There is also a superiority payable out of the lands of Buliscate, part of Mr Allan's estate of Tobermory, of £ 53 to Mr Caldwell of Mishnish, as singular successor to the late Colonel Donald Campbell, and £ 35 to the Duke of Argyll out of the lands of Tobermory, besides a year's rent of certain of these lands at the entry of an heir or singular successor to these superiors which is exacted.' I had not time to make my statement as full as I could have, wished, but I endeavoured to make it as much to the point as possible.
35402. I understood you to say you appear here as the representative or delegate of parties at Tobermory ?
35403. In what form were you elected—at a public meeting?
—At a public meeting.
35404. By whom is this statement drawn up?
35405. Was it written in your office or by yourself?
35406. Has this statement been submitted to the people of Tobermory?
—I have not the least doubt they are all aware of it.
35407. Will you have the kindness to answer me that. Has the statement been read to the people or approved of by them in any form ?
—I believe the settlers of Tobermory are all aware of this statement, and I challenge them to contradict it.
35408. Don't challenge, if you please. I ask you a simple question, which I shall be obliged if you will answer. Was this document read in a public meeting or adopted or approved by the people of Tobermory, as
it a fair and natural expression of their views ?
—I think it a fair and natural expression of their views, particularly the Society's settlers.
35409. I ask you that question particularly, because it is usual for memorials presented by delegates to be signed either by the delegates themselves or by the electors. This memorial is not signed by anybody?
—There was very little time for anybody to sign it, but I may mention that I was agent for twelve years in this matter, and was confided in by these settlers, and naturally I ought to know their minds very well.
35410. I don't at all dispute that it may be a very fair statement of their affairs?
—It was a very arduous undertaking.
35411. The statement enters very fully into all the features of the case, and it also embodies a good number of reflections upon the decisions of the local authorities, the Court of Session, and the House of Lords; and upon these points I shall not ask you any questions; but I should be happy to get at a distinct impression of the amount of damage done to the parties interested, and of their present condition. Would you have the goodness to tell me first of all what remains to the people of Tobermory ?
—Their houses. I stated that they have been able to make out a title to their houses. If they had not been able to do that the conclusion of Captain Campbell's summons would have taken them away entirely. A great many of them had not written titles.
35412. How many occupiers are there now interested in the estate of the original company? How many occupiers are there now living on these lands ?
—A great many strangers now occupy these lands —as many as of original settlers.
35413. But of the original class?
—All I can say they hold any right to is merely the houses they built.
35414. But how many crofters are there, as it were, or small occupiers of the original stock and class?
—I cannot exactly tell.
35415. Would there be more than one hundred families or heads of houses?
—Not so many crofters, but 120 stances are there still. But they can make very little of the houses when they are deprived of their crofts.
35416. How many crofts do you think there are still ?
—I cannot exactly say how many.
35417. I would like to get a kind of idea of how large or how numerous is the class of persons who are suffering under these alleged wrongs; do you think there are seventy or eighty families of the original class of people ?
—Probably sixty crofters, but then you must take along with that that they have these settlements still. I was going to produce to your Lordship the regulations.
35418. You think of the original class of crofters there are about sixty left in possession of their houses ?
—I beg your Lordship's pardon ; there may be 120 of them or their successors in these houses ; the houses are there to speak for themselves. Mr Allan has built additional houses to the original 130, and he has knocked down a few of them.
35419. Of the crofter class ?
—I don't know what class.
35420. But do the houses look as if they were intended for elegant residences, or are they houses adapted to the crofting class of people ?
—I should say adapted to the crofting class of people. They are sensible enough houses—cottages of two rooms and perhaps a mid-closet.
35421. So that there may be more than 120 houses, and perhaps of these there are sixty with crofts still attached ?
—Yes, at the increased rent I stated.
35422. What is the rent for the stance of the hones where there is no croft ?
—Under the Society in the upper village it was a penny a foot for the back feus and twopence a foot for the front feus; that would be about 2s. 6d. at a penny a foot, and 5s. at twopence a foot in the front street
35423. But as I don't know the area the houses occupy, I cannot make the calculation ?
—I stated that there were thirty feet of frontage.
35424. What would the rent of one of these original stances be ? They do not pay any rent for the house itself?
—For the building stance.
35425. What would it be about ?
—2s. 6d. in the back part, and on the front street twopence a foot, or 5s. a stance. There might be a little difference in the length of frontage, but it would be very immaterial.
35426. What is the size of the croft attached to these original stances?
—The size when there were only sixty settlers was about nine or ten or twelve acres—that is before the subdivision took place.
35427. And what is the area of a croft now?
—I have my croft undivided, but those that have divided crofts will have two or three or four acres.
35428. What is the rent charged for these at present?
—I have a croft
—I was unwilling to take land, but I was obliged to take it for my horses, because the horses' grazing was taken away.
35429. But not speaking for yourself for the present, but rather for the common run of poor people, what are they paying for their little crofts of two or three acres?
—I suppose about the same as myself, and I pay £12 for the croft—for the privilege of two cows on the hill which I make no use of, for this reason that there is no grass on the hill.
35430. May I take the liberty of once more asking you if you can tell me. Take the case of three acres as an average croft; what rent would a tenant be paying for such a croft as that ?
—He would pay at least £1 an acre, and in some instances 30s. an acre.
35431. For a croft of three acres might I say £4?
—I know a croft that has gone as high as £ 3 an acre.
35432. What would be a sort of average ? May I say a croft of three acres would be £ 4 or £5?
—I know a croft which is only two acres which is rented at £6, and my croft is 30s. an acre.
35433. That would be £4, 10s. if it were three acres?
35434. What extent of hill grazing, if any, is now left to the people ?
—The way I form an idea of that is by the grazing of the horses —the grazing of about 60 horses, equal to 160 cows, was taken off by the dyke Mr Allan finished.
35435. Might I ask you whether you can state to me in general terms how many acres the present hill grazing or common pasture extends to what remains ?
—I would say it cannot be more than a fourth of the original hill at any rate.
35436. What was the original area?
—I never counted the acres.
35437. If I cannot ascertain that I should like to ascertain how many cattle of various kiuds are now pastured upon the common pasture ?
—I believe there are one hundred cattle at least, and about, I believe, eight or nine horses.
35438. How is the number regulated? Is a specific number appropriated to each holding, or does anybody put on what he pleases?
—I believe it is indiscriminate ; everybody puts them on as he pleases. There has been no respect paid to any householder, because if there was any preference given I should have got my father's croft, and I did not get it.
35439. You say there is a sort of indiscriminate right of pasturage exercised, which I presume to be rather to the prejudice of the poorest members of the community ?
—It is to the prejudice of the original settlers.
35440. By persons holding feus sending cows indiscriminately upon this remaining pasture ?
—I believe they take advantage of the letting as well as the rest. I have stated^that I have grazing and two cows in connection with my croft, but not in connection with my house.
35441. Do you think any person of a superior class holding a residence on a feu ever sends cattle on to this common pasture ?
—Well, unless your Lordship calls me a man of a superior class, I don't suppose they do.
35-142. I certainly recognise you as a person of a superior class, but you told me you were in possession of one of the original crofts ?
—Yes, but not the one I originally held.
35443. But you are in possession of one of the original crofts, and you are in that respect belonging to the original class. What I want to know is do any of the persons recently introduced without any share in the
original crofts send their cattle upou this common pasture ?
—I believe some of them do, but I cannot really say.
35444. Then, in fact, the original settlers upon this place—on this peculiar ground—feel it a very great hardship that they have gradually, either in course of law, or in the indiscriminate exercise of proprietary right, been deprived of the area of their ground and the right of common pasture ?
—Yes, keenly and intensely.
35445. As I felt myself under the necessity of asking you not to mix up your personal views and remarks with the statement in the memorial of those you represent, I think it is only fair that I should ask you now to
make any statement which you still desire to make, but it must be done at moderate length?
—I have nothing further to remark, only seeing I have been entrusted with this case since I came here, I may say that I am acquainted with the phases of the working of these lands, and that I might probably give an opinion as to what the remedy should be.
35446. Yes, you are at perfect liberty to state the remedies you would advise?
—I must say, I feel a good deal of diffidence in giving an opinion, because it is a very important question; but at the same time I have found during my experience that if we had had valuation of rents by competent judges during the proprietorship of Mr Nairne and Captain Campbell, the law plea would have been avoided. ' Opinion as to Remedy as between Landlord and Tenant.—
(1) Valuation of rents by competent judges.
(2) Mode of set.
Would recommend club farms as best adapted to the nature of Highland lands, with six to eight tenants with the lower ground divided, with house and other accommodations and the hill in common. A stock of half blackfaced sheep and cattle.
(3) Fixity of tenture.
Formerly actions of removing required to be called in court forty days before Whitsunday term, but by a subsequent Act passed for landlord expediency in eviction, it is merely necessary to have the action served forty days before the term of removal, similar to the intimation that a 'master has to give to a servant to quit his service, or a servant to a master that merely requires to shoulder his chest and carry it home or to his next employer. Two or three years at least before the set is to terminate, intimation should be given by the party wishing the set to cease, and the landlord bound to pay for unexhausted improvements by the tenant, and the tenant, if inclined, to be allowed to purchase his holding. Formerly on the island of Tyree, when a tenant emigrated or quitted his holding, the incoming tenant purchased his right of holding, and the arrears owing to
the Duke were paid therefrom.
(4) To simplify the titles for sale and transmission of land.
The most of the settlers of Tobermory neglected or never thought of getting a written flag of title to their land; and as regards the right to their cows' grazing, as this was not included in the deeds of those who procured charters for their lots, they were better off under the regulations and rental conferring this right and the rights to their lots and houses; and as these privileges were not included in the charters, their Lordships could look at the four corners of that deed for their rights. In course of the action a whole batch of stamped printed lease forms (such as I now exhibit), printed on vellum or parchment, were among other documents recovered under a fishing diligence from Mr Nisbet the factor, which should have been filled in and handed as titles to those requiring them in the upper town or village, as intended by the Society; and the settlers in the lower villages, which was intended for merchants' shops and stores with feu charters, encumbered at the time with a sasine; but as the expense of a charter and sasine would be as much as the fourth of the value of the lot and buildings, this title was not taken by many, but unites the action or title by possession regulations, and entry on rental was made out as I have stated. Instead of dispensing with the sasine altogether, it was made lawful for an Edinburgh notary to take it in his office in Edinburgh; but subsequently it was made optional for a purchaser to have himself seized or not, a tardy reform, in spite of the Edinburgh lawyers. The leases are for ninety-nine years, renewable, given on payment of an additional year's rent or ground annual. The titles of land might be simplified, if distinction of heritable and moveable were dispensed with, and property, whether heritable or moveable, simply termed property as they actually are, and the law of the land quite sufficient to govern the usage of land and all other property, and the mode adopted in our colonies adopted, which could be made up with as little if not less trouble than is required to furnish an establishment game or dog licence.
Generally —a total repeal of the landlord's hypothec, the game laws, and the law of entail. I was at one time, before the land question was mooted in Ireland lately, of opinion that if a tenant got a nineteen or twenty-two years' lease of his land, a practical, not an amateur or a fanciful, farmer would be able to contract with his landlord at a reasonable rent to improve and reclaim his ground the first seven years, commence to reap some benefit the next seven years, and recoup himself the last seven years; but the competition with foreign countries staggered me in my belief in this, and induced me to be of opinion that if a tenant got two or three years' notice to quit or enter into a new arrangement with his landlord, or fixity of tenure and compensation for permanent and unexhausted improvements, he would be in a safer and better position than with such a lease as I have described. I consider it quite unnecessary, if not a crying evil, to be under a special law to a landlord, and that it would be quite sufficient to be under the common and statute law of my country. I am coming further to be of opinion that tenants are now endowed with so much intelligence, and bear such a share of public burdens, that if possible the landlords should be gradually bought off at the intrinsic value of their interests in the land, and the tenants allowed the opportunity of becoming purchasers of proprietors of their holdings ; and that if pauperism and lunacy did not disappear neither would they be so rampant among us, as there would be no landlord wishing to send their cottars and small tenants a little from home, to return again upon them and tenant rate-payers as paupers. Along with this I would advocate a national poor law, instead of having so many parishes as little kingdoms within a county and counties within a kingdom or state, with expensive staff of officials and expensive questions of disputed settlements, and no inducement for landlords to send their cottars or small tenants off their hands. It was better for Highlanders that they never heard of poor laws.' I think that is all I have to say; at the same time it is a great consideration, seeing that landlords now want us to emigrate, and say we are an incumberance and in the way.
35447. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have been asked by the Chairman to state your remedies for Mull, and you have stated these at considerable length. What remedies do you suggest for the state of matters at Tobermory?
—I would suggest if it were practicable—but the landlord will interfere likely—a return to the old settlement as one of the most practical settlements I ever saw; for this reason that it was instituted by a combination of landlords of whom the Duke of Argyll was one; and we lived under the regulations then as comfortably as any people could have done.
35448. You say you are a native of Mull ?
—Yes, of Tobermory.
35449. And you have lived all your days here?
—I was about five years learning a little of my profession away.
35450. I suppose you know the modern history of Mull ?
—Tolerably well; I have known it so well that I have despaired of it at last.
35451. May it be said that great changes have taken place within the last thirty or forty years in the ownership of the land ?
35452. Have these successive changes tended in any way to benefit the class of smaller tenauts or crofters ?
—Not in any instance I am aware of.
35453. Has the tendency not been with every successive change and with every improvement or alleged improvement, rather to curtail the old privileges and position of the smaller tenants ?
35454. Have not a great number of people been removed against their will, or compelled by force of circumstances to leave the island within the last thirty or forty years ?
—A great number; I recollect a great number since I was a boy, and particularly in the island of Mull. On the lands of Glenforsa there are about nine miles of glen, which was inhabited by the best tenantry in Mull, and they were obliged to leave for the factor who took the land there, a Mr M'Quarrie. From Morinish there was also a great number sent away to clear the land for a man of the name of Cameron. The land was then owned by Mr M'Caskill.
35455. In these cases can you say whether the removal of those people benefited In any way the crofters who remained behind, or was it not rather for the purpose of making large tacks ?
—It was for the purpose of making large tacks, and because it was more handy to get the rent that way than from the crofters.
35456. When the small people were put away, it was not with the intention of enlarging the crofts of those who remained?
—No. When I came here to practise my profession I happened to be at Tyree, and at Kennoway there was a tenant sent out, and instead of the croft being given to some deserving crofter it was added to the farm of Mr Campbell of Balfinish.
35457. At the time of Sir John M'Neill’s Report the proprietor of Ulva stated it was with very great pain he had removed 350 people out of Ulva, leaving between 100 and 200 ; and he thought that that was a proper population to remain upon the island. Is it, or is it not the fact that these remaining people were sent away by the same proprietor ?
—They were all sent away.
35458. Have you seen the evidence of the proprietor given before Sir John M'Neill?
—No, I never read anything about it, but I speak from my own experience. I was secretary to the Emigration Commissioners hers in 1848, and there was a man from Ulva here who was sent away, not by Mr Clark—Mr Clark did not send any away —but by the Emigration Society. The people were sent away by the Emigration Society and the Poor Law Board. Mr Crawford was proprietor at the time, and the people were sent away by the Poor Law Board.
35459. Do you think from your knowledge and experience that the confining of crofters and driving them off their land into places like Tobermory has a tendency to increase pauperism ?
—Undoubtedly, and it has increased it in Tobermory. They not only became perhaps themselves, but they have made paupers of the poor settlers who were there before them, and who were formerly independent.
35460. Has everything done by the proprietors —except the one gentleman you have name—of Tobermory since it was sold by the Society had a tendency to diminish the rights of the settlers step by step ?
—Yes, and I believe there is a diminishing of the hill just now. I forgot to mention in my statement that there were only seventeen who had acquired the right previous to 1800; and that I believe the present proprietor by
his fencing off in the way he is doing and commencing to rear rabbits on his own estate, is beginning a system which will have the effect of depriving them of the hill entirely; that is what it leads me to believe.
35461. When were rabbits introduced?
—Only this year, I believe. Mr Allan has upon his own home farm a number of them, but not upon Tobermory, as far as I am aware. But I believe he has commenced them, and I for one have no affection for them.
35462. Is there any other species of game complained of, if rabbits can be called game?
—Not on this estate.
35463. Is there any forest at all in Mull ?
—I believe Colonel Gardyne has a deer park, and I believe he has one of his farms with deer and sheep, but I am not aware of any other.
35464. Has he put up a proper deer fence ?
—I think he has, but I don’t know whether the farm part is fenced.
35465. Are you satisfied that the paper you have given in to-day truly represents the feelings of the people of Tobermory—the settlers ?
35466. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—I think you stated that as a remedy for the grievances of Tobermory, you think the terms of the early settlement should be reverted to ?
35467. You have also mentioned that the present proprietor of Aros and Tobermory has paid a very large sum for that property—in view of the early price, an exorbitant sum ?
—I should say so.
35468. He paid that price, I suppose, for the rights which the Court of Session had decided to belong to that property ?
—Well, I suppose so.
35469. If he paid this price for those rights, and those rights are to be restored to the people of Tobermory, who is to be the loser, the law having sanctioned the purchase of those rights ?
—Well, I think the proprietor, like an engineer, is entitled to know the ground he goes upon before he buys it
35470. But apparently he did know, because the law had declared it ?
—He ought to have satisfied himself.
35471. But he was satisfied?
—I go a little further, and I don't think what the law endorses is all that the landlord has to look to. I think
when he buys a subject he must look to the intrinsic value of it and to the conditions of let, and when there are parties upon it, to what their rights are.
35472. But, in point of fact, we live under the rule of law, and he purchased certain rights which the law has sanctioned. You propose to restore these rights to the people. Should the State pay him for those rights, or should he be the sufferer ?
—I don't think the State should go and pay him such a fanciful price as that; but if he found that he could not enjoy this estate at its proper price, then if we can do without him—as I am becoming of opinion we can do without landlords —he could get the intrinsic value of the estate, not what he might call it or what he might be inclined to give for it, but the intrinsic value of the estate. I would pay the intrinsic value for a croft if I was going to take it.
35473. The law has given him certain rights, and you propose the law should take them away; do you propose that the law should take away those rights without giving him compensation ?
—I was asked what was best suited for Tobermory, and I gave my opinion upon it, but probably I did not consult what the law has done when I gave that answer. I may add, that if we returned to the former settlement, we would expect to get the land at its real value according to valuation. We consider the landlords have too much freedom —particularly one landlord. If we had the wisdom of a dozen we might perhaps get justice, but when we are at the mercy of one it is not so. I may say also that there are some very good and kind landlords; but it is too bad that the ownership of the land should be at the caprice of one man. I believe, if matters were mended, it would have a tendency to reduce pauperism and lunacy, which is rather a frightsome thing at present.
35171. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there a large number of cottars in and about Tobermory—people who have houses without land?
—There are some. What I understand to be cottars are those on farms for working the farms ; but all those in this place have rights except, I believe, a few on Mr Caldwell's estate, who have been there a long time back, and who occupy the houses, and pay something like 5s. a year. I don't think they have any title; but they have a good bit of garden and a house.
35475. Is there any considerable number of such persons who were formerly in the occupancy of land of which they have been deprived—in or near Tobermory —people who had crofts and are now without land ?
—Yes, there are several. I asked the factor once if the rents were not too high, and he said they were, but that when a croft was empty there were so many coming forward to take it. I argue from that that the landlord should be a man of some mind ; that he should say ' You shall go thus far and no further,' and that when he does not do that he forgets his position.
35476. Is there a large number of crofters or cottars in this parish who are desirous of getting more land ?
— I believe there is a regular hunger for land.
35477. And is there land which could be given to them for that purpose in the neighbourhood of Tobermory, without depriving the farmers who now occupy it of their farms ?
—I believe if Tobermory was provided with the wants of its own people it ought to be quite sufficient for it —that is, of those that require accommodation to their houses there; and I think those who have cottars on their land should just retain them. Perhaps in connection with that, I may mention that my opinion is, that we ought to have a general poor-law, instead of having so many parochial systems here and there ; because, if it is a national defect it ought to be nationally administered, and at far less expense and trouble; and for this reason that if such a law had existed, Mr Clark of Ulva and other proprietors would have had no inducement to send their people to the next proprietor, or the next parish. Under the present system, the consequence is that these paupers return upon him and others tenfold, under our poor laws— they gain no settlement when they are away—and if we had a general poor law, there would be no inducement to landlords to send them away. It was fear of paupers that made Mr Clark send his crofters away. I have heard it said that if the people had not been sent away by him, they would have sent him away. I believe they would pay their rents by the lobsters on the shores.