LACHLAN KENNEDY, Crofter and Carrier, Dervaig (33)—examined.
35516. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you any written statement to make?
—Our grievances may be said to have commenced when the late Mr Forsyth bought the Quinish estate in 1857. Before collecting the second half-year's rent we received intimation that our rents were to be raised. In the course of a few years it was raised a second time, so that now we pay fully £1 more rent for our crofts than we did when he got possession of the estate, besides being deprived of other privileges which we then possessed. There were at that time twenty-seven crofters in Dervaig possessing in common the hills of Monabeg and Torr, which enabled us to keep fifty-six cows, one bull, and twenty-eight horses. Mr Forsyth, shortly after entering on possession of the estate, called a meeting of us at Dervaig, at which meeting he asked us to hand him over the Monabeg for the purpose of improving it, promising to restore it at the end of three years. We could not at the time see our way to refuse this seemingly reasonable proposal. We trusted him with full confidence on account of the implicit faith rightly placed by us in his predecessors in this estate. It may be mentioned that this agreement was never committed to paper. During these three years Mr Forsyth got all the ploughable ground on Monabeg turned. At the end of this period he requested half a dozen of us to appear before him at his own residence at Sorn (five miles from Dervaig), which was done. But now he had another proposal for our consideration. Instead of restoring the Monabeg on the previous terms as we expected, he would only do so on condition that we should take it on a nine years' lease at a yearly rent of £80, besides spending annually £19 in improving the soil with lime. This offer was refused, and we regarded it as tantamount to denying our rights to Monabeg, which turned out to be the case. Two years after taking possession of Monabeg for improving purposes, Mr Forsyth took from us the hill of Torr, without compensating for it in any other manner or altering our rents ; and now, as Monabeg was at this time in his own hands on afore-mentioned conditions, we had no place for grazing our cattle and horses. Having got us into this fix, Mr Forsyth, seeing our straitened circumstances, sent his manager with the proposal that he would buy our cattle. Those among us who had no alternative gave him our cattle at his own offer, which was far below the current prices, as stirks sold by some of us the same year fetched prices equal to that given by him for our cows. It may be mentioned that one of us, who had wintering for one cow but no summer grazing, craved a summer grazing, and was told by the factor to cut her throat. After being deprived of Torr hill we tried to dispose of our horses at the first market, but the day being extremely wild, dealers were prevented from attending. We were thus compelled either to give our horses away at a mere nominal, or make a further attempt to get grazing from Mr Forsyth. We chose the latter alternative, but were sadly disappointed. We next day went to Sorn, saw Mr Forsyth's factor, and made our request, to which he answered by telling us to go and drown them, showing at the same time how we were to do it. As the last and only resource, the horses were turned loose on the neighbouring farms. Naturally some of them wandered to Mr Forsyth's grounds, where two of them were afterwards found drowned in ditches and other two were found badly cut as with knives. One of Mr Forsyth's shepherds was strongly suspected as being the perpetrator of these deeds. With the loss of our horses the crofts became of much less value to us. We could no longer manure them in a proper manner, and consequently their produce decreased. At that time each crofter could have four or five bolls of meal off his own croft yearly, while at present such a thing is unknown among us. The expense of working our crofts, in so far as we are compelled to engage horses for ploughing, harrowing, and carting manure, is considerable. One of our small crofts, will take between 30s. and 40s. to the said work. Peats we have to carry these 1½ mile on our back, or pay Is. 3d. for each cart, which the most of us cannot afford.
35517. Who is the present proprietor of Quinish ?
—It is the late Mr Forsyth I refer to.
35518. Where did Mr Forsyth, who bought the estate in 1857, come from ?
—As far as I know, from Dunach.
35519. To whom did Quinish belong before Mr Forsyth bought it ?
—The laird of Coll.
35520. You were quite happy undar the laird of Coll?
—Every person was.
35521. What was your rent in 1857?
—It was my father who was in it then.
35522. What was he paying to the laird of Coll?
—A little above £3.
35523. What was the rise which was first put upon the croft ?
—I cannot be sure.
35524. What are you paying now?
35525. Do you pay any taxes?
—Yes, very heavy.
35526. There were at that time at Dervaig twenty-seven crofters; how many are there now ?
35527. What became of the others ?
—Some left, and others became poor and left the place.
35528. Do the present thirteen crofters possess the whole of the lands that the twenty-seven had?
35529. Who has got the land?
—It is divided about.
35530. To other crofters or to a big farm ?
—The most of it is given over to large farmers or to larger farms, and the present crofters have a little of it, but none of the hill.
35531. But they have some of the low land ?
—We have part of the crofts.
35532. Apparently fourteen have left, how many of the fourteen crofts are now divided—the low land ?
—The laird has got a part of the crofts that were in possession of the party who left; and the manse has got a part of them, and the crofters have a part, and the industrial school has a part.
35533. What was Monabeg? Was it pasture ground in the time of the twenty-seven crofters, and has it since been improved ?
—It was ground that was allotted for the people of Dervaig to put one cow upon it.
35534. And as I understand your paper, at the time Monabeg was taken from you and promised to be restored, no reduction of rent was made?
—The rent was not reduced.
35535. Was it a valuable part of your crofts the land of Monabeg?
—Good land; we were all pleased with it.
35536. And very convenient for your stock?
35537. When the landlord offered you a nine years' lease at £80 and to improve the soil, I suppose you never wanted the land to be improved at all ?
—When he took it into his own hand he promised we would get it back in three years, and that the land would be much more improved than the way we had it.
35538. But you were not charged any more rent?
—There was no mention made of that ; we all understood we were to get it back as we had it before with the crofts.
35539. Was it of far more importance for you to have the land as it was orignally as part of your croft than to pay £ 80 a year for it as it was improved by the landlord ?
—It was far better as it was while we had it at first than with the improvements, as some of the ground has not as yet yielded any grass.
35540. So that in point of fact he spoiled the pasture, and was wanting to put a rent of £ 80 upon you ?
—The ground was spoilt.
35541. What kind of place was the hill of Torr; was it an outrun for stock?
—Yes, it was a common for the horses.
35542. I suppose being deprived of Monabeg, you were rather straitened for grass ?
—Certainly we were.
35543. And the story you tell in this paper about giving the cattle at their own offer far below the price was a necessity forced upon you by the proceedings of Mr Forsyth ?
—No, but we had no other market at the time ; we had no place to put them when the hill was taken from us.
35544. What was the name of the crofter who went and asked the summer grazing and was refused by the factor?
35545. Who was the factor to whom you refer?
35546. Where is he now ?
—He is dead.
35547. Where was the market held to which you sent your horses, and at which no dealers attended in consequence of the storm?
35548. And the weather was so stormy that no dealers appeared?
—There was not such a day since then until now, with thunder and lightning and rain.
35549. Was it at this period when you were in these straits, first having to sell your beasts and latterly your horses, that the other tenants had to give up their holdings?
—Some of them gave up their holdings at that time, and some of them remained as they were.
35550. Are the people distressed to this day for want of Monabeg and Torr?
—There are not poorer people in Argyleshire.
35551. Was it a bad day for Dervaig when the laird of Coll sold it ?
—Yes, all the world knows that.