Correspondence regarding alleged Eviction of Crofters in Mull.
A—Case of Angus McInnes.
1. ANGUS M’INNES, Crofter, &C , to LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK, K.T.
TOBERMORY, 13TH November 1883.
YOUR LORDSHIP,—I beg to state that I was one of the delegates appointed by the crofters and settlers here, and gave evidence before the Commission, and that I have on the 7th instant been served in consequence with a summons of removing against the term of Whitsunday next from my crofts, land, and gardens near my house and building lot here, at the instance of my landlord Alexander Allan, Esquire of Aros, of which I beg to enclose copy.
There was no promise required from Mr Allan that the delegates would not suffer at his hands, or that of his subordinates, for giving evidence as to the usage of these settlers and crofters by their successive several landlords of Tobermory.
My rent is paid to Whitsunday last, and I am prepared to pay the halfyear's rent, feu, and peat-moss rent due by me at this term of Martinmas, at the usual collection day.—I have the honour to be, & c,
Mason, Feuar, and Crofter, Tobermory
Chairman of the Crofters' Royal Commission.
2. SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands), to ANGUS M'Innns.
ROYAL COMMISSION (Highlands and Islands),
REGISTER HOUSE, EDINBURGH,
17th November 1883.
SIR,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th inst., stating that you have received a summons of removing at Whitsunday next from your croft, land, and garden at Tobermory, at the instance of your proprietor, Mr Alexander Allan of Aros; and enclosing a copy of the summons. You have at the same time intimated your belief that this step has been taken against you in consequence of the evidence given by 'you before the Royal Commission as a delegate from the crofters at Tobermory.
Your letter has been referred, by the directions of the Chairman of the Commission, to Mr Allan for any explanation which he may see fit to make.—
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
ROBERT HOLDEN, for Secretary
Mr Angus M'Innes.
3. SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands), to ALEXANDER ALLAN Esq. of Aros.
ROYAL COMMISSION (Highlands and Islands),
N E W REGISTER HOUSE, EDINBURGH,
19th November 1883.
SIR,—I am directed to forward to you the enclosed copy of a letter which has been received from Mr Angus M’innes by the Chairman of this Commission, and to request that you will favour me with any observations thereon which you may be disposed to make,—I am, Sir, & c,
MALCOLM M'NEILL, Secretary
Alexander Allan, Esq. of Aros.
4. ALEX. ALLAN, Esq. of Aros, to SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).
AROS HOUSE, TOBERMORY, ARGYLLSHIRE,
23rd .November 1883.
SiR,—I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 19th inst., enclosing letter from Angus M'Innes, Tobermory, to the Royal Commission.
Angus M'Innes, when examined before the Commission at Tobermory on 10th August, stated that there was no work to be obtained in the town. From a calculation recently made, I find that during the last nine years upward of £59,000 have been expended in Tobermory and the immediate vicinity, mostly in the erection of houses and other buildings. The fact that such a large sum should have been spent in a town of 1200 inhabitants, will enable you easily to judge as to the truthfulness of M'Innes' statement. I may further add that two houses are at present in course of erection, and arrangements are being made to commence others in spring. The house extension of Tobermory necessitated my taking a croft from a tenant who had occupied it for many years; feeling desirous of providing him with another croft, I gave him the one from which M'Innes has been removed. I do not look upon M'Innes as a crofter; he is a mason in comfortable circumstances, and held no land until I gave him a croft in 1878.—
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
Secretary, Royal Commission.
A copy of this letter was sent to Angus M'Innes on 28th November 1883
5. ANGUS M'INNES to SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).
TOBERMORY, 8th December 1883.
SiR,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th ultimo, enclosing copy of a letter received by you from Mr Allan of Aros. My belief, as intimated in my letter to you of the 17th ultimo, that the proceedings of removal from my croft land at Mr Allan's instance, as proprietor of that part of Tobermory formerly belonging to the British Fishery Society, is confirmed, as Mr Allan not only does not deny this, but, in his evasive answer, attempts to palliate, if not to defend, his arbitrary exercise of his functions of landlord. It is also singular that none of Mr Allan's crofters have received summonses of removing with the unexpected timeous previous warning of six months, excepting Donald Colquhoun, labourer, another crofter and delegate from the crofters, and your humble servant.
I did not state to the Commissioners, as averred by Mr Allan, that there was no work to be obtained in the town—as he is so ambitious to characterise the village of Tobermory ; I stated, in answer to the Commissioners, if there was any work ? there was none at present. The Commissioners then asked if Mr Allan gave work. I replied, he gave work to four or five labourers from Tobermory. And, still adhering to the truth of that statement, I farther aver that none of these four or five labourers are either settlers or crofters or feuars in Tobermory, but merely room-renters there.
Mr Allan states ' that £59,000 have been expended in Tobermory or the immediate vicinity, mostly in the erection of houses and other buildings, and that the fact that such a large sum should have been spent in a town (or village rather) of 1200 inhabitants will enable the Commissioners easily to judge as to the truthfulness of M’Innes' statement.' Mr Allan does not say by whom this large sum of money was expended but; assuming, as I presume he meant, that it was expended by himself, I am well aware of the principal objects on which this expenditure was mode or lavished,—about £11,000 or £12,000 on additions to, and improvements on, his mansion-house at Drumfin or Aros ; so much on cleaning and shipping, growing wood, and extensively planting the ground with young trees, principally evergreens, replacing these after failure from drought or otherwise, draining lakes of native trout, and ineffectual attempts to introduce strange trout into the lakes and tributaries, and connecting the waters of the upper lakes with that at the house, and in enclosing and subdividing and fencing the Tobermory hill or common so far as not done by his predecessors, until it is overgrown with heath and heather and only fit for game or rabbits; Mr Allan adding that part of the hill or common on which the settlers at Tobermory grazed their sixty horses to his already extensive enough farm of Lettermore, and finishing the fence thereof, commenced by his predecessor Captain Campbell, in erecting a rabbit warren on the hill pasture ground. A steading and square of offices on his farm of Eintalen, in the year 1880, about seven miles from Tobermory, paying £160 rent,—originally only £70. A steading and offices at Lettermore in 1876, about six miles over the moor, and about twelve miles by the road from Tobermory, paying £300 rent,—originally only £90. A hall at Tobermory in 1881, on the site of, and after knocking down a substantial neat dwelling built by the Society for the Comptroller of Customs at Tobermory. Four semi-detached cottages of two rooms and closet on the ground of the plan of the village, but without respect to that plan, worth about £100 each. Five self-contained houses on the sites formerly occupied by the building lots and houses of the settlers. These cottages are let at £10 each, and one was sold the other day for £130, with a feu-duty to Mr Allan of 15s. yearly, instead of £3 yearly, or 2s. per foot as first intended, and formerly only 2s. 6d. in all. Two or three cottages at Ledag of Tobermory on the settlers' old building lots, replacing the houses thereon about four years ago. A cottage on the outskirts for the Misses Campbell, in room of the Comptroller of Customs House, which stood formerly on the site of the present hall. These are the objects on which Mr Allan expended, and I cannot see what interest crofters had in such expenditure, as nothing was expended by Mr Allan in bettering their condition, or improving or refencing their crofts.
For the last nine years the only buildings on Mr Allan's portion of Tobermory not erected by him have been the school and schoolmaster's house five years ago, at a cost of from £3000 to £4000 ; the Free Church, at like cost, about the same time; the cottage built on the outskirts by Mr Henderson, the contractor of these buildings, feued at the rate of £8 per annum, doubling this sum for one year at the end of every fifteen or eighteen years, and sold by Mr Henderson to Mr Angus Cameron, of Sproat & Cameron, writers and bankers in Tobermory, who has feued the whole of the old Miller's croft along with it; the distillery buildings and machinery by Dr Campbell, at a cost of from £10,000 to £13,000, besides an unsuccessful law plea, at Mr Allan's instance, against him as to the position of two or three stones at the end of his weir for directing the water into the works, on the plea that these stones annoyed the bed of a troutless—though perhaps an eel-inhabited—river; while if Dr Campbell increased Mr Allan's feu-duty from £5 to £20 he would be allowed to disturb Mr Allan's trust interest in the bed of the river, and get as much water as he liked, but probably accompanied with as many legal questions that the doctor preferred to contend for his existing rights.
On Mr Caldwell's portion of Tobermory the Columba shops and houses, at a cost of about £800, was built on the site of the former Free Church, the members and adherents of which arc not obliged to Mr Allan—with the assistance of their present pastor—for transferring that church from its old and interesting site, willingly accorded in 1843 by the proprietor, Mr Caldwell, an Englishman, and complimented for his liberality by the late Dr Chalmers when proprietors in Scotland refused sites for churches or manses for the Free Protesting Church of Scotland, the feu being £6 and now £5. Mr Archibald Macdonald's feu of croft land, to the extent of 4 acres, at £8 per acre, doubling the same for one year at the entry of heirs and singular successors, on which he has built ' Hianish' Villa, at a cost of £800, and the ' Western Isles Hotel,' built by Mr Caldwell, at a cost of about £6000 or £7000, last year, in an eyry situation.
There is a house at present in course of erection by Mr Angus Cameron, Mr Allan's agent and factor, in the site of a feu and two-storeyed house on the main street of the village, which was knocked down; and there is another commenced by Henderson, the contractor, on the outskirts of the village, on the croft land. I know not what farther buildings may be in contemplation for next year, but these contractors have their own men for their work, and there are various masons residing in Tobermory, and strangers as well. It is unnecessary for me to draw the attention of the Commission to Mr Allan's unjust and hard-hearted excuse for attempting to deprive me of my croft's land. The tenant he refers to, a merchant in Tobermory, has occupied from Mr Allan's predecessor, and latterly from himself, a piece of land as a croft of about an acre and a-half, taken off what was since 1791, or the institution of the settlement by the Society, used by the inhabitants as a washing-green; and Dr Campbell having sold his interest in the present distillery premises, I have referred to his tenants, Messrs Mackill Brothers; by the latter's agreement with Mr Allan it would appear they acquired this piece of land for building, or some other purpose connected with the old grinding mealmill dam of Tobermory immediately below it, which supplied water-power to the Tobermory mill, to which dam, if not to the remaining piece of bleaching ground, Messrs Mackill have acquired right from Mr Allan to form a dam to receive the water of the Tobermory river at this elevation as a reserve for the requirements of their distillery at Ledag of the lower village during drought or frosty weather. Mr Allan says that' the house extension of Tobermory necessitated his taking a croft from a tenant who occupied it for many years, feeling desirous of providing him with another croft, I gave him the one front which Maclnnes has been removed ;' and says farther, ' I do not look upon Maclnnes as a crofter—he is a mason in comfortable circumstances, and held no land till I gave him a croft in 1878.'
The house extension of Tobermory, as Mr Allan is pleased to herald his excuse, is not therefore the cause of my attempted removal from my croft, neither is it that I am a mason. A mason, I presume, can as legitimately and beneficially to himself and the nation, and perhaps more so, hold a portion of land or croft in connection with his building lot in a village like this, as a merchant, a contractor, or a lawyer or writer can do, without any detriment to his trade or calling of mason, though Mr Allan would like to recognise him as a mere working machine. My father, John Macinnes, catechist in Tobermory was allotted a building lot or portion of land in the village on 15th M ay 1824, with a croft of arable land, and grazing for one cow on the muir or common and a house, in which I succeeded him on his death. I was, however, in 1847 removed from the croft land along with seventeen other crofters, and a farm formed of our crofts for Mrs Petrie of the Mull Hotel, and I was left with a mere garden till 1878, when I took the croft from Mr Allan. This croft's farm at Scribruadh here is and has been rented by the said Mr Henderson, contractor, for several years back, with a steading thereon built by Mr Allan's predecessor, Captain Campbell. My circumstances depend on precarious employment as mason in my old age, now bordering on 70 years, after getting my family provided for—not, thank Providence, in the poors' house. I got the right to my building-ground house of two rooms and attics, with byre and loft behind, confirmed in the law plea before the Court of Session and the House of Lords with Captain Campbell, our former proprietor; but my residence will not at all be so comfortable if I am to be deprived of my croft land, while my intended successor might easily be accommodated otherwise, as the Commissioners cannot fail to observe, if Mr Allan felt so disposed.
Mr Allan, in his evidence before the Commissioners here, stated that he had broken up a farm, and let it into crofts to crofters. This might appear true in a certain sense, but it was not the whole truth. Captain Campbell, his predecessor, removed fourteen crofters from their crofts in Upper Baliscate, and let the ground to a Mr Charles Macquarrie, who was married to a cousin of Captain Campbell's, and this farm was let to a Lachlan Campbell, afterwards by Captain Campbell, along with a portion of the muir lawn or common of Tobermory and Baliscate, called Blarnafalla. When Mr Allan became proprietor he took a renunciation of the lease from Lachlan Campbell, having paid him compensation for the loss of Blarnafalla, which the settlers never allowed him to possess or enjoy,—and let six of these crofts along with the dwellinghouse and omces at Baliscate to his agent and factor, Mr Cameron ; and, on Mr Cameron's removal to his new house feu and holding at the Court house, his possession at Baliscate was let to Mr Allan Cameron, inspector of rural police here, w ho still rents these,—three of them, with the above portion of the hill called Blarnafalla, to a Mr James Maclaine, spirit-dealer here, who still possesses them. One of them to Mr Archibald Mackinnon, merchant in Tobermory, now possessed by Mr John Maccallum, writer, Tobermory, two of them to James Maccoll, merchant [and postmaster here, and two of them to John Mackinnon, weaver here, both of whom are still in possession. This is the farm Mr Allan said he had broken up for crofts, and this is how he disposed of it as crofts.
Mr Allan, as chief commissioner of his self-elected police burgh of Tobermory, has got us poor householders burdened with the repayment in thirty years of an expenditure of (instead of £3000 odds as first contemplated), from £6000 to £7000, as the cost of water-works and drainage scheme, on a very precarious assessable rental of from £3000 to £4000, besides that about £100 or £150 has to be expended on lighting and sanitary purposes and officials' salaries, not mentioning our private roads and streets, which are in a very dirty and dilapidated state. Mr Allan, it is submitted, assumed an office here for which he did not hold the indispensable qualifications of householder in the sense of and as required by the Act; and the legality of his and his co-commissioners' actings in entering into an important water and drainage scheme, without consulting the ratepayers, was not only a presumptuous and unwarranted undertaking on their part, but rendering them liable to be called in question for their actings. £600 by Mr Allan, and £300 by Mr Caldwell, the other proprietor, was contributed towards this expense as an inducement to proceed with it. As a householder and proprietor within this burgh, m y house is now assessed annually for poor rates Is. 6d., school 9d., registration Is., burgh 2s. 6d., roads Is., county rates 4d. in the pound as proprietor and tenant—in all, 6s. 2d. per pound—rather confiscatory !
Any further information I will be glad to communicate.—Meantime, I have the honour to be your most obedient and faithful Servant,
Mason and Crofter.
Crofters' Royal Commission,
Register House, Edinburgh.
B.—Case of Donald Colquhoun
1. DONALD COLQUHOUN to LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK, K.T.
TOBERMORY, 19th November 1883.
YOUR LORDSHiP,—I beg to state that I was appointed at a public meeting of the crofters here to give evidence before the Commission, though I was not called upon by the Commissioners to give evidence; and that I have, on the 13th day of November current, been served in consequence with a summons of removing against the term of Whitsunday next from my croft land at the instance or my landlord, Alexander Allan, Esquire of Aros, of which I beg to enclose copy.
There was no promise required from Mr Allan that the delegates would not suffer at his hands for giving evidence as to the usage of the settlers or crofters by the successors, several landlords of Tobermory.—I have the honour to be, your Lordship's most obedient and faithful Servant,
DONALD [his mark] COLQUHOUN
Lord Napier, Chairman of the Crofters' Royal Commission.
2. SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands), to
ALEXANDER ALLAN, Esq. of Aros.
ROYAL COMMISSION (Highlands and Islands),
NEW REGISTER HOUSE, EDINBURGH,
22nd November 1883.
Sir,—I am directed to forward to you the enclosed copy of a letter which has been received from Donald Colquhoun, by the Chairman of this Commission, and to request that you will favour me with any observations thereon which you may be disposed to make.—I am, Sir, &c.
MALCOLM M'NEILL, Secretary.
Alexander Allan, Esq. of Aros.
3. ALEXANDER ALLAN, Esq., of Aros,* to SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).
AROS HOUSE, ARGYLLSHIRE, 26th November 1883.
SIR,—I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 22nd inst., enclosing letter from Donald Colquhoun, Tobermory, to the Chairman of the Royal Commission. The fact that Colquhoun was appointed a delegate to appear before the Commission had nothing whatever to do with his recent notice to remove from his croft.
Colquhoun held no land in this district until 1875, when I rented to him a small portion of Balliscate farm, which I was then subdividing into crofts. His rent has since the day of entry being perpetually in arrear, and he has in many other ways proved himself a most unsatisfactory tenant. On this account he was last year served with notice to quit, and it was only at the urgent request of his wife that I permitted him to remain. At the last term of Whitsunday he paid no rent, and is now over a year in arrear; this accounts for his recent notice of removal.
Colquhoun is an able-bodied man, who could get constant employment if he chooses ; he also draws rent from house property in Tobermory; and it is therefore entirely his own fault that his rent is always in arrear.—I am Sir, your obedient Servant,
Secretary, Royal Commission.
4. DONALD COLQUHOUN to SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).
TOBERMORY, 26th, December 1883.
SiR,—I have been duly favoured with your letter of the 28th ulto., enclosing copy of a letter from Mr Allan of Aros to you, and delayed replying thereto, or to Mr Allah's pretended reasons for attempting to remove me from my croft land here at Whitsunday first, till the 14th inst. was over,—Mr Allan's rent collection day,—when I paid the £6 year's rent due at Martinmas last, with a small arrear of 17s. which always lay over in consequence of some dispute about grazings on the common, Mr Allan charging me for the summer's grazing of three cows instead of that of one cow. All my rents are therefore paid up in full since Whitsunday 1875. To instruct this I will be glad to enclose my pass-book if required.
My father-in-law, the deceased Hector Campbell, feuar and crofter in the upper village of Tobermory, was owner of a building lot, and rented a portion of arable laud as croft and summer's grazing of a cow on the hill or common of Tobermory, with right to cut peat on the mosses under the British Fishery Society when proprietors until they sold the estate to David Nairne, Esquire of Drimkelbo in 1843, when the latter increased the croft rents to triple the amount charged by the Society, and removed my father-in-law from the croft, and on his death, his eldest son having emigrated to N e w Zealand and settled there, I took charge at his son's request of his widow, and took up house with his and my family on the lot of building ground as proprietor, and am entered in the Valuation Roll, fol. 261, No. 8533, as proprietor of the subjects, and have rented a croft from Mr Allan, about two to three acres, for which I pay £6 per annum, as per Valuation Roll of the county this year, No. 8317, fol. 256, being an exorbitant rent for light mossy Highland soil, not worth more than from 5s. to 7s. per acre, the former being the rate paid to the Society for the land. Neither Mr Allan nor any of the Society's successors in these lands showed any respect or preference for the feuars and settlers of the Society in Tobermory in letting these crofts, but let them to ' Tom, Dick, and Harry,' or room renters most in favour with the proprietor.
It is not the fact that Mr Allan let me a small portion of Baliscate, 'which he was then subdividing into crofts.' The croft, of which I got a little more than the half in 1875, was always one of the Society's crofts, and never formed part of a farm for subdivision, and let as a whole by the Society at £1 , Is. sterling yearly rent, while I pay £6 annually for my two to three acres of it; and Allan Cameron, Thenel, rents the other portion, not exceeding two acres, at £3 yearly
rent; making in all ^ 9 yearly rent received by Mr Allan for a croft that was formerly paying only 21s. yearly, and which was mere moss ground, dyked, drained, and improved by the Society's tenant therein, for which he received no compensation whatever.
Mr Allan is quite right in saying that I employ myself as a labourer, but I cannot see how this testimony to my incessant industry should justify him in depriving me of my croft. The rent of my dwelling-house is entered properly in the Valuation Roll, fol. 261 No. 8533, at £7 yearly. My own occupancy thereof at £3 yearly, and the rest by two tenants paying under £4, or £4 as entered yearly in alt, on which I pay 6s. 6d. per pound yearly of poor, school, registration, roads, county, and burgh rates,—the latter being an expensive harness that Mr Allan, as chief, and his co-commissioners of police, have forced us to wear, but which is far too heavy for the horse.
Mr Allan has attempted to make the Commissioners believe, in giving his evidence before them here, and in his letters lamely excusing his harsh attempts at my removal, and that of Angus Machines, two of the crofters' delegates,—that he broke up a farm for crofts; but, as Macinnes has already shown the Commissioners, this is not the whole truth, as the farm he refers to, if entitled to that important denomination, was composed of fourteen crofts in Upper Baliscate, which the settlers, under the Society, possessed, and which should be restored to them,—six of which crofts are held by one party. This refers to Lower Baliscate, not to Upper Baliscate where my croft is situated. I shall be glad to give you any farther information which you may require on
the true light of matters, not in that which Mr Allan would reflect on his actings with the Tobermory feuars, settlers, and crofters with reference to their eviction of feus, crofts, and hill or common grazings, and mosses for peat, but real ' facts that winna ding’.
I might take upon myself to recommend to him to re-clothe the Society's settlers with their former privileges in croft, hill grazings, and mosses, and not let them, as he and his predecessors in these lands have been in the habit of bestowing them, upon needy customers at rents three or four times their value.—I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient and faithful Servant,
[his mark] DONALD COLQUHOUN.
Secretary, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands),
Register House, Edinburgh.
5. DONALD COLQUHOUN to SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).
TOBERMORY, 28th Jan. 1884.
SiR,—With reference to Mr Allan of Aros, and my correspondence with you as a delegate appointed to give evidence before the Commission when sitting here, and consequently underneath a summons of removing from my croft land here at Whitsunday next, I beg now to enclose for your information my rent pass-book with Mr Allan, showing the payments of my rent and quit rigg, from Whitsunday 1875 to the last term of Martinmas 1883.—I have the honour to be,
Sir, your most obedient, humble, and faithful servant,
[his mark] DONALD X COLQUHOUN,
Labourer and crofter and feuar at Tobermory
Secretary, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands), Edinburgh.
6. SECRETARY, Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands)
to DONALD COLQUHOUN.
ROYAL COMMISSION (Highlands and Islands)
NEW REGISTER HOUSE, EDINBURGH,
31st January 1884.
DONALD COLQUHOUN,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 28th instant, which has been laid before H.M. Commissioners. Your rent pass-book is returned herewith.
—I am your obedient servant,
ROBERT HOLDEN, for secretary