STATEMENTS by Major THOMAS M. CAMERON, of Garth and Annsbrae, Zetland.
LERWICK, 20th July 1883.
1.—With reference to the evidence given by some of my North Yell and Unst tenants before the Commission at Baltasound on the 16th inst, as per accompanying slips from the Herald of the following days, I beg briefly to state, in answer to the evidences marked 1, 2, 3 and 4 on the slips—
1. When Cullivoe was subdivided and fenced in, each holding was valued and a rent fixed thereon in proportion to what the croft under proper cultivation could raise in shape of crop and stock, quite irrespective of former rent, which had never been raised for at least sixty years prior to 1876, notwithstanding the value of stock had risen some 300 per cent. In my boyish days a cow's hide was equal in value to her flesh, and salted beef sold at 3d. per lb.
2. West-i-Firth—There were only fifteen crofters with rents ranging from 7s. 6d. to .£6, in all amounting to £52, 12s. 6d. At the same time, their arrears of rent ran from £14, 15s. to £34, 15s., aggregating £137, 11s. Was it not full time for the landlord (i.e., the writer) to remove them ? Two
crofters who elected to accept leases are there now and doing well, though they have no privileges, except for peats, outside the wire fences enclosing their crofts.
3. I have no crofter of the name of Archibald Smith in North Yell. He says—On the " west side of the island " and his land was " quite close to Unst," which is simply absurd—as North Yell lies to the west of Unst; any land on the west side of North Yell cannot be close to Unst.
4. The Balliasta rents were also fixed by valuation, having reference to what the croft was worth at that time. If James Bruce's house is in bad condition, it will be repaired at my sole expense on my factor reporting the fact. In the immediate vicinity of Ballista I have an allotment of scattold of 327 acres which my Balliasta crofters could have rented for a few pounds, but they never asked me for it. A late crofter paid £5 for part of it, and_ since his death I have only got £1 or £2 for it, for grazing ponies during summer. I have now let the allotment for a period of nineteen years to Mr D. Edmonston of Buness for £2, so my Balliasta crofters have of their free will lost their chance of paying for scattold, which some said before you they were willing to do. As a rule, one and all object to pay. My crofters' rents in Unst range from 5s. to £12. Generally the crofters will not improve nor enlarge their arable ground ; they turn the soil down hill, thus by degrees leaving no soil whatever at the top of the fields ; leave open drains between each field with perhaps one or two yards of grass on each side, instead of putting in a covered drain and cultivating the present narrow strip of grass, which is too narrow for any practicable good, spade labour being the rule. In conclusion, I would beg to remark, that so long as the scattolds were undivided (as well as run-rig arable lands), no proprietor could lay his finger on his share, and consequently could make no regulations regarding the same, nor prevent any number of squatters taking possession, and by prescription acquiring a right to the soil. When a division took place circumstances were altered. The suing out a division of scattold costs a deal of money, and the proprietors are entitled to recoup themselves in some legitimate way. I hold the crofters have no heritable right in the common nor in their holdings of arable ground, but may hold the same under agreement. As a rule, I have never removed a crofter on 40 days' notice. He may remain without any lease so long as he pays his rent. If a man is irretrievably in debt, he is told at Martinmas (settling time) that if something is not by Whitsunday following paid to account, he must consider he has received notice to remove. If any farther proof was required as to increased value of land, crop, and stock within the last 50 years, I merely refer to the valuation of teinds in the parish of Unst of 1821, when teinds were fixed for ever at 2s. 4½d. per merk, and resigned to the minister. At that time the island of Uyra and a few merks in Unst were omitted, and in 1870, when an augmentation was sued for and granted, the rate on lands omitted was 4s. per merk. If land had increased so much in value, and proprietors were obliged to pay higher taxes, have tenants at will any claim to a reduction of rent while receiving threefold prices for stock and fishings—landlords' household expenses being increased pari passu as well ? The argument cannot hold good. I have property in nine parishes, and have paid my share of expense of building and repairing of kirk- and manses therein from time to time, but I have never charged my tenants nor crofters with one farthing on account thereof. I have a share of scats in said kirks, but have never charged seat rent, which most other proprietors do.
THOMAS M. CAMERON,
Major, of Garth and Annsbrae.
II.—I have been Convener of the County for nearly twenty years. I am a proprietor to a large extent in the Islands of Shetland. I am 64 years of age—a retired major in H.M.'s Bengal Service, & c , &c. I was born in Lerwick, and in 1838 went out to India; in 1861 I retired from H.M.'s Indian Service and settled in Shetland (having been on furlough during 1850, 1851, and part of 1852). Therefore, it is since 1861 that I speak as a proprietor. I have made out a few statistics which, if worthy of your listening to, I shall be glad to read ; but if they are what, no doubt, you already know or might find out from returns, I must apologise for taking up your time in listening to them:—
Population 1871 – 31608
Population 1881 – 29765
Decrease owing to emigration and census taken when many men were absent as sailors, &c.
Valuation (County), 1878-79—£36,499, of which £7431 applies to the burgh.
Valuation (County) 1882-83 —£42,441, and heritages by .£9432.
Increase owing to properties held by owners being raised, not crofters' r
General assessment, . . . . . 13d.
Prison and valuation, . . . . .Id.
Local Authority, . . . . . . 0 ¾d.
Total, 4 ¼d.
Road assessments—Vary from Is. 4d. in mainland and Is. in Yell to 3d. per pound in Islands, one-half payable by tenants.
Poor assessment—Unst, . . . 3s. 6d.; half on owner, half on tenant
North Yell, . . 4s. 4d.
Mid and South Yell, 4s. 0d
Delting, . . 4s.5 1/3 d.
Tingwall . 4s. 8d
Lerwick, . . 2s.0d.
Lerwick . . 2s. 2d., on occupiers (police).
Bressay, . . 5s. 3d.
School rate—Unst, . . . Is. 6d.; half on owner, half on tenant.
North Yell, . . 2s. 0d
Mid and South Yell, 2s. 6d
Delting, . . 2s. 2/3 d
Tingwall, . . ls.0d
Lerwick, . . 0s.4 ½ d
Bressay,. . . 0s. 6d.;
Registration, ½ d. to Id.
From my point of view, the crofters in Shetland have very little to complain of, but the landlords have a cause of complaint against their crofters, viz.:—
Houses are expensive to begin with, costing from £30 to £40, and are repaired by the landlord ; and repairs, such as yearly thatching, incumbent on the tenant, are not always executed. I have known tenants in my father's lifetime come to Belmont with sufficient money to pay their rent, and go home with a couple of pounds in their pockets, having pled poverty, & c , thus leaving their account just so much in arrears ; and a tenant once in arrear, as a rule, remains in arrear more or less to the end of the chapter. Only a few days ago I paid my share (half-cost) for enclosing a farm in Nesting, of two merks or 117 acres, rent of which is £5, exclusive of interest on fencing. For the same farm a new house three years ago cost me £35. I had also to erect a cottage at Garth which cost me £537.
General repairs in—
North Yell, 1880, £67
North Yell, 1881, £35
Unst, 1882, £45
North Yell,1882, £74
Two attempts have been made in Lerwick to get up a combination poorhouse for the county, both of which failed, simply because the country parishes would not combine. I rather think Mid Yell declined, and has no right now to complain. Many crofters speak of having so many " acres." What they refer to and mean is so many "merks," a very different thing from acres, of the extent of which many have not the most distant conception.
On my property in Nesting:— LI.
Two merks = 16.190 town allotment.
Hill allotment = 101.184, according to division of 1880.
A John Omand left my property about five years (ago), but while the property had been under my management his rent had not been raised—certainly not since 1874, when John Omand's and G. W . Williamson's rent at Gardon was £8 , 3s. If John Omand is the same person I refer to, I have now a scroll lease made out for him when my tenant in Vigon, North Yell, which he refused to accept. In short, any evidence given by a crofter must be accepted with a certain amount (and that a pretty large one) of salt I was told yesterday evening that evidence appeared in the Scotsman, somewhat damaging to me as a landlord, as to doubling rents. I never read the Scotsman, so I cannot quote the evidence ; but I flatly deny ever having doubled any crofter's rent without giving more than an equivalent. A crofter, for instance, who held one farm, on taking a second would surely expect to pay more than for the one—though, as a rule, if a crofter takes two farms instead of one, he gets both at a less rent than formerly charged for both, as I am thereby saved the expense of keeping up two cottages. But if the said evidence is on a par with John Omand's, I have no doubt it could be as easily refuted as his. I offered leases to all my tenants. They now number some two hundred and forty-four, and some forty-four or less have accepted leases, but only in so far that the tenants look on leases as merely binding on the landlord and not on themselves, for they throw up the lease whenever it may suit their convenience. The system of truck, that is, carrying earth down to the subsoil (stc) from outside the hill-dykes of farms to replenish the arable ground in consequence of raising the same crop from the same patch of ground year after year—in other words, not having a proper rotation of crops—is most ruinous to the hill pasture, along with their refusing or neglecting to lay down the top-sod of peat ground ; and that was one principal reason for my offer of leases under certain conditions, as per copy submitted. In 1871 or 1872 my Bressay tenants, in consequence of the regulations contained in my leases, rose in mutiny. Having passed the Indian Mutiny of 1857 I did not wish a second, and therefore, at a great sacrifice, I sold the island. At a very rough estimate, and, I believe, much below what it really is, the area of my present property is 26,000 acres, and the rental (gross), excluding fractions, £2238. The public burdens, rates, and taxes were :—
In 1880, £596/ 14/ 7
In 1881, 535/ 17/ 4
In 1882, 558 /6 /6
besides which I have to pay a yearly rent-charge of £700 for improvements. My share of the new Delting manse, built some eight years ago, was £177, 15s., and so on in proportion for rebuilding and repairing kirks and manses in nine parishes.
ARTICLES, REGULATIONS, and CONDITIONS of LEASE, which are to have the same effect as if engrossed at length in the Leases agreed betwixt the Proprietor of the Estates of Garth and Annsbrae on the one part, and the Tenants of said Lands on the other part.
1. The lease shall be for ten years from Martinmas. The rent shall be due and payable at the term of Martinmas every year.
2. Such local or other taxes as shall be levied upon tenants shall be duly paid by them when due, or if advanced by the proprietor, shall be settled for along with the rent.
3. The tenant is bound not to sub-let or assign in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, without the permission in writing of the proprietor or his factor. Without similar permission only one family shall occupy the subject let. The head of the family is responsible for the conduct of all the members of same. The tack is to go to the lawful heirs male of the tenant, according to seniority in the first instance, and failing heirs male to the heirs female by the same rules, without division. But the tenant is allowed, notwithstanding, by a written deed or letter under his hand, to select any one of his children in preference to another to succeed him in the lease, who will be recognised and received as tenant upon due information being given in writing, provided that the lease descends to the individual named free and unencumbered.
4. The tenants are bound to maintain, keep, and leave at the end of their lease in good tenantable condition the houses, and all permanent improvements handed over, or that may be added during the lease.
5. In consequence of the land being unenclosed, and in need of draining and other permanent improvements, the tenants are bound to annually expend upon their farms, in such manner as may be pointed out by the proprietor or his factor, improvements equal in value to the amount of the annual rent. During the first five years of the lease the proprietor will allow annually an amount equal to one half of such permanent improvements as may have been executed in a satisfactory manner (said amount in no case to exceed one half of the amount of rent). During the last five years of the lease, the tenants are bound to pay in addition to the annual rent a further rent charge, at the rate of seven per cent, per annum upon the total sum or sums allowed for improvements during the first five years of the lease.
6. The practice of continuing to labour without any regular rotation, and to exhaust the soil by over-cropping being extremely prejudicial both to the interests of the proprietor and tenants, it is stipulated that every tenant shall follow a five-shift rotation of crops in the order after described, viz., one-fifth of the farm under summer fallow, or green crop properly cleaned and dunged ; two-fifths to be under com crops, but not immediately following each other in the same division, and two-fifths in first and second years' grass. During the first three years, as it may be impossible to follow the rotation, the tenants are bound to follow such orders of cropping as may be pointed out by the proprietor or his factor.
7. To insure the improving of the lands, no tenant shall be at liberty to sell or otherwise dispose of any straw, turnips, hay, or dung produce upon his farm. All that class of produce must be consumed on the farm, unless with the written permission of the proprietor or his factor.
8. In compensation for the tenants leaving their lands in a more improved condition, and for being prevented from disposing of certain portions of their crops, the tenants are to be paid for the grass seeds sown with the way-going crop, as also for their straw, hay, and turnips left at the end of their lease, and for all dung made during the last six months of said lease, all at the value as appraised by two arbiters mutually chosen.
9. To insure improvement upon stock, no tenant is allowed to keep any bull- stallion, ram, or boar, except such as has been approved of, and permitted in Second-rate writing by the proprietor or his factor.
10. To prevent the destruction of, or annoyance to the stock upon the scattalds, no tenant will be allowed to keep a dog or dogs,
11. The proprietor reserves to himself the right of searching for, opening and working mines and minerals, on paying such surface damage only as may be ascertained and fixed by two arbiters mutually chosen. The proprietor also reserves the shootings, and the salmon and trout fishings.
12. The proprietor further reserves to himself all the peat-mosses, sea-weed, Peat Moss, and shell sand, with power to regulate and divide them as circumstances may render necessary. All tenants are bound in future to cast such peats as reserved may be allotted, in a regular manner, and to lay down the turf in neat and regular order without potting, and to the satisfaction of any one duly appointed by the proprietor. The drift, sea-weed, and shell sand to be used as manure, will be divided amongst the tenants according to the quantity of land held by each. All other sea-weed, rights of fore shore, share of whales, &c, are expressly reserved by the proprietor.
13. All privileges of grazing upon scattalds, removing "truck," & c , is reserved by the proprietor. No tenant is allowed any privilege outside the boundary of his farm, with the single exception of the boats as presently enjoyed.
14. The tenants are bound to accede to all local regulations which are or may be established for the more orderly management of the property, and the general interests of all concerned.
15. It is expressly stipulated that when any act of bankruptcy upon the part of the tenant takes place, that his lease shall terminate and revert back to the proprietor at the first term after such act of bankruptcy; but to remove all grounds to complain of injustice, whatever rise of rent is actually obtained from the farm in a bona fide manner, when let anew, shall be accounted for annually when received during the balance of the lease to the creditor or trustee, or an equivalent paid in one sum for all the years of the lease unexpired.
16. The proprietor reserves to himself the right to grant feus off any farm upon allowing such deduction of rent only as may be determined by two valuators mutually chosen.
17. All tenants are bound to conform to the foregoing articles, regulations, and conditions of lease, under the penalty of forfeiture of all the benefits of their lease, and immediate loss of their farms.
19. A printed copy of these conditions and regulations, signed by the proprietor or his factor, before witnesses, shall be delivered to each person who is accepted as a tenant, and the tenant's name, designation of farm, amount of rent, & c , entered in a minute-book specially kept for such purpose; and the tenant may at any time afterwards claim a regular lease upon stamped paper, to be extended at his own expense. Every tenant shall be bound to remove from the houses and lands at the expiry of the lease without notice of removal or other legal warning^ and shall be liable to double the previous year's rent for every year that he or she may remain in possession after the termination of the tack.
I have this day let for a period of ten years, from and after Martinmas next, the farm of [blank] consisting of [blank] acres, or thereby, to [blank] upon and under the articles, regulations, and conditions, as herewith prefixed, and at the yearly rent of [blank] payable at Martinmas every year.
Dated this day of 18[blank]
THOMAS M. CAMERON,
Major, of Garth and Annsbrae.