JAMES WILLIAM BRUCE, Mason, son of a Crofter in Ballista (43)—examined.
(See Appendix A. LI.)
20491. The Chairman.
—What statement have you to make?
—I beg respectfully to make the following statement on behalf of my father, who has occupied the farm on which we live since 1839, and in so doing will crave that protection from after consequences which the crofters in the Western Islands asked and received :
—In the year 1839 the rent of the farm which my father then and still occupies was £4, 12s. We had then the right to the scat-holds for our sheep, cattle, and ponies, with six or seven acres, part of it meadow grass, the value of which when made into hay would be from 20s. to 25s. This continued up to 1867 or '68, when the proprietor leased his lands to a company of merchants, and then the scatholds were taken from the tenants. My father then had to pay this company some 30s. for right to graze his animals on the scathold, and about the same time the proprietor also deprived him of the right to the meadow. When the company broke up in 1876, and the farms were again in the hands of the proprietor, the same rent was exacted as he had been paying to this company, notwithstanding the loss of scathold and meadow grass. The present rent is over £7. The dwelling-house was in disrepair, the walls being in a bad condition, as also the roof; and the proprietor, at my father's suggestion, repaired the walls and put on a slate roof; formerly it was thatch. My father, according to agreement, paid £5, and was further to pay a pound yearly for twelve years. That time has elapsed, and still we are paying this pound, which we consider a great grievance. My father's rent, as I have already stated, was in 1839 £4, 12s., with right to graze as many animals as he liked, and meadow land which yielded from twenty to twenty-five loads of hay. Now the rent is over £7 and he has neither scathold nor meadow grass. When I spoke a year or two ago to the proprietor about the hardship entailed on my father by the loss of the commonty and meadow land, he told me he would make inquiry; but the rent is still the same, and will apparently continue to the end of the chapter. So that the rent since 1839 has been nearly doubled, besides the loss of scathold and meadow grass, which may be calculated at something like 50s. This is the statement I wish to make on behalf of my father, and I have no doubt that a great many tenants have a similar tale to tell if they would only come forward. If the Commissioners wish to ask me any questions I will be glad to answer them as far as lies in my power.
20492. The Chairman.
—Is this your own writing?
—My little daughter copied it after I wrote it.
20493. How old is she?
20494. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it all your own composition ?
—I was assisted in doing some of it.
20495. Who is the proprietor referred to?
20496. Mr Cameron.
—Who is factor now?
20497. Is he factor on other estates besides Major Cameron's?
—No, I think not.
20498. This rise of rent you complain of was laid on by the former factor?
20499. What stock have you on the croft?
—We have three old cows and three young ones.
20500. And ponies?
—Four old ones and three young ones.
20501. Any sheep?
—My father has no sheep; but for the ponies and cows we have we are paying for pasture to other proprietors.
20502. Have you any scathold at all?
20503. Where do you graze your cows?
—On the scathold belonging to other proprietors, which we have liberty to use. In the summer time we have a few of them on the grass.
20504. Inside your cultivated land?
— Yes, sometimes two and sometimes three of them.
20505. What is the rent you actually pay?
—£7; that is for the land we got at first; but we pay more.
20506. The £7 is rent?
—Yes, for the farm my father took at first.
20507. What do you pay for the grazing of these animals in summer to the neighbours?
—Owing to the number we have, so much a head.
20508. What is the average price paid for grazing a Shetland cow, on a neighbouring property?
—For the hill pasture it is 2s.
20509. For how long—the whole summer?
—Back and forward just through the year; we have it always in winter, but just occasionally.
20510. What do you pay for the grazing of a pony?
—From 3s. to 4s; they are only part of the year in; that is, in the pasture we are paying for now.
20511. On whose ground do you pasture these animals?
—Different proprietors who own the ground; but we pay it to Mr Ingram.
20512. Is the land on which you pasture these animals in the occupation of a tenant or of the proprietor himself?
—It is just enclosed pasture; there are several proprietors who own it. Mr Ingram appears to be the
man who takes the rent.
20513. He is owner of the land?
—No, he is part owner.
20514. Have Mr Ingram and the other owners any stock of their own?
—They have a few.