Foula, 18 July 1883 - George Morrison

GEORGE MORRISON, Pastor of the Congregational Church (26)—examined.

21513. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How long have you been here?
—Two years.

21514. Are you a native of Shetland?
—No, I am a native of Wick.

21515. You were in the chair at a meeting of which Mr Gear has spoken?

21516. And you were asked to prepare the memorial which has been submitted?

21517. That memorial was read at a second meeting, paragraph by paragraph, and was approved of?

21518. There is one paragraph which you have heard referred to, which was not discussed?
—Mr Gear said so, but the statement was incorrect; every line was discussed and accepted.

21519. It may have been accepted without being discussed?
—It was really discussed; Mr Gear himself discussed it; and his opinion upon the question of the monopoly does not agree with the opinion of the crofters.

21520. Your memorial says, ' We crofters would still be placed at a disadvantage, our circumstances compelling us to sell in the cheapest and buy in the dearest market,' you think that is an irremediable disadvantage?
—I think so, because there must be freight both on goods imported and exported, owing to our situation.

21521. Would it be desirable to have an open market, or that Messrs Garriock should have the trade?
—I think it desirable that some merchant should have the market, because we cannot depend on other persons supplying us all the year round. Messrs Garriock supply us well; it is their own advantage to do so.

21522. And that is the opinion of the people of Foula to-day as it was ten years ago?
—I think so.

21523. Mr Cameron.
—When there was any difference of opinion in the meeting did you proceed to take a vote on the subject?
—There never was any difference except when Mr Gear differed from all the rest on some points; they were all unanimous.

21524. And they were unanimous as to the merchants' shop as well as the rest?
—Most unanimous.

21525. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—There used to be a monopoly of a similar kind on Fair Island, but by the establishment of more frequent communication that was done away with; you don't think that should be done here?
—It is hardly fair to say there is a monopoly here, because a few months ago there was a trading vessel lying here selling goods and buying produce.

21526. Not fish though?
—No, not fish.

21527. Unless the whole of the fish were sold to Messrs Garriock, they would not take a part of them?
—I don't think so, but I cannot speak positively to that. The men are not bound to fish to them; there are twelve men belonging to the island away at the herring fishing at Walls.

21528. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—But any fish caught at Foula must be sold to Messrs Garriock?
—They are sold to them as a matter of fact; I don't know if there is any binding agreement.

21529. You think yourself that the people of Foula like the monopoly to be in the hands of Messrs Garriock; is it for the benefit of the people of Foula that Messrs Garriock carry on business, or for their own profit?
—Their own profit.

21530. Is it possible for the benefit to be mutual?
—No doubt, Messrs Garriock's idea is to have it for their own benefit.

21531. You are not a free trader?
—I am.

21532. Are you not aware that to have a monopoly of this kind is contrary to free trade?
—I am; but I object to the word monopoly being applied to the trade here.

21533. Is it not the case that no other merchant can settle here?
—I think so; I think it has never been tried.. But Messrs Garriock & Co. are not the factors, it is Mr James Garriock.

21534. Is it not a fact that the proprietor prohibits any other person from carrying on business?
—I don't know that.

21535. If that were true would it alter your opinion?
—Yes, decidedly, if the people were bound to go to Messrs Garriock for their goods. They go there for the greater part of their goods, but they are not bound to do it. For my own part, I got part of my goods from Leith.

21536. But could any other merchant come and settle here and carry on business?
—I don't know; I cannot speak on that point.

21537. Don't you know quite well he could not?
—No; I don't suppose any other merchant would care to make the experiment, because forty
families would scarcely support another merchant.

21538. You are not a delegate ?
—No, I was simply chairman at the crofters meeting.

21539. Professor Mackinnon.
—I understand you to say that in theory you are quite as good a free trader as Mr Gear, but that your belief is that from the circumstances of this island the present arrangement is practically as good as any other that could be adopted?
—My opinion is, that we are safer under the present arrangement, because it is not likely two merchants would keep a shop here, and we might be left for two or three months without any at all.

21540. If you were informed that open trade had materially benefited the people of Fair Isle and improved the trade of the place, would that induce you to change your opinion?
—I think there is perhaps a difference between the circumstances of the people of Fair Isle and the people of Foula. The Fair islanders, if I know anything of their state, were much more oppressed under old arrangements than the Foula people; the landlord was more exacting and grasping.

21511. Do you think merchants coming here voluntarily would not be likely to supply the people better than at present?
—Not permanently, because whoever comes here must purchase fish and hosiery if he is to supply the people with goods, and hosiery is often a drug in the market for a long time, and the price is very low. The Orkney merchant who was here a short time ago, paid lower prices for hosiery than Messrs Garriock & Co. were doing.

21512. Might not your free trade principles incline you to try the experiment of a shop?

21513. In your case, practice overcomes theory?
—I am not inclined to make so heavy a sacrifice for principle.

21514. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You are the only minister on the island?
—I am the representative of the Congregational Union; I am not an ordained minister.

21515. But you are the only resident minister on the island?
—No, Mr Gear is the representative of the Church of Scotland.

21516. To which denomination do most of the inhabitants belong?
—To the Congregational Church.

21517. Do all the inhabitants come to your services without distinction of sect?
—The greater number of them come occasionally. The number connected with the Church of Scotland is a mere handful; about a dozen, I suppose.

21518. There is no sectarian feeling?

21519. Do they attend the church very regularly?
—Very regularly.

21550. And they are very particular in keeping the Sabbath?
—Yes, but not in the same way as in the west of Scotland; they are not such strict Sabbatarians as the people of the Hebrides.

21551. They don't consider it a sin to walk about on the Sabbath and admire the beauties of nature?
—No, we are not so straight-laced as the Hebrideans.

21552. Do they indulge in song singing?
—They don't indulge very much in song singing.

21553. Have you any music amongst you?
—Yes, the inhabitants of Foula are very musical.

21551. What form does it take?
—Principally, the form of sacred music.

21555. Have they any instrumental music?
—-Yes, Mr Paterson has an instrument and I have another.

21556. What sort of an instrument?
—A harmonium.

21557. Is the old practice of fowling entirely given up?
—Yes, I think

21558. How long since?
—I think a long time ago.

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