Hillswick, Shetland, 17 July 1883 - Erasmus Doull

ERASMUS DOULL, North Roe, North Mavin (70)—examined.

20598. The Chairman.
—Are you a fisherman?
—No; for forty years I was, bnt I am not now.

20599. Are you a crofter?

20600. Where is North Roe ?
—At the northernmost point of the parish of North Mavin.

20601. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you come here to-day to represent other people, or to speak only for yourself?
—I was wishing to speak a little for Doull myself, and, so far as I know, something for other people. I have a letter here which I should like your Lordship to read :
—' North Roe, July 16, 1883.
Gentlemen, The bearer, Erasmus Doull, wishes to give evidence before you at Hillswick to morrow. He is a plain honest man, capable of giving you vast information regarding the usages between landlord and tenant, if you give him time to speak.
—Gentlemen, yours respectfully,
—Her Majesty's Commissioners at Hillswick.'

20602. Who is the Mr Inkster who signs this?
—A merchant.

20603. Did anybody choose you to come here, or did you come of your own accord?
—I suppose they chose me.

20604. Was there a meeting?
—Yes. on Saturday night; the fishermen could not attend themselves, and for that reason they chose me to come here to give my own particulars, and, if I liked, to say anything about anybody else as far as I knew the facts.

20605. Was there anything particular that they wished you to state on their behalf, and, if so, will you be so good as to say it?
—Whatever they wished me to mention, I believe they would like to have some compensation on leaving their places, or leases. They wished, if it were possible, to get some compensation if they were put off their farm, or leases when they were on them.

20606. None of them have leases?
—None that I am aware of.

20607. Would they generally wish to have leases'?
—-So far as I know, they would.

20608. Have they ever asked for leases?
—I could not answer that; they are under the tacksmen generally.

20609. Are they on the Busta property?
—Some of them are not.

20610. Who is the proprietor of the other part of the place?
—Hay & Co., Lerwick.

20611. How many families are there in your place?
—I cannot say.

20612. Is there a large population?
—Yes, pretty large.

20613. And they are all crofters?

20614. And all fishermen?
—Yes, fishermen and crofters. The place is very small.

20615. Do they complain that they have too little land?
—I did not hear anything about that; perhaps they might have had something to say about that themselves.

20616. Is there any large farm near them?

20617. What is your own rent?
—I could not exactly say; I pay the half of the rent; but I could not exactly tell you the standing rent which they pay. I think they pay about £8, 9s.

20618. Does that include taxes?
—No; I pay £10, 11s . with taxes.

20619. How much land have you for that?
— I could not give you an estimate of it, because I never heard it from the factor; he never told me.

20620. What quantity of corn are you able to raise off your croft7.
—I never counted what we call the sheaves.

20621. How long does it keep your family and animals in food?
—About six months.

20622. Do you raise anything but oats and potatoes?
—A little bere and some few turnips.

20623. Do you plough the ground or dig it?
—Dig it.

20624. What stock do you keep —how many cows?
—Eleven head of cows.

20625. How many sheep?
—I have only about twelve.

20626. And how many horses?

20627. No Shetland ponies?

20628. Are you prevented from keeping pouies?

20629. Do any of your neighbours keep horses?
—No, they are all done away with; within about three miles of where I am there are none.

20630. Why were they done away with?

20631. What sort of disease ?

20632. When did that happen?
—About three or four years back.

20633. Did the whole of the horses of the place die of that disease?
—A good many died.

20634. Do most of your neighbours keep the same amount of stock as you do?
—Not so many cows, because I have more arable ground than they have.

20635. Have you pasture enough?
—Yes, I have pasture enough to do me.

20636. You have no complaint in respect of scathold?

20637. Have any of your neighbours any complaiut?
—I do not know.

20638. Has any of it been taken away from them ?

20639. Have the rents been raised in recent times?
—It has been twice raised on me.

20640. What rent did you pay first?
—£4, 15s.

20641. How long ago was that?
—A good many years back.

20642. For the same land you now occupy?
—I have more land now than I had then.

20643. What was the first rise?
—Eight shillings and some odd pennies.

20644. What was the next?
—Five shillings.

20645. How long ago was that?
—About nine years back.

20646. There has been no further rise?

20647. And you have more land than you had at first?

20648. When did you get the additional land?
—About eight years back.

20649. Do you complain that the rent is too high ?
—I do think it is high enough; as times are going, it is over-rented altogether.

20650. If you were laird yourself, do you think you would give it at a lower rent?
—I do not know. I might be like more of them—look for as much as I could get.

20651. Do your neighbours think the rent is too high?
—I don't know.

20652. Have you difficulty in paying your rents?
—Yes, great difficulty some years.

20653. Are your people much in arrear, or do they pay their rent pretty well?
—Pretty well.

20654. Are there any poor people amongst you?
—Yes, a good many poor people.

20655. I don't mean paupers, but people amongst you in a poor condition of life?
—Yes, some families.

20656. Is that owing to circumstances over which they have no control themselves?
—Partly that, I believe, and partly from getting low in means.

20657. What fishing do the people in your district engage in?
—-The ling fishing, and some are now engaged in the herring fishing.

20658. Where do they go to the herring fishing?
—Lerwick and Unst and Yell.

20659. Have they large boats of their own?
—Yes, some have and there are a few small Shetland boats.

20660. Do they still go to the fishing with these small boats?
—Yes, they go with a few.

20661. Are some of them engaged in boats belonging to fisk-curers?

20662. Some of them, you said, are on Hay & Co.'s property?

20663. What is the name of the property?
—Gossaburgh; but I suppose, as far as I know, it was sold over to the estate of Busta.

20664. On that property do the people fish for Hay & Co.?

20665. Do they fish for anybody else?
—Formerly they were not allowed; I cannot answer for that just now.

20666. You are not a fisherman yourself?
—Not now.

20667. You used to be?

20668. What property are you on?

20669. Whom did you fish for?
—For curers.

20670. For any curer?
—Yes; I was not bound to fish to any man.

20671. Are there any curers living iu the place?

20672. So far as you know, are the crofters on Hay, & Co.'s property not allowed to give their fish to others?
—At one time they were not, but I cannot say for now. I knew that three years back one was threatened, and another's land was advertised if they did not go back and fish for Hay & Co.

20673. What were the names of the persons?
—Arthur Mowat and Robert Inkster.

20674. Had they been giving their fish to somebody else?
—They were giving their fish to another man.

20675. And they got that threatening notice?

20676. How long ago was that?
—Three years back.

20677. Do these fish-curers keep stores in the place?

20678. And supply the fishermen?
— Yes.

20679. Are the fishermen obliged to take their goods from them?
—I don't know; I don't think it.

20680. In point of fact, they do take their goods from them?
—Perhaps they are obliged to do it, if they have no ready money to go anywhere else.

20681. How did you do yourself—did you get your goods from the fish-curer?

20682. Were you charged more than you would have been by another shopkeeper?
—It is a good while since I had a chance to know much, but I thought they were much about the same. I did not see any difference in the goods any way I could take it. There is another thing I may mention, my chief reason for coming here was for this; we have no roads—there are twelve miles where there are no roads —and I am paying road money, and I suppose every one about us has had to pay it since 1851. Then there is a school in North Roe, but there is no road to it, and the children cannot get to it in winter time. An application has been made to get a road, but without effect.

20683. Is there no high road at all through North Roe?

20684. Where is the nearest point of the high road?
—About eight miles.

20685. And you have no horses?
—-No horses.

20686. So that any carriage or traffic with other places has to be done on people's backs?

20687. Have representations been made to the road trustees upon that subject?

20688. More than one?
—I think so.

20689. And has there ever been any proposal to make a road by them?
—Yes, but they have never carried it out, and the school is at a disadvantage, losing the Government grant by reason of the pupils not being able to get to it during three months of the year.

20690. Are there many of the children far from the school?
—A good many.

20691. Is the school badly attended in consequence?
—Very; and we have no doctor within fifteen miles.

20692. Where does the doctor live?
—At Busta.

20693. Do you find that a hardship?
—Yes; and when we require him he comes as far as the road and can get no further, and then he has to
take a boat, and perhaps he cannot get over at all.

20694. You are not obliged to pay a tax for the doctor?
—I think we are.

20695. Is it included amongst your assessments?
—I think it is; but some person here may be better able to speak to that.

20696. When the doctor visits any of you, have you to pay him your sell?

20697. Mr Cameron.
—Are there any other shops in North Roe besides the one the fish-curer keeps?
—There are three.

20698. Have the fishermen not liberty to go to any shop they like?
—They can go to any shop they please.

20699. You said that some of the ponies got scab, and died; did your sheep get the scab too?

20700. Is the scab a new complaint among the ponies?
—Yes, it was a new complaint to us.

20701. Did you ever try any remedy for it?

20702. Did you try and dip them?

20703. Did it do any good?
—It did good latterly, when people got into the knowledge of it.

20704. Do you dip your sheep regularly?

20705. Twice a year?
—Yes, or oftener.

20706. Do you manufacture cloth from the wool of the Shetland sheep?

20707. Is that coat you have on made of it?

20708. Where was it woven?
—North Roe.

20709. And spun?
—Spun in the Roe, where I live.

20710. And who is your tailor?
—A man about eight miles away to the southward.

20711. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What price were you paying for meal last year?
—From 22s. to 24s. a boll.

20712. Was that for ready money?
—Yes, I believe it was.

20713. Do you know what the price was to those who had to get it on credit?
—That I cannot tell you; I do not think there was much difference made, so far as I know.

20714. What are you able to sell of the produce of your stock in the year?
—I generally sell two cattle, an old and a young one.

20715. What do they fetch?
—-Some years they are very low, and some years very high.

20716. Do you make £8 in a year?
—One year with another, I may make that.

20717. Not more than that?
—No, I don't think so.

20718. Are you able to sell any sheep or wool?

20719. Then you don't sell off the croft what would pay the rent of the croft, besides what you consume yourself?
—I sell what cattle I can spare, and the rest I make out anyway I can —anything I can do to turn in a
little money —such as butter, and things I can afford from the place.

20720. Do you sell butter?

20721. How much in a year?
—Not much.

20722. Fifty pounds?

20723. Twenty pounds?
—About that.

20724. What is the price of butter in Shetland?
—From 10d. to 1s. as far as I know.

20725. Do you use the wool off your own sheep?

20726. Is it spun at home?

20727. Do you make the cloth too?
—Yes; my coat is made of it.

20728. Are there weavers in the parish of North Mavin?

20729. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are there many people of your name in the island?
—Not one but myself.

20730. Have your people been long in the island?
—Yes, about 300 years.

20731. But you don't know anybody else of your own surname?
—Yes, plenty.

20732. You stated that you don't sell any of the wool off your own sheep?

20733. Have you enough wool from your own sheep to clothe your family as well as yourself, or are you obliged to buy?
—It is sufficient for me. I have not many of a family; I have only myself and my wife, and a son, who lives with me.

20734. Is there enough from the twelve sheep to keep you?
—My son has some sheep besides these.

20735. You have told us you were fishing at one time, and that you dealt with curers; when there was a settlement between you and the curer, and you had any money to get, were you paid in money?
—Yes, I was; or an order to Mr Gifford for rent—the same as money.

20736. They did not compel you to take out the balance in goods?

20737. Was the disease among the horses the cause of great loss to the township?
—To some it was, and to some it was not.

20738. What were people saying was the cause of it—was it something bad in the grass, or what?
—I could not answer that: the disease just came in.

20739. In the letter you brought it is stated that you are capable of giving vast information regarding the usages between landlords and tenants; you have told us only about Hay & Co.—is there nothing else you have to tell us about the usages between landlords and tenants?
—Nothing but what I have stated about myself. I have paid rent since 1815, and I have had rises twice.

20740. Has anybody a lease upon Hay's property or on the Busta property?
—None that I know of.

20741. Do the people all want leases?

20742. Would they improve their lands more if they had leases, and were sure of not being turned out?
—I think so, certainly.

20743. There has been no progress made in improving their crofts, in consequence?
—Not a great deal, unless what I have made myself.

20744. What length of lease would you and other people like?
—I could not tell you what other people would like, but I should like some length of time. But I am now old, and it will not matter much.

20745. If you were-a young man, what length of lease would you like?
—I thought when the factor came in, every one was to have a nineteen years' lease; but we never got them.

20746. You did ask for the lease fur yourself?
—-I did, and got very little satisfaction.

20747. What did you ask?
—I asked for a lease.

20748. And you didn't get any satisfaction?

20749. The Chairman.
—You said that you never sold any sheep?

20750. What becomes of the old sheep?
—I kill them.

20751. You eat them in your own family!
—Yes, and very glad to get them.

20752. You said you raised about enough corn to last for six months in the family?
—Yes, not much more than that: some years more, and some less.

20753. Do you grind the corn at home or at the mill?
—A little at home, and the rest I put out to the mill.

20754. You are not obliged to carry the corn to any particular mill?
—No. I could not get any milled but for the steamboat bringing it. I could not get a road for a cart though you were to give me a thousand pounds—nothing but bogs and hills.

20755. Did the old people grind the corn?
—-No; they ground it in small declivities in the hills where the water came down and heaved it round.

20756. Are there any of those mills left in the country?

20757. Why do you not use them?
—We do so; but it is only sometimes we can use them for want of water.

20758. You stated that the children could not go to school on account of the want of roads; cannot children walk over the grass as well as along the road?
—They can walk in summer.

20759. Is it on account of the want of bridges over the river that they cannot go?
—There is a small river, but lately they have got a wooden bridge across, and there is a little more safety; but before that their parents had to go with them till they got by that place.

20760. Is there still any dangerous river without a bridge between you and the school?
—No, but it is very marshy wet ground for children to go over in winter—about two and a half or three miles.

20761. Is the disease among the ponies extending all over, or is it only in your place?
—I cannot say; I never made inquiry.

20762. Who built your house?
—Mr Gilford.

20763. How long ago?
—About seventeen years back.

20764. Did it cost you any money, or did he pay the whole of it?
—He put up the walls 6 feet high on the one side and 5 feet 4 inches on the other, and upon the rise on the upper side 5 feet 4 inches, and 28 feet long and 12 feet broad. He did no more; the rest of the work I did myself.

20765. Who paid for the timber?
—He gave me the wood, and I had to put it on and paint it; and I put on the lime, and made the house fit to live in.

20766. Did he supply the lime?

20767. Did he carry it up to the place?
—No; I flitted it from the place, as far, I suppose, as from here to Busta.

20768. How did you flit it?
—In a boat.

20769. Was the rise of rent after the new house was built?

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