Hillswick, Shetland, 17 July 1883 - James Winchester

JAMES WINCHESTER, Crofter and Fisherman (75)—examined.

20534. The Chairman.
—Who is proprietor of the land on which you are settled?
—I believe now the Cheynes that stop in the south in Edinburgh; but Mr Thomas Gifford here is all the master we have.

20535. Is he the factor?

20536. And who is the landlord?
—The old laird is dead; the property is under trust.

20537. What amount of land have you got, and how many acres or merks?
—It is called acres now; it was merks in our time. 1 believe we have 4 or 4½ acres.

20538. Arable ground?
—Yes, that is the name of it.

20539. Have you got any scathold?
—Yes, I have a good deal of scathold; but they are putting on five new towns upon the Assater property.

20540. You have 4 acres of arable ground and right of common pasture on scathold?

20541. What stock do you keep —how many cows'?
—I keep about eleven or twelve at the furthest, and some year3 one or two more, according to the crop.

20542. Twelve cows?

20543. How many ponies?
—I have three, I think.

20544. And sheep?
—The sheep are not many; if I have ten or twelve this is all I have.

20545. What rent do you pay?
—Mr Gifford gave me the land at £5, 3s, and now it has come up to be about £7, 10s.

20546. I don't mean with the taxes, but rent alone?
—The rent alone is £6, 10s.

20547. How long is it since it was raised from £5, 3s. to £6, 10s.?
—I got the land from Mr Gifford in 1851, and I got it then at £5 , 3s., and now there is the 1877 receipt [showing] for £7, 8s. 3d.

20548. When was it raised from £5, 3s. to £6, 10s.?
—It was raised at that time.

20549. In what year —1879?
—1869 was the greatest rise,

20550. It was raised to £6, 10s. in 1869?
—It may have been that year; it was about that time.

20551. And now, altogether, how much is it, including the taxes?
—-Including all, about £7, 10s.

20552. How many years have you been settled upon this land?
—I am settled from 1851 till now.

20553. During these thirty-two years has any of the hill pasture or scathold been taken away from the township?
—Yes, these new towns have been given all the scathold.

20554. How many new towns are there settled upon Assater?
—Three upon the south side and two upon the north side.

20555. That is five new towns?

20556. Where was the land taken from to make these new townships—was the arable land taken from your old holding, or was it taken from the farm?
—It was outside our dykes.

20557. Who was occupying that land before—was it the proprietor?
—No, it was just outside ground not enclosed at all.

20558. How are these five new townships provided with common pasture?
—They will be provided back and fore with the ‘lave.'

20559. The scathold for the new townships is taken from the scathold for the old townships'?
—Yes; for the hills we are just the same.

20560. All the cattle go together on the hills?

20561. When these new townships are made, and the cattle brought in on the same ground as yours, will your rent be reduced, or will it remain the same?
—I have not got a halfpenny of reduction; I have had the rent raised, and no reduction at all.

20562. Since the new townships were made, are you able to keep the same amount of stock as you did before, or are you obliged to keep less stock?
—No, I just strive to keep the same.

20563. Then the new townships don't do you any harm?
—They do little harm, unless for the sheep; the sheep cannot have the freedom that they had before the townships were made.

20564. But will you have the same number of sheep?
—Yes; but you see I only came to this township about 1851. I lived in another place before that.

20565. Where were these people brought from into these five new townships?
—Mr Harrison came from Hillswick.

20566. Where did they come from generally —did they come from other townships?
—Mr Harrison came from Ollaberry estate.

20567. The people came from other townships round about?

20568. And what became of the land these people occupied before?
—That I could not tell you; others gathered on these towns again.

20569. But when the people came to the new towns was the land occupied by these people turned into sheep farms, or was it given to others?
—No, it was given to crop as it was before, where they came from.

20570. Have you any real ground of complaint on account of these people being brought in?
—To whom shall I complain? Mr Gifford would do very little for me if I did complain, but I am just telling the state of things as they are.

20571. Have you a good road to your township?
—We have a road here that comes down to Hillswick, but we have no roads to the hills for our cattle.

20572. Can you drive a wheel carriage on the public road to Assater, or is there no public road?
—Yes, I believe I could drive a cart from Assaster to here.

20573. How far are you from a school?
—Not far; there is a school up here.

20574. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Why did you come here to-day? Did you come to make any complaint?
—Yes, I am complaining that I am paying too heavy a rent.

20575. The Chairman.
—Twelve cows, three horses, and ten sheep for £7, 10s. including taxes; is that a higher rent than your neighbours pay for the same land?
—No, I believe they are paying much about the same as I am paying.

20576. Have you been able to pay the rent, or have you been obliged to fall into arrears?
—No, I believe I have always managed to pay the rent.

20577. What do you sell off the croft—do you sell young beasts?
—Yes, we sell them at the sale in the months of May and November.

20578. How many beasts are you able to sell every year—two or three?
—No, the highest I can come up to is to sell one, and may be, some years, I could hardly manage that.

20579. Do you sell them at two or three years old?
—Just any one I can spare best.

20580. What will you get for two-year-old beasts this year?
—£2, and may be as high as £3; that is as high as we can get for a young beast.

20581. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are your neighbours complaining as well as yourself about the rent being too high?
—Generally the people are complaining that the rent is too high.

20582. How many neighbours have you in the same town?
—Two besides myself.

20583. Do you make your livelihood out of the croft, or have you any other business to follow?
—I have no other business but the fishing.

20584. Do you fish yourself now?
—Yes, still.

20585. You could not live on the croft without the fishing?
—Oh, my crop would only supply me with about six mouths' meat at the furthest.

20586. Have you a family?
—There is a family with me, but I have no children of my own.

20587. When your rent was increased were you told for what purpose it was put on?
—They did not tell me what the cause was.

20588. Did you get any advantages, any privileges, you had not before when the pound was put on?
—None, who should I get them from?

20589. The Chairman.
—Did they repair your house or anything of that sort?
—I have repaired it myself, but a year or two back I got Mr Gifford to repair it. But I repaired it twice before that myself.

20590. Was the additional rent put on because the house was repaired?
—No, it came on about 1869; it came on after that.

20591. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it the native breed of sheep you have got ?
—Yes, Shetland sheep.

20592. Are there any big farms in this neighbourhood given up to sheep ?
—No, none about me.

20593. Has Mr Gifford all the land about here?
—-All the land here.

20594. Is he a good landlord?
—I say nothing, only that he is taking more than the generality of us are fit to give; for to say, truth and conscience, we are paying a third above what we are able to pay.

20595. What is the name of the estate?

20596. Is it part of the estate of Busta?
—Yes, that is the name of the estate.

20597. The Chairman,
—Is Mr Gifford proprietor or factor?
—Only factor, but he belonged to the ancient Giffords of Busta.

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