Hillswick, Shetland, 17 July 1883 - John Anderson

JOHN ANDERSON, Farmer, Merchant, and Fish-Curer, Hillswick (60)—examined.

20832. Professor Mackinnon.
—You have been connected with this place for a long time?
—Yes, thirty-five years.

20833. And were you here before that?
—No; I am a native of Delting, and came here in 1848.

20834. Are there any who own property in the parish except those we heard of—this trust and the Messrs Hay?
—Yes; there are other proprietors.

20835. Who are they?
—Gideon Anderson is the next largest proprietor.

20836. Is that a connection of your own family?
—My brother, who is in Ollaberry.

20837. And Lord Zetland has a little?
—Yes; and there is Mr Cheyne of Tangwick, and Mr John Cheyne, sheriff-substitute of Dundee; Mr
Anderson, Ollaberry; Mr Joseph Leask, Lerwick; and Mr John Harwick.

20838. Are there any small holdings?
—John Harwick's is the smallest; it has a rental of about £6 or £7.

20839. Does he work the place himself?

20840. By far the largest property is the Busta estate?

20841. Does the factor rent it himself, or doe3 he let it out?
—He lets it out.

20842. He just acts as factor?

20843. What is the poor rate?
—3s. on the gross rental, and 4s. on the net rental.

20844. The school rate?
—2s. on the gross rental; but it will be 2s. 3d. this coming year.

20845. Are these rates decreasing or increasing?
—Rather increasing.

20846. The school rate is to be 2s. 3d. on the gross rental next year; will it attain its maximum then?
—We hope so.

20847. Is the parish well provided with schools now?
—Yes, we have five schools in the parish.

20848. Are all these schools erected since the Education Act came into operation?
—There was an old parochial school which has been renewed.

20849. And there are four others ?
—-Yes, one was handed over two or three years ago from the United Presbyterian Church at Ollaberry.

20850. Are these schools fairly taken advantage of by the people?
—Oh, yes.

20851. The children of to-day are receiving education in greater numbers than before the new Act came into operation?

20852. But still, I suppose, they are not able to attend so regularly as you would wish?
—Not so regularly as we would wish, but the officer does what he can to get them out.

20853. Do they attend as regularly as you think they could?
—No, I think not.

20854. Are they improving in that respect?
—They are improving since the schools were built.

20855. Of course, it will take some time?
—It will.

20856. Is the qualification of teachers under the new administration higher than it was for teachers under the old administration?
—I could scarcely say; the qualification is somewhat different.

20857. I don't refer to the parish school, but other schools in the parish; are teachers who have succeeded them of higher qualifications than their predecessors?
—Oh, yes, certainly they are.

20858. Of course, the buildings are better?
—Yes, the buildings are the best in the parish

20859. I suppose there is no fish-curer in this place but your own firm?
—Yes, there is Mr Lawrence Smith, Mr Inkster, and Messrs Adie; and there used to be one Williamson, and Hay & Co., North Roe.

20860. I mean in Hills wick?
—There is nobody here but myself just now.

20861. And you cure the fish for all the people here?
—I don't cure for all the people.

20862. Whom do they get to cure for them?
—They have six other curers in the parish; at Stennes. Mr Inkster and Messrs Adie have each a station.

20863. You cure for all the people who bring their boats in here?

20864. And of course you also provide them with stores?
—I buy the fish from them.

20865. And provide them with stores?
—Yes; but sometimes they get them at Lerwick.

20866. Have you communication with Lerwick?
—Yes; the 'St Clair' comes in here, and that has been a great boon for us.

20867. Are there any crofters upon the property you rent?

20868. It is in your own hands?

20869. Is there as much sub-letting of property by tacksmen now as there used to be?
—I have the property at Ollaberry belonging to my brother; I sub-let that.

20870. Does your brother stay at Ollaberry?

20871. And you rent it from him, and sub-let it?

20872. Are your tenants fishing for you?
—Chiefly; but there are a good many otherwise engaged.

20873. And do those who are engaged in fishing fish for your firm?
—No, only some.

20874. Some fish for other people?
—Yes; they are quite at liberty to fish for whom they like.

20875. But when you cure yourselves, the most of them naturally come to you with their fish?
—Yes, I am glad to get as many of them as I can, as long as they are content.

20876. The chief fishing here is cod and ling?
—Ling fishing principally.

20877. It is a good station for that?
—Yes, it is a good station; but the fishing stations for ling used to be at Stennes, Hama Toe, and Roeness Voe.

20878. And the herring fishing is a recent industry?
—This is the first year we have tried it at Hillswick.

20879. Where do you go for the herring?
—Mostly within the bay, and they have gone about fifty miles off, right into the ocean.

20880. There is scarcely any family at all without more or less land, I suppose?
—Not many. There may be a few individuals who have rooms.

20881. Of the natives of the place?
—Yes, who occupy rooms, without land.

20882. The crofters who have spoken to-day, spoke about the rents being somewhat high; do you think that the rents are too high upon the Busta estate?
—I scarcely think they are over-rented. So long as they have liberty of scathold, I think they may do. There may be individual. cases where the rents are too high.

20883. You mean where the rent is too high for the croft, but not for the croft with the scathold?

20884. When there is common pasture, is every crofter entitled to put as much stock upon it as he pleases?
—Yes, that is true; but then they are necessarily restricted, because they can only put stock on in summer; they could not live in winter if everybody put on as many as they could.

20885. So that they are restricted by the number of stock they can keep in winter?

20886. But I suppose they don't give any winter feeding to their sheep?
—Oh yes, they sometimes do; during snow they must either give them feeding, or lose them.

20887. But there is no rule where there is common pasture, that there is a summing, and that no crofter is allowed to put on the pasture more than a certain number of sheep and cattle?

20888. And the proprietor does not interfere at all?
—No, he has not interfered yet

20889. So that the one who can buy stock can summer as many as he can keep?
—That is true.

20890. Take two neighbours—one who has capital and has put a good deal of stock upon the scathold, and another neighbour who has no stock to speak of, does the poor one not consider the possession of stock by the other a grievance?
—Yes, I have heard that said; I have heard a farmer of that kind express himself to that effect, that he thought it would be a good plan if the proprietor restricted everybody to so many cattle, or charged them for what they occupied.

20891. Make them pay?
—Yes, for each head.

20892. Those who had so many over a certain number?

20893. Are the Shetland sheep still kept in large numbers in the parish for the purposes of the hosiery industry?
—Yes, in considerable numbers.

20894. And the wool which the women of the place knit is Shetland wool?
—Mostly; it is preferred by those who buy.

20895. And they get a good market for their goods?
—I think so.

20896. And a ready market?
—Yes, hitherto.

20897. We were told lately that Shetland gools were a drug in the market, more or less; is that your experience here?
—I don't think that is my experience; the refuse sort of stuff may be a drug in the market, but not the good hosiery.

20898. What kind of articles do they knit in this parish?
—In this district we only knit underclothing for ladies and gentleman—that is the chief branch of the trade here.

20899. No stockings or gloves?

20900. And there is quite a ready market for the goods?
—Yes, we have always found that.

20901. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are you in the habit of dealing with the people for hosiery?

20902. Do you supply them with the wool?
—Sometimes we sell them the wool.

20903. Are you able to purchase Shetland wool for them?
—Sometimes we purchase it for them, in order to supply them when they have run out of their own.

20904. Do you sometimes supply them with Cheviot wool?
—No, we don't like to buy it for hosiery.

20905. You are able to procure a sufficient supply of Shetland wool?

20906. What is the price of it?
—We pay Is. 5d. a pound for the fine wool.

20907. Does the colour make any difference?
—Yes, a little. We have to pay a little higher for the coloured wool,—dark and light brown —murrait wool.

20908. Have you any information as to what sort of profit a woman can make out of the hosiery business?
—I can scarcely say.

20909. I suppose they only devote their odd time to knitting and spinning? They don't sit down and spin day after day?
—-No, they do it while they are carrying peats and walking about the road.

20910. Are there any old women in the parish without other means of support, who are able to keep themselves by the hosiery trade?
—Yes, some of the women do. I don't know if they would be able to support themselves by their knitting; they may have some other way of supplementing it.

20911. Have you any idea what such people make in the course of the year by knitting and spinning?
—No, I cannot say. I heard one of the witnesses speak about the roads—that is a thing we are very much in need of. We have no roads from here all round to Asheness and Ollaberry to North Roe. And it would be a great favour to us if we had the telegraph.

20912. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the nearest telegraph station?
—Voe, eighteen miles from here.

20913. Is there any telegraph station at Olaberry?
—No. When the telegraph was extended to the North Isles, and I spoke about extending it to Ollaberry and Hillswick, and we were told they would do it if we got up a guarantee of £50. I wrote to a good many people who, I thought, might be interested in it, and we got up a subscription of £60, and we were told it could not be done unless we got up £100.

20914. Who was it that told you that?
—I could not say.

20915. Was it an official of the post office?
—Yes, or the Telegraph Company, perhaps. I don't remember hi3 name.

20916. Professor Mackinnon.
—Was that before the telegraphs were taken over by Government?

20917. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated that the price of Shetland wool was Is. 5d. per lb., but that dark wool would be more; can you tell me the difference?
—I think about 2d. per lb.

20918. Is. 7d. ?

20919. Are there many Cheviot sheep in this parish?
—Yes; I have some on my property.

20920. And some blackfaced ?

20921. But the bulk of the sheep stock is native?
—Yes; the bulk in the parish. Some of them may have been crossed, not to their advantage, I dare say, in regard to wool.

20922. The bulk of the stock being native in this parish, as the bulk of the stock at Balta Sound was Cheviot —would that account for the native wool being Is. 8d. and the black 2s. at Balta Sound?
—I suppose so.

20923. Does the 'St Clair' go all along the western coast of Scotland?
—No; she goes to Stromness, and then to Aberdeen and Leith.

20924. Would you explain why the poor rate seems so high in this parish; is it because the number of paupers is disproportionate to the rental, or what?
—The chief cause probably is the number of lunatics; that is the heaviest charge we have, I think.

20925. Are these lunatics boarded out in the south, or do you keep them in the parish?
—Some are boarded in the south, and others are kept at home.

20926. We were told at Mid Yell that the rate is very high there, and that it might be reduced considerably if the poorhouse test could be applied; is this parish one of those willing to go into a combination?
—I scarcely think i t; we believe that our paupers can be kept cheaper than by having a poorhouse.

20927. But do you think there are any on the roll now receiving relief who would not go into the poorhouse?
—I scarcely think it; members of the Parochial Board are so well acquainted with people in their different districts that they know their circumstances exactly.

20928. And probably a good number of the paupers are old people?
—Yes, a good many of them; but we would be the better of a poorhouse in the parish, where we could order the paupers home. We would be very much the better of that.

20929. Has any reason been assigned why lunacy is so prevalent in Shetland compared with other parts?
—I have not heard.

20930. One of the crofters' delegates complained of want of leases—are you aware that that is a general complaint?
—I have no reason to complain. I have a lease; but I think that want has generally been felt,

20931. Do you think if the people had a lease of some kind they would be disposed to improve their croft?
—Yes, I think so.

20932. If you were a proprietor yourself you would not object to grant leases if the terms were fair?
—No, I think not. I offered to give leases to my Ollaberry tenants to the extent of my lease.

20933. And did they come to terms with you?
—Some of them did, and some of them did not seem to want it.

20934. What terms did you make with regard to the buildings, with those tenants to whom you granted leases?
—There is only one gentleman has a lease—Mr George Sinclair.

20935. What conditions did you propose with regard to the buildings?
—Well, I supposed he would be obliged to keep up the buildings.

20936. But supposing a house could not be repaired further in a lease of nineteen years, do you think the new house should be built by the proprietor or by the tenant?
—I think the proprietor should build it.

20937. That is the common way of doing in these islands?
—I think so. I think I heard one of-the witnesses say something about the prices of cattle. I think he was wrong in what he said; the price of cattle has been very high this year. I think I heard him mention £2 or £3 for young cattle. I buy cattle, and I have been paying from £3 to £5.

20938. What age?
—Two to three years old.

20939. They are bringing this year from £3 to £5?

20940. Do you mean crofters' cattle?

20941. You made use of the word refuse in speaking of Shetland wool?
—I did not mean the refuse of the wool, I meant inferior knitted hosiery—murat.

20942. Is that a Norse word?
—I cannot tell.
[Rev. Mr Sutherland.
—Yes, it is; it means a colour between brown and yellow.]

20943. The Chairman.
—Is this brown wool more peculiar to some farms than to others? Does it depend at all on the soil upon which the sheep are raised?

20944. Would the native breed have it in the same degree?
—Yes, it is maybe more common in one place than another, because they may keep a murrait ram.

20945. Is it the pure native breed of cattle for which you pay £3 to £5?

20946. Has any cross been introduced in this part of the country?
—Yes, we have some crosses here between shorthorn and Shetland, which makes a good cross.

20947. Is that cross used by the small tenants?
—No. We kept a shorthorn bull for some time, but they thought the cross breds would not be so hardy, and did not take advantage of it.

20948. But you think it might be extensively taken advantage of by the small tenants?
—I think not, because unless the animals are well fed, they don't turn out well.

20949. You stated that you were lessee of your brother's property, is it in that sense that you are a farmer, or have you actually land under your own management and cultivation?
—I have land under my own management besides,—here at Hillswick.

20950. And you have also your brother's property, which you sub-let ?

20951. Is the whole of your brother's property sub-let?
—The whole of it is sub-let

20952. Are there a great many tenants?
—I think there will be about fifty-seven crofters; and the average rent is about £5, 11s.

20953. Are most of these crofters fishermen?
—Yes, I daresay the most of them are, although I could not give the proportion exactly.

20954. Are these small tenants on your brother's property, in general, under your control and management, just as if you were proprietor?
—Just as if I were proprietor, to the end of my lease, which expires, I think, in 1886.

20955. I have no doubt you are aware that a great deal was said of obligations which the fishermen had iu reference to traders and curers in past times, as to the thraldom in which they were supposed to be kept formerly; we wish very much to arrive at a strictly correct impression of the relations between the fishermen and merchants at the present moment; 'I understood you to say that these small tenants on your brother's property are absolutely under no obligation whatever to fish for you or any other person?
—None at all. I called them together when I first took the property, and told them they were at perfect liberty to fish for me or any other person; and that if they improved the land and kept the houses in repair, and kept the fences up, the rent would never be raised upon them, and I have never raised it.

20956. Those tenants who are not fishing for you lie under no disability or discouragement whatever?
—None in the world.

20957. Do the whole of the fishermen on your brother's property fish for you, or do there happen to be some who don't?
—There are surely some who don't. I think there are more fishing to me now than there were a few years ago.

20958. Entirely by their own election?
—Entirely by their own free will.

20959. But still you can state there are some who do not fish for you, and who fish for others?

20960. Do you keep an account current with those who fish for you?

20961. How often is a settlement made?
—Always at November.

20962. And when the settlement is made, supposing there is money due to the fishermen, is that always punctually paid to them in cash at the time?

20963. And there is no obligation expressed or understood to spend that money in your shop?
—None in the world.

20964. And they, in fact, spend it where they think proper?
—Yes; and I think that is the case with all the curers in the parish, so far as I am acquainted with them at the present time.

20965. Will you candidly state whether you think the relations between curer and fishermen were less easy and less liberal in former times than they are now?
—I can only speak from hearsay, and I have been told by the old fishermen that was the case.

20966. You think they lay under obligations then from which they are now free?
—Yes, I have been told that by the fishermen themselves.

20967. Then, in your view, are the relations between the fish-curer and fishermen easy and liberal now?
—I am happy to say they are.

20968. You don't think that the fishermen at present lie under any discouragement or hardship in consequence of this rather complicated position of the fish-curer, who is, in a manner, their shopkeeper, landlord, and curer or purchaser, all at the same time?
—No, I think not, because, for all the fish we get to cure, unless in the summer fishing, we pay down
ready money for all the fish that they catch through all the year—except summer—we pay them cash over the counter.

20969. You mean the fish which they catch in winter?
—Yes, and spring.

20970. There is no account against the fish kept in your books?

20971. Is that generally the case in Shetland?
—I cannot tell, but I find it very much better for ourselves than to run an account for it.

20972. Part of your transactions with the fishermen is in the way of account current and part in the way of cash payments?
—Yes, that is so.

20973. Is there anything else you wish to state?
—Nothing, except about a pier; if we got any help with a pier here, it would be a great benefit to the whole community, and to the fishermen especially.

20971. What sort of a pier would you desire here?
—Probably a pier extending for sixty yards or so would be a great accommodation.

20975. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—A wooden pier?
—At present we have erected a sort of temporary wooden pier; but we wish something more substantial than that.

20976. A stone pier?
—Yes; cemented.

20977. Is it a work which could be designed and executed on the spot, or would it require an engineer from a distance?
—No, I think it could be done in the neighbourhood.

20978. You have plenty of stone and sand?

20979. What would be the cost of one that would be sufficient?
—I think about £200.

20980. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there no pier here except the wooden thing we have seen?
—No, and it is a great trouble to fishermen.

20981. I wonder fishermen and fish-curers never did it for themselves?
—Unless the pier was built substantially it would not stand.

20982. The Chairman.
—But when the cost would not be greater than £200, should that not be done by the proprietors, fish-curers, and merchants, who would receive interest for so small an expenditure?
—You see we are doing all we can as tenants, and all we can afford to do; it would come too heavy upon us to do more.

20983. What do they charge a fish-curer wanting a place?
—I think the usual charge is £12 a year, besides a royalty of something like 3d. or 4d. a barrel.

20984. Is the water deep enough within one hundred yards?
—Deep enough for those big boats, but not for other purposes.

20985. Professor Mackinnon.
—How far out would the pier have to go to accommodate a steamer and deeper vessels?
—Perhaps 200 yards.

20986. Measuring from the high-water mark?

20987. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is the place where the wooden pier now is the most suitable place?
—It is the most suitable place for the beach; but I fancy the place where you saw the rocks on the right coming in.

20988. The Chairman
—What do large boats of forty or fifty feet keel draw?
—About six or eight feet when they are loaded.

20989. And you want a pier which would enable them to come alongside at low water ?
—Yes, that would do.

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