Hillswick, Shetland, 17 July 1883 - John Macpherson

JOHN MACPHERSON, Farmer, Islesburgh (32)—examined.

21296. Mr Cameron.
—What part of the parish is your farm situated
—A.t the southern extremity.

21297. Who is your landlord?
—My farm is on the Busta Estate.

21298. Do you come here to represent any one but yourself?

21299. How do you come to be here?
—I have been asked to give evidence since I came into the meeting.

21300. What is the size of your farm?
—I think I have about twenty acres under cultivation.

21301. And how much hill pasture?
—I cannot say exactly. I have a lease.

21302. To how many acres does the hill pasture extend —is it scathold right?

21303. How many acres are there?
—From 500 to 600.

21304. What class of stock do you keep?
—Blackfaced and Cheviot in sheep.

21305. How do you manage to keep them separate?
—I never attempt to keep them separate.

21306. Is it a ewe stock?

21307. Is the ewe stock blackfaced?
—Partly blackfaced and partly Cheviot.

21308. Do you let the ewes run together?
—Yes, unless I think proper to keep them separate for some purpose which I think might be of

21309. What do you do with the lambs —are they grazed?
—Some of them; but I generally sell them to some person or ship them on my own account to the southern market.

21310. Which kind do you find thrives best?
—That is sometimes a matter of opinion; one man might have one opinion, and another a different opinion; but both kinds, I think thrive in a fair way in Shetland.

21311. Do you keep any cows?

21312. What kind?
—Southern crossed with Shetland.

21313. Do you find that answers?

21314. Do you house them in winter?

21315. Would it answer if you did not house them in winter?
—No, certainly not.

21316. Therefore that breed would not suit the poorer tenants?
—No, or they would need to keep fewer of them and feed them much better.

21317. When you house them you feed them of course?

21318. Have you crofters or large farmers as neighbours?
—Chiefly crofters.

21319. What kind of cattle do they keep?
—Chiefly native Shetland cattle.

21320. Do they house them in winter?

21321. What do they feed them on?
—Straw and cabbage as long as they have them.

21322. They would have no means of feeding a better kind of cow?
—Not unless they kept much fewer of them. Sometimes they graze them a little.

21323. In your opinion could the crofters keep on their common grazing the same class of blackfaced sheep as you do?
—Yes, if they would keep fewer of them.

21324. You think the animals would thrive if there were not too many?
—Quite so.

21325. Are you acquainted with other parts of Shetland beyond this particular island?
—Not to a great extent. I am a stranger here; it is only four years since I came here; I came from the mainland of Scotland.

21326. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—From what part of Scotland?

21327. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you any right to scathold land near you?
—Not according to my lease. My predecessor, I believe, claimed a right to it.

21328. Do you know if the 500 acres of your farm ever formed part of the scathold ?
—I believe they did.

21329. Have you heard if it caused any dissatisfaction to your crofter neighbours when that part was cut off the scathold?
—No, it is an isolated part almost surrounded by the sea.

21330. So that they would not have got much advantage from it?
—If they had it, with the rest of the property, it would have been an advantage; but I don't think the want of it hurts them.

21331. Is cabbage a crop largely grown in Shetland ?
—Yes, to a certain extent.

21332. In place of turnips ?
—Yes, turnips are not grown to any large extent by the crofters.

21333. What kind of cabbage is grown?
—I suppose it is a kind belonging to Shetland—what is called Shetland kail.

21334. Is it Scotch kail or drumhead

21335. Have you anything to remark about the grievances of the people here?
—No, I might, perhaps, pass an opinion upon the scathold. I think, in the first place, there ought to be a division of the scathold between the heritors; and in the next place, in my opinion, the crofters would be benefited if they were limited to a certain number of sheep stock. It could easily be ascertained what stock each proprietor scathold would keep, and then it could be ascertained how many could be allotted to each holding, to keep them comfortable. According to the present state of things, in my opinion, if a bad winter came, a person owning 100 or 300 sheep might lose the half of them.

21336. In fact, there is great waste from the present mode of stocking the scathold?
—Yes, it leads to overstocking and death.

21337. The Chairman.
—Is your farm fenced?
—It is fenced chiefly by the sea, and what is not so fenced is enclosed by stone dykes.

21338. Is there any portion of your grazing which might be converted into arable land?
—Not much of mine; but on other parts there is a great deal of land which might be brought under cultivation.

21339. Is the system of tile subsoil draining practised in this parish?
—Not to my knowledge.

21340. You never saw a tile drain in this parish?
—No, I don't think so.

21341. Is any lime imported?
—They burn lime in this parish to get a supply for building houses.

21342. Do they find limestone in the parish, or do they burn shells?
—They get limestone in Delting.

21343. Do they burn it with peat?

21344. Is lime extensively used?
—Only for building and repairing houses.

21345. It is not used for cultivation?
—Not to my knowledge.

21346. You never saw a ton of lime laid on the land in this parish?
—No, I never did.

21347. Would it be beneficial to this soil?
—Yes, I think it would, I have thought of trying it.

21348. Are there any stipulations in your lease about improving?
— No, and no compensation clause.

21349. Did the landlord place the building in good order?
—They were in a fair state of repair, and I am obliged to leave them in that state of repair or something nearly approaching to it; something might be allowed for natural decay.

21350. If you had a claim for compensation would you be inclined to lay out something in improvements?
—Certainly, I have improved a good deal without a claim for compensation or any expectation of getting it.

21351. What is the duration of your lease ?
—It was an old lease I took up, and there were eight years to run when I got it.

21352. How many years are there remaining to run?
—Four, I think.

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