Hillswick, Shetland, 17 July 1883 - Robert Sinclair

ROBERT SINCLAIR, Crofter formerly Fisherman, Hamar (77)—examined.

20990. The Chairman.
—Have you a statement to make?
—I have.
—The farm which I hold at present was taken by me in 1855, from the late Arthur Gifford, Esq. of Busta. The rent was then £1 , 15s. At the end of the four years, more than three acres of ground was taken off and given to another tenant. The rent of this piece of ground was 10s. The rent ought therefore to have been reduced to £1, 5s., but instead of that it was raised to £2 a few years afterwards. The farm could only support my family for about three months during the rest of the year we live by the produce of the fishing. I have been a fisherman for about fifty years. I am now unable to go to the fishing, and would like to get back the piece of ground I have mentioned. I have asked the factor to give it back, but was told that he had not power to do so. Not only has the croft been reduced in size and the rent raised, but the dwelling house has for many years been in a dangerous condition and unfit to live in; and although I have repeatedly requested that it should be repaired, I have never received a satisfactory answer.
—ROBERT SINCLAIR, Hammer, North Mavin.

20991. Sheriff Nicolson
—How long is it since you came into possession of that croft?
—Twenty-eight years ago. It was an offset the man took, and the house did not cost anything at all. He built it himself, and put it up in the silliest fashion, and I never could get it repaired since.

20992. Where were you before?
—At Delting, in Roe.

20993. What stock are you able to keep?
—Two beasts—a two-year-old and a young one.

20994. Any sheep?
—Yes, I have a dozen sheep.

20995. And a horse?
—No, no horse. It is a very little bit of a spot.

20996. At the time that part of your land was taken from you, did you complain?
—Very much, but it did not signify. The late Mr Henry Cheyne was the chief trustee, and it was taken in by the other neighbour at first out of the side of the hill, and a piece given off on the place I occupied by Mr Gifford; and they wanted to have it back, and to build a sufficient dyke to hold off the sheep and cattle. But once they got the ground the dyke was never built, at least so as to be sufficient.

20997. Was the man to whom that piece of your ground was given a new comer?
—Yes; he came in a few years before; he is now dead and away.

20998. The man to whom it was given had a croft of his own before this piece was given to him?
—Yes, there were two neighbours of them.

20999. Had they less than you?
—No, far more than I had, and they had good land.

21000. What rent does that man pay?
—Near about £6.

21001. Has he a lease?
—No, there is none of them has a lease.

21002. What stock does the other man keep?
—Fifty head of sheep or thereabout, seven head of beasts, and two horses.

21003. What kind of ground was that which was taken from you?
—The best quality of ground.

21004. Arable land?
—There was some cultivation in it; good dry ground; it was better in quality than what was left to me.

21005. And was any reason given by the factor for taking it from you?
—No, except that they wanted to enclose it for sheep, but Mr Cheyne did not know. There was no dyke built.

21006. I suppose your land was never sufficient to support your family?
—No, never sufficient

21007. And now since you have censed to be a fisherman, it is still less so?
—Yes; I wanted to get out when the piece of ground was taken off, but I could not get out, I was told if I would sit still the rents would never be raised; and I began to improve a little, and added about a fourth ir. to what was there; and then they began to raise the rent, and it was very discouraging.

21008. What improvements did you make?
—I cultivated a piece and added about a fourth to what was there. But there was no way to cultivate; it was a rocky bottom —rocks and heather.

21009. Have any of your neighbours any complaints to make?
—No, I don't think it.

21010. They didn't ask you to come here?

21011. You have just come to state your own case?
—I have just come to state my own case; but I don't think any of my neighbours have anything to say.

21012. Who is in the croft that this man had?
—James Sandison and Gilbert Sharp.

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