Lerwick, Shetland, 19 July 1883 - James Garriock

JAMES GARRIOCK, Reawick (49)—examined.

22333. The Chairman.
—I understand you desire to make a statement in reference to the deposition of James David Robertson of Walls?
— One or two of his statements may have been applicable to one or two cases; but in reference to Melby, who is the largest proprietor and owns more than half the whole property in the three parishes, I beg to state that there were certain inaccuracies.

22334. On what head was it?
—In the first place, with reference to the houses, it is the practice on Melby's property always for the landlord to build the houses, and provide timber for the roof, windows, and doors, the tenant putting on the thatch, and erecting the office houses, and in the event of his leaving, being allowed compensation by neutral valuators. The incoming tenant is chargeable with the amount of that valuation, but failing the incoming tenant, of course the proprietor has to stand the loss. Hence the statement as to no compensation falls to the ground. And I may further remark, that I think he made a statement to this effect, that the landlords did not put themselves to much expense. Now, when the late proprietor, Dr Scott or Melby, became heir to the estate, I think in the year 1852, the houses had fallen into a state of dilapidation, and the crofts were all in the old system—the runrig system—and all mixed up. Dr Scott being at that time a staff-surgeon in the Royal Navy, and possessed of means apart from his income, could afford to expend a considerable sum annually in improving his property, which to my certain knowledge he did, in many instances of building new houses, four or five in one season, some of them costing £30 each. He also was at the expense of dividing the land, appointing land surveyors, and having the crofts measured and allocated, so that this previous runrig system might be done away with. This prevented three or four tenants having their land intermixed; but it caused the proprietor considerable amount of expense, all of which he has paid. Then there was another statement made by Mr Robertson about the increase of rent in consequence of the churches. I may state that there was a call made by the parish minister for the new manse, and for certain repairs on the three churches. His claim was enforced by the presbytery, and the landlords were obliged to expend something like £2200 in less than eighteen months; and if you refer to the valuation roll you will find that stated. It was not to be expected that proprietors could pay this all out of their own pockets, and the tenants stand no share of it. There was a slight increase of rent at that time, I believe, but I was not then the factor. He instanced also the case of Lawrence Jamieson, as one who had not received justice from his landlord. Lawrence Jamieson is not a tenant on the Melby estate, and I don't think James David Robertson could find one tenant on the Melby estate who has been treated in that manner. The late Dr Scott was one of the most indulgent and kind hearted of landlords, and certaiuly used every means in his power to ameliorate the condition of his tenants, and I am bound to say the tenants have been all along managed with the utmost consideration, in fact, if possible with too much leniency. With regard to the roads, the question which was put to him was that the landlord had expended nothing for the making of roads. There has been expended by Melby about £1 3 0 out of his own resources, apart from road money.

22335. Making farm roads?
—Making roads for the benefit of the parish, with the view that, when sufficient road money had been accumulated, this parish and that of Sandness might be joined in order to facilitate road making between the two parishes. That statement, consequently, is evidently erroneous on the part of Mr Robertson. Then in regard to his own case, as the tenant of Happy Hansel, that croft or piece of ground is not a fair criterion of the rent of the parish. The average rental in Walls is £4 , 10s. 6d., or £4 , l i s . per croft. The average rent in Sandness is £4, 17s. 6d.; and the average in the island of Foula, which exclusively belongs to Dr Scott, is £3 , 10s. I should say the average size of a croft in Walls may be from 4 to 6 acres, and they are similar or rather larger in Sandness; while in Foula they may be from 3 to 4 acres. Thus, I think, it becomes evident that Melby's tenants are not over-rented as compared with any part of the United Kingdom,—and more especially, if you take the island of Foula—and you have been there—you must have found that the rents are exceedingly moderate. I should say, that if the question were thoroughly sifted, there might possibly be room for equalisation; some are possibly a little over-rented, but more, I should say, would be found to be under-rented. With regard to the grievances of the rates, I certainly join with the tenants it stating that the school rate is a burden grievous to be borne. It does seem very hard now, that the poor crofters in Shetland should have to pay Is. and Is. 3d. in the pound for what can be got in Shetland for 3d. and in Glasgow for 2d. Where the valuation is high, of course the rate is small. Unfortunately, in Shetland the valuation is low, and consequently the rate must be high. In the parish of Walls, Sandness, Papa, and Foula, five new schools had to be erected, and the mere maintenance of these buildings must eventually become a heavy tax. I merely hint that this is a real grievance, and I think that is the only grievance the Melby tenants have to complain of. Before I became factor—-my brothers were then factors; I have only been factor for eight years; but I was thoroughly conversant with it before I was appointed. For many years, Dr Scott, in consequence of the enormous outlay, derived very little from the rents; possibly some years not one-third. With regard to the erection of the houses, I may say just now the houses are being erected of a superior description to those formerly put up. I expend annually, on behalf of the proprietor, a considerable sum in the purchase of lime with a view, eventually, to the improvement of the appearance and substantiality of the houses, which in most cases costs the tenant little or nothing. Possibly, Mr James David Robertson and those who appointed him a delegate, may know of tenants in the parish who have been otherwise treated; I speak merely of those under my own immediate charge as factor,—somewhere about 240 tenants,—and I am certain there is not one but has been treated with kindness and consideration.

22335. Speaking about the system of compensation at the end of the occupancy, if I understood you right, when a tenant is leaving, the value of his house—I do not know whether you said other improvements—is ascertained?

22337. And the compensation is not given to him by the landlord, but is given by the incoming tenant?
—It is given by the landlord in the first instance, and reclaimed from the incoming tenant who takes his place.

22338. The outgoing tenant receives the value of his improvements from the factor or landlord down?
—Quite so.

22339. And then it is recovered from the incoming tenant?

22340. So that it is not the landlord who pays the compensation?
—It is the incoming tenant.

22341. Is the incoming tenant allowed to subtract that amount from his rent gradually, or is it reimbursed gradually?
—He pays it as he is able. He may not be able to pay it for many years.

22342. You allow him to extend the payment over several years?

22343. And at the end of his occupancy he receives compensation for the unexhausted value in that way?
—lie does, and provided he has no successor, the landlord pays him.

22344. How is the value ascertained?
—By neutral parties.

22345. You mentioned that there was an expenditure imposed upon the heritors for repairs to the churches and manse in one year?
—A little more than a year.

22346. That was in virtue of a decision of the Court of Session; was there a law suit in the Court of Session about it?
—There was no lawsuit.

22347. But the fact that there were so many churches in want of repair, and a manse in want of rebuilding, looked as if there had been a culpable delay on the part of the heritors in performing their duties towards the churches and the manse?
—It looks like that.

22348. Do you think there had been some unnecessary delay on the part of the heritors ?
—I don't think so; because the old manse is standing still.

22349. And what about the three churches?
—Well, they possibly did require some repairs.

22350. I mean, it only appears to me curious that they should all have wanted re-building and repairing at the same moment; if they had been kept up regularly before that, the charge might not have been so heavy at one moment?
—I don't know.

22351. A lawful obligation had accumulated to such an extent, that it was necessary in a year and a half to expend how much?
—About £2200.

22352. You say that the proprietors can hardly be expected to undertake that expenditure themselves. Is it not a legal obligation on the proprietors?
—Well, that is the question which is not fully settled yet, I believe.

22353. At any rate the proprietors thought it was necessary, virtually, to raise a sort of rate from the tenant for the purpose of helping them?
—That was partly the cause. The landlords found that they could not live; they might as well have handed over their property to the clergy and to the tenants; it would have left them no sufficient income.

22354. Are there any Nonconformists occupiers in the parish?

22355. Are the greatest part of the occupiers members of the Established Church?
—I should say not. Mr Robertson stated that they were, but that is on the principle of all who did not belong to any other denomination, being put down as belonging to the establishment.

22356. As it seems that there has been some delay in the performance of the legal obligations by heritors, does it appear to you surprising that the Non-comforming bodies should have thought it rather hard to have their rents raised to repair churches and build a new manse?
—They considered it a great hardship.

22357. How many years was Dr Scott landlord?
—From 1852 to the end of 1874.

22358. About twenty-two years?

22359. And you stated that he was a benevolent landlord who laid out large sums of money in the improvement of the tenantry?
—I have no hesitation in saying that

22360. Can you tell me what the rental of the whole estate was at the time he came into possession?
—Possibly about £900, or a little over.

22361. And at the end of twenty-two years, about how much?
—£1000 or so a year—about £1100.

22362. And what is the rental now?
—A little over £1100.

22363. So that from the year 1852, to the present time, it has only increased about £200?
—Or £250.

22364. Can you give me any idea of what the sum total may have been which was laid out in improvements?
—Not without reference to my books.

22365. On this estate of Dr Scott's have small tenants been evicted, or has any scathold been taken away, or sheep farms formed?
—None; the scathold has been measured but not taken.

22366. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated that Dr Scott laid out a great deal of money in the way of allocating lands, and employing surveyors to change the old runrig system?

22367. Do you think that the money was altogether out of pocket on his part?
—It was.

22368. Did he get no return whatever in the way of increased rents at that period?
—Possibly, that may have been one of the things that led to the slight increase for all I know; I was not their factor.

22369. And you will not undertake to say that the effect of these allocations and surveys was not an increase of rent upon the people?
—I cannot say as to that; I was not paying particular attention to it.

22370. But don't you think it was rather unadvisable for you to say that was laid out on the estate, when it may have been more than repaid by their rental?
—I don't believe it was; in fact, I am certain it was not.

22371. Do you mean to say there was no increase of rental?
—Not at that particular time; subsequent to that there was.

22372. How long do you mean by the word 'subsequent?'
—Really, I am unable to say how many years.

22373. You stated that a great deal of money had been laid out upon the Melby property—how much has been laid out upon Foula?
—Less than any of the others, because the rents are smaller.

22371. Can you tell me anything that has been laid out?
—There have been some repairs, but really I cannot say the amount.

22375. Is there a piece of the road upon the island?
—There is a bridge which cost a large sum of money.

22376. That is the bridge across the creek; you don't consider that anything worthy of particular mention?
—You will allow me to explain that the tenants of Foula are charged a little over the amount of road
money levied by the country, in order to create a fund for making paths through the island, and at this moment there is a sum of about £24 accumulated which is to be laid out. It would have been expended last year, but people could not be got to agree as to the line of the road. The inhabitants of the north part wish it there, and those of the southern portion wish to have it there, and the people in the central portion were not agreed as to how it should pass through their place; and the matter is laid aside, until the road is to be led through the island.

22377. And it is quite convenient for you to have the £24?
—I don't have it; it is in my brother's books.

22378. It is in the proprietor's hands?
—It is not. It is in Garriock and Co.'s hands, who pay interest for it. It was there when they were factors, and it has been allowed to remain there, because they could allow larger interest for it than the proprietor.

22379. It is as good as if it were in the bank ?

22380. Are you any relation to the firm that has got the store?
—I am brother.

22381. Have you any interest in the store?
—None whatever.

22382. Or in the establishment in Reawick?
—No. May I be allowed to make one remark further ?

22383. The Chairman.
—I forgot to explain with regard to the scathold and stock upon it. There are some tenants who have a considerable number of sheep, and most of the tenants in Sandness have ponies, and I should think that a good many of them could pay their rents by disposing of a two-year-old pony apart from anything else.

22384. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Of whom are you talking?
—Melby's tenants in Sandness, and I make that statement to show that the rents cannot be considered too high.

22385. In Foula the tenants are prohibited from keeping ponies?
—It has been always allowed to the landlord there to keep half a dozen ponies for his own use, and I have never heard any objections to it.

22386. But tenants are not allowed to keep them ?

22387. And therefore they can make nothing by selling the ponies?
—But they are allowed to have an unlimited number of sheep.

22388. What is the object of prohibiting ponies in Foula?
—I really don't know; it has been always the practice. I don't know any particular reason. It is not a source of great revenue to the proprietor.

22389. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—I think they told us they had ponies at one time?
—Not so far as I am aware. They have an unlimited right to the hills, and may keep as many cattle and sheep as they choose, and the result is that they keep far too many of both; some of them having eight or ten cows, and only pay £5 of rent, and perhaps they may have 100 or 200 sheep.

22390. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Is there any individual there who keeps that number of sheep?
—I fancy there must be. But I would not like to make the statement without further inquiry.

23391. Can you give us any figures as to the actual stock upon the island at present?
—I don't know; It is very difficult to get at it. As a rule, the tenants are not very willing to state the precise number of their flocks. I forgot, also, to state that about twenty families in Walls—tenants—
emigrated to New Zealand. There were valuators appointed to put a fair estimate upon their outlay with regard to the erection of office houses, and implements, and which they recorded cash when embarking or before embarking for New Zealand.

22392. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—Did these people go of their own accord?
—They did.

22393. Were they in arrear?
—I don't think they were; they were of the better class.

22394. Would they not have stopped if you had given them greater encouragement?
—I am glad you mentioned that. The statement was made that they had no leases. A number of years ago leases were prepared for the Melby tenants by the late Mr Henry Cheyne, W.S., Edinburgh, who was also a Shetlander, and fully acquainted with the manners and customs of the people. These leases were put into the hands of some of the tenants who were requested to peruse them, and were offered to be supplied with them, and not one of them took a lease; and these leases are lying as so much waste paper yet.

22395. Was it in consequence of the stringency of the regulations?
—I cannot say as to that.

22396. There may be leases and leases?
—I don't think there were any unreasonable clauses in them.

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