LAURENCE HALCROW, Crofter and Fisherman, North Connigsburgh—examined.
22496. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you any statement to make?
—Mr Clark has handed it in.
22497. Were there many people present when the paper was agreed to?
—About twelve or fourteen. Most of the men were at the fishing, but those who were at home were at the meeting.
22498. Did you draw up the paper amongst yourselves?
—Yes, and Mr Clark was the chairman.
22499. Nobody helped you to do it? It was composed by yourselves?
22500. Does it represent all you wish to lay before the Commission?
22501. Have you anything else you particularly wish to say?
—I might say a little. The chief thing I want to lay before you is about our roads. I have paid road money for about twenty years, and have got scarcely anything done except what we have done ourselves. The next thing is Mr Bruce's wire fence. It is quite broken down in many places. Sometimes our sheep go in on the estate, and sometimes the tenant's sheep are driven on to our scathold, and that is very unjust, I reckon.
22502. Don't you know that it is proper to have mutual fences when there are two properties?
22503. Are you not aware that that is the law?
22504. You should apply to your own proprietrix to get a proper fence?
—There should be a proper fence between, because some of Mr Bruce's tenant's sheep feed upon our property, and ours are poinded in his property.
22505. Do you ever poind his?
—No, because they have plenty meat inside, and are bigger.
22506. Did you ever represent this grievance of the fence to your own proprietrix?
—We have to the factor. I never saw the proprietrix in my life. I don't think she ever saw her own property.
22507. Who is her factor?
—Mr Sinclair Pottinger; but he has only been factor for one year. The previous factor was there ten or twelve years.
22508. What does the present factor say when you make a complaint?
—He says very little one way or another. Of course, we reckoned he had but newly come in, and could not know much about it. The present hill is in contemplation of being divided, and if division takes place we don't know who may come on. It may be taken in altogether, but we hope not.
22509. Who was contemplating making the division of the property?
—Both Bruce and Lady Nicolson.
22510. Will Lady Nicolson do anything?
—Not unless she is forced; she is an old woman, nearly off the stage of time. She will make little
repair upon old houses, and she won't build new ones.
22511. Who is the heir?
—-I don't know. It is not anyone in Shetland; but somebody away in the south; some relation of her late husband.
22512. Is there anybody who takes any interest in the condition of the people on the part of the proprietrix?
—None whatever. The people have just to do the best they can.
22513. Has that lasted for a long time?
—Thirty or forty years.
22511. How long is it since Lady Nicolson became a widow?
—Just twenty years now. I wish to say a few words about the rack-rent system in land. She has forty merks all in patches; and where I live it is two miles from one side of the township to the other, and my lot is divided up into above twenty pieces. On each piece I have four different neighbours, all around me, and I cannot get to my piece without tramping on my neighbour's land, and they cannot get to their's without tramping on mine, and the crop is hardly to be seen; and we have to transport manure mostly on our backs.