Lerwick, Shetland, 19 July 1883 - Magnus Tait

MAGNUS TAIT, Crofter, Houselter, Tingwall (66)—examined.

22260. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many people were present when you were elected a delegate?

22261. How many people are there altogether in your neighbourhood—how many families of crofters?
—About twenty-eight.

22262. Is your place far from here?
—Five miles.

22263. What did your neighbours want you to complain of here to-day?
—High rents.

22264. What more?
—And compensation for improvements.

22265. Anything else?
—Repairs for houses.

22266. What rent did you pay?

22267. What extent of land have you got for that?
—About eight acres, I think.

22268. Have the remainder of the people in the place about the same, or is yours larger?
—About the same size. I have been in the croft which my grandfather and father had, and it is double the rent now.

22269. How long have you been at the head of your house yourself ?
—Thirty years.

22270. What family have you?

22271. What was the rent when you began?
—£6, 6s. 9d.

22272. Is the £9 which you pay bare rent?
—The bare rent besides the rates.

22273. The rates are over and above?

22274. Have you always had the same extent of ground you have now?
—No, the hill pasture is taken clean off.

22275. From yourself?
—From all the parish.

22276. When was it taken?
—About thirty years ago.

22277. Just about the time you began?

22278. What stock do you keep?
—About six all winter, and two all summer, and two ponies.

22279. Six cows?
—No, two.

22280. How many queys?
—Two and two others.

22281. Have you any other horses?
—Two, and I am very heavily taxed.

22282. No sheep?

22283. What stock could have been kept on the place before the scathold was taken away from you?
—About nine in place of six.

22284. And your rent seems to be bigger than it was?
—It is double what is was ninety years ago, when my father was head of the house.

22285. What was the rent then?
—£4, 10s.

22286. The scathold was taken away about thirty years ago; to whom was it given?
—To sheep farmers for the most part

22287. And is it a sheep farm to this day?
—A great part of it. Upwards of forty families were taken away,

22288. Is that place at the head of Dale's Voe?
—Yes; westward of Dales. The chief side of the parish is there.

22289. Is that only about twenty years ago?
—No; more than that.

22290. Who is your proprietor?
—The Hays are proprietors, but formerly it was three different families.

22291. Who was the proprietor when it was made into sheep farms?
—Mr George Hay.

22292. Is he alive yet?

22293. He bought the property, in fact?
—I suppose so.

22294. And turned it into a sheep farm?
—A great part of it.

22295. What is the name of this property?

22296. Who is the tenant of it now?
—There are three or four different farmers.

22297. Give me their names?
—Mr Chalmers is one.

22298. Who are the others?
—Mr Low and Mr Manson, but not of Mr Hay's estate.

22299. Mr Hay has not got the whole land from which these people were turned out?
—No, other proprietors in the parish.

22300. But Chalmers and Low occupy part of Air Hay's ground?
—Yes, and a little part of the scathold. The people are heavily taxed for animals—10s. for a pony and a little for sheep.

22301. There is the privilege of certain grazing upon payment?
—There is.

22302. What became of the people who were turned out thirty years ago?
—Shifted to different places—to smaller places; and some emigrated.

22303. Were they well off?
—They were pretty well off when rents were low.

22304. Did they use to turn over a good deal of land for crop every year?
—Yes; and got good crops.

22305. Is there any of that going on now?
—Yes, a great improvement, but their return for improvement is laying on more money.

22306. Is any of the land on which these crofters were put turned by the plough?
—Yes, for the sheep farmers.

22307. They keep some ground under cultivation?
—Yes, they keep a piece of it under cultivation.

22308. What kind of crops do they raise?
—Pretty fair. The soil is good.

22309. Particularly at the top of Dale's Voe; is not that good land?

22310. How many people live at the top of Dale's Voe now; I saw one house?
—That is a shepherd's house.

22311. Is that the only one there?
—-That is the only one of the seven that were there.

22312. How many were there?

22313. Was that the first time sheep were introduced to this neighbourhood, about thirty years ago?
—Yes, there was not a sheep farm before that.

22314. What was the object of introducing sheep, and turning out the men?
—I don't know; for the profit of the proprietor I understand.

22315. Was that the only reason?
—There were none of the people in debt.

22316. They were quite able to pay their way?
—Yes, I did not hear of one being due a shilling.

22317. Were they fishermen as well as crofters?
—Yes, but I don't know. I was a seaman for forty-two years, and I had a small pension from Whitehall in London, as a merchant sailor.

22318. You say that among the grievances the people sent you here to represent one is that the rents are too high?
—High rents.

22319. And you want compensation for improvements?
—To be sure.

22320. And do not want to be turned out?
—No, we want a fair valuation for what we have; because if we had more land we would not have sufficient to stock it. It is not caused so much by the landlords as by the factors and ground officers, and assessors, and then the master takes it up. Mr Hay, I believe, is the best rent master; when the day comes you must pay it. He has his cottages in good order j but for my part there has no stone been lifted for ninety-three years, when my father was in it.

22321. Who is your proprietor at this moment?
—Mr Hay.

22322. And he keeps your buildings in good order?
—Yes, but for my part there has not one stone been removed for ninety years. It is a hovel that gives me a little shelter. My grandfather was in it before.

22323. Have any of you got leases?
—No, no leases at all; but if we improve there is £1 put on one year and 10s. another; that is the
encouragement we get.

22324. And you don't care for that kind of encouragement?
—No, and only forty days' notice to quit; and where can we go?

22325. Are you really paying this rent because you don't know very well where to go to?
—No, it is laid on, and I cannot go any further.

22326. Are you continuing to pay the high rent because you cannot better yourself?
—To be sure.

22327. What length of lease would you like to have?
—I don't care what length of lease I get, because my lease is going out.

22328. Your lease of life?

22329. But we were told by a man in Skye, who was seventy-eight years of age, that if he got a lease he would have a try yet?
—So I might, but the rent is too high.

22330. But if you got encouragement, and the people in your neighbourhood the same, you would improve a great deal more than you are doing?
—I am improving as hard as I can, and the people are all doing the same; but those who do most get 10s., or £1 laid on.

22331. Are you obliged to buy anything for the support of your family?
—Yes, plenty times I have to buy.

22332. The croft does not support you?

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