Lerwick, Shetland, 19 July 1883 - Thomas Ewanson

THOMAS EWANSON, Crofter and Fisherman, Papa Stour (50)—examined.

21834. Mr Cameron.
—Have you any statement to make?
We the undersigned, crofters in the island of Papa Stour, hereby humbly beg to bring the undermentioned grievances under which we are at present living, before the notice of the Royal Crofters Commissioners now visiting Shetland.
(1) That owing to peat ground being exhausted on the island, we have been compelled to transport our peats for the last twelve years from Papa Little and the Ness of Aithness, the former a distance of nine miles and the latter of ten miles from this island, over a tempestuous bay, often at the risk of life.
(2) That since 1870 we have been deprived of a large proportion of our scathold by it being fenced in; and although this has been done, we have had no reduction of our rents, but on the contrary, for the last thirty years, repeated rises on the rents have been made for reasons unknown to us, so that we consider that if our crofts were valued by a valuator appointed by Parliament, that we would be found at present paying rents for them far above their value.
(3) That we have at present no compensation granted us for building outhouses, nor for other improvements made on our crofts, when we remove from them. This we consider is unfair, and is a matter that we think ought to be altered; also that we would very much desire to have security against
being evicted from our holdings, while we can pay a fair value for them, and wish to remain on them. We hereby appoint Thomas Ewanson and John Sinclair as delegates, to being the above mentioned grievances before the Royal Crofters Commissioners. Trusting that our petition will get their favourable consideration, and their petitioners will ever pray.
—Wm JOHNSON, JOHN UMPHRAY, and twenty-two others.—Papa Stour, July 16, 1883.

21835. You complain that the peat ground is exhausted, so that you are compelled to transport peat a long distance over a stormy bay?

21836. What remedy can you suggest for that state of things?
—We would require some compensation for our work. We are all fishermen, and we spend part of the best time for fishing in procuring peats. Twentyfour days we calculate it takes to bring eight months' fire from Papa Little and Aithness, and that during the best part of our fishing time.

21837. You would like to be paid for the labour of transporting your own peats?
—Yes, or to receive compensation for it in some way from the proprietor. If we spend our time carrying peats to the island, we lose our fishing; and if we lose our fishing, we cannot pay our rents.

21838. Is there any fuel now in the island?
—There is little or nothing now, it is all scalped bare; and that has cleaned all the sort of pasture we had. We take about four months' burning from a part of the island, and about eight months from the other place we transport from. .

21839. What is the population of Papa Stour?
—I cannot exactly say.

21840. How many families are there on it?

21841. Has each family got a certain amount of arable ground which it cultivates?
—Yes, some more some less.

21842. Have you any idea what number of acres each family cultivates?
—I could hardly tell you; four or three, or perhaps not three in some cases.

21843. What is the size of your own croft?
—I was just removed to one there last season, and I cannot tell you exactly.

21844. Is the one you removed to larger or smaller than the one you left?
—About the same size, but it is inferior in quality.

21845. Why were you removed?
—I removed of my own accord to try and better myself.

21846. But you made an unfortunate selection?
—I have three different times removed on the ground of the same proprietor—Lady Nicolson.

21847. Always intending to better yourself?

21848. And have you always made the same unfortunate choice?
—No betterment yet.

21849. Do you propose to try again?

21850. At these different removals, who got the places you left?
—In some cases other tenants on the same proprietor's ground got them, and others were laid waste.

21851. Left unoccupied?
—It is occupied now, but at a reduction of rent

21852. I am afraid there are too many families residing on Papa Stour for the quantity of fuel on it?
—Yes, and I think about one-third of the people on the place have left on that account.

21853. How many families do you think could remain with the quantity of fuel there is?
—They could not do with the fuel in the island without some from other places.

21854. Could they not manage if the population, were reduced?
—No, not without some of the better quality of fuel along with it.

21855. How long is it estimated that the four months' supply of fuel will last with the present number of families?
—I cannot exactly say.

21856. Does it look like lasting many years?
—No, it is near about out altogether.

21857. Then people will be left shortly without peat in the island at all?

21858. The island will be hardly habitable under these conditions, will it?

21859. Whois the factor?
—Mr Thomas Adie.

21860. Have you ever heard what the factor intends doing in view of this state of thing?

21861. Do you think it will be possible to live without peat, which you can only get by conveying it twelve miles across a stormy bay?
—It is not possible to do without it.

21862. Peat is a heavy and bulky article to transport?
—It is.

21863. Is there any other property belonging to Lady Nicolson to which the families on the island might be removed?
—None nearer that they could have.

21864. Has she any property on the mainland?
—Yes, but none nearer or more suitable.

21865. Has she any property in the vicinity where peat could be cut?
—None that I know of.

21866. Can you describe the arrangements under which the scathold is pastured by the tenants. Does each tenant put on any quantity of stock he likes,—cattle, ponies and sheep?
—Yes at present, but some have only a few and some none.

21867. Is there any rule by which the number is regulated?
—There was a rule a few years ago.

21868. And what happened to that rule?
—It did not stand; it was laid down, but did not stand.

21869. Why did it not stand?
—The tenants just got their will the same as before.

21870. Did the tenants not approve of the rule?

21871. They would rather return to tbf- old system under which everybody put exactly what he pleased upor the scathold ?

21872. Don't you think the rule was fair and just towards the tenants, that each person should be allowed to put up a certain number and no more?
—Yes, if it were carried out.

21873. But the majority of the tenants thought otherwise?
—Yes; those that had the stock put them on again, and the others had not the ability to raise the stock.

21874. When was the scathold taken off—ten or fourteen years ago?
—Yes, it was after that when they wished to go back to the old rule.

21875. After the scathold had been fenced?

21876. What proportion was fenced off?
—I could not tell you, but the tenants wish to have it back again.

21877. Wrhat was done with the scathold?
—It is a sheep farm.

21878. Who occupies it?
—William Humphray, crofter.

21879. How did he get money enough to take this larger holding?
—Perhaps he was helped by the factor, Mr Thomas Adie.

21880. Was he just an ordinary crofter?
—He was a fisherman and crofter before.

21881. Was he supposed to have made sufficient money to take and stock this land?
—He did not have it of himself.

21882. Was there any opposition manifested by the other crofters when this man got the scathold fenced off for himself?
—Yes, they went to Mr Adie, and wished to have it as it was before, but it was not granted.

21883. Have you any idea by what amount the stock kept by the other crofters was reduced in consequence of this fencing oif of a portion of the scathold?
—I could not tell that.

21884. What stock do you keep yourself?
—I keep two Shetland milk cows, one quey, one calf, one pony, and about ten sheep; and that is as many as can be kept on an average on the island.

21885. Is that about an average of what each crofter keeps?
—That is about the average of what can be kept; some have none at all, and some have double, treble, or quadruple that.

21886. Do they all pay the same rent?
—There is a difference in the rents of the crofts, but they all pay the same for the scathold; there is no
difference with respect to that

21887. Is the difference in the number of cattle held by the tenants caused by one crofter doing well by fishing, and another falling into poor circumstances and having to sell his stock?
—Partly, and partly to not being able to begin; they cannot take any sheep from the mainland on
account of the sheep disease; it is clearing the island.

21888. What sheep disease?

21889. Is it bad on the mainland?
—In some places it is.

21890. Is it always existing there?
—Always to some extent

21891. Don't they use dips to preserve the sheep from scab?
—Oh yes.

21892. Do they not find that that cures it?
—Very likely it does, but I cannot tell; we are not using it.

21893. Don't you think you ought to use it if you want your sheep to get free from scab?
—We are not troubled with it.

21894. Does any of that scab come among the ponies?

21895. The same scab?
—Not the same.

21896. Are the people on the mainland not aware that scab is a thing that sticks to the ground, and that they will get it every year unless they make an effort to clear it away by proper dips?
—Perhaps some of them are aware of it.

21897. Who looks after the sheep?
—Just themselves.

21898. Each manages for himself?

21899. Are there any large sheep farms in the neighbourhood?
—Yes, there are some through Shetland, but I don't know much about them.

21900. Do you think these sheep farmers don't try to persuade the crofters to keep their sheep clear of scab?
—No, I never heard that they did.

21901. What rent did you pay?
—£6, 10s.

21902. And about three or four acres of arable ground?
—I think about four acres, as far as I can learn.

21903. You say you have no compensation guaranteed for building houses; have many of the crofters built houses?
—Yes; I have been on four farms belonging to Lady Nicolson, and I have got very little compensation
for building a house 28 feet by 12 feet by 6 feet 5 inches. 1 built it, and left it without getting anything.

21904. Did you build outhouses on each croft you occupied?
—Yes, out of the quarry.

21905. Did you ask for compensation?
—I asked for it once, and got a denial, and I never asked again.

21906. Do you know if any other crofters built any houses for themselves?
—For the most part.

21907. Have the crofters in this island been in the habit of shifting about voluntarily in the way you have done?

21908. What makes them change their quarters?
—They think they may be better at one place than another.

21909. How many of the thirty-three families changed in the course of one year?
—Some years there is not any change, and some years there may be three or four shifting about.

21910. Are there many seals in the island?
—No, there is hardly one to be seen.

21911. Used there to be a lot?
—Yes, there were plenty at one time, but there is scarcely one now.

21912. What has. happened to them?
—I don't know; perhaps they have lost their course, or have been killed.

21913. Were they a source of profit to the crofters?

21914. You say you desire to have security against being evicted from your holdings?

21915. But this dreadful fact about peats leaving you would not make you fond of the island?
—It is a fine fishing place. All the inhabitants are fishermen, and they don't wish to leave the island.

21916. What do you and your neighbours expect or propose should be done when the supply of peat comes to an end?
—We can hardly state that at present.

21917. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Are the two properties in Papa Stour divided?
—Yes, the whole ground is divided by the lairds; a march is laid out between the properties.

21918. When you are selling any beast, what market do you go to?
—Voe—to Mr Adie's place or to Walls.

21919. Do any dealers come to Papa Stour?

21920. What communication have you got with the mainland; how do you get your letters?
—There are two posts which come across every week in summer, and one in winter.

21921. With regard to this crofter who you say has got a big farm, what rent does he pay?
—He has a small croft, only he has a sheep farm along with it. About £4 was the rent.

21922. What does he pay for the sheep farm?
—I cannot toll you.

21923. Does he pay £50?

21924. £30?

21925. Have you any idea what stock he has?
—I could not tell you. He has a good stock on it of small sheep.

21926. Where does it lie—down towards the caves where the seals are?
—It is at the North Ness.

21927. Is that where the caves and seals are?

21928. Has he got the best part of the pasture—the best in the island?
—It is all the pasture in the island now.

21929. When passing it yesterday some of the tops were very green indeed; I presume that was his farm?
—That was the north-east part; his was where Mr Adie's station is.

21930. Will you explain how it is possible to remedy the state of matters about the peats. Supposing the proprietors were to put up a pier where your boats could land, would that be enough?
—No, it would not do. Wr6 would need to cure our peats ourselves, if he could put them on the island to us clear of labour. We would like if he put them on the island, and then it woidd not take our time from the fishing.

21931. You would like him to transport them?
—Yes, clear of expense.

21932. Are there any peats in the small island—Papa Little?
—No; there was a tenant on it, but it is under sheep pasture now.

21933. Who has got it?
—Mr Dickson.

21934. Has he more than that island?

21935. Where?
—He has the island of Lunga and Vementray.

21936. That island would be of no use to you?
—It would be of no use as pasture unless we had it altogether.

21937. Is the population increasing or falling off in Papa Stour?
—Falling off. The crofters are all leaving it on account of the want of peats.

21938. The only reason for your remaining in the island is because the fishing is good?

21939. You know Fetlar?

21940. Is it far from you?
—It is on the east side, and we are on the west side.

21941. There is plenty of vacant ground there, on the Nicolson property?
—Probably, I cannot tell you.

21942. You have not been there?
—I was only once ashore.

21943. Has Lady Nicolson any property near where you are except this island?
—None that I know of: only this place where we cut peat.

21944. Does the whole of that island belong to her?

21945. The Chairman.
—You sail there was no scab on the sheep on your island?
—None on the island.

21946. Has there never been scab on your island?
—None that I know of.

21947. You say they are not allowed to bring sheep from the mainland on to the island ?

21948. Who is it that lays down that law—is it the proprietor or the crofters themselves?
—The crofters themselves.

21949. But you say that the ponies have had the scab?
—They have had what we call the horse disease.

21950. Is it a kind of scab?

21951. Is it quite a different thing?
—Yes, it won't affect the sheep, so far as I know.

21952. You say you got no compensation for the outhouses?

21953. When you put up outhouses, do you build them with stone and lime, or only with dry stones?
—Dry stones.

21954. And what sort of roof is put on?
—A wood and earth roof.

21955. Thatched ?

21956. It is dry stones ?

21957. When you leave one place to go to another, are you allowed to carry away the wood of the roof?
—Yes, in some cases they will get the chance to do it.

21958. Did you take away the wood of your roof?
—In some places, and in some places I left it. The tenant who came in paid for it.

21959. Then the loss you have is the dry stone walls?

21960. That is all?

21961. What do you think is the value of the dry stone walls and the labour of the outhouses?
—I could hardly tell you; we never put any value upon them.

21962. Would it be £2?

21963. Professor MacKinnon.
—Is that place from which you get peats the nearest where peats are to be had?
—There are plenty others, but none belonging to the same proprietor.

21964. What are the places which are nearer?
—Sandness Voe.

21965. Is that the place from which the Sandness people get their peats?

21966. Who is the proprietor there?
—Mr Scott of Melby.

21967. There is plenty of peat upon his property?
—Yes, plenty; but I suppose they are far up from the sea.

21968. How far is it from you by land and sea to where the peats could be had most conveniently?
—Most part from Sandness Voe.

21969. Is there a convenient landing place at your island?

21970. And it is a good fishing station?

21971. For whom do you fish?
—Mr Adie. There is a good fishing Station, and plenty of room for more.

21972. Is it white fishing you all follow?
—White fishing and herring fishing.

21973. Where do you fish?
—To the west.

21974. Far out in the oceau?
—Yes, sometimes far out, and sometimes not very far.

21975. Are you able to fish any in winter?
—Yes, with the small boats, and in summer with big boats.

21976. Do you fish for Mr Adie in winter?

21977. Does he keep a store on the island?

21978. And you get your stores from him?
—Yes; but not altogether.

21979. Where else do you go for stores?
—To Sandness.

21980. Who is factor on your estate?
—Mr Adie.

21981. There is no other fish-curer in Papa except Mr Adie?

21982. The only compensation you could get for the want of there rates is, I suppose, the reduction of your rent?
—We will leave that to the management

21983. What were you looking for?
—For the reduction of the rent, do the peats put over, as I stated.

21984. Either that the proprietor should reduce the rents or ferry the peats?

21985. You would cut them and dry them yourselves?

21986. When you were not busy with the fishing?

21987. How could that ferrying best be done—by taking a big vessel?

21988. Then, I suppose, if there were an equal reduction in the rents, you could do that yourselves—hire a big vessel, and get the peats across, as well as the proprietor?
—No, I don't suppose we could.

21989. Why not?
—I don't think we could manage.

21990. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you a church in Papa Stour?

21991. An Established church ?

21992. Is there any other church?
—There was one, but it has gone down now; a Methodist chapel.

21993. Have you more than one school?
—No, only one.

21994. Is it convenient to the inhabitants?
—There is a new school which they are commencing to build just now.

21995. Is it convenient to the children of the island?

21996. Do they attend well?

21997. Have you a doctor?
—There is one in the parish of Walls.

21998. How far is that?
—Six miles and a mile across the sound.

21999. Do you find it a hardship that he should be so far from you?
—Yes, we very seldom see him.

22000. Does he not come regularly to vaccinate the children?
—He comes, but not regularly.

22001. Do you know if there are any children in the island who have not been vaccinated?
—I don't think there are any.

22002. Are you liable to any particular disease in tho island?
—None at present that I know of.

22003. Then you will not miss the doctor very much?
—Yes, there is great need for a doctor, and very poorly we are served with him.

22004. Professor Mackinnon.
—Where does he stay?

22005. Six miles from Sandness?

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