Lerwick, Shetland, 19 July 1883 - Walter Sutherland

WALTER SUTHERLAND, Crofter, Nesting (75)—examined.

22157. The Chairman.
—Were you elected a delegate for Westing?

22158. How many people were there at the election?
—About twenty they spoke to me.

22159. What statement have you to make about Westing?
—Well, there are two things which I would like to mention; there is a want of leases and heavy rents; and these prevent tenants from being so active as they otherwise would be.

22160. Who is your proprietor?
—The land belongs to the estate of Symbister; and Mr William Irvine is factor.

22161. Have you got scathold?
—Yes, we have it yet.

22162. Has any of it been taken away from your holdings?
—Nothing in the parish of South Nesting yet, but only a piece of small ground which was not of much value.

22163. What stock do you keep—how many cows?
—I keep two milk cows—small Shetland cows—and one two-year old quey and one calf.

22161. Ponies?
—Two—a mare and a foal.

22165. Any sheep?

22166. How many?
—I could not tell you. Nine or ten, not exceeding that

22167. What rent do you pay?
—Exclusive of rates, I pay £1, 10s. now.

22168. How many acres of arable ground have you?
—I suppose about 3½ acres of very bad land. I only have about half an acre of good land; and the animals I have are all of the old Shetland breed—small.

22169. Was your rent ever raised?
—Yes; my rent when I took the croft thirty-two years ago was £3, 11s. 10d., and now, rates and all, it
costs about £6.

22170. Have you got any road near you?
—No, we have a small bit of branch road from the main road.

22171. How far are you from the main road?
—Between two and three miles, and we have a small bit of a branch road, about half a mile in length, of which we bear the expense ourselves.

22172. Who made that branch road—who paid for it?
—I expect the tenants paid for it.

22173. Did the landlord not do something for it?
—I don't know exactly whether he did any thing or not, but they were always taking your money at rent day, and at last in that way they accumulated some money, and commenced the branch road; for there was a large burn there, and they had to make a road over it.

22474. Did they put a road over it?
—There is a road over it now, which cost, I am informed, £100, but I could not say certainly.

22475. Who paid the £100?
—I t was always collected at the time of rent paying.

22476. There was a little fund formed for it?
—Yes, by the tenants. I do not know whether the landlord put anything into the fund or not.

22477. Perhaps he did?
—Perhaps so; he might have put in a good bit for all I know. There is one thing I complain of, and that is the want of more labour. There is no encouragement to us to labour on our own land, because I can prove that people have broken up their land and brought it under cultivation, and when other people came and offered more money for that croft, the tenant got a letter, saying, 'You must pay us the money offered by this man or be turned off, and I will take the other man;' and it may be that the man who offered was a sluggard, and the other an active man.

22478. Do you know any particular case in which that was done?
—I do. It was done in Nesting of late years, when Mr John Budge was factor in Symbister,

22479. Who is the factor now?
—Mr William Irvine, of Hay and Co., in Lerwick, and a very fine man he is.

22480. Have you any fishers in your village?
—Not now. There is only myself and my brother alive, and we are past that.

22481. In the township are there any of your neighbours engaged in fishing?

22482. Are they obliged to fish to any particular person?
—I don’t think it. I think they pay their way, but I am not sure. I have no concern with their affairs, and I don't know how their accounts stand. They certainly must have an agent somewhere in town.

22483. Do they fish to Mr Irvine, the factor?
—No, I think they fish to a Scotchman who has a station here.

22484 Does he treat them well.—do you hear any complaints?
—I have heard none yet. They have done much good to Shetland, and I will tell you how. They have raised men's wages. I was for eight years manager of a boat in Lerwick, and I had never above Is. a cran for taking charge.

22485. How much do they get now?
—20s. amongst them.

22486. Do you think that the fishermen are better off now than they used to be when you were young?
—They are very much better paid. I am telling you I took charge of a boat, and only got Is. for each cran I caught, and the other men in the boat got 10d.

22487. And how much would the first and second men get now?
—I think, by their accounts, they only get a £1 per cran.

22488. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many men were there in the boat besides yourself?
—Four besides me. We got 4s. 4d. for the cran of herring, and the fish-curers owned the boats and nets, and we caught the fish and laboured for them, and got 4s. 4d. amongst us.

22489. The Chairman.
—In those days when you got Is. and the others 10d., were you obliged to buy all your things from a particular fish-curer ?
—I could buy from any shop; but I had to stop in Lerwick, and pay for boarding out of my earnings.

22490. The fish-curer did not oblige you to buy from his shop?
—No. The principal complaint in Nesting is the want of leases, and heavy rents.

22491. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Does the croft you have support yourself and family?
—No, but there is only myself and my old wife and two daughters, and we have to buy our food one half the year.

22492. How do you do now when you have given up your fishing?
—I am employed yet, but I am fit for very little. Messrs Hay & Co. employ me as a fish-curer, or else I would be the worse off.

22493. You said the Scottish curers, coming here, did a great deal of good to the country?
—They have not done good to me, but to the fishermen.

22494. Are you not a Scotsman yourself?
—Yes, my grandfather belonged to Caithness.

22495. I thought you spoke of Scotsmen as if you belonged to another country?
—This is a Scotch island, but it is those who have come from the mainland of Scotland who have done good to Shetland. It is my belief that if they had not come, fishermen would have been receiving now the same washes as that current when I was a lad.

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