Lerwick, Shetland, 19 July 1883 - William Hutcheson

WILLIAM HUTCHESON, Crofter and Fisherman, Whalsay (60)—examined.

22006. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you been appointed a delegate to come here?

22007. You have come of your own accord?

22008. Have you got any written statement?

22009. What have you to say?
—I have to complain of the high rents and want of pasture.

22010. Who is the proprietor of the island?
—Mr Bruce of Whalsay, and Mr William Irvine is factor.

22011. Does Mr Bruce live on the island?
—No, he lives in Edinburgh, a young boy.

22012. Has he any other property besides this island?
—Yes, he has property at Ness.

22013. What is he generally called?
—Bruce of Symbister.

22014. How many families are there altogether?
—About 100, I think, I could not exactly say how many.

22015. Then the population will be about 500?
—900, I think.

22016. Is it increasing?

22017. What rent do you pay?
—£6, 16s. for 4½ acres of land.

22018. Does that £6, 16s. mean taxes as well or is it bare rent?
— Bare rent, and the taxes vary from 18s. to 22s. I have paid £7, 14s., and I have paid £7, 18s. The latter is the highest I have paid and the former the lowest—that is, in twenty years. It was in 1863 that the land was planted and over-rented.

22019. What stock do you keep upon that 4½ acres?
—I can keep two cows and a quey in winter.

22020. Have you any ponies?

22021. Any sheep?
—No sheep.

22022. Does that croft support you?
—No, I have to buy six bolls of meal in the year.

22023. What family have you got?
—Four of a family.

22024. Is the size and the rent of your holding about the average of those over the island?
—No, mine is one of the least

22025. Can you tell me what is the biggest rent paid by any one person?
—Mine is the biggest, unless one, I think, in the island.

22026. Do I understand from you that other people have better places than yours?
—I think so. I think I have a worse place than some, and a heavier rent. Some have better places and less rent.

22027. Were you born on the island?

22028. Have you been there all your days?

22029. In the same place?
—No, but in the same town. I have been just once shifted.

22030. What rent did you pay when you first set up house for yourself?
—28s. or 30s. for three merks of land.

22031. Put that into acres for me?
—I could not do that.

22032. Is that as much as the 4½ acres you have now?
—It was more, but we were on a different system then; we were going to the fishing and getting a very little for the fish, and had a very low rent. Then when the land was planted we got an over-rent to pay.

22033. Were you fishing for the landlord in those times?

22034. On what terms had you to do so; were you obliged to supply him on his own terms?

22035. In those days if you had anything at your credit did you get money?
—Yes, if there was any over; but there never was very much over.

22036. In some places we were told that in those old times the people were better off; but in your opinion it was not so?
—I cannot say they were so;—but if they are better now it is owing to the people getting their eyes enlightened.

22037. I daresay they require a little more light still?
—I think so.

22038. For whom do you fish now?
—Messrs Irvine, Hay, & Co.

22039. They are very influential people in this island ?
—Yes, they are indeed.

22040. And have got stations here, there, and everywhere?

22041. On what conditions do you fish for them?
—They give as good prices as another.

22042. Have you any share in the boat in which you fish?
—Yes, every man has a share in his boat.

22043. Do the boat's crew get half the produce?
—I suppose if Hay and Co. own the boat they get half-catch; but generally the men own the boat themselves.

22044. Do you own your boat?
—I am too old a man to go; I don't go in the boats.

22045. How long is it since you went in a boat?
—Three years

22046. Have you any sons ?
— I have two.

22047. Do they live with you?
—One of them lives with me, but I am obliged to him or I could not live.

22048. Is your grievance that you are paying too heavy rent?
—Yes, the full rent, and the seathold taken off from us.

22049. Tell us about the scathold?
—It was taken off for the sheep farm on the island, half of the island is taken off for that, and so
100 families left on the other half of the island, which is four miles long and two broad.

22050. And the 100 families have got half of it?
—No, half the scathold is taken off from them.

22051. Half of the scathold goes to these 100 families, and the other half to one man?

220.52. What is his name?
—Zachary M'Aulay Hamilton.

22053. How did he get that name?
—From his father, the minister of Bressay.

22054. Does he live on the island?
—Yes. That is our grievance I have to complain of; and I have no place to tether a cow in, and cannot
have a drop of milk.

22055. Is that the state of matters among your neighbours?
—Very near; not one in the town has more than one cow, and there are twelve neighbours in the town.

22056. Ts there a scarcity of milk for children in consequence?

22057. How long is it since Mr Hamilton got the farm?
—I could not exactly say.

22058. You said that in 1863 the island was planted?
—Yes, but he had not got it then.

22059. When was it made into a sheep farm?
—About 1865, if I remember right

22060. Was he the first tenant?
—No, Mr Shepherd was the first there as a sheep farmer.

22061. How long was he there?
—I think about seven years.

22062. Did he do well on it?
—Yes, he went south and took a far larger farm. Mr Hamilton, I reckon, is making as good a thing of it.

22063. And by your account the crofters are making nothing of it?
—No, I am living on a small bare bit of land now for twenty years 4½ acres of land for £6 , 16s. of rent.

22064. Was there any other old cultivated land taken off and given to this sheep farm?
—Three holdings.

22065. How many acres might be in these holdings; I suppose about fifteen altogether?
—About that.

22066. And does that gentleman cultivate these lands?
—No, he keeps them lying for grazing sheep.

22067. It is all out of cropping?

22068. What induced the proprietor to make this change in the island?
—The proprietor himself was badly when this took place, and shortly after he died. He was not fit to manage the place himself, and so he let it out to these gentlemen

22069. Have you any idea what rent Mr Hamilton pays?
—I heard, when Shepherd got it, that he was to pay £170, but that might be true or it might not.

22070. Then he is not paying nearly so much as yourself and the other small tenants?
—Nothing like it.

22071. And it does not seem to be for the benefit of the proprietor that he should be there at all?
—I don't think it.

22072. And it is certainly not for the benefit of the small people?
—No, it is greatly to our disadvantage; for his sheep are on the heather of the hill, and our sheep would eat it while his won't. His sheep never taste it.

22073. It comes to this, that the pastures must therefore be falling back if they are not properly eaten?
—I believe it is getting no good.

22074. Why didn't the people in the island meet in the way they have done in other places and send delegates to come here?
—They met and sent delegates.

22075. I think you stated you were not one of them?
—I am not one, I only wanted to come here to get a hearing if possible, there are delegates here besides me.

22076. Is John Stewart a delegate?
—No, but he wants a hearing.

22077. Is James Shearer a delegate?

22078. Is Alexander Jamieson a delegate?
—No; but they want a hearing.

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