Raefirth, Mid Yell, 14 July 1883 - David Petrie

DAVID PETRIE, Crofter and Fisherman, Gossaburgh, Mid Yell (54)—examined.

19617. The Chairman.
—Have you any statement to make about the condition of the people?

19618. Please to do so?
—The first thing we want is a fair valuation by Government of the lands we are occupying, because we have heavy rents and very little surface; and besides, we want houses we can live in. Our houses are 28 feet long by 12 feet wide, and 6 feet high in the walls, and are built like a dry stone dyke. There is some mortar heaved into them when they are being built; that is all. If they are built with lime, we have to be at the expense of it. Then they have a turf roof, not fit for a human being to live under.

19619. What sort of houses do you wish to get?
—We want them to be built with lime, so as to make them sufficient and comfortable to live in. We cannot live comfortably in them just now; on a windy night in winter we are blown from the fireside almost. As for myself, I have no proprietor to apply to; there is a factor who takes up the rent, but ho does not know who the property belongs to.

19620. How is that?
—Because it is a disputed property.

19621. What sort of roof do you want?
—I would like a house with two comfortable rooms and a felt roof.

19622. We have heard a great deal about felt roofs, we don't think felt roots are good in the south of Scotland; do you think the people here have had sufficient experience of the durability of felt roofs?
—I think they have had experience of them for a few years.

19623. Do they not require to be tarred every year?
—They do.

19624. And if they are tarred every year, how long do you think they will last?
—A long time, I think. A thatch roof is a great deal of trouble, and the wind often like to carry them away.

19625. What do you generally use for thatch here?
—All straw.

19626. You want a valuation of your land and good houses: what do you want next?
—We just want to have a fair valuation of our lots; we can say nothing against the scathold, we have it at our freedom; there are no railings where I live.

19627. Do you want to have fences?
—No, they are of no good that I see to us.

19628. What else?
—That is just what I am stating to you.

19629. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you complain of the rent?
—Yes, because there was £1 laid on me, and then they came and took away so much of my inside property off me, and I got no reduction.

19630. The inside property?
—Yes, the arable land.

19631. The Chairman.
—When did they do that?
—When the property was allotted.

19632. Was it given to the proprietor, or to another crofter?
—It was given to another crofter when the land was allotted. The land was in rigs, and then it was allotted, and they had to strike a straight line.

19633. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Did you not get another piece?
—A small piece on one side, but none on the other.

19634. Professor Mackinnon.
—You lost more than you got?
—Yes, and they raised the rent £1 just the year before.

19635. The Chairman.
—Was that to benefit the occupiers that the land was allotted?
—Mine was a lot before, but not on the other side.

19636. But generally speaking, is it a good thing that the land should be allotted and divided?
—I don't think it was, because some of them had to travel a long way to their land.

19637. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What is the cost of a good house in Shetland?
—The houses formerly built in Shetland only cost about £5 or £6.

19638. But these would not satisfy you now?

19639. What would be the cost of a better kind of house?
—I could not exactly say; I am only wanting my house repaired and remedied; that is all I want.

19640. The Chairman.
—The existing wall would do?
—I got lime for my house two years back, and took it out of the vessel: but it cannot go on unless I do it myself, and it would take a man a fortnight to do it. The house has stood for fifty years.

19641. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What is your rent?
—£5, 10s. besides taxes.

19642. How many cattle do you keep?

19643. The Chairman.
—And ponies?

19644. Sheep?
—About thirty; they are in the scathold.

19615. You don't pay anything additional for the sheep?

19646. It is all in the £5, 10s.?

19647. How many sheep do you count as equivalent to one cow?
—I suppose about ten.

19648. How many of your cattle are young?
—I have two cows and four young ones.

19649. If you had a good house, and were satisfied that you would not be turned out, would you consider your rent too high?
—I consider it is too high, because they made off with my property. I only paid £4, 10s. formerly.

19650. But as things improve, you get higher prices for your produce?
—It is only a few years we have had that; we must just take the times as they come; and that might not come for a long time again.

19651. If you had to fix your own rent, what would you fix it at?
—£4, 10s.

19652. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—And you would have a good house?
—Yes. I have seen the cattle sold at £2 and 30s.

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