Raefirth, Mid Yell, 14 July 1883 - Hugh Hughson

HUGH HUGHSON, Seaman (37)—examined.

19297. The Chairman.
—Where were you born?

19298. Were you born in East Yell?
—In Vidian, on the mainland.

19299. At what age did you go to sea?

19300. And have you made long voyages?
—Yes, most of my time.

19301. What countries have you been in?
—China, India, and the Colonies.

19302. Have you been in the Royal Navy?

19303. Have you met many Shetlanders on board ships in which you have served?
—A great many.

19304. Are you now living on land?

19305. Have you a family?
—No, I have not; I came, and took up my brother's family. I came home to see my mother, and when my brother died I took up his family.

19306. You are now living in Yell?
—Yes, in Gossabrugh, East Yell.

19307. And have you got some land?

19308. Do you find the young people in your place inclined to go on board ship, and serve for long voyages?
—Yes, a great many of them.

19309. Have any of them enlisted in the navy?
—Some of them have.

19310. Do you think that if the Government were to send a training ship to this country, to show the people how the boys are brought up, they would be more inclined to enlist in the navy?
—I think they would.

19311. Have you ever seen a training ship?
—Yes, and I would have been glad to have been put into any of them at ten or twelve years of age.

19312. You think that, if the people saw how the boys were treated, they would be encouraged to enlist ?
—I should think they would be if they only knew the value of it as I do.

19313. You are satisfied with the treatment the boys receive on board ?
—Yes, in the navy.

19314. Is it generally known among the fishing people and poor people of the country ?
—No, it is not. The poor people in Shetland are kept blind to everything. They are blinded to what is going on in other parts.

19315. But still you say a great number of people are going to sea?
—Yes, but those at home are kept very ignorant of what is doing; they are not allowed to know how they could better themselves, and they are taxed in all possible forms and ways.

19316. Are you now living by land or sea?
—By land, and on the money I saved up before. I cannot live on the croft, it cannot keep me; it is on what I saved up before that I am trying to keep my brother's family. But if I got security I might live on property. My brother had a lease, and I am holding it on at the present time.

19317. How long has the lease still to run ?
—Ten years yet

19318. And are you making any improvements?
—I have, ever since I came.

19319. What is the nature of the improvements ?

19320. Any drainage ?
—Yes, drainage.

19321. What sort of drains?
—Open drains. I drained the property, and places which were growing weeds when I came home, are now growing white oats.

19322. Have you any fencing?
—No, I would be glad if I could get a fence on my property, to keep it from other people's cattle.

19323. If your proprietor would pay for half the fence, would you pay for the other half ?

19324. What sort of a fence ?
—A wire fence.

19325. Is it soft ground?
—Not so extra soft, but what a fence would stand.

19326. Is it rocky ground?
—No, not rocks, sank

19327. What is the extent of your ground?
—About six merks or acres.

19328. Besides scathold right?

19329. What stock do you keep on it?
—Six cows and two horses, and I think about eight sheep.

19330. And what rent do you pay for that ?
—Over £20, taxes and all.

19331. What sort of a house is there on it ?
—Four rooms with a felt roof.

19332. Is there any business carried on ?
—I have a small business. My brother had it before.

19333. Do you cure fish ?
—A little, but it is not much that I can get to cure.

19334. Are there many competitions for curing?
—No, there is no one but myself, but there is not much to get.

19335. Was your brother bound by his lease to make improvements?

19336. How long was the lease for?
—Fourteen years.

19337. Who do you say was proprietor?
—Mr Ogilvie Robertson, and now it is Mr Hastie.

19338. Have you and the proprietor had any differences?
—No, only I cannot get the house repaired, and it is becoming spoiled. If I repair it ho won't pay me for it, and if I leave it he won't give me any demurrage.

19339. If the roof is felt, won't you keep it water-tight?
—Yes, if they put the walls in repair, but the water is coming in through the walls.

19340. It was not repaired when your brother took it?
—No, and by the lease he was bound to repair it. Word was sent by the factor that I would have to put repairs on it. They will give the lime, but I don't see I am bound to do the work.

19341. Is there any dissatisfaction among the people in the country near you?
—Yes, there is a great many of them in the same position, the same as I am. If they could get leases of their property they would improve it. That is what they want

19342. They want long leases?
—Yes, about twenty-one years.

19343. And then they would keep the thing going themselves?
—Yes, the property is going to waste as it is.

19344. That is the chief cause of complaint at this place?
—Yes, want of leases.

19345. Professor Mackinnon.
—If they had that long lease would they improve their houses too?
—I don't see how they could if thev pay heavy rents. I think the factor should improve the houses and repair them. That was the arrangement when the leases were made.

19346. You don't consider the rent too high if the proprietor did what you wish?
—It is rather too high, because I cannot keep cattle enough to pay the rent. If I could keep cattle enough to graze on my property and pay the rent, I would not consider it too high.

19347. Is it higher than the rent of the crofters about you?
—Yes, there is none about me paying above £5 of rent.

19348. Although they have a croft as big as yours?

19349. How do you account for yours being so high?
—I don't know.

19350. Is it because of the shop and fish-curing ?
—I suppose so.

19351. And the lease?
—Yes, I expect so.

19352. The others have not leases?
—No, I cannot account how the rent was raised. My brother's predecessors paid only £8 for the place.

19353. But they had not a shop and curing estabhshment?
—Yes, they had.

19354. You would not be inclined to enter into a new arrangement of that kind yourself. You don't think it is a good thing?
—No, I do not consider it is. But on account of keeping a family, who are all quite young, I went into it. There are eight of a family.

19355. You would not have taken it for yourself?
—No, I would not at the rent.

19356. Even suppose the proprietor had fulfilled the terms of the lease by putting the house in order?
—No, I should not have liked to take it for myself.

19357. Have you made any representation to the proprietor or the factor about putting the house in order?

19358. Who is the factor?
—Mr Keith.

19359. And did he not consider your proposal reasonable?
—Yes, providing he could get the sanction of the landlord, but he cannot

19360. What would it cost?
—About £10 or £12 would put it in repair.

19361. The ground of dissatisfaction which the people of the district have, is that they have not leases?
—Yes, that they don't have leases, so far as I know.

19362. They don't fish much. Is that because there is no special fishing ground?
—There is ground, but the harbour is bad; there is not a safe harbour to come into.

19363. Could a harbour be easily made?
—I do not know if it could, because it is an open bay.

19364. How far are they from a suitable harbour?
—Mid Yell.

19365. How far is Mid Yell?
—Six or seven miles.

19366. And where do the young people of the place go to?
—They generally go to the fishing, and others go to sea.

19367. Are they better or worse off than in Vidian ?
—A good deal. worse off than where I was brought up.

19368. In what respect?
—Because their farms don't pay them, and the fishing is not so good.

19369. Were the farms better in Delting?
—Yes, and the farms were producing more; they are not producing half of what they used to do. The people are forced to leave because they cannot make a living; the young people are going away, and the old people are not fit to work or improve.

19370. Do you think the farm3 are big enough to keep the people without assistance from the fishing?
—No, the one needs to be assisted by the other—part fishing and part farming.

19371. Some of the family remain at the farm and some go to the fishing ?

19372. And that is the way they live about you?
—Yes. But if they had the farms more improved they could take more out of them. They have no chance; they have no demurrage for improving the farms, and they leave them worse, and don't believe in working on them. But I think, if I could work upon it, it would pay me. I would have benefit by it. The more improvements the crofter makes the greater is the benefit to himself.

19373. But you don't make improvements?
—I have made improvements in the three years I have been there; I have improved well on to three acres.

19374. Is the value of it increasing?
—Yes, I see them increasing it to me, and that is why I won't improve more. If I could have it fenced, and got it to myself, it would be different.

19375. Perhaps by the time the lease is out it won't be too highly rented?
—I do not see why they should increase it on me. If I improve ground I think the rent should not be increased, but lowered, so that I should get the value of my work.

19376. How do you think that could best be brought about ?
—I do not know exactly. I think it could be brought about very easily by looking at the value of the property when I took it, and when I leave it after my improvements.

19377. You would wish the law to be such that you could get the value of your improvements?
—Yes, from the time I commence until I leave it.

19378. Of course, the law is that the proprietors as well as yourself should abide by the terms of the lease?
—Yes, but they won't do that. They want to place you so that you cannot make them do that.

19379. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How long have you been looking after this place?
—Three years and six months.

19380. What family were you obliged to take up?
—Nine of them—eight children and my brother's wife.

19381. Were your parents dead?
—My father died when I was a child. My mother is alive, and I have to support her.

19382. Are you spending some of your own earnings?
—I am spending my own earnings all the time—ever since I started here.

19383. What you want is encouragement from the proprietor—permanency in your holding?

19384. In regard to these fences, you say you would pay half the fence?

19385. You used the expression that the people in Shetland were kept in ignorance, what did you mean by that ?
—Because they don't get to know where they could get a better living. I consider I could make a better living in another country than I can do in Shetland.

19386. Are there any newspapers published in Shetland?
—Only the Shetland Times, and it is very small; it is not of much account. The only thing we get in it is an account of the fishing, and if we did not get a paper out of the south we should be almost entirely out of the world.

19387. Mr Cameron.
—Why don't you get a paper?
—I always send for one. I generally have the Scotsman or the Liverpool Mercury.

19388. Yet you said you did not know what was going on?
—Plenty don't. You might be in town yourself a century, and not know what was going on, if you had not a newspaper.

19389. But if you buy a paper, you have the same information as other people?
—Yes. but the rest of the people in the place don't do that. I send and get it for myself, but I am not going to get papers to let them know what is going on.

19390. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is there plenty of land in Shetland where a man may make a good living?
—Certainly, if the people only had the privilege of working on it.

19391. Although you say there are other places away from Shetland where you could make a better living, yet a good living could be made in Shetland?

19392. And any thing you want in the way of increased holdings you are willing to pay a fair rent for?
—Yes, if we could only get them, but we cannot get them.

19393. You don't want anything without paying fairly for it?
—No, nothing; but we cannot get it; the proprietors won't give it to us. Some small squatters perhaps are put on, and they perhaps take up our pasture, and if they have cattle they drive ours off and take it, although we are paying for it. We should like to have our own pasture for which we pay, and let them keep on theirs.

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