Raefirth, Mid Yell, 14 July 1883 - James M. Barclay

JAMES M. BARCLAY, Inspector of Poor for Mid and South Yell, Clerk to the School Board, and Collector of Rates (38)—examined.

19497. Professor Mackinnon.
—We were told that the poor rate and the school rate together were 6s. 6d. in this parish, what are the rates in South Yell?
—It is the same in both parishes; they form one civil parish.

19498. North Yell and Fetlar are a separate parish ?

19499. Did you hear the evidence of the previous witnesses?
—Some of it.

19500. Have you any idea how the rates could be reduced in any way and the efficiency of the administration still kept up?
—I don't see how the rates could be reduced at present. The poor rate has been reduced this past year, and I hope to be able to reduce it again this year. But the rental of the parish is low. The valuation of the parish is only some £1500 or £1600. A rate of even 4s.only produces about £300, and there have been as many as seventy paupers on the roll.

19501. How long have you been inspector?
—Eight years.

19502. Do you think there are some people on the roll who would not have been on it if what is called the poorhouse test were applied?
—There are some, but these people are not receiving a very large allowance; a very small allowance generally. Cases of that sort are sometimes taken on, but the allowance is fixed very low. They are taken on simply to help them. The allowance may perhaps pay their house rent.

19503. Looking at the number that can be taken off the roll by the poorhouse test, and considering the expense of erecting the poorhouse and maintaining the inmates in it, would you consider it to be an economical. arrangement for Shetland to enter into such an undertaking as building a poorhouse?
—I think it ought to be done; if it did not save much off the rates, it would at any rate reduce the pauperism. It would reduce the number of paupers, although the allowance to each individual would have to be more. Only real cases of pauperism would then be admitted, because the test would show whether the people had friends who would come forward to help them or not. A great many of our paupers are old people of eighty or ninety years of age.

19504. Are there many of your paupers whom you have to maintain out of Shetland?
—Yes, and they are the heaviest on the parish. Sometimes we have a number in Edinburgh, Lerwick, and different places—people who have gone from the parish, and have not established a residence anywhere else. The allowance given to these people is much larger than what they would get here. They get 2s., 3s., and 4s. a week; whereas if they were here they would only get 9d., Is. or Is. 6d. a week.

19505. And you think you would save in that way?
—Yes. The rates are also kept high on account of the number of pauper lunatics in the asylum. The parish also got into debt at one time, and the rate has been kept up a little to reduce the debt, which is now paid up. Since the pauper lunatic grant was established by Government for the aid and maintenance of pauper lunatics, and the regulation by the Lunacy Board allowing paupers not dangerous to be boarded out, we have been able to save a good deal of money. We were paying £120 a year at one time for paupers in the asylum alone.

19506. Your school rate is high, is it not?
—Yes, 2s. 6d. in the pound.

19507. Is there any prospect of its being reduced?
—Not for some years.

19508. How many schools have you under the new system?

19509. How much money have you borrowed to build these?
—The interest on the borrowed money is over £60 a year; the schools cost £1300 or £1400 each.

19510. Do you think you have got schools in every part of the parish where they are necessary?
—In every place where there is any population that will authorise the board to go to the expense. There is only one district where there is no school, and the number of children there is very small.

19511. How are these children educated?
—They have no school at present.

19512. You have not taken advantage of the arrangement by which they can be educated by a lad, and sent to a school for examination?
—We have, but the people would not take advantage of it; they would not have it. There was a teacher appointed on the itinerating scheme, but the people would not have him. There were not ten children, I think, in the district I refer to, and the people wanted a school built, and they are dissatisfied that that has not been done. The School Board applied to the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and a teacher has been appointed for twelve months, but he has no place to go to.

19513. Is there no corner for him?
—There was a house vacant last winter, and the School Board are at present restoring it to make it suitable for him.

19514. I hope you have not engaged the teacher?
—He was engaged conditionally, if he could find a place to teach in.

19515. Are these new schools being taken advantage of by the children?
—In some districts they attend regularly; in others they do not, and there is no worse district than Mid Yell itself.

19516. Has the School Board taken any steps to force them in?
—There is a compulsory officer who goes to the school and sees who are absent, and some of the people have been before the board, but none of them have been prosecuted.

19517. I suppose they can give a good many reasons for their children not being at school?
—Yes, but the reasons are not always satisfactory.

19518. But the School Board have not prosecuted any parents?

19519. Of course, prosecution would be somewhat expensive?
—Yes. All the children, I may say, cannot attend in the winter season.

19520. But they could attend better than they do?
—Clearly; and in some districts where they do attend the school is almost self-supporting, whereas in others the deficiency which has to be made up is over £20; and that accounts for the high school rate.

19521. Are the teachers principally male or female?
—There are three male teachers and three female teachers.

19522. Female teachers can be had cheap; is that the reason you employ them?
—Yes, and they get on quite as well. We have no advanced scholars.

19523. If there was a good school here, don't you think some of the people would take advantage of it, and allow their boys to remain at school some time longer?
—There are three principal schools with certificated male teachers, who ought to be able to give the children a good education.

19524. Are there many boys who remain at school till they are fourteen or fifteen?
—Not many.

19525. Is that less or more the case now than under the old administration ?
—Under the old administration the teaching was very uncertain. There were a few boys who had been at sea, who attended to learn a little navigation.

19526. And has that practice entirely ceased?
—I think those who go in for examinations in the merchant service attend school at the port they are sailing from —Liverpool, or wherever they may be.

19527. And there is nothing now in the way of teaching the older boys navigation?
—No, I should say not.

19528. Mr Cameron.
—What is the population of the parish?
—I am not quite certain, but I was told it was 1708 at the last census.

19529. And there are seventy paupers on the roll?
—Not just now, but there have been that. There are somewhere about sixty just now.

19530. What is the ordinary allowance you give to a pauper?
—About 1s a week to those who are resident in the parish.

19531. And what besides?
—They have a house or hut.

19532. Fuel?
—They have an allowance for peats, and some of them have to be cared for and attended.

19533. Do they get clothing?
—A certain amount of clothing.

19534. Do you give them the Is. a week in meal?
—In money, to buy meal or whatever they require.

19535. But they can hardly live upon that?
—No, they cannot.

19536. What do they do ?
—1 cannot tell you; many of them are old women, and knit so as to supplement what they get; and many of their neighbours are kind to them.

19537. Could they not force you to give them a higher allowance than that?
—In some cases, where they have applied to the Board of Supervision, they have not succeeded. There is no case where any application to the Board of Supervision has resulted in an increased allowance since I became inspector.

19538. Where there are children under age, to what extent do you increase the allowance?
—It depends on what the mother is able to do for them.

19539. What would be the allowance of a woman with three children?
—We have none of these; we have few cases of that sort on the roll.

19540. Your allowauce appears to be small, and your rate high?

19511. And you think that might be improved if you had a poorhouse?
—Yes, it might not at once reduce the rate.

19542. But it would reduce pauperism?

19543. Do you think people would not go into the house if it were used as a test?
—It would be used as a test; and the Parochial Board would be able to give a better allowance to those who were really deserving.

19544. Have the Parochial Board ever taken the subject into consideration?
—Yes, it has been up before them several times, and they have been always frightened at the expense.

19545. Who is the Board of Supervision inspector who comes round here?
—Mr Peterkin.

19546. Has he recommended a poorhouse?

19547. But they have never adopted it?
—It has not been adopted yet. Some of the local inspectors drew up a memorial addressed to the
parochial boards, representing the necessity for a poorhouse, and it is just going the round at present.

19548. The round of what ?
—The round of the parishes. It was to be sent to the various chairmen to be submitted to the boards, pointing out the reasons why the inspectors consider it advisable that the boards should consider the matter again.

19549. The idea was to have one poorhouse for the whole islands?

19550. Do the six schools in this parish supply accommodation for all the children?

19551. Are there not some places too far off?
—Only the one district I mentioned; and if there had been a road all the way, the children would
not have had over four miles to walk. But there is only a road part of the way.

19552. Is there not a very nasty burn between where the people live and the school?
—It depends on what school the children attend. If the people on the west side were to attend West Sandwick school, they would not have to cross the burn.

19553. How many families have to cross the burn to get to school?
—There are only three families of children on that side of the burn.

19554. Have these families always paid their rates?
—Until recently; there has been a dispute about that lately, and we gave them an opportunity of hearing the decision of the sheriff in the case, and they have been at Lerwick this week. I have a note from the solicitor who acted for us this morning, stating that the case has been up, and has been decided against the people.

19555. Their ground, I suppose, was that they should not be called upon to pay rates, because there was no school available in terms of the Act?

19556. Do you know what reason the sheriff gave in deciding against them?
—No, I have heard no particulars.

19557. But the people have expressed themselves as willing to pay, since they have got a house fitted up as a school temporarily?
—I don't know yet: they will have to pay, because the sheriff has decided against them. We could have proceeded against them by summary warrant, but we did not do that.

19558. In point of fact, it was impossible for the board to erect a school owing to the fewness of the families?
—Utterly impossible. I understand their case would come under a section of the Scotch code roviding
that children in an outlying district may be taught at their own houses by a teacher approved of by the inspector, and that the children be brought to a central school for examination.

19559. And you arranged for that?
—We offered them that accommodation last year; but they would not be satisfied unless they got a school built,

19560. Are all the teachers certificated?
—Yes, or in the way of earning certificates.

19561. What is their salary?
—£30 for females and £40 for males, and half the fees and half the grants.

19562. Do you know what that amounts to in each school?
—Some of the female teachers made about £50 last year; and they have a free house. And some of them may have an evening school, and so add to their income.

19563. Do the parents of the children like the female teachers as well as the male teachers; is there any dissatisfaction felt about them?

19561. Do they teach sewing?

19565. Singing?
—Yes, most of them.

19566. Do you find that the salary and half the fees and half the grant is sufficient to get a fairly good teacher?
—We have some very good teachers.

19567. Do they belong to the islands mostly?
—No, they are all strangers.

19568. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is the valuation roll of the county of Shetland published?
—No, it is not printed.

19569. It never was?
—Not to my knowledge.

19570. Do you know the reason of that \
—No, I cannot give any reason for it.

19571. Do you get a manuscript copy of it?
—Yes, a certified manuscript copy.

19572. What does the clerk charge you for it?

19573. We have been told there are a great number of lunatics?
—Yes, there are five or six in our parish.

19571. And, of course, they are all boarded in the south?
—Not now, we have four boarded out in the parish.

19575. I presume that has very much lightened the expense?
—Yes, it has lightened the rates considerably.

19576. What is the assessment you levy in the year?
—A little over £300.

19577. What do you get for the two offices you hold?
—£25 as inspector, and £10 as collector.

19578. Do you find any difficulty in recovering the whole of the assessment, or are there generally arrears?
—We generally get in the greater part of it, but there are some arrears; we have sometimes to wait
before we get it all in. The people may be hard up one year and better off the next.

19579. Are the old people of eighty or ninety who are on the roll men or women?
—Principally women.

19580. Have they any direct descendants upon whom the board could count ?
—Yes, if the board were to strictly carry out the Act, they would find relatives who might be forced to contribute; but most of the pauper's relatives are not residing in the parish—they are not at hand, and consequently are allowed to escape. They may be in Edinburgh, or Leith, or Lerwick.

19581. Do you let them off often if they are only at the distance of Lerwick !
—It depends on their circumstances.

19582. Do you know of any case which has come under your own observation where families on the poor roll have been dispossessed and obliged to leave the country!
—No, not of my own knowledge.

19583. Do you know of cases where they have been put out of their holdings ?
—Not to my knowledge.

19584. Are there many proprietors in this parish holding their own lands ?
—Yes, there are a few of that class, perhaps a dozen or so, owning their own farms.

19585. Do you think these people return their lands at the full value they would bring if rented ?
—I think so in most cases. The assessor has visited most of them, and tried to ascertain their real value.

19586. Does he sometimes vary the rental given in ?
—He did so two years ago in two or three cases, and increased the value.

19587. Was that appealed against to the Valuation Court by those who made up the erroneous returns?
—I think some of them appealed, but I don't think they followed up the appeal..

19588. I suppose you could not give us any information about the returns in the island of Fetlar ?

19589. What returns are made by Lady Nicolson for the land which is in her own hands'?
—Somewhere under £400. I have seen the valuation, but I could not say for certain the amount. It is some time since I saw the return, but I think it was about £370.

19590. Have you any idea what was the return for the tenants!
—I have not

19591. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What deductions do you make from the rental to find the assessable value in the parish ?
—25 per cent.

19592. Then the real rental is over £2000?

19593. Are you a native of the parish ?

19594. Have you heard the complaints made to-day regarding the want of improved houses, and security of tenure, increase of rent, and want of compensation for improvements: have you known that these complaints were current in the parish for some time before it was known that the Commission was coming round!
—I know that in some districts the people have complained of uncomfortable houses.

19595. And have thought the proprietor should have done more to make them comfortable?

19596. Has there been want of security of tenure after having improved a place ?
—There may have been rare cases, but I don't know of any in my own knowledge of recent years.

19597. Have you not heard that there was considerable dissatisfaction in the parish with regard to these matters ?
—Only when the matter was brought up, and the people tried to find out if there was any cause of
complaint; and if there is anything they must speak it out

19598. Did you hear anything said to-day which you did not expect to hear?
—No, I did not

19599. The Chairman.
—Do you think what you have heard said is on the whole well founded, or the contrary?
—I think generally what I have heard was fairly enough stated, only when they talk about getting good houses, they forget that the building of houses is an expensive thing, and that the proprietor must have interest for his money. They think the proprietor ought to do some things which are quite unreasonable in in the way of repair and rebuilding without an increase of rent. Of course, if a tenant takes a croft with a house upon it, the proprietor has to keep it up, and will do ordinary repairs; but when it comes to the rebuilding of a house, it is a serious consideration, now that wages are so high, and I fancy no proprietor would do it without looking for some return.

19600. Do you think there is any material improvement, or tendency to improvement, in the lodging of the people?
—Yes; within my own recollection there has been considerable improvement on the inside of the houses—lining them with wood, and papering them, and so on. A great many of the houses are lined, some of them all round, others have the ben end or private room —all of them mostly—lined with wood and papered, and that did not use to be the case.

19601. I observed a kind of half-witted person hanging about the door of the church; is that lad in receipt of parochial relief?

19602. How much does he receive?
—£2, 10s. a year and his clothing.

19603. How much is that per week?
—Hardly a shilling. He was only admitted this year.

19604. And one suit of clothing ?
—Just as he requires it.

19605. Does he always require it?-
—He would need it oftener than he gets it : he is very destructive sometimes.

19606. Is he lodged or boarded?
—He lives with his mother and the rest of the family; his father is dead.

19607. Has he received any education ?

19608. Has any application ever been made to place him under restraint, or in an asylum?
—No, he was only admitted on the roll this last year.

19609. He is what might be called an innocent?
—Yes; and it is quite probable the allowance will be increased now that he is getting up to be a man; only he was admitted as a pauper before it was considered necessary to put him on the roll of lunatics.

19610. Who are the members of the School Board here?
—Rev. Mr Watson, Rev. Mr Barclay (my father), Mr Leask, proprietor, Mr Keith, farmer, and Mr Sandison, merchant —five members.

19611. Have there been any contested elections?
—Yes, twice, I think.

19612. Have they created any interest in the parish?
—The first time they did.

19613. Were there any candidates brought forward from the class of small occupiers or crofters?

19614. Has that class of persons shown any desire to be on the board, or to take any interest in the adminsitration of education in the parish?
—Some do take an interest in education, but I have not heard of any who wished to be on the board; there are some who take an interest in education, and are anxious to have their children educated.

19615. But my question was with reference to their being on the board?
—No, I cannot say they have expressed any desire to be on the board

19616. But you are not aware that any influence has been used in the higher ranks of society to prevent representatives of that class getting into the board?
—No, I am not aware that there has been any.

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