MATTHEW ROBERTSON (69) Mid Yell—examined.
19057. The Chairman.
—What is your occupation?
—Crofter; my occupation is very little.
19058. Were you a fisherman too?
—I was at one time.
19059. From Mid Yell?
19060. Professor Mackinnon.
—What property is your croft upon?
19061. What is the size of your croft?
—I hold four acres or four merks of arable land.
19062. And your stock?
—Six cattle, young and old—and two milk cows.
19063. And sheep?
—Say about twenty head of small sheep.
19065. And the rent?
—Originally the rent was about £5 exclusive of the taxes.
19066. You don't consider that the rent is high, do you?
—If it were not for the taxes, I would not The valuation is £4, 18s. 6d.
19067. What is it that the people have got to say generally?
—The think their taxes heavy, and they would like their houses put in better condition; if the houses are out of condition, the proprietor is not willing to put them in order. If the proprietor repairs them, he lays something on the rent on that account. We would wish thatch roofs to be done away with and to have felt or canvas. We would wish a house 30 feet long, 12 feet or 13 feet wide, by 7 feet in the walls. The houses are too small.
19068. Seven feet of thickness of wall?
—No ; 7 feet high.
19069. You consider a felt roof superior to a thatch roof?
19070. If you had a lease of your land, could you undertake the putting of the house in order yourselves ?
—We would put the inside in order, if the walls and roof were put on. The occupants would put the
inside to their own satisfaction.
19071. Was that an old fashion of the country, that the proprietor should make up the outside and the tenant the inside?
—-Yes, it has been so in all my time.
19072. I suppose you have been upon this estate all your life?
19073. And your father before you?
19074. The taxes you consider too high are the school rates and the poor rates?
—Yes, and there is 15 s. in addition laid upon our land on account of the fences betwixt the property belonging to our proprietor and the next proprietor, a fence which was partly forced, because our proprietor did not wish the fence to be raised at all. There was 15s. laid upon our croft to defray that.
19075. Has that fence done any good to you?
—No, rather an injury, because our small sheep go through the fence, and that creates bad feeling, and we are threatened with having our sheep poinded.
19076. And are there big sheep on the other side?
19077. And they cannot come over to you?
—No, it requires a small fence to prevent the small sheep from coming through. But there is another annoyance, and that is caused by the roads running through the town, the gates being left open. We have been very much annoyed and injured, when our crops were on the ground, by animals coming in during the night and destroying our crops.
19078. The road goes through the arable ground?
—Yes, and passengers travelling with carriages leave the gates open, and the animals come in, so that we are very much annoyed and injured.
19079. The gates are pretty numerous upon the roads in Mid Yell?
19080. It is the school rate and the poor rate that are so very high?
19081. How could you manage to reduce the school rate?
—I could not say.
19082. I suppose you want to have the schools?
—We need the schools.
19083. Do the children go well to the school?
—In some cases they might turn out better, but they attend more regularly than they did at first.
19084. Are the people anxious that the children should go to school?
—Some are and others are not. Those who have not had the benefit of education themselves don't feel the necessity as much as the others.
19085. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Have you a felt or a canvas roof?
—There is a felt roof on our house, put on at our own expense.
19086. If it were once put on, would the tenant keep it tarred?
—Yes, the tenant would guarantee to keep it in order.
19087. Do you know how long the felt roof lasts ?
—I am hardly able to say. I suppose, if well cared for, it will last for a lifetime.
19088. What is the greatest experience you have had of these roofs ?
—I have only had a little experience for a few years, but we have found the benefit of it. It is much lighter for the walls, and it is tight, and we have not the bother of putting up a thatch roof.
19089. How long is it since felt roofs were introduced?
—It is long since they began with some individuals, but they are not numerous yet.
19090. What is the oldest you know of?
—I am hardly able to say. In North Yell, I believe, they have had some for a number of years. But that has not been on a dwelling house —only a house used as a store.
19091. Do you line the roof below the rafters?
—When we wish to make a comfortable room upstairs we line it.
19092. But if it is only a single floor, you don't line it?
—No, if we are not going to make a particularly comfortable room, we don't line it; but if we wish to make it anything comfortable we do.
19093. Is the house not very cold if it is not lined?
—Yes. The house I occupy is all lined with wood along the wall in one end, and a wooden floor. It is not uncommon, that, in many houses.
19094. But if a felt roof is not lined, is it not peculiarly cold in winter?
—Yes, in winter time, and it is very warm in summer.
19095. You mentioned you had a complaint about the erection of the fence on the march between your proprietor and a neighbouring proprietor; who is the neighbouring proprietor?
—Mr John Harrison.
19096. Who is your proprietor?
19097. If this fence had been made so as to keep in your sheep, would not that have been of mutual advantage?
—Yes, it would have been.
19098. And did you represent to Lady Budge at the time the fence was made that it ought to be made so as to keep sheep in?
—Lady Budge had no power at that time, it was old John Walker.
19099. Did you represent that to John Walker?
19100. Do you think, if you had represented it to him, he would have seen that the fence was so erected that it would keep in your sheep?
—I could not say; he was a very stiff kind of man.
19101. In regard to the gates you spoke of, would it be of any use to fence the roadsides where there is arable land so as to keep sheep out of it?
—It would be. It is in the night time, when the gates are left open, that the sheep get in and the injury is done. Sheep and cattle come in to our corn land and do great injury.
19102. What remedy is possible for it?
—I don't know, unless there were restrictions laid on travellers that they must shut the gates.
19103. Have you any other complaints to make?
—Nothing in particular. I have no complaints to make against our proprietor; she is a very nice sort of woman.
19104. Is there anything you would like to see done for the land?
—No, only I would like that something should be done to the houses we dwell in.
19105. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You stated that the fence you referred to was put up at the instance of the other proprietor?
—Yes, our proprietor was very stiff against it, and was put into the Court of Session about it.
19106. Do you know the law about a mutual fence between two properties?
—The law about mutual fences is, I understand, that each one should pay a share.
19107. Do you know also that unless the fence is as good for the one as for the other he is not bound to pay for it?
—I did not know that.
19108. You had better go to the proprietrix and tell her you are anxious for a fence to keep your sheep out as well as the others ?
—They are trying just now to improve it by putting in an additional wire.
19109. The Chairman.
—Is there any other statement you wish to make?
—Nothing in particular.