STATEMENT by Mr JAMES TWATT of Rothiesholm, Stronsay
November 17th, 1883.
I beg respectfully to represent to the Commissioners that, coming to Sanday in a hurry, unprepared with a statement, and then only answering questions put to me, I got no chance of contradicting the evidence of James Cooper, which is in many respects, as reported, incorrect.
1. This man is not a tenant of mine, and has never been bound to furnish any labour. He has been part of his time in America, and his father is the tenant.
2. There is no agreement as to labour at this croft at all. I left the tenant sitting, because he was an aged man and had been long about the place, when other houses were shifted, though this one is much in the way of the main farm. The people were quite aware that they were retained as a favour, and were reasonable until lately; now, it appears, they imagine they are going to get the ground for nothing.
3. The statement as to the stock kept in this place is quite incorrect. I have purchased from them since this evidence was given three lambs at 20s. each, and and one-year-old quey at £9; and at the date of the evidence being given, they had on the place the following stock :—one horse, two cows, one-year-old quey, two calves, two ewes, and three lambs.
4. It must be remembered that these crofters were originally encouraged on the ground to furnish labour for the main farm, and that new places here, and elsewhere, are still being made. Formerly here in many cases, unless the landlords or larger tenants had taken fish, & c , from the crofters, they would have had no market, and could not have made a living. Taking into account the burden of poor rates from this class, my opinion is that in the case of their refusing to work on the larger farms we shall simply find them allowed to die out. These small patches of ground can never pay as farms, apart from other employment in a climate like this. Wanting the labour of the larger farm, I believe some seasons these people would starve, or at least there would only be a living for a third of their number. They cannot always depend on the fishing, and even now they are getting the use of shore, &c, for curing stations free, whereas elsewhere hundreds of pounds are being paid for stations. If we put more of our ground into grass, and suckle more of our calves, and altogether work the larger farms more on the American plan, we shall need less and less labour from the crofters. Medium sized or small farms may pay fully better than large ones, but the man with four to eight acres of ground can never be a farmer, or thrive except by some outside labour. This is what crofters cannot at present see. I have no intention at present to remove any of my crofters, though, by my lease, I have power to do so; and if any of the crofts were clear, I could get half a dozen tenants who would gladly give the rent I ask, and also endure all the bondage I lay them under. JAMES TWATT.