STATEMENT by J. G. MOODIE HEDDLE, Esq.
MEL8ETTER, ORKNEY, N.B.,
30th September 1883.
Evidence of Alexander Wilson at Kirkwall
My attention has been drawn to this man's evidence.
Most people here are aware that Wilson has never been altogether sane, and is at times subject to attacks of acute mania, so that his evidence has here no value. It is represented to me, however, that such things appearing in the Report of the Commission may give a false impression to people at a distance. I may just say that, except in one point, Wilson's evidence is quite incorrect, and indeed absolutely false. He had a small croft of between four and five acres, for which £1, 10s. was paid for nine years from 1869. Then £2,10s. 6d. per annum for the last thirteen years; he left at Martinmas 1881. He might have continued there as long as he lived had I not been forced to evict him, by his own neighbours, whose lives he had repeatedty threatened. He for some time carried a pistol, threatening to use it, and also threatened to set fire to houses and stackyards. He was in before Sheriff Mellis in Kirkwall for this, and the evidence will be in existence. You may also refer to Dr Campbell, Walls, in Shetland, who was then here, and examined him medically. He got a new house a few years ago, but we paid him in full all the money we agreed to give him. For full notes of this, I refer to my clerk Mr Laughton, Longhope. At the same time I wish to explain that we usually build the tenants' houses, charging 5 per cent, on outlay; but that this man preferred getting £20, 11s. 4d., and was charged interest at 5 per cent., which made a difference in rent. This small sum put into the house is all he has expended on the place, and he never applied for any compensation for it. If he had done so, I should have done as I do elsewhere, viz., given the value expended by him, if the buildings were in fair repair, deducting one-thirtieth annually for depreciation. Wilson put in a pencil account to me when he left, claiming £100 for roads and piers which he had made; but as I knew there was nothing of the kind in existence, and as I had before received letters of the most absurd description from him, I paid no attention. I see he now claims to have expended £200 on his croft, which is, of course, simply impossible. I hear that he arrives at this by charging the ground with his own labour at the current rate of wages, exclusive of his living, for some twelve or thirteen years; in fact, for as long as he has paid rent. If need be, I am quite willing to produce my books, and appear personally before the Commission; but the case is so evident and welt known that reference to the minister and a few tenants here will probably satisfy the Commissioners.
20th November 1883
When I wrote in September I had not access to my books. I have since examined them, and find that what we promised Wilson was wood and slate and labour for the roof, and lime for building, as per account under. My clerk tells me I would only agree to this in this special case, because I was convinced the croft was too small to stand the class of house Wilson wanted. The walls would be from three to three and a quarter roods, and the cost of building varies from 30s. to 38s. per rood. This, and the cost of an outer door, and probably four windows, would represent most of Wilson's outlay; as the stones were either got from older buildings on the place, or from the ground close at hand, without any charge. I find, contrary to what I imagined, that Wilson was charged 5 per cent, interest on the sum expended by me, viz., .£20, 11s. 4d., which made his rent £2, 10s. 6d., it having been before only £1, 10s. My clerk tells me the reason was that Wilson had been badgering us about a house so long, and that I did not think the ground could stand the outlay he proposed.
With continual re-building on these small crofts, the mere interest of buildings would soon come to a heavy rent on the land, and it is difficult to see where the landlords' profit would come in. I annex full account of our outlay on Wilson's house from our books.
In 1877 – Alexander Wilson’s House
James Anderson, mason, for slates and putting on of roof: £11/16/9
Paid for wood and freight of same £7/6/7
Three bolls lime at 3s. 6d - £1/8/0
Total : £20/11/4
This was paid by Mr Heddle, as per agreement, with Wilson, and he was charged £1, 0s. 6d. (20s. 6d.)as interest on the same from crop 1878 till Martinmas 1881, when he left.
He had previously paid £1, 10s. rent for nine years from 1869
J. G. MOODIE HEDDLE.