Kirkwall, Orkney, 23 July 1883 - George Leonard

GEORGE LEONARD, Crofter, Triblo (67)—examined.

24555. Mr Cameron,
—Are you a fisherman as well as a crofter?
—Not now.

24556. Were you a delegate freely elected by your neighbours ?

24557. On what day did the meeting take place?
—The last meeting was on Saturday last.

24558. Was that the meeting referred to by the Rev. Mr MacCallum ?

24559. Was it a pretty fairly attended meeting ?

24560. How long have you held land under General Burroughs ?
—I had the first land when I was twenty-six years of age.

24561. Was that the same land as you occupy now ?
—No; I was one of those who were put out for sheep pasture.

24562. How were you provided for otherwise ?
—I was in a small bit of house, and then I got liberty to build a house on Sourin.

24563. What happened to you when the land was taken from you to make a sheep farm ?
—I had to leave the place.

24564. Where did you go to ?
—To where I am yet.

24565. How far is that from the old place ?
—Between three and four miles; round about it will be more.

24566. What was the rent you paid for the former place?
—When I married, the rent was 10s., and I took off the roof and made some improvement on it, and there was 10s. raised on me.

24567. What land did you occupy for the 10s. without counting the improvements ?
—I cannot say; about an acre I think.

24568. Which was already improved?

24569. And then you improved more ?
—Yes, and there was 10s raised on me.

24570. The land that was already cultivated was rented at 10s., but you had the pasture ground ?

24571. What amount of stock did you keep on the pasture ground?
—A cow and some sheep.

24572. How many sheep?
—I could not say. They were running at large; they were merely small things.

24573. But you had the whole of that for 10s?
—That is what my wife paid when I came to the house.

24574. And you went on paying the same rent?
—There was 10s.raised on me.

24575. But for the land already cultivated, and for the outrun for cattle and sheep, you paid 10s.; what improvements did you make?
—I took off the roof and put on a new one, and I improved some of the land, and then there was 10s. raised on me.

24576. How soon was the 10s. put on after you improved the land?
—Half a year after, I think.

24577. How do you know that the 10s. was put on for improving the land, and was not a natural rise for the land you before occupied, which was low rented?
—It was an old woman and my wife who were in it, and it was low rented. But I improved again, and as soon as I improved the second time, there was 10s. put on again.

24578. How much did you improve the second time?
—About two acres, I think, of hill pasture.

24579. You made hill pasture into arable ground, and 10s. was put upon you?

24580. How long after this was it that you were removed?
—I was in it somewhere between ten and eleven years.

24581. When you were removed, did you get any compensation?

24582. What year was that in?
—I could not be sure.

24583. Somebody says 1857; is that so?
—I think so.

24584. You were removed to the place you now occupy : what is the rent of it?
—It was £2 when I got it. There was about an acre of ground, and I built houses. There were no houses on it then, they were down, and I built houses and occupied the ground for some years, and then I improved it.

24585. How much land did you take in?
—I could not say. I think I had about three acres then, and I had a fourteen years' lease.

24586. How many acres of cultivated land were there in this place when you first went there?
—I think about an acre.

24587. And what was the rent—£2?

24588. Had you a fourteen years' lease then?

24589. And during that time did you improve the land?

24590. How much land did you improve?
—I couldn't just say. I think about two or three acres.

24591. Was the rent raised upon you?

24592. At the end of the fourteen years' lease?

24593. You came to an agreement with the landlord?

24594. But for these fourteen years you had the croft for £ 2?

24595. What stock did you keep in it?
—Generally two cattle.

24596. Any sheep?
—Two or three sheep too.

24597. You heard the previous witness mention that the rents were very high in this parish : do you consider £2 a high rent for a croft of that size?
—I did not consider it was high then.

24598. What is it now?
—Six guineas.

24599. Do you keep any more stock upon it?
—Not so many, because the pasture was taken from me to a great extent. There is a small portion of the ground yet in peat-moss and bracken, but nothing worth.

24600. Describe exactly what took place after the rent was raised at the end of the fourteen years. When you entered into a new arrangement with the landlord did you get a fresh lease?
—Yes, for seven years.

24601. What took place exactly, did you go to the landlord and ask a fresh lease, or did tne factor come to you, or how?
—When the lease was out and I paid my rent, I asked for a lease again.

24602. What answer did you get?
—I got the answer that I would get a lease for seven years.

24603. What answer did you make to that?
—I had to take it.

24604. Did you say anything at the time?
—I said I had to take it.

24605. But did you make any objection or say that the rent was too high?
—No doubt I did that; I did so.

24606. You said that the rent was too high?

24607. Did you take the place all the same ?
—I had to take it because I had built a house and improved the ground, and what could I do. I had nowhere to go to.

24608. You had no option but to take it?

24609. And you just took the lease?
—Just so.

24610. At the end of the seven years what happened?
—Another pound was put on.

24611. And did the same conversation take place between you and the factor?
—Just the same.

24612. You said that it was too high, and the factor said he thought it was not?

24613. And you ended by taking it on another tack?

24614. Did you hear the Rev. Mr MacCallum mention that there were outrages committed in the district?
—Yes, I heard of that.

24615. Would you describe the nature of those outrages —what were they?
—I cannot: it was in a different district from where I stay.

24616. They did not commit the outrages in your district?
—No, I just heard of them.

24617. What did they do, did they hough the cattle ?
—No, but I think they broke some farm utensils : I don't remember of them injuring any cattle.

24618. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is your own statement of complaint much the same as that of the people round about you?
—Much the same I think.

24619. You had a place first for fourteen years and then the rent was increased: would you consider it fair that it should be increased a bit at the end of that lease?
—I would have allowed a little, but I think it was increased too much.

24620. Your complaint is that it was increased too much ?
—Yes, I would be willing to give what a conscientious man would say it was worth, but I would not like to give the rent I was giving before. When I was young and fit to work I could give it, but now I am getting old.

24621. Do you think you would have made more of it —that you would have improved it more—if you had what you consider fairer terms?
—Yes; and I would have put up better houses too. The houses are generally very little worth now, since I built them thirty years ago, and I liave no lease, but hold from year to year.

24622. Do you think your neighbours also would have improved their places more if they had longer leases and lower rents?
—I am sure of it. If they had any security of the property there is no doubt of it; and they would have built better houses too. But if you built houses and improved the property, the rent was raised; and if you didn't pay it you were put away.

24623. When you got the seven years' leases did you wish them for a longer term?
—I think we did, but I am not perfectly sure. I think we wanted them to be for fourteen years.

24624. When the seven years came to an end, you only held from year to year?
—I think I got another seven years' lease.

24625. Did you wish a lease at the end of the second seven years?

24626. What was the reason you did not get a lease upon the last occasion?
—I cannot say. I was told that the whole place was offered to another big farm, to make sheep pasture. I was told by the man who holds the farm that he had an offer of the whole place, to add it on to his. farm.

24627. Did you consider the first lease of fourteen years at £ 2 fair terms?
—I did.

24628. What increase do you think would be reasonable to make on the rent since that time?
—Well, Mr Balfour, factor in Shapinshay, was there, and I understand he was looking at the place I spoke to him, as I thought he was a man of conscience—he is dead now—and he asked me what rent I paid. I told him four guineas, and he wanted to know how I could live on the place.

24629. He thought four guineas too high?
—He just wanted me to describe how I could hold the place and make a living out of it.

24630. And he was factor in Shapinshay at the time?
—-.Yes, and I think an excellent man.

24631. He was a man of knowledge and experience of the place?
—He was that.

24632. What would you consider a fair rent for your place upon along lease?
—£4 or four guineas; I would not wish to ask it for less I would be willing to give what a man of conscience would say it was worth, as long as I could.

24633. You would be willing to give what an outsider with knowledge and experience would say was a fair rent, if he knew the history of your improvements upon it, and your tenure in the past?
—I would.

24634. But once having built your houses upon it, and having remained there for years, you would not like to leave it?
—Where would I go?

24635. And even supposing a higher rent was charged you would still have remained?
—I would remain as long as I could, because when I had nothing to give I would have to be supported some way.

24636. But in fixing the rent you had no voice whatever?

24637. You would be able to make a living out of the croft if the rent was £4?
—No, I could not do that.

24638. Supposing you had it at £ 4?
—Well, I only have my wife now —my children are all away—and I might make a bit of endeavour to live in that way too.

24639. Your income would be at least £2, 6s. a year more than it is?
—Still, that would be a good deal.

24640. Have you any other means of livelihood beside the croft—work or fishing of any kind?
—I used to go to the fishing, and I used to make shoes and carry on any kind of work; but now I am not fit for that, and it takes me my whole time to work on the croft. In that way I ask for nothing.

24641. What kind of stock do you keep?

24642. Are they of the old Orkney breed?
—There are not many of them here now.

24643. What is the breed?
—Just cross breed.

24644. And what stock of sheep have you?
—I have three.

24645. What kind?
—Just crosses.

24646. And it is the outcome of that stock that you pay the rent with?
—It must be relied on that, indeed. I have four head of cattle at the present time. But I must only keep two for this season, because we have no crop which is worth.

24647. Is the crop very bad this year?
—Cruelly bad; I think we have just about half what we had last year.

24648. Are you able to summer more stock than your crop can winter for you?
—Yes, owing to this piece of outbreak of hill above us. We drive them to it, but it just keeps them alive, and no more; it is only heather and peat moss. But we buy for them in winter.

24649. Could you pay rent in the old place you were in forty years ago?

24650. And now you are afraid after being forty years in the place, and having built a house and improved the land, that you should be removed again?
—Yes. I cannot make any improvement on the place, because I have no security.

24651. The Chairman.
—Have you any horses?

24652. How many acres of arable land have you1?
—It was measured to me for ten and a half acres, the whole in a square.

24653. How much of that is in pasture, and how much do you break up in rotation?
—There may be about six or seven acres under the plough.

24654. Do you raise potatoes and oats?
—We try it as far as possible.

24655. Do you use the grain that you grow for your own family, for their subsistence ?
—I do, when I can get any of it.

24656. Where do you get it ground?
—In the mill a short distance from us; but I have not ground any for some years.

24657. Do you give the oats to the cattle?
—No, but I am giving a little to the hens, or anything of that sort.

24658. What is the reason that the number of fishing boats has diminished?
—Well, I think it is that a great many of the young men have left the island, because they have no way of stepping into; the old people cannot go.

24659. What sort of fishing did they go to—herring or cod?
—Both herring and cod. I remember a great many fishing boats, and I had one of them too.

24660. Did the fishing make it easier for the people to pay their rent?
—A great deal: they could have done little with the rents if they had not gone to the fishing.

24661. Do you sell the stirk or the two-year-old ?
—I would not have had so many this year, only I had an old cow, and I had to keep a young one to fill its place.

24662. But you generally sell them at two years of age?
—Yes; I have but a year-old just now.

24663. How much do you get for the two-year-old when you sell it?
—The last I sold for £4; but it was a year-old.

24664. But when you sell it at two years old what do you get?
—I never sold one at two years old.

24665. Do you have a two-year-old now?

24666. What do you intend to do with it?
—I intend to work it.

24667. And plough with it?

24668. Do you borrow another man's ox to plough alongside of it?
—I take another man's and I plough to him again.

24669. Do you like ploughing better with an ox than with a horse?
—I could not keep a horse a week.

24670. Do you think oxen are better than horses?
—They are better in some cases, but I must do with it as I can.

24671. Do most of the small tenants about you keep oxen for ploughing?
—Some do, and some who have pasture get horses as they are required.

24672. They have always been in the habit of using oxen?

24673. Can you plough with the old small cattle of the country?
—Yes, with the hardiest ones.

24674. Which do you use now?
—The cross breed; of course we must use what we have.

24675. Do they plough better?
—They may be powerfuller, bigger and stouter, sometimes.

24676. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What would the old cows fetch if you were to sell them?
—It depends on its condition. The flesh on it is not great, and we have no grass to give it.

24677. What do you expect for them?
—Maybe about £15 or £16. I have sold one at that, and I have sold one at £10.

24678. How long do you keep them before you sell them?
—It is just as we can get another one raised. I have had the one I have just now about nine years.

24679. When do the cows begin to fall in value?
—At six or seven years old.

24680. The Chairman.
—And the one you have is nine or ten years old?

24681. But will he still fatten for the market?
—Fine that; but it takes more to feed him.

24682. Do you put the ox in the cart?

24683. How do you harness it—like a horse?
—Just the same.

24684. Was that the way the old people did, or had they another way?
—They had another way. They had a yoke on the ox's neck—a piece of iron round its neck, and fastened to the shafts of the cart.

24685. Wasn't that the better way?
—I cannot say; but I have seen it that way and worked it too.

24686. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Have you plenty of peats on the island of Rousay?

24687. Convenient to you?
—Some are convenient, and some are a long way from them.

24688. Do you generally carry them on your backs?
—No, we cart them.

24689. Is that the custom among the people ?
—It is the custom now; carrying on the back used to be the practice.

24690. But none of them do it now?
—Some poor people who have not carts and cannot get them home in spring have to carry them in winter.

24691. How are you off for sea-ware?
—I get none, because I have no road to the sea-ware.

24692. What manure do you use?
—I have none but what I buy, and a little dung from the cattle. I drive a little moss from the hill.

24693. How far are you from the sea?
—Not very far.

24694. Why cannot you get seaware?
—Because there is not much to get, and the roads are so wet in winter that I cannot travel to the mill without going on my neighbour's land.

24695. Are your people generally well supplied with sea-ware?
—Not in my district. In the district I was in before they were, but not in this district.

24696. Is there any kelp made in the island?
—None now.

24697. Was there ever?
—Yes; I was at that trade too, once on a time.

24698. How long ago?
—I think about forty years ago.

24699. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—You have heard the paper Mr MacCallum read : do you concur in it as correct?
—As far as I understand, I do.

24700. Do you believe that it represents the real feelings and sentiments of the tenants on the Burrough's estate—the small people?
—I do.

24701. Sheriff Nicolson.
—You spoke about being afraid of being evicted, as you have no lease now?

24702. You are not secure in your holding?

24703. Are many of your neighbours in the same position?
—Just the same; I think there are about a dozen or more in the same position.

24704. Your land you say was offered to a farmer?
—-The man told me so.

24705. And some of your neighbours' land also?
—The whole square about us.

24706. Including how many families?
—About a dozen, I think.

24707. But he did not take it?

24708. If he hd done so, then they would all have had to go ?
—I think so.

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