Sanday, Orkney, 20 July 1883 - Adam Hoon

ADAM HOON, Factor for Mr Hebden of Eday. residing at Carrick (59) —examined.

23734. The Chairman,
—You are not a farmer?
—In a small way for the last two years.

23735. Where is Carrick?
—At the north end of Eday.

23736. Were you present when some of the evidence was given about the island of Eday?
—I was.

23737. And you wish to make some statement?
—Yes, in regard to the peat-cutting by the people. I heard it for the first time that it was a grievance of the tenants to cut peats and dispose of them I have never heard such a statement made by the tenants until this day. We always considered it was a benefit for the tenants, as it brought in a lot of money to the island, and it has been continued for the benefit of the tenants more than that of the proprietor all along. The same remark applies to the kelp. It is not much of that we make, but we consider it is for the benefit of the tenants also, because many young and old people not fit to do much hard work make a little at the kelp-working, and it brings in a little money to enable them to pay their rent. In fact cottars could not pay their rent if it were not for the kelp.

23738. Are the tenants under an obligation to cut peats?
—No; they are under an obligation in this way, that they have been in the habit of doing it during, perhaps, a century, and have continued to do so, and we give them an order at the beginning of the season for the quantity and they endeavour to fulfil that. Most of them produce the quantity, and we dispose of them to the distillers; and the tenants undertake to cut a certain quantity, and prepare them and ship them on board ships.

23739. You pay them so much per quantity?

23740. What is the quantity, a fathom?

23741. How much do you pay per fathom?

23742. Has that rate been increased of late?
—No, not within the last ten years; but before that it was.

23743. How much was it when you remember?

23744. And it was increased to 19s?

23745. When a man is employed in cutting peats for 19s. a fathom, can he make as good wages as he would do if he were working for hire?
—It is considered that he does; and there is no other labour for him to do then; and it is at a season of the year when his croft is laid down and he is at liberty to work at this.

23746. How much per day can he make at it?
—That is difficult to say, but they have never complained with regard to the wages.

23747. Suppose a man said he would not cut peats, but would rather occupy himself otherwise what would happen to him?
—Nothing, because we have never had any difficulty in that way, we could always get another to do it.

23748. Do they sometimes refuse to do it ?
—They have never absolutely refused to do it. We have always sufficient people without any compulsion being used.

23749. Can you candidly state that if the people preferred not to cut a single peat they would be at liberty to abstain from doing it?
—I cannot say that, because I do not see how they could pay their rent if they did not cut peats. We have money to give them by this means at rent instead of getting money from them.

23750. Generally is there a balance in favour of the tenant?

23751. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—What is the rental of Eday?
—The gross rental is about £1560.

23752. How much of that comes from tenants paying less than £20 a year?
—I should think about two-thirds —most of them are crofters.

23753. What is the amount of sales of peat?
—We sell about a 1000 tons to the distillers, and that comes to about 12s. a ton, and leaves 6s. after paying freight. We have always considered it a privilege to the cottars, there being so many upon the island, and their circumstances have been improved by it. I have been astonished by hearing it was a
grievance, and that is why I have mentioned it. The people are allowed to cut peat and sell it to whom they like on paying the most money, and they do that to a considerable extent and we always took a larger quantity for shipping purposes. I wish to impress upon the Commission that it is no hardship to cut peats.

23754. The Chairman.
—Is there a vast quantity of moss unexhausted?
—A vast quantity.

23755. Do you find any wood in the moss?
—I do, down about 6 or 7 feet, such as birch and hazel.

23756. Are there any indications of these trees which you find in the moss having been cut?
—No they have fallen down, and the moss has grown on the top of them. They are lying flat, and the branches entire. The largest one I got was 3 feet in circumference—a Highland birch.

23757. It looks as if these trees had grown there at a period when there were no inhabitants. I mean there are no traces of the felling of the trees?
—No, they have not been felted, because the roots and branches are there. They seem to have fallen down, and the moss has grown over them.

23758. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is it on the crofter's ground that the peats are cut?
—No, there are hill dykes, and it is outside of these that the peats are cut. There is a large quantity cut upon the large farms, but that is one of the conditions of the lease.

23759. Is there any soil below the peat?
—Yes, there is a good sub-soil.

23760. Are you cutting it regularly so as to utilize that?
—Yes, we are laying down a surface.

23761. It would be a good thing, in that case if many parts were deprived of the surface, would it not?
—It would; and it is with that view that it is cut; the tenants work up behind.

23762. The Chairman.
—You have seen the sub-soil of the peat actually brought under cultivation?
—Yes, there are a great number of acres where peats have been cut which are cultivated.

23763. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Who has got those acres?
—The small crofters, many of them, and the proprietor himself on the home farm; and some of the bigger tenants have it, in fact, all have it more or less, and excellent ground it becomes.

23764. Do you require any lime?
—Yes; it does very well indeed : it makes capital soil.

23765. Do you wish to make any other remark?
—That was the principal thing.

23766. Professor Mackinnon.
—Is it because the wives and children of the crofters take part in the peat industry that you are unable to state the wages that they can make?
—No, it is because it furnishes employment for people who are not at the fishing.

23767. But I suppose the women and children are able to do a great deal of the work of spreading and drying the peats?
—They do. Tie men cut them and work them, and drive them down in carts. It is useful employment for people who are not able to go anywhere else. In fact, we have always considered they could not get on without it.

23768. And it pays?
—I think it does.

23769. Is the work at the kelp compulsory as well as that at the peats?
—I understand it is.

23770. To what extent?
—That we expect they will work it as they have been in the habit of doing before.

23771. Do you consider that also is kept on as much in order to secure payment of rent as to make income?
—We do it for both purposes, and we consider it a better thing; it does not exhaust the raw material as the peat does. The proprietor's property is going away with the peat, but not with the kelp-making.

23772. You heard also about the grievance of the hares?

23773. Have you any remark to make about that?
—The only remark is that they are now strictly preserved; and in regard to the rabbits there is not a tenant injured by them. The rabbit warrens are upon the proprietor's own farms.

23774. Is it the case that the hares came there?
—They came there twenty-nine years ago—six hares.

23775. They must have increased immensely?
—They were well protected at first and they have gone over the whole island; there is a great crop just now.

23776. The crofters seem to consider them a very bad crop?
—But in the district from which the delegates come they are thinning them out very fast,

23777. Are they at perfect liberty to do so?
—It was understood they were not to injure them at one time; but for some years back they have not been restricted, and there has been a great deal of poaching. But there is no rabbit damage done because the warrens are on the sheep runs.

23778. The delegate told us he was aware the law allowed him to kill a hare upon his croft?

23779. But if the proprietor does not allow him, when he has no lease the law fails?
—They have never got any intimation in any way for years about the hares; the thing was allowed to stand still, and the big tenants always had the right to kill the hares upon their own farms.

23780. And they did it openly?

23781. Did the crofters do it openly?

23782. Does not that give an indication of their minds, that they were afraid to do it openly?
—Yes; they could not do it openly unless they had a gun.

23783. By snare?
—That would not be openly.

23784. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie,
—By poaching you mean killing, not on their own farms, but on other people's?

23785. The account we got from the delegate showed that the crofts were pretty small?

23786. There is a very considerable number of small ones?

23787. A delegate appeared who had a small one?
—He has a large piece of hill which is not cultivated.

23788. Are the tenants fairly comfortable?
—I consider so; I consider they are very much improved.

23789. How many schools are there on the island?

23790. Are they convenient for the population? Built for the purpose and efficiently worked?

23791. Male or female teachers?

23792. Are the children pretty well kept to school?
—Yes, pretty well

23793. I suppose it requires a good deal of attention?
—Yes; at certain seasons they attend fairly well.

23794. Has the education certainly improved?
— We had very good education before the Act.

23795. How were your schools supported before the Act?
—The proprietor built the schools and there was a Government inspector of schools, and we were as well situated then as now, only we have larger and more expensive schools.

23796. But still the schools are quite efficient?

23797. In that case both the oldest and youngest people are fairly well educated?
—Yes, I am sorry the representative to-day was not one of the best in respect of education.

23798. The Chairman.
—Do you feel yourself enabled to state at this moment, in unambiguous terms that may reach the crofters of Eday, that they are at liberty freely to kill hares upon their own crofts ?
—I have no authority to make any statement of that kind, because there never has been any conversation between the present proprietor and myself upon it. We have not talked it over yet.

23799. I was anxious to hear that, because I was afraid some erroneous impression might reach the public?
—There has been no conversation with regard to that since the Act came into force,

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