DAVID WALLACE, Bratsfold, Burness (51)—examined.
23501. The Chairman.
—Whom do you represent? Are you a delegate ?
—Yes, I just represent the parish of Burness.
23502. Who chose you ?
— About fourteen or fifteen of my own people.
23503. Here just now ?
23504. Are you a crofter?
—A small farmer.
23505. Have you any connection with the fishing ?
23506. What is your rent?
23507. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What statement have you to make on behalf of your co-parishioners of Burness?
—Our grievances are high rent, no security of tenure, and no compensation for anything we do.
23508. Have you any leases at all?
23509. Who is your proprietor?
23510. Is he proprietor of the whole parish?
—Of the whole parish.
23511. How many people may be in the parish altogether?
—I am not exactly sure; perhaps fifty or fifty-two tenants.
23512. That will be altogether between 200 and 300 people?
—There is that at any rate.
23513. Upwards of 300?
— There is that at any rate.
23514. How long have you had your own place?
—Twelve years I think.
23515. Did you succeed your father?
23516. You came into it yourself?
—I succeeded my father-in-law.
23517. Has your rent been raised since you became tenant yourself?
23518. What was it when you succeeded twelve years ago?
23519. And what is now?
23520. Was it put up to that at once?
23521. At one swoop?
23522. What advantage did you get when the rent was raised that way?
23523. No increase of your land?
23524. Were your houses improved?
—No, nothing but what we do ourselves.
23525. What was the meaning of this jump?
—In the old way the property was not squared, one had an acre and another had an acre; and then the property was squared and rents were raised.
23526. Was anybody's rent reduced?
—Not that I am aware of.
23527. And are your co-parishioners complaining in the same way, that their rents were raised?
—Just the same.
23528. Does the proprietor live upon the estate?
—Yes, for most he does now; but he did not do it formerly.
23529. Is this parish the only property he has got?
—He has a small farm forbye the parish—about 70 acres or something like that.
23530. Have you ever asked him for a lease?
23531. Do you think he would give you one?
—I don't know, I did not ask it.
23532. Is he a kind landlord on the whole?
—Yes, he is.
23533. Is there any big farm in the parish?
—There is one; there is none very large except one.
23534. What is the size of it ?
—1 don't know.
23535. What rent is it paying?
—About £130 I suppose.
23536. Has it always been as big as that ?
23537. It has been added to, has it?
23538. At the expense of small holdings?
23539. Are you complaining of that farm?
—Well, no; of course we did complain to our proprietor at the time that some of the best soil was taken from us.
—Well, we did not get it; it is in with his.
23541. Did you get a reduction of rent?
23542. What stock do you keep?
—I keep two horses, two cows, two two-year-olds, two calves and four sheep.
23543. Is that about the average of the parish?
—No, I think not; I think the average will be above that.
23544. Do you mean that the average rent is above £15 and the average stock greater than you stated?
—Yes, I think so.
23545. Do you make your living out of the farm?
23546. What are you able to sell in a year of animals off the farm?
—Two two-year-olds yearly.
23517. What price do you generally get for them?
—Perhaps £29 on an average for the two of them.
23548. Can you sell anything else?
—Yes, I sell perhaps, two sheep.
23549. What will they bring you ?
23550. I suppose corn and other produce of that sort is all consumed on the farm?
23551. Are you obliged to buy anything?
—No, I don't buy any grain for living on; I can raise as much as does for the family.
23552. You really pay your rent and have something over out of the animals you sell, the two-year olds and two sheep?
—Yes, I pay my rent out of that.
23553. But you find it enough to do to make both ends meet ?
—More than it can do many times; there are many things besides rent.
23554. Do you do anything besides farm?
23555. Have you any family?
23556. Do they help the household?
—They go out to service.
23557. Do they help the house? Do they send any money to you?
23558. Do you know how many acres you have got?
23559. And have you a share of the grass or commonty?
—No, it is all in for arable property as it were.
23560. You have nothing but the 18 acres?
23561. What are the taxes besides the £15 you pay?
—I pay 15s. of road money; and the same for school rate and other rates. '
23562. Three shillings a pound for these three things?
—A shilling a pound for each of these things.
23563. That will bring your rent up to between £17 and £18?
23564. If your rent had been left at £11 you would have been satisfied ?
23565. That is about the fair rent you want?
—Yes, £ 10 or £11; I think so.
23566. When you succeeded twelve years ago to the small farm, were the whole 18 acres taken in, or was some of it waste?
—A good deal of it was waste.
23567. And you have taken that in yourself?
23568. Is it all in now?
—All that is intended to be taken.
23569. You cannot give any reason why the rent was raised from £11 to £15?
23570. Had you improved the croft before the £15 was put on in part?
—All that I could do.
23571. And that is all the thanks you got for improving?
23572. Putting £ 4 on you?
23573. And you don't like that?
—No, I don't.
23574. Is what you have now stated in regard to your own position very much the case with all the other people in the parish?
—To a greater or less extent.
23575. Particularly those who are here to-day who delegated you to come—their grievances are the same as you have stated?
—Much the same.
23576. Then you are liable to be turned out, are you, at next Whitsunday?
23577. You have no lease or writing of any kind?
23578. What length of lease would you like to have?
—Perhaps nineteen or twenty-one years, so that a person would have some time for any improvements.
23579. Do you keep your own buildings in order?
—Yes, I have done it all along with the exception of last year when I got some slate from the proprietor.
23580. With the exception of that you have done it yourself?
23581. And is it the custom over the parish that the people keep up the buildings themselves?
23582. Your proprietor is Captain Horwood; has he any factor?
—Yes, a manager, Mr John Scott, who is here to-day. The wrong of our island is not soil, but large farms; there is soil enough for us all if it were equally divided.
23583. But you have stated just now that your holding is sufficient to maintain yourself and your family; why do you want more land?
—I said as regarded bread. I was asked if ends met and I said no.
23584. Before that you said you were not dependent on other work?
—Neither I am.
23585. You seem an intelligent man, have you been reading in the newspapers reports of the proceedings of this commission in other parts of Scotland ?
—Yes, I have read them.
23586. Has it ever occurred to you that crofters in some other districts are not so well off as you are yourself?
—I could not exactly say that.
23587- Do you think we often come upon people who get £29 for two beasts and £4 for two sheep and have crops sufficient for themselves and their families without doing any other work; have you ever seen any instance of that in the evidence which you have read of crofters themselves or their delegates?
—I could not say that; I could not say that I remember that.
23588. The Chairman.
—You said the land had been squared. Did you mean there had been a new division—that different crofts had been consolidated?
—Yes, a new division.
23589. The land of the different crofters, which had formerly been scattered was all taken, and each crofter got his lot consolidated?
23590. How long is it since that was done?
—Four years ago.
23591. Since your croft was consolidated or put into one piece is it more valuable aud convenient than it was before?
—Yes, it is more convenient.
23592. And because it is more convenient, it is also in some degree more valuable?
23593. The proprietor has done something for you —he has put every man upon his own place ?
23594. When the rent of the croft was raised was the land valued by a valuator at all?
23595. It was just done by the factor?
—Yes, or the proprietor.
23596. How many years have you been there?
23597. Are you getting much higher prices for your cattle now than twenty-two years ago?
23598. And for sheep too?
23599. Do you sell the sheep for twice as much as twenty-two years ago?
23600. But a good deal more?
—Yes, it is more.
23601. And cattle too?
23602. During all the years you have been there has the proprietor not executed any repairs or improvements on the buildings at all?
—No, with the exception which I mentioned, of giving me slates last summer. But it was not the same proprietor then as now.
23603. Do you think the new proprietor is an improvement?
—I have nothing to say against him as a proprietor some ways.
23604. Was it the old proprietor or the new one who raised the rents £4?
—-The new one.
23605. Professor Mackinnon.
—You said you wished to get fixity of tenure, is it the case that many people upon the property are removed?
—No, he has not removed any except one house.
23606. But still you would like security that you would not be removed?
—Yes, when I repaired the house I would like some security.
23607. And compensation for any improvements you might make?
23608. Supposing you had the fixity of tenure you ask for, what improvements would you be disposed to make on your own croft just now?
—Well I don't know. I would build some more houses.
23609. Could you improve it so as to make it more productive?
—No, I think I have done all I could in that direction.
23610. Could you rear more stock upon it?
—No, I don't think I could.
23611. So that you could not make more money in a year out of it?
—No, I don't expect that.
23612. And you consider, since there is no possibility of improvement in that way, the rent is rather high?
—Yes, I do think that.
23613. Do you make butter and cheese or anything of that sort?
23614. And you sell no grain?
23615. Just the outcome of the stock?-
23616. The people of the parish are much about the same way. What do the young people do when they leave school ?
—Go to service chiefly.
23617. In the place?
—Some in the place and some out of the place; some in the island and some leave the island.
23618. Do you think it would be difficult if a sufficient wage was given, to get among the people of the island labour enough for the big farms?
—I could not say; I think so.
23619. Where do the people come from—the bowmen—do they belong to the place?
—Some belong to the place and some to other islands.
23620. Is there always a sufficient supply of them?
23621. What do their families betake themselves to?
23622. In the place or out of it wherever they get it best?
23623. So that, in such a populous place you don't see any difficulty, if sufficient wages were given by the big farmer, why they should not get the service they want?
23624. Do you see any difficulty about it?
—I don't complain about the wage so much.
23625. But so far as people are available for service, do you see any reason why there should be forced labour in connection with the farms? If a better wage was given for labour you think there would be enough men and women?
23626. What is your objection to having big farms on the property?
—Because I think if there were not big farms, we of the poorer class would be more comfortable than we are, and I think we would have no paupers to keep up, for every person could support their own.
23627. Is it off the big farms that pauperism comes?
—I think so, because we are not fit to support the poor.
23628. I suppose very few of the substantial crofters of the place become paupers in their old age?
23629. Very rarely?
—Oh yes, many of them do; those who have not children fit to support them must become paupers.
23630. Those who have occupied a good croft like your own in their lifetime, is it not a thing of rare occurrence to find them falling to be supported by the rates in old age?
—No, it is not a rare occurrence; it often happens. [See Appendix A. LIX]
23631. And do you think that also might be relieved if there were fewer large farms?
23632. How would that be brought about ?
—If I had more property to support my parents or whatever it is.
23633. Or to lay by something for your old age?
—Yes, so that I would not become a pauper myself; and I think that is the idea of others besides me.
23634. You would be quite ready to take a larger place if you got it ?
—A little more, but not very large.
23635. Do you think it is a bad thing altogether to have a big farm now and again in the place?
—I don't mean to say every one should be equal in size; but one man to have a 1000 acres and another only two, I don't think it is equal.
23636. You would not like to see crofts all of the same 6ize?
—Yes, I would like to see farms about the same size.
23637. But you have about this place too many big farms?
23638. They are too many and too big?
23639. What other advantage in addition to reduction of the rate would you expect by breaking up the big farms into smaller holdings?
—Comfortable living to those who have small ones.
23640. By giving them increased holdings?
—Yes, and by making them more equalised.
23641. So far as you can go back to the past, do you find the holdings are getting larger or smaller in the district ?
—-In the parish I live in there is not much difference; but I know other places where the holdings are
23642. Do you consider tint a good thing?
—No, I consider it a bad thing; the big farms are getting larger.
23643. But do you consider it a good thing that the crofts should be getting larger?
23644. And that the big farm should get less?
—Yes, but I don't mean to put every one to a level.
23645. Is it within your own recollection that crofts are getting bigger?
—No, I don't think it.
23646. Are they getting fewer?
—In some cases they are in my recollection.
23647. I suppose you don't approve of that?
23648. Would you rather that the crofts should get more in number and bigger, and that the farms should get fewer and smaller?
23649. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—If you add taxes to your rent you are paying not much short of £1 an acre ?
— Very nigh that, but not altogether.
23650. And you have nothing outside that?
23651. Are you acquainted with the rental in various parts of the Highlands?
—No, I am not.
23652. You don't know that £1 an acre is considered there a good rent?
—It depends on the soil.
23653. Mr Cameron.
—Do you think they ever get £29 in the Highlands for two beasts?
—Why not? I think so, surely; it depends on the quality.
23651. Two years old?
—Yes, it depends on the quality.
23655. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Do you get as good a price for beasts as the big farmer?
—I think so.
23656. And so far as you have got stock, it is as good as that of the big farmer?
—Yes, as far as I can make out.
23657. Has the big farmer done anything else improve the breed?