Sanday, Orkney, 20 July 1883 - James Twatt

JAMES TWATT, Tenant of Rothiesholm, Stronsay (40)—examined.

23157. The Chairman.
—Were you present when the crofters or small tenants from Stronsay gave their evidence?

23158. Have you any statement to make with reference to what you heard?
—I would try to answer any questions put in reference to it.

23159. There was a complaint made by the small tenants that they were obliged to labour to the farmer. These small tenants are subtenants on your farm, I presume?

23160. They complain that they are obliged to furnish labour and to labour at inconvenient times, and at unsatisfactory rates : we would like to hear you upon the subject. Do you occasionally exact the labour, for instance, of a fisherman, at a time when he might have made profitable employment by going to the sea?

23161. When you call upon a labourer for his service, do you consider whether it is convenient for him to go or not?
—I do consider that to a certain extent.

23162. If, for instance, a labourer came to you and said, ' I cannot come to-day, because it is a good day for my fishing,' would you allow him to go to the fishing?

23163. And when it is inconvenient for the labourer to go to you, will you accept a substitute for him?

23164. And when you accept the substitute does the labourer pay you some money, and do you find the substitute, or does the labourer himself send the substitute?
—The labourer himself sends the substitute.

23165. What wages do you give a male adult labourer?
—2s. per day, and,2s. 6d. for draining.

23166. But when the tenant sends you a substitute whom he hires himself, do you think he pays the substitute more than 2s. 6d. a-day, or does he only pay him 2s.?
—I don't know.

23167. Is 2s. a-day the common wages of the country, or do you think that the wages are a little better than 2s. a-day?
—In some parts perhaps it is better.

23168. How long have you been a tenant of Rothiesholni?
—Nine years.

23169. Since the beginning of your lease have the wages of your labourers been raised—do they get more now than they did before?
—They do.

23170. How much have their wages been raised?
—They used to get 2d. per hour—20d. a-day —but now they get 2s.

23171. Do you pay them now not by the hour but by the day?

23172. Have the hours of labour in the country, generally speaking, been shortened or lengthened, or are they the same?
—Just the same.

23173. There was a considerable complaint about the obligation to furnish female labour; what sort of female labour is generally furnished? The small tenants complain that they are obliged to furnish a woman, and that they are obliged to feed her, and that the food costs perhaps £3, 10s.; but do they generally send members of their own family, or do they hire women?
—When they have them, they send women of their own family, and when they have not they have to hire them.

23174. Do you think in most cases they are members of their family, or do they hire in some cases?
—In most cases they have them within their own family.

23175. You pay Is. a day for female labour?

23176. Do you think they have to pay more than Is. a day when they hire them?
—No, I don't think so.

23177. Do you think you could command female labour in the open market for Is. per day?
—Yes, in our island.

23178. You heard the people complain a good deal of this; and at the same time they stated that in case these obligations were abolished, the farmers would be able to find labour in the open market. You think you can find female labour at Is. a day?
—Yes, I could not find it without them, because I am isolated in one end of the island.

23179. You could not find it without them?

23180. Could you hire female labour, as they do in the south country, for the six months to do that description of work on the farm which the female labourers do?
—I would not get them.

23181. Do you think you would be able to find labourers for 2s. 6d.a day, if these people were not bound to labour for you?
—Not out of the place.

23182. Supposing these obligations to labour were all abolished, and that you were all free, you would not be able to pay as good a rent as you do now; it would be more expensive to you to find labour?
—Yes, it would.

23183. The supply of obligatory labour in your neighbourhood enables you to pay a better rent than you would otherwise be able to do?
—Yes, it does.

23184. Would you have any objection, in case it were so ordered, that these obligations to labour should be dissolved, would you be on easier terms with the people, supposing always that you had an ensured reduction of rent, would you like it better, or do you like the system of obligatory labour better?
—If I could find the labourers, it would not matter to me.

23185. Do you find that these obligations to labour cause any dissatisfaction between you and the people?
—I believe they are dissatisfied.

23186. When they are obliged to come and work for you, do you think that they work in a grudging manner—do you think they do as little as possible, or do they work as well as possible? Do you think they would work better if they were free?
—I could not say; I have not had the experience.

23187. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Do you have much kelp made for you?
—Yes, some.

23188. What quantity in the course of the year?
—About twenty or thirty tons.

23189. And you give £2, 5s. a ton for the making of it?

23190. Have you any idea what wages that affords to the people who make it?
—I cannot say, because they make it at times that are suitable, and they are not counting their time, I suppose; and it is according to the weather and how the ware comes.

23191. But when you say they make it at suitable times—you mean the time suitable for making kelp?
—Yes, the time suitable for making kelp—the dry weather.

23192. They must choose the time according to the weather?

23193. And may be not a time convenient for them?
—Yes, it may be.

23191. Is there much profit to be made on kelp?
—There is a little.

23195. Is there much demand?
—Not so much; it is down this year from what it was last year.

23196. What is the market price of the kelp, such as you make here?
—£1, 15s. per ton.

23197. That is the highest class of kelp that is made—where do you sell it?
—At Falkirk, to Fairlie & Co.

23198. I suppose in taking the farm here you considered it as part of the natural profit of the farm, that kelp could be made upon it?

23199. You have been nine years here?

23200. You found the cottars on the farm that are there now?

23201. Did you find them all there?

23202. And have you kept them all on?
—No; there are some of them not there now, but where they are I don't know.

23203. Did you replace those who left by others; did you bring in others in place of those who left?
—In place of some of them.

23204 Had you any great demand for their places?

23205. Was there more than one applicant for every vacancy that occurred?

23206. You could not take in more people than there were vacancies for?
—Yes, I could.

23207. What became of those who left?
—Some of them went to Kirkwall, and some of them are in the island still.

23208. Was it of their own free will that they left, or did you discharge them?
—Some of them left of their own free will.

23209. And some you removed?

23210. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Have you a lease of your farm?

23211. You have not got it with you, have you?
—No, I have the plan of the farm.

23212. Can you mention as nearly as possible the substance of the clause that is in the lease which regulates this matter of the service of these people?
—No, I could not

23213. Can you not tell us the import or purport of it?
—I could not.

23214. Does it give you the power to remove them if they don't do it?

23215. You said to the Chairman that you consulted the convenience of these people to some extent?

23216. When you want any labour done which must be done, we shall suppose, instantly, or in a hurry, don't you expect the people to come whether it is convenient for them or not, if it is convenient for you?
—Yes, if it is the day for threshing with the mill. I have a steam mill, and if it is the day for it, which is one day in the week, I generally want them to come that day, but not any other day.

23217. But one day in the week they must come?

23218. In fact, your bargain is with the landlord, you make no agreement with the people?
—I have an agreement with them in regard to their holdings.

23219. What agreement is that?
—They pay their rent to me and furnish the labour.

23220. Can you raise their rents?

23221. Although your own rent is fixed for the term of your lease, yet you have the power of raising their money rent; is that so?

23222. But you have no power to exact more of that labour than is stated in your lease? you cannot increase the number of days, can you?
—There is no exact number of days stated.

23223. There is no number of days fixed in the lease?

23224. Can you ask them to go for 300 days in the year?

23225. Why not, if it is not specified; it is simply your own good will that you don't choose to do it?
—I don't require it.

23226. But supposing that you did require the labour for every lawful day in the year, there is nothing in the lease from the proprietor to prevent you demanding it?

23227. What is your present rent?
—£421, 11 s. 9d.

23228. Will you tell me what rent you would pay, or you could afford to pay, the proprietor if you had not this labour?
—I cannot say.

23229. Could you pay one-half?
—Oh, yes..

23230. Come as near as you can?
—I could not give a definite answer to that.

23231. Could you pay £300?
—I could not give a definite answer.

23232. Would it be a good deal less rent which you could afford to pay if this involuntary labour were removed?
—Yes, a good deal less.

23233. Are you quite satisfied with things as they are?-

23234. You don't complain of it?

23235. Do you know whether the landlord complains of it?
—I don't think he does.

23236. The only persons who complain are the people?

23237. Professor Mackinnon.
—The number of families is thirteen?
—Yes; that is, of cottars.

23238. And the total acreage of the farm is?
—1636 acres.

23239. Seven of these thirteen families occupy about 189 acres according to this complaint—does that represent the whole of their holdings?
—That is squared off, they don't hold that.

23240. Of those who were sent away there were some whose places were not filled; what did you do with their crofts?
—Some of them were taken into the farm.

23241. And the others?
—The places of the others were supplied by other people.

23242. Under your lease you can send them away any year—can you send them away at any time '.-
—There is part of the east side of the hill which the proprietor wished to have removed for the purpose of taking in sheep.

23243. But I should like to know the power you have under the lease to deal with these families. Have you the power to dispossess them all, or any of them, whenever you please?
—Yes, I have the power.

23244. That is, of course, at any one term. You could not dispossess them in the middle of a year?
—No; they occupy from year to year.

23245. You have power to raise their rents or to reduce them?
— Yes.

23246. And to call upon them for service any day?

23247. Does any one of them ever make as much wages by his service as his rent?
—No, I don't suppose he does.

23248. Is the female labour separate from the male labour?
—Yes, the female labour is for the six months in the summer.

23249. And for that you pay 30s.?
—Is. a day.

23250. Would you be quite prepared to compound with these men for Is. a day—would you take from these men the amount of money you pay for these female servants?
—No; because I could not get labour for it.

23251. You could not get labour at your end of the island without this regulation?

23252. And under this lease they are bound to work at kelp as long as you wish them?
—From a ton or upwards, each house.

23253. Each house is obliged to make a ton?
—Yes, or as much more as they like.

23254. Or as you are pleased to ask them?

23255. They are bound to make a ton, and they may make as much more as they like?

23256. And you pay them how much?
—£2, 5s. per ton.

23257. What is the average amount of kelp a family makes per year?
—From a ton to three or four tons.

23258. Some of them make three or four tons?

23259. So that some of the labour is voluntary upon their own part?

23260. Does that imply that they consider they make a fair wage at the extra portion of kelp?

23261. Of the 13 families how many of them, do you think, make only one ton in the year?
—I cannot say exactly, the quantity of kelp generally ranges from 20 to 25 tons in the year, but I have had it as high as 30 tons.

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