JAMES GUTHRIE, Crofter and Joiner, Levasgarth, Lady Parish (53) —examined.
23703. The Chairman.
—What place are you a delegate for?
—For the district here.
23704. What statement have you got to make?
—I have chiefly my own statement to make and then that of some of the crofters around me. I am living in a small place of 12 acres, which was put up at my father's expense (the proprietors furnishing some slate, flag, and lime), at a nineteen years' lease. When that lease was up I was raised £2 of rent upon it. I had an agreement to get a valuation for the wood I put upon it, and at the expiry of the lease, when I went to make a new arrangementI was told to sink that valuation and I would get a fourteen years' lease and £2 of a rise, and 12 acres of hill pasture broken in by ourselves out of the heather.
23705. Your holding was a holding of wild ground and heather?
23706. And you got a nineteen years' lease and broke up the laud and improved it and built houses, for which you had some assistance from your proprietor?
23707. Had you the place for the first nineteen years at a very low rent?
23708. About how much was it?
—2s. 6d. an acre, for the hill is poor in its natural state until we broke it in ourselves.
23709. And when your father got the land for nineteen years at a low rent, was it with the understanding that, at the end of the lease, the rent might be raised?
—He did not think that; we did not think that.
23710. You did not think it would ever be raised?
—We did not think it would be raised at that time, after breaking it in and building the houses ourselves.
23711. Supposing you had got compensation for the houses that you had built, and for the improvements you had made on the land, would you then think that it was right and natural that the rent should be raised at the end of the nineteen years?
23712. What was the nature of the improvements you made on the land? Did you put up any stone fences?
—No fencing, but merely an enclosure for our crop.
23713. Did you make any tile or stone drains?
—Very few; not very many at our own expense.
23714. Did you put on any lime?
23715. Did you trench deeply with the pick or spade?
—Very often that, and took a great quantity of stones out with the pick.
23716. If you had had your buildings fairly valued, and the improvements to the ground fairly valued, and had got that money you would not have thought it unreasonable that the rent should have been raised?
—Not at all, if I had got compensation for the improvements.
23717. How much was the rent raised?
23718. And you got a new lease?
—I have no lease now; that was the arrangement, but I got no lease.
23719. And do you consider yourself secure to the end of the fourteen years?
—No, I do not.
23720. Why don't you get a written agreement?
—Because I would not; take it on those terms at that rise of rent. I thought it was unfair treatment to get a rise of rent and no compensation. They sink my valuation. I was told by the factor that, if I did not agree he would advertise my place and let it. I told him if that was the case I could not help it, but I would not agree to sink the valuation; but I would pay the rent for a year if I could not better myself.
23721. How long have you had it since then?
—I have paid twelve years' rent at the rise.
23722. And have you been making still further improvements?
—Well, I have been trying to cultivate the soil to the best of my ability; but it was all broken up before then.
23723. Are you working at your trade ?
—Yes, to the farmers round about.
23721. Do you get regular employment?
—Not very regular. I did proprietor's work for a good while, but it was withdrawn from me.
23725. Do you work by the hour or by the day?
—Partly by the hour and partly by the day.
23726. What wages do you receive by the hour?
—Generally about Id an hour.
23727. What was it when you began life?
—I suppose about 3d.
23728. It has only advanced Id an hour?
23729. Are other people in your place in the same situation?
—They are; they are bound to the kelp making. I am in no wise bound to that; but, on the same footing, every three parties along the line by me are bound.
23730. Your case is very much the same as that of those around you?
23731. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Mr Armour said you would speak for the people at the south and east end of the island—what can you say for them?
—I don't think I can say anything for them. It is chiefly sandy soil; but it is not sand I think. I am not very much acquainted with soil.
23732. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You have not given up your claim for meliorations?
23733. What is the name of your proprietor?
—Traill of Ratter.