Sanday, Orkney, 20 July 1883 - William Gray

WILLIAM GRAY, Crofter and Fisherman, Eday (45)—examined.

22818. The Chairman.
—Were you chosen a delegate?
—I was sent over with a paper.
—We the undersigned, as representing the crofters of the island of Eday, beg humbly to submit to your Lordships the undernoted grievances:—
1. Being rented for our own improvements, such as cultivating, draining, and trenching hill ground, and in most cases building our own houses without any help from our proprietor. Moreover, we are all tenants at will, and are liable to be warned out any year at his pleasure, without any compensation for our improvements.
2. Inadequate remuneration for compulsory making of kelp, and preparing and shipping peats.
3. Being deprived of the right to pasture our cattle on the hill ground adjoining our crofts, whereas now we are obliged to pay in addition to our rent - for every beast pastured, as it is impossible to keep them on our cultivated land.
4. The great destruction of our crops by hares, and not - being allowed to use means to protect our crop or destroy the vermin.

We herewith humbly submit to your consideration the foregoing grievances, and crave—
1. Compensation for our improvements and fixity of tenure;
2. Making kelp and shipping peats to be entirely - optional, and market value given;
3. Restoration of our former rights to the hill pasture;
4. Full liberty to kill the hares on our own crofts.
And your petitioners will ever pray.
Signed by HENRY CORMACK and seven others.

22819. Professor Mackinnon.
—Who is the proprietor of the island?
—Mr Hebden.

22820. Does the whole island belong to him?

22821. When this hill pasture was taken from you, which you complain of, to whom was it given?
—It was a common—it was added to the sheep farm.

22822. It was added to the sheep farm?
—Yes, of course there is some on which there is nothing, but it was intended for sheep purposes.

22S23. I don't understand. There was some added to the sheep farm, and you say there was some taken from you upon which there is nothing at all?
—Bad ground.

22824. Who gets the peats?
—Of course, we all use the peats.

22825. In some respects, then, it was not taken from you, if it is your own peat ground?
—Yes, the privilege was taken.

22826. You are talking of shipping peats—where did the peats go to?
—South, to several places.

22827. And are you obliged to work at the shipping of these peats?
—Not I; but in other parts of the island they are.

22828. And do they get paid for it?
—Yes, so much.

22829. How much do they get a day?
—They are paid by the fathom.

22830. So much piece work, as it were?

22831. And do they think they don't get enough?

22832. Of course, they are obliged to do the work?
—They must do it.

22833. Whenever they are called upon to do it?
—Of course.

22834. Is it the proprietor himself who carries on this industry in peats?
—It is chiefly the factor.

22835. For the proprietor?

22836. And is it the factor who manages the kelp too?
—Chiefly—the most of it.

22837. For the proprietor also?

22838. How much do the people get for the kelp?
—About 4s. and 5s. the cwt. or £ 4 or £ 5 the ton.

22839. £4 or £ 5 the ton?

22840. We were told in Stronsay they only got £2, 5s. a ton?
—Then it is the same here; I am wrong.

22841. Whatever it is, the people say it is too little?
—Yes, they mean to say so.

22842. Are there many large sheep farms upon the island of Eday?
—Three I think.

22843. And your complaint is chiefly that the hill pasture was taken from the small crofters, and added to these big farms?
—My complaint is chiefly that we should have compensation for improvements in the building of houses; and we complain that we are rented too dear.

22844. What kind of fixity of tenure would the people like to get?
—I don't know; according to your own idea.

22845. A lease?
—Well, I suppose so.

22846. What kind of lease would the people think suitable for that place?
—I could not just say.

22847. How many years?
—It is chiefly nineteen years that is given.

22848. And compensation for the improvements that you would make in those nineteen years?

22849. At the end of the lease—is that what is meant?
—I suppose it is.

22850. Was the paper read to you all and talked over together?

22851. At the present moment you are obliged to work the kelp?

22852. And you are obliged to ship the peats?

22853. And you wish to be at liberty to do that or not just as you please?

22854. It is not so much the low rate of wage they get for that work that they complain of, as being compelled to do it?
—It is the low rate of wages too.

22855. Both?

22856. Could your former rights of hill pasture be easily restored now, supposing the proprietor were willing?
—They could.

22857. Except in those places which have been brought under cultivation—it would not be so easily done there?
—There is a good part of Eday not cultivated.

22858. I see part of your improvements was cultivating, draining and trenching the hill ground?

22859. You would not like to restore that back to pasture?
—But there is an immense amount of common, you know.

22860. Are the hares there numerous?
—Chiefly in winter; they spoil the turnips.

22861. Where do they go in summer?
—They don't spoil the turnips in summer.

22862. Don't they spoil young corn in the beginning of summer?
—Of course they spoil the whole.

22863. Are there rabbits as well as hares?

22864. Are you allowed to kill the rabbits?
—They don't do so much harm, so far as I know.

22865. Are they not so numerous?
—I don't know; I cannot say. There are a good many, but a great quantity are killed.

22866. You are allowed to kill the rabbits?
—There is chiefly a trapper who kills them.

22867. But there is nobody to kill the hares?
—No one gets leave to kill them.

22868. Does the proprietor himself kill them?
—In certain cases.

22869. I suppose a good many of the small tenants have a lease?

22870. And you wish to get leases?
—I suppose so, if they could be got

22871. Does the proprietor reside in the island?

22872. Have you any idea of the number of small crofters in the island altogether?
—No, I don't know.

22873. A large number?
—A good lot.

22874. And are they all engaged in the fishing as well as in crofting?
—The most of them.

22875. What fishing do they follow?
—Herring and cod.

22876. They have no complaint about that?

22877. They can fish wherever they please, and for whom they please?

22878. Are there plenty of shops on the island?
—A good many.

22879. There is no restriction about them?

22880. What is about the rent of a crofter in Eday?
—£5, 10s. I think.

22881. How many acres of arable ground will you have?
—I could not say; about three, and I brought most of it in myself.

22882. And how much hill pasture?
—Over three or four.

22883. About three acres of arable ground and three or four of hill pasture?

22884. What is about the number of your stock?
—I have one cow and a calf.

22885. A horse?
—No, I cannot keep a horse.

22886. Any sheep?
—One sheep.

22887. And is that about the rent and about the stock of the crofters, taking one with another, all over the place?
—There are some who have more and some less.

22888. Do you consider the rent you pay too dear?
—Yes; I put up the houses myself.

22889. Did you get any assistance from the proprietor at all?

22890. And you have no security, if you were leaving, that you would get anything for them?

22891. How long is it since you put them up?
—Thirteen or fourteen years ago.

22892. What were you doing before that time?
—Sitting in the house without any land.

22893. Are there many being turned away out of Eday?
—Yes, there are a good many.

22894. Have there been people turned away since you remember yourself?

22895. About how many families have there been?
—I could not just say.

22896. Off and on?
—About eight or ten in one season.

22897. And were these crofters just holding crofts and stock, and paying rent much about the same as you are doing yourself?
—They were fully bigger—from £7 to £ 8 and £10.

22898. What were they turned away for?
—For a farm.

22899. In order to clear a place to make a big farm?

22900. Where did they go?
—Some got leases in the island, and some went out of it.

22901. Were the places they got as good as the places they left?
—Just hardly; some were maybe nearly as good, but some were far worse.

22902. Did they get the place of other crofters, or new ground?
—Some new ground, and some empty places.

22903. And when they went to the new ground, where there were no houses, were they obliged to put up their houses?
—Some did, and some did not; and some got wood and lime, and some did not.

22904. Supposing you had for your croft a lease and a smaller rent, do you consider the croft enough to keep you?
—I don't see any way, unless I were getting an addition from my neighbour.

22905. And you would not like to do that?
—No, I don't want to take it from my neighbour.

22906. Is your croft fenced round about?
—Part of it is.

22907. Is the arable ground fenced?
—Yes, it is in part, but not in a way that creatures could not go over it.

22908. But is the hill pasture common?

22909. It is the common of your neighbours as well as yourself?
—No, I have it to myself; it is only separated from my neighbour's by a mark.

22910. Who put up the fence?
—It is a small bit of a ditch or drain; it is not a fence to speak of. I dug and made it with the spade.

22911. There is a great part of the island uncultivated1?
—It will never be cultivated.

22912. All bad?

22913. And is there part that is still not cultivated that can be cultivated?
—Of course there are places.

22914. Would not that be one way of making the crofts bigger?
—Most of the crofters are along the shore, and this is up on the hill, and that would not do very well; they are far from where we are, these patches and if we did not get them, we could not buy them,

22915. How do you manure your croft?
—With sea-weed.

22916. Do you consider that good manure?
—I don't know; it is the best we can get, and it is not very good to keep sometimes.

22917. What breed of cattle have you?
—Just the common breed.

22918. Those that are about here?

22919. Is the school near enough to you?
—About three-quarters of a mile.

22920. Do the children all go to school?
—Most of them at the present time.

22921. All the people can read and write?

22922. Mr Cameron.
—You said you had no land before you took this croft?

22923. Who occupied the land you have now?
—A man who is dead long ago.

22924. Had he a house?
—A small bit of a house, but it is down, I reckon. The roof was off it.

22925. You say you have no lease?

22926. Are you aware you are entitled by law to kill hares?
—I don't know.

22927. You are not aware of it?
—I am aware I can kill them on my own property.

22928. Are you aware that others can do so too?
—Yes; they can do that with their own.

22929. Do you want to kill them on somebody else's?
—I don't know, but we have not the liberty on the island to keep a gun.

22930. Can't you snare hares or kill them without a gun?
—We don't get the liberty.

22931. But are you not aware that the law gives you liberty to kill hares on ground in your own occupation, and that you may kill them by snares or otherwise?

22932. Is the reason that you don't kill them because you cannot afford to get a gun, or cannot afford to buy snares?
—It is because we cannot get leave to do it.

22933. Are you afraid that, if you kill hares, you will get notice to quit?
—We would just be put out.

22934. But you are all aware you have the right to kill hares?
—Yes, on our own property; I know that.

22935. What is done with the peats you spoke about?
—They are shipped.

22936. Where to?

22937. Are they sold?

22938. From what does the demand for peats arise?
—I don't know; it is chiefly, I think, for distilleries and things of that kind.

22939. Is there a distillery at Kirkwall?
—Yes, but I don't think they use any of them at Kirkwall; I think they go south.

22940. Do you know if they use peats?
—I don't know.

22941. Do they go in a large ship?
—In a schooner.

22942. Where does the schooner take them to?
—I don't know; to towns and places —as perhaps Leith, or some of these towns.

22943. Is there anything remarkable in the quality of the peat which creates a demand for it?
—I could not tell you; there is surely that, or they would not be wanted.

22944. Has there always been a demand for peats since you remember?
—Since I first remember.

22945. You don't happen to know why there is a trade here?
—It is a plentiful place for peats.

22946. And they are very good peats?

22947. The Chairman.
—Have you ever brought the question of the hares under the consideration of the proprietor? Have you ever all complained together about the hares?
—No, but we have complained at certain times. They have been complained of many a time, but no complaint has ever been brought by the whole of us.

22948. Has the proprietor ever given you any answer, or has he ever refused?
—There was no allowance for it.

22949. But did he say he would not give an allowance?
—There is no allowance to kill them at all.

22950. Did you ever hear of anybody being molested or threatened because he killed the hares?

22951. Is the proprietor a fish-curer?

22952. Does the factor cure fish?

22953. What are the old houses in the island like—are they bad?
—The most of them are now getting new ones.

22954. But were the old houses very bad?
—Some of them were bad enough.

22955. How was the door placed—did they enter the house through the byre, or always by a separate door?
—In the earlier times that was the case, I suppose, with some of them.

22956. Have most of the houses been rebuilt in your time?
—Most of them.

22957. And now they are decent houses?
—Built and repaired.

22958. Is there any fence in the island?

22959. You don't think that the houses are, in any cases, sources of ill health?
—No, not so far as I know.

22960. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You said there were three large farms on Eday?

22961. What are their names?
—There are two of them not very large.

22962. What is the name of the biggest?
—Of course there are four, but one of them is not so big.

22963. Name them according to their size?

22964. Next?

22965. Third?
—I suppose it will be Stenoway.

22966. And the fourth?

22967. Is the hill pasture of these large farms held distinct from the commonty which the small tenants have?
—Yes, it is quite distinct.

22968. Where are the peats coming from that are shipped away to the south?
—Away on the west side of the island.

22969. Is it upon the crofter's pasture or the big farms?
—Yes, on a part of each.

22970. And part of it on the land of the big tenants?
—No, on the commons; it is not in their boundaries, it is outside.

22971. Outside the boundaries of everybody.
—Yes; at the one big farm.

22972. When were hares first introduced into the island—they are not natural to the place, are they?
—It was Mr Hebden who took them to the island.

22973. When?
—Maybe about twenty years ago or there about.

22974. Did he bring the rabbits too?
—No, they were natives of the island.

22975. Mr Cameron.
—Is that why you have a tenderer feeling towards them?

22976. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Does the proprietor, in point of fact, protect the hares?

22977. You were told, a little ago, that by the law of the country you were entitled to kill rabbits and hares; but in point of fact you don't kill them?

22978. It is a dead letter that law in Eday?
—Yes, at present.

22979. And the reason is you are afraid that if you killed them you might be turned out next year?

22980. You have only one cow and one young beast?
—Yes, a ewe and a lamb.

22981. No horse?

22982. One sheep and one lamb?

22983. Is that the state of the crofters generally?
—Some of them have that, and some have more. Some have a cow and maybe two cattle, and maybe a horse, and maybe some have two cows,—and up and down that way.

22984. You told us that a number of people were shifted out of their places, and that some had to go away, and some got places elsewhere—was it for their benefit that the people were put away from where they formerly were?
—It was for the sake of the grouud being made into bigger farms.

22985. Not for the benefit of the people turned out?
—I don't think it.

22986. What extent of arable ground have you got?
—I think, maybe, three acres or thereabout, but I could not just say; 1 never measured it.

22987. Are you able to make a living out of your croft?
—I make it out of the sea.

22988. Were it not for the sea, your family could not exist?
—They could not live.

22989. What family have you got?
—Five children and my wife.

22990. If you could get your croft enlarged, and doubled, would you be able to stock it?
—No, there is no chance; it is all hill ground.

22991. But if you got it—or got a nice slice out of one of the large farms, would you be able to stock it?
—I don't know; not very able. I make my living out of the sea.

22992. But wouldn’t you put by money out of your earnings from the sea, for the purpose of stocking the big croft?
—The one year is good, and the next year is bad, and the bad year takes away the benefit of the good one.

22993. How many people did you say were in the island altogether?
—Pharay and Eday go together—800 perhaps. I am not certain at all.

22994. How many crofts may there be altogether on the whole island?
—I could not say, for the island lies in that way that the greater part of the people are along the shore.

22995. There well be fifty at least?
—I could not say.

22996. Who has got the biggest share of the two islands—is it the crofters or the four big farmers?
—It will be the four big farmers, I suppose.

22997. Have they the biggest and the best?
—Some of it is.

22998. Can you give us any idea how many people are living upon those four large farms—how many people will be in the employment of the farmers?
—There is one of them has five pairs of horses.

22999. There will be at least one ploughman for each pair of horses'?
—And they will have 200 sheep.

23000. But how many families will there be altogether on those four farms?
—I don't know; there are nothing but bowmen, and those who work out.

23001. Can you not give us an idea of how many of those families there will be?
—It is mostly young men who are working at the farm, and maybe a bowman or two.

23002. But I suppose, taking it all in all, there will be very few families on these four farms'?
—Not a great many.

23003. You have had more than one meeting in the island about the appointment of delegates'?
—Two; but most of the people are away at the fishing.

23004. Your island set the example to the whole of Orkney in being the first to start?
—No, it was not the first.

23005. Which was the first to start?
—I don't know; I think it was Rousay, but I am not certain altogether.

23006. Does Rousay belong to this district?
—It lies away to the westward.

23007. Should they be here to-day?
—No, I don't think it; they will, perhaps be in Kirkwall.

23008. How many people were present at the largest of the two meetings to which you refer?
—I think about a dozen, or a score; the people were away at the herring fishing this week.

23009. How many were present at the first meeting in June?
—I don't mind altogether.

23010. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Before you were in your present place, you were in a house with another man?
—Yes, in the house with my father; the laud was taken from him, he was not fit to labour it, and I was sitting with him. And then I went to the big farm, and sat in the house four years, on the ground of the big farm, and wrought in the harvest for the rent.

23011. And then you got this place where you are now?

23012. Are you better off with this place dearly rented than you were with the house?
—It is near the shore for the fishing, that is the main thing.

23013. Are there many people in Eday without land?
—No, there are not very many, except poor people who are not fit to work; all the others have a little land.

23014. What rent was your father paying for the houses without the land?
—He was just sitting under a man who had it, and we just gave them so much work when required; but it was in Mr Laing's time that he had the land.

23015. But if he lost the land he paid nothing for the house?
—Nothing, but the value of our work to the man who had the land.

23016. How much did you work for him?
—Just any time he required my services.

23017. And you got wages for that?
—We got leave to live and work in the house.

23018. Did you get wages when you worked?
—We did not get wages, we just got leave to sit in the house.

23019. What is the size of the farm of Stiel?
—I don't know rightly; it is chiefly wrought with a pair of horses and one fordel chiel.

23020. Two pairs of horses?
—Sometimes two.

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