WILLIAM MUIR, Small Farmer and Trader, Sanday (42)—examined.
22549. The Chairman.
—You are a delegate for North Ronaldshay?
— I have not been officially requested by the North Ronaldshay people to represent them?
—Rev. Mr Armour. Mr Grant, Free Church minister of North Ronaldshay, was suggested to be delegated, and I believe he was perfectly willing, had he remained in the country, to be present. But he is on his way to New Zealand, and it is in lieu of Mr Grant that we have preferred a request that Mr Muir should be allowed to say something.
22550. The Chairman.
—We shall be delighted to hear him, but he seems to disavow the character of delegate from North Ronaldshay?
—Mr Muir. At the request of Mr Grant, I appear, but not officially for North Ronaldshay.
22551. Are you delegated from Sanday?
22552. Have you a statement to make on behalf of a locality in Sanday.
22553. What locality?
—Part of the parish of Lady.
22554. What is the name of the township or place itself—is it just one part of Lady?
—Yes, part of Lady parish.
22555. Is Lady a separate parish?
—It is separate from the other two parishes in this island.
22556. Is it a quod sacra or civil parish?
—A civil parish.
22557. You have a statement to make on behalf of the people of Lady?
22558. Have you got it in writing?
—I have. I may explain that the most of what I have to say is contained in this statement. I may also
add, that I am not intimately acquainted with all the small details of how the people are situated, and therefore, I am less able to give information than many of those who are present at this moment.
22559. Was the statement you are to submit, drawn up by a person in the parish of Lady?
22560. After consultation with them?
—With the delegates who were appointed.
22561. When you were elected, how many persons were present?
— They were not counted, but it appeared in the public prints that there were somewhere about forty present.
22562. Heads of families?
—All householders, and was this statement made known to them subsequently; was it read to them, and did they all adopt it?
—No, I am responsible for the statement.
22563. But it embodies the sentiments of the meeting?
—Yes, I think so.
22564. Because I see it is not signed?
—No, I am entirely responsible for it.
(1) The soil on which the most of the people who have grievances in this locality live, " is common," which the proprietors have questionably taken possession of. Some, if not all of those who built houses on this barren ground entered upon a nineteen years' lease, with the promise of valuation at the expiry of that time.
(2) This promise of valuation was not fulfilled by the factor; instead of paying this valuation, he has claimed the buildings, and charged in some cases more than double the original rent.
(3) The system of letting and renting, which applies to large and small farms alike, is entirely at the option of the owner. The tenant is no free agent, but must submit to the owner's terms, or be ejected. Tenants have reclaimed lands, and have been punished for so doing, by rise of rent.
(4) There is, or rather there was, another class who were so unfortunate as to have a few acres of fairly good soil in close proximity to a farm of some pretentions; whenever the opportunity offered itself, those small holdings were swallowed up by the larger farm. This practice has been carried out to such an extent that now there are five farms, almost joining on to each other, to the extent of eight miles, which means that many families have had to leave their homes.
(5) Then there is another class called "cottars" who hold a piece of ground from the large farmer, and at any time is liable to be called upon, when he must leave his own work, and attend to that of his masters.
(6) The extremely large farm, and the extremely small one, are the evils which chiefly lead to our pauperism. The large farmer employs those termed " bowmen " when these men get old and unable to work, they are cast aside like some old worn-out machinery, and are compelled to apply to the Parochial Board for support, the same thing applies to the occupier of a few acres of ground which is incapable of supporting a family.
(7) The manufacturing of kelp is compulsory on many of those small crofters, and they do not consider that they get a fair share of the profits made on that article.
(8) The law protects the lower animals against cruel and improper treatment, much more, do we think, should it protect man against cruel oppression and tyranny.
I have another statement which I am requested to read to your Lordship.
22565. Is this a particular case or private grievance?
—A particular case :
—' Statement by me, James Slater, Odinsgarth, formerly tenant of the farm of Beafield, of which farm my late father was tenant for upwards of twenty years. Before, on the same estate, he was tenant of the farm of Gorn, and my grandfather before his day was all his lifetime tenant there. It came to pass that the farm of Gorn was added to the farm of Beafield, and after my father's death I succeeded him in the farm of Beafield as joint-tenant along with my brother for a short time, and then I was myself the tenant. After improvements on the said farm, our rent was raised repeatedly, until our lease became null. The last of my improvements on the farm of Beafield was a new steading, partly put up by the proprietor and partly myself, after which I only occupied the farm for six years when I was evicted. James Brims, Esq., factor, gave me to know that the reason why I was put out was that I was not farming Beafield upto the mark. Now I do maintain that this is altogether unfounded. I can prove by neighbours all round that this was not the case. The object in my eviction could not be my bad farming, but, as afterwards appeared, the purpose was to accommodate the present occupier. That this is a true account of the case is sufficiently well known, and it is not likely that its truth will be called in question. I am prepared to lead proof, if necessary, to show that I have never been behind my fellow tenants in the style and manner and results of my farming. I certainly did suffer great losses by cattle because of the sand, which I had a right to complain of, but without getting any sympathy or remedy. I have also to inform you that my very aged widow mother, who was eighty-four years of age, was put out of her home along with me. She only lived three weeks after her removal, such usage was never before known on James Traill's, Esq., estate, and I do trust it will be the last such case that will ever occur in connection with the respected proprietor's property.
22566. You state the soil on which most of the people live, who have grievances, is common—do you mean commonty or common land?
22567. What was the nature of this commonty?
—It was all heather; the poorest soil on the island, and nothing but heather.
22568. Does it resemble what they called scathold in Shetland?
—I suspect it does, but I don't know.
22569. And how was it occupied—was it occupied by the adjacent crofters in common?
—It was occupied in common, by the people all over the parish, I believe.
22570. You say that it was taken possession of questionably by the proprietor—was it allotted in virtue of a decision of the Court?
—I am not able to answer that question; the proprietors arranged or divided what was considered common by themselves and the inhabitants, and by what authority they divided it I am not able to say.
22571. Are you aware of an old Scotch statute by which the proprietors are allowed to divide the commonty among themselves, and constitute a freehold property?
—I am not.
22572. The proprietors divided it among themselves—was their right to divide it questioned at the time by the people —did they raise any lawsuit upon the subject?
—No, I don't believe they did.
22573. You state that the tenants who entered upon it under the proprietors, after it had been divided, entered upon a nineteen years' lease?
—Many of them did; I cannot say that all did.
22574. With the promise of valuation at the expiry of that time —was that promise an article in the lease, or consigned in writing?
—Consigned in writing.
22575. This promise was never fulfilled by the factor?
—No, not in every case. I know some cases in which it was not. I don't know of any cases in which it was fulfilled.
22576. The statement here is, that the promise was not fulfilled by the factor; it does not say any particular case, but generally?
—I have this document here [showing document]. The party from whom I received this did not wish his name to be made public.
22577. The statement in your paper is that the articles of the agreement in the nineteen years' lease were not fulfilled—do you know of any suit being raised on the part of the tenants, to compel the proprietor to fulfil the terms of lease?
22578. If there was a valuation on the articles of lease, why did the tenants not sue the proprietor—have they any doubt of obtaining justice?
—They have; whether rightly or not, they are under the apprehension that they have no law to support them in case of injury.
22579. Do they think that the Sheriffs Court here, or the Court of Session would not support them, in a case of inquiry, if there was a valuation clause in the lease?
—The common injury from which they suffer is, I understand, that when the nineteen years' lease is entered into with the promise that they are to receive a valuation at the end of that time, when the lease is out the proprietors say, you must allow this valuation to sink, and we will only charge you so much rent in future, and it usually is an advance on the past rent, so that, instead of receiving the promised valuation, they receive nothing, and an advance of rent is put on for their own improvements during the last nineteen years. The farmer has no encouragement to improve his soil, because he is actually punished for improving it.
22580. You are speaking now of a case in which the farmer remains on the land, and keeps the farm for a new lease?
22581. But then it is a voluntary arrangement between the proprietor and the farmer for a new lease?
—Yes, it is so far; but the tenant has invariably to fall in with the proprietor, simply, because he does not wish to leave his home, and it is ejectment if he does not fall in with the proprietors arrangement.
22582. There must be some cases in which the farmer does not go on with a new lease, but leaves the farm —in these cases have the proprietors paid for the improvements?
—I don't know of a single case in which a removal of that kind has taken place, and I am, therefore, unable to answer.
22583. You say here, that the system of letting is entirely at the option of the owner that 'the tenant is not a free agent, but must submit to the owner's terms, or be ejected f do the tenants not sometimes leave the land of a proprietor with whom they are discontented, and try to get land elsewhere?
—Wherever they get a chance they do that.
22584. But still you told me you did not know of any such lease?
—In which they received valuation; I don't know of any case in which they received valuation and went away. There may have been some cases, but I have not thought 'over that matter.
22585. You say that wherever there are a few good acres in a very small holding, at the particular place, that is always consolidated with a large farm?
—Yes, I have been told by many of the older people that that is the case.
22586. When a small holding like that is consolidated with a large farm, what becomes of the small holder; does the proprietor provide him with some other place, or is he thrown out on the world?
—As a rule, he has been thrown out on the world.
22587. Do you know of cases in which the proprietor has taken care to provide him with another place?
—I don't deny but there may be cases of that kind, but at the present moment I don't know of them. I believe there are those here who can name cases of that kind.
22588. When the proprietor takes away a small holding, and consolidates it with another farm, does he pay the outgoing tenant a sum for the house which he leaves?
—I am under the impression that he pays him nothing, but I am not prepared to say that that is the case.
22589. The next complaint is that the cottars are obliged to render service in labour to the farmers—do the cottars pay any rent for the houses, or do they pay their rent in labour?
—I know some of them who pay their rent to the tenant, and receive payment for their labour besides. There are others, I believe, on a different footing; but I am not perfectly acquainted with those cases, and therefore I am not able to give much information on the point. It was merely the general grievances I put down, not being so well acquainted with the matter as the most of those present
22590. The large farmer employs ‘bowmen,' what is the meaning of that term?
—Bowmen are married men, who have houses given them to live in by the tenant; and they work to the farmer the year through, and receive so much money as wages, and so much meal, and so much milk, during the year.
22591. He is in fact a hind, or farm-servant?
—Yes, a farm-servant.
22592. What is the origin of the term ' bowman'?
—I am unable to say.
22593. The manufacture of kelp is compulsory on many of the small crofters, when a small crofter is held bound to manufacture kelp, does he pay his rent, and is he pledged to manufacture kelp for a certain number of days in the year, or how is it?
—I understand he pays a rent for a small croft, but is, in addition to that, compelled to make kelp, and he receives pay for that labour, at so much per ton of kelp.
22594. Is the number of days of labour in the year limited or specified?
—It is not specified; but there is a certain season of the year at which it must be made, or it is of no service.
22595. Is it at the same season of the year at which the crofter requires less time for his own croft?
—Usually, it is about seedtime when they are required to work kelp.
22596. In the cases in which the small tenants are bound to give labour to the farmers, either rural labour or at kelp, is the labourer at liberty to send a representative, instead of. labouring himself—can he hire another person to do it?
—I believe so.
22597. Do you know on what terms—does the crofter pay the farmer, or the proprietor, or the man he sends?
—When the cottar, who works for a farmer, sends a representative, he pays that representative himself.
22598. He doesn't pay the farmer or proprietor a sum of money, but pays the labourer?
—He pays the farmer a sum of money for the soil he has from him, and he receives wages for the work which he gives to the farmer; I know that is so in some cases. So far as that goes, he is perfectly satisfied with his bargain. But there are those I am told who are not so well off in that respect; but I am not able to explain the exact nature of their grievances. There are others here able to explain that.
22599. What I want to understand is, when a man cannot work himself, and sends a representative, does he pay the farmer a certain sum of money, and does the farmer pay the representative, or does the labourer himself pay the representative?
—The labourer himself pays the representative, because, as I understand it, he is like a small tenant on the large tenant's estate who pays his rent to that tenant, with the provision that he gives him labour when asked to do so, and if he is unable himself to do the work, he has to send a representative.
22600. And when the farmer pays wages, and the man works for him, does he pay the same wages, to him, as he would pay in the open market, or less?
—I am unable to answer that question.
22601. Mr Cameron.
—You say that the large farmer employs these bowmen, and when they get old and unable to work they are cast aside like some old worn-out piece of machinery, and compelled to apply to the Parochial Board for support. What would you propose to substitute for that grievance?
—I am not prepared to say what I would substitute.
22602. A farm cannot be carried on without labourers?
—No, certainly not, but I merely state that that request of some of these men who feel it is a burden upon them, and some of those receiving fair wages. In other cases, I believe they are placed at a greater disadvantage, for when old age sets in upon them, their wages have been so low that they have not been able to lay past anything for their own support, and therefore, when they are unable to work, they are quite helpless.
22603. Is that different from what prevails in other parts of Great Britain?
—I am not aware.
22604. I ask that because this paragraph would seem to suggest that when the labourer gets old, he should be supported by the farmer; is that what is intended.
22605. But if he is not supported by the farmer, and has not money to support himself, how can he be supported, except by the parish?
—I merely state the grievances which the people have suffered from.
22606. But we want to know the remedy suggested?
—I am unable to state the remedy.
22607. The Chairman.
—Have these bowmen of whom you speak separate cottages, or do they live in the farmer's houses?
22608. Are they generally married people?
22609. When they grow old, do their sons or families not contribute to their support?
—They are often so kept when they have sons who are able to support them.
22610. Is the son frequently taken by the farmer instead of the father?
—Yes, he is sometimes taken on, and he, to a certain extent, largely supports his father when the latter is unable to work. In some cases the son supports the father.
22611. Have the females of that class—the mothers and daughters—got any subsidiary means of gaining a livelihood—do they spin or knit, as they do in Shetland?
—No, there is no work for them.
22612. There is no small industry?
—No small industry here to support them.
22613. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many farmers are there in the parish who employ bowmen?
—I am not able to say; I should think about four. But perhaps I am wrong; I have not considered the question.
22614. What number of bowmen may there be among these four farms?
—I am unable to say.
22615. Are there half-a-dozen on each farm?
—-I don't think there will be that.
22616. You produce a case as an instance of this grievance complained of here—number one grievance. You don't wish his name mentioned, but I suppose you have no objection to state the facts?
—The party is willing to have the facts of the case recorded.
22617. And there are other persons similarly situated?
22618. Are the facts of the case not these, that this person took some land a considerable time ago on a nineteen years' lease, with the promise of meliorations for the building at the close of the lease?
22619. He was allowed to remain not only nineteen years, but thirty years, and at the end of thirty years he entered upon a new lease?
—Yes, I think that is so.
22620. In the first lease he covenanted to pay 10s. a year, and under the new lease he got another nineteen years' tenure at 25s., and the meliorations were dropped?
22621. And the grievance is, that the meliorations should have been dropped?
—Well, he was compelled to do so. He did not wish to pay his advance, because he did not think the place worth it; but he says he was told that if he did not accept of this, they would pay him his valuation and let him go, and rather than do so he agreed to the arrangement.
22622. But he covenanted to have the place for nineteen years, and he had it thirty years at 10s. a year?
22623. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What rent do you pay?
22624. Of land rent?
22625. What do you pay for your place of business?
—There is no valuation put upon it. The house I live in is separate in some respects; I just bought it and paid a small amount for it, so that is separate from the farm house.
22626. How long have you been in business?
—Between four and five years.
22627. Are you a native of this parish?
22628. You have not been able to give very precise answers to some questions about the crofters, I presume therefore, you have not done much as a crofter?
22629. May I take it for granted that you were selected by the crofters to represent them, because you are in comparatively independent circumstances?
22630. They preferred you because you were a merchant, and supposed to be independent?
—I don't think that is so; they selected me because they could not get any one who would communicate with the Royal Commissioner, and I agreed to do what I was able for them; I think that was the reason. Not that I was acquainted with the state of affairs, for I told them I was not, because I had been out of the place for a good many years, and did not know the circumstances.
22631. Did the crofters not select you because you were considered a more independent man than the generality of themselves?
—I am not aware that they did.
22632. Was it because they thought you a more intelligent man?
—Well, I think that may have had something to do with it.
22633. You admit superior intelligence, but not superior freedom from higher powers?
—I am not able to state the reason, because I am in the dark regarding that.
22634. You have been asked a good deal about the bowmen, which seems to be a grievance, may I suggest this as the probable cause? Were you asked to state this about the bowmen, that they have really no permanent holding in the parish?
—Yes, they are engaged, I understand, from year to year; they have no other holding.
22635. And, I think, the crofter when he gets old remains on his little place?
22636. But he may?
—He may if it is arranged with the farmer.
22637. But the bowman is liable to be put away when he is old and useless, because the farmer wants another bowman for his business?
22638. Is it not possible that there are some bowmen just now upon the poors' roll who may not be natives of the parish at all?
—That may be so, I believe it is so.
22639. You have spoken about four or five farmers who have got bowmen. Are these farmers, in some cases, strangers to the islands?
—I think in every case they are natives.
22640. And the bowman they employ are also natives?
—There may be one or two exceptions, that is all.
22641. When the bowman gets old and useless the farmer requires another man to do the work, does he provide a new house for the new comer, or is the old man obliged to shift as best he can?
—I think the latter is the way.
22642. And that to some extent accounts for the grievance, that they more readily become a burden upon the rates?
—I think that is the reason.
22643. You stated there were five farms nearly joined together, which occupied in extent eight miles?
—I said so.
22644. Mention the names of these farms?
—These farms, I may explain, are not all in this parish, but, one begins in this parish, that is the firm of Hamarbreck, the others are Howe, Backeskail, Worselter, and Stone.
22645. How long is it since these places have been constituted and erected into large farms?
—I am unable to say.
22646. Within the last thirty years?
—It has been a thing of gradual growth.
22647. When was the first commencement?
—I am unable to answer that question.
22648. Is it comparatively recent?
—No, I think they go far back comparatively, a number of years.
22649. Since you cannot give us the date of the oldest one, can you give us the date of the latest?
—I could not.
22650. Surely you must have heard your neighbours, and others, speaking about the matter?
—These points were never spoken of, and therefore I am not able to answer.
22651. Have you heard that the people have been removed from, and dispossessed of their places in these large farms, in order that they (the farms) might be constituted in former times?
—There have been such cases, but I am not able, just now, to state their names, because it goes further back than my day.
22652. Surely you have heard of cases that had happened before your day?
22653. Is it, or is it not, a fact that the land now occupied by these five farms was, at one time, in the possession of a number of small tenants?
—Yes, it was so.
22654. What became of those people? Your own paper states, that whenever a croft is vacant it is absorbed?
—Some of them, I believe, are in Australia, and some in other parts of the world, and some are in different parts of Orkney.
22655. Are you safe in saying that the bulk of the people who were living upon these five farms had to leave the island of Sanday altogether?
—It is doubtful. I am quite unable to answer that question.
22656. But you know some who have gone abroad?
—Yes, I have heard them say so; and some people have remained here, but what number I am unable to say.
22657. What is the population of the island?
—2075 I think.
22658. With the exception of those who took big farms, are there any other farms of any size?
—Yes, there are.
22659. A good number?
—Yes, a good number, but not a very large number.
22660. And the crofting population in possession of half the island?
—I do not know exactly what is called a croft.
22661. £30 and under?
—They would occupy, I think, fully a third of the island.
22662. The crofters or the big farmers?
—I am unable to answer that question.
22663. Do the crofters and others complain of the existence of these large farms?
—Some do complain of it, but generally, the complaints are about their own places being too small. But they, as a rule, don't suggest how they are to be put into a better position.
22664. Are you aware of any cases of small holdings —say of £5 of rent—being increased or doubled
—a thriving crofter with that rental being enabled to double his holding?
—I am not aware of any case of that kind.
22665. Are the people on the island now—the small people—better off than they used to be?
—Yes, they were better off, I daresay, pretty far back.
22666. You spoke about the proprietor having divided the common land without the consent, and against the interest of the people—was any of what used to be common pasture taken away from the smaller tenants?
—I understand that a great many of these small tenants were put off the arable land at that time, and put out on the common to cultivate that soil or leave as they chose, and to make the best of it, and it is, to a great extent, these small crofters who have cultivated the common, and who consider themselves aggrieved by the rents being raised upon them, after they had got it into a condition to bear a croft.
22667. It comes to this that many of the people who were removed, in order to constitute these big farms, had either to leave the island, or were settled upon common pasture, and compelled to take it in?
—I don't know that they were compelled to take it in, they were allowed to build upon the common pasture, and they did so, and for a number of years, they received nothing for their labour, simply because they had to live upon their crop.
22668. When I said compelled to take it, I meant in order to gain a subsistence for themselves?
—I think it was voluntary in every case that they did build on the common.
22669. And they took it in and also reclaimed it?
22670. But what was the use of going to the common,—it was of no value, unless they made it a means of subsistence?
—Because they would rather try to live there than leave their native place
22671. Then we come to another stage —after they took in the land the rent was raised?
22672. And that is one of the grievances?
—Yes. The principal grievance, I understand, is that the holding each has, is so small that they cannot live upon it, and it occupies their time so much that they cannot properly attend to anything else to make money. It is a miserable life for them to be living upon the few acres they have of that soil.
22673. Is there no land on the island unreclaimed, that could be reclaimed by the crofters?
—There is very little that I am aware of.
22674. What do the people wish themselves in order to enlarge their holdings?—If you say there is not much to take in, I am afraid it must be at the expense of the big farmers?
—That seems to be the impression amongst a number,—that it should be at the expense of the big farmers.
22675. You know the word meliorations, I understand in the paper you gave in they complain that, that is systematically defeated?
—Every man has been defeated by the landlord.
22676. Let us take this case, that a man is going to improve his land, and build a house, and that he has got a lease to give compensation when he is removed, at the end of his lease is he not very much in the hands of the landlord as to whether he will ever get the compensation or not?
—Yes, that is what they feel.
22677. The only chance of his getting compensation is if he should wish to leave the country?
—Yes, I believe that is about how it stands.
22678. Because, if he does not want to leave he sticks to his home, and the rental is increased by way of compensation?
22679. So that the only chance, in your opinion and the opinion of those who sent you, a man has of getting the compensation provided for in his lease is, that he is of his own accord, going to leave the country?
— Yes, I think that is how it stands.
22680. Are the people generally inclined to move from the island or to cling to it?
—They are disposed to cling to the island very much.
22681. Are leases common in the island?
—I think they are very general in the island
22682. What is the length of the lease?
—Fourteen years is, I think, very common.
22683. But notwithstanding that they have that lease, and that they have voluntarily entered into it, they believe it is a one-sided bargain?
—They do believe so.
22684. Do you believe it yourself?
22665. Who is your landlord?
—J. C. Trail.
22686. Is he a resident proprietor?
22687. Does he lay out any money in improving the state of the crofting population in any way?
—He does. He allows so much when they put up buildings. He allows a certain proportion of the building, but the tenant has to do the quarrying and carting, and the building of the steading; and at the end of his lease, and when he leaves, they consider this steading their own. It is then the proprietor's.
22688. Is there a good deal of that going on at this moment in Lady parish—a good deal of improving buildings?
—There has been a good deal of that in the past and it is still going on.
22689. Is there good fishing in the bay in front of us?
—It is not considered good fishing. There is a number of small boats going out, but it is not considered a fishing place.
22690. The people depend more on the land than on fishing?
22691. Are there many proprietors on the island?
—There are, of proprietors of any size, five.
22692. Are there any resident proprietors on the island?
—One resides in the island for a good part of the year.
22693. Is his principal residence here?
—During the last two or three years his principal residence has been on the island.
22694. Do the proprietors contribute to the schools in the way of giving prizes, or do they take any means of encouraging their smaller tenants?
—None, whatever, that I am aware of.
22695. Are the rates—school and poor rates—high or reasonable—do you know what they amount to?
—I am not very certain. I think it is Is. in the pound.
22696. You don't complain of them?
—No, it is not complained of much.
22697. How many schools are there on the island?
22698. The Chairman.
—We expect some people from Ronaldshay, but in case they don't come, it is desirable you should say something about it. Have you a statement to make about it?
—The statement I have to make about North Ronaldshay is rather an unsatisfactory one, because I expected a statement from Mr Grant, who is now away, and I have not received it. The grievance there, I think, is principally the tyranny of their proprietor. They have no roads on the island—not a single foot's breadth—and their houses are miserable; there cannot be worse, I think, in the country. To look at them from the outside they are mostly like the stone dykes that we have here. They have seen no lime, and the proprietor will not be at the expense of improving them. He gives them no encouragement to improve. They have no leases, and they are living in such a way that they may be put out any day, and the people feel that. Then two or three years ago, if I remember rightly, to show how they are oppressed by the proprietor, they went into Kirkwall with a boat—they had arranged before going to start a fishing station—they went into Kirkwall and brought out a boat full of salt, and engaged an agent in Kirkwall for their fish. They then came back to North Ronaldshay, and went to Dr Traill, the proprietor of the island, and told him what they had done, and asked him if he would give the use of a store which was standing on the beach for the purpose of the fish-curing. He refused to give them the use of that store, and without it they could not carry on their fish-curing. They sold part of their salt in the island for family use, and the rest they sent back to Kirkwall, and sold it there at a disadvantage. Now they considered that a very great grievance, because it deprived them of means of livelihood, or of making an addition to their means of livelihood from their small crofts. They feel it hard that they have not the liberty to do what they wish. As to the complaints which they have about their farms and their rents, I am unable to say anything about that, and only regret I have not the particulars to lay before your Lordship.
22699. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—Are they principally fishermen, or farmers?
—Fishermen and farmers
22700. What number?
22701. Principally farmers?
—They are mostly all small crofters, and they go to the fishing as well.
22702. Why did they not ask for the store before they bought the salt?
—I am unable to answer the question.
22703. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Is Dr Traill the sole proprietor?
22704. Has he the fish-curing as well?
22705. Is it let to somebody?
22706. This was then, simply an arbitrary act on the part of the proprietor, to disoblige the people?
—I don't know what object he had in it, but they looked upon it as an arbitrary act without a cause.
22707. Who carries on the business of the island—is there no fishcurer there?
—I don't think there is.
22708. The Chairman.
—Do you know whether the people offered to give the proprietor any rent for the store?
—I am unable to answer that question.
22709. Do you think the refusal of the proprietor was due perhaps to the expectation which he had of getting rent for the building, which was not realised?
—It occurs to me now —whether it was the actual reason or not, I don't know—but it occurs to me that there was some reason given that there was a small dealer there who bought fish from these people, and who complained to the proprietor, l a m told, that if he allowed the people to start a fishing station it would deprive him of the small business he did in exchanging goods for fish.
22710. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—In fact, there is a dealer in the place?
—A dealer, you cannot call him a curer.
22711. He did not want his monopoly disturbed?
—That was the report.
22712. Mr Cameron.
—Have any people been evicted from North Ronaldshay?
—-There is one man, I am told, who was evicted, or his father, and who is now living in Kirkwall.
22713. Do you know any more than this one?
—I am not aware, because I have not inquired.
22714. Do you know the reason why he was evicted?
—I don't know.
22715. Do you know why the people are in fear of eviction, if there have been no cases of evictiou except this one?
—The only reason they attribute for it is the helpless state they are in; —they are afraid of offending the proprietor, and they are under the impression that for the last offence he may possibly put them out.
22716. Why are they under this impression —if they have no experience of these arbitrary removals?
—I cannot answer that question.
22717. The Chairman.
—Do you know whether there is any other shop at all of any kind, except this one you mention?
—There are other two; but they are both smaller.
22718. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Do you know whether the Ronaldshay people got notice of our coming here?
—I sent a notice over there.
22719. Is there any reason why none of them are here to-day, besides the reason for Mr Grant's absence?
—I think one very strong reason,—perhaps the principal —is that they are afraid they may offend their proprietor.
22720. Have they any reason, more than any other of the islanders whom we are visiting, to be afraid of that?
—They have in some respects more reason, because some have leases, and in some of the other islands they have none.
22721. Through the whole of the Western Islands which we have visited, where there is not a lease given to any crofter, we found no lack of evidence and no lack of freedom of speech, without fear of proprietors—why should it not be the case here?
—I think the people are more retiring than the Highlanders—more timid.
22722. Surely they are not less brave than the Highlanders?