Зображення сторінки

would infallibly result in failure. give good hope for a lasting settleThe existing problem cannot be ment of the Highland difficulty, solved by the application of any through the well-spent energy, single specific, but a clearly defined both at homo and abroad, of the and vigorous policy in the several Highland people. directions I have indicated will





[ocr errors]

“It is a misapprehension, and one clusion that the crofter of 1851 that may lead to many others, to re- maintained himself for a considergard them as a class of small farmers, able portion of the year, provided who get, or are now expected or sup himself with everything for which posed to get, their living and to pay rent from the produco of their crofts.

money was required, and paid his They are truly labourers, living chiefly rent from the wages of some form by the wages of labour, and bolding of labour. crofts or lots for which they png ront, How stands the matter now! not from the produce of the land but Has anything occurred to change from wages.

When employment in the conditions then inseparable deficient they are in distress, and if from the crofters' position The they cannot obtain it at home they must seek it elsewhero, or they will population has largely increased, starve as certainly as if they held no

subdivision of the holdings has land."

progressed with alarming rapidity,

and meanwhile the scale of living These words expressed the view of has materially improved or has at the position of the crofters held in least become greatly more costly: 1851 by an official inquirer, who, it was calculated by an acute obbesides being a native of the dis- server who had access to special trict to which his report refers, sources of information, that, three seems to have used every possible years ago, more than thrice the care to reach a sound conclusion rental of the parish of Barra passed through laborious collation of the into the hands of the merchants views of those best able to inform there in payment for tea and tohim. In those days, now thirty bacco alone ; if, then, another eight years ago, in the island of rental be added to cover the cost Skye, including Raasay, Rona, and of mcal, clothing, and all other other islands parochially connect- purchased articles, it follows that ed with it, the ordinary croft did the croft which formerly supported " “not provide an average family the family for six or eight months with food for six months ;” the cannot now contributo in any consame was the case in the Lews and siderable degree to the cost of subHarris ; in North Uist it was sistence. But, in these circumthought that an average family stances, the Logislature has thought might possibly subsist for seven fit to do two things which seriousmonths ; while in South Uist and ly complicato a problem already Barra the difference between pro. difficult enough - viz., (1) To reduction and consumption was cogniso the crofter as a farmer; largely against the former. These and (2) to stereotype the crofting facts appear to justify the con- system. It is not ourpurpose to dis

[ocr errors]

cuss the policy of recent legislation sufficient for his wants ; and when a on this subject,-it is sufficient son or a daughter married, he divided that it exists, and must be borne it with the young couple, who built in mind in any discussion of the lived on the produce, and paid a part

theniselves another house upon it, question.

of the rent. Thus, many crofts which It is obvious, then, from what still stand in the rent-roll in the name has been said above, that the of one occupant, who is held responsipresent croft could only maintain ble for the whole rent, are, in fact, the occupant and his family for a occupied by two, three, or even, in small portion of the year, even if

some cases, four families.

On some he enjoyed the whole return and properties an effort was made to pre

vent this subdivision. The erection were freed from the obligation to of an additional house on any croft pay rent; but, as a matter of fact,

was prohibited, and the prohibition the cases are rare, in the islands was enforced ; but the evil was not at least, in which the produce of thereby arrested. The married son the croft is not shared between or daughter was received into the two or more families, and the ob

house of the original occupant; and,

if the land was not actually divided, ligation to pay rent-such a rent

it was not the less required to supas has been fixed as fair—is 'en- port two or more families. Attempts forced by the penalty of ejectment were, in some cases, made to put an on failure. It would thus seem end to this practice, but it was found to be absolutely necessary, in order

to involve so much apparent cruelty that the crofter may enjoy a rea

and injustice, and it was so revolting sonable chance of retaining his

to the feelings of all concerned, that

children should be expelled from the holding, to free him from the incubus of the subdivider or squatter,

houses of their parents, that the evil

was submitted to and still continues and to restore to him the whole

to exist." area which stands in his name in the books of the estate. It is a The evil which existed in 1851 singular circumstance that no pro- has not been mitigated—nay, has vision has been made to this end. become grievously augmented—by There is ample power for the pre- the lapse of time; for now, not vention of future subdivision, but only are the crofts required to none for remedying the mistakes furnish partial support for an in-, of landlord or tenant in the past, creased population, but, through -none for the removal of a swarm the rise in the scale of living and of squatters numbering thousands. deterioration of the soil, are less

It may be well to cast a glance fitted to support them. backward, and before we proceed, We propose in succeeding pages : to understand how subdivision to consider the question of pro

Here we quote from the viding for the subdividers and report of 1851:

squatters, as well as for the exAs originally allotted, in the tension of the holdings of those islands at least, the crofts seem to

to whom the Crofters Act applies. have been quité sufficient to afford But before entering on this portion the maintenance of a family and the of the subject, it may be well to means of paying the established reut; point out that the herring-fishery but when kelp was largely and pro- is the main source of wages open fitably manufactured, when potatoes to the great majority of the inwere extensively and successfully habitants of Skye and the Long cultivated, when fishings were good and the prices of cattle high, the

Island. Some few of the people crofter found his croft more than find employment in the service of


proprietors, farmers, and sports- popularly regarded as a migratory men-and there are, besides, local fish, which, for some mysterious fisheries of lobsters, cod and ling, reason, followed the came general and coal-fish ; but these industries, course year by year with remarkuseful as they are, cannot for one able regularity. It is startling to moment be compared with the find that scientific opinion seems great herring - fishery, which, at- now tending to an entirely diftracting thousands of boats, pro- ferent view—viz., to the concluvides wages for every man and sion that the herring is a purely woman not otherwise engaged, and local creature, which withdraws to has been the principal factor in deep water at certain seasons, redetermining the increase of the turning within reach of the fisherpopulation. It may be said with man at others. If this be the truth that a successful herring- true history of the herring-and fishing on both coasts places the it is so read with great and increasWest Highland population in & ing distinctness by somo of our position of comparative comfort most able authorities -- the imfor the remainder of the year, mense expansion of the fishing while an adverse season lands industry is but another name for them in poverty, often in absolute its more rapid extinction.

We destitution. In short, it does not may--we probably shall-witness, admit of doubt or question that within a few years, the practical the exhaustion of the herring- ruin of this great industry, or at shoals would reduce some 50,000, least its compulsory reduction or 60,000 persons, within a very within such limits as may permit brief period, to a condition of nature to restore the balance beutter pauperism—to a condition, tween the diminished shoals and not only of inability to pay any the vast array of enemies by whom rent whatsoever, but of actual they are assailed. When this want.

occurs, what is to become of our The herring has hitherto been West Highland population ? 1

1 Upon this point Mr Anderson Smith of Ledaig, a member of the Scottish Board of Fisheries, supplies important evidence. Mr Smith writes on the 29th July :

“Without looking back too far over my published statements, I extract from an address to the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, delivered by me 13th December 1886: "For fully twenty years we have sought to spread the knowledge of their, to a large extent, local character, and to show that they may be had at all seasons of the year on our own shores. There is no month in which they are not captured, and no month, we believe, in which they do not spawn. Indeed, herring in all stages of ripeness and conditions of development are constantly taken in the same shoal. They are always with us if we only knew where, and what they feed upon is an important question in arriving at a knowledge of their whereabouts. They approach the shore for two purposes—to feed and to spawn. In the former case they are poor, in the latter in prime condition.'

“ This question of food is at the bottom of their differentiation, no doubt. A really skilled herring-dealer can tell the herring from every loch in Scotland, so distinct is their difference. The fish of Loch Fyne and Loch Hourn are the best on the west coast, but they are not feeding when captured, and consequently their peculiar character must have been acquired by a continued residence in the locality 1 is unnecessary to give a list of instances of lochs becoming deserted after severe fishing over a term of years. Not that the herring are fished out, but only down so low that they are unable to combat their natural enemies. The chances are that the local supply had, through fortunate con




The crofter, as we have seen, is behalf of the people, wherein the seriously handicapped by the sub- oppressor is warmly thanked division of his holding, -whether for placing thein in a position to recent or remote, whether due io share in the protits of kelp-inaking his own action or that of his land. and' fishing, which their former lord, — and, as if this were not site precluded. That this motive enough, the squatter also has thrust prompted the removals in many himself into the township, either instances may be inferred from the reclaiming a patch from the com- fact that, while enforced migramon pasture whereon also he feeds tions from inland townships to the such stock as he can gather, or sea-shore are known to have ocbegging or renting a potato-ground curred, there is no instance on from some crofter or subdivider, record of removal from the shore in any case adding to the excess of to an inland site numbers which the area at com

But to return to our subject. mand is required to feed. The The problem before us is to profirst step, therefore, towards help- vide for the subdividers and squating the crofter to a position of in- ters such advantages elsewhere as dependence, is to rid him of this shall induce them voluntarily to burden ; and here we may remark relieve the crofters of their pres. that subdivision of holdings, though ence,—we say "voluntarily," for, often the work of the crofter him. in the existing state of public self, was by no means always so. opinion, it must be assumed that It is an unquestioned fact that the idea of compulsion is inadmistownships were sometimes removed sible-and, to secure this object,

, and added to others by the man- migration either to adjacent lands agers of estates; but though this or to other parts of the Highlands proceeding now bears the aspect has been proposed. Let us examof tyranny and oppression, it was ine shortly this rather attractive so far from being regarded in this project. light by the “sufferers," that there Two difficulties meet us at the actually exists a letter written to outset-viz., (1) The strong indisthe author of a celebrated eviction, position of the people to remove by the clergyman of the parish on at all; and (2) their want of the

[ocr errors]

ditions, increased sufficiently to attract attention, and that it was virtually fished out, the residue being unable to regain ascendancy until similar exceptional con. ditions recur.' . This is my view as expressed in my list of Hebridean fishes. Mr John Murray supports this view: “He believes the herring of Loch Fyne never migrate beyond the entrance of the sea-loch-if they even go so far, but only from the shallows to the deeps of Inverary.' Bertram too, in his last edition of i 'The Harvest of the Sea,' seems to accept this opinion : The herring, it is asserted, never ventures far from the spot where it is taken, and its condition, when it is caught, is just an index of the feeding it has enjoyed in its particular locality.'

“The evidence is steadily'accumulating in favour of this theory; and although it may be overdone and narrowed down to limits against which our judgment rebels, yet the rough principlo I believe to be incontrovertible, that the looallty on the west coast relying upon its neighbouring horring-fishery, may any day awake and find its occupation gone— fished-out as thoroughly as a salmon-river ! ”

capital necessary to occupy. hold- have described (it would be better ings of adequate size (for it would with twice as much), in order that clearly be contrary to sound policy winter fodder may be raised and to provide them with holdings of a due rotation maintained, we must the old inadequate area).

add £250 or £300 to the cost of It has been the fashion among stock before our migrant can be some writers and speakers to lay said to be fairly started. Then, much stress, in laudatory terms, also, cropping in rotation involves on the affection of West High- fencing, the presence of a family landers for their native townships; involves a dwelling, and the posbut is this sentiment, in sober session of stock demands outtruth, a subject for special men- houses. On the whole, it is plain tion, or worthy of special praise that a new holding of suitable Is it not rather a feeling which character cannot be created, suffiexists in the mind of every human ciently stocked, and placed in a being, and, to a remarkable extent position to succeed, under a mini


a . in many animals, -akin, in fact, mum expenditure of from £400 to to the instinct which attaches a £500, even if the occupant is rehorse to his stable, or a cat to his quired to repay no part of the native collar? We apprehend that cost of the land on which he is the question does not admit of placed; and there is the further serious discussion; and however consideration that, during the worthy of pity we may think the earlier years of his occupancy, the man, horse, or cat whose feelings croft would not produce, or would are lacerated by the loss of a produce only in part, sufficient familiar home, we nevertheless subsistence for his family, while he ruthlessly insist on severing such would be precluded by his arduous ties, both in our own families and labours at home from adding to among our four · footed friends. the household income by seeking But the difficulty does not consist engagements elsewhere. It is imin showing that no particular credit possible to contemplate the posiis due to the West Highlander for tion of a migrant, :under the the feeling which prompts him to circumstances which we have destay at home,-it is rather in offer- scribed, without a feeling of dising him inducements sufficiently may: earth-hunger is a profound strong to lead him to conquer it. sentiment in the Hebrides, but His new holding, according to the would any sane man, with due best authority, must not be of less knowledge of the prospect berent than £25-i.e., it must carry & fore him, embark on the enterstock of 8 or 10 cows with their prise of establishing himself thus ? followers, and from 100 to 150 Are there capitalists in Great sheep. And this is not all, for Britain who would provide him it is estimated by a trustworthy with the necessary means? Would agriculturist that, to reclaim prom- any Government be rash enough ising moorland into good arable to offer him what he requires from land, involves an expenditure of the public purse? Migration may from £15 to £25 an acre ;and as be dismissed as a possible means 10 or 12 acres of arable ground must of attracting the subdividers and form part of such a holding as wo squatters, except, perhaps, in a



1 The above cstimate applios to operations conducted on a large scale, in the most favourable situations, and under skilled supervision. -L

« НазадПродовжити »