ROUSAY REMEMBERED

ROUSAY IN NEWSPRINT - Part 10

1884 September 13 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

MEETING GENERAL BURROUGHS’ TENANTRY. - A very pleasing meeting was held in Sourin Public School, Island of Rousay, of which General Burroughs is proprietor, on Thursday evening, to witness a presentation of a piece of silver plate to the esteemed wife of the proprietor on behalf of the school children of the island. Mr Sinclair of Newhouse presided, and Rev. Alex. J. Pirie, United Presbyterian Church, in making the presentation, consisting of an elaborately chased silver salver (furnished by Messrs Marshall, Edinburgh), paid a high compliment to General and Mrs Burroughs, referring particularly to the latter's efforts for the good of the islanders, and to her conducting a Sabbath school herself at Trumbland House. Mrs Burroughs personally replied, referring in a few graceful sentences the kindness shown her since she came as a bride to the island fourteen years ago. One of her chief pleasures, along with her husband, was to work for the benefit and advancement of the island and its inhabitants, and though sometimes they might make mistakes, and even fail to be understood by some, yet it was very cheering to them when they felt that their friends recognised that their intention was to do their best. General Burroughs added a few words of thanks for the honour Mrs Burroughs had received. Nothing, he assured his audience amid cheers, could give his wife and himself more pleasure than to find their own well-meant endeavours to promote peace and well being in the island so handsomely appreciated. He trusted the present kindly feeling existing between them all would never be broken or disturbed.

 

1885 March 23 Dundee Advertiser

 

A Kirkwall telegram reports that the barque Atlantic, of Tonsberg, Captain Andersen, bound to Belfast, was driven ashore during a gale on Saturday morning on the Holm [of Scockness], which lies between Rousay and Egilshay. The crew were saved.

1885 March 24 Portsmouth Evening News

 

THE STORM ON THE SCOTCH COAST. – There was no abatement of the storm on the Scotch coast on Saturday, and several disasters are reported. Early in the morning, in the midst of a thick snowfall, the Norwegian barque Atlantic, Captain Anderson, 600 tons, from Rusoer to Belfast, with ice, struck on the island of Rousay, Orkney, and went to pieces. With great difficulty the crew, numbering 12 hands, succeeded in getting ashore, although the sea was running very high. The shipwrecked sailors had their wants attended to by the islanders.

 

1885 March 30 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

DEATH OF AN ORKNEY MINISTER. - Rev. James Gardner, who for the long period of 42 years has been minister of the parish of Rousay and Egilshay, died on Saturday. Mr Gardner was very much respected. Being of a retiring disposition, he scarcely ever took a prominent part in debates in the Church Courts. Mr Gardner's wife predeceased him, but he is survived by two daughters, who are both married.

 

1885 May 2 Aberdeen People’s Journal

 

ROUSAY AND EGILSHAY SCHOOL BOARD. - There were eight candidates for the five seats. Those elected were: - James Leonard, Kirkwall, 82 [votes]; Rev. Archibald McCallum, Free Church, Rousay, 70; Lieutenant-General Burroughs, 64; J. Craigie, Hullion, Rousay, 56; James Johnston, Tankerness, 33. Unsuccessful – J. Sinclair, Newhouse, 24; S. Gibson, Bigland, 16; George Murrison, factor to Lieutenant-General Burroughs, 15. The fact that James Leonard, the evicted crofter, has been placed at the top the poll has caused some excitement here.

 

1885 May 13 Edinburgh Evening News

 

A NOVEL CALL. - After Divine service on Sunday, in the Established Church, Rousay, Lieutenant-General Burroughs proposed that the Rev. Mr Pirie, U.P. Church, be invited to accept the charge. The idea was to combine the two churches, Mr Pirie being a great favourite in Rousay. It is believed Mr Pirie will not accept the offer.

 

1885 May 19 Aberdeen Free Press

 

THE PROPOSED PRESBYTERIAN UNION ROUSAY, ORKNEY. - ln the U.P. Church, Rousay, Orkney, on Sunday, the Rev. A. J. Pirie referred to the proposal made by General Burroughs in the Established Church in the island the previous Sunday, to the effect that both congregations should unite with him (Mr Pirie) as minister. Mr Pirie said that the proposal had been made without any communication with him, and explained that, however desirous they might be of union with other Presbyterians, they could not as Voluntaries unite with the Church of Scotland so long as that Church was established by law.

 

1885 July 25 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

JAMES GRIEVE, an evicted crofter and delegate, has been elected a member of Rousay School Board, Orkney, in room of General Burroughs, C.B., resigned.

 

1885 August 6 Aberdeen Evening Express

 

ELECTION OF A MINISTER AT ROUSAY. - At a meeting of the parish church of Rousay congregation, held yesterday, a vote was taken between Rev. Mr Spark, Boddam, and the Rev. McLaren, Perth, and the Rev. Mr Falconer, Foxmay, as minister of Rousay. In the concluding vote the Rev. Mr Spark was elected by one of a majority over the Rev. Mr McLaren, in which the minority also unanimously acquiesced.

 

1885 August 25 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

NEW LIGHTHOUSES FOR ORKNEY AND SHETLAND. – The Trinity yacht Galatea left Kirkwall for Granton yesterday. It is understood that it has been agreed to put one new lighthouse on Sacquoy Head, Rousay, Orkney, and another on the west side of Shetland.

1885 September 25 Shields Daily Gazette

 

FISHING BOAT DISASTER THE NORTH. - Intelligence has just reached Kirkwall that wreckage has come ashore at Skaill, Sandwick, Orkney, a short distance from where some of the wreckage was previously found, which would indicate that two fishing boats have been lost near the same place. One boat, as already reported, is the James McMillan, CN46, [Campbeltown, Kintyre] but the name of the second boat is not known. A sail, however, has come ashore at Rousay with the letters CN and the figures 162. During the gale on Saturday over 200 boats were counted off Birsay.

 

1885 September 23 John o’ Groat Journal

 

ORKNEY. - At a meeting of Rousay and Egilshay School Board held on Friday - Rev. Mr Macallum, F.C., chairman - notices of motion to be given at the next meeting were read that the teachers of Sourin and Wasbister schools in Rousay, and the teacher of Egilshay Island be informed that their services will be dispensed with. It may be remembered that at the last election for members, Mr Leonard, evicted crofter, and Rev. Mr Macallum were at the top of the poll, and afterwards General Burroughs resigned his seat, and James Grieve, the other evicted crofter delegate, was elected in his stead.

 

ORDINATIONS. - .....The Rev. Mr Spark, late of Boddam, Aberdeenshire, was yesterday ordained as minister of the Established Church, Rousay. This is the first ordination in Rousay since the Disruption in the parish church.

 

1885 September 30 Peterhead Sentinel

 

INDUCTION OF REV. MR SPARK AT ROUSAY. - The Rev. Alexander Spark was inducted to the church and parish of Rousay and Egilsay on 22nd September last, by the Presbytery of the North Isles. The Rev. Mr Caskey of Stronsay, in the absence of Rev. Mr Grant, preached and presided on the occasion. Alter an excellent sermon from Rev. ii., 10, and the usual questions having been put to and satisfactorily answered by Mr Spark, prayer was engaged in, and the Moderator, having descended from the pulpit, formally inducted Mr Spark to the ministry of the charge, the presbytery giving him the right hand of fellowship. Just before the benediction, Lieut. General Burroughs, C.B., stepped forward and, in the name of the ladies of the congregation in most appropriate terms presented Mr Spark with a handsome pulpit gown, cassock, and case of bands. Mr Spark, having put on the gown said, “General Burroughs, l am heartily thankful to you for being the means of conveying to me in name of the ladies, these handsome and beautiful gifts of which I feel myself to quite unworthy. The ladies must have put themselves to a great deal of trouble and expense in furnishing these beautiful gifts, and I hope my future ministry will prove itself worthy of their kindness. I have heard by report of your generous acts and benevolent deeds - not only yours but also those of your excellent lady – and I trust God will long spare you both to prosecute further acts of charity and benevolence.” The benediction having been pronounced, the congregation had the opportunity of shaking hands with Mr Spark as they dispersed. Mr Spark afterwards entertained a large company to luncheon at the manse.

 

1885 December 15 Glasgow Herald

 

THE GENERAL ELE.CTION. THE POLLING IN ORKNEY AND SHETLAND. - Our Kirkwall correspondent telegraphed last night:- Polling in the Orkney and Shetland election began at eight this morning. There are in Orkney nine polling places and in Shetland ten. In Orkney, the weather being fine, there was a heavy poll at all the stations from which word has been received. At Kirkwall 700 out of 1100 voted. Electors from the islands of Rousay, Egilshay, Weir, Gairsay, and Shapinshay were conveyed to Kirkwall by the steamer Lizzie Burroughs and the packet Klydon, and from the time of their arrival till well on in the afternoon the polling booth was constantly full, and a large but orderly crowd of electors were waiting their turn to vote, which in some cases only came after hours of waiting.....  

1886 July 19 The Scotsman

 

CASES of strained relations between School Boards and their teachers are hardly less frequent now than they were during the years that immediately followed the passing of the Education Act. It is true that there is less litigation now than there used to be; but that is because the points of law have for the most part been settled. The teachers, however, think that many of these points have been settled in the wrong way, and that does not reconcile them the more to what they deem the hardships of their lot. It is very desirable, in the interests of education, as well as of the schoolmasters, that some means should be devised of getting rid of the quarrelling and the irritation that form the chronic state of too many School Boards. As might be expected, it is almost exclusively in small provincial and rural Boards that these difficulties arise. These Boards sometimes include members who are not fitted to command the respect of educated men, and whose interference with school arrangements may be too warmly, though quite naturally, resented by the teachers. Then the petty jealousies and rivalries of a provincial town, or a rural village, are apt to reappear in the School Board, especially when it contains the representatives of the rival Churches. In the great towns the Boards cover a wide area; there is a large choice of well-qualified candidates, and, as a rule, the members are persons of education and good social position. Very rarely, therefore, do we find cases of controversy and of grievance arising between Boards and schoolmasters in the cities and larger towns of Scotland. But it is not the less necessary to cure the evil where it does exist, if that can be done by means that are practicable and just. An unmistakeable case of what has all the appearance of high-handed dealing occurred lately at Rousay, in Orkney. Mr Moyes, one of the Public School teachers, was dismissed by the Board of Rousay and Egilshay on the strength of a petition against him sent to the Board by persons in the parish who are either crofters or sympathisers with crofters. It seems that after the Crofter Commission visited Kirkwall, someone sent an anonymous letter to General Burroughs, the owner of Rousay, threatening to shoot him. Two boys in Mr Moyes' school were suspected of having concocted the letter, and the Procurator-Fiscal, having obtained a warrant, went to the schoolhouse and seized the copy-books of the two boys, in order to use them for the purpose of evidence. Now, Mr Moyes' offence is that he did not resist the Procurator-Fiscal and defy the warrant of the Sheriff. On that ground, and on that ground alone, the crofters and their friends rose up against the schoolmaster, and resolved to boycott him. They found friends within the School Board, who were ready to do their bidding. Another schoolmaster under the same Board, Mr Cooper, was also petitioned against, and was treated in the same way. Let it be noted that in these cases the teachers were turned adrift for a matter which had nothing whatever to do with their ordinary school duties, and for an act failure to perform which would have exposed them to the penalties of the law.....

       It may further be noted that in the case of Rousay, public opinion was actually the instigator of the injustice that was done by the Board to the schoolmasters. It was a clear case of the tail wagging the dog, and there may be other cases of the same kind.....

 

1886 July 30 The Scotsman

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

ROUSAY AND EGILSHAY SCHOOL BOARD.

 

                                                              Rousay, Orkney , July 26, 1886

 

SIR, - The School Board of Rousay and Egilshay met on the 23d inst. for the transaction of ordinary business, and took the opportunity of considering your leading article of the 19th inst., in which you refer to recent actions of the Board in terms which the facts of the case do not call for in the slightest degree. As clerk of the School Board, I am instructed to state that the representation of the case on which your article based is entirely unfounded and misleading, and probably deliberately and maliciously so.

     The School Board unanimously and emphatically deny that their action, to which you have referred, was brought about by more local feeling on questions unconnected with educational work; and they are fully confident that their action will be approved by all who know the facts of the case, as not only dictated but urgently demanded by those very motives and reasons which ought to influence a body of men entrusted by a community with the charge of their educational interests.

     I am not to enter on any discussion or controversy in your columns, and request, therefore, with the more confidence, your insertion of this note in the interests of truth. - I am , &c.

                                           

                                                JAMES CRAIGIE,

                                                                Clerk of School Board.

 

[There is no reason why this disclaimer should not be published, though the fact will not fail to be noted that it is unsupported by any tittle of evidence, such as supported the representations of the schoolmasters on which our comments were based. [Ed.]]

 

1887 January 18 Dundee Evening Telegraph

 

THE LATE DAVID MARWICK, OF MELBOURNE. - This gentleman, a younger brother of Dr J. D. Marwick, City Clerk of Glasgow, died on the 8th of December, at his residence in the suburbs of Melbourne. Belonging to a family connected for many generations with the island of Rousay and with Kirkwall, Orkney, he emigrated when a youth to Victoria, and settled in Melbourne, of which has been citizen for over thirty years. A successful man of business, and of a warm, generous disposition, he will be missed both in public and in private life. At the time of his death he had almost completed his fifty-fourth year, having been born on the 8th of January 1833. He is survived by a widow, a son, and three daughters.

 

1887 February 11 Aberdeen Evening Express

 

THE ORKNEY CROFTERS. - At a meeting of the Rousay crofters - the Rev. Archibald McCallum in the chair - about forty crofters signified their intention of appealing to the Crofter Commission to fix fair rents, and it was stated that others not present intended following the same course. At the close of the meeting a collection was taken to raise a fund for common action.

 

1887 May 23 Aberdeen Evening Express

 

ORKNEY CROFTERS. – General Burroughs has intimated to the tenantry on his Rousay estate that he will allow an abatement of 10 per cent on the current half-year’s rent if paid within one month. It is reported that the crofters have resolved, however, not to accept the offered abatement, preferring to let the Crofters Commission settle the point, as they have already made application to have fair rents fixed.

1887 June 3 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

MR CHAMBERLAIN AND THE ORKNEYS. - The Secretary of the Kirkwall Workmen's Union, having written to Mr Chamberlain as to the correctness of the statement made recently by General Burroughs, Rousay, to the effect that Mr Chamberlain had stated to him that Orkney should never have come under the Crofters' Act, has received Mr Chamberlain's reply, which is in effect a denial. Mr Chamberlain says he met the General through invitation of a mutual friend, but that the whole interview was private, and that the General was not justified in quoting publicly anything which took place. While he cannot now tax his memory as to details of the conversation, he is quite sure General Burroughs is mistaken. Mr Chamberlain says further that as he was only in the Orkneys for a few hours he did not know enough of the circumstances to pass an opinion, but if there are a considerable number of crofter tenants, he knows no reason why the Act should not apply to the Orkneys.

 

1887 November 16 The Scotsman

 

A CROFTER CONFIRMED IN HIS HOLDING. - Proceedings were commenced in the Sheriff Court, Kirkwall, some time ago by General Burroughs, Rousay, to have William Craigie, Cruar, Rousay, ejected from his holding on the ground that he had no title. The crofter resisted the action, and applied to the Crofters Commission to have it declared that he was a crofter within the meaning of the Crofters Act. The Commissioners called for affidavits, and after considering these and other documents, have issued the following interlocutor in favour of the crofter, with modified expenses: - Wick, 12th November 1887. The Commissioners resumed consideration of this application, with affidavits lodged, under the order 21 October last, and whole other documents produced. Find that the applicant is a crofter within the meaning of the Crofter Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886, and hereby decide according; find the applicant entitled to expenses from the respondent; modify the same to the sum of £1 2s. sterling.

 

1887 November 25 The Scotsman

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

"A CROFTER CONFIRMED IN HIS HOLDING."

 

Rousay, Orkney, N. B., November 18, 1887.

 

Sir, - I observe in The Scotsman of the 16th inst., which reached me this day, a paragraph with the above heading, giving an imperfect account of the particulars of a case decided against me by the Crofter Commissioners. May I ask you to publish my statement of the case?

     The following provision exists in all leases on my estate, viz.: - "All assignees, whether legal or voluntary, and all sub-tenants except those recognised in the tack by the landlord, are expressly excluded."

     The farm of Avalshay, enclosed by a stone dyke ring fence, and measuring about eighty-five acres arable and forty-eight acres pasture, in the island of Rousay, was let under the above condition to Mr. Leslie Mainland up to 1876. There was also the usual provision in his lease binding the tenant "to flit and remove himself, his wife, bairns, family, servants, goods and gear furth and from the said possession at the expiry of this tack." To assist him in cultivating this farm, Leslie Mainland had a brother, John Mainland, and his family occupying one-half of the dwelling-house on the farm, whilst he and his family occupied the other half. He had also a nephew, a sister’s son, William Craigie, occupying a separate house on it called Cruar. Neither John Mainland nor William Craigie was recognised in the tack as a sub-tenant. The two families in the one house quarrelled, and Leslie resigned his lease in 1876. His brother John continued on the farm on a lease from year to year, and he continued his nephew William Craigie in the house he occupied on it, called Cruar. John Mainland threw up his lease in November 1886. The farm was left in very bad order, and I had to take it into my own occupation. William Craigie, the nephew, fully aware that he was bound to flit with his uncle in November 1886, called on me on the 12th October of that year and asked me to allow him to remain in the house of Cruar on the farm of Avalsay until the next May term, to enable him to look out for a house elsewhere. I did so. When the May term arrived, William Craigie again called on me and told me that the local Land Leaguers were urging him to contend with me, but he had no wish to do so. He asked me for a farm then vacant on my estate. I told him to see the factor about it. He did so, but offered so very inadequate a rent that he and my factor did not come to terms. William Craigie thereupon made application to the Crofter Commissioners, and they, as described in the Scotsman of the 16th inst., have decreed that he is a crofter, which means that he and his heirs are to be permitted to squat on the farm of Avalshay as long as they pay a rent to be fixed by the Crofter Commissioners, against whose decrees there is no appeal.

     A result of their decision is that with this squatter on it the farm cannot be turned to profitable account without incurring the expense of walling him in; and it is unlettable. It would also appear that every farm-servant may now be decreed to be a crofter and have fixity of tenure in his dwelling.

     As there appears to be no appeal against the decisions of the Crofter Commissioners, may I ask you to publish this statement of the case.

     In order to point out the effect of the Crofter Holdings (Scotland) Act on landowners in "crofting counties" who have tenants paying £30 a year rent and under, called "crofters," I may add that under its provisions land occupied by crofters is forcibly taken from landowners without compensation, and is handed over to a privileged class of persons called crofters, who have no just claim to it, and to their heirs and successors for ever, so long as they continue to pay, not its market value, but a fancy rent that may be put on it by the Crofter Commissioners. A continuance of this policy will soon reduce the "crofting" counties to the state of Ireland.

     What, may I ask, would the tradesmen of our towns say and do if a Parliamentary Commission were to be appointed to cancel the debts owing to them by their debtors; and to ticket the goods in their shop windows at half their market prices, and compel them to sell at these prices? I think riots and disturbances would soon ensue. And yet this is the treatment being dealt out to landowners in the Highlands and Islands. - I am, &c.

 

                                                                  F. BURROUGHS.

 

1888 May 2 The Scotsman

 

DESIRABLE FARM IN ROUSAY (ORKNEY)

FOR SALE

LANDS OF HULLION, ROUSAY

For Sale, by Private Bargain (entry as may be arranged)

The FARM and LANDS of HULLION and others in the ISLAND of ROUSAY, ORKNEY, consisting of about 28 Acres Arable, together with the share (along with the adjoining Lands of Newhouse) of the Hill Common, extending to ----- [illegible] Acres or thereby.

     The Farm is in the natural occupation of the Owner, and is in good order. There are two good Dwelling-Houses of six rooms each, and a good Steading on the Lands; also a Merchant’s Shop. The Shop has suitable accommodation, and the Business is of long standing.

     Annual Superior Duty (arranged for seven years), £2 5s. 5d. The Tiends are exhausted. Minister’s Stipend, £3 3s. 3d.

     If not Sold by Private Bargain, the Lands will be Exposed to Public Sale (in whole or lots) on a Day to be afterwards Advertised.

     For further particulars apply to Messrs HENRY & SCOTT, S.S.C., 30 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, or to the Subscribers, who have the Plan and Titles, and will receive offers.

HEDDLE & DREVER, Solicitors. KIRKWALL, 18th April 1888

1888 August 17 Peterhead Sentinel

 

The Reverend Alexander Spark, erstwhile minister of Boddam, has been little heard of since he immured himself in the lonely solitude of Rousay; but it may interest his many friends and acquaintances this quarter to hear that he is conducting a lively and interesting litigation with his heritors in regard the condition of his manse. It was at one time in the Court of Session; but latterly it has been under the cognizance of the Sheriff-Substitute of Orkney, who has just issued a most elaborate and lengthy decision. His lordship sustains the claim of Mr Spark that his water-main should have a gun-metal stop-cock, but he refuses a whole lot of other claims by Mr Spark, who has apparently been demanding bed-room accommodation for two more people and byre accommodation for two more cattle, and sundry other luxuries. Still, Mr Spark, I gather from the interlocutor, has made good his title to “zinc sash chains” for his windows (the heritors wanted to put him off with ropes) and white marble chimney-pieces in his dining and drawing room; and he has triumphantly vindicated the claim of a parish minister be provided with a boiler in his scullery at the expense of the heritors. Altogether Mr Spark is to have his manse repaired and altered to an extent involving a cost of £600, which is nearly a sixth of the gross rental of his parish. And I suppose after all a minister perhaps preaches none the worse because he has been fighting with the heritors over gun-metal stop-cocks and zinc sash chains.

 

1888 September 21 Glasgow Herald

 

CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY

 

GENERAL BURROUGHS'S TENANTRY

 

(From our Special Correspondent.)

Kirkwall, Thursday Night.

 

The Commission held a sitting in the Kirkwall Court-house to-day to hear evidence from the island Rousay, the property of General Burroughs. There has been more disturbance on this property than on any in Orkney, and the Royal Commission in 1883 considered this one of the few places where rack-renting existed. The witnesses crossed from Rousay to Kirkwall in their own boats to be present at the sitting.

 

Mr ROBERTSON, solicitor, Kirkwall, appearing for General Burroughs, made a brief preliminary statement about, the property. He said an arrangement had been come to by which the proprietor should pay the whole poor rates and the tenants the whole road rates. It was said that this had been an advantage to the proprietor, but that was not the case, for up till 1884 he had paid £591 over what the half of both rates would have been. He had erected a pier at a cost of £620, and charged no dues. The evidence was then proceeded with, and in nearly every case the most remarkable feature was the extraordinary rises of rent.

 

In the first case the witness said that prior to 1852 his rent was £6. It had then been raised to £9; in 1871 to £11; and in l879 to £15. No land had been added during that time, but he had been deprived of the right of grazing on Kierfea Hill.

 

In the second case the applicant said he had succeeded to the croft in 1882 at a rent of £4, and it was still the same. He had been along with his father before that, but he did not know when his father had paid rent last.

 

Mr ROBERTSON explained that the applicant's father had sat from 1864 to 1881 without paying any rent.

 

Mr THOMSON said he could not pass over that statement. There was something behind it which the Commission should know. The applicant had told him that there had been an arrangement made with the factor by which he (the witness) got the croft for nothing, on condition that he should keep his father and mother from being paupers, An arrangement had been made as already explained by which General Burroughs paid the whole poor rates, and the tenants the whole road rates. There was, therefore, a bit of policy in this arrangement apparently for the benefit of the applicant. As long as they had the croft Colonel Burroughs had not to pay them an allowance as paupers. It was not a bad move at all. (Laughter.)

 

The CHAIRMAN (to witness) - You prevented your father and mother from becoming paupers? - A. Yes, my Lord, at that time.

 

And thereby saved General Burroughs paying rates for your father and mother? – A. Yes, my Lord.

 

In another case during the day Mr THOMSON said there had been a similar giving of poor-rates. The tenant was an old widow, who had been sitting rent free for some years. She had been left with a young family, and had brought them up with her own work. She had got no parochial assistance.

 

In most of the other cases the rises of rent were the only remarkable point. There had been a general raising of the rent in 1859, 1872, and 1879, with the result that rents were more than doubled during the time. No change had been made in the holdings except the reclamations effected by the tenants themselves. In every case the witnesses complained of the loss of grazing as well as the rise of rent.

 

The CHAIRMAN asked one man if rents never came down in Rousay, and he replied that they always went up.

 

One case which gave rise to a good deal of discussion, and brought out more than ordinary interest, was that of an applicant who said he had succeeded to a tenant, James Leonard, four years ago.

 

Mr THOMSON drew the attention of the Commissioners to the evidence given by this James Leonard before Lord Napier's Commission.

 

Mr ROBERTSON objected that it was quite irrelevant to the present case, but the Chairman allowed the matter to be gone into.

 

Mr THOMSON pointed out that Lord Napier had asked General Burroughs to give his word that Leonard would not be disturbed for giving his evidence. This General Burroughs had declined to do, and he accordingly evicted him immediately after having built a new house.

 

Mr ROBERTSON - He got compensation.

 

Mr THOMSON - That is denied.

 

The witness, being examined by the CHAIRMAN, said that James Leonard was his brother-in-law, and had preceded him in the holding. He had given evidence before Lord Napier's Commission, and after he gave the evidence he was put out of the croft.

 

The CHAIRMAN took up the report of the Royal Commission, and quoted at some length from General Burroughs’ statement, in which he justified himself for turning out a man who would be troublesome on the property.

 

Mr ROBERTSON said that General Burroughs never acknowledged Leonard as his tenant, but Leonard’s father.

 

Mr THOMSON said he would accept that, as in that case the present applicant, as son-in-law could claim the house he had entered, and for which his brother-in-law, Leonard, had got no compensation.

 

When all the cases called for to-day were disposed of, Mr THOMSON drew the attention of the Commissioners to the fact that the rental of Rousay in 1854 was £1289, while according to the statement made by Mr Robertson to-day it was now £3184. This meant a rise of about 200 per cent. since 1854.

 

The CHAIRMAN said that somebody's rents must have got up.

 

The remainder of the Rousay cases will be heard to-morrow.

1888 September 22 Glasgow Herald

 

CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY

 

GENERAL BURROUGHS’S TENANTRY

 

(From our Special Correspondent.)

Kirkwall, Friday Night.

 

The Commissioners held another sitting here today to consider applications from the island of Rousay, the property of General Burroughs. Mr Robertson, solicitor, Kirkwall, again appeared for General Burroughs and Mr Thomson, solicitor, Kirkwall, for the crofters. As on the previous day, the most remarkable feature of the inquiry was the systematic rises of rent on the tenants' own improvements.

 

The first crofter examined had only occupied his place for 14 years, and in 1878 the rent had been raised from £1 to £3. He got no additional land for that, but had since been deprived of hill grazing, which had been added to a farm.

 

In the second case, which was that of an older tenant, the rent had been raised from 10s to £3 10 in 1867, to £4 in 1872, and to £6 in 1879. As in the other case, no land had been added, but hill pasture had been taken away.

 

Another witness said he had been a sub-tenant on a farm till 1860 at a rent of £3, when the proprietor took him over, and his rent made a sudden jump to £10. He got no more land for that.

 

The CHAIRMAN - You just had the privilege of paying £10. (Laughter.)

 

Witness said the rent had again been raised to £12 in 1878, and no change made in the croft. He had spent £200 on the croft himself, and had no money left now.

 

In most of the cases there were heavy sums of arrears due, and in a good many decrees for arrears had been obtained before the passing of the Amendment Act.

 

The CHAIRMAN remarked that the Commissioners had not been on an estate where so many actions for rent had been raised.

 

Some general evidence as to the destruction by game was led by Mr THOMSON from George Reid, crofter, who appeared for his father. Before coming to this evidence, and while giving in detail the improvements made on the holding, Reid explained that he had written to General Burroughs saying that he was going to apply to the Commission, and asking for information about some drainage done. He received a reply from the factor, instructed by General Burroughs, to the effect that the proprietor would furnish the Commission with information, and it was unreasonable of him to expect that the proprietor would assist him with information to be used in a claim against himself. Both the letters were produced, and -

 

The CHAIRMAN, having read them, said - I think it right to say that there was nothing unreasonable. lt is a very respectful letter, and why the estate should refuse to give the information I do not see.

 

In continued examination, the witness said his father’s rent had been raised from £9 to £10 in 1867, and one acre arable and three acres outrun taken away in 1872 without any change on the croft, and in 1879 it was raised from £15 to £25, with 16½ acres of hill ground added. Having made the calculation, the CHAIRMAN said – That is 14s 9d, an acre for hill; it seems pretty smart. (Laughter.)

 

Concerning the question of game, the witness said the hares and grouse were preserved in Rousay, and that great damage was done to turnips by the hares, and to corn stooks by the grouse.

 

The CHAIRMAN – Does the Ground Game Act not extend to Rousay? - Yes; but it is practically of no use.

 

How? - Because before the Crofters Act passed if a tenant was known to keep a gun he might look out at the term.

 

And the same good old feeling still prevails. Have you got a gun now? – No; not for 20 years.

Is the landlord a strict game preserver? - We think that anyhow.

 

Mr THOMSON – Is it notorious that there is more game in Rousay than anywhere else in Orkney?

 

Over twenty cases were disposed of, which concluded the evidence from Rousay.

 

Mr ROBERTSON then read a statement which had been prepared by Colonel Burroughs to be submitted to the Commission. Before reading it, he briefly alluded to an insinuation made once or twice that when tenants sat rent free it was to the advantage of the proprietor, as he had undertaken to pay all the poor-rates. He would meet that insinuation with a statement he had previously made, that the proprietor lost over £570 up till 1884 by this arrangement.

 

Mr ROBERTSON then read General Burroughs's statement, which was of great length, and showed with considerable detail the improvement on the state of Orkney in general, and the island of Rousay in particular, since the year 1840. Since purchasing he had expended £40,000 on it, the circumstances of the people had improved very much, and he did not believe the statements that were made about their poverty. He instanced the number of ministers and schoolmasters now in the island.

 

The CHAIRMAN asked if General Burroughs meant to suggest that the spiritual and educational provision was excessive? (Laughter.)

 

Mr ROBERTSON said it was just to show the advance in all respects. The statement gave with great detail the many advantages which the Rousay tenants enjoyed, and concluded with the expression of General Burroughs's belief that it was outside agitators that had spread the feeling of discontent among his tenants.

 

Mr THOMSON replied that the statement was exactly on the lines and breathing the spirit he would have expected from the source it came. It was in harmony with General Burroughs's general actions. As regarded the question of poor-rates, he would not accept Mr Robertson's statement. Whatever it might be in general, he would maintain that the particular case he had brought forward was clearly a case of finessing on the part of General Burroughs to get rid of paying poor-rates by giving a woman her croft free, and getting her son to keep her. lt had been stated that £40,000 had been expended by General Burroughs on the estate, but before accepting that he would require to get the statement detailed, as a large portion of that had been spent on General Burroughs's residence, on steadings for big farms, and on enclosing hills to keep out the crofters. (Laughter.) With regard to the statement that there were four ministers to 1100 souls, Mr Thomson remarked that it should be known that the number of souls in Rousay had decreased from 1263 to 1118 in General Burroughs’s time, which showed that he had made Rousay rather hot for them. (Laughter.) As to the manner in which General Burroughs had treated his tenants, the evidence led before the Court would show that the rents of crofts had been quadrupled during his time. The numerous actions which he had raised against his tenants clearly indicated the manner in which he dealt with them. Mr Thomson was glad to say that this was the only estate in Orkney where such harshness had been dealt out to crofters.

 

The final sitting in Orkney will be held to-morrow.

1888 October 2 Glasgow Herald

 

THE CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY

 

DECISIONS ON ROUSAY AND OTHER ESTATES

 

(From our Special Correspondent.)

Kirkwall, Monday Night

 

The last batch of decisions which the Commissioners intend to issue at present in the Orkney cases was lodged with the Sheriff-Clerk here to-day. They included final orders in the applications from Rousay, Westray, and part of the mainland, and the results were in several respects the most unexpected of any yet produced. Before going into the details of to-day's decisions it may be explained that, including those issued last week, the Commissioners have now finally disposed of 283 cases in the county of Orkney, showing an average reduction of 26½ per cent. on the rental, and arrears cancelled to the extent of 49½ per cent.

 

The total rental of £3542 4s 6d on which the Commissioners were asked to adjudicate has been reduced to £2591 9s 6d, and of £3175 7s 6d of arrears £1567 13s 2d have been cancelled. This result as a whole has caused considerable surprise, as it was urged by many that the county of Orkney did not require a visit from the Commissioners; and it had been even prophesied that rises of rent would have been the result of their visit. Very special interest was taken in the batch issued to-day, as it was understood to include those on General Burroughs's estate of Rousay, where the agitation was more vigorous than in any part of Orkney, and  from the evidence given by the tenants it was anticipated that the reductions would be the most severe the Commissioners had yet issued. The result, however, was a complete surprise. In 42 applications from Rousay the average reduction was only 28½ per cent, on the rental, and about half of the arrears were cancelled. The rental was reduced from £350 to £250 8s, and £157 17s 9d of arrears were cancelled out of a total of £289 4s 9d. Only in the case of one or two small rents did the reduction amount to 50 per cent., while in four cases the rents were unaltered, and in one case there was actually a rise.....

 

The Commissioners intended to leave Kirkwall to-day by the steamer St Olaf, but a severe storm has prevented her crossing the Pentland Firth. They will cross to Scrabster to-morrow morning, if the storm abates, and it is understood that they will begin sitting in Lewis at an early date.

 

The following is the table of decisions:-

 

ISLAND OF ROUSAY

 

PROPRIETOR – LIEUTENANT-GENERAL BURROUGHS

table 1 table 2

1888 October 10 Falkirk Herald

 

THE CHANNEL FLEET KIRKWALL. - On Monday the Northumberland was thrown open to visitors, and though a stiff breeze of westerly wind was blowing, and the sea was a little choppy, large numbers of people visited the vessel. The little steamer Otter and a number of sailing boats plied between Kirkwall pier and the fleet till dark, and had a busy time of it. During the day the several boats’ crews engaged at torpedo practice in the bay, and were watched with great interest by large numbers of people on the quay. In the morning Admiral Baird and party sailed across to the Island of Rousay to have a day's sport with General Burroughs, and a number of officers were shooting and fishing on the mainland, the favourite resort for the anglers being the Loch of Stenness. In the evening Provost Peace dined with Admiral Baird on the flagship. No sailors or marines got ashore yesterday, but about 400 got into town on Sunday night.

 

1888 November 2 Dundee Courier

 

Studying the Currents. - ln the Island of Veira, which lies between Rousay and Kirkwall, there has been discovered a glass bottle, egg-shaped, nearly flat on the top, protected by a copper case of similar shape, but larger, the space between being filled with some sort of black substance resembling pitch. Inside was a paper bearing the following words in nine different languages:- "ln order to study the currents this paper has been thrown into the sea at the instance of Professor Pouchet, and in compliance with a resolution of the Municipal Council of Paris at their sitting of March 26,1886, during the third scientific expedition of the yacht L'Hirondelle, commanded by his Highness the Prince of Monaco. Any person finding the said document is asked to send it to the French Government, stating the circumstances under which it was found."

 

1888 December 1 The Scotsman

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

THE DECISIONS OF THE CROFTER COMMISSIONERS IN ORKNEY

 

Rousay, Orkney, N.B., November 23, 1888.

 

SIR, - Since the departure of the Crofter Commissioners from these Northern Isles, I have been endeavouring to account for the reasons for the reductions of rent and cancelling of arrears of rent decreed by them on my estate.

    Although the reduction of my rental on the rents of fifty crofters for one year is comparatively small, and amounts to little more than £2 per each, and comes to £104 16s., yet in seven years over which period the decision of the Commissioners extends, it totals up to the sum of £733 12s., which, together with £136 2s. of arrears cancelled, represents a fine levied upon me of £869 14s.

    I may be permitted to ask, why am I thus fined? I am not a rebel or a malefactor, to be thus treated. I and mine have done all in our power to improve this estate and the condition of all on it, and during the past forty years have laid out £40,000 on estate improvements. Why then, I ask, should the land held of me by crofters be now forcibly taken from me without compensation, and be handed over in perpetuity to a class of persons called crofters (who have no just right to it) and to their heirs, as long as they choose to continue to pay a rent below its market value fixed by a Parliamentary Commission, which is empowered to adjudicate in this matter every seven years, and thus perpetuate friction between landlords and tenants, and continue to foster ill-feeling between the masses and the classes?

    Truly may it be said, in the words of a late distinguished author, that "the rigours of law may equal, if they do hot often excel, the ravages of the most unjust despotism."

    I find the decrees of the Commissioners have worked the following results on the rentals of the fifty so called "crofters" on my estate who made application to them to have "fair rents" fixed. These "fair rents" have reduced these crofters' rents to either what they were or below what they were from six to thirty-four years ago....

    [A table was inserted here, showing the results of the decisions of the Crofters Commissioners on the estate of Rousay. It contained the number of crofts; the year back to which rent had been reduced; the number of years ago to which rent had been reduced; present rent (before decrease); fair rent (as decreased); and the rent in the year to which now reduced.]

    The following tabular form [not included here], abridged into decades from the more extended one I laid before the Commission, shows the average prices obtained for bere (a species of barley), oats, cattle and sheep, for the last forty-two years on my home farms , of Westness from 1845 to 1875, and Trumland from 1876 to 1887. At Westness the sheep stock was Leicester and Cheviot crossed; at Trumland it is Blackfaced. Wheat is not grown in Orkney. Rent is calculated principally on the produce of live stock.

    The.....table will show, as was stated in a local newspaper, and as is noted in a “statement” that I laid before the Commission, that “the Orkney live stock market has in no sense suffered to the same extent as the counties and districts in other parts of Scotland. These Islands have all along been free from infectious disease, and while other markets have been tabooed theirs have always been open to the southern buyer.” There is a falling off in the price of oats since 1879, but as crofters say they buy and do not sell oats, this is in their favour.

    Considering the very great impetus which has been given to the prosperity of these northern islands since the introduction and yearly increase of steam communication with southern markets, as pointed out in my “statement” above alluded to, the reductions of rent, as decreed by the Crofter Commissioners in Orkney, are simply inexplicable. Little or no consideration appears to have been paid by them as to the amount of money expended by proprietors on the improvement of their estates; and little or no difference has been made by them in the reductions decreed, whether the proprietor has so laid out much or laid out no money at all. At the same time, every assertion of expenditure made by a crofter, however unsupported by vouchers or any proof whatsoever, and regardless of any agreement he may have made with his landlord, appears to have been credited. It must be borne in mind, also, that the erection of a crofter’s dwelling house (mason and joiner work), measuring 30 by 12 by 6 ft., inside measurements, costs in 1888 about £10; in 1840 it cost about £5. For the same accommodation in any town a rent of at least £5 a year would be charged. The Commissioners appear to have acted as if they had been sent only to make reductions of rent and to forgive debts all round, and, with slight exceptions, they have done so.

    And what, I ask, but endless confusion can be expected as the result of this interference with the security of property, this banishing of the laws of political economy to Saturn, in response to a party cry, got up for political purposes by certain atrocity-mongers and faddists and “old Parliamentary hands,” by which the good name of landowners in the northern counties of Scotland is being defamed and their property robbed? And why, for so unjust a cause, it may be asked, are three men invested with infallibility, and against whose decisions there is no appeal, to be permitted, at considerable expense to the State, to go through the northern counties of Scotland, with power to annul the provisions of leases, and to override laws hitherto held as just between contracting parties? As one instance of this out of many, I may mention that one of my farms, measuring 60 acres arable and 27 acres pasture, which has been held on lease, and has been occupied in joint-tenancy by two men for the past forty-three years, and which since 1897 has been rented at £60 a year, apparently for no other reason than because sixty divided by two makes thirty, has been decreed by the Commissioners to be two crofters’ holdings, and its rent has been reduced from £60 to £35 12s. (or £17 16s. for each man.) Its rent was £42 in 1854, thirty-four years ago. And since the publication of the fair-rent decisions by the Commissioners, one of my crofters has given up his croft. It was no sooner vacant than I received three offers for it at the rent it was before being reduced by the Commission, showing that the old rent was not too high, although 30 per cent. higher than that fixed by the Commission.

    The foregoing tabular statement of the reductions of rent would furnish many other extraordinary instances of the judgements decreed by the Commissioners, but I fear I have already trespassed too much on your space to do so.

    As might be expected, their decisions are pleasing but very few even of the crofters themselves, for many of them are now crying out that decisions are reckless, senseless, and unjust that many amongst themselves with better bargains with their landlords have received greater reductions of rent than others less favourably situated; and that those who have dishonestly withheld payment of rent have had their debts forgiven, whilst those who have honestly paid their debts have thus been losers by doing so.

    In fact, landowners are being impoverished and disheartened at the treatment being dealt out to them, and the rural population is being demoralised by this most unreasonable legislation, and the sooner a return is made to the paths of honesty and common-sense, the better will it be for the whole community.

    Trusting that the importance of the subject to a large portion of your readers may be my excuse for trespassing at such length on your space – I am, &c.

 

                                                                         F. BURROUGHS, Lt-Genl.

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