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ROUSAY IN NEWSPRINT - Part 9

1883 August 28 Aberdeen Journal

 

A FALSE ALARM. – The yacht Falcon, with Mr McDonald, town clerk of Inverness, and party on board, which has been cruising in Orkney during the past week, arrived at Rousay on the day fixed by some unknown desperado for the attack on General Burroughs, notice of which the general had received by letter. The good folks of Rousay watched the suspicious-looking yacht with considerable interest, not unmingled with apprehension, and the news that the attacking party had arrived soon spread. Mr McDonald relieved the islanders by the assurance that he had no such sanguinary intentions. He has had good sport in shooting and fishing.

 

1883 September 13 Dundee Advertiser

 

STRANGE ADVENTURE OF A HORSE. - A somewhat remarkable incident is reported from the island of Rousay, Orkney, where a restive horse broke loose recently, and ended his stampede by falling over precipice 120 feet in height into the sea. The horse was supposed to have been killed, but on the day after the accident he was discovered about a quarter of mile from where he fell over, imprisoned in a geo or deeply-indented narrow bay in the cliffs. On the following day an extemporised crane was formed of smacks’ masts and cart wheels, and when the animal was hoisted safely up was found to be little the worse of his terrific fall and two days’ imprisonment, the only mark upon him being one or two slight scratches.

 

 

 

 

1883 September 21 Dundee Courier

 

THE CROFTERS COMMISSION. – The witnesses examined before the Crofters Commission, sitting at Kirkwall yesterday, were crofter tenants from General Burroughs’ property, the Island of Rousay, one of the few places where Lord Napier’s Commission considered rack-renting to exist, and the only place in Orkney where agitation has shown itself. The most interesting feature was the raising of rental, as shown in the first case, where rent prior to 1852 had been £6, and was then raised to £9. It was raised to £11 in 1871, and to £15 in 1879. No land had been added. One applicant had lived along with his father, who had the croft free from 1864 to 1881. He had arranged with the factor to do so, to keep his parents from being paupers. Mr Thomson drew attention to the fact that General Burroughs had made an arrangement with his tenants to pay all the poor rates if they paid the road rates. He considered it a good move. The Chairman – “Oh, yes; if he paid no rent, General Burroughs paid no rates for him.’ (Laughter) The rises of rent in some cases were 300 or 400 per cent. since 1859.

1883 September 22 Dundee Courier

 

RACK-RENTING IN ORKNEY. – The sittings of the Crofters’ Commission in Orkney have for the most part had very little interest for the general public. A good deal of the work performed was of a routine description, the evidence tendered being unrelieved by a solitary incident worthy of mention. On Thursday, however, a change “came o’er the spirit of the scene.” The dull reign of monotony was broken by a series of remarkable disclosures, and, compared with the common-place proceedings experienced on former days, the sitting might be described as highly sensational. The Island of which gained so unenviable a notoriety for its proprietor General Burroughs some five years ago was brought under the investigation of the Commission, and, as might have been expected from the antecedents of the estate management, the position of affairs is shown in discreditable, and, we are tempted to say, dishonourable acts of oppression. The General is one of those autocratic lords of the soil whose one rule of conduct is that they have a right to do what they like with their own. The land is his own, and the fact of his possession is ample justification of his actions. This doctrine would have prevailed once on a day. It dominated over men’s minds too long, but it is played out now, and the man who would dare to revive it must be either crack-brained or strangely ignorant of the change which has been wrought in public sentiment. If General Burroughs is under the impression that tenants exist for no other purpose than to be squeezed to the uttermost farthing for the benefit of the landlord he must be speedily disabused of such a motion. Yet this is what the administration of the property discloses. An industrious tenant improves the land, and the penalty of a big rise of rent is ruthlessly exacted. A year or two passes, and the screw is again applied with merciless severity, this rack-renting on the tenant's own improvements being carried on in such a systematic fashion as to show as the net result of this grasping policy in the course of thirty-four years an increase of about 200 per cent. of rent. On many holdings the rent was more than doubled in a few years’ time, and be it remembered that no change had been made on such crofts beyond the reclamation effected by the tenants themselves. Their privileges were rather curtailed instead of increased, all the witnesses on Thursday complaining of having been deprived of the hill grazing. Upon one other matter a strange light was thrown. It appears that the General had entered into an arrangement with his tenants by which he should pay the whole poor rates and the tenants the whole road rates. Two cases were stated to the Commission as evidence of the sharp kind of practice by which the landlord contrived to keep himself clear of his part of the bargain. Nor does the tyrannical spirit manifested towards a tenant who had the temerity to give evidence before Lord Napier’s Commission help to shield General Burroughs’ from public opprobrium. It was surely an act of vindictive spite to evict a man immediately after building a new house because he had appeared to give his testimony against a bad landlord. The state of matters in Rousay and the high-handed doings of its martinet proprietor, supply the latest justification for the existence of the Crofter Commission, and will immensely strengthen the plea for immediate remedial legislation.

 

1883 September 24 Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer

 

THE CROFTERS COMMISSION. – The Crofters Commission resumed their sitting on Friday, and finished the cases on the Rousay estate. There are a number of crofters on this estate unable to apply to the Commission, being under leases. Nearly all the crofters in giving their evidence stated that they had been deprived of hill-grazing, one of them stating that hares and grouse were preserved in Rousay, and that although they had the Ground Game Act, their Swedish turnips had to be taken and put in pits, and their land was very much subject to grubs and finger-and-toe. In cross-examination the witness, who was 41 years of age, said that he never saw a hare killed in Rousay but once. Since the passing of the Ground Game Act no hares could be got except where they were preserved, which was on the largest part of the island. The witness also stated that on a harvest morning he had seen over 100 grouse on his stooks at one time, from which they received considerable damage. Before the court rose Mr. Robertson stated that General Burroughs had spent during the last twelve years £480 on the estate, and that the crofters did not suffer from sea-gust, there being no crofts in the exposed district and no burning from sand. It was one of the best islands in Orkney for fishing, and since 1840 he had spent £40,000 on his estate. Mr. Thompson, in reply, referred to the progressive rise in the rent, showing they had been quadrupled during General Burroughs’ proprietorship, and also to the numerous actions brought against his tenants. General Burroughs’ estate was the only one where such harshness had been used. Regarding the £40,000 spent on his estate, Mr. Thompson said it should be mentioned that there had been a mansion-house built, large steadings enclosing hills to keep out crofters, and perhaps rebatement of rents.

1883 October 20 Aberdeen Journal

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

THE ROUSAY EVICTIONS.

Trumbland, Rousay, 13th Oct., 1883

 

SIR, - I observe in your paper of the 10th inst. a paragraph headed "Eviction of Rousay Crofters," which proceeds to say that James Leonard and James Grieve have been warned out of their holdings. Neither James Leonard nor James Grieve are Rousay crofters. James Leonard's father did up to his death, some months ago, hold from me a small farm named Digro, of about nine acres in extent, in the district of Sourin, Rousay. His son James, who is precentor of the Free Church here, never was my tenant, but he is anxious to be so; but after having poured out a string of complaints in very uncomplimentary language against me, as reported in detail in some four columns of a local newspaper, in which he and the Free Church minister in this parish combine in describing me as unchristian, inhuman, unrighteous, unjust, oppressive, &c., James Leonard says "he was always opposed to General Burroughs;" and would “oppose me till death;” that they had a local despotism which they wished removed; that "in every battle some had to fall; though he should fall in this battle he would fight it out;" and "a man's a man for a' that!" and other similar sentiments. As no business, whether of agriculture or of any other description, can prosper where such want of unanimity exists between those engaged in it, I decline to accept him as a tenant. And I do not think any other employer would employ anyone who threatened to be so troublesome. He is by trade a mason and a weaver, and he is a teacher of singing, and is not dependent upon farming for a livelihood. James Grieve, too, is not my tenant. He returned a few years ago from the colonies, boasting of having made money, and that he was looking out for a farm. He came to visit his brother, who is tenant of "Outerdykes," in the district of Sourin, Rousay. He married a housemaid who had been some years in my house; and out of kindness to her, her husband was permitted to squat for a time on his brother's farm to enable him to look out for a farm for himself. Years have passed, farms in various parts of this county have been advertised to be let, but James Grieve is still here. He joined the Free Church minister in his attack upon me, and said he agreed in his evil opinion of me; that my tenants were ''in a condition generally of great and increasing poverty;" that they were ground down and oppressed, and generally most miserable. I have no wish that any of my tenants should be miserable, and not being desirous of being a party to James Grieve's misery, I decline to accept him as a tenant. I may add that when my wife and I left Rousay last winter, we left home and all around us in peace, happiness, goodwill, and contentment. We were on friendly terms with the Free Church minister, and had been so with his predecessor the Rev. N. P. Rose, who visited Rousay shortly before the arrival of the Crofter Commission. The only differences I ever had with the Free Church minister were differences of opinion on School Board matters. From James Leonard's father I never had a complaint during the thirty years I knew him. He was a very respectable, peaceable man, and I had always been on the most friendly terms with him. From his son James, too, I never had a complaint, excepting in my position of chairman of the School Board, when he complained of inhumanity (a favourite expression of his) against a teacher. James Leonard called on me on the 29th September, and asked me whether I was in earnest in intending him not to have the farm of Digro. I said I was, and explained to him why. He said he had no ill-will against me; that he had been put up to it to appear against me, but that he did not mean it, and that he had been told that funds would not be wanting to oppose me. From James Grieve, too, I never before had a complaint, excepting that be objected to pay for fuel, and that he wanted a farm, and there was no farm vacant to suit him. My surprise, therefore, may be imagined at the torrent of invective that was so freely poured out upon me by the Free Church minister and his delegates before the Crofter Commission. On leaving home in my steam yacht on the morning of its sitting in Kirkwall, I passed the Free Church minister and his friends becalmed in a boat about a mile from Rousay. Seeing their difficulty, and that they might be too late for the meeting, I towed their boat some eight or nine miles into Kirkwall, which, had I suspected their spiteful attack upon me, I need hardly say I should not have done. Since I succeeded to this estate it has ever been my endeavour to do my duty by it, and to advance the well-being and prosperity of all on it. The measure of success that has attended my efforts is apparent to all who remember Rousay then and see it now. To those unacquainted with the locality, I may mention that when I first came to Orkney in 1848 there were no roads in Rousay, and consequently very few carts. Now there are some twenty miles of excellent roads, and every farmer has one or more carts, and many have gigs and other description of carriages. Then there was no regular post to the island, and no regular means of communication from the island to anywhere beyond it, or even to any place within it. Now there is a daily post to and from the island, and a. daily post-runner around it. There was then no pier, and no public means of transit of goods to and from the county town. Now there is a pier, built at my own expense, and a steamer, of which I am the principal shareholder, plying regularly to and from Kirkwall, but which has not yet paid a dividend. Then the houses generally were very comfortless, few had any fireplace beyond a stone in the centre of the dwelling, with a hole in the roof above it. Now such an arrangement is hardly to he met with. Many new houses and steadings have been built by me at considerable expense, and to encourage comfort prizes are annually awarded to the cleanest, prettiest, and best kept cottages. Agriculture was then in a very primitive condition. Now as good crops of oats, bere, and turnips are to be seen here as anywhere in the kingdom; and the sheep and cattle will now bear favourable comparison with those of most counties. We have, too, our local agricultural society, with annual ploughing and hoeing matches and a cattle show. And we have our battery of Volunteer Artillery. In fact, the Rousay of to-day is a very different place to what it was 25 years ago, and how anybody can truthfully say that the condition of its inhabitants is one of "great and increasing poverty," as stated by the Rev. A. McCallum, passes my comprehension. Since I retired from the active list of the army, my wife and I have made Rousay our home. We have built a new house, and laid out its grounds, and have given much employment to those around us, and she has been the prime mover in all affecting the happiness and welfare of the inhabitants of the island, many of whom have written to us, and most of those whom we have met since the visit of the Crofter Commission have voluntarily told us that they did not share in the movements or sentiments of my detractors. And I have received most kind and thoughtful letters of sympathy from hundreds of old soldiers of my old regiment – the 93rd Highlanders – from all parts of Scotland, telling me “that they are full of indignation and anger at the treatment you have received, for they cannot think that he whom they served so long, and who treated them on all occasions with so much kindness and liberality, could behave so differently to others.” My surprise, therefore, may be imagined at the torrent of invective poured out upon me by the Free Church minister and his friends. And my surprise was still greater at receiving an anonymous threatening letter, a few days after the meeting of the Crofter Commission in Kirkwall, threatening me with death should I ever remove a tenant from my estate. I have often been shot at before, and am not to be deterred from doing what I consider right by such a menace, which I can but regard as a new formula of the highwayman's threat of old, now rendered as – “Your land or your life!"

                                                 I am, &c.,

                                                                                  F. BURROUGHS

1883 October 20 Aberdeen Journal

 

THE EVICTIONS IN ROUSAY. – A correspondent of the Orkney Herald writes:- We deeply regret to inform our readers that Lieutenant General Burroughs of Rousay has carried out the threats he uttered at the late meeting of the Royal Commission on crofters, by serving summons of “out warning” upon two of the crofters who then appeared as the chosen delegates of their fellow tenants. The public of Orkney and the country at large will thus be concerned and ashamed to know that in this nineteenth century, and in the boasted land of freedom, men dare not speak out what they think without being turned out of house and home. The evicted crofters are James Leonard, of Digro, and James Grieve, of Outerdykes – both of whom appeared as delegates at Kirkwall. In addition, Mr Leonard’s brother-in-law and sub-cottar is also, with his family, to be ejected. It will be remembered that it was James Leonard who requested from General Burroughs a promise that the delegates would not suffer for anything they might say – a promise which was refused, although pressed for by Lord Napier and Mr Cameron of Lochiel, “ruined Rousay” thus supplying the Commissioners with the spectacle of the only landlord in the country who refused to give the promise. It may also be remembered that it was James Grieve who corrected General Burroughs when he began exhibiting specimens of humanity to Lord Napier, and asked the inspector of poor to “stand up” and show himself as a fine specimen of a Rousay man – Grieve informing them that he was not a Rousay man at all. We would have supposed, however, that an officer of Her Majesty’s army would have afforded Her Majesty’s Commissioners every facility in “eliciting truth” (as their Chairman pointed out was their object) and a soldier should be the first to respect brave-minded men who were not afraid to speak it. The wife of James Grieve was the first servant in General Burroughs’ household after his marriage. The wife of James Leonard was known to be on the eve of a confinement. No considerations prevented their eviction. What fault have these men committed? None. They are men of not merely good but exemplary character, valued members of their church, and beloved among their fellow isle-men. One of them – Mr Leonard – is a Sabbath school teacher, and no teacher was ever more faithful in his work. They are neither of them one single farthing behind in their rent. They did, it is true, when Her Majesty’s Government send down Commissioners to inquire into the many and clamant grievances alleged against the land system, go forward to speak. They did so at the request of their fellow-tenants, and by their special appointment. For which of these things are they to suffer? For being honoured by their neighbours and made their chosen spokesmen? Or for the ready answer they gave to the call of Her Majesty the Queen and her Government? It is meanwhile pleasant to know that one of the evicted tenants – James Grieve, who was many years abroad, and never was a tenant under General Burroughs (being only an occupant of the part of a tenant’s house) – is possessed of some means which make him independent of that proprietor, and which would enable him to build a cottage in another part of Rousay on land over which General Burroughs has no control. In the case of Mr Leonard, however, it is different – a hard-working man with a large family, six of whom are still under school age. The loss of his croft and house is a very serious blow indeed to him and them.

 

1883 November 22 Edinburgh Evening News

 

EVICTION OF CROFTER DELEGATES IN ORKNEY. – James Leonard, one of the crofters evicted by the proprietor of Rousay Island on account of the hostile evidence he gave against General Burroughs at the meeting of the Royal Commission, has been compelled to leave Rousay with his family (five of whom are very young) and go to Kirkwall. James Grieve, another evicted delegate, who is still in the island, having got a house from a small neighbouring proprietor, has drawn up an appeal with the object of raising a sum of money to present to Leonard, to compensate him for the serious loss and hardships caused by him being ejected from the Digro croft. The lands were reclaimed by his father from the ancient commons of Rousay, and Leonard has occupied and improved them himself for about 20 years, having also built the croft-house entirely at his own cost or by the labour of his own hands. The Rev. Archibald McCallum, Free Church minister of Rousay, has given his consent to act as treasurer on the fund, which has already received considerable support.

1884 January 10 Glasgow Herald

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

THE ROUSAY EVICTIONS

Queen Street, Kirkwall, Orkney.5th January, 1884

 

SIR, - The above subject is now so widely known throughout the country at large that it is almost superfluous to write any more about it in that sense. But it is not so much to the evictions in itself I now call attention as to the effects of the evictions. Being one of the evicted parties, and the one who suffers most therefrom, I feel myself placed in a position which compels me, though very unwillingly to say a word on my own behalf. Hitherto I have carefully avoided making any reference to my own personal wants or present condition in life; it is foreign to my nature to do so; but when I review the whole proceedings from first to last, and consider that it is not only in my own interest that I now suffer, but more particularly in the interest of others and the cause for which I have striven, and still strive, to maintain, I feel it not only a duty, but a privilege, to make my own personal case more fully known to the friends of reform than at present it is. Long before the Royal Commission visited Orkney, and even before we (the crofters) ever heard of a Commission, we often wished that an opportunity might be afforded us of stating our grievances to the Government. So anxious were we on this point that at one time we even thought of sending a deputation to Mr Gladstone for assistance. But being poor of means, illiterate, and with few friends to help us (so far as we knew), we gave up the thought in hopeless despair. But no sooner did we hear of the Royal Commission coming to visit us than our drooping spirits began to revive, and some of the more sanguine, in their anxiety for deliverance, thought that immediate relief was at hand. Cheered by this thought, they set to work in right earnest. Meetings were held, delegates appointed, and several other minor points discussed and matured. At the first of these meetings I was not present, but before the second meeting was convened a deputation of the crofters waited upon me, and asked if I would kindly consent to be chairman and clerk of their future meetings. To this request I at once agreed without any hesitation, although, as I told them, I was one of the poorest among them, and had as much need to be afraid as anyone. Yet the case was so urgent and the need so great I could not refuse. Shortly after this, and about a week before the Royal Commission sat in Kirkwall, I was still further asked to act as a delegate and appear before Her Majesty's Commission in their (the crofters') behalf. This was the most trying point of all. Rumours had got afloat that General Burroughs had threatened to evict anyone who went. I had no means to rely on, a wife and small family to support, a tenant at will and nowhere to go to should I be evicted. In these trying circumstances I must confess I was at first a little undecided. But when I saw the dread and terror which pervaded every countenance at that meeting my very soul was moved with sympathy, and indignation too, to think that men, intelligent men, should be under such bondage by a fellow-creature as to be afraid to make their case known, even when asked to do so by the Government of our country. So I said before them all – “What is General Burroughs but a worm of the dust more than we are that we should he so much afraid of him. There is a higher than General Burroughs that rules over all, and to Him let us look for help and direction. By the Divine help I will go, be the consequence what it may, and state our case, fearing no man.” In this spirit I along with others did go, and faithfully as we could fulfilled our mission, although at the very time we did so a threat was held over us. The result of our doing so is already well known. General Burroughs did evict us, and that too at a most critical time with my wife and children. Surely this was too bad of General Burroughs, and ought to be considered. Had I or my brother delegate been charged with falsehood, or misrepresentation of General Burroughs’s management on his estate, there might have been a shadow of excuse for such harsh and unfeeling treatment, but as it was and is there can be none. Not a single statement made by me or my brother delegate has been nor can be called in question. Truth from the very first was our motto, and nothing but truth, and upon that rock we still stand - immovable as ever. Enemies have tried, and may yet try, to have our footing removed, but impossible. Truth must and will ultimately prevail; and although I in particular now suffer for speaking the truth, yet I rejoice to know others have done so before me; ay, even unto death. Let us not, then, be faint-hearted nor discouraged, victory is nigh. The poor shall not always be forgotten is the word of promise, and shall it not come to pass? In these few lines I have endeavoured in my own humble way to give a brief outline of the path I have trod, and the good to be reached in this great and good work, viz., freedom from landlord tyranny and oppression, for “Britons never, never shall be slaves.” Now, to conclude, I beg to be excused for what may appear to be egotistical in this humble note. The circumstances of the case demand it. Did not Nehemiah of old do the same, and who will say that he was an egotist?

 

                                    I am, &c.,

                                                                  JAMES LEONARD, the Evicted Delegate.

 

P.S. - I cannot express the gratitude I feel towards my friends and countrymen in Glasgow and elsewhere who are so nobly taking up my case. It is certainly a fulfilment of what I have always believed, viz., that “in some way or other the Lord will provide.”

1884 January 24 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

STEAMER STRANDED IN THE ORKNEYS, - A boat reached Kirkwall yesterday from Rousay, and brings the intelligence that the steamer Lizzie Burroughs, trading between Kirkwall and Rousay, Evie, and Rendall, has been stranded by Sunday's gale on the island of Egilshay, a few miles from Rousay, where the steamer had been anchored in a sheltered position, and the crew were on shore when she broke from her anchor. The steamer is reported by the captain to be considerably damaged, there being several holes in her bottom. Assistance was sent from Kirkwall yesterday afternoon. With favourable weather it is thought that the steamer may be floated off.

 

1884 January 24 Inverness Courier

 

ORKNEY – THE EVICTED CROFTER. - A correspondent writes from Orkney - Mr James Leonard, the crofter evicted from Digro, Rousay, has been living in Kirkwall since the Term, and has been fully employed at his trade of a mason. Leonard’s employment his trade, while he lived in Rousay, was very intermittent, and he had to eke out a miserable living by teaching singing classes during the winter. In addition to his earnings as a mason, Leonard has received several remittances from sympathisers in the South, and is now better off than ever he could have been had he been allowed to remain in his native Rousay.

 

The winter here has been singularly mild - all commoner kinds of flowers are in full bloom, and the turnip fields, both yellows and swedes, are commencing to shoot.

 

1884 January 26 Aberdeen People’s Journal

 

RESULTS OF GIVING EVIDENCE BEFORE THE CROFTERS’ COMMISSION. – Professor Lindsay, writing in the Pall Mall Gazette of Thursday night, says:- “You have from time to time shown an interest in the crofters of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Will you permit me to state what has befallen certain crofters’ delegates in Orkney? It may be in the recollection of your readers that at a sitting of the Commission in Kirkwall on the 23rd of July 1883 and Orcadian proprietor, Lieutenant-General Burroughs, of Rousay and Viera, refused to promise that no harm should be done to crofter delegates for giving evidence, and that a Rousay delegate, James Leonard, thereafter proceeded to give evidence ‘at his own hazard.’ On September 22 last two petitions of ejectment and removal were presented in the Sheriff Court at Kirkwall by Mr John MacRae, writer, Kirkwall, law agent for Lieut.-General Burroughs, against the above-mentioned James Leonard and a fellow-delegate, James Grieve, and in consequence both these delegates are evicted from their holdings. These cases, however, are worse than mere evictions. In the petition against Grieve the landlord asked not only for eviction, but for power to interdict the defendant “in all time coming” from entering “into any other subjects belonging to” him; and in order to make matters sure, the landlord actually asked for power to evict Malcolm Grieve, the defendant’s brother, explaining in the petition that he has no desire to evict Malcolm, provided he pays “due respect to the conditions under which possessions of the estates of Rousay and Viera are held.” It thus appears from the eviction warrants, service copies of which are now in my possession, that two Rousay delegates who were elected by their fellows to give evidence before a Commission appointed by the Government to inquire into their grievances, have been evicted from their homes, and one at them interdicted from entering on any house on the estate, and his own brother prohibited from sheltering him. The houses from which Leonard and Grieve were evicted were, I understand built by themselves – Leonard’s in 1872, and Grieve’s in 1873. Leonard has received in compensation £20, the estimated value of the woodwork in a house built wholly by himself. He is the father of nine children, four of whom are under six years of age, and his wife was confined of her youngest child between the service of the eviction warrant and his removal from the house which he had built for himself, and from the croft which he had tilled for upwards of twenty years. It cannot be said that the proprietor acted illegally in all this; but does not the fact that such things are possible, and are done, call for some alteration in the law. How can a Royal Commission on crofters’ grievances be expected to elicit a tithe of the truth if such thing can he done with impunity to witnesses after they have given evidence?

 

Some time after the sitting of the Commission at Kirkwall, General Burroughs, it is reported, received a threatening letter. The crofters indignantly deny all knowledge of the matter, and the writer is still unknown. It was the occasion, however, of proceedings which ought to be made known. On the 16th August Sheriff Thoms, the Procurator Fiscal, Mr. MacRae, and the Superintendent of Police, Mr. Grant, with others, came to Rousay from Kirkwall in a gunboat. Mr Grant, accompanied by the Procurator Fiscal’s clerk, went to the farm-house of Essaquoy, where Frederick Leonard, aged fourteen, the son of the delegate James Leonard, was herd boy. They took the boy away without producing a warrant or summons, he says, to the schoolhouse, where young Leonard found the Procurator Fiscal awaiting his arrival. There the boy was made to write on a sheet of paper, and after some detention was dismissed. Now, sir, I ask you to put these two incidents of eviction and examination together, and to remember that Mr. MacRae, the public prosecutor, is also John MacRae, writer, Kirkwall, law agent to General Burroughs. In his private capacity he acted as legal adviser to the proprietor in evicting and interdicting a witness before the Crofters’ Commission. In his public capacity he examined a delegate’s son, without the protecting presence of the Sheriff, which the law enjoins. 0n the one hand we have a Royal Commission unable to protect its own witnesses; on the other we have a Public Prosecutor, one of Her Majesty’s legal officials, seizing and examining a witness’s son in what is alleged to be an illegal way. I am far from insinuating that Mr. MacRae meant to use his public position to further his client’s private interests, or that he did so; but I ask you to consider the effect on the crofter population of Orkney; and I further ask whether the proceedings in the case of the boy Leonard do not warrant the public demanding an official inquiry on the part of the Lord Advocate, or of the Home Secretary, as to the manner in which the officials of the Orkney Sheriff Court conduct their business?”

1884 February 4 Aberdeen Free Press

 

GENERAL BURROUGHS AND THE HIGHLAND CROFTERS. - Lieutenant-General Burroughs sends the Pall Mall Gazette the following reply to the grave statements made by Professor Lindsay his letter headed as above:-

 

"My attention has just been drawn to a letter in your paper of the 24th ult., signed “Thomas M. Lindsay,” dated Free Church College, Glasgow, January 21. The writer of this letter, in alluding to the appearance of the Free Church minister in the island of Rousay, Orkney, N.B., his precentor or clerk, and two of his congregation, discontented delegates of my tenants against me before the Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands) in Kirkwall, on the 23rd of July, 1883, truly states that I refused to make any promise that notice should be taken of what these so-called “delegates” had said and should say against me. But this writer omits to mention that I was only asked to do so after they had vented their malevolence against me as reported in detail in some four columns of local newspaper, which - although they admit when questioned by Lord Napier that “General Burroughs encouraged many good things on the island in a moral and social way. His example in many respects was a model to proprietors.....The proprietor showed a very good moral example - he discouraged all forms of vice.....He took a great interest in educational matters; he was kindly in his manner with people” - yet they describe me as an un-Christian (I am a member of the Church of England, and a regular attendant at the parish church), inhuman, unrighteous, unjust, oppressive, &c., &c. After four columns of abuse and misstatements hurled at him, would Mr T. M. Lindsay, I ask, have acted otherwise than I did. General Burroughs then goes into the subject in detail, and finishes as follows:- In conclusion, I would beg to say that up to the arrival of the Crofter Commission in Orkney, peace, happiness, goodwill, and contentment prevailed in Rousay between my tenants and myself. Only about three years ago, when I returned home after a short absence, during which I had been promoted to be a major-general, a large body of tenants welcomed me on my arrival at Trumland Pier, Rousay, and presented me with an address of congratulation on my “well earned promotion,” and they expressed the hope that I was now about to retire from war’s alarms and quietly settle down at home. They took the horses out of my carriage and dragged it up the avenue to house. Nothing in the interval between that time and the visit of the Royal Commission to Orkney had occurred to disturb the good feeling then subsisting between my tenants and myself. I left home in the winter of 1882-83, and paid a visit to the Continent. On my return in July, 1883, to my great surprise I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly assailed in the very spiteful manner in which I was attacked by certain so-called “delegates” before the Royal Commission. The more I have inquired into this agitation the more convinced I am that it is an exotic product which has been fostered into growth by the unscrupulous agency of interested but outside agitators."

 

1884 February 9 Aberdeen People’s Journal

 

GENERAL BURROUGHS AND THE EVICTED CROFTERS. – General Burroughs has replied at some length to the charge brought against him of evicting two of his tenants in the Isle of Rousay in consequence of evidence given by them at the Highland Commission. Neither of these men, he says, ever were his tenants, the great majority of whom have no sympathy with them. James Grieve, one of the two, returned to Rousay after an absence in the Colonies of some twenty-five years, boasting of having made money, and that he was looking out to buy land or to take a farm. He married a housemaid who had been for some years in the General’s house, and out of kindness to her, and contrary to the estate rules against squatters, he was permitted for a time to squat on his elder brother’s farm to enable him to look out for a place to suit himself. Years passed, and though farms were let and sold none of them would suit Grieve, who continued a squatter to the last. James Leonard, the other of the two men, is by trade a weaver and mason, and is likewise precentor in the Free Kirk and a teacher of singing. Not being the eldest son, he has no right to his father’s farm croft – on which, however, during the General’s absence abroad, and when there was no factor on the estate, he created a lot for himself, which he occupied rent-free. Up to the arrival of the Commission “peace, happiness, goodwill, and contentment prevailed in Rousay,” and the agitation which has recently prevailed the General describes as “an exotic product fostered into growth by the unscrupulous agency of interested but outside agitation.”

1884 February 14 Glasgow Herald

 

VESSEL FLOATED IN ORKNEY. - The steamer Lizzie Burroughs, stranded at Vaddy [Egilsay], Orkney, during the heavy gales three weeks ago, has been got off by means of pontoons and empty casks, and taken to Rousay Island. The damage is very serious, but a committee of the directors of the company to whom the ship belongs having examined her are of opinion that she can be repaired. A gale of southeast wind broke out with renewed force, over the Orkney Islands yesterday, and the mail steamer from Aberdeen had to put back, there being a fearful sea running in the North Sea.

 

1884 February 15 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

HOUSE OF COMMONS – THURSDAY. - PROCURATOR FISCAL AND PRIVATE AGENCIES. – Mr Cameron asked the Lord-Advocate whether Mr John Macrae, Procurator-Fiscal for Orkney, was the a private agent of General Burroughs; whether in connection with proceedings consequent on the receipt of a threatening letter by General Burroughs, Mr Macrae proceeded to the Island of Rousay in a gunboat, along with the superintendent of the Kirkwall police, and arrested Frederick Leonard and Samuel Mainland, lads of 14 and 15 years of age respectively, and sons of obnoxious crofters; whether Leonard was examined as a person suspected of complicity in the crime or as a witness; if as a prisoner would he explain why was he not examined in presence of the Sheriff; and if as a witness why was he made to give specimens of his handwriting by writing to the Fiscal's dictation; whether Mainland was arrested and brought to Kirkwall for examination as a witness or as a suspected party; if as a witness, why was he not cited for precognition s in the usual manner, and why was he not examined before the Sheriff; and, if as a prisoner, why was he not detained in the hands of the police until examined; and whether he received the usual caution that anything he said would be used against him; whether it is a fact that Mainland was subjected to two hours examination, and made to sign his name several times; and if he would lay before the House a copy of the boys’ precognitions or declarations, and also of the warrants, if any, under which they were arrested.

 

The LORD-ADVOCATE - I am informed that Mr McRae, Procurator-Fiscal, is the private law agent of a General Burroughs. In connection with a threatening letter received by General Burroughs, the Sheriff of the county accompanied the Procurator-Fiscal and the Superintendent of Police, who is also a sheriff's officer, in a gunboat which was then at the service of the Sheriff as a member of the Fishery Board to the island of Rousay. Frederick Leonard was not arrested, but voluntarily gave evidence in precognition as a witness. .The Procurator-Fiscal states that when his examination was concluded, he was satisfied that he could give no information bearing on the charge, and he then asked him to give a specimen of his handwriting for the boy's exoneration. Mainland was arrested on suspicion, under warrant of the Sheriff, and brought to Kirkwall. He was permitted by the police officer, on his own responsibility, to sleep with his brother, instead of being detained in prison. He did receive the usual caution from the Sheriff. His declaration was very carefully taken by the Sheriff, and occupied something over an hour. He signed each page in the usual way, as well as the marginal additions, The case is still under investigation, and I must decline to depart from the invariable rule under which the precognitions are kept private, and also the declarations, while inquiry is proceeding. I have, however, no objection to lay on the table of the House the warrant for Mainland's apprehension, if it is desired.

 

Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL - May I ask whether any measures are in progress to obviate the scandal of a public officer like the Procurator Fiscal being at the same time private agent for the parties? (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

 

The LORD-ADVOCATE - The question has been very fully gone into, as my Hon. friend will find from the report of the Royal Commission relating to the Scotch Law Courts about 12 or 14 years ago. Speaking from recollection, the majority of the Commissioners thought there should be no absolute rule laid down against the double offices being held by one person; but recently, in point of fact, wherever the salary has been such as would enable a proper person to be obtained for the sole duty of Procurator-Fiscal, we have made it our business to obtain such a person.

 

Mr MACFARLANE asked whether it was not common in Scotland for gentlemen to act jointly as public prosecutors and private agents, and whether this was consistent with the impartial administration of the a law?

 

The LORD-ADVOCATE - I am afraid that, except in a very few of the larger places in Scotland, the salaries are not such as would obtain the sole services of the proper sort of man for the place, and accordingly it is for the country to consider whether they would pay a very largely-increased salary in order to obtain the sole services of men who, if they were confined to the service, would probably have little to do in some places, and, therefore, would have much less of the qualifications to perform these duties than they have now. That is a matter of very great difficulty. I may say that, speaking for the procurators-fiscal of Scotland, as a whole, I see no reason for making an exception in this case, because, whenever they find, even when there is no restraint imposed upon them by the terms of their office, the least likelihood of there being any apparent collision between the discharge of public duty and private employment, they surrender private employment in favour of the discharge of public duty.

 

Mr MACFARLANE gave notice that he would, on an early day, call attention to the matter, and move a resolution for the removal of this scandal, (Hear, hear.)

THE ROUSAY CROFTERS' CASE. - Dr CAMERON asked the Lord-Advocate whether it was true that General Burroughs, a landed proprietor of Orkney, who refused to give the Royal Commissioners appointed by Her Majesty to inquire into the condition of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland any assurance that he would not dispossess his tenants in consequence of any statements made in evidence before the Commission, had since evicted two of the crofter witnesses; whether it was true that he had obtained in the Sheriff Court of the county a decree of eviction against the brother of one of the witnesses to be carried out in case he sheltered his evicted brother or his family; and whether, in all or any of the cases, the decree granted was one of summary ejectment.

 

Mr DALRYMPLE - Before the Lord-Advocate answers the question, may I be permitted to ask whether he has received information to the effect that the witnesses referred to in the question were not crofters, but only relations of crofters, who were only permitted to remain temporarily in charge as squatters; and whether the relations existing between General Burroughs and his tenants had not been of an entirely peaceful character up to the period of the unfortunate excitement caused by the Crofter’s Commission.

 

The LORD-ADVOCATE - It is the case that General Burroughs, in September last, raised two actions in the Sheriff Court, in each of which two defenders were called. The action was for the removal of Peter Leonard and James Leonard from the farm of Digro at the term of Martinmas following. The father of Peter and James Leonard had been tenant of that farm - he had died within the year - and the object of the action appears to have been to obtain the in removal of James Leonard as a squatter, occupying without title - Peter Leonard, who is a cabinetmaker in Kirkwall, having been called only as heir-in-law of his father. The other action was for the summary ejection of James Grieve and the removal of Malcolm Grieve, his brother, from the farm of Outerdykes, the object being in this case to eject James Grieve as a squatter without title, Malcolm Grieve having been made a party to the action only to provide for the possible event of its turning out that he had sub-let part of the farm to his brother, contrary to the rules of the estate. James Leonard and James Grieve both gave evidence before the Royal Commission. No appearance was entered, or defence made, in either action, and the Sheriff, therefore, as a matter of course, granted decree as craved in both of them. In answer to the additional question, I have to say that the point whether the men were tenants or squatters was not officially raised or to disputed as there was no defence; and on the last part of the question, as to which there has been a dispute, it may be right to refer to the evidence given before the Commission, and letters which have appeared in the newspapers, and which, I believe, will form part of the print of the Commission, particularly to the letter dated 13th October, in which General Burroughs’ explanation and representations are given.

 

Dr CAMERON - I beg to give notice that on an early I shall call attention to the conduct of General Burroughs in this matter.

 

Mr MAFARLANE - I understood the Lord-Advocate to say that one of these witnesses was a tenant and the other was a squatter. I wish to remind him that last year, in the Agricultural Holdings Act, he accepted an amendment of mine requiring that a yearly tenant should receive six months' notice; and, if that Act is in force, how does it come that this tenant can be ejected summarily?

 

The LORD-ADVOCATE – The hon. member must have misunderstood my answer. I carefully avoided giving an opinion, not having the information on which to form an opinion as to whether the men were tenants or squatters. The matter has not come officially before the court. The last part of the question of the hon. member is very easily answered. The Agricultural Holdings Act did not come into operation until the 1st January of this year, and they were removed in October of last year. (Laughter.).....

 

1884 March 21 Edinburgh Evening News

 

TWO MEN DROWNED IN ORKNEY. – A boat which arrived at Kirkwall yesterday from Rousay Island, reported that on Tuesday while two men belonging to the island, named William Louttit and James Kirkness, were crossing Eynhallow Sound to the mainland for the purpose of procuring medical assistance, there being no resident doctor in Rousay, the boat was sunk by a squall of wind, and both men perished. The accident was witnessed from the shore, but no assistance could be rendered. Both men were married, and leave widows and families. The accident has cast a deep gloom over the whole district.

 

1884 June 25 Dundee Evening Telegraph

 

AN EVICTED CROFTER APPOINTED A LAND LAW REFORM LECTURER. – James Leonard, who appeared before the Royal Commission as a crofter delegate from the Island of Rousay, Orkney, and was afterwards evicted by General Burroughs, proprietor of the island, on account of the evidence he gave before the Commission, has been offered an appointment as lecturer in the interest of land law reform by the Highland Land Laws Reform Association of London. Mr Leonard is presently residing in Kirkwall, and has been occupying some of his time during the past winter in teaching music. He is a man of considerable ability, and much above the average crofter.

 

1884 August 26 Aberdeen Press & Journal

 

SHIPPING CASUALTIES IN ORKNEY. – Intelligence reached Kirkwall yesterday afternoon that the steamer Lizzie Burroughs, trading between Kirkwall and Rousay, while sailing between the latter island and Egilshay, met with an accident. It is said that her boiler burst, but no person on board was injured, and that the crew succeeded in taking the steamer to Trumbland pier, Rousay........

© BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE

 

 

Part 10 follows in due course