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THE SHETLAND CROFTERS., Issue 8032, 8 October 1889
THE SHETLAND CROFTERS.
A meeting of Shetlanders and others interested was held in the Coffee Palace last night to consider what steps should be taken to help the Shetland crofters in preserving their rights in regard to whale captures. About twenty persons were present, Sir R. Stout, who was voted to the chair, said that all present would know for what purpose they had met. There had recently been carried on in Lerwick a lawsuit between Bruce of Lumburgh, the laird, and some of his tenants, as to the rights of the landlord in reference to whale fishing. For a long series of years—extending now into centuries—it had been the custom of most landlords to claim a third of any “ caain whaal,” or driving whale that stranded on any part of the coast, and even where whales had been killed at low-water mark, and in some cases where they had not touched land at all, the landlords had still claimed a third. But at last the question of their right had been fought out in Lerwick as between the landlords and the crofters, with the result that Sheriff M'Kemde had given judgment in favor of the crofters. After that decision was given the landlords of the islands had clubbed together to carry the case to the Court of Session, and then, step by step, perhaps, to the House of Lords. This continued litigation of course meant expense to the crofters if they were to keep it up, and it was necessary that they should be aided. It was only lately that the crofters had been able to raise this question. In his (Sir R, Stout’s) time, if the crofters had raised it they would simply have been warned off, and not allowed to hold land at all, But since the passing of the Crofters Act the crofters had gained certain advantages, and the landlords had now not the power they formerly had. They had,
however, as he had said, banded together to carry this cause of Bruce’s from Court to Court, and the crofters must be prepared to meet this. Some of the people in Orkney and the Shetlanders settled in Chicago and other parts of the States had taken the matter up and sent money to assist, and in Invercargill, where a number of their people were settled, a small sum had been subscribed. As soon as he (Sir R. Stout) heard of this he sent a subscription, and said that no doubt soriiething would be done in Dunedin. This claiming a third cf the fishing was a serious flutter for the people; It was only on occasion that they could get whales, and when they got them it was at considerable risk to their lives and with great labor, and he did not think it fair that the landlord, who did nothing, should demand a third of the proceeds or order the crofters to quit. The meeting that night was certainly not a very numerous one, but he had no doubt none of those present would forget the “old rock,” and all of them would do something to help their brothers in the islands. Perhaps the best thing the meeting could do would be to appoint a small committee to manage the affair, as had been done at Invercargill.
Mr F. Laukenson was sure that the meeting would heartily fall in with the idea of doing something for their countrymen, and he would therefore move—“ That this meeting takes steps to raise a fund for tho defence of the crofters, and that a committee consisting of Sir Robert Stout, Messrs W. M. Bolt, W. A, Stout, W. W. Brown, J. Peterson, L. Laurenson, and the mover, with power to add to their number, be appointed to obtain subscriptions for that object.” Mr W. M. Bolt seconded the motion, and in doing so he said it should be clearly understood that this was not altogether a Shetland question, but in reality a question of landlord and tenant—a matter which was at the present time creating a considerable amount of agitation and calling for much attention in all parts of tho kingdom. The people of Invercargill had looked at it in that light, making the question a public and not a local one. Some of those who contributed were not belonging to the islands at all. He thought that while this Committee should pay first attention to the Shetlanders, they should not confine themselves entirely to them. He thought tho Invercargill people had got somewhere about L3O. Mr J. B. Callan said that he was not a Shetlander, but had come to the meeting as one interested in the question that was to be discussed, and because he heartily sympathised with the feeling that it was right that those who had lived in the Old Land should not forget it. Whatever their birthplace might be, he quite agreed with that sentiment, No doubt this question of landlord and tenant was a question in which tho landlord had great power. He had great wealth, and was backed up by all the order, because if one was beaten it meant a blow to the whole lot; and in these cases wealth counted, if not for all, for a great deal in tho test. As ho understood this case, the tenants, from no fault of their own, but on account of circumstances under which they lived, wore badly off in this world’s goods, and in consequence theirs was a case in which money was required to fight tho battle. For himself, he was prepared to contribute his subscription, and he was sure that people of all nationalities in Dunedin would support the Committee in their object. The motion was put and carried unanimously. On tho suggestion of tho chairman those present handed in their names and addresses, so that with others they might be made up in the form of a directory. The editor of tho Chicago paper had recently published a list of Shetlanders residing in the States, and had intimated that he would publish a list of Shetlanders in New Zealand if it were forwarded to him.
Subscription papers were then handed round the room, and in a few minutes the Chairman intimated that the sum of LIO had been raised, and he had no doubt that amount would be added to, so that a substantial sum might be sent Home by the first San Francisco mail. On the motion of Mr W. Hutchison, a vote of thanks was accorded the chairman for presiding.
THE SHETLAND CROFTERS., Issue 8032, 8 October 1889
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