Extract from Mining District Report 1847 (part 1)

by the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act 5 & 6 Vict. c99, (Mines and Collieries Act 1842)  and into the state of the population in the mining districts

Similar exertions to extend the means of education have been made in the coal districts of Scotland, and the same feeling exists there as to the desirableness of adopting means to bring, as far as possible, all the rising generation within the influence of good instruction in day-schools. Some proprietors have already established the regulation in question in their own works, and have found no difficulty whatever in enforcing it.

Mr. Langdale, agent for the collieries of Sir John Hope, Bart, near Edinburgh, stated, -

"Sir John Hope requires every boy whose age appears doubtful to bring a certificate of age before he is admitted to work below ground, and also requires every boy to be able to read and write before he is allowed to go down the pits to work. Orphans, or children whose parents cannot afford to pay the school fees, are paid for by Sir John Hope. If a widow comes upon the poor-roll, the parish pays the schooling of the children. The schoolmaster takes them for a low fee. We pay part of the schoolmaster's salary ; the rest he derives from the school fees."

Mr. James Wright, manager of the collieries of his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, near Dalkeith, stated,-

"There are about 250 colliers and miners belonging to the Dalkeith collieries. I believe that all the boys under 10 years of age belonging to these families attend the day-school. We consider it a rule that those who work at these collieries must not neglect the education of their children. All are desirous of sending their children to school while under 10 years of age. We pay the schoolmaster a portion of his salary ; the rest is made up from the school fees. He keeps a book in which he enters the names of all the colliers' children attending the school. This book is left at the colliery office once a fortnight, the day before the pay. The school fees charged to each father of a family are deducted from the pay, and handed over to the schoolmaster when the pay is over. There is not the smallest difficulty in this arrangement, and very little trouble, and it gives complete satisfaction to all parties. We reserve a power to send 10 children gratis. They may be orphans or the children of widows, or of men having large and young families. Arrangements very similar to these are made at the schools of all the large proprietors in the Lothians."

I add a copy of the agreement with the schoolmaster, as it appears to have been well considered. If a boy comes for one day in the week he is charged for the whole, a rule which is found to promote regularity of attendance.

Agreement with Teacher at Dalkeith Colliery.

The following are the conditions upon which you are appointed teacher at Dalkeith Colliery :-
1st. You are to have the school-house, dwelling-house, and garden, free of expense, with a salary of £30 per annum, paid half-yearly at the colliery office.
2nd. The fees to be charged for children belonging to the colliery are, - for beginners, 2d.; for reading, 2 ½d. ; for English grammar, reading, writing, and arithmetic, 3d. When mathematics, Latin, or any of the higher branches are taught, from 3 ½d. to 4d. per week, according to circumstances ; but in no case are the fees to exceed 4d. per week.
3rd. A list of the names of all the scholars to be made out every fortnight, on the day preceding the colliery pay-day, with the charge for each scholar, arranging the amount for every family under the father's name, which will be retained by the clerk at the pay, and paid over to you after the pay is over.
4th. You are to conduct a Sabbath-school, free of expense, and without any charge whatever.
5th. The manager of the colliery for the time being will have the power to send poor children to be educated free of expense; the number not to exceed 10.
6th. The Duke of Buccleuch can remove you at any time by giving you three months' notice.
I remain, &c., (Signed) James Wright

In the great centre of the iron trade, Lanarkshire, where the consequences of allowing a vast population to grow up without any adequate means of good education have been long apparent, the iron and coal masters expressed their readiness to cooperate towards producing a more satisfactory state of morals and intelligence among their people. The same sentiment prevails among many influential proprietors of collieries and iron-works with whom I communicated in Yorkshire, and also among the leading gentlemen in the coal and iron district of Staffordshire round Dudley and Wolverhampton, a district where great deficiencies still exist in the means of elementary education in day-schools. And to this very general disposition among the large employers of mining labour, in most of the chief mining districts, in favour of completing the object which the Legislature had in view in excluding boys under 10 years of age from working below ground, by a further enactment to the effect that before any boy is admitted to work under ground he must produce a certificate of having attended day-school for a certain period, it is most satisfactory to be able to add the following testimony, emanating from a large body of the working colliers themselves, in the form of a petition to Parliament, praying that the education clauses of the Factory Act may be extended to the children employed in mines and collieries.

The petition speaks the feelings and opinions of the "Miners' Association," a body which a few years ago claimed to number 60,000 members. It is addressed to the House of Commons, and its commencement is as follows:-

"The humble Petition of the Colliers whose names are hereunto subscribed,
Humbly sheweth ;
That your petitioners are colliers, working in the coal-mines in the coal districts of England, Wales, and Scotland.
That, they have seen and heard with great satisfaction that several laws have been passed of late years to better the condition of working men in different, trades, and for their and their children's protection and safety from injury and accident; and to assist in the improvement of their minds and habits. And your petitioners, with great confidence, submit to your Honourable House that the colliers have at no time in nowise been behindhand in honesty, peaceful conduct, and loyalty, and they therefore approach your Honourable House in the full hope that they will receive from your Honourable House consideration and attention. Your petitioners believe that much may be done by judicious laws for the benefit of your petitioners and the colliers in general, without wrong or injury to any one."

The expression of such sentiments, in such language, cannot fail to create in any one who reads the above paragraph the most favourable disposition towards the petitioners. After some clauses on the subject of the ventilation of mines, which will be hereafter adverted to, they proceed thus:-

"Your petitioners have observed with much satisfaction the laws compelling the masters in factories to provide some amount of education for the children who work there; and your petitioners submit to your Honourable House that a similar plan would be of great use to the children of colliers. Unless your Honourable House assist your petitioners in carrying out this their wish that their children may be educated, not one in a hundred of the generation of colliers now growing up will be able to write or read. As the colliers are placed (and your Honourable House will, on consideration, see the truth of this assertion) the difficulty of obtaining education for their children is much greater than ever it was for the parents of the factory children."

The statements of this paragraph may not be altogether correct; the amount of the deficiency in reading and writing may be exaggerated ; it may not be true that it is more difficult for the collier than for the worker in factories to afford a proper amount of education to his children; and the purport of the education clauses of the Factory Act may be misconceived. The paragraph is nevertheless valuable as embodying so decided an expression of opinion from a large body of colliers themselves in behalf of some legislative interference towards diffusing the benefits of education more generally among their children.

From the above facts it appears indisputable that a common feeling exists among all concerned, both masters and men, in favour of extending some measure, analogous to the education clauses of the Factory Act, to the mining districts.