Extracts from Mining District Report 1859

- 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

Glasgow Proposed Mining School

The successful efforts at establishing the two mining schools above mentioned led recently to an endeavour on the part of many of the leading employers of mining labour in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, and other gentlemen, to set one on foot for those two important mining districts, and of which other persons coming from the other coal fields of Scotland might have the benefit, if so disposed. A subscription of £400 for three years has been guaranteed, and the committee offer a salary of £250 per annum. The course of instruction is similar, in its general outlines, to that of the Bristol Mining School. It is anticipated that as soon as a master can be found young men who have shown an aptitude for employment as overmen, &c. will be able to obtain the scientific and practical instruction necessary to prepare them for the discharge of responsible duties; either by working for one half or three fourths of the day in some of the numerous collieries or ironstone pits close to Glasgow, and thus supporting themselves while attending the classes and courses of lectures; or by being aided by their employers to reside at Glasgow for the period of the required course. Arrangements have been made which will enable the school to be held in the rooms of the Andersonian Institute, where facilities for teaching already exist. The teacher will also be required occasionally to visit other localities, to instruct classes.

In the district of which Glasgow is practically the centre, there are said to be about 300 coal and ironstone pits. Each of these on an average requires to be superintended by an overman or underground agent. The salary is sufficient to command the services of the best men that can be found for the purpose, and yet the want of men properly qualified is notorious, and has been often the subject of public comment in the district. The difficulty of obtaining young men of the requisite qualifications for these and other employments cannot be more forcibly illustrated than by a recital of what has taken place for the encouragement of the best species of elementary education for young men of that class, at Coatbridge, in connexion especially with the extensive iron works of the Messrs. Baird. Those gentlemen erected upwards of 15 years ago, at their own expense, a set of school-buildings under one roof, which are among the largest of the kind in the kingdom, and by liberal expenditure in providing masters and mistresses and all the requisites for good instruction, and by their own personal influence, have during the whole of that time done everything in their power to extend the amount and raise the standard of education among their workpeople and those around them. The result shows that even in Scotland, where the predisposition towards elementary instruction is so much greater among the labouring class than in England, the temptation of earning wages at an early age, and the demands for juvenile labour, exercise a counteracting influence so great as considerably to retard the hoped for results. The following is a statement made to me by one of the gentlemen connected with the management of Messrs. Baird's Works:-

"We have always acted on the principle of drawing from our schools when we want to fill up vacancies in offices of trust connected with our works. Of such we have about 50, the salaries attached to which are from £70 to £150 a year, and some higher ; and there are frequent changes, many being drafted off to other works, on promotion, as it were. The other day we wanted one, on a vacancy occurring, but no youth was found sufficiently qualified, although mathematical and other useful instruction is offered at our schools, and several boys are in the classes where these branches are taught. They, however, frequently leave school before they have sufficiently qualified themselves, although their parents could well afford to keep them there longer. We have a direct inducement to look out for well-qualified lads for those situations of trust, and merit and ability cannot escape us. It has been said to us and others, "You are over-educating the people!" It cannot be done. A certain proportion of the boys in a school are dull in learning, and get on very slowly ; another large proportion are taken away by their parents to go to work, although they could well afford to dispense for a longer time with their boys' earnings ; another set are taken away early because they must help as soon as they can to keep themselves. As far as our experience goes, it is only a small remnant that stays long enough to profit by the best instruction we offer, and we, with all our appliances, cannot get the lads we want. The population around is upwards of 10,000; the earnings are large, the people being chiefly in the employ of the large iron works of Gartsherrie, Summerlee, Dundyvan, Langloan, &c. ; the schools are close to the population, and they are easily accessible to any who choose to resort to them''

The following is also the testimony of Mr. Jack, the agent for many years past of Messrs. Merry and Cunningham, who are the largest employers of mining labour in Scotland, next to the Messrs. Baird. Messrs. Merry and Cunningham have always paid attention to providing the means of good education for their workpeople. They have recently added to what they had previously done, by large and appropriate school buildings in connexion with their new works at Ardier. Both there and at Glengarnock their masters have first-class certificates. At Glengarnock, the evening school, Mr. Jack informed me, had had an attendance of between thirty or forty. The higher branches of mathematics, geometry, and drawing were taught there, and several young men attended, both there and at the Ardier evening school, who had been at work during the day in the pits. Nevertheless they have experienced the same want of well-qualified overmen that has been above described. Mr. Jack stated,

"In Ayrshire alone we have forty pits. We want one underground foreman, who must be a man of superior knowledge, and an overman on an average for each pit; in some,pits we have two. We have great difficulty in getting such men; we have to pick them out among the common colliers. We should look up the best, and help them to go to the mining school at Glasgow, if it gets to work. We often have now to put up with bad men, dissipated men, because we cannot get a man to replace him. There is no class of men worse to get than a good underground man or overman."

Also Mr. John Galloway, of the Barleith and Dollar collieries, near Kilmarnock, who, together with Mr. William Alexander, inspector of coal mines for that part of Scotland, has taken a prominent part in the endeavour to found the proposed mining college at Glasgow, stated to me that out of fifty applications for the office of underground manager, which he had lately received, only three were from persons who showed sufficient qualifications to enable him to take them into consideration.

It is to be hoped that the proposed college may be so supported as to lead to the satisfactory supply of a want so great and manifest.

Schools of Cookery - Gartsherrie Industrial School & Boarding House

I have often had to record the various measures taken by the Messrs. Baird to improve the condition of their workpeople at their different works in Scotland. One which they have recently adopted as an experiment at the works at Gartsherrie and at Eglington is deserving of special notice. At Gartsherrie, close to the large squares inhabited chiefly by the colliers in. their employ, they have converted a building into a boarding-house for single men, which also serves the important purpose of being a school of cookery for girls on leaving the day school. To appreciate the value of this experiment, as regards the comfort of the men who take advantage of it, and the manner in which it is likely to be conducive to habits of propriety and to good morals, it is only necessary to see what kind of life a lodger must almost necessarily lead under the ordinary circumstances of a crowded cottage. All privacy is impossible, and he is often obliged to submit to irregular and ill-cooked meals, and to dirt and discomfort in his sleeping place, which is often occupied by two persons, one entering it as soon as the other has left it. The immoral consequences frequently arising from this state of things are matters of common observation. The well-disposed have no opportunities for self-improvement, and the ill-disposed have great facilities for corrupting others.

The boarding-house is under a matron. Every sleeping-room, and indeed the whole establishment, is kept scrupulously clean. The day-room is plainly but conveniently furnished, and has a supply of books and newspapers. A fire is always kept in it, when required, and the inmates are allowed to smoke in the evenings. The bedrooms have each a fireplace. The sheets are changed once a week ; a great contrast to the spectacle so often seen of sheets almost black with dirt, in colliers' cottages, and especially on the beds of lodgers. The washing and bath room has a fireplace and boiler, enabling every man to have a warm bath whenever he likes, and to dry his clothes if he comes in wet. The charge for all this is 3d. a night, or 1s. 6d. a week. Nevertheless it is sufficient very nearly to make the establishment self-supporting, including interest of money. For food and washing as well as lodging, the highest charge is 10s. a week, for which the meals are : breakfast, coffee, bread and butter, ham and eggs; dinner, broth, beef or mutton, and potatoes and bread ; supper, tea, bread and butter, and cheese. The lowest at present is 8s. 6d., the difference in the diet being porridge and milk for breakfast and supper ; and if any lodger preferred a less expensive dinner he could have it.

Besides providing the meals of the inmates, the object is also to afford an opportunity to any of the workpeople to come and take their meals there, instead of at the houses where they lodge, or at a cook's shop or public house. For this purpose a separate room is provided, at which 20 men can dine at a time. Dinners are served to any who apply at 12, at 1, and at 2. The bill of fare and price-list includes all the dishes in common use in the cottage of a labourer earning good wages, and several more, that can be furnished well and cheaply by means of skill in cooking The prices are said to be nearly 50 per cent, on the average below what a man would pay elsewhere, yet "the cooking part of the establishment pays itself''. It at the same time affords the means so much wanted, and so desirable, of teaching girls good and economical cookery, and how to keep a house and every thing in it clean. " From three to seven girls have come at a time for instruction. We could take four or six regularly for a course of three months, after they leave school. In three months they can be taught plain cooking, washing, and cleaning, enough to prepare them for service, or to make them more useful to their mothers at home. They are all instructed in Tegetmeyer's Domestic Economy at school, so that their minds have already been directed to many useful principles. On going to service after such a course a girl would get probably £1 more wages for the first half-year's service. Washing is taken in also, for their instruction, and the prices charged, though sufficient to cover the expenses, are much less than elsewhere''

One of the men at dinner at the time of my visit said: - ''This is far better than taking a dinner sitting by the dyke side, and there is no mistake that it is better and cheaper than any one can get as a lodger. You get it, too, as soon as you come in and ask for it; there is no waiting. All the men say they get their dinner here better cooked for one half the price they pay at Coatbridge. Many men from the railway come down here, and get a bowl of broth, or some cooked meat, and they find nice clean tables and forms, and a fire, and get their meals quiet and comfortable, instead of noise and children about. It is a wonder to me that it is not always full here at dinner times. I bring my bread with me, and I get a good bowl of broth for a penny. What I should get at 'a shop would be weak stuff."

The matron works with the girls, showing them how to clean the grates, floors, furniture, &c., teaching them the proportions of the different things to be used in cooking, and superintending every thing that is done. They also mend the clothes of the lodgers, as well as wash for them. The course of instruction, therefore, is well qualified to make them better and more useful in most of the ordinary female employments.

The only arrangement that seemed open to re consideration in this most promising experiment was that of the bed-rooms. If these were fitted up with dwarf partitions, each containing a single bed, with room for a chest and a small table and chair, &c., on the plan of some of the sailors' homes, and model lodging-houses, it would conduce to greater privacy, comfort, and personal cleanliness. Every one would thus have the means of locking up his little property, whatever it may be, which would be a great inducement to him to lay out his money according to his better tastes and inclinations.

As the notice issued on the formation of this establishment may be useful, it is subjoined.

"It is expected that the workers of Gartsherrie, after due consideration of the objects of this institution, will believe that it is established for the general welfare of the community. The intention in the promoting of this scheme is :-

To train young females in the art of house-keeping, at least so far as this consists in the proper selection and careful cooking of food, in the washing, dressing, and mending of clothes, and in thorough cleanliness, and for this purpose to provide good food, well cooked and comfortably served up; also lodging accommodation for unmarried men.

The following general rules will be found conducive to the proper management of the establishment, and it is hoped all will endeavour to enforce them.

1. Boarders will require to inform the matron each morning before 8 o'clock what they wish for food during the day.

2. No party to be admitted to the eating hall unless his hands, at least, are clean; and no loitering allowed within the rooms after meals have been partaken of.

3. Smoking not permitted inside the house during the day. Intemperance and profane or improper language strictly prohibited.

4. All food to be paid for on delivery. - Bills of fare will be exhibited in the eating hall.

"Parents wishing their daughters to be trained in the house will please apply, after 1st April, to the matron, who will also give information regarding lodgings.

Gartsherrie Iron Works, March 1859"

Eglinton Iron Works Culinary & Industrial School

The Eglinton Iron Works Culinary and Industrial School was set on foot a year previously to the Gartsherrie, and has afforded some experience to the latter, the arrangements of which are more complete. The object of the Eglington school is stated to be directed-

" to the improvement of girls, and intended to fit them for the duties of house-keeping, by a practical initiatory course in the following branches ; viz., economy and neatness in getting up a comfortable meal, washing, dressing, mending, and darning clothes.

Pupils may furnish articles of dress for washing, dressing, and mending from their own houses.

The cooking to be strictly limited to men in lodgings."

The meals may be sent to their lodgings or taken in the dining-room. About 15 meals a day have been prepared at this school.

Men earning from 30s. to 40s. a week pay about 10s. a week for their meals ; those earning less, about 8s. A good plain dinner for a common labourer can be had for 2d., and instead of having what he buys very indifferently cooked by the woman with whom he lodges, and often the substance taken out of the meat altogether, sometimes also having a portion stolen, a man who gets his meals here has them well cooked and hot, and of much better quality, for one quarter or one half the price. Thirteen girls have gone through the course at this school. All attending both schools have their own meals gratis.


The practice continued by the Messrs. Baird of requiring monthly returns as to many matters, illustrating the state of the people in their employ, is deserving of imitation. Accurate statistics are obtained of the number of inmates in each house, which checks the propensity to overcrowd them ; and also of all children of school age, and the numbers at the schools, both day and evening. Those attending the latter are considerable, - at the Gartsherrie evening school from 110 to 140 in the winter months, and among them a good proportion of boys and young men who have been at work in the pits during the day, of whom the report was "that they are very anxious to learn, and are not too tired'' They go down the pits at about 6 a.m. and are out from 3 to 5 p.m. ; the evening schools are from. 7 to 8.30. At the Gartsherrie schools the whole of the pupils (upwards of 400) are instructed in singing for one hour a day on five days in the week, by a master, paid liberally by the Messrs. Baird, and " whose whole time is devoted to the instruction of the people connected with the Gartsherrie Works'' Music classes on four evenings each week are held for those engaged during the day; the average attendance has been 125. A Total Abstinence Society has been in existence about two years, and has had a good effect upon many who had been addicted to habits of intemperance. Concerts are given in the winter months at a cheap rate, and also courses of lectures on science and literature, which were largely attended. A missionary is employed, under the direction of the minister of the Established Church of Scotland to whose enlightened and zealous efforts for many years much of the success of the various measures taken by the Messrs. Baird for the improvement and happiness of their people is due. The missionary's whole time is occupied in visiting the people connected with the works. On Sunday mornings he holds a service at one of the schools, and in the evenings at another. He also collects much of the statistical information embodied in the monthly returns. A missionary is similarly employed at the other works. Another handsome school-house has also been built close to the Gartsherrie Works, and has been also munificently endowed by one of the members of the firm.

Gardens attached to Colliers Houses in Scotland

It was thought, a few years ago, that, except under very favourable circumstances, the colliers of that part of Scotland where the largest masses are collected (in the neighbourhood of the iron works of Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, &c.,) would not be disposed to take any pleasure or interest in the cultivation of gardens, if the offer were made of attaching plots of garden ground to their rows of cottages. The experience of a few years has shown that, with a very little trouble at first and a small amount of judicious encouragement, the taste has been very successfully introduced among them. The Messrs. Baird, finding that the gardens at Gartsherrie were at first neglected, resorted to the plan of causing any neglected plot therein to be properly cultivated, and the cost charged to the occupant. Subsequently they offered prizes for the best-kept gardens, and the best display of flowers and vegetables. Last year, out of 400 gardens, only one had been neglected. At their Eglinton works, every garden was in excellent order, and in both a great amount of emulation had been called forth by the prizes offered by the respective Horticultural Societies, and much pleasure manifested by the people in the occupation, and in the appearance of their gardens. At Eglinton a small part of each plot was in grass, for the convenience of drying linen. Among the prizes it was observable that none were offered for the best plot of sweet herbs. Although hitherto little used in these parts of the country, they will probably be more appreciated as their uses are shown in the schools of cookery at both these works.

The gardens attached to the rows of colliers' houses of the Barleith and Dollar collieries (Mr. John Galloway's), the Annandale (Mr. Finnie's), and the Caprington (Mr. Cuningham Smith's), in Ayrshire, can scarcely be exceeded in neatness and in the mode of cultivation. At the former, a narrow bed each side the door afforded room for roses, carnations, &c. &c., to ornament the front of each cottage. The roadway was underdrained and kept quite clean. Each garden, corresponding in width to the front of the cottage, was enclosed, and each had its small grass plot. At the bottom of the garden, and consequently well removed from the house, was the ash-pit, and every proper convenience. Premiums of £1, 10s., and 5s. are offered for the best-kept cottages and gardens; and a card, with an ornamental design printed in colours, is given with each, and is much valued by those who gain it. It is framed, and hung up in their cottages. At Annandale also there were flowers in profusion all along the front of each house. The plots in front of the houses at Caprington were laid out with as much taste as could be seen in any gentleman's grounds ; they are neatly bordered with box, and the paths made of a light coloured material from some adjoining lime-works. The flowers were very various in kind, and in great perfection. "The emulation among themselves rendered an offer of prizes unnecessary." The refining influences of a taste of this kind, and the counteraction it affords against debasing enjoyments, are obviously as much within the reach of the colliery population as of any other, wherever duly encouraged by their employers.

Collier's Houses

A great deal of attention has been paid to the improvement of the dwellings of the colliery population in Scotland. Where a large number of houses must be provided by one proprietor, the question of expense is important, and therefore any plans which afford a satisfactory amount of accommodation at a reasonable cost are valuable as examples. Those of the Barleith and Dollar collieries (Mr. J. Galloway's) near Kilmarnock appear to be on an excellent principle in all their arrangements, internal and external. Some occasional facilities in regard to materials and labour have enabled the cottages at Caprington to be of larger than the usual dimensions, but their internal arrangement affords every accommodation that could be desired. Those of the Annandale colliery, as well as the last mentioned, have departed from the usual Scotch custom of having one or two beds in the day-room, and have also in other respects many improvements upon the old kind of colliers' houses; among them, the desirable one of having a proper receptacle for coal outside the dwelling, instead of the common practice of keeping it under a bed or in a cupboard. For want of a proper kitchen range, some of the tenants at Annandale (Ketch Row) had put up boilers on some brick-work. The places for refuse, &c. were disagreeably near the houses. An oversight appears also to have been made in the bed-room floors not being boarded. A collier thus expressed himself regarding the new kind of cottages :-

''Anything used to be thought good enough for a collier, mere holes, with nothing between your head and the rafters, and they only just above it ; now there is plenty of height and room, which is wanted where there are so many together. The new houses are ' a heap' healthier.''

The accommodation afforded in 50 new houses of the Messrs Baird at Eglinton, by judicious arrangements, is worthy of imitation. The kitchen, or day-room, is 11 feet x 13 x 9 ; two bed-rooms are each 10 x 11 x 9; a third is 6 x 8 x 9. The latter receives light through the scullery. The rent affords a proper percentage upon the cost of the building. On taking possession of the Blair Iron Works, the Messrs. Baird found that the rows of colliers' houses had been built too close together; they accordingly, with their usual consideration for the welfare and comfort of their workpeople, pulled down every alternate row, and built 74 new houses on the above plan, and 35 smaller, with one bed-room each. At their works at Kilsyth, under the Camprie Hills (sic), the Messrs. Baird have tried the experiment of roofing with prepared cotton-cloth, at one third of the cost of ordinary roofing. The material is calculated to last ten years, and is renewable at a cost of nine-pence per yard, with the cost of putting up ; additional room can consequently be given at a less cost. The cottages consist of lobby, kitchen, closet, and separate bed-room. For ventilation, an aperture is made into a hollow wall. Double houses are 15 x 13 x 9, with bed-room 15 x 12 x 9.