Binniehill- Extract from Truck Report 1871

Evidence was given by three workmen formerly employed by Mr. John Watson at Binniehill to the effect that they had to take their advances to his store, and that their books were stopped if they sloped. They also complained in the usual way of the quality and prices. One collier informed us that he had about 20% more to give at the store for goods than he would have to give at the regular shops and that many of the articles were very inferior. The pay men at this work are allowed to go free, and by an effort this witness managed to do without draws, and so to escape the shop.

Q Have you had much to do with stores all your life ? - No, I never had. This is the first store I ever had to do with in all my life; and it is a month or two since I left it. I was forced to leave it because I was paying a great deal more for the goods there than I could have got them for at the shops. I just "persevered" myself out of it.

Q Did you leave the work because you thought you could not afford to go on buying at the store ? - No, I did not leave the work, I only left the store. I had to persevere a little until I could work myself out of the store altogether ; that is, until I could want my money for a whole fortnight, and then I went to a shop.

The schoolmaster here was elected out of three candidates by the men, chiefly on charitable grounds. He was a cripple, and had been "a collier himself one time, but he got disabled in Mr. Merry's work. Mr. Merry gave him education to a certain extent, and then he came into Slamannan, and we accepted him at Benniehill as a teacher."

The following account of the election was furnished us by one of the men who was an elector:-

Q Are the people satisfied that he brings them on well? - Quite satisfied. If they had not been satisfied he would not have been there. There was an agitation among certain parties belonging to the works about him, and about other two parties as well, and that was the reason why they went through the colliery with a paper taking down the names. This man got the majority of the workers in his favour for the trial, and they afterwards selected him to the same place.

Q Had the other two been workers also ? - Yes, they were just workers in the colliery.

Q Had they met with accidents too ? - No; but there was one of them who was in bad health and consumptive.

Q And the other? - I cannot say very much about him. I did not know him at all, but he seemed to be in a delicate state of health too. I need not say that I don't know about him, for I know about him perfectly, and I know he was a man not capable of doing a day's work.

Q And the man you appointed was not fit to do a day's work either ? - No.

Q You chose him because he was not fit to do a day's work ?- Yes.

William Ramsay

I am a collier at Benniehill belonging to Mr. John Watson. There is a store where we have to take our advances regularly. I have had my book stopped. Some of the things are good, and some not. You are not so well served at the store as at the shops. The cashier told me it was for going past the store that my book was stopped. The oversman never spoke to me. I sometimes complained about not getting a doctor to my own mind, and yet having to pay for him.

Alexander Hunter

I am a collier under Mr. Watson. They did not need to stop my book when I was dealing in the store, because I always had plenty of money lying in the office. I have heard my wife complain at times that the provisions were inferior, while at other times she would say they were superior to the goods in Slamannan. About seven months ago I left the store, and went to a co-operative store in Slamannan, which is certainly better than Watson's. We get the profit off our own money. Last quarter I had £4 9s. 9 1/2d. of profits upon the money I had left there, which was about 30l. The people at Watson's do not object to my going there. I told the manager, and he said every man at the work was at liberty to look after his own interest. I am a pay man. I never get advances. I have been obliged to Mr. Watson several times for advancing money to me in difficulties. The schoolmaster was not a competent one; he was a collier under Mr Merry; he was disabled and Mr. Merry gave him education to a certain extent, and then he came into Slamannan and we accepted him as a teacher. A paper went about amongst the men for votes for three schoolmasters, and he was the one who gained it out of the three. We chose this man because there was a general feeling amongst his fellow workmen towards him, and because we considered he was fit for no other occupation. It was because we believed him the most proficient of the three that we accepted him. I must say also, however, that it was through the instrumentality of the manager of the works a little, that he got the place. The manager took a little interest in helping to get him appointed. We chose him because he was not fit to do a day's work. He was fit to bring the children on a certain length, but he was not a really

George White

I am a miner at Benniehill. I have been in the habit of getting my book stopped if I sloped. My wife does not like the store, because she has not that freedom in buying articles as she would have in the shops. Sometimes she is pleased with the goods; sometimes not. There is no school take-off from me, nor off a good many others.

Peter Easton

I am a collier at Benniehill. We are expected to take advances to the store. If I take away 10s. they will take 10d. off that. Your book is stopped when you take away the cash. They will give you no more, do what you like, for perhaps a month. They will tell me when I go in for cash, "Now you won't get this if you do not go to store with it." The clerk, Peter Main, says that. I do not like the store, because I have about 20% more to give than I would in the regular shops. Many of the articles are very inferior. There is only one kind of sugar, which is 6d. I can get the very same in the shops for 5d. I can get as good tea in the shops for 9d. and 10d. as in the store for 10d. and 11d. This is the first store I ever had to do with. I left the store because I was paying a great deal more for the goods there than I could have got them for at the shops. I just persevered myself out of it. I had to persevere a little until I could wait out of my money for a whole fortnight and become a payman, and then I went to a shop. The paymen are free.