Calder Ironworks - Extract from Truck Report 1871

In the works belonging to Messrs. Dixon nearly 5,000 men are employed. There are three stores connected with these works, Calder, Carphin, and Fauldhouse. At one of the collieries (Govan) there is no store, but poundage at the rate of 1s. in the pound is charged upon the money advanced before the pay day, for whatever number of days it is advanced. The pays are monthly at Calder and fortnightly at Govan. The men are expected to spend part of their advances in the store, and a book is kept there for advance men, in which are entered the names of all who come, and the sums they spend. The cash clerk compares this book with that in which he enters the amounts advanced, and distinguishes by a particular mark those who go to the store and those who do not. The result of this system is, that in 1869 about 62 ½% of the taking at the store came from the advances given to the men, and an average of about £521 per month circulates backwards and forwards between the cash advance office and the store. In fact, as Mr. Turbane, the storekeeper, admitted, the store subsists to a great extent on the advance men, and he could not carry it on without them.

There are drinking bars, or "cages," as they are called, at these works. At Calder the cage and the store are closed at seven at night; at Carphin the store is closed at seven, but it has been the custom to keep the cage open after that hour. Neither the store nor the cage is open on Sundays. There were no complaints of either the quality or the price of the provisions at these stores. But the system was successful in securing a considerable proportion of all advances for the store. The manager, Mr. Thomson, allowed that, the only resource a man has, if he slopes the store and has his advances stopped, is to get credit in the shops or leave the works. This he considered to be a perfectly fair system, and one not likely to produce general dissatisfaction.

Evidence was given by the cashier and the manager of these works in reference to the profits of the store, and the comparative profits of the two systems, poundage and stores. At Govan, where poundage was introduced, the calculation was that the rate of interest charged for the advances during the time that elapsed before it was repaid was above 100%. The manager could not say that the rate was not about 300%, but he "knew it was a very large percentage" and he further added that the store was more profitable than the poundage, qualifying this by the explanation that "in regard to a work, the same advance made in the store would be fully more profitable to the employer than the 5%."

The cashier acknowledged that the capital required for circulation between the office and the store, which he estimated at £100, was all the actual coin requited for paying the third part of the wages during the year. This he said was a very considerable advantage, and made the store a very valuable adjunct to the employer, apart from the profits.

Abstract of Evidence

Arthur McIlroy

I am a furnace man at Calder. When I get cash between pays I have to go with it to the store, and if I do not, I do not get cash when I go back again. I never did slope the store. I never knew anybody at Calder who did. I leave all my pay in the store, unless a shilling when I need it. I could keep a shilling if I needed, or two shillings. I am well enough satisfied with the store.

Mrs McIlroy

I was as well served in the store as at any other place.

Alexander Coffey

I am a labourer at Calder. I have never sloped the store. When I get my money I can keep 3s. or 4s. out of 10s. I get as good value at the store as in any other place. I do not hear the people complain.

Alexander Turbane

I purchase the goods for the Calder store, and superintend it. The men are expected to bring their advances to the store, but if they do not they are not stopped unless we choose. The pay clerk may have stopped the advances in one or two instances; it is not habitually done. The more that go for advances the better the store would pay, but I know of no understanding.

James Millen

I am cashier to Messrs. Dixon at the head office. The Calder ironworks is one of their works. The understanding is that a workman takes his advance to the store. It is left to the discretion of the advance clerk to stop his book or not as he thinks proper if he has sloped, but I would say it would be expected that he would stop it if the man sloped habitually. The stop system has been in force at our works. We have nearly 5,000 men in our works, and 435 at Calder. We have three stores, one at Calder, one at Carphin, and one at Fauldhouse. The gross wages at Calder for the year 1869 were £21,367, the cash advances £9,058, of which £5,990 were left in store. The total drawings of the store in 1869 were the £9,565. So that 62 ½% of the whole drawings were got from the advance cash, 27% from the. general public, or from workmen who went there voluntarily, and 10 1/2% from goods supplied to departments of the works. A number of the managers are against the store. At some of our works poundage is charged at the rate of 1s. per pound, or 5%. It is the general practice where there are no stores that poundage is charged. Our total profits net in 1869 were £780, or 8% on the sales. In order to arrive at that we debit the store with £552 of stock on hand on 1st September 1868, and with £747 on hand on 31st August 1869. I take the capital to be the stock in hand together with £100 for utensils, plant, and store, and another £100 for the money circulating between the store and the office. The employer has this advantage that the circulating capital, which is £100, is all the capital required for paying a third part of the whole wages during the year. In fact the whole of the advance wages are found by the store and by the £100 of circulating capital. Our managers never consider the interests of the store in discharging the men.

John Mann Thompson

I am manager of the Calder and Govan ironworks. We introduced the poundage system, because we found we could not get a certain class of men without giving them advances, and we would not give them advances without it. You would require a very large staff of clerks to carry out the amounts due to the men in a day instead of in a week. I am one of the largest customers at Calder. I have no interest in the store. I have never once interfered to influence men to go there. Occasionally I have seen a man ask me why he was getting no cash advance, and I have told him that he would get his money on pay day when it was due. I would understand by that that his book had been stopped for not going to the store. That has happened, but not half a dozen times. If a man systematically slopes the store the advances are stopped, that is quite general throughout the trade, and they all understand it. A man's only resource in that case is either to get credit in the private shops, or to leave the works. We deduct poundage whether the advance is called for a short or a long time before the pay day. Poundage at 1s. per pound for a week would I suppose be over 100% interest. I cannot say if it is not more nearly 300%, but I think the store is even more profitable than the poundage.

John Cowan

I am cash clerk at Calder. I have been in the habit of sometimes stopping men's books. By these marks in this book I can tell who slopes the store, and who does not. I do not look to see what sums they slope, but only whether they slope. I deal with the store myself, and pay the same as any other person. If a man slopes and comes back a second time the same day I often give him the money. It is my business to stop the book if they habitually slope, but if they make out a strong case I give them the money.