Coltness Iron Co - Extract from 1871 Truck Report

The Coltness Iron Company have nine works in three different counties, Lanark, Linlithgow, and Edinburgh. At seven of the works the men are paid monthly, at two they are paid once a fortnight, At four of the works - three in Lanarkshire, and one in Linlithgow - the store system is in operation. The store at New Mains, Lanarkshire (where about 2,000 hands are employed), is rented by the storekeeper, who pays £1000 a year to the company. The advance men at New Mains are expected to take about one half of their advances to the stores. Mr. Hunter, managing partner, gave evidence to the following effect : "I believe they know it is expected that if they get advances they must go there. About one-half of their advances are taken there, and there is no reason why they should not understand it." There are no lines, but the storekeeper makes entries of those who deal with him. These the clerk sees, and if the men slope habitually he stops their advances. The result is that 52% of the advances are spent in the store. About 800 to 1,000 advance men have been customers of the New Mains store. The storekeeper admitted - what appears from the amount of rent paid - that the profits of the New Mains store were considerable. The rent has been gradually rising in the last ten years from a percentage on the sales, worth about £200 to £300 a year, to its present figure, and the storekeeper in taking the store relied on the custom of the advance men. " If they all took away their money we would not be able to pay £1,000. a year of rent."

Whiteside, a miner, who had worked at New Mains, said that the New Mains store was not very good, though they allowed it to be better than any of the others round about. No inquiry has been pursued as to the merits of the store. A substantial outlay has been made on the schools belonging to this company. They are highly spoken of by the Government inspector.

Abstract of Evidence

Alexander McMillen

I have been a clerk at the store of the Coltness Company five years ago. The men were not required to leave all their advances at the store. I recollect they were never stopped for taking 2s. out of 6s., but if they took more they were stopped. Lines used to be given at Coltness upon the drink shops, but that has not been done for four years.

Alexander Tompkins

I formerly worked at Garriongill belonging to the Coltness Company. You leave one half of your money at the store there. If you do not leave one half you are stopped. No one spoke to us except the storeman and clerk.

John Smith

I have worked at Garriongill. We were expected to leave half of the advances at the store. I do not know that the men were ever spoken to. The Garriongill houses are much better than at other places where I worked.

Andrew Whiteside

I was about nine years at Garriongill. We were expected to leave half. If you did not you got none next time. I prefer poundage to the stores, because I consider if I have 18s., I could do more with it at the shops than with £1 at the store. I got both my legs broken at New Mains, and the same day a subscription was raised of £2 12s. 0d. I think I got it all in goods from the store, and it was stopped off the men's pay; that would be 11 years ago, nearly. The New Mains store is thought to be about the best in the neighbourhood; even it is not very good, but they allow it to be the best.

Bernard Quin

I was 12 years at New Mains. I was well enough pleased with it. It is five years since I left.

John Kirkland

I am storekeeper at New Mains. There are perhaps 20,000 men in connexion with the company. There would be about 2,000 at New Mains. 1 have been storekeeper nine years. I started with getting 4% commission on the sales. After that I took the shops at a fixed rent of £600 a year. That lasted till 1868 since when I have paid £1,000 a year for the three stores which I hold from the company. That arrangement is to last till 1872; that thousand is all that the company gets out of my stores. I have about a thousand customers every week. The advance men are expected to come to me. I keep entries of their names, and those entries are seen by the advance clerk. If they make a habit of sloping he stops them. That is the practice of the place. If they took away all their money we could not pay £1,000 a year.

Hugh Alexander Forsyth

I am a schoolmaster at Fauldhouse; it is an endowed school. I have 110 pupils; about 60 of the children belong to the mining class. There is a universal complaint against the off-take for the schools. In the village there are two schools ; one belongs to Dixon's company, and the other to the Coltness company. Dixon's people have a committee of the workmen who appoint the teacher, and see that the money collected is spent on the school, and that gives satisfaction. In Coltness, where the men have no voice in the appointment of the teacher, they do not know what is collected, and they do not know what is spent. At Dixon's they keep a school for the children of their own workmen, they do not admit neutrals, but at Coltness they admit everybody That causes great dissatisfaction. The people feel aggrieved at Coltness because they cannot audit the accounts. The school off-take presses very unevenly. I know of one family in which there are five men working, they have to pay five times 10d. every month, and yet there is only one child that they could send to the school, and they prefer that that child should go to another school.

James Hunter

I am managing partner of the Coltness Company. We have nine works in three counties. We have the same system of stores at four of the works. Mr. Kirkland is our lessee, and pays us £1000 and nothing more. I find that our total wages were £166,180. The men cannot help understanding that they have to go to the store. All that the advance men have spent at the store is just about one half. There is no reason why they should not understand it. The off-takes for the school are entirely spent upon them, but our schoolmasters we pay by salary. We have erected schools which cost us £6,000, and appointed schoolmasters at very high salaries, from £120 to £200 a year. I can show you government reports to the effect that they are the most popular and best conducted schools in Scotland. We have 1,875 children at the schools in connexion with our works. The men pay for education 8d. a month, not 10d. as a former witness said, except in exceptional cases, when sewing and knitting are added to the teaching. We try to make the off-takes meet the school engagements, but I generally find that we lose the whole interest upon our building. There are exceptional times when more men are employed, and the balance is more in favour of the fund. I do not pretend to say that I want to educate the people for nothing. The amount of the school money covers everything, except the interest on the buildings, and sometimes there is a little balance that pays for firing and heating, and so on. The government grant the schoolmaster hands to me. He has nothing to do with it. He gets his salary and runs no risk. There are not above a dozen children in our school that are not the children of workmen.