Childrens Employment Commission 1842
The following extracts are from the report by R F Franks to the Children's Employment Commission on the East of Scotland District which was published in 1842.
Sheriff-Hall and Somerside
- parishes of Newton, Dalkeith, and Liberton. - (Sir John Hope, of Pinkie, Bart.)
No.1 Janet Cumming, 11 year old, bears coals:-
Works with father; has done so for two years. Father gangs at two in the morning; I gang with the women at five, and come up at five at night; work all night on Fridays and come away at twelve in the day.
I carry the large bits of coal from the wail-face to the pit bottom and the small pieces called chows in a creel; the weight is usually a hundred weight; does not know how many pounds there are in hundred weight but it is some work to carry; it takes three journies to fill a tub of 4cwt. The distance varies as the work is not always on the same wall; sometimes 150 fathom whiles 250. The roof is very low; I have to bend my back and legs, and the water comes frequently up to the calves of my legs; has no likening for the work; father makes me like it; mother did carry coal, she is not needed now, as sisters and brothers work on father and uncle's account. Never got hurt, but often obliged to scramble out when bad air was in the pit.
Father lately got crushed by a big coal falling and was by for seven weeks; was supported by William Bennet's and John Craig's societies, to which he subscribed; believes he got 8s. weekly from the two.
I am learning to read at the night-school; am in the two-penny book; sometimes to Sabbath-school. Jesus was God; David wrote the Bible; has a slight knowledge of the first six questions in the shorter catechism.
No.2 Agnes Reid, age 14, coal-bearer:-
I have wrought below two months; I go down at six o'clock, the time the women gang and lowse at six; whiles later and earlier. I bear coal on my back.
I do not know the exact weight, but it is something more than 1cwt.; it is very sore work and makes us often cry; few lassies like it; I would much prefer to work out bye or in service but suppose father needs me. Was at Mr. M'Donald's school at Lugton, just near, till at work. Was taught reading, writing and counting. I read the Bible and "Collection," and attend the Sabbath-school to learn the Questions. Genesis is the first book in the Bible; David, who wrote the Psalms, was a king; thinks he was king of the Christians. Samuel a king also. Lugton and Edinburgh are in Mid-Lothian; so is Aberdeen; thinks Glasgow is in England. Queen Victoria is married to Prince Albert; knows so from a newspaper which father gets lent to him, it is the "Weekly Dispatch." See other papers sometimes; thinks they are called "Chambers' Journal."
No.3 George Reid, 16 years old, coal-hewer:-
I pick the coal at the wall-face and seldom do other work; have done so for six years; the seam is 26 inches high and when I pick I am obliged to twist myself up; the men who work in this seam lie on their broadsides.
Father took me down early to prevent me from going o'erwild about the town; it is horrible sore work; none ever come up to meals. Pieces of bread are taken down; boys and girls sometimes drink the water below, when there is no metal in it; men take a bottle of small beer. We get meat on Saturday nights and Sunday; the men say we could not work well if had meat on other days.
I should not care about the work if we had not so much of it; have often been hurt; was off idle a short bit ago, the pick having torn my flesh while ascending the shaft. There is a good deal of quarrelling below, especially among the women people. Six of the family work with father below; he seldom does any on Monday, sometimes Tuesday; when work is good he takes away £2. to 50s. for the fortnight. A fortnight is two weeks.
There is 4 weeks in a month, 12 months in the year; 7 times 9 makes 63; and 12 times 11, 132. Reads, writes indifferently, cannot spell well; knows the questions in the Catechism; was never in the maps but acquainted fairly with Scripture; goes to night-school for one hour, when open; the hard work prevents me from doing muckle.
No.4 John King, age 12 years, coal-hewer:-
I have been four years in the Sheriff-hall and Somerside pits; work with father and brothers; one is 10 years of age, and been down 12 months; the other 14, and been below 6 years. Mother carries coals below; she was at work last week. When she is wrought a neighbour looks after the young ones to prevent them harming or burning; get my pieces as other boys do; there is plenty of water in the pit.
I work all the time that I am below and get kale or porridge afterwards. The work takes away the desire for food, as it is o'ersair.
I go down at three in the morning, but leave home at two, and come up about four and six in the day. Was crushed by a piece of coal some two or three years and laid idle two months. Dr Steel attended; he was paid out of the medical money which the men have stopped from them at the counting table.
I have been sometimes belted, as most boys are when they are indisposed to work; was taught to read before ganging to the work, and could do a little at the writing; have nearly forgot the latter; never taught the counting; repeats verses of Psalms and Scripture. Eve was Adam's wife and was Solomon's mother; thinks Adam slew Abel.
No.5 John Jamieson, age 12, picks coal:-
I have picked coal for two years with my father; have got used to the work; don'y mind it now only too long at it; work never less than from four in the morning till six at night, sometimes all night. Never sleep in the pit; have plenty of work to keep me awake.
Mother comes to work at six in the morning and brings porridge for our breakfast and pieces for our dinner; she leaves the three bairns at home under charge of sister, who is 10 years of age; next-door neighbour looks in to see after them. I go to Mr. Robertson's night-school, at Clayburns, to learn the reading and doing a little at the write; no muckle; cannot count yet. There are 12 bawbees in sixpence; can't say how many pennies in 2s. 6d. I am a Scotchman, because I was born in Scotland; I do not know what I should be if I had been born in England. I am learning the Catechism and Scripture texts at Sabbath-school. We have one room in our house and two beds; two sisters and the three laddies sleep in one bed, mother and father in the other; has heard father say that the dust and dung-heap pays for the whisky
No.6 David Naysmith, 12 years old, coal-hewer:-
I have worked in coal-pits five years; been obliged to do so, as father is off work with bad breath, that is, short of breath, occasioned by his working in bad air at the Oxford Colliery, near Chird, some five years since; he has never wrought since. Mother was a coal-bearer; she bides at home to take care of house and three young children; they depend entirely upon the labour of myself, brother, and sister; our united labour seldom yields more than 24s. in the fortnight; we live frugally. We work from three in the morning till five, when the roads and the air are free; they are frequently bad and make us stop away.
I go to night-school; can read and write, and multiply a little; 12 times 9=108; 112lbs. in the hundred weight; 60 pence in 5 shillings; 240 pence in a pound. Scotland is a country so is France. Queen Victoria succeeded King William.
The work is very sore, and frequently too much fatigued to recollect the school lessons.
[Very steady, intelligent boy; writes quick and well considering his age and occupation; belongs to one of the oldest collier's families on record.]
No.7 Alexander Reid, 12 years old:-
I worked two years at Sheriff-hall coal and go below at two or three in the morning and hew till six at night; after that I fill and put the carts on the rails to pit bottom.
The pit I work in is very wet; we often work in slush over our shoe-tops. When first below I used to fall asleep; am kept awake now. "It is most terrible work." I am wrought in a 30 inch seam and am obliged to twist myself up or work on my side. This is my every-day work except Friday when I go down at 12 at night and come up at 12 at noon. After work I go to the night-school when it is open. Was at school for some years before at work; can read well, was taught also the writing, counting, and grammar; there are three parts of speech; forget the grammar now but not the counting and Bible history; 5 times 9 are 45, 6 times 24 are 144. [Recollects nearly all the questions in the shorter catechism.] Solomon wrote the Proverbs; Jesus died for our sins, who is called the Redeemer. London is in England. Edinburgh is in Scotland. The four quarters or divisions on the map I think are Egypt, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
[He read well and writes but little; is very intelligent, evidently delicate from over work.]
No.8 William Woods, 14 years of age, coal-hewer:-
I have been three years below; I hew the coal and draw it to the pit bottom. Was obliged to go as father could work no longer; he is upwards of 60.
I gang at three in the morning and return about six; it is no very good work, and the sore labour makes me feel very ill and fatigued; it injures my breath. We have no regular meal-times; food is not safe in the pit. The lads and lassies take oat-pieces and bread below; we drink the water sometimes; get other food at home, sometimes broth, potatoes, and herrings. Often been hurt and laid idle for a few days but never get the licks as many laddies do when men are hard upon them. I live a mile away; I cannot say how many brothers and sisters are at home, think three besides myself. Was never at school till last summer, but left when the dark nights came on. Knows the letters; cannot read a short sentence; thinks are 6 days in the week and 9 or 10 in the fortnight, as the men reckon 9 or 10 days work. Would go to church if had clothes, but canna gang the now.
Father takes for my work; sometimes I get a bawbee on the pay-days; do not always shift myself as the time will not allow.
[I examined this boy on the Saturday, at a cottage near the pit, and the state of exhaustion he was in can scarcely be imagined; his appearance bespoke great neglect and poverty.]
No.9 Mr. William Bennett, Sheriff-hall.
I have been overseer to Sir John Hope's mines at Sheriff-hall and Somerside upwards of 13 years, prior to which appointment I wrought 24 years as a collier and am well acquainted with their conduct and characters generally, which I consider as good as other tradesmen.
We employ in the two mines 150 to 160 people, out of which only 80 are reckoned at the count table, as colliers employ their wives and children at their own pleasure, and where the father is dead the children work on their mother's account.
Parents take children down early to claim privileges; boys rank at 10 years of age; girls have no claims, so they may be worked as early as need may require: by privileges I mean wages.*
I think collier are as, healthy as other classes of workmen for I am sure less sick money is drawn from their funds than other labourers.
We take no account of accidents; the proprietor pays for all that occur below ground but the men discharge their own domestic bills.
When bad air rises out of the waste of the metal we suspend working. I have no recollection, therefore, of any accident in the last three years.
The seams of coal are 28 inches to 36 in thickness and some of the roads are railed.
(*Footnote -Privileges are not wages. It is a practice in the Lothians for colliers to regulate and limit the out-put of their own work. Full men send up 4 tubs of 5 1/4 cwt. per day; they then claim work according to the ages of their male children. In East Lothian men claim for very young boys; in Mid Lothian all boys above 10 years of age rank is 1 basket; above 12 years, 2 baskets; 15 years, 3 baskets; at 17 years lads rank as full men and claim is made for 4 baskets. This. practice is bad; it causes men to take their children down very young; they remain with them to get the privilege of more work and all hope of return ceased, Eventually, the children are sent down to do the fathers work while they drink and idle at home.)
-parish of Newton. - (Alexander & Mowbray Stenhouse, of Whitehill, Esq.)
No.10. Rev. John Adamson, Minister of Newton:-
Since my residence in this neighbourhood, which is the most extensive colliery district in Mid Lothian, I have devoted much time and attention to colliers, from an interest I take in their physical as well as moral and religious condition. I believe that it has had a beneficial effect, from a feeling that they are not that neglected people their forefathers were; and I am believe that a wholesome change is taking place.
I have always understood that colliers earn large wages when they work regularly; but it will take some time to root out the bad practices of those who have all their lives been neglected.
Education is as much needed here for adults as children; it being absolutely necessary for the lower orders to be raised above the influence of mere animal propensities.
I am of opinion that it is essential to their well-being, as that of society at large, the children should not be set to labour till education has been secured, being satisfied from observation that it is never attained afterwards.
No.11 Phillis Flockhart, 12 years old, road-clearer:-
I work with the redesmen (road-cleaners), who go down at night to clean the roads and make the walls; I bear the bits of stone for the wall building to keep up the roof. I have wrought at the work 12 months; have been at coal work whiles; was bringing a bit of coal along the pit some months since, when I got the flesh torn off my leg and was idle seven weeks. I work in No.14 pit on aunt's account. I am a natural child; mother left me when three years of age and aunt has kept me ever since.
I was at school and learned to read and do a little writing; can sign my own name, do not go to night-school as I only get 8d. a-day when work is regular; and aunt cannot now afford to pay out of the little, she being now too old to labour.
I change my clothes when home and look at the Bible. I go to work at night and come up in the morning; the hours are not long, 8 to 10, never longer, unless I work in the day-shift. [Knows Scripture well, and many short hymns.]
Mr. Stenhouse paid for my medical attendance; he always does so when accidents occur below ground.
No.12. Alison Adam, 12 years old, coal-bearer:-
I know my age from mother's Bible. Father is dead; I never wrought while he was in life but went to a school kept by Miss Hunter, who taught me reading and writing and sewing. I go now when able.
My hours of work are from 2 in the morning till 10 and 12 at day; after work get porridge which neighbour has ready for me, who take a look in at house while mother is away and locks up the bairns, who are four and seven years of age.
I generally get four hours schooling, for mother pays 4d. a-week. I wash and change before going to school. Work in No.28 pit; the water covers my ankles and there are frequent accidents from stones falling from roof which is soft. Bad air frequently stops my breath, when I run to mother who hangs the baskets on at the pit bottom.
[Knows scripture history very well, reads and writes fairly; seemed to have a great dislike to the work; very intelligent.]
No.13 Jesse Wright, 11 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have wrought below nine months, don't like the work at all; daylight is better. Brother has been three years below; is 12 years past; the work is "horrible sair."
When mother and father first took me down I was frightened at the place; have got a little used to the work but it crushes me much. I leave work when bad air is in the pit, which frequently has occurred since I first went down.
Brother and I go down whether father and mother go down or not. Mother has had five bairns, two died a little ago; she gave them the wrong bottle. I cannot say whether mother can read, I think she knows the print. Granny takes charge of the house when we are away. Work from three in the morning till five, whiles later; no certain time of coming up; go to night-school, where I am learning to shape the letters. I know some of the questions in the Catechism; cannot count any. Moses gave us the Commandments and God made the world; Jesus died for our sins; sin means doing wrong; wrong is lying and cursing; can sew but not shape anything; can not knit any.
No.14 Isabella Read, 12 years old, coal-bearer:-
Works on mother's account, as father has been dead two years. Mother bides at home, she is troubled with bad breath, and is sair weak in her body from early labour. I am wrought with sister and brother, it is very sore work; cannot say how many rakes or journies I make from pit's-bottom to wall face and back, thinks about 30 or 25 on the average; the distance varies from 100 to 250 fathom.
I carry about 1cwt. and a quarter on my back; have to stoop much and creep through water which is frequently up to the calves of my legs. When first down fell frequently asleep waiting for coal from heat and fatigue.
I do not like the work, nor do the lassies but they are made to like it. When the weather is warm there is difficulty in breathing and frequently the lights go out. I can read in the Testament and am learning to shape the letters at Miss Hunter's.
I go to kirk on Sabbath to Mr. Adamson's church; I never was taught the counting; there are 12 pennies in a shilling; can't say what 12 times 3 makes. [Repeats many Scripture verses and psalms; very little knowledge of their meaning.]
No.15 Emma Bennet, 12 years old, coal-bearer:-
Worked below 3 years. Works 12 to 14 hours daily; sometimes all night; does so on Fridays. Mother and father work below, so do brother and sister; only take pieces of oatcake and bread underground; never got hurt. Father stays away on Mondays, sometimes Tuesdays but the children always gang. Can't say what he takes away on pay-day; would prefer working above. Work in No.13 pit, which is very dry but the work is very sore fatiguing.
I could read before I went below, can do little now. I go to Sabbath-morning school where Miss Seaton examines us on Scripture and gives us Bible verses and Psalms to learn. I do not go to the night-school; I have not been at the length of counting; there are six days in week, 12 months in the year; not say how many days. Jesus was our Saviour, and Christ our Redeemer. Jesus was Christ; Mary was his mother and God his father. Edinburgh is in Scotland; can't say where England is.
No.16 William Adam, 12 years old, coal-hewer:-
Works on father's account, has done so for three years. Father took me below to assist him; did not like the work when first below; can't say I like it muckle now, as am o'ersore wrought. I gang at three and do not see daylight at all in winter, only on Saturday and as I never come up till five or six.
I go to Mr. Robertson's night-school and am reading and writing, can do a little at both; as also I go to the Sabbath-school; [knows Scripture pretty well] cannot count, but knows that if he earned a shilling a-day, and worked 20, he should have a pound. Mother was a coal-cleaner, left off working two years; has five children in life. I live about half a mile from pit where I work.
No.17 James Archibald, 12 years old. coal-hewer:-
Wrought below six months. I work with my father, two brothers, and a sister; we go out at two in the morning and return at two and three in the day. The work is very hard and I had no choice or would have preferred other; could read and write before at the coal wall. Mother was a collier, she stays at home now as we do no need her labour; we can make 40s. a-week together when work is regular. I never did much at the counting; 4 times 9 are 36, 4 times 36=20. I know most of questions in the catechism.
No.18 James Jaques, 15 years old, coal-hewer:-
I have been four years at coal mining; before they took me down I went to Mr. Robertson's school at Clayburns, was taught reading, writing, and counting; they had the maps in the school.
The constant work has prevented my attention to books; I never see any just now. We go down at three in the morning and come away at three and four or five in the day.
Thinks Edinburgh is north of this place and Glasgow also. Don't know where London is, nor what city is capital of England.
[Reads well, and is perfect in the table and can reckon well; knows very imperfectly Scripture history.]
No.19 Isabella Read, 11 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have been below at the coal work 12 months and more. I gang at four and five in the morning and come up at three and four at night and later. I can fill a tub of 4 1/4 cwt. in four journeys; a journey is nearly half a mile back and forward. I can fill four and sometimes five tubs in a day now.
I have not been at school since down; was at Miss Hunter's school, she taught me to read and sew; has been to Sabbath-school; thinks that there are six Commandments; can't recollect the questions. I am away from work, as I injured my knee. [Reads very badly.]
No.20 Agnes Phinn, 17 years old, coal-bearer:-
Was nine years of age when first taken down. Sister and I are framed to James Ross; we work to support our mother. Father has been dead some years. We go as often as the pit is free from bad air. We can earn 10s. to 12s. each in the 12 days.
The work is most exhausting; were it not for the sake of cleanliness, I should not change my clothes.
I fill two tubs in five burthens, each tub holds near 5 cwt. I make 25 and 30 burthens if I can get them in a day; the distance is 300 to 400 yards.
I seldom gang out as the work is gai sair slavery; can read and cannot recollect much of the teaching; sometimes I go to kirk, no very often.
No.21 David Brown, 16 years old, coal-hewer:-
Began work at seven years of age; used to carry coal; can hew 22cwt. to 24cwt a day. Sister bears my coal to pit bottom.
We work to support mother, as father died with colliers' trouble, badbreath; sister got her ankle injured below and was off work some weeks; she suffers from it now, but we require her work.
When I have done work I play the fiddle; I play from the book.
No.22 Edward Bennet, 17 years old, coal-hewer:-
I have wrought seven years below and have not been at the school since down.
Mother and I work together; she carries my coal and has carried coal upwards of 30 years. She is 38 years of age.
"Coal-carrying knocks the lassies all out of joints."
Nearly lost the sight of one eye by a deep cut from a pick while at work.
Reads; can answer the commonplace questions in catechism; very bad at simple accounts.
No.23 Agnes Moffatt, 17 years of age, coal-bearer:-
Began working at 10 years of age; works 12 and 14 hours daily; can earn 12s. in the fortnight, if work be not stopped by bad air or otherwise.
Father took sister and I down; he gets our wages.
I fill five baskets; the weight is more than 22cwt.; it takes me 20 journeys.
The work is o'er sair for females; had my shoulder knocked out a short time ago, idle some time.
It is no uncommon for women to lose their burthen and drop off the ladder down below; Margaret M'Neil did a few weeks since, and injured both legs. When the tugs which pass over the forehead break, which they frequently do, it is very dangerous to be under a load.
The lassies hate the work altogether but they canna run away from it.
No.24 William Neilson, 17 years old, coal-hewer:-
Wrought below 10 years; was taken down early by mother, as father injured the joint of his arm and has been off work ever since. Mother now keeps up to attend on father. They depend chiefly on my labour.
I can earn 5s. a-week when in full work. We get a free house and fire-coal. Mother has had ten children; seven alive.
I can read and do a little at the writing; never went the length of the tables; very indifferent knowledge of Scripture.
No.25 Margaret Jaques, 17 years of age, coal-bearer:-
I have been seven years at coal-bearing; it is horrible sore work; it was not my choice but we do our parents' will.
I make 30 rakes a-day, with 2cwt. of coal on my creel. It is a guid distance I journey and very dangerous on parts of the road. The distance fast increases as the coals are cut down.
1 cwt. is 112 lb., and 20cwt. make a ton. We give 22cwt. to the ton.
[Has an excellent knowledge of Scripture history, and is fairly acquainted with geography; a very good knowledge of multiplication.]
No.26 - Helen Reid, 16 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have wrought five years in the mines in this part. My employment is carrying coal. Am frequently worked from four in the morning until six at night.
I work night-work week about [alternate weeks]. I then go down at two in the day, and come up at four and six in the morning. I can carry near 2cwt. on my back. A hundred weight is 112lbs.; a quarter is 28lbs.
I do not like the work but think I am fit for none other.
Many accidents happen below (ground; have met with two serious ones myself.
Two years since the pit closed upon 13 of us and we were two days without food or light; nearly one day we were up to our chins in water. At last we got to an old shaft, which we picked our way and were heard by people watching above. All were saved.
Two months ago I was filling the tubs at the pit bottom when the gig clicked too early and the hook caught me by my pit clothes - the people did not hear my shrieks - my hand had fast grappled the chain and the great height of the shaft caused me to loose my courage and I swooned, - the banksman could scarcely remove my hand, the deadly grasp saved my life.
[Very intelligent girl; reads well and writes; very well acquainted with Scripture history.]
No.27 Mr. David Adams, overseer to the Edmonstone Colliery, in the occupation of Messrs. Alexander and Mowbray Stenhouse, of Whitehill, near Edmontone.
I have five pits at present in operation and the numbers employed underground do not exceed 300, comprising men, women, and children.
The thickness of the seams are from 32 inches to five feet and the main roads are 42 inches to five feet high Female children carry coal on their backs through the main-ways and I think much coal could not be got out without carrying, as the dip and rise is one foot in six and eight; besides those who bear coal are more regular than those who do the putting [drawing].
It is owing to the nature of the roofs that carrying coal is allowed, they being soft and dangerous; and I am free to admit that the work is unsuited to females but it would be a hardship to discontinue those who have grown up to the labour.
I think limitation of age at which children should be employed in mines desirable and I should recommend 13 to 14 years.
There is, in connection with this colliery, a school in which reading, writing and arithmetic are taught and a sewing school for the lassies: very small fees are taken. There is no library. The colliers have a yearly sick society, and one for defraying funeral expenses and medical attendance.
(Duke of Buccleugh)
No.28 Mr. James Wright, Manager of the Collieries belonging to his Grace the Duke of Dalkeith.
Prior to my appointment to the management of the Duke of Buceleugh's mines in this quarter I superintended those of Rosewell and Barleydean, belonging to R. B. Woodlaw Ramsey, Esq. And was there at the period [four years ago] that females and young children were excluded from the mines and evidenced a vast change in the comfort and condition of the colliers who availed themselves of the new regulations.
Some families left at the period, being desirous to avail themselves of the labour of their female children, many of whom have returned and the colliers are much more regular in their labour than heretofore.
For some time females have been excluded from his Grace's mines, at his own express order; and I have no doubt it will be followed by a most beneficial result both to the coalowners as it must be to the colliers' moral and physical condition and that of their of their families.
The mines at Dalkeith are not yet in full operation. New pits have been sunk at Cawden and great outlay has been made on improved machinery, railroads, bridges, &c. New cottages are in fast progress of erection, with large apartments, well ventilated and drained, for collier families, as also a school-house in the coal town for the children. Gardens and amusement grounds will be laid out for the adults.
I feel confident that the exclusion of females will advantage the colliers in a physical point of view, inasmuch as the males will not work in bad roads and that will force the alteration of economy of the mines. Owners will be compelled to alter their system; they will ventilate better, make better roads and so change the system as to enable men who now work only three or four days a-week to discover their own interest in regularly employing themselves.
The employment of women induces early marriages. Where women carry coal on their backs they are more frequently chosen for their strength than for any aptitude for domestic duties; they in fact are chosen as good bearers, and are often bad wives.
The very nature of the employment is degrading, as females are wrought only where no men can be induced to draw or work - in one word, they are mere beasts of burden.
I am of opinion that some time should be given even to females, before they be entirely excluded from the mines, as the nature of the employment has unfitted them for other work; and I think for grown women a notice of two years would be ample.
I do not agree with those who consider that the exclusion or females will increase the price working coal; and I am brought to that conclusion from a knowledge that where mines are well railed, and the arrangements conducted upon improved principles, that strong lads will be enabled to accomplish singly much more work with less real fatigue than the masses of female children can now do.
Women have never been wrought at the coal-wall and prices vary more from the difficulty of working the coal than from the transport of it from wall face to pit bottom.
Coal in Scotland is wrought with more difficulty than English coal; it is much harder, and frequently requires blasting: the average price now for hewing is 2s. 6d. per ton. Elevated coal is more expensive than flat.
Since young children and females have been excluded from his Grace's mines, we have never had occasion to increase the price of coal.
No.29 Joseph Fraser, aged 37, coal-hewer:-
I have wrought below ground since 10 years of age. Have been married now 18 years. Have had eight children; six are alive. I have not allowed my wife to work below since she was first in the family way. That is not the usual practice with men, who too frequently marry women for their labour than any liking they may have.
When women are encouraged to work below they get husbands very early, and have large families, and the children are as much neglected as they have been themselves. There are a vast of women work in the pits and the employment very much unfits them for the performance of mother's duties; and they frequently cause men to leave their homes, if homes they may be called and drink hard; the poor bairns are neglected; for in time the women follow the men and drink hard also.
Women work till the ninth month of pregnancy and frequently go home and bear the child. The work cause swelled joints and hips and few women are fit for work after 35: even men drop off on the average before 40, especially where they live in damp houses. The asthma kills men quickly. Stone-working miners are very short-lived.
Respectable workmen would be glad to keep females and young boys out of the pits. The latter are of little use till 13 or 14 years old and frequently causes the thoughtless parent to rest upon his children's work, instead of steadily attending to his own, and keeping his young ones at school.
No.30 William Gillon, 13 years old, putter of coals:-
I put or push the coals from wall face to pit bottom; have done so 18 months I work the Duke of Buccleugh's pit, No.1, at Cowden. I work for support of mother, as father was killed 13 months since while he was redding the roads below.
I work from six morning till six night and get my porridge before I go down and take a piece of bread with me. The work is gai sore; the roads are all railed.
I was in the Testament when I left school and have not been since at work, as mother is not able to pay, having four children besides myself, and depends chiefly on my labour for support. Forgotten all Scripture history, and does nothing at counting.
No.31 Alexander Fraser, 12 years, coal-putter:-
I can read and write some. I did so 18 months since before going down. I put my father's coal and sometimes picks with my brother. I work ten hours and sometimes eight daily. Mother sends our porridge down in the morning and other meals get at home. Sometimes works all night when needed; did so last month; went down at four afternoon and came up at six in the morning. The work is very sair.
I go to Sabbath-school; can answer the questions in shorter catechism.
No.32 William Smith, 11 years old, coal-putter:-
I have worked in coal-pits two years. Was first down in Vagrie, where I learned to put and can do the pushing of the carts well. I used to fall asleep when first down while waiting my turn; do so now, but no so often. It is very sore work for boys and men.
I work eight and ten hours daily. Work no regular, as father suffers from pains in his body; has been troubled the last two weeks. He is on a yearly society, and gets 5s. a-week when ill.
Can read and write; knows some few of the Questions in the shorter Catechism.
No.33 Joseph Fraser, 14 years old, coal-putter:-
Worked below ground nearly four years. First wrought at Newbattle, where father worked some years. My usual hours are eight, ten, and twelve, for work depends on the season of the year and demand. I am not over-wrought. The work it no guid, but there is no better to be got about this country.
No women work in the Duke's colliery; women are wrought only where lads will not work. I have two sisters both biding at home; they are too young yet for service. I can read and write; could do so four years ago better than now.
Knows Scripture and the Questions; heavy at figures.
No.34 Walter Cossar, 15 years old, coal-putter:-
My employment is to push or shoot the hurlies along the rails to pit bottom. The roads are slushy at times. The work is sore fatiguing. I have met with accidents; was off work short time since for some weeks; was injured by one of the carts.
I can read and was taught writing and counting, but forgotten the latter. I know most of Scripture texts, such as are taught at Sabbath schools and go sometimes to kirk.
I work 12 hours a-day average, and could go to night-school but am aye that wearied that am never fit to gang.
No.35 George M'Neil, 16 years old, coal-hewer:-
Has been at coal-work seven years and more. Used to carry bits of coal on my back in the Oldgate pit at Tranent; it was no easy work; often had my back sore. Only been here three weeks; like the work fine. Mother used to bear coal in East Lothian; she now bides at home, as there are eight children in life. I can read and sign my name; can't do much at counting.
Never troubled the kirk much; don't know the Questions; did once learn some. We look about us on Sabbath, and whiles on Monday and Tuesday.
No.36 Robert Hogg, 17 years old, coal-hewer:-
I have worked on coal six years. I do so now on brother's account: we live together.
The Duke does not allow females to be wrought in his pits. I have worked some years where the women were wrought and have six sisters who are all on coal-work at Penston in the East Lothian.
I am convinced that where roads are kept good and well-railed that stout laddies will do twice the work that women do.
Colliers in the East are troubled with the bad breath from the want of proper ventilation. Father died of the colliers' asthma after suffering great pain for three years. He was 40 years of age. Many do not reach the length of 35.
Mother was a ploughman's daughter and she kept the lassies out while she was in life; she said it was no woman's work.
I went five years to Mr. Turnbull's school at Gladsmuir and could write well; but want of practice has spoiled my writing.
No.37 James Hogg, carpenter in the Duke of Buccleugh's Works:-
I have lived some years in this part of the country and seen much of the collier people and have observed very little change till within the last seven years. Formerly they more closely allied themselves in marriage than I think they do at present.
In the village of East Houses, where I lived some years, the population was some 800 or thereabouts and I believe there were only three or four families who were not relations in blood. At the great strike in 1831 many families left the place and it is much changed since the colliers have in a few cases married other women, but very rarely is it known that tradesmen marry colliers' daughters, as they know nothing of housewifery, and the labour causes them to neglect their children.
East & West Bryants Collieries
-parish of Newbattle. - (The Most Noble the Marquis of Lothian, heritor.)
No.38 John Duncan, 10 years of age, trapper:-
I go down to open and shut the air-doors at six in the morning with brother, who does the same kind of work. We get porridge before we gang and take our pieces of bread with us and come up when the engine stops about six o'clock.
We never change our clothes nor go to school but we go to kirk sometimes when we have clean clothes. I get 3s. a-week, and give the money to mother, who licks me sometimes.
Where I sit is very wet but I dry myself when home. Never got hurt below. Know the letters and did read in the twopenny book; forgotten most. Sometimes goes to Sabbath school to hear the boys and girls read.
No.39 Andrew Brown, 10 years old, putter:-
Worked below 18 months; 18 months are equal to one year and a half. Was taken below after fathers death. Mother needed me; she goes down at five morning; I follow at six and return at six at night. We rest in middle of day, as engine stops about one hour. Is learning to write at night-school; could read before down.
[Very indifferent knowledge of Scripture.]
No.40 Janet Meek, 12 years old, putter:-
I work on father's account at putting the coal below ground, he being off work with bad, or short, breath. I get 13d. per day, and sister, who is 13 past, and been three years below, earns 15d.but we find our own oil and wicks. Brother 18 years old and we support the family. We have no holidays but what the men make when they do not work.
I can read a little; never was at the writing. I was in the Testament; don't recollect much about it. Believes Jesus is God. Can't say who was his father. Knows some of the questions in the "Child's Catechism;" the first is, "Who made you?" Thinks God did.
Do not dislike the work. Can't say whether should prefer other; never tried.
No.41 Jane Brown, 13 years old, putter:-
Has been wrought 12 months in the East Bryants. My employment is pushing the carts on the iron rails; the weight of coal in the cart is 7 to 8 cwt.; a hundred-weight is 100lb; it can't be more.
I work 12 hours and rest a bit when engine stops. I change myself sometimes; when I go to the night-school, not otherwise. I go three times a-week; am trying the writing; can't shape many letters at present.
Father is dead; mother and four of us work below. The two young ones, six years and four years of age, are under care of neighbour, who receives 1s. per week. We have one room which we all sleep at the East Houses. [Very destitute of every kind of information.]
No.42 Thomas Duncan, 11 years of age, trapper:-
I open the air-doors for the putters; do so from six in the morning till six at night. Mother calls me up at five in the morning and gives me a piece of cake, which is all I get till I return; sometimes I eat it as I gang. There is plenty of water in the pit; the part I am in it comes up to my knees. I did go to school before I was taken down and could read then. Mother has always worked below but father has run away these five years.
Knows that twice 6 makes 12 and that 4 times 7 makes 20. Did read the Testament in which Matthew says Christ was crucified; does not know what crucified means. Knows that he shall die, because many people do so in the East Houses. I get 3s. a-week and take it home to mother; sometimes she licks me and sometimes gives me a bawbee, which I spend in scones or sweeties.
No.43 George Smith, collier at East Bryants:-
I have been some time at the Marquis's work. There are many young children male and female and many wives who work below till their confinement. The steady colliers would like females to be kept out of the pits; it is very injurious to the children and equally so to the men, and few other trades associate with us on that account.
No.44 Thomas Summers, 10 years old, coal-putter:-
Wrought at the Marquis's five months. The work is very heavy and some can present 3s. 9d. a-week. Was at Stobhill school two years and a half; not been to school since father left the Arniston work, which is near two years.
Was taught to say that Jesus Christ was God and does not know that Moses first brought the Tables of the Law from Mount Sinai. Five times 6=24, and three times 5=35. Cousin and I shoot or push 7cwt. of coal in the waggons. There are 10 quarters in the hundred-weight. This is Scotland. Edinburgh, I am thinking, is in England.
No.45 James Dennison, 16 years old, coal-hewer:-
I work on father's account. My earnings are 24s. to 30s. in the fortnight. Am off work at present, as my arm was broken by two full carts coming in contact while I was below.
I have not been to school for five years; not since I commenced working. I did read in the Bible, but I forget the names of the books in it. I was no very great length in the learning when I first was taken down and have had no time since. Never was in the counting. Four sixes make 24; cannot say how many sixes in 36. Six feet is a fathom.
No.46 Margaret Galloway, 13 years old, coal-putter and bearer:-
I have wrought below three years with brother, sister and brother. My sister is about nine years of age and has not been long down; my brother is 16 and been below five years. We all read the printed books a little.
Employed at putting and sometimes carries the coal; does so in the engine mine. The work fatigues me much and often crushes me. The roads are very wet; at parts the passing the ankles, and frequently higher, so that our lower clothes are quite wet.
I get 7s. 6d. on pay-days, which are once a fortnight. The women dry their pit clothes but never wash them. [Reads very well, and has a good knowledge of Scripture history. Can sew but not shape a dress; never taught to knit.]
No.47 Peter Moffatt, under-ground overseer, East Bryants colliery:-
I think there is no real necessity for employing boys or females under 13 or 14 years of age but the preventing parents from so doing would take from them the means of clothing and educating as well as they now do.
Females who are employed in mines are rarely fit for other service and would be more injured than the masters by their exclusion.
The laying of tram-roads in new mines will reduce the demand for women and children, and much cheapen as well as facilitate the raising of coal.
No.48 John Syme, 16 years old, coal-hewer:-
Began to work at 10 years of age; first wrought at putting; used to wear the harness and slype.
Females only wear the harness here. Have three sisters below, ages 25 years, 14 years, 11 years. The eldest works to her man; she has a bairn a few weeks old; she works below now; a neighbour minds the child and she suckles it when she returns; she is seldom away more than nine or ten hours. We live at East Houses, a mile away.
We all read and write; were taught at Arniston while father was on the colliery at Stobhill.
Father left, as the proprietor would not let the lasses gang down to pits with us. Youngest sister is 11 years old but never wrought till we came to the Marquis's.
I get two tons of coals down in a day, of the rough coal, which I've 2s. 2d. a ton. I generally work nine and ten days in the fortnight; rarely less than nine. Go to work when it suits me. [Can read and write. Reads well, and understands the tables.]
No.49 Margaret Drysdale, 15 years old, coal-putter:-
Began working below three months ago. I don't like the work but mother is dead and father brought me down; I had no choice. The lasses will tell you they all like the work fine as they think you are going to take them out of the pits. My employment is to draw the carts. I have harness, or draw ropes, on like the horses, and pull the carts. Large carts hold 7 1/2 cwt., the smaller 5 1/2 cwt.
The roads are wet and I have to draw the work about 100 fathoms.
Mother died six years ago and have not been to school since; I was learning to read and write.
I know some little of the Bible and Testament history and a few of the questions.
Cannot go to kirk, as have father and the children to look and attend on Sabbath.
[Very delicate, intelligent girl, reads very well, said she sometimes got a little instruction at Noble's night-school in East Houses.]
No.50 Ann Smith, 17 years old, coal-putter
Wrought below six years. Draws in harness; it is guid sair work, but the lassies do no mind it muckle.
I work 12 hours a-day. Have often got hurt; got my ankle cut open a short time since and was idle six weeks. Marquis paid Dr. Symington.
Father died a few years since of cramp in the limbs from sitting in wet work; he was 38 years of age.
Many married women work below; when they have bairns they do not stop so long.
I can read but have not been to school since down.
No.51 John Wilson, late overseer to the Newbattle colliery:-
I am 66 years of age and have been 40 years on the Marquis's work; have had 20 children; only 11 in life; have only one son at the coal wall and he would not have gone but he married a coal-bearer when scarcely l9 years of age.
Colliers are more careless and have more liberty than other tradesmen; they take their children down too early, more from habit than for their use. When both parents are below they think they prevent them running o'erwild about.
Few women here stay at home; they work below until the last hour of pregnancy and often bear the child before they have time to wash themselves.
Women go below 10 and 12 days after confinement in many cases.
Few coal-wives have still-born children.
Accidents are very frequent, more from carelessness than otherwise; no notice is ever taken, for when people are killed they are merely carried out and buried and there is very little talk about it.
Children rarely ever go to school after once down, if they do the fatigue prevents them from acquiring much education.
I do not think colliers are better off than they were 46 years ago. I could earn 15s. a-week at that time and it went much farther in the markets. Butcher meat was 2 1/2d. and 3d. per heavy pound and meal 23s. the load.
Colliers have always drank hard; not so much now, as whiskey, their only drink, is much dearer.
No.52 Mr. Gibson, Manager of the East and West Bryant's Mines, belonging to the Most Noble the Marquis of Lothian.
We employ near 400 persons in the Bryant's mines; 123 are females; about 40 of the males are under 18 years of age, say from 8 to 18; they are chiefly employed at drawing coals on the railroads below.
We have no bearing in our mines; the work is much lighter since improved machinery has been used and ventilation has made the work more regular.
I see that no particular advantage would arise from excluding women from the pits, as they are used to the work and fit for nothing else and it might increase the price of coal 2d. to 2d. per ton.
Lads of 14 years of age, if strong, acquire the knowledge of hewing with facility, and are more fit than younger hands.
The price we now pay for hewing is 1s. 4d. to 3s. per ton and the hewers can take away 3s. 6d. to 4s. A-day; they work on the average 9 days in the 14. There has been no variation in prices since 1838, prior to that there were few Scotch colliers who did not earn 7s. a-day; but the high prices lessened the demand for coal to that degree that men found steady wages better.
Colliers are not restrained by any agreement here beyond two weeks; on their leaving we give them free lines to any other colliery that they may flit to, on being paid any money may have advanced.
Children are certainly taken down too early; it is a bad picture, but it is the fault of rents themselves.
No.53 Mr. Robert Noble, Teacher, Newbattle Parish Colliery School, East Houses.
I am teacher at the village of East Houses, in Newbattle parish and have resided in the parish from infancy. The majority of the population are colliers and their character and habits by no means good.
Have had many opportunities since I entered upon my duties ten years ago of forming a comparison between the partially instructed and the uninstructed portions of the resident colliers.
Those who are fairly instructed are much more regular in their daily employment, their domestic duties and skill as workmen.
There is little hope of improvement, unless some law be passed, to prevent children going below ground so early. We have two schools, in which the principal branches taught is religious knowledge and also a Sabbath-school for imparting the same; but still a great degree of indifference is manifested towards such means.
An evening-school exists here for the purpose of teaching those who work during the day; yet their energies being so much exhausted with their daily labour, they all, as soon as they enter the school, fall into a state of lethargy.
A great number of the mothers as well as children work below ground.
Colliers, those who work on stones, are subject to asthma and, from the great number of widows here, I am led to think that also those who work on coal are subject to the same malady.
It is a common practice for colliers to keep dung-heaps and dust near the cottage doors and several keep pigs, ducks and poultry in their houses.
I know of but one friendly society, which is of yearly duration.
I think the proportion of illegitimate to legitimate children to be one to every 40.