Children's Employment Commission 1842
Evidence Collected by Joseph Fletcher Esq.
No. 43. Mr. Harrison Bell October 12, 1841.
Experience of mining
Is superintendent of the washing department of the Scottish Mining Company's Works at Leadhills, which office he will have held for four years next March, after being engaged for all his working life in mining, chiefly in the county of Durham. He is a native of the Durham lead-mining district, and tried once coal-mining in that county, but was so apprehensive of the danger, that he retired from pursuing it, notwithstanding the better pay. The pit in which he was at work, at South Shields, took fire twice.
Processes into which the labour divides itself
Besides the washing of the ore there are two other processes which are here performed, - the getting of the raw ore out of the mines, and the smelting of it at the furnaces; but it is in the washing department that almost all the children and young persons employed about these works are engaged. It is as washers that the youths are employed, who, at 16 or 18, enter the mines., for their work in which they are paid at. so much in the shilling, as compared to the men. Has never worked in the mine here himself. In the smelting department the youngest people employed are youths of 10 or 18, taken in like manner from among those employed at the washing, or in carting ore about the works. In the smelting works the small ore is roasted and then smelted; the large ore is smelted at once without roasting ; and none is subjected to the process of extracting the silver, which amounts only to one ounce and a half per ton, and would not therefore pay for extracting.
Women or girls employed in no department of it - embroidery work at home
No women or girls whatever are employed in the works, nor in any department connected with them, except, occasionally a woman to help in drying the peats, with which the furnaces are lighted. The young women and girls in the village are, in fact, chiefly employed in embroidering on muslin and on lace, delivered to them by agents for Glasgow houses, who receive for their agency 1s. in the pound on the wages paid, besides some profit from the custom which they contrive to bring to their shops in the village through this influence. They work at this embroidering or sewing from about eight years of age to 23 or 24, when they go out to service, being tired of the sewing, and very commonly not able to marry. They work at home, unless when a child is learning at a neighbour's. Their hours are from six and seven in the morning to nine and ten at night, and in this time they will earn perhaps 8d. or 9d. a-day. These long hours "sicken them a bit."
Boys only employed in the breaking and washing - Age and hours
Of the washers, who are all boys, the youngest are about nine years of age, and they are of all ages, from this up to 18. The system of breaking and washing is precisely the same as that of the Derwent Company in Northumberland. Their total number is about 40. They commence work at seven in the morning, and leave work at six at night, with one, two, or three days a-week an extra hour, sometimes an hour and a half, and on occasions as much as three hours, - once a-month perhaps, hardly that. For this overwork they are paid extra. The time during which, however, the works are suspended by severe weather - by the absolute freezing of the water, which alone stops them - is sometimes three or four months in the year. On the average the time of work is 42 weeks in the year. The regular number of hours work per day is 10, except on Saturday, when it is only five, the work being closed at 12 o'clock. Over-work may extend the time three or four hours per week more.
Exposure to weather
The employment is in breaking, washing, and "scumming" the ore, with the assistance of a crushing-mill. The work is easy and healthy in itself, but the exposure to weather is sometimes very severe. There is no overhead shelter whatever, and the obstacle against providing it is, that the consequent obstruction of the light would prevent a ready distinction between the ore and the material of the matrix from which it is broken; the grey ores being here very common. Mr. Borron, the resident proprietor, was himself the first to propose a shelter for the washers, on making a new arrangement as to the system of payment. The objection above stated was made by the overlooker, who erected only a line of upright boards, which were disapproved. There is therefore still no shelter, except in the case of a few who have some upright boards to break the wind, and the feeder of the crushing-mill, who has a little box. There seems to be no objection to providing each worker with a sort of narrow upright box, with a roof slanting backward, such as the stonemasons use, and which would exclude no light. This objection to sufficient shelter on the score of want of light cannot be urged in the North of England lead-mines, since the materials combined in the lead-veins with the ore are so clearly characterised by different colours as to be easily separable. Assuredly some shelter is required in this high and mountainous region, in which the workpeople are exposed equally to the storms of the east and of the west.
The only place where there is exposure to accident is in feeding the crushing-mill, into which the feeder has been drawn in several instances in the North of England, where M. & J Bell has chiefly worked ; but no accident, except the hurting of two fingers by a cog-wheel shaking one of the troughs, has occurred here.
Besides the blank days of bad weather, the holidays are the day before and part of the day after the sacrament day, Christmas and New 1'ear's days, and those of the two fairs.
The wages are, according to their ages and qualifications, 16d., 10d., 9d., 7d , 6d., 5d., 4d., and 3d. per day, to which a trifle for overwork has to be added at the end of the week.
Treatment and Earnings
The children are kept to their work, but are never punished injuriously. Sometimes he has given them a "bit bat with his hand;'' but commonly punishes misbehaviour by setting them aside from their work for a day, which does for a long time, "before ye have anything to do again with that yane," but they are in general "peaceable laddies."
The parents do what they can for the children; but all here are very poor, and some of the children are poorly clad for their exposed labour, with their clothes and clogs worn out, and too often with bare feet. They are all the children of miners, who get on an average about 13s. per week ; some get 30s. for a while; others at this moment are making only 4s. 6d. or 6s., upon which they must live with family charges as they can.
Cottages and Cow Pastures
Besides their wages they have, however, cottages built by themselves on plots, having little gardens attached, given by Lord Hopetoun. Among them the township pay £70 for the pasturage of their cows on the mountains, and under this contract the miners share in that pasturage, and the principal part of them have each a cow. On the common mountains too they may enclose as much as they like so that they cultivate it, and may hold it rent-free. Altogether the condition of the colliers is decidedly superior to that of the agricultural labourers around. The children get a sufficiency of food of the kind which other witnesses will describe. Brought up hardily, the whole of these children are generally healthy.
Efforts to get education and its effect
The children are civil and obedient, though when exasperated they are almost ferocious. Their education is better than that of the children in Northumberland and Durham, aided especially by the efforts of the parents to instruct them themselves; but in natural talents they have no superiority, but rather the contrary. The parents here are so anxious to have their children educated, that with all their caution there are here at this moment instances of their running the chances of execution for petty debts while they are paying for superior instruction to their children. This they expect ultimately to compensate for all; indeed they know it will. The education makes the Scottish youth more obedient, while the English are more headstrong, and therefore as workpeople he would prefer the Scotch youth to the English, if compelled to choose. The lads here will do, and do to the time, what is required of them in their labour, even when the master is out of the way ; a virtue which those of England do not equally possess, for it is one resulting entirely from instruction, an instruction quite as much got from the hearth as in the school. In this village there is the one parish-school; the children are taken so early as four years of age; great emulation exists in the whole school; his "little lassie" commits to memory more in one evening than he could in a week.
No. 44. James Aitchison, washer. October 12, 1841 :
Will be 15 years of age on the 2nd of December, and has been four years a washer. Goes to work at seven in the morning, leaves at 12 for breakfast [although he takes with him something in his hand to eat as he goes], and then he finally leaves at six for dinner. Sometimes the hours are lengthened by overwork, generally twice a-week, when he stays till seven, or half-past, and besides once a-month, when he is kept till half-past eight or nine. The work is very nice in summer, but in cold and rough weather it is very bad. Was wet through to his shoulders to-day; most of them were as wet as himself. There is no shelter, except for the one little boy who feeds the grinding-rollers, who has a little cover; no others have any shelter overhead, nor any other shelter, except a board or two set upright to break the wind. He is himself employed in skumming, which is in separating the broken sandstone from the broken ores of lead. Before he came to this he worked at other departments of the washing. Was once employed with three others in cleaning the chimneys of the smelting-mill, for which they had £4 amongst them. It occupied them three weeks to clean four chimneys, and made them sometimes very sick. Wears coarse woollen clothes, and wooden clogs, which, with woollen stockings, keep his feet both dry and warm, except in bad, wet, and frosty weather. Is often wet through, generally when it comes on wet about noon. Sometimes gets cold, so that once, for three weeks, he could not work. Some of the other boys also suffer from cold. They are generally stout and well. Is employed by Mr. Harrison Bell, the company's overlooker of the washing, and paid by Mr. Mitchell, their cashier. Has 9d. a-day for all the days actually at work, and about 4d. a-week for overwork. The regular hours of work are 10 on every day in the week, except Saturday, when it is only five, the work being left at noon. Mr. Bell is very good as a master to us. He sometimes pushes the little ones to work, but never to hurt them. Is strong and stout now, though not formerly. Takes a piece of oatmeal-cake with him for breakfast in a morning. At breakfast has oatmeal-porridge and buttermilk, and oatmeal-cake; at dinner, potatoes and a little butter very often, and a little milk; scarcely ever flesh meat. Sometimes has a supper of buttermilk and oat-cakes. Goes to no school, but the minister catechises the children at home. Was at a night-school for six weeks a year and a half ago. Many of the boys during winter go to evening-school. It is the master of the parish-school who teaches in the evening-school. Has not been to any school during the day since he began work. Reads to amuse himself; has read Andrew Wylie, Tales of a Grandfather, Tales of a Landlord, the Persecutions, and other books. There is nothing for the boys to do besides the washing, except to herd the cows, to which he prefers his present occupation.
No. 45. Mr. George Russell October 13, 1841.
Is overseer of the smelting-works at the Leadhills Mines, which office he has held for two years. The youngest persons employed are now 20, though he has seen them as young as 18 years of age. The work is hard, but the men have good health. They work generally five days a-week, averaging six hours and a half per day. The fumes from the furnace are carried off by four vents, one to each smelting-hearth, and one to the slag-hearth., carried up the mountain-side about 300 yards. This greatly improves the draught, and takes away the fumes more readily from the men working at the furnaces. These fumes are of sulphurous acid, together with a little lead, and are entirely destructive to the mountain vegetation near the top of the vent. The men seldom complain of it, and only when the wind acts so as to prevent a free rise of the vapour. One man has been employed in these smelting-mills 37 years. The ordinary hours of working the hearths are 12 daily, from 12 o'clock at night to 12 in the day, during which time the hands are shifted once. It has been contemplated to lengthen the chimney or vents, not expressly for the relief of the men, but for the advantage of the lead deposited in the vents. They have no such vents up the hill-side at the Wanlock Head Works, because the lease of the company to which they belong [the Marquis of Bute and Mr. M'Leod] will expire in the next year, and there are doubts about its renewal. The shorter the chimneys the greater annoyance and danger from the fumes.
No. 46. Thomas Weir. October 12, 1841.
Is superintendent of the underground works at the Leadhills Mines of the Scottish Mining Company, which office he has held four years, having been in the service of the company during his whole working life, for 42 years ; for 38 of these underground, for 20 of these with a charge underground, though not to the same extent as at present. Is a native of this village, as also were both his parents. The employment below is an alternation of picking, and blasting, and shovelling, and barrowing; but the youngest of the people employed underground is 16 or 17 years of age. The total number now at work underground is about 120, and the whole population of the village, amounting to about 1000 inhabitants, are dependent on the company's works. There is no other employment, except for -a very few in cotton-weaving brought from Glasgow, and in embroidering, resorted to by the girls.
Almost all the hands employed in the mines are natives of the place, except 10 North-countrymen [Highlanders] from Argyleshire, who have come only recently, since there was a dispute between the company and their men about wages, and about the dismissal of a manager, in 1835 ; after which there was some coldness between a part of the men and the employers. The men struck, but were obliged to return to their work without wholly gaining their point. The mines have been in operation for at least 300 years; the present lessees have had them for 105 years, and the workers in them have long been born and bred in the place. The occupation has been so long established, and on the whole so constant, as to have bred its own hands for some generations. This permanency of employment is a peculiar feature of this place, and of Wanlock Head, a neighbouring mining village. Knows in Scotland of no population employed off the soil in mines or manufactures where the employment has been thus so constant as to breed its own succession of workers. For a long time back it has been "miners' sons miners," except those who turned their attention to other things, and went away from the place, chiefly getting into clerks' situations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and in England; while some have gone into the Scottish church. Two sons of one miner in this place are now in the church. Some go away also as labourers, more of late than in former times.
The miners work day and night, in shifts of six or eight hours, during which they make no meal. The usual breakfast hour for the people about home is from 9 to 10 o'clock; the dinner hour from two to three, and the supper hour about 9 or 10 o'clock. The men generally work two together, picking and blasting, and convey the ores which they extract in narrow little waggons to the bottom of the shaft, which serves both for drawing and pumping. The waggons run on a way of flat iron rails, on which they are kept by flanges on the wheel. The depth of the pit, from the adit of entrance to the bottom, is 108 fathoms; and the depth of the adit end, from the surface of the mountain, is near 80 fathoms,. The ores are filled from the waggons into buckets of moderate size, drawn up by a small water-pressure engine, placed about 30 fathoms below the adit, at a place where there is also a larger engine on the same principle for pumping water to that point, from which another draining adit conveys it out at the base of the mountain. The pump gearing and other conveniences so encumber this pit that the buckets of ore are necessarily small. After the ore is raised in these, it is put into other waggons, which convey it down the adit of entrance to the mountain side, where it is subjected to the processes of sorting and washing. The workers are now 100 fathoms to the south, and 40 fathoms to the north of the bottom of the pit; the veins generally running from north to south, and forming nearly perpendicular strata, varying in thickness from less than half an inch to 14 feet, as it is traditionally stated they have once been found. This vein lies in between the strata of greywacke, which are about 25 degrees from the perpendicular in their position. Where the men are working is not very wet, but the entrance to the mine forms the bed of a stream formed by the springs in the mountain, in some places raining from the roof. This would wet their feet but for the thick clogs which protect them. Of course the whole is damp, and the ground wet, and the air is always loaded with more or. less of smoky vapour from the blasting, but fire-damp was never heard of, and choke-damp has never accumulated to such a degree as to endanger life. Whenever a valuable working has been pushed so far that the common atmospheric pressure of the colder air to substitute itself for the air heated by the miners and their lights will not suffice to oppose this enemy, means are taken, by opening new communication with old shafts, or by applying a water-blast through pipes, to render the ventilation better. Single individuals have, from time to time, lost their lives by falling down pits in the mine, through a false or incautious step; others by the roof or sides crushing in at the place of their work; and others by the explosion of their charges when inserting them into the rock for blasting, ramming them down, or drawing the needle. In 1816 six men lost their lives by the smoke of a steam-engine fire descending into their workings and stifling them. This engine was in a position similar to the present water-engines, and some obstruction occurred in the vent. This vent was afterwards put in order, throughout its extent, through several stages or passages - the engine being at a depth of 90 fathoms from the surface; but the men had got, alarmed - they were constantly smelling something of the same kind which was then experienced, and that working never went on with spirit again. When an accident takes place there is no public inquiry whatever; indeed, if the case be not very suspicious, there is no inquiry anywhere in Scotland. In some cases of death in these mines, culpable negligence has undoubtedly occasioned the disaster; but never any known malicious purpose, nor is it, at all probable that such could exist. Some public inquiry would give satisfaction. The workers here are a much more cautious people than the colliers down by Glasgow, among whom he has seen the most hazardous folly, in overloading the ropes, descending incautiously, arid otherwise risking their lives. Was 16 months engaged in overlooking at the Shott's Iron-works, in Lanarkshire, in 1837-8, where Mr. Baird, the agent, was cautious to discourage any foolhardiness, and to keep the mines in the most excellent order, as to materials for drawing, &c. ; so that the character of this place was not such as he has described; but near to Glasgow, in the neighbourhood of Airdrie, he has seen much more careless conduct. Here there was much less defect, in the gearing than in the caution of the men, as in overloading the ropes. Mr. Baird would not, at the Shott's Works, allow any descending into the pits by the ropes, but only by the turnpike stairs provided on purpose. There is just a kind of system a man gets into which makes him less cautious, and use a foolhardiness which is unknown here. They were new works about Airdrie, with men recently collected from all quarters, and including some Irish ; and it is not the steadiest men that flit from place to place. Each one, too, was careless enough about the fate a of his neighbour, however anxious he might be about his own; which carelessness would often occasion a risk which would not occur among such men as those working steadily at Leadhills. Exposure to danger makes thoughtful men more cautious, but thoughtless fellows foolhardy by familiarity with it; and the Leadhills people are comparatively a thoughtful people.
The miners have one day's holiday at each of two sacrament days in the year, with one fast day, which they regularly observe. They have New Year's Day, and two fair days. But otherwise they generally work six days a-week.
The work they take in year's bargains, or in three months' bargains, to work at a particular part of the mine, and to receive so much per ton for the smelted metal produced from the ore which they extract; the price varying with the difficulty of the working, and the richness of the ore. When it is brought to the mouth of the pit it is sorted over by the men themselves, and then it is washed by the washers employed by the company. The miner's account is paid only once a-year, but he has always been accustomed to receive from the company his meal and barley on account, together with trifling advances in cash, called peat-money and meat-money, for his winter fuel and beef, and other advances should anything particular occur in the family. Now there is established "the shop," which is a general store for food, spirits, groceries, clothing, &c., kept by Mr. Borron, the resident proprietor, and from which they may have whatever they want on account, so long as they have money due to them. This store is not kept on the company's account, in like manner, as the supply of meal was made, without profit; but a profit is charged on the things, while five per cent, discount is allowed to those purchasing with ready money. When their accounts come to be balanced, their weekly earnings will be found to average, at various rates, from £1 a-week down to 8s.; the greater number will be getting only 12s., while some of the youths receiving less than a man's share will have less. Out of these earnings they have to find their own candles and their own gunpowder, which may average 1s. a-week each. The contracts under which the men work are written and signed, the copy being kept by the master, while the worker has no duplicate. The men make these bargains in companies usually of six, though sometimes of eight, and sometimes four, according to the circumstances of the place of work. The gangs of course vary in strength and ability; the most, vigorous uniting together, while the old will be found working together, or sometimes with the youngest.
The miners enjoy the ground of their cottages, kail yards, potato patches, and cows' hay- fields, which they have reclaimed by spade labour from the mountain wastes, free of rent; but build their own cottages. The keeping of cows has rather increased, with a resort to more of milk diet, in lieu of some of the animal food, which formerly they got. There have been upwards of a hundred cows kept in the village, but with the decrease in the number of miners there has been some decrease in that of the cows. Their food is a lunch of oatmeal-cake and buttermilk early in the morning; a breakfast of oatmeal porridge and oatcake; a dinner of potatoes and sweet milk, with a herring, when they can get it, and a bit of beef as a holiday treat. For supper they will have some similar food. This is not a very strong diet, and it is thought that they do not work very hard, but they yield all their strength. They dress very decently on Sundays, and are pretty well clad for their work, better than any colliers he has seen in Scotland. They have good coarse clothes expressly for the purpose, made of the coarsest white woollen cloth. For the country the people are, in cleanliness, above the average, though this is greatly below what prevails in South Britain.
A considerable number of the older men drop off about 55 or 60, but if they live above 60 they continue till about 70. There is one recorded in the churchyard, who lived to be 136, and various have exceeded 80. From 50 to 60 the men are generally complaining of debility, and seem to be suffering from a general decay, but asthma is not so prevalent as people would be generally led to suppose. The light mountain air tends much to counteract the vapour of the mines., and the effects of the broken particles, which are inhaled in working at the hard rocks, and would otherwise seriously affect the lung's. The men bred in Leadhills are sharp and active, but they are considerably lighter in body than the rural population around. The work may have some tendency to produce this; and the miners have for a long time intermarried exclusively among each other's families. This produces a clannishness, which is evinced in the keeping out of the rural population from any share in the library.
Is one of the elders of the church. There are in the village, besides the members of the Established Church, some members of the Reformed Presbytery, or Covenanters, and one of the Secession Church. The moral character of the place has decidedly declined from what it was 30 years ago, probably through inefficient schooling, a former not very efficient ministration, and other peculiar circumstances. The decline, in strictness of principle and conduct, is not to be doubted, whatever be its cause; but it is hoped, with the great improvement effected in the school by the recent masters, that this decline will be retrieved in the rising generation. At present, in perhaps two cases out of three, the women are in the family way before marriage ; and the same occurs to an equal extent in the surrounding population. Nearly two years ago several men were sentenced to imprisonment in Lanark gaol for fraud upon their employers, in representing as ore got in a difficult part of the mine (and for getting which they were paid highly) some which had really been procured from the easier workings, and for which their pay ought, to have been proportionately less. But this is the first and only known instance of punishment for crime inflicted judicially on any inhabitant of this place.
No. 47. James Martin, Esq., M. D., October 14, 1841.
Is a native of and resident at Leadhills, where he has resided more or less from 1825, and has been practising since 1835. Finds that the people generally, through exposure to the winds and rains of the mountains, are liable to rheumatism and to inflammatory affections of the throat and chest, perhaps in the same degree as the shepherds on the hills. The children employed in the washing are peculiarly exposed to colds, and one is now occasionally spitting blood. The miners too, though no deleterious gases are generated in the mines, or escape into them from natural passages, as in Durham and Northumberland, yet by long continuance underground in galleries damp, ill-ventilated, and loaded with the fumes of the gunpowder, and the broken particles of stone, become liable, towards the decline of life, to difficulty of breathing, arising from chronic affections of the chest, which would generally be called dyspnoea. In the last six years and a half there have also been five deaths in the mines by accidents of falling down pits and the falling in of the roof. As a general rule, the difficulty of breathing creeps upon a miner towards the close of life, and helps to break him up sooner than occurs with the population generally. From 50 to 60 this form of disease is active in shortening the duration of life; and the general effect, is exhibited in the much greater number of widows than widowers, the women living perhaps to the full average. Even in their case an injurious influence arises from the sedentary employment at the sewing, which now occupies, and has for a considerable time occupied, the great body of the females from childhood upwards, notwithstanding they may be married. The effect of this occupation is well known in the country, since those girls who have long pursued it would have less chance of being hired into service, because of the greater delicacy of habit which they would have acquired. All these influences tend to make diseases of the lungs the prevalent cause of hastening death. The influenza which, in 1836, was very severe, and caused some deaths, so seriously shook the health of the older people as to have been for two or three years afterwards a continued and serious cause of an augmented rate of mortality. The men at the smelting-mills suffer a little from colic pains from the fumes of the lead ores, comprising sulphur, lead, and occasionally small portions of antimony and arsenic. A shot manufactory was carried on here for a short time, when the effects of arsenic were clearly discernible in the illnesses of several of the men. But all serious effects from these fumes are now obviated by the lengthened vents up the mountain side. The village cows were formerly lost in considerable numbers from the deposition of the particles from the short chimneys formerly used at a spot immediately at the bottom of the village; but now this is declining, and the men working at the smelting-mills are no longer affected to the extent of paralysis of the muscles, generally those of the arm, which formerly was common. At Wanlock Head the short chimneys still used leave the draught imperfect, and cause the fumes to affect the men working to a greater degree than at Leadhills, besides very commonly filling the whole village with clouds of the deleterious fumes. Has a private record of all the deaths in the village during the time of his practice in it, an abstract of which is subjoined.
No. 48. The Rev. John Hope. October 13, 1841.
Has been minister of Leadhills, in the parish of Crawford and county of Lanark, for 12 years. The village of Leadhills is remarkable for the institution, by its mining workpeople. in 1741, of a library of circulation, the first established by mechanics in Scotland, and apparently the first in the whole kingdom. It was instituted entirely by the miners themselves, and wholly at their own suggestion, although of course the Hopetoun family, to whom the place belongs, gave the project encouragement. From their situation among the mountains, and from the badness of the roads, the miners found themselves separated from all ready communication with the rest of the world, and this library was the only means of learning anything about it. They then worked only six hours a-day, had much spare time on their hands, were much superior in moral feeling to the people employed in other public works, and possessed of the pecuniary means of supplying the want of mental occupation which they thus found. The rural population, not engaged in mines or manufactures, are here, as elsewhere, a well-conducted, orderly people, some of whom are earnest readers of such books as come in their way, and all can read and write.
Indeed the desire on the part of parents to have their children well instructed is perhaps as remarkable now as ever; an instruction which they have pride in giving to them, not less on religious and moral than on worldly grounds, though undoubtedly the latter have great influence. This desire was perhaps stronger here many years ago than it is now, a result partly brought about by the poverty of the parents, which compels them to take their children away from school much earlier than they did 30 years ago. This deficiency is partly supplied by the improvement in the parish school itself, for instruction in which the children are themselves exceedingly eager. The increased exertions of the clergy and the schoolmaster seem rather to deaden the exertions of the parents in this department, by rendering them unnecessary, than to foster them by encouraging their co-operation.
For the management of the affairs of the library the subscribers (who are limited to the people of the village, and to the mining people of the neighbouring village of Wanlock Head, to the express exclusion of farmers and rural labourers) appoint a committee of 15 members annually, including a chairman, a treasurer, and a precis, or clerk. There are also three librarians. All these officers act gratuitously, except the clerk, who has a small allowance (7s. 6d. per annum and the use of the library), and the librarians, members of the society, who for the year of their office are exempt from making their contributions. The subscription is 2s. per year, and when a new member is admitted he pays 5s. entrance; but the eldest son of a subscriber succeeds to his share and freedom without this payment. It is not within the regulations to admit females, but a widow is sometimes allowed to read upon her deceased husband's right. The library consists of above 1800 volumes. The large room in which the books are kept is reserved solely and exclusively for the keeping of the books; and the institution is purely and simply a circulating library, without any lectures or discussions whatever. The members meet, once a-month for bringing in and taking out books, which they are required to return monthly; and there are quarterly meetings for transacting the ordinary business of the society, besides the yearly meetings for the elections. The printed rules and the catalogue of books will show more in detail the constitution of the society and the character of the library. This library has not. only fostered but has caused a superiority of intelligence among the miners decidedly above that of Scottish artisans generally. Though not superior to the rural population in moral character, they are decidedly superior in conduct to manufacturing and mining labourers generally, employed together at large public works, such as collieries, iron-works, and factories. They are superior in intelligence, but not in moral character, to the artisans of the country, with whom, however, a fair comparison cannot be made, their circumstances demanding rather a comparison with the labourers assembled at other public works.
The school, which is the only one in the place, is connected with the parochial church establishment, but is endowed by the proprietor of the place, Lord Hopetoun, with about £30 and a house rent-free ; in addition to which, payments are made by the children, the lowest being ls. 6d. a-quarter, and the highest 5.s., for which latter instruction is given in Latin. The intermediate prices are 2s., 2s. 6d., 3s., and 3s. 6d. These further payments may average £40 a-year. There is no schoolmistress, but girls as well as boys go to the school, and are combined in the same classes ; and the total number is upwards of 130, the boys and girls being in nearly equal proportion. All the children of the village are sent to this school, with a very few exceptions of families in such very reduced circumstances that they are not able to educate their children ; still some of the children of such parents even are brought to school by a charitable subscription for their education, the number being about six kept thus in the school. The system now pursued in this school, as in other parochial schools, is called the "Intellectual System," because it is endeavoured by explanation to make the children understand their tasks, a system of very recent date. In some of the parochial schools, where the masters are very advanced in years, they have an utter abhorrence of this system, which, in fact, would require them to be taught themselves to pursue it. The schoolmaster is appointed by Lord Hopetoun, or rather his agent, who, on a vacancy, advertises for candidates, who are subjected to an examination by a committee of clergymen and others. The present schoolmaster was brought up at his native village, and is highly qualified for his task; which he has held scarcely a year, after being employed teaching elsewhere. Some of the village school-masters, however, have been to college, and others in the normal schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh, supported partly by subscriptions and partly by the payments of the pupils.
Lord Hopetoun's family early supplied the village with a place of worship, attached to his own small residence in the place, which was originally called Hopetoun, and from which he derives his title, though he now seldom visits it. The clergyman is paid partly by an allowance from Lord Hopetoun and partly by one contributed by the mining company. Compared with the total amount of the population, about 950, there are, so to speak, no Dissenters; there are a few not in connexion with the church, but it is very few.
The moral character of the place is respectable, at the same time that its intelligence is superior; and the library instituted here at so early a period undoubtedly contributed to make them for a long time as pre-eminent for moral worth as acquired intelligence. But this worth has now perhaps somewhat declined; poverty has crept to their doors, and has perhaps made them less particular than once they were. Cases of bastardy do occur, but the father almost invariably marries the mother of the child.
No. 49. Mr. Archibald Russell - October 13, 1841.
Master of the school at Leadhills, which office he has held for one year; received his early education at the school at Wanlock Head, a mining village rather more than a mile distant, consisting of a community precisely like that of Leadhills, and numbering at the last census about 800. At Wanlock Head they have a library, like that of Leadhills, established on the same principle at a date 15 years later.
Into this library the rural population of the neighbourhood are admitted, to the improvement of its funds, and the increase of the library. There are about 1500 volumes in it, and it is much to be regretted that the same liberality is not exhibited by the members of that at Leadhills, who refuse to admit the rural population, just in the pride of having it said that it is a miner's library.
The school at Wanlock Head has for its master Mr. Lorimer, a person about 45 years of age, who conducts it on the old plan. Mr. Russell received further instruction both in Glasgow and at the Moffat Academy; attending the normal school at the former, at the same time with his other studies, for two days a-week during two months, through the kindness of the teachers ; and at Moffat he learned the "Intellectual System," by which the understanding is cultivated along with the memory, to which latter the old system is wholly directed. Every teacher has his own system of drawing out the understanding of his pupils by questioning them upon the meaning of words and the subjects about which they are engaged. There is a remarkable distinction made in regard to the books by the teachers on the old system and those on the new system. On the old system they use, for reading, books of Roman oratory in English, and in Latin for the Latin scholars, together with the Old and New Testaments, and the three Catechisms, the Assembly's Shorter Catechism, the Proved Catechism (proved by extracts taken from the Bible), and the Mother's Shorter Catechism. In English grammar and practical arithmetic the children in the old schools are fairly instructed ; but they pursue their lessons only at their seats, and are not brought to receive their lessons from the master direct, as on the new system. There is no activity whatever called forth in the old system, in which a very general first prize is for the recital of the 119th Psalm, without error. Thus the memory alone is cultivated., and that a memory altogether verbal.
In this school, under the new system, are used for the teaching of reading, first, a board with the alphabet and syllable lessons on sheets; the children are then put into Chambers's Second Reading Book, the first being superseded by the board. The third lesson- book is M'Culloch's Third Reading Book ; Chambers's Third and the Testament are then read alternately; Wier's Young Student's Preceptor, and finally M'Culloch's Series of Lessons are then also used, while reading the Old Testament, of which only six or ten verses are read at a time. On the old system, on the other hand, the Testament is a junior class-book after the children have been instructed in the common old lesson-books, designated respectively the twopenny, the fourpenny, and the tenpenny, of which the latter is far too difficult. Afterwards, in the forenoon, the First Collection, made by the parochial schoolmasters, with fresh editions, and Barry's Collection are usedthe afternoon lesson-book, while reading these, being the Old Testament. None of these books, the Scriptures excepted, are used in the schools on the new system, which is being rapidly introduced, because every new teacher is chosen according to his proficiency in that system.
Supplementary to the course of Scripture reading, are books of biographical questions for both the Old and the New Testament. In all the reading lessons, the teacher explains every subject to the scholars, and questions them under a system of competition, to be assured of their understanding the subjects about which they have been reading.
Besides this excitement through reading, he uses the Introduction to the Sciences, published by the Chamberses, as part of their educational course, though he knows of only two other schools - the academies at Moffat and Caerlaverock - where it is used. Out of this he reads daily some portion in the afternoon, explains all its terms to the children of all the classes who can. read and have any understanding of what is read to them; in fact, half the school now join in this exercise. After this explanation the children are examined, and take places according to the accuracy and intelligence of their answers. In this exercise the children who have an answer to give rise up and throw up one hand. This rising up and sitting down give considerable exercise and excitement; and in all the other classes where questioning is employed while the children are standing the hand is similarly thrown up, and the teacher chooses which he will ask for an answer, according to his own discretion. This system of throwing up the hand is newly adopted also in the Caledonian Moffat Academy. If they throw up their hands without having some answer to give, they are subjected to moderate punishment, and, as they are sure to be detected some time, this is effectually prevented, and those who have an answer are left for the teacher's choice. Sometimes the punishment is an affront rather than a whipping, which is nothing more than a whip across the fingers with the naked leather called the taws.
In teaching writing the only peculiarity is that dictation is used occasionally with the higher classes, as an exercise at once in writing and spelling. In arithmetic the system of practising by the ear, and pursuing the sums given mentally, without writing, is much used, on a steadily progressive system, and one in which, as in every other department of the tuition, the competition for advancement in the classes is kept at its highest pitch.
Mathematics also are taught, both pure and practical; Latin, Greek, and French, if required, and geography. English grammar is taught, commencing with an habitual distinction of the nouns, adjectives, and verbs in their reading; after which they proceed with Lenny's grammar. None are learning Greek or French, but two are learning Latin.
The youngest scholars pay 1s. 6d. per quarter for reading only; the next class 2s. for reading and writing; the third, 2s. 6d, for reading, writing, and arithmetic; the fourth, 3s. for these and all the higher branches of instruction. These prices are lower than those of the parochial schools generally, because of the endowment of £25 per annum by Lord Hopetoun and £5 by the company. The young men who are being gradually brought in as masters of such schools as this, are all, however, introducing into them an activity the same in kind, if not in degree, as that which is here exhibited. As for the detail of these systems, it is guided by their own judgment; but they all adhere to the great principles of the "Intellectual System," to excite the attention and cultivate the understanding.
The children come to school so early as four years of age, sometimes younger; and the boys who are going to the washing of the lead ores leave at about nine or ten. These will attend again during the winter months, when they will, with labour to the teacher, revive what they have already acquired, but seldom make much progress in learning anything more. Some of the miners, themselves better instructed and of a higher order of intellect, will not, however, take their boys away so early, but keep them until they are 14 or 15 years of age, and fit for some junior situation as a clerk in Glasgow or Edinburgh ; some go out merely as shop-boys. Some of these lads will go out into the remote parts of the country, to the farmers' families, and teach them during the winter, and get so much as will keep themselves at school for further instruction during the summer. Leadhills has long been noted as a place from which to get the best teachers of this sort, and he has now applications for more than he has youths to recommend. Has himself educated several families in remote situations in this manner in his early youth; and they had no other instruction than what he gave them. The general wages are £3 to £4 for the half-year's teaching, besides board and lodging, but the payment is sometimes as low as 30s. in the shepherds' houses, where some of the young lads are engaged. He went out himself to this at 12 years of age, and taught among the farmers for two several winters; afterwards in a gentleman's family for two years, and then at the Moffat academy, teaching and being taught alternately. It was a dull tiresome life among the farmers, "from all mutation free," unless it were a lively conversation with a ploughman. Of eight young men of his time, brought up in the same school at Wanlock Head, who went teaching to the farms, four went on to be schoolmasters, two to be clerks near Glasgow, and two went ultimately into the mines.
Girls leave the Leadhills school at from 9 to 12 years of age, to be taken to the hand-sewing ; and although, under the old system, they would leave without being able to write, it is hoped that this evil will be remedied now.