Childrens Employment Commission 1842
The following extracts are from the report by Thomas Tancred to the Children's Employment Commission on the West of Scotland District which was published in 1842.
Hurlet Colliery; visited personally.
No.26. April 22. Peter Boag, bottom-man of the Haugh Pit, Hurlet, Mr. J Wilson's:
His office is to hook on the full
baskets and take off the empty ones from the “tow” or rope by
which they are hoisted up. This pit is 47 fathom deep. When working
at full speed they raise 80 baskets of 5cwt. each on an average in an
hour. They generally stop the “cleet” or engine for half an hour
at 11 o'clock to feed the horses. Three horses are used to draw coal
in this pit, which is very rarely the case in this country. They have
had no very serious accidents lately here. Thirty-six years ago there
was a very serious explosion in this pit by which 18 people were
killed; 16 funerals went away in one day to Paisley and two at
Neilston. The coal produces a great deal of fire-damp; but by opening
other shafts into it, it is now very well ventilated. The Househill
Pit, which is so near that they can hear the men working in it, and
in the same seam has had very many accidents. In nine years they have
had 32 or 33 people killed there, besides others injured. They prove
the pit in the morning with the Davy lamp but never work with it.
This Hurlet seam of coal is used for manufactories, but is too
sulphury and dirty for houses. They raise from this pit four
different minerals; viz. coal; copperas ore, or “galls,” found in
the coal; aluminous schistus above the coal; and finally limestone.
Mr. Wilson has works for making the copperas and alum. A collier's
“darg” [or day's work] is 16 baskets per day. This is about as
heavy a darg as any in Scotland and they are paid from 3s. 3d. to 3s.
6d. a-day for hewing and filling; the drawing to the horse-road is
contracted for. He himself keeps a night-school at Nitshill, where he
sometimes has 60 scholars; for 16 years he has had no drawers in it.
“The drawers themselves allow it is too laborious for them; that
they are wearied when they go home too much to attend school.” Many
of his scholars are married man. They cannot work more than five days
a-week either at hewing or drawing; it would be too much. He thinks
the children are put to work in the pit much too young. He thinks the
stores are a great evil; 14 or 15 years ago, when there were no
stores, the men wrought much better. The men would be much better off
if they dealt in shops on their own credit. “Everything is a great
number per cents. dearer” in the stores. There are stores connected
with many public works, factories, bleachfields, &c. and even
railway-contractors have stores. Some shops allow 1s. in the pound
sterling to the contractor on what his men spend at the shop. The
store connected with Mr. Wilson's works is not objectionable, as it
is bona fide let to a shopkeeper; but many, though carried on in
other person's names, are well known to belong to the proprietors of
the work. The shops will not trust men who work where there is a
store, because they know that they have always the store to fly to.
No.27. Patrick Kinnon, a drawer, aged 9:
Helps his brother. They come down to work about half-past five; they get up again between four and five; do not go to evening-school. Dennis Daily and his brother, aged respectively 19 and 14, drawers, have to go and come to and from their work together about seven miles; live at Cross Arthurly.
Thornhill House, near Paisley
No.28 April 23. Campbell Snodgrass, Esq., lessee of Elderske and Craigen-feoch Collieries, justice of the peace, &c:
The colliery children are generally ignorant; witness does not see how it can be otherwise, as long as they go down to work so young. The school is one mile distant. The arrestment of wages causes great hardship to a workman; it encourages the shopkeepers to allow men to get into debt; and, once in debt, the man is at the mercy of the tradesman; he may charge his customer what price he chooses for articles, and if the man leaves the shop the tradesman pounces upon his wages by an arrestment. What is called an arrestment in dependence is served together with the summons, and this has the effect of locking up a man's whole wages till the cause comes on for hearing in the small debts court, even though the man may all the time owe the tradesman nothing. As to stores attached to works, they are the most villainous, nefarious business that ever was. There are no stores about here, nor lines given to shops; nor have the men houses or fire allowed them, or let by the work to them. They are quite independent; they are paid every Saturday. A house consisting of one kitchen is rented at about £3 per annum, which is paid half-yearly, or may be paid weekly. As an illustration of the effect of stores, he knew a certain colliery and lime-work, of which he has heard it repeatedly said, and he believes with truth, that it would have been a losing concern to the proprietors, but that the profits on the store and whiskey-shop were so great that they more than made it up. Some of his men once went to work at this place but soon returned, entreating to be taken back, being, as they said, here paid "in white money."
No.29 May 3. The Rev. Andrew Glen, missionary, Licentiate of the Scottish Church:
Has been engaged amongst the colliery population connected with the collieries in Shewalton, Fairlie, and Gatehead for the last five years; and now, giving up the two last, is to take in their stead the workers of Pearston, Mr. Macredie's. He held his former appointment from a society for promoting religion in the parishes of Dundonald, Kilmaurs, and Fullerton. In the above localities all but a very few of the collier families reside in houses provided by the proprietors of the works, from which they must remove as soon as they cease to work for the proprietor and may be turned out at a fortnight's warning. Many are also strangers from Ireland. From these circumstances the collier population has a tendency to be more unsettled than persons connected with other public works ; the man knows that if he can obtain work in any other colliery there is a house all ready for him. At Fairlie particularly the population has been very unsettled, so much so, that within five years the village has been twice emptied of its inhabitants and repeopled. In the other two collieries this extreme fluctuation has not occurred, partly from a more steady system of management, and partly from greater care in the selection of the workpeople. On often pressing upon those at Fairlie advantages of paying more attention to their domestic comfort, as relates to their gardens &c., the common answer was, “We dinna ken whare we might be the next fortnicht.” On the other hand, at Gatehead every little patch they can have access to they plant with potatoes and cabbage. At Shewalton, being on the borders of a waste sandy muir, many have enclosed parts for potato gardens; and this spring several collier boys employed in drawing have collected branches from neighbouring woods, and slabs from the saw-mill, and enclosed little gardens, half the size of a small room, for the cultivation of flowers. About Shewalton, they are much attached to the place and like one large family, having intermarried amongst each other - having a moral security in the character of the master as to the permanence of their residence. Since the commencement of the mission, about 11 years since a great improvement with regard to the education of the children has taken place, according to the testimony of the farmers, managers of works, &c. and one school has been established and another which serves for the two collieries of Fairlie and Gatehead, has been very greatly improved in efficacy. The influence of permanent residence is conspicuous in the different degree of attention of the schooling of their children paid by the workers &c. with Fairlie, as contrasted with those connected with the other two collieries. In the latter, too, a gratifying anxiety is manifested by the parents to send their children to school, though still the male children are removed at a very early age to be employed in the pit. The females are also very soon employed at sewing muslin at home and taking care of the younger members of the family. The little girls do not at first earn much at muslin embroidery, but they, as they call it, “get their hand set,” and so become more skilful at the work. When remonstrated with by Mr. Glen as to removing them so soon, they excuse themselves by saying, “Oh, but we're going to put them to the night-schule.” The average hour of commencing work in the morning is four o'clock - often earlier - as early as three; children and all together; they come up again about three or four next afternoon; sometimes so late as seven. Accidents but too frequently occur, often by recklessness of the workmen. The principal causes of accident are the falling of the roof, burning from fire-damp in one seam at Fairlie, breaking of the rope which draws up the coals and men and the hutches crushing drawers when descending steep parts of the roads below ground. There is a vast deal less intoxication amongst the workers at the two other collieries than at Fairlie and in general in collieries. The time of work in the fortnight is dependent upon the demand; but the men would prefer working about ten days a fortnight. At the Gatehead and Fairlie missionary station there is a library, the subscription to which is 9d. a quarter; not many of the grown-up people make use of it but the books are eagerly sought after by the Sabbath scholars. A great many copies of the Scriptures have been sold to colliers within the last five years, and all the more respectable read more or less on a Sunday. The copies of the Scriptures said to be purchased have generally been as school-books for their children. Previous to the mission some of these works scarcely sent an individual to church; but within the last five years two school-rooms, holding about 80 each, are filled, and sometimes above 100 are packed in. Altogether, it is the opinion of Mr. Glen and of the minister of this parish, in whose presence this evidence is taken, the Rev. David Wilson, that in traversing the collieries in the whole West of Scotland, I shall find few, if any, in so good a condition as Shewalton and Gatehead and also Mr. Macredie's, Pearston, just now commencing. And Mr. Wilson desires to add, that this is mainly to be attributed to the attention which has been paid to the education and religious instruction of the operatives in them.
Stevenston Colliery, Ayrshire; visited personally:
No.30. May 2. John Ballantine, manager of Stevenston Colliery, in the Parish of that name:
There are, on an average, 130 men in these pits, and he believes about 75 boys drawing to them, but he has nothing to do with them; they are paid by the colliers, and are generally own sons. They are paid weekly every Saturday. and they have no store connected with the work, nor is that the custom in Ayrshire. The colliers go down from half-past three to six am, and up again between three and five in the evening. The men live in houses which they rent at the village of Stevenston, at from £2 10s to £3 per annum, including a garden. They most of them set their own potatoes, and some have even enough to sell a part of the produce. The colliery is one of the oldest in the country. The building still exists in which stood one of the first engines for pumping erected in Scotland by Newcomen. This was put up in 1725, and the colliery was wrought long before that. The men are stinted by their own rules to earn not above 4s. a-day and for this they put out from eight to ten "creels," as the hutches are here called. At between nine and ten a boy is counted a quarter-ben, and his master can put out 5s. worth. The sons of persons who are not regular colliers have to pay 5s. for each quarter-ben which they are admitted to. Colliers' sons pay only 3s. to become perfect colliers. He has known them hold meetings and inflict a fine upon a man who did more work than his neighbours. They do not in general work above nine days a fortnight.
Gatehead Colliery, Kilmarnock; visited personally:
No.31 May 4. Mrs. Gray:
Is the wife of James Gray, the engine-man at one of Mr. Guthrie's [i.e. Duke of Portland's] pits called the Kiln Pit; her husband has three brothers colliers in Mr. Finnie's pits at Gatehead; her father was a weaver at Tarbolton, eight miles distant. Has been here a year, and “her man” wrought seven years at Mr. Howie's, near Kilmarnock, towards Galston; her husband goes to the engine to draw water before the colliers go down at three o'clock of a morning; the colliers go down from four to six am., according time the coal is wanted for shipment at Troon. The time is about the same for commencing at all the pits she knows; they are very often “by with their work gen twa o'clock,” at this pit, but that is earlier than most others, because there are fewer men. Where there are maist men they are longer down, because it takes longer to draw their coals. About 12 hours is the general time men are down at other pits; this quarter of a year and better they have not been above six days a fortnight working, on account of little shipment; if they could get it they would like very “weel” to work ten days a fortnight. They take the boys down at 10 years old to work; they only give them two “foos” [i.e. two loads or four kreels] at first, in three-quarters of a-year, they give them three “foos” and six “foos” when they come to half a dark, when they are about 13; and at 15 or 16 come to three-quarter dark. The boys draw all the creels; what she means by their having the above number of “foos” or loads is, that the collier is allowed to put out so many for the boy. It must be sore on the children to stay down and work so long; it keeps them down; they are not generally so healthy boys that's down as those that work above ground. A heap o' folk think its want of air being confined below ground so many hours. In summer sometimes the air's that foul they cannot work, they are obliged to come up, men and boys and all. Some o' the colliers tries to get their boys into trades, or learns 'em to be “gig-men” [i.e. to manage the engine] and keep them above ground as long as they can. Her man worked below ground when he was a boy, but he did not agree with it, he drove a horse below at Muirkirk but he could not stand it; it made him sick and sleepy; it made him unco' dull and sleepy. After he was married he began to work a few weeks in the pit, but he was obliged to give it up from the same cause; has heard of mothers and fathers say that they wished their children to be well forward with schooling, and a bit stout, before they took them down; she thinks they should never go down under 12 years old if folk could keep them up to that, but a heap of folk must take them down to help to keep the young ones. It's very dangerous work; a heap of them get hurt with stones falling from the roof and by coals when they fall over fast on them in working them; there's no much firedamp in these pits. Mr. Guthrie's work has a school, and the colliers who have wee anes send them either to it or to other schools; they are all keen to learn 'em to read, to be that forward that they can read the Bible and a heap of them, after they are working, learn to write at the night-school for an hour at night; but many of the girls do not learn to write; the girls work at flowering muslin but they don't win above 2d or 3d. a-day for a while; the work's that ill that she has a cousin in the town who sits close to it and is a real good “shewer,” [sewer] and cannot win above 6d. a-day. The children when they go down the pit maistly takes enough to serve them the day, and get dinner when they are by with their work; often they are unco' hungry for dinner; they take cheese and bread and whiles tea whiles milk, for dinner pork and potatoes, or flesh meat, or broth. The Gatehead folk have a library to which they pay 9d. a quarter, and many colliers are in libraries which are managed by ministers or missionaries; she shows me the catalogue of the one her husband is in. The 2nd rule is, that “it shall consist of books fitted to promote the intellectual, moral, and religious improvement of the readers; nor shall any work containing unsound opinions, or having a dangerous tendency, be admitted.” Rule 4 is, “that it shall be under the management of eleven curators, who shall be in full communion with the church, and shall be chosen from the several districts of the congregation.” Most of the men in Mr Guthrie's, and about Gatehead, work very steady and attend the kirk; some of the young ones are very ready to get intoxicated after pay; but about Fairlie work they are quit extraordinary, do not gang to the kirk or to preachings and get themselves intoxicated on Saturday nights and that makes them unfit for attending kirk on Sabbath. The purpose of this inquiry, if it is to get the children more time for schooling, is a gude thing and canna' do ill to ony body. She thinks all the best disposed of the colliers would approve of a limitation of the working age to 12 years old.
No.32 May 4. Mr. John Muir, manager of the Gatehead Colliery (Mr. Finnie's), on lease from Lord Eglington:
Has been manager about four years and a half; there are about 110 colliers, which is an increase of 20 men since he came; the coal is worked for shipment to Ireland and the continent, at Troon; some sent even to Falmouth and Plymouth for steam-vessels, distilleries, public works; have four seams, only three in work; called one, ell coal, three feet thick; two, tower-table seam three feet two inches thick; three, major-coal three feet ten inches; four main coal four feet six inches to five feet. The three last only are worked, the deepest pit 44 fathom; no horses used, coal dragged by boys and men the furthest here 400 yards, in whirlies carrying 4 cwt.; the whirley, when it has become water-logged with itself weigh pretty near upon 2 cwt.; this is the weight allowed on the steelyard; the trade goes and comes according to the markets; the stint or restriction as to work imposed by the colliers' rules only extends to the amount of his daily earnings, which must not exceed 4s a-day, but a regular man may work six days in the week and thus earn 24s., whilst an irregular one may earn only five days' wages or 20s. and so on. According to the quality of the coal, as to ease of working. and its distance from the bottom of the shaft, the quantity that a man should put out in a day is estimated and from the quantity the price per load is reckoned, so as to amount on the given quantity to 4s. a-day. The witness was 19 years managing a small colliery for Mr. Guthrie before he came to this work, and he known the “dark” or day's work vary from 14 to 9 loads, still the day's wage remain same - for instance, 4s. The man either draws his own coal, or has a boy who, according to his age, may enable his father or man for whom he draws to put out a quarter dark or half a dark, &c more than he otherwise would be allowed to do, and thus some families have three or four boys; he has three families, two of them having three dark, and one three and a half in the family, which makes their earnings 12s. and 14s. a-day. The man who has three and a half dark is as decent a man as any in the country, goes to church, and keeps his home comfortable. The colliers here mostly live in houses belonging to the work which they have free, with a bit of garden; other houses are rented by the work for them, and some receive 50s a-year to find houses where they like; most of the colliers are bound or engaged by the year; about 10 or 15 of the latest comers are engaged only fortnightly, so as to be free to be discharged if a slack time should come. This plan of binding by the year was adopted by the witness on his coming from the Duke of Portland's works in which this custom prevailed, and since he came he must say the colliery is in a much better state, there is not so much drinking, fighting, &c., and the people continue much more steadily at the work. Fairlie Colliery where they are only on a fortnight hiring is a great contrast, there has been continual flittings. Mr. Glen, the mission also, who acted in this part of the parish under the parish minister (by whom he was partly paid), by means of his Sunday-school, and weekly services, and visiting on Thursday a portion of the houses, produced a great moral effect. For the surgeon 1s. a quarter is stopped from the wages. When a man proposes to put a child into the pit he must ask the witness's “liberty” [or leave], and he always ascertains that the child “is passed his schooling,” and is 10 years of age at least before he allows it; he thinks 10 years full early to go down, and has refused to let them go down even at 10, but he considers the state of the family; for instance, if a man has a family of several daughters older than the boy. He thinks independently of such circumstances that 12 years is quite young enough; he thinks that probably many parents would not object to a restriction of the age at which children should be put down the pit to 12 years, though some doubtless would grumble; he thinks the bad effects of working too young consist more in a loss of proper education than in regard to health; for the first 12 months children of 10 years old do not go down till three hours or so after their father, viz. about six am, and up again from three to four, till they get inured to it. It is not the custom in Ayrshire to have stores connected with the works, and he has heard complaints of men who have worked where they have them. The men far prefer being paid in money and allowed to deal where they like; they would not allow colliers to keep spirit-shops; this is always a question put to men before being engaged. They have seven or eight trap-doors for ventilation, but these are not kept by children, the oversman has the charge of them, and sees they are kept properly shut. The trapdoors, however, need be kept shut only at night; the witness, being a native of Kilmarnock and having never been employed in other coal districts, cannot give any information respecting other localities.
No.33. May 4. James Findlay, clerk at the coal-office:
Has been in the office 12 years and his father is still working as a collier, and two of his brothers have gone into the pit; the eldest was near 12 before he went in, the younger one about 10 to assist his brother; it is safer for the parents to go down with the children, otherwise it is severe on them going down so early when young till they get accustomed to it; they go to bed early about seven o'clock; the night-school here meets about five o'clock, only for the six summer months, and the children come up about three or four, or before three sometimes. The parents are usually anxious they should be pretty well on with their education before they go down the pit and a school has been connected with the work for 19 years; it is attended by about 100 scholars, boys and girls, in the day-time; you may search Scotland before you'll find a better work than this, and we're endowed with a good manager poor fellow, and I'm very sorry he's so ill. Our people here, on the Sabbath-day, just go to church as regular as they go to the coal-work; Mr. Guthrie has just got it so “imbibed” in them; he sets them the example himself. They raise here about 200 waggons every day that they work; if there is less demand they work fewer days. Each waggon contains 28 cwt - they are now only working half-time; three days a-week. This is more convenient than half of each day, for cleaning themselves, and also they say the expense of oil would be nearly the same; also they do not rise from bed so early in the morning the days they do not work. Mr. Guthrie being very unwell is not able to see me, and the work last visited being conducted on the same principles as Mr. Guthrie's, by a man brought up under him, the witness thinks he has nothing more material to mention.
No.34. May 8. John Thompson, Esq., surgeon:
Attends several collieries in the neighbourhood, having been regularly engaged about two years and a half and shorter periods. During that period the most serious accidents have arisen from stones falling upon the men whilst sinking the shafts. A few slighter accidents have occurred, but the greatest mischiefs connected with this employment is the low moral condition of the colliers; as a whole they are generally given to intemperance though there are some quite the reverse. The latter are of course far more comfortable and have their children better educated, nor do they send them so early down the pits; the evil effect of being work prematurely is not visible in any deterioration of health, but is the cause of their being brought up in ignorance by which they are led to form the same perverse habits as the preceding generation. In consequence of the rule existing amongst them which limits each day's earnings to a certain amount, a man who is ambitious of earning more than the sum limited, by taking down a boy of any age, becomes entitled to earn more than if he worked alone. This temptation is too strong for some parents to resist, and instances have been reported to witness, (one by a collier so recently as yesterday morning) of colliers carrying the child too and from the pit on his back; young children thus exposed to hear and all that goes on amongst a number of colliers soon imbibe the bad habits which distinguish their class. The consequence of intemperate habits, and in some degree of the nature of the occupation, is at a more advanced period of life an impaired constitution, so that a collier at 50 generally has the appearance of a man 10 years older than he is. The improvement of the moral condition of this class, which should lead them “from principle” to be careful of their own and their children's health and education, would be attacking the evil at its root, and would be far more efficacious than any mere restrictions as to age of employment.
The experience of the witness as to the moral state of the collier population, and also as to the effect of the employment on health, being identical with that collected from other sources, it is not necessary to take down his evidence at greater length.
Ayr Colliery; visited personally:
No.35. May 6. David Neavon, aged 12:
Has been hewing coal a fortnight; for two years before was “trapping” [i.e. keeping a trap-door] in Ayr colliery. They go down at five o'clock, or any time before six am, at which time the engine begins to draw up coal. They are generally out of the pit between two o'clock and six in the afternoon. Their breakfast is sent down at nine o'clock, when engine stops to feed the horses which draw the coals below ground. It is gay hard coal. He earns 10d. a-day, and is paid by Maister Gordon [the proprietor]. There are some far younger than him keeping trap-doors - as young as eight. The young ones go down with their fathers; he lives in Kilmarnock-street, Ayr; he has a brother 13 or 14 in the pit. He went to school before he went down to pit, and now goes to a night-school. Was five years at the day-school but reads only “some little;” he is in the Testament. A “wife” keeps night-school in Cross-street, at which he pays 2d. a-week. Goes into school from six to eight o'clock.
No.36. May 6. William Price, a native of Girvan:
Is a putter, i.e. draws the coal from the face where it is worked out to the main road. He is paid by Mr. Gordon 1s. a-day. Can read a little, no much. There is one store for meal at the office, and another in town: the colliers' wives take the meal out of it, and it is marked down in the book, and kept off their pay. There are not many who lift no pay [i.e. do not take it in advance] and who deal at other shops.
No.37. May 6. Mrs. Saunders, wife of James Saunders, oversman of Braehead Pit, Ayr Colliery:
Has two sons down the pit of the ages of 15 and 13; the elder has been four years down and the younger two years. Heaps o' them that are in the pit are not above eight or nine keeping they trap-doors. The father having care of the pit employs the youngest boy to go errands, and the eldest is now redding along the roads [i.e. picking up the loose coals which fall from the tubs as they are drawn by the horses, any stones which fall from the roof &c.] He's too “light” for hewing. Hewing the coal is gayan heavy work, and his father thinks he's just o'er light for it; he would be at it himself if his father would let him; the father's rather against it, for he kens it himself that its heavy work. The boys are called about five in the morning; and by the time they get on their “claes” they're awa'. The trappers are “no needed” till between six and seven o'clock, when the coals begin to come up. The boys are taken down sooner than they would be if folks had another way for them [i.e. if they manage otherwise]. Before the hindmost colliers is up its maistly six o'clock. The trappers are there till the last yane [one] that comes outo' the pit; they're needed to the very last. Her house is better than some of them; the one she was in before was very inconvenient, having no closets to put anything away. The're a new row of houses just built by the master, where they're all colliers together; but they're aye leaving them every other week. “They canna be bothered with them;” they don't like them because they have no yard or garden; there's just a road on each side and a double row of houses between; no convenience for anything. There's nae need for shifting if they're comfortable, and have things to fit them. Her daughter is a very good reader. There's a school up the village and you just send a wean and pay if you like it. There's no compulsion to send them. When the men have all whether they send their children or not, like it is done about Glasgow, “it gars [it makes] some o'them send their weans that would nae do so.”
Crook's Moss Pit, Ayr; visited personally.
No.38. May 6. Stephen Trew, aged 16:
Came down as a trapper at nine years old. Has been helping his father, who is a collier these five years, since he was 11 years old; he is a three quarter man now. “He could make an offer at hewing” when he first began, at 11 years old but could not do a great deal. It was gayan hard work, and is so still. He went to school for three years, and was in Bible and Collections; has forgotten a heap since he came to work. Half a year since he tried the night-school a little. The father working with him here observed,- “To tell truth, Sir, when he has been working here till six o'clock at night the school's out o' his head - a heap o't; he's more ready for his bed.”
No.39. May 6. William Wilson:
Is oversman of the Crook's Moss Pit, which we visited together. The pit is about 40 fathoms deep, and there are two seams, the one of splint coal, which is principally worked, is about three feet and a half thick. The bottomer, who hangs the tubs on the “tow,” or rope, stands within the doorhead, which protects him from any coals which may fall. They work the rooms 15 feet wide, and leave the pillars of coal between them from 12 to 15 feet square. The roof is so bad that the rooms have to be built up at night within four feet of the face of the coal and leaving only room for the railroad; the roof is constantly liable to fall, being a till which softens by exposure to the air and damp, and splits off in broad plates. There is nine feet of this till between the coal and the hard metal above. The floor also heaves up very much, so that the old workings when abandoned soon close up of themselves. This makes it necessary to employ a number of oncost men, who build up the rooms at night. A few boys only are employed at night bailing out water from the workings to the dip. The “darg” [or task for a collier] is 12 “foos,” i.e. 56 cwt., six foos making 28 cwt., here called a ton. This is paid at 3s. 6d the 12 foos. It is 800 yards to the face of the coal. The putters, who are mostly Irishmen, are paid by the master to draw the tubs from the face to the place where the horses are harnessed to them. These Irish are very irregular men. He thinks one reason why the collier population at Gatehead and at the Duke of Portland's works are better conducted than they are here, is that in those collieries the men draw their own coal, and thus there are no putters employed. Some of the houses here have as many as six lodgers. A man and a family are plenty in one house. They have a kind of false beds which they make up for the lodgers. It is his opinion that about 12 years old is quite soon enough for a boy to go down the pit. “If we could take them at half that age there are plenty of parents would send them down; many times, almost every day, parents are urging upon us to take children in too young to do any good.” As to women going into pits, “its no becoming,” and should be put a stop to; he would be more against that than letting in younger children. His daughter is married to a collier. Young children are not allowed to ride the tow [i.e. to be let down by the engine] alone; they must go down with their fathers or elder hands. He remembers no accident to children in going up and down.
No.40. May 6. Mr. Gibson, surgeon to the Ayr Colliery, residing at Ayr:
Has just returned from the colliery, where there was an accident yesterday, by which a man's arm and leg were fractured by the falling of the roof. The children in the pits are usually very healthy, as is proved by the rapidity with which they recover from accidents. He believes there are scarcely any men working in this pit above 60 years of age; they generally become incapacitated for that sort of labour from 45 to 60; they marry very young; they have never a farthing left after they have been ill a week; it reduces them to temporary destitution. By the rules of the works, after continuing six weeks at it, they are compelled to subscribe to a friendly society, from which they get 5s. a-week if confined to bed; 4s. if able to walk; and 5s. 6d. when old and past work. Most of the accidents in this colliery from fire-damp result from recklessness on the part of men disregarding the cautions of the oversmen, who examine any dangerous parts of the workings with a Davy lamp every morning before the hands begin work. One man is thus sometimes the cause of several being injured as well as himself. Ignorance and inexperience is another cause of accident from parts of the roof falling, &c; and thus there are more “oncost” men who suffer by these accidents than regular colliers, who understand the method of working under ground. Having read over the part of the “Instructions to the Sub-Commissioners,” specifying the points to be ascertained from medical men connected with the public works, witness says that none of the surgical diseases enumerated result from the work. Fever is “less” prevalent amongst colliers than amongst hand-loom weavers inhabiting the same localities, though the colliers are much more given to debauchery. This exemption from fever he attributes to the more generous diet, and the greater quantity of animal food which the colliers consume. Colliers are subject to become asthmatic and the children are much subject to tubercular disease of the mesenteric glands; the lungs often become ultimately affected. This appears generally traceable to want of comfort and of proper care in infancy in regard to diet, cleanliness, &c.; not proceeding from want of natural affection in the mothers, but from ignorance of the disastrous effects of bad culture; some of the mothers being as dissipated as the men. Amongst delicate children employed as apprentices by hand-loom weavers at a too early an age, there is not infrequently low fever arising from over exertion and sitting too long at the loom at an early age. There being no other works included within the terms of the present inquiry in Ayr, the witness has no experience with regard to the effect of such work on the health of children and young persons.