Childrens Employment Commission 1842
Collieries in Kirkaldy (sic) District of the County of Fife.
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.
- parish of Auchterderran, county of Fife. - (Clunie Coal Company, Lessees. - Mr. Alexander Goodall, Manager.)
No.382. Mr. Alexander Goodall:
I have been 19 years connected with the management of this colliery, during which period no fatal accident, nor has any of a serious kind taken place. In this part very little disease exists amongst the men, as their habits and mode of living differ from most colliers. In the first place very young boys have never been allowed to go below ground, and no females whatever work in our pits.
I consider the keeping females out of the mines one of the most important points towards the improvement of the collier population, as it forces them to self dependence, and as they are obliged to send their daughters into the fields, or to service, so they are compelled to seek wives from other trades than their own; and it is a singular fact that scarcely any one of our colliers have married upon colliers' daughters, as also a large number of the daughters of colliers are married to millers, ploughmen and other people.
There is a school attached to the colliery, at which the majority of male and female children attend: they enter as early as five and six years, and continue till 12, when the boys go down, as they are of no use before that age, although our seams are very narrow, not exceeding 28 inches high, and our roads 42 inches.
The number of men employed are 40 heads of families; 22 under 18 years of age, and four above 12 years of age.
Few men marry about this quarter till 22 to 24 years of age.
No.383. David Blair, 16 years old, putter:
Wrought between three and four years below; employed to put and fill; have not yet been putting at the coal-wall. Does not care about the work, though it is guid sair work. Works 10 hours daily, sometimes more, and makes 11 days out of 12. Earns at present 15d. per day.
[Reads and writes well; well informed; very musical; plays exceedingly well on the violin.]
No.384. Mrs. Blair, mother of David Blair:
Has been married 34 years, and has no recollection of any females or young children being employed to labour below ground. The guid wives have an objection to their children being wrought until they have strength; and when they are working they require good wholesome food sent down. I have five sons working with my man [husband], and they have the porridge and meat sent down, and get it as regular as when at home. My father was a miller, and my daughter is married to one. Ten children alive; all read and write.
No.385. William Herd, 12 years old, gin driver:
I drive the horse round the gin -have done so 12 months. Could read and write before was sent to work. Father is a collier; have seven brothers and sisters; was five years at school. Father is an Episcopalian, and we go to Episcopalian chapel. Knows the Church Catechism.
No.386. David Patterson, 15 years old, putter:
Works 10 hours at wheeling the tubs - has done so three years and a half, works on mother's account. Father died some years since at Perth.
[Reads very well; writes badly; not very forward in Scripture knowledge.]
No.387. Isabel Henderson, wife of J. Henderson, collier:
Lived at Clunie all my life. Have several daughters, who work in the fields, they get 4s. 6d. a-week. Are very healthy, and can get work full 7 out of 12 months.
No.388. Mr. Peter Herd, Teacher, Clunie:
I have been teacher in this district some years and have a fair proportion of the children of farm-servants and colliers attending my school that can be spared from labour; about two-thirds of my scholars are children of colliers. The instruction is elementary only - reading, writing and arithmetic; the latter very little progress is made in, from the manner children are employed.
In this part of the country boys are generally removed, during the summer, to labour about the fields, and they are taken away at the ages of 9 and 10 years, they return in the winter months, and continue in this manner at school until they are 12 years old, when they are withdrawn.
Young persons working in mines and other hard labour make very little progress; they are as dull in spirits as they are fatigued in body, and under such circumstances whatever is done is looked upon as a task imposed, rather than lessons for their benefit.
The progress of young persons wholly unemployed is decidedly greater than those employed at irregular occupations, even though you throw in the advantage of superior age.
The want of proper attendance, and that for a period sufficient to allow children to obtain a sound elementary education, often prevents them from filling situations where only a moderate degree of knowledge is required.
No Sunday-school instruction is sufficient to make up for loss of that of the day-school; and although the morals of the colliers of this place be far in advance of most in Fife, yet the children have not sufficient instruction for the common purposes of life.
- parish of Auchterderran, county of Fife. - (J. and R. Aytoun, Esqs.)
No.389. Mr. Thomas Goodall, manager:
This work has been in operation for the last five years, and people to the number of 60 frequently employed, but no females.
At present the youngest is 14 and the oldest 18, that hurry the tubs of coals from wall-face to shaft.
The principal employment of very young children in our mines has been the opening and shutting trap-doors. I have not the slightest doubt but the employment of some very simple machines might entirely supersede the necessity of employing them, although I have not turned my attention sufficiently to be able to give any definite plan.
I think a limitation of age at which children should be employed most desirable, in the present ignorant, degraded condition of the colliers. If the colliers were in the condition they might and ought to be, considering the wages they make, the discretion of age might be left to themselves; I think, therefore, that 12 years of age is the very youngest at which a child should be allowed to go below ground, as below this it must of necessity stunt their growth, and destroy their constitutions by being confined in damp air.
I suggest one thing which I consider would be a most efficient means of carrying out this commission, and that is the moral and intellectual improvement of the colliers; they are in many places a most barbarous and degraded class, and the employment of females in mines, which is still common in many places around this neighbourhood, has done more to destroy the colliers physically, morally and intellectually, than any other thing that I know of.
No.390. Rev. Dr. Andrew Murray, minister of Auchterarder (sic, presumably should be Auchterderran) parish:
There are two schools in my parish for the ordinary branches of education, and one in which female children are taught to sew. These schools are in Lochgelly, and are not attended by children or young persons employed in labour.
The teachers of the schools are well qualified to teach the elementary branches of education.
There is one Sabbath-school at Lochgelly in connexion with the United Secession congregation, and the teacher complains that he can make little of those who do come, from their being early removed from the day-school.
At Lochgelly, boys leave the day-school as early as 10 years old, and girls generally below that age; at the parochial, boys leave about 12 years of age and girls 10. Their education is very imperfect, and continuous labour deprives them of the opportunity of improving themselves afterwards.
Children ought to remain at school up to 13 or 14 years of age.
Young persons employed in agriculture are in better condition than those employed in the coal-mines; the former being more cared for by their parents and the farmers in whose service they are.
[NB - presumably this should read Dr Andrew Murray, minister of Auchterderran Parish. Dr Murray died on 29th April 1844, age 96, in his 62nd year as a minister]
Lochgellie, Cattle-Hill, and Dean-Pit Collieries
- parishes of Beath and Auchterderran, county of Fife. - (John Henderson, Esq., Lessee.)
No.391. Henry Chisholm, manager of Lochgelly:
We have employed at present 94 males and 25 females, who are wrought below ground; 26 are under 18 years of age and 10 under the age of 13. Our seams of coal being thick, five to eight feet, very young children are not needed - indeed they are never required and children ought to be employed under 12 years of age in any mines, as they lose both education and strength by being under ground so early.
At some coal-workings, children commence as early as six years of age and remain below as the adults.
The time in the Lochgelly Colliery is limited to nine hours and no one is allowed to work at night except the engine man.
No accidents here have ever taken place of a fatal nature. Carbonic acid gas exists but we drive it out by superior ventilation. In rainy weather we suffer by water in the pit.
Men are employed in our mines at the hewing only and the females as putters; each are ranked distinct and no married women now work in our mines. The mines at Dean-pit and Cattle-hill are at present stopped from working.
No.392. Agnes Cook, 15 years old, putter:
Has wrought at Lochgelly 12 months; worked in the fields prior to coal-work. Has four brothers at coal-work; father is a collier; mother was a farm-servant. Can read - [Reads well; intelligent.]; never was at writing; makes own clothes and stockings.
No.293. Eliza Dixon, 17 years old, putter:
Began to work below five years since; works nine hours every day; never been off work; was in the fields before at the coals; left there, as more money is to be had than field-labour; could never earn more than 8d. a-day above, now gets 15d. when working in the wet roads. Never got hurt; was below when a young man [Joseph Harrower] was crushed to death by fall of roof three years ago, and remembers one Andrew Beveridge being killed in same manner two years since. Reads; was a wee while at the writing but not since down.
[Reads badly; ignorant but has a knowledge of the verses of many Psalms, which she learned at Sabbath-school.]
No.394. Alexander Gillespie, 12 years old, hewer:
Began to work at eight years old; was born at Polmont, in Stirlingshire. Father dead eight years - died from dropsy, brought on by sitting in damp work; he was 28 years old. Can read a little and am learning to write at night-school.
[Dejected and ill informed.]
- parish of Ballingray [sic], county of Fife. - (Mr. Adam Begg, Lessee.)
No.395. Mr. Adam Begg:
In the Lumphennin Mine I endeavour to economise labour as much as possible and by adopting self-acting inclines from the rise to dip, much labour is saved, as well as greater safety in working. The number of hands employed by me at present do not exceed 73, 22 are females; I do not employ any male or female in my colliery under 14 years of age.
I consider that children being wrought in mines at early ages is most hurtful to them in their morals and likewise prejudicial to their health; they are taken from school before receiving common education and seldom go back to school again; and they go to the pit before they have sufficient strength in their system to throw off coal-dust, lamp-reek and other noxious vapours that are common to coal-mines; and they frequently get command of money, which they make a very improper use of. Under these circumstances I think it would be proper to restrict the taking of children into pits till the age of 14 years.
I have no school directly attached to the works; there is one in the adjoining village where the colliers reside, and also a library; the entry-money is only 2s. per quarter but only three colliers subscribe. A benefit society, conducted on the principles recommended by the Highland Society, exists, and the greater part of the colliers are members.
No.396. William Beveridge, 14 years old, hewer:
Works 12 hours with Job Win, who has taken care of me, as father died of the black-spit and, mother soon followed; never does the putting, as that is done by the women; wrought 2 1/2 years. Can read and write.
[Reads very well; writes badly; is very well informed in Scripture history, but dull at the tables.]
No.397. Janet Neilson, 16 years of age, putter:
Was at service but left her place as father persuaded her to go below; much prefers service, only suppose father needs my earnings. The work is very, very sair; has a sister at service and brother a shepherd; mother was at service. Work 10 hours daily; earns 1s. per day. Reads; not write.
[Father very lazy, dissolute fellow.]
- parish of Kirkaldy, county of Fife. - (Mr. James Beveridge, Lessee.)
No.398. Mr. John Goodall:
I have been three years manager of the Taugh Colliery, and at present employ 29 persons; the work being new, the colliers are not yet acquainted with the character and customs of the place, therefore have been changeable. Females work below as well as males, but not after marriage. Many young children are taken into the mines as soon as they can lift coal, which practice ought to be discontinued, as it injures in body and mind.
I feel convinced that life would be much lengthened in collier-men, provided they in the first instance kept above ground until 14 years of age, as they would have strength to bear the fatigue, and judgement to avoid many evils which they fall into through the ignorance.
The children and young people about the mines are deplorably ignorant, and as long as females continue to work below as they do in many mines about this part of Scotland, will remain so.
No.399. James Ewins, 15 years old, putter:
Began to work when eight years of age; can't say exactly, might be 10 years old; know it was a good bit since. Works 10 hours, sometimes more; never troubles the school; used to read a bit; could do so now if I were to go a little to the school.
No.400. Andrew Smith, l2 years old, gin-driver:
Been some time on Taugh Coal-hill, driving the horse in the round; gets 2s. 6d. a-week. Did read and write; has forgotten the writing; can do a little in the Testament.
No.401. Duncan Rankin, 13 years old, hewer:
Wrought four years below; not been to school since; was taught in parish school; did a little at the reading, writing and counting. Six times 4 = 24; can't say how many pence is a pound; 12 in a shilling. Lives in Scotland, which is in the world; don't know what kingdom it is, or who is king or queen. God made heaven and earth, and Jesus is God.
[Does not know the first questions in the Catechism.]
No.402. James Rowley, 14 years old, hewer:
Began to work at coals four years ago; was at school before, never at any settled one, as father moves about; has been at four different coal-pits since I wrought. Have no dislike to my work; there is a heavy dyke and the roads are not railed, which makes the work sore when I draw, which I do after hewing. Can get 2s. a-day when I work; could do every day but have no will at times.
[Reads very badly; says the Catechism was forced upon him as a punishment when at school, so had no inclination to try it since.]
- parish of Kirkaldy, county of Fife. - (Mr. Alexander Park Knight, Lessee.)
No.403. Mr. A. P. Knight:
I only employ at present 56 colliers, males and females; the young people are under their natural guardians and we never interfere with them; it would be desirable not to allow children to go below before 10 years of age, but after that may be useful to parents. There is a school near the works, and is well attended, and every means are used to induce parents to send their children. Most of the children read and write, and nearly all the boys signed the paper returned to the Commissioners some days since. We have no sick-fund, as when sickness occurs the men as well as myself contribute. Have only had two serious accidents within two years; a boy, 16 years old, crushed to death by a mass of the falling; and a man, 21 years old, killed by falling out of the basket while ascending shaft.
No.404. John Bowman, 16 years old, hewer:
Six years at the coals; hews on father's account. Was off work with a split elbow; lost use of hand for long time; been many accidents in Donnikier's works; two killed and many injured. Henry Hind had his leg broke by a stone from roof. I signed the big paper which was sent away [the tabular form] and brother also.
[Reads and writes.]
No.405. Thomas Simpson, 15 years old, hewer:
Been five years at coal-hewing; works 12 and 13 hours day about [alternate day], and 10 hours when on night-work. Was at school before working and at writing, now cannot sign own name; did not sign the big paper [the tabular form], but a man at the pit-mouth wrote it for me. I work on step-father's account with sister, who is 17 years of age; she reads a little, and goes to Sabbath-school to learn the Scripture. I live near Kirkaldy, which is in Fife; can't say what country it is in, unless it be in Edinburgh.
[Can answer many of the questions in the short Catechism; reads very badly.]
No.406. Janet Brown, 17 years old, putter:
Worked in mines three or four years, can't recollect exactly the time; drags the carts of coal of 3cwt. on wheels. Father dead; not been to school for many years: 3 and 4 = 7; can't say how many months there are in the year.
[Cannot spell a word of three letters and is quite destitute of religious knowledge.]
No.407. Janet Paton, 16 years old, putter:
Been four years below employed in putting; works 10 and 12 hours; has never tried other work; would prefer above-ground labour. Knows that Edinburgh is a big town; thinks it is in Fife. Does not know what the water [the Forth] is called which divides Donnikier from Edinburgh. Never go to kirk, as am no able to read muckle; can't say what is the minister's name who preaches at the old kirk just by.
No.408. Isabel Hood, about 12 years old, putter:
Wrought 12 months below; works 12 hours; not been to school these four years; was in the reading, but forgot all; cannot spell my own name; will gang to school next winter night.
[Utterly destitute of religious knowledge, neither can she sew or knit.]
No.409. Elizabeth Duncan, 11 years old, putter:
Began to work in the pit two months since; does not like the work, but father takes the lassies wi' him. Have one sister at the spinning-mill, where I worked for one month, but they discharged me as being o'er young for the work. Like the mill-work best, as do most lassies. [Reads very badly; very ignorant.]
No.410. Alexander Simpson, 11 years old, hewer:
Has worked on the coal-wall 12 months; don't dislike the work now. Never got hurt below. Been below when bad air was in the pit, and the lamps were put out by it. Was taught reading, writing and counting; 6 times 12 = 72; 12 times 6 = 84; 3 times 28 = 60; 12 hours in the day; 6 days in a week; 12 months in a year. Don’t know that there is any larger town in Scotland than Kirkaldy, not what county or shire Kirkaldy is in. Know my carritches [Catechism] that I was taught at school. [Can repeat the short replies to the easy questions for children but very little knowledge of the Testament, in which he reads.]
No.411. Peter Hind, 13 years old, hewer:
Hews coal; done so three years; likes it well enough. Writes own name; signed the big paper. Reads; was taught when living in Queensferry. Can’t say whether Queensferry is near Edinburgh; is the other side of the water. Can’t say what county I live in, thinks it is called Scotland, and the adjoining place Kirkaldy. Cannot count, as was not the length. [Forgot the Catechism; never goes to kirk, as have no clothes.]
No.412. Mr. David Forrester, teacher, Kirkaldy:
I have been a teacher of youth in this parish for 33 years; the population of Kirkaldy and its adjunct is upwards of 8000, chiefly commercial and manufacturing, characterised by orderly and peaceable conduct; and I believe the amount of crime is much under the average of the kingdom, from education being widely diffused.
There are 21 day-schools established in this district, many of which are open to evening classes in the winter session; the usual rate of fees is 2s. 6d. Per quarter English, 4s. per quarter writing, 5s. per quarter arithmetic; some have fees under these; and there are two institutions which educate and clothe 100 poor children each. I cannot give any estimate of the numbers attending other schools. The fact that there are scarcely any who cannot read some, and comparatively few who cannot write a little, may be taken as a general criterion of the attention paid to education.
The present system of education, although much improved of late years, is in my opinion greatly deficient in the want of sufficient attention being paid to the moral development of the pupils. I do not by this wish to be understood the learning as a task to repeat by memory so many “moral sayings” but that all their actions, in the little social community, should be carefully scrutinised and every deviation from strict morality from kindness, charity and love, be exposed and checked; at the same time explaining in such language as seems best suited to their capacities, the reason for the rules laid down for their conduct, showing the evils that would result from the infraction of them, and the advantages arising from a strict adherence to them.
I have been from long experience convinced that the moral principles of men depend almost entirely on the manner in which their actions in childhood were regulated; it is true that some children have a much higher sense of justice than others. Still it is my firm opinion, that were sufficient care taken in early childhood thus to train and educate the social principles (as they may be styled), and to restrain by proper coercion every deviation from the paths of rectitude, there would be very few indeed, if any, who would not form respectable members of society.
I am no admirer of infant-schools as at present conducted; while infant assemblages containing children from that period at which they are able to walk and speak, up to five or six years of age, trained to the habitual exercise of the social virtues in their amusements, which are the only lessons they should learn at this age, except viva voce instructions from the teachers, abounding in anecdotal illustration adapted to their intellect - such seminaries would be an important advance in education.
Without children have a sound elementary basis, Sabbath-schools are useless, as the teaching of abstract points of doctrinal divinity to children, I consider as impracticable except by rote. I advocate the training of all in the great points of charity, love and the moral duties, so seduously explained by Jesus Christ and his disciples in the New Testament.
The establishment of schools of design and those in which the elements of mechanics and moral philosophy are taught would unquestionably be the best means of advancement of young persons; the greater the knowledge you give of a practical kind, the more you elevate and enable them to apply their capabilities to the greatest advantage; while by giving legitimate objects upon which to exercise their faculties, you remove one great cause - the want of mental excitement - of the disorderly courses too often followed by young men. I look upon this as very important indeed.
One important fact, deserving, in my opinion, of mature consideration, viz., that the girls and young women working in factories, mines, &c., or even those who work at the weaving trade in smaller assemblages than are usually so denominated, form, as it were, a separate and lower caste in the eyes of public opinion, and their morals are generally of a lower grade. When these become mothers of families, the result, from the utter want of all domestic training, may be easily anticipated. As a further illustration, I may mention, that any young woman so brought up, who desires to leave such an employment, and enter a family as a domestic servant, finds a great difficulty in obtaining a place, the prejudice against them from their usual incapacity for managing household affairs and the general habits, being strong.
These evils seem inseparable from the employment of females in numbers at regular daily work, more especially when thus associated with males of about their own age.
When it is remembered by the present constitution of society the training of children depends almost solely on the mother, it will be seen over how extensive a field the resultant evils extend their ramifications.
- parishes of Wemyss and Largo, county of Fife. - (Captain James Erskine Wemyss, R.N., &c. &c.)
No.413. Thomas Bywater, Esq., East Wemyss, agent:
There are employed above and below at the Wemyss Colliery about 370 persons at present [April 27, 1841] 269 work below ground, out of which number 20 are adult males and five under the age of 18; 45 males under 18 and 25 below 13 years of age; remainder 101 males are employed above ground as smiths, carpenters, masons and labourers.
Our hours of employment are nominally 12, but two hours being allowed for breakfast and dinner, 10 hours are the time the men and others actually work.
Children remain below as long as the adults; but as respects young colliers they work just according to their ability. By the practice of the colliery each adult collier is entitled to send to bank a specified quantity as his day's work, and whatever a man's strength might be, his fellow workmen would object to his increasing it. But then, as a man is allowed to add a quarter to his quantity from the first day he takes a boy down to learn him his trade as a collier, he does, in fact, work this additional quantity himself often for months, the boy being incapable for a considerable time.
A boy under 13 years of age ranks as "quarter man;" on reaching the age of 13 he is reckoned as "half man;" at 15 rises to a “three-quarter man;" and at 17 takes his place as a "full man." These regulations were formed by the colliers themselves, and acquiesced by the proprietor.
By a rule of this colliery, no boy should be taken below until he is 10 years old; on occasions this rule is relaxed, by the men themselves, to meet the wishes of men with large families, or to assist the widow of a collier.
No necessity can be said to exist for the employment of very young children; and were it not that men with large families are in a great degree necessitated to avail themselves of their children's labour at the earliest period practicable, I would say no child under 12 years of age ought to go below in any capacity, because when set to work earlier, it rarely happens that their education is not totally neglected, or nearly so; and because experience has satisfied me that such individuals have generally proved the worst of their class, morally speaking.
The colliers' present wages average from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per day; they have fallen 25 per cent. within the last 12 months, owing to reductions in the sale prices of coals, arising from a diminished demand. In addition to money-wages, a collier [if married] gets a free house and garden. He is further permitted to work 5cwt. of coal weekly for his family use, which is sent to the bank without charge, but he loses this advantage if he has less than 10 days' work in the fortnight, unless he prove by a certificate from the surgeon of works that sickness or injury sustained at the work occasioned his absence. Unmarried colliers receive money in lieu of coals.
The present rate of wages for smiths are 2s. 8d.; masons, 2s. 6d.; carpenters, 2s. 8d.; labourers, 1s. 8d. to 2s. per day.
The practice here is for colliers to give or receive six weeks' warning before leaving or being discharged. Artificers and labourers two weeks' warning, &c.
We have two schools, one in each of the principal coal towns, managed by a committee of the men, still, to a certain degree, under my control; one reading-room, two sick-funds, one for the colliers and one for the workmen and labourers, both managed by themselves; man contributes 1 1/2d. per week and the proprietor adds 20l. per year.
Accidents of a serious nature are rare; none within last two years, and constant vigilance is exercised to keep the workings below perfectly open, nothing being required beyond due attention to the ventilation.
The coals are putted by females and the practice here is to contract with a certain number of responsible hands for periods of three and six months, leaving these contractors to engage their assistants.
No.414. Robert Welch, 11 years old, hewer:
Works with father; has done so one month; learning to hew coal; has no dislike to the work, only finds it very inconvenient to get porridge down; has been five years at school and learned to read and write. [Reads and writes very well.] Two brothers work below with me - Alexander, 13, has been two years down, and George, 15, has been four years down; both read and write well.
No.415. Janet Welch, about 20 years old, putter:
Wrought below nine years; did bear the coal on back; ceased to do so six months ago. Women who worked in the high seam carried coal till masters forbid it two years since; small hutchies could have been used, but it was cheaper to carry.
Work on the master's account and receive 1s. a-day; do not like contract work, as the work is made o'ersair. [Reads; ill-informed.]
No.416. Isabel Hugh, 19 years old, putter:
Began to work when 13 years old, below ground; has wrought in the fields; likes the work well enough; it is guid sair sweating work. Janet Adamson and I contract for putting on our own account; the road is 100 fathoms in length and we run the races singly; we frequently run 50 races between us; we get 14d. per score, and 1s. per week each extra for clearing pit-bottom and working the pump; seldom work less than 12 to 14 hours. [Reads and writes.]
No.417. Elizabeth Litster, 15 years old, putter:
Has wrought three years below; works from six in the morning till six at night; works for contractors; has to make 14 races before porridge-time; the distance is 300 fathoms from incline to pit-bottom, and 14 and 15 races between porridge and the time we take our pieces of bread; 14, 15, and 16 races afterwards; we get 15d. a-day but only employed nine sometimes ten days in the fortnight. When I wrought on day's wages for master, was not so hard worked; the work is more sair, as the men drive us more, for they do the work cheap. Many girls have left, not liking to be driven, and gone into the fields.
[Reads and writes very well; clever and ready in replies.]
No.418 - Mr. Andrew Hutton, teacher, East Wemyss Coal-town:
The average attendance of collier children is 70 in the day and 30 at night-school, which I think is a full proportion of children able to attend in this village. The fees are paid by the colliers themselves; 3d. is the weekly charge for reading, 3 1/2d. reading and writing, 4d. reading, writing, and arithmetic; but very few go the length of the arithmetic and many not more than reading; they find their own books; the children are not very regular in attendance, and frequently taken down very early, and rarely return after.
- parish of Dysart, county of Fife. - (Messrs. Beveridge and Smith, Lessees.)
No.419. David Butt, overseer:
Employ 30 male adults, 15 young men, and three boys; the latter are used as horse-drivers. No females have been wrought in our mines for 12 years. The work is very heavy, as our coal is 22 feet thick, and we quarry the same from top to bottom; and horses draw from wall-face to the pit-bottom on main-roads trammed with iron; the lowest horseway is six feet high.
Several accidents have occurred; only two lately. Andrew Adamson broke two ribs six weeks since, and David Archibald was killed by the chain coming off the pillar-wheel the middle of last February.
We have no other method of ventilating our pits than by leaving open unemployed shafts, which are six in number, and two employed, leave eight openings.
We have a school near the colliery, to which the children of colliers are sent on moderate fees; girls as well as boys attend. The girls after they are educated are employed in the fields, bleachfields, &c., and many are sent out to respectable service.
- parish of Markinch, county of Fife. - (James Balfour Esq., of Balgonie, Proprietor.)
- parish of Markinch, county of Fife. - (John Balfour Esq., of Balbirnie, Proprietor.)
No.420. Mr. William Ballingall, agent to the proprietors of Balgonie and Balbirnie Collieries:
It has not been the practice of the proprietors of these collieries to employ very young persons at the coal for many years. At Balgonie or Thornton Colliery only six boys are employed, not one under 11 years of age; their employment is driving the horses; and five young men are employed at coal-hewing, with 33 adults. At Balbirnie men only employed, the nature of the work requiring full strength.
The hours of labour at Balgonie are nine, including one hour for breakfast; at Balbirnie eight hours. No relays of hands necessary.
Very few accidents have occurred; two within last two years, caused by the coal splitting; a man and boy injured. Boys legs were broken, since recovered.
Largo Ward Colliery
- of Kilconquhar, county of Fife. - (Thomas Calderwood Durham, Esq., Proprietor.)
No.421. Mr. John Paton, manager:
Thirty-one males are employed in the Largo Mine, only five of whom are under 18 years of age; each man hews his own coal and puts it to the pit-bottom; they work nearly every day, as we pay weekly, and they are better satisfied with that mode. The average sum men earn is 15s. to 16s. weekly; they have free coal, but not free houses; the rent generally paid by them is 25s. to 30s. yearly. Colliers here are stationary and we never have had any strike amongst them.
Bad breath is the prevalent complaint; we have many widows and there are few colliers exceed 45 to 50 years. The choke-damp gathers below in soft weather, and the small coal below has often taken fire spontaneously, and acted injuriously on the men, but they have always recovered on exposure to the air.
One serious accident, 22 months. Archibald Driver was killed by fall of roof.
No. 422. John Scott, 17 years old, putter and hewer:
Wrought below near 10 years; works in the black hole on cherry coal; does so 10 hours daily. A vast of bad air in the pits; could earn 12s. weekly if were not prevented by it; only get 9s. Average. Father a farm-servant; give my wages to mother. [Reads and writes.]
No.423. John Paton, 17 years old, hewer and putter:
Been four years below; could read and write well before going down; works 10 to 12 hours; no women or girls work below; it is very sore work, as the roads are not railed. I draw my own coal from black hole to pit-bottom with rope and chain; the carts hold 2 1/4cwt.; the seam is 36 inches high. Son of the manager, who keeps a store. [Reads and writes very well.]
- parish of Largo, county of Fife. - (Messrs. Paton and Graham, Lessees.)
No.424. Mr. David Graham, lessee:
We employ 65 colliers; four are under 13 years of age, and five under 18 years. Colliers begin to work at very early ages in this part, as the working seams are narrow. No females are wrought in this part; boys are employed to draw the coals in small carts; they draw with small straps over the shoulders, and to which is fastened a chain; the carts hold 1 1/2 to 2cwt. of coal only, as the deep pit in which they work is not railed; they work eight to nine hours daily, and principally on their parents' account. Good working colliers earn 30s. to 40s. in the fortnight, when they work 12 days. Men are very short lived, very few reach 50, and they are often seized in the breath at 30 and 35 years of age.
I have not been more than 12 months connected with this mine, during which period three fatal accidents have taken place, - 1st. A man was killed by falling down the pit; 2nd, by a stone from roof and the 3rd was killed on the coal-hill by the gig working suddenly.
No.425. William Graham, overseer:
I think a limitation of the age which children should work in mines would be injurious, as they ought to begin young.
Boys get injured at times through carelessness; one was killed a short time since by bad air.
No.426. William Galloway, 16 years old, putter:
Began work at seven years of age; employed to draw the bogies with a gordie [rope and chain]; there are no rails in the pit and the work is o'er sair; works from five in the morning till three and four in the day. Takes a bit of bread down, and gets dinner on return; works every day that the air below will let him; has a brother who works on father’s account. Father touched in the breath, but still works when air is good and we take away 20s. to 30s. in the fortnight. Brother got his legs crushed a while since - was off eight weeks; two sisters at service; mother was a ploughman's daughter. [Reads and writes pretty well; deficient in useful knowledge.]