Among the Fife Miners
By Kellogg Durland
In addition, this page contains 2 shorter versions of his story, "Among the Fife Miners" and "Among Scottish Coal-Miners", both published in magazines in 1902, and a newspaper report of a courtcase where Helen M'Kechie and family, whom Durland lodged with, sued the publishers over the 1902 article in Blackwood's Magazine.
Among the Fife Miners by Kellogg Durland 1904Foreword
Chapter I - The Day Shift
Chapter II - The Night Shift
Chapter III - The Back Shift
Chapter IV - Making Bricks Without Straw
Chapter V - Home Life
Chapter VI - General Interests
The Temperance Question and the Gothenburg Experiment
Conclusions & Appendix
Among the Fife Miners By Kellogg Durland, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1902
Having determined to know more of our miners, not from the standpoint of the employers only, but also, and more particularly, from the standpoint of the men, I assumed the dress of a labourer, took lodgings in a typical miner's house, and threw myself as heartily into the life of the village as was possible under exceptionally favourable circumstances. Experience had taught me that an ordinary inspection and investigation was bound to be superficial, and therefore too inadequate to be of genuine value.
The Aitken Pit is one of the largest and finest in Scotland, employing some eight hundred men. When I sought employment in this pit I frankly shared my confidence with the manager, whose most generous and sympathetic aid enabled me to accomplish in a few months what would otherwise have taken a much longer time. He was willing to give me a chance to work on equal terms with the men ; and so long as I continued to do my full share of work he was willing to have me transferred from gang to gang and shift to shift, and tried at every branch of mining - as a roadsman, drawer, brusher, miner, &c. - until I had been through all departments of the pit.
My time was spent almost entirely with the men. I worked with them ; played with them ; ate with them ; slept with them; went to church with them, went on "jaunts" with them, joined their Union and the Workman's Club. I became, indeed, one of themselves for the time being. When I made up my diaries, I sought quiet away from curious eyes, in the woods and on the hillsides. Aside from the thoughts and theories of the men in regard to their work, their position in the "great social scheme," their employers, and the world in general, that were naturally revealed to me, there were certain incidents and experiences, in a measure unique, though to the men but the commonplaces of their lives. The following pages constitute a chapter of those experiences in the pit.
The horn blew six o'clock as we clattered across the railway-bridge, where I vainly tried to scuff over the boards with my leather-soled shoes in the same noisy fashion as the men whose hobnailed boots scraped and banged against the wood and iron with the rough ease betrays long unconscious practice. A straggling procession of coal-blackened men shuffled along the broad road from the pit, slow and careless after the night-shift ; another stream of men fresh for the work of the day tended toward the restless, hard-breathing, vomiting Thing, the Aitken Pit. A long cloud of heavy brown smoke from the towering brick chimney stretched strainingly over the fields to the last of the Lomonds, as if to crest old Benarty with a symbol of the workaday world.
The engine that moves the great wheels round which run the cables that support the cages intermittently belched forth heavy, full puffs of steam, that barely blew to the top of the mound of weathering blae behind the engine-house before being dissipated in the fresh air of the morning. Railway tracks fairly veined the area beneath and around the raised sifting-shed. The loud clanging of hard hammer - strokes against resounding iron, that came from a long, low building not far from the tracks, proclaimed the smithy and machine- shop.
The human current flowed past the flaming forge ; it turned in and out among the railway-waggons that stood on the tracks waiting for fresh loads, on under the sifting-shed and up a long flight of iron steps to the pit-head, where, according to my first orders, I was to present myself at a quarter after six. As we neared the top, I realised that a group of girls who stood near it had taken note of the stranger, and were already surmising who he might be and where he could have come from.
There is something reminiscent of early days in the appearance of the pit-head girls, with their high boots, short skirts encircled by a binding string to prevent their catching, half protected by blackened aprons, and old soiled shawls, tied snugly round their heads and falling loosely over their shoulders. After the first hour of work their faces are covered with the dust that ever blows fiercely through the sifting-shed, stirred to angry restlessness by the powerful ventilating fan whose escaping puffs send eddying whirls outward from the shaft with every ascending cage. For the most part it is heavy work for the girls, pushing and jerking the heavy empty hutches from track to track, hurrying them back to the cages, snibbling the wheels of the loaded ones, dropping nimbly between the moving tubs that look for all the world like miniature railway-waggons, performing their work with tireless dexterity, keeping the whole place in a flutter from early morning till mid-evening, when, according to a factory law that almost suggests a care for these girls, the work is left to those who are better able to perform it through the night. Time was when girls worked in the pits, but now they are only allowed at the pit-head, and the time is coming when even this will not be permitted.
The little tin lamp in my cap - my "bunnet," as the men say - felt strangely heavy, as if it would draw my cap over my eyes, and the never - ceasing rattle was bewildering. There was not long to look about, for as one of the cages jarred to the top, and sixteen men jumped out, the manager appeared, and we joined the group awaiting the signal to step in. Caution is the watchword of the pit. Three clamorous strokes announced that men were about to ascend and descend, and a single clank signified that all was ready. The crowd rocked impatiently before the cage during the moment when the gate stood open and the pit headman held it clear until the signal from below had been given. Then sixteen of us with lowered heads, to escape the low gate, made a quick rush into the gale of ventilating air that is forced down the shaft, and thence through all the pit.
I heard a gruff warning to "grip the bar," and as my fingers grasped the cold, wet rod a shade above our heads, the cage began to drop : fast almost from the start; down, down, down, the air forced below by the powerful fan whistling gaily upon us ; then the cage dropped faster, as if to race with the wind ; a rough scrape midway down shook the cage like a toy ; then it settled into a speedy run, so swift and smooth that there was scarce any perceptible motion. The darkness was blinding. Suddenly there was a strong feeling as if we had stopped, and the next moment were bounding upwards, up, up, and ever so much faster than we had dropped down. What was wrong ? No one spoke, yet up we flew, up into the increasing wind. A sudden burst of light, - but not daylight; another rush, into the lurid glare of a score of tiny reeking lamps, and the cage settled uneasily towards the sump, with a mocking grating as if conscious that a greenhorn had been played a pretty trick and suffered a strange illusion.
"Light your lamp. This way - mind the hutches." He led, and I stumbled after.
Even here, twelve hundred feet down, there was the same deafening, clattering roar as above. Races of six, eight, nine, and ten hutches came rattling out of the black passages, drawn by fast-going ponies guided by a single rope which took the place of reins. Wee boy-drivers, not as high as the undersized ponies some of them, grotesque in their patched muddy clothes, cried in piercingly shrill voices at the animals ; deep-chested men shouting back and forth as they rolled the coal-weighted hutches off the rails on to the smooth sheet plates and then on to the cages, or jerked the empty ones back to the rails.
"Follow this man," and without a word my new guide, a grizzled old miner, turned abruptly to the right down a dark passage - a "level" - where the last echoes of the noisy pit bottom were quickly lost, and only the weird babbling swish of an unseen stream and the sucking of the mucky ooze beneath our feet were audible.
Presently there was another turn, this time to the left, followed almost immediately by a second through a strong wooden trap-door that closed with a prison-dull thud behind us. Here the low roof and lower proppings bent us far forward, and we began a laborious ascent over wet, muddy, slippery rock, with numerous small pools through which we splashed in silence. Occasionally when the sickening reek of the lamps, his burning oil and mine tallow, blew persistently into my face, filling my mouth and nostrils with a nauseating odour, I rolled against the soppy wall, and sometimes crashed my head with discomforting force against the roof. At the end of 250 yards we reached an open area high and wide, and in every detail a second bottom. Here I was handed over to the section "gaffer," with whom I began another and longer climb, which must have taken near a quarter of an hour.
The road was up two " wheel-braes " that are made perilous by fast-running cable-hutches. The weight of six full hutches descending is balanced by six empty hutches that are attached to the other end of the cable, and are thus hurried to the top. Twice we had to take refuge in manholes, and both times the gaffer spoke pleasantly enough of his experience of fifty years in the pit, and pointed out certain dangers that I should constantly guard against. Even by the murky light of the lamps in our bonnets I could catch the laughing twinkle under the shaggy eyebrows and behind the strong lines of relaxed sternness ; for in spite of my old clothes and my blue flannel shirt, in spite even of my workman's gravat carelessly thrown round my neck (previously arranged with the most consummate care as a matter of fact), and my tin tea - flask and "piece"-box carried so indifferently, there was no disguising the fact that whatever else I might have been I never before had been a pitman.
The first task given me was with a small gang of roadsmen, to remove a heavy fall of rock from an old wheel-brae which had been out of use for a long time, and was about to be used again. Roadsmen are generally all-round practical men, who can turn their hands to anything, and their work is various. Sometimes they are platelayers, sometimes joiners, again they are brushers or repairers - in short, a roadsman must be prepared to overcome any obstacle that may be met with in making ready a section, or part of a section, for the miners who hew the coal from the rock. Some tons of rock had dropped from the roof, completely blocking the brae for nearly twenty yards ; the old props had been demolished, and there was nothing left but debris.
The work of smashing the rocks into manageable bits that could be removed in a "bogey" and stowed away in an old "waste" - a place from which the coal has been previously removed - occupied us for several days. Some of the stones, which for the others were not difficult to lift, proved awkward in my unaccustomed hands, and many of the rocks were sharp-cornered and cut. Every two or three yards it was necessary to put up proppings to make ourselves secure, and this introduced the joiner-work. Heavy bars or beams had to be fitted across the roof with the ends resting in the coal, which, as it happened, formed the walls on both sides, and larch-trees wedged tightly in from below. It was rough, unfinished work, like most work in the pit, and I venture to suggest that much of the roughness characteristic of miners comes from the fact that there is so little polishing in their lives. A passage is never swept clean, a prop is never fitted with exactness; appearances count for nothing, so long as the work is strong and safe. They start work on the fore-shift about 6.15, stop for their breakfast about "half- ten," and quit work about a quarter after two. Only the enginemen must be exact.
"Bill," shouted Jim, the grey old-school miner who appeared to have me in charge - among the men I was never anything but Bill, indeed that was almost all they knew about me - "Bill, saw off about twa inches fro' yon tree - I'll hold it for ye."
I began with feverish haste, which resulted in the saw jumping from the groove and tearing across the forefinger of my left hand. It wasn't the cut that I feared, only that Jim might have seen my clumsiness : with all the strength I could muster I clutched the tree, so as to repress the bleeding as much as possible, and so that the few drops of escaping blood might trickle from underneath the tree and away from his sight. Jim was a typical pitman of the better class. For forty-nine years he had worked at the coal, and as he had been steady and saving all his days, he had no reason to dread the coming of old age. The winter of life never looks bleak and moory to men like Jim. He worked quickly, and when he was puffed into an honest sweat he would stop for a "blow." Jim, like myself and most roadsmen, was an oncost man - that is, he worked "on the company's time" at so much per shift : hewers are paid by the ton ; drawers, who draw the coal away from the face, by section contractors who receive a bargained - for sum per score of hutches drawn, the price varying according to the distance and difficulty, some .roads being much harder than others. On the whole the men at the face, who are paid by the ton, make more than the oncost men, but the latter have the advantage of being able to work, as they put it, "according to their wages." Once and awhile they lose an hour or two owing to the stupidity or carelessness of some other body, as when a lot of trees and bars needed in a "wooding " operation are marked, for instance, " Campbell's No. 2 " (which was where we were working during these first days), and they are switched off to "Spion Kop" or " Meek's Level."
Once Jim saw me rise up in a forgetful moment and knock my head rather solidly against the roof.
"Ye'll be sair th' morn's mornin', Bill."
"Ay," I replied in my broadest Scots, as cheerily as I could under the circumstances, "but bide a wee and I'll be a'richt."
All through the long hours there was never any respite from the terribly cramped position. To stand straight one must needs lie down as it were, and the strain told. When the rocks and stones had been cleared away there was always a mass of small stuff which had to be shovelled into the bogey, and to toss nearly half a ton at a stretch was sore work for one's back. But the cheeriness of the men was always a help. Those who can sing at their work, and sometimes the words of a popular song or an old familiar Scottish ballad came out of the darkness at most unexpected moments. One morning as I was making my way along a lengthy level whistling to myself the refrain of " Sweet Genevieve," some one, so far ahead that I could not catch the faintest gleam of the lamp that I knew full well he must have, caught up the melody, and out of the lugubrious gloom came the faint, silvery echo, like sounds sent back by some eerie spirit of the earth's depths. A good song not only means a light heart, but it makes the very work seem lighter. The men have divined this, possibly subconsciously ; and though a quarter of a mile below the waving grain that in summer greets them like a smile from heaven as they come out of the depths, they make the ancient rocks re-echo with the sounds of their voices as well as with the music of their industry. But while singing is so common a feature, a ringing laugh is seldom heard, probably because conversation generally takes a serious turn.
When the stones had all been cleared away we transformed ourselves into a gang of platelayers, and worked with a speed that was surprising. With absolutely no knowledge of the matter, I had fancied this piece of work one for experts ; but as fast as the sleepers could be brought up and the rails procured the ground was cleared, the hollow places raised with quickly made wedges, the bulging places brought down with a pick, and the tracks laid. An inspector comes round once a day, and unlike inspectors and gaffers in other parts of the world, he usually bids the men stop a few minutes for a smoke, and a brief friendly chat ensues. There is almost a code or convention as to the treatment of visitors in the pit, though they be but ordinary miners from an adjoining section. It is considered the proper thing to stop for a "wee puff" at least. As for myself, I never appreciated a pipe before ; but in the pit a pipe was a priceless blessing, less as an end than as a means. A smoke meant a rest. In pits where there is fire-damp and gas, smoking is not permitted ; but there is not supposed to be any gas in the Aitken, and the stolen minutes when we sat on the damp cold rock or on the warm small coal, and puffed at our blackened "cutties," stand out like oases of refreshing delight.
One morning the gaffer met me at the bottom and told me that I must go on to the drawing. Drawing was the hardest work in the pit according to the men, so that I received my orders with a slight qualm. On long wheel - braes, where there is a distinct gradation the endless cable system is used for running the hutches back and forth, up and down ; and on long levels, where it is possible, ponies draw the loaded hutches in long trains or races. Drawers push the hutches, one at a time, from the face where they are filled to the main levels or wheel - braes, where they are formed into races and sent to the bottom.
There were forty ponies in the Aitken Pit, and wonderfully intelligent beasts they were. Many of them came from Norway. Once taken into the pit some of them spend all their lives in the darkness. They become accustomed to the roads they travel, and in a very short time are able to go trotting over the roughest places at a smart pace which occasionally breaks into a gallop. When they near the bottom they are trained to leap aside at the moment they are freed from the hutches, and let the heavy load rumble past at a rate that would mean death to the animal that delayed the fraction of a moment in stepping over the rails. But most wonderful of all are the thieving ponies, which show their fondness for food and drink by learning to open the piece-boxes of the men and eating the bread and jam or cheese, or the still cleverer ones that uncork the flasks and drain them to the last drop. When first I heard these stories I was sceptical, but it was not long ere I became convinced of their truth. One man lost his piece - box, and, after accusing his neighbours of playing him a mean practical joke, went home hungry. The next morning a pony was seen to leave his stall with an empty piece- box, which was duly dropped at the very spot where on the previous day the victim had left his breakfast.
When the man with whom I was to work appeared, I followed toward the ever-increasing heat for nearly two hundred yards, where the men were working naked to the waist, their streaming bodies streaked and begrimed with coal-dust, which permeated all the atmosphere, till they seemed little like men. Breathing was an effort, in spite of the current of air that passed through the passage. The monotonous click of the picks against the resisting coal fell on the ear like sounds from an unreal world, while from a distance the men, who crouched or knelt before the grim wall which they attacked with with the brutal force of automatons, looked like creatures damned for their sins, the muttered "T-s-s-t — t-s-s-t, sish-s — sish-h, t-a-s-t," coming from between their half-closed teeth with machine-like regularity.
An empty hutch weighs nearly 500 lb. In appearance it is like a small railway coal-waggon. An average load is from half a ton to 1200 lb. Of coal: 1400 or 1500 lb. is a fairish load for a muscular man.
I started on my first trip. First a dead level, followed by a slight rise, another short level, then an abrupt fall, . not sufficiently abrupt to be characterised as steep, but so inclined that it would have sent an unrestrained or unbalanced car forward at a bounding rate that would have caused it to leave the rails at the first bend, of which there were several. It took every particle of my strength to mount the first incline, and with a sense of relief I felt the forward end drop as I gripped the other to hold it back. An uneven bit of rock caused my foot to trip over a sleeper, the hutch gained in speed till I was jerked off my feet. The hot air cooled as I was dragged on with quickly increasing speed faster and faster. I struggled with might and main to hold back, but it was useless. The thing had gained a terrible headway; by great leaps and bounds I went stumbling into the nothingness ahead at a mad pace : my lamp was blown out before twenty yards had been covered, and there flashed a picture of the 160 or more yards to go : clinging desperately, as if for my life, my weight, hanging all too loose on the end of the runaway hutch, barely balanced it to the rails. If I rose to three - quarters my height I knew I would crash against the stone roof with terrific force ; if I let go, a hard tumble would be inevitable. Not knowing what was in front was terrible, and the thought of reaching the end of the level, where men, ponies, and long races were passing with every few seconds, was sickening, as with crouching leaps we — the hutch and I — went careering on, till with a joyous thrill I found it coming more and more under my control, and at last it rolled gently on to the switch, as if the whole run had been just as usual. Every muscle in my body felt pulled out, and my tongue was cleaving to the roof of my mouth like dry leather. There was naught to do but relight my lamp, get behind an empty, and laboriously push it back to the face. How my legs stiffened and ached under the strain ! My breath came in wheezes, and every pore seemed a tiny spring. With greater determination I started upon the second trip, when to my unaffected horror it was the same madcap rush over again — only worse. My fingers would not act, my strength seemed to be running like the sweat from every limb. How the hutch kept the rails throughout that breathless, perilous run I shall never know. The heat was cruel. With violently trembling hands I grasped my flask and swallowed a mouthful of tea, lukewarm but refreshing. My lips were lips were like blotting-paper.
Until now my mate, a broad- shouldered fellow with herculean biceps and chest, had not spoken a word, but as he passed he said lightly -
"After my first shift on this job I thought I was dead."
With this encouragement I again started to the top with an empty. The hutch caught on the plates, and I had difficulty in getting it on to the rails. A pony - driver, a boy who looked more like an imp, pushed me aside, and the quickness with which he set it right showed that he had learned the trick. I don't know the lad, they called him Dick, but again and again during the day he gave me a friendly lift without uttering a word. Then and there I registered a vow that if Dick and I ever meet under altered circumstances I will spare absolutely nothing to do him a good turn. I remember him with deepest gratitude, for his was the only substantial sympathy I got.
As I bent over that next tub on the up journey the flame of my lamp curled down and licked the ends of my hair that had escaped the protection of my cap. I heard it crackle as it singed, and I smelt it, but dared not take a hand from the heavy hutch lest it roll back upon me.
At the top my mate was called away for a moment, and as I saw him disappear in the distance, with an indescribable sensation of relief I sank across the tracks and let my head rest on an iron rail. It was so restful - I could have slept! The drowsiness was pleasant ; I wanted to yield to it. Then came the thought of my reputation among the men, and with a genuine laugh I sprang to- my feet, determined to get some fun out of my job.
When we started a third time my heart was light, and the idea proved excellent. That reckless race in the dark was the most thrilling sport I ever had. The hutch kept the rails, I steadied it hard, and enjoyed the whole run hugely. But, alas ! the next time, about half-way down, when I had begun to feel myself safe and happy, there was a sudden scraping, a wild leap from the rails, the coals spilled, my lamp flew out of my bonnet, and I was thrown violently against the hutch, which had nearly turned on end. In the flashing second that followed there was a simultaneous sensation of being pinned to the roof and crushed under the hutch as it righted itself empty of its load. As a matter of fact, both things almost happened, but neither quite.
Slowly the long day wore on, and I managed to worry through with it. The road grew familiar, the heat became less cruel, and with frequent mouthfuls of bitter tea the task came to be less hard than it had seemed at first. The deepest shaft has its sump, and when the call came that it was "lowsing" time there was a grim satisfaction in knowing that the " sairest brae in the pit" had not proved " ower hard " for one not of mining stock.
AT THE FACE.
When I got to the " face " I began to think myself a qualified collier, for that was the last phase of actual mining, the place where most of the money is earned, and it is the work which to the uninitiated constitutes mining. The first place that I was sent to was at the top of Spion Kop, a long hard brae, which at the end of the shift was almost as hard to traverse as the work of the shift had seemed while I was at it. It certainly took nearly as much out of me. When I went to the face I went on to the "back-shift," which extends from a quarter after two to a quarter after ten. In the north of England the men who work the coal have a six-hour day, but in Scotland the eight-hour day is still universal.
The two systems of mining now employed are known as the " bord-and-pillar " and the "long-wall," of which the latter is by far the commoner, and all the time that I was at the face I worked the coal "long- wall." The word practically explains its own meaning. Instead of the seam of coal being followed along a narrow working, it is attacked broadside as it were, and perhaps thirty yards worked by a line of men ten or twelve yards apart. By certain arrangements, in the former method the miner not only gets the coal but makes all proppings and repairs ; so that the face moves much more slowly than with the other method, where the hewers devote all their time to getting the coal, and merely stop to make themselves secure with single sprags or tree proppings, and another corps of men attend to the rest of the work. It is generally considered safer to have the face move quickly, and as the men are paid by the tons they take out, the company now pays 1s. 4 1/2d. for every square permanent pillar that they put up - a piece of work that may take an hour.
In the Aitken it was customary for a certain number of men to change from the fore- shift to the back-shift on alternate weeks ; so it happened that as I rounded the head of Spion Kop on that memorable first night, puffed out of breath with the hard pull, I heard the surprised voice of roadsman Jim -
"Hi, Bill ! are ye gaun to get at the coals, laddie ?"
Jim had long been on the day-shift regularly until now ; but as he had come to work in another part of the pit, he had found it necessary to accept the change - about system. I felt better to know that he was about, for I knew that he would give me advice when I needed it. When he heard where I was to work he merely said -
"Watch yersel', Bill, or ye'll bring the coals doon' o' top o' ye."
I should have heeded the warning; but I did not grasp its full significance until an hour or so later, when I did bring the coals down atop of me. At the long- wall the face is first "holed" - that is, the very bottom of the coal hard against the pavement of rock is hewn out, leaving the great mass of coal hanging, with a clear space of three or four inches between it and the ground. The coal is then hewed down, or in places where it is solid it is shot down with gunpowder; and part of the art of mining is in knowing when one has holed sufficiently far in without tumbling the bank of coal down before one has got safely away. At the spot where I was working the seam was five feet high ; but it was only a shaking up that I got, that reminded me of Jim's warning for the future. Sometimes serious accidents occur in this way, when the men in their anxiety to make a good wage don't stop to make themselves secure with sprags and props for which they receive nothing. In pits where big coal is mined the holing is done at the top hard against the roof, and the coal is then hewed down in great chunks.
That day for the first time I lifted a pick to strike in earnest, and frankness compels me to admit that I made very clumsy work of it. The coal was hard, and did not yield to my repeated strokes ; the pick-handle jarred against my palms till they swelled, blistered, and finally bled. When I gripped the shovel to fill the coal into the hutches it was with a genuine sense of relief. My ! how we worked that evening ! At a quarter after six we stopped for our pieces, but in a quarter of an hour we were at work again. Hutch after hutch was filled and rolled into the darkness by the drawers, the perspiration trickled in black rivulets from my head and arms, painful kinks caught me in the back ; but as the others kept on shovelling, so I kept on. One man kept hewing away at the coal, bringing down whole hutch-loads at a time from places where it had been previously holed. At last, when the shift was nearing an end, the drawers counted up the tally, and it was found that we had sent out about five tons per man. Five tons is an average shift in the Aitken, and while I was outdistanced every tune at the hewing by the experienced men, owing to the skill that is born only of practice and that is essential, at the filling I could always hold my own, and send out from ten to fourteen hutches a shift. During the first three days my hands were in a pretty bad condition, being torn and skinned and swollen a good deal ; but after the third shift the hardening process set in, and they gradually lost their soreness. The strain of so much unaccustomed muscular fatigue began to tell upon my system, but this was not serious ; and as the muscles became tougher, there were no effects of overstrain, and the work settled to a dull sodden routine that demanded sheer strength and dogged effort, tiring, but never so exhausting as the drawing nor so dangerous as the brushing.
Soft coal was mined at the Aitken. The black dust coated the men inside and out. We spat black at the face. The broken rays of the bad-smelling lamps gleamed weirdly against the strata of shining mineral, that ever and anon crackled ominously as it worked loose of the pressure that had packed it together for an aeon or more. One night the air grew hot and heavy ; there must have been a fall on one of the air-current levels, for all that drifted to our far corner stifled rather than refreshed us. Suddenly the lamps grew dim ; my neighbour reached for his oil-flask, but his lamp was nearly full. The yellow flames flickered a lurid red, turning to a leaden blue, at times approaching a phosphorescent green. Then we knew there was gas. Some one snatched a jacket and flecked it right and left till it was completely dissipated, when the lamps flared up once more.
THE END OF THE SHIFT.
The merriest quarter of an hour in the day is often that at the pit - bottom when the men are waiting for the cage to carry them to the top. Hour after hour all through the weary days the cages rattle up and down the shaft with the coal, four hutches at a time, 1600 tons a-day. Sharply at a quarter-past two the iron signal clanks, and the men who have been gathering for some minutes rush with light if not buoyant steps towards the shaft. The open area known as the bottom fairly blazes with murky light, and from far down the distant passages come the bobbing lamps of men, will-o'-the-wisp-like, in straggling procession. Once and awhile, when the men are in the mood, they break into song as they are gathering in the bottom ; and to one who has heard the chorus of those mud-covered, coal -besmirched men letting their lusty voices ring out on the catchy strains of a favourite air, recollections of the pit can never remain all shadow. One of the bottomers, whose business it was to pull the empty hutches from the cages as they reached the bottom and push on the full ones, had a famous tenor voice, and to hear his clear musical notes ringing out with distinct sweetness above the crunching, jarring rattle that never ceased for a moment was not to be forgotten. The one-time popular ballad, "White Wings," thus sung, seemed to express a certain longing for an outlook on a broader world than they, poor cramped miners, knew aught of, as if an innate something was feeling the narrowness of its life and cried out for a boundless freedom. In the abysmal depths of the Aitken Pit 800 men are working out their lives. Their work is labour that costs hard sweat, and though they feel themselves slaves of the lamp, even as their fathers before them were serfs of the soil, they extract as much joy from life as they may, and to many of them the ideals they never realise and the pleasures they never taste are sung with spirit in the ballads of their fighting, loving sires or the songs of the. passing hour. So it was when the great bottomer sang the words -
"Sail home ! as straight as an arrow
My yacht shoots along on the crest of
High up where cliffs they are craggy,
There's where the girl of my heart
waits for me."
Then came the deep-throated chorus from the crowd of rough workers, fairly drowning the boisterous noise of the pit :-
"White wings, they never grow
They carry me cheerily over the sea ;
Night comes, I long for my dearie,
I'll spread out my white wings and sail
home to thee."
The song ended, the roar of iron goes on till the signal is given from the pit-head. A small coupler, surely not more than four feet high, who has been performing his work of coupling the hutches into races with extraordinary quickness and dexterity, shrilly cries out, "Wha's last?" Men entering the bottom shout the same query, " Wha's last ? " and peer
into the surging crowd till one calls back, " Follow me."
"Cry the bend," orders one from the midst of the crowd. "One," "twa," "three"- and so on to eight, while across the shaft another eight are being tolled out. It is a puzzling proceeding. Each man as he turns the bend in the passage that leads to the open bottom follows the man who immediately preceded him, and hence his number is called the bend. As the first cage arrives with its sixteen men fresh for the next shift there is a tinny Among the Fife Miners. rattle of tea-flasks and piece- boxes as the men prepare to spring on to the cage. Once on, we all grip the bar as in descending, - suddenly the cage starts, up it leaps, up into the teeth of the fresh air which, in running against it, becomes a gale. Nearly every lamp blows out at the start, - one burned uneasily a few seconds, and I could see the unprotected space between the cage and the shaft. A man slipped from an ascending cage about the time I went into the pit, and fell to the bottom, a mangled, lifeless mass. The last lamp became dark, and in the awful blackness of the pit we were drawn with breathless speed toward the top. Two-thirds of the way up there was a jar, a torrent of water appeared to be falling on to the roof of the cage, the cage stopped, then began to drop swiftly, silently down. It was the experience of the descent reversed, owing, I think, to the sudden slacking of speed, which gives the very peculiar sensation of reversing the motion.
A sudden burst of daylight dispels the illusion. Was ever daylight so pure before ? Then the sun, the glorious golden sunlight, filling the vale between the hills, caressing the ripening harvests, deepening the green of the woodland. If ever I appreciated the sun it was that moment after my first shift in the pit. Old miners have since told me that the delight of the first plunge out of the darkness into the radiant light of heaven never lessens with years.
It was a typical miner's house, one of a brick row with triangular roofs. There was a parlour and kitchen on the ground-floor and an attic above. When we were all at home there was little spare room ; for together, family and boarders, we made up a company of fourteen. I do not include the minor but never-to-be-forgotten part of the establishment - namely, the cat, the big dog, and the five little dogs. There were four persons in the parlour and four in the kitchen. The place was recommended to me as a good representative miner's home ; and when I called upon the mistress she was perfectly willing to take me in, but did not make mention of the fact that I was to have a few room-mates. It was not until well into the first night that I learned that five of us were sharing the attic. As to the terms, they were about the same as if I had had the room to myself. " I charge twelve shillings, but them that wants to gi'e me thirteen," my landlady had said to me. This was the average price in the village. The 12s. included board, washing, mending, and any incidentals that might be needed. In some places 13s. was charged, but that always included black twist tobacco and clay pipes.
Since then I have been in a good many houses, and I have every reason to believe that this one was thoroughly representative. Some homes were better, some poorer, but the majority were of this class. The tide of life ebbs and flows above those hearthstones, bearing on its bosom the flotsam, and jetsam of love and sadness, toil and fun, realised ambitions, disappointed hopes. The round of existence that drew me into an unnoticed niche was simply the round of life that was being repeated in most other homes in the community. It was real, though cramped. Such as it was, it was made the most of.
Our house was overcrowded, but not more so than many houses in the village. Every one whom I questioned corroborated the statement that it is practically the rule for from eight to ten persons to occupy the two - roomed houses ; and the three - roomed houses are generally filled proportionately. The testimony of the doctors on this point was perfectly clear. I found one place where no fewer than nineteen persons were herded together in three rooms. This in the country!
Many of the houses are built by the coal company, but the supply does not begin to equal the demand. The workmen's train which comes from the south each morning brings some eighty men to the Aitken pit alone, and half as many again come from the other direction.
One or two nights a-week we were all together in our attic ; and in the heat of midsummer the single window, half-open, did not begin to ventilate the room, which, consequently, was stifling. The door opened to the stair which led from the parlour, and it in turn opened into the kitchen, so that there was no current of fresh air. The rest of the week, however, the relay system was in vogue. One or two were on the day-shift, one or two on the night-shift, and part of the time one on the back -shift — a division which kept the beds in use twenty-four hours in the day. There was no closet-room whatever, so all of our things had to be stored about the room. One corner was occupied by the wardrobe of one of the grown daughters who was "sin service " in the village. Two of my room-mates were quiet "bideable" fellows ; the other two had failings : one a weakness for poetry and stirring passages of Scottish history, the other (my bed-mate) for strong drink. Between them they often made life interesting for the rest of us. The man who delighted in reciting could not read a stanza of the most swinging verse without stumbling and mangling the sense, but by dint of much perseverance he could memorise the words of a piece and then repeat them over and over until they flowed from him with a prolonged mighty roar. Morning after morning, when I failed to hear the call of the mistress from the foot of the stairs at five o'clock that it was time to rise, I would start at the sound of the words, "My foot is on my native heath : my name is Macgregor!" given in a stentorian voice that never varied in its repeated inflections nor failed to arouse us all. Dougal was an ingenuous soul, and I forgave him much for his genial good- humour. He possessed only two books in the world, but he was familiar with every page of them both. ' Rob Roy' was one, and the other Aytoun's ' Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers.'
My bed -fellow, Sandy, was as near a caricature of a Scotsman as I have ever seen in life. Short, fat, forty, with red hair, red whiskers, florid face, and fiery nose, he would have been singled out of a cosmopolitan group in the Antipodes. Sandy never missed his night - cap all the time we shared the same bed, and Sandy was very fond of a joke. He had no wit, little humour, but any amount of fun. One night he took Dougal out with him and brought him home in the middle of the night uproariously intoxicated. When they got into the room Sandy took a notion that he would like a game of golf; so he caught up a broom that had been left in the room, and using it as a driver mistook Dougal's head for the ball. The atmosphere was astir at once, and Sandy's fun threatened to last indefinitely till Dougal made the suggestion that they compromise by pulling me from the comfortable corner of the bed from which I had been watching them with sleepy interest. At this point I ventured to protest, but my protestations were of no avail. I was summarily routed out, and we romped round and round the room in a boisterous whirl until the neighbours were aroused and shouted to us to desist. As my bed had been stripped to the mattress, as soon as I could free myself I made for the other, only to be promptly pulled out. It was late when the room quieted sufficiently for sleep to enter the chamber. This was one of the many incidents that enlivened the attic, and I give it simply as an illustration of what sometimes goes on within those small brick walls under the sheltering cloak of night.
At scones and porridge the good woman of the house was a first-class cook, but, unfortunately for the lodgers, she seldom experimented much deeper in the gentle art. Our fare was distinctly plain, not to say coarse, and this in face of the fact that the overcrowded condition of the entire village, together with a comfortably high standard of wages, made it possible for her to exact so substantial a price for her accommodation.
Figuring roughly, the food given us during any one week could scarcely have cost her more than half-a-crown per person. This is so low a figure that it is only fair to introduce a detailed account of what we received. The arrangement of the meals for those on different shifts was slightly different; but my own for the time when I was on the day-shift is probably as representative as any. At first I started the day on a cup of tea and slice of bread ; but finding this somewhat insufficient, a beaten or "switched" egg and milk was substituted for the tea. At half-past nine we stopped for our "piece" in the pit, and this usually consisted of two prodigiously thick slices of bread (occasionally spread with jam, more often sandwiched with a piece of strong old cheese) and a flask of cold tea. When the day's work was over came dinner, - as a rule, at about three o'clock. In most miners' houses, it is said, a good deal of meat is eaten, and I have reason to believe that in many of them it is more common than it was with us, for our dinner three days in the week was made entirely of coarse, wholesome "porritch." The first day I very nearly betrayed myself by starting to put a dust of sugar on them. On the other three days we had meat - such as it was. A great soup-plate would be piled high with chunks or scraps of meat which were generally dripping with rich grease ; another soup - plate towered with potatoes ; and from these two dishes each man round the table helped himself. Knives and forks were supplied, but not always used. Individual plates were made use of incidentally. Conversation was always suspended during the eating - for the race for food was to the swift, and those got the most who could swallow their bits of meat and potatoes without thinking of the detail of mastication. The meat sometimes purported to be steak ; oftener it was ham- and-eggs. There was always an ample supply of bread and scones. Tea was simply tea, bread, scones, and jam ; and supper was the same as tea without the jam. About once a fortnight Scotch broth took the place of porridge at dinner, and on Sunday morning we had boiled eggs for breakfast. Save for the monotony of it, this was wholesome fare.
RECREATIONS : THE CLUB.
The house was plainly furnished, the trinkets and nick-nacks all being of the cheapest variety. In many of the households music of some kind finds a place. Nearly every house has one or more musically gifted inmates ; and violins and melodeons are almost universal. Since wages have risen, the steadier miners have consistently tried to make their homes attractive, not with pictures and ornaments alone, but also with the more expensive luxuries of pianos and harmoniums, thus employing one of the strongest counteracting influences of the public-house.
Outside of their homes the men do what they can to improve the limited social advantages at their disposal, and very often they are left entirely to themselves to create their own amusements. Thus a "Workmen's Club" has become an institution in the village. The club is one of those drinking-places that have been much heard of recently in Scotland - though not so much talked about in the country towns, perhaps, as in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where Sunday drinking has increased enormously. The clubs are really not clubs at all, if features other than drinking are considered. In Kelty the better men will have nothing to do with the place ; but as there are several hundred men representing a definite section of the community who do support it, I determined to join the club for the same reason that I had joined the miners' union. I wanted to know the men who went there, and I wanted to know why they went. I sauntered down to the club one Saturday forenoon about ten o'clock. As I slank through the doorway of a square brick building whose windows were screened to prying eyes by panes of heavy, yellow ground-glass, I instinctively pulled my hat farther over my eyes. The inner hall was piled with cases of empty bottles, and a stench of spilled liquor and dirt filled my nostrils. I paused to read a notice announcing that a collection would that day be gathered for the family of one of the members of the club who had been killed in a pit disaster. From within a room to the left came the sound of many voices above the scuffling of feet.
Suddenly the door flew wide, and two men, one of middle age, the other scarce more than a boy, clutched in each other's arms, wrestled into the hall and sprawled noisily floorwards in a half-drunken tussle, pushing me into a small room to the right. While they picked themselves out of the way I glanced round the small room : a bagatelle-board in one corner, a table wet with beer-froth and bearing a half-emptied glass of whisky, a number of plain wooden chairs thrown about any way over a
dirty wooden floor, a few flaring lithographs and tobacco advertisements tacked to a cheaply papered wall, — not the cosiest or tidiest of club-rooms, surely !
I crossed to the big room opposite. About fifteen men were lolling against the bar. Here again there was a nauseating sprinkling of dirt and slopped liquor, giving the place the general appearance of a city slum public-house. At one end of the bar a glass of beer had been upset, and two men were playing dominoes exactly in the sour pool. Next them stood two others playing draughts, - playing for drinks. As the manager leaned over the bar to me I told him I wanted to join the club.
"Join ? All right ; but your name must come before the committee. Just sign the book."
When I had signed the book I turned to go, thinking that I had done all for the present ; but he stopped me -
"It costs one shilling to join."
"Very well. Do I pay now or after my name has been approved by the committee ?"
"Oh, pay now. It will be all right."
On Sundays the club is open for a little while in the forenoon, and again in the later afternoon. It was a matter of note that the patrons were usually men apart from the typical life of the village. That the liquor problem is in truth a problem of "forgotten needs," at least in rural districts, was clearly illustrated on the Sunday afternoon that I spent in the club. It was the only other time that I crossed the threshold. I went early, so as to watch the men as they came in. The rooms had been well cleaned and aired, and the place was far more attractive than on the Saturday. Some of the men I knew, and many recognised me. I fell into conversation with the man nearest me. As we talked he grew confidential. He told me of his boyhood and the incidents that led to his leaving Scotland and going to Wales when he was a young man. Inclining his head close to my ear he whispered, " It was there I met my wife, and when we were married she didna understand what I said, and I didna understand what she said." He spoke so seriously
that I immediately regretted having laughed at this. For a long time he studied the froth on his " shandy gaff," with his head resting on his hands. At last he added, "It was kind of comic-like." He smiled ever so softly as his memory pictured the past anew, - a solemn, weird smile, for old Andra' was gaunf and cadaverous in his expression, and a smile fitted his face ill.
"She kenned one word of English : she cud ca' me 'Scotty.' "
"How did you manage to come to an agreement when the time came for you to return to Scotland, and you wanted to bring her with you?"
"Weel, noo, I could not tell ye. It went along so smooth- like that it a' came kind o' natural. We didna need to speak ; she understood me and I understood her. Ay ! Mon, she made a grand wife ! When she was alive ye didna see me at a club or a public-hoose. Na, na, when I had her I didna care aboot goin' awa' from the fireside. She took care o' me, she did." Poor old Andra' ! He would not have been credited with feelings so deep. After a little he began again -
" Ye see what I am. I dinna ken muckle - I'm simple-like. I wudna gang wrang i' purpose, ye ken, but I'm easy led. When she was in the hame naebody led me but her."
"How long has she been dead ? " I asked.
"Twenty years. We were together sixteen year, and she's been dead twenty. I miss her as much as when she was first dead. I'm never wi'out some remembrance o' her," and I watched his hand steal unconsciously to his inner waistcoat. When we parted Andra' again surprised me - " I'm glad ye gave me a crack," said he ; "I dinna care muckle aboot the drink - it's the company, it's a crack I'm wantin' wi' some one, and I've had a gude crack wi' you." '
The Gothenburg public-house in Kelty has aroused considerable discussion. When it was first started a good deal was claimed for it. It was, for example, to be a potent influence for temperance in the community. It occupies a substantial stone building on one of the main corners of the village. As the central point in all Gothenburg experiments is the elimination of private profit, the profits in Kelty are distributed for purposes of the common weal. Last year a grant of £50 was made to the local library ; a trained nurse has been appointed to work in conjunction with local physicians ; and if the landowners will grant the necessary permission, the Gothenburg committee are planning to lay out a bowling-green. No liquor is sold to men who have already been drinking to excess, and great care is exercised in the selection of pure liquor. Opponents of the scheme say that it tends to put a premium on drinking, by clothing it in the garb of respectability and quasi-philanthropy, and that it has actually increased drunkenness. There are no adequate proofs of this, however ; and the probabilities are, so far as I could judge, that the balance of evidence is very slightly in its favour. The liquor is freer from adulterations than in many other places ; the men declare, almost unanimously, that it is much more difficult for a man who is slightly under the influence of drink to get served there than any place else in the village ; and a portion of the profits is devoted to practical purposes, and these, to a large extent, counteracting influences. The manager receives a stated salary, and the shares (which are of 5s. each) draw an interest of 5 per cent.
As in most similar villages, the public-house is the common social rendezvous ; but in considering the social interests one must remember the friendly societies and the churches. There are three churches in Kelty. The congregations were always good, and I noticed that the proportion of men was often nearly 50 per cent. The library is much used by the men, and it is doubly popular owing to the game-room and the billiard- room connected with it. These, of course, are excellent counter- agents to the public - houses, inasmuch as they supply wholesome interests. There is also a capital public-baths establishment. Its chief fault is that it is small ; but the equipment is excellent, including a swimming- tank, sprays, tubs, and a steam- room, which is an excellent substitute for a Russian bath. Then there is a widespread interest in athletics, especially football, cricket, and cycling. In winter dancing is popular.
When the holidays come round "jaunting" is in universal vogue. The railways offer tempting excursions at exceedingly low rates, so that it is possible for whole families to take advantage of them. During the summer I made two jaunts — one to Aberdeen and one to Inverness. Nearly 3000 went on the latter trip, all from Kelty and the near-by towns. The return fare was only 4s. I had been warned that these excursions were frightful crushes, always very late, and that excessive drinking was the most pronounced feature. So with a stout heart prepared to endure all manner of discomforts, I joined the throng awaiting the train at Kelty station. There were three trains all told ; and as they started a few stations below, the first two trains, having been filled early, rolled past without stopping. It was a glorious July morning, and the spirits of the crowd ran high. As the first train approached a great shout went up that was echoed back with a right royal will. The carriage windows were all wide open and filled with noisy, laughing merry - makers. It was the first holiday in several months, and the pent-up feelings were being given full freedom. The tumultuous enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself shouting too. It seemed to me at the moment that I would gladly work a whole year if I could feel as actively, recklessly happy for one day as they all seemed. The singing and the shouting lasted all day, all the way to the Highlands and back, and at night when the trip ended — oddly enough nearly an hour before it was scheduled to — I was able to testify that drunkenness had been conspicuous for its absence. Drinking there had been, but for a trip of that kind there was little intoxication.
As we started the homeward journey one of the men sitting opposite me, an ordinary typical miner, jumped up exclaiming, "One hundred and forty-four miles to go. Where's the whisky ? " I made up my mind for an uncomfortable evening. Whisky and beer were produced, and bottle after bottle was handed round till the men were fast growing hilarious. I was a stranger to them ; but as usual I had endeavoured to be friendly, so the bottles were always offered to me. After my repeated refusals to drink, one well - meaning fellow searched diligently in a bag of many things till he had found a certain package, which he produced and held out to me with the words, " If ye'll no drink wi' us, will ye tak' some sweets ? You're decent company, so we maun treat ye richt." At one point a man in the opposite corner to the one I was occupying leaned over towards me. He had been drinking a good deal, but was not properly drunk by any means.
"D'ye ken," he began, "I've worked a' my life among stane in the pits, but I dinna ken onything aboot the mines. I dinna ken how the coal got into the pits. Comin' up this mornin', I was thinkin,' How do a' the hills get there ? Some o' them look burnt and twisted- like as they'd been near fire, and others looked different. Occasionally there is a field or a brae covered wi' sma' stanes. How did they get there ? Did men put 'em there ? " I hesitated before answering, wondering how best to explain the questions, when the man next to him, whom I had thought almost maudlin, rolled forward, his clay pipe dropping from his mouth as he spoke :-
"I dinna ken muckle aboot it, but I hae read a book by a mon, Professor Geikie ! " From Kingussie to Killiecrankie he gave us his version of Professor Geikie in vivid graphic language, using homely but descriptive words, and making the matter very much clearer than I could have done with the book before me. He talked for nearly an hour, and as he talked his interest in what he was telling us about got keener and keener, and the effects of the liquor seemed to disappear before his increased mental activity. Later in the evening, when the moon was shining upon us from a clear blue heaven, that same man showed an equally conversant acquaintance with Young's 'Astronomy,' and he told some interesting things about the firmament. He had not merely read these books, he had studied them. "Where did you get hold of them?" Tasked. "Oh! I picked them up at a secondhand shop in Dunfermline," he answered carelessly. Those men thoroughly appreciated that trip to Inverness.
HOME LIFE : THE POSITION OF WOMEN.
The most striking feature of the home life to me was the subjection of the women. I was surprised by it at first, but gradually came to take it as a matter of course. Their slavery to the men was almost universal throughout the district. The men were looked upon as the wage-earners, and the lives of the women were given up to making them comfortable. Not once can I remember of the women eating their meals with the men in our home. In some houses, where the families were smaller and the tables larger, it might have been possible for the women to eat with the rest ; but in our house to have made room for them would have meant crowding and cramping the men. Any suggestion of inconveniencing the workers
would not have been tolerated at all. There were two big easy - chairs in the kitchen ( which was our "common-room "), and if either of them chanced to be occupied by one of the girls or women when the men arrived, it was instantly left for one of the men to drop into. This particular act is probably a survival of the ancient idea that the one who supplies the food for life must be carefully tended, - as in certain remote Scottish fishing- villages at the present day, where the wives plunge into the water to meet the returning boats, and wade ashore with the men -folk on their backs, that the last shock of the cold water after the strain of the night's work may be avoided. Unfortunately, there has been an evolution in the idea, so that now it is only a part of the general custom of the women caring for the men. It was a common thing for the men to demand that their pipes be filled by one of the women. I have seen a son of one- or two-and- twenty order his mother across the room to get his pipe, which was on a shelf directly above his head a few inches out of his reach from the chair where he was sitting. All the time the men were at home the women would hover about ready to be instantly commanded for the most menial services.
The young girls are early made to look upon work as a duty that can never be shirked, and a large share of the household duties is left to the younger ones. It is possible that my landlady was a particularly severe taskmistress, though, so far as I could observe elsewhere, I think not. On more than one occasion I remember her going off for the day, leaving a girl of seventeen to do all the work of the house and the week's washing besides. It is this kind of steady toil that led one to express her notion of things by remarking one day when I had come out of the pit particularly tired, " Oh ! there's hard work in the pit as well as out of it." It should be emphasised that these are the observations of an outsider. The women themselves do not complain ; indeed they know no other life, and are probably the better off because they do not even catch glimpses of other circles of life.
Where wages are good in comparison with the cost of living, early marriages are always common. House-rents in Kelty are moderate. The oldest houses in the village rent for £4. 10s. ; the newer and average houses rent for £7 and £8 a-year, and the best of them for £10. The great trouble is that there are not nearly enough of them ; hence the evil of overcrowding is forced upon the people, who are only too eager to have homes of their own. That overcrowding is an evil and a sore one there is no contradicting ; but from what I saw of it in Kelty, I am inclined to think that it is a much-misunderstood evil, just as the drink problem has until recently been much misunderstood. From a hygienic standpoint, the wrong that is done the people who are forced to corral together like sheep can scarcely be exaggerated. In summer the atmosphere becomes stifling : in our house we never had sheets over us, merely rough blankets, and at times these were "gey ill to thole." There was one window in the room four feet two inches high by two feet five inches wide. This dropped down about half-way from the top, so that we could get some fresh air, though often it was hot. In winter, however, everything is kept shut tight - "to keep out the cold," as the people say - and in the kitchen, where four or five persons sleep, and all the food is cooked, the air becomes poisonous. Granting, then, that all that is said on this point is justified, and that on these grounds alone the evil is a scourge that is threatening a definite proportion of the working class, and is therefore a blot on the scutcheons of those whose indifferentism prevents its remedy, what of the other point so often dwelt upon by reformers — namely, morality ?
In Kelty I found myself enjoying life in the rough. There was the maximum of naturalness and the minimum of convention. It was a bold illustration of life without the limelight glare of etiquette and fashion. Society is buried beneath its forms. But the Workers never masquerade; they live their lives with a wholesome freedom from sham that develops hearts and souls, if not fine manners, and holds honesty and truth above ability to amuse and entertain.
In ordinary weather, when the men got ready for bed, they threw off their jackets and boots and rolled under their blankets. The heat sometimes necessitated a somewhat further preparatory disrobing ; but save in exceptional instances a man was ready for his bed in a few seconds, or at most a minute. One evening there were several neighbours calling, and the party in the kitchen numbered more than a dozen. The lassie of seventeen, growing tired, got up, and in our midst, without hesitation, prepared herself for her bed, and got into it. The act was accompanied by no embarrassment on her part, and excited absolutely no notice whatever from the company. It was nearly as simple a proceeding as with the men, and took very little longer. After that I saw her do the same thing again and again, and not once was any heed given her. On that particular evening her lead was shortly followed by her father, who in an incredibly short tune was snoring contentedly a few feet from where
the rest of us were circled in a group. Now this might be called "indelicate." Delicacy, however, is a standard of the more complex world, and this girl knew nought of it. That same girl was severely rebuked by her mother one Sunday evening for humming the refrain of " White Wings." Not suspecting the real reason for the rebuke, I asked why the lassie shouldn't sing — it was a good tune ; whereupon she turned on me almost fiercely -
"Dinna ye ken that this is the Sabbath-day ? There is a time for everything, a place for everything, and a day for everything. The Sabbath is no' a day for siclike songs as that."
My standards were not hers, but standards she had, and she lived up to them.
When city reformers cite instances of night clerks sleeping in a bed that at other times is used by one of the opposite sex, this need not necessarily imply any material lowering of moral standards, for people nurtured in such an environment have totally different ways of looking at things. Given such an environment, immorality is often (not always) more easily fallen to, but that it is an inevitable result is certainly not true. It would have been a difficult matter to have convinced my Kelty landlady or any of her neighbours that her moral standards were lower than the moral standards of the ladies who fill the boxes and dress circles of the city theatres wearing diaphanous and decollete gowns. Any such comparison would have aroused violent indignation.
Mazzini long ago pointed out that the social problem is at root an educational problem; but he did not emphasise, what is so obvious to-day, that the education must come from below to the top as from the cultured to the lowly. In short, the education that is needed is a general mixing together that will show each to the other " how the other half lives," and — of greater importance — what the other half thinks.
Some of the pleasantest hours in the lives of the miners are evenings when some of the neighbours come in and the time is spent in singing and dancing. Near a score gathered in our kitchen one night to say good-bye to a family who were leaving the village. The people called it a foy, or, as it is termed in other parts of Scotland, a ploy. Beginning with the head of the family, every one in the circle was expected to make a contribution to the entertainment of the evening with a song, a danoe, or a tune on the melodeon, the violin, or the mouth-organ. The old Scottish songs that never grow old were sung with a right royal will, and the dances — " hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels" — were given with an enthusiasm that showed that the day's work had not affected the " life and mettle in their heels." There was no drink that night till the very end, and "Auld Lang Syne " was sung with the merry wistfulness that betokens the flight of memory over the days that are gone when similar scenes have ended with those same familiar strains, when other figures have stood round the room, and other hands have clasped in the parting greeting that binds hearts to hearts with ties that nothing can sever.
Another scene equally memorable, even more characteristic, but of a very different nature, was that in a chamber of death, when one of the last of those moribund customs of yesteryears was gone through with — a chesting service. Of all the sad affairs in life and death, surely few can be more grim than a coffining. It was at the house of a neighbour where the baby girl, a wee golden-haired lassie, had died suddenly. As is customary, a few friends were asked to be present. The minister arrived before the coffin. There was a passage of Scripture and a brief prayer before the undertaker came in and the little chest was laid open. The mother lifted the lifeless form of the little one, pressed her tear-stained face close to the cold cheeks of her babe in a long lingering kiss, then sank back in a paroxysm of weeping. The lid was placed over the box, and with a grinding crunching noise that grated into the very hearts of the sorrowing friends, the boards were screwed tight. Thus the tragedy and comedy of life play round these modest homes, even as the sunlight and shadows flit about the lives of those who are in the intenser circles of the world, where living is a strenuous battle with the complexer forms of life.
Among Scottish Coal-Miners. By Kellogg Durland, 1902
A present-day British mining village differs from an American mining community primarily in this: the population is almost wholly native-born, instead of as heterogeneous and polyglot as the builders of Babel. Uniform problems, kindred interests, local unity and opinion, all help to simplify an analysis of the conditions which surround the lives of the miners in England and Scotland, and consequently add to the value of any examination of their mode of life and work.
In order that I might come into personal touch with the real lives of some of these British miners, I recently undertook to become one of them for a period of several months. Selecting a typical coalmining village about twenty-five miles north of Edinburgh, in the county of Fife, in Scotland, I went into the pit as a regular worker; I took lodgings in a typical miner's house, sharing not only my room but also my bed ; I joined the Miners' Union and the "Workingmen's Club;" I took part in their "jaunts," and, in short, did everything that they did, and without ever hinting that I was not an ordinary laborer anxious to earn my living without any ulterior motive. With only one man did I share my confidence, and he was the pit-manager. The understanding between us was simple. He agreed to give me a job in the pit, and so long as I would work with the men, and on the same conditions, looking for no favors and doing the work, I might remain.
At the outset I felt that there must needs be certain surface barriers between the men and myself; but concealed beneath their mannerisms and mine I knew that there must be common feelings, emotions, and even ambitions. I therefore took up my life among them with a degree of sympathy, prepared to clasp the hand whenever I found it open. Their world was sufficiently different from mine to discount any preconceived theories. Any respect that may have been lacking for them as mere workers was thoroughly rooted and established by the end of the first week.
Looked at from whatever point one chooses, pit work is serious labor. It has its compensations, to be sure, but the amount of discomfort that pit workers become accustomed to as part of their regular routine must be experienced to be appreciated. However severe manual labor a man may have to get his shoulder to above ground, he always has the advantage of two things which are usually lacking to the miner - a high roof above him, and daylight. The toilers in the pit must carry their own sunshine with them - and for the most part they do - and the nature of the work is such that it develops many of those qualities that go to make up splendid manliness - courage, determination, trust in their neighbors, and along with this a corresponding trustworthiness and dependence in themselves. A man should have a sturdy constitution to stay him in the darkness of the pit depths. Exercising every muscle severely, his body often bent almost double, splashed and wet with water from unseen points, exposed to innumerable dangers from which there is no escape save through divine providence - these are not the things for a man physically poor to brave and endure rashly. Given constitutional fitness, however, these things make strong men stronger, and longevity tables show that, as workingmen's lives run, the miner's is a long one.
The pit that I went into is one of the largest in Scotland, having an output of nearly seventeen hundred tons of coal a day, and employing eight hundred men eleven days a fortnight. The day was divided into three eight-hour shifts, so that the output was in actual operation twenty-four hours in the day. The day shift began at a quarter past six and continued until a quarter past two, when the "back" shift men arrived, and at a quarter past ten at night they in turn were superseded by the night men.
Throughout Great Britain the trades- unions have long ago fought their battles for existence. Many of them were born of much travail, and even at the present day some are weak and comparatively inefficient; but there are unions, among them the miners', which are powerful organizations, deeply rooted, and exerting a far-reaching influence in the labor world. The Miners' Union has been particularly fortunate in the character of its leaders, who, for the most part, have been large- minded and fair-minded men who have apparently worked for the advancement of the public welfare, with the interests of the miners paramount, but at the same time in accord, to a degree, with the interests of the employers.
The objects of the particular branch of the union which I joined, as set forth in its rules and regulations, were these:
(a) To raise funds by levies and contributions for the purpose of mutual support
(b) To protect members when unjustly dealt with by employers.
(c) To provide sums of money for members and their families in the event of death.
(d) To co-operate with other organized districts or bodies with the view of promoting the welfare of its members, particularly when applicable to any of the above objects.
(e) To promote labor representation in Parliament and other public bodies.
There were other subsidiary rules, but two which are of more general interest, particularly at this time, may be taken to show the nature of the restrictions laid upon the men, and the ruling of the union in regard to strikes and any violation of the eight-hour day:
Strikes and Disputes
23. No district, or any part of a district, shall be at liberty to come out on strike, unless by the authority of a majority of the members of the Association, or by recommendation of the Executive Board or Standing Committee. Any district, or part of a district, violating this rule will have no claim upon the support of the Association. And in even1 case, before a strike is resorted to, an attempt should be made to have the dispute amicably settled.
24. Every member thrown out of employment by strike or lockout shall be entitled to receive not less than eight shillings per week, or such other sum as the Board may agree upon. Half members shall be entitled to half rate.
Violation of Eight Hours a Day
28. As one of the fundamental objects of this Association is to maintain the principle of eight hours a day underground, any member known to violate the established rule of working only eight hours out of the twenty- four, unless when compelled to change his shift, and, in that case, being eight hours off before returning, shall for the first offense be dealt with by the District Committee, and may be subjected to the penalties mentioned in the by-laws, or the custom of the work. But, for repeating the offense, he may be expelled from the Association, and forfeit all claim on its funds. Members working on the fixed idle day shall incur the same penalties, unless permission to do so is previously granted by the Local Committee, on the understanding that another day be observed as a holiday by those granted the privilege.
In this last clause the union distinctly points out that " one of its fundamental objects is to maintain the principle of eight hours a day underground." This is a result of long experience of a longer day, and while it may be said to restrain the very strong and the ambitious, yet it seems to me that a uniform day of this length is the wisest arrangement that is possible under the present system of labor, and redounds to the good of the masters as well as the men.
After I had spent considerable time as a pitman, I took up brickmaking, a trade closely allied to mining owing to the fact that in Fife bricks are made from the waste material of the pits. The Brick-makers' Union is one of the weaker unions, and thus far it has not been able to secure many reforms. The working day began at six in the morning and ended at half-past five at night, with two intervals of three-quarters of an hour each for meals. I had noticed almost from the beginning that the men at the brick-works generally lacked that enthusiasm for outside interests which often characterized the miners. They went to their homes at night like men thoroughly weary. After tea they preferred to doze over a pipe before the fire till bedtime rather than mingle with other men out- of-doors. When I became a brick-worker I found that I had little energy left at night for anything. In the pits I found that I could work hard for eight hours a day without excessive fatigue, but longer than this I could not work without feeling it a strain. The last two or three hours of each day at the brick work took more out of me than the first eight. This experience forced upon me the belief that, from an economic as well as a humanitarian standpoint, in the long run, the eight hours' day yields the best returns; the men remain capable longer and the standard of their work is higher.
The argument is sometimes advanced that if the eight hours' day were made universal the supply of labor would be inadequate to the demands of the day. To this I can only reply that it seems to me that any economic or other academic theory which must be upheld at the expense of a man's physical strength and general comfort must contain some inherent fallacy. Any standard set for men that is so sorely taxing cannot be a righteous standard. It is possible, nay probable, that there are kinds of work which men can stick to longer than eight hours a day without exhaustion; but for myself, I was unable to do much after working from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., including, of course, the two periods of three-quarters of an hour each for meals. If men lived to work, this might be allowed to continue with no voice raised in protest. But this attitude cheapens life so terribly; it reacts upon a man's character and his very nature; it unfits him for moral growth. A man who works all day, and comes home too sodden with weariness to do anything but doze over a newspaper and a pipe before a fire, cannot be expected to develop very far mentally or spiritually. These men are not physical machines. They have minds ; they have souls ; and any system of work which necessitates starving either mind or soul is not one that can stand for long. In laying emphatic stress upon the eight hours' day, this Scottish Miners' Union is rendering a service to the masters as well as to the men. The man who is well taken care of, and not run till he runs down every working day of his life, can do better work and yield better returns to his employer— at least this is my belief.
There is a bit of doggerel that is sometimes spoken of as the " Miners' Paradise." It runs :
Eight hours' work,
Eight hours' play,
Eight hours' sleep,
Eight bob a day.
Eight "bob" a day means two dollars, and if this were realized it would indeed be a good wage ; but, unfortunately, it is only at rare times of exceptional prosperity that the average wage reaches that high-water mark. At the present time it is only slightly above one dollar and a quarter. The wages of Scottish miners are continually fluctuating. They are raised and reduced, battled for, begged for, struck for; yet they seldom remain stationary for any considerable time.
The system of sub-contracting, which is so prevalent in some parts of America, is not nearly so common in Scotland. Men work in groups, but the division of pay is usually equal. Where sub-contracting is in vogue, the men all receive a wage approaching the average earned in the particular pit where the work is done.
Child labor is now restricted by acts of Parliament. No boy under thirteen may enter the pits, and girls are employed only for above-ground work. The work which is now generally given to girls is exceedingly heavy, but not particularly dangerous. It consists largely in guiding the loaded hutches or wagons of coal from the shaft-head through the sifting-shed to where the coal is sorted, and then pushing the empty hutches, which weigh about five hundred pounds, back to the shaft.
It is not uncommon to find the majority of houses in a mining village owned by the coal companies and rented to the miners in their employ at rates which average from thirty to fifty dollars a year. So long as a miner remains in the employ of a company, he may remain in one of the company's houses, but if he ceases to be an employee he must leave the house. These houses are of the ordinary, conventional plan, made of brick, built in rows, with two rooms in most of them,, and an attic in addition in the houses which end the rows.
Left to themselves, these miners strive to erect homes of their own, which afford some scope for individual taste.
The success of co-operative stores in certain Scottish mining districts is an interesting feature of modern development. The miners who serve on "the store" committee find themselves business men for the time being, and the way in which some of them here develop genuine business qualities is little short of wonderful.
It is said that the average per capita consumption of liquor among British workingmen is about forty-eight per cent, higher than among American workingmen. But in regard to the miners, they could not, in fairness, be called "drunken."
Drink they certainly do, but there are often circumstances which regulate their drinking and confine excessive drinking to stated times - to wit, the pay night and the day, or it may be the two days, following, and holidays, especially at the new year time.
In certain English collieries men are allowed to take light beer into the pits, but in Scotland even this is prohibited, and, so far as I was able to observe, this rule is universally honored by the men. I never saw the slightest trace of liquor in the pits. Miners, of all men, know that clear vision, steady nerve, and untrammeled wit are often the safeguards of their own lives and the lives of their fellows.
Early one week one of my fellow-workers said to me, with the ring of expectant pleasure in his voice:
" Next Saturday I'm for a gude drunk."
" Why do you do that, Jock ?" I asked.
" Och, mon! just to break the monotony."
I knew the fellow pretty well, and I am sure that he was not habituated to excessive drinking. It was not to satisfy any craving that he looked forward nearly a week to getting drunk on the Saturday. Another man told me that his drinking was regulated by his wife. It was his custom to take all of his earnings home to her, and each day she gave him so much from the surplus over and above household and other expenditures. This was a novel method to me, and I thought it most excellent. A little inquiry disclosed the fact that other men follow the same custom - at least in Fife.
The Scottish miner is a social being, to be sure; only he takes a deal of knowing. He is inclined to take his humor as seriously as he takes his work, and you often must catch the sparkle of his eye to know when he is really laughing. But there are a few days in the year when he plays in good old rollicking fashion, and it was not until I had laughed with him, sung myself hoarse with him, trudged a round of sightseeing, sunk to depths of profound and subtle controversy with him, and then sang "Auld Lang Syne," his rough, hearty hand clasped in mine, that I began to feel that I knew him. In short, a Fifer's holiday means a run of the entire scale of moods that go to make up his nature. When he sets aside a day for a good time, he begins with gayety at the first hour and grows serious as his effervescing spirits and strength subside, and at night, before he completes his day, he sings " Max welton's braes are bonnie," " Me and my true love will never meet again," and if he has a breath of the North in him, like as not the melancholy strain will appear in
Like an empty ghost I go.
Death the only hope I know,
Maiden of Morven,
before he concludes with "Auld Lang Syne."
Taken all in all, the Scottish miner is a thoughtful, useful citizen. His standard of education, compared with the standards of other workingmen, is high. He is an honest, ambitious workman, and is not given to letting opportunities for material or mental advancement pass him by. Above all, he is always law-abiding. The present point of interest lies in the fact that this is the type of man who at one time was employed in Pennsylvania, but, with the increasing complexity and strenuousness of modern life, his place has been usurped by the foreigners - Hungarians, Poles, Germans, and Scandinavians - who are now found employed in the mines of the eastern United States. These men are willing to work for a lower rate of wages, so that the older type has been scattered. As to whether the momentary pecuniary advantage of this change has been adequate justification is a matter for individual judgment. Kellogg Durland, The Outlook Vol 72 (8) October 25, 1902
Court Case - Helen M'Kechie v. William Blackwood & Sons
Counsel were heard on the question of whether an issue should be allowed for the trial of the action in which Helen M'Kechie, with consent of her father, James M'Kechie, brickmaker, Kelty, near Dunfermline, sues William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, proprietors and publishers of "Blackwood's Magazine" for £500 damages for alleged slander. The pursuer is seventeen years of ago. She states that in Blackwood's Magazine for March 1902 an article was published purporting to describe life in the village of Kelty. It was entitled "Among the fife miners," and bore to have been written by a person named Kellog Durland. The article was highly sensational and is said to have given a false, grotesque. and most misleading description of life among the fife miners. Kellogg Durland is believed to be an American who took lodgings in the pursuers father's house last year, and lived there about four weeks. He did so, as he freely stated to all and sundry in the village, with the intention of procuring material for writing and publishing some narrative of village life among the miners, and this fact soon became known to the inhabitants, who were aware that he was lodging with the M'Kechies. The article alludes to the pursuer as "the lassie of seventeen," "the girl of seventeen" who was left to do all the work of the house and all the week's washing besides. It continued:- " One evening there were several neighbours calling, and the party in the kitchen numbered more than a dozen. The lassie of seventeen, growing tired, got up. and in our midst without hesitation , prepared herself for her bed and got into it. The act was accompanied by no embarrassment on her part, and excited absolutely no notice whatever from the company. It was nearly as simple a proceeding as with the men and took very little longer. After that I saw her do the same thing again and again, and not once was any heed given her. On that particular evening her lead was shortly followed by her father, who in an incredibly short time was snoring contentedly a few feet from where the rest of us were circled in a group. Now this might be called 'indelicate.' Delicacy, however, is a standard of the more complex world, and this girl know nought of it."
These statements, the pursuer avers, were false, malicious, and calumnious. They were naturally calculated to hold her up to public contempt and ridicule. The words meant that the pursuer was without natural and proper womanly delicacy of mind and was immodest and indecent, and showed that by undressing and going to bed in the presence of a number of strangers of both sexes on several occasions.
The defenders admit the publication of the article, and that Kellog Durland, the author, lived in the pursuer's, father's house for some time. The question as to the condition of the labouring classes and their proper housing is a question of social interest, and the defenders published the article because it dealt with these questions. Fairly read, the article did not make any imputation upon the character of the pursuer. It was not intended to reflect upon her character, and was not capable of being read as making any such reflection. Privilege is pleaded, and absolvitor is asked in respect that the statements of fact, so far as relating to the pursuer, were substantially accurate, and that the comments were fair and were made without malice.
Mr Hunter, for the defenders, submitted that the whole case of the pursuer was extravagant, and that the article fairly read did not contain material to entitle the pursuer to either of the issues which she proposed. It was manifest beyond all question that the innuendo put upon the article was utterly extravagant, and absolutely unwarranted. The slightest possible reference to the article showed clearly that the writer was writing from a sympathetic standpoint of the miners, and was pointing out how there might be morality under such conditions of life.
Lord Kincairney - If it is not true.
Mr Hunter said that even if it were the case that the pursuer did not prepare herself for bed in the presence of strangers, yet that statement made about her in the setting in which it stood, and accompanied by the explanations given, was not slanderous. It contained no imputation upon her morality.
Lord Kincairney - It is making very free and easy with this lady's habits.
Mr Hunter - No name is used.
Lord Kincairney - But she says it is known. Mr Hunter - It is dealing with a question which is of public interest.
Lord Kincairney - Yes; but individuals should be screened. I think there is a good deal about her.
Mr Hunter - I have not stated that the girl referred to is any other than the pursuer.
Lord Kincairney - My observation went no further than this, that it was hard upon her, and no wonder that she was displeased.
Mr Hunter - Displeasure won't entitle her to bring an action of damages. Her case must be that her character was injured by this article, and no person could read it and say that it was possible to suggest such a thing. All she could complain of was that there was a statement made here that sac might think ought not to have been given to the public; but could she say that a fair inference from the statement was that her morality was attacked or her character impugned? His whole point was that there was no imputation in this article against character.
Lord Kincairney - Is there any authority on the point?
Mr Jamison - No one ever thought of bringing such a ridiculous case.
Mr A. S. D. Thomson for the pursuer, said this article was plainly slanderous, and he might go further and say was positively impudent. This American landed at Southampton, heard of a remote country in the north called Scotland, and proceeded to write about Scotland and the Scottish people as if they were Kamchatkins or inhabitants of Uganda. Counsel took up the position that there was not a word of truth in the statements which this man had made concerning this girl that nothing of the sort took place, and her averments to that effect were as strong as they could be made. We were past the time of Adam and Eve. The world had changed since the days of primeval innocence. Mr Thomson had no doubt that if he went over to Boston or New York, and wrote about the young ladies there, that they prepared themselves for bed in the presence of a mixed company, there would be a tremendous outburst. There was here a direct charge of want of proper womanly delicacy on the part of this young girl.
Lord Kincairney - I do not know that any lack of womanly delicacy is charged.
Mr Thomson - “Delicacy this girl knew nought of.” That is what the writer ..says. To fabricate a statement that this young woman prepared for bed and went to it in the presence of strangers was distinctly slanderous, and he submitted that he was entitled to an issue.
Mr Jameson, K.C., for the defenders, said this was a very extraordinary case. The origin of it seemed to have been that this girl had been chaffed a little about being referred to in a publication like Blackwood's Magazine, but that her reputation had been injured in the slightest., or that, the article was calculated to do so, he did not believe. There was not a suggestion in the article from beginning to end of any immorality.
Lord Kincairney said he concurred in that statement.
Mr Jameson said there was nothing in what was written to offend any person. Courts of Law did not exist to judge of good taste or of what was delicate or indelicate, but to judge of what was libellous or injurious to character.
Lord Kincairney - Do you admit that it is slanderous to charge a woman with want of proper womanly delicacy?
Mr Jameson said he did not think it was. It might not be pleasant, but it was not calumnious.
Lord Kincairney—Why did this gentleman in his delicacy not go away. I think when a man comes from America to teach us manners, he ought to have done so. I shall think about the case, and shall decide it as soon as I possibly can. Counsel for the Pursuer - Mr A. S. D. Thomson. Agent—John Veitch, solicitor. - Counsel for the Defenders—Mr Jameson, K.C., and Mr Hunter. [Scotsman 2 July 1902]
Outer House (Before Lord Kincairney.) Helen M'Kechie v William Blackwood & Sons.
An issue was approved of for the trial of the action in which Helen M'Kechie, with consent of her father, James M'Kechie, brickmaker, Kelty, near Dunfermline, sues William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, printers and publishers of "Blackwood's Magazine," for £500 damages for alleged slander.
Lord Kincairney said the adjustment of issues in this case had involved the decision of questions of novelty, interest and, importance, and, he thought, of difficulty. The pursuer was a girl of seventeen years of age, and it appeared that she had learned in some way that she had been made the subject of a study in an article in "Blackwood's Magazine" entitled "Among the Fife Miners." She might, had she been so disposed, have regarded the notice as a distinction, but apparently she had not taken that view at all, but had considered it offensive and insulting , and had raised this action of damages on account of it. It seemed that the author had conceived the idea of studying the manners and customs of the Fife miners, with, his Lordship supposed, the view of improving their mode of living, and possibly also of composing an interesting and entertaining magazine article on the subject. If he entertained the latter design, he had certainly succeeded in it .With that view he assumed the dress of the miners, obtained employment in a mine, worked as a miner, and lodged with the pursuer's father, which enabled him, his Lordship supposed, to study the more private domestic life of the miners; and his articles in "Blackwood's" (there were two) purported to describe what he saw at the pits and in the house. The articles were vivid and graphic. They touched on various topics connected with the miners and the mines; but the only passages relating to the pursuer were those which dealt with overcrowding , and it was only when the author treated of that subject, taking the house and household of the pursuer's father as his text, that he had wounded the susceptibilities of the pursuer. The action had been raised not against the author; but against the proprietors and publishers of "Blackwood's Magazine," but he did not understand that they repudiated responsibility, whatever that might be. The pursuer had lodged two issues, which were alternative, the one without and the other with an innuendo. But in truth there was no important difference between them. She had scheduled the following passage, excerpted from the article in question , which, was:- "One evening there were several neighbours calling, and the party in the kitchen numbered more than a dozen. The lassie of seventeen, growing tired, got up, and in our midst, without hesitation, prepared herself for her bed and got into it. The act was accompanied by no embarrassment on her part, and excited absolutely no notice whatever from the company. It was nearly as simple a proceeding as with the men, and took very little longer. After that I saw her do the same thing again and again, and not once was any heed given her. On that particular evening her lead was shortly followed by her father, who in an incredibly short time was snoring contentedly a few feet from where the rest of us were circled in a group. Now this might be called 'indelicate.' Delicacy, however, is a standard of the more complex world, and this girl knew nought of it." The first issue was whether the statements in the passage scheduled were false, and the alternative issue was whether these statements falsely represented that the pursuer prepared for and went to bed in presence of strangers of both sexes, and was thus guilty of want of proper womanly delicacy. The defenders maintained that no issue could be allowed. They argued that the author of the article had not the least desire to hurt the feelings of the pursuer, much less to attack her character, and had not done so; that the article contained nothing disparaging to her; that when fairly read it could not be held to charge her with want of womanly delicacy, still less with any blameable conduct; and, further, that it was not actionable to say of a woman that she wanted delicacy, if that were held to be said, seeing that such a statement involved no charge against character and behaviour, and at the worst was rather a reflection on her manners than on her morals, although in truth it was not even that. They further maintained that if an issue were to be allowed a longer excerpt from the article should be scheduled to show its spirit and tone; and in that suggestion, which was not rejected by the pursuer , his Lordship agreed, and thought that the whole of the passage about overcrowding preceding the sentences selected by the pursuer should be scheduled. He had had much difficulty as to the question whether an issue should be allowed and what it should be. He acceded in the main to the view of the article presented by the defenders' counsel. The article might be somewhat heedless and a little inconsiderate, and might take for granted some want of sensitiveness in the pursuer, but his Lordship found no animus in it against the miners or against the pursuer. It did not necessarily mean that the pursuer wanted womanly delicacy, although perhaps it might seem to say that. He did not himself read it so. Delicacy the author represented to be an artificial quality, the want of which was not to be considered as a want of anything, and he thought it was not meant to say or insinuate anything affecting the pursuer's modesty and innocence. But he was not able to say that it might not be so interpreted by other people - for example, by a jury. As to the contention that it was not actionable to say of a woman that she wanted delicacy his Lordship would agree, and would refuse an issue if that were the whole question. In the case of Archer v. Ritchie & Co., 19th March 1891, Lord M'Laren said - "The expression of an opinion as to the state of facts truly set forth is not actionable, even when that opinion is couched in vituperative or contumelious language." That proposition was expressed in very absolute language, and might, Lord Kincairney ventured to think, bear some qualification; although, it was to be noted that Lord M'Laren did not speak of an opinion couched in calumnious language. It had been recognised in other cases, and there was no doubt that it was a sound expression of the law in all but very exceptional cases , and he would have little hesitation in refusing the pursuer's issues if she had nothing to complain of but the author's expression of his own opinion about her delicacy. He might have thought the expression of opinion uncalled for, but the pursuer could not have had on action for defamation. But then this case was not of that kind at all, and the dictum of Lord M'Laren was inapplicable. Because the peculiarity of this case, and the feature of it which created all the difficulty was that all the assertions in the passage scheduled were denied, and one must, of logical necessity, take this argument on relevancy on the hypothesis and assumption that they were all false. It was, indeed, difficult to read the article without the impression that it was sincere but in deciding the question of relevancy that impression must be entirely suppressed. The pursuer said—"The said statements are not only false as regards her, but are false as descriptive of the habits of girls or women among the Fife miners, and the class to which the pursuer and her parents belong. It is not the practice for them to prepare themselves for bed and to get into it in presence of strangers as alleged of the pursuer. Such an act would, by them and by all the households of which they form part, be considered not only as indelicate, but as grossly immodest and indecent; and would neither be practised nor tolerated and this statement by the pursuer must, his Lordship said be provisionally accepted. Suppose that no more had been said except that the pursuer habitually prepared for bed and went to bed in the presence of a number of strangers of both sexes, and supposing, as she said, that she never did so, and would have considered it indecent to do so, had she no remedy? Could this author say what he pleased about the people with whom he had lived without being called on to justify what he had said? His Lordship confessed, that in this case he was disposed to sympathise at least as much with the pursuer as with the defenders. Conceding and appreciating the good intentions of the defenders, recognising that it might be most desirable to call attention to the condition of the working classes, and in particular to the evils of overcrowding, if care were taken to avoid unjust reflections on individuals, even although the remedy might not be obvious, still it did not strike him as fair or right or delicate to lodge in a house, and then detail to all the world the private lives of the inmates, at least without using every endeavour to conceal the identity of the individuals referred to: and he nowise wondered that the pursuer should feel aggrieved at this unauthorised revelation of her private life, even if all that was said was true; but very much more if it was all untrue or it she thought it untrue, or if it was exaggerated, or coloured so as to meet the taste of the reading public. Supposing the statements untrue, which was, as his Lordship had said, the hypothesis on which he must proceed, he confessed the publication of the scheduled passage appeared to him to be somewhat of an outrage. If such things were said untruly, of persons in a different position belonging to what the author was pleased to call "the more complex world," the outrage would, his Lordship thought, hardly be denied, and he did not think our law would in that case refuse a remedy. But he was unable to find any solid distinction between the case which he had supposed and the present case. The pursuer's world might be more complex than the author in his brief sojourn in it had found out, and perhaps womanly delicacy might, be a feeling more elementary than he imagined. Suppose it were alleged of a lady that she habitually undressed and went to bed among strangers of both sexes, and no more was said, it might be that according to our practice no issue could be allowed without an innuendo, although the reason for the practice was not obvious. There would, however be no difficulty in such a case (supposing the statements false) in innuendoing indelicacy, immodesty, or indecency, although the author might in fact have intended nothing of the sort. In this case the author had himself furnished an innuendo - want of delicacy - not indeed so strong an innuendo as immodesty or indecency, and his Lordship was not prepared to say that on that account the first issue might not have been allowed. Yet the language was not such as they were accustomed to in an innuendo, and his Lordship thought it might be more satisfactory to prefer the alternative issue. He thought, the words would bear the innuendo there expressed, although he did not himself so understand the author's meaning ; and his Lordship proposed to approve of it, substituting the words "chargeable with" for the words "guilty of" which appeared, inappropriate and otherwise adopting the language which the pursuer suggested, that was to say, substituting the words " prepared for" and the word "delicacy" for "undressed" and, "modesty," as in the issue lodged, and also scheduling a longer extract from the article as he had explained. He ought to have noticed that it was admitted that the pursuer was the "lassie" referred to. The author seemed to have been at no pains to conceal her identity, and as he lived in her father's house it might have been very difficult to do so. Counsel for the Pursuer - Mr A.S.D. Thomson. Agent - John Veitch, solicitor. Counsel for Defenders—Mr Jameson. K.C., and Mr Hunter. Agents—Home & Lyell, W.S. [Scotsman 12 July 1902]