The Industries of Scotland: Their Rise, Progress and Present Condition
by David Bremner, 1869
The Early History of Coal - Objections to its being used as a fuel - First attempts at Coal Mining - Slavery in the Mines - The Scotch Coalfields - Visit to a Colliery - Descent into a pit - The Miners at work - Perils of the Pits - Social conditions of the miners - Their earnings, strikes and unions - The houses in which they live- The means provided for educating their children.
When it is considered how much the manufacturing interests of the country and many of the comforts of life depend upon coal, it becomes easy to understand the anxiety evinced by political economists as to the results that would probably follow the exhaustion of the supply of that material. From coal we derive the force which turns the mill, propels the steamboat, draws the railway train, and performs a thousand other offices tending to economise time, lessen labour, and increase and multiply our enjoyments ; and even a temporary stoppage of the supply would be one of the greatest calamities that could befal us. It is within a comparatively recent period in the history of the country, however, that coal has risen into importance. Its existence and combustible qualities were known in very early times; but beyond being regarded as a curiosity, no attention seems to have been paid to it ; and up till about six centuries ago, no attempt was made to use it as fuel.
The earliest documents in which it is mentioned are "The Saxon Chronicle of Peterborough," written in the year 852, and Bishop Pudsey's "Boldon Book," dated 1180. Newcastle coal is first alluded to in a charter granted to the inhabitants of the town in 1234, conferring the right to dig the mineral. The first mention of coal in Scotland is found in a charter granted in 1291 to the Abbot and Convent of Dunfermline, giving them the privilege of digging coal in the lands of Pittencrieff; but the first workers of the mineral are supposed to have been the monks of Newbattle Abbey. A vein of coal which crops out on the banks of the Esk was worked by the latter, not as a mine, but in the fashion of a quarry. Though the monks appreciated the value of coal thus early, it does not appear to have found favour with the people generally until several centuries afterwards. Wood and peat were the materials commonly used as fuel, and in the houses of the wealthier classes charcoal was burned. It was only when wood began to get scarce, and, as a consequence, went up in price, that attention was turned to the "black stones;" but such was the prejudice against them on account of the disagreeable smoke they gave out, that those who were disposed to give them a fair trial met with opposition on all hands.
In the beginning of the fourteenth century, the London brewers and smiths, finding the high price of wood pressing hardly upon their returns, resolved to make some experiments with coal ; but immediately an outcry was raised against them by persons living near the breweries and forges, the King was petitioned, and a law was passed prohibiting the burning of coal within the city. Those who tried it, however, found the new fuel to be so much superior to wood that they persisted in its use. But so determined were the Government to suppress what was regarded as an intolerable nuisance, that a law was passed making the burning of coal in London a capital offence; and it is recorded that one man at least was executed under that law. As a contrast to these facts, it may be mentioned that the London of the present day consumes annually between six and seven million tons of the once despised and rejected mineral.
It would appear that the ladies were most bitterly opposed to the use of coal for domestic purposes. They considered the smoke to be ruinous to their complexions, and would not attend parties at houses in which the objectionable fuel was used. Some persons went the length of refusing to eat food of any kind that had been cooked on a coal fire.
In the account of Scotland given by Eneas Sylvius, who visited the country in the fourteenth century, it is stated that the poor people who begged at the church-doors received for alms "pieces of stone, with which they went away quite contented." "This species of stone," he adds, "whether with sulphur or whatever inflammable substance it may be impregnated, they burn in place of wood." A description of Scotland, written in the beginning of the sixteenth century, says, " There are black stones also digged out of the ground, which are very good for firing ; and such is their intolerable heat, that they resolve and melt iron, and therefore are very profitable for smiths and such artificers as deal with other metals."
The popular prejudice against coal, and the want of appliances for digging it out of the earth, combined to prevent its coming into general use as a substitute for wood and turf until about the close of the sixteenth century, when it was recorded that "the use of coal beginneth to grow from the forgo into the kitchen and halle." In the early part of last century, coal was suddenly raised into importance by the invention of the steam-engine : and since then it has been one of the most valuable agents in spreading civilisation, and in promoting the welfare of mankind.
The history of coal mining, like that of most other industrial pursuits, is chiefly a record of experiments, disappointments, and ultimate successes - a steady contest with difficulties, and a gradual improvement of appliances to overcome these. The first miners of coal would find the work easy enough, as they doubtless confined their attention to the out-croppings in river-banks and valleys. It would not be until coal began to grow in popular favour, and the superficial supplies became exhausted, that real difficulties would be encountered.
The first step in the direction of mining was the driving into the coal-seams of tunnels — called “ingaen e'es” (ingoing eyes) by the miners. Only a small extent of the seams could be worked in that way, however, while the tunnels were rendered dangerous by the accumulation of foul air, as well as by the want of mechanical skill in the workers to protect themselves from the masses of superincumbent strata which were constantly falling. Where the seams dipped downwards, water accumulated, and no little labour was expended in baling out the workings, or in the formation of draining levels where these were practicable. The remains of some of the levels in the earliest known collieries show them to have been of vast extent, and their construction, with the appliances used by the pioneers of mining, must have been a most arduous undertaking. A number of those ancient levels are still in operation in Fife and the Lothians.
After the mode of working the coal by means of shafts descending to the seams was adopted, various contrivances for raising the coal and keeping the pits clear of water came into use. In some cases, both coal and water were drawn up by a winch worked by men ; in others, horse-gins were employed for hoisting the coal, and chain- and-bucket engines for the water ; while in a few instances the elevating power was derived from common waterwheels. A steam- engine was first employed to work a coal-pit in England in 1680, and in Scotland in 1765. Few of those early pits were carried beyond a depth of twenty or thirty fathoms; but even at that depth the difficulty of working them was enormous. All the collieries are now worked by steam power, and recently that agent has been applied to machinery for excavating the coal.
As the depth of the pits was increased by the miners seeking out and working lower seams of coal, what was considered to be an almost insurmountable difficulty arose. There were no means of ventilating the mines, and the accumulations of gas became so troublesome as to cause operations to be suspended altogether in many cases, after immense cost had been incurred in sinking shafts to the lower seams. The want of ventilation, while attended by great danger to the workmen, threatened ruin to the coal proprietors, and the prospect was anything but cheering as to the future of the coalfields. But emergencies of this kind have rarely occurred without bringing to the front some person fitted to cope with them, and so in this case a genius was not wanting. A working smith, employed at one of the Durham collieries, having observed that the fire in his forge caused a strong current of air to rush in, bethought him that he would rid the mines of foul air if he could succeed in causing a draught in them by means of a fire. The first experiments were conducted in this way: A cylindrical stove, about three feet long and two feet in diameter, was filled with burning coal and lowered halfway down one of the shafts of a mine. Immediately there was a rush of air up that shaft and down the other, and the result was considered to be highly satisfactory. As the works advanced to some distance from the bottom of the shaft, however, it was found that the gas again accumulated, and it became necessary to adopt sonic contrivance for drawing off the gas and injecting fresh air into the mine. A large furnace was constructed at the mouth of the shaft, and wooden pipes leading to the furnace were laid through the workings. The furnace drew its sole supply of air from those pipes, and that, of course, caused a rush of fresh air down the shaft and to all the points to which the pipes extended. This plan, adopted in 1760, was considered to be most effective, and again the works were pushed forward. Like other inventions which had been regarded as perfect in their time, however, the pipe system of ventilation came to be looked upon as being not quite so efficient after all, and other plans were proposed.
The lot of the early miners and coal-bearers in Scotland was rendered hard enough by their having to work in the face of many dangers and difficulties to the removal of which science had not then been applied; but their condition was made more wretched by a system of bondage or serfdom which prevailed. On entering a coal mine, the workers became bound to labour therein during their whole lifetime; and in the case of sale or alienation of the ground on which a colliery was situated, the right to their services passed to the purchaser without any special grant or agreement. The sons of the collier could not follow any occupation save that of their father, and could labour only in the mine to which they were held to be attached by birth. Tramps and vagabonds, who were not sufficiently wicked to deserve hanging, and on whom prison accommodation would only be wasted, were sometimes consigned by the Lords of Justiciary to life-long service in the collieries and salteries. Every man thus disposed of had riveted on his neck a collar, on which was engraved the name of the person to whom he was gifted, together with the date. The collar was intended as a check upon deserters; and constables were highly rewarded when they brought back a fugitive.
Though serfdom had a considerable time previously become extinct, so far as all other classes of workers were concerned, colliers and salters were not liberated until towards the close of last century, and the custom of celebrating the anniversary of their emancipation has not yet died out. The Act which set them free was passed on the 23d May 1775, and was entitled "An Act for altering, explaining, and amending several Acts of Parliament of Scotland, respecting colliers, coal-bearers, and salters, &c." The preamble and headings of the Act will show its purport. These were as follow:-
"Whereas many colliers, coal-bearers, and salters in Scotland are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the collieries and salt- works, where they work for life, and are sold with the mines : be it enacted that
1. No person shall be bound to work in them in any way different from common labourers.
2. It shall be lawful for the owners and lessees of collieries and salt-works to take apprentices for the legal term in Scotland.
3. All persons under a given age, now employed in them, to be free after a given day.
4. Others of a given age not to he free till they have instructed an apprentice."
Up till the year 1843, children of tender years and women were employed to do underground work in the coal mines of Scotland, as well as in those of England. An inquiry into the condition of children employed in factories revealed the existence of a system of mismanagement and mercenary cruelty which excited considerable surprise and indignation, and a law was passed to put an end to the evil. Attention was then drawn to the condition of children in other employments, and Lord Ashley procured the appointment of commissioners for inquiring into the employment of children generally. In investigating the state of matters existing in mines and collieries, the commissioners found that, while the case of the children was extremely bad, that of the women similarly employed was no less pitiable. The report presented to Parliament by the commissioners excited a thrill of horror all over the country, and led to the speedy passing of a measure — brought into the House of Commons by Lord Ashley, now Earl of Shaftesbury, on 7th June, 1842 — prohibiting the employment of boys under the age of ten years, limiting the period of apprenticeship, and putting a stop to the employment of women.
From the report of the commissioners, it would appear that the condition of the women and children employed in the collieries in the east of Scotland was as bad as existed anywhere. Many children five or six years of age were employed. In the west of Scotland, the youngest children in the pits were eight years old ; but in some of the English pits, infants of four years were to be found. In the east of Scotland pits, women were generally employed, but in the west they were rarely met with. Before winding apparatus came into use, the labour assigned to the women and children was to carry the coal on their backs from the place where it was excavated to the pit-mouth. The journey along the pit-bottom was bad enough ; but the ascent of the wet and slimy wood stairs leading up the shaft was extremely difficult and perilous, and accidents were of daily occurrence. The weight of coal carried on each journey by some of the women was, according to reliable evidence, four and a-half cwts. After the application of machinery to draw up the coal, the women and children were solely occupied in dragging the coal from the place where the miners were at work to the bottom of the shaft. In pits where women were not employed, the coal was drawn on sledges by ponies. About the beginning of the present century rails were introduced into the pits, and the coal was drawn in "hurleys," or wheeled boxes, to which boys and girls were yoked by a rude kind of harness, known as the " girdle and chain." This mode of harnessing is not yet extinct, but it is used only to a limited extent, and the drawers are stout lads more fitted for the work than were the puny children and wretched girls who were formerly employed.
Regarding the places in which those poor creatures had to work, the report stated that, "in the east of Scotland, where the side roads do not exceed from twenty-two to twenty-eight inches in height, the working places are sometimes 100 and 200 yards distant from the main road ; so that females have to crawl backwards and forwards with their small carts in seams in many cases not exceeding twenty- two to twenty-eight inches in height. The whole of these places, it appears, are in a most deplorable state as to ventilation. The evidence of their sufferings, as given by the young people and the old colliers themselves, is absolutely hideous." On the main roads of some pits, the coal was carried on the backs of girls and women ; and in one of the pits a sub-commissioner found a girl, only six years old, carrying half-a-hundredweight of coal, and making fourteen journeys a-day, each journey being equal to ascending to the top of St Paul's Cathedral.
The evidence as to the moral degradation of the women was shocking in the extreme ; and on all sides the necessity for abolishing the employment of females in the pits was forcibly urged. One old Scotchwoman, Isabel Hogg, said to the commissioners, — "You must just tell the Queen Victoria that we are quiet, loyal subjects ; women-people here don't mind work, but they object to horse-work ; and that she would have the blessing of all the Scotch coal-women if she would get them out of the pits and send them to other labour." Not only was the work degrading and severe, and carried on under circumstances the most adverse to personal comfort, but the hours of labour were long and irregular. In the latter respect, the collieries of the east of Scotland were again pointed to as shameful examples. In them the labour was often continued on alternate days, at least fifteen and even eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. One girl, seventeen years of age, said, — "I have repeatedly wrought the twenty-four hours ; and after two hours of rest and my pease-soup, have returned to the pit and worked other twelve hours." The labour was generally uninterrupted by any regular time set apart for rest or refreshment ; what food was taken in the pit being eaten while the work went on.
In a number of Scotch pits women and children had never been employed ; and before the passing of Lord Ashley's Bill, some of the coal proprietors, into whose pits such labour had been introduced, had given orders for its exclusion. The change was not altogether satisfactory to those affected by it, as one of its results was a serious reduction in the family earnings. By the introduction of rails for the hurleys to run upon, and other improvements, the men and boys were enabled to earn more money ; and the ultimate result was a very marked amendment in the moral and social condition of the mining communities. Since 1843 there has been additional legislation regarding mines, embracing — Restrictions as to the employment of females and boys ; wages, and their mode of payment ; the appointment of inspectors, with large powers and onerous duties ; rules for the regulation of coal mines, collieries, and ironstone mines ; penalties for the non- observance of the Acts, &c.
The following "rules and regulations of the great seam pit-bottom at Newbattle Colliery," in force at the beginning of the present century, throws some light on the manners of the miners and female coal-bearers, and their mode of working at that period. We copy the document as it stands on the official books of the colliery:-
1st, It is agried amongest the men that all Desputs and controvriea a rising in the pit Botom shall be Decided by 2 men who shall be chosen as commites, whos Determination shall be finiel and binding on all parties.
2nd, It is agried that every Birer shall keep her own Border or Lair. Whoever shall inchroch on ther nebhour property, so as rise any desturbance, the commities shall be sent for, & the man or woman that is fownd in the wrong shall be fined of 1s. for every transgison of this kind not to be forgivin.
3d, Be it liquis agried that every man shall have his own fair and regular turn of tubs riding ; and if any man or woman shall take ther nebhour turn by force or frawd or strength against ther neb- hour, will the person that took ther los the tub sent up, it not being ther own fair turn.
4th, But as the coal is so varible in its nature that sume may have coals in the morning, others not till afternoon, them that has them in morning must set them away for to serve the saile ; but when ther nebhour who was behind in the morning & gets his coal through the day he must get up his turns that he was behind.
5th, As it is a prevaling custom amang Birers to curse and swear, and call others vile and scandles reproachfull names without a caus, the person so offending shall be find of 1s. starling for every offence of this kind not to be forgiven.
6th, And if it can be proven that the pit botom man dos not pay due attention to these reglations, through fear of sume and through favor to others, he shall be find of — starling ; and he is not keep the gen [gin horse] stabled upon any account.
7th, It is agried that if any collier or Birer shall Break any of the above reglations, and rise a desturbance to that degrie of passion that the Lift ther hand and strik ther nebhour with ther hand, or foot, or stick, or ston, or coal, or any other thing that can hurt or egure one another, the person so offending shall pay 5s. of a fine not to he forgiven ; and, lastly, all those fines to be lifted from the coal greve by the commities on that day the offence is commited, and to be keept of the offending person on ther pay day."
The carboniferous system of Scotland has received considerable attention from geologists, and its nature and extent have been frequently described. Though fragmentary strata of coal occur in the Western Islands and at one or two other points, the great coal-fields occupy a well-defined position, extending across the country in the line of the valleys of the Forth and Clyde ; and their superficial area is calculated to be about seventeen hundred and fifty square miles, or one-seventeenth part of the surface of Scotland. The uppermost of the coal strata is found at Fisherrow, and between it and the Old Red Sandstone, which forms the floor of the coal formation, there are three hundred and thirty-seven alternations of strata, having a thickness in the aggregate of five thousand feet. In the thickest part there are sixty-two seams of coal, counting the double seams as one, and about one-half of these are workable. The depth of strata at Musselburgh is, however, exceptional ; and the average depth is estimated to be about three thousand feet, of which the coal seams occupy one hundred and twenty-six feet. The thickest bed of coal in the Lothians field is thirteen feet ; but at Johnstone, in Renfrewshire, there is a seam one hundred feet in thickness. This latter owes its extraordinary bulk to the overlapping of the coal strata during some great convulsion in the locality. The most important of the coal-fields is the Clydesdale, on which one-half of the entire number of collieries in Scotland are situated. Thirteen counties lie over or touch upon the coal-fields, and of these Lanarkshire has by far the largest share of the store. Judging from the number of collieries possessed by each, Ayrshire, Fifeshire, and Stirlingshire come next in order. In nearly all the counties, more or less valuable beds of ironstone, shale, and limestone are intermixed with the coal. The Scotch cannel or parrot coals are very valuable on account of the high proportion of gas and oil which they yield. The Boghead variety gives one hundred and twenty gallons of crude burning oil, or fifteen thousand cubic feet of gas per ton ; and the brown Methil ninety gallons of oil, or ten thousand cubic feet of gas per ton. The cannel coal found at Wemyss, Fifeshire, is carved into various articles of a useful and ornamental character — such as picture-frames, inkstands, brooches, &c.
The deepest coal pit in Scotland is at Nitshill in Renfrewshire, and the most extensive individual colliery, while at the same time the deepest, is Mr Dixon's Shawfield pit at Govan. The deepest in the eastern district is the Emily pit at Arniston, belonging to Mr Christie, who is one of the most extensive coalmasters in Scotland. It is one hundred and sixty fathoms in depth — fifteen less than the Nitshill pit.
As Mr Christie's is a well-appointed colliery, and one which displays the two modes of working coal, an account of a visit paid to it may be interesting. The colliery is situated near the line of the North British Railway, about a mile north from Gorebridge Station, and has three working shafts, the deepest of the three descending to what is known as the "splint" seam, at a depth of one hundred and twenty-five fathoms, and to the "parrot" seam, thirty-five fathoms farther down. The rise and dip shafts are about seven hundred and thirty yards apart, but the workings with which they communicate open into each other. After the accident at the Hartley pit a few years ago, it was made compulsory to have two shafts for each colliery ; but the Arniston colliery, and many others in Scotland, were long before that time furnished with two outlets.
Before proceeding to visit the pit, we acted upon good counsel, and donned a capacious suit of pilot cloth, which, though of most uncouth cut, proved to be quite an aristocratic costume when brought into contrast with the habiliments of the dusky fellows below. Under the guidance of one of the managers, we first inspected the above- ground fittings of the Emily pit. These consist of a large engine- room, containing the winding engines. The drums of these engines, on which the rope is wound, are ten feet in diameter, and fitted with a powerful break, which ensures the greatest safety and nicety in raising and lowering the cages in the shaft. The rope to which the cages are attached is one and a-half inch in diameter, and composed of wire. It passes over a pair of immense pulleys fixed about thirty-six feet above the pit mouth, and is thence led on to the drums of the winding engines in the engine-room. This apparatus is the most important connected with a colliery, and its management requires extreme care. Attached to the winding-drums is an index, which shows the exact position or progress of the cage in the shaft, and by observing the index the engineman can stop the cage within an inch of any desired point ; and he is able to deposit it on the pit bottom so gently, that those who occupy it are unconscious of its having come to a stop, and that, too, after it has passed through the shaft at a rate of something like twenty-five miles an hour. Close by the winding-engine room is an apartment containing the pumping-engine - a ponderous piece of mechanism erected over the compartment of the shaft which contains the pumps. This engine is 400-horse power nominally. The cylinder is eighty inches in diameter, and the piston has a 12-feet stroke. The cylinder is placed in an inverted position over the pit, and the piston-rods, of which there are two, are directly connected with the pump-rods. There are five columns of pumps, the one discharging into the other, the internal diameter of which increases from twelve inches at the pit bottom to seventeen inches at the top. Though the pumps discharge thirty -nine thousand gallons of water per hour from the bottom of the pit, they have to be kept going almost incessantly in order to keep the pit clear. With reference to the pumps, a curious fact, illustrating the extent of one of the difficulties with which miners have to contend, may be mentioned. When the pit is working at full power, thirty tons of material are put out per hour ; while the quantity of water that has to be raised in the same time would weigh one hundred and seventy-four tons. In addition to the winding and pumping engines, there are a donkey- engine for feeding the boilers, and a steam-crane for hoisting out the pumps when repairs are necessary. The crane is fitted with a wire rope capable of bearing a strain of forty tons. The steam for the engines is generated in six immense boilers. Immediately adjoining are extensive workshops for engineers, smiths, and carpenters, a large number of whom are employed in keeping the working gear of the colliery in order.
The inspection of the machinery and workshops having been concluded, we ascended to the elevated bank or platform which surrounds the mouth of the shaft ; and, while waiting the arrival of lamps to light us through the pit, had an opportunity of seeing how the coal was brought out. The shape of the shaft is an oblong square, with the sides bulged out a little. It measures fifteen feet one way and nine the other, and is divided into three equal compartments, in two of which the cages are worked, while the pumps are enclosed in the third. The cages are simply composed of an iron framework floored with wood, and having a sheet-iron roof of semicircular form. Each cage is sufficiently large to admit of two hurleys or "tubs " being brought up at a time ; and the winding-gear is so adjusted that while one cage is ascending the other is descending. The cages travel from bottom to top of the shaft in thirty seconds when laden with coal, but when the freight is a living one the speed is considerably reduced. As we stood and watched the cages emerge alternately, slimy and dripping as if they came from the depths of some subterranean lake, our intention to descend into the dark abyss threatened to evaporate. But before a resolution to defer the venture was formed, our guide appeared with a lighted lamp in each hand, and, with a reassuring smile, invited us to step into the cage. The invitation was accepted, but not without a certain feeling of dread, as the "situation" brought vividly to mind the recollection of many a catastrophe which had befallen persons making a journey similar to that on which we had now entered. Men who work in or about coal mines may make light of the perils which surround them, but few persons descend a shaft for the first time without experiencing a very keen sense of danger.
When we had entered the cage, and had received a few words of instruction as to holding on and keeping steady, the word "right" was passed. The first motion of the cage was upwards for a few inches, to relieve the self-acting stoppers on which the cage rested at the mouth of the shaft. Then the engine was reversed, and we were off. A feeling of giddiness was experienced as the cage glided down, steadily, swiftly, and almost noiselessly ; but that wore off ere half the distance to the pit bottom had been accomplished. The daylight did not accompany us far, and the black and oozy walls of the shaft absorbed so much of the light of the lamps that we were left in a dismal gloom. Suddenly something rushed past and excited a current of air which nearly extinguished our feeble illuminators. It was the ascending cage; we had now got half way down, and were some distance under the sea-level. As we sped downwards, the walls of the shaft became very wet, and big drops of water pattered upon the iron canopy overhead, while showers of spray entered the cage on all sides. Gradually the fall of water increased. The drops had grown to streams, and the spray to little jets, when we became conscious of a slackening of the speed of the cage. Simultaneously with this, our ears caught a confused sound of voices, and in another moment we had alighted.
The first objects that met our eyes were a number of men engaged in various ways about a train of "tubs" which had just been brought forward from the workings. The besmudged countenances of the men, seen imperfectly by the light of the lamps which they carried on their foreheads, well accorded with the surrounding blackness and gloom. The fellows were cheerful withal, and set about their work with a will — laughing, " chaffing," and singing, in defiance of the depressing influences around them. A number of horses are employed in the pit to draw the "tubs" on the main roads, and are lodged in a stable near the bottom of the shaft.
The animals do not seem to suffer any bad effect from confinement in the pit, being as sleek and well-conditioned as those of their kind that are privileged to roam in green pastures and bask in the sunshine.
The roadways are arched over with brick for some distance, but the roof beyond consists of rock. The main roads have been excavated to a height sufficient to allow the horses to pass; but the branch roads are no higher than the thickness of the coal seam, which is about three feet. The seam is the most valuable in the field, as it contains the " parrot" or gas coal. The latter is found in a layer, varying from eight to nine inches in thickness, enclosed between two layers of good household coal, each of which is about a foot thick. Though we were now nearly a thousand feet beneath the surface of the earth, and more than half that depth below the level of the sea, the air was fresh and the temperature summer-like, and we were assured that all through the twenty miles of roads and passages in the pit it was the same. We did not advance into the workings here, as a better opportunity for seeing the miners at work would be afforded in the "Kailblades" seam, in order to reach which the Emily shaft had to be ascended, and a descent made by another a few hundred yards distant ; for though, as already stated, there is underground communication between the shafts, the passage from the one seam to the other may be made more readily and comfortably by the " overland route."
Leaping through the rushing shower of big water-drops, which came from the shaft, we were once more in the cage ; and signals having been duly exchanged by the man at the pit-bottom and the engineman, we began to ascend — slowly, according to prearrangement, in order that a view might be obtained of the pumps and the entrances into the various seams which have been opened in the pit. When the cage had ascended above the denser portion of the shaft drippings, a hasty peep upward was ventured upon. A speck of light no bigger than might be covered by one's hand was all that was visible, even the huge cable which supported the cage was lost to view in the distance. After a few brief pauses, for the purposes above stated, we rapidly glided into daylight. Inspired with confidence by what had been already accomplished, the descent of the other shaft was made without any very decided apprehension of danger.
This time we had to go down about ninety fathoms only, and into a region almost entirely free from water. There were no horses in the seam, the drawing, or rather "putting," of the coal being done by boys or lads. Passing the group of men employed at the pit bottom we advanced into the workings, preceded by our guide, who endeavoured to divert attention from the difficulties of the path by explaining the formation of the coal strata, which glistened on one side of our path — a roughly-built stone wall forming the other. "So toilsome was the road to trace," however, that neither geological nor statistical gossip served to make us unconscious of its disagreeableness and terrors. Our path — a main roadway, be it recollected — was about four feet in width, and barely so much in height. The bottom of it was laid with a line of rails, and the space between the rails was wet and muddy. Overhead, ugly rents yawned, and fragments of rock protruded in a most threatening way. In order to protect the head from knocks and the feet from stumbling, a sharp look-out had to be kept above and below. Progress was frequently interrupted by the passing of coal-laden hurleys, which were pushed along the rails by lads carrying lights on their foreheads ; and an occasional pause was made to take advantage of some gaps in the roof, which permitted us to obtain some rest by standing erect. Roads branched off to right and left at intervals, and the openings of certain of them were provided with doors, to shut which after passing is an imperative rule of the pit. The purpose of these doors is to guide the air-current on its way through the workings, and neglect in attending to them would destroy the ventilation of the mine. At certain points, the air-current could be heard sighing along the galleries, or whistling through the chinks of the doors ; and so strong was it at times, that great care was required to keep the lamps alight. Knowing that by this time muscles unaccustomed to such difficult pedestrianism would be wearied and sore, our guide hailed a passing "putter," into whose " tub" we were right glad to take a seat, and complete the remainder of the journey by rail. On and on we whirled through the terrible gloom, assured that we had not far to go, but without seeing any sign to indicate that the desired goal — the "face" at which the miners were at work — was near. By-and-by a confused noise began to break on the ear, and a look ahead revealed a number of lights flickering and moving about as mysteriously as wills-o'-the-wisp. Human voices pitched to the lowest notes could then be distinguished amid a chorus of dull thuds ; and a few yards further on our carriage was brought to a stand: we had reached the " face." There, in a series of recesses branching off the road to the left, were the miners, who, in going to and from their work, have to traverse the path we had just passed over.
Entering one of the recesses, technically known as a "room," we had a closer view of the miner and his mode of working. The dimensions of the room would be about twelve feet wide by twenty long, and the height from floor to ceiling was exactly three feet. The miner, after cutting a deep niche along the lower part of the Beam, commenced to cut two perpendicular slits about six feet apart. After he had reached a certain depth, the coal began to crack, and in a moment or two the mass, detached by its own weight, fell and broke up into fragments with a noise resembling the breaking of a wave on a pebbly beach. The coal in this seam is soft, and neither gunpowder nor wedges are required, as in some cases, to bring it down. The work, nevertheless, is very hard and irksome — though we were told it was mere child's play when compared with the labour of excavating the "low seams," the depth of which is only from twenty-two to twenty-four inches. In a three-feet seam, the miner can kneel while working ; but in thin seams, he has to lie at length on his side, and in some cases water pours down on him continuously. As the coal is broken away from the face, it is shovelled aside, and committed to the care of the "putter," who fills it into his "tub" and wheels it along to the pit bottom. This is very severe toil for boys, but those engaged in it were stout and healthy, and appeared to be nowise discontented with their lot.
While seated on the floor of this room, we were favoured with an explanation of the two systems of working coal, both of which are followed in the Arniston colliery. The systems are respectively designated "stoop-and-room" and "long wall." It is a matter of great importance that the miner should be able to extract as much as possible of the coal in the various seams ; and to enable him to do that, various plans have been proposed and tried ; but of these only the two we have named have come into favour. The "stoop- and-room" system, which was followed in the part of the pit in which we were seated, consists in driving passages or "rooms" through the coal, leaving "stoops" or pillars of coal between, of sufficient strength to support the roof. The rooms are from twelve to twenty feet wide, and the pillars or "stoops" ten to twenty yards square. The pillars are allowed to remain until the limit of the seam is reached, when the miners turn back and work away the pillars, using wood props to prevent the roof from falling. This is the most precarious part of the miner's work, and requires the exercise of great skill and care to prevent accidents. After a certain proportion of the pillars have been removed, the wood props are taken out, and the superincumbent strata allowed to settle down.
The operation of removing the props has to be performed with great caution, and is intrusted only to picked men. The noise made by the beds of rock as they break down, is described as being peculiar and terrific. Not more than one-tenth of the coal is lost by this method, whereas by the plan pursued in early times only one-half was got out. The "long wall" system is considered by mining engineers to be the most advantageous, as it admits of the coal being worked out thoroughly at once. According to this plan, the miners work along a continuous face of the seam, cutting out the coal completely, and allowing the roof to settle as they advance, care being taken to preserve roads by throwing up parallel lines of stone and waste, and using wood props occasionally. As the roof collapses, it is blasted down in the roads, to keep them sufficiently high for the loaded tubs to pass. This mode of working is not so perilous as it appears to inexperienced persons ; for the roof does not fall at once. It subsides gradually, and if the miners advance at a steady rate, they may calculate on being from fifty to eighty yards in front of the place where the roof comes into contact with the floor. Both systems are liable to considerable modification, but the above is a rough statement of their chief features.
Another dismal and spine-racking journey brought us to the district of the mine which is worked on the " long wall" system. The strata in the pit, it may be mentioned here, lie at an angle of about 20° to the horizon, and the miners work upwards on the slope. The "long wall" workings have been carried forward to a considerable distance from the main road, and, in order to reach the face, we had to go through one of the narrow roads kept open amid the fallen rocks by means of the protection walls already referred to. As the immense weight of the stone overhead had crushed the walls considerably, and had thrown them down in some places, the original dimensions of the tunnel were much reduced, and the average height and width were less than three feet. It was necessary at some parts to travel on "all fours," a mode of progression rendered very disagreeable by a thick layer of finely pulverised coal which covered the floor of the passage. There are a number of similar roads in the pit, and it is through them that the coal is brought from the "face" to the main roads. The "putter" fills the coal into a box mounted like a sledge on iron-shod slides ; and as the slope of the road is more than sufficient to cause the sledge to descend of its own accord, he has to seize it by the front, and, walking backward, guide it through the tunnel, and prevent it from travelling too rapidly. After transferring the coal to a hurley, he has to get into harness, and drag the sledge up to the "face" again. There are no rails in these narrow roads, and their absence makes the work severe and hazardous. At intervals in the pit are several self-acting inclines. These are laid with double lines of rails, and by means of a drum and tackle, the "tubs" are let down and pulled up with very little labour — the full ones in their descent causing the empty ones to ascend.
We next visited the air furnace, an immense brick structure, communicating with a shaft extending to the surface of the earth. A huge fire is kept almost constantly burning in the furnace, which causes a strong rush of air from the workings. Before the air, entering by the working shaft, can reach the furnace, it has to traverse every part of the mine, and that accounts for the pureness of the atmosphere in even the remotest nooks. The gas given off by the coal is diluted and rendered harmless by the current of fresh air ; and were it not for the particles of coal which fly off at every stroke of the pick, the atmosphere in which the miners work would be as pure as that breathed by the most favourably-situated workmen above ground.
The miners enter the pit between five and six o'clock in the morning ; but before they do so, an inspection of the workings is made by the " viewer," in order to ascertain the state of the ventilation. They remain in the pit until two in the afternoon, the eight hours' spell of work being relieved by a brief interval for breakfast. As the pit under notice is free from fire-damp, naked lights are used. These consist of small tin lamps. The flame is fed with tallow instead of oil, as the former gives off less smoke than the latter. Very little trouble is required to keep the lamps in trim, and though the light appears dim to unaccustomed eyes, the miners find it sufficient for their purpose.
When the miners stop work, another class of men enter the pit these are the "reddsmen" and "brushers," whose duty it is to examine and repair the roads, remove any stones that may have fallen, and see that the roof is secure throughout the workings. About 500 men and boys are employed in and about the Arniston and other pits leased by Mr Christie. In addition to the pits visited, he has six others in operation. Having gleaned the information and experience above recorded, and satisfied to the utmost a feeling of curiosity as to the nature of the miner's occupation, we set out for the pit bottom, and in due time emerged into the sunshine.
The miner's avocation is a very perilous one. From the moment he sets his foot in the cage to descend to his work, he is in constant danger of a violent death, or of injury that may render life a burden to him. The winding gear may give way, and dash his body into fragments on the pit bottom; or, after he arrives safe at the "face," a mass of rock may descend from the treacherous roof, and crush out his life. He is in danger of being suffocated by foul air, and of being scorched to death by the ignition of the fearful fire-damp. These and other risks he has to encounter daily; and when he is deposited safe at bank after his toil is over, one may fancy that, if he has any feeling at all, it will be something akin to that of the soldier who at the close of a battle finds his head upon his shoulders and his limbs unfractured. The mining statistics for 1866 show that in the collieries of England, Wales, and Scotland, no fewer than 1484 lives were in that year lost by accident. The total number of miners employed was 320,663, so that one person was killed out of every 216 employed. The year was an unusually fatal one, however, the explosions at the Oaks and Talk o' the Hill collieries — the one involving a loss of 361 lives, and the other of 91 lives — having occurred during its course. In 1865 the number of lives lost was 984, or 500 fewer than in 1866. In proportion to the quantity of coal raised in Scotland, the loss of life is considerably less than in England or Wales. The total quantity of coal raised in Britain in 1866 was 100,728,881 tons ; and as the number of lives lost was 1484, we find that one life was sacrificed for every 67,877 tons of coal. In Scotland, 12,034,638 tons were raised, and 77 lives lost, so that for each person killed, 161,252 tons were got.
For the purposes of the Mines Inspection Act, Scotland is divided into two districts. The eastern district includes the Lothians, Fifeshire, Clackmannanshire, Kinross-shire, part of Perthshire, the eastern division of Stirlingshire, and the upper division of Lanarkshire. The western district embraces the lower division of Lanarkshire, the western division of Stirlingshire, and the counties of Ayr, Dumbarton, Renfrew, Dumfries, and Argyle. The proportion of lives lost to the quantity of coal raised in the year 1866 in Scotland was:-
|Districts ||No of Miners||Tons of Coal Raised||Lives Lost ||Tons of coal per life lost||No of Collieries|
|Eastern District||21,200 ||6,100,000 ||32 ||190,625 ||254 |
|Western District||20,046||5,934,638||45 ||131,880||218|
The miner holds an humble position in the industrial ranks. His occupation does not require much skill, nor has it any tendency to incite him to intellectual pursuits. Where his own interests are not directly concerned, he rarely intrudes ; and the great body of society beyond the coal fields would become almost unconscious of his existence, had it not an occasional reminder in the records of the terrible disasters which sometimes overtake him. His intercourse with the rest of mankind is limited, and often the circle of his intimate acquaintance does not extend beyond the little community attached to the pit in which he works. His occupation is peculiar, and quite distinct from that of any other class of workmen, one of its effects being the creation in him of a desire for exciting amusements ; and the means taken to gratify that desire have something to do with the low position he occupies in the social scale. He long had an unhappy notoriety — of which he has not yet got completely rid — for drinking, poaching, and other irregularities ; and his neighbours of other occupations were prone to regard him as a rough sort of fellow. Even when he lived in a town, he failed somehow to get absorbed into the great industrial body. Within late years, however, a change has been coming over him, and his old manners and habits are yielding to the influence of education. Still, there appears to be a want of sympathy between him and the mason, the carpenter, the tailor, the shoemaker, and other tradesmen, and they rarely associate. Were his social position to be regulated by the amount of his earnings, the miner would stand above a large proportion of the working classes ; but he appears to be indifferent to rank, provided he is allowed to enjoy life according to his own notions. It is but ninety years since he was a slave — or, strictly speaking, only sixty-eight years, because the Act of 1775 was hampered with restrictions which prevented him from obtaining full freedom, and his emancipation was not completed till 1799, when a new Act was passed, and it was not until a considerable time after he was set free that he began to raise himself in the social scale. Indeed, the work of reformation can scarcely be said to have begun until the passing of Lord Ashley's Bill in 1843 for the abolition of female labour in the pits. It is not to be wondered, then, that traces of old habits, superstitions, and prejudices, are still discernible, especially among the aged people.
The rapid development of the coal and iron trades in the west of Scotland led to an immense influx of Irish labourers between 1830 and 1850 ; and as they were generally very ignorant, they retarded for a time the general progress of improvement. The liberality, however, of the employers, in establishing schools at every colliery, is daily effecting a change ; and with the advent of another generation the traces of degradation will probably disappear, and there is evidence to lead to a hope that the miner will come to occupy a much improved position in society. In the Lothians, where the relations between master and servant have been little disturbed by strikes or fluctuations in trade, the miners are superior in every respect to the same class in Lanarkshire and the West of Scotland generally ; and the same may be said of the Fife men. This arises chiefly from the fact that, while the eastern miners are almost without exception Scotsmen, whose forefathers for several generations have followed the same avocation in the same locality, a great proportion of those in the west are Irishmen, mostly of a very rough type.
As a rule, the sons of miners follow the occupation of their fathers, and begin to work when they reach twelve years of age - by which time they are now fairly proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic. After they commence to work, however, they are encouraged to make further progress in education, and for that purpose evening classes are taught at most of the schools. The period of apprenticeship is four years, and the father and sons generally work in partnership. The daughters of the miners find employment on the farms, or at the brickworks and factories in the vicinity of their homes, and an increasing proportion of them go into domestic service. The sons live under the parental roof until they reach eighteen or twenty years of age, when they take wives and begin housekeeping for themselves. Intermarriage with members of other classes was formerly a thing almost unknown, but now such marriages are not infrequent in certain districts. Ignorance of domestic economy, and a want of care for domestic comfort on the part of their wives, have been the means of keeping back many well-disposed men among the miners ; but now that women who have had some experience of domestic service are to be had for wives, a better state of things is beginning to prevail.
The wages of miners, which are paid according to piecework, vary considerably in different districts, and are liable to considerable fluctuation. In some cases the quantity of coal a man may put out in a day is limited by mutual consent, or in accordance with a rule of the Union ; in others, the working hours are limited, each man being allowed to put out as much as he can in the stated time ; and again, there are collieries at which there is no limitation as to time or quantity. Exactly a century ago the wages paid to the men, all serfs, who worked at Newbattle Colliery, were as follow :- Grieve, 7s. a-week ; oversman, 10s. ; banksman, 6s. 7 1/2d. ; bottom-man, 6s. 7 1/2d. ; miners, from 7s. to 8s. 4d. The miners used candles in those days, and these were supplied without charge. The average wage at the same colliery is at present 4s. 6d. a-day. What a miner gets for his labour cannot always be stated in shillings and pence, however, as he sometimes enjoys special advantages in the way of a free house, cheap education for his children, and the like. Thus, the average wage at Dalkeith Colliery is 3s. 6d. a-day ; but the miners are provided with good houses rent-free, and have in addition other privileges. In the east of Scotland wages have not fluctuated so much as in other quarters. An understanding seems to prevail between the men and their employers, which allows the work to go on steadily, no matter what the state of the coal market may be. In 1851 the average wage of miners in Scotland, according to a statement published by a Glasgow firm, was 2s. 6d. a-day; in 1854, it was 5s. A gradual fall then took place ; and in 1858 the average was 3s. ; below which sum it has not fallen, the figures for the six succeeding years being respectively 3s. 6d., 4s., 4s. 6d., 5s. 6d., and 4s. 9d. From these sums about 3d. a-day falls to be deducted for light, sharpening tools, &c. The wages are paid fortnightly, and that period embraces ten working days in some districts, eleven in others.
When a boy of twelve years enters a coal pit, he is attached to his father or some other man, and becomes what is known technically as a "quarter-man." The miner with whom he works is entitled to put out one-fourth more coal than if he worked without assistance ; and from the price received for the extra quantity he pays the boy, whose duty it is to fill the coal into the "tubs " and convey it to the pit bottom. At fourteen, the boy becomes a "half-man ;" at sixteen, a "three-quarter-man;" and at eighteen, he assumes the title of miner, performs a man's work, and draws a man's pay. When the boy ranks as a "quarter-man," he usually receives 1s. a-day ; when a "half-man," 2s. ; and when a "three-quarter-man," 3s. These rates are, however, subject to variation according to the amount of wages received by the men. From this it will be seen that, when the miner's family includes two or three sons able to go into the pits, the total earnings must amount to a considerable sum.
As a class, the miners could afford to live pretty comfortably, but the great body of them have yet to acquire provident habits. They are to a large extent victims of the pass-book system, and are rarely out of debt to the provision-dealer; while many of them draw their wages in advance, thereby incurring considerable loss, in the shape of a heavy percentage which is charged by some of the employers. It will scarcely be credited, but it is a fact, that many coalmasters in Lanarkshire take most unmerciful advantage of the improvident habits of the colliers, by charging 5 per cent. for all money advanced between pay-days. Thus — if it be advanced the day after the pay, 5 per cent., or 125 per cent. per annum, is charged; if advanced only two days before it is due, the same 5 per cent., or 900 per cent. per annum, is charged. This is a crying shame. If the masters who charge such ruinous rates of interest (some of them under pretence of discouraging the practice of lifting money in advance), were to establish savings' banks among their men, they would soon enable them to save as much as would carry them from one pay-day to the next. It is needless to say that the practice has a demoralising tendency. Though few miners are to be found among depositors in savings' banks, numerous friendly and benefit societies exist among them. The advantages of such societies seem to be fully appreciated, though the treasurers have not always been faithful.
Co-operative stores have been opened at several places ; but, except in a few cases, the success of these is yet doubtful. A number of miners in the west of Scotland are connected with the Free Colliers' and Free Gardeners' Lodges. In some parts, so-called yearly or half- yearly benefit societies are got up by small tradesmen, who collect fees from the members on every pay-day, undertaking, of course, to give a certain amount of sick or funeral money when such is needed. On the average, a very small sum is required to meet such contingencies. Instead, however, of dividing the balance of the funds among the members, as in ordinary cases, the promoter of the society compels them to take goods from him to the amount of their respective dividends — reserving to himself, of course, a certain sum in consideration of his trouble and risk. When the miner and his wife, excited by the jingle of money in their pockets at the fortnight's end, drop into the shops of the promoters of such societies, there is generally not much difficulty in prevailing upon them to join ; but the wary keep aloof. At a number of collieries and ironworks in the west, stores are kept by the proprietors, from which the men are required — or at least expected, which is pretty much the same thing — to purchase all their provisions, &c. It has been found difficult to legislate for the suppression of such stores, and the matter is at present left to be dealt with according to the ideas of fair-play and liberty which exist among the owners of them. The Truck Act was aimed at their extermination, but the spirit of the Act is evaded while its letter is complied with. In the year 1860 a committee of the Social Science Association on Trades' Societies and Strikes, received the following statement on the truck system from the representative of the Scottish Miners' Association :-
"Of the mining counties in Scotland, there is in Clackmannan no truck shop, in Mid and East Lothians one, in Fifeshire three, in Stirlingshire a few, in Renfrewshire they are beginning to be established, in Linlithgowshire there is a truck shop to nearly every colliery. The truck shops provide all articles of subsistence and clothing, with one exception, drink. The Truck Act renders it necessary for the masters to have a separate pay-office. But this office they take care shall be close to the truck shop : sometimes it is separated only by a partition. They pay the men at the long interval of a fortnight, or even of a month, and in the meantime allow them, upon application, subsistence-money from day to day, or even on the half-day. This subsistence-money the miner is practically compelled by penalties to carry to the truck shop ; for, if not, the subsistence allowance is stopped, and he must wait for his pay till the end of the fortnight or month ; or he is shifted to a less favourable part of the mine, or he is altogether dismissed. Dismissal has, indeed, become more common under the new system of employment, which has substituted for a contract of fourteen days a contract terminable at a day's notice. To such an extent is truck carried, that even if the truck shop has not in store the articles required, the miner is not supplied with cash, which he might lay out where he would, but with tokens which certain shopkeepers in the town will recognise, and on receiving them supply articles to the extent of the value of the tokens. These tokens, however, have afterwards to be returned by the shopkeepers to the truck shop to be exchanged into cash, and the rate of exchange is a deduction of 3s. in every 20s., in favour of the truck shop. This loss, amounting to 15 per cent., the shopkeeper has, of course, taken care has already fallen upon the miner."In the main, the above statement still holds good ; but we learn that some employers have shown that, in establishing stores at their works, they have no selfish motive, since they supply a quality of goods superior to what can be obtained for the same money at the village shops in their neighbourhood, while the workmen are free to choose where or how they shall spend their money.
As already stated, the relations between the east of Scotland miners and their employers have been little disturbed by disputes as to work or wages. In the west the case has been different — strikes being of frequent occurrence ; and it is remarkable that all the strikes have been for wages, none of them to get rid of any grievance in respect of bad management or bad ventilation. In 1832 the Lanarkshire miners were out on strike for four months ; and, instead of getting the advance they demanded, had to return to work for less wages than they had when they went out. Three years afterwards the first Union of the Scotch miners was established. In 1837 a reduction was made from 5s. to 4s. in the daily wage of the miners, and a general strike took place. Four months of idleness and privation were spent without result, the Union was dissolved, and the men returned to work at the terms offered. Wages gradually declined until, in 1842, they reached so low as 2s. 6d., and even 1s. 8d. a-day. The Union was then resuscitated, and the men went out on strike. An increased demand for coal and iron sprang up in the meantime, and prices advanced to such an extent, that the masters were enabled to grant to the miners an advance of from 1s. to 2s. 6d. a-day. During the strike, affairs in Lanarkshire wore such a threatening appearance that a military force was held in readiness at Coatbridge. After this success the Union was again allowed to decline, and in the course of two years wages had undergone a considerable reduction. The Union lever was once more applied, with apparent success, for at the end of three months the masters yielded ; but it was evident that the men could not have held out much longer, for they had worked only a few weeks at the advanced rate, when the masters, who found that the prices they were receiving would not enable them to pay their men so much, intimated that a reduction was to be made to the previous rate, and to that reduction the men submitted quietly. In 1847 there was a great strike, in which the men, after standing out fourteen weeks for 5s. a-day for the "darg," or minimum quantity of coal put out daily, accepted the masters' terms of 3s. a-day, and in a few weeks afterwards submitted to a reduction to 2s. a-day. In 1852 the Scottish Miners' Association was formed, "for the protection of miners' rights and privileges, by providing funds for the support of members out of work." The Association is composed of local societies, each holding its own money, and remitting] only what may be required to cover the necessary expenses of the general Association. The entry-money is sixpence, and each member has to contribute one penny a-week for the purposes of the society. There is a central board, consisting of three persons, who summon a conference of delegates from district societies when any matter of general interest comes up for consideration. A year after the Association was established another strike for an advance of wages took place. But some of the men considered that they had endured quite enough of needless privation on previous occasions, and refused to join in the contest. They were accordingly subjected to abuse, and military, yeomanry, and police were called out to protect them. Hundreds of men who had never been in a pit were found willing to take employment as colliers; and when, at the end of four months' idleness, the men gave in, they in many instances found their places occupied. The result of the turn-out was a considerable reduction in the value of labour. Any commotion in the coal trade generally tells on the iron trade, and vice versa; and in the year of the strike referred to, the quantity of pig-iron made in Scotland was 80,000 tons less than in the preceding year, while the price went up considerably. " In November 1855," says Mr Tremenheere, in his official report on the mining districts, " the men forced the masters into granting an advance of from 4s. to 5s. per day. Many of the masters, since they could not afford to continue that rate, before long felt obliged to take their stand against it, and to reduce the rate again to 4s. A strike took place. It became general in the districts concerned at the beginning of March 1856; and after from 30,000 to 40,000 men had been idle for sixteen weeks, and had inflicted enormous loss upon their masters and the public, and great suffering upon themselves and their families, the event proved that they were .again wrong, for they resumed work at their masters' terms." In 1860 a strike of a most disastrous nature took place in Lanarkshire — the loss to the district being estimated at L.200,000. Frequent disputes have since occurred, chiefly in the west.
For the most part miners reside in houses specially built for their accommodation in the vicinity of the collieries. In the early days of coal mining the houses were of the most wretched description ; and even yet a large proportion of them are deficient in the ordinary requisites of human habitations. To convey some idea of the present condition of the houses of the mining population, we shall give some account of what came under observation in a journey through the Mid-Lothian and Lanarkshire collieries, in both of which the best and worst classes of miners' houses may be seen. In Mid- Lothian there are a number of mining villages of the old type. These were built when people's notions of personal comfort were not quite so refined as in the present day, and probably the first occupiers of them were content; but the case has come to be different. No working man is likely to be less particular than the miner as to the mere stone-and-lime comforts of his home, since it must be a poor place indeed that will not look comfortable in contrast with the damp and gloomy recesses of the mine ; but even he has come to think that something is due to him in the way of providing a better lodging for himself, his wife, and little ones. For a number of years improvements have been in progress. Old houses have in some cases been patched, altered, and provided with coal-sheds, &c., and others have been removed to make way for more commodious structures. Where the opening of new pits has necessitated the erection of new houses, these have been built on an improved plan. A bit of ground is attached to all the houses; but hitherto the miners' horticultural taste and skill have been almost entirely devoted to the rearing of cabbages and leeks. Flowers are rarely met with near the old houses, and their cultivation seldom gets beyond the range of a dilapidated tea-pot on the window-sill; but some of the plots in front of the new cottages are nicely laid out. It is still possible to find not a few specimens of the old domiciles displaying all their primitive unhealthiness and ugliness. Their mean masonry, founded on the surface without any excavation, rises to a height of little over five feet, and they are roofed with tiles, though we were informed that the first covering was a combination of turf and straw. The floor is composed of native earth, and its uneven surface has by constant treading been rendered almost as compact as stone. In front of the fire-place a brick or two has been let into the floor, and the vicinity of the doorway is similarly strengthened against the wear of frequent feet. The walls have never been plastered, but successive coats of whitewash have made them air-tight, if not beautiful. The window — some of the houses have two, however — is about two feet square. There is no ceiling beneath the tiles, but the want of it has to some extent been supplied by nailing mats upon the rafters, and overlaying them with a thick coat of whiting — an arrangement which, while it may improve the appearance of the interior, certainly detracts from its healthiness, or rather increases its unhealthiness. Strictly speaking, the houses consist of only one apartment measuring twelve feet by fifteen ; but by a peculiar arrangement of the furniture a small closet is formed, in which a bed is fitted up. Occasionally a house of this kind may be found occupied by a miner, his wife, and four, six, or even eight of a family. Neither ash-pit nor drain is provided, and the surroundings of the dwellings are consequently in a most insalubrious condition. Notwithstanding these unfavourable circumstances, a creditable effort at cleanliness and tidiness is sometimes observable in even the meanest of the hovels.
The houses provided by the Duke of Buccleuch for the men employed in the Dalkeith Colliery, though built a considerable time ago, have few equals. They are well constructed and commodious, and are of various sizes, to suit the requirements of different families. All have two or more apartments, and are supplied with water and water-closets. Large spaces of ground are attached to the houses, and may be used for drying clothes or as a playground for the children. So rent is charged, and the people appear to be well cared for and contented. Has grace makes liberal provision for men incapacitated for work ; and widows receive fortnightly pensions, and are provided with houses, coal, &c., free of charge. Invalids are supplied with wine, beef, soup, &c., from Dalkeith House. The effect of this kindness is visible upon all engaged about the colliery. They are generally more regular in their habits than people connected with some of the other collieries in the county, and rarely leave the employment of their own accord.
The Marquis of Lothian owns two hundred and sixty miners' houses, among which are to be found some of the best of the kind in Scotland, together with some of the worst. The Newbattle Colliery, with which they are connected, is one of the oldest in the county, and has never been leased, the successive Marquises keeping the working of it in their own hands. The earlier houses of the miners were miserable thatched hovels; but all the houses built within the past thirty or forty years are of a superior description. The present Marquis, who takes much interest in the welfare of his workpeople, commenced a few years ago to work extensive reform in the houses. Only a few cottages of the very old type remain, and the dwellings by which they are being superseded are very comfortable and commodious, some of them containing four or five apartments. The rooms, though small, are lofty and well ventilated. The walls are of brick, the floors of glazed tiles, and the roofs of slate. They are well planned, and externally have some architectural pretensions. All things considered, the houses are well furnished; and it is a noteworthy fact that, though most of the people, while living in the old houses, appeared to be careless as to the quality or condition of their furniture, they were no sooner removed into one of those new roomy domiciles than they displayed quite a contrary taste. It is true that some of the new houses appear to be tenanted by people who cannot appreciate the change, yet the foregoing remarks hold good in the majority of cases. The new houses are supplied with water, have flower-gardens in front, and kitchen-gardens and coal- houses behind. The rents charged vary from L.1, 10s. to L.3, 18s. per annum; and, as elsewhere, the rent is deducted from the fortnightly pay of the men. The houses at the other collieries in Mid-Lothian are of a mixed kind, and in the case of many of them, as already hinted, there is urgent need for improvement. Comfortable houses have a powerful effect in elevating the tastes and habits of the working classes — a fact which should be borne in mind by all who have their welfare at heart.
In Lanarkshire a great majority of the miners' houses are of a very poor kind, and many of them have only one apartment. They are arranged either in closely-built rows or confined squares, and the people are literally huddled together in them. It is no uncommon thing to find a family of six or seven persons living together in one room measuring not more than fourteen feet square, and who yet consider that they have accommodation to spare for one or two lodgers. The Irish, it appears, are especially given to overcrowding their dwellings — against the ventilation of which, too, they carefully guard. One favourable circumstance is that their furniture does not occupy much space. The sitting accommodation rarely consists of more than two chairs or a rudely constructed "form." The fire is kept burning continually, its use during the night being to dry the "pit-clothes" of the men; and as these are often wet, and always dirty, the vapour they give out adds considerably to the pollution of the atmosphere breathed by the crowded sleepers. The houses at some collieries are of very slim construction, and are constantly getting out of repair. Not unfrequently they are wrecked by the subsidence of ground caused by the withdrawal of the coal beneath them. For these houses a rent of from 3s. 6d. to 5s. a- month is charged. At some collieries one-half of the houses have two apartments, and these are occupied by the better class of workpeople. The usual rent of a two-roomed house is from 6s. to 9s. a-month. These remarks, of course, apply to the worst class of houses. Some of the coalmasters have done a great deal towards providing comfortable dwellings for their workmen, and more is still being done. At Overtown, near Wishaw, and at Motherwell, a large number of houses of an improved kind have recently been built ; and at Gartsherrie and Govan the workmen have good houses provided for them. But there is no blinking the fact that, in the aggregate, the dwellings of the mining population of the west of Scotland are far from what they should be. On questions of work and wages the miners are very sensitive, but they have never made any movement for having their dwellings improved.
A serious obstacle in the way of sanitary improvement in the mining villages of the west, is the want of anything like a regular or adequate supply of water suitable for domestic purposes. Many of the larger villages have had a supply brought to them, but in the smaller and more remote hamlets great hardship is endured in consequence of the scarcity of water. In some instances the younger children or girls of the family have to carry the indispensable element in pitchers from a distance of one or two miles, and then the water acquires a value which prevents anything like a free use of it for purposes of cleanliness. The eaves-droppings are collected in barrels, carefully covered and locked ; but the rain supply is uncertain, and in summer especially, we believe, some poor families endure great privations. The local authorities under the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1867, have ample power to deal with this matter, and it is to be hoped that they will do something to remove so great an evil.
Abundant facilities exist for the education of the children of colliers. In connection with almost every colliery of any extent there are one or more schools provided by the coalmasters ; and though the schools are only indifferently appreciated by the parents, the children attend pretty regularly. It appears, however, that at some of the large works in Lanarkshire it has been found necessary to use a little pressure in order to get the parents to take an interest in the education of their children. In several cases the father has deducted from his wages a certain sum for every child he has who ought to be at school, whether the child attends or not ; and the effect of this rule is generally found to be, that the father comes to think that since he has to pay the fee the child may as well be sent to school. The fee charged at the Duke of Buccleuch's colliery school is 3d. a- week for each child. At the Marquis of Lothian's schools the charge is 1d. a-month for each branch. In no case do the fees nearly meet the expenses of the school, but the proprietors contribute whatever additional money may be required.
One or two medical officers are attached to each colliery, and all the men pay a small sum weekly for their services. The employers defray all extra charges on account of accidents.
After the coal passes out of the hands of the miners, its distribution over the country and to foreign parts gives employment to many thousands of persons, and most railway companies draw a large amount of revenue from it. At the coal depots of the principal towns a considerable number of men are employed in removing the coal from the railway waggons or canal boats, piling it into heaps, weighing, and filling it into carts. Then a large staff of porters are required to shovel it into cellars or carry it up stairs. All these men being unskilled labourers, receive a small wage — not more, we believe, than from 14s. to 18s. a-week.
The declared annual value of the coal exported from Scotland is about half-a-million sterling. In 1866 it was L.515,805, divided over the principal ports in the following proportions : — Glasgow, L.51.493; Leith, L.79,777; Greenock, L.38,835; Grangemouth, L.50,244; Ardrossan and Troon, L.73,642; Dundee, L.16,101; Borrowstounness, L.93,671 ; Kirkcaldy, L.53,528 ; other ports, L.58,424. The quantity of coal, cinders, and culm represented by the above would be about 1,500,000 tons. Our customers for coal are scattered all over the world. Some cargoes are sent even to San Francisco, though the freight to that port from Glasgow is 50s. a- ton, or more than seven times the cost of the coal at the port of shipment.
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