The Miners of Scotland
by Robert Haddow from “The Nineteenth Century” 1888
Except when brought into prominence by a fire-damp explosion, the closing in of a shaft, and the consequent entombment of all who are in the pit, or the occurrence of some other striking catastrophe, the collier does not receive much attention at the hands of our public men either in Parliament or in the Press. The fact is, this most useful, nay altogether indispensable, workman is not considered worth paying much attention to, and of his labours, his habits, and his hardships next to nothing is known outside of the districts where his work compels him to reside. Neither the collier nor his surroundings are pleasant objects to study, but they are nevertheless well worth the studying. The man himself is a strangely complex being, and the conditions under which he drags out a seemingly dreary and depressed existence are equally hard to understand, and when we really get at the heart and the pith of both we are surprised to find how very different things are to what they seem.
First, then, let us consider what manner of man the collier is, and here I may state that in Scotland there are three distinct types of men among the miners. There is the Scottish miner pure and simple, then there is the Scoto-Irish miner, and lastly the miner who is altogether an Irishman. The first of these is unquestionably not only the best miner, but also the best man of the three; he has in most cases an education quite equal to that of a skilled artisan; he reads much ; he thinks much, and has opinions of his own concerning himself and other people, which he is in no way slow to give expression to. The colliers of this stamp are for the most part sober, steady, and thrifty; not infrequently they own the houses they live in, and they never put any more of their sons than they can help to their own calling. The eldest boy, as a rule, must go down the pit, and it is an even chance with the second that he shall do so too; but after that the lads are almost sure to be sent to work that is 'above-ground,' as it is phrased. It frequently happens that lads of this class work in the pits till they are young men, and then take measures to give up the calling of a collier. I know clergymen and doctors of medicine who when young men were colliers, and found the means for their education by working in the pits during the summer months while they attended the University of Edinburgh or Glasgow in the winter ones. This of course meant the cultivation of learning on a little oatmeal; but young fellows such as I am referring to did not think much of that. From their boyhood up they had been accustomed to do a big darg on a spare diet, and cheerfully toiled away alternately with the pen and the pick until they achieved that on which they had set their hearts. Many a pinch, too, the old folks at home made to give 'the laddies' a help in their time of struggle, and felt far more than repaid for all their self-denial when they saw John 'wag his pow in a pu'pit,' or found Sandy with a brass plate on his door with the letters M.D. after his name. Those, however, who aim at divinity and medicine are necessarily a small minority; the bulk of the youngsters who do not go into the pits, or go into them and afterwards leave them, take to the ordinary callings of a country district, and become blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors and shoemakers, or join the ranks of the various shopkeeping occupations. Most of the officers about a colliery come from the same class, the overseers and the roadsmen underground, the engine-keepers and the pithead staff aboveground, being almost to a man Scotch colliers or the sons of such.
It is nothing unusual to come across a Scotch collier, stiff with rheumatism and bent and worn, although in years not much past the prime of life, who daily drags himself to the pit to earn a subsistence for himself and his wife, who has three or four young sons learning trades, that he may have the satisfaction of knowing they will never have to tread the same hard, dismal round he has to do. No merit is claimed for this great sacrifice and self-denial; the old man, if spoken to on the subject, would likely answer - 'Well, well, it is a wee bit hard, but it's better than seeing the laddies in the pit, and when they get oot o' their time [out of their apprenticeship], they'll be able to make it easier for me and the auld wife,' and buoyed up with this hope the father works on, and suffers on, to be in nine cases out of ten bitterly disappointed in the sons he has so nobly done his duty by. How this comes to pass I will account for further on.
I have said that the Scotch collier has opinions concerning himself and other people he is not slow to express, and about himself his first and chief opinion is that he is a great ass to be what he is. Here is what was said to me by a representative man of them when talking to him about the affairs of his class:- 'It's very nearly a case of once a collier aye a collier when a man has been in the pits eight or ten years. He gets used to the life, its semi-independence has its attraction, and it has its influence; for a collier never makes a good servant at a job where the master's or the foreman's eye is continually on him. Once during a strike a neighbour and I got a job in a saw-pit. The work was of the roughest kind, and all that was required was strength and application. Of both these we had plenty, and we put through the work at a good rate and got on all right; but every little while the master came round and told us to do this and that, told us in the most civil and good-humoured way, but it so irritated us that at the end of the first week we threw up the job. The sawyer was amazed, for we had made good wages and had never complained, and he wanted to know why we were leaving. We could not explain our grievance, we knew it to be such a silly one, and I have no doubt we were set down as a pair of lazy scamps. The collier, you see, is never interfered with at his work, and once he has got fairly set in his habits you can't make much of him anywhere out of the pit.'
This, I pointed out, told against, rather than for, the statement that the colliers were wrong in remaining at their calling, and this was the answer I received:- 'You have mistaken my meaning; I did not say we were asses to remain colliers, but what I meant was that we were such to work away as we do, and live as we do, and never get out of the pit. You may say we do not try, but we do; I have done so three or four times, and here I am in the pit for all my trying. After the time of the big wages I went to America with my savings, thinking to do something in the farming way, and so I did. I lost all I had in a couple of years, and at the end of that time I was working in a mine in Ohio and that was not a bit better than working in one in Lanarkshire. Where we are wrong is that we always try to better ourselves out of the pits: what we should do is to better ourselves in them. I grant that that is nearly impossible, but it is not quite so. High wages is not the only thing we want, no nor even the first thing: what we want most is regular, moderate employment and as much comfort at our work as we can have, and these can only be had by making the collier's calling a trade, and a trade it should be, for to hew coal skilfully is at least as hard as to hew stone. Just now any strong stirk of a fellow can come into a pit and hash and smash and call himself a collier ; but if all the men in the pit were such, then the pit would go to wreck and ruin. This is a point on which we have a very keen feeling, and it would be useless to disguise the fact that the introduction of untrained men - mostly Irishmen - into the pit, is what keeps the calling of a collier at so low a level.'
'Then you object to Irishmen as colliers ?' I asked.
'Not at all,' my friend replied. 'Irishmen who enter the pits as boys may be, and often are, as good miners as Scotchmen. What I do object to is grown-up Irishmen coming into the pits as drawers, and in a few months being allowed to have places of their own. It does themselves no good, and it does the trained colliers much harm. The parties I most blame are the masters and the managers, and in my opinion their policy is a short-sighted and a wasteful one - what they save in wages they lose in material. Besides this, in a pit where most of the men are new to the work the risk of accidents is much increased. Take a fiery mine, and just think what a disaster an ignorant man may cause! He does not know when his Davy lamp is out of order; he does not know what the indications of gas are; he does not know anything of the strata, the setting coal may rumble its warning, but to his ear it has no meaning. Yes, sir, it may be well that coal should be got cheaply (I am not quite sure that it is), but I am sure that it is a wrong thing to get it in a way that adds to the always great danger the colliers have to run.'
Such were the opinions of a man thoroughly well able to judge of what he and his fellows want. I could not but perceive from his manner when speaking of the untrained Irishmen who flock into the pits that he resented their introduction, and my own observations make me think he had good grounds for his objections to their being so largely accepted for the work. It is no use to mince matters, and the Irishmen who go into the pits are certainly a danger and a drawback to the colliers who have been bred to the work. The Irishmen of course are not to blame ; they want work and they take it where they can find it. On the other hand, their want of knowledge leads to recklessness, and their necessity makes them work longer hours and for lower wages than would be accepted by the men who from their youth up have spent their lives in the mines. I do not mean to enter on the economic view of the question ; here I only set down what I gather to be the opinion of the men who look on themselves as skilled colliers.
The Scoto-Irish miner of the third and fourth generation is hardly to be distinguished from his purely bred neighbour as far as his outward manner goes, and the two of them live together in perfect amity. But differences there are, and the chief one is that the Scoto-Irishman seldom seeks to rise or get beyond where he is. He is clamorous indeed for big wages, and is generally a strong union man, whereas the Scotsman as a rule looks askance on unions and the men who manage and manipulate them. As one of a crowd the Scoto-Irishman is loud in the demand for what he thinks his rights, but as an individual he shows a lack of moral backbone when brought into contact with his superiors. One day he will spout the most independent sentiments at a mass meeting, and the next he will be ready to agree with whatever the manager says or proposes to him. The strain of the Irish blood is predominant in him, he likes to have a grievance and to air his discontent; but he is too susceptible to wheedling, and too easily cajoled to hold his own when he is taken on the soft side, and so he is alternately swayed by the manager and the agitator, and of course, like all who try to sit on two stools, he falls to the ground. It is noteworthy, too, that he is not nearly so anxious as his Scottish brother to keep his sons out of the pits, and seldom or never does he attain the rank of a subordinate in the management.
But if the Scoto-Irishman does not possess the Scotsman's stability of purpose, he has that which stands him in as good stead - a happy, free, generous disposition which may err from want of thought, but never from want of heart. The Scotsman knows this, and gives full credit for it, and the Scoto-Irishman on his part is equally willing to acknowledge that to the Scot he ought to defer in matters where a cool head and a steady hand are required, and regrets, however vainly, that he does not always support his friend as he ought to do. Writing from a long and varied study of both, I should say that, if the Scottish miner and the Scoto-Irish miner could only combine their qualities, they would make the best colliery operatives in the world. The Scotsman is too cautious, and the Scoto-Irishman is too pliant; the Scotsman is too ready to suspect that he is patronised, and the Scoto- Irishman is too apt to be seduced by patronage; the Scotsman is persevering and takes a keen interest in his work, but he is hardly ever content with his lot; the Scoto-Irishman works on easily, and happily, and has no vague longings about bettering himself or those who are dependent on him. Sooner or later it will come that the purely Scottish type of miner will disappear and that the Scoto-Irishman will take his place. By that time, however, the Scoto-Irishman will for a surety object to be called such, and will reckon himself a Scotsman, and then the combination of the two characters I have hinted at will, I think, have taken place. But when this does occur the present purely Irish miner will have taken the place of the present Scoto-Irish miner, and if then fresh Irishmen pour into the collieries, there will be practically no alteration in the situation. Whether this shall or shall not take place will altogether depend on the development of the coalfields. If the industry remains stationary, the present hands and the sons who succeed them will suffice ; if it progresses, there will be a demand for more workers, and the workers will come from Ireland.
The Irish newcomer, or interloper, as the others would call him, is almost without an exception a tag-rag, noisy, and disagreeable fellow. When he arrives he is, when at his work, very quiet and willing; but as soon as he finds himself able to stand on his own legs, he shows his true character, and would, if he could, bully, overreach, and undersell anyone and everyone. He tries to curry for favour by being a tale-bearer, and he does not hesitate to he if it will suit his purpose. In the pit he is an obstruction and a danger, and in the social life of the village he is a nuisance; for he is always the noisiest and the most quarrelsome of the noisy and the inebriate who make a horror of the Saturday nights. Alike by the Scotsman and the Scoto-Irishman he is detested and kept at arm's length. In parts of Stirlingshire, the Lothians, and in Fife, he has scarcely succeeded in planting himself, and colliery life in these places is a very different and a much better thing than it is in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and the West of Scotland generally. One reason why the raw Paddies flock into the pits in the West is that it is nearest to them; but the chief one is that the seams are thick, and want less skill in the working than where the seams are thin and the coal has to be 'holed' for in a space that hardly allows the collier to rise off his side. In places like that the untutored emigrant from Ireland would be of no use, and he confines himself to the fields where he has five or six feet of a thickness to smash at, and can, by sheer brute strength, manage to make a fair wage. But it is in these very coalfields that, as my informant said, the untrained miner becomes most dangerous. It takes a man years to pick up all the indications of danger a pit gives forth. The eye, the ear, the sense of smelling, and the very nerves of the experienced man tell him when danger is near. If it were otherwise, the accidents in mines would be tenfold what they are, and pits where unskilled Irishmen are numerously employed are only saved from disaster by the sprinkling of thoroughly trained men who work in them. But it maybe asked, 'Are there no untrained Scotsmen in the pits ?' ' Not one to a hundred of the Irish,' I reply. It is a rare thing to find a lowland Scot take to the pits after he has reached manhood, and as for the Highlanders, they avoid them as if they were paths to Tophet. It is certainly curious that the Irish Celt should take so kindly to the pits, and that his Scotch cousin should have such an aversion to them. There may be much reason for this in the difference of education and training; but when it is remembered that the Welsh Celt also is a miner - and a good one - it would appear as if the Highlander owed his aversion to going down into the bowels of the earth to the large admixture of Norse blood he has in him, for he is just as ready to go to sea as he is loth to become a collier. The Irishman who works in the pits from his boyhood makes a good miner, but he who takes to it after he has reached man's estate is never better than a bungler.
One thing must not be forgotten, and that is that the great development of the coal trade, especially in the Lower Ward of Lanarkshire, made it impossible for all the men employed to be trained colliers. The great pits about Hamilton and Blantyre cried out for labourers; the Scotch did not answer - not even in the time of the 'big wages' - but the Irish did. The wages they could make some eighteen years ago made these pits seem to them as the mines of Golconda. Irishmen who were in Scotland as labourers and navvies became miners; they sent home for their friends; for a year or two they made good wages and did little work: now, they have to work hard for small wages, but there they are steadily increasing, and year by year taking more largely the place of the Scottish miner. It would be affectation to pretend that the Irish invasion has been welcomed either by the Scottish miners or the Scottish people generally, for the feeling is quite the other way. The Irish are a troublesome, quarrelsome, shiftless race; they supply in every parish the bulk of the paupers, and they provide nearly all the 'drunk and disorderlies' at the police courts. They do nothing to improve a community; they do much to degrade it; and the only hope is that the immigration will cease and that the descendants of those who are on the spot will be affected for good by the fact of their being born where they are to live. No one has any prejudice against the Irishman, but every one has a profound objection to him as he is. He wishes to make every place he is in a section of his own country, and refuses to assimilate with those he lives amongst. This is not only bad taste; it is also bad policy.
In Their Homes.
The home surroundings of the miners are of the most depressing kind. The colliery village is, as a rule, the very embodiment of dirtiness, dreariness, and rough squalor. Long rows of dismal brick houses face each other, and standing between them are the sanitary offices, which in hardly any one case are properly kept in order. In some cases patches of so-called gardens are provided, which, with their stunted stocks of greens and cabbages, only add to the prevailing aspect of disorder and slovenliness. Seldom or never do the best class of miners live in these rows; their first ambition is to get into houses that do not belong to the colliery owner, and after that to possess houses of their own, and this they try to achieve by becoming members of building societies. Not one in ten, however, is able to arrive at the first stage, and not one in a hundred at the latter, and so the colliery rows are the typical homes of the miners. In many cases the houses are only single rooms, and in no instance are they of more than two rooms. In such homes large families are reared, and strange to say, reared modestly, and for the most part healthily. The collier's wife is a good mother to her children; her ideas of what is for their good may not be wide or far-reaching, but what she does see she puts into effect with a thoroughness and devotion that are admirable. She is wholly unselfish, and to keep her house 'bien,' her husband sober, and her children at school, and in a well-conducted state, is her continual effort. A hard effort it is too; for when the pay day comes, the husband is apt to stray into, and stay too long in, the public-house, and that means a crippling of the household exchequer, and an outbreak of domestic strife. But when husband and wife pull together, and are both thrifty and sober, the home of the Scotch collier is anything but an unhappy one. Rather rough and tumble it is, and must be; but it is honest active life and joyousness that make it so. The father may growl and the mother scold, but the bairns romp and make merry all the same, and with childish instinct know that the growling and the scolding are not seriously meant, and that nothing more than a passing slap will overtake them as long as they confine their exuberance of animal spirits to noise; if it goes the length of upsetting the table and all the crockery on it, then the parental authority is sure to present itself in the shape of a leather belt.
From day to day and year to year the lives of the collier and his wife present to their children a splendid object-lesson in unwearied industry and dauntless self-denial. The boys and girls see how hard their parents work, and taking an example from them, when their turn comes to give up play for toil, they take to it with zest, and without a thought but that of pride in knowing that the time has come when they can do their part to bring in something to lay in their mother's lap. No boy coming from school with first honours ever felt prouder than does the young collier when he puts his first pay into his mother's hand, and as long as he is a boy he retains this feeling. But when he has grown into a young man he is too prone to fall away from this; and here is the proper place to explain why it is that the sons of colliers too often forget how much they owe to their parents. If the youth is ambitious, he wants all the money he can get to forward his designs; and if he is foolish, his folly makes him selfish. Unhappily among the young colliers there may be said to be only the foolish and the ambitious. It is not hard to understand why it should be so. If a young fellow has any go in him, he is not likely to be content to remain in the pits, and he soon sees that the only way to get out of them is to save money. It matters not what he means to do when he has got away from the collier's calling, he must have money to do it, and his parents gladly board him for a nominal sum that he may save. He goes to college, he sets up as a shopkeeper, or he emigrates, and in time he meets with success. The old folks are delighted, and they look to him for a return of the kindnesses they showered upon him; but, as I have said, in nine cases out of ten they look in vain. The successful young man is rather ashamed of his parents; he may indeed give them some little assistance, but he makes them feel that he does so as a charity; his doles are almost as hard to accept as parish relief, they are given with a grudging hand and not with the reverent gratitude of a grateful son. The poor old souls sigh and brush away their tears, and think that after all the foolish one of the family has a kinder heart than the worldly-wise one. And this same foolish one, how does he behave ? One month he is steady, dutiful, and hardworking, the next he falls into his habits of dissipation and idleness; he fights and figures at the police court; he is fined, and the father and mother beg and borrow to pay his fine; he is ashamed and sulky; he refuses to go home with them; the recruiting sergeant in the county town comes across him; a week goes by, and the old folks have a letter from him telling them that he has 'listed!' The mother weeps, and refuses to be comforted ; the father is silent, but a few more wrinkles on his rugged face and a deeper shade of grey in his hair tell that he too is suffering. In a year or two the young soldier comes home on furlough, and he is found to be an altered man: the strict discipline of the army has done him good, the stripes on his sleeve are credentials of his conduct; the old folks take him to their hearts, and when his six years are over he is at home again for good, but too late to be of any service to his father, who is now at rest in the 'auld kirkyard,' but he keeps his mother, and does his best to atone for the sorrow he at one time had brought upon her.
And the prosperous son, what of him? He has grown in his prosperity, and has almost forgotten his widowed mother and his brothers and sisters. He is annoyed when they visit him, and he never visits them. He is anxious that it should be forgotten that he is the son of a collier, the brother of colliers, and was once himself a collier. This is no fancy picture, but one that is true to life and fact, and I turn from it with pleasure to consider how the daughters of the colliers acquit themselves. The girls of a collier's household have, like the boys, to turn their hands to work as soon as that work is of any value. Domestic and agricultural service and employment in mills (if there are any in the neighbourhood) are almost the only channels open to them. Here and there a girl may be apprenticed to a dressmaker or become a pupil teacher ; but this occurs so rarely that all that need be said of it is that girls who are not put into the beaten tracks generally turn out pretty much like the prosperous sons ; they become in time dissatisfied with their homes and relatives, and think more of their own advancement than of the duty they owe to their parents. The girls, however, who go to service or to work in the mills cling to their homes and to those they love, and are never so happy as when the weekly wage or the 'sair won penny fee' can bring a pleasure into the lives of father and mother, ay, and even into that of the supercilious sister who is deep in the study of the 'ologies,' or the other one who poses as an authority in the matter of fashions. These girls usually marry colliers, and out of their ranks come the admirable wives and mothers I have referred to. In the face of many difficulties they keep their houses clean and tidy, they work, and make, and mend, and are a hearty, brave, industrious class. Between the womankind of the Scots and those of the Scoto-Irish there is hardly a line to draw, but when we come to look at the female companions of the newly-arrived Irish the contrast is most marked. Dowdy and slovenly, the Irishwomen seem to take neither pride nor interest in their husbands, their children, or themselves. They look perfectly happy in the midst of an amount of dirt and degradation that would drive their Scottish sisters mad. Their domestic economy consists in doing as little as they can, and they do not think of making the money received on one pay day last overfill the next. As long as the cash is there they make it go, and when it is gone, they try to get supplies on credit, or they borrow from neighbours they never intend to repay; they sometimes even go to the length of begging. These women are in the rows exactly what their husbands are in the pits - a danger to those they are amongst. I am not judging, I am not blaming, but truth compels me to say these hard things about the Irish in the colliery villages in Scotland. Things might be better if colliery owners and colliery managers took an interest in the lives of those they employ ; but that they do not, and indeed the colliers - all the three classes of them - would, I am afraid, rather resent than otherwise any interference with their habits, let the motive be what it might. As it is, the social life of a colliery village is dreary beyond belief, and he would be a benefactor of his kind who could introduce some brightness into it.
At Their Play.
A good many people have an impression that the only way in which a collier takes his pleasure is to sit in a public-house, drinking, smoking, and playing cards or dominoes, varying the monotony of these low indulgences with rounds of curses and free fighting; but it is not so. It is only too true that some of the men do waste their time and money, to say nothing of their health, in such a mad and foolish manner; but they are a minority, and a small minority. As a matter of fact, the Scotch miners (all Scotch workers indeed) take their liquor in an irrational manner. The English workman takes his beer daily and regularly; at every meal except his breakfast he has his pot of ale; but from pay day to pay day the Scotsman will not taste an alcoholic drink of any kind. On the pay day, however, he makes up for his abstention and takes far too much. I do not know of any sight that is more saddening than a Scotch colliery village on a pay Saturday night. Many of the men, and not a few of the women, go about mad with drink; but to take this night as a criterion of the miner's behaviour would be alike unjust and misleading. The Saturday night's debauch is but the result of the reaction that sets in when work is over and play begins. And this also must be remembered, that at least as many keep their self-control as lose it, and there has of late years been a marked increase in the number of those who do not yield to temptation. But, looking at the blackest side of things, there is a grain of hope to be found in the fact that the collier's spree is not a long one. With most of them it ends on Saturday night, and with all but the confirmed topers it does not go over the Sunday, or at the very outside the Monday, and after that there is a period of sobriety for the remainder of a fortnight.
The miner has many ways of amusing himself. Quoits is a favourite game of his, so is a game called 'rounders' - a sort of bastard cricket - and cricket itself is popular among the younger men, but with them football is the favourite pastime. Leaping, running, throwing the hammer and tossing the caber are all practised, and in some parts a game called 'bullet playing' is in high favour. I have never seen this played except in the Lothians and Stirlingshire, and there it was at one time the crack amusement. Rather a peculiar amusement it is too. It is played in this manner. A certain distance, say a mile out and a mile in, is fixed upon as the ground to be covered by the players, and the man who does so in the fewest number of throws is declared the winner. The bullet is a polished ball of hard whinstone, and weighs from ten to fourteen ounces, and this ball the player takes into his hand and, running to a line drawn on the roadway, he swings his arm and throws with all his might. This is termed' hainching the bullet,' and a good player can cover the mile in five or six throws. The game is one mainly of strength, but a good deal of skill can be shown in it. Each player has a man in front to show where the bullets should be landed, and his business is to see that if his directions are followed that the bullet of his player will have the best part of the road to run on. The game is always played on the best highway in the neighbourhood, and the authorities object to it as being dangerous, although I never have heard of any accident arising therefrom. A bullet match is to the Scotch miner what a dog-fight is to his Northumbrian or Staffordshire congener or a prize-fight to an East End Londoner. The fact that it is forbidden by law adds to its attractiveness, and it affords ample opportunities for betting. Bets are made on the throw, on the distance out and on the complete match, and when two ' dons' are playing the excitement runs high. A more legitimate form of recreation finds many supporters amongst the colliers - I mean the Volunteers. The miner does not make a very elegant citizen-soldier, but he is what is better - he is a hardy and a serviceable one.
Horticulture is a favourite pursuit with the men who own the houses they live in, and the Annual Flower Show (which should rather be called a vegetable one) is one of the red-letter days of the year. Very often on the same day as the Flower Show the athletic sports take place, and then the mining village is in its highest gala mood, and it is astonishing how much fun and enjoyment the inhabitants manage to take out of what to an outsider seems anything but a source of happiness. But then if you had grown the biggest cabbage, and your son had won the mile race, the whole complexion of the affair would look differently in your eyes. But look at it as you like, you are unable to deny that the fun and the enjoyment are genuine and hearty, and if you were dyspeptic enough or cynical enough to deny it, the collier would not care a rap for your opinion, and would pity you as much as you could him, and that I think with all the reason on his side.
Of indoor amusements draughts, or, as the game is called in Scotland, 'the dambrod,' takes the first place. Many of the villages have a draughts club, and the custom is for one club to challenge another, and then a great fight takes place. The collier is generally a better draughts-player than the carpenter or the joiner, and in this, as in many other ways, he shows signs of a strongly logical and reflective mind. Card-playing is also much affected, but chiefly by the Irish miners; and not only do they play indoors, but in fine weather out of doors as well. A strange sight it is to find a number of men sitting on the wayside playing with an intensity that could not be exceeded if the stakes were as high as ever changed hands in a West End club. But the stakes amongst the colliers are often only small 'screws' of twist tobacco. Other indoor games are carpet bowls, 'summer ice' - a kind of curling played on a table - and where there is a bowling alley it is sure to be well patronised.
It will be seen that the miner is fond of amusement, and has found out many ways of amusing himself, and besides those named he has opportunities for intellectual recreation. Penny readings, lectures, concerts, and so forth are provided less or more liberally; but the readings and the lectures he does not care much for; the concerts are more in his way, for he is fond of music, and is often a good musician. In almost every village a band may be found, and some of them have a high reputation for excellence. One would suppose that a collier would be about the last man who could play the violin well, for his work necessarily knocks his hands out of shape and stiffens his fingers; but for all that there are colliers who as fiddlers would surprise some of the swell amateurs who look on themselves as budding Paganinis. I know of at least one colliery village that has a very fair Choral Union, the conductor of which is a miner, the orchestra all miners, and the chorus nearly entirely made up of miners and miners' sons and daughters.
At this pleasant point I will conclude this paper. I have tried to depict colliery life as it is. I have written frankly, but, I hope, without offence, and, I am certain, without any animus.