Report from Select Committee on Combination Laws 16 June 1825 - Minutes of Evidence
Mercurii, 27 die Aprilis, 1825. - THOMAS ELLIS, ESQUIRE, in the Chair
George Taylor, Esq. called in; and Examined.
ARE you concerned in extensive collieries in the county of Ayr? - I am.
Have you conducted those collieries for a considerable period? - Yes, for a considerable period; above twenty years.
Have you occasion to know the number of colliers in the county of Ayr, occupied in your own and other collieries? - I believe about 1,400; I do not know precisely the number.
Have you at any period been subjected, in conducting your collieries, to any inconvenience from associations among your workmen? - We have at various periods.
At what periods have you experienced such inconvenience? - We have frequently had small combinations, but not to a great extent; the first great combination we had, commenced the 15th of November 1817.
Can you state to the Committee any particulars respecting the combination in 1817? - It was in consequence of a general association of the colliers about Glasgow and in Ayrshire; it was principally originated by a weaver of the name of Fallhouse Wilson; in consequence of that association all the colliers in Ayrshire resolved to strike work upon a fixed day. When our colliers told us they should strike at a fortnight's notice, we told them we would dispense with the fortnight's notice; that if they were to strike, they might strike immediately; accordingly they did strike immediately; that continued from the 15th of November to the 1st of December, when they all returned to their employment; we did not, nor ever thought of applying for legal proceedings, or legal measures, to put down combinations; we met it by endeavouring to engage other workmen to execute the labour which those men had deserted; and it was in consequence of the numbers which were entering our work, and labourers becoming colliers, that we were enabled to put down that combination.
What was their demand? - I do not remember the demand in 1817; it was for a rise of wages.
Did they obtain that rise? - They did not.
Was that attended with any acts of violence, or interference with you, to prevent your men working? - No, it was not.
It was amicably settled at the end of that period? - It was.
How many new men had you brought in? - About forty at that period.
How many had you working at that time? - Above a hundred.
Were those, whom you brought in to work, allowed to continue to work after the old hands returned? - They were; such as chose to remain.
And no acts of violence were committed? - No.
Was there any other occasion subsequent to 1817, in which the men demanded terms, which you were not disposed to give them? - Not any great strike was the consequence. When the colliers wish to obtain an increase of wages, their general mode is by continuing to work, and endeavouring by every way possible to thwart the masters; when they observe a master has a demand for coals, they limit their supply, and perhaps will only do half work, and for days decline to raise coal altogether; in this way thwarting him so much, that they generally obtain their ends; when they follow that system, they will pursue it for a very long period of time, with a view of obtaining ultimately what they seek for.
Are the men engaged in this colliery by the day, or per year, or piece work? - They are engaged for piece work.
For what period are they engaged? - We consider them free to go at the end of each fortnight, when they are paid.
What is the nature of their engagement, by the ton? - Yes, by the ton.
What do you reckon a ton? - Our ton weighs about twenty-eight hundred weight; indeed we seldom have occasion to weigh, because our engagement is only to deliver a certain measure.
Has anything occurred from 1817 up to a late period? - No strike at all; occasionally thwarting in the manner I have mentioned to obtain their ends.
Has any union or association taken place within the last year different from what before existed? - Yes.
State the time at which, and the circumstances under which, that association took place? - An association of the colliers in Ayrshire was formed, in which our workmen joined.
At what period was that? - It might be in November last, I should think; the object of that association was to obtain in general a rise of wages, and to exclude other workmen from entering the pits.
New men? - People that were not colliers before, but labourers.
Were any demands made of you on behalf of the men, your refusal to comply with which was stated as a ground of complaint by the association? - No ; some time about the end of November, we voluntarily gave them a rise of wages, with which they were perfectly satisfied at the time; we deemed it proper, in consequence of the change of circumstances of the country, and the demand for labour, voluntarily to raise their wages.
What was the rate of wages before such rise was made? - It was 8s. per five waggons of coal, that was increased to 9s.
What is the quantity in each waggon? - About twenty-eight hundred weight, I believe.
Do you keep to the same weight nearly? - We sell by measure; we seldom have occasion to weigh them; the measure is regular.
Can you state the rate of wages which your men were in general able to earn, at the rate of payment which you have mentioned? - From 12s. to 20s. a week, according as they chose to work.
Before the rise? - Yes, I should think so.
Did the average exceed half-a-guinea? - Yes, it greatly exceeded that.
Did it exceed 15s.? - No, I should think 15s, might be about the average before the increase; but at the same time, if the workmen have any discontent hanging upon their minds they will not work freely, so that we cannot say what it would be if they were giving their minds cheerfully to their work.
On occasions where there is no discontent, and they are satisfied and work fairly, what might the fair average earnings of the men be? - I conceive at present good workmen can earn from 4s. to 5s. a day ; our wages are one-ninth part greater than they were at that period.
How long had that rate of 8 s. continued? - It had been for, I should think, about two years.
How many hours do you reckon that they must work to earn 15s. a week under the old rate of 8s.? - I should suppose about eight or nine hours; sometimes the workmen are longer in the pit. The rule is, to relieve the collier of his coals in rotation; a collier who gets his coals taken from him first to day, is second on the day following, and so it goes on till the last, and that last is detained in the pit a considerable period of time.
What was the date of the voluntary advance? - It was about the end of November.
When did the men express any dissatisfaction after that period? - About the 11th of December.
In what manner did they express to you that dissatisfaction? - By a letter written.
What was the nature of that letter?
[The witness delivered in the same, which was read as follows;]
"Mr. Deir Sir, this is to inform you that we want our Miser mad accorden to the standrt, and if not we well not work no mor until you but forten days after thies. Deir sir, we do not think that no man or set of men will thank that our Demands is on Just, for thier is no man or set of men that have goods to sell, eather by weight of misure, but would like to see their own Goods gaven away, but that have not bein the Cass with us, for we have bein Dennied that privilig thus two or three yeiars back; but, sir we wisli to gave you the 32 bushel to the wagon, or 26 hunderwight, as you have marked upon your wagons, but we wish for to see the mesur oursalves accorden to the standert sir; and their is a nother theng that we will not gave untoo, and that is, the being orf to the score when you are not bingin sir. As you have the mens nems you can sand for anney two men out of each pet that you pleias, to gave them an answar; but thier is nine pance which belongs to the kanel pet, on account of them gaven 35 to scor, which we wish to obten ; and their is 6 pance more which belongs to the we pit, which they wish to obten.
"We Rimens, yours &c.”
(Signed by 84 persons.)
What is the standard by which you regulate, you state it at twenty-eight hundred weight? - No, I stated it to be by measure; the dimensions of the waggons I do not at present bear in mind, but they are all of one size.
Are not the waggons by law obliged to contain a certain quantity?- No.
Is there any mark on your waggons of the quantity they should contain? – There is.
What is that? - It is that stated in that letter; the mark is not put on by us, but by the Custom-house. At one period the Custom-house marked our waggons twenty-six hundred weight and a half; on a subsequent marking, they marked them twenty-six hundred weight; but I know our coals were always more than twenty-six hundred weight from the manner in which they discharged in Ireland; the Custom-house were not accurate in that.
What was the nature of the demand the men made for an alteration in the manner in which their work should be measured? - By that letter they intended that the coals should be taken by weight, and that that weight should be twenty-six hundred weight; that we should be obliged to take the inaccurate weight affixed by the Custom-house officers upon our coals.
They thought that whatever weight was marked upon the waggon should be the rule for you to go by, that their wages should be regulated by that standard? - Yes; but our coals are sold by measure and not by weight.
Was there any increase in the measure of your coals at the time they brought forward their complaint, compared with what had been the practice at your colliery for many years past? - I believe there was a small increase of measure. A period of great dulness followed on the repeal of the distillery laws; we were obliged to store our coals: and the other collieries in the neighbourhood increased their measure, by which we were obliged to do the same; and for two years previous to that time I believe a small increase of measure had taken place.
Had not that increase extended to twenty-nine hundred weight, by which the men were paid? - The men were paid by the same measure at which we sold.
Did you then sell the coals at twenty-nine hundred weight, the same as you paid the men for? - The same as we paid the men.
If you had not stored the coals in the manner you have stated, would it not have been matter of necessity that you should have discharged a considerable number of your men? - It would.
Is it not a rule with you to store? - Only at some collieries; at others the men are prevented from working unless they can sell. Some coal-masters will not store coals because there is a loss upon them, a waste.
What took place upon the receipt of the letter you have produced? - We stated to the colliers the same as we had said in 1817, that, if they were to strike, they might do it immediately.
Did you refuse to comply with the demands herein stated? - We determined to listen to no demand made under that combination; that demand was made in consequence of directions issued at a general meeting of colliers at Kilmarnock; the object was to attack the collieries in Ayrshire individually, and reduce them one by one to their measures.
In what way do you know that orders were given by the association to the effect you have stated? - I cannot well say how I know it; I know it from the report of the colliers who had attended at that meeting, and from many of our workmen; the greater part of our workmen were extremely unwilling to strike, but it was forced upon them by the other colliers of the county.
Did you understand that your colliery had been selected by the general meeting at Kilmarnock, as that at which the men had been desired first to strike? - I did.
Why did, you prefer an immediate strike to taking time to consider whether an arrangement could be made with the men? - Because we resolved on employing other men.
You stated that part of your men unwillingly acceded to this; what consequences did they apprehend from refusing to join in it? - They apprehended personal consequences to themselves.
Have any acts taken place of personal violence? - No.
Were there any direct threats of personal violence? - Very few; there were some, and some few acts of violence, but not to any great extent.
Were there acts sufficient to induce the men to think that if they persevered there would be violence committed? - There was, but no act of violence.
Was there any other object the men had in view but a rise of wages? - Yes; the great object was the exclusion of other work-people. I sent for the men to meet me: alter receiving that letter they assembled to meet me, but I was delayed for a very few minutes by a gentleman on business, and the hour passed at which I had appointed to meet with them; they were waiting not fifty yards from me; and, under the direction of their leaders, when they found the hour had expired, they resolved not to wait one minute longer, but to take me at a minute's warning, and they went away. I felt very much displeased with them for such conduct, and I gave out that not one of them need return to their work.
How did you give that out, by a written letter? - No, verbally to a few of the men.
That they should not be allowed to work? - Yes.
Did you mean the whole of them? - No; I do not remember the express terms I made use of; I meant all those who adhered to the combination or the association.
Was your object, by the conduct then pursued, rather to induce them by your firmness to agree to continue to work than to force them to leave? - My intention was, to state to them that I would not agree to any terms made under that combination.
You had no wish to meet them afterwards? - None.
You did not send to ask them to meet you again? - No.
What took place? - They struck work; there was no more work of course by those men, and we set about immediately employing other workmen.
What occurred in consequence of this? - In about a fortnight or three weeks we were enabled to raise very nearly half the quantity of coals which we had been doing previously by new workmen, principally Irishmen, whom we induced to go down to become colliers.
Had all your own men left you? - Yes; those were all new men.
The old men were forbidden to work? - They were forbidden to work unless they renounced the association; and we continued in this way increasing the number of our men until the 2d of February, when a number of the association came in and renounced the association, declaring that they would have nothing hereafter to do with it, and that they had been milled and deceived.
Did you take those men on? - We did.
How many? - There were about twenty of them.
From the time of that strike up to that 2d of February, had the men who had left you attempted by any acts of violence to prevent the men you had at work from working? - No; there were one or two acts of violence, but so trifling as not to be deserving of notice. On the 17th of February a still greater number came in; I may say all of them came in on the 17th of February, all whom we desired to take in, and they were all obliged to declare that they would hereafter join no association.
Have they worked from that time to this quietly? - They have.
You have had no disturbance and trouble with them? - No; and they harmonize very well with the new men; that was part of the obligation under which they were taken back.
There was no violence to the new men? - No; they attempted to seduce the new men, and there is no doubt threats of violence were thrown out, but we showed that we were determined to protect the new men. I have great satisfaction in saying, that there is now great good temper among the men.
What reason have you for saying that the men had been threatened? - It was reported to me by the men: one reported that he had been struck and abused, but that was to so trifling an extent as not to be deserving of notice, and only proceeding from the very worst of our men.
This difference between you and your men has been amicably settled in consequence of the exertions you made to provide others? - Yes.
Are there any other coal-masters in your neighbourhood? - There are.
Is there any understanding between you and them in regard either to the rate or manner of working, or the rate you shall pay your men? - None.
Has there never been? - Never.
Has there been no agreement between you on the present occasion, that you would resist the demands of the men? - There was a meeting, which took place on the 18th of November.
Where was that held? - At Ayr.
Was it held by public notice, or by private letters sent about? - By private letter.
Were the letters addressed to all the masters in Ayrshire? - I believe to the greater number.
Who attended? - I do not bear a precise recollection now of the names of all who attended; there were about thirteen or fourteen.
Who took the chair? - I did.
What took place at that meeting? - At that meeting it was resolved, that for six months no coal-master should engage those belonging to a neighbouring-colliery, without he brought permission in writing.
Unless he received a certificate of good conduct? - Yes, and of being discharged.
Have you any copy of those resolutions? - I have not; I have only notes of them. It was further resolved, to oppose all interference on the part of the workmen in the management or the conduct of the work; but part of the resolution declared, that that was not to apply or prevent any master from giving such advance of wages as might appear to him to be reasonable in the altered circumstances of the country; it was only to prevent an interference in the regulations of the work, not to prevent a rise of wages.
But to prevent any man belonging to the colliers club or association from being employed by you? - Those masters agreed not to employ each other's men.
Did you come to a resolution, that you would not employ any man belonging to the colliers club or association? - No, we did not come to any resolution of that kind.
What induced you, as there was no such resolution at that meeting of masters, to declare that you would employ no person belonging to the colliers association? - I said so, from a feeling of my own, that we never could have any satisfaction with our workmen while they were under an association of that kind; I conceived there could be no harmony or good understanding between masters and men where the interference of others was permitted; it was not against any combination of our own workmen that I felt so strongly, but against the interference of strangers, and a committee, sitting perhaps at Kilmarnock, directing the manner in which our workmen should conduct themselves.
Do you know whether the same regulation was adopted by any other master collier than yourself? - I understand that the Duke of Hamilton has followed the same plan which we did at Ayr, of engaging no men in associations.
The question was confined to any of those who had been requested to attend, or did actually attend, that meeting in November? - There was no other strike took place; the rest of the colliers of the county waited to see the result of the strike at our work.
Then the Committee are to understand that the colliers, save and except that attempt upon you, have been regularly at work all the time? - I understand so.
Was not that attempt upon you in consequence of a general resolution? - Yes.
That was the fruit of a general conspiracy? - Yes.
The conduct of the masters, through you, prevented their carrying their object into effect? - It did.
Have you seen the resolutions of the association at Kilmarnock? - I have.
Can you state that that is a copy of them? - [A paper being shown to the witness.] - This is a copy of the resolutions, [producing another].
When your men were not in work did they receive pecuniary allowance from the association at Kilmarnock? - They did for about six or seven weeks; they received in all about £360.
Among what number of men was that money distributed? - I believe between 140 and 150.
Do you conceive the arrangements you have now made are such that you have no apprehension of fresh difficulty from your men? - I have no apprehension of it.
Do you conceive, if a similar proceeding took place to that which took place last autumn, you should overcome it in a similar manner? - I conceive so.
Do you know the Act respecting the wages of colliers that existed in Scotland, the Collier Act as it has been called? - There has been no Collier Act in operation for many years; I am not aware of the substance of any Act.
You are not aware that there was an Act called the Colliers Act, passed in 1799, for regulating wages and disputes between master colliers and their men? - No, I am not.
It never came to your knowledge that that Act had been repealed last year? - -It did not; it never was acted upon in Scotland to my knowledge.
The repeal of that Act as regarding coal, not being known to you, could have no effect on the measure which took place? - None whatever.
You knew there were Acts against combinations? - No; I believed till lately that the combination laws had not extended to Scotland, and such was the understanding in Scotland till within this very short period, when I believe the Court of Justiciary in Scotland, on a late case, declared combinations to be a crime in Scotland; it was not before imagined to be so, and Scotland has not laboured under the idea of being under the combination laws until a very late period indeed.
Do you speak of a decision in 1810, or the decision in 1817? - I believe the decision might be in 1817 ; indeed I did not know of that decision till very lately.
In fact the combination laws have never been a matter before your notice? - Never ; they never influenced me at all.
Do you think it has ever influenced others? - I do not think it has ever weighed upon the minds of the masters, or any operative class in Scotland.
What has been the price of your coals during the last year, was there any great increase took place in the price last year? - The price increased from 9s. a waggon to 10s.
No greater increase? - No greater increase.
Has that been the rate timing the last two years? - No, it was 9s. until December, and since December it has been 10s.
It continues at that price? - It does.
Did you make any alteration in the mode in which you paid the men for their work, as to the measure or weight of the coals they worked, or did that remain as it was before? - We remain as we did before. In winter time we usually stock coals; and in winter time we take one to the score to hold out the measure ; after a certain time in spring we give over that, when our demand commences; and we do not exact that from the colliers in spring, summer or autumn, nor again till the winter time comes round.
Has that mode of measuring been a subject of complaint on the part of the men to you at any period before the present? - I believe the men at all times complain of the measure, they wish the measure always to be smaller, but they are at present in a state of high content; I have never known them so contented or satisfied as they are at present.
Have not the men been anxious that a fixed rate or measure should be adopted, by which they should know that they are to be paid?-There is a fixed measure by which they are paid
You stated that it varied? - It varied in consequence of that great depression on our trade; circumstances of that kind will always occasion variances ; and we were obliged to follow the small increase which was given at the neighbouring collieries, in order to keep those very people in employment, who could not otherwise have been employed.
Do not you conceive that you have at various times made efforts to keep your men employed, which you could not have been induced to make from your own feelings of interest? - Certainly, we had to prevent the imposing on the men the hardship of being discharged.
Have you never discharged your men in cases of failure of trade? - We have sometimes, but not to any great extent; we have had a large stock of coals for two years on our hills.
If it was stated that the average of the wages of the men in your employ had been, before the increase, from 10s. to 11s. a week, should you consider that as correct? - I would not.
Do not your coals deteriorate considerably from lying exposed to the air? - I do not consider that our coal deteriorates much from being exposed to the air.
Do they waste much? - I do not think they do to any great degree.
Then why do you exact one in twenty from your workmen if they do not diminish in quality or quantity? - Such has been the practice of our work, and such has been the practice of the whole country; it is part of the arrangement under which those men are engaged; a part of the understanding.
Do you know anything more of the history of the association at Kilmarnock; have they any oaths? - Not that I know of. Since our men returned to work we have increased the number of our men greatly.
The demand for coals has been sufficient to enable you to keep those additional men? - Yes. I would never think of applying to legal measures to put down combinations if I could possibly do without.
Mr. Alexander Guthrie., called in; and Examined.
WHERE do you reside? - At Mount, near Kilmarnock.
In what profession are you engaged? - In the coal trade.
Do you conduct extensive collieries for the Duke of Portland, in the county of Ayr? - Yes; I consider that they are as extensive as any in the county of Ayr.
Have any associations among your men existed during the last year? - They have.
Have the goodness to state the nature and extent of such associations, and the consequences of them to your works? - An association was formed I believe in the month of October last, and they met several times in different parts of the county; the principal place of the meeting however, I have understood, was at Kilmarnock, when they came to resolutions and published them.
In what manner did that association act then? - The delegates met, and they requested that the prices might be raised, or they would come to a strike.
Was this resolution intimated to you? - Yes.
In writing or verbally? - Verbally; the delegates came to my house and told me so.
What were the names of the delegates? - I cannot recollect at this moment; there were two delegates from each pit, and there are five pits.
How many men do you employ? - Upwards of two hundred.
What answer did you give to the delegates? - I told them to work away peaceably, and come to no strike; and that if we could see the means of raising our prices, we would raise theirs also.
What was the rate of their wages? – 3s. 4d. a day was the average wages of the workmen in the Duke's pits.
For what number of hours? - For ten hours.
Old men or able men? - Taking the average of them.
How long had that rate of wages existed? - I should suppose for four or five years, or perhaps more, when the trade became depressed; they were formerly at 4s. a day.
In what year was that? - Probably about 1817 or 1818; they were at 5s. a day in 1814, then they came down to 4s. in 1817.
How was that reduction effected, was it proposed by the masters, and acceded to by the men, or in what way was it done? - The men saw the necessity of it, because the prices of coals fell so much that they were obliged to take a proportionably less price themselves.
On the matter being stated by the masters, the men agreed? - Yes.
Did they work quietly from 1817 up to the last winter? - Yes, very quietly.
When they applied, did they state that the price of provisions had risen? - No.
Did you make any increase in the price of coal at that time? - No, none.
Have you made any increase to the price of coal since? - Yes; I should think on the average the price at our colliery is up from 6d. to 8d. a ton ; from 9s. 4d. to 10s.
When did that rise take place? - I think in the beginning of November.
When the delegates made that statement to you what followed, did they continue their work? - Yes, they did; they did not come to any strike at our colliery.
You have since then raised their wages? - Yes.
To what? - Their wages just now, I should consider, are about 4s. 4d. a day on an average, taking the average of all the five pits.
That the price has not increased to the shipper more than 6d. a ton? - No, it is for our land sale raised 1s. 4d. a ton, but our land sale is very limited, ten men give that supply.
After the men asked an increase, how long was it before you gave it? - I think about a month.
Did you then do it individually, or had you a meeting of the master colliers? - I did it myself; I told them I would do it in the course of a short time.
Did the other master colliers do the same? - Yes; I think the wages in our district got up generally.
The colliers never did strike then? - Not on the Duke's works.
Nor those in your neighbourhood? - Yes, at the works near Ricarton; they struck there two or three times.
Since you made the advance, the men are working satisfactorily? - Yes; they are grumbling sometimes, but they work pretty fairly.
Do they belong to the association? - Yes.
Have you ever taken any measure to exclude them? - No; I have pointed out the impropriety of it, but I have never gone further.
As they have continued to work peaceably and quietly, you have gone no further? - No.
Did you raise their wages to the extent of their demand? - I raised the wages first one-half, and then another half; first about 4 d. a day, and then another 4d. in three months afterwards.
As regards the coal pits about Kilmarnock, notwithstanding this association, all goes on quietly and peaceably? - Yes, I should think so.
Can you state any other instances where there has been disturbance? - In one part of the county, near Galston, they were very troublesome; they did not strike, but I ordered them to strike if they liked.
How do you mean that they were troublesome? - They were always complaining and finding fault
What were their wages? - They were scarcely so much as at the Kilmarnock colliery.
Were coals cheaper there? - Yes.
Did you make an advance to them? - Yes, the same advance as I gave at home; as that is a land-sale colliery, the season for that is mostly over, and they will of course keep quiet till the autumn again.
Do you store any coal in the land-sale colliery? - Very few.
Are they kept in full work during the present season? - They are at full work now, but during the harvest months they will not be at full work.
During the years 1823 and 1824, what do you suppose would be the wages per week? - In the year 1824 our men had liberty to work every day; in fact, from the month of September 1823 till the month of February 1825, I do not think one man about the Duke of Portland's colliery was obliged to be idle one day; they were idle many days, but it was their own choice.
What would be their average wages then? - I should suppose from 15 s. to 18s. a week.
What would be the average in 1822 and 1823? - It would be about 13s. to 155.
Have you ever had any act of violence or outrage, or improper conduct, on the part of the men against any of the managers? - No, I do not think there have been.
Have they ever called upon you to make any regulations, or to carry on your work in any way under regulations they should point out? - No; sometimes the delegates mentioned that they were not satisfied with the way in which I carried on the work, but they have not come to any serious remonstrance.
Have they ever remonstrated against the way in which they are paid for their work by measures of different quantities at different times? - No; I have heard some of the delegates saying that they thought we were taking more measure than they thought ought to be given.
Do not you know that is a cause of complaint? - Yes; but they have not said much about it.
Had you many strikes with your men before the year 1824? - Yes, I had one strike about ten years ago.
What was the cause of that strike? - They wanted more wages, and I would not give it.
What was the consequence of that? - They lay idle probably about eight or ten days.
Was there any mischief done by them at that time? - No, I do not recollect any.
In fact, you have no cause of complaint against the men as to ill behaviour, other than wishing to have their wages raised? - No, they want to have their wages raised ; they are a little more dictatorial than they were.
What do you mean by a little more dictatorial than they were? - They wish to have a little more hand in the management than they have done; they seem to think they should never begin any job till they know precisely what they are to get for it, however trifling it may be; they want to know what they are to have before they begin it.
They want to know the amount of labour, and the amount of remuneration they are to receive? - Yes.
Has not that been the case hitherto? - It often happened, that if anything happened out of the way, the overman desired the men to begin, and a sum was allowed them as their pay, which he considered adequate to what they had done.
Did not that practice sometimes give origin to dissatisfaction, that they had not got what they thought they were entitled to? - Never, till lately; I never heard a single complaint till lately.
Do you not think it would be a very good regulation that every man, who is going to work, should know what he is to receive for it? - So far as the working the coal, but in respect of any casual matters it cannot be so.
What do you mean by casual matters? - Such as a road giving way instantaneously; that is only occasional. .
It is your opinion that there should be a clear understanding between the men and the masters as to the rate at which they should be paid? - Yes.
Do you think the existence of this association is likely to create trouble in the coal trade if it continues? - I think it is.
But it has not yet produced any? - It has not yet in the Duke of Portland's collieries.
Do you think it leads the men to interfere more than they did before its existence? - Yes.
Has it been your practice to store coals, in order to avoid discharging the men at the time, when your own interest in the work could not induce you to do so? - Yes; I am storing coals now, having no use for them, in order to keep the men working.
Have the associations any public meetings? - Yes; I believe they meet once a fortnight.
Are all their proceedings published in the paper? - No, they are all done secretly.
Are not persons allowed to attend their meetings? - No, there are none allowed to enter the room but their own men, or probably they meet in a field.
Have any meetings in fields taken place during the last year? - Yes; only eight days ago there was a meeting of our colliers on an old coal hill, in a bit of waste ground.
Did any person on your part wish to go? - No; they would not object to their going, but they would be mute and say nothing.
Has that been the case? - Yes; they admitted themselves that they wanted to keep their things to themselves.
Do you believe there is any unwillingness to permit persons to go there who do not belong to their association? - Yes, they meet frequently below ground, and discuss and arrange their matters together, probably about four in the morning, instead of beginning their work.
Have they not printed and published the resolutions of their society? - Yes, they have.
Have they attempted to keep those secret? - No, they never gave me any of them, but I have got them.
Have they not been circulated all over the country? - No; I know no person in the county of Ayr that has got them but myself; I got a number of them, and gave them to my friends.
Had they any pass-word or oaths at former times? - Yes, in the year 1817 they had some meetings, and they got a new pass-word, or a new oath; I do not know whether that is effectual just now or not. This is it, [producing it.]
[The same was delivered in, and read as follows:']
The pass word is 'Mizpah.'
The signs are, to touch the right ear with the right thumb and forefinger, and answered by the other person putting down his right hand by his left side, in allusion to Malchus's ear being cut off, and to Jesus's enjoining Peter to put up his sword.
The grips formerly used were few in number, called the Clerk the Boards or shovel, the pick, the wedge and the mell; but of late a new one has been formed, called the reversed sign, which is done by the one person putting up the right-hand middle finger, while the other holds his hand out and right middle finger down.
Where did you get this oath from? - It was got at Glasgow; there was a quarrel between Mr. Dixon and his colliers, and the men divulged the whole, and gave that paper to Mr. Dixon; I believe I got it from Mr. Salmon, the town-clerk of Glasgow, who took down the evidence.
You were in the management of the collieries at that time? - Yes.
Do you know anything of the Clydesdale Operative Brethren? - Yes ; we had some trouble with them, through a man of the name of John Falhouse Wilson, who came through the country forming them.
Do you understand they had secret meetings at that time, and that that man administered this oath? - Yes.
Do you know whether they have had secret oaths within the last year? - I am very certain they have an oath, for all Scotch colliers have an oath; they had another oath before that I have produced.
Have you occasion to know whether any money was subscribed or levied among the association of Ayrshire? - Yes, I believe our men have collected 14s. or 15s. a week for the support of the brethren who struck, particularly at Mr. Taylor's of Ayr.
Do you apprehend that at the time you are now speaking of, money continues to be levied? - There is no occasion for money just now, because all the colliers are at work, and therefore I understand they do not wish to have any funds; but if there is a new strike the collection will come on: there is some small levy just now, from 6d. to 1 s. a fortnight; what they do with it I cannot tell.
Do you conceive the peaceable and satisfactory state of the collieries at this moment depends upon the state of the coal trade at this season of the year? - Yes.
In what manner does it depend upon the state of the coal trade at this season of the year? - The sales are not so good at present as they are in autumn and winter.
You mean to say, that when work is slack they are very quiet, but whenever there is a great demand, and their work is wanted, they are rather anxious to raise their wages? - Yes.
Do you know the names of any office-bearers of the Kilmarnock association? - Yes; I believe I can give the names of some of them.
Are M'Allister and Dunn two of them? - Yes; Dunn was the treasurer, but I believe he resigned that office in January last, and they have now a treasurer and secretary chosen at every meeting; M'Allister was the general secretary I understand.
Have your men made any demand upon you as to the regulation of your work, either to the mode in which you should carry on your colliery, or as to employing strangers or other individuals? - They have made no demand upon me as to the method in which I should conduct the colliery; but they have given me to understand, that I shall not bring other men from another colliery, unless the men settle with them, that is, pay them some money.
That they would not allow you to bring men from another colliery, unless they became members of their association, without their permission? - Yes.
Have you tried to bring any? - Yee, I have; a family who worked for me before; the man is working now with Mr. Dixon, but he cannot come, because he has not money to pay for his freedom,
Do you know Mr. Taylor? - Yes; he made a number of colliers in consequence of a strike.
From whom did he make them? - From labourers; mostly Irish, I believe.
Is it equally open to you to do the same if you were inclined? - Not exactly so; we work our coal on a different footing. Mr. Taylor has a facility of making colliers which we have not; his colliers simply work the coal, and he has men employed to drag the coal from the colliers to the pit bottom; the system is different with us; the collier not only gets his coal, but he draws it to the pit bottom. If we were to put any other men into the pit, in case of any quarrel or disturbance, our men would leave it.
They have never done it yet? - No; but they have threatened that they would leave us at the Cessnock colliery. I proposed to send some new colliers in in the winter, when the sale was good, and they said if I did they would leave the work.
Your men are paid something extra for dragging the coal from where they work it to the pit bottom? - That is taken in the gross.
Do you expect that this association will endeavour to carry into effect its regulations, with reference to the workmen employed in collieries in the county of Ayr? - I cannot say exactly; I think that the check they got by Mr. Taylor's success will have a considerable effect in keeping them quiet for some time.
You do not apprehend any trouble from them at present? - No, not for some time.
Have the association any secret oaths? - I cannot say.
Have they any oath? - I cannot go farther than I have mentioned.
What do you call the men who have the conducting of your work? – The overmen.
Are your overmen in the association? - No.
Have your men ever demanded or called upon them to become members of the association?- - Never, I believe.
They have never attempted to interfere with those whom you might employ as superintendents of the work? - No, never.
William M'Allister, called in; and Examined.
WHAT are you? - I am an operative collier at Kilmarnock Coal Work. William M'Allister.
Under whom? - Under Mr. Alexander Guthrie.
How many years have you been a collier? - I was a few years in the army, but I had been all my life a collier but that.
Is there any colliers association at Kilmarnock? - There is.
How long has that been established? - Since the month of October last.
What are its numbers? - Between eleven and twelve hundred.
How is the association conducted, have you any rules or regulations? - Yes, we have articles.
Can you produce them? - I can. [The witness produced them, and delivered in a printed copy of the same.]
What was the object of the association? - To get our wages advanced.
Did you ever have any association before? - Never in my time.
Have you ever heard of the Clydesdale Operative Brethren Association of Colliers? - Yes, I have.
There never was a branch of that in your neighbourhood? - No, we have nothing to do with them more than bearing of them.
Your association took place in 1824? - Yes.
To raise the wages? - Yes.
Had you any other object? - No object but to raise wages, and to get our measure brought to a proper standard, if possible; that we have not obtained yet.
In what manner were your wages regulated before 1824? - We were paid by the load of coals we put out; we were paid 3d. per load, eight loads make one ton or 28 cwt.
Two shillings a ton of 28 cwt.? - Yes, sometimes it is thirty, but we put out more coals than the ton ; we could make 3 s. a day then, but then we had only three days in the week, and four days in the week at most; then we put out twelve load, which was 3s.; then our work was restricted, we had to work to answer a demand six days in the fortnight, and seven days in the fortnight was the average, except three months in the year.
Was that your own choice? - Not at all; the market was stocked, and is stocked at the present day, so that the masters could not employ us more.
Were you ever willing to work when you could not be employed by your masters? - A hundred times.
Is that the case at present? - It is the case at the present day in the place I am employed in.
How many days do you work now? - The last two fortnights before I came here was seven days in the fortnight; Mr. Guthrie's pits are idle, because he has not demand for the coals, he depends upon the shipping.
For how many years have you worked at the rate of 3 d. per load? - -As we go further under the ground the wages advance upon the load, a half-penny is advanced upon the load, then we put out a load less ; it fetches the same, 3d. a day.
How many years had that rate of wages continued? - I suppose for three or four years.
What wages had you before that? - We had good wages before that.
How much? - 5s. a day, 5d. a load.
What is the highest wages you recollect receiving? – 5s. a day was the highest wages we ever received at Kilmarnock colliery.
When was the last year you received that? - The year 1817.
A reduction was then made? - Yes.
Was the reduction acceded to quietly by the men? - Yes.
There was no remonstrance made? - There was no remonstrance made; we took it peaceably and quietly; the wages fluctuated a little, but not above 3d.
What took place when the association commenced? - We had a meeting of the different works connected in Ayrshire.
Where did that meeting take place? - In Kilmarnock.
How many attended? - Delegates from thirty-two coal works.
What took place at that meeting? - It was agreed at that meeting that we should all go home to our different coal works, and inform our masters that, according as our labour was better than others, and ours was a dangerous trade, we wanted an advance.
Was that meeting a public open meeting, at which any body might have attended? - Every man in the world.
There was no secrecy kept? - No; and I told Mr. Guthrie before I went of it, and he sent me there himself.
You were not a delegate there? - No; I never was a delegate; I was going, but he had his workpeople together, and he selected me from the whole body of his work to go and give him information of what was going on.
And you attended? - I did.
Did you give him information? - I did not; he had a delegate from the work that gave him information.
And you considered it more regular that that delegate should give him notice? - Yes; I was chosen secretary at that time, so I had nothing to do with that work more than another.
Were those regulations come to at that meeting? - We were three months associated before we made those regulations.
When those were printed, and the association formed, were any other rules formed than those which are printed? - No.
No private bye-laws? - No.
No secret resolutions? - No.
Is there any oath on admission to your association? - No more than what is in that pamphlet which is printed.
Look at that statement, is that a copy of your regulations? [the same being shown to the witness.] - Yes, that is one of the first; we found fault with it, and condemned the first hundred. Our association is for Ayr and Dumfries.
Are you sure whether there are any oaths taken by any person on joining your association? - I am sure there never was one taken or required.
No secret oath? - No secret oath whatever.
Do you know whether any association of colliers in any part of Scotland take any oath? - I cannot speak to any other except our own.
Did you ever hear of any secret oaths having been taken in any former association? - Not in our country, I think.
Any secret signs by which you know one another? - Yes, but that does not belong to the association.
What does it belong to? - That is the Brotherhood of the Colliery, that has nothing to do with this association.
What is the nature of that Brotherhood of the Colliery? - It is the same as Free Masonry.
How far does it extend? - It extends just among colliers themselves. What is the intention of it? - Just to make them friendly and true to each other.
Has it any thing to do with striking? - Nothing in the world.
Has it nothing to do with supporting one another in case of a strike? - No.
Of what number may that Brotherhood consist? - It may consist of every collier in the world.
Do you mean to say that every collier is expected to belong to it? - There is no compulsion, he may or may not.
Has he any privilege on becoming a member? - No, not the smallest.
What is paid on entering it? - 5s.
Would you know the oath if you saw it? - I think I should.
[The oath produced by Mr. Guthrie was shown to the witness.'] - There is nothing of that in it.
Can you state what the oath is; are you at liberty to state it? - No, I do not think I am.
Are you under secrecy? - We are under secrecy one to another.
But it has nothing to do with the regulation of wages? - No, nothing in the world.
Do you conceive it the same as Free Masonry? - It is the same.
Are you a Free Mason? - Yes.
When did you take the colliers oath? - When I was about eighteen years of age.
Never since? - No; no man ever takes it more than once.
There have been several disturbances between masters and men in your time, have there not? - Never to my knowledge but at Mr. Taylor's.
None at Glasgow? - I cannot speak to that.
You are quite positive that the Brotherhood has nothing to do with the measures of the association? - No, they are quite distinct one from the other.
After that general meeting which you have spoken of at Kilmarnock, what steps were taken to procure that rise of wages? - They were directed to go home and inform their masters that they wished an advance of wages, as the wages of their neighbours were rising.
Can you state to the Committee what was the average rate of wages which you and other men in your colliery received during the years 1821, 1822 and 1823? - Our colliery was as well paid in those years, and perhaps better than others, in the county. I would average our colliery for the years 1821, 1822 and 1823, from 11 to 12 s. a week; that is the Kilmarnock coal work.
Is that petition signed by you? [the same being shewn to the witness.] - It is.
It is stated that the average would not draw more than 10 s. 6d. per week? - That is right; I observed that Kilmarnock work was better paid than the others.
Is that the average of the thirty-two works? - Yes; it was not more than 10s. 6d. clear.
Have you houses? - Some have houses and some have none.
Do you mean to say that this is to be exclusive of the house? - Yes, where a man has a house; but he has to pay his house out of the 10s. 6d. where there is no house of the master.
Of those thirty-two works, what is the proportion of those who have houses and those who have not? - I believe not one-fourth of them have houses.
After your application what took place, did the masters accede to your request? - A great number of them did immediately.
What was the nature of your request? - 4s. a day for the same work we were making 3 s. at.
Were there strikes at any of the works of those who did not accede? - Yes, there was at the New Town of Ayr; that was Mr. Taylor's.
Did he make the advance? - No.
Therefore a strike took place? - They were ordered by the committee to go to Mr. Taylor, and inform him that his measure was going as far as thirty-six or thirty-eight to the ton, therefore they were desired to tell Mr. Taylor, and to give him fourteen days regular notice, that if he did not fetch his measure down to the equalization with the rest of the county, they would be under the necessity of seeking work somewhere else; Mr. Taylor just said fourteen days after, "This is your time, but this is my time, I have no time for you;" and therefore he stopped his own work, it was not stopped by the colliers. Then our articles say, "Men that are put out by the masters for not coming on reasonable terms with them, we will give them 8s. a week."
Who is to judge of those reasonable terms? - The men and masters; it is left between the men and masters.
Did you consider this an unreasonable conduct on the part of Mr. Taylor? - Certainly, when he required thirty-six or thirty-seven hundred weight to the ton.
What did you do? - His men went idle.
Did you support them? - Yes.
How long? - Six weeks.
What passed then? - A number of them went back to Mr. Taylor, and others went to Lanarkshire.
Did they get the wages raised? - They got the measurement broken, a good deal of it, but not fully.
Have Mr. Taylor's works gone on ever since? - Yes.
He got some new men? - Yes, a great many.
Did the new men, whom he got, belong to your association? - Some of them did.
Do all of them belong to your association now? - No.
Do you prevent any men from working who do not belong to your association? - No.
You do not consider it part of your regulations to prevent a man working as a collier, if he does not belong to your association? - No, a master may employ any man he pleases, we do not interfere with it.
What becomes of the money that is paid on entering? - It goes to the general association.
Who has charge of that? - The preses chosen every meeting.
Will you allow any man to be employed in any colliery with you, without his paying £4 to the association? - Yes, we cannot stop him.
Have you ever stopped him? - No, nor never tried it.
Do you find that any come in without paying that money? - No.
At Mr. Taylor's work for instance? - We have nothing to do with Mr. Taylor's work.
Did you not interfere with Mr. Taylor's work? - Never further than paying 7s. a week.
Have any of them renounced the association since they returned to his work? - Yes.
Is there any man in your work who is not in your association? - Not one in Kilmarnock coal work I think, but there are in the country works.
Has any attempt ever been made to bring in a new man, and have you refused it? - No, never.
Did Mr. Guthrie ever propose to you to bring a man from Glasgow? - Not in Kilmarnock coal work, there was a something of that, but I cannot speak to it.
Do you as a member of the association consider that the printed regulations, you have delivered in as the correct regulations of that society, now continue in force? - Yes, they are in force at the present time.
And no other regulations? - No.
Is it the intention of your association to continue and to enforce in future the regulations contained in that printed paper? - How long or how short it will continue, I cannot say ; it seems in a wavering situation at the present moment; perhaps it is the last meeting that will ever be.
Do you wish the Committee to understand that the association is at an end? - I cannot say that it is at an end, but it is declining fast in numbers.
You do not mean to state that it is resolved it shall cease? - No; you cannot take that from me.
Do you conceive it right and proper that colliers should interfere with any individual coming from a distance, working for your master for any wages that he may think fit? - No, I do not think the colliers have any right of interfering.
You think that Mr Guthrie, or any other coal-master, might be at perfect liberty to employ any man he pleases, for wages even less than those you have in his colliery? - Yes, he has liberty, and nobody says anything against it.
Has he ever done that? - No, he pays them all alike; but supposing he employs a man for 3 s. a day, and gives us 4s., we have nothing to say against that.
You say all the colliers in the Kilmarnock colliery belong to the association? - They do.
Has any one of those men at any time agreed to work for less wages than are fixed upon by the association? - We continued to work for three months; we did not get what we demanded at once, but we got it by degrees; first a 6 d., and then another 6 d.
No individual offered to work for less than another? - Yes ; one pit was working for 6d. less than another; they were working for 3s. 6d. while the other was working for 4 s.
Was that from a difference in the nature of the work? - The one was allowed to be easier than the other, but they are all at 4 s. now.
At the time when this association commenced was the price of coal higher than it had been before? - No, but they raised the price of coal immediately after the association; the selling price of the coals was raised before the rise of the price to the colliers.
When did your association commence? - In October.
On the 24th of October was the price of coals higher than they had been on the 24th of September? - No, they were at the same price.
How long had they continued at the same price? - In the country sales I suppose they might have continued for years ; but the sea sale comes and goes; it fluctuates; it rises and falls 6d. or 1 s. a ton occasionally.
How did you think that the masters could afford to pay you more wages if the prices did not rise? - They said, that if they were going to give us more wages they would raise the price; and Mr Guthrie himself allowed we had too little wages, and he told me himself, and others along with me, that he thought our demand was not unreasonable.
On what day was the rise? - The first rise was not till January.
When were the coals raised? - In November.
What were they raised to? - -They were raised 2d. per load, that is, 1 s. 4 d. per ton.
Do you mean this for the land sale? - Yes.
How much for the sea sale? - From 9 s. 4d, to 10 s. 6d.; but how long they kept that price I do not know.
Is that the price now? - No; I think they are gone back to 9 s. 6 d. for the sea sale.
At the present moment, has all the difference between you and your masters ceased? - Yes, every one; they are all peace and quietness in Ayrshire.
On getting an increase of wages they are all settled? - Yes, and every one has the wages he wanted.
Until your wages were settled, were any of the men guilty of any acts of violence against any parties? - Not one.
No disturbance took place? - No; nor an angry word to men or masters in the whole shire of Ayr, as far as I recollect.
Has it been, during the time you have worked as a collier, frequently a subject of dispute between you and your masters, the manner in which they measured the coals? - Oftentimes in measuring, but it never came to any great dispute; but we have often complained of the way in which they took so much measure, and wished to have a regular measure.
You stated that you had no association till October last? - Never.
Those are the rules of your association? - At the present time.
Among the articles of your rules there is one which is to this effect, "No neutral man above twenty years of age can engage to be a collier without paying £7 in hand;" what is the meaning of that? - If he was going to be a carpet weaver in Kilmarnock, he would pay £10.
What do you mean by a neutral man? - A man whose father was not a collier, who should come to learn his trade, he is to pay £7 for it.
To whom is he to pay the £7? - To the association, if it stands in existence.
Supposing your master was willing to employ the man without his paying £7 to the association, would he be allowed to do so? - It never was tried.
Would he be allowed to work? - Yes, if the master forced him he would be allowed to work.
But it is against the rules of your association that a neutral man should be employed in the colliery by your master, until he has paid £7 to the association? - Yes, that is against the rules; but if a master takes him in, the men in Ayrshire will not resist it.
Have you known any instance in which that rule has been carried into effect in any of the collieries? - There is just one work near Cumnock; one man is to pay £4 by instalments. That is the only instance I have known since the establishment of the regulation.
Do you know whether the masters have, during the existence of the association, proposed to put any neutral man into a work, and not been allowed by the association, and so on? - No; I can say that the association never interfered with him.
Did the men in the pit interfere with him? - I cannot say.
But if a master wished to put in a neutral man, you would be justified by your rule in making a remonstrance against his being introduced, unless he paid the £7? - Yes, or became bound for the payment of it.
Amongst your other articles there is this, "Any man or work not agreeing or coming unto a settlement upon just and reasonable terms, and thrown out of employment ;" that states, that "If a master will not allow the individuals in question to work their regular warning, they shall apply to the secretary and treasurer, who will be empowered to give them support out of the funds of the association, and the general committee shall call on the members of the association to contribute towards their support? " - There is no other way of supporting them.
Does that refer to men who are kept out of employment on account of differences with their masters? - It does.
Is it in the power of the association to determine the ground upon which those individuals shall or shall not work with their masters? - No; the individuals are to go and seek work where they can find it, but we give them fourteen days to see whether they and their masters can arrange the matter.
Your payment under article 8. extends to fourteen days only, in which you give them time to come to an understanding with the master? - Yes; and if he cannot find employment in Ayrshire, we support him further, but he is to look out for employment
Article 10. states, "That the colliers are to make no unreasonable demand upon their masters, but if the masters will not comply on just grounds, the men in such masters employ will have the choice to leave his work." Do you mean by that, that the members of the association are to be the judges of the grounds upon which a man may leave his master's work? - Not at all, they are at liberty either to work with him or to leave him; if they leave him, and cannot get employment, we will support them for fourteen days, or till they find employment, but they are at liberty to work away at reduced wages.
Those regulations apply simply and wholly to wages? - That is the whole.
The 13th article states, "The power of levying money from the members of the association must be left to the general committee how do the general committee enforce the payment of the money which is levied from the members of the association? - A committee of delegates is called, and they give in the number of every work; and if the association is in debt, every man according to the number is required to fetch 6 d. or l s. forward to defray the expenses, and that is all the power of levying money there is.
If the individuals refuse to pay the money what do you do? - There are hundreds refuse, and there is nothing done with them; that makes it the heavier for the rest.
Do you in that case refuse to work with the men who refuse to pay? - No; there are plenty working in the same pit where I work who do not pay.
Do you do any thing to make their work disagreeable to them? - No.
Then if a man refuses to pay the money which the members of the association levy, you leave him alone, and are content without his paying it? - We leave him alone.
You do not molest him? - No, certainly not.
Do you take any other means whatever to compel the men to pay the money - No, only advise as much as fair play will do; always advising them to be equal with their neighbours.
You do not go further? - No; we have not the law to protect us there, and we do not go further.
Do you consider that £7 the entry money, is to be paid for a man being taught the trade of a collier? - Yes, that is what it is paid for; somebody must learn him.
Have other trades in Ayrshire any thing to pay for learning their trade? - The carpet trade in Kilmarnock is the most extensive in our neighbourhood; there are four hundred men, and they will not engage a man there, old or young, without paying £9 sterling.
Who will not engage them? - The masters.
Who take the money? - They take that money into their own pocket, allowing a little to the man who learns them.
Was that £4 and £7 entry money considered as any thing unusual, or merely following the example of the carpet trade? - It is quite a new thing in the colliery, I allow.
How long has it been established in the colliery? - Since the association commenced.
You considered that as the carpet-makers took £9 there was no harm in your taking £7? - We considered so.
What has been the average rate of your pay per week during the last two months; what have you earned for instance during the last two months? - I have earned from 31 s. to 32s. in a fortnight.
That is 15s. or 16s. per week? - Yes; but there is 3d. a day for oil deducted from that, and then the sharpening tools 4 d. a week, and the upholding of grath, that is, the implements we work with.
Upon the whole, out of that 32 s. what do you consider your charge to be for grath? - I say it would take 16d. out of that for oil, and 8d. for grath and sharpening grath, 2 s.
Thirty shillings would remain clear? - No, the masters take off something.
What does the master take off? - He does it to answer himself.
How much? - If we work eight days he will take off 1s. from us, or if we work six days he will take off 9 d.; that has been the practice for some time; I have been a collier when it was no practice.
How many years is it since it became the practice? - Five or six years.
Have you ever remonstrated against it? - Yes, a hundred times.
But they still take it off? - Yes.
How many hours do you work to produce that 15 s. a week? - From three o'clock in the morning till four or afterwards in the afternoon.
Are you under the ground all that time? - Yes.
You do not come up to your victuals? - No, not till that time.
Do you mean to say, that is an average rate, or that it must be an able man to earn it? - A weak man cannot earn it.
You have been asked what was the meaning of articles 8 and 10, with regard to unreasonable demands; did the association consider Mr. Taylor's refusal to adjust the measurement as an unreasonable demand? - Certainly they did.
Did they not on that account agree to support his men for a certain time, when they struck? - Mr. Taylor struck his own men, the cessation did not begin with the men.
That made it still more unreasonable, did it not? - Yes, if he had given the fourteen days warning, they might have come to some understanding; he said, "To-day is my day, I have no more employment for you."
Would you have thought it reasonable to leave at one day's notice? - No.
Have you ever known men strike at one day's notice? - I have known it done; but if the master complained, they came back again immediately.
Was Mr. Taylor's conduct in dismissing the men immediately, on their asking for a regulation about the weight of coals, considered in the association unreasonable? - Yes, it was.
And as coming within the meaning of the 13th article? - Yes it did, and it was unreasonable.
You have stated that some men have refused to pay the levy of money ordered by the committee, for the expenses of the association? - That is so.
If a man refuses to pay for a certain number of weeks, do you strike him off the association, or what do you do? - There has never one been struck off as yet.
How many do you consider in your pit have refused to pay the contribution? - I can say there have been none ever refused altogether, but there are some who are some shillings behind, and that is just the same as not paying.
For what purpose do you consider it necessary to have this association, and pay money out of" your very small wages towards a fund? - It was just for that purpose of getting our wages advanced.
Is the book you have presented a correct account of the receipts? - That is a full account of the whole monies we have ever received.
On the 20th of December there appears the sum of £51 15s. received, how was that collected? - One shilling was required to make up that amount of every associated member.
To what purpose was that applied? - To Mr. Taylor's men, to pay a hundred and forty-eight of them 8s. a week during the time of strike.
After making that week's payment, that left in the treasurer's hands 2s. 9d.? - Yes.
Was that account examined and settled in the association? - Yes, they have been all signed and settled, every one of them; there are the dates of each settlement.
Is this an account of the ten weeks that Mr. Taylor's men struck? - Yes.
What is the sum collected in that time? - £495 7s. 6d.
ow was it disbursed? - All to Mr. Taylor's men.
That is attested by the delegates present, who sign their names?- - Yes.
What is the cash in hand? - £6
What became of Mr. Taylor's men after that? - About sixty of them went to Glasgow.
Have you had any contribution since that? - No.
You are to have no funds until you require them again? - No.
How was the money levied? - By the delegates going home and informing their works that so much money was required against the next meeting; they count it up how much it would amount to, and if it would pay Mr. Taylor's men, the next week we required no more.
Were you willing to go on in that way? - Yes, as long as the men could not get employment, for Mr. Taylor would not speak to them, nor give them a line to another master, and no one would employ them.
Is it the practice in the collieries that one master will not take a man from another unless he has a certificate from him? - He will not take him without a line, certifying that he has liberty to leave his work.
How long has that been the -practice? - -It has been the practice for these two or three years, but never so strictly adhered to till within the last nine months.
Is that the practice in all the collieries in Ayrshire? - Yes; I knew there was a meeting, they have had several meetings; they have had as many meetings as the operatives in fact.
Do you mean to say, that all the masters have had meetings in the county of Ayr? - Yes, all the masters.
What means have you of knowing that fact? - Some of the masters always tell it themselves. Mr. Newbiggin of Ricarton is always very ready to tell us when there are masters meetings; Mr. Finney has told me there were meetings of the coal-masters.
Do you feel yourself at liberty to say that all the coal-masters of Ayrshire have met, because some of them have met? - I say the general body of them meet.
How do you know that? - I am sure of it; I have known them go away to the Black Bull in Ayr.
Name the persons? - I have seen Mr. Marshall, Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Newbiggin, : Mr. Beaumont, and that is all that is about us.
Can you state the day? - I cannot state the particular day now; I have known it more than once.
State any one time? - I am sure it is since the New Year commenced.
For what purpose did they go? - I do not know that.
All you know is that you saw those four masters go to a public-house? - Go away, and meet in a public-house.
But for what purpose you do not know? - No.
Did any of the masters tell you afterwards they had been there, and what passed? - No, not every thing.
What have Mr. Newbiggin or Mr. Finney told you? - Mr Finney told me he had left the coal-masters association altogether, and had nothing to do with it; that he was standing by himself now, for that he was nothing the better for it.
Did Mr Newbiggin say any thing to you? - No; only that the coal-masters were going to have a meeting on such a day.
Do not you think it would be better if both men and masters were to give up any association together? - Yes, I think it would be no worse, that the masters should not have the advantage of us,
How did they get any advantage of you? - They can exact any weight or measure they have a mind.
Is it usual for them to agree with you before a job is undertaken, or do they set you to work and pay you afterwards, as they have a mind? - No, we are paid at such a rate; but they do not pay us what they should pay us, they always scrub a little off.
You think in that way they have an advantage? - Yes, certainly they have.
How do you expect to have an equal advantage against the masters by this association? - By you gentlemen in London putting us on an equal footing with them. .
You were put on an equal footing with them before the association? - Yes, but they always took the advantage; they were always scrubbing off against us before the association commenced ; they robbed us a little then as they do now.
In article 11. it is said, "There are some masters in the coal trade who endeavour, by forcing the measure above the common standard, to find a sale, and outsell their neighbour colliers. This is a case that requires immediate attention, and it becomes the duty of this association to point out such masters; and after being duly warned, if they still continue in such a career, so hurtful to the trade in general, then it will be our duty to try every way that prudence may dictate to bring them to an average in the trade." What do you mean by that article? - There are two coal-masters living within a mile of one another; we will suppose the one man is a poor man and the other is rich; the poor man thinks he has more need of siller than the rich one; he says, "I will force my colliers to put out a ton and a half for the other master's ton; my sale will be increased by my giving more for the money." In this way it goes on in the country sales, that one master outsells the other, and it comes all on the operative colliers; and that is what we mean by one master outselling another. One man is more humane than another; he says, " I will have my coals at a right measure; if I cannot sell them, I cannot help it." The other will attempt to sell more.
If the workmen employed by the master who wants the siller are content, why should you interfere? - There has never been an instance of that in Ayrshire.
By pointing out the master, do you mean to say that you call upon the master to give up that system of work? - No; we call upon the master to regulate that measure along with the others, but we do no act of violence.
You refuse to let one man give more measure than his neighbours? - Yes; it is , not right.
Suppose he still gives more than others, what do you do? - We still put up with it. What is the use then of your regulation? - We are afraid always to get into a scrape.
Do not you think it would be desirable for you to abstain altogether from the association, and to let it drop? - I think it was very near dying a natural death if they had let it alone; if the masters had not interfered, by their agitating it, and bringing men up to London, summoning them to London, and so on; that will agitate the men's minds against their masters.
Who summoned you to London? - I do not know, that is a secret to me; I received a summons from the chairman of this Committee.
You have stated that you wished to be put on an equal footing with the masters? - Yes.
Did you consider that you were not on an equal footing before? - Yes; we have considered that for years.
What was it that put you on an unequal footing? - Their taking advantage of us, and not paying us for what we actually did.
Did you hear there was an Act passed last year, repealing the combination laws? - We heard of it a little, but we are no politicians.
Were you any better satisfied afterwards than you were before? - Yes; we were not afraid to meet then.
You were afraid before? - Yes; and we are afraid yet that we are doing wrong.
You think you are on a better footing by being able to meet and consult? - Yes.
You are the better satisfied on that account? - Yes, a great deal; but we have no knowledge of the laws; we must just go as we are driven.
Robert Dunn, called in; and Examined.
WHERE do you belong to? - I belonged to Lanarkshire originally, but I am in Ayrshire at the present time.
In what trade are you? - I am a collier.
At what colliery do you work? - Mr. Archibald Finney's, at Kilmarnock.
Is there any association of colliers in your country? - Yes.
What is it called? - It is called the Ayrshire Association.
Do you belong to it? - Yes.
How long has it existed? - From the 24th of October last.
How long have you been a collier? - All my life.
Where have you wrought? - I have wrought in Renfrewshire and in Lanarkshire.
Had you ever belonged to any association of colliers before? - No.
What is the object of that association? - It is to assist one another when any thing turns out amiss with the masters.
Was it to raise your wages? - Yes.
What were your wages before that? - Our wages were 3s. a day before that.
Did you get full work? - No.
What was the average rate of wages you obtained in a fortnight? - At the present day I am not getting, nor have I since the commencement of the year got, above six days in a fortnight
How much money has that given you? - We have 4s. a day now, at the present time.
What have you to find out of that? - Our tools and oil.
What is the net money you receive? - I cannot say exactly.
Have you house-rent to pay? - No, we have a free house found us ; but we have to pay a shilling a fortnight for our coals.
You find yourselves and your families in provisions? - Yes.
Have you ever attended any of the meetings of the association? - Yes.
Have you ever been a delegate? - Yes.
Is that a copy of your regulations? [the same being shown to the witness.] - Yes, it is.
How many operatives belong to your association? - I think upwards of 1,100.
To how many different collieries do they belong? - They belong to the collieries in Ayr, I cannot name the whole of them.
There are thirty-two in number, are there not? - About that number I believe.
Are there any other regulations belonging to the association than those which are printed? - No, I never saw any others.
Do you believe there are any secret regulations? - I believe there are not.
Is there any oath taken on admission to that association? - There never was.
Is there any weekly money paid to the association by you? - No, only when it is called for.
You have been called upon to pay money to that association? - Yes.
For what purpose? - To help the men that were struck, when out of work.
At what place? - In the New Town of Ayr.
The men of whose pits? - Mr. Taylor's.
What was the cause of their being struck off? - They were giving avaricious measure.
What was the standard measure? - There is no standard measure in Ayrshire.
What was the customary measure of the pit; what did you work by? - We had neither weight nor measure to go by; we are paid so much a load; but they think proper if it is not sufficient to give us nothing for it.
Can the men load large or small, as they please? - If it does not please them, they will give us nothing for it; if my basket is not full to their liking, they will give me nothing for it.
You have sometimes to forfeit a basket, because it is not sufficient measure? - Yes.
Have you any overman in the pit? - Yes.
Is it not his business to see that proper measure is given? - Yes.
If he is satisfied, is not that the rule by which your master pays you? – The overman is under ground, he has nothing to do with the measure above ground.
Is that the banksman? - Yes.
What is the rule by which he determines whether you have supplied the proper quantity? - I do not know; we are allowed to give them 28 cwt. to the ton, and sometimes 31 cwt. to the ton.
What measure has Mr. Taylor required of his men? - I cannot say, but that is what we give at our own work.
What was the cause of the dispute between him and his men? - Because of the avaricious measure, as they gave it out in the association.
What did the association do? - They told them they had better try and see whether they could get any of the heavy measure done away.
Did they advise them to strike if they could not get the measure altered? - They told them that they would not get support for their families; that they wished to strike if we would support them.
Did you agree to do that? - Yes, we told them to give their masters fourteen days warning.
Do you know what passed when they waited upon Mr. Taylor? - They told us that Mr. Taylor told them that fourteen days was their time, but this day was his time, and he had nothing further for them to do.
Then they struck? - Yes.
Did you continue to support them? - Yes.
When they went back to work afterwards, did they get the measure altered? - That I heard from the workers; I could not name the measure, but what we call a score ; I heard that they were giving forty-five to the score, and they used to give thirty to the score.
You mean to say that there were fifteen in every score taken off? - Yes; And that excess we considered a hardship.
During the strike, was there any quarrelling, or were there any acts of violence? - I never heard of any.
Did those men go back to the work? - Yes, part of them.
Were they struck off the association, or did they leave it voluntarily? - There was a certain time allowed, and if they did not pay up their proper sum by that time they were struck off.
Have any of them been struck off? - Yes, some of them.
Have, you ever in the association had under your consideration the admitting a neutral man to work in the pits? - Yes, by paying a little apprentice fee.
If they have not been able to pay that apprentice fee, has it come to your knowledge that any men have refused working with them? - I never heard of that.
Have you ever heard of any masters wishing to bring in any of those neutral men and the men preventing it? - No; Mr. Taylor, of New Town, Ayr, did bring in new men.
You never interfered with them? - No.
Was it not one of the objects of your association to prevent those neutral men being introduced? - Yes, till they paid up some apprentice fee; but if the master chose to take them in we could not help it, but we would not learn them if they did not pay our apprentice fee.
If they were willing to work for less wages than you had, should you interfere to prevent their working? - By no means; we never did.
Are you all contented and comfortable now? - At the present we are.
With the present wages? - Yes.
What number of hours do you work to earn your 24s. in the fourteen days?- We work from ten or twelve to fourteen hours a day.
In the pit all the time? - Yes, and sometimes longer, in fact.
Have you any boys employed? - I have one boy.
You admit boys only on certain terms, do you? - We allow a member's son who has joined the association to go into the coal pit at ten years of age; he receives one-fourth of a man's work.
Supposing a master were to choose to give him more than that, or less, what would be the effect of his doing so? - I never saw that done by any one.
Supposing it was done, would not the regulations of your association prevent that boy working? - Yes; that article of the association is in the way; it means that certainly.
Have you any oaths in the association? - No, by no means.
You have some oaths in your Brotherhood? - Yes, we have.
You belong to the Brotherhood? - Yes, I do.
Would your oath prevent your disclosing to this Committee, what are the rules and regulations of that society? - That does not consist at all with this association.
You state that you have oaths in the Brotherhood ; are you bound by those oaths to keep the rules and regulations of the Brotherhood secret? - Yes, we are.
Is there any money collected in the Brotherhood? - No, there is no money collected in the Brotherhood.
Is this association dissolved? - Not yet.
Do you expect it to continue? - If it be lawful.
Do you think the colliers of Ayrshire wish it should continue? - A deal of them I suppose would, but I do not know whether all of them would.
Do you think it will become more active when the trade becomes brisk again? - I cannot say.
Is your present quietness owing to the demand for coals being smaller, and your not being able to get employment elsewhere? - We can get work elsewhere in Renfrewshire or Ayrshire, if we pay five pounds, I believe.
Every one may leave the association when he pleases? - Yes.
There is no fine upon him for leaving the association? - No, certainly not.
Adam Brown, called in; and Examined.
WHERE do you work? - In Ayr.
In whose colliery? - In Mr. Taylor's.
How long have you worked with him? - I have been there about ten or twelve years.
Was there any association among your men last autumn? - Yes.
When did it begin? - I think it began about the month of December.
Were you one of the association? - Yes, I was.
What was your object in associating? - For the regulation of trade, and the advance of wages I suppose.
Why did you want an advance of wages at that time particularly? - I do not know.
What had your wages been to that time? - There were no regular wages in Mr. Taylor's work: there were different wages.
What did you earn clear one week with another? - I made perhaps 4s. a day for ten days in a fortnight, but there were many men in the work did not make that; that was not their own fault. .
Do you mean to say you could not be employed all the fourteen days? - No, ten days in a fortnight; but there are many men that do not make that; there are not perhaps above ten men that make it.
Are you one of the best workmen? - Yes.
Did you ask Mr. Taylor for any increase of wages? - No; we did not strike upon that; we gave him fourteen days notice to redress our measure of the coal, and when he got the fourteen days notice he dismissed us.
What was the kind of redress you wanted? - The standard measure marked upon the waggons is twenty-six hundred weight, and we wished to stand upon that.
What was the measure you actually put out? - I do not know the measure exactly at that time.
Was it much more? - I cannot say how much more it was, but it was more.
Was it thirty hundred weight? - I suppose it was twenty-nine.
Were you one of the delegates appointed to speak to Mr. Taylor on the subject? - No.
You have not immediately before you the exact amount of excess of the weight? - No.
What did Mr. Taylor do when you made that representation? - When we gave that petition into him, he dismissed us; we gave him fourteen days notice to redress the grievances, or we must strike, and he dismissed us immediately.
Have you returned to the work? - Yes.
Did you get what you wanted? - No, we did not.
How came you to return? - I do not know precisely the reason.
Did you think it best to give up? - Yes, I thought it was best to return, and there were many who were of the same notion.
Is not Mr. Taylor always a good master? - I never saw any thing else.
Were you discharged? - The whole body was discharged.
He would not agree to any alteration? - No.
Did you report to the association? - Yes.
Did they make you any allowance? - Yes, we received 8s. a week for a time.
After that period what did you do? - There were a good many went away to different places, and some returned, and I returned.
Did you return to work in the same manner that you had done before, or was there any alteration made in the measure? - There was a little alteration made, but it was on the same footing.
Had any neutral men come into the pit during the time you were out of it? - Yes, there were.
What were they? - The greater part of them were Irishmen.
When you returned, did those who belonged to the association interfere with those neutral men, or did they allow them to go on working? - They allowed them to go on working. x
Had any of them joined the association? - No, the works are distinct from the association altogether. - .
Have you ever called upon your master to discharge any of his banksmen or overmen, or any of those men belonging to the colliery? - No.
Has he ever put in any apprentices whom you did not like, or interfered in any way with your rules? - No; we never meddled or made in the least but with his measure.
Did you at the time you objected to the measure, object also to the wages? - No, it was only to the measure; we wished a man to stand on the hill to see to the measure.
Did you ever require that one of yourselves should be appointed to judge of the measure you put out? - Yes, that was one of the principal grievances; that a man should stand on the hill to see justice done between man and man; there may be what we call scobbing.
What do you mean by scobbing? - There are six for that waggon; and sometimes before this time, it happened that the coal was getting into that state it did not give the measure properly, and it took seven or seven and a half for the waggon.
Have you ever known in any of the collieries in Ayrshire any unpleasant disturbances between the masters and men except that at Mr. Taylors? - No; I never heard of any.
Have you any connection with the Dumbarton colliers association? - No ; I know nothing about the association at present; I left it when I joined my work.
Were there any oaths taken by the association? - No.
Were there any other rules than those printed in the paper before you? - No.
Would any body have been prevented coming in to attend the meetings of the association? - No; there was no person offered to come in but those who joined the association; but no person was refused.
Do you think it likely, that when coals become scarce again, there will be any difficulty among the workmen in Ayrshire? - I do not know j 1 cannot say any thing to that.
Do you think you have got any advantage by having belonged to the association? - -No, I cannot say that I have.
Should you not think it would be better for you to refrain from joining yourself again to such an association? - I will not think of that till I see better about it.
Do not you think these associations will soon fall to pieces; that the men will not continue to pay money, unless they see masters likely to take advantage of them? - I think if it was let alone, it would die a natural death.
Has any body meddled with it? - Calling us up here.
Do you think the stir about the combination laws has tended to keep up these associations? - I do not know whether it has not; but I know nothing about the proceedings of the association, I was only a few weeks in it altogether.
You are all satisfied now, and everything is going on quietly and peaceably? - Yes.