Childrens Employment Commission 1842
The following extracts are from the report by R F Franks to the Children's Employment Commission on the East of Scotland District which was published in 1842
Collieries in the Western District of Fife
Torry or Inzievar Colliery
- parish of Saline, county of Fife. - (Henry Cadell, Esq., Lessee.)
No.330. Henry Cadell, Esq:
I employ 55 males and 20 females; most of the latter are adults, and four children only under 13 years of age; and I think they, the latter, would be more beneficially occupied in receiving education than in working.
An attempt has been made to establish a school, but from the smallness of the work, and its being scattered, it has not been very successful.
Drinking whiskey, and discontent, are the two evils which prey upon the comfort and happiness of our colliers: if these were removed and they educated, they might be as happy princes.
No.331. Mary M'Lean, 12 years old, putter:
Began work when eight years old; has only wrought three years below, as was off work with crushed legs 12 months; the injury was occasioned by the drag breaking, as the cart, which held 6cwt. of coal, was coming down a steep brae below ground and passed the legs.
Works 10 to 12 hours; no very regular, as the work is not always so. [Reads badly; very ignorant.]
No.332. Mary Hynd, 13 years old, putter:
Wrought two years in Torry mine, with three sisters, on father's account. Works 10 or 12 hours - not regularly; only worked five days last fortnight. Many women lie idle at this season, as the demand is no so great as winter. I dinna gang to the school, as we have no good teacher. James White, an old collier, is teacher, and wants 5d. the fortnight which father will no pay. [Reads very badly; appears much neglected.]
No.333. William Allan, 13 years old, hewer:
First wrought at Lord Elgin’s at Balderidge. Was taught to read and write at the Elgin school. Father left for Clackmannan Colliery, and afterwards came here. Mother works below, and I go down when able; have done so for four years. [Reads well, writes badly. Sickly, distressed object; very scrofulous; head, hands and legs covered with the scrofulous eruptions.]
No.334. William M’Lean, 12 years old, hewer and putter:
Been 18 months below. Works 10 and 12 hours; gets porridge before ganging; not been to any school for three years; was learning to write, but forgotten the marks. [Reads very badly.]
No.335. Alexander Muir, mining overseer:
At this season [spring] of the year our demand for coal being limited, causes a number of the colliers to lie idle and creates, to a certain degree, irregular habits; and as many of them are not colliers by birth, they continue in the locality. Three years since a strike took place, and many of the old colliers left, consequently we put on a number of weavers, and those who were young got their hands in as well as the old workers. The working of coal is more difficult in the Torry Mine than any in Fife, as we find the coal hard to get away, and all is done by blasting. Our seams are four feet thick, with stone between a 24-inch parrot and 24-inch rough coal. When at full work the men carry away 3s. 3d a-day and make 9 and 10 days in the fortnight.
Very few accidents of a serious nature; one James Watson killed some short time since by fall of stone from the roof. The children are badly off at school; there is no appointed teacher - an old well-informed collier gives lessons to young ones.
- (George Mill, of Blair, Esq.)
No.336. Andrew Wilson, coal-grieve:
Been four years coal-grieve and manager to the Blair colliery. The work is now limited, as the consumpt is chiefly inland. Not more than 18 work below; 10 adults, four children, two lads and two girls above 13 years of age. Young people and children work 11 and 12 hours with their friends; and it is much to be regretted that such young ones are forced to labour in mines about this part of Fife, as few are fitted so to do before 14 or 15 years of age. There being no school within a mile or a mile and a half from here causes the children to be greatly neglected.
Notwithstanding the precautions we take, accidents take place. A boy got his arm broken by apiece of coal falling out of the bucket; and a girl had her head cut open by the roof falling. Both have recovered.
We have had explosions from carburetted hydrogen gas, which exists in our mines, but no one ever was seriously injured. Means are used to prevent its accumulation by ventilators, and the men have Davy-lamps supplied to them.
No.337. Janet Allen, 8 years old, putter:
Works in the pit with sisters Christy and Agnes; done so nine months. Helps to push the tubs; it is sair, sair work; would like to be playing about better. Did a little at reading when at St. Ninian's; canna do any now. Sisters do know how to read in Testament.
No.338. Catherine Kerr, aged 35, putter:
Works below ground with husband; has four children; youngest is seven months old; went below after its birth; obliged to work, as husband is short in breath. Came a short time since from Aberdona.
- parish of Dunfermline, county of Fife. - (Right Hon. the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine)
No.339. James Grier, manager of the mines belonging to the Earl of Elgin, &c.:
The number employed at mining and wheeling below ground in the Elgin Pit is 420, of which 243 are male adults, 55 males under 18 years of age, and 20 under 13 years of age; 60 adult females, 36 under 18 years of age, and nine female children; the youngest female child is nine years and four months old, and the youngest boy nine years and eight months: they have wrought only four and six months below.
The usual number of hours of work, each day, are 16, and are wrought by two relays of hands, the first commencing at four o’clock in the morning and continues till between 12 and 2. The second from 12 to 2 in the day and continues till 8 or 10 in the evening, which depends upon any detention which may occur in the work.
There is a rest of half an hour at nine in the morning, at which the first shift get their porridge and another for the second shift at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Children are put to trapping, or opening and shutting the air-doors, and assisting to push and draw the loaded corves, which generally contain 4 to 5cwt. of coal: the distance which they pull is 100 to 150 yards at present. The employment does not necessarily require the employment of very young children, but they are less expense to the employer and sooner become a benefit to their parents.
A limitation of time at which children should be employed in mines is to be desired, solely that they may be better educated before they begin to work. I consider none ought to be employed younger than 12 years of age.
The roads in our mines are all railed, and the roofs cut from four and a half to five feet high, but the workings are the same height as the seams of coal, which are three feet eight, four and five feet. Two accidents have taken place within the last two years: one man killed by a stone falling on from side of the shaft, which caused him to lose his hold; and a boy had his leg broken since the first accident. The mode of taking people up and down has been changed, and they now ascend and descend in cages, which slide up and down.
Men work by the piece, and steady workers will take away 42s. in the 11 days; the females, as putters, earn 12s. to 12s. 10d. in the same time; each have to find their own oil and tools but we find them free house and fire coal.
There is in connection with the works a school with two well-appointed teachers, who have free dwelling-houses, fire coal, &c found for them; by a regulation in the management of this work, every person who receives full men's wages is compelled to contribute 1d. per week to the school fund and 1 1/2d. per week for every child's instruction between five and ten years of age; any young person who may chose to attend the evening-school is free to do so on the payment of 1d. per week; and from these funds alone, without any additional fees, the teachers are paid.
Education has wrought in this colliery the most beneficial changes: 25 years since the conduct of the collier people here was of that nature that few persons thought themselves safe near the spot after dark; now a more sober set of workmen are not to be found in Scotland. Many of our young colliers are musical and subscribe 21s. per week for instruction, which is paid to a regular trainer.
A medical fund is contributed to by the male heads of families of 2d. per week and all the members of the families have attendance without respect to age or disease, as the Earl pays the doctor's charges, independent of the contributions.
A sick-fund was established and existed a number of years; the colliers refused to contribute unless they had the entire management of the funds, and liberty to apply them to the purposes of their union, which was denied them but the tradesmen, labourers and others still adhere to the original system, which, upon the payment of 2d. per week, entitles them to 5s. a-week during sickness.
The Elgin School, village of Balderidge.
The Elgin school-register of attendance shows that 230 children on the average attend the day and 50 the night-school. Girls as well as boys are instructed; few females attend in the evening, as they employ themselves in tambouring and parents have an objection the over-instruction of girls (as they term it). At the last public examination of the Elgin school many of the lads took prizes for demonstrations in mathematics. It is the best-conducted Colliery School in the East of Scotland and the teachers the best trained. In addition to free residence, gardens, coals, &c the first teacher is paid £l04 per annum.
No.340. James Stevenson, 13 years old, coal-filler:
Has wrought below four months; employed to fill the corves that are drawn from the workings to the main-roads. Was at school till taken down. Sister Agnes puts the coal, and has done so for five years last Handsel Monday; has no dislike for the work, as the hours are not overlong. Works from four in the morning until one and two at noon. [Reads and writes well; very healthy; lives at Balderidge, near the pit; the cottage very commodious, clean and well furnished, with a small well-furnished flower-garden.]
No.341. William Morris, 14 years old, hewer:
Began to work 3 1/2 years since; could read and write before going down. Picks the coal at wall-face and draws to main-road and fills; brother assists to fill; he is same age as self, we are twins, but he is no so stout as I am. Works sometimes on the morning shift, at others the late shift. [Reads and writes well.]
No.342. Helen Weir, 16 years old, putter:
Began to work when nine years old; wrought three years at a factory and four years in the Elgin mines.
I left the factory work, as the stour [dust in a state of motion] made me hoarse and my legs swelled by the long standing; sister who works with me below tried the factory after me, and left for same reason.
We have taken to the pit, as the hours are not so long nor confining; work eight and nine hours daily, and get 14d. a-day, though have to purchase own oil and cotton, which costs full 2d. per day. At the coals have 10 and 11 days' work, but the factory masters made us work the whole 12 and paid us 11d. a-day. [Reads and writes well; very intelligent; can knit and hand-sew (tambour).]
No.343. Archibald Campbell, 17 years old, hewer:
Been four years below; works eight and nine hours generally 11 days in the fortnight. Never met with any accident; recollects only one for some time; James Thompson fractured his leg by stone falling from ceiling.
[Reads and writes well; was six years at the Elgin school; is a good flute-player and plays from notes; his brother, about two years younger, plays the trumpet; both belong to the Elgin band. Earns 22s. to 23s. when 11 days at work; the cottage was very well furnished, extremely clean and the little gardens were laid out with great neatness and order].
No.344. Thomas Morris, 10 years old, hewer:
Learning to hew coal with father; been below two months; works from three in the morning till one and two in the day; has no dislike for the work. Was at Elgin day-school four years, where he was taught the reading, writing and counting [all of which he does pretty well for his age]; now goes to the night-school regularly.
No.345. Isabella Burt, 16 years old, putter:
Only been down four months; two months at Aberdona and two here [Lord Elgin's]. The work is sore for females, but not so much so here as at others, the hours being so much shorter, and we have more time for sewing. [Reads and writes a little; intelligent and very clean in person.]
No.346. John Weir, 48 years old, coal-hewer:
Have wrought my time in Lord Elgin's mines, but last eight years have been off with black spit, which 10 out of 20 have before they reach 30, and it carries them off at 38 to 40 years of age; the men suppose it to arise from bad air and the reek [soot] from the lamps. Men may not be so bad here as formerly, as the mines are better ventilated; it is well they should be better, as the parish will not allow them aliment to sustain them. Two years ago I applied to the poor-board, and was allowed 4s. a-month for 12 months, which the committee stopped as soon as they found that some of the little ones worked below. I have had 11 children, 8 are alive, and the wives never work below here; so that we have quite enough to do to pay for mere food, education and doctors' money when we are fully employed: without my children's assistance I and the younger bairns would starve. The men about this colliery are getting better educated and are more quiet than formerly, and since the new machinery has been working few accidents have taken place, only one within last two or three years. William Phelp was killed coming up the shaft, by a stone or coal falling on him, which caused him to lose his hold. Women cease to go down as soon as married and this induces them to work below. Most of the lasses are not so well instructed in reading and writing as the lads, as parents think they no need it; many earn money by hand-sewing [tambouring] after they leave the coal-work, as it affords them money to buy new dresses. Girls are very fond of showy clothing here.
No.347. Margaret Drylie, 16 years old, putter:
Wrought upwards of four years wheeling coals below ground; generally works from five in the morning till four at night; sometimes six at night till four in the morning; has often worked on both shifts. The work is sore straining; was laid by for three months short time since with pains in the limbs, caused by overwork. Works with two sisters, 22 and 29 years of age; has two brothers, 14 and 19 years old; all live together.
[The girls read and the lads can make a few marks on paper like some of the letters. The cottage was in a most filthy condition, no ceiling, two dirty beds with little bed-clothing and the furniture consisted of a table, short stools and three or four broken chairs.]
No.348. James Simpson, 15 years old, hewer:
Been houking the coal five years; do so every day that I go below: never get rests only at browsing time; when home early I gang to the night-school to learn the writing; am not the length of counting. There are six feet in a fathom, three feet in one yard.
[Cannot do the common tables; very ignorant; reads badly. Has a sister, Isabel Simpson, 13 years old, equally neglected and who scarcely reads at all.]
No.349. Catherine Wilson, 16 years old, bottomer:
I hang the tubs on the draw-chains at pit-bottom; my wages are 3s. 6d. a week; have wrought six years in the mine; sometimes I draw the carts with somes [ropes]. Have to work hard, as mother has had 10 children, 8 are alive.
[Very much neglected; reads a little in the Testament; very little knowledge of what she reads.]
No.350. Elizabeth Brown, 14 years old, putter:
Drives the carriages of coal to the horse-road; it is middling sore work. Work 11 and 12 hours a-day; can earn a-week 5s.; never was at school till down; since working have paid 2d. per week, and been taught to read.
[Reads in the Testament, apparently those chapters she has mastered before; had some difficulty in reading part of my instructions, though much larger print.]
No.351. Henry Hynd, 9 years old, trapper:
Began to work four months ago; opens the air-doors for the putters to pass: ordered to shut them directly; does so always ; they are harder to push sometimes than others. Don’t much mind the place, has got settled to it. Has brother John below, 10 years old; we both go to night-school to learn the reading; John is trying his hand at writing the ups and downs.
- parish of Dunfermline, county of Fife. - (James Spowort, Esq., lessee.)
No.352. James Spawort, Esq. jun.:
We employ at Wellwood 204 males chiefly at hewing coal, and 66 females at drawing the coal below ground, on railed roads from the workings to the horse-road. Twelve horses are below, employed in drawing the heavy corves. The main-roads are 6 and 6 1/2 feet high, and those to the workings the height of the coal, which are not less than 4 feet.
The age which children are taken down depends on the circumstances of their parents; if they be destitute, then they are taken early, otherwise they are kept at school till 10 or 12 years old.
It is my opinion children ought not to go to the mines until 12 years, and not even then if no night-school exists. We have a school connected with the works; the teacher is supported entirely by the workmen; at present we have no sick fund or benefit society, nor is there any library.
Few accidents have taken place, several have been slightly burned by carburetted hydrogen which slightly exists; we endeavour to draw it out by ventilation, and Davy-lamps are always used when necessary. A man was killed about a month since by a stone dropping from the roof and a few others of importance have occurred within the last two years.
No.353. Mr. William Craig, teacher of the Wellwood Colliery School:
The Wellwood school is supported by a subscription of 2s. per quarter from each full collier [collier above 18 years old], and the heads of families pay 6d. per quarter for each child’s education, except the number be above three, when the others are admitted without charge. The children are very ignorant, which arises from being taken below very early and causes them to be very irregular in their attendance; very. few advance so far as writing. The average attendance during the day, of children of all ages and both sexes, does exceed 80 to 85 and at the night-school 25 to 30. The Presbytery examine the children twice a-year, and a missionary is sent to preach here once a-fortnight; many of the colliers attend. There is no hope of children being better instructed until some stoppage is put to the practice of working infants in mines.
Townhill and Appin Colliery
- parish of Dunfermline, county of Fife. - (Dunfermline Coal Company).
No.354. Mr. A. F. Hopper, manager:
The quantity of hands employed by the Dunfermline Coal Company at this present time do not exceed 84 under my control, and these are wrought in the day. A level, which goes night and day, is let to a party; the hours allowed are from six at night till six in the morning; but no young persons work, it being generally let to, and worked by, adults.
Thirty-three individuals out of the 84 come under the denomination of children and young persons and their hours of labour are from three and four in the morning till three and four in the day; 21 are females, who are generally employed at wheeling the tubs or carts of coal from the workings to pit-shaft bottom; the youngest females keep the trap-doors below; their ages do not exceed 9 or 10 years. Doors can be hung so as to shut without the aid of a trapper, but in mines where much caution is necessary, I do not think children can be done without.
I think if colliers were restricted from taking boys to work in mines until 13 years of age it would answer a good end, and then only to put coal for a certain period and this would be the means of laying the women off working, which would be one of the first steps towards improving the moral condition of the colliers in Scotland.
There has been no lives lost during the last two years, nor permanent injury done; one young woman had her head severely cut by a coal falling off the sub-ascending shaft.
We have a school connected with the colliery; the teacher is paid by fees drawn fortnightly from the men; it is open day and evening for elementary instruction only.
No.355. Helen Spowort, 17 years old, putter:
Began to work in mines when nine years old and has done ever since. It is very coarse, heavy, cloughty work, and I get enough of it, as am never able to do muckle after hours from the fatigue.
[Reads very badly; very deficient of religious knowledge. Has a sister 20 years of age, who had her head cut open some months ago; was laid idle 10 weeks; she is on the eve of marriage and can scarcely read a verse in the Testament; both knit very well, which is common in this part of Fife.]
No.355a. Andrew Erskine, 14 years old, hewer:
Hews coal; has done so four years; works for father. Has four brothers and one sister below. Three out of the five read and can sign their names. I can read some; not write. [Very ignorant.]
[The cottage was in filthy condition and the furniture with the two bedsteads on which the whole family slept in dirty broken condition, yet I ascertained that the father was very industrious and from the paybooks it appeared he had received the last two fortnightly payments £6 1s. 4d. and £6 5s. 10d. for the labour of self and children. The coal-grieve stated that the condition of the colliers was owing to their changeable character and that flitters (roving colliers) never cared for furniture, looking upon it as an incumbrance.]
No.355b. Mr. John Adamson, teacher of Townhill School:
I have been at Townhill five months and have at present only 35 pupils; the number is expected to increase as the works progress. The colliers are very irregular in sending their children, and I find them constantly taking them below at very early ages, so that my collection of faces varies every week. The children are very ill-supplied with books; many have none whatever, and the small fees that are assessed and drawn at the count-table do not render it possible for me to increase the stock.
- Parishes of Dunfermline and Beath, Messrs Brown, Gordon and Co.
The numbers employed at Hallbeath Colliery, as stated by Mr. Gordon, are as follows;-
No. 356. Mr. Gordon:
We exercise no control over parents in the labour of their children; they have been accustomed to take them down when they needed them and they do so now. Our practice differs from many collieries, inasmuch as we engage our own female putters and they are paid distinctly from the hewers. A schoolhouse and residence is found for a teacher, and the colliers can have their children instructed upon payment of small fees.
No. 357. Janet Campbell, 17 years old, putter:
Wrought seven years below. Works 12 hours when work is regular; no very so here. The women here work day about [every other day], as there are more than can get employment. Makes stockings on idle days and goes to the night-school to learn the reading. [Reads a little in the Testament; very ignorant of the meaning of the words.]
No. 358. Helen Spowort, 16 years old, putter:
Been nine years below. Works for step-mother with brothers, as father died of bad breath some short time since; he was 42 years of age; and own mother has been dead nine years. Stepmother used to work in pit; is now too old and has been kind to us since father's death. The work is sore oppressing; would much like other work, but canna gang as step-mother would be put of house. Works for masters, and makes 14 rakes a-day each - 500 and 600 yards, near a quarter of a mile, to and fro with heavy loads of coal in carts. [Can scarcely read; seldom moves to kirk.]
No 359. Mary Morgan, 16 years old, putter:
Been three years below; works with two sisters on mother's account. When employed by masters, which is rarely more than five or six days in the 12, we have to make 50 to 60 rakes[journeys] daily, and, as the road is long and the brae awfu' steep, the sweat drops off like streams of water. The roads are 600 yards and many 900 yards long and we have to stoop very much. Never got much hurt; been idle sometimes with pains in limbs for day or two. When full work can get 1s. 3d. a-day. [Reads.]
No. 360. Mr. Adam Syme:
The attendance at school of the collier children is very irregular; many are taken away much too young; and having been only six months at this school, am not able to speak as to the advance made and regret that very little desire exists for instruction. Children of the district sometimes attend to the number of 90, at others under 70. The night-school is very seldom attended by more than 12.
- parishes of Dalgety and Aberdour. - (Admiral Sir P. Durham, Bart., of Fordel, Proprietor: Mr. Francis Grier, Manager.)
Employed below ground- Males, 211; females, 59.
No.361. Mr. Francis Grier:
We have 82 young persons and children working below ground; the eldest of the males are employed to hew coal; the females and many of the children draw the corves of coal below ground; they are assisted by the adult females, of which 36 are above 18 years of age. The weight of the coal and corves are upwards of 8cwt., and the length of the road about 100 fathoms [600 feet], along which the carriage is drawn. The females begin to assist to draw by the chain from six years of age, and many from six to twelve years of age are employed in pumping and carrying water between six at night and six in the morning.
I think that a limitation of the age at which children should work below desirable, and that they should not work until 10 years of age, so as to allow attendance at school from 5 till 10 years old; in order to assist, a large school has lately been erected, which is now attended by 280 scholars. The school is supported by small fees stopped at the count-table, as also 6d. per month for the sick-fund, which entitles men to a receipt of 16s. per month when disabled from work.
We have had two fatal accidents only within the last two years, occurring at distant periods, but both in the pit-shaft.
No.362. Elizabeth Gibb, 12 years old, putter:
Draws the corves with chains; not harnessed; holds the chain in both hands and draws forward, like the horses; has done so four years. Makes 60 to 70 races [journeys] every day. The work is very hard. Once split my finger, and was idle one month; and afterward broke my leg by the overload of a waggon, and was idle three months. Sometimes goes to the sewing school, and am taught a lesson of reading also. [Reads very badly; as also a sister, who is 19 years age; much neglected.]
No.363. Euphemia Jupp, 12 years old, putter:
Has been at the coals since eight years old; always on day-work. Runs 80 races with corves, which hold 5cwt. of coal; draws a guid distance; thinks it may be 150 to 200 fathoms. Works with sister Ann, who went down same time, though two years older. Used to go to school; is too far gone [tired] to gang now. Sits at home after work or looks about. Goes to kirk when it suits. [Reads very badly; most of the children in this district seem to have been allowed to run wild after work.]
No.364. Walter Cowan, 14 years old, hewer:
Has been at coal-hewing four years and a half. Works 12 and 13 hours. Was at school before working below; was learning to write. [Reads in the Bible very well, and scarcely write his name; knows a few of the Catechism answers.]
No.365. Grace Cook, 16 years old, putter:
Began work when seven years old. Am sure I have wrought nine years below, as time was reckoned last hansel Monday. Have five sisters who work with me; one is off at present from distress of sore work. I draw with chains which are hung on the tubs. [Reads not very distinctly; complained much of the labour; appeared very intelligent but cautious.]
No.366. William Russell, 10 years old, hewer:
Works with four brothers below; all live together, as mother died in childbed, and father of bad breath some time since; he was only 40 years of age, and much afflicted before death. Can earn 10d. a-day, and works nine and ten days in the fortnight; has done so 12 months. [Reads a little.]
No.367. George Kinloch, 17 years old, horse-driver:
Has been below 10 years. The work is no very sore but long at it. [Cannot read; very ignorant.]
No.368. Andrew Greenhill, 16 years old, pumper:
Has been at the pumps and carrying water four years. Thinks the work very hard, as the hours are long. [Cannot read; very dull.]
No.369. Alexander Kinloch, 11 years old, pumper:
Has wrought at the pumping now two years; cannot say he much likes it, as it is so sore. Works all night, as do many boys at the pumps. [Cannot read.]
No.370. Mr. Archibald Thomson, teacher of Fordel School:
The school has been open only eight months, and is now getting well attended by the collier children; we average 170 day-scholars and 110 evening: many others attend as well as colliers from the parish. The colliers, who were very negligent about this quarter, are now beginning to appreciate the advantage of instruction, and many adults are attending the reading and writing classes.
-parish of Dunfermline, county of Fife. - (Mr. John Ramsey, Lessee.)Males employed, 26; females, 6.
No.371. Mr. John Canzie, agent for Mr. Ramsey, lessee of Crossgates Colliery:
We employ few children at present as the work is new, and these are chiefly placed at the pumps; they work eight hours at a time and then change.
Nine years of age is the youngest we have employed, and frequently colliers work young males earlier, as they appear to render good assistance.
If the time of working children below were limited to 12 years of age, they would be taught to read and write, and be more able to bear the labour allotted to them.
Until compulsory measures are applied, the inattention of parents to their children's education will prevail.
Hill of Beath Colliery
Males employed, 26; females, 9.
No.372. Robert Wilson, Esq.:
Colliers in this part work their children at eight and nine years of age and it would be a prudent step not to allow male nor female to enter a pit until the age of 12 years, that by keeping them at school they may have a little more knowledge of the right and wrong.
As miners find use for young persons of nine, or even younger than nine years of age, it will be a difficult task to induce them to educate their children; nothing but compulsory steps will effect it.
Donibristle and Dundonald Collieries
- parishes of Abedone (sic) and Auchterderran, county of Fife. - (Messrs. Greive and Naysmith, Lessees.)
Employed below ground:-
Donibristle Males, 77 Females 23.
Dundonald Males, 47, Females, 12
No.373. David Naysmyth, agent for lessees of the Donibristle Colliery:
The children and young persons employed at labour in this mine do not exceed 30 in number, as we never encourage very young people; and as our system is to pay each person distinctly for their labour, we are enabled to select those who are best able to work. Few work under 10 years of age; if they do it is only for four or six hours at wheeling for which they are paid 8d. per day and employed 10 or 11 days. The females above 15 years old, if strong, earn in the same period 9s. and the hewers 28s.
A restriction certainly is desirable as to the age children may be employed. If the shifts be short then none should enter mines until 10 years old; if longer shifts be the practice, 12 years of age.
We have a school in connection with this colliery; the school-house was built entirely for the colliery people, but they are not compelled to subscribe; many do so, and others are very careless.
Bad breath exists here as at other mines; the men suffer much from it, and I should say that, as far as my observation enable me to evidence, the average of the life of adults does not exceed 36 to 40 years of age. A sick-fund is connected with the works, to which most subscribe and accidents occurring below ground, the medical attendance is paid for by the proprietors. One fatal accident occurred three days since. Helen Bowman, a putter, was caught by the pit-clothes, at the shaft-bottom, by the basket-hooks, was dragged to within five fathom of shaft-head and fell; she lingered two days; and a man, Peter Campbell, was killed by a stone from the roof some months since.
No.374. Mr. Andrew Adamson, manager of the Dundonald Colliery for Messrs. Greive and Naysmyth:
Children and young persons are not directly employed by the proprietors, as a contract is taken by the men to do their own putting and they generally employ those who can do it quickest. Part of the work is done by winding coals from the working by incline-wheels the winding generally performed by strong females. As boys are of little use before 12 years of age, none ought to be allowed to descend until arrived at it. We have no school or sick-fund belonging to this work.
No.375. James Mitchell, coal-greive, Dundonald:
We have few colliers here who get the length of 50 years; more die off near 40. From the bad breath those who go earliest in life get touched with it soonest.
We have had no accidents at this pit, but some people suffer from rheumatism, as much water is below at times, and they get it from damp work. Very young children are of little use, but the contractors take down who they like.
No.376. Robert Bowman, 10 years old, hewer:
Am learning to hew the coals with lather at Donibristle; am taken down for four hours every day after work; am wrought at the school in the Collections.
[Reads very badly.]
No.377. George Hunter, 12 years old, hewer:
Learning to hew coals; employed some time, and goes to same school as Robert Bowman; have not got the length he has of the reading, as am only in sixpenny spell.
No.378. Catherine Walter, 16 years old, putter:
Began to work in mines when 10 years old; frequently works 18 hours on two shifts - the day 12 hours, night six hours; obliged to do so, as mother has five children and is poor. Father is dead; his trouble was dropsy, from wet work and bad air. Gets 14d. day-work, 7d. for night. [Can scarcely read.] Work on master's account; receives 14d. a-day for putting, and 7d. when on night-shift. Day shift is 12 hours and night six; often works on both with sister Janet, as mother has five of us in life and father died some time gone of dropsy, from sitting in damp work and bad air. Never been seriously hurt; sister was off a little ago with strain; used to work with Helen Bowman, who is lying dead in the next cottage; she fell from near top of pit-shaft, as the hook caught her clothes; she was picked up by her brother and the young man to whom she was going to be married next week; she was being dragged up as they were descending: she lingered near two days and was attended by Dr. Forsyth, of Inverkeithy. I cannot write any; was never taught; reads very indifferently; attends Sabbath-school to learn Scripture lesson ; sister does not.
[Very little religious knowledge.]
No.379. Thomas Campbell, 10 years old, hewer:
Am learning to hew coal at Dundonald, with father; went down first with him; goes down now with brother, who is 18 and been 10 years below and two sisters. Father is 46 years of age; he has long been gone in the breath; he has been idle three months with it and no able to work at all. Brothers and sisters all read a little, and so do I; am taught at the reading by John Ewan, at Shaw's Mill, about a mile away.
[Reads very badly.]
No.380. Mary M'Kinley, 12 years old, putter:
Works for Andrew Nichols, who contracts for our work. I make a shilling a-day, and work 11 days in the fortnight. We are sorely worked by contractors, but obliged to do so, as work is uncertain hereabouts: has a rest of half an hour at porridge time.
[Reads and writes badly.]
No.381. Janet Duncan, 17 years old, putter:
Began to work at Hallbeath when eight years old, and been working in mines ever since. Left Hallbeath, as the work was no certain. Father stops there now with my brothers; they maintain him, as he has been off seven years with bad breath: he is now 50 years old. I lodge with my uncle and cousins. My earnings are 15d. per day now, and I pay 10s. fortnightly for my food and lodging. Work 11 days average. Not been to any school since first taken down.
[Can scarcely read.]