Wages & Cost of Living

Miners wages constantly fluctuated depending on the price of coal.  The following table gives reported for average wages and some costs of living.

This table is under construction and will be updated regularly

 YearMiners Wages (per day, unless stated otherwise) Cost of living
16797-8 shillings Scots a week (Equivalent 1 English shilling) - Kincardine colliery, Fife [1] 
12s. to 13s. [2]

Newbattle Colliery:- Grieve, 7s. a-week ; oversman, 10s. ; banksman, 6s. 7 1/2d. ; bottom-man, 6s. 7 1/2d. ; miners, from 7s. to 8s. 4d. [7]

1771Scots Colliers - 12s. to 13s.
Colliers in Newcastle - 9s.
Labourers in Scots Collieries - 4 to 6s. [1]


Bacon 3d. to 3 1/2d. per lb
7lb. peck of meal  10d

181220s. [1] 
182225s. [1] 
18365s. [1] 
2s. per day for woman drawer [3]

18422s. [1] 

In 1851 average wage of miners in Scotland was 2s. 6d. a-day; in 1854, it was 5s. A gradual fall then took place ; and in 1858 the average was 3s. ; below which sum it has not fallen, the figures for the six succeeding years being respectively 3s. 6d., 4s., 4s. 6d., 5s. 6d., and 4s. 9d. From these sums about 3d. a-day falls to be deducted for light, sharpening tools, &c [7]

18623s. 6d. to 4s. 6d. [1] 
Newbattle 4s 6d a day
Dalkeith 3s 6d a day with free house [7]

1872Period of wage increases
4s. 6d. rising to as much as 9s. 9d. later in year [1]
18745s. [1] 

Rents [9]
1876May 1876 - 3s. [1] 
18872s. 6d. to 4s. [1] 
18945s. 3d. to 6s. [1] 
18995s. 3d. to 7s. [1] 
19016s. [1] 
5s. 6d. [1]
5s 6d. [1]
7s. 6d. [1]

Rents in Lanarkshire [8]
6s. [1]

Rent 2s. 6d. per week to 3s. 2d. [5]
9s 4d to 13s [6]

8s. [1]
9s. [1]
18s 8d for underground
15s. 6 1/2d for surface workers [1]


[1] R. Page Arnott “A History of the Scottish Miners From the Earliest Times” 1955.  See also below
[2]  William Grossart "Historic Notices and Domestic History of the Parish of Shotts", 1880
[3] 1842 Royal Commission
[4] 1871 Truck report
[5] Evidence presented to Royal Commission on Housing 1918
[6] Scotsman 3 November 1926
[7] Bremner  "The Industries of Scotland: Their Rise, Progress and Present Condition" 1869
[8] Dr John T Wilson,  “The Housing Condition of Miners”
[9] Notes on Miners' Houses (1875), Glasgow Herald


The following facts, with regard to the comparative price of the labour of coaliers in Scotland and England, and of that of coaliers in comparison with other labourers, in both countries, have been communicated to the author by a gentleman of great knowledge and observation.

In Scotland, a coalier labouring eight hours in twenty-four, earns, exclusive of all expence, twelve shillings per week, or two shillings per day. More particularly,

In the County of Mid-Lothian, at an average, about thirteen shillings.

In the county of Fife, about twelve shillings.

In the counties of Linlithgow and Stirling, thirteen shillings.

In the county of Ayr, thirteen shillings and upwards.

It is to be observed, however, that this is not what every coalier actually earns, but what every coalier who works his regular task gets; and this exclusive of bearers.

The labourers in the lead-mines at Lead-hills, Wanloch-head, &c. in Scotland, working eight hours in twenty-four, earn eight shillings per week.

At Newcastle the coaliers earn nine shillings per week.

Common labour at Newcastle is at six shillings per week.—In the county of Mid-Lothian in Scotland five shillings per week.— In the county of Fife four shillings.—In the counties of Linlithgow and Stirling five shillings.—In the county of Ayr from five shillings and sixpence to six shillings.—At Lead-hills, Wanlochhead, fee. six shillings. [[Observations Concerning The Distinction of Ranks In Society, by John Millar 1771]

Newspaper Reports

Scots Miners' Earnings- In a statement issued by the Scottish Coal Association, the question is discussed as to what Scottish miners can earn. It is pointed out that the owners terms are:-

For an 8 hours day a wage not less than 9s 4d per day for coal hewers. Under the agreement prior to the stoppage the average wage earned by all persons, including women and boys, employed above and below ground in Scotland was 10s 2d per day. The skilled miner working at the coal face during the same period made 13s per day.

When the miners resume work they will be able to make the same wages - that is the average skilled miner 13s per day, and the lowest paid adult underground miner 9s 4d per day. Working 5 and 1/2 days, or 44 hours per week, the average wake which a skilled miner can earn is £3, 11s 6d. Although not mentioned in the owners statement, it is well known that the miners have advantages over ordinary workers in the matter of cheap rents and also cheap fuel. [Scotsman 3 November 1926]