Among the Fife Miners by Kellogg Durland

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A late tinsel-like moon shone faintly through the rising mist of a dark autumn dawn as I caught up to a group of brickwork hands, who were splashing along a pooly, muddy road toward the big brick kilns. The party consisted of a father, a married son, two younger sons and a daughter, the latter a lassie of twenty.

"Are ye fur the brickwork, Bill ? " Asked one as I fell in with them. I knew the family.

"Ay, Jock," I replied, "I want to learn the trade."

"Ye were better aff in the pits," growled the old man. "I've been six and twenty years at the brick trade, and I'm tellin' ye that you'll soon weary o' hit"

"Maybe. But I'm in for it anyway."

"There's nae money here for them that should be earnin' guid wages," put in the girl. "And the hours are ower lang." She shivered a bit and turned to catch the first streaks of the day just shooting in crimson flashes across the wide fields to the west. The misty air was cold. I drew my gravit tighter round my neck and plunged my hands deeper into my pockets. It wanted two or three minutes to six, but the late sun made it look and feel much earlier. I thought of my first morning in the coal pit several months before, when the sun had been long up and the atmosphere breathed of work - now it sniffed of sleep. Then my labourer's clothes felt curiously uncomfortable and out of place, as if they were part of a disguise assumed for an hour to be sloughed off at the end of the shift, now they hung in torn, patched and splattered wrinkles quite naturally, and my gait had changed to a steady shuffle. Even the strange hands gave me no heed.

At the yard there were a few sleepy greetings from the men, while three or four tireless girls were racing round a half dozen empty bogeys that were standing on a truck running alongside the big kilns. At the first toot of the horn jackets were pulled off and sleeves rolled elbow high. For thirty seconds the horn blew, long enough to wake up the yard if not the village itself. A cloud of exhaust steam puffed noisily over the roof of the engine house, and the great crunching machine wheels began to turn. The day had begun.

The brickworks lie about a mile from the Aitken pit on the other side of the village, hard by the shaft of a colliery. In Kelty, brick-making is an industry sprung from the utilisation of the waste material of the pits. Bricks are necessary in every pit for shaft linings, proppings, walls and so on, so that it is cheaper for large coal companies to make their own bricks than to buy them. The Company has another extensive brick yard at Hill of Beath. Brickmaking on a large scale is profitable, and the company is building up an industry so as to enter into serious competition with the market. There are two pits near to the brickwork. The workings are extensive, but not nearly so deep as in the Aitken. The rock which often forms the roof above the coal seams, known as blae, makes an excellent brick clay. In the pit it is hardened by the intense pressure of centuries, but when exposed- to the weather and atmospheric changes it soon crumbles and, in the huge brickwork crunching mill, it is easily ground to powder.

It had been arranged that I should begin at the lowest rung of the brick trade ladder and climb up, step by step, following the various stages of the clay, from the rough, till it came out finished articles for the market.

"Feed yon mill, Bill, and mind your head when the stanes tumble down."

"Yon mill" was a huge dry or riddle mill with a pan whose bottom was like a strong sieve; and as the horn blew, the pan was set in operation with a regular circular motion, by two tremendous crushing wheels that fitted into the pan bottom, revolving with a rumbling almost as loud, but not so rattling, as the big pit wheels. As the blae is brought out of the pits to the surface it is run out on an elevated platform to a spot above, and just outside of the dry mill, where the hutches are overturned and their loads spilled into a shapeless pile. The men who "feed the mill" have to shovel from this pile into the pan with a constant energy that makes them literally a part of the machine - human automatons, who dare not stop save when the machine stops.

I was placed between two men with a light stone shovel in my hands. My right-hand neighbour was a youngish man, who looked played-out with hard work and hard living. The other was a man past his prime, well-meaning enough in his way, but who eternally nurtured a feeling of irritation that sometimes bordered on wrath, that his lot was to toil all his days at such work when there were many superior jobs, even about the brickwork.

" Talk about slavery being debolished" he shouted in my ear, above the roar of the machine, as he, jammed his shovel hard into the heap of broken blae never stopping for an instant as he spoke; "yon mill is the stuck of despond !"

The old cheeriness of the pit was entirely lacking at the dry mill and, as every hour in the day demanded its full sixty minutes of work, there was not even time for a smoke, consequently, the mill feeders chew their tobacco. Chewing is happily a habit that is not nearly so common among Scottish workmen as among American workmen, for instance, who are almost universally addicted to this habit.

Sometimes good-sized rocks would come down with the smaller stones, and these had to be first broken with a mash. When we worked specially fast we reduced the pile so that the distance between the mill and it was twelve or fifteen feet, which was too far to throw the heavy shovelfulls, so wheelbarrows were brought into use; this, of course, meant considerable extra work. All day long the wheels ground round, pulverizing the stone to dust, and all day long we would work, stopping only when the wheels stopped. It was our duty to keep these wheels supplied with stones, and no other consideration was allowed to regulate the work. Aching muscles, tired limbs, all these were subordinated to the dusty, worn, feelingless machine. Four tons of clay produce approximately one thousand bricks, and the machine that we were feeding turned out twelve thousand bricks a day on an average. With three men shovelling into the pan, this means that each man must shovel nearly sixteen tons of stone a day. There should be a slight allowance for the weight of the water that is added to the dust after it leaves the mill, but the average day's work of the mill feeders is not far from sixteen tons of shovelling. This means rapid, continuous work, and, as I can testify, the wear and tear of such continuous exertion is most exhausting. Unless he is very strong, the man who feeds the mill is too tired for much else than his newspaper and his pipe at nightfall. At nine o'clock the machines are stopped for three-quarters of an hour for breakfast. Most of us went home to breakfast and dinner. Some few, who lived at a distance, had to bring their meals. As I passed out of the door one morning, a man, who had settled into a comfortable corner on the floor, held up a couple of dry bread and cheese sandwiches of abnormal thickness, and, with a sardonic laugh said :-

"This is what we work ten hours a day for - a half-hour's feeding once and awhile."

Before the whistle had ceased blowing, a quarter to ten, the wheels were in motion, and the men were again bending to their tasks. The forenoons generally passed more quickly between breakfast and dinner, and at one o'clock the shovels were dropped with the first sound of the horn, and the three-quarters of an hour allowed for dinner was made as much of as the hours of labour - forty-five full minutes, never forty-four, never forty-six. In the afternoon the toil continued in all its monotony from a quarter to two till half-past five. There was never any variety, never a bit of rest, the same downright hard work day after day, from six in the morning till half-past five at night, with the two brief meal hours excepted. At the mill the man stood as in a doorway, working mostly just outside the threshhold. The mill was inside the building, while the pile of blae was outside. In fair weather, this arrangement was satisfactory, but on stormy days the men are exposed to all the fury of easterly winds and rains'. The icy blasts sweep up the Firth of Forth from the tempestuous North Sea and strike up the valley with terrific cutting force, screeching through the wide-open doors almost like the air forced below by the pit ventilating fan. It is then that these men suffer. The rate of wages that they receive does not tend to reconcile them to the hardness of their lot; for this rough, sodden work, the pay is four shillings and four pence a day. Brickworkers are not bound together by a strong union and, consequently, they have much to put up with that the miners have been able to overcome. Whereas the miners' day is but eight hours long, including the meal hour, the brick-workers' day extends for eleven hours and a half, and their average wage is far below that of the miners'. The additional three hours or so make a vast difference to a man. Speaking for myself, I found that the last two or three hours of work demanded as big an effort and took as much out of me as the first eight. Judging from the men whom I worked with, one can work hard for seven or eight hours a day, but after that the strongest men show signs of fatigue, and need a much longer time in which to recuperate. From an economic standpoint, as well as a humanitarian, I have little hesitancy in giving as my firm belief that, in the long run, the eight hours' day yields the best returns, for the men remain capable longer and the standard of their work is higher. A man who rises at half-past five (often earlier), and handles sixteen tons or more of stone during the day, getting home between half-past five and six o'clock in the evening, can hardly be expected to encourage many serious interests. I have watched the men come home from the brickwork, and as soon as they had finished tea, they would drop into a chair before the fire and drowsily doze away two or three hours, and then tumble into bed. This was about all that I felt like doing after feeding the mill from dawn till dusk. It was not difficult to see here an excuse for men drinking. Alcohol produces a pleasant effect without demanding any effort. The public house is often more attractive than the home, and many men prefer the hum of voices, the cheery, stimulating, spirited atmosphere to his own quiet kitchen ; a glass or two of beer may refresh a man's jaded spirit and turn all life immediately about him to a brighter hue and make the world appear couleur de rose. He feels that it is recreation that he needs, and that is the only way that he knows how to recreate without violent exertion. Sometimes he grows hungry for a big bite of pleasure, so he gets drunk he revels in his debauch for a night and when he awakes he does not grumble because he is not right, but pays for his fun like a man. This view may be a sad one, but I learned to appreciate it, and I, at least, became convinced of the utter futility of preaching temperance without doing something to relieve the conditions that produce the desire for drink, and to offer some substantial substitute for the public house, before entirely doing away with the institution.

As the big wheels revolve, they press the powdered stone through the sieve bottom of the pan, where it is caught in metal buckets that are secured to an endless chain which empties them automatically into a trough where water is mixed with the dust till it becomes clay. It is then forced into the brick-shaping machine, and under great pressure moulded into bricks, one at a time. There are machines that turn out six bricks at a time, and nearly thirty thousand a day, but such machines have not yet been introduced at Kelty. As the bricks take shape, a girl lifts them from the machine and loads them on to trucks or bogeys that are pushed to the kiln where the bricks are fired.

The next step was preparing fire clay for handmade bricks. Hand-made fire clay bricks command a higher market price, because they are more carefully and solidly made and, consequently, last longer. They are much used for fireplaces and elsewhere, where there is excessive heat. After the clay dust is sent to a second mill, it is allowed to pour into a "wet" pan, which much resembles the dry pan, save that its bottom is not riddled and it is somewhat smaller. Here the clay is rolled and softened until it becomes properly stiff, yet pliable, when it is lifted from the pan into a wheelbarrow by means of a long-handled shovel attached to the machine, and operated with great ease through its extended leverage. The fresh clay is then wheeled across the yard to the "baking" rooms where it is shaped into the hand moulds. It is a question why the shaping of cold clay should be called baking, but such is the case, and the process of heating the bricks in the kiln is called firing, but the man who tends the fires is not a fireman but a burner.

In the pit I had learned to use a mash and a shovel, so I got along passing well feeding the mill. When it came my turn to wheel the barrow of wet clay from the wet pan to the baking room, I began without a suspicion that that was work that demanded a certain amount of skill as well as strength. As I crossed the yard with the first barrow, I was startled by my own clumsiness. A load of clay weighs from two hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds, and if it is not placed squarely on the barrow, it is exceedingly difficult to preserve an equilibrium, and more often than not I found it impossible. After crossing the yard, winding between and over bogey tracks, there was a narrow doorway to pass through, a wide room to cross, another doorway to enter into, a second room and an eight-inch plank to ascend to the baker's bench. I escaped the tracks, managed the doorways, but met my Waterloo on the plank. After a little practice by dint of much trying, I found it possible to reach the top of the plank without a spill, but as the hours wore on my muscles seemed to weary; and again and again I noticed that my arms trembled as I started up the plank with my load, and at last I went tumbling off the narrow roadway, barrow and all. After a little this became almost a regular proceeding, so that it was wisely decided to give me an immediate promotion. Promotions are not usually made on this basis. Perhaps, if they were made so oftener, some of life's failures would redeem themselves, as I redeemed myself upon my promotion at the brickwork.

A bench was given me and a brick mould, a very simple affair consisting of a wooden frame, oblong like a brick, but with neither top nor bottom. This frame is placed squarely on the table, a mass of dripping clay, roughly shaped with the hands somewhat narrower than the frame, but considerably higher, is then raised eighteen inches or two feet above the table, and slapped into the frame so hard, that it spreads itself to every part of the frame and fills the corners. It is then pressed firmly down, and the top smoothed off with a wooden scraper and the brick is slid gently out of the frame on to the floor. In the baking rooms the floors are of concrete, underlaid with steam pipes, so as to dry and harden the bricks before they are sent on to pass through the next processes of pressing and firing. It is only after long practice that one can make bricks with any rapidity, and it was not expected that I should keep pace with the experienced men. Perhaps it was because little was expected of me that I won the favourable comment of the manager here. At all events, during the first day I worked at the rate of five hundred bricks a day. If this statement could stand alone it would be all right, but it must be added that, while I was making five hundred bricks alone, the experienced man across the room, assisted by two girls, made three thousand. Three thousand is an average day's out-put of an experienced man, but under specially favourable circumstances a man, who is truly an expert, can turn out nearly five thousand. Such speed, however, is very exceptional.

Formerly this branch of the trade was paid for at piece-work rates, which were one and nine per thousand, but now that is changed and the bakers get four and four a day like the yard labourers and most of the brickwork men. On the whole, these figures cut a lower rate than at the piece-work rate, although there are certain advantages, as when a machine breaks, or clay is slow in arriving, causing a delay, the loss is not a loss to the workmen as it otherwise would be.

The bricks are left on the warm floor about twenty-four hours, and then pressed and conveyed to the kiln. Pressing is almost as tedious and tiring as feeding the mill; it is quite as monotonous, but less noisy. Two girls stand by, one on each side of the machine. One puts them in and the other lifts them out. The man's work is to guide a huge iron lever so as to press the brick in this inverted elaborate vice, and then to press it back so as to release the brick . It is solely a matter of physical exertion, requiring little attention. The tedium of the motion is wearing, and I found that after a day at the press, my physical condition was nearly the same as at the end of a day at the mill.

When I reached the chimney-can room, I began to feel like a skilled workman. The making of chimney-cans is almost delicate work in parts. The chimney moulds are big clumsy affairs, three or four feet tall and in two halves. A mass of wet clay is beaten into a thin flat layer, somewhat larger than the half into which it is to go, and then fitted carefully. It must be well levelled all over, nicely turned with a knife, and the whole thing rubbed to a polish. The second half is done in a similar manner, and the mould is folded together, the seam carefully worked over and polished so that, if possible, every trace of it is obliterated. A dexterous workman can make nearly fifty chimney-cans a day if he works continuously at the same thing, but as the brick industry now means a good deal more than actual brick making, the men who do this work are well trained, practical workmen, who also make all kinds of brick drains, troughs, cornices and so on. A chimney-can sells at from one and six to four and four, pig troughs from two to eight shillings, cattle troughs from three and six to eight shillings, a far better proportionate price than ordinary bricks bring. For some curious reason, I was most successful with pig troughs, so I made pig troughs mostly. This department entails the lightest work in connection with the brickwork, also the greatest skill, and hence the higher wage of five shillings a day. The price of common bricks was down to nearly one guinea a thousand, from that to seven and twenty shillings, while I was there, but the hand-made fireclay bricks were selling for sixty shillings per thousand. To give some idea of how many bricks there are in a wall, it may be mentioned that there are about fifty thousand bricks in an ordinary miner's cottage and upwards of one hundred thousand in a medium sized house. In some places the cost of clay is a considerable item, but in Kelty it is, of course, procured at almost no cost. Yet, with all the modern improvements in the way of new model kilns and machines, it costs about sixteen shillings to make one thousand bricks, leaving a profit of about ten shillings per thousand.

It was a crisp clear morning in October. There was an autumn crisp in the leaves stirred by the fresh west wind, and the men worked with a briskness that was unusual. The mill was kept well filled, the clay came out quickly and the bricks began to cover the baking-room floor at a much earlier hour than usual. The sharpness of the day seemed to have got into the men and we all stepped lighter; some sang now and again that morning. The saucy lassies romped like the children they are between jobs, and threw small pellets of wet clay at the busy men from behind piles of bricks and through broken windows. Everyone seemed equal to his task. Perhaps the sudden bright break in the weather after a wearying period of rain and humid mist was accountable for the quickened spirits. Things went along so merrily that morning that we wondered how long it would last. That afternoon I was sent to help empty one chamber of the Hoffman kiln. Each of the ten chambers of that kiln holds about ten thousand bricks.

As I neared the doorway, two sturdy girls, one fifteen, the other slightly older, came out with their faces a crimson purple, their strong bare arms were damp with perspiration. The younger one dropped on to an empty bogey and leaned her head against the end, her eyes closed as if she would sleep. The other stood with arms akimbo, gazing wistfully toward purple crested Benarty over the wood of autumn painted trees.

"It's a braw day," she said as I came up - " a brawer day for the hill than for this job."

The gaffer appeared at that moment and she gave her companion a warning kick. "Wake up, Liz," and they both hurried through the low, narrow doorway. I followed with the empty bogey. The chamber was more than half emptied, and the blast of heat that swept against me as I straightened up in the kiln fairly staggered me. A flaring lamp exactly like a small iron kettle with a wick run through the nozzle threw a flamboyant glare against the brick walls. As I drew near the spot where the girls were already fast at work, I felt as if I must suffocate for want of a cool breath. The gaffer came in just then and remarked :

"It's gey warm, Bill."

"Indeed, yes - how hot is it here ?"

"He laughed. "I dinna ken. It micht be a hundred."

"One hundred. Man, it must be more."

"Mair than one hundred ? Na, na, Bill. It tak's a guid lump o' heat to be a hundred."

The girls piled the bogey full and rolled it out, returning presently with another one empty. Neither spoke. The heat remained about the same during the afternoon, neither decreasing nor perceptibly increasing. The next time I went into the kiln, I carried a small thermometer in my pocket, the only one I could procure at the time. As I entered the kiln, it stood 68° Fahrenheit. The air was hottest near the roof and more bearable at the pavement, so I took a fair average and placed it at the height of a lassie's head. In fifteen minutes the mercury had shot up to 140° and there it stopped, because the limit of the thermometer had been reached. I don't know how hot it really was, for I did not get another chance to test it, but there, in that kiln, with the heat above 140° and probably not less than 150°, those girls are working for from two to four hours at straining, tiring work, taking the still hot bricks from the piles where they had been fired, and placing them on the bogeys from which they are emptied into railway waggons that carry them to the market.

At another time I was with those same girls building up a kiln. The air was close and heavy with the nauseating odour of oil, warm but not hot. Bogey loads of one hundred green bricks were sent in every two or three minutes from the machines. Great care is needed in this work to pile the bricks so that, when the heat begins to dry and shrink them, there will not be a collapse of the whole kiln, as sometimes happens, causing a good deal of damage. Those girls were perfect Amazons in point of strength. They each handled from five thousand to six thousand bricks a day and, as green bricks are made heavy by the water in the soft clay, each brick weighs about twelve pounds. The girls lift them, one in each hand, from the bogey to the pile, setting them down a finger's width apart, working at a high speed that is bewildering to a novice. From early morning they work handling score after score, hundred upon hundred, thousand upon thousand, never slackening their speed as the day advances. There are no two men in the brickwork who can handle as many bricks in a day as do those girls, although it is really a man's work. As these are specially skilled workers, they receive higher wages than any of the other girls - two and three-pence a day. The other girls receive from one and seven pence to one and ten pence a day, which is distinctly better than the wages paid to the pithead girls. The work is not so brutal as at the pithead, but the hours are longer, and the girls themselves are of a slightly better type, indeed, some of them come from most respectable families. They are full of fun and keen on a good time, but, on the whole, their boisterousness does not descend to vulgarity and their jests are merry, crude and of single meaning.

My kiln work did not last long ; it was only on busy days. My next and final serious work was burning - otherwise stoking. A burner is really an intelligent stoker. I say intelligent because it requires a man of some brains to advance the fires from chamber to chamber round the Hoffman kiln without injuring the bricks by too suddenly exposing them to the white heat. The old way of firing bricks in what is called the Newcastle kiln, is to start a small fire in one end of the kiln as in a furnace, and gradually enlarge the fire, eventually barring the door with a solid, so as to keep every particle of heat within the kiln. In this kiln it requires ten hundredweight of coal to fire one thousand bricks. In the improved kiln, the Hoffman, which is an entirely different method, one hundredweight only is necessary. The Newcastle looks likes a large brick furnace heavily buttressed, so as to prevent the walls from bulging out to the breaking point with the heat. The Hoffman is a much larger, low, oval-shaped structure, with walls tending inward, so as to lean against the expanding force as it were, and surmounted by a brick parapet three or four feet high. Within, it is divided into ten chambers which open one into the other right down the contour of the kiln. The roof is dotted with upwards of a hundred iron cups, which cover as many small holes, through which small coal is dropped into fiercely burning fires at the bottom of the kiln. Perhaps half a dozen fires are kept burning at one time, and the heat advances slowly into distant chambers warming the green bricks gradually until they are ready to receive the full intensity of the white heat, when the dampers are removed and the fires carried nearer. The man who tends these fires is able to keep them properly fed without being forced to stand the blistering heat that bursts from the door of the furnace-like Newcastle. As a rule, six or seven days must elapse between the time when the bricks are first put into the kiln and when they are brought into close contact with the fires. About ten days are necessary for the full firing process. When material like chimney-cans, troughs and drains, that demand a glaze, fill a chamber, quantities of salt are piled into the fires, thus producing the glaze effect.

On the day shift, the job of burner is, by no means, a bad one; it is not heavy work and there are many breathing spells, but as the fires have to be kept going day and night a change about system is necessary, which means that the man who is on the day shift one week, must take his turn at the night work the next week. The night shift is a frightfully dreary vigil, thirteen hours long, from five in the evening until six in the morning, seven shifts a week and no holidays ; the pay is four and sixpence a shift.

At one time, my companion burner was a young fellow who had been in the Navy. He had been a marine at the time of the Greco-Turkish war and had done duty in several engagements. He was a rollicking fellow, who did his work well and conscientiously and made the time pass with many a story of adventure and incidents of his sailor life. It is an exposed position that occupied by the kiln, and some nights the storms that sweep down the valley bid fair to force one over the parapet. It is, of course, impossible to keep a light under such circumstances, and the burners have to feel their way about in the stormy darkness. My night shift companion was almost as quaint a character as Jim. He was not so solid as Jim, but he had a delightful strain of unconscious humour that could beguile the weariest hour. On moonlight nights I have watched him going his rounds whistling merrily to himself, occasionally stopping to look off toward the hill that is always so fascinating in the moonlight, rising so shapely above the picturesque loch. If he thought that I was watching him on these occasions, he would remark:
"I'm no frae Kelty, ye ken. I belong tae Cupar."

The old fellow's heart was warm on the coldest night, and many a tramp who has strayed to the brickwork at night attracted by the burner's light has been led to a warm, protected corner by him. I have known him to share his piece with a hungry beggar, without even expecting a thank you for it. He must have had an extraordinary constitution, for, more than once, when a day man was laid off, he has stepped in and done his work, after having served his own shift the previous night, and, without a wink of sleep, he would go on with his own work the following night, making three successive shifts or thirty-five hours. He never complained of being tired.

"I'm no' carin' aboot mysel’," he would say, "I'm no carin' aboot mysel' sae lang as things a' gang richt."

He often referred to a certain famous November storm when he undoubtedly had a pretty bad time of it. It was worth hearing him recite his adventures of that night. He told them to every stranger.

" I'm tellin' ye, mon, hit was a wilder nicht than when the Tay brig blew doon. I was lost in the dark and gaen aboot in terrification lest something gae wrang - I was no' carin' aboot mysel', ye ken." It was a genuine treat to listen to him. " Sae lang as things gangs weal, I'm no' carin' aboot onythin'."

The last time I saw him he was leaning over the parapet one dark winter morning, as I turned from the brick-works for the last time. I had followed the brick-making process step by step and had been tried for a little at every branch of the trade. Nothing more remained to be done after the burning; so with that I dropped the role of labourer - at least for the time being. That morning that I took leave of the familiar yard, my quaint old neighbour was waiting for the gaffer to arrive. It was never enough for him that he had been relieved by the day men, he must needs report to the manager himself. I climbed slowly down from the roof, more than half inclined to wait for him, but the air was chill and the gaffer was sometimes late, so I shouted back a "good-bye" through the gray mist. As I scrambled over the railway tracks toward the rough road, his characteristic answer came ringing after me—" Ta ta, the noo.'


It was a typical miner's house, one of a brick row with triangular roofs. There was a parlour and kitchen on the ground floor and an attic above. When we were all at home there was little spare room, as together, family and boarders, we made up a company of fourteen ; I do not include the minor but never-to-be-forgotten part of the establishment, namely, the cat, the big dog, and the five little dogs. There were four persons in the parlour and four in the kitchen. The place was recommended to me as a good representative miner's home, and when I called upon the mistress she was perfectly willing to take me in, but did not make mention of the fact that I was to have a few room-mates. It was not until well into the first night that I learned that five of us were sharing the attic. As to the terms they were about the same as if I had had the room to myself.

"I charge twelve shillings, but them that wants to gie's me thirteen," my landlady had said to me.

This was the average price in the village. The twelve shillings included board, washing, mending and any incidentals that might be needed. In some places thirteen shillings was charged but that always included black twist tobacco and clay pipes.

Since then I have been in a good many houses and I have every reason to believe that it was a thoroughly representative home of its class. The things that transpired within the circle of that household were the things that were happening within the circles of other households, the daily routine was much alike through the village; shaken together, one house was just as good as any other house. There were some better homes, some poorer, but the majority were of this class. The tide of life ebbs and flows about those hearth stones bearing on its bosom the flotsam and jetsam of love and sadness, toil and fun, realised ambitions, disappointed hopes. The round of existence that drew me into an unnoticed niche was simply the round of life that was being repeated in most other homes in the community. It was real though cramped. Such as it was it was made the most of. Some years ago a book appeared which had a wide circulation in England as well as in America, called, "From Log Cabin to White House," being the life of one of the American presidents. It has been noticed that on the cover of that book was the drawing of a log cabin and of the White House, and that while the log cabin was stamped in gold the White House was only in silver. There is a roughness in the lives of the miners that is unsavoury to some, a tinge of undercivilisation that shows up in sharp contrast with the over civilisation of certain forms of city life, but for all that there is a solid metal ring about it. The strength of a picture is often its shadows, and though a true drawing of the lives of the miners must disclose obvious faults and sad facts, yet there is a something that lies dormant, a something oftener felt than seen, which has given solidity to the character of the people and which may be relied on in a crisis.

Our house was overcrowded, but not more so than many houses in the village. Every one whom I questioned corroborated the statement that it is practically the rule for from eight to ten persons to occupy the two-roomed houses, and the three-roomed houses were generally filled proportionately. The testimony of the doctors on this point was perfectly clear. I found one place where no less than nineteen herded together in three rooms. This in the country! Many of the houses are built by the company and the supply does not begin to equal the demand. The workmen's train which comes from the south each morning brings some eighty men to the Aitken pit alone and half as many come from the other direction. Then there is a large and happily ever increasing class of homes which are very different. It would be a mistake to convey the idea of squalor in writing of Kelty. It is a comparatively new village. New houses at least predominate, and there has not yet been time for squalidness to develop to any extent, and if it is possible for the men to continue building for themselves, it may be largely forestalled. Until very recently it has been impossible for many men to feu enough land for building purposes. But now on the outskirts of the village one comes upon small rows of neat, self-contained houses, with flower-beds and grass plots before the doors, and having every appearance of cosiness.

The Building Society puts up houses for men who can pay down from fifteen to twenty per cent. of building cost by way of security. The title deeds are held by the society and the rate of interest charged is four per cent. The maximum time limit for payment is twenty-three years. The way in which this aid is being accepted is sure proof that every restriction which is taken off the miner means the liberation of a new ambition which springs toward development. These homes are largely representative of the small tradesmen as a class.

The house that I describe in detail is the commonest type. It is the typical average house - not the poorest, not the best, but what I believe to be a fair medium. The impression that I would fain leave of Kelty, however, is not so much that of what it is, as what it is becoming. For a long time to come the conventional brick cottage erected by the company - a score, or it may be a hundred at a time, - must remain the predominant type, but there is this tendency toward individual, tasteful homes. This in common with other gratifying improvements will become more general the nearer the employers get to their men, the nearer the men feel themselves to their employers.

But for our (average) home-life. One or two nights a week we were all together in the attic, and in the heat of midsummer the single window half open did not begin to ventilate the room and consequently it was stifling. The door opened to the stair which led from the parlour and it again opened into the kitchen so that there was no current of fresh air. The rest of the week, however, the relay system was in vogue. One or two were on the day shift, a division which kept the beds in use twenty-four hours in the day. There was no closet room whatever, so all of our things had to be stored about the room. One corner was occupied by the wardrobe of one of the grown daughters who was "in service" in the village. Two of my room-mates were quiet "bidable " fellows, the other two had failings; one had a weakness for poetry and stirring passages of Scottish history, the other (my bed mate) for strong drink. Between them they often made life interesting for the rest of us. The man who delighted in reciting could not read a stanza of the most swinging verse without stumbling and mangling the sense, but by dint of much perseverance he could memorize the words of a piece and then repeat them over and over until they flowed from him with a prolonged mighty roar. Morning after morning when I failed to hear the call of the mistress from the foot of the stairs at five o'clock that it was time to rise I would start at the sound of the words:- "My foot is on my native heath : my name is Macgregor!" given in a stentorian voice that never varied in its repeated inflections nor failed to arouse us all. Dougal was an ingenuous soul and I forgave him much for his genial good humour. He possessed only two books in the world, but he was familiar with every page of them both. "Rob Roy" was one and the other Aytoun's "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers." His strenuous efforts to learn the "Execution of Montrose" were most funny. He was often a late body, it being no uncommon thing for him to romp up the bare wooden stairs between twelve and one o'clock at night, with some such words loudly emphasized at every other step, with a particularly heavy stamp :-

'"Twas I that led the Highland host
Through wild Lochaber's snows,
I've told thee how we swept Dundee,
And tamed the Lindsay's pride,
But never have I told thee yet
Of how the great Marquis died."

My bed fellow, Sandy, was as near a caricature of a Scotsman as I have ever seen in life. Short, fat, forty, red hair, red whiskers, florid face and fiery nose, he would have been singled out of a cosmopolitan group in the Antipodes. Sandy never missed his night-cap all the time we shared the same bed, and Sandy was very fond of a joke. He had no wit, little humour, but any amount of fun. One night he took Dougal out with him and brought him home in the middle of the night uproariously intoxicated. When they got into the room Sandy took a notion that he would like a game of golf, so he took up a broom that had been left in the room, and using it as a driver, mistook Dougal's head for a ball. The atmosphere was astir at once and Sandy's fun threatened to last indefinitely, till Dougal made the suggestion that they compromise by pulling me from the comfortable corner of the bed, from which I had been watching them with sleepy interest. At this point I ventured to protest, but my protestations were of no avail. I was summarily routed out and we romped round and round the room in a boisterous whirl, until the neighbours were aroused and shouted to us to desist. As my bed had been stripped to the mattress, as soon as I could free myself I made for the other, to be promptly pulled out. It was late when the room quieted sufficiently for sleep to enter the chamber. This was merely one of the many incidents that enlivened the nights, and I give it simply as an illustration of what sometimes goes on within those small brick walls under the sheltering cloak of night.

As for the good woman of the house it is but doing her justice to say that she was

"Ane o' the awfu' cleanin' kind
That cleans folk clean out o' their mind."

She would begin her cleaning every morning before the men had fairly got off to their work, and the house was in a perpetual state of being scrubbed and polished till eight or nine o'clock in the evening, when things were allowed to rest in their brightness.

As for cooking, at scones and porridge she was first class, but unfortunately for the lodgers, she seldom experimented much deeper into the gentle art. Our fare was distinctly plain, not to say coarse, and this in face of the fact that the overcrowded condition of the entire village together with a comfortably high standard of wages, made it possible for her to exact so substantial a price for her accommodation.

Figuring roughly, the food that was given us during any one week could scarcely have exceeded half-a-crown or three shillings in cost to her, per person. This is so low a figure that it is only fair to introduce a detailed account of what we received. The arrangement of the meals for those on different shifts was slightly different, but my own arrangement for the time when I was on the day shift is probably as representative as any. At first I started the day on a cup of tea and a slice of bread, but finding this somewhat insufficient, a beaten or a "switched" egg and milk substituted for the tea. At half-past nine, we stopped for our piece in the pit, and this usually consisted of two prodigiously thick slices of bread, semi-occasionally spread with jam, more often sandwiched with a piece of strong old cheese, and a flask of cold tea. When the day's work was over, came the dinner, as a rule near three o'clock. In most miners' houses meat is eaten a good deal, and I have reason to believe that in most of them it is more common than in this house, for our dinner three days in the week was made entirely of coarse, wholesome "porritch." The first day I very nearly betrayed myself by starting to put a dust of sugar on them. On the other three days we had meat such as it was. A great soup plate would be piled high with chunks or scraps of meat which was generally dripping with rich grease; another soup plate towered with potatoes, and from these two dishes each man round the table helped himself. Knives and forks were always supplied, but not always used. Individual plates were made use of incidentally. Conversation was always suspended during the eating, for that race for food was to the swift, and those who could swallow their bits of meat and potatoes without thinking of the pure detail of mastication got the most. The meat sometimes purported to be steak, but often it was ham or eggs. There was always an ample supply of bread and scones. Tea was simply tea, bread, scones and jam, and supper was just the same as tea without the jam. About once a fortnight, Scotch broth took the place of porridge at dinner, and on Sunday morning we had boiled eggs for breakfast. Save for the monotony of it, this was wholesome fare.

The house was plainly enough furnished, the trinkets and nick-nacks all being of the cheapest variety. In many of the houses music of some sort is a feature ; in fact, nearly every household has one or more musically gifted members, and violins and melodeons are almost universal, while expensive pianos and organs are by no means rare. Since wages have risen, the steadier miners have consistently tried to make their homes attractive, not with pictures and ornaments alone, but also with the more expensive luxuries of pianos and harmoniums, thus employing one of the strongest counteracting influences of the public-house. If the homes could be made better, men would not care to go out at night and spend their hours in a brilliantly lighted bar-room. The safest way to root out intemperance is to kill the desire, and while the craving for liquor itself is the primal cause of intemperance in later stages, there are other elements of the most vital importance that contribute to the elementary stages, and the lack of attractive homes is one of these.

The family library was not large, but its miscellaneous character was distinctly of the national character. Jane Porter's "The Scottish Chiefs" occupied a prominent position, and near it were "Samuel Rutherford's Letters," "The Prince of the House of David," Hugo's "Toilers of the Sea," "The Three Musketeers," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Valentine Vox," and a harmless assortment of lesser books by E. P. Roe, Lever, Marryat and Mayne Reid. All of these books had been read, and in several cases read more than once by nearly every member of the family. The current papers that found their way into the house were of the People's Friend and Answers type.

The most striking features of the home life were the totally different standards of good and bad, right and wrong, and the subjection of the women. To deal with the latter matter first, I was at first surprised, but gradually came to take as a matter of course the servitude of women. Their slavery to the men was almost universal throughout the district. The men were looked upon as the wage earners, and the lives of the women were given up to making them comfortable. Not once can I remember of the women eating their meals with the men in our home. In some houses where the families were smaller and the tables larger it might have been possible for the women to eat with the rest, but in our house to have made room for them would have meant crowding and cramping the men. Any suggestion of inconveniencing the workers would not have been tolerated at all. There were two big easy chairs in the kitchen (which was our "common room") and if either of them chanced to be occupied by one of the girls or women when the men arrived it was instantly left for one of the men to drop into. This particular act is probably a survival of the ancient idea that the one who supplies the food for life must be carefully tended, as in certain remote Scottish fishing villages unto the present day where the fishwives plunge into the water to meet the returning boats and wade ashore with the men folk on their backs, that the last shock of the cold water after the strain of the night's work may be avoided. Unfortunately there has been an evolution in the idea, so that now it is only a part of the general custom of the women caring only for the men. It was a common thing for the men to demand that their pipes be filled by one of the women. I have seen a son of one-or two-and twenty order his mother across the room to get his pipe which was on a shelf directly above his head a few inches out of his reach from the chair where he was sitting. All the time the men were at home the women would hover about ready to be instantly commanded for the most menial services. (Note - 1 Every part of the MSS. has been read by those who should be competent to judge of its truth and accuracy both in tone and detail, and no point, however slight, that has been queried has been passed unnoticed.)

This last paragraph emphasizes the result of different standards. Here is the clear, honest impression of one who pretends to be nothing more than an unprejudiced outsider. One whose life-long familiarity with this life gives weight to his words remarked with righteous indignation, "instead of 'slavery ' you should call it 'devotion.'" Frankly, that side of it had not occurred to me. Those who had never thought of it as anything but devotion would probably argue that I had been corrupted by my training in other spheres. In the miners' world the man is the keystone to the household arch. Woman's place is to support and buttress him from every side. That which is so natural from their view point may, and in this case did, appear very differently from mine.

The young girls it seemed to me, were early made to look upon work as a duty that can never be shirked, and a large share of the household duties seemed to be left to the younger ones. It is possible that my landlady was a particularly severe task-mistress, but so far as I could observe elsewhere I think not. On more than one occasion I have known her to go off for the day, leaving a girl of seventeen to do all the work of the house and the week's washing besides. It is this kind of steady toil that led one to express her notion of things by remarking one day when I had come out of the pit particularly tired: " Oh! there's hard work in the pit as well as out of it." It should again be emphasized that these are the observations of an outsider. The women themselves do not complain, indeed they know no other life, and are probably the better because they do not even catch glimpses of other circles of life.

It was once my privilege to be present at a village wedding. The bride was modestly and plainly dressed, and throughout the ceremony acted half afraid as if she was scarcely worth all the fuss. The bridesmaid, on the other hand, was plumed and veiled, held her head high and in every action betrayed the consciousness of her own importance that she felt. At the proper moment the best man took hold of the bridegroom's glove to remove it. The gloves were new and it stuck. He pulled harder, braced himself and finally peeled it off with a noisy rip. The minister chose for the text of his remarks - "Wives obey your husbands." His advice was entirely in keeping with the tradition of the place in regard to the relationship of wives to their husbands. "The husband is the head of the family even as Christ is the Head of the Church." After the ceremony came the signing of the certificate which was a most typical and picturesque scene. The bride of but a moment sat at the table nervously biting the end of the pen, while the minister leaned over her shoulder and put his finger on the space where she was to affix her signature. By her side stood her husband watching with a satisfied smile that seemed to betoken relief that the worst was over, and across from him the ever self-confident bridesmaid, who stared round at the company with a haughty glance that met the bravest eye. She had done her duty, she had done it well; and she knew it.

Where wages are good in comparison with the cost of living, early marriages are always common. House rents in Kelty are moderate. The oldest houses in the village rent for four pounds ten shillings; the newer and average houses rent for seven and eight pounds a year, and the best of them for ten pounds. The great trouble is that there are not nearly enough of them, hence the evil of overcrowding is forced upon the people, who are only too eager to have homes of their own. That overcrowding is an evil and a sore one there is no contradicting, but from what I saw of it in Kelty I am inclined to think that it is a much misunderstood evil just as the drink problem has until recently been a much misunderstood problem. From a hygienic standpoint the wrong that is done the people who are forced to corral together like sheep in the shambles can scarcely be exaggerated. In summer the atmosphere becomes stifling - in our house we never had sheets over us, merely rough blankets, and at times these were "gey ill to thole." There was one window in the room four feet two inches high by two feet five inches wide. This dropped down about half way from the top so that we could get some fresh air, though often it was hot. In winter, however, everything is kept shut tight " to keep out the cold " as the people say - and in the kitchen where four or five persons sleep and all the food is cooked the air becomes poisonous. Granting, then, that all that is said on this point is justified, and that on these grounds alone the evil is a scourge that is threatening a definite proportion of the working class, and is therefore a blot on the scutcheons of those whose indifferentism prevents its remedy, what of the other point so often dwelt upon by reformers, namely, morality?

In Kelty I found myself enjoying life in the rough, on the bed rock of crudity as it were. There was the maximum of natural and the minimum of convention. It was a bold illustration of life without the limelight glare of etiquette and fashion. Society at the sands is a very different thing from society during a season, and society riding to hounds is not society in the Row. The Belgian philosopher, M. Maeterlinck, has said that it is only of the dead that true portraits can be painted. In life men flash innumerable facets of character for different eyes. Society is buried beneath its forms. But with the workers—they never masquerade, they live their lives with a wholesome freedom from sham that develops hearts and souls, if not fine manners, and holds honesty and truth above ability to amuse and entertain.

When city reformers cite instances of night clerks using a bed that at night is used by another, even when the other is of the opposite sex, this need not necessarily imply any material lowering of moral standards, for people nurtured in such an environment have such totally different ways of looking at things.

In Kelty where the lodger system is so common and night shift workers sleep by day, the houses being often of but two rooms, what privacy can there be? The difficulty is obviated by doing away with the need, that is to say, men throw off their boots and jackets and "going to bed" means little more than lying down. And in the course of time that which has become a custom builds for itself a new but not necessarily lower standard.

Given such an environment, immorality is often (not always) more easily fallen to, but that it is an inevitable result is certainly not true. It would have been a difficult matter to have convinced my Kelty neighbours that their moral standards were lower than the moral standards of the ladies who fill the boxes and dress circles of the city theatres, wearing diaphanous and decollete gowns. Any such comparison would have aroused violent indignation.

A man who was discovered in one of the pits taking the pins from the hutches of other men and substituting his own was denounced out and out. Any form of meanness is looked down upon and constancy in friendship is rated high.

A conservative Church of England clergyman, a working man and I were once debating a point among ourselves, and the clergyman was rather getting the best of the working man when the latter answered resignedly, "Any way, I would treat you, and that is more than you would do for me." To him that was the last word, the test of a good social spirit. Generosity in little things, a characteristic which is not necessarily in paradoxical contrast to a reputation for closeness in larger matters.

Mazzini long ago pointed out that the social problem is at root an educational problem, but he did not emphasize what is so obvious to-day, that the education must come from below to the top as well as from the cultured to the lowly. In short, the education that is needed is a general mixing together that will show each to the other "how the other half lives," and what is of greater importance, what the other half thinks. Not until all classes grasp this fact, that a difference in standards does not imply a real wrong on either side, and that the chances are that when there is a wrong that in the end it will not be judged as harshly as the far commoner one of indifferentism, will any of the fundamental problems be solved.

Some of the pleasantest hours in the lives of the miners are evenings when some of the neighbours come in from near-by houses, and the time is spent in singing and dancing. Near a score gathered in our kitchen one night to say good-bye to a family who were leaving the village. The people called it a foy, or as it is called in other parts of Scotland a ploy. Beginning with the head of the family everyone in the circle was expected to make a contribution to the entertainment of the evening with a song, a dance or a tune on the melodeon, the violin or the mouth organ. The old Scotch songs that never grow old were sung with a right royal will, and the dances - "hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys and reels" - were given with an enthusiasm that showed that the day's work had not affected the "life and mettle in their heels." There was no drink that night till the very end and Auld Lang Syne was sung with the merry wistfulness that betokens the flight of memory over the days that are gone when similar scenes have ended with those same familiar strains, when other faces have stood round the room and other hands have linked together the friendship circle, binding hearts to hearts with ties that nothing can sever.

Another scene equally memorable, even more characteristic, but of a very different nature was that in a chamber of death when one of the last of those moribund customs of yesteryears was gone through with - a chesting service. Of all the sad affairs in life and death surely few can be more grim than a coffining. It was at the house of a neighbour where the baby girl, a wee golden-haired lassie, had died suddenly. As is customary, a few friends were asked to be present. The minister arrived before the coffin. There was a passage of scripture and a brief prayer before the undertaker came in and the little chest laid open. The mother then lifted the lifeless form of the little one, pressed her tear-stained face close to the cold cheeks of her babe in a long, lingering kiss, then sank back in a paroxysm of weeping. The lids were placed over the box and with a grinding, crunching noise that grated into the very hearts of the sorrowing friends the undertaker screwed the boards tight. Thus the tragedy and comedy of life plays round these modest homes just as the sunlight and shadows flit about the lives of those who are in the intenser circles of the world where living is a strenuous battle with the complexer forms of life.

It is an isolated world this little mining community, in touch with the outside world only through the impersonal medium of the great company that is the outcome of the conditions which have environed it from it earliest stages, and it has established standards that accept no criterions outside of those it has developed. For all its crudeness and entire naturalness this life rings true at bottom, for men and women are more easily stripped of the vestiges of convention that distort and dwarf the hearts and souls of human kind, and though handicapped by the heritage of disinheritance by those who hold the golden ring of power and influence - in spite of all the flaws and dark rough spots - it is a life that in its frank simplicity is nearer in accord with the golden rule than the glittering, tinsel-draped life that in one mood it would curse, but which in the long run, in its ignorance it envies and is drawn toward as is a moth to the alluring treacherous flame.

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