Petitions By Colliers 1842-1843
From Appendix to the Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions, Session 1843
- Appeal for measures to weigh coal - Coal Miners of Midlothian, Scotland, assembled at Dalkeith. Signatories - Robert Frazer; Gordon Peacock; Nairne Young.
- Appeal for measures to weigh coal - Tranent, East Lothian. Signatories - David Ross; David Adams; John Ross.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Newton. Signatories - John Adamson, Minister of Newton; James Robertson, Elder and Session Clerk, Newton; Robert Laing, Elder.
- Appeal for measures to weigh coal - Coal and Ironminers of Coatbridge. Signatories - Hugh McNeil; John Baxter; Thomas Forrest.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Newbattle Colliery. Signatories - Peter Thomson; Jas. Pennycock; William Robertson
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Earl of Elgin's Collieries, Fifeshire. Signatories - Helen Weir; Isabella Ramage; Jean Allan.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Carron Hall and Kinnaird. Signatories - John Waugh; William Rae; Robert Mackay, senior.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Townhill Colliery. Signatories - Betty Wilson; Mary Wilson; Mary Morgon
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Auchenbowie Colliery. Signatories - John Robertson; James White; James Cowan.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Grange Colliery. Signatories - James Lumsden; John Lumsden; Maryat Lumsden.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Plean Colliery. Signatories - John Richardson; John Stevenson; Robert Stevenson.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Bannockburn. Signatories - Alex. Wright, Overseer, Bannockburn Colliery; John Headley, Greeve, ditto; James Currie, Wright, ditto; Geo. Galbraith, Provost of Stirling; Robt. Trew, Minister, St. Ninians; Henry Geddes, Manager of the Bannockburn and Greenyard Collieries.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Oxenford Colliery. Signatories - Wm. M'Dodds, Factor for the Earl of Stair; Matthew Forster, Tacks Master; David Forster.
- Petition on repeal or amendment of Mines & Collieries Act - Thankerton Colliery. Signatories - John Crag; Alexander Allan; Alex. Henderson, jun.
App. 14. Mr. Ferrand. Sig. 532 - The Petition of the Coal Miners of Midlothian, Scotland, assembled at Dalkeith sixteenth of July, one thousand eight hundred and forty-two, A.D.
That your Petitioners in their avocation are employed in bowels of the earth, exposed to dangers, known only to those who are acquainted with and practised to the sunles, dangerous, damp, and unwholsome mine; that your Petitioners, besides being exposed to dangers almost indescriable, are also exposed to very harsh treatment.
That your Petitioners, although the are selling there labour to there employers, have no means of knowing what the are giving to thier employers, in consquence of the weights with which your Petitioners work is weigheid being placed on the pithead or hill to which the are oblidged to adhere.
That the greatest part of your Petitioners have to work the hardest portion of their labour for nothing, as the recive no payment for thier dross or smal coal, and the remaining few of your Petitioners who recive any payment for thier dross or small coal is very unadequate to the portion of labour which the have to perform, being one-sixth of there days labour.
That your Petitioners have a right to see what weight the are giving to thier employers, and to be paid for whatever coal the work, whither the be great or small coal; and as your Petitioners are labouring under the heavy weight of oppression from the unjust demands of their mastres, the humbly solocit your honourable House to investigate into our case, as your Petitioners, when puting up great coal and small seperate, are robbed out of a great part them, as no less then one-fifth of there great coal are called small and turned over to theire masters, for which your Petitioners recive nothing; and that your Petitioners, therefore, pray your honourable House to take thiere Petition into your serious consederation, and bring into operation such a measure as will enable your Petitioners to se what weight your Petitioners are giving, which can be convenineatly done to all partees by placing the weights into the pit bottoms, or any other place where your Petitioners deliver their coals to their employers.
That your Petitioners humbly crave that you cause an imeadate inquirey to be made into the case of your Petitioners, that the may be enabled to explain these greiveances, and many more as opresseve to your Petioners and families, and your Petitioners hope that your honourable House will take this into your most serious consedaration, as it will enable your Petitioners to prove these theire griveances to be facts if inquiray is made by your honourable House.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 15. Mr. Ferrand. Sig. 441 - The Petition of the Coal Miners, in public meeting assembled, at Tranent, East Lothian, this eleventh day of July, one thousand eight hundred and forty-two,
That your Petitioners, in their avocation, are employed in the bowels of the earth, exposed to dangers known only to those who are acquainted with and practised to the sunless, dangerous, damp, and unwholesome mine.
That your Petitioners, besides being exposed to dangers almost indiscribable, are also exposed to very harsh treatment.
That your Petitioners, although they are selling their work to their employers, have no means of knowing what they are giving to their employers, in consequence of the weights with which your Petitioners work is weighed being placed on the pit head or hill, to which they are obliged to adhere.
That your Petitioners, when they come up out of the pit, are obliged to stand at a distance and cry up to the pithead man who cries down to them what they have; and though the whole, or the half of their day's work should be held off them, as, in many instances it is, for no other fault but because one of their baskets is said, by the hillman, to be too light, they dare not complain, or else it is their discharge from the work; and, moreover, when one of your Petitioners is discharged, they cannot find employment elsewhere, owing to the existent tyrannical rules among their employers.
That your Petitioners have to work the hardest portion of their labour, for which they receive only a partial or nominal payment for their dross, or small coal, which amounts to one fourth of their labour.
That your petitioners have a right to see what weight they are giving to their employers, and to be paid for their small coal, which, in many instances, amounts to much profit to their employers.
Your Petitioners therefore pray your honourable House to take their Petition into your serious consideration, and bring into operation such a measure as will enable your Petitioners to see what weight your Petitioners are giving, and to be paid for whatever quantity of clean coals your Petitioners put out, whether they be great coal, or small coal, which can be conveniently done to all parties, by placing the weights into the pit bottoms, or any other place where the miners deliver their coals, instead of on the pit heads or coal hills.
That your Petitioners humbly crave that you cause an immediate inquiry to be made into our case, that we may be enabled to explain these grievances, and many more, which are as oppressive to your Petitioners and families.
And your Petitioners humbly hope that your honourable House will take this into your most serious consideration, as it will enable your Petitioners to prove these grievances to be facts, if inquiry is made by your honourable House.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
&c. &c, &c.
App. 16. Sir George Clerk. Sig. 952. - The humble Petition of the undersigned males and females employed in the Newton coal mines, in the parish of Newton, and places adjacent, and others, though not so employed, but who sympathise with them in their prayer,
That whereas an Act 5 & 6 Victoria, cap. 99, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries, to regulate the employment of Boys, and to make other provisions relating to 'persons working therein,'" was passed last Session of Parliament, whereby serious loss and inconvenience have been occasioned to the parties concerned by the part of it already in operation, and much more threatened when the whole of it shall have become law. That whereas no good grounds exist in the opinion of your Petitioners for such immediate and indiscriminate exclusion of women and girls from the employment to which they have been accustomed, and which, if carried into effect, must deprive many of them of the means of subsistence, from their being unfit for any other, as well as aggravate the destitution of parties at present dependent upon their exertions, it being distinctly denied that immorality and vice are occasioned by such employment, in so far as relates to Scotland generally, and to this part of it in particular, or are found to prevail among them as a class more than among others of the same rank of life not so employed, as to the truth of which your Petitioners challenge the strictest investigation if properly conducted.
That whereas it is a very great hardship, and seems to your Petitioners hardly consistent with justice, that any of Her Majesty's subjects should by an act of the Legislature be prevented from following an occupation (not injurious to public morals) which has been practised in this part of the country from time immemorial, without at least compensation being provided for the injury they are thereby to sustain, which in the case of those who are unfit, or can have no hope of obtaining other employment, is an irreparable one; more particularly since, by the Scottish poor law, parties able to work have no claim for relief, however great their destitution may be, a circumstance your Petitioners would specially bring under the notice of your honourable House as a peculiar hardship in the case of the parties affected by the foresaid Act, who, merely to gratify what others may account a philanthropic feeling, are to be subjected to the evils of idleness, profligacy, and starvation.
But that whereas your Petitioners are aware of the strength of the public feeling against the employment of the female sex in underground operations, they do not object to what is enacted in the fore-cited Act, that none but those actually so employed at the passing of it, shall henceforth engage, or be permitted to be employed, in such occupation, so as to ensure its gradual but certain extinction at no distant period; and whereas they are willing to make this further concession to public opinion, in the hope their reasonable representations may be the more readily listened to, and redress afforded them in the premises, that all women now married, or that may hereafter be so, should be excluded from prosecuting such labour;
May it therefore please your honourable House to repeal and amend so much of the foresaid Act as prohibits those females (with the exception of all now married, or that may hereafter enter into the marriage state) who, at the time of its passing, were employed in mines or collieries, from continuing to be so employed, since not a few being thereby deprived of the means of subsistence, without any other resource, must be reduced to a situation, revolting to contemplate, while a grievous, and as your Petitioners conceive an unnecessary, hardship will be inflicted on many families hitherto accustomed materially to depend upon the produce of such labour, not only from their being at once deprived of it, but from the probability of the members of them hitherto so occupied, becoming a heavy burden in consequence of their being unable to obtain any other employment; or otherwise to do in the premises as your honourable House may seem right and reasonable towards removing, or alleviating, the grievances to which your Petitioners have by the fore-cited Act already been and are still farther about to be subjected.
And your Petitioners will ever pray.
John Adamson, Minister of Newton.
James Robertson, Elder and Session Clerk, Newton.
Robert Laing, Elder.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 24. Mr. Ferrand. Sig. 3,066 - The Petition of the undersigned Coal and Ironminers, in public meeting assembled, near Coatbridge, in Lanarkshire, Scotland, this 30th day of June, 1842,
That we your Petitioners solicit the attention of your honourable House, and pray that you will bring a law into existence which will by its working enable the miners to have an oppertunity of seeing their labour weighed, and also that the weights used in weighing their labour be just, and that your honourable House see the necessity of causing said weights to be placed at pit bottom, or some convenient place contiguous to the pit bottom, where the miners may add to their basket, hutch, or corve of coals or iron-stone, if too light, or take from it if too heavy, as the miners wish your honourable House to understand that they want only justice.
That your Petitioners desire to inform your honourable House that their employers compel the miners to put up dross or small coal, the which is the most laborous part of the miners labour, and for which they do not receive one farthing, which the employers have for screes or riddles, varying from 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, over which the miners labour is caused to pass, and all that passes through these screes is carefully collected into waggons and sould to the public factories for the use of machinery, at prices varying from five to seven shillings per thirty hundred-weight; now your honourable House must be aware that your Petitioners do not receive a fraction for this portion of their labour, which can be proven.
That your Petitioners hope your honourable House will speedily bring into existence a law which will by its agency cause the miners to be paid for all coal, whether great or small, as it comes from the miner, if clear of stones.
That your Petitioners wish to inform your honourable House that at this present day the overplus weight robbed from the miners by their being deprived of seeing their labour weighed, and the dross or small coal which the employers seperate from the great or round coal, must operate in a very profetable way to the employer.
Therefore your Petitioners do earnestly state that they have no earthly right to be deprived of that justice for which they so ardently desire your honourable House to grant them.
That your Petitioners have for these series of years been completely at the mercy of their employers, and also have not been taken any notice of in your honourable House till of late.
Your Petitioners cincerely hope that your honourable House will take a serious consideration of these matters, as they sincerely affect a class of well disposed peacefull subjects; and therefore prays your honourable House to bring in a law that will enable the miner to see his labour weighed, and be paid for whatever quantity of clean coals are in the basket, corve, or hutch as the come from the miner, so that a stop may be put to these frauds practised by the employer upon us working miners.
And your Petitioners will, as in duty bound, ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 25. Sir James Graham. Sig. 386 - The humble Petition of the under-signed Colliers, and other Workmen employed at Newbattle Colliery, county of Mid Lothian,
That whereas an Act, 5th and 6th Victoria, c. 99, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the employment of women and girls in Mines and Collieries, to regulate the employment of boys, and to make other provisions relating to persons working therein," was passed last Session of Parliament, whereby serious loss and inconvenience has incurred to your Petitioners by the part of it already in operation, and much more evil will accrue to them when the whole of said Act becomes law.
Your Petitioners are aware that the reasons given by the promoters of that Act was the deteriorating influence that such employment had over the minds of the females, rendering their conduct flagitiously immoral, and unfitting either to become wives or mothers, or filling any place in society allotted to the sex; we have seen the Report which was laid before your honourable House upon which the Bill was founded.
And your Petitioners humbly but fearlessly assert that a more erroneous document never was ever laid before a British Parliament; and as far as it regards our locality, it is full of falsehoods, exaggerations, and antipathies, even those who have adhered to the truth have gone beyond it; and instead of comparing us with the working classes around us, we have been compared with perfection itself, consequently we have been found wanting.
Your Petitioners would have met these Reports last Session, and we trust successfully, but before we had an opportunity of seeing them it was too late, and we fondly hoped that some time would pass before the final passing of the Bill; but we challenge a strict and impartial inquiry into our conduct, comparing us with the working population in the country, and we feel confident that we will come out of the trial victorious.
It is also insinuated in the Report that our females are averse to underground work, and are anxious to get away from it; this is also untrue; bred to the profession, they are in general healthy and cheerful; the only drawback to their happiness at present is that the foresaid Act when it becomes law will bring with it destitution with all its fearful evils.
We shudder to contemplate the horrifying miseries, - destitution, profligacy, starvation, and an untimely grave, will be the lot of hundreds of fine young females who now live cheerfully and happily at their present employment.
There are other evils attendant on the expulsion of females from underground employment, which perhaps your honourable House is not aware of; it is a known fact, that those who get the coals, that is, those who loose them from the mine, are early disabled from working, and are often cut off by asthmas and other affections of the lungs, incident to all those who work in close mines; hence, the burden of providing for the family often devolves on the collier's wife, girls, or the grown up children, if they have any; very many widows, by superintending the labour of their children, are enabled to live comfortably, and in comparative independence, who would otherwise be in misery and wretchedness, a state into which they will inevitably fall if an alteration is not made in the foresaid Act; and when we consider the nature of the Scotch Poor Law, which gives no relief to any however destitute while they are able to work, the condition of these females in Scotland will be peculiarly hard.
Whatever way your Petitioners view this Act it has no redeeming feature;- a surplus population, a depressed trade, a narrow and stringent Poor Law. The promoters of this measure may have intended it for good; but, instead of a blessing, it will bring poverty and despair.
It is also the humble opinion of your Petitioners that this change will tend to raise the price of coals to the public, as the men will have to perform that part of the work that is now done by the women, and as the price of man's labour is considerably higher, so much higher in proportion will the price of coals be; a thing not to be desired in a commercial country.
May it therefore please your honourable House to repeal and amend so much of the aforesaid Act as prohibits females from being employed underground at mines or collieries, since it not only deprive those females of that labour whereby they have hitherto earned a comfortable subsistence, but will also bring to penury and want, reduce parents, fatherless children, and all others who may depend upon them for support, and overwhelm them with an accumulation of evils which is horrifying to think of.
And you Petitioners shall ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 64. Mr. Cumming Bruce. Sig. 230 - The humble Petition of the Females employed in the Earl of Elgin's Collieries, Fifeshire,
That your Petitioners have deeply to lament the passing of the Bill by your honourable House, 5 & 6 Vict. cap. 99, intituled "An Act to prohibit the Employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries," &c.
Whilst your Petitioners duly appreciate the motives which led your honourable House to entertain the subject matter of this Bill, and latterly to pass it, they cannot abstain from making known to you, that in providing a remedy for probable, particular, and partial grievances, this measure will have the effect of visiting the greater portion of those for whose benefit it was intended, with want, destitution, and misery.
Seldom has it happened that your honourable House has been called upon to legislate for females exclusively, and the gallant desire to free them from what might be considered unfit employment, may have swayed the honourable House to a decision, that upon a more complete understanding of the nature, cause, and effect of their employment, both as regards themselves and those nearest and dearest to them, it would not so unhesitatingly have been arrived at.
That nearly all of your Petitioners have been born and brought up within the precincts of the Elgin collieries, and have wrought in the mines from periods varying from one to twenty years, and none of them have had reason in any way to find fault with, or complain of, such employment; on the contrary, your Petitioners are healthy, happy, and well-contended, the quantum of work is in their own power, custom makes what would appear irksome, difficult, and dangerous to others, of no fear or apprehension on their part.
They often contrast, and some of them from experience, the healthy, cheerful, and better paid labour of the female collier, with the monotonous, exhausting, and unhealthy employment of the factory female, and not one among them would make the exchange from the murky mine to the stifled factory.
Your Petitioners, moreover, will vie with any female class of workers, for health and virtuous conduct; to substantiate such, they take the liberty to subjoin certificates hereto from the medical gentlemen and clergy of the district.
To be deprived, therefore, of earnings from an employment which they really relish, would have the effect of causing destitution of the heaviest description to befall your Petitioners, in many cases also to their aged parents, and younger fatherless children, who alone depend upon them for support; other labour is not to be found, neither are your Petitioners qualified for undertaking it. Emigration from their homes and dearest ties is not their wish; in fact, under the present law, they are undeservedly doomed to misery and destitution, without the slightest hope of parochial relief.
Under such circumstances, your Petitioners, with all humility, pray that your honourable House would reconsider the subject matter of the Act referred to and to grant such relief to your Petitioners, by repeal thereof, or modification of its provisions, as to your honourable House may seem expedient.
And your Petitioners will ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 65 Mr Cumming Bruce. Sig 548 - The humble petition of the undersigned male and Female Workers at Carron Company’s Collieries, viz; Carron Hall and Kinnaird, in the parishes of Larbert and Bothkennar, and Callendar, in the parish of Falkirk.
That your Petitioners with a deep feeling of surprise and regret have seen, towards the close of the last Session of Parliament, an Act carried into law, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the Employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries, to regulate the Employment of Boys, and to make other Provisions relating to Persons working therein." That, whether as regards the provisions of this Act, or the deceptive, unfounded, and calumniatory statements published, and the highly injurious inferences drawn from them, previous to its being passed, your Petitioners are called upon, in self-justification, to rally around the position which they occupy among the productive classes of this country: a status which has been achieved mainly through the unaided and native energies of their class, and in which they have, greatly for the public benefit and their own happiness, continued to labour.
That, with the highest respect for the solicitous care of the Legislature in protecting the rights, and affording an impetus to the moral and physical improvement, of all classes of operatives, there have been brought forward, in preparing this sweeping enactment, so many, and such glaring misstatements, that your Petitioners would be unworthy to be the parents, husbands, and brothers of their flourishing families, did they stand passively by while the collieries of Scotland are made the traduced cause for the uncalled, for and ruinous interference of such an Act.
That, without any general, or what might be deemed irrelevant, objections, your Petitioners would most earnestly and immediately crave the attention of your honourable House to a few facts that imperiously demand instant redress, and which, while your Petitioners are seeking the recognition of that character which must ever be their dearest possession, will, it is humbly presumed, secure that interest in our behalf which, if denied, must consign thousands to an ignoble acquiescence in a traduced -name; and render a happy, healthy, and moral population for many years miserable, and the wretched dependants on casual support.
Your Petitioners are convinced, that, had the actual position of the females employed in the Scottish collieries been carefully and dispassionately attempted to be ascertained previous to the passing of the measure complained against, it never could have resulted in these females being herded in the same denunciation that may justly enough deem the condition of women in English coal works no longer tolerable, and such inquiry your Petitioners peril their case upon, would have resulted in clearly establishing, so far at least as Carron Company's collieries and others in this part of the country are concerned, the following incontrovertible and powerful facts :-
First. - That few or no married females are employed in any of the pits, - indeed, their own self-respect, the regard of their husbands, and the regard of their families and homes, would forbid it, to say nothing of the strict surveillance of the managers.
Second. That the dress of the females is at once complete, in all that secures perfect comfort, and the utmost moral propriety, both while going to and from the works, and in the prosecution of their comparatively light and agreeable employment, which is from nine and ten hours during the day, with half an hour for breakfast, and an hour for dinner; and they generally are all at home by four o'clock, P.M.
Third. That access to the pits by the men as well as women is exclusively by secure turnpike stairs, and a fine is rigorously enacted for any infringement of this rule; the workings or roads in which females are engaged as drawers, are from four to six feet in height, and of course there never can occur any stooping or disagreeable position; iron railways are laid in all the roads, over which the coals are drawn, in small waggons or hutches, from the wall face to the pit bottom.
Fourth. In most cases two women work in company as drawers or pullers, one in front, and the other behind the waggon; the broad belt of the former passes simply over the shoulders; the whole body is otherwise free.
Fifth. That in general, and as often as possible, girls draw for their parents and other relatives; and a well known jealous feeling is ever at work to scar all tendency to everything in the shape of improper liberties; in fact, the certificates of the four ministers and their elders, which accompany this Petition, best attest, that illegitimate births are decidedly and comparatively rare in our coal works.
Sixth. That a class of young women does not exist here or elsewhere who are famed for better health, finer persons, or more modest demeanour; and, whether as girls or wives, their condition to too many is enviably happy. The certificates of the three surgeons regularly paid for attendance attest this.
Seventh. That the whole of the children at our works are put to school, and continue till eleven and twelve years of age, a great number continuing their attendance afterwards at the evening classes. That for general intelligence, and that progressive education, which has long ranked Scotland so high, the colliers of this district are much distinguished, and many proud instances could be condescended upon of very high attainments; that there are three schools exclusively supported by the works, while to four others in the immediate vicinity attendance is extensively given; that there are libraries in all the villages, and a growing literary predilection is fast taking hold of the taste of both old and young; in a word, on the subject of intellectual superiority, we fearlessly challenge inquiry.
Eighth. That Carron Company provides substantial and comfortable dwelling-houses, contiguous to the different works, for which a regular rent is paid by the workmen; in many cases where widows or superannuated men have daughters or sons employed, and which are their main or only support, they are allowed a house with fire rent-free. It must be evident, however, that one of the effects of the present Bill coming into operation, will inevitably be, to deprive such dependent widows and old men of their habitations, in which, by the present liberal arrangement, they contemplate spending the remainder of their days in the midst of their families.
Lastly. That, without any mode having been provided by the Bill for the immediate employment of the females, who will be turned out of the pits to idleness, want, and misery, we shudder to contemplate the positive evils, physical and moral, thrown upon one of the most deserving, interesting, and useful classes of society.
That, before the above Bill conies into operation, your Petitioners would humbly pray, that the above facts be ordered to be verified, either by examination of fit witnesses, before Committee of your honourable House, or by Commissioners; and, upon our case being satisfactorily made out, that the enactment complained of, be so altered or modified, as to permit unmarried females and widows to be employed in mines and collieries, under such restrictions as to your honourable House shall seem meet.
And your Petitioners will ever pray.
Robert Mackay, senior.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 66. Mr. Cumming Bruce. Sig. 73 - The Petition of the undersigned Female Labourers at Townhill Colliery, near Dunfermline,
That in the last Session of Parliament an Act was passed, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the Employment of Women and girls in Mines and Collieries, to regulate the Employment of Boys, and make Provision for the Safety of Persons working therein."
That, by the operation of this Act, such of your Petitioners as are under the age of eighteen years have been already prevented from following their employment in the coal mines at Townhill, and that such of them as are beyond that age will be required to cease working on the first day of March next.
That your Petitioners from their early years have been employed constantly in the mines, and have thereby been enabled not only to gain for themselves an humble independence, but also, in many instances, to support their aged and indigent parents and younger brothers and sisters, all of whom, including in their number many poor widows, have the prospect along with the Petitioners of being rendered destitute by the operation of the said Act.
That, from the peculiar nature of the employment to which the Petitioners have all their lifetime been accustomed, they are in a great measure incapacitated from performing the duties of domestic servants, or even from acting as ordinary out of door labourers; and, consequently, they could not thereby earn a subsistence, even could such employment be obtained in this neighbourhood, where there is already in every department of industry an over supply of experienced hands.
That there does not exist in Scotland any legal provision for the able-bodied poor, however blameless their character and urgent their case may be, and that therefore your Petitioners can only look for relief to the wisdom, justice, and humanity of the Legislature.
That, whilst your Petitioners humbly take leave to represent the peculiar hardship of the operation of this Act towards them, they would at the same time acknowledge their deep sense of, and heart-felt gratitude for, the kindness and purity of the intentions which induced your honourable House to pass the same.
May it, therefore, please your honourable House to take into early and earnest consideration this humble Petition, with a view to the repeal of so much, at least, of the said Act as relates to females who have already been employed in mines, or to grant to them some suitable compensation for being prevented following out the employment to which they have been brought up.
And you Petitioners will ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 67. Mr. Forbes. Sig. 42 - The humble Petition of the Coal Miners employed at Auchenbowie Colliery, in the county of Stirling,
That an Act was passed in the last Session of Parliament, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the Employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries, &c.," and that this Act comes into full operation on the first of March next.
That your Petitioners give to the originators of that measure the fullest credit for the humanity and benevolence of their intentions, and, in so far as it prohibits the employment of very young persons of either sex, they have no fault to find with it.
At the same time they beg to represent to your honourable House, that the prohibition of all female labour whatsoever in coal mines is fraught with most injurious consequences; it will be injurious to the females themselves, as it will prevent them from following the only occupation to which they have been accustomed, and which they do not dislike, while in the present state of trade it will be impossible for them to obtain any other kind of employment.
To the aged and infirm miner also it will be attended with most disastrous consequences. The coal in Scotland is generally found in very narrow seams, in following out which the miner is obliged to adopt the posture of kneeling, sitting, or lying on his side. Accustomed to this kind of work, a man, though old and infirm, may yet earn a moderate maintenance; but this can only be when he is allowed an active assistant (say one of his own daughters) to draw his coals to the bottom of the shaft, otherwise he is unfit for the work, and must necessarily be thrown destitute.
Further, in the case (by no means rare among miners) of a disabled parent or of a widow with a large family, principally daughters, the operation of the Act will be severely felt. Families in such circumstances will not only be deprived of their only means of earning a subsistence, but will have to leave their houses, which they are allowed to occupy rent free so long as any of them continue to work in the pits, but no longer.
That your Petitioners cannot understand the outcry that has been raised about the immorality consequent upon the employment of females in coal mines; they can assure your Honours that in this part of the country where women have been so employed from time immemorial, the morals of the mining population are equal to those of any other operative class in the community; but this cannot be expected to continue amid the destitution which will certainly ensue if the Act of last Session is not altered or repealed.
May it, therefore, please your honourable House to take the premises into your immediate consideration, and to repeal the aforesaid Act in so far as it prohibits adult female labour in mines and collieries.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 90. Mr. Charles Hope. Sig. 76. - The humble Petition of the undersigned Male and Female Workers at the Grange Colliery, in the parish of Carridon, county of Linlithgow, North Britain,
That your Petitioners at once with feelings of much alarm and great regret saw, towards the close of the last Session of Parliament, an Act passed by your honourable House, intituled, "An Act to prohibit the Employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries, to regulate the Employment of Boys, and to make other Provisions for Persons working therein."
That your Petitioners feel assured, that had a proper investigation into the real condition of the females employed in the mines and collieries of Scotland been instituted, it would have resulted in clearly establishing, that, in so far as relates to our works and others in this part of the country, no married women are ever employed; that the dress of both males and females is complete in all that relates to health, and the utmost decency.
That, from the nature of the works, the greatest ease, comfort, and facility is experienced by the females, who would voluntarily prefer the employment to which they have been brought up, rather than be thrown idle, unprepared to seek some other means of subsistence.
That, while engaged at their work, the females almost uniformly act as putters for their family relatives; and we confidently refer to the certificate from the minister of the parish and kirk session as to the moral condition of the females here.
That their physical, as well as moral, character is proverbially distinguished, as the medical certificate which also accompanies this Petition will instruct. That education, founded on religious principles, is abundantly provided for by the schools at the works. That no mode has been provided by the said Bill for the inevitable and painful effects that must ensue when the same comes fully into operation, one of which your Petitioners would refer to:- widows and superannuated men, who depend on their daughters, sons, or grandchildren, employed in the coal works, will be left in almost helpless misery, having only the legal provision for the parochial poor to depend upon; a law which is happily but little known amongst us as yet.
That for the above, and other reasons, which your Petitioners will not, at present, bring under the notice of your honourable House, the females at least, who are employed at the works, do reasonably anticipate that the enactment complained of be so altered or modified, as to permit unmarried females to be employed in mines and collieries.
May it therefore please your honourable House seriously and immediately to consider the present Petition, and be pleased to modify the Bill of last Session in such a manner that the facts set forth in this Petition be ordered to be verified, either by the examination of proper witnesses, or by a commission regularly appointed, as there can exist no doubt but our Scottish coal-works are wholesomely distinct from those of England in all that relates to the females' health, morals, and general propriety.
And your Petitioners shall ever pray, &c.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 124. Mr.Fox Maule. Sig. 97. - The humble Petition of the Coal Miners, of Plean Colliery, in the county of Stirling,
That the young persons at this colliery have ample means of education, an excellent school being established, at which they are taught until able to work, and which those employed are in the habit of attending in the evenings; there is besides attached to the work a subscription library, commenced in one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, and now containing five hundred volumes.
That your Petitioners cannot admit the truth of the alleged immorality consequent on the employment or females in coal mines; they challenge investigation to disprove the statement.
That in this part of the country, where women have been employed from time immemorial, the morals of the mining population are not inferior to those of any other operative class in the community.
It is questionable, however, whether baneful moral results will not necessarily flow from the poverty and destitution about to be produced by the operation of the hasty and ill-judged enactment of last Session.
May it therefore please your honourable House to take the premises into your immediate consideration, and to repeal the aforesaid Act, in so far as it prohibits the employment of women in mines and collieries.
And your Petitioners shall ever pray.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 125. Mr. Hume. Sig. 137 - The humble Petition of the Colliers, Male and Female, employed in the Colliery of Bannockburn, in the county of Stirling, North Britain, and others,
That an Act passed near the close of the last Session of Parliament, and intituled "An Act to Prohibit the Employment of Women and Girls in Mines and Collieries," &c. is a measure highly injurious to the interests of all employed in collieries.
First, to the females themselves, who, having for years been occupied in drawing coals to the bottom of the shaft, have become so accustomed to that exercise as to esteem it both easy and agreeable, especially as they are always under the eye of their parents or relations.
But as a long continuance of any employment may render that particular employment easy and pleasant, it will as necessarily unfit a person confined thereto for any other, and this is eminently the case with respect to females engaged in mines; besides, in the general depression, how is employment elsewhere to be found?
That the prohibition of female labour in the mines of this country is a measure fraught with the most disastrous consequences to the aged and infirm collier.
The coal in Scotland is generally found in very narrow seams.
That in following out these seams, the collier at his work is obliged to adopt the posture of kneeling, sitting, or lying on his side.
That a person accustomed to the employment, although old and infirm, may, in such postures, earn a moderate maintenance, if allowed an active assistant to draw his coals to the bottom of the shaft, but which his age and infirmities render him altogether unable to do himself; if denied, therefore, the wonted assistance of a female drawer, he is necessarily thrown destitute, and becomes a burthen to his friends or to the parish.
That in the case of a disabled parent, or of a widow with a numerous family, principally daughters, and whose support is chiefly derived from the exertions of the elder female branches of the family, the operation of this Act will be severely felt, and among colliers cases of this description are by no means uncommon.
That colliers are generally provided by their employers with habitations contiguous to their work, for which they pay a rent; but, on the death of a miner, his widow is allowed to retain her dwelling rent-free, so long as any of her family continues to labour in the colliery, but no longer.
Here then a widow, whose children are all females, or under the age required by the Act, no matter how numerous her family, is, by this cruel enactment, deprived of their aid, and consequently ejected from her dwelling.
To illustrate this subject it may be necessary to state that there are employed in this work eighty-one men and forty-one female drawers, in all one hundred and twenty-two persons.
Of these eighty-one miners, only fifty-eight are efficient men; the remaining twenty-three are aged and infirm, and unable to work without the assistance of the female drawers; thus, by prohibiting the labour of these forty-one females, twenty-three aged and infirm men are also thrown idle; and thus, out of one hundred and twenty-two industrious people, sixty-four are deprived of the means of an honest livelihood.
That married women are never employed here, and the labour of females and boys is comparatively light; and, as they are continually under the eye of parents or relations, no acts of cruelty or oppression have ever occurred.
That our children have ample means of education, an excellent school being established, in which they are taught until able to work, and which those who are employed are in the habit of attending in the evening.
That attached to this work, and the sole property of the miners, is a valuable library, containing nearly five hundred volumes.
That the advocates of this Act have lauded it as a measure highly calculated to promote the civilisation and moral improvement of the mining population, but, as poverty has been justly styled the mother of ignorance and crime, and it is well-known that a greater obstacle to mental and moral improvement does not exist than indigence and destitution, the fallacy of their arguments will be apparent to all who reflect on the privations to which this Act will subject the colliers of this country.
That seeing, as we do, the misery to which this measure will reduce us, we numbly and earnestly implore the attention of your honourable House thereto, and do fervently pray that you will be pleased either to repeal this Act, or to make such amendments therein as will tend to ameliorate the condition of your humble Petitioners.
Alex. Wright, Overseer, Bannockburn Colliery.
John Headley, Greeve, ditto.
James Currie, Wright, ditto.
&c. &c. &c.
We, the undersigned, do concur in the justice and accuracy of the representations in this Petition.
Geo. Galbraith, Provost of Stirling.
Robt. Trew, Minister, St. Ninians.
Henry Geddes, Manager of the Bannockburn and Greenyard Collieries.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 236. Mr. Cumming Bruce. Sig. 211. - The Petition of the Colliers and others connected with Oxenford Colliery,
That whereas your Petitioners earn their livelihood as colliers or miners, are dependent upon or interested in the collieries or mines for their livelihood, which in this place is carried on in a great measure by means of women and girls, by which means a number of families are enabled to subsist; and more especially a number of widows, fatherless children, and orphans, depend entirely upon and have no other means or resource whatever for a livelihood.
But by the late Act passed excluding females from working in mines or coal pits, they are deprived of all means of support, and are thrown entirely destitute upon the world without any visible means of living, but as paupers, besides the misery entailed upon a number of families, whose livelihood depends upon such women pulling or drawing their work from their place of working to the bottom of the pits.
Your Petitioners, therefore, would humbly suggest, that a partial amendment be made to the said Act, permitting unmarried females to remain in the pits if they choose; that is, those who are already engaged therein, at the same time prohibiting any new entrants, so as that the custom may die out gradually of itself, which will be the means of preventing that misery, distress, and ruin, that will be entailed upon the widow, the fatherless, the orphan, the aged, and the infirm parents, a number of whom have no other way of supporting themselves, or the younger branches of their families, except by the labour of those females who are thus deprived of it by the said Act.
Your Petitioners, with permission, would beg leave further to state for the information of your honourable House, that in this work alone there are upwards of seventy individuals who are more or less injured by the said Act; of that number there are widows, widowers, orphans, fatherless children, children whose parents are bedrid with age or disease, and all their dependence is entirely upon the females drawing or working to themselves or to others.
Your Petitioners also beg leave to remind your honourable House, that, in the present state of trade, there is no room for them in any other branch of industry that is carried on by females in this country, even were they capable of following, as few of them are, not being bred to any other but that stated in this Petition.
Your Petitioners, trusting to the known justice of your honourable House, solicit your attention to this their humble Petition, that it may be taken into serious consideration, so that the relief may be granted them which their situation requires, that their families may be saved from starvation and ruin.
And they, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Wm. M'Dodds, Factor for the Earl of Stair.
Matthew Forster, Tacks Master.
&c. &c. &c.
App. 258 Lord Robert Grosvenor. Sig. 227 - The Petition of the Coalminers employed at Spankerton Colliery [sic - margin states Thankerton], Middle Ward of Lanarkshire,
That your Petitioners considers it disgraceful as well as hurtful to their character as miners and as men, the employment of femails in the pits, in particular after the exposiers that was last year made through out the public press, both in England and Scotland; your Petitioners asures your honourable House that if the employment of femails above eighteen years of age were not more profitable to the employers of Fifeshire and the Lothians, than to the femails themselves, their Petitions would not be so well nor so ready got up.
Your Petitioners are prepared to prove that Petitions have been got up in coal works wholily at the instance of the employers, in favour of the femails being kept in the pits, as also it is plain the employers would have complied with the Act in November last, had it not been that they are large profilers by such an inhumain systum.
Your Petitioners fondly cherishs the hope that your honoural House will consider well before passing a law for the purpose of allowing femails of any age or description to remain one day longer in such a degree of slavery; your Petitioners are well pleased with the Mines and Colliery Act so far as it goes, and fondly hopes it is only the foreruner of a better, and although your Petitioners have but little to complain of with regard to ventilation and machinary at the pits they are employed in, the see much need for an inspector to see that the provisions of the late Act is properly carried in to effect at coal works in general.
That your Petitioners can asure your honourable House that at very fue of the coal works has the slightest attention been paid to the provisions of the late Act since it came into operation in November last; also that many of your Petitioners are actually driven from that part of the kingdom to which the belonged, because the would not make slaves of their wives and daughters.
Your Petitioners, therefore, prays your honourable House not to give your consent to any measuer that will allow femails to be employed in the pits, and that inspectors be appointed to see the provisions of the Act 5 and 6 Victoria carried into effect.
And your Petitioners will, as in duty bound, ever pray.
Alex. Henderson, jun.
&c. &c. &c.
March, twenty-ninth, one thousand eight hundred and forty-three
[From Appendix to the Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions, Session 1843]