Childrens Employment Commission 1842

The following extracts are from the report by Thomas Tancred to the Children's Employment Commission on the West of Scotland District which was published in 1842

Rochsolloch Ironstone Pits

Rochsolloch Ironstone Pits; visited personally

No.17. April 13. William Lochland:
He is contractor for one of the Rochsolloch iron-stone pits which I visited in his company - he was bred a farm-servant in Dumfriesshire. It is 10 years since he came here; he has worked as pit-head man of an iron-stone pit. Many who contract are “cloth merchants” - [i.e. Linen drapers] grocers, &c. who have a practical man on the spot to manage for them; most contractors, however have been miners. Really if Government could do something to put away whisky from the land it would be a blessed thing, it both breaks the Sabbath and brings ruin on families. Women are falling into drinking and the young ones are very fast learning to drink. He calcines about 1200 tons of black-band iron-stone at once and this burns out in about a month. He receives 5s. 6d. a ton for the calcined stone and it loses about one-half its weight in the process. The depth of the black-band from the surface here varies from 11 to 24 fathoms. The workmen's houses here are let only fortnightly; if men were hired by the year they would take more interest in their houses and cultivate their gardens. The few houses built by operatives are let by the year and the tenants of these may work for whom they choose, but those who live in houses belonging to the works if they lose their place are also turned out of their houses.

No.18 Joseph Smith, agent:
Four works have taken these pits between them, viz., Gartsherrie, Calder, Dundyvan and Sommerlee. The Royalty is rented for 10 years, of which 4 have expired. There are 10 pits now worked, in which there may be about 50 persons under 18 years of age, and of them perhaps 20 females of from 16 upwards. Some of the latter are very staid, others flippant enough; most are single women. The pits are let to contractors at a month's warning on either side. The contractors pay all the hands employed, both miners and drawers. There is generally one drawer to each two miners. A man's work is six hutches a-day and a boy's two hutches. The miners are paid fortnightly and mostly live at Airdrie. The contractor, who takes each pit furnishes his own horse for the gin and has six new hutches given him, which he must uphold and procure any more which he may require; and he also lays the rails below ground, which are supplied to him. A woman draws from 28 to 30 hutches a-day, a distance of about 40 fathoms, for 2s. per day. They come down at seven in the morning and go up at six, p.m. There is a sort of slaty coal an inch or two thick under the iron-stone. This is picked out and then wedges are driven in between the iron-stone and the roof with large iron hammer called a “mash.” The masses of stone which fall are then broken up with the hammer. Fourteen yards of the face are taken by each two men and they build their own walls of the roof which falls with the iron-stone, leaving a road 6 feet wide for each 14 yards. This seam of black band dips to the S.W. The contractor receives from 5s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. a ton for calcined stone, each ton of calcined being equal to 2 tons of raw. Children are not allowed to come down under 10 years old. Four shillings a-day is a man's darg, a boy of 13 counts for a quarter of a darg.

The seam of iron-stone, and a flaky rock which falls with it, make a cavity of about 2 feet high under which the miner sits to work, bending one leg under him and extending the other so as to rest the foot against the stone. Thus in a stooping posture he has to use his heavy tools which must be very hard work. Many a one, they said, had lost their lives by the roof falling but not at this place.


No.20. April 13. Rev. Daniel Callaghan, Roman Catholic priest at Airdrie;
Has been here 14 months since the chapel was opened. Young single men come from Ireland to work here and consider themselves quite disconnected with the general population of the place, intending often to return to Ireland with a little money to pay their rent. Absenting themselves, however, from the Sunday services they sometimes fall into habits of intemperance and never save anything. Observes a visible change in regard to external morality [as riotous conduct in the street on Sundays] within the last 12 months, attributable to their being again brought within the influence of religious observances. Considers that he has nearly 5000 people under his charge, which extends eight or ten miles round; his district includes eight iron-works; the people of three others being under the care of a priest who lives at Glasgow and comes out on Sundays to do duty at Hamilton; so many more than the chapel will hold [which is between 700 and 800] are desirous of attending that only last Sunday he requested those who attended the morning service not to come again in the evening and vice versa. Two months ago a branch of the Total Abstinence Society, connected with Father Matthew, was established and he has enrolled 550 members but he does not hurry the thing for fear of relapses. He considers the migratory character of the mining and colliery population is to be ascribed partly to the tenure on which they hold their houses. The day a man ceases to work for a particular employer the same day he is turned out of his house and may be done at a fortnight's warning. The people thus feel themselves wholly unconnected the place. In one work this point struck him forcibly, where 10 families whom he visited, consisting perhaps of 50 individuals, who seemed to consider themselves settled, had all been removed when he next called in about three months. He thinks stores in many instances most iniquitous. In small concerns he thinks them highly demoralising, - for instance, the persons who contract to work iron-stone pits often demoralise the men employed by them through shops kept perhaps by a wife, a brother, or at least a friend. The workmen buy at the store or shop, and errors perhaps are committed in the accounts kept against them. On payday the account is sent in from the shop and the amount stopped off the man's wages and no remonstrances are listened to: perhaps things are charged which the men never have had, or more than they had, or at a higher price. The men finding themselves wronged, in their turn take advantage of others. If an article is not to be had in the store, as often happens and the man has no credit elsewhere, they lend him money, at 1d. in the shilling interest, to purchase he wants elsewhere; some men, by his advice, have ceased to deal at one of these stores in which they complained of unfair dealing and, at the end of the fortnight, when it was found that there was nothing against them at the store to be kept off their wages, they have been told they may look out for work elsewhere; he now advises his people to get some things at the store, as potatoes, meal, &c. in which they cannot be much cheated and to buy other things from independent shops. He has known some earning good wages who did not receive clear, after paying their shops, enough to keep them in decent clothes for the Sunday. Last fortnight a woman was telling him that she had saved half-a-guinea out of her husband's two last pays by following his advice in only partially dealing at a store. He wishes it to be distinctly understood that in works with large stores he hears nothing of these complaints, it is only the stores in which small contractors, &c., are interested to which he alludes. There are still a number of hand-loom weavers at Airdrie, as there are young hands always ready into a vacant shop. Notwithstanding the long hours they work and their inadequate earnings, many of them shudder at the idea of going into a pit. Many houses which receive lodgers have as many as 14 persons in a room, which has a most pernicious effect both on health and morals; they have two beds which you see on entering the room and two at night pull out from under these and cover nearly the whole floor; men coming in dirty from the pit throw off everything but their trousers and begin to wash themselves before the girls of the family. Arbuckle and Dykehead are two places where iron-stone miners are dreadfully huddled together from the scarcity of houses. Most of them are here to-day and away tomorrow.

No.21. April 14. Rev. William Jackson, minister of the West-quoad-sacra parish, Airdrie:
There was fever here last winter to a great extent and nothing being provided for a period of affliction, the people are immediately thrown into a state of destitution. The migratory population about the works has a demoralising effect. The moment a man of this class gets into difficulties he moves away or if he has an illegitimate child, to avoid a decree of aliment for its support, he removes and the expense is thrown upon the parish. There is not a single endowed school in Airdrie, being new parishes. When the original parishes were laid out, a fund was reserved for endowing parochial schools but this has not been done in the new ones.

Monkland Iron Company

Monkland Iron Company's Works; visited personally.

No.22. April 14. Mr. Kirkland, manager and clerk of the store for the Monkland Iron Company, Calder Bank:
The sheriff substitute who held a small debt court at Airdrie has since February made arrangements which will very much increase arrestments of wages. Formerly only the wages due above the sum of 9s. a-week, in the case of single men and of 12s. per week for a family, could be arrested; now only half the above sums are allowed for subsistence and all above 4s. 6d. and 6s. respectively may be arrested. The creditor consequently will now be able to over a much larger amount than he could before; many shopkeepers are consequently are more ready in giving credit than they were before and this is a torment to the employer and the arrestment costs the workman 5s. for the first time his wages are arrested for any debt and 2s. 6d. afterwards. There are certain shops which will allow men's wives to have goods on merely stating their husband's employment and where he works, without requiring further security. They get these paid for by instalments and employ agents to serve arrestments, which are printed for them and filled up by their clerk, the agents being paid regular wages and the fees for the arrestment going into the shopkeepers' pocket. The annoyance to the employers is very great, because these agents will often serve arrestments in several works in which a particular man they wish to get hold of is not employed. In such cases the employers must appear in court, for unless they appear they are held to confess the debt and forced to pay it. If they dispute the validity of an arrestment they must produce their books and undergo a cross-examination as to the particulars. In cases where they have workmen whom they wish to keep but who have extravagant wives, they are forced, to avoid arrestment, to pay the wage every second or third night, which is a great trouble. They cannot secure them set against an arrestment by paying beforehand, as till the money has been earned it is not held be paid. [N B. This plan of paying wages in money frequently has at least the good effect of rendering the workmen independent of the store, and enabling him to deal where he likes.] Mr. Kirkland says the horses and the labourers who work with them begin at seven a.m., work till twelve, when they have an hour whilst the horse rests, and then go on again till five. This is only nine hours' labour for a horse, which is less than most children work in these parts. One of the schoolmasters here lately became agent for the Glasgow savings' bank, and the colliers immediately declared openly that if a man were known to be putting into it and saving, Mr. Buttery would forthwith reduce their wages. However, the “above-ground men” [such as engineers, wrights, &c.] support it. The system of schooling adopted in these works is, that each man employed at the works, and residing within a mile of them, whether he have children or not, is obliged to contribute 2d. weekly towards the schools, of which there are three - one at Calderbank, and two at Chapelhall. Every man employed as above may send a child to any of the schools [whether his own or a neighbour's], either to the day or night-school; if he sends more than one of his own he pays an extra 1d. a-week for each. The masters meet once a-week and send in lists of all their scholars, for which they receive 2d. or 1d. a head and all the surplus is divided in proportion to their scholars amongst them. The company allow the three schoolhouses, the fires, and a house for such of the masters as are married. [The children attending today at the three schools I found to amount to 280, many more being on the books. The evening scholars amount now to about 120.] The schoolmasters are chosen by examination, by a committee consisting of representatives elected by the workmen the different departments and they are merely on monthly wages, and may be turned off at that warning.