Airdrie coal and iron-field.
By far the most important mineral field in all Scotland lies to the east and south-east of Glasgow, and includes the district around Airdrie, chiefly in New Monkland parish, to which the celebrated blackband ironstone is confined. The most valuable stratum is so local that at present it is not known to exist beyond a space of from eight to ten square miles, though deposits to all external appearance very similar are found, but of inferior quality in other places; for instance, at Mr. Dixon’s iron works at Govan near Glasgow, though the same seams of coal occur as in the Airdrie district they have bored 30 fathoms below where the black-band ought to come in, without discovering it.
Seams of coal and ironstone.
In order to give a definite idea of the relative positions and depths of the several workable seams of coal, and of the ironstone, in the Airdrie district, I append a table extracted from the excellent account of the parishes comprised in it contained in the new Statistical Account of Scotland, No. XXVI.
Seams of Coal in the Lanarkshire Basin
|Number of the seam||Names of the seam||Thickness of the seam in feet||Distance from seam to seam in fathoms|
|1||Upper coal||Thin||14 to 16 fathoms|
|2||Ell or Mossdale Coal||3 to 4 feet||7 to 10 fathoms|
|3||Pyotshaw or Rough Ell Coal||3 to 5 feet||6 fathoms to a few inches the 2 seams being worked in some places together|
|4||Main Coal||4 to 5 feet||as per 3|
|5||Humph Coal||Thin||10 fathoms|
|6||Splint Coal||2 to 5 feet||4 fathoms|
|7||Little Coal||3 to 3 ½feet||2 to 3 fathoms|
|8||Virtue-Well, or Sour-Milk||2 to 4 feet||26 to 28 fathoms|
|9||Kiltongue||2 to 4 feet||22 fathoms|
|10||Drumgray||1 to 1 ½ feet||6 fathoms|
Value of blackband ironstone
The value of this comparatively thin band of stone may be judged of by the following statement which I derive from the source above:-
“The great iron-works of Gartsherrie, Sommerlee, Calder and Dundyvan, receive a great quantity ironstone from Rochsolloch, the property of Sir William Alexander, in New Monkland parish. The output at Rochsolloch alone is 4500 tons per month, and the annual income to the proprietor is about £12,600 per annum, on a property which, if let for tillage would yield only a few hundreds a year.”
The circumstance which has given such immense value to this mineral and consequently caused a most rapid increase in the iron-works in the neighbourhood, was the invention of the hot-blast. The method of applying a heated blast to the smelting of iron ore was progressively developed, and, like most inventions, owes its present perfection to numerous attempts of different individuals, so that whilst I write, a trial is in progress regarding the validity of the patent obtained for the use of the hot-blast by Mr Neilson of Glasgow about twelve years ago. Suffice it for the present purpose to say that the general plan now adopted is to drive the air from the blowing cylinders through flattened arched tubes of iron arranged within a furnace of fire-brick, which tubes are rendered red-hot, so that the blast enters the smelting furnaces at a white heat of about 600o Fahrenheit. The great advantages which result from the hot blast are -
1. A great saving of fuel, as about two and a half tons of raw coal now do as much as eight tons with the cold-blast when converted into coke.
2. The saving of labour, &c., in coking.
3. Nearly double the quantity of pig-iron produced from each furnace in the 24 hours.
Moral less satisfactory than economical results
However splendid the above results may appear when viewed only in relation to the cheap and rapid production of pig-iron, when we turn our attention to the state of society which (under the existing circumstances) any extraordinary development of industry is sure to produce, the feelings of triumph subside and we cannot but deplore the utter inadequacy of our institutions to meet any such emergency. Let us glance at the statistics of population and prodiction in Old Monkland Parish, and some other localities in which Ironworks have been established.
Table. List of iron Works in the West of Scotland, specifying the time elapsed since their establishment, the names of the works, the names of the owners, the furnaces in blast, and those out of blast or building, up to May 1841.
|No||Years Established||Name of Parish||Name of Works||Name of owners||Furnaces in Blast||Furnaces, Buildings, &c.|
|1||10 years||Old Monkland||Gartsherrie||W. Baird & Co.||13||3|
|2||5 years||Old Monkland||Sommerlee||Wilson & Co.||6||..|
|3||5 years||Old Monkland||Dundyvan||Dunlop, Wilson & Co.||8||1|
|4||40 years||Old Monkland||Calder||W. Dixon & Co.||7||1|
|5||3 years||Old Monkland||Carnbrae||Allison & Co.||5||..|
|6||15 and 5 years, the Mills, 3||Old Monkland||Monkland Iron & Steel||Buttery & Co.||5||..|
|7||Ancient||Old Monkland||Clyde||James Dunlop||6||1|
|8||40 years||Shotts||Shotts||John Baird & Co.||3||..|
|9||3 years||Shotts||Castle-Hill||John Baird & Co.||2||..|
|10||3 years||Bothwell||New Mains, or Coltness||Houldsworth||2||..|
|11||Re-built 2 yrs||Bothwell||Omoa, or Cleland||R. Stewart||1||1|
|12||2 years||Govan||Govan||W. Dixon||5||1|
|13||2 years||Govan||Wilsontown||W. Dixon||1||..|
|14||6 months||Dalry||Blair Iron-works||
|15||6 months||Kilbirnie||Kilbirnie Iron-works||
|16||1 year||Kilbirnie||Galston or Cessnock Iron-works||M'Callum & Co.||2||..|
|17||1 year||Kilbirnie||Muirkirk||Not ascertained||..||..|
The manner in which the population has increased in consequence of the recent establishment of such extensive works within a limited district of the country is shown in the following table for the parish of Old Monkland:
|Year||Amount of Population||Increase in a Year|
The amount of produce of the furnaces in Old Monkland is thus stated up to April, 1839:-
|Years||Tons of Pig Iron produced||Tons of Coal consumed|
"Thus," remarks the writer of this account, "these furnaces alone [those in Old Monkland. parish] consume as much coal in a year as the city of Glasgow, including its manufactories and public works, and more lime than all the farmers in Lanarkshire." This estimate would now be far exceeded. The Gartsherrie furnaces are now producing on an average 200 tons a-day. The increase of population in the adjoining parish of New Monkland has been very similar to that in Old Monkland, viz. from 9867 in 1831, to 20,515 in 1841; about 108 percent in 10 years.
Condition of population
This vast and sudden accession of population, consisting for the most part of irregular and dissolute characters from all parts - from Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland - has produced a state of society, upon the existence of which, in a civilised country, we cannot reflect without a deep feeling that at manifests something essentially defective in our religious and educational institutions.
Population of Coatbridge
At Coatbridge, where a large portion of this population has been located within the last ten years, no church or clergyman has been supplied them till very recently, when a church was erected, chiefly at the expense of one out of the numerous employers of labour in the district. There is also a relief church, provided also by voluntary contributions. These efforts come, of course, as must always be the case so long as things of this importance are left as now to accident and chance, too late. In the meanwhile a population has been growing up immersed more deeply than any I have met with in the most disgusting habits of debauchery. I feel that my powers of description are wholly inadequate to convey the feeling inspired by a visit to these localities. The able Report of Mr Tremenheere upon the state of the districts about Newport in South Wales, in which the Chartist riots broke out, would apply not inaptly to the state of things about Coatbridge and Airdrie. Everything that meets the eye or ear tells of slavish labour united to brutal intemperance. At night, ascending to the hill on which the Established Church stands, the groups of blast-furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes, at most of which the smelting is continued Sundays and week-days, by day and night without intermission. By day a perpetual steam arises from the whole length of the canal where it receives the waste water from the blast-engines on both sides of it; and railroads, traversed by long trains of waggons drawn by locomotive engines, intersect the country in all directions and are the cause of frequent fatal accidents, into which, by the law of Scotland, no inquiry is made.
The population consists almost exclusively of colliers and iron-workers, with no gentry or middle class beyond a few managers of works and their clerk. I visited many of the houses attached to some of the works and found them in a most neglected state, bespeaking an absence of all domestic comfort or attention to social duties. The garden-ground usually lay a mere waste, unenclosed and not a spade put into it; the children, in rags and filth were allowed to corrupt each other, exempt from all the restraints of school or of domestic control. This domestic discomfort seemed attributable, amongst other causes, to the crowded state of the habitations, which, from the want of buildings to contain the rapidly increasing population, were filled with lodgers. I was assured that some houses, with a family and only two rooms, took in as many as 14 single men as lodgers. It is needless to observe how impossible it must be for a woman to preserve decency, cleanliness, or comfort, under such circumstances. An infatuated love of money, for no purpose but to minister to a degrading passion for ardent spirits, seems the all pervading motive of action in this quarter. I remember particularly the house of a workman, in which I found the wife in tears and hardly an article of furniture; a board supported on lumps of coal being the only apology for a seat, the bed-places and walls completely denuded. The poor woman, on being questioned as to the cause of this appearance of wretchedness, bitterly complained of the drunken habits of her husband; and what was my surprise to learn from the manager of the works, that he was a very skilful workman, a furnace-keeper and could earn when he chose from 7s. to 10s. per day! We afterwards met him in liquor at the store, where he was insisting upon getting more spirits and so violent was his behaviour that at last the manager took him by the shoulders and turned him out, barring the door after him.
I was informed that, almost universally, the higher the wages the greater the discomfort in which the workmen lived and the sooner, on the least illness or other cessation of wages, they became destitute. In short, their moral condition or their state of civilisation is such as to incapacitate them from making a right use of money. As a manager observed to me, "they have more work to spend their money than to win it."
Another reason why they are generally careless of the state of their houses, I take to be that they have no feeling that they are their homes, or likely to be their permanent habitations. The houses being for the most built by the several works and quite inadequate to the demand, it is always understood that when a man leaves his work he and his family must remove from the house, or "flit," as it is termed. Thus the houses are held only from fortnight to fortnight, or one pay-day to another. The greatest contrast is observable in other parts of the country where the workmen are engaged by the year and where, consequently, they are secure of their houses for that time at least, as in the Duke of Portland's collieries and others, in the valley of the Irvine, in Ayrshire, or where some houses have been built by workmen themselves, or can be hired by them independently of their employers, as at Chapel Hall iron and coal works, Lanarkshire.
Chapel Hall iron-works
Though this last mentioned work is but a few miles from Airdrie, the whole appearance of the place is strikingly different from most others in that district. The following is an extract from the notes I made on visiting it:-
"A long row of new houses for the workmen extends at intervals along one side of the turnpikeroad, many of which have been built by operatives who can feu from 20 falls and upwards of land from the proprietor, Mr Roberton. Till lately the price was 1s. per fall; it is now generally 1s 3d. All the strips of land, of whatever breadth, must extend backwards from the front of the house 50 yards and also a certain space must be left between houses and the road, which would give them a very neat appearance, were it not for the untidy habits of the natives, who cover this space with coals, the boundary between it and the road being a ditch full of soap-suds and other filth. However, they have all nice gardens, white blinds to their windows, and a room and kitchen. As an encouragement to the erection houses, by which his property is rapidly increasing in value, Mr Roberton is willing to advance half the cost of the building upon the security of the house and land. An average house costs £60. A woman, whose family occupied a room and kitchen which I entered, told me that they paid 8s. 7d. A fortnight for the rent of the house and garden, coals, the doctor's fee, the blacksmith and the schooling. The above items might perhaps be thus distributed:-
Firing, perhaps 2s. 9d. a fortnight
Doctor's fee 0s. 4d. a fortnight
Smith's 0s. 6d. a fortnight
Schooling 0s. 6d. a fortnight
Subtotal 4s. 1d.
Leaving rent 4s. 6d. a fortnight
or £5 17s. 0d. per annum.
Plan for raising school fees.
The plan of inducing the parents to send their children to school at these works and at Calder Bank (both belonging to the Monkland Iron Company) is peculiar and is said to work well. Every adult male employed the works, and residing within a mile of them, is required to contribute weekly to the maintenance of schools. This payment entitles him to send one child (either his own or a neighbour's) to any of the schools supported by the works, either day or night school and if he sends more than one of his own children, he pays 1d. a-week extra for each. The several schoolmasters meet once a-week and send into the pay-office their lists of scholars, receiving each the 2d. or 1d. per week and the surplus at the end of the half-year is divided amongst them in proportion to the number of their scholars.
The school-houses, fires and dwellings for the masters, are furnished by the Company. The attendance of children up to a certain age was very numerous under this plan. Indeed, one school which I visited was most improperly crowed - it was really impossible to get in at the door; and on surveying the dense mass of children within they appeared to be standing on each other's shoulders - one class who were reading having to stand upon the forms amongst the writers, the floor being too crowded to allow of their remaining upon it. This will appear no exaggeration when it is stated that into a room 16 feet square and 9 feet high there were crammed 140 children of both sexes. This allows not 2 square feet of floor to each child; whereas the minimum allowed in national schools in England is 6 square feet. The 140 children occupied 256 square feet of floor, whilst the National Society's allowance would have been at least 840. There was no playground but the road. The deleterious effects of this dreadfully crowded state of the school on both master and children need hardly be remarked. The former said that he had been lately laid up for a fortnight, chiefly, he believed, from being so many hours daily in an impure atmosphere. Very few works which I visited could be supposed so injurious to the health of the children as this school-room; and I am afraid very many of these buildings, if not so bad as the one I have alluded to, are very deficient in proper means of ventilation.
In mentioning collieries where attention is paid to the domestic comforts and morals of the workpeople, I must not omit an honourable mention of Mr Macready of Pearston, near Irvine, in Ayrshire. This gentleman, in establishing a new colliery, is anxious to secure a moral and wellconducted population, in which however, he encounters considerable difficulties. Plenty of men offer services but they are usually the refuse of other works and consequently, it is necessary to offer a premium to steady men, by giving a house rent-free.
For the arrangement of his colliery houses he obtained a prize from the Highland Society. The plan is very simple [click here to view plan], each house being merely a square of 18 feet 6 inches within the walls. Of this space, a strip of six feet wide is partitioned off at the back, which is divided into two compartments. Thus the house consists of a kitchen 18 feet 6 inches by 12 feet, having a bed-place on the side opposite the fire, a press, or closet, between this and the door and one window. Out of the kitchen open two doors into small bed-rooms without fireplaces, each nine feet by six feet, having each a window one foot wide and four high. These separate rooms afford accommodation for lodgers and also the means of washing and dressing apart from the family in the kitchen. The floors are made of a kind of concrete of lime, gravel, &c. In the centre of the row of 15 of these cottages is a higher building which projects beyond the rest, and is designed for the school-room. The houses have a southern aspect, and are each provided with a coal-shed and a garden beyond, privies being placed at each end of the grounds and planted out with larch and spruce firs. These young trees, I observed with pleasure, were not materially injured, though, left quite unprotected amongst the numerous young children, and the gardens were all planted with potatoes.
The Duke of Portland's collieries near Kilmarnock, under the able management of Mr. Guthrie, and likewise Mr. Bailie Finnie's in the same neighbourhood, are gratifying proofs of the success which attends well-directed efforts to improve the moral condition of such a population. Mr. Guthrie being very unwell at the time of my visit to that part of the country, I had not the advantage of taking his evidence, but this is in some measure supplied by the evidence of Mr.Muir (No.32), who has adopted Mr. Guthrie's system in the management of the collieries of which he has charge. He states that most of the colliers are hired by the year, and that this practice has had a very beneficial effect. He is also careful not to let children enter the pits very young, or before they have acquired some education. Mr. Guthrie's clerk also states (No.33), "Our people here on the Sabbath-day just go to church as regular as they go to the coal-work; Mr. Guthrie has got it so imbibed in them; he sets them the example himself."
Other mineral fields in the West Scotland - Dumbartonshire & Renfrewshire
Quitting now for a short time the Lanarkshire coal and iron district, to which the above remarks chiefly apply, I will endeavour to give a succinct idea of the other mineral fields in the West of Scotland. The coal-fields in Stirlingshire, about Bannockburn and along the Firth of Forth, were included in the district of the other Sub-commissioner, Mr. Franks, to whom the East of Scotland was allotted.
Dumbartonshire- In Dumbartonshire there is only a small coal district as yet worked, not far from Glasgow, about Jordan Hill and Knightswood where also a sort of black-band ironstone is wrought to a small extent.
In Renfrewshire there are two coal-fields, Househill, or Hurlet, to the south-east, and Johnstone to the south-west of Paisley, where the principle sale for the coal raised here is found. Whether these are not two outlying branches of the Ayrshire Basin, which appears to branch off at the sea-side about Stevenston into three forks, one running by Dalry and Beith towards Johnstone, another towards Hurlet and the third up the valley of the Irvine to Galston, I leave for determination to those who have more time for geological investigations than I could devote to that subject. The Johnstone coal-field is a very singular one. It consists of five seams of coal, of which sometimes two or more, sometimes the whole five, are united into one thick seam with hardly any separation between them, so that the metals or rocks intervening between two seams which in some places amount to 60 feet, in others have diminished to a thin band of a few inches. In the Auchlodmont pit, which I descended, I visited, by means of cross cuts, all the five seams and in one place found them all worked together, a thickness of 16 feet. They are also thrown up, fractured by dykes in a most singular manner, sometimes seeming to overlap each other and at other places to thin off and disappear altogether. The figure represents in a rough way the appearance presented by a section shown me.[Click here to view figure]
In going through the old workings, instead of being forced almost to creep on hands and knees as in most pits, we walked upright through spacious vaults, observing the sections of different coloured rocks interstratisfied with the coal. The following section of the strata in this coal-field is given in the Statistical Account of Scotland, No. XIV:-
|No||Name of Strata||Thickness of Strata|
|2||Sandstone and indurated clay in thin beds||8||0||0|
|3||Fire-clay, with coarse ironstone||4||0||0|
A peculiarity in this section is the great body of greenstone overlying the common coal measures. At the spot where this section is taken the coals lie as if they had been cut through, and one-half slid over the other; so that in most parts this field is only one-half of the thickness here represented: it is very limited in extent.
The other Renfrewshire field, namely, the Hurlet one, is also peculiar from the number of products raised from the same pits. These consist of limestone, ironstone, coal, aluminous schistus, and pyrites. The copperas from the latter and the alum from the former of the last-mentioned products are products manufactured in chemical works near. A section of this field presents the following strata:-
|No||Name of Strata||Thickness of Strata|
|1||Earth and clay||42||0|
|2||Sand and gravel||8||0|
|3||Schistus, with many beds and balls of ironstone||105||0|
|6||Coal with pyrites||5||3|
In Ayrshire coal is more extensively diffused, being worked in the parishes of Kilbirnie, Dalry, Kilwinning, Stevenston, Irvine, Dreghorn, Kilmarnock, Galston, Riccarton, Dundonald, Mauchline, Muirkirk, St. Quivox, Ayr, Coylton, Cumnock and Daily.
The coal from Stevenston colliery, one of the oldest in Scotland, and in the valley of the Irvine as well as from Girvan, is shipped chiefly to Ireland for distilleries, lime-kilns, &c. I understood that this trade has been somewhat affected lately by the competition of Northumberland coal, brought across the country by the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, and shipped at Maryport. Little ironstone is yet worked in Ayrshire, two furnaces at Dalry, and one at Galston, being all as yet in blast, though more are building, both at these places and also at Kilbirnie.
Having now cursorily surveyed the mineral district comprehended in this Report, I will proceed to the particulars regarding the employment and condition of the younger portion of the labourers engaged in the several works, pointed out for special observation in the Instructions to Sub-commissioners.
I - Age and Number
The tabular returns requested from the principal iron-works and collieries in Lanarkshire not having been made, I regret that it is not in my power to give anything like a correct statement of the numbers of children and young persons engaged in these departments of labour. There is no doubt, however, that the number must be very large. What is perhaps of more practical consequence, viz. the age at which children begin to work in the different sorts of occupations included in the present Report, I can state more exactly from personal inquires. In the coal-pits children are taken down at a very early age, often when eight years old and even earlier, to keep the doors which regulate the ventilation in some mines. The use of these doors, however, is not so general the West of Scotland as in some parts of England, where the coal being at a greater depth fewer shafts are sunk and the fields being less broken up by dykes and troubles, the under-ground workings extend to a greater distance on one level than is generally the case in the West of Scotland. At nine or ten the child becomes strong enough to help another to draw or push a "whirley," the iron, wooden, or hazel carriage in which the coals are conveyed along small railways from the face of the seam to the bottom of the shaft, from which they are hoisted to the surface by machinery.
The rules very general amongst the colliers for stinting or limiting each other's earnings have an effect in promoting the employment of younger children than would otherwise be taken below ground. The general rule is that a man shall not earn above from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a-day; consequently, whatever quantity of coal delivered at the pit-bottom is paid by the employer 3s. 6d. or 4s. - this is fixed by the men as a man's "darg," or day's work. No collier is allowed to deliver more than this, though the employer were willing to pay him for it. If, however, a man has children, they can draw this coal for him, and thus enable him to get through his darg in a shorter time and with less labour than if he had to draw them himself. When the child comes to about 10 years old he is considered by the colliers as "a quarter man," sometime called "a quarter "bain," or "ben." The employment of such a child entitles a man to deliver a quarter more coals above a man's darg and thus instead of 4s. to earn 5s a-day. At 12 or 13 a child is a half man, and at 16 or 17 a three-quarter man and may then use a pick and hew coal for himself. A child of 10 would be of very little or no use alone but as the fact of his being in the pit enables his father to earn more than he otherwise could, he is induced not only to take him down but to bring down another younger of nine or so to help him in drawing the whirley.
The following table will show such particulars with regard to coal and ironstone mines as I have been able to compile from the returns made to me, which, however, embrace only one work in the Airdrie district:-
Table compiled from returns made from some collieries and ironstones mines in the West of Scotland - Coal Mines
|Name of Colliery and of owner or lessee||No. of seams worked ; Thickness and depth of each||Number of people employed||Whether Females are employed; and age at which children begin to work||Gross Weight of loaded corf, and distance drawn||Power of engines|
|Adults||13 to 18||Below 13|
|Govan (Lanarkshire), Wm. Dixon, Esq., Gorbals Parish||
1st seam 4 feet
2nd seam 3 feet 1in
3rd seam 4 feet
4th seam 3 feet
5th seam 3 feet 6in
1st seam 48 fathoms deep
6th seam 90 fathoms deep
|808||157||49||No females; some children begin to work from 7 to 8; most about 9 years old||7 1/2cwt. 50 to 200 fathoms||300 horse power|
|Thankerton and Gartsherrie (Lanarkshire) William Baird & Co.||..||..||..||..||16 females; children begin to work from 8 to 9 years old||..||..|
|Hurlet (Renfrewshire), J. Wilson & Sons||1 seam 5 feet 3 in||..||25||14||No females; children begin to work at 9||..||..|
|Swindridge Muir (Ayrshire), W. Smith Neil, Esq., Dalry Parish||
Seams 2 to 5 feet;
depth 13 to 28 fathoms
|55||18||4||No females; children begin to work at 10 years old||5 1/4 cwt, 500 yards utmost distance||1 engine of 20, 1 of 10 and 1 of 5 horse power|
|Kilwinning (Ayrshire), Lord Eglinton, Kilwinning Parish||
Lady Hall coal 2ft 4 in
Ell coal 2ft 4in
Stone coal 2ft 2in
Main coal 4 ft 0in
Depth of lowest 40 fathoms
|50||19||5||No females; children begin about 10 years old||4 3/4cwt, 300 yards||31|
|Stevenston, Messrs warner and Cunninghame, Stevenston Parish||
5 seams from 2ft 2in
to 4 ft thick;
depth 20 to 67 fathoms
|205||44||29||No females; children begin to work at 9 years||4cwt. Greatest distance 450 yards||..|
|Caprington, J. Smith Cunninghame, Esq., Dundonald Parish||
1st seam 4ft 6in
2nd seam 3ft 0in
Depth 40 fathoms
|103||29||15||No females; children begin at 11 years||6 cwt. Drawn 200 to 250 yards||140|
|Kilgrammie, Joseph Whitfield Esq., Daily Parish||
1 seam 3 feet
1 seam 4 feet
1 seam 5 feet
1 seam 6 feet
1 seam 8 feet
Depth 30 to 35 fathoms
|40||22||10||No females; children beginfrom 8 to 9 years||9cwt. Drawn 100 to 200 yards||1 engine of 30, 1 of 14, 1 of 10|
|Shewalton, Samson & Co., Dundonald Parish||
Seams 2ft 4 in to 2 ft 10in
Depth 11 to 36 fathoms
|80||17||12||No females; trappers begin from 7 to 8; drawers 9 to 10 years||4cwt. 300 yards||..|
|Drongan, Messrs J & P Duncan, Stair Parish||
1st seam 3ft
at 8 fathoms from surface
2nd seam 11 feet
at 14 fathoms below No 1.
3rd seam 5ft
at 6 fathoms below No 2
|27||3||5||No females; boys begin from 8 to 9 years old||2 1/2 cwt. 110 yards on an average||32|
|Dalzellowlie, Sir C. Dalrymple Ferguson, bt., Kirkoswald Parish||
1st seam 15 feet
2nd seam 7 feet
3rd seam 5 feet
4th seam 4 feet
5th seam 7 feet
All from 10 to 29 fathoms
|38||8||5||No females; boys begin about 9 years old||4 1/2 cwt. Drawn by adults on sledges||20|
|Dalquharran, Hon. T F Kennedy, Daily Parish||
1 seam 14 feet
1 seam 7 feet
1 seam 6 feet
1 seam 8 feet
1 seam 6 feet
59 fathoms deep
|31||12||8||No females; boys begin about 9 years||9 3/4cwt. 50 to 250 yards||1 engine of 12 and 1 of 10|
Table compiled from returns made from some collieries and ironstones mines in the West of Scotland - Iron-stone Mines
|Name of Colliery and of owner or lessee||No. of seams worked ; Thickness and depth of each||Number of people employed||Whether Females are employed; and age at cwhich children begin to work||Gross Weight of loaded corf, and distance drawn||Power of engines|
|Adults||13 to 18||Below 13|
|Whiterigg, W Dixon, Esq., New Monkland Parish||
Seam 10 to 13 inches
Wild coal 8 in
Working places 22 in high
Main-way 3 1/2 feet
|251||39||19||4 females; 1 child at 8 years; others at 9||11cwt. Drawn by women and adult males||153|
|Staurigg, Plaw-yards, Cairn Hill, Raivyards, Coatdyke, New Monkland Parish, W Baird & Co.||..||Not stated||132||82||13 females; boys begin from 9 to 10 years old||..||..|
|Shotts, Chas. Baird & Co., Shotts Parish||
Coal 2ft 6in, 6ft 9in
Blaes and ironstone 1 ft
Depth 16 to 28 fathoms
|240||41||32||49 females; children begin to work about 9 years old||5cwt. 200 fathoms furthest. Drawn by females||1 engine 50 and 2 gins|
It is stated in the Evidence and also in answers to your printed queries, that under 13 or 14 boys are of more annoyance than use to proprietors and that they would be glad that they were excluded from the pits at an earlier age.
In the different works for the manufacture of articles of iron the youngest employed are the moulders in foundries where hollow ware is made, such as cast-iron pots and pans, and in small chain-making; also the rivet boys in the boiler-making department. From 9 to 10 years old is a common age to begin. The nature of these employments will be described below. Boys of 11 and upwards are employed at the rolling-mills, where malleable iron is rolled into bars, rails, &c. and lads of 14 to 16 at the puddling-furnaces. There are three iron-works in the west of Scotland, where malleable iron is made, most of the workers at which are English. At 12 years old boys begin to assist in chain-making, or to assist blacksmiths.
II – Hours of Work
In collieries it seems the universal custom to begin work very early in the morning often by four o'clock, a practice which must increase the hardship of that sort of labour to young children, boys and girls. The collier usually engages not only to hew or pick out the coal but also to draw it to the bottom of the shaft. In order, therefore, to get coal ready by six o'clock, the time the engine starts to raise it to the surface, when the rule is, "first come first served," the colliers are anxious to get coal picked out in time to supply the engine. The time of ceasing work in the afternoon varies considerably according to the hardness of the coal, the distance it has to be drawn, the demand, and other circumstances. For instance, if a large quantity of coal drawn from considerable distances is to be raised by one shaft, the drawers must be kept waiting a long time at the pit-bottom till the first comers have sent up their loads before they can return to the face of the coal for another hutchful. In some cases the children do not go down quite as early as the colliers, though if young it is safer for them to be lowered in the same corf with a man; but in all cases they must remain down as long, if not longer, than the collier, in order to draw the last of his day's work. Consequently, when working full time, the children will remain down the pit 11 to 13 hours consecutively. The same hours apply to the trappers who keep the doors for directing the current of ventilation in some pits.
On inquiring the reason of the early hour at which colliers commence work the only explanation I have been able to obtain is, that some sorts of coal deteriorate if stored up at the pit-mouth, so that it is generally sent off to the furnaces, or by carts and canals for shipment or land sale, as soon as raised from the pit. I imagine, however, that habit and custom have more to do with the practice in most cases than any real necessity.
Night-work in collieries is very seldom practised in the west of Scotland and where it prevails is principally confined to adults called redsmen or on-cost men, who are employed in blowing down the roof, building walls along the sides of the main-roads and keeping them in proper repair, or in driving levels to connect one seam with another, sinking pits, &c. In short, it is not the raising of coal but works preparatory to that operation, which cause night-work; excepting to a small extent in Govan colliery, which is the only one, as far as I am informed, where children work at night.
The hours of work in collieries are evidently too long, for it is found impossible for men to continue them day after day; and the general custom amongst colliers is not to exceed 10 days' work in the fortnight. This is the amount of work stipulated by the regulations of collieries, examples of which are appended. It would evidently be better for all parties were the day's work reduced to such an amount, say eight hours, that the colliers' could work steadily 12 days a fortnight. The objections I have heard to this are, that the men prefer rising later of a morning, and having a complete idle day now and then, and that the expense of oil, picks, &c., would be nearly the same for a short day as for a long one.
No.1 – Standing Rules & Regulations by which all colliers and others employed at Govan Colliery by William Dixon, shall be, and by their acceptance of work are, bound to adhere to and perform.
1. That every collier or other person employed (not under special agreement to the contrary.) shall give 14 days' warning, in writing before he can leave his employment;- and shall perform his stipulated quantity of work within that time. That this warning shall be given to the clerk in the office, before the pay begins, upon a pay-day alone, and counted from that time.
2. That every collier and other servant (not under special agreement to the contrary), shall be obliged, on 14 days' intimation being given him, upon a pay-day, to leave the colliery and flit or remove, at the end of that period, from the house and garden he may possess.
3. That every collier and drawer shall apply at the office and get entry made of the strength he engages to be rated at, either for himself alone, or including that of his family and no alteration will be made upon such entry, unless 14 days' previous notice be given to the clerk.
4. That each collier and drawer shall put out his full work each day, for 10 days each fortnight, according to the strength he is rated at and shall take his instructions from the oversman as to the days in the week upon which he is to cleeck.
5. That each collier and drawer shall run the risk of his work being stopped by unforeseen occurrence or accident, but may be allowed (upon application to the oversman), on his two stated idle day, to make up the time so lost.
6. That no meeting of any kind shall be allowed in any of the pits.
7. That no collier or other person employed shall now be, or while so employed become, a member of, or connected with, any society whatsoever, that does or may interfere, in any manner of way, with the employer's just right of employing, retaining and discharging such workmen as may be considered proper; or with a workman's right of working and engaging to work, in the way, upon the terms, and with whom he may think for the interest of himself and family.
8. That every person employed at the colliery shall enter as a member of the Govan Colliery Friendly and Free Labour Society, unless the managers of the Society have objections.
9. That every person above 16 years of age shall enter as a member of the Govan Colliery, Govan Iron Works and Forge Funeral Fund, unless the managers of the fund have objections.
10. That every person occupying a house belonging to the colliery shall pay at office, each pay-day, the school wages fixed by the managers of the school for each of his children from 6 to 12 years of age.
11. That the evening-school wages shall be retained in the office each pay, if not paid to the teacher.
12. That no person shall keep a dog, either at his place of work or in any of the houses belonging to the colliery, nor shall keep fowls.
No. 2 - Contract for workers at Gatehead Colliery Kilmarnock
It is contracted and agreed betwixt the parties following, viz.:- A.B.,collier, working at Gatehead colliery, on the one part, and B.C., as manager of Gatehead colliery on the other part. That is to say, the said A. B. hereby engages himself to work as a collier at Gatehead colliery for the term of …….. months, from and after this date, and that in any of the pits the master may require his services, either by day or night, as desired; and also, the said A. B. engages himself to give regular and steady work, and not less than 10 days per fortnight, unless prevented by distress, or interruption in the pits; and farther, he agrees to give two weeks' notice before the expiry hereof, if he intends leaving the work; and he agrees to submit and abide by the present regulations that are established in the work, or any that may be established during the currency of this engagement, for the good government of the work. On the other part, the said B. C., as manager foresaid, hereby becomes bound to see that the said A. B. be paid the same rate of prices that are paid to other colliers in the pit or pits he may be put into, while under this engagement, and also to see that he gets the same privileges and regulations as other colliers in the pit he may be employed.
In witness whereof we have subscribed these presents, at …….., the day of …….., eighteen
hundred and thirty …….. years, before these witnesses.
No.3 - Contract for workers at the Duke of Portland's Collieries, Kilmarnock.
…………… hereby engage to work as colliers at the Duke of Portland's coal-work's, for the space of one year from the dates of our respective signatures; and during said period, we bind ourselves to attend to our work every lawful day, if required to do so; and to abide by, and implement, the rules and regulations as established at the works, and never to absent ourselves during the period of this our agreement without obtaining the permission of His Grace's agent to do so; and we are to keep good order at our work and not to keep, or allow to be kept, at our dwelling-houses, dogs, rabbits, pigeons, or poultry.
No.4 - Regulations to be observed at Ayr Colliery, and to which every man or boy employed at it, shall be understood to be bound, whether he has signed them or not.
1. Every one hereby declares that he never belonged to, or that he has now renounced being a member of, any union or association of working men and he binds and obliges himself never hereafter to be a member of any such.
2. That if, in violation of the above rule, any one should be found to belong, at any time any such union or association, he shall not only instantly be compelled to renounce it, but shall also forfeit one
month's wages and be liable to pay the proprietor £5 sterling.
3. That there shall be no meetings of colliers or oncost held above or below ground. If there be any grievance to complain of, each collier or oncostman is to complain to the manager for himself alone.
4. That no man or boy who may he employed at the works is under any obligation to pay entry money, or give drink to those who were at the work before them; and to prevent each being asked, the person or persons who ask it shall be fined at the discretion of the masterr or his manager; and any person giving it voluntarily and being thereby the means of keeping the men from their work, shall be fined in the like manner as above.
5. No warning now necessary on either part.
6. That every man shall give, as he hereby engages to give, regular and steady work and not less than 10 days per fortnight; and he engages to work by night or day, and in whatever pit or pits his services may, from time to time, be required, he being paid for his same rate of prices as shall be paid at the time to the other colliers in the pit or pits he may be put into; and if any collier does not give 10 days' full work per fortnight, he not being prevented by illness or interruption in the pits, then for every day of that number he does not so work, he shall forfeit one full day's wages, if the manager choose to extract it.
7. That, to prevent loss of work, if any man or boy begins a day's work, and does not finish the same, or produce a reasonable excuse satisfactory to the master or his manager, he shall forfeit on account and in payment of the oncost expenses placed in the pits, a full day's wages.
8. That every collier shall be bound, in the absence of putters, to assist in putting the coals of his pit, whenever the oversman shall require him to do so, he receiving 6d. per day above the ordinary putter's wages for the time being; and failing his doing so, he shall be liable to forfeit, at the discretion of the manager, one full day's wages.
9. That no collier shall be entitled to firecoal unless he has worked 10 full days in the fortnight.
10. Any collier exceeding the bounds allowed him to work in shall be fined at the discretion of the oversman or manager; and all turns to the trams, &c., to be regulated by the oversman of each pit.
11. Any man or boy taking away the tools of another shall be fined 2s. 6d. for every such tool, and if the loser of the tools is thereby deprived of his day's work, the 2s. 6d. is to be paid to him; but if it shall appear that he returns the 2s. 6d., or any part of it, he shall likewise be fined 2s. 6d.; but if such person did not lose his day's work, the fine shall go to the Poor's Fund.
12. Any man or boy lifting his hand and striking another in the pits, or on the road to and from the pits, or at the pit's head, shall be fined 2s. 6d. for the first offence and 5s. for the second.
13. That in regard to proving any of the offences mentioned above, for which fines or forfeitures may be imposed, the master or manager shall be the sole judge; and if he is satisfied that the offence has been committed, there shall be no appeal to any party or court whatever.
14. Any man or boy committing any depredation on the crops or fences in the neighbourhood of, or leading to or from the pits, shall be fined, on proof thereof being adduced, at the discretion of the manager.
15. That for any offences not specially mentioned herein, the master or manager shall have the power to impose fines according to the degree of the offence.
16. All fines imposed under the above Regulations shall be paid by the manager to the Poors' Fund kept for behalf of the distressed about the work.
Ayr Colliery Office, 3rd August, 1837
In iron-works such children and young persons as are employed either at the smelting-furnaces or at the malleable iron forges, where such are established, work alternate weeks in the day and night shift, remaining at the works for 12 hours successively, though the nature of their employment (to be described below) does not require them to be constantly occupied, or actually to be at work more than perhaps half that time.
In iron foundries, as in almost every other trade in the West of Scotland the regular hours of work are from six am to six pm, with two hours deducted for meals, making 10 working hours a-day, most works stopping earlier on Saturday and the dinner-hour being postponed till after work is over on that day.
Under the common name of foundries are comprised works of very different kinds. There are the general founders, who execute any job from drawings to order, such as cast-iron pillars for buildings, railing, cisterns for dye-works, by contract, &c.; these are generally smaller concerns and do not employ many children.
Then there are the hollow-ware makers, who cast pots and pans for export, also grates, bushes for wheels, &c. These employ the greatest number of children, as most of the articles manufactured being of a light description they can be moulded and cast by boys. The hours of work are sometimes two above the regular ones; but as the cupolas in which the metal is melted can only be run only once a-day, and I have not seen more than two cupolas in a foundry, one run in the forenoon and the other in the afternoon, the moulding and casting, in which the most children are employed, is thus limited to certain times, beyond which it cannot be extended without enlarging the works. The above articles are cast in what is called green-sand.
The third description of foundries are employed in what is called loam moulding for heavier goods, such as parts of machinery, guns, &c. Such founders are also called engineers when they not only cast the machinery to order but themselves manufacture the engines whether for steamboats or railway-carriages. The first essay in steam navigation having been attempted on the Clyde, the manufacture of marine engines seems to have naturalised itself on the banks of that river at Glasgow and Greenock, where Robert Napier, Todd and M'Gregor, Caird and Co., and others, execute machinery for all parts of the world. In these very large works the rivet-boys, who heat the rivets with which the boiler-plates are fastened together, form the chief class of the children employed.
The last mentioned class of founders, namely, those who are also engineers, and who make and repair machinery, are the most liable to over-hours of work. In the case of machinery breaking, or of a boiler requiring repair at any public work, such as a factory, print-work, colliery, &c., or on board of one of the numerous steam-vessels on the Clyde, the engineers are required to effect the repairs at night, in order that as little time as possible may be lost by the accident. The frequency of jobs of this kind must of necessity require the employment of some hands at night-work a great many nights in the year. This, however, applies only to a few individuals at a time and for each person in a large work, does not amount to much in the year.
A more extensive demand for overtime is caused by the limited period within which a large order for machinery is sometimes promised. For sake of a single order it would of course not answer to enlarge the premises and ambitious men are sometimes tempted to undertake a larger order than their accommodation enables them to get through within the regular hours. Though Caird and Company of Greenock have gone to considerable expense in enlarging their works in order to obviate the necessity of over-hours, I found that their contract to supply steam-engines to some of the splendid West Indian mail-packets now building on the Clyde, had been the cause of working two hours over-time for some months.
These over-hours, with the consequent extra pay, allowances of fermented liquors and the cessation from attendance at night-schools on the part of the younger hands, have a demoralising effect upon all the workers, to which it never can be the true interest either of the employer or of the State to allow them to be exposed. The great majority of workmen themselves, as well as of their employers, will, I feel confident from personal intercourse with them support the legislature in an endeavour to do away entirely with over-hours of work, unless in the exceptional cases of a few men repairing accidents at night. Upon this point I have before cited the opinions of manufacturers, founders and others, in my Report on Calico Printing, so that I will only further refer at present to the testimony of a few witnesses engaged in foundries, chain-works, &c., which will be found in the evidence collected by myself on the spot and attached to this Report. (Nos.44 to 48, both inclusive.)
III - Meals
In most collieries no particular time is specified for meals. The collier is allowed to put out a certain quantity of coals per day and he may choose his own hours for doing it, the only way in which the period of work is at all regulated by the coal-owner being that the engine by which the coal is raised to the surface begins to work generally at six o'clock in the morning, and continues at work till the day's output is all up. In the few pits where horses are employed below ground to draw the coal to the pit-bottom, a cessation occurs in the middle of the day for them to be fed. In other cases the children and others take down with them their breakfast, or it is sent down to them in the course of the morning, of which they reserve a part for eating afterwards and this refreshment they take when it suits them. The drawers generally eat whilst waiting at the pitbottom till their turn comes to have their coals hoisted.
In the malleable iron-works also and the blast-furnaces, the workmen do not leave the place of work at meal-times, but their breakfasts and dinners are usually brought to them by females and as frequent cessations occur in their work during the day, they have generally something at hand to eat during any idle time.
In foundries, chain-works, and others, for the manufacture of iron, the workmen always go home and have generally an hour allowed for each of the two meals taken in the regular working hours; when working extra hours, if beyond one or two, some refreshment, often bread and cheese and porter, is furnished by the employer and eaten in the work.
No machinery requiring frequent cleaning, like that in factories, being employed in any of the works to which the present report relates, no children or others are kept from meals for that purpose.
The chief remark I would add on this subject is, that two full hours for meals out of the twelve should be secured to all workers wherever it is possible for them to leave the works for the purpose.
IV – Nature of Employment
To begin with children and young persons in collieries. The nature of their employment has been already incidentally mentioned. Their chief occupation, when very young, is to open and shut the doors in the subterranean galleries, by which the current of air is kept in its proper course for the due ventilation of the entire mine from where it enters by one shaft, or by one-half of a shaft, to where it finds its exit by another shaft, or by the other half of the same shaft by which it descended.
The ventilation of a large mine is a very complicated affair and can be understood only by reference to a plan of the whole. Suffice it to say, that were a door improperly left open, on the passage of a whirley or carriage of coals through it, the consequence might be very serious, causing, at any rate, great heat and closeness at the place where the colliers are at work and should any explosive gas issuing from the coal, a great risk of loss of life.
The only expedient I have found adopted to secure attention to the closing of the doors in Scotland is to seat a child behind them with a string in his hand, with which, on hearing the approach of a whirley, he pulls the door towards him and shuts it again when the whirley has gone through. These doors are trap-doors and the children so employed trappers. In many pits, however, the ventilation is secured by keeping two distinct shafts in connection, so a natural current of air is caused and trappers and trap-doors are dispensed with. This certainly is far better for the children, the employment being one being one of the most monotonous and deadening to all the mental and physical powers of a young child which can well be conceived. The trapper has to sit, often exposed to damp, completely in the dark and in silence, from the time the whirley has passed, cheered only by the occasional gleam of a lamp from a passing whirley, or a few words from the drawers.
A much more numerous race of juvenile workers underground are the drawers - children, or young persons, who drag or push the loaded whirleys along the tram-roads from the place where the coal is worked out to the bottom of the shaft, where it is hoisted up with its load and the children return with an empty one in its place. Up to the age of 14 or so two children generally draw together, one pulling by means of leather loops through which the arms are passed, having a chain from them hooked to the front of the whirley and the other, a younger one, pushing behind with both hands.
It is a general rule, that colliers have no right to complain if the roads are kept three feet high and they are usually a few inches more than this. The amount of labour to which children are subject in drawing is very different, varying in proportion to the load drawn, the distance and the number of times it is traversed, the inclination of the road, the state of repair in which the tram rails or tram-ways are kept, &c. By a reference to the table (p.319), it will be seen that the weight of the loaded corf or whirley differs very widely different mines but this probably arises from some circumstances in the state of the road rendering the draught lighter or heavier. It is sometimes made of iron, sometimes of wood but more commonly of wattled hazel-rods secured in a wooden frame and in all cases running on cast-iron wheels.
Any one who has seen the children at work can have no hesitation in saying that the physical exertion necessary in drawing is occasionally considerable. This exertion, however, is by no means continuous. The whirley has to be filled, which is in general chiefly done by the collier with a shovel and by lifting the larger pieces of coal with his hands. The whirley, being loaded and started on the tramway, runs pretty easily till perchance it gets off the rails at a sudden turn, or where another railway joins in. Then the drawer and his assistant, sometimes called the ‘putter’ must put their shoulders to the wheel to lift or drag it upon the rails again. After this they can take a little rest. Once more they start and perhaps hear a rattling and see a light in the distance. This is another pair of children trotting along with an empty whirley towards the face of the coal. As there is but one line of rails the drawer of the loaded carriage halloos to the others to stop, or to turn their whirley off the line. Thus a passage is left for the full one, which proceeds on its way. Now we will suppose they come to a part of the road where there is a slip in the strata, sometimes called ‘a trouble.’ Here the road rises pretty steeply for a short distance and now comes the tug of war. The drawer throwing his whole weight upon the chain and leaning his body so forward that his hands touch the rails, whilst the putter pushes with might and main behind, with many a puff they urge the load to the top of the ascent. Here they sit awhile till they have recovered their wind, after which they soon see the lights dancing about a-head and hear the hub-bub at the pit bottom. Here they have some time to wait their turn and perhaps eat a part of the food they brought down with them and pass their jokes with the other drawers. This lasts till the bottomer hooks on their whirley to the engine-rope and returns them an empty one, with which they set off at a run back into the mine, or what they call ‘ben.’ Thus the drawing, though occasionally hard admits of frequent periods of rest and refreshment. It affords a varied exercise to the body and limbs, so that I heard no complaints from the children of over fatigue, or of being oppressed by the workmen for whom they draw, who are usually either their father, elder brother, or some relation, nor do medical men attribute any physical injury to the use of children in drawing.
The employment of females in work, however, or indeed in any capacity below ground, will, I trust, be absolutely forbidden by the legislature. The practice of employing females in the pits is but very limited in my district, not extending at all to the west of Glasgow, as will be seen reference to the table given above and increasing as we approach the east of Lanarkshire and the borders of Linlithgowshire. In these parts however it is but of recent introduction, it having been one of the rules of the colliers' union that no females should be allowed under ground. The temptation to employ them arises from their wages being lower than that of males. Nowhere in the west of Scotland, however, do they bear out coal on their backs, as I understand this is the case Fifeshire and the Lothians.
Both drawers and colliers wear a lamp hooked into the front of their Scotch bonnet. The Davy lamp is never used to work with but only occasionally by the foreman, who in some mines explores with it any parts considered dangerous before the men go in. The common working lamp is like a small tin jug, the wick being placed in the spout and instead of a handle having a sharp hook by which it is fastened to the bonnet. These lights, which appear to be dancing in the air, are the only objects visible on first arriving at the pit bottom and before (as they express it) “the daylight is out of one's eyes.”
The employment of the colliers, lads and adults, is the most laborious of any about the pit and its nature will best be understood when the different modes of working the coal adopted in the west of Scotland have been described.
Modes of working coal
There seem to be three ways in which a seam of coal may be wrought, denominated ''stoop and room,'' ''room and rance'' and ''long-wall.''
The stoop and room plan is the most prevalent. This system of working is represented in Fig I: (P) is the pit-bottom; (LLL) a level road across the dip of the coal, which is supposed to incline towards the spectator in the direction of the arrow-head; a space excavated near the pit-bottom for the bottomers and drawers and under the roof, protected from falling coals, &c.; (RR, &c.) are rooms 12 feet wide, worked out towards the rise of the coal and also across, leaving square pillars or stoops (SSS)15 feet square. The dimensions of the pillars and rooms vary in different pits according to the strength of the roof but the principle is the same. The coal is brought down by the drawers from (FF, &c.) the face of the coal, by railroads, to the level road (LL) and from thence to the pit-bottom, either by drawers, or, more rarely, by horses. If the roof is sufficiently sound and it is considered worth while, when the coal has been thus worked out to the extremity of the property, the pillars are taken out, being at the most remote and the roof falls in, causing a sinking even at the surface of the earth. This operation is one of the most dangerous in which the collier is engaged, requiring much skill and experience to perform and sometimes the pillars are not removed at all.
Fig. II. represents the room and rance system which is adopted under peculiar circumstances, as at the Shotts iron-works, Messrs. John Baird and Son's. Here coal and iron-stone are worked out together; the coal lies at the bottom, above it clay-band iron-stone, then a stratum of blaes, and then balls of iron-stone. (P) represents, as before, the pit-bottom, and (LLL) the level road. From this road spaces, called ''rooms,'' 5 yards wide, are worked up to the rise for a distance of 72 fathoms. These rooms are represented in the figure by the dotted parts, in which the arrows show the direction of the working; the shaded parts represent coal. On the right of the figure a room in an incipient state. The collier works out the coal and a space of 5 yards wide and 4 feet long; he then begins to build up the space behind him with the blaes, leaving only a road-way, 4 feet wide, to his right hand, along the edge of what is called the ''rance,'' which is shaded In this way he proceeds, always supporting the roof by building up behind him and at the same time leaving an open road to his right hand, by the coal is brought down to the main-road (LL), till he reaches the distance of 72 fathoms; he then turns to his right hand, as shown by the arrow top of the figure and begins to work 5 yards wide in a contrary direction towards the level, thus taking away the rance and building up behind as before, contracting what was the roadway, which is now becoming shorter and shorter as he returns towards the level.
Fig. III. represents the long-wall working; the colliers are represented by the letters CCC, &c. and are each allotted a certain space (of 10 yards for instance) along the face of the coal to work at, having an ''open hand'' on the left, i.e. the coal there being worked away by the man before them, so they have to ''shear it,'' (or cut it through from the roof to the floor) only on the right side. In Govan colliery, near Glasgow, where this mode of working is adopted, it is the business of part of the “on-cost” men, called “rippers,” to blow away the roof where the coal has been worked out to about 7 feet high from the floor and with the stones thus produced, others, called the “redsmen,” build walls 10 feet thick for the support of the roof, leaving 6 feet in width between the walls for roadways where required. This oncost is always done during the night. The buildings between the roads are “biggins,” and so enormous is the pressure to which they are subjected by the weight of the superincumbent strata, that they gradually yield and spread out, so that the roof sinks over the roadways to about 3 feet high, and the sides are brought together, leaving only 3 feet between them. Much of the rock of which the biggins are built, when they have stood some time, is crushed to powder, and the roadways would gradually be altogether closed up were not the roof often blown down and heightened by the rippers. So consolidated do the old walls become by this pressure, that to drive a mine through them is as expensive and laborious as penetrating the solid rock.
Description of the collier's employment.
In whichever way the coal is worked the labour of the collier is one of the hardest with which I am acquainted. The thickness of the seam sometimes affords him more space to work in than is the case in the generality of pits but yet he seldom stands to his work. The ordinary posture is sitting with one leg doubled beneath him and the other foot resting against the coal. Inclining his body to one side so as often nearly to touch the ground with one shoulder he digs his pick with both hands into the lower part of the coal, or into a stratum of fire-clay, or some softer material beneath the coal. In this way he picks out an excavation often for a considerable distance under a mass of coal, beneath which he half lies to work. When he has after two or three hours labour undermined as much as he judges it prudent to attempt, he inserts iron wedges by means of a heavy hammer between the coal and the roof above it, by which and by the weight of the ground above, the mass of coal is detached and falls. The cramped posture, the closeness of the subterranean atmosphere loaded with coal dust and the smoke of his lamp and sometimes with sulphurous exhalations, together with the bodily exertion, cannot fail to be very exhausting. He is subject besides to severe accidents from unsound parts of the roof, or from masses of coal falling upon him, from the inflammable gas which may burst in upon him and envelop him in flames, or from the deadly black-damp which may stifle him. Rivers or the sea have been known to break into pits and drown those below, the rope or basket in which he daily ascends and descends may break and precipitate him many fathoms; in short, so liable to accidents are colliers considered, that they are usually excluded from friendly societies, except those expressly intended for colliers and almost universally subscribe so much a month to a surgeon, who engages to attend to all accidents without additional fees.
The labour of the ironstone miners is often worse than that of colliers. I have seen them at work in a space of from 22 inches to two feet high, where even when seated a man could not keep his neck straight and to get into the place where he was at work was no easy matter to me. The management of his heavy tools in such a confined space must be very fatiguing. Two men take between them 14 yards of the band of stone and make their own walls of the roof which comes down when the stone is extracted, leaving a road six feet wide to each space of 14 yards.
The drawing in the ironstone-pits is never done by children, being too heavy for them. It is often, however, very improperly made the work of women and in other cases migratory Irishmen commence working under ground by engaging as drawers of ironstone, being the business easiest learned. Some of them then get on to hewing out the stone, and are generally a worse set than the colliers and not being regularly educated to the business are more liable to accidents from ignorance of the proper methods of working.
Children employed above ground.
Having now described the nature of the several employments underground, the only others in which children are engaged about coal or ironstone pits are driving horses on the railways which convey the minerals to the furnaces or to canals, &c. and the management of the engine which raises the mineral or workmen up the shaft. I was not a little surprised to find that the management of a high-pressure steam-engine, on the proper working of which so many lives depend, was not unfrequently entrusted to a mere boy of from 12 to 14 years of age. In general, indeed, his father was the pit-head man and from his station could see and communicate with the lad, who acted entirely by his directions but still it appeared to me a practice full of danger. It should be mentioned that frequently the drainage of the Scotch collieries is all pumped up at one pit, whilst coals and men are raised by small engines for this purpose alone at distinct pits; consequently, every hutch which is raised or lowered requires the engine to be twice stopped to allow of its being hooked on and off and if this is not done according to the signals given by the pit-head man and bottomer, serious accidents might occur. It is also necessary when men are going up and down to moderate the speed at which the engine works otherwise they would run the risk of being dashed against the rocky sides of the shaft. The bottomer consequently always calls out "Men on!" when men are coming up and it is the duty of the engine manager to regulate the speed accordingly. If too the engine does not stop at the proper moment, the men might be hoisted up and dashed against the pit-head frame, which has sometimes happened. All this requires vigilance and care on the part of the engineer, which can hardly be expected of a boy so young as many employed as such.
V – State of the Place of Work
Under this head I am not required to say much in the present Report, as those employed in all kinds of iron-works usually work under open sheds where the temperature differs little from that of the external atmosphere and I have never found them rendered offensive by neglected drains, privies, &c. The coal pits which I visited were universally cool and well ventilated; indeed I desisted from the practice which I at first adopted of carrying a thermometer below ground, finding the temperature so much less than I had expected. The Hurlet colliery being a very sulphurous coal, the smell and taste in the mouth is very disagreeable but I believe cannot be remedied. In passing along the roads the children are generally met by a current of air. Nor have I much complaint to make of the wetness of the pits in general, though in some roads the water remained perhaps two inches deep. Also in some pits which are entered by a stair instead of by the shaft, the dripping from the top was very unpleasant and enough to wet the clothes of the workers. The evidence of medical men will show that they do not trace any ill effects upon the health of the children to their exclusion from daylight and the open air or from exposure to subterranean damp.
VI - Accidents
The accidents incidental to the employments now under consideration are chiefly confined to the workers in collieries and ironstone mines. In every instance where I had an opportunity of seeing surgeons connected with collieries, I made a point of asking for any statistics with which they could furnish me as to the frequency and the nature of accidents which had occurred in their experience. I was, however, never fortunate enough to obtain any such particulars; and the want of such suggested to me the propriety of a regulation obliging every public work to make periodical returns of the number and nature of the accidents happening to any of the workers, the result of each case and the length of time they were kept off their work in consequence.
From the recollections of surgeons, workpeople, and managers, I gathered that serious accidents, even fatal ones, are by no means rare and lesser ones of constant occurrence, in coal and iron pits. The falling of pieces of the roof or of masses of coal, are the most frequent sources of accident to the colliers. The drawers often receive hurts from being jammed between whirleys: for instance, where there is an inclined plane down which loaded whirleys have to travel, unless attention is paid to stopping the wheels properly, the whirley overpowers the children in charge of it, and probably commits some damage before it is stopped. At the pitbottom, where a crowd of whirleys are always arriving and departing, it must be difficult to escape an occasional disaster. Men are sometimes killed by the fall of pieces of coal upon them from the baskets which are being raised up the shaft, though in general, a space is excavated on purpose beneath the roof at the pit-bottom, so that no person need stand in the way of pieces falling as described. The most serious accidents, however, where they occur, are of course the explosions of carburetted hydrogen. I have before remarked that it is never customary in the West of Scotland to work with the Davy-lamp, though in case of suspicion of danger a foreman is sent in the first thing of a morning to explore with one. The only security, however, against this fearful enemy is efficient ventilation; and it seems consequently, to be most formidable on the first opening of a colliery, before the sinking of other pits connected with each other have established a constant and free current of air through the workings sufficient to sweep out all accumulations of the gas
Mr. Houston, of Johnstone Castle, showed me a very simple instrument which he had found very effectual in drawing out impure air from his pits. It was a merely a circular fan with vanes like those of a winnowing-machine, only working horizontally in a circular case. This case was fixed air-tight into the mouth of the pit and being worked by hand was so powerful that its effects extended to the distance of three-quarters of a mile. To show the power it possessed, a part of the pit being on fire, the fan drew the flames and heated air towards it with such force that men were able to approach sufficiently near to erect a wall round the part on fire and thus to prevent its spreading. Black-damp was also drawn out of a pit where it was applied, so a man could walk behind it with a lamp, which, if he extended it far enough, would be instantly extinguished, showing exactly where the body of gas was.
Inquests on sudden deaths in Scotland.
The state of the law in Scotland with regard to deaths and injuries from accidents seem to me anything but satisfactory. The Procurator-Fiscal, a criminal law officer, is the only functionary who has authority to investigate cases of sudden death; and these come under his cognizance, not from the fact of the death having been sudden or violent but only if there be reasonable suspicion that grounds for a prosecution for manslaughter or murder exist in connection with the case. Hence negligence in respect to dangerous machinery is not subject to that check with the invariable custom of a coroner's inquest in all cases of death by accident imposes upon it in England.
Upon this subject I beg to refer to the evidence of A. Alison, Esq., Sheriff of Lanarkshire and also to that of G. Williamson, Esq., Procurator-Fiscal for the town of Greenock and Lower Ward of Renfrewshire, in that which is attached to my Report on employments in “manufactures” in the of Scotland (Nos. 175 and 176). I also subjoin letters from George Salmond, Esq., Procurator- Fiscal for Lanarkshire; from Alexander Murdoch, Esq., Procurator-Fiscal for Ayrshire and one from R. Rodger, Esq., Procurator-Fiscal of the Upper Ward of Renfrewshire; in rep1y to a letter from of which the following is copy:-
1. - To George Salmon, Esq., Procurator Fiscal for Lanarkshire, &c. June 16, 1841.
As you were kind enough to offer me any assistance in your power in reference to my inquiries on the Children's Employment Commission, I venture to address you on a subject which has incidentally come under my notice during my visits to different parts of country, - I allude to the Scotch system of inquests or precognitions in cases of death from accident; and also to the reparation open to those who may have been maimed for life by machinery in public works, by accidents in collieries, &c.
On mentioning these subjects to Mr. Sheriff Alison when I returned to Glasgow at the beginning of this month, it seemed to be his impression that the unwillingness of the County Commissioners to remunerate the Procurator-Fiscals for their trouble and expenses incurred in inquiring into the circumstances of deaths by accident and the consequent risk of loss to the public officer, unless something was brought out leading to a criminal prosecution had very much tended to discourage such inquiries and that they had consequently very much diminished in number of late years. He advised me, however, to apply to you for information on that head but I was not fortunate enough to find you at home, being informed you were in the country. As my circuit is at an end, I can now only apply to you by letter.
I should be very much obliged by your opinion (supported by statistics) as to the diminution of inquiries into cases of sudden death during the period that you have held your present office and the cause of their decrease if such has occurred. If it were possible I should like to obtain a return of the number of inquests on sudden deaths held annually within your jurisdiction for a series of years, specifying those for which you may have received no compensation for each year and those which led to ulterior proceedings, with the results.
The Glasgow bills of mortality show a considerable number of deaths by accidents each year and I should be curious to know into how many an inquiry has been made. I also find that fatal accidents are by no means rare in collieries, but, I presume, are seldom the subjects of official investigation.
I hope that you will not deem me influenced only by a national prejudice when I express my conviction that the practice which prevails in England in this respect is worthy of imitation in this country and that it is a satisfaction due both to the public and to the friends of the deceased to know that invariably an inquiry will be made into every case of death by accident. The check thus imposed upon the employers of labour by the consciousness that any carelessness on their part may lead to public exposure, and perhaps punishment, is also, I am persuaded, of use in promoting attention to the safety of machinery, of mines, coal-pits, &c.
I should esteem it a great favour to be furnished with your opinion on this point and also as to any alteration in regard to the means of remunerating such investigations, or to the law, or the officers who administer the law. which may have occurred to you.
From what I have heard, too, I am not satisfied with the means of obtaining reparation in the shape of damages, open to those who, though not killed, may have been crippled life by explosions in mines, or by accidents from dangerous machinery, &c.
I believe an action for damages in such cases is a very expensive process and consequently that redress is practically denied to those who may have suffered by the carelessness of their employers. A register of accidents to be kept by every public work, of which a copy should be returned periodically to some public officer, seems another measure from whence good would probably result. At present even the surgeons attached collieries, &c., do not seem to be able to furnish any statistics as to the frequency of injuries received in the works of which they have charge.
Hoping you will give me the advantage of your knowledge of the state of the law and of your experience of its practical working in regard to the points on which I am desirous of information.
I have, &c. (Signed) Thomas Tancred
2. - To Thomas Tancred, Esq., Sub-Commissioner, &c. Sheriffs' Chambers, Glasgow, June 24, 1841.
The English system of coroners’ inquests is unknown in Scotland, as is indeed the office of a coroner. In England the coroner's office is that of a judge, and his duties, like those of the sheriff, either judicial or ministerial but principally judicial. A most important duty assigned him is to inquire when any person is slain or dies suddenly or in prison, concerning the manner of his death and this inquiry is made by a jury,. If any be found guilty, the coroner has to commit them to prison for further trial, and also to inquire concerning their lands, goods and chattels, which are forfeited thereby but whether it be homicide or not, he must inquire whether any deodand has accrued to the King or the lord of the franchise by this death and must certify the inquisition and evidence under his and the jurors' seals to the King's Bench Court or the next assizes. The coroner is said to be chosen by the county freeholders, holds office ad vitam aut culpans and by 3 Henry VII., is paid certain fees for his attendance, &c.
In an ancient book of laws, known to our Scots lawyers by the title “Regiam Majestatem” and
especially the part called the laws of Malcolm II., who began to reign a the year 1004, mention is made of an officer in Scotland called the “Crowner.”
This officer seems to have been appointed by the Crown, ad vitam aut culpam. His duties appear to have been the attaching and, by imprisonment or bail, securing till the King's Justiciar (whose place is now supplied by the High Court of Justiciary) came round on his circuit, in spring and in autumn, to try all delinquents accused of high felonies or pleas of the Crown; and in stating his office, the following definition is given by Sir George Mackenzie, who was Lord Advocate of Scotland, in a work published in l688 - “The coroner was an officer who took inquisition of murders in corona populi; the Laird of Ednam was the heritable coroner of Scotland; but this office is obsolete now except at Justice Airs, where the coroner yet presents all malefactors, and takes them to and from prison.”
Since then the very name of the office has been lost throughout Scotland, and for long no inquiry was in use to be made into the cause of the deaths of persons, unless where circumstances indicated it to have been felonious, till several years ago, when the Advocate issued instructions to the sheriffs, &c and their fiscals, to institute inquiry the circumstances of all sudden deaths occurring in places of confinement. This order is dated 29th May, 1838, and as till lately all such places were under the charge of the burgh magistrates and not above three or four cases have been reported to me since, I am unable to give any lists of such cases and from no register existing, excepting what may be culled from the ordinary books of the gaols, &c in and about Glasgow, I regret it will not be in my power to provide the statistical information you want.
As already stated, the cases into which hitherto inquiry has been made by me, are such only as have afforded grounds to believe that the death occurred by violence or the like, this is done here by medical inspection of the body and examination of the places and persons discovered to be, or to have been, where the death happened, &c. The report of the medical inspectors and the written declarations of all the persons examined are taker privately and sent to crown counsel in Edinburgh. who decide and give directions as to whether any one suspected of homicide is to be prosecuted, or what other proceedings are to be adopted. In this you will perceive our procedure differs from yours inform in so far as the investigation is taken privately by the sheriff and fiscal in the Sheriff’s Chambers and in so far as it is submitted to crown counsel, in place of being taken by the coroner on the spot publicly, and submitted with the body to an inquest, as is done in England.
Though I am not aware of any instance occurring since my appointment as fiscal in 1816 where investigation was omitted, yet I have no doubt that, from the indifference of persons, particularly in the country districts, to report such cases, unless very flagrant and there being no compulsitor, instances may have occurred where no report has been made to me and of course, no investigation made. On this account your establishment of a coroner’s inquest is invaluable. as rendering investigation imperative and instant and as giving encouragement to every one to inform as soon as possible. But in Scotland the chief obstacle would be, as it always has been, to get money to remunerate the informer and witnesses, the jurors &c., especially as to cases where the cause of death has bee accidental and self-evident by inspection.
I am not aware how the expenses of such inquests are paid, or to what amount they may in England but at present everything here of that kind is grudged and if any expense were charged as to a case where the cause of death was plain, such as from a fall off a house or the like, it would be refused.
I agree with you as to the expediency of an inquiry being made imperative in every case of sudden death and as to the propriety of every master or manager of a public work being obliged under a penalty, to report every instance occurring at his work within some short period to the sheriff and his fiscal. And I am of opinion that our present mode of investigation, with report to the crown counsel, or in cases of pure accident to the sheriff and a record kept of each case, might, as less expensive, be submitted to by our county people as payable by them out of the rogue-money fund. At present they might lawfully refuse this, they think, because the fund is applicable to criminal inquiries ALONE, whereas ACCIDENTAL death or injury is not criminal. A statutory enactment therefore would be necessary to enforce remuneration for such proceedings.
In regard to injuries by accidents at collieries and other public works, it would assuredly be desirable to have some check on the proprietors and managers to compel them to have the places and whole apparatus and machinery in the safest and best order for their servants. But it is difficult to see how this is to be made a public question. unless the onus were imposed on them of proving that the accident occurred from no culpa of the master not defect in their workings, preparations or machinery, in their power to have remedied or prevented before the accident.
At present all such cases are with us purely betwixt the master and servant a private matter and involving nothing to warrant a criminal charge, never come before me.
I fear I may have failed in making myself clearly understood, or in explaining fully all you wish to know. I am sorry you missed me when you honoured me with your last call. Rest assured of my earnest desire to give you any information in my power and fail not to write to me if you consider it in my power to serve you.
Believe me, (Signed) Geo. Salmond.
In a subsequent communication Mr. Salmond adds the following information:-
The fund for payment of any criminal law proceedings is exigible and levied in virtue of -
2 Geo.I., c.26, s.12; and 2 and
3 Victoria, c. 65;
to which and to two printed papers calculated to explain how niggardly has been the conduct of the Commissioners in regard to the criminal department here, forgive me adding copies and referring you. By the first-mentioned statute it is enacted, “That it shall and may be lawful to and for the freeholders of every shire, county, or district in North Britain to assess the several shires and stewarties where their estates lie, at their meetings at any of their head courts yearly in such sums as they shall judge reasonable and sufficient for the purposes aforesaid and that such moneys so from time to time to be assessed shall be collected, received and accounted for by such person and persons and in such manner as such freeholders shall from time to time appoint and shall be supplied for defraying the charges of apprehending of criminals and of subsisting of them in prison until prosecution and of prosecuting such criminals for their several offences by due course of law and to and for no other purpose whatsoever. [This money is called rogue-money. - T. T.]
By the Act of Victoria the Commissioners have now got the charge of the rogue-money in place of the freeholders and they have in a partial way amended matters by agreeing to pay the fiscal's outlays sooner than formerly. They have also determined on erecting a suit of public offices for the sheriff and myself but I am told that for what my department require I am to be obliged to pay £60 a year. As to the inquiries into sudden deaths unless they fall under an Act of Parliament or the order of the Lord Advocate, no payment would be allowed me, as they and even Exchequer, would resist it, unless there were circumstances of suspicion, such as to render the same imperative. It would therefore in order to have the thorough investigation of every case complete as in England, have the law of England in regard to such cases extended to Scotland.
I am, &c., (Signed) Geo. Salmond.
VII - Holidays
I have observed in my Report on calico-printing that the only holidays secured to the people of Scotland by the Presbyterian Church, besides the Sundays, are two in a year, on the days of the fast, or preparation for sacrament the in each parish; besides these, one or two days about the New Year are holidays in all public works. These, I believe, are all the stated holidays which universally prevail; to these may be added another for works in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, viz. the anniversary of the Glasgow Fair. Glasgow Fair and ‘Newrdy,’ a contraction of New-Year's Day, or ‘Hogmanay’, the eve of the New Year, are common epochs from whence children date their age, the time of their employment, or other particulars.
Besides the yearly holidays, colliers, as before observed, seldom work above nine or ten days in the fortnight and stopping work earlier than usual on Saturday afternoon is becoming very general in other works comprised in the present report. For daily recreation and play for the younger hands, alluded to in your instructions, there is not much time.
I beg specially to invite attention to the fact, that most of the blast-furnaces in the West of Scotland continue to work through the Sunday as well as on other days and nights of the week. To this practice I trust that Parliament will have no scruple in putting an immediate stop. It is proved by the example of those who adopt a contrary practice, that beyond the production of one fourteenth more pig-iron in the week there is no peculiar reason for an infringement of the day of rest in the case of these works. Gartsherrie and Sommerlee iron-works have the merit of setting the example of stopping 12 hours on the Sunday. Mr. J. Baird, of the former company, informed me that they had found great advantage from the practice. The men were much the better for it and the furnaces too. If a furnace is “cutting” - i.e. if the blast goes round the charge instead of through it and thus acts upon the bricks of which the furnace is built instead of on the ore – the stopping on Sunday will often set this right and the blast will then take a proper direction.
VIII – Hiring & Wages
Drawers to colliers are generally their own children, or younger brothers or sisters and are paid by the adult whom they assist. In some cases from the destitution to which the want of a regular relief for the poor subjects families and particularly orphans or children of widows in Scotland, a collier is enabled to obtain the services of a child by merely supplying him with food and clothing. An instance of this is given in the Evidence.
It is rare that any formal contract is entered into with the juvenile workers above specified, unless they are apprentices and even in that case it seems seldom the custom in Scotland to bind them by formal indentures. Legally, I believe, the ordinary contracts made in Scotland with apprentices are binding only for a twelve month, regular indentures being considered an embarrassing tie upon both parties, without any equivalent advantage. When hired without contract by the master, it is generally understood that a notice of a fortnight, or whatever time may elapse between one pay-day and the next, is to be given and received by both parties but if the boy or lad is only an assistant to the workman and paid by him, no such implied contract is presumed; he may be discharged at a moment's notice.
The following is a specimen of the form required to be filled up in their own handwriting by all boys applying to be received into the service of Messrs. Liddell and Co., founders, of Glasgow, upon which they remark as follows:-
We are very rarely give work to any boy who cannot write, because we have found least that three out of every four boys who could not write at the time of their entering our work have never done any good, being either worthless workers or worthless characters, or both.
Schedule to be filled up in the handwriting of boys applying for work at the Globe Foundry.
The boy's name,
His age last birthday,
His parents' names, and the business his father follows, if alive,
The number of his father's family,
Their residence, Street, No.
Who he resides with, if not with his parents,
The nature and kind of work he has been at, if at any,
The department of the business that the boy wishes to learn, whether smith-trade, brassfounding, ironfounding,
The name of the church that his parents and he attend,
Dated _____ 18 . The boy's subscription,
(This paper must be subscribed by the father of the applicant, if alive; and by two or other individuals of known probity, certifying that to their personal knowledge what is written above is correct. It is fully understood that these subscriptions do not in any way bind the parties so subscribing to guarantee the future good conduct of the boy applying for work. The persons now subscribing this are requested to give their address.)
We certify, that to our personal knowledge what is written above is correct.
__________ father of the boy.
ROBERT STEEL, provost, Rutherglen.
ANDREW LECKIE, flesher, 281, Argyle-street.
I have not found that any practice exists in the employments now under consideration, of masters lending money to parents to be repaid out of the labour of their children.
The greatest abuse which prevails in the West of Scotland in reference to the payment of wages, not only in collieries and iron-works, but in other branches of manufacture, as bleaching particularly, is the system of stores at which the workers are more or less obliged to deal. I have no hesitation in saying, that the spirit of the Truck Act, and in some cases its very letter, it is most grossly violated in numerous works, by which unfair and illegal profits are made from the hard earned wages of the workpeople.
It is almost the must universal custom in the Airdrie district for the iron-works to have connected with them, within the gates of the works, or close adjoining the dwellings of the people, a store or shop, where not merely provisions, but every article of clothing and in many instances spirits, are sold. At the first establishment of these works in an uninhabited country, a few miles distant from any town, it might have been a great convenience to the people to have heavy articles, such as meal, potatoes, &c., retailed at a common store near at hand and if the prices were moderate and the quality of the articles good, there was an advantage to the workers in the plan. But still, even in that case, the free option should be permitted to every one of dealing where they choose. Without this indispensable condition the system is always liable to abuse; and even if ever so fairly managed, the workers will not believe but that an unfair advantage is taken of them. Of course it is impossible for me to specify particulars as to the tenure on which the stores are held by those whose names are written above them and who are ostensibly the lessees; but I will leave it to you gentlemen to judge whether the circumstances do not wear a very suspicious aspect. In the first place, the workmen are not free to deal where they like. The periods of pay are at longer intervals in Scotland than is usual in England, being often once a-fortnight and not seldom once a-month. The excuse for this is the amount of trouble which would be caused by more frequent pays. But the trouble appears to me manifold greater under the present system, which leads me to the conclusion that that trouble is not unprofitable. According to the present system, the workmen or their families cannot in general abstain from lifting a portion of their earnings in the intervals of the pay and a clerk must be constantly at work keeping an account of these advances, which are to be deducted on payday. These advances always find their way to the store and the trouble of making them would not, I think, be taken were they expended in the public shops.
Modes of evading the Truck Act.
The thing is managed in several ways. For instance, a woman goes to the store and says she wants so many ounces of soap, tea, sugar, so much meal, potatoes, bacon, &c. These articles are entered by the storekeeper in her pass-book, with the price of each and she goes to the pay-office, close to the store door perhaps and shows the book, upon which the clerk reckons up the amount, pays her the money and back she goes to the store and procures the articles. Another plan is this: the wife goes to the store, takes what articles she wants and leaves it to the storekeeper to set the amount against her, having ‘a line’ from the master to say what the wages of herself or husband are. On the pay-day the storekeeper sends in his books to the clerk, and the amount of each person's advances is deducted from the pay. At some works, I believe, the workman obtains credit at the store, and receives the whole amount of his wages according to law; but if he failed to pay up his account at the store, or did not deal there at all, he would not long be allowed to remain in his house or employment. In one instance I found that the law was directly violated by the payment of all advances upon the wages in ticket-money, of which the annexed figure is a specimen. (This new coinage consists of shillings, sixpencees and half-pence of pewter). This was at a bleach-field, in which department of manufacture the payment of wages usually takes place at excessive intervals, only once in six or seven weeks and the earnings not exceeding 6s. or 7s. a-week, the women are virtually compelled to receive advances to procure necessary articles of subsistence.
Profits of stores.
The profits of these stores are known to be very large and instances have been often mentioned to me of ironstone contractors taking a pit at less than it could possibly pay at, calculating that they should make up the deficiency by causing their workmen to deal at a shop in which they had an interest. I believe the abuse is carried to its greatest extent amongst the ironstone miners. It is the general custom to let the ironstone-pits to contractors, who engage to deliver the calcined ore at so much a ton. These contractors are often needy men, unrestrained by any very nice feelings of honour and the workmen being often Irishmen, and of very dissolute, improvident habits, the temptation of getting spirits, &c., on credit, draws all their wages to the contractors' store.
Mr. Baird, of the Shotts iron-works, well known for the attention which he pays to the moral character and comfort of his workmen, and who, as a foreman of his expressed it, ‘will not hear of a store,’ informed me that at some ironstone-pits of his own he could get workmen at lower wages than his neighbours, because he paid them in hard cash and had no store. Many manufacturers, whose feelings of honour forbid them to adopt stores, have represented to me the disadvantage at which they are thus placed so long as their neighbours are allowed to make this extra profit out of their workpeople.
Prevent the existence of a middle-class.
The effect of the stores is also injurious at Coatbridge, where there can no longer be any excuse for them, by preventing the rise of a middle class where one is so much needed; for here they sell, as before observed, not merely articles of household provisions, but all sorts of clothing and many things which would be much better purchased in the town. It should be observed that this pernicious custom of stores, as far as collieries and iron-works are concerned, is confined in the west of Scotland to Lanarkshire, not existing in connection with the Renfrewshire or Ayrshire collieries.
The subject is one to which I sincerely hope the attention of the Legislature will be directed. I am aware that it is not easy to prevent evasion of the law but should the present inquiry result in the appointment of some Inspectors of other public works similar to those now appointed to watch over the observance of the law in factories I see in these officers a means of securing the workmen against the abuse to which I am at present referring. Such inspectors might have power to take evidence on oath and to call for all necessary papers and documents and thus to ascertain the terms upon which stores are connected with works are rented by the nominal lessees and whether wages are always paid in full in the current coin of the realm, as well as the prices and qualities of the articles sold at the store. It should also be provided that no spirits should in any case be sold at stores and that on abstract Truck Act should be conspicuously exhibited in them.
IX – Treatment & Care
The principal stimulus to the exertions of the younger hands in all the departments of labour now under consideration is on one hand the hope of higher wages and on the other the fear of dismissal. In collieries, as before observed, the drawers are for the most part near relatives of the adults whom they assist, and the same is often the case with the boys employed in iron-works of different kinds.
The apprentices are seldom bound and consequently are only on good behaviour and being often paid by the piece, they are on the same footing as regards encouragements to exertion as the journeymen in their respective trades. In short, no inquiries in any town or work which I visited tended to bring home to either the masters or men in any class of works any systematic tyrannical usage of the boys employed by them. In all works it is professed to be the duty of the foreman to take care that no violence is offered to the younger hands and though an occasional blow may, I have no doubt, be inflicted, the boys being free to leave their employer when they please, the evil cannot amount to anything very great.
X – Physical Condition
I made it in all cases a special object of inquiry both amongst the workmen themselves and also of medical men attached to works or practising in the neighbourhood, whether any injurious effects to health either in youth or in more advanced life were traceable to the different employments. In regard to colliers I have before shown and the evidence of workmen bears me out in the fact, that the labour of children is often severe for their age, from the hour at which they rise in the morning and the physical exertion occasionally necessary in their employment. It appears, however, that from the intervals of rest, amounting in most cases to four or five whole days in a fortnight and from the more nutritious diet general amongst colliers, as well as from the varied motions of the limbs and body in the sort of employment in the children are used, no ill effects to their bodily health or conformation result from colliery labour. In the single instance where a pit is habitually worked at night, the health of the children seems indeed liable to fail, but I trust the employment of children in such cases will not be allowed much longer. No deterioration was visible to me in the adult colliers, who are I should say, rather athletic in appearance but the hardness of their labour and the confined air and dust in which they work, is apt to render them as well as to unfit them for labour at an earlier period of life than is the case in other employments. These effects though, I repeat, seem attributable to the nature of their actual employment and often to their intemperate habits, rather than to the severity of the labour to which they have been subject youth, or to the early age at which they began to work.
In all the kinds of iron-works enumerated above, the place of work is an open shed plentifully ventilated and if occasionally exposed to great heat the atmosphere at least is cool. The principal causes of ill health amongst the founders, moulders, &c., in towns are their intemperate habits and the filthy habitations in which too many of them reside. The character of the wynds of Glasgow, though nothing but a personal inspection can possibly convey an adequate idea of their horrors, is as well known as description can make it by the picture which Mr. Symons has drawn of them in his Report on Hand-loom Weaving in Scotland, quoted by Lord Normanby in his speech on the Drainage Bill in the House of Lords, February 12, 1841. I will therefore only remark that till something effectual is done to secure more salubrious convenient and respectable dwellings for the labouring classes, any provision for the healthiness of works or the comfort of the workers at their place of employment must be nugatory. The only injurious physical effect which I heard of connected with the manufactures in iron was a deafness with which boiler makers are apt to be affected in consequence of the din caused by riveting the plates together and which it is said may in general be obviated by wearing a cotton wool in the ear. Men are, however, often too careless of their organs of hearing to take the slight trouble of providing so simple a protection.
The long hours and hard work occasionally exacted from boys assisting chain-makers cannot be proper at their age and I believe a legislative restriction applied to them would second the wishes of the employers. The men being often of very irregular habits are inclined, much against their master's to take idle days in the early part of the week or fortnight with the intention of making up the time by long hours of work at the end of it - a practice injurious to both the moral and physical condition of those who practise it and of the children and young persons, whose hours of work (and of idleness) must conform to those of the men.
XI – Moral Condition
I come now to that highly-important particular in estimating the state of the workers in the several departments of industry now under review - their moral condition. I have above attempted to convey an idea of the utterly depraved state in which a large portion of the colliery and iron-work hands in the West of Scotland are living. In reference to the collier population it must not be forgotten that, to use the words of Dr. Cleland, ‘Previous to the year 1775, all colliers and other persons employed in coal-works were by the common law of Scotland in a state of slavery. They and their wives and children, if they had assisted for a certain period at the coalwork, became the property of the coal-master and were transferable in the same manner as the slaves on a West India estate were held to be property and transferable on a sale of the estate.’ - Cleland's “Statistics of Glasgow,” p.200.
They were emancipated by 15 Geo. III. c. 28. Though there is doubt that the degraded state in which this class of labourers continued up within the last 60 or 70 years must still leave some bad effects upon the moral condition; yet it is proved by examples of works such as the Shotts in Lanarkshire, Gatehead, and the Duke of Portland's in Ayrshire, &c., that attention to education, to a supply of the ordinances of religion, to the character of the workers allowed to settle amongst them, to their domestic comfort and to the numerous other particulars which a coal-owner anxious for the improvement of his workers may regulate, a considerable degree of propriety of conduct may be obtained amongst colliers. It is when they are brought together of a sudden from all quarters, without an attempt at selection, left destitute of all means of religious instruction or of moral control, that the natural consequences of such neglect are produced, resulting in misery and degradation to the people and danger to society. Two iron-works, Dundyvan and the Monkland, where malleable iron is made, have drawn a great number of their men, amounting with their families to about 1000 persons between the two works, from Wales, Staffordshire and other parts England. These people, taken from their native places and planted in a country of strangers away from their relations, their religious teachers and the restraints social and moral by which men are influenced and receiving very high wages, have, as I understood, distinguished themselves even in that country by their excesses and irregular conduct. They are provided with a superior class of houses, erected expressly for them, consisting of two stories and with about twice the accommodation required for the Scotch, they form a society amongst themselves, not mingling with the natives and expend their high wages in good cheer of every kind, occasionally entertaining each other with wine, turkeys and other sorts of poultry. Whilst at work I understood they have always beside them a large jug of beer and gin, of which they copious draughts to replenish the abundant perspiration caused by the excessive heat of the puddling furnaces at which they work. Every indulgence is provided for them but their religious and moral condition is left to be cared by chance Methodist teachers, or other inadequate means.
The above may be considered a singular instance but it is nevertheless a real instance of the social evils which large capitalists may and do create under the present absence of obligation to provide adequate religious and moral instruction to the population collected together by them. I attribute no particular blame to the proprietors of these works, on the contrary, one of them, the Monkland Company, has shown an anxiety for the schooling of the children in their works. I complain, then, not of individuals but of the licence which our institutions afford to inflict any amount of corruption upon workpeople and to expose society to danger by a postponement of every care the moral condition of the employed to the one object of money-making.
Had not the Messrs. Baird, of their spontaneous and individual liberality erected a church and obtained a clergyman for Coat Bridge, though this done perhaps 10 years later than it ought to have been, that rapidly increasing population would still have been without a clergyman of the church of Scotland authorised to stem the torrent of iniquity, and to proclaim the Gospel amongst them. And yet can it be imagined that this increase of population occurred without a corresponding increase in the pecuniary wealth of the district fully adequate to provide ample means for religious and educational purposes?
Two parties are always benefited by an increase of population of this kind, viz. the landed proprietor and the employer of labour. As an instance of the increased value of land arising from the establishment of iron-works this neighbourhood, I may cite the following account of a property from the ‘New Statistical Account of Scotland, No. XXVI., May, 1840.’ The great ironworks of Gartsherrie, Sommerlee, Calder, Dundyvan, and Chapel Hall, receive a great quantity of ironstone from Rochsilloch, the property of Sir William Alexander. The black-band here yields from 30 to 40% of iron. The output at Rochsilloch alone is 4500 tons per month, and the annual income to the proprietor is about £l2,600 per annum from a property which if only let for tillage would yield only a few hundreds per annum!’ As to the wealth of which the vast increase of population is an index in the manufacturers, I will only say, without mentioning names, that there are works employing hundreds of people and paying thousands a month in wages, with all the expensive machinery for smelting and rolling iron, the proprietors of which 15 or 20 years ago were poor men. Let it not be imagined for a moment that I wish to imply that gentlemen who have shown such enterprise and skill as is here displayed have not deserved well of their country, all I strongly insist upon is that their own interests, as well as those of the country, do most imperatively require that a quota of this wealth should be deemed due from the very first creation of a public work to be set apart for the religious and secular instruction of the population employed.
Illustrations of the evil caused by the population outgrowing the means of religious instruction.
Quitting for a little the iron and coal fields, let us see how this let alone plan has worked for the moral deterioration of other parts of my district. We can not turn to the history of any one parish in it without finding illustrations of the false policy of leaving the moral condition of the people to the chance efforts of voluntary benevolence. The history and moral statistics of each parish is to be found in that invaluable work, the New Statistical Account of Scotland. In general we shall find in the accounts of agricultural parishes that the population has been stationary or but slowly increasing, the sittings in the parish church sufficient, the children well taught in the parish school, (some advancing as far as Latin or the higher parts of mathematics,) wages moderate, spirit shops few, pawnbroking unknown, pauperism trifling and the general condition of the people respectable - such a population, in short, as the much-boasted parochial system of Scotland, when properly carried out, produces. Turn now to any manufacturing parish and in every feature the portrait is deformed; one would imagine a wholly different people or country was the subject of the writer's description.
XII – Comparative Condition
Most of the occupations of the younger male hands included in the present Report are a preparation, or apprenticeship, to a business in which as adults they gain a comfortable livelihood. The trapper in a coal-pit becomes, in due time, a putter, then a drawer, next a collier and unless he has passed through these regular gradations and even if not also the son of a collier, the other workmen are often jealous of his employment in their business. The reverse of this, of course, is the case where the injurious practice of employing female drawers exists – this occupation being of course anything but a preparation for the proper discharge of their peculiar duties when grown up. In the several branches of the iron business the boys assisting adults generally, I believe, continue to follow the business to which they have thus obtained an introduction, if only their character is good enough for them to obtain an apprenticeship. This, I believe, is their greatest danger - that the bad example of the elder workmen too often corrupts the younger hands and thus the master becomes unwilling to promote them to higher departments in his works.
In regard to the condition of the children unemployed in any of the places visited by me, as compared with those at work, in no part did the former class appear in so wretched a condition as at Greenock. From the maritime character of this place, an immense number of children are either virtually or fact fatherless, their fathers being either absent on long voyages, or dead. The effect of this want of fatherly care and of the consequent helpless state of their remaining parent, is lamentable, as will he seen by a reference to the evidence of the Rev. Andrew Gilmour (No.129). I learned that there was some idea of endeavouring to set on foot some sort of House of Refuge like the one which answers so admirably at Glasgow for the teaching and reclaiming and teaching honest trade to the numbers of poor children now doomed course of crime, as certainly and inevitably as a total inability to escape from it can bind them to it. This sort of institution is even more necessary in Scotland, in the absence of any efficient relief or destitution, than it is in England where the workhouse affords some sort of refuge and education to children thus circumstanced but my decided opinion is, that before many years we shall see the necessity generally acknowledged of an institution for training up, at the public charge, those whom their parents are unable or unwilling bring up properly to be attached to every town of any considerable magnitude. If properly conducted, such institutions I am persuaded would not only nip in the bud a large proportion of crime, which causes infinite expense and loss to the community but would also materially benefit our colonies by furnishing a supply of labour where so wide a field invites its employment. A parliamentary grant, to be appropriated in aid of local efforts in the same way that the educational grants are now disposed of, in compliance with a code of regulations for such institutions, would be a domestic reform of, importance.