Scottish Mining Website


Mr Joseph Sullivan, examined 26th March 1914

(By the Chairman) You are a Miner's Agent at Harthill, Lanarkshire, and I think you are also a member of the County Council? - Yes, since December
We will regard as your evidence in chief the statement which you have submitted? - Very well.

1. I reside at Harthill, Lanarkshire, having been employed as district miners' agent since August 1912. Previous to that I resided at Bellshill, and was elected to the Parish Council and School Board of Bothwell Parish. Harthill is a mining district, and inhabited almost wholly by miners and their families.

2. The weekly wage will vary from 15s. to 40s. The average weekly wage is about 30s. The reason of the variation is that the coal seams are thin and principally "cut " or gotten by machine, and breakdowns are continually taking place, either the cable breaking or a lack of electric current, or perhaps falls from the roof causing the miners to lose time. In some collieries the trade is principally household coal, and work is irregular in the summer.

3. In Harthill Village we have 452 dwelling-houses ; of this number 150 are owned by colliery companies. The Coltness Iron and Coal Company own 122. The stone-built houses are 5s. every two weeks, brick houses 4s. 6d. for two weeks. This rent includes taxes, £6, 10s. and £5, 17s. per year.

4. There are two-apartment houses, but the room is very small, one storey, erected over thirty years ago ; no damp-proof course; plastered on solid; wooden floors, some ventilated ; and western walls damp.

5. Overcrowding is common where lodgers are not kept. In quite a number of cases you get families living in both room and kitchen, although the tenants of the room must pass through the kitchen, as there is only one door, no back door.

6. There are no washhouses, but coal-cellars are provided. Gravitation water is supplied by standpipes in the street, and refuse water is emptied in a surface channel about 6 feet from the door.

7. Dry-closets, with open ash-pit, serve 122 houses, and seventy persons for each closet. This form of closet is not adapted for women or children ; the women have to make other arrangements, and the children mess about the side of the houses. The Colliery Company employ an old man to keep the place clean ; under the circumstances this simply means scraping up.

8. The other houses are leased by the United Colliery Company, or privately owned. A number of the houses are clearly uninhabitable and grossly overcrowded, families living in the garret. There are open middens in the back-court, and sewage runs into the open field.

9. Very few of the miners own their houses, but where they have been enabled to erect a house it is well kept.

10. My attention was drawn some weeks ago to the miners' row of North Rigg, owned by the United Collieries, Limited. There are ten houses of one apartment, and thirty-four of two apartments; rent 5s. 6d. every two weeks, or £7, 3s. per annum.

11. I found these houses in a most dilapidated condition : no water conductors on roofs, making walls damp ; slates off; water coming through the ceiling when it rained ; you could see through holes in the walls from one house to another; this, with plaster falling off, in addition to the usual insanitary conditions prevailing at the worst type of miners' rows, made home-life almost impossible. No washhouse, no coal-cellars, coal kept below bed.

12. I made complaint to Dr Wilson, the Public Health Officer for the County of Lanark, and he assures me that the Colliery Company will now put the houses in a habitable condition.

West Benhar or Muirhead Rows

13. These houses are built of brick and erected about forty years ago, and are owned or leased by Mr Forrest. There are about 170 dwelling-houses erected in blocks, and they are on the Valuation Roll at £60, 14s. each.

14. According to the Police Census there are about six persons to each house. I am very doubtful if the lodgers have been included ; keeping lodgers is quite common, and in some cases rooms are let. I am of opinion that overcrowding is the result.

15. The back walls of these houses are embedded, and in some cases the floors are below the level of the back ground. The walls are damp, and the plaster is kept on by the paper the tenants put on.

16. The rent is 12s. per four weeks ; £7, 16s. per year for the Coal Row, and 13s. 8d. every four weeks, or £8, 17s. 8d. per year for the Stone Row (exclusive of rates).

17. There are no washhouses ; washing must be done in the kitchen. There are about seventy-two persons to each privy closet.

18. The county authorities have been pressing for an improvement in the sanitary conditions – improved closet accommodation, and water to be led into each house, with and sinks to take away the refuse water. As a result of this pressure notice to quit was served on every tenant in April of present year. Whilst this threat has not been put into effect, it makes it very difficult to get tenants to complain, because no houses can be got in this district.

19. Taking a circle of 4 miles around Harthill, no houses can be had ; generally overcrowding prevails. If a young couple get married they have to reside in a room because of the scarcity of dwelling-houses of any kind. Private enterprise has failed to provide houses, and the public authority has done nothing. The Co-operative Society has provided about thirty houses of the tenement type. Whilst an improvement on some existing houses, they are not a very good type of dwelling-house.

20. Ground can be leased for £12 per acre, and there is plenty available.

21. The houses provided by colliery companion are in blocks, about eight houses to each block - a closet and more blocks ; long rows ; very cheaply built. Dry-closets badly kept; in some cases doors are off. No washhouses ; in great many coal kept below the bed. No scullery ; water supplied by a stand-pipe or pump, one for some twelve houses. Bleaching greens are available, and gardens ; where the latter has been fenced off, they are cultivated.

22. Very little repairing is done, or if done has been delayed too long. There is a surface channel some 6 feet from the door to take away refuse water. The villages are scavenged at the owners' expense ; no lighting ; no supervision. Tenants have to complain. The rent deducted weekly or fortnightly according to pay.

23. I do not favour single houses. I think the minimum ought to be room and kitchen, scullery and closet (water) for each house. I don't think closets will be kept properly unless you have one for each house, as in this way you are able to fix responsibility. One bad or careless tenant will spoil the closet for a whole block.

24. We ought to erect dwelling-houses in blocks of two room and kitchen, scullery, bathroom, and closet below ; and two bedrooms on top, with garden and green enclosed for each tenant.

25. I should think the miner generally could pay £9per year if he got suitable accommodation; but where he has a family of sons working he could pay more, of course getting more accommodation.

26. Houses might be erected in a way that this rent might give a return, but colliery owners, with a limited field of coal, might find it difficult to make it pay, although if erected by some public authority there would be a better chance, as in event of one colliery going done, some other would begin.

27. Tenants residing in a house owned by a colliery company lack security of tenure, as they are compelled to quit the house if they leave the employment. The result is that tenants don't always take the interest in the house they might do if the tenure were more permanent.

28. As regards gardens, these as a rule are not fenced by the owners ; the tenant won't erect fences ; and the preparation of the soil and getting of trees or flowers becomes a difficulty. Where tenants have security I have known them to prepare soil and erect hothouses.

29. Messrs Barr & Thornton have erected some blocks of dwellings, consisting of room, kitchen, scullery, and closet for each house at Knowiton near Fauldhouse. This class of house is an improvement on any in this district, and if better arranged would have been more satisfactory. Some colliery owners cannot get away from the long row system.

30. There are no baths at collieries about here, although men as a rule travel long distances to the mines, coming home wet, as workings in this part of the country are mostly wet, and if they don't get wet at work, in wet weather they are soaked before they reach home, where all the drying has to be done.

31. I had considerable experience in trying to get sanitary improvements carried out in Bellshill district, and a fair amount of success, but we met greatest opposition from large colliery employers, who seem to think the row with surface channel "or sheugh" about 4 feet from the door, and the open ash-pit, and dry-closet up against the room window were all the miner required.

32. I am inclined to think they use their influence with public bodies ; at least some of them don't seem to put the same pressure on big companies as they do on the private owner.


(By Mr Gilmour.) As we have already had evidence covering practically the whole county, we do not intend to go over ground already dealt with. Your evidence will appear in the print of the proceedings. Personally, I only want to deal with one part of your report, referring to the dispute with regard to the closing of houses at West Benhar. Would you just state in your own way what the position of the County Council is in regard to the closing of these houses? - The County Council wanted certain improvements made at West Benhar. They wanted flush-closets added to the houses, and general repairs done. They also wanted an underground channel in front of the houses instead of a surface channel. The proprietor was not willing to make any alterations. I was not on the County Council at the time, but I have read up the notes, and listened to the discussion. The matter was put before the Sheriff. I have his decision with me, but I do not think it is necessary for me to read it. He remitted it to the public health authority and the owner, Mr Forrest, to try and come to some sort of arrangement. He seemed to think that the county authorities were maybe asking too much for such old houses, and it might be that the proprietor was not prepared to do enough. The information I got was this, that they agreed on a joint minute to put before the Sheriff an arrangement. The County Council accepted the proposal made by Mr Forrest, that, instead of putting in flush-closets, he would erect pail-closets for each two houses, and would put an underground channel in front. He refused to put water into the houses at first, but ultimately he agreed to put water in the best houses. The county authorities accepted this proposal - pail-closets, one to two, and water in the best houses, and an underground channel in front of the houses, and general repairs.

(By the Chairman.) Have you any idea what percentage of the houses that would mean? - I should think it would have applied to two-thirds of the houses. You see none of .them are very good. There are some better than others. We wanted water in all the houses. There are only about three standpipes for the rows. This minute was agreed to by both parties and submitted to the Sheriff ; then the Duke's factor intervened and said he had not been consulted. I heard him making his statement at the Inquiry. He said that unless the Middle Ward authorities gave him an exemption he would not allow them to run the sewage of the rows on to the property that he was responsible for, and they refused to do that. The negotiations broke down after that. Mr Forrest was not prepared to do anything, or to suggest anything, to relieve that. I think that something in the shape of a septic tank or tanks might have covered the difficulty, seeing they were not to be flush-closets, but he was not prepared to accept that, and the Sheriff granted the Closing Order.

(By Mr Gilmour) The statement was made here yesterday by a gentleman who is acting for the owner of these houses that Mr Forrest had asked the County Council to carry out all the alterations regarding the drainage, and that he would pay the full cost. Have you any knowledge as to whether such an offer was made? - No, I have not any knowledge that it was made, but I know in the Middle Ward Committee they preferred to put the onus on Mr Forrest as the owner of houses for providing his drains. There is no special district there, and they did not think it was right that they should relieve him of his responsibilities.

As no special district existed there, the duty devolved on the owner of the houses to carry out the drainage at his own expense? - That is so.

About the structure of the houses, is the Closing Order based on the buildings being damp and unhealthy? - I think I will read you what the Sheriff says on that: "The Sheriff-Substitute having heard parties' procurators and considered the complaint with the proof and productions, Finds in fact (I) that the defender is owner within the meaning of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, of the promises known as West Benhar Rows, situated on the north west side of the public highway, known as Muirhead highway, in the Parish of Shotts, and consisting of 155 dwelling-houses, numbered 1 to 94 West Benhar, 1 to 50 Addie's Row, and 1 to 6 Dandy Row; (2) that said houses are about forty years old, and are of either one or two rooms ; (3) that with a few exceptions they have neither sculleries nor coal-cellars; (4) that there are no wash houses; (5) that there is a gravitation water supply, which is available to the inhabitants only through six stand-pipes placed at intervals in front of the houses ; (6) that said stand-pipes are so placed as in general to be not more than 80 yards or thereby from any house, but in the case of fifteen houses the distance is greater and up to 185 yards ; (7) that for the use of the whole houses there are midden privies, apparently not more than twenty in number, situated behind the rows of houses, and at distances varying from 30 feet to 90 feet from them; (8) that a few of said privies at the extreme north-east end of the rows have since the commencement of the present proceedings been reconstructed, and are at present in good repair; (9) that the whole remaining privies, and the middens or ash-pits connected with them, are in a state of ruin or of disrepair; (10) that the said privy middens are, in their present condition, unfit for decent use; (11) that apart from disrepair they are, from their position, their insufficient number, and the inevitable foulness of both privies and middens, not a proper or adequate convenience, particularly for women and children; (12) that the only method of disposing of liquid and other house refuse not carried to the middens is by open and irregular channels or gutters formed along the rows, and a few feet out from the front and back doors of the houses; (13) that said liquid stagnates in the channels, and spreads over and fouls the surrounding ground, where for want of other accommodation much of the washing and other household work has to be done. Finds (1) that as the result of the want of proper facilities for necessary and ordinary domestic operations, and particularly for the disposal of excrement and liquid refuse, the said premises at West Benhar Rows are in a state injurious or at least dangerous to health, and are a nuisance within the meaning of Subsection 1 of Section 16 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897; and (2) that the reconstruction and increase in numbers of midden privies proposed by the defender are insufficient to remove or even appreciably mitigate said nuisance: Allows the defender on or before 25th February 1913, to lodge a plan and proposal for the remedy of the existing nuisance and danger to health; and continues the cause till Friday, 28th February 1913." He allowed them time to put that right and the proposals were, as I have stated to you, accepted, only for the Duke's people stopping them, because of the fact that the refuse was only going to be shifted from the rows - the nuisance was going to be shifted from the rows on to the property for which he was responsible.

Seeing that the Closing Order was approved of by the Sheriff, I want your views on the question as to whether it should be obligatory on the part of the County Council or some other Local Authority to arrange for rehousing the people before they are put out of these houses ? The population, I understand, is a little over 800? - Stretching on 1000 people. I made it out at 856, but I think I understated it.

Is there any other available housing accommodation within reach of their employment? - We had an Inquiry into the adequacy of the housing there, and I suggested to the county authorities that they might erect 150 houses to relieve the congestion, and that was to deal with the worst houses only. This Closing Order, empties 156 houses, and there are about six persons to each house, so that it would practically mean, if I were right in asking 150 before the Closing Order was granted, that we now require fully 300 houses erected in the district.

Not taking into consideration at all the development of the coal-field, the new shafts that are being sunk by the Summerlee Iron Company? - The men are travelling long distances owing to the lack of houses. To show you the need for houses, while we were making inquiries to meet this Inquiry, there was a rumour that two houses were likely to be empty in West Benhar and, in spite of the fact that litigation was going on as to whether they were habitable or not, there were seventy-five names in for these two houses.

Now, is there any house building at all by private enterprise in the district? - No. There have only been, I think, two houses built by private enterprise during the time I have been there.

So that private enterprise to meet that want has absolutely failed ?—It has failed.

Do you suggest that under these circumstances it should be compulsory for the County Council or some other authority to undertake the housing of the people ?— I think that the County Council should have taken steps to provide houses before they got the Closing Order.

What is the effect of that Closing Order going to be ? Have they got to turn out at the May term ? It is now impossible for houses to be built in that limited time. What is to be the result ?—I am inclined to think that the Closing Order is operative. I think under the Act it will become an offence for anybody to stay in these houses after the Whitsunday term.

If the people, with no other place to go to, stay there, do you suggest that the police force might be called in to turn them out ?—I do not know that the county authorities would agree to go that length. It would be a serious thing. It would be a calamity to the district. They cannot get houses within miles and miles of the place. The people want to live there ; they have been brought up there. They are not satisfied with their houses, but they can do nothing else.

And, so far as can be seen, it is not a dying district; it is an area in which there is still a very large quantity of coal to be worked ?—The coal in the under-measures is likely to last a hundred years, and there is likely to be an increase in the population there in the next five years. New pits are starting that will employ about 900 men. If you take two dependants for each of the men, which is a low number, it means about 3000 people.

What other firm are sinking shafts there? - The United Colliery Company are reopening Westcraig Colliery.

How far is it away ?—About 2 miles from the village of Harthill.

So that the Local Authority would be acting on quite safe lines, because you require housing in that district ?—Undoubtedly.

You said that the County Authority was quite willing to accept the alteration, so far as closet accommodation was concerned, to pail-closets for each two houses. If that was given, do you think that is a reasonable standard? —Dr Wilson wrote me to that effect. He is Medical Officer for the County. I told him I personally would not accept that, as I thought that the working people had a right to every modern convenience, but the authorities could, if they cared, in view of the desperate situation, accept it, but I would not say that I would accept it.

So that the extra expense of providing one of these primitive places - one for each family - would not have been unreasonable ?—The expense of putting up an additional privy-closet and putting in water would not have been worth considering. The houses pay well enough - £7, 15s. to £8, 17s. 6d. per year.

Do you know what the owner of these houses paid for them ?—No.
So that the action of the authority in condemning the houses was not so much on account of the structure being damp as the want of reasonable conveniences? - I think it would be partly both, but it was probably the lack of conveniences. You know the privy closets there. They are these closets that are made to hold half a dozen people at one time, and they are kept in a scandalous state.

Has the attention of the sanitary authorities of the county been called to the state of affairs in Benhar, and also in Harthill, of which it is said in evidence that "The ash-pits are disgraceful, the collection of refuse being most irregular. Scavenging is attempted locally, but without much effect." Has any representation been made to the Medical Officer of Health? - I have spoken to the Sanitary Officer, and I have both spoken to and written to Dr Wilson about the condition of things there. He told me he was up against a wall and he could get nothing done. At the other places they are professing to do a little now. I saw in one of the houses on Monday that the people had actually boarded the back wall from ceiling to floor to get on paper to make the room look nice. They have a fairly good class of tenants there.

But what I am dealing with just now are the very bad conditions that are described all through, from the sanitary point of view. I want to find out who is to blame for allowing a state of affairs like that to exist ?— I would say it was the public authority. They had the power and they ought to have insisted on something being done. Of course, they say if they go too far they might meet with something like they met with at West Benhar. The people are convinced that they are better with some shelter than none at all.

Do they suggest that it is going too far to suggest that the ash-pits we have had described to us should be cleared away from the dwelling-houses ?—I think they have a big difficulty there, because they have no drainage scheme. If they abolished the ash-pits they would have to put in modern flush-closets, which would mean a drainage scheme. I noticed such a scheme was prepared, at one time, but that it was dropped because of the cost. The cost, to my mind, was not prohibitive ; I think it was to be about 1s. 2d. in the £.

(By Mr Carlow) Was that including sewage purification, with septic tanks, or that sort of thing ?— I think it would allow for septic tanks, but not for purification works.

This is Harthill you are speaking of ?—Yes. The estimated cost of the scheme was about £2970, or fully 1s. 2d. per £ on the rental, exclusive of tenants' compensation.

At all events, that was to make a satisfactory scheme ?—Yes.

(By Mr Gilmour.) You know the Bellshill district very well - Addie's Square?—Yes. I want to say something about the other district I happen to represent. I would like water in the houses, but the public health authorities have lost an action at the Cadzow Rows, where the Sheriff held that a house was habitable without water in it. That decision is keeping the public authority from doing as much as sometimes you would like to see done. None of these miners' rows have water in the houses. I think it would be a big improvement if they had.

Do you therefore suggest that this Commission should recommend to Parliament that a house should not be considered habitable unless a water supply was brought within the house, where practicable ? —I think if it was recommended, we would adopt Section 246 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act. I am going to try and move on the County Council that we get that power, because it is very hard on us. Prior to that decision I refer to, they thought they had a right to insist on the water being inside the house.

About the other district, Bellshill, I think the Commission were impressed by the enormous quantity of mud that was there. It was perfectly impassable, both before the houses and in the open streets. Has the County Council no authority to interfere in putting a matter of that kind right ?—Do you mean in the main streets ?

No, in the Square ?—I am more on my own ground there. I represent West Bellshill on the County Council. Without saying too much, I might mention that I was responsible for the institution of the drainage scheme there. We had opposition, but we were fairly successful, as far as the individual property owners were concerned. We adopted the scheme and made it operative - not probably as well as I would have liked it to be; we accepted one flush-closet to four houses. I think that was a mistake. Unfortunately we were not able to apply the same law to the mining companies, who own quite a number of houses. I am fighting just now to try and get a drain through, in order to compel them to make alterations. They have the middens in the Square. The houses are fairly good except for the fact that they have no water in them and no sculleries. Whilst we have these awful places stinking in the middle of a square, it is not creditable to a public company.

And the colliery companies are giving no assistance ?—The Summerlee Iron Company have resisted as far as they can. Wilsons & Clyde say, once the County Council provide the drainage, they will erect the closets.

Would there be any hardship in obtaining powers to compel the colliery company to put their housing accommodation right ?—I think we have the power if we provide the drainage. There is no drainage scheme to take it away, and since I have gone on to the County Council I have been trying to get a drain put through. The difficulty put before us is the underground workings. They say it would cost, roughly, £4000, and that if they worked the coal it would destroy the drain. They seem to think that that is a reason for not having drainage in colliery rows.

How many houses would that affect ?—250 to 300.

(By Sir William Younger.) You do not think it is worth while spending £4000 for the benefit of the 300 houses ?—They have made a difficulty, as I have indicated. I was elected by a big vote to get matters put right in the miners' row, to complete the work that I took up about sanitation in the district. Prior to my being on the County Council they did make that a difficulty. I appealed to the Local Government Board, and they instituted an Inquiry. The public authorities said that the difficulty was that the coal would be worked out in about two years. I waited two years, and then I wrote the Local Government Board again, and I got exactly the same reason as I got the first time. I took the liberty of reading Dr Wilson's Report at the first Inquiry to him when I met him at the second. It was exactly the same. I asked him if I was to take it that he had done nothing for two years.

It has been suggested to the Commission that, in order to have proper sanitation, instead of forty or fifty different drainage areas, and so on, it would be very much better if the county comprised the area, and if the rate necessary for public health purposes was a uniform rate. What are your views on that point ?—I heard that when I took up the question at Bellshill ten or eleven years ago. I said I believed in it, but I was not willing to wait an indefinite time. We inaugurated the new system there, and we are still hearing about this other thing that is in the lap of the gods, I suppose.

I want to get your views as to whether it would be advisable that the Commission should recommend that change ?—It would undoubtedly be advisable, but it is a question of whether it would be practicable. We have a big area.

Take the case of a village in which the estimated cost is 3s. in the £ on the rental, do you think it is better to allow the existing state of affairs to continue than to unify the whole question by having a uniform rate, which would affect the populous districts very little ?—I think it would do for the smaller districts.

And it would not be much worse in the larger districts ?—Yes.

(By Mr Carlow.) With regard to the West Benhar houses, does it not come to this, that they are being closed at this stage very much because the parties have not been able to agree as to a sewage purification scheme to put the effluent into the Duke's lands in a way that it would not be hurtful ?—No.

But if the Sheriff has agreed to the proposals made by the landlord as to the sanitary requirements, does not it look as if the only point was the disposal of the sewage ?—That was the point at the time, but the onus lay with the proprietor, and he made no suggestion.

And there are collieries being sunk just in the immediate neighbourhood ?—Yes.

I will put this suggestion to you: we will suppose those houses cost £1000, and if £20 a house is spent upon these houses and £1000 for a sewage purification scheme, would not that leave them still at about £32 a house? Would not they be worth that to the Summerlee Company, or any colliery company, with £20 spent upon them and the drainage scheme and the sewage taken away ?—They are on the Valuation Roll just now at about £55 per house.

The Valuation Roll does not give the valuation of property ; but it gives the rental ?—They are estimated at that just now.

It must be an estimate based upon the rental ? —That is taking the total valuation and dividing it by the number of houses in the district.

The Valuation Roll does not give the valuation of the property; it gives the rental ?—In this case I have got the valuation that they are down at. But dealing with your question, your suggestion was that if £20 a house was spent on them, and £1000 on a sewage scheme, that it would make them habitable. I am not in favour of these old houses being patched at all; I think it is only perpetuating a system of things we want done away with. I know of some houses where the public authority has allowed them to build a closet up against the outer wall, and in these cases the old houses are scarcely worth an much as the closets. I think that is only breeding disease, and it is not as much as the people are entitled to expect.

Of course, you are quite entitled to take your own view, but other people's view is that these houses, standing pretty high, as the most of them are, could be improved as regards dampness ; they could have sculleries and water-closets added to them, and they could be made quite habitable houses for a long number of years to come. That could be done quickly, and it would got over the present difficulty of housing so many people. I do not see how you are to get out of the difficulty at all unless something is done. What is to be done with the people?—I would suggest that we simply refuse to turn the people out until we erect houses. We have been arranging for that. There are so many forms to be gone through. We have got the offer of building ground contiguous at a reasonable rate, if we could get the county authorities to take up the scheme.

(By Mr Barbour) Might I ask if this is affected by the town planning scheme that is going forward for the Shotts district ?—No, it is not in the area.

(By Mr Carlow) You are of the opinion that houses of that type, such as we have seen at West Benhar, are not capable of being made habitable as houses for miners ?—That is my opinion. I think that no house should be erected without a passage and the room entering off the passage.

Don't you see that is your opinion again. The Commissioners have seen houses built within the last two years where they enter direct from the front door into a parlour room, and you must go through that room to get into the kitchen ?—But there is another reason. In some localities the men have to travel long distances to their work, and in nearly every house you go into you will find bicycles. I think when they have not got a suitable outhouse that a passage would be a great help in a district like that.

If I tell you that the architect for the Local Government Board objects to inside lobbies for that very reason - that they are places for storing lumber and bicycles what have you to say?— I would say he was wanting to bring about a Eutopia a little quicker than I. I quite agree with him, if they had suitable outhouses, but you see they have nothing like that.

I only wanted to show you that there, are differences of opinion about lobbies. Personally, I never build a house without a lobby, but other people think differently, and the Commissioners have seen houses that they have highly approved of as very good workmen's houses without any lobby at all?—We are puzzled with our county scheme, because the cost seems to be pretty heavy. It would mean that a room and kitchen, with money borrowed at 3 1/2 per cent., with a scullery and bath for each house, a closet and hot and cold water with a garden plot laid off in the front and in the back, allowing £10 for street-making, because we are trying to lay out a model village, would have to be rented at £13. But if we want a two-room and kitchen house we could rent it at £13, 13s., which is, proportionally, much cheaper.

Do you think the working men of your district would be quite pleased to pay 5s. a week for the scheme you suggest in preference to what they have ?—In Benhar there would be no difficulty; the type of people there would not make it difficult at all.

And their habits in the past would not at all prevent them spending so much money upon it ?—Of course, you understand that we have as in other trades, a shifty portion of the population; but in the district we are talking of just now the percentage of that class is very small.. They are a settled population. But there is a class you would have difficulty with in getting that rent, and you would probably have trouble with them in getting them to keep their houses up to the standard, but if the public authority erects good houses they will not erect houses for everybody.

They will erect houses for selected tenants ?— Yes, and we could move the other class into the houses they have vacated.

Does it occur to you that these houses that are there just now could be so improved as to make them quite healthy and quite sufficient to meet the wants and desires of the miners ?—Well, I am not in favour of it, but I believe a number of these houses could be made fairly good.

For a certain class ?—Quite; but unfortunately even in the amended scheme Mr Forrest only accepted the pail privy-closet. Now, that is not satisfactory to me.

I am assuming that water would be got in, and that a drainage scheme would be got there. I must say that I still feel that the houses are worthy of such a purification scheme, and worthy of £20 a house being spent on them, as regards dampness and accessories ?— They are really worth less than you would think from looking at them. They paper the houses four times a year. When the rain is coming down I have seen them with a waterproof above the bed, or an umbrella above a patient's head.

I quite agree that that is unsatisfactory, but do you not think the improvement will have to be brought about gradually ?—I agree we can only do it gradually.

We have got to aim at something just now as a minimum for new houses, and we have got to bring up the old houses to something like this minimum, and that must come on gradually, along with the education of the people themselves ?—I think we could improve the best of the old houses, but there are a big number of old houses that are not worth improving.

In Paragraph 5 you refer to overcrowding, and you say that there are families living in both room and kitchen, although the tenants of the room must pass through the kitchen, as there is only one door, no back door. Although there is a demand for houses, does not this show that those who have houses, who are the tenants, want to make a little money rather than have the conveniences and comfort for themselves - that they sublet a house like that ?—No, it shows you that if a woman's daughter is going with a young man, and the time comes when they require to get married, that the mother will make a sacrifice before she will keep back the wedding. I have known them having a son and a daughter married and staying with them in their house, just because they could not do anything else.

Why have the authorities not done something to put an end to a system whereby ten houses have to use one closet ?—It is because the people who were interested in that sort of property were the public authorities. They have had the power to erect houses since 1889, and they have not erected a single house.

You say in your evidence that the Co-operative Society has built thirty houses of the tenement type, and that they are an improvement, but not a very good type. What is wrong with them? - The fault I have to find with them is that the most of them have not got a passage. If I had been one of the directors I would not have sanctioned the erection of houses of that kind.

About these houses referred to by you in Paragraph 24, there is really the English type of house you are speaking of here ?—Yes.

Do you think the Scotch miner would like to leave his warm kitchen and go upstairs and sleep in one of these rooms in the middle of winter ?—I was brought up in a miners' row, and I have now got a better house than I was brought up in; and whilst I would have had difficulty as a child leaving the kitchen and going to sleep in a room, my children have no difficulty at all.

I mean to say, we have had people in your position who have come here and said they do not think this type of house would suit this type of people at all ? —You will get people who will say that; it is a question of education and environment.

We have not had, I may say, people in your position recommending this type of house to us much, and therefore I made the remark to you about it being the English type of house - this house of two bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen and scullery downstairs. There are only three apartments and a scullery there. Mr M'Kerrell, this morning, told us distinctly that he would not approve of that type of house, that he would have them all on the bottom floor. That just shows the difference of opinion? —Yes, but before we pass from that type of house, I should just like to say that I think, with the bedrooms on the top, you can keep them cleaner and better than if they were down below.

You think that generally the miner could pay £9 per year for suitable accommodation, even where he has no family bringing in more money. I suppose you will admit that, at the present moment, miners are making something like 40s. a week, and that 30s. at ordinary or dull times is the average wage ?—In the district I represent we have no houses below £9, and we have room and kitchen houses at £13, 10s., privately owned. Nearly all the companies' houses are above £9.

I do not see why they should not pay more if they want extra accommodation ?—Our difficulty will be with the 24s. a week labour in that case.

Have you any great objection to the long row system? —I do not favour them at all. The houses I referred to, we purposed building two in a block. I want them to use their gardens.

I quite agree, but in the Harthill district, where the village is 900 feet above the sea, do you not think that the houses will need all the heat they can get, and that rows in blocks of six, eight, or ton houses would be a great help? - No, I do not think so.

(By Sir William Younger) Is there any demand among your men for baths? - Yes, the miner would like a bath. The shifty class, perhaps, do not care much about washing, but the miner would like a bath in his house. They are very clean people, although they do not look it when you see them coming from their work. One very unsatisfactory thing is that the children are washed by their mothers once a week until they become nine or ten years old, and, after that, I do not think they get bathed at all, and it is not good for the children.

If they had a proper bath in the house then these children would be brought up to take a bath themselves ?— I can give it as my own experience that the best time my children have is when they are romping about in the bath, and they were not brought up to it.

(By Mrs Kerr.) As regards the educating of the children to go upstairs to bed, is it not also a matter of education to remove the bed out of the kitchen ?—I would rather have it out of the kitchen, but the collier's wife gets up and makes the breakfast for her husband, and he likes to be watching the fire and watching the clock. It is easier for the man to continue his sleep until his breakfast is ready. As a rule, he usually takes some interest in the breakfast being made ready too. What we are doing in these proposed houses to be built by the county is, we are meeting that difficulty half-way; we are only providing the space in the kitchen for the bed, we are not providing the bed. It will only be if we cannot prevent it that they will get a bed in the kitchen. I think some of the women folk will put some nice furniture into the kitchen and get over sleeping near the fire.
The Witness withdrew.


Last Updated 22nd August 2010