Scottish Mining Villages

Children’s Employment Commission 1842

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

Shott’s Iron-stone Pit – Water Engine Pit; visited personally.
No.23 April 16. Johnny Miller, aged 10:
His father was a labourer in Inverness; died eight years since of fever; sister has been three years in service in that town. No other brother or sister. His mother and himself left Inverness for Glasgow about 18 months since.  “Does nae ken what brought her awa”, came in a boat by sea and canal. His mother set up a small shop in Glasgow, where she sold sugar and tea and toys; it was in William-street, near the Briggate; she died of fever. What shop she had kept her while she was lying, and paid the doctor and people tending her. He came away along the road and the “folk” bid him go to Airdrie, where there were a “heap o’ pits”.  Stopped one night in a farmhouse by the way. At Airdrie found one Duncan Leveston, who gave him work, drawing coals for him for six months, till the pit was done and then Duncan went to work at an iron-stone pit, where he could not draw. This man gave him his food and any old bits of “duds” [i.e. clothes], but no money. It is “well on to four weeks” since he left it, during which he has been going about from one farm to another herding cattle, &c. Was never at a school; had a little “spell” [i.e. spelling-book] the other day in which he was learning his ABC, but lost it out of his pouch. At Glasgow he just went about the street; was never at the police office; never worked at a tobacco shop.

This boy was admitted on trial to work in the Shotts Pits after he had told his story as above.

No.24. April 16. William Brownlee, Esq., surgeon to the Shotts Pits and Collieries:
Has held this situation for two years and a half. Has paid particular attention to the girls in the pits, being struck with the fact of their employment when he first came. While he has been connected with the works nine illegitimate children have been born in them, but only three of these of women working in pits, and one of these has since married the father of her child. The half of the above girls were living away from the place and only came here to be confined. Hence he concludes that employment of females in these pits is not conducive to immorality. Neither does he think it injurious to their health. He had an instance of a young married woman who had a premature birth from an accident, and was some time out of health from it; she had formerly been drawing and thought she would try it again and she recovered when at that employment. He only remembers two accidents to miners, one of which was from a hutch overturning and hurting his back, which laid him up five weeks. There are less accidents here than in most other pits.

Shotts Manse
No.25 April 16. Rev. Walter Colvin, minister of Shotts parish:
At the Cleland or Omoa iron-works in his parish a number of people have lately been added to the population under the new proprietor, Mr. Stewart. He visited every house in the place to induce the people to send their children to school and persuaded the proprietor of the works to subscribe £5 per annum. He then placed a teacher there, but he is half starved for want of scholars and will be obliged to leave it. A school did exist here four years ago, but the heir of the person who built it pulled it down. The present school is held in a garret with two small windows, in which the Methodists preach. Mr. Baird, of Gartsherrie, has told him of families receiving from him £300 a-year in wages the whole of which they consume in eating and drinking, whilst their houses are without furniture and their children in rags and ignorance. The English workers at Dundyvan malleable iron-works get some of them £1. a-day. They drink immensely of rum and beer, which they keep by them at work in a pitcher and at home they entertain each other with wine. They eat turkeys, geese, &c., and have raised the price of poultry in that part of the country.

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