Scottish Mining Villages

Blochairn – Extract from Truck Report 1871

The Blochairn Ironworks (Messrs. Hannay & Son) employ about 1,600 or 1,800 men. The pays are fortnightly. Advances are given weekly, and also between times in cases of sickness or accident.

Before the present proprietors took possession of these works the cash for advances was supplied to the company by a grocer of the name of Morris. The advances were paid in the cash offices to the men who then came round to Morris’s store. To the company Morris paid £330 a year. When the Messrs Hannay took the works they stopped this system, and the rent came down to £100 a year. The old system therefore is not recognised by the company, but Morris still succeeds in keeping a little custom by means of the contractors, from whom he does not receive lines, but has verbal instructions from time to time to give such and such men goods.

Abstract of Evidence

Hugh Morris
I am a grocer and keep a shop, called the Blochairn store. Men come to me from the Blochairn ironworks. There is no arrangement between me and anyone in the cashier’s office. Perhaps 30 or 40 men come. The contractors will give me orders to give their men credit. I pay the company £100 rent for my shop; that is all I pay for these last three years. 25 years before that I paid them £330 a year; that was to the former proprietors of the works. I paid them so much because they had the advance system, but the present company stopped the advance system. Under the former company I used to supply the cash for advances myself. When Messrs. Hannay took the works they said they would have nothing to do with anything of the sort. There were to be no advances, good, bad, or indifferent, and then my rent came down to £100 a year. It is not unusual for iron companies to give lines upon grocers. This book contains chiefly the names of the men to whom I have supplied goods. The only man in the employment of the company to whom I ever gave a little commission was Shaw, and I have given him nothing lately. When a person comes and pays his account in full if there is an odd shilling or two upon it I would pay that back. That would be to the contractors. There is no other commission. If there is an odd 6d. or 1s. or 2s. in the contractor’s pass books I give it back if he pays his account in full. Most of the men whose names are in this book are contractors, and, have men under them, and those men come to my shop. It is by the contractor’s orders that I supply them, the contractor always comes himself to my shop every time there is an order to supply a man. The orders are verbal. The shop is just at the works, and the contractor comes every time. Some of them come in two or three times a day. The contractor will come himself when the amount to be given to a man is 6d. or 1s. The contractors get no commission whatever for their trouble. The contractor John Hamilton got 6d. in the pound. That man Shaw got 2 ½ %; that is the same amount.

James Smith
I am a roller at Blochairn. I know Hugh Morris. I have five men under me. I give them lines to McAra and I am allowed 2 ½ %. The men sometimes refuse to work when I will not give them lines. I give them lines for either cash or provisions whichever they wish. I give them a line for goods as the usual thing. The only way they can get advances from me is by getting a line upon McAra, and on pay-day I deduct from their wages the amount of the lines which McAra sends me in.

Alexander Shaw
I am a contractor at Blochairn. I have seven or eight men. If they come for advances, I give them lines on McAra. The lines I give to Morris are by word of mouth. Morris give me 2 ½ %. I have done this ever since I have been a contractor, that is two years.

Charles Blaydon
I am manager at the Blochairn Ironworks. We have about 1,600 or 1,800 men. We pay fortnightly, and advance weekly, and also between times in emergencies. Morris’s shop is called a store by the men. Lines are never given to Morris from the office direct. I have heard of lines being given by contractors. Morris used to have the advances due to him deducted from the. men’s pay by the old company, but not in our time. When we took the works the deductions ceased. I did not know that this was a common thing in the trade till the facts came out before this Commission.

Hugh Haran
I am a clerk at Blochairn. I did not know a commission was taken by contractors. I get none myself, and I never give lines or orders