Scottish Mining Villages


This section contains newspaper reports on accidents. Please check the indexes in theAccidents Section for details of Inspector of Mines reports and other accidents covered on the site.

1 March 1817

A melancholy accident occurred in the lead mines belonging to Messrs Horner Hurst & Co., Leadhills on the forenoon of the 1st inst. Occasioned by the air being rendered impure from the smoke of a fire engine, placed about 100 feet underground. As soon as the danger was ascertained, 2 miners and the company’s blacksmith descended to the relief of their neighbours below, when unfortunately the two miners perished in the humane attempt. The smith escaped but is still dangerously ill. Many of the miners who were at work at the time were violently affected, almost to suffocation, but are now out of danger. We have since learned that in all seven lives have been lost in this accident. Five at least of those who perished have left widows and large families, some of them 8 to 10 children. The following are the names of the sufferers: – William Austin,Peter BlackwoodJohn BainJames AlstonRobert HamiltonThomas Thomson and a man from the north. [Glasgow Herald March 7 1817]

30 October 1844

Fatal Accident in a Coal Pit – On Wednesday a melancholy accident occurred in one of the mines at Wanlockhead, belonging to his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch. A party of miners had prepared to blast a piece of rock , and having lighted the match, retired to what they considered a safe distance. When the explosion took place , however, a large fragment of stone rebounding from the side of the mine, struck one of the party, named William Hislop, on the back, inflicting a severe wound. He was immediately carried home by his companions, and medical attendance procured ; but such was the nature of the injury he had received, that, after lingering in great pain for about thirty-six hours, he expired. The death of this young man, who was only in his 20th year, has spread a gloom over the whole village. He was an only son, and most exemplary for dutiful and affectionate conduct towards his parents. [Scotsman 6 November 1844]

5 February 1868

Accident in A Mine – A singular accident happened on Wednesday last to a lad named William Little, aged 17, employed in one of the mines at Wanlochhead. His duty was to watch the working of the pumping engine in the mine, for which purpose he had to go down the pit; while there early on the morning of Wednesday, feeling very cold, he left his post in order to take a walk to warm himself. At a distance of 50 yards from the engine, there is a “sump” or shaft 68 feet deep, which is descended by ladders. Little proceeded to go down this shaft, and stepping on to the top ladder laid hold of a crank suspended in the shaft for the purpose of drawing up materials from the bottom, when the crank suddenly turned in his hand, causing him to lose his balance, and he fell to the bottom of the shaft. Here he lay for three hours in 18 inches of water unable to raise himself; at length hearing some of the miners passing he cried out and was soon rescued from his unpleasant position. He was in a very exhausted condition, but must have been more frightened than hurt, because strange to say, on being examined by Dr Menzies, no bruises were found on his person, and the only serious injury he seems to have received was a fracture of the right ancle. He is progressing favourably. [Herald 12 February 1868]

25 May 1892

Leadhills – Miner Buried Alive At Leadhills – On Wednesday James Tennant, Flaxholm, Leadhills, was buried alive in Potato Lead Mine, Leadhills. The “happer” through which rubbish is put became choked, and while Tennant was on top of the heap the happer suddenly opened, carrying him through among the rubbish, and another fall of rubbish taking place he was buried alive. Every effort was made to rescue the unfortunate man, but when he was taken out Dr Barrons found life extinct. [Hamilton Advertiser 28 May 1892]

13 August 1925

Leadhills – Fatal Accident – On Thursday morning, 13th inst., while George Dalling leadminer, son of Mr Wm Dalling, Mossbank, was engaged at his usual work in the Wanlockhead lead mines, a violent explosion rendered him unconscious, when he was removed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Shortly after admission he expired, never regaining consciousness. His remains, which were interred in Leadhills Churchyard on Sabbath afternoon, were followed by the largest crowd of mourners ever witnessed in the village. Much sympathy is felt for his widow and children, as well as for his father and mother. [Hamilton Advertiser 22 August 1925]

27 August 1926

Wanlockhead Lead Miner Killed – A distressing fatality occurred late on Friday night in the Wanlockhead lead mine, when Hugh Nicol (50), was crushed by a descending cage. He was engaged at repair work at the pit bottom when he was struck by the cage and killed instantaneously. [Scotsman 30 August 1926]

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Collieries In The East Of Fife

The following extracts are from the report by R F Franks to the Children’s Employment Commission on the East of Scotland District which was published in 1842

Drumcarra Colliery

– parish of Cameron, county of Fife. – (Messrs. Williamson and Co., Lessees.)

No.427. Mr. Alexander Felfer, overseer:
We employ about 50 persons in the mine; 15 are under 18 years of age, and nine boys 10, 12, and 14 years of age; very young people are of no use here, as much caution is required from the nature of our coal, which frequently is on fire and we find it trouble-some and expensive to keep it at bay. The works were stopped for some years from the wasting fire. We have no carburetted hydrogen gas in the mine, but much choke-damp in warm weather which we drive out by ventilation. Our pit is descended by one shaft 65 fathoms deep and it is divided by a partition. The air is coursed along the workings in the usual way. No accidents have taken place from the stifle which the burning produces. One man was crushed by the fall of a stone in the mine within the last two years.

The usual number of hours which our colliers are wrought do not exceed eight or nine, and when they work by double shifts they rarely work more than six and seven hours.

As children are little use in the mines before 12 or 13 years of age, I would recommend 13 years as the most suitable time for their being first employed.

No females have ever wrought in this part of Fife, and many of our present colliers were labourers in the fields; they are generally good workmen, although they are called grass-colliers.

No.428. Alexander Smith, 14 years old, hewer:
Works with two brothers below on father’s account, as he cannot work, often being touched in the breath. Brother and I can put out two men’s work in a day, which is l5 tubs of mixed coal, equal to three tons; we get 2s. 3 1/2d. per ton for splint coal, 2s. 1d. for soft coal and 15d. per ton for panwood or lime coal. We could do very well if the work were regular, but the warm weather causes the black-damp to rise; it did so on Saturday, when we left.

The pit is much troubled with fire-stifle, which sends the men to sleep; it also causes them to spew much; when the men are overcome with the stifle we take them into the fresh air, which brings back their senses.

I have been below three years; was at Donbrae school before; was taught to read and write. [Writes very badly, and deficient in religious knowledge.] Have two sisters; one is married to a gardener, and the other at service at Mr. Mitchell’s at Donbrae. Mother was a weaver’s daughter.

No.429. Andrew Ferres, 17 years old, hewer:
Began first to work on coal three years ago; left farm service, as the coal work was likely to pay better; can earn 2s. 6d. to 3s. a-day when work is regular; the average through the year I think is eight days in the fortnight. Service is preferable to coal-work but my wages were only 4s. 1d. a-year, and I had to clothe myself; would not have left, only father wished me and little brother is now below opening the traps; he is 12 years old and been down nine months.
[The father is afflicted with bad breath and the mother has been dead four years; the daughters, – two out at service, one (18 years old) keeps house.]



District Parish Name of Mines Proprietor or Lessee
St. Andrews Kilconquhar Grange Colliery Peter Keddie, Esq.
St. Andrews Kilconquhar Rires Colliery Mr. Dalgleish
St. Andrews Carnbee Kellie Castle Colliery Mr. Hastler
St. Andrews Kennoway Kilnnox Colliery Mr. Fernie
St. Andrews Cameron Greigston Colliery Messrs. Williamson and Co.
St. Andrews Cameron Winthank Colliery Whyte Melville, Esq.
Cupar Cults Burn Turc Colliery Mr. D. Thompson
Cupar Leslie Coule Colliery Mr. Mitchell
Kirkaldy Scoonie Ducie Colliery Messrs. Langdale and Co.
Kirkaldy Wemyss Pilmuir Colliery Captain Wemyss
Kirkaldy Wemyss Methel Colliery Captain Wemyss

The collieries in the district of St. Andrews and Cupar are worked to very limited extent, and no females or very young children are wrought below. The only novelty that attracts attention is the peculiar character of the coal at Drumcarra, Largo Ward and Teases, which spontaneously fires. At Drumcarra a portion of the coal-wall is on fire, and the smoke causes not unfrequently a complete cessation of labour from the “stifle” arising therefrom.

It is presumed that so much mineral is disseminated through this particular section of the coal-field that the coal may be generally termed pyritiferous. If therefore, a quantity of pyritous matter be suffered to accumulate, spontaneous combustion naturally takes place, – an accident of not unfrequent occurrence in similar formations in English mines as also those of the Brora Coal-field in the north of Scotland, the working of which for some years has been abandoned.

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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

Co-operative Stores – Extract from Truck Report 1871

Enquiry was made in three different parts of Scotland as to the operation of co-operative stores: at the Messrs. Bairds’ ironworks in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire; at Mr. Hood’s colliery works at Lasswade, in Edinburghshire; and in the Slamannan district of Lanarkshire.

Messrs. Bairds are large employers of labour, with about 8,000-10,000 hands. The Dalmellington Company, Messrs. Merry and Cunninghame’s firm, and the Messrs. Bairds between them, own all the ironworks in Ayrshire.

Mr Whitelaw, partner in Messrs. Bairds spoke to the successful working of the co-operative system at their works.

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“Some of their men are paid directly by the firm, but a large number receive their wages through contractors. Every calendar month there is a settlement; and Messrs. Bairds give advances every second day to such of the workmen as are paid in their own office.

Five co-operative societies maintain stores at different parts of Messrs. Bairds works, in buildings rented from Messrs. Bairds, at rents varying from £40 to £60 per annum. Beyond this the company have no interest in any store, except in one or two instances, where money has been lent the workmen to set one afloat. The following is the account of the management of the Gartsherrie store:-

Q Can you tell us about the method in which they are managed ? – The workmen get advances as usuaal – whether from us or from the contractors does not matter; and they may or may not, as they choose, take the money to these shops. When the workmen take their money there, there is an account kept of the amount purchased. That is set down opposite every man’s name who has purchased, and who is working to the company and living in one of the company’s houses. It is always entered into the men’s pass books. At the end of the month the parties are required to produce these books in the co-operative store, in order to have the sums added up, and the amount for the month being thus ascertained is entered into a book, a sort of ledger, monthly. At the end of the year these sums are added together, and the profit upon the whole sales is divided rateably among those people who have made purchases, whether they have shares in the store or not.

Q Who are the persons who manage it? -When it was first set agoing, the company named 15 men who were to manage it. There was a condition imposed that three of the committee should always be named by the company, and it has been their practice to name their chief cashier and two of the principal managers. The other 12 are to be men who have lent money to furnish the capital to carry on the store. They must be men who have lent at least £1 for that purpose.

Q By men do you mean that they must be workers ? – Yes ; they may be oversmen, or men of that stamp but they must be men connected with the works and living in the houses. They want capital to furnish the shop, say £200, £300 or £400, and these men lend money, some of them as much as £20. They don t lend any more than £20, but, as a rule, it is between £5 and £20, and out of that class the managing committee are selected bv the persons who have lent money to the store.

Q Then the managing body is partly named by the firm and partly by the subscribers? – Yes; we name 3 and they name 12.

Q Does the storekeeper appoint his own people? – Yes ; but I think the committee of management take a good deal to say in the appointment of all the storekeepers as well as the principal one.

Q Is there on annual audit of the accounts? – Yes. Our principal cashier is one of the auditors, and the committee of management have to appoint other two.

The stores are thus managed by the workmen, and the profits of each are divided amongst the men who have dealt in it according to their respective purchases. The dividend varies from about four to eight percent, on the goods purchased. The profits on sales to persons who are not workmen, amounting to about £50, £60 or £60 a year at each store, are set aside as a benefit fund, which the committee for managing the shop distribute to those who have been hurt, or who are in distress at the works. Interest at the rate of 8% is paid to those who have advanced money to provide the capital for the store. At Lugar and Muirkirk, where the largest operations are conducted, “about £1,400 would furnish the stock for all the shops, and I think,” Mr. Whitelaw says, “the profit will be about £2,000 or £2,400 a year.”

Before these stores were established, the Messrs. Bairds had stores of their own, worked without compulsion. But these were given up in favour of the co-operative stores because “the whole system was a continual source of complaint and growling on the part of the workmen and the public generally, not at Messrs. Bairds particularly, but over the whole country.”

Mr. Whitelaw was in favour of short payments within a large percentage of the wages earned, with a monthly balancing day. It is well worthy of notice that, in a firm so large as theirs, this could be managed without any difficulty whatsoever :-

Q Then you might balance up once a month or so? – That is what I would suggest, to balance once a month only. But let there be a law, if it is thought necessary, making it imperative that the men shall be entitled every week or every fortnight to get a certain large amount of their wages.

Q But practically the men could get the greater part of what is due to them every week without any mechanical difficulty? – Yes, without any difficulty whatever.

To an auditing by the men the accounts of their own off takes, Mr. Whitelaw thought there was no objection whatever.

Mr. Hood, at Lasswade, employs 300 or 400 hands and pays them fortnightly. The store is co-operative, and is managed exclusively by the men. The profit to the shareholders in 1869 was 15% on the turnover, and about 100% (speaking roughly) upon the outlay, purchases included. It is a popular institution among the men. Mr. Hood would wish to see workmen receive advances once or twice a week to the extent of two-thirds of their earnings.

The evidence given regarding the Slamannan co-operative stores came from Alexander I. Hunter, a collier in the Binniehill works, who spoke in favour of the system, and added that he got 2s. 6d. in the pound in the provision department last quarter, and 3s. in the bakery. He had left £30 in the store last quarter, and got altogether £4 9s. 9 ½ d.

Mr. Dale, managing director of the Consitt Iron Company, states that co-operative stores are spreading very generally throughout the north of England.

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Extract from Mining District Report 1847 (part 4)

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by the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act 5 & 6 Vict. c99, (Mines and Collieries Act 1842) and into the state of the population in the mining districts


The condition of the mining population of Lanarkshire, congregated, to the amount of upwards of 40,000 souls, chiefly in the parishes of Old and New Monkland, near Glasgow, was much commented on by me in my Report of 1844. In that for 1845 I noticed sundry efforts of improvement that were in progress. One of the great defects then existing was the want of a police force for this large mass of people, and of a resident sheriff to preside over a local court. Both these deficiencies have since been supplied. The existence of the police stationed in the various large mining villages had had the anticipated effect, as was stated to me by an active and intelligent magistrate of the district, of putting a considerable check upon the licence and insubordination, and bad habits of various kinds, for which those villages had been long conspicuous.

This gentleman (Mr. Kidd, banker, Airdrie) stated, that—

“Far better order is now observed throughout the district The public-houses are looked after and shut at proper hours, and on the Sabbath-days. In our colliery villages there was frequent rioting formerly; the presence of the police tends now to keep them quiet. Many offences which before escaped punishment entirely are now brought before the magistrates. Formerly no one was safe in walking upon the roads after dark ; now the respectable inhabit-ants feel much greater security. The police of Airdrie has also been increased.”

The number of schools in this district has also been added to; but it still remains to be regretted that a project, long under contemplation, to establish a large and efficient institution for the education of the lower and middle classes, by the joint subscriptions of the inhabitants of the town of Airdrie and of the owner of the large mineral rents arising from property near it, has not yet taken any form giving it a prospect of success. I was requested to examine the resolutions of a public meeting, and some correspondence on this subject; from which it appeared that there were no difficulties in the way which a liberal regard to the public interest could not immediately remove. The same remark applies to some obstructions in the way of erecting suitable barracks near that. town, a measure much desired by the most influential residents there and in the neighbourhood. Continued attention is being paid to measures tending to improve the condition of the colliers on the estate of the Lord Belhaven. Mr. Wilson, of Dundyvan, has since last year established a school in connexion with his large works. A handsome school-house has been erected by Mr. Stewart, of the Omoa iron works. The readiness of the young men. belonging to iron and coal works in this district to avail themselves of opportunities of carrying on their instruction at evening school after they commence working, and consequently cease to go to day-school, is shown in rather a remarkable manner at this school, and in strong contrast with what would have occurred under similar circumstances in England. Mr. Stewart, having provided a competent master, caused the school to be opened on the 1st of February of this year. On the 31st of March 116 young persons were attending the evening school. The numbers at the day school were 253. Finding that some men in his employ, who were earning good wages, neglected to send their children to school, Mr. Stewart informed them that they must leave the works, if the neglect continued. By salutary superintendence of this kind, by the attention given to the comfort and decency of the people in respect to their houses, and by raising the standard of cleanliness and domestic order among them by a regulation lately adopted there, that dirty families are not to be allowed to remain at the works, it may be anticipated that much improvement may be gradually effected in their general habits. Messrs. Murray, of the Monkland iron works, have now 1300 children in their schools, and the evening-schools are also well attended. Other gentlemen in the district have made similar advances towards bringing about a better state of things than has hitherto existed.

The following observations of William Cloughan, the paid agent of the Miners’ Union for part of the Lanarkshire district, whom I examined on points bearing upon the moral condition of the mining population, as well as on the subject of the combination, are worthy of notice:-

“You have been severe in your remarks, in your Reports to Parliament, upon the dirty habits of the Scotch and Irish in the colliery villages, but it is the system of giving them such small houses, without proper accommodation, that is chiefly to blame, and which has been the cause of perpetuating their bad habits. Their bad habits are greatly encouraged by forcing the people to live in those large squares which the masters have built. Although the ill effect of them is known, three or four more have been lately built in the district. It is almost impossible for decently disposed families to keep their houses, or the places about them, or their children, clean, in those squares, as there will be so many families who neglect these things, and their habits prevent the improvement of the others. There arc commonly no back doors to the houses in those squares, and all the refuse, &c., is consequently thrown out at the front door. The Scotch are 50 degrees behind the English in cleanliness, and therefore they more require every aid, in the way of good houses, and other means of promoting cleanliness and decency, in order to raise their habits. I have repeatedly noticed that where the Irish and Scotch have been placed in good houses they improve in their habits, and also they endeavour to improve the habits of their children. I have remarked that when Irish and Scotch have worked some time in England, they are inclined to live in better houses, and to keep them cleaner, after their return to Scotland. Many of the houses lately built in this district are too small, and in my opinion too high a rent is charged for them, which deters families from occupying the larger ones.

You notice in your Reports that the colliers and miners are apt to neglect their gardens. The reason is, that they have not been much used to them, and have not been brought up to manage them properly. Some cultivate them well, but others who neglect their own are apt to injure or steal from their neighbours. The masters should give gardens more generally, and hold out inducements to the men to cultivate them, by offering prizes, &c., and making those who are lazy, and won’t work them, pay for them whether they cultivate them or not.

The number of schools in the district has been increased, and schools in general are better attended, in consequence of the parents being better able to pay for them, the restriction of labour giving more time to the young men, and more money to the parents. We have had no strikes for some time. I am much opposed to strikes, and so are the workmen of this district; they injure the schools, and prevent all that is good.”

The immediate results of the restriction of labour,- higher wages, less work, and in some instances, but by no means generally, better attendance of the children at schools – are, as appears from this and other evidence, the strong arguments of the workmen and their advisers in its favour. The restriction upon and serious injury to trade and commerce, and the consequent and inevitable injury ultimately to the miners and colliers themselves, is the point which they apparently refuse to see, and which reiterated experience fails to impress upon them generally, or only for a very limited time.


The county of Ayr is about to become an important seat of the iron manufacture. Large iron and coal works are springing up in and near the parish of Dalry, a little to the north of Kilmarnock; others near that town ; and the works of Mr. Wilson, at Lugar, about 20 miles from it towards the south.

It will require all the attention and foresight of the proprietors to prevent the growth and increase, in the parish of Dalry, of those evils which have arisen so manifestly in the Coatbridge and Airdrie district of Lanarkshire, from the permitted operation of causes which inevitably undermine the morals of a people.

The minister of that parish, the Rev. Robert Stevenson, informed me that the population had been increasing at the rate of about 1000 a-year for the last few years, until it now amounts to 8000. Until the iron works commenced about four years ago, its population was engaged almost entirely in rural industry. The arrangement of several new masses of houses is in rows close behind each other, without proper spaces favourable for cleanliness, and without gardens, and hitherto without proper drainage. The disorderly tendencies of a population rapidly collected from various quarters were unchecked by the presence of any adequate police. Considerable efforts were being made to establish schools. Some had been set on foot, but more were still needed, and were apparently likely to be effected by the cordial exertions of all parties.

The Companies chiefly employing the people in this parish are the Ayrshire Malleable Iron Company, the Glengarnock Company (Messrs. Merry and Cuningham), and the Eglinton Iron Company (Messrs. Baird). The complaints were general as to the effect of the combination of the men, in unduly raising the rate of wages.

Mr. S. Jackson, manager of the Glengarnock works, stated that coal had been raised from 3s. 6d. to 8s. 6d. per ton, which was one-third too dear. Mr. Baird (late M.P. for Airdrie), whose works are the most extensive in Scotland, expressed a very strong opinion as to the permanent injury which the combination was inflicting on the iron trade in Ayrshire, as elsewhere, by stimulating foreign competition.

The manager of the Glengarnock works stated to me:-
” We have every wish to improve the habits of our people, but it is a difficult matter, they are so dirty; they have never been brought up to anything better. It is the interest of the master to have moral and intelligent people in his employ, and to make them comfortable, cleanly, and decent; and I hope you will see us improving every time you visit us. Some of the new houses which you observed upon as wanting drainage, &c., belong; to this Company; what is required in that matter will be set about very shortly, and a school will be built there, and a space set apart in a field for gardens, &c. We employ a man at 10s. a-week to go through our rows of houses here every morning, and clean everything and carry away all refuse, &c.. but the habits of the people are such that in a few hours things are again in the state you see.”

A large number of houses lately built by Messrs. Baird, at their new works at Kilwinning, are better planned in every respect than those erected at their Lanarkshire works, according to the ideas prevalent some years ago; still the objectionable form of the “square” has been preserved, with all the houses opening into it. Its recommendation to the proprietor of large iron works is the comparative economy of construction; a consideration to which the extra expenses thrown on his fixed capital, by the combinations of his workmen, necessarily incline him to be more attentive. Considering, indeed, the amount of that extra burden, it is the more creditable to individual proprietors that they have nevertheless given much thought to somewhat costly arrangements for providing their workpeople with far more accommodation and means of comfort in and about their houses than hitherto. When the proprietor of an iron work, employing from £50,000 to £150,000 of fixed capital, is conscious that, but for the combination of his workpeople, he could carry on his manufacture and trade with one-fifth or one-third less than the above large amounts, and consequently with better advantage to himself and to all in his employ, he is naturally under some temptation to restrict his outlay upon his workmen’s houses to what is absolutely necessary. It is much to the credit of those gentlemen that they have not allowed such considerations any great weight, but have studied the comfort of their people in the new and improved kind of houses now being very generally erected.

The best arranged of those now building at new iron works are those of the Portland Iron Company near Kilmarnock. They have the addition, so desirable in a workman’s house, of an upper floor; also a small place for coals (instead of the frequent practice in Scotch colliery villages of keeping them under a bed!), a room for scullery purposes, &c.; and every house is so arranged as to enable the mothers to keep their children from so ready and indiscriminate an admixture with those of their neighbours, as must take place in the usual colliery square.*

(* As there appears to be at present a considerable desire in Scotland to make the dwellings of the colliers and miners such as to give them every opportunity for improving their habits, I may refer to a description in my Report of 1845, of the colliery houses at Wentworth, Yorkshire. Each has an upper floor; a small piece of enclosed garden-ground in front, into which the children can run without going into the road ; a small enclosed court behind, with covered washing-place, &c. &c.; a road running along the row in the rear, for the removal of all refuse, &c.; enclosed gardens behind, of ample size, each separated from the other by a proper fence. The small plot before the house is either flagged or laid out in flower-beds; all the gardens are well cultivated, and the small courts behind each house, as well as every house itself, as clean as constant attention can make it.)

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The Fife Coal Company Limited

Veteran Employees

In 1946 the Company produced a book containing photos and short biographies of their veteran employees:

Part 1 Adams to Laird
Part 2 Liddle to Young

The book also contains a brief history of the company by Charles Augustus Carlow
The Fife Coal Company Limited – The Jubilee Year 1872 – 1922

By And. S. Cunningham, September 1922

James VI. was a maker of sayings which today rank among the proverbs of the “Kingdom of Fife.” In the days of the Scottish Solomon, many coal mines and salt works were at work on the shores of the Forth between Culross and Pittenweem, while in the centre and the northern boundaries of the county the sparse populations which existed lived chiefly by farming on patches of land, which, because of the primitive methods adopted, yielded poor crops. The striking difference in the industrial conditions led James to compare the county to “A beggar’s mantle with a fringe of gold.” Great changes in the industrial conditions have taken place since the monarch coined what he considered one of his happiest sayings. Fife has for many years produced more wheat than any other county in Scotland, and in the centre of the “mantle,” where the King found an absence of wealth, the eye of the visitor lights on collieries, around which all is activity. A perusal of this little work, which is issued on the fiftieth anniversary of The Fife Coal Company, Limited, will, I think, impress the reader with the feeling that, if the Royal happy phrase-maker could come back to the Palaces of Dunfermline and Falkland, he would be compelled to revise his Fife proverb. The mineral developments of recent years have been enormous. A statistical record of the contributions made to the coal output of the county by The Fife Coal Company will be found in the pages which follow.
A.S.C., 13 Granby Road, Edinburgh, September, 1922.

The Fife Coal Company, Ltd.
The Jubilee Year
In his “College Memories” Robert Louis Stevenson writes :- “The generations pass away swiftly on the high seas of life,” and he goes on to speak of being “conscious of the dignity of years.” When people who have reached “the dignity of years” slip the collar and look back, they cannot help being impressed with the swift flight of time. To me it looks but yesterday since the announcements were made in Fife that The Fife Coal Company, Limited, had been formed, and had taken over the works of the Beath and Blairadam Coal Company at Kelty, and that Mr Charles Carlow had been appointed General Manager. A glance at the records of mining in the ancient “Kingdom” shews, however, that the Company was formed in September, 1872, and that Mr Carlow’s appointment dates from March, 1873. These dates mean that the Company will celebrate its Jubilee in September of the present year, 1922, and will be in the unique position of having a Chairman and Managing Director who has, without a break, been at the head of the management of the concern for 49 1/2 long years.
Pittencrieff Glen, Dunfermline
When Coal was first worked at Kelty and Culross.
Coal was first wrought in Scotland by the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the great churches which were founded by David I., the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret. The monks of Newbattle Abbey were digging fuel from a crop seam near Tranent in the first decade of the thirteenth century, and in 1291 the proprietor of the estate of Pittencrieff, Dunfermline, granted a charter to the abbot and the convent of the ancient city, giving the fathers of the Church power to open a coal-heugh on the estate “in such a way that they may get from thence sufficiency of coal for their own use,” but upon no account were they to “presume to sell the fuel to others.” It is apparent from the language of the charter that coal had been gotten from the banks of the Tower Burn in the historic Pittencrieff Glen before 1291, and in prohibiting the monks from selling coal to the private consumer the proprietor of the estate was evidently anxious to preserve his rights as a coalowner, or the rights of a lessee to a monopoly of trading outwith the Church. From the thirteenth to the middle of the sixteenth century, however, the Church had an enormous power over all classes of communities, and it is evident from glimpses which early historians give us now and again that for many years the development of minerals outwith the Church lands was extremely slow. Æneas Silvius, who became Pope Pius II., in the reign of James II. (1436-1460) made a pilgrimage to Scotland, and he has left it on record that he saw poor people begging in rags at the church doors, and that for alms they were presented with “black stones” with which they went away contented. The time came when the abbots and monks did not confine themselves to supplying the churches. They found that they could exchange coals with the ordinary consumer for other necessaries of life. A considerable trade was even opened up with the foreigner, coals being accepted as readily in payment of the wines and other merchandise which arrived at the Forth harbours for the monasteries as the current coin of the realm. That the progress of mining during the century which followed the visit to Scotland of Pius II was considerable is evident from the record of a pilgrimage which Hector Boece, the Principal of Aberdeen University, made through Fife in 1526. The gossipy, if somewhat inaccurate, Principal tells us that “in Fiffe are won black stainis quhilk hes sa an intolerable heit quhen they are kindillit that they resolve and meltis irne, and are therefore richt profitable for operation of smiths and such artificers as deal with other metals.” These words indicate a considerable industrial trade. At that date the monks of Culross Abbey were operating on the crop seams of the coalfield of Culross, which is now in the hands of The Fife Coal Company, while the miner-monks of Dunfermline were providing fuel for the monastery of Inchcolm from the slopes of the streams running through the parish of Beath. In 1575, fifteen years after the Reformation, Sir George Bruce, an ancestor of the Earl of Elgin, was granted a lease of the minerals of Culross by the Commendator or Lay-Steward of the Crown of Culross Abbey. The lease reads as follows:- “To our worthy friend and cousin, George Bruce, for the great regard we bear to him, for the special care he had of our affairs when we were abroad in France; for his great knowledge and skill in machinery, such like as no other man has in these days ; and for his being the likeliest person to re-establish again the colliery of Culross, which has been long in desuetude, insomuch that we have neither large nor small coal for our own house fire.” Sir George Bruce established a colliery at Culross which was one of the mining wonders of Scotland. He abandoned the flooded day-mines of the monks, sunk shafts, and drained the workings by the Egyptian wheel system of pumping, horses being the driving power both for drainage and winding. A century afterwards the ninth Earl of Dundonald worked coal at Valleyfield, established a tar work, and, while carrying out experiments in connection with the manufacture of tar, discovered the illuminating properties of coal gas.
Centuries before the Reformation of 1560 the barony of Beath belonged to the monastery of Inchcolm, but the great church of the city of Dunfermline held rights over the Beath lands. The rights embraced the minerals, and the Dunfermline ecclesiastical mining engineers in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries discovered coal cropping out on the braes at Cocklaw and Lassodie Mill. When the monks were driven from the churches, the farms, and the collieries in the Reformation storm which swept across Scotland, Commendators or Lay-Stewards were appointed, who were nominally understood to be accountable to the Crown for the Church revenues. So we find Robert Pitcairn, the Commendator of Dunfermline monastery, granting in 1572 a charter bearing on the lands and minerals of “Cocklaw and Lassody,” within the lordship “of Dunfermline.” It appears from this charter that William Douglas of Lochleven and his predecessors and their colliers had been in possession of the “Keltie-heugh colliery” for many years, and the Commendator granted him a new and “perpetual lease” of the colliery, with “power to win new coals” within the limits and bounds specified. Local history often forms interesting links with individuals who figure prominently in national history. In 1606 the charter of “Keltie-heugh colliery” was confirmed to William the sixth Earl of Morton, who was a son of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. Sir William, in 1588, became fifth Earl of Morton, and as students of history will be able to recall, was the custodian of Queen Mary during her imprisonment in Lochleven Castle. William the sixth Earl was admitted to the Privy Council in 1621 ; in 1630 he became Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. In the “Abbot,” Scott provides another link with Kelty and Blairadam of other days. The red-roofed and corbie-stepped gable house on the Blairadam side of the bridge over the stream which forms the boundary of Fife and Kinross was in the old coaching days an inn, which was kept by an old man the name of Keltie, and which we are told “was not very distant from a romantic dell, well known by the name of the Kiery-Craigs.” Scott makes Keltie’s wayside change-house the scene of the struggle between Dryfesdale, Queen Mary’s messenger, and young Seyton. Dryfesdale falls in the fray, and Seyton suggests that a stone should be hung round his neck and that the body be thrown into the “Loch of Ore.” Chief Commissioner Adam of Blairadam gives us many interesting glimpses at the Blairadam collieries of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century in his “Letters to his Son,” Admiral Adam. Pits were put down here and there on the crop coals on the estate, drainage being effected by roadways run from the workings to Kelty burn. Writing of the days of his grandfather, Chief Commissioner Adam says :- “There was upon the estate the most northerly situated coal mines in Scotland ; at that time abundant, apparently inexhaustible, and all workable by a complete and well-formed level. The coal was in full repute, and was brought from below ground by a pit. The pit was in the Collier-house Park, a little to the north of the spot where Maryburgh was built.” Operations were confined at the colliery for a time to an output for private use, despite the assurance that the minerals were “apparently inexhaustible,” but the Chief Commissioner opened up the crop seams on a more extensive scale, and writing in 1772 he says :- “I have seen all the lawn up almost to the doors of Blairadam House covered with coal.” While the pits at Blairadam were in operation, coal was being worked at Oakfield. In 1860, the Earl of Moray sunk No. I Pit at Kelty, then followed No. 2 shaft, and ultimately his Lordship’s two pits were taken over by the Beath and Blairadam Coal Company – viz., Messrs James A, Nasmyth, Thomas Goodall, George P. Grieve, Adam Johnstone, William Johnstone, and D. Nasmyth,
The Advent of The Fife Coal Company.
Although coal had been worked in the Kelty and Blairadam districts under the monks of pre-Reformation times, and under different superiors and tenants between 1560 and 1870, operations had been mostly confined to the upper seams. Of the two lower seams – the Five Feet and the Dunfermline Splint, on which most of the collieries in the western district of the county had from 1850 to 1870 concentrated – only the Five Feet had been partly worked, but the Dunfermline Splint lay intact. With the advent of The Fife Coal Company steps were, without delay, taken to prove the value of the lower coal seams; and in a comparatively short time work had commenced in connection with the sinking and the fitting of the Lindsay Colliery. At this colliery, which was named after the first Chairman of the Company, Provost William Lindsay of Leith, a magnificent hold of all the seams common to the rich coalfields of the western district of Fife was obtained. No better household coal than the Dunfermline Splint had ever been struck in the “Kingdom” and the other eight seams cut through in the shaft were found to be all of good quality and of workable thickness. The Lindsay Colliery fitted, and operating on the seams in most demand, the management turned their attention to the parishes of Wemyss and Scoonie. In 1878 leases were obtained of the coalfields of Leven and Pirnie, and pits were opened on the eastern boundaries of Wemyss and on the estate of Durie, near the burgh of Leven. The Dysart Main seam at Wellsgreen, in the heart of the parish of Wemyss, was leased in 1884, and in 1887 the Company purchased the estate of Hill of Beath. The purchase embraced the Hill of Beath Colliery, which had been in operation for many years, and the new colliery of Dalbeath.
Lindsay Colliery
On a site about half a mile to the north-east of the Lindsay, the Aitken pit was sunk, and mid-way between Kelly and Hill of Beath, Kirkford Colliery was established. With the ramifications of the Kelty and Hill of Beath fields bordering on the Cowdenbeath and Lumphinnans workings, it became apparent in 1895 that amalgamation of the concerns belonging to The Fife Coal Company, Limited, and the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, Limited, would have many advantages, and in 1896 the Cowdenbeath and Lumphinnans Collieries were taken over by The Fife Coal Company. This amalgamation was followed by the purchase of the estate of Lochore; the Benarty Colliery, belonging to the Lochore and Capledrae Cannel Coal Company, Limited; the acquisition of Blairadam Colliery and the Blairenbathie pits, on the borders of Fife and Kinross; the Bowhill Colliery, in the parish of Auchterderran ; the Dunnikier Colliery, near Kirkcaldy, the property of the Bowhill Coal Company; and the Donibristle Colliery, in the parish of Aberdour, which for many years had been in the hands of the Nasmyth family. In 1908 the estate of Low Valleyfield, on the western boundaries of the County of Fife, in the parish of Culross, was purchased, and there on the fringes of the Forth two shafts were sunk, the lowest seam, the Dunfermline Splint, being struck at a depth of 217 fathoms. With a view to obtaining a great hold of the seams in the Lochore field, the Mary Pit was sunk to a depth of 335 fathoms in the valley lying immediately to the south of Benarty hill; while in recent years the metals were pierced by two shafts at a point to the east of the village of Kinglassie, and, as the crow flies, about two miles north-east of Bowhill Colliery. The Company has since bought the mineral field of Rothes, and the estate of Kinglassie, while they have on lease large fields of undeveloped minerals in other parts of the county.
The Fife Coal Field
The coal-bearing strata operated upon in the county of Fife is divided into two sections – West Fife and East Fife – or rather the Dunfermline and Wemyss fields. The Dunfermline field extends from Culross on the west to Cardenden and Kirkcaldy on the east, and the Wemyss field commences at Dysart and holds through the parishes of Dysart and part of Markinch and Scoonie parishes. The seams which are worked in the Wemyss field today are all above the Millstone grit, while all the Dunfermline seams are under the Millstone grit. This means, that in days long gone by, the upper coal measures which are today operated upon in the parish of Wemyss have from Culross to Cardenden been swept down the ocean. At the Wemyss Coal Company’s Colliery of Wellesley, near Methil, the Dysart Main, the lowest seam of the upper coal measures, was struck at a depth of 261 fathoms; the Dunfermline Splint seam will at the same spot be at least 700 fathoms from the surface. The seams met with generally in the Dunfermline field are as follows: –
In the Aitken Pit, belonging to The Fife Coal Company, the Dunfermline Splint and Five Feet seams were found to be Navigation coal, and this opened up a new trade for the County of Fife. At Bowhill and No. 11 Pit, Lumphinnans, considerable stretches of Navigation coal are also worked, while at Low Valley field the output is all of Navigation quality. Here is a copy of an analysis of samples drawn from the Navigation coal seams :-
Volatile matter and Ash, 20.48
Moisture, 2.11
Fixed Carbon, 77.41
Calorific value—14,690 B.T.U.’s.
Evaporative power (dry)—15.21 lbs. of water from 212 deg. per lb. of coal.

The analysts in their report state:- “The coal was moderately bright, hard, firm, with a crystalline fracture. The volatile matters burned with a long, lasting, bright, white smokeless flame. The coke produced was compact, dull, dark grey, slightly fused and of moderate hardness. The ash was of a very pale stone colour, indicating that not more than a trace of iron was present.”

Above – Views of Aitken Colliery & Kelty Power Station
The Output of Fife County and The Fife Coal Company compared.
At the Coal Commission of 1919 a good deal was said about the decreased output of coal per person employed in and about the mines of Great Britain, which had been experienced for some years. Some of the miners’ leaders attributed the decrease to a desire on the part of the management of many collieries to adhere to antiquated methods of coal-getting rather than adopt modern methods. I disagree entirely with the allegations made by the miners’ representatives. I know of no industry in the country where greater enterprise has been shewn than in that of mining, and in no county in Scotland has progress been more marked than in the County of Fife. Half a century ago an output of from 100 to 200 tons per day of from ten to eleven hours was considered a great achievement in pits where the workings were not more than from 50 to 100 fathoms from the surface. The exhaustion of the more shallow coalfields has necessitated the sinking of shafts in Fife to depths of from 200 to 330 fathoms ; and from the deepest workings outputs of from 1,000 to 2,000 tons per day are in many instances produced in two shifts of seven to eight hours. In 1872, when The Fife Coal Company was formed, there was not a single coal-cutter at work in the county. Today, The Fife Coal Company have 116 mechanical coal-cutters operating on different seams. In 1872 the transport work on the main roads was done by ponies. Today electrical or steam power is utilised on the main arteries, and even on the service roads, which connect the sidings with the working faces, motors have been introduced here and there. While steam is the power principally used in connection with the great pumping engines which raise from 500 to 1,500 gallons of water per minute to the surface, electrical pumps are at work in many of the shafts and also underground on the great dooks which run through the coal seams, for distances of from half a mile to two miles at different gradients, to the dip of the bottoms of the shafts. Undoubtedly one of the most striking features of colliery work of modern times is the care with which all classes of coals are handled, so that they might be placed on the market in the best possible condition. Fifty years ago coals, as they were drawn from the shafts, were rattled over screens into the waggons, and in many cases the large pieces were sold as “Chews” while the small which fell through the bars of the screens were placed on the market as “Chirls” and “Dross.” At every colliery today the loaded hutches are emptied on moveable picking tables, where a staff of workers pick out stones and other foreign matter. While the large coals drop into waggons and are dispatched to. the different markets, the smaller pieces and dross are conveyed to washers, where they are effectively cleaned and separated into fuel of different sizes and qualities. During the coal scarcity of 1920 and the strike in Great Britain of 1921, American triping coal found its way into Continental and other markets in which this country had from time immemorial held a monopoly. The clear glistening washed trebles, nuts, beans and peas of this country present a striking contrast to the American product, and little surprise need be expressed at the fact that within a comparatively short time our foreign markets had been recaptured. Although reduced selling prices had a good deal to do with the re-capture of the trade, there can be no doubt that quality was a great factor. The following table shews the output of the County of Fife in 1872, and for each year from 1891 to 1913, and the output for the corresponding years of The Fife Coal Company :
Output of Output of
County of Fife. Fife Coal Co.
Tons Tons
1872, … 1,550,500 70,000
1892. … 3,573,818 794,194
1893. … 3,619,550 856,242
1894. … 2,784,019 634,676
1895. … 3,911,235 892,916
1896. … 3,633,455 1,277,197
1897. … 4,077,818 1,468,610
1898. … 4,447,569 1,686,039
1899. … 4,927,489 1,741,727
1900. …. 5,419,373 2,009,034
1901. … 5,601,501 2,177,960
1902. … 6,134,171 2,472,437
1903. … 6,376,985 2,564,503
1904. … 6,586,154 2,603,759
1905. … 7,241,439 2,824,294
1906. … 7,783,459 2,842,252
1907. … 8,530,043 2,971,755
1908. … 8,412,856 3,161,076
1909. … 8,412,856 3,721,221
1910. … 8,647,404 4,072,060
1911. .. 9,037,790 4,352,509
1912. … 8,435,516 3,905,341
1913. … 9,680,206 4,343,644
It will be observed that in 1894 the output of Fife shewed a decrease, as compared with the previous year, of 835,531 tons. This check to progress arose through a sixteen weeks wages strike in which the whole of the collieries in Scotland were involved. In 1912 a national stoppage took place, the question in dispute being the establishment of a statutory minimum wage, From the year 1899 the Scottish miners had had the advantage of a standard rate of wages through the Coal Conciliation Board, but in 1911 an agitation arose throughout Great Britain for an individual minimum fixed by Act of Parliament. While offering to legislate for a reasonable minimum, the Government refused to incorporate the scheduled rates which the miners tabled in a Bill, and a suspension of labour took place on 29th February, 1912; Despite the stoppage, the Government introduced a Bill into the House of Commons without the scheduled rates, and on 26th March the measure passed through Parliament. The Act provided for the appointment of Joint District Boards, and the different Boards had the power to fix the minimum rates for their respective districts. After a six weeks’ struggle the miners accepted the principle of the Act. The pre-war year, 1913, was a record year for output for the County of Fife, and it will be observed from the above table that the collieries of The Fife Coal Company contributed nearly the half of the total. In 1872 the persons employed in and about the mines of Fife numbered 4,650. In 1913 the total was 29,322, and of the latter total, The Fife Coal Company employed about 15,000. Statistics bearing on the persons and the output beyond 1913 would be of little value.
The great world-wide war broke out in 1914. From 20 to 25 per cent of the mine workers joined the Forces, and the coal output fell in proportion. The number of workers was increased after the war had finished, but in July, 1919, the seven hours day was conceded by Parliament, on the recommendation of the Coal Commission, and the cutting off of an hour off the working day seriously affected the output per person employed. Over the wages question a suspension of labour took place throughout the country on April 1st, 1921. Fife collieries suffered badly at the hands of the extremists. Pumping was forcibly suspended at all the pumping pits in the county for four weeks, and the damage done through flooding in the workings of the pits was great and unprecedented. Work was resumed on July 1st. The strike ended fully two months before The Fife Coal Company had in September entered upon its Jubilee year ; but, because of the devastation caused in the underground workings, months had elapsed before most of the pre-strike operatives were able to find employment, while there are still a considerable number of men out of work, and two collieries are only now being unwatered, as well as considerable areas of dip workings.
The present output is 15 per cent below pre-war output, but is being steadily increased. The following is a complete list of the Company’s collieries at work:-
There are also brickworks at Hill of Beath, Blairadam and Bowhill.

The Collieries in the Parish of Beath.
Although coal has been worked in “The Kingdom” of Fife since the thirteenth century, it must not for a moment be thought that the seams are nearly exhausted. For at least four and a half centuries the crop seams were only scratched by the miner-monks and their successors, and great as the increase in output has been during the past twenty-five years, it is computed that the areas of coal still to work in the county are sufficient to maintain a greater annual output than that of 1913 for at least three centuries, and the areas owned or leased by the Company extend to over 65 square miles. Reporting in 1905 on the coal supplies of Scotland, a Parliamentary Commission wrote thus of Fife:- “The County of Fife, with the smaller quantities in Kinross, takes the leading position in Scotland in the matter of its coal resources. Besides the coal in these counties, probably two-thirds of that under the Firth of Forth will be worked by collieries in Fifeshire, so that the available resources at less than 4,000 feet deep will amount to something like 5,700,000,000 tons, or sufficient to maintain the present output for 930 years. While the output from the Firth of Forth will not rapidly increase for a great many years, when so much coal is available under the land, the output from Fifeshire is certain to advance until it occupies a leading position in the Scotch coal trade.” Although the parish of Beath is comparatively small in extent, it has become one of the greatest coal-producing centres in the country. Population is undoubtedly one of the best indexes which can be cited as to the decay or progress of a town or parish, and judged from the point of view of population, Beath’s record of the past 30 years is astonishing. In 1872, when The Fife Coal Company commenced operations at Kelty, the population of the parish was 3,550; in 1881 it was 8,298; in 1891 it was 8,298; in 1901 it was 15,812; in 1911 it was 24,351; in 1921 the total was 24,912. The villages of Oakfield and Cantsdam have rushed up in recent years and the old red-roofed Kelty of other days has become surrounded by a new and greater village. The prosperous burgh of Cowdenbeath could only boast of 7,000 inhabitants in 1900; in 1921 the population was 14,215, and a junction has been practically formed between the burgh and the populous village of Lumphinnans, which is in the parish of Ballingry. In the parish of Beath and the immediately adjoining parishes, within a radius of seven square miles, the Company have as many as fourteen collieries in operation, including Dalbeath, Kirkford No. 10, Mossbeath, Cowdenbeath, Foulford, the Aitken, the Lindsay, Lassodie Mill, Lumphinnans No. 11, Lumphinnans No. 1, Blairenbathie, Blairadam, the Mary, and Donibristle. At all the collieries the underground and above-ground fittings are thoroughly up-to-date. At the Aitken Colliery, where coal winding commenced in 1897, the Dunfermline Splint or lowest seam was struck at a depth of 203 fathoms. The different coal seams in the field were pierced at the following depths :-
Name of Seam Thickness of Coal Depth from Surface
ft. in. ft.
Little Splint, 3 0 696
Main Seam, 5 8 714
Upper Jersey, 4 2 726
Lochgelly Splint, 5 6 831
Glassee, 4 6 960
Five Feet, 5 2 1147
Dunfermline Splint, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 1220
It will be noticed that all the seams are of a handy workable thickness. In the case of the Wallsend and Five Feet seams, it was found that they had obtained the heat necessary to transform them into an excellent Navigation coal. This was the first discovery of Navigation coal in Fife, and developments in the Wallsend and Five Feet seams were taken up with such vigour that within three years of the date of completing the sinking operations, the output had touched upwards of 1,500 tons a day, in two shifts of eight hours.
In the old pits at Kelty, when the Company was formed, only one loaded hutch, containing from 5 to 6 cwts of coal, was drawn each wind. At the Aitken Pit, four hutches, each loaded with 10 cwts. of coal, are drawn every wind. Wind after wind, the journey from the bottom of the shaft is accomplished in 32 seconds, and the loaded hutches are removed and empties substituted in 10 seconds. The powerful winding engine runs as smoothly as a sewing machine, and the pumping engines, drawing from 1,500 gallons of water per minute, move on as silently and as perfectly as the heart of a man in vigorous health, effectively draining the cisterns in the shaft and the reservoir into which the electric pumps in the docks discharge the daily growth. The air is quickened in the underground workings by a Walker ventilating fan, and the handling of the coal output on the pithead is facilitated by a “gravity run” for loaded hutches and the “creeper” system by which the empties are conveyed from the tipplers to the cages. Power-driven tipplers are at work at each of the screens. As the coals fall from the tipplers they drop into jiggers and picking tables, every possible care being exercised to remove foreign matter from the different classes of coal while in process of being separated into various marketable sizes. The bottom of a shaft is the underground “clearing house ” of a colliery, and the Aitken pit “clearing house” is constructed on a scale which enables the operatives to move the empty and loaded hutches with as much ease as they are moved on the pithead platforms.
At a comparatively early stage of the developments at the Aitken, electricity was utilised for haulage and underground pumping. The Jubilee year of the Company is being signalised by a great extension of electrical plant, however. The new station is, without doubt, the largest colliery electrical power station in Scotland. Electricity had years ago been introduced at most of the Company’s works in the district, but the smaller local stations are being abolished. From the great central station, power will be provided for the Aitken, Lumphinnans (2), the Mary, Blairadam, Hill of Beath, Lassodie Mill, Kirkford, Donibristle, and the Lindsay collieries. The station equipment comprises at present one 1500 KW turbo-alternator, and two 3000 KW turbo-alternators. The condensing plant is of the multi-jet type, and the whole of the water required for condenser purposes is re-cooled through spray nozzles. The boiler plant comprises six large boilers of the water-tube type, each capable of evaporating 22,000 to 27,000 lbs. of steam per hour. The steam pressure adopted is 200 lbs. per square inch, with superheat to a temperature of 588 deg. F. The stokers are of the Erith retort type, and approximately burn 4,340 lbs. of low-grade fuel per hour. Four stokers are operated by electric motors, while the fifth is operated by steam. Hydraulic waggon tippers are in use. A new shaft is in process of sinking to the upper seams—the Little Splint, the Main Seam, and the Upper Jersey. The Lindsay Colliery, which was the first great venture made by the Company, is within a mile of the Aitken. An old colliery is often like a threatened man, it lives long. It is years since some of the Kelty miners prophesied that “the days of the Lindsay were numbered.” It is interesting to state that, after forty-seven years’ continuous work, the Lindsay today shews evident signs of being good for a large output for many years to come. Many consumers of coal in Scotland used to think that there was no Dunfermline Splint in “The Kingdom” like that drawn from the Lindsay Pit, and they will be pleased to hear that roadways are being made to an area of the fine household brand which has not hitherto been tapped. Stretches of other fine household seams are also being opened out. The winding in the shaft is done by electric power, and one looks in vain for the puffing steam pipes common to the ordinary colliery.
At No. 1 and No. 11 Lumphinnans Collieries, considerable proportions of the output are made up of Navigation, Wallsend Household, Dunfermline Splint and Mynheer coals. Nothing finer than the Wallsend has ever been struck in Scotland. It is equal to the best Dunfermline Splint, with the advantage of caking. All the other household and steam coals are also of the finest quality, and in anticipation of developments underground, a new shaft is to be sunk in the vicinity of No. 11 Pit. Electricity promises to bring about a transformation at Lassodie Mill colliery, while at Kirkford, where Household, Dunfermline Splint, and the finest of Five Feet steam coal are gotten, minor changes are contemplated. At Dalbeath, Blairenbathie, Benarty, and Blairadam, coal-getting is continued, and is likely to be so for many years to come.

The Parishes of Ballingry, Auchterderran and Kinglassie.
The Bowhill pits, in the parish of Auchterderran, have still a long life before them. The colliery has the distinction of drawing coals from a point deeper than that touched by any colliery in Scotland. The dook workings in the Five-Foot seam are nearly 500 fathoms from the surface. Even in the edge coal workings of the Lothians the seams flatten out at from 400 to 420 fathoms.
At Kinglassie colliery, which is sunk and fitted on the estate recently bought by the Company, water and faults in the strata have given the management a good deal of trouble. Just before the strike of 1921, however clean fields of excellent household and steam coals were being pierced, and the prospects of. the colliery being a profitable one are good. Meantime the draining off of the water which accumulated through the enforced stoppage of the pumping gear during the strike is being pushed forward with all possible speed.

Above – The Mary Pit, Lochore
The Mary Pit is sunk on the Lochore and Capledrae coalfield, in the parish of Ballingry. It may be interesting to state that Lochore can claim even a stronger connection with Sir Walter Scott than Blairadam and the scenes on the western spurs of Benarty. In the closing decade of the eighteenth century, the estate of Lochore was acquired by Captain J. Park. Being more anxious to add to his landed possessions than to preserve the amenities of the estate, the Captain decided to drain the loch. At a cost of £1000 the Captain had a deep cutting made through whin rock to the east of the pretty sheet of water. One fine morning in 1798 the sheet of water, with its perch, pike and eels, went sweeping down the river Orr. Although the drainage added considerably to the acreage of land owned by the Captain, it did not add much to his arable land—his chief crop was meadow hay—and he disposed of the property to Mr John Syme. In 1813, Mr Syme sold the estate to Mr William Jobson, who belonged to a Dundee family. Mr Jobson’s only daughter, Jeanie, became the heiress of Lochore, and on February 3rd, 1825, was married to Walter, the eldest son of Sir Walter Scott. Lockhart, in his “Life of Scott,” quotes a description of a dance given at Abbotsford at Christmas, 1824, to celebrate the betrothal of young Walter and Jeanie Jobson. The writer of the description of the dance says :- “We had a great clan of Scotts of Harden and ten of other families. There were others besides from the neighbourhood – at least half a dozen Fergussons, with the jolly Sir Adam Fergusson (a fellow student and close friend of Sir Walter) at their head, Lady Fergusson and her niece, Miss Jobson, the pretty heiress of Lochore.” The Scott-Jobson match was looked upon with favour by Jeanie’s father, but her mother, who claimed to be a direct descendant of Robert II., did not think the son of a newly fledged baronet, although a distinguished novelist, good enough for Jeanie. Mrs Jobson’s scruples were dropped, however, at the solicitations of the young folks, and the couple were married in 1825. During the following four years, Lochore was visited now and again by Scott. On the death of Scott in 1832, Walter succeeded to the baronetcy, and Jeanie became Lady Scott. The second Sir Walter died in 1847. His widow survived him for thirty years. There was no issue of the marriage, and the baronetcy became extinct. Lady Scott continued to be affectionately spoken of in the Lochore district as “Bonnie Jeanie Jobson” until the date of her death. It is a coincidence worth noting that Jeanie Jobson was first introduced to her future husband in September 1822, exactly half a century before The Fife Coal Company was formed. Jeanie was a Maid of Honour in connection with the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in August, 1822, and was then introduced to Sir Walter Scott, who welcomed the King to Scotland while the Royal yacht lay in the Forth in Leith roads. In the following month the heiress of Lochore met the young laird of Abbotsford, who was a lieutenant in the 15th Hussars, and two years after the first meeting the pair were married in Scott’s Edinburgh residence.
With the drainage of the old loch, the flat stretch of country lying between the villages of Blairadam and Lochore took on a different aspect, and the old castle, which for centuries had stood upon an island, was left high and dry. The valley continued to be a haunt of the whaup, the coot, and wild duck as in former days, however, until 1870, when the Lochore and Capledrae Cannel Coal Company began to sink pits to the Cannel coal seams.
On the estate being acquired by The Fife Coal Company, it was decided to sink the Mary Pit to the Navigation coal seam, which lay at a depth of upwards of 300 fathoms. Speaking at the cutting of the first sod of the pit in March, 1902, Mr Aitken, who was then Chairman of the Company, said:- “It is thirty years since, in conjunction with Provost Lindsay of Leith ; Sir William Miller of Manderston ; the Right Hon. W. P. Adam of Blairadam, Governor of Madras ; Provost Cox, Dundee; Mr Johnstone of Burntisland ; and last, but not least, Mr Jas. A. Nasmyth of Middlebank, who, I am sorry to state, is unable to be with us today because of indisposition, the undertaking of The Fife Coal Company, Limited, was launched. Mr Nasmyth’s services during those thirty years have been of great value to the Company, his intimate practical knowledge of the business being always freely placed at the Company’s disposal. At a critical period in the Company’s history he nobly stood in the forefront. Had he acted differently, then the position of The Fife Coal Company might not have been what it is today. All the others I have named have gone to that ‘bourne from whence no traveller returns. Beginning in 1872 with a modest output of between fifty and sixty thousand tons, we did fairly well for a year or two; but lean years followed, during which nearly all the earnings went to pay the men’s wages, very little being left to the shareholders. These lean years numbered seven, and having no Joseph to help us, the struggle was a pretty hard one; but better times came, and we have since done fairly well. In the year 1896 we amalgamated with the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, and had our Board greatly strengthened by the admission of three Directors from that Company – Mr Smith Sligo of Inzievar; Mr Henry Mungall (than whom an abler or more successful coalmaster is not to be found in the Kingdom of Fife); and Mr. William Beveridge, jun., of Dunfermline. I believe the results of the amalgamation have been satisfactory to the shareholders in both Companies. The work of the amalgamated Board goes on very smoothly, but in that we are greatly assisted by the clear and distinct way in which our able general manager, Mr Carlo w, places the business before the Board. In fact, he seems to control the huge business of today, with its 2,177,000 tons output per annum, with as much ease as he did the 60,000 tons per annum which was the output when he entered our service twenty-nine years ago. This is only the second occasion on which any ceremony at pit opening has taken place, the exception being at the Aitken Pit, nine years ago. More than a million and a half tons of coal have been raised from this pit, and if the results from the pit now in hand are equal to that of the Aitken Pit, there will be no reason to complain.” Up to now the results have not been as satisfactory as were anticipated. In the shaft and to the west the seams were found in the same satisfactory condition as in the Aitken Pit, but to the east volcanic disturbances were met with. These disturbances have now been passed through, and the Navigation seams beyond have been struck and are found to be of excellent quality, and the prospects of an extensive area of the finest Navigation coal are good. Developments were prevented by the strike, and the flooding which followed upon the stopping of pumping operations. A second shaft is in process of sinking, and when completed drainage operations will be tackled, and with the two shafts, developments in the upper and lower seams will be taken up upon a scale which would have been impossible with one shaft. Meantime operations proceed apace in the upper seams, and the output of the colliery is nearly as large as it was before the strike. The Mary fitting in every department is a good one, and the new shaft is being lined from top to bottom with concrete. The pithead frame is also of concrete, the first departure of the kind in Scotland. Electric power will be utilised in connection with winding in the new shaft.
Early in the fourteenth century, in the days of Robert I., Lochore Castle was the residence of the lords of the manor, and the “Keep” dominated Lochoreshire, which embraced the parishes of Ballingry and Auchterderran. For centuries the ancient “keep” was a resting place for the nobles who travelled between Edinburgh and Perth, and was the venue of meetings held to discuss matters affecting Church and State. Many national and local changes have been experienced since these old feudal days. The once formidable castle has become a ruin, and instead of the sound of rippling waters and the screaming of wild birds, we have in the valley of the loch the noise of the great pumps by which the workings of the Mary Pit are kept free of water, and the rattle of the machinery by which the coals, drawn from depths of from 250 to 320 fathoms, are effectively cleaned and separated into different sizes and qualities for home and foreign markets.

Valleyfield Colliery.
In the two pits which the Company have sunk at Valleyfield, coals are being gotten at depths from 150 to 200 fathoms below the seams which were worked by Sir George Bruce and the Earl of Dundonald. The colliery occupies a site about half a mile to the east of the ancient burgh of Culross. The fitting in every department is well appointed. In the shafts all the upper seams operated upon by the miner-monks and their successors were passed through, and the lower seams were also tapped. The following are the seams cut through:-
The two lower seams are Navigation coal, and are quite equal in quality to the best Navigation coal of South Wales, which for many years had a complete monopoly of the demands of the Navy. The coal is handled in a way which guarantees complete immunity from all. impurities. At the working faces the coal is filled in the hutches as triping—large and small mixed. On reaching the surface the loaded hutches are passed on to the tipplers, and the coals dropped on to the screening and picking plant. On the picking tables all foreign matter is carefully separated from the round coals, while the small coal which drops through the screening plant is whisked on to a washer and subjected to a thorough process of cleaning. The washed small coal is then returned and mixed with the round fuel, and goes to the market as picked and washed triping. Writing in 1793, the Earl of Dundonald said:— “On Valleyfield estate valuable seams of caking and splint coals have been discovered. These rich coals may be worked with equal safety within high water mark as under the land, as the strata under the sea are covered by 50 perpendicular feet of very strong tenacious blue clay. The mineral property in the estate of Valleyfield may be justly esteemed the most valuable to its extent of any in the country.” The Earl wrote thus of the upper seams. What would his Lordship say if he could return to the scene of his earthly labours and see the bright glistening Navigation coal which is today drawn from depths he never dreamt of? Writing of the miners of 1793, the Earl says:- “The miners carried a taste for the elegantiorum of life further than may be thought necessary. Most of them had silver watches, clocks in all their houses; several of them on Sunday wore silk stockings, tambour embroidered silk vests, with their hair well dressed and powdered.” On the high ground within the policies of Valleyfield House, and on the fringes of the Forth, The Fife Coal Company have erected houses which are a great improvement on the dwellings of the ninth Earl of Dundonald’s times ; and the earnings of the toilers in the mines today present a striking contrast to the wages of the closing years of the eighteenth century, and all may have “watches and clocks in their houses.” But the twentieth century miner does not wear either silk stockings or silk vests, however much he may have a taste for “elegantiorum,” and he does not spend much on hair powder,

Kirkcaldy, Leven, and Wellsgreen
At Dunnikier Colliery, the Company operate on all the seams found in the lower coal measures of the county of Fife, while at Wellsgreen and Leven the seams in the upper coal measures are worked, and in all the collieries household and steam coals are gotten. East Fife Jewel is a coal which is much sought after for household purposes, while as a steam coal the Dysart Main is quoted daily for cargo and bunkering purposes.

Past and Present Directors of the Company
The following is a complete list of the names of the gentlemen who have served on the directorate of the Company, the dates of appointment, and: the length of service:-
Date of Appointment.
Sept 1872 Mr WILLIAM LINDSAY … … … Died April 1884.
Do. The Right Hon. W. P.. ADAM, M.P. Died June 1881.
Do. Mr THOS. AITKEN of Nivingston … Died Jany. 1907.
Do. Mr JAMES Cox, late Provost of Dundee Died Dec. 1885.
Do. Mr WILLIAM JOHNSTONE of Kingswood, Burntisland Resigned April 1890
Do. Sir WILLIAM MILLER, Bart, of Manderston Resigned March 1880
Sept. 1872. Mr JAS. A. NASMYTH of Middlebank Died Jany. 1903.
Augt. 1884. Mr JAMES CREE . Resigned on going abroad, July 1888
Feb. 1886. Mr JOHN JORDAN, Shipowner, Leith Died Sept. 1914.
Jany. 1889. Mr ROBERT CROALL of Craigcrook, Edinburgh. Died Deer. 1898.
Do. Mr JAS. S. STENHOUSE of Fod… … Died June 1922.
July 1893. Mr CHARLES CARLOW of Linnwood Hall Still in office.
Nov. 1896, Mr A. D. SMITH SLIGO of Inzievar,.. Do.
Do. Mr HENRY MUNGALL of Gattonside Died Deer. 1911.
Do. Mr W. BEVERIDGE, Jun. of Bonnyton Died April 1913.
Feb. 1904. Mr A. H. NASMYTH of Middlebank Died June 1911.
Decr. 1911. Dr T. G. NASMYTH of Canaan Lodge, Edinburgh Still in office.
July 1912. Sir ADAM NIMMO Still in office.
March 1913. Mr C. AUGUSTUS CARLOW Still in office.
Augt. 1922. Sir WILLIAM ROBERTSON of Mugdrum Just appointed.
Mr William Lindsay, whose name occupies the top of the list of Directors, was for many years Provost of the burgh of Leith. He took a great interest in Local Government work throughout Scotland, and had the distinction of having his name associated with the Lindsay Act. Mr Lindsay was Chairman of the Company from the date of its inception until his death in the spring of 1884. He was succeeded as Chairman by Mr Thomas Aitken of Nivingston, who held office as Director for 35 years. On the death of Mr Aitken, in 1907, Mr Carlow was appointed Chairman, and combined the duties of Chairman with that of Managing Director. His eldest son, Mr C. Augustus Carlow, was elected a Director in 1913, and shares the responsibility of Joint Managing Director with the Chairman. Mr C. Augustus Carlow, who has been associated with the management of the Company for 25 years, is one of the representatives for Scotland on the National Wages Board, and is Chairman of the Coalowners’ Committee of Transport.
The Right Hon. W. P. Adam represented the united Counties of Clackmannan and Kinross in Parliament from 1859 to 1880, and at the date of his death, in 1881, was Governor of Madras.
It is interesting to point out that Mr James A. Nasmyth, who was a Director from 1872 until 1903, was a member of the Beath and Blairadam Company, which had a lease of the Kelty coalfield before the advent of The Fife Coal Company. Mr Nasmyth, who had a life-long connection with Donibristle Colliery, was succeeded as a Director by one of his sons, Mr A. Hogg Nasmyth, who became the head of Donibristle Coal Company, and on the latter’s death in 1911 another member of the Nasmyth family, Dr T, G. Nasmyth, was elected to the directorate. Dr Nasmyth was Medical Officer of Health for the County of Fife for many years, and all through life, has taken a practical interest in mining and other industrial problems.
Mr James Cox,who died in December 1885, was the Provost of Dundee, and in him and Sir William Miller of Manderston, and Mr William Johnstone of Kingswood, Burntisland, the Company had Directors whose work was appreciated at a time when the earliest developments were launched. Mr John Jordan, who served on the Board for 28 years, was a Leith shipowner, while Mr Robert Croall was the head of John Croall & Sons, coachbuilders, Edinburgh. Mr James S. Stenhouse of Fod, having a special knowledge of agriculture, devoted much attention to. the farms of the Company. Mr Henry Mungall, Mr A. D. Smith Sligo, and Mr W. Beveridge, Junr., joined the Board when the Company acquired the works of the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, Limited. Mr Mungall was Managing Director of the Cowdenbeath Company, and had been at the head of the management of the concern from the year 1870. Mr Smith Sligo was Chairman of the Cowdenbeath Coal Company. Sir Adam Nimmo is Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners’ Association, and is the Managing Director of Messrs James Nimmo & Coy., Ltd., of Auchengeich and other collieries in Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire. Sir William Robertson, who has been recently elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr James S. Stenhouse, is the head of the firm of Messrs Hay & Robertson, linen manufacturers, Dunfermline, and is Lord Lieutenant of the County of Fife.

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Bell’s of Wishaw – Extract from Truck Report 1871

Different witnesses spoke to the pressure that was put upon men at these works, to deal at the store, at which pay men as well as advance men are expected, we learnt, to leave some of their money. Smith, a collier, stated that workmen became customers of the store in order to get the best work. “I know of at least three men,” he said, ” who spent nearly all their earnings in the store so that they might get the best work that was to be had. And I remember very recently these men telling me that other men were put out of their places and they got them in their stead, simply because the one party did not avail himself of the store, while this other party had done so.”

Abstract of Evidence

James McLachlan
I am a miner. I have worked at seven places with store or poundage. At Bell’s, of Wishaw, the manager came and told me there was no work for me. I asked the reason and he said he had a few empty houses. I was six years in the work, and I had to go and find work elsewhere.

Thomas Smith
I have known some instances at Bell’s colliery where men have been spoken to and told that they must go to the store, and leave part of their earnings there within the last three years. The manager of the work, Mr. Gray Russell, spoke to them in that way. Another kind of means used to induce men to go to the store in that same work was this, that I know at least three men who spent nearly all there, so that they might get the best work; and I remember recently these men telling me that others have been put out of their places, and that these have got the places in their stead, simply because the one party did not avail themselves of the store, while the others did. I have known that if miners were idle and talking over this matter of the truck system, or any grievance they had, their books would be stopped until they returned to work again. If they were idle for a day they got no money until they went back to work. That was a hardship, because where the store system is in operation the men who have large families are usually necessitated to go there.

James Muir
I work at Bell’s. The oversman went to the men and wanted them to take a little out of the store. His name was Gray Russell. He spoke to me, (that would be 8 or 10 months ago). He said the employers generally liked the workers to go and deal a little at the store. I told him I never liked the stores at any time. I went and took a little, but very little. At Bell’s the pay men were expected to leave some of their money as well as the advance men. I do not approve of the school at all, the teacher is bad. The miners generally dislike the school off-take. The men generally complain that the off-takes should not be kept off their wages unless they get a voice in the keeping of them off, and that they have not that in regard to the doctors and the teachers.

Alexander Muir  (son of above)
I have been five years at Bell’s. The oversman came and told me that they would like it if I would take a little goods out of the store. The first time would be about three years ago. I was not an advance man. His name is Gray Russell. He has not spoken to me about it within the last two years. It was a general thing that he did when he was going round the pit. He did it to all the pay-men. I never heard any threat used. I was never spoken to at any other place. I object to off-takes, because I do not consider that I have any just cause to to pay for the education of another man’s children. I have children, but they have not got the length of going to the school. The miners would not be satisfied with the abolition of the system of compulsory stores unless they had weekly pay also. I do not think they would be satisfied with anything short of weekly pays.

Robert Bone
I am a miner at Bell’s. Gray Russell, a good while ago, spoke to me once about going to the store. He asked me where I dealt, and if I had a shop, and I said, “Yes.” He said, “Are you not inclined to go to the store? ” I said, ” No, for I have a shop, and I would like to keep it.” Nothing more was said afterwards. My objection to the store is, that when you are in trouble you can get no credit there. I have not dealt in stores for the last 10 years.

Extract from Mining District Report 1848 (part 1)

by the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act 5 & 6 Vict. c99, (Mines and Collieries Act 1842) and into the state of the population in the mining districts

Plans of Mines

Considerable difficulties and losses have been lately experienced in Scotland for want of a permanent record of plans of mines. The following are examples :-

Mr. Wilson, of the Dundyvan Works, Lanarkshire, commenced a new iron work on a large scale, at Kinneil, near Borowstoneness, Linlithgowshire. The coal had been worked in that neighbourhood for several years. Mr. Wilson consulted the best mining engineers in the country, and obtained all the information that could be collected from old colliers, as to the localities where the coal was still untouched, and on those authorities he sunk two pits. At 50 fathoms deep they found themselves upon the old workings. There was a consequent loss of £5000 on each pit, besides the loss of time (a year and a half) during which it was necessary to purchase coal for the use of the iron-furnaces. The spot in question is a portion of the mineral property of the Duke of Hamilton, from whom Mr. Wilson holds his lease.

Again, at a spot adjoining his extensive works at Dundyvan, Mr. Wilson has met with a similar difficulty. Portions of one of the seams of coal there have been worked, probably by some small coal-master, in former years, and no record of these workings is to be found. Borings have been made, and although the result indicates sound coal, there is no certainty that the bore may not have come down upon a pillar, or that other trials may not result in a similar manner. There is, therefore, a reluctance to pursue the working down to the lower seams, and what remains of the upper may probably be lost.

The Messrs. Baird, of the Gartsherrie Works, Lanarkshire, have lately erected works which are likely to be extensive, at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, under a lease from the Earl of Eglinton. The only record that could be discovered giving any clue to the extent of previous workings, was a MS. by a working collier, dated 1750-69. The oral testimony of old colliers now alive, was found to be so conflicting as to be of no value. They have consequently been obliged to put down borers every 50 or 100 yards, to the depth of near 30 fathoms; and also where pits have been sunk, to bore longitudinally to ascertain whether they are getting near to the “waste.” This has been going on now for two months, at a considerable expense. Not only the men, but the whole of the actual workings are constantly in danger, from the possibility of their cutting suddenly into the old, and letting in the water collected in them. The lease comprises an extent of 1000 acres, and it was stated to me, that the coal under 500 might not be got, or only imperfectly, and at considerable extra cost and risk, in consequence of the want of records. One serious loss has already been incurred. The coal-strata in that locality are much interrupted by masses of basalt, which have forced themselves up among the coal, and of which there is no indication on the surface. On the best information that could be obtained from old colliers as to the direction of one of these masses, a pit was sunk, but came directly upon it at the depth of 25 fathoms.

Mr. A. Craig, the resident manager of the Portland Iron-works above mentioned, stated to me facts of the same nature:-
“Very many instances have occurred to persons working old coal-fields, of great loss and injury in consequence of their coming suddenly in contact with the old workings.. A case occurred to myself a short time ago. I lost half the coal I expected to get, though I went to work on the best information I could obtain from old men, often the only evidence to be found, and very little confidence can be placed in it. This is constantly happening in every quarter. In this instance we cut into the corner of the old waste, and the water came in with great violence. Fortunately no one was injured; but if we had cut into the full face of the old workings, all the men would have been drowned. Nine men were drowned a few years ago from this cause, at Lochibo, Renfrewshire.”

Of the important Lanarkshire Iron and Coal-field, Mr. G. Baird gave me the following opinion on this subject:-
” There are a great many proprietors of mineral property in the Monklands, the chief seat of the iron manufacture in Lanarkshire. We hold on lease a large proportion of it. Our leases reserve a power to the lessors to make plans of our workings for themselves. Some of the larger proprietors avail themselves of this power, but the smaller ones do not. If we were to give up(our works, there would be no records of a great part of our workings, except in our own possession. Of all our iron-stone proprietors, not one has ever, I believe, taken any measure to get copies of our plans, or to have plans made for themselves. The whole of the lower seams of coal in the Monklands are still nearly untouched. By and by there will probably be great difficulties among proprietors and workers of coal as to the workings of the upper seams.”

Mr. Mackenzie, manager of the Dundyvan Works, stated it as his opinion, that-

“A great quantity of coal will be lost for want of a public record of plans. Collieries stop, and get into other hands, and it is soon forgotten, and all record lost, as to whether all the coal was taken out or no at particular places, and what seams were worked.”

It was the opinion of Mr. Wilson, the Messrs. Baird, Mr. Murray, and all the other gentlemen with whom I adverted to the subject, that it would be for the general interest, that there should be a public register of all plans of mines at some convenient and central spot in the district. It appeared to be the general impression, that there would be no difficulty in devising a satisfactory mode of effecting it, and that the slight expense attending it might be divided between the lessor and lessee, as is now provided in most of the best modern leases. The clause on this subject is generally to the following effect: that ” on the requisition of either party, the works and operations of the lessee shall be surveyed and laid down upon a plan by a competent person, to be mutually named by the lessor and lessee, or, in case of their differing as to the nomination of such person, by a person to be appointed by the Sheriff Depute of Lanarkshire for the time being, all of which surveys, reports, and plans shall be made at the mutual expense of the parties hereto.”


My previous reports have shown that the portions of the mining districts of Scotland now most requiring attention are those of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire; the first, on account of its great and comparatively recent concentration of mining industry on a small space ; the second, on account of the rapid growth of large iron and coal-works in that county. I find no disposition to disregard the provisions of the Act in these districts. But where, as in Lanarkshire, 75,000 people are congregated within an area of a few miles round the large iron-works, and a similar tendency is manifesting itself in Ayrshire, it becomes desirable to submit frequently the result of the inquiries I am instructed to make into what may appear to affect, at present or prospectively, the condition of so large a mass of the mining population.

In my first reports upon the Lanarkshire mining district (comprised within Old and New Monkland, and portions of adjoining parishes) I had occasion to remark upon the absence of many essential requisites towards a well-ordered state of society, and also upon many alleged grievances which formed the topics of very general complaints on the part of the colliers and miners against their employers. In regard to the latter, I was able to show, after accurate investigation, that many were either altogether unfounded or greatly exaggerated ; and both at that time and the present, I am able to say, that I have met with no instance among the numerous and influential employers of labour in this district of the slightest indisposition to consider fairly and in a conciliatory spirit any circumstance affecting the interests of the working classes. In regard to the former, much has been done. An efficient body of rural police has been formed ; at the expense of the mining portion of the county, and being distributed through the different mining villages, have contributed greatly to the cause of good order. A sheriff-substitute and procurator-fiscal have been appointed to the district, and the administration of justice is consequently now brought within the reach of the inhabitants. A water company has procured an Act of Parliament, and is about to supply a want which had been greatly felt by the whole population. Many more schools have been set on foot, and others are in course of building, and the number of children under education has much increased. Considerable attention is now being paid by the proprietors of all the works to the decency and cleanliness of the rows of houses belonging to them. Comparatively little attention was given to this subject a few years ago; consequently the habits of the people were marked by excessive neglect of these matters, both within their houses and without. At all the works a man is now employed, sometimes two, whose sole duty is to keep the roads between and the vacant spaces about the houses clean, and to inspect occasionally the houses themselves, and report any instances of obstinate neglect. Fines are inflicted at most of the works, and incorrigibly dirty families are dismissed. The effect is visible in the greater aspect of decency and comfort in these rows and squares occupied by colliers and miners, &c., than could have been seen a few years ago. It will, however, apparently be some time before habits of cleanliness will be generally adopted by the people of these classes from choice and a sense of right; and the efforts of those above them will probably be long required in order to lay the foundation of such a feeling. Its absence is still very conspicuous in a great proportion of their houses, and, in an especial manner, in the extreme dirt and neglect which they do not attempt to correct in the habits and persons of their children. The large proportion of Irish introduced of late years among the mining population, chiefly in consequence of the strikes of the Scotch colliers and miners, obstructs greatly the progress of this portion of the work of raising the habits and condition of the people.

All experience seems hitherto to have been lost upon the colliers and miners of this district, in regard to strikes. Notwithstanding the complete failure, as usual, of the one which occurred last autumn, during the months of July, August, and September, threats have been already held out to the masters of another. Unfortunately the 20,000 to 30,000 colliers and miners who engage in these strikes in this district are not the only sufferers by them. The amount of privation caused to large and industrious classes of the community, and the loss of capital occasioned to the employers, are among the most serious results of the blind obstinacy of the colliers and miners. There are about 90 iron furnaces in this district, a considerable number of which were, in consequence of the strike, either ” damped” or ” blown out.” The cessation of production from any number of these furnaces, which produced on an average 100 tons of iron each per week, must necessarily affect a vast number of persons in various trades or employments, from the furnace-men, carters, and railway-men at the works to those who ship the iron in the port of Glasgow. But at those works where there are puddling, furnaces and rolling mills, as well as furnaces for making pig-iron, the number of persons thrown out of employ in consequence of a strike of colliers and miners, and the loss to the owners of such works, is something much more considerable. By way of instance of a case of this kind, I may refer to a statement obligingly furnished to me by one of the managers of the Dundyvan Works, which are among the largest in the district. Five furnaces were there stopped, in consequence of the strike. Three hundred persons (furnace-men, labourers, puddlers, rollers, &c.) were thrown out of employ during this period, whose average earnings may be stated at £1 a-week. The loss to the owners of the works was,—loss of interest on capital (say on £100,000), for a quarter of a year ; loss of profits for the same time (out of which are to be paid all salaries and standing expenses, keep of horses, &c., &c.), and cost of repairing the injury done to the furnaces. The amount of this latter cost, if a furnace is ” blown out,” may be estimated at from £300 to £500; as, when a furnace has been allowed to cool, the whole or a great part of the inside must be taken down and renewed, an operation requiring from two to three months’ labour; in addition to which, it requires several weeks to bring the furnace again into its full work. It is scarcely conceivable that men of intelligence and character, such as are the Iron-masters of this district, would engage in a protracted struggle of this nature, at so much actual cost and annoyance to themselves, and with the further risk of seeing their markets occupied by rival producers, if the demands of their men were just.

The amount of injury which the colliers and miners bring upon themselves by these strikes has often been commented upon. The children are neglected, their schooling interrupted, and the whole family thrown back to a lower scale of living, and taught to accustom themselves to a greater degree of dirt and discomfort. But the most serious result is, the great number of Irish that these strikes have been the means of introducing into the whole district. Of the miners, it is now estimated, that upwards of two-thirds are Irish, and of the colliers, about one-fourth. Every successive strike adds to their number. They remain in the country as competitors with the Scotch population for the lower kinds of employment ; and their presence is greatly felt in this respect the moment that trade becomes dull. Mixed up as they are with the Scotch in the mining villages, their habits have an injurious effect upon their neighbours, and make it more difficult for well-disposed and decent families to preserve order and cleanliness about them. Their presence in so great numbers has been a cause of serious anxiety to the authorities, who, in March last, were obliged to quarter three troops of Yeomanry and a detachment of military among them to prevent the public peace being disturbed.

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Accidents pre-1900

This section contains newspaper reports on accidents. Please check the indexes in theAccidents Section for details of Inspector of Mines reports and other accidents covered on the site.

31 December 1858

Accident- Early on Friday morning, 31st ultimo, Oliver Bryden, miner, in the employment of Mr Robert Young, coal master, Greenhill Works, Parish of Shotts, accidentally fell down the shaft of No 2 Pit, by which his right arm was broken and other parts of his body severely injured. He was removed to his lodgings in Newhouse, Parish of Bothwell, where he was attended by Dr Jones of Newarthill, who considers him in a dangerous state. [Hamilton Advertiser January 8 1859]

15 June 1859

Fatal Coal-Pit Accident – On Wednesday morning, the engineman at No 3 Greystonelea pit, parish of Shotts, raised the cage, whereby he left the pitmouth open – and James Caldwell, collier, residing at Dykehead, when pushing forward a hutch in order to place it on the cage, was precipitated down the shaft of the pit, a depth of 36 fathoms or 216 feet, and his body was completely smashed to atoms. It was the duty of Robert Peat, the engineman, who was in the employment of the Shotts Iron Company, to carefully watch and attend to the various signals for raising and lowering the cage, according to his duties of engineman. He was apprehended by the county police on Thursday, charged with being guilty of gross negligence, while in charge of the engine, by raising the cage without any signal being given to him. Whether or not such signal may have been given we are not presently aware; but in the meantime, Peat has been examined before the Sheriff on the charge of culpable homicide, and liberated on bail of £20. [Hamilton Advertiser June 18 1859]

11 July 1859

On Monday last, a man, named Henry Braden, lost his life by a fall of stone while working in the hall pit belonging to the Shotts Iron Company. The poor man has left a wife and three children to lament his untimely end. [Hamilton Advertiser July 16 1859]

17 August 1859

Pit Accident – On Wednesday last, John M’Clusky, miner, residing at Mossbog, parish of Shotts, met with his death while employed at the Newmill Ironstone Pit, property of the Coltness Iron Company. About 11 o’clock that day he was employed pushing an empty hutch towards the pit mouth, and having mistaken the side of the shaft where the cage was, he fell down the shaft, a depth of 16 fathoms, and died about 10 o’clock the following forenoon. He was 28 years of age. [Hamilton Advertiser August 27 1859]

2 August 1860

Cleland Fatal Coal – Pit Accident – On Thursday the 2nd instant, a workman employed in No 35 Pit Cleland Colliery, was struck by a portion of coal falling upon him while he was engaged boring. The unhappy sufferer after being extricated from the fallen mass was left unassisted by his fellow workmen to struggle to the pit bottom as best he could. He got to the pit head about one o’clock. Being then about seven or eight hundred yards from his home, he spent four hours, ie till five o’clock, endeavouring to reach it. But nature and strength becoming exhausted, he was forced to yield, and was picked up by some passers by, and carried home in an insensible state. He continued in this state till next evening, when he expired, after apparently much suffering. The deceased’s name is Barnard Braclen. He leaves a widow and numerous family to mourn his fate. We hope to be long spared the painful task of again recording such inhuman carelessness among colliers to a suffering fellow-workman. [Hamilton Advertiser August 11 1860]

27 November 1860

Pit Accident – On the 27th ult, at nine o’clock in the morning, Charles Dobbie, collier, Dykehead, Shotts, met with a serious accident while he was working in No 3 coal and ironstone pit, Graystonelee, the property of the Shotts Iron Company, a stone fell from the roof, and broke his right arm. Dr Rattray was immediately in attendance. No blame is attached to any party. [Hamilton Advertiser December 1 1860]

February 1863

Pit Accidents – On Thursday an accident happened to a boy named Roderick M’Arthur in Graystonlea Pit, the property of the Shotts Iron Co, by a stone falling from the roof upon him, while engaged breaking coals at the face. He was hurt severely and had a thigh bone broken. – On Wednesday, two men named Black and Kelly, met with an accident in Greenhill Ironstone Pit, whereby Black had his left leg broken below the knee, his left arm and breast severely bruised, and his face much injured. He is at present blind in both eyes. Kelly had his left arm severely cut and eyes greatly damaged, being also presently blind. It would seem that the accidents arose through their own carelessness. [Hamilton Advertiser 7 February 1863]

1 August 1864

Wishaw – Pit Accident – On Monday the 1st curt., Chas Gibson, miner, residing at Bowhousebog, Shotts, got himself severely injured in the following manner:- Gibson is employed in making a road underground, in the Shotts Iron Company’s Hall pit, and when lying, boring a hole for the purpose of blasting a piece of rock, a large stone fell from the roof, bruising the unfortunate man severely on the back, and breaking his right arm below the elbow. He was conveyed home in a cart, and attended by Dr Rattray, surgeon, Shotts Iron Works. [Hamilton Advertiser 6 August 1864]

10 February 1866

Pit Accident At Shotts Iron Works – James Barr, collier, 35 years of age, met with an accident on the 10th inst., in Greystonelea Pit, belonging to the Shotts Iron Co. Barr was in the act of putting up a tree or prop to support the rood, about 8ft from the face of the workings, when a fall of stones came away and knocked him down, whereby his head was severely cut and his left thigh bone broken. The poor man was removed home and promptly attended by Dr Rattray. On examining the amount of injuries sustained, and Barr being in a destitute condition, with no one to tend or care for him, the doctor ordered his removal to the infirmary. [Hamilton Advertiser 17 February 1866]

24 October 1868

Fatal Pit Accident – An accident, resulting in the instantaneous death of a miner named John Thomason, occurred on Saturday in No. 2 ironstone pit, Benhar, near Harthill. The deceased, along with two other miners, was descending to his work, and when within a few feet of the bottom the cage was raised. One of’ the workmen managed to get out , and asked the others to follow , but Thomason and James Scobie, the other workman , could not leave the cage, and when it arrived at the pit-mouth it was found that Thomason had fallen out during the ascent. His death must have been instantaneous. His mangled remains were found at the bottom of the pit. The deceased, was thirty-four years of age, and married. [Scotsman 27 October 1868]

2 & 4 July 1870

Pit Accidents – On Saturday, 2nd inst., Wm Moffat, collier, aged 22, residing here, got himself injured in No 2 Coal Pit, Linnridge, in the parish of Shotts, belonging to Messrs Forrester and Robson. Moffat was redding a fall on the main horse road, when some stones fell from the roof, by which Moffat was cut on the head and bruised on the side. Happily the injuries are not of a serious character as the injured man was able to walk home. – On Monday last 4th inst., a collier name M’Quilliam, residing here, was severely cut and injured about the head and left side of the body, by a heavy fall of coal in No 2 Pit Linridge Colliery, belonging to Messrs Forrester & Robson. Dr Jones Newarthill, attended the case. [Hamilton Advertiser 9 July 1870]

February 1873

Fatal Accident—On Sunday, a boy of eleven years of age, named Thomas M’Innes, was accidentally killed,at Starryshaw Colliery, in the parish of Shotts. The deceased was playing about the pit while the pumping engine was in motion, when he was struck by the bell crank and so so severely injured that he died almost instantaneously. [Scotsman 25 February 1873]

26 December 1873

Pit Accident – On Friday 26th Dec, Andrew age 12 years, son of Andrew M’Manus, collier, Greenhill, got himself injured while at work in Mr R Young’s No 8 pit. The boy was working along with his father at the face of the coal, when a portion came suddenly away, and, striking the miniature collier on the shoulder, broke his collar bone and inflicted other injuries. [Hamilton Advertiser 3 January 1874]

20 July 1874

Shotts – Severe Pit Accident – On Monday last, 20th inst., David, aged 13, son of David Wilson, collier, residing at Dykehead Row, near Shotts Iron Works, got himself injured in the following manner:- The boy Wilson was employed as a pump worker, in the Shotts Iron Coy’s No 1 Springbank Pit, and when ascending the shaft by way of a trap stair, he missed his footing, and falling a depth of about three fathoms, he was severely injured about the head and on the left eye. When assisted home, Dr M’Vay, Dykehead, was promptly in attendance, and gave his professional aid to the injured youth. [Hamilton Advertiser 25 July 1874]

1 July 1874

Shotts – Pit Accident – On Wednesday 1st July, Robt. Dick, collier, about 17 years of age, got himself injured in Messrs Kerr & Mitchell’s Glencleland Pit. Along with another man, Dick was engaged at the face of the workings, when a large stone fell from the roof, and struck him on the back, knocking him down. He was cut on the face and severely bruised. When conveyed home, Dr R Livingstone attended to the injured man’s wants. [Hamilton Advertiser 4 July 1874]

7 December 1874

Benhar – Fatal Pit Accident – Early on Monday morning, a brusher named George Martin, residing at East Benhar, was accidentally killed by falling down the shaft at Starryshaw Coal pit, belonging to the Benhar Coal Company. Deceased is supposed to have stumbled down the shaft in the dark; and as he fell a depth of 32 fathoms, he was frightfully mangled and killed on the spot. [Hamilton Advertiser 12 December 1874]

24 March 1877

Cleland – Serious Accident – A bottomer named Wm Wilkie, 60, residing in Omoa Square, and employed in Messrs Barr & Higgins No 2 Langbyres, got himself severely injured on Saturday. He belled off the cage after putting a loaded hutch on. The cage stopped in the shaft at a height of 6 yards. A piece of coal fell of the ascending hutch, and the bottomer went to lift it, when the hutch came back to the bottom, crushing him with its weight. Dr Oman, Wishaw, was sent for and on examination found that Wilkies right leg was broken and that he had received some internal injuries, including the breaking of several ribs. [Hamilton Advertiser March 31 1877]

1 August 1877

Fatal Pit Accident – On Wednesday morning a young man named John Murphy, 17 years of age, a drawer, residing at High St Shotts, was accidentally killed in No 2 Ironstone Pit, Benhar, belonging to Messrs Robert Addie and Sons, Langloan, Coatbridge. He had incautiously gone too near a place where there had been some blasting operations, and a large piece of rock fell on him, killing him instantly. [Herald 3 August 1877]

22 March 1879

Fatal Accident – On Saturday, a man named John MacQueen, 18, residing at Newarthill, was fatally injured while working at the face in No 19 Cleland Colliery, the property of the Monkland Iron and Coal Company, by about 30 cwt. of coal falling on him, burying him under it. He was quickly rescued but only lived about half an hour afterwards. [Hamilton Advertiser March 29 1879]

15 December 1880

Shotts Miner Killed – Yesterday afternoon , at Hartwoodhill pit belonging to the Shotts iron Company, a, miner named David Neil, aged 24 years, accidentally fell down the shaft and was killed instantaneously. Before stepping on to the cage at the bottom of the pit he remarked to his companions who were about to ascend with him, that he felt somewhat sick, but as they saw no alarming symptoms they paid no more attention to the remark until they were about 50 fathoms up the shaft when Neil suddenly fell down and slipped past the side of the cage. William Rae, one of the miners, seized hold of his trousers, but the cloth gave way. [Scotsman 16 December 1880]

8 October 1881

On Saturday afternoon, at No. 3 Ironstone Pit, Muirhead, in the parish of Shotts, occupied by the Coltness Iron Company, an oversman named David White, residing at Eastfield, was instantaneously killed. White was working on a scaffold in the shaft when the rope by which a bucket was being lowered broke, and the bucket, which weighed nearly half a ton, fell down, and carried the scaffold and White with it to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of nearly 22 fathoms. [Scotsman 11 October 1881]

28 November 1882

Shotts Pit Accident – A serious accident took place yesterday at Calderhead Colliery to a miner named Walter Darling. While engaged repairing the wood work in the shaft of a new pit which is being sunk, he was standing on one of the buntings in the shaft when it gave way, and he was precipitated to the bottom, a distance of 30 or 40 feet, and sustained severe internal injuries. Dr Caldwell pronounces him to be in a very critical condition [29th November 1882]

4 February 1884

Moses Davidson. an old miner, 61 years of age. who resided at West Benhar Rows, was yesterday working in the “dook” of No. 2 Ironstone Pit. West Benhar, occupied by Messrs Robert Addie & Sons, when a stone, weighing between 5 and 6 cwt., fell from the roof on his back, crushing him to the ground. He was at once conveyed to the surface, but he died shortly afterwards [5 February 1884]

20 May 1884

On Tuesday afternoon, Robert Addie, a Chapelhall miner, met his death in No 2 Linrigg Pit, Salisburgh, occupied by the Linrigg Coal Company, by a fall of stone from the roof. [Scotsman 22 May 1884]

24 February 1886

Fatal Pit Accident – On Wednesday afternoon, a young man named John Shelly, was seriously hurt by a fall of stones from the roof in No 2 Pit, Calderhead Colliery, belonging to the Shotts Iron Co. He died on Thursday afternoon. [Hamilton Advertiser February 27 1886]

4 October 1886

Miner Killed – It was on Monday reported to the Wishaw police that a miner named John Graham, residing at Greenhill, had met with a fatal accident in No 7 Pit Greenhill Colliery. Deceased was working by himself in the “dook” section of the High Drumgray seam when a large stone, weighing several hundred weights, came away from the face, and falling upon his head, killed him instantaneously. No one saw the accident. [Hamilton Advertiser October 9 1886]

25 November 1886

Accident – On Thursday afternoon, a man named Matthew Brownlie, pitheadman, residing at Cleland, got himself injured while at work at Mr Robert Dicks No 4 Knownoble Pit. He was at the time filling ironstone char, and was standing at a part that had been undermined, when the char gave way, about 5cwts of it fell on him. Dr Duncan attended and found his right leg broken above the knee. [Hamilton Advertiser November 27 1886]

9 July 1888

Dreadful Colliery Accident At Shotts – A young man named Archibald Johnston, employed in Calderhead pit, belonging to Shotts Iron Company, met with a serious accident yesterday afternoon while in the act of spragging the wheel of a waggon in motion. The sprag caught him and threw him on the line. Three waggons passed over him injuring him in a frightful manner. He has been removed to the Infirmary, but no hopes are entertained of his recovery. [Scotsman 10 July 1888]

23 August 1894

Omoa – Boy Killed In A Mine – A fatal accident arising out of the coal strike, happened on Thursday at Omoa. It seems that, in consequence of the scarcity of fuel, some of the miners of the neighbourhood recently began to dig for coal in the Quarry Glen, where a seam was found quite near the surface. A mine was soon formed, and from this source many of the villagers have been keeping themselves supplied with coal, which they carried away in bags. Several miners were digging coal inside the mine on Thursday, and with them was a boy named Robert Andrew M’Kinney, aged 12 years, son of Robert M’Kinney, a quarryman residing in Omoa Square. While the boy was waiting for a supply of coal, the roof of the mine, which was very inadequately supported, gave way, and about a ton of coal and dirt fell upon him, almost completely burying him. One of the miners, named Andrew Lafferty was knocked down and got his face scratched. The others escaped without injury. The boy when extricated was dead, having been smothered. [Hamilton Advertiser August 25 1894]

22 March 1895

Fatal Colliery Accident at Shotts – On Friday evening a miner named James Kennedy, aged 40 years, met with an accident which terminated fatally. Whilst engaged blasting a quanntity of coal in No 3 pit, belonging to the Shotts Iron Company, his lamp set fire to the powder, and the blast went off. He died three hours afterwards. [Scotsman 25 March 1895]

1 August 1897

Fatal Colliery Accident At Shotts – A sad accident occurred yesterday to Andrew Duncan, New Grey Street, Shotts, employed as a joiner at Shotts Iron Works pits. Some repairs were being carried out m No. 3 pit, and Duncan had gone to the bank to get some wood. While being hauled up the shaft he fell out of the cage, and was killed instantaneously. He leaves a widow and large family. [Scotsman 3 August 1897]

Truck System

Truck was a system whereby workers were paid in goods. The system was made illegal in 1831 when the Truck Act was passed. However, despite legislation, truck continued in many areas, particularly in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. By keeping the pay offices and the company store separate, companies considered they were complying with the Act. At many works, it was expected that cash advances were spent in the company store. As the interval between payments was typically a fortnight or month, many men were dependent on the cash advances and thus the store. Men who waited for pay day (often called “paymen”) were not generally affected by this truck system. The system at Drumpellier Ironworks in Coatbridge was described as a typical example of the Truck System [click here to see details].
In collieries and ironworks that did not have stores, it was common to charge the men “poundage” for cash advances – a typical charge was 1shilling in the pound.
In many places lists were kept with the names of “slopers” (i.e. those who took cash advances but did not use them in the company store) and that men were dismissed for not dealing with the store. Another frequent complaint was that the quality of goods in the stores was poor and that the prices charges were generally higher than in the surrounding areas.
In 1870, a Royal Commission was set up to investigate the operating of the Truck system. Many witnesses were interviewed at the various sittings of the commission, including over 200 witnesses at sittings in Hamilton and Glasgow in August and September 1870. The report of the commission published in 1871 provides valuable insight into the workings of the system and the effect it had on the lives of the ordinary workmen. Extracts from the report can be found here.