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
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.
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.
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.
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.