Evidence collected for the Children's Employment Commision from some of those working at Loanhead and Dryden Collieries
Both Dryden and Loadhead Collieries were bearing pits situated on the 'edge coals, so the conditions and method of working were very similar at these neighbouring coalworks - which is why I have put them together'. .
LOANHEAD COLLIERY. - (Sir GEORGE CLERK, Bart., M.P., &c., of Pennicuik.)
No.54 - Mary Macqueen, 12 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have been wrought three years at coal carrying, and go below generally at three in the morning and return at five or six and sometimes three in the afternoon. I take a piece of bread or bannock, which does till I return home, when I get my broth or flesh. I carry my father's coal; my usual quantity is four to five tubs daily; each tub holds 4.25 cwt.; it takes me five journeys to fill one tub: the distance to my father's room is 80 fathoms and I have one ladder to descend before I get to the road which leads to the bottom. Mother is a bearer and can fill a tub in two journeys. I once got hurt by the roof falling and confined for some days. I wash and change when home: the pit is just by the houses. I have not been to school for two years. Father is in bad health. Brother who is 14 past, works at the coal wall. I read a little but never was at the writing. The Testament was the book I read in but I do not know who wrote the Gospels. Jesus is God and we are to pray to Him know much about God; has heard he is a spirit; don't know what is meant by the word spirit.
No.55 - Ellison Jack, 11 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have been working below three years on my father's account; he takes me down at two in the morning and I come up at one and two next afternoon. I go to bed at six at night to be ready for work next morning: the part of the pit I bear in the seams are much on edge. I have to bear my burthen up four traps, or ladders, before I get to the main road which leads to the pit bottom. My task is four to five tubs; each tub holds 4.25cwt. I fill five tubs in 20 journeys. I have had the strap when I did not do my bidding. Am very glad when my task is wrought, as it sore fatigues. I can read, and was learning the writing; can do a little; not been at school for two years; go to kirk occasionally, over to Lasswade: don't know much about the Bible, so long read: knows many of the Questions.
[A brief description of this child's place of work will better illustrate her evidence. She has descend a nine-ladder pit to the first rest, even to which a shaft is sunk, to draw up the baskets or tubs of coals filled by the bearers; she then Likes her creel (a basket formed to the back, not unlike a cockle-shell, flattened towards the neck, so as to allow lumps of coal to rest on the back of the neck and shoulders) and pursues her journey to the wall-face, or as it is called here, the room of work. She then lays down her basket, into which the coal is rolled and it is frequently more than one matt can do to lift the burden on her back. The tugs or straps are placed over the forehead and the body bent in a semicircular form, in order to stiffen the arch. Large lumps of coal are then placed on the neck and she then commences her journey with her burden to the pit bottom, first hanging her lamp to the cloth crossing her head. In this girl's case she has first to travel about 14 fathoms (84 feet) from wall-face to the first ladder, which is 18 feet high: leaving the first ladder she proceeds along the main road, probably 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet 6 inches high, to the second ladder, 18 feet high, so on to the third and fourth ladders, till she reaches the pit-bottom, where she casts her load, varying from 1 cwt. To 1.5 cwt., into the tub. This one journey is designated a rake; the height ascended and the distance along the roads added together, exceed the height of St. Paul's Cathedral, and it not unfrequently happens that the tubs break- and the load falls upon those females who are following. However incredible it may appear, yet I have taken the evidence of fathers who have ruptured themselves from straining to lift coal on their children's backs.]
No.56 - David Burnside, 12 years old, coal-hewer:-
I work at Loanhead coal-mine; have done so upwards of two years: work on mother's account, with two brothers and sister. Father bas been dead 10 year. Little brother is 10 years old; bears the coal with sister. We go to work at lour in the morning and return at the day; sometimes five. When I work all night I gang at five or six in evening and return five or six in morning. I pick at the coal wall; it is gai sair work; more so some days than others. We have no holidays but what we make ourselves. Bad air frequently prevents one working below: when the weather is warm the damp stops the breath. I never got any hurt and have my meals at home, except the piece I take away. I can read [reads well], and do the writing a little; have not been to school since dawn. I seldom go to kirk: used to know all the questions; forget them now. All four can take away 2l. on pay-day. We can generally reckon 10 days in fortnight; there are 12 days in a fortnight, and two Sabbaths. Two pounds are forty shillings -'twice 40=80; 4 quarters in the hundred-weight, 22 cwt. In the ton.
No.57 - William Burnside, 10 years old, coal-bearer:-
I gang with brother and sister; have done so two months. I can fill one tub in the day: it takes me 17 journeys, as my back gets sore. A tub holds near 5 cwt. I follow sister with bits of coal strapped over my, head and back. The work fatigues me muckle. Mother sent me as the teacher had left and no school open no school since. Reads a little.
No.-58 - Agnes Fuller, 17 years old, coal-bearer:-
Works at Sir George Clarke's coal pit; has done six years. I left once for service in Edinburgh; remained six months; have tried outbye work, that is, field labour, and prefer the work below. If could get a situation which suited, in a family, would like it better than coal work. Mistress in Edinburgh kept me too close to the house, so I left. I was at school five years; have forgotten the learning, except the reading and shaping a few letters. Sometimes go to kirk and Sabbath-school. I think David wrote the Psalms and Moses the commandments: don't know how many there are. Moses brought the Children of Israel from Egypt through the Jordan. Saul wrote the Proverbs. Edinburgh is in Scotland. London is in Ireland. Never was taught the counting; can't say how many days in the year - knows there are 12 months.
No.59 - Mary Smith, 17 years old, coal-bearer:-
I have been a coal bearer six years and like the work well enough. Tried service: was at Dr. Brunton's six months and would have remained but father said he needed me below. I did not wish to leave, as the place suited. Coal work is o'ersair for women. Was at school six years. I can read [reads well] and write a little.
[Knows most of the questions in the shorter catechism and Scripture history well but very counting and knowledge of general facts.]
No.60 - Elizabeth Pentland, 13 years old, coal-bearer:-
Wrought three years in coal-mines; came from Gilmerton, where the coals are on the edge as they are here: don't dislike the work, as I am now used to it; never tried any other; my ankles swell sometimes when I am overworked. Was at Gilmerton school; was taught the Ten Commands and the reading; not been for four years to any other. Forgot all my learning since away. Moses and God made the world: Christ is God; don't know whether he was crucified. I know there are Ten Commands but I cannot say what they are, or what they mean; for I cannot read just now. Has heard of Edinburgh; don't know where it is. To sin is not to do my bidding: thinks telling lies is sin.
No.61 - George Hunter, 15 years old, coal-hewer:-
I hew the coal. and sometimes carry; the carrying is the most sore: when work is over am very fatigued. Work with brother father's account. Mother died in child-birth with laddie who now works with me. Wrought below five years. Have not been to school for three years; was reading then in the Testament. Matthew is the first book in the Testament. God made the world. Do not know how Commandments there are nor who brought them to the Israelites.
Always been in Loanhead; believes it is in Scotland. Queen Victoria lives in London. London is in Scotland. Five times six makes 25; can't say how much four times eight make.
DRYDEN COLLIERY.- (Messrs. TAYLOR, KENNETH, and Co.)
No.62 - Mr. Kenneth, Managing Partner of the Dryden Glen Colliery Company:-
Am unable to enter into general details as the new works will be some months before they are ready for carrying on extensive operations. At this time we have only some 17 colliers, 12 women and five or six children. The ladder pits and part of the bearing system will, I expect, be abolished when our new fitting, by inclined plane, is finished. The bearing system is the least expensive mode and any intervention would seriously affect the parents. I think the exclusion of children would not be attended by any disadvantage to the coal proprietors but, as I before said, be seriously felt by the parents themselves.
No.63 - Jane Young, 11 years old, coal-bearer:-
have wrought 15 months below in the Ladder Pit on the same work with Jane Kerr and her sister. We don't go so early as Kerrs and mother sends us warm porridge for breakfast. We live a little way, not half a mile. Sister and I fill six and eight tubs daily; they take us 18 journeys. We go down six ladders to pit bottom and then descend three more on the plane of coal before we get to the wall face; it is a good bit; I cannot say how many fathom. I get the strap sometimes. Mother was in the pits till last two years. We do no need her now and she bides at home; she has seven children in life; none of us read. Sometimes I go to kirk to see the people and the preacher; I canna understand all he says. I am very sore fatigued when home and have little time to look about me.
No.64. - Jane Kerr, 19 years old, coal-bearer:-
I get up at three in the morning, and gang to the work at four, return at four and five at night. It takes us muckle time to come the road and put on our clothes. I work every day for when father does not work, the master pays me 6d. a-day for bearing wood for him. I never get porridge before my return home but I bring a bit of oatcake and get water when thirsty. Sister and I can fill one tub of 4.25 cwt. In two journeys. Sister is 14 years of age. My sister and brothers do not read but I did once go to school to learn reading when at Sir John's work; have forgotten all the letters. The Ladder Pit in which I work is gai drippie and the air is a kind of bad, as the do na burn sa bright as in guid air. My father straps me when I do not do his bidding.. The work is very sair and fatiguing. I would like to go to school, but canna wone [go] owing to sair fatigue. Mother was a coal-bearer but stays at home now, as there are seven bairns. We have one room to our house and two beds; three laddies sleep with I and sister and the two wee ones with mother and father. I do not know what father takes away on pay-day: he never works on Monday; sometimes not on Tuesday.
[No scriptural knowledge; very acute beautiful child; did not appear above 10 years of age.]
No.65 - Agnes Kerr, 15 years old, coal-bearer:-
Was nine years old when commenced carrying coals; carry father's coal; make 18 to 20 journeys a-day; a journey to and fro is about 200 to 250 fathom: have to ascend and descend many ladders; can carry 1.5 cwt. I do not know how many feet there are in a fathom but I think two or three yards: know the distance from habit; it is sore crushing work; many lassies cry as they bring up the burthens. Accidents frequently happen from the tugs breaking and the loads falling on those behind and the lasses are much fashed with swelled ankles. I canna say that I like the work well; for I am obliged to do it: it is horse work. Was at school five years since. I was in the Bible [can read well]; forgotten all about it. Jesus Christ. led the Jews out of Egypt: believes Jesus was God; does hot recollect what death he died, or the names of any books in the Bible or Testament. Often goes to buy meal; gets a peck; can't say whether it weighs 71b. or 14lb.; can't sew or knit. I would go to kirk if I had clothes.
No.66 - Jane Kerr, 12 years old, coal-bearer:-
I work with my cousin Agnes on my father's account and have done so three years. Have just come from Sir John Hope's work. I don't dislike now; it is very sair. Was at New Craighall School a little ago. Was in the Testament. Don't know who was the Son of God. I canna gang to school as there is none near. We have no clothes for kirk.
No.67 - Alexander Kenny, 10 years old, coal-bearer:-
Worked below eight months; likes it fine; am thinking nobody told me to say so. It is better than going to school, as I do not get the licks that teacher gave me at Craighall, where we came from. Was at school four years and could read the Testament; nearly forget it now. Master used to teach us the questions. Knows God and that if we are wicked we shall be burnt up to char. There are two bawbees in a penny and four in two pennies. Father gives me a bawbee on pay-day; I buy sweeties with it. I don't know what countryman my father, is but he is a collier.