Hood Family and Coal Mining

Glossary of Coalmining Terms
also some Scottish words and legal terms


Coalmining   |   Legal Terms   |   Scots Words



This glossary is only of terms mentioned in this website and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide.





A sum of money paid when a collier, bearer or other person agrees to work at a colliery.



The person who unhooked the tubs of coal at the top of the shaft


Bounty payment

Payment made to a collier or bearer on agreeing to work at a colliery for a specified time; usually for one years service beginning from 3 July.



Middle sized pieces of coal.


Coal Bearer

A Coalbearer was a person (usually the wife and children of the collier) who brought the coal from the coalface to the foot of the shaft, or all the way up to the surface. The coal was carried in creels on their backs.


Coalhewer, Collier

The name originally used for those working at the coalface cutting the coal. the term 'Coal Miner' was not used until much later.


Coal Miner

Originally a 'miner' was a person who cut tunnels through rock - usually to allow colliers and bearers to reach different seams, or making a 'level' for drainage of the water. It has now become used for all types of underground coalworkers.



A person usually appointed by the Overseer of the colliery to supervise the work, take the payments for coal sales, keep accounts etc. (the range of duties could vary considerably depending on the size of the colliery)



A basket used by coalbearers to carry the coal on their backs.



A days work. Often used to describe a sum of money paid for a days labour doing oncost work.


Edge seams

Seams of coal coming to the surface at a very steep angle. In Midlothian they are found in a line stretching roughly from Loanhead through Gilmerton and Duddingston.


Fire engine

A steam powered engine used to drain water from mine workings by pumping it to the surface or an exisiting 'level' . The earliest were Newcomen engines



The unit of measurement used for measuring the depth of coalworkings. Equivalent to six feet or sometimes 5 ft 4 3/4 inches



Loading coal at the bottom of the shaft into tubs or buckets to be raised to the surface. The men doing this were known as 'fillers'



A wooden type of winding device used to raise coal and colliers or bearers to the surface. usually powered by a horse or sometimes water.


Great Coal

Large blocks of coal. These could sell for almost double the price of small coal so a skillful collier would try and prize out large blocks and limit the amount of small pieces he produced while coalhewing.



cutting the coal at the coalface. A collier was also known as a 'coal hewer'.


Horse Gin

A wooden type of winding device used to raise coal and colliers or bearers to the surface



A long horizontal tunnel leading to the lowest part of the land, allowing water to drain from the coalworkings without the aid of machinery. These are sometimes referred to as "Adit" or "Day" levels. (One at Duddingston was 3 miles long with it's exit at the sea).



A measure of coal; usually eqivalent to a number of tickets.



Originally a term for a tunnel connecting coal seams together below ground, rather than the entire colliery or the shaft.


Miner - see Coal Miner



Oncost is a collective term covering all the other types of work performed at the colliery apart from coalhewing. Oncost accounts cover all the expenditure at the coalworks apart from payments to coalhewers for their coal.



The colliery manager.



A person appointed by the coalgrieve to supervise the work underground.



Name given to small or inferior types of coal; often used in saltpans, lime burning or pumping engines



Literally, someone using a pick i.e. a coalhewer.



Maintaining the height of the underground passages by cutting away the rock above the roadway to maintain their height as the roof was crushed down.


Small Coal

Small pieces of coal. These sold at a lower price than the larger pieces known as great coal.


Stair Pit

A pit where the coal was brought to the surface by coalbearers climbing up a series of ladders or stairs.



measure of coal equvalent to a number of burdens or counters



Quantity of coal equal to about a quarter of a ton. This was the unit of measurement often used where gins were used to raise the coal.


Wood Coal

Name given to small or inferior types of coal; often used in saltpans, lime burning or pumping engines


Coalmining   |   Legal Terms   |   Scots Words   |   Return to top





Civil court proceedings (also referred to as a Cause)



To decide in favour of the defender in a court action



A statement declaring something to be true.



The judge taking time to consider or make judgement in a case.



Security to ensure that a task is carried out or carried out correctly; it can be thought of as being similar to a bail bond. (rhymes with station)



Statement of the facts by the pursuer in a civil action which they will rely on to prove their case.


Court of Session

The Supreme Civil Court in Scotland



Decision of the court in civil cases



The person who is the subject of a civil action



Legal procedure where someone owed money takes steps to ensure payment of the money owed



Someone who has documents in their possession which they are required to produce in court



A decision or order by the court given during the proceedings but not the final decision.


Irregular Marriage

There were 3 lawful ways in Scotland:

1) Both parties simply declaring in front of witnesses the they consent to take each other as man and wife
2) By a verbal promise that they would become man and wife followed by sexual intercourse.
3) By a cohabitation and repute - the man and woman live together as man and wife giving the impression that they are married.



Obtaining knowledge of the facts of the case that are relevant and may have to be proved in a trial.


Procurator Fiscal

The Public Prosecutor in criminal cases



The person bringing a court action against another. The equivalent in English is the 'Plaintiff'



A judge in the Sheriff Court

Coalmining   |   Legal Terms   |   Scots Words   |   Return to top

Scots words


See the new Dictionary of the Scottish Language website for a complete guide.



The reading out in church of a couples intention to marry. The banns were read out for 3 weeks in a row and had to be read out in the parish of residence of of both the bride and groom. A marriage without banns was known as an irregular marriage


Kirk Session

A meeting of the Mininster and church elders of a church



Landowners in the parish with a heritable obligation to contribute to the upkeep of the parish church



A cloth used to cover the dead person before burial. The cloths were owned by the Kirk Session and the money raised by payments for using the cloths often went towards supporting the poor. The payment for using the mortcloths depended on which one was used. The cloths could vary in their size (big,middle,small); type (velvet or cloth); and condition (best, 2nd, 3rd). For instance the best big velvet cloth would be most expensive. This is an example but it could vary from church to church.


Pounds Scots

A Scots pound was equivalent to 20 'old' pence sterling.


Shillings scots

One Scots shilling was equivalent to one 'old' penny sterling.



The burgh jail. In addition to criminals, it often held debtors or people imprisoned as a result of civil court actions.




Coalmining   |   Legal Terms   |   Scots Words   |   Return to top



© 2012   A Russell