Hood Family and Coal Mining

Coalmining - Coalworking - Putting and Slyping

Coal-putting and Slyping in Scottish Mines



There were two forms of putting. In both cases coal was pushed or pulled to the pit bottom in wooden carts or hutches. Wheeled carts often running on rails were pulled mainly by girls but also boys wearing a leather harness with a hook at the end; this was hooked to a chain on the cart. They were sometimes assisted by others pushing at the same time. The weight of coal in these hutches could be anything from 3 to 10cwt.
children pulling coal hutches in mine
Janet Moffatt, 12 years old, coal-putter:-
"Works from six morning till six night: alternate weeks works in the night-shift. Descends at night and return five or six in morning, as the coals are drawn whiles later. I pull the waggons, of 4 to 5 cwt., from the men's rooms to the horse-road. We are worse off than the horses, as they draw on iron rails and we on flat floors. We have no meals below. Some of us get pieces of bread when we can save it from the rats who are so ravenous that they eat the corks out of our oil-flasks. I draw the carts through the narrow seams. The roads are 24 to 30 inches high: draw in harness, which passes over my shoulders and back; the cart is fastened to my chain. The place of work is very wet and covers my shoe-tops. I work on mother's account with sister, as father was killed in the pit five years since. There are often accidents below; a woman was killed 3 months since by one of the pit waggons. Mother has eight children. Three of us work below; we are her only support".



The other form of putting common in narrow seams was known as 'slyping'. Curved wooden boxes called slypes, containing anything from 2 to 5cwt of coal were pulled by boys or girls attached by a harness. Unlike the wheeled carts, they pulled hutches without wheels, shod with iron on the underside to aid their sliding. The putter was forced to drag the slype on their hands and knees for distances up to 200 yards until a bigger roadway was reached. The height of the seams they worked in rarely exceeded 28 inches in height and could slope up to 30 degrees. Slyping was carried out in parts of the mines where putting was prevented by the narrowness of the seams, the slope being too great or the floor too soft.
girl pulling wooden box or slype in coal mine
Margaret Hipps [pictured above] , 17 years old, putter:-
"On short shifts I work from eight in the morning till six at night; on long ones until 10 at night; occasionally we work all night. When at night-work, from six at night till eight and ten in the morning. Only bread is taken below and the only rests we have are those we have to wait upon the men for while picking the coal. My employment, after reaching the wall-face, is to fill a bagie, or slype, with 2.5 to 3cwt. coal. I then hook it on to my chain and drag it through the seam, which is 26 to 28 inches high, till I get to the main-road, a good distance, probably 200 to 400 yards. The pavement I drag over is wet and I am obliged at all times to crawl on hands and feet with my bagie hung to the chain and ropes. I turn the contents of the bagies into the carts till they are filled; and then run them upon the iron rails to the shaft a distance of 400 to 500 yards. It is sad sweating and sore fatiguing work and frequently maims the women. My left hand is short of a finger, which laid me idle four month"s.
[Reads and writes. Very ill informed. Is a fine personable woman, above the middle stature and rather stout. It is almost incredible to believe that human beings can submit to such employment, crawling on hands, harnessed like horses, over soft slushy floors more difficult than dragging the same weights through our lowest common sewers and more difficult in consequence of the inclination, which is frequently one in three to one in six]."


The pictures and statements of Jane Moffat and Margaret Hipps are taken from the Evidence given to the Childrens Employment Commission 1842


© 2012   A Russell