Hood Family and Coal Mining

Dryden Colliery - Childrens Employment Commission 1842

Evidence collected for the Children's Employment Commision from some of those working at Dryden Colliery





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.



Note - See also the evidence for Loanhead Colliery as the conditions and method of working were very similar at these neighbouring coalworks - both were 'bearing pits' situated on the edge coals rather than the flatter thicker seams to the east.


These are some of the statements given to R H Franks, one of the Sub-Commisioners for the East of Scotland, appointed to collect evidence on the employment of children and young persons in collieries and the state, condition and treatment of such children and young persons. It was being collected as part of the Children's Employment Commission 1842.

© 2012   A Russell