Child Employment Commission, 1841:: William Green

 

No. 3.- William Green, aged 35 years, Colliery steward, Low Moor iron works. Feb. 9, 1841 :-

Wages 24s. per week, besides house, coals, and candles.
You are a colliery steward in the Low Moor works? Yes.
How old were you when you first went into a pit? - Fourteen.
What had you worked at previously? - Dressing iron-stone, and helping to deliver coals.
How old were you when you first began to work? - About twelve.
Had you gone to school previously? - Sometimes, not regular. I might have gone regular but was negligent.
Could you read, write, and cast accounts when you left school? - I could read and write, but not cast.
What did you do from fourteen to twenty-one? - I was three or four years in a pit, and assisted in delivering coals part of the time.
After you were twenty-one you assisted your father, who was a steward for two years, and then succeeded him? - Yes.
You have got on better than most labouring men? - Yes.
If you had been in a pit from seven years old, would you have got on as well? - I should think so.
If you had not been at school could you have got on as well? - No.
Could you have got sufficient learning at night-school and Sunday-school? - Yes, I should think so. I did get the biggest part of my learning at night-school and Sunday-school.
When you were in a pit did you find it unhealthy? - No.
At what age do boys enter the pits in this neighbourhood? - Different ages; some about seven, eight, nine.
What are the hours of working in the pits? - From seven in the morning till five in the afternoon. They stop an hour at dinner-time generally.
Do they leave the pit at dinner-time generally? - No. They stop in the bottom from morning till night.
Tell me what the boys do in the pits? - They are called hurriers. They draw the coal and iron-stone from where the miners work to the bottom of the shaft.
Is it hard work? - It varies a good deal. Some is hard work, some is not hard at all, but where the hardest work is they generally put the oldest boys to it.
Do the boys often seem tired? - No, I don't think they do. They play about a good deal after they have done their work.
Are they often ill? - No, they are not. Our masters find doctors, and they come for a note when they ail anything, and there is scarcely ever a note asked for except in case of their getting a little hurt.
Have the boys in the mines better or worse health than other boys? - I should think they have as good health as any.
If you had boys of your own would you send them into pits? - Yes, I don't know but I should.
You think it is not an objectionable life? - No, I think not.
Girls are not employed in the pits? - Not many, I know of two.
Is it a bad thing for them? - It is not unlikely to lead to bad ways.
Do the parents wish to send girls into pits? - Not generally.
Did not girls formerly work in the pits? - Some few, never many in this country.
More formerly than now? - Yes, I believe there was.
What has made the difference? - I can't say. It must be the mills that make part of the difference, by finding them work in-doors.
But it never was common in this country to employ girls? - No.
People don't like it? - No.
Are accidents frequent in the pits here? - These is not so many considering the extensive works.
Are boys often hurt? - No, not often.
Have you had any cases of boys being killed within the last ten years? - Yes, there have been some killed.
How many do you think within that time? - I cannot speak to that.
Have there been twenty boys killed within the last ten years? - That will be as many as there have been. or more.
Have they been killed from carelessness? - No, I can't say that they have. 
How do such accidents generally happen? - Different ways; sometimes earth falling upon them, but I only know of one case of that sort. There have been odd cases killed with falling as they were going down.
Do more accidents happen to boys than to men? - No, I think not.
Are the boys often beaten? No, we don't allow it. I don't think they are often beaten.
If a boy were beaten would it be known? - If it is not known it is their own fault. We give them orders, if the men beat them, to tell, and we will set it to rights. And we order the men too, if the boys don't do right, to send them out of the pit, not to beat them.
Would a boy be afraid to tell? - No, I should think not.
If a boy were beaten would he leave his place, or would his father take him away? - They would, if it couldn't be put a stop to, that beating.
The boys would not stand it? - No.
Nor their parents? - No.
Do you ever hear of boys being beat? - Very seldom.
When it does happen is it stopped at once? - Yes.
Have the boys any holidays in a year? - No regular holidays except two or three days at Christmas. They play often enough when the men are not working. Some play a day in a week at least.
Do the boys like playing, or had they rather work regularly? - The boys like to play a day well enough.
What do they play at? - Different plays; nor-and-spell, foot-ball, different kinds of play.
They seem happy when they are playing? - Yes.
Do boys ever go to public-houses? - Not much.
Do their parents take pains to keep them out? - They have not money, as their parents draw their wages.
What wages do the boys get? - At eight or nine, 3s. 6d. or 4s. per week, at ten or eleven, 5s. to 6s., twelve or thirteen you may say 7s., fourteen or fifteen about 8s. That is as much as we give for hurrying. About sixteen or seventeen they become colliers and will get about 3s. a day.
Up to what age are the wages drawn by the parents? - Till they are about seventeen or eighteen years of age in a general way, or till they become colliers; then they begin to pay their parents so much a week for their meat.
And to go to the public-house? - They generally begin to go to the public house when they get to be their own masters. There's a very great deal of difference. They don't all go to the public-house.
Are colliers longer or shorter lived than other people? - I can't say that it makes much difference. We have colliers at work now that are above sixty.
Can you say that colliers have better health who have not gone into a pit when they were very young? - No, I can't say that it makes much difference. They all appear to be very healthy.
Is it common to find a collier above the age of fifty? - There's not so very many above that age.
What do they do when they can no longer work in the pits? - They then work at the top, taking away coals or iron-stone from the mouth of the pits.
Is that easy work? - It is not very easy, but such as they can do.
What wages will they get? - About 14s. a week.
Do the boys wash themselves at the pit mouths at night before going home? - No, they don't wash till they get home.
Would it not be better for their health if they did? - I think not.
Could they do so if it were desirable? - It would be possible, it would be a deal of trouble.
Would the people do it? - Not one out of twenty.
Do they wash themselves well when they get home? - Yes, generally, I believe.
All over? - No, only their hands and faces.
They must be dirty all over; do they wash once a week? - No, nor once a month. They wash them often in a summer time, bathing.
If they had access to a hot bath would they use it? - They might do for a time, they would not stick to it.
Have the children warm clothing to put on when they come out of the pits before going home? - Some have, but not many.
Would it not be better if they had? - I should think it would.
Those that have are of the better sort of families? - Yes.
Can you see that those who are so taken care of have better health than those that are not? - No, I can't see any difference. They generally have good health.
Do they often take cold? - No, I believe not.
Can you see that those who have had school education get better on in the world than those that have not? - Some do.
If you had boys up to what age would you send them to school? - If I had boys, I would give them a good education if I was able.
How are the Low Moor pits compared with others in the neighbourhood for being dry and comfortable? - They are as well as any, and a deal better than some.

 


 

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