03 September 2007

Manic Monday - Labour

Manic Monday is easy this week. My grandfather, William Hunter Gibson White, left Scotland at the time of the great strike in 1926. He had been a mining oversman for many years and was a descendant of miners. With the recent deaths of men in coal mines here, I wanted to share the testimony of his great grandfather about the difficulties in mining coal. This helped to end the use of women and children in the coal mines:

Testimony of William Hunter, Mining Oversman, Arniston Colliery before the Commission on Children's Employment in Mines and Manufacturies. First Report 1842 from Parliamentary Papers 1842(381).XVI.I pp 453-454

"I have been 20 years in the works of Robert Dundas, Esq., and had much experience in the manner of drawing coal, as well as the habits and practices of the collier people.

Until the last eight months women and lassies were brought below these works, when Mr. Alexander Maxton, our manager, issued an order to exclude them from going below, having some months prior given intimation of the same. In
addition to the exclusion of females, no boys will hereafter be permitted to be
brought under 12 years of age, and not then, unless they are qualified in the
reading and writing: They require to be examined prior to going below.

Boys of 14 years of age perform their duties with greater care and quickness. The improved mode of railing roads and ventilating economises time, and men now find they have no one to depend on but themselves, go more regularly to work, and take nearly as much money with one or two boys as when the whole family went below.

In fact, women always did the lifting or heavy part of the work, and neither they nor the children were treated like human beings, nor are they where they are employed. Females submit to work in places when no man or even lad could be got to labour in: they work in bad roads, up to their knees in water, in a posture nearly double: they are below till the last hour of pregnancy: they have swelled haunches and ankles, and are prematurely brought to the grave, or, what is worse, lingering existence.

Many of the daughters of the miners are now at respectable service. I have two former mine women in families in Leith, and who are much delighted with the change.

In honor of my grandfather and the men who recently lost their lives, here is the Merle Travis song: "Dark as a Dungeon" and the first photograph taken of my grandfather in the states with the message on the back about the way he could now dress with the mines behind him:

"This is me sitting at the door. I am ready for work, a great difference from coming home in dirty pit clothes. Tell Mac I will write him shortly. I have had little time to myself yet; having had so many places to go."


tegdirb92 said...

what a great tribute to your grandfather and an informative piece of history!

Claire said...

Is there a part of your family that remains a secret to you?
Because you know so much about your family, it makes me wonder if their is anyone you cant find out about?

Another great post :)

He sounds like a great bloke.

ian said...

Hey, I really liked reading this. I've always been fascinated with different aspects of that time period and little tidbits like this just help bring it home.


Linda said...

Excellent post with some fascinating family history. It's so sad that people are still losing their lives in mining disasters all these years later.

No Manic Monday for me tis week - I shall be laboring away! Hope you enjoy your holiday!

Gattina said...

The work conditions at this time were horrible it was very hard for men but women and children ! What a life!
We had a big mine tragedy here in Belgium in 1956, a fire in the mine caused 262 victims ! Today it is a mine museum.

Imma (Alice) at I Was Born2Cree8 said...

What an interesting post. Great info and a wonderful story about your grandfather. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Happy Manic Monday.

Jersey - The Furry Diva said...

Thank you for sharing this excellent post and great tribute to your grandpa!

Morgen said...

You always have such fascinating history posts! That you could tie it into your family history, is just too wonderful.
Thanks for being a part of Manic Monday!

Marilyn said...

I wish I knew half as much about my grandparents, let alone my great grandparents. Great post.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Excellent history lesson as always. You are fortunate to know all this history as well. Happy Labor day. What an excellent post for the word LABOR. :)

crazy working mom said...

Very interesting MM post! :)

Hope you had a lovely day.

This Eclectic Life said...

Although I love all of your posts, Jamie, when you write about your family I get chills. This is absolutely awesome. How proud you must be to have found all these wonderful tidbits.