Testimony Gathered by Ashley s Mines Commission

[ Parliamentary Papers , 1842, vols. XV-XVII, Appendix I, pp. 252, 258, 439, 461, Appendix II, pp. 107, 122, 205. The 2nd of the three excellent reports embodies the results of the investigation into the conditions of labor te the mines made by Lord Ashley’s Mines Commission of 1842. The Mines Act of 1842 that resulted prohibited the employment ter the mines of all women and of boys under thirteen.

[The material below wasgoed reprinted te an old history textbook, Readings ter European History Since 1814 , edited by Jonathan F. Scott and Alexander Baltzly, and wasgoed published by Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. te 1930. The original sources of the material are listed ter footnotes te the book, I’ve waterput them te brackets after each subject heading. The explanatory notes inbetween sections are by Scott and Baltzly, the linksaf were, of course, added by mij. –L.D.C.]

No. 116. &mdash, Sarah Gooder, aged 8 years.

I’m a trapper te the Gawber pit. It does not tire mij, but I have to trapje without a light and I’m frightened. I go at four and sometimes half past three ter the morning, and come out at five and half past. I never go to sleep. Sometimes I sing when I’ve light, but not te the dark, I dare not sing then. I don’t like being te the pit. I am very sleepy when I go sometimes ter the morning. I go to Sunday-schools and read Reading made Effortless. She knows hier letters, and can read little words. They instruct mij to beg. She repeated the Lord’s Prayer, not very flawlessly, and ran on with the following addition:–“Maker bless my father and mother, and sister and brother, uncles and aunts and cousins, and everybody else, and Aker bless mij and make mij a good servant. Amen.” I have heard tell of Jesus many a time. I don’t know why he came on earth, I’m sure, and I don’t know why he died, but he had stones for his head to surplus on. I would like to be at schoolgebouw far better than te the pit.

No. 137. &mdash, Thomas Wilson, Esq., of the Banks, Silkstone, possessor of three collieries.

Woman pulling a coal bathtub te mine. From official report of the parliamentary commission.

The employment of females of any age te and about the mines is most objectionable, and I should rejoice to see it waterput an end to, but ter the present feeling of the colliers, no individual would succeed ter stopping it te a neighbourhood where it prevailed, because the boys would instantly go to those pits where their daughters would be employed. The only way effectually to waterput an end to this and other evils te the present colliery system is to elevate the minds of the dudes, and the only means to attain this is to combine sound moral and religious training and industrial habits with a system of intellectual culture much more flawless than can at present be obtained by them.

I object on general principles to government interference ter the conduct of any trade, and I am pleased that ter mines it would be productive of the greatest injury and injustice. The kunst of mining is not so ideally understood spil to admit of the way te which a colliery shall be conducted being dictated by any person, however experienced, with such certainty spil would warrant an interference with the management of private business. I should also most decidedly object to placing collieries under the present provisions of the Factory Act with respect to the education of children employed therein. Very first, because, if it is contended that coal-owners, spil employers of children, are roped to attend to their education, this obligation extends identically to all other employers, and therefore it is unjust to single out one class only, secondly, because, if the legislature asserts a right to interfere to secure education, it is strapped to make that interference general, and thirdly, because the mining population is ter this neighbourhood so intermixed with other classes, and is te such petite bods te any one place, that it would be unlikely to provide separate schools for them.

No. 14&mdash, Isabella Read, 12 years old, coal-bearer

Works on mother’s account, spil father has bot dead two years. Mother bides at huis, she is troubled with bad breath, and is sair powerless ter hier figure from early labour. I am wrought with sister and brother, it is very sore work, cannot say how many rakes or journeys I make from pit’s bottom to wall face and back, thinks about 30 or 25 on the average, the distance varies from 100 to 250 fathom.

I carry about 1 cwt. and a quarter on my back, have to stoop much and creep through water, which is frequently up to the calves of my gams. When very first down fell frequently asleep while waiting for coal from fever and tiredness.

I do not like the work, strafgevangenis do the lassies, but they are made to like it. When the weather is warm there is difficulty te breathing, and frequently the lights go out.

No. 134. &mdash, Isabel Wilson, 38 years old, coal putter.

When women have children thick (prompt) they are compelled to take them down early. I have bot married Nineteen years and have had Ten bairns, seven are te life. When on Tormentor John’s work wasgoed a carrier of coals, which caused mij to miscarry five times from the strains, and wasgoed gai ill after each. Putting is no so oppressive, last child wasgoed born on Saturday morning, and I wasgoed at work on the Friday night.

Once met with an accident, a coal brake my cheek-bone, which kept mij idle some weeks.

I have wrought below 30 years, and so has the guid man, he is getting touched ter the breath now.

None of the children read, spil the work is no regular. I did read once, but no able to attend to it now, when I go below lassie Ten years of age keeps house and makes the broth or stir-about.

Nine sleep te two bedsteads, there did not show up to be any beds, and the entire of the other furniture consisted of two chairs, three stools, a table, a kail-ot and a few violated basins and cups. Upon asking if the furniture wasgoed all they had, the guid wifey said, furniture wasgoed of no use, spil it wasgoed so troublesome to flit with.

No. 26. &mdash, Patience Kershaw, aged 17, May 15.

My father has bot dead about a year, my mother is living and has ten children, five youngsters and five lasses, the oldest is about thirty, the youngest is four, three lasses go to mill, all the youngsters are colliers, two getters and three hurriers, one lives at huis and does nothing, mother does nought but look after huis.

All my sisters have bot hurriers, but three went to the mill. Alice went because hier gams swelled from hurrying ter cold water when she wasgoed hot. I never went to day-school, I go to Sunday-school, but I cannot read or write, I go to pit at five o’clock te the morning and come out at five te the evening, I get my breakfast of porridge and milk very first, I take my dinner with mij, a cake, and eat it spil I go, I do not zekering or surplus any time for the purpose, I get nothing else until I get huis, and then have potatoes and meat, not every day meat. I hurry ter the clothes I have now got on, pants and ragged jacket, the bald place upon my head is made by thrusting the corves, my gams have never swelled, but sisters’ did when they went to mill, I hurry the corves a mile and more under ground and back, they weigh 300 cwt., I hurry 11 a-day, I wear a stortplaats and chain at the workings, to get the corves out, the getters that I work for are naked except their caps, they pull off all their clothes, I see them at work when I go up, sometimes they strike mij, if I am not quick enough, with their mitts, they strike mij upon my back, the boys take liberties with mij sometimes they pull mij about, I am the only doll ter the pit, there are about 20 boys and 15 fellows, all the dudes are naked, I would rather work te mill than ter coal-pit.

This female is an ignorant, filthy, ragged, and deplorable-looking object, and such an one spil the uncivilized natives of the prairies would be shocked to look upon.

No. 72 &mdash, Mary Barrett, aged 14. June 15.

I have worked down te pit five years, father is working te next pit, I have 12 brothers and sisters &mdash, all of them but one live at huis, they weave, and wind, and hurry, and one is a tegenstoot, one of them can read, none of the surplus can, or write, they never went to day-school, but three of them go to Sunday-school, I hurry for my brother John, and come down at seven o’clock about, I go up at six, sometimes seven, I do not like working te pit, but I am obliged to get a living, I work always without stockings, or boots, or pants, I wear nothing but my chemise, I have to go up to the headings with the fellows, they are all naked there, I am got well used to that, and don’t care now much about it, I wasgoed afraid at very first, and did not like it, they never behave rudely to mij, I cannot read or write.

No. 7- &mdash, Laatstgeborene Miller, Underlooker at Mr. Woolley’s, near Staley Bridge, April 14, 1841.

How do you account for women being used so frequently spil drawers ter the coal-pits? &mdash, One reason is, that a doll of 20 will work for 2s. a-day or less, and a man of that age would want 3s. 6d.: It makes little difference to the coal-master, he pays the same whoever does the work, some would say he got his coal cheaper, but I am not of that opinion, the only difference is that the collier can spend 1s. to 1s. 6d. more at the alehouse, and very often the woman helps him to spend it.

Do women everzwijn become coal-getters? &mdash, Not one woman te a hundred everzwijn becomes a coal-getter, and that is one of the reasons the studs choose them.

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