Images de page

childhood, in their adolescence, or their womanhood, we find that they are on the average better able to endure factory labour than the males. This is a singular circumstance, and perhaps may be explained by the superior temperance of the women. We shall commence with a summary of his remarks on the factories of Dunfermline. It is necessary to remind the reader of the nature of the factories in this district. They consist of a dry flaxspinning factory, worked by steam and water power, at Preston Holme, ten miles from Edinburgh; of a wet flax-spinning factory, worked by steam power also, in Dunfermline-the factory is situated north of the town, and is surrounded on the north and west by a dam, with gardens in front: another dry flax-spinning factory, worked by steam power, to the north of Dunfermline, and open also to the north: the dry flax-spinning factory of another firm in Dunfermline: the wet and dry flax-spinning factory of Messrs. Millport and Malcolm, worked by steam and water power, in the same town; and two others.

In the first factory the building is four stories high, besides garrets. The height of the working rooms is from ten to fifteen feet. There are four large rooms, each ninety-six feet long by thirtytwo. In each room there are about forty workpeople. The average temperature of the room is 60° of Fahrenheit. Ventilation is afforded by means of sixteen windows in each room; sashes partly hung and opened above.

Work begins at six A. M., and ends for the day at eight P. M. Sometimes there are extra hours. There is relaxation for an hour at nine, A.M., and for half an hour at half-past two P.M. The machinery is cleaned by the operatives, and occupies about ten minutes each day, which is not deducted from the time of meals. There are two holidays in the year; Sacrament Day and New Year's Day.

The diet consists, for breakfast, at nine o'clock, of porridge and milk, when the latter is plenty; for dinner, at half-past two o'clock, potatoes, broth, bacon, garden stuff-butcher's meat seldom; for supper, at nine o'clock, porridge or broth; and for drink at and between meals, water.

The health of the operatives in general appears excellent. Some few look rather delicate, but seem to work cheerfully. No foul tongues. Heard no coughing during several hours passed in working rooms. The appearance of by far the greater number was healthful, robust, fully grown for age. Did not see even one case of distortion or narrow pelvis. Many of the girls were beautifully formed, who had been from ten years to maturity in the mill. The branches of manufactory least healthful are the carding and heckling departments No death has occurred among the workpeople during the last three years. The spring months are the most sickly. The usual disorders are colds, and the ordinary diseases of childhood.

Sir David Barry visited these mills again, and found some very considerable peculiarities, in the females especially. The spinners (almost exclusively girls from ten upwards) never sit down, or almost never, excepting at meal times. A good spinner cannot be formed if she begin to learn later than eleven years of age. The reelers, who are the stoutest girls; the spreaders, also adults; the card-feeders-never sit; indeed there is nothing to sit upon; they sometimes lean for a few minutes against a frame. Yet taking all these classes, or any of them, indiscriminately, their appearance is that of health and extreme activity. Many are finely formed and strikingly handsome, who have worked, as stated, from nine to maturity.

This day examined carefully and individually, one hundred and eleven girls of the classes stated, with a view to find, if possible, a case in which the plantar-arch had been broken down by continued standing, as is stated in the evidence lately printed to occur sometimes in factory workers. Found many beautifully formed feet in those who had worked the longest. In one case a woman, aged forty-three, who had worked from the age of seven; the foot was remarkably small and high in the instep. In no case did the plantar-arch seem to have been in the slightest degree disturbed. It is rather curious, that the flattest worst-constructed feet and thickest ancle bones were those of Jane Inglis of Mr. Wilson's mill, aged seventeen, a spreader, who had begun to work for the first time last year. Convinced that she would never have made

a spinner.

For the convenience of our unscientific readers, we beg to explain that the plantar-arch is formed by the foot when it is planted on the ground, and is that hollow which is on the side, and which any person by stooping down, whilst standing or sitting, may almost put his hand into.

In another of these factories, the total number of persons employed amounted to ten males and seventy-six females, of whom five were married. They breakfast at nine o'clock on porridge; they dine at one on potatoes and broth-kail; they sup at home; and their drink at and between meals, is water.

Their health in general is very good. From 23rd March to 6th April, twelve days, six and three-quarter days have been lost by sickness among eighty-six persons of all ages. Their appearance is very healthy, with few exceptions. There has been no death among them for five years.

In the dry flax-spinning factory of Messrs. Rutherford, the operatives have for breakfast, porridge and milk in the summer, beer in the winter; for dinner, broth or kail, potatoes, oaten cake; for tea, at five o'clock, coffee, oat cake; supper at home. Their drink at and between meals is water. Their health in general is excellent to all appearance; and they are clean and respectablelooking, and seem contented. Heckling and carding are the least

healthy branches of the manufacture. They have had one death within the last two years, from jaundice. The winter months, if any, are the most sickly, and their usual complaints are colds.

Sir David declares that from all that he has been able to learn and observe, that he considers the spinner as by far the most important operative in a flax-spinning mill, and the most difficult to be formed. The masters are unanimous in asserting that girls, and they alone are trained to flax-spinning, never become expert artists if they begin to learn after eleven. He observed two girls, for some time in Mr. Malcolm's mill, about thirteen each, in the same pass or space between two frames, one attended to sixty wet spindles, or the spinning of sixty threads of yarn, of five ounces to the hank, the other to fifty spindles. The first had 11d. the other 10d. per day. The range which each girl had to move over along her spindles, or the length of the pass, was about twenty-two feet. It is quite impossible to give an adequate notion of the quickness and dexterity with which these girls joined their broken ends of threads, shifted the pirns, screwed and unscrewed the flies, &c.

At Kirkaldy, Sir David examined twenty-three hand-loom weaving shops. He found the most perfect uniformity in the health of all the weaving families whom he inspected. They all work on earthern floors, the treadles invariably playing in a little trench dug in the ground; they sleep, however, on upper floors, where also the bobbins are wound by the mother and younger children. The young people, male and female, are put to the loom from the age of ten to twelve; and they all work as long as there is daylight. In the summer from five or six, or to seven or eight, and even nine o'clock, P.M. From seven to nine o'clock in the winter; often to ten or eleven at night, taking one hour at breakfast and one at dinner.

All the weaving population examined by Sir David, as well adult as young, were in health. The men, however, all looked pale and badly fed. The young persons were fresh-coloured and cool, and in no instance did any of them complain of swelled ankles or feet, or of pains in the joints of the lower limbs. Their food is very much the same as that of the mill-workers. Many of both classes live entirely upon potatoes, with a little herring or fat; others have porridge and milk or beer generally for breakfast and supper; potatoes, oat or barley cake, or broth, or kail, for dinner. Their hours of work are nearly the same, those of the weavers being the longer of the two.

When Sir David Barry arrived at Dundee, he received great assistance from the medical gentlemen connected with that town. The records of the infirmary of that place supplied him with an accurate account of the casualties which occurred at the various factories, and these principally employing mills. Mr. Ball, the

[blocks in formation]

surgeon to the infirmary, gives the result of his experience as to the nature and causes of those accidents, and from his long connexion with the institution, he feels himself warranted in saying, that in modern times accidents from spinning-mills bear no proportion to the great increase of machinery; the great improvement in it, as well as the very superior accommodation in the buildings, and the fencing in of some of the more dangerous parts, have done a great deal to lessen such unfortunate occurrences; but still there is much to be done; and he has observed that accidents are much more frequent among the younger persons, say under twelve years, and inexperienced hands; and it most frequently happens, particularly the more severe injuries, from ragged clothes about the wrists getting entangled with the machinery.

Sir David remarks, that in putting questions to married millwomen, which he did in the most delicate manner, by writing a certain number of queries, he found great difficulty in obtaining the answers. The very few married women whom he met with in Scotland, absolutely refused to answer his questions on the subjects contemplated in the queries. Indeed, spinning-girls after having been married, seldom remain at mill-work, and the married women met at these establishments are almost exclusively reelers or preparers, who commence mill-work long after puberty.

At one of the mills of Aberdeen, there is a regulation of a very important nature to the morality of the population; namely, that no married woman is ever employed, and that if any be discovered to have married after having being employed, she is immediately dismissed. In Glasgow, Sir David visited a dyeing and printing establishment, in which above five hundred persons obtain employment, from nine years of age, upwards. The most remarkable persons engaged in this splendid establishment are twenty adult females, termed stove-girls. They hang up the prepared webs to dry in the stoves, and afterwards take them down. They earn 7s. 6d. per week. I have been, says Sir David, in the stove and seen them at work around me, whilst the thermometer in my hand marked 140° of Fahrenheit. I was informed by the overlooker that it often stands higher. As the wet cloth is drying the temperature sinks a few degrees. These girls are constantly passing through the open air from one stove to another, but remaiu only a few minutes in each. Mr. Rodger, the benevolent manager of the works, informs me, that candidates for this department are never wanting: tall girls, however, and rather thin, are preferred. Each is provided with fine flannel chemises by the proprietors, which are constantly worn. Some are very fine-looking girls, and all appear to be in perfect health. They work barefooted, and often have leisure to sit. Mr. R. states that they are as healthy as any girls in the establishment, and that when any of them happens to catch cold, they are very soon cured by going into the stove again.


The most pleasing result of this investigation, is the description of the cotton-mills of Blantyre, New Lanark, and Cattrine. shall give the delightful account in Sir David's own words.

'At the Blantyre mills the spinners are all males. I visited the dwellings of nine of that class, without making any selection. Found that every one of them was married, and that the wife had been in every instance a mill girl, some of these women having begun factory work so early as at six and a half years of age. The number of children born to all these couples was fifty-one: the number now living, forty-six. As many of these children as are able to work, and can find vacancies, are employed in the mill. They all live in rooms rented from the owners, and are well lodged. I saw them at breakfast-time, and the meal was composed of the following; viz. porridge and milk for the children; coffee, eggs, bread, oaten cake, and butter for the father. I have the notes taken on the spot before me, but think it needless to transcribe them at full length.

'New Lanark mills are particularly clean and carefully kept; there are even blinds to the southern windows; but they are deeply embosomed between two hills, approaching so closely, that the greater part of the village is built up against one of them, and must therefore be damp and cold on one side, though a small area has been cut between the mountain and the houses.

[ocr errors]


A most extraordinary degree of attention is devoted to the education of the children of the workers here, candidates for admission to employment in the mills. They are taught reading, writing, with the elements of geography, music, dancing, natural history, &c.. in fine spacious rooms. witnessed considerable proficiency in some of these branches, and saw eight young persons, from ten to thirteen, dance a quadrille in the very best style, under their dancing-master. Employment in the mill is looked forward to by these children with much ambition, as the reward of diligence in their studies. It is quite clear that Mr. Walker, the managing resident partner, devotes the kindest attention to his people: he is beloved by them all. About three hundred of the oldest pupils pay 4d. per month towards the expenses of their education; and there are one hundred and fifty of the youngest, from three or four to eleven, who pay nothing.'—p. 53.

At a hand-loom weaving factory, which he examined at Bridgeton, in the Glasgow circuit, Sir David saw a set of the draw boys and girls harnessing a hand-loom weaver in his own shop. Those boys and girls draw certain parts of the cotton warp over pullies, at each traverse of the shuttle, in working patterns. These creatures are neglected, and consequently ragged, poor, and dirty children. They are seldom instructed at all, and they work as long as the weaver, that is, as long as they can see. They stand in the same spot, always barefooted, on a cold and damp earthen floor, in a close, damp, cellar, for thirteen or fourteen hours a day! They earn two shillings a week, and live on porridge, or potatoes and salt. They are generally between nine and thirteen years old, and look healthy, though some are at the business for three years, whilst the weaver himself looks pale, squalid, and underfed. We do not think it necessary to proceed farther with Sir

« PrécédentContinuer »