British Coal-Miners in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

British Coal-Miners in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

British Coal-Miners in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

British Coal-Miners in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

Excerpt

Popular misconceptions about the miners have been extremely deep rooted, not least because miners were always seen at their worst. They went to work fresh and clean but this was usually early in the morning, long before most other people were up and about. When they returned home, on the other hand, it was in broad daylight and their pit-dirt stood out in sharp relief. Nor did the introduction of multiple-shift working at the end of the century make them any less conspicuous; for while the new system meant that more people saw the miners as they went to work at various times during the day, 'clean' miners were not necessarily recognisable as such. It must be remembered too that under the new system the miners were also seen more often as they returned from work. Thus in 1910 six miners pleaded guilty under Glasgow Corporation by-laws to travelling on a tram 'in clothing which in the opinion of the conductor might soil or injure the car or dress of the passengers'.

If small groups of miners were viewed with some distaste, large gatherings were regarded with positive dread. When it was heard that the miners were coming, windows were boarded up and people stayed indoors. On at least one occasion, during a dispute over wages in the Shropshire coalfield in 1820, little business could be done at Wellington market because a visit from the colliers was anticipated. Union occasions were particularly unpopular. The Durham Chronicle was surprised that the 1872 miners' gala passed off peacefully and that 'the miners... behaved themselves very well'. When the Lancashire Miners' Federation decided to hold its first gala at Southport in 1890, 'There were a number of residents... who were afraid and left the town for the week-end.

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