Talwr Coch Lead Mine, Dyserth Flintshire June 2nd 1841
Robert Griffith,aged 32
Are your a miner?Yes. How long have you been working in the mines?I began to wash lead ore at 9, and at 19 I went into the mine to raise lead ore. Were you always healthy?Yes, till latterly. I have been of late rather oppressed at my chest. While you remained on the surface washing ore were you quite well?Yes, very well. When did you find the oppression you mention come on?About two years ago, when I was working in a wet mine, and the air not good. Are you better than you were?Yes, I have lately been working in a drier and better ventilated part of the mine. Are most of the miners similarly affected?Many are ; but there are also many as old or older than me who remain in good health. What remedies do you take?None, except that I take opening medicine sometimes. Are you long under ground?Generally only six hours in the 24. We sometimes work with three sets of hands, and then I am in the mine eight hours. Do the lead-miners live long?No, it is said they do not ; there are not many above 50 years of age, they cannot work many years without getting the complaint in the breast, of which most miners die. Are there collieries in the neighbourhood?Yes. Colliers are longer under ground, I believe, than miners?Yes, they are often 10 or 12 hours in the pits, and go below the surface to work at 10 or 12 years of age. Do they get the same complaint of the chest?Some do. Do they live longer than miners?Yes, I think they do. I know two or three colliers who are older than any miners that I know. Which make the best wages?I Don’t know. I think colliers make more steady wages. Some months the miners make a good deal, the next they may fall short and earn but little.
Both miners and colliers, I believe, are paid by the quantity?Yes, but the colliers cut generally the same quantity, and therefore their earnings do not vary very much ; the miner, being paid by the weight of ore, must depend upon the state of the vein, sometimes it is very good, at others it will yield but little.
Which class is best off in the long run?I don’t know ; both colliers and miners are badly off at present, and can barely subsist their families upon their earnings. Which class are most liable to accidents when at work?I think the colliers are. The foul air in the pits sometimes takes fire and kills or burns many. Do the miners always go down and come out if the mine by ladders?Yes. When the depth of the mine is great is not the exertion of ascending the ladders very great?Very great indeed, but there are resting-places. Do not those whose chests are affected appear to suffer greatly in the exertion of ascending?Yes, very much ; they are often quite black in the face when they come up. Do you feel any increased pain in your breast when you ascend?Yes, a good deal. Why don’t the miners come up in buckets as the colliers do?There have been many accidents, so many, that in most mines there is a strict order against coming up in the buckets. Why should there be greater danger in mines than in collieries?The shafts in collieries are better built, and are quite perpendicular, which in mines are not always so. Do you think that the violent exertion of coming to the surface is injurious to the older miners and to those whose chests are already affected?I don’t know, but I cannot help thinking it must be injurious, as they appear when they arrive at the surface quite out of breath and exhausted. Have you any sons at work at the mine?Yes, one boy of 13. How long has he been at work?Upwards of three years. When will be fit to go into the mine to work?It requires strength to be a miner. Boys go as soon as they can get any of the miners to take them ; they are always wanting to go, because when they begin to raise ore they are looked upon as being men, and begin to receive part of the earnings of miners. Do the mine agents and overlookers object to boys going into the mines to work?Very few boys go, because it is not in the interest of miners to take them ; those that go before they have become men are usually taken by their fathers or near friends, and I do not think there is any objection made by the overlookers ; but it would never answer to have many boys in the mine. Are the miners generally subscribers to friendly clubs? There are but few who are not. There are a great many clubs, and all of them have many members. What is the chief object in view of these clubs?To make provision against sickness and accidents by a weekly allowance from the funds of the club. There are also clubs for clocks, clothing, and other objects. Are the houses of the miners comfortable and tolerably furnished?Pretty well. Do miners drink much?Some do, others are teetotalers and drink nothing. There is much less drinking of late years. Are the miners more moral and religious than they used to be?Yes, there are chapels everywhere, and now almost every one attends public worship and Sunday-schools. If boys were not brought to work till 12 or 13 years of age would it be better for them?No, they had better be at work than idle ; besides, the work does them no hard, and they are able to make a livelihood ; in hard times like these parents could not bring up a family if the boys were not at work. But if instead of being 11 hours a-day at the mine they were to be only eight or nine hours, and two hours at school, would not that be more suitable?I don’t know how it would be ; if they work less, their wages will be less, and I am sure it would be difficult to spare anything out of the earnings they make ; it is already very hard upon many, and will be still harder if wages are less. Is there an inclination, do you think, amongst the working classes to have their children educated?Yes, no doubt of it, they almost all go to a day-school till they begin to work, and afterwards they go to Sunday-schools, which shows that there is a wish to improve. Can you read and write?No, I only read a very little; I was taught in the Sunday-school. I hope to be able to read the Bible soon. How do the miners pass their spare time?Almost all of them have a garden and a crop of potatoes in the farmers’ fields, and they attend to them ; they have many odd jobs about the house to do. Some of them will work at another mine, on in a venture of their own. Do you mean that, after working six or eight hours in this mine, they will work the same time in another?Yes, some do this, though masters do not like the practice, and often forbid it. What do you mean by a venture of their own?A few miners will join together and try for lead, and if they find it they continue to mine, or sell the work. Are not the men who work in this manner soon out of health and incapable of working even the usual six hours?Some are, others are not. Is the Sabbath better kept than formerly by the miners and their families?Yes, a great deal, every one seems anxious to attend Divine worship, and to improve themselves in Sunday-schools.
Information provided by the late Mr Harry Parker of Dyserth