| From evidences given, some idea may be formed of what life
in the mines was wont to be. The appointing of the above-mentioned
Commission had a most desirable effect; and in 1843 Her Most
Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria issued an edict, prohibiting
henceforth all female labour in mines within the realm of
Great Britain and Ireland.
Incredible as it may seem, the Act of 1843 was not hailed
as a boon by all whom it was meant to relieve. It is a well-known
fact that both women and girls, although driven back morning
after morning by volleys of stones, persisted in following
out their usual employment. Not until the authorities stepped
in with a strong hand, and by threatening fines and imprisonments,
could they be restrained from going below.
We even know of a case in a Midlothian (Dryden) Colliery,
in which about a score of girls—some of whom are still alive—
assumed male attire, and in this guise actually wrought in
the mines for about three months after the passing of the
prohibitory Act. This case became at length so notorious,
that the whole band were summoned to appear in court at Edinburgh;
where they displayed such ignorance, real or feigned, in regard
to the most trifling things, and made such ridiculous answers
to questions asked them, that the whole court became convulsed
with laughter. They were ultimately dismissed, on promising
not to go below again. This was the last case in Scotland
of female labour in the mines. All the "putting"
or "drawing" is now done by boys when they are to
be had; they are better adapted for that work than men, especially
when the "putting" roads happen to be low.
When the examination of women, girls, and boys connected with
the mines took place in 1840, Prestongrange pits happened
to be stopped, being drowned out with water, and there were
none of the women, girls, and boys connected with that pit
called upon to give evidence before the Government Commission.
But if Prestongrange Colliery was idle in 1840, that it is
going with a vengeance in 1901, may be seen from the following
extract, which refers not only to the coal, but to other works
carried on by the same Company, and all at the same pithead:
This colliery is situated in the county of Haddington, about
71 miles east from Edinburgh, and about midway between Musselburgh
and Prestonpans, on the southern shores of the Firth of Forth.
The mineral field extends to about 2, 500 acres, a large portion
of it being under the Firth of Forth.
The workable seams of coal are all in the Carboniferous Limestone
Series, immediately below the Millstone Grit. The mineral
field is in the form of an anticline, forming the eastern
side of the great trough which runs up the valley of the Esk.
On the western side, towards the Esk, the inclination is considerable,
in some parts the dip being as high as 1 in 2 1/2; while
on the eastern side the strata dip gently eastwards towards
Tranent and Cockenzie. The seams presently being worked are
the " Great" Seam, the " Clay " Seam,
the " Five Foot" Seam, the " Jewel" Seam,
and the " Beggar" Seam. In Morrison's Haven shaft
the section is as follows, viz.: —
' Great" Seam, Coal 6 1/2 to 8 ft. Fire-clay 0
to 2 ft. at 70 fathoms.
'Clay" Seam, ,, 2 1/2 ft.,, 1 1/2 ft.,, 90 „
' Five Foot" Seam, ,, 3ft. 2 in. - - - „ 95,,
'Jewel "Seam, ,, 3 ft. 7 in. to 4 ft. - - „ 124,,
'Beggar" Seam, ,, 3 ft. 2 in.,, 130 „
Besides these, there are a number of coal seams over 2 feet
The output is principally from the " Great" and
" Jewel" Seams. The " Clay" and "
Five Foot " Seams are being worked under the land, and
the " Great, " " Jewel, " and " Beggar
" Seams under the sea.
There are two shafts; one partly 10 feet in diameter, and
one partly not so wide, was sunk to the " Great"
Seam by Matthias Dunn about 1820, and is used as an upcast
and pumping shaft. The winding shaft, which was sunk in 1872,
is 16 feet by 10 feet. The cages are double-decked, with two
hutches end to end on each deck. The hutches contain about
9 cwts. of coal.
MODES OF WORKING.
The "Great "Seam is worked on the "stoop and
room" system. In the working under the sea, the stoops
are formed 15 yards square with rooms 15 feet wide, and the