In the ‘good old days’, getting an education wasn’t a very high priority for most families. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table were essential, so women and children went out to work on farms, in factories and mines.
R H Frank, appointed to collect evidence on the employment of children and young persons in collieries in 1842, reported that boys and girls as young as nine worked 12 hour shifts carrying coal in mines in dreadful conditions for which they were paid coppers. ‘However incredible it may appear, yet I have taken the evidence of fathers who have ruptured themselves from straining to lift coal on their children’s backs.’
Many of the children interviewed at the Dryden Glen Colliery had attended Sabbath School and could read a little but after they started work in the pit, even though Sunday was a day off, many said they had no clothes to wear to Church or Sabbath School. Jane Kerr, who was 12, yet looked little more than 10, said she would like to go to school ‘but canna owing to sair fatigue.’ Who can blame her, rising at three in the morning, walking to work to start at four, carrying hundredweights of coal up ladders for 12 hours? ‘I never get porridge before my return home, but I bring a bit of oatcake, and get water when thirsty.’ Home was one room shared with her parents and six brothers and sisters.
Schooling was the concern of the church and its need to educate folk to read, to write and to know God. They introduced Day Schools as well as Sabbath Schools, and provided teachers.
In 1829, when the population of Roslin was 252, a schoolhouse was built and paid for by subscriptions. The first teacher was Mr Roxburgh. The school prospered and when the roll reached 130 pupils in 1837, an assistant was employed.
Read more of Winne Stevenson’s feature in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.