My first reaction to this prompt was "I have nothing I can write about here".
Then thinking again about "safety, danger and industry" made me look back at my ancestors' occupations and the dangers they must have faced without any recourse to the legislation that is now in place. The consequences of an accident at work were catastrophic for a family facing disability, loss of income and minimal health care.
My Danson ancestors were Farmers, Carters and Ag. Labs.
In the Poor Law Records of Roxburghshire I came across the story of Janet Scott. A single mother with two children and a baby, and working as an agricultural labourer, she was "wholly disabled by a cart falling on her". She was on parish relief for three years. However she also demonstrated her resilience, as in the 1881 census she was back earning a living, as an Ag. Lab, along with her two eldest daughters.
My husband's Armitage and Hibbert family were miners working in conditions which were cramped, poorly ventilated and highly dangerous,with women and children undertaking heavy manual tasks, and all facing the darkness, dampness, the fear and ever present danger of pit falls.
Image courtesy of National Museum of Wales.
An early insight into life in mining areas was given by Robert Franks in his report to the Children's Employment Commission in 1842 where he commented "The domestic condition of the collier population presents a deplorable picture of filth and poverty" .
He conducted interviews with children, including 15 year old Helen Spowart who was described as a “putter”, with the task of propelling a loaded coal-hutch from the coal-face to the pit-bottom by means of a series of shoves or pushes.
The report noted "Began to work in mines when nine years old and has done ever since. Helen added "It is very coarse, heavy, cloughty work, and I get enough of it, as am never able to do muckle after hours from the fatigue".
The Donaldson, White and Moffet families were Mariners, sailing from South Shields on the north east coast of England and I was delighted to discover at Tyne and Wear Archives details of the ships that Robert Donaldson (1801-1876), a master mariner sailed on. The entries make fascinating reading, with all six ships on which Robert Donaldson sailed, having an eventful history and coming to a sad end (though not under his charge).
- The Thetis became a wreck after sinking off the Yorkshire coast in 1869.
- The John was stranded in 1861 and became a wreck during a severe easterly gale. Twenty-eight other Tyne ships went ashore in the same area during the same gale.
- The Emerald, in December 1855, when on passage from the Tyne to London, foundered in five fathoms on the Dough Sand (Long Sand) Thames estuary. Three survivors were brought ashore by two smacks. Eleven others were unaccounted for, including some of the crew of the rescuing smack who were in a small boat, which disappeared.
- The Hebe was wrecked in Robin Hood’s Bay, along with other vessels on 27 January 1861.
- The Ann & Elizabeth disappeared after leaving the Tyne in November 1863, with her captain leaving a widow and six children.
- The William Mecalfe was Robert Donaldson's largest ship. On her maiden voyage, it transported 240 male convicts from Portsmouth to Hobart, Australia on a passage that took 102 days. In January 1855 eight of her crew were sent to goal for three months each by the North Shields magistrates for refusing duty. In October 1858 her master and one man were washed overboard. Nine days later, the ship was abandoned, with the crew taken off.
|Ancestor Master Mariner John Moffet (c.1814-1881)|
In the 1861 census, John was master on board the brig "Brotherly Love" off Flamborough Head. The crew of eight included three young apprentices, four seamen, and a mate
Photo credit: South Shields Museum and Art Gallery
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from other Sepia Saturday bloggers.