This month's Sepia Saturday prompt on the theme of "Work and Play" show a ten year old girl leaving her loom to stare out of the window. Was she dreaming of a more leisured childhood?
The choice for my post was an obvious one; for in the collection of my local heritage group Auld Earlston are photographs taken at Rhymer's Mill at the turn of the 19th/20th century. Take a look at the serviceable clothes worn, the working environment and the the daunting large scale machinery.
Although no child features in these photographs, child employment was a feature of life for many families. In the Earlston 1861 Census, boys from the age of 11 were employed as agricultural labourers and girls as domestic servants. Under 14's were also employed as a cotton winder, a cotton factory piecer, as workers in a woollen factory, a power loom weaver, labourers in a timber yard, and as apprentices to a shoemaker, tailor, and grocer.
A press cutting of 10th November 1871 in "The Kelso Chronicle" makes illuminating reading:
"EARLSTOUN. Short-Time Movement.— Last week Messrs (Chas. Wilson & Sons intimated to their employees that they should henceforth have one hour each meal instead of three-quarters formerly, thereby reducing the time of labour for the week to fifty-seven......The announcement was very well received by the workers."In this period, the average working week was between 55 and 60 hours, often over six days. What a contrast to today's 35-37 hour week! Given the long working hours, the noisy factory environment and the complex machinery, it is not surprising that mill accidents were an ever present danger.
|Rhymer's Mil, Earlston, Scottish Borders|
Earlston's role in the Borders textile industry came to an end.
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