Thursday, January 26, 2017

Workin' in the Coal Mine

There is a variety of occupations amongst our ancestors. Most were farmers but there were coal miners as well. Some in the USA, some in England and others in Scotland. Recently as I was reading a book for pleasure, I learned a bit of information about coal mining in Scotland.

A Scotsman worked his way up "from rags to riches," and I can't remember now why or how, but he was able to build a large home with the finest of materials in 1887. The home was in the South in the United States.  Above the entrance was a sign which read, "THIRLED NO MORE." The character in the book, a woman, wondered what this meant so she Googled it, and so did I.

Thirled - a term used to describe men who worked in the coal mines of Scotland. A thirled man was bonded for life to a company and wore a brass collar around his neck with the name of his owner stamped on it. The workers stood deep in the pits and cut coal. Their wives and children then carried the coal to the surface in baskets. They were paid 2 shillings and six pence, 60 cents, for twelve hours of work.  Out of that they paid for their own keep and were not supplied with food, shelter or medical care. Some families worked all day and all night to survive.

Thirled men were serfs. If a man removed his brass collar, ran away and was caught, he would be returned to his owner and punished. The punishment was the lash. By running away he "stole" himself and his services from his master and that was breaking the law. This was the law in Scotland up until about 1799.

I found this information in the book "I Still Dream About You," by Fannie Flagg.

How fortunate are we? When we were growing up, my siblings and I, we didn't have much to speak of and times were lean, but we didn't have to slave away in a coal mine with a metal collar around our neck. I hope our interest (at least mine) blesses our ancestors in some way.

Ta ta for now,

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