Working in the Home
It was very hard for the women at home with their husbands and sons at the mines. In those days there was no running water or electricity in most family homes. The washing of clothes was a very hard job as the mother always had to boil a kettle on the open fire. Having enough water was also a problem, as it had to be brought from a well, which in most cases, was a good walking distance from the house. It was always the woman who had to have the water in the house.
When the miners clothes had to be washed
there was a lot of water required. The clothes would be covered with coal dust
which would be hardened into the material. She would have to bang
the clothes in order to get all the dirt out of
them. In the morning when the men would have to go to work the clothes
could still be wet but they would have no other
clothes to wear so they would have to wear the wet ones.
Sometimes the younger members of the family would have to do with less food so that the men coming in from the mines would have enough to eat. The money was very scarce so it had to be used only for food and clothing. The women would make the menís lunch at night for them to take in the morning to the mines. Lunch usually consisted of a bottle of cold tea and some sort of sandwiches. The sandwiches were the usual two "cuts" (slices) of bread with anything from jam, turnips or fried eggs in the centre. The lunch would have to be well wrapped so that the rats in the mines could not get in to it. The rats were considered very dangerous as they would poison the food.
If the siren rang in the mines, the women would run to the mines or congregate outside the houses hoping that it would not be a friend or a relation that had been injured or killed. If it was a husband or son that died the woman might get a little compensation.
Women started work very early in the mornings and finished very late in the evening. Women worked very hard all day and some of the night. A womanís job may sound easy but it was not. The women had to have the dinner ready when the men came home, collect the children from school, keep the house clean, wash the menís clothes and keep the fire lighting. In each family there were usually a good few children. The average number of children per household was about 12.
When the boys were 13 or 14 years old they would leave school and go to the mines, but the girls would stay in school until 16 or 17 and then they would work at home with their mothers or try to get a better job. There were not many jobs for girls. They might get a job in a farmer's, a business persons or a mining officials house working in the kitchen, looking after the children or basically doing anything that needed to be done. The girls usually "lived in" and conditions of work, depending on the employer, could be very poor. They had no use running home to mother or complaining as the few pence they earned was badly needed to rear the rest of the family at home. The younger girls helped their mother at home.
The women needed a good
sense of humour. When the men came in from work the women would have to listen
to all the problems that they had at work. Then the women would
have to tell them about their day running the house.
Our good friend Kieran Meally took us to meet some friends of his, old ladies that knew all about the mines.
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