By Sandra McHugh
In World War II, RCAF Iroquois Squadron 431 executed 2,584 sorties, dropped 14,004 tons of bombs, lost 72 aircraft, and suffered 490 aircrew causalities, including 313 deaths, and 14 operational personnel deaths.1 My father, Edward McHugh, was part of the ground crew of this squadron. He was an electrician by trade and when he enlisted during the summer of 1940, it was determined that the RCAF needed aircraft electricians. He began his training in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP). Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King had agreed that Canada would manage the BCATP at 231 facilities across Canada, mainly at air bases.2
Great Britain’s Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command was formed on July 14, 1936 and became part of the air defence of the country. It was made up of groups and the Canadians were included in these groups. Group 6 was established on January 1, 1943 and was entirely made up of Canadian squadrons. At its peak, there were 14 squadrons belonging to group 6, including Iroquois Squadron 431.3
Squadron 431 operated Wellington X, Halifax V, and Lancaster X aircraft. The Halifax and Lancaster aircraft had higher speed and greater bomb loads than earlier aircraft.4 The Canadian squadrons were stationed in Burn, Tholthorpe, and Croft, Yorkshire, allowing them to make sorties out across the English Channel, out into the North Sea, and into mainland Europe. Their targets included military targets, U boats, industrial centres, and Nazi occupied territories. The battle honours of Squadron 431 include the English Channel and North Sea, the Baltic, Fortress Europe (areas occupied by Nazi Germany), France and Germany (1944-45), ports in the Bay of Biscay, the Ruhr valley, Berlin, German Ports, Normandy, and the Rhine.5
My father almost never spoke about the war. Despite the camaraderie and deep friendships he forged during his time of service, it was a dark period of his life and he wanted to forget about it. The few times he spoke of it, he mentioned the busy work leading up to a mission, whereby the ground crew would be working intensely to ensure that everything was the best it could be. Each person was acutely aware that a small detail could mean the difference between life and death. Each team of the ground crew was assigned to one bomber and they would wait for their bomber to come back after the mission. Sometimes the bay remained empty and the bomber never came back. My father never got over the pain of waiting for a bomber that would not return.
A special thanks to W.E. Huron for his publication about Squadron 431: The History of 431 R.C.A.F. Squadron and more, 1942-1945: Burn, Tholthorpe, Croft
1 Heron, W.E., A Yorkshire Squadron, the History of 431 R.C.A.F. Squadron and more, 1942–1945: Burn, Tholthorpe, Croft, General Store Publishing House, 2009, p. 8
3 Heron, W.E., A Yorkshire Squadron, the History of 431 R.C.A.F. Squadron and more, 1942–1945: Burn, Tholthorpe, Croft, General Store Publishing House, 2009, pages 3 and 4
5 Heron, W.E., A Yorkshire Squadron, the History of 431 R.C.A.F. Squadron and more, 1942–1945: Burn, Tholthorpe, Croft, General Store Publishing House, 2009, p. 8
In 1916, William sailed for India. He was to take up garrison duties in Multan, India (now Pakistan) so as to release regular troops to fight in the War.
William Clegg lived in Liverpool during the early 1900s. He was married to Louisa, and together they had eight children; one child stillborn, one child who died at aged two and another at six years of age, leaving five living children.
At that time and for many years afterwards life in Liverpool was hard. Living conditions were crowded, poor and unhealthy. There was not much work, and only the few could hope for a fulfilling life. William earned his living as a paint grinder a dirty, noisy and unhealthy job.
In April 1914, one of the children named Evelyn aged six died. This must have been a very hard year for the family. When WW1 was declared on August 1, 1914, William joined the Territorial Army. He probably wanted get away from the death and poor living conditions and maybe hoping to get a better level of pay to support his family. He was 32 years of age, and he left Louisa eight months pregnant!
The Territorial Army is an army of volunteers which supports the British Army. Volunteer units have existed for centuries, but in 1908 they were merged to form the Territorial Force. Members of the Territorial Force were mobilised in the First World War and served alongside the regular army. 
One of the units was The Fifth Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, which had its HQ at 65 St Anne Street Liverpool.
William was supposed to be part of the Home Guard and serve in England but at some point he agreed to transfer to the Rifle Brigade. He was immediately sent to the Curragh in Ireland, and then to Douglas on the Isle of Man for training.
By 1916, he and other troops were on their way to India as part of the “The Indian Trooping Season.”
Normally, troop ships left England in September and returned on another ship, with the last ships leaving India in March. This pattern was probably established once troop ships no longer sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and started using the “Overland Route’ and then the Suez Canal after its opening in 1869.
Travel was restricted to the cooler months so that acclimatised troops from Britain were not traveling from the ports of Bombay or Karachi to their cantonments during the heat of an Indian summer.
William travelled on the troop ship “Ballarat,” which was mistakenly diverted to Karachi by senior officers.
It was against regulations cross the Sind Desert from Karachi to Multan because of abnormally hot temperatures, but William and the other troops with him did so anyway. They were exposed to terrible conditions. More than 200 men suffered from heat stroke and 20 of them died.
During an inquiry, three senior officers were blamed for not looking after the men. Questions were raised in India and England.
The governments of India sent the following telegram to the British House of Commons:
We can now give a considered opinion, having received a report of committee. The responsibility for diverting the ship from Bombay to Karachi rests with Brigadier-General Roe who was acting as Quartermaster-General at the time. He knew acclimatised troops had never before been sent in large number by rail in the middle of Summer through the Sind Desert. He knew, or should have known that the Commander -in-Chief in December 1915, had decided that Karachi should not be used as a port at which wounded and sick British troops should be landed and distributed to other stations, on account of danger of sending in the hot season through Sind.
It follows, that before (the ship) Ballarat was diverted to Karachi, Acting Quarter-Master-General should have consulted Commander-in-Chief but did not do this. Having taken on himself responsibility, he should certainly have warned Karachi military authorities to take special precautions for safety of troops during journey by rail. He did not do this.
We, therefore, must hold him responsible, and propose to remove him from his appointment as Deputy Quarter-master-general. It is clear from evidence, that the mischief began before disembarkation, many men having been seen on deck bareheaded in the sun, a thing no officer with Indian experience would have allowed. All the officers on board were quite inexperienced, and we cannot hold them blameworthy.” 
The lengthy telegram went on add that the troop train left Karachi with 13 officers and 1013 men and was insufficiently equipped, overcrowded and without experienced officers.
The three British officers named in the inquiry were “cashiered,” which means they were dismissed from their positions for a breach of discipline.
William Clegg and 19 others died in the Multan Military Hospital, which is now in Pakistan. He left behind his wife and 5 children.
He was originally buried in Multan but the commonwealth War Graves Commission has found it impossible to maintain War Graves in Pakistan so his name also appears on the large British War Graves Cenotaph in Karachi.
William was the grandfather of my husband John Clegg.
aka Daniel Hanington (1804-1889)
by Lucy Hanington Anglin
“Just open the window, Dan, and they’ll hear you clear to Fredericton!” Daniel Hanington was nicknamed “Roaring Dan” by his fellow politicians in Moncton, because he had such a deep, booming voice. Although he thought of himself as a farmer, Daniel’s greatest interest was really politics.
Daniel was elected to the Legislative Assembly as Member for Westmoreland County (south eastern part of New Brunswick) in 1834. He served in either the Lower or Upper House until he died 55 years later, spanning the terms of 12 Lieutenant Governors.  According to the Saint John DAILY SUN, he “was a courteous, genial gentleman of the old school, respected by all who knew him… His election to the presidency of the Legislative Council in February, 1883, was a fitting crown to a long and successful political career, and he brought to the performance of the duties of this office an amount of political experience and a familiarity with public affairs in which he was absolutely without a rival among provincial public men.” 
Daniel was born to William Hanington and Mary Darby (the first English settlers in Shediac, New Brunswick) in 1804, and was educated at the Sackville Grammar School. He actually was a farmer as well as comptroller of customs at the port of Shediac, New Brunswick, for more than forty years. He retired from that post in 1880, at the age of 76.
His wife, Margaret Ann Peters (1811-1887), was the daughter of William Peters and Charlotte Haines, both having arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, as youngsters with their families along with several other Empire Loyalists in 1783. Charlotte came with an aunt and uncle and never saw her parents again. She lost her little handmade slipper in the mud when she disembarked and the remaining slipper is in the Museum in Saint John.
When their children were growing up, Daniel refused two departmental offers, because the duties of the office would compel him to be away from home much of the time. He preferred the country life, and to oversee the education and training of his children. Indeed, they raised a truly remarkable family. All nine sons were first-class businessmen, including another successful politician like himself, a lumber merchant, a broker, a rector, a barrister, a chemist and druggist (my great great grandfather – James Peters Hanington), a civil engineer, a chief surgeon and a comptroller of customs. It was also noted that the three daughters had also “done well”, which I am guessing in those days meant they married men with family money and lucrative careers!
In 1881, Daniel and Margaret Ann celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, with nine of their twelve children (one son died as an infant). At that time, the grand total of their children and their immediate families came to 73 people and over half of them were at the party!
Daniel Hanington and his wife, Margaret Ann Peters
 as told by Mary Thorpe Lindsay Kerr (his great grand-daughter).
 The Canadian Biographical Dictionary 1881. Lieut-Col. Hon. Daniel Hanington, M.L.C., Shediac, NB
 DAILY SUN, Saint John, New Brunswick – newspaper
It’s a long way from my house in Montreal, Quebec to Providence, Rhode Island: six hours of driving, plus pit stops and traffic delays. But the moment I walked into my first event at last weekend’s New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) conference in Providence, I felt right at home.
That first event was a special interest group meeting of genealogy bloggers. Everyone in that room shared my passion for blogging, although we do it in different ways. For example, Pat Richley-Erickson, who writes the award-winning http://blog.dearmyrtle.com/, also does video blogging on YouTube. At the meeting, I picked up some advice about backing up my blog, and about the value of Thomas MacEntee’s www.geneabloggers.com site as a resource for bloggers.
Over the next two days, I attended presentations from excellent speakers including Lisa Louise Cooke (http://lisalouisecooke.com/) and Judy G. Russell (www.legalgenealogist.com). I was especially interested in Dwight Fitch’s presentation on historical conflicts that affected the early settlements along the Connecticut River, since he used our common ancestor, Henry Burt (c. 1595-1662) of Springfield, Massachusetts, as an example.
Of course, I didn’t have to go all the way to Rhode Island to learn about genealogy. Many webinars and online hangouts take place every week. So for me, the best thing about attending a conference like this was the opportunity to meet people in an informal setting. For instance, I had a long conversation with a member of the Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor. Windsor, Connecticut was founded in 1633 and, although I know I had ancestors there in the mid-1700s, I’ve always wondered whether they were founding families. I also got a chance to meet Joshua Taylor, co-host of Genealogy Roadshow on PBS, a show that I enjoy.
The people who attend and present lectures at conferences like this are the people who are setting the bar high for genealogical research standards. They help us figure out where and how to look for our ancestors, and they educate us about the laws and historical events of our ancestors’ times. They also push us to research diligently in order to prove our conclusions, and to cite our sources.
This was my second time attending a conference organized by the NERGC (www.nergc.org), an association that brings together 22 different genealogy societies in New England. Both conferences were extremely well run. Many volunteers worked hard to achieve that, so to them, I say thank you.
The next NERGC conference will take place in Springfield, Massachusetts in April, 2017. In the meantime, many other exciting genealogy conferences are coming up. (See http://calendar.eogn.com/ on Dick Eastman’s Online Newsletter.) Here are a few major conferences scheduled for eastern Canada and the United States over the next few months:
- Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) June 19-21, 2015 Montreal, QC
- Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) May 29-31, 2015 Barrie, ON
- New York State Family History Conference Sept. 17-19, 2015 Syracuse, NY
- British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) Sept. 18-20, 2015 Ottawa, ON
Here are links to stories about some of my American ancestors:
Timothy Stanley jr., Revolutionary Martyr http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/11/timothy-stanley-jr-revolutionary-martyr.html
Philadelphia and the Mitcheson Family http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/11/philadelphia-and-mitcheson-family.html
Shediac’s First Woman Settler
By Lucy Hanington Anglin
Mary Darby was feeding the chickens in her father’s yard, when along came an oxcart carrying a handsome gentleman. To her amazement, he stopped the cart, dismounted, raised his hat in greeting and approached her for a chat. The story told is that young William Hanington (age 33 years) proposed to her on the spot and she (age 18 years) accepted just as quickly. After their marriage, she was taken across the Northumberland Strait from her father’s home in St. Eleanor’s, Isle St. Jean (now Summerside, PEI), in a canoe paddled by a couple of Indians, to her new home in Shediac, New Brunswick, where her English husband had settled seven years earlier in 1785.
Mary Darby was the daughter of Benjamin Darby, a Loyalist of Newbury, New York. Born in England in 1744, he emigrated to America in and settled in Newburg, 50 miles from New York City. He was imprisoned at one time for his Loyalist sympathies and suffered great hardships at the hands of the rebels. In 1783, hearing that Washington’s troups were marching on the town, he snatched his ailing wife from her sickbed and fled to New York with their five children. They embarked for Isle St. Jean at Long Island. Poor Mrs. Darby died on the voyage and was buried at sea. Mary Darby was only nine years old. Her father re-married and had another family.
Mary’s first home was the log house her husband William had built in 1787, just two years after his arrival from England. Although her first child died at birth, the next five of her twelve children were born in that log house. In 1804, he built a three-storey frame house for his wife and family. The house was all hand-wrought, the boards and beams were hewn by hand, the shingles were hand split, the trimming hand carved, split boards served as laths and the nails were all hand- made. Water was obtained from a deep well by means of a bucket attached to a long well-sweep or pole. Their son Daniel (my great great grandfather), born in 1804, was the first of the next seven children born in that frame house.
It’s hard to imagine but Mary was without female companionship for the first three years of her life in Shediac. It must have been such a relief when her sister Elizabeth and husband, John Welling, also came over from PEI in 1795 to settle in Shediac. John bought 200 acres of land from William for 20 pounds sterling (about $20 then). Once settled, Elizabeth and John also raised a large family of 12 children.
William died at the age of 79, in 1838, and Mary lived another 13 years without him. Her life must have been one of hardship and suffering and yet she lived to the age of 77 years. Amazing!
I’ve been trying to trace my great-uncles’ family ever since my great aunt told me that everyone, except his older brother Raymond, moved back from Michigan after Charlie’s dad lost his job in the depression.
According to his Ontario birth certificate, my great-uncle Jean Charles Horace Mathieu was born to Charles Mathieu and Mary in Fort William, Ontario on April 24, 1911, so that’s where my research began.
Ten years later, the family had moved to 500 Aylmer Avenue in Windsor, Ontario, where they were renting a six-bedroom house. Both parents were 51 years old by then. His father Charles worked as a carpenter. His wife, who was born Marie Agnès Proulx, was then called Agnes. (She went by Mary and/or Agnes depending on the documents.)
Jean Charles had two older brothers, Arthur (16) and Raymond (14), an older sister Fernanda (12) and two younger brothers, Lawrence (8) and George Albert (6). 
There’s no hint of the family from then until 1932. There is one person who has a family tree on Ancestry who indicates that a Fernanda Mathieu crossed into Canada in 1924. That may have been John Charles’ sister, but it isn’t confirmed.
I wasn’t able to find the family on the 1930 U.S. Census.
By using Steve Morse’s search engine to search Lovells directory, I was able to find a carpenter named Charles Mathieu living at 6760 St. Denis in 1932. I don’t know whether this was Charlies’ family or not.
If it was, they left Montreal again, because there are no listings for carpenters named Mathieu between 1933 and 1939.
Their next appearance in Lovells is 1940 when a carpenter named Mathieu lived at 3286 St. Antoine.
That’s definitely them. I have an undated newspaper clipping about Aircraftman J.C.H. Mathieu between injured in a flying accident that says his parents lived at 3286 St. Antoine.  That clipping is undated, but I know that Jean Charles Mathieu lived in Montreal when he volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in Montreal on August 8, 1940.
My original question remains unanswered.
 Photocopy of Province of Ontario pocket birth certificate issued at Toronto on November 10, 1947, registered in April 24, 1911 in Fort William, Thunder Bay District by Geo. H Dunbar, Registrar Dunbar.
 1921 Canadian Census, Province of Ontario, District of Essex North, Roger West Minard Subdistrict, Number 47, June 13, 1921, B, Page 20, derivative source.
 Lovvell’s Montreal Alphabetical Directory, 1932, p1456
 Lovell’s Montreal Alphabetical Directory, 1940, p1771.
 “Airman Injured,” Montreal Gazette, undated clipping, author’s collection.
I think queues were invented in the UK. We queued for everything and even though I was only about four-and-a-half years old, I remember queuing with my mother. One time, when she was heavily pregnant with my brother, she sent me into the shop to keep her place, whilst she rested on the wall outside.
I marched in, went straight up to the front of the queue and stated my order…….I remember very well, the smiles and laughs, but I got my order right away and, once outside, instructions from Mum on the correct way to queue. My Mum told me that ‘food was all we thought about’ how to get it what to make with it, how to stretch it.
We ate everything from the animal. Called ‘offal’ it included heart, kidneys, brain and stomach–all made into quite tasty dishes. I don’t know if I would have eaten the dishes, had I known what I was actually eating!
¹During rationing, 1 person’s typical weekly allowance would be: 1 fresh egg, 4 oz margarine, 4 oz bacon (about 4 rashers), 2 oz butter, 2 oz tea, 1 oz cheese and 8 oz sugar.
Meat was allocated by price, so cheaper cuts became popular. Points could be pooled or saved to buy pulses, cereals, tinned goods, dried fruit, biscuits and jam.
We used to have a dish called ‘tripe’ boiled animal stomach with onions. Or liver and onions still popular today. If you got a tongue at the butchers you could make many meals with it. Fried, or pressed in aspic to make ‘brawn’ then cut up to make sandwiches with or add to salads.
A favourite after the Sunday roast was “bubble and squeak” which was the left-over potatoes and greens cut up small and fried to a crisp with cold meat and pickled onions, usually fed to us on Monday as the family laundry was done on that day. Corned beef hash was another dish mixed with cabbage and potato and fried.
Chitterlings (intestines) were sometimes eaten cold. Pigs trotters added to a hearty mix of vegetables made a wonderful meal with dumplings. Many people made their own blood
Gran’s beef olives was a favourite meal. That was skirt steak, when we could get it, beaten to death with a rolling-pin cut into strips and the strips stuffed with sage and onion stuffing rolled up
and secured with a tooth pick and roasted for hours on end.
Dripping’ was the various fat from animals carefully preserved (no refrigeration in those days) in a crock and kept on the cold, stone floor in the larder to spread on a piece of bread sprinkled with salt – very tasty!
Most people had an allotment and grew as many veggies as possible. Wasting food was a criminal offence during the war my Gran told me. Too bad that does not apply today!
²The Ministry of Food produced leaflets and posters advising housewives to be creative and one of England’s best known cooks, Marguerite Patten gave cooking tips on the radio.
‘Mock’ recipes included ‘cream’ (margarine milk and cornflour) and ‘mock goose’ (Lentils and breadcrumbs). Powdered eggs and Spam from the US were mainstays of wartime and
after. Kippers and Sprats were a fish easy to obtain in Plymouth Devon, a Royal Naval fishing city where I was born.
This is an example of a ‘Government Recipe’ taken from the book ‘Ration Book Cookery Recipes and History. Published by English Heritage, London 1985.
150 g (6 oz) split red lentils
275 ml (1/2 pint) water
15 ml (1 tbls) lemon juice
salt and pepper
For the ‘stuffing’
1 large onion
50 g (2 oz) wholemeal fresh breadcrumbs
15 ml (1 tbls) fresh sage, chopped.
Cook the lentils in the water until all the water has been absorbed. Add lemon juice and season. Then make the stuffing. Sauté the onion in a little water or vegetable stock for 10 minutes. Drain, then add to the breadcrumbs. Mix in the chopped sage and mix well. Put half the lentil mixture into a non-stick ovenproof dish, spread the ‘stuffing’ on top, then top off with the remaining lentils. Put in a moderate oven until the top is crisp and golden.
I have tried this recipe, and it was really good, considering not much was in the ingredients.
Despite the stresses of wartime, it was reported that the health of the poor improved. Babies and pregnant women were allocated extra nutrients such as milk, orange juice and cod liver oil.
Post war, the orange juice we got for my baby sister was condensed in a small bottle and carefully measured out by the teaspoon and mixed with water. For all the hardships I was never hungry and I do believe that I had a healthy start to life, due to rationing.
This is an interesting slide show regarding rationing.
British, Irish, Scottish, Loyalist, American, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Huguenot Families in Lower Canada and Quebec 1760…
The following database contains information on villages and communities where families settled in Lower Canada and Quebec from 1760 onward. This document will assist researchers seeking to find the names ( past and current ) of these settlements.
Over the years there have been many name changes in both the counties, villages and settlements. These changes are noted, giving both the original name and the current name on modern maps.
There is a Table of Contents, along with several links to old county maps.
Click the link below to open in a new window
William Hanington comes to Canada
By Lucy Hanington Anglin
The property was described as “a commodious estate upon the outskirts of the thriving town of Halifax, in the Colony of Nova Scotia”. Imagine William’s surprise to arrive in Halifax to discover that “outskirts” meant a 200-mile hike through thick forest and deep snow!
My great-great-great grandfather, William Hanington, was born in London, England, in 1759. He was the son of a fish dealer, trained as an apprentice to the Fishmonger’s Company and became a freeman in 1782. In 1784, this adventurous young man purchased land in Nova Scotia from an army officer, Joseph Williams, who had been given a 5,000 acre grant as a reward for services.
After the initial shock upon arrival, he and his friend, Mr. Roberts, found an Indian guide, loaded all their worldly belongings onto a hand sled, trudged through the snow, slept in the open and finally arrived in bitterly cold Shediac in March 1785. Mr. Roberts was so discouraged that he immediately returned to Halifax and sailed back to England on the first available ship!
William, however, was made of sturdier stuff and was delighted with it all. There was a good size stream flowing into the bay and he had never seen such giant trees! He was astute enough to see the lucrative possibilities for trade in lumber, fish, and furs.
Seven years after his arrival, at the age of 33, he hired a couple of Indian guides to paddle a canoe over to Ile St. Jean (now known as Prince Edward Island) where he heard there were other English settlers. While riding along in an oxcart through St. Eleanor’s (now known as Summerside), he spotted a young lady (age 18) named Mary Darby, feeding chickens in her father’s yard. It was love at first sight, he proposed to her on the spot and she accepted. They married and paddled back to Shediac where they raised a large family of 13 children. Three years later, missing the companionship of another woman, she persuaded her sister Elizabeth and husband John Welling to come over from Ile St. Jean and settle on their land – becoming the second English family in Shediac.
Within the next five years, William had eight families on his property of about one hundred acres of cleared land. He opened a general store and dealt in fish, fur and lumber. The furs and timber he shipped to England and the fish to Halifax and the West Indies. He imported English goods from Halifax and West Indies products, mainly sugar, molasses and rum from St. Pierre. He also bartered with the friendly Indians for furs and helped them clear land. Before long, a considerable village clustered about the Hanington Store – including a post office and a tavern. William remained the leading light of the community and acted as the Collector of Customs of the port, supervisor of roads and as Justice of the Quorum (magistrate) in which capacity he married many couples. To top it all off, in 1800, just fifteen years after his arrival from England, this remarkable young man opened a shipyard at Cocagne and built several vessels there.
Until 1823, there was no church, and William being a religious man, conducted service in his home every Sunday. So William donated land and lumber, and oversaw the completion of St Martin-in-the-Wood, the first Protestant church. In 1838, age 79, it only seemed fitting that William was buried in the cemetery there in the shadow of the church he founded. A huge memorial of native freestone, complete with a secret compartment, still stands.
By Sandra McHugh
There it is in the 1881 census: John Hunter, age 13, coal miner. John Hunter, my great-grandfather, is the last in the line of almost three hundred years of coal miners.1 He was able to change collieries and, later in life, his job. This was possible because, by the time he was born, the servitude of the coal miners had come to an end.
The generations of coal miners in my family can be traced back to the birth of James Hunter in 1621. He was a coal miner, born in the town of Alloa, County of Clackmanannshire, Scotland. Alloa nestles at the foot of the Ochil Hills and has thrived over the centuries because of its location on the Firth of Forth and the many industries that were powered by coal. Today, Alloa’s economy is based on leisure and retail. 2
Coal became an important commodity in Scotland in the 1600s. 3 The rural areas were agricultural communities and coal mining provided employment. Entire families worked in the coal mines. While some children started working in the mines as early as four years old, the usual age of employment was around eight or nine years old. Both male and female children worked in the mines. 4
As a result of the economic importance of coal in the 1600s, new collieries opened up and, having no skilled workers, attracted workers from other collieries. The colliery owners who lost workers petitioned Parliament to take action.
The Parliament of Scotland in 1606 passed an Act whereby coal miners were bound to the collieries’ owners:
“no person should fee, hire or conduce and salters, colliers, or coal bearers without written authority from the master whom they had last served.”
This Act effectively ensured that coal miners and their families were bound to the colliery for life. A collier who deserted was considered to be a thief and punished accordingly. This Act also gave the coal owners and masters the powers to apprehend “vagabonds and sturdy beggars” and put them to work in the mines. A further Act of 1641 extended those enslaved to include other workers in the mines and forced the colliers to work six days a week.5
The process of emancipation only began with the Colliers and Salters (Scotland) Act of Parliament in 1775, which defined how the colliers could be freed by age-group. Once the father of the family was freed, the entire family was freed. But still, the process of complete freedom was only achieved with another Act of Parliament in 1799 that declared the colliers “to be free from their servitude.”6 For almost two centuries, colliers and their families had been legally bound to the colliery owners. Even after the Act of 1799, it was common for the children of coal miners to work in the mine. It was expected that sons and daughters would follow in their father’s footsteps, as their families needed the income that the children would bring.
In 1842, the findings of the Children’s Employment Commission outlined the dismal conditions under which children worked in the mines. It was a shocking discovery to learn that children, as young as five or six, worked as trappers, opening and closing the ventilation in the mines, and other jobs, such as carrying coal. The conditions were deplorable and there was a public outcry. On June 22, 1842, Parliament passed the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 (c. 99) with the objective of improving employment conditions for both boys and women in the mines. Males under the age of 10 were forbidden to be employed in the mines and boys who were not yet 13 years old were limited to 12 hours of consecutive work. In addition, these boys could not work more than 3 days a week, nor for two consecutive days. These rules applied even if a boy worked for different owners. With this Act, women were also forbidden to work in the mine. Women were then employed to work at the pit head, therefore not in the mine.7 The growing public consciousness of the miners’ conditions was a significant step to ensure that mining conditions improved, that working conditions were fair, and that safety became a prority.
1 Family tree in Ancestry. Common ancestor is William Hunter, coal miner, father of John Hunter.