The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #2574   Message #245080
Posted By: Susanne (skw)
20-Jun-00 - 05:29 PM
Thread Name: The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw-child miner
I have three recordings of 'Patience Kershaw' - by the Ian Campbell Group on 'Something to Sing About' (1972), by Roy Bailey on 'If I Knew Who the Enemy Was' (1978) and - my favourite - by Cilla Fisher & Artie Trezise taped live from the radio, c. 1978. Here is some more info on it (though I'm not sure how this is going to turn out):

[1842:] A pit girl from Halifax, P. Kershaw, aged 17: "My father has been dead about a year; my mother is living and has ten children, five lads and five lasses; the oldest is about 30, the youngest is four; three lasses go to the mill; all the lads are colliers, two getters and three hurriers; one lives at home and does nothing; mother does nought but look after home.
 Name                    Age     Occupation      Wages

£ s d
William (Kershaw) 22 Getter 0 16 0
Thomas (married) c.30 - -
James 18 Hurrier 0 8 6
Bethel 13 Ditto 0 5 0
Solomon 11 Ditto 0 3 6
Patience 17 Ditto 0 8 6
Sarah 24 Weaver 0 9 0
Hannah 21 Ditto 0 9 0
Sybil (married) 26 - -
Caroline (at home) 4 - -
Alice (at home, sick) 15 - -

2 19 6
All my sisters have been hurriers, but three went to the mill, Alice went because her legs swelled from hurrying in cold water when she was hot. I never went to day-school; I go to Sunday school, but I cannot read or write; I go to pit at 5 o'clock in the morning; I get my breakfast of porridge and milk first; I take my dinner with me, a cake, and eat it as I go; I do not stop or rest any time for the purpose; I get nothing else until I get home, and then have potatoes and meat, not every day meat. I hurry in the clothes I have now got on, trousers and ragged jacket; the bald place upon my head is made by thrusting the corves; my legs have never swelled, but sisters' did when they went to mill; I hurry the corves a mile and more under ground and back; they weigh 300 cwt [hundredweight]; I hurry 11 a-day; I wear a belt and chain at the workings to get the corves out; the getters that I work for are naked except their caps; they pull off all their clothes; I see them at work when I go up; sometimes they beat me, if I am not quick enough, with their hands; they strike me upon my back; the boys take liberties with me sometimes, they pull me about; I am the only girl in the pit; there are about 20 boys and 15 men; all the men are naked; I would rather work in mill than in coal-pit."

This girl is an ignorant, filthy, ragged, and deplorable-looking object, and such an [sic] one as the uncivilized natives of the prairies would be shocked to look upon. (First report of the commission on the employment of children, quoted in Palmer, Poverty 43)

[1972:] Although written fairly recently by Frank Higgins of Liverpool this moving song is based very literally on the actual evidence given by the young Patience Kershaw before the Government Commission of Enquiry into Child Labour in 1842. As a result of the enquiry in that same year an Act of Parliament prohibited the underground employment in the mines of women and boys under ten years old. (Notes Ian Campbell Folk Group, 'Something To Sing About')