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I MORALITY IN THE BLiCK COUNTRY.…

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MORALITY IN THE BLiCK COUNTRY. I Mr. Baker, inspector of factories, gives in his report just issued a sketch of workers in the fire-brick yards of South Staffordshire, having been induced to visit brick yards in various parts of the kingdom last year under the impreseion that they weie included in the Factories Act Extension Bill of last session. In South Stafford- shire, where the males are attracted to the ironworks, he found children of very early years, and young girls, in the clay yards, brought up amid excessive labour and scenes most demoralising. He writes—" I have seen a hoy five years old working among 22 or 23 females, being broken in,' as they call it to the labour. In one case a boy eleven years of age was carrying 14 lb. weight of clay upon his head, and as much more within his arms, backward and forward, from the temperer to the brick- maker, walking eight miles a day upon the average of the six days and in another a boy of 16 was carrying green bricks to the floor in the mould, weighing 14 lb. there and 3 lb. the empty mould back, and walking 18 miles a day upon the average. I have also seen females of all ages 19 or 20 together (some of them mothers of families), undistinguished from men excepting by the occasional peeping out of an earing; sparsely clad, up to the bare knees in clay splashes, and evidently without a vjstige of womanly delicacy, thus employed, until it makes one feel for the honour of the country that there should be such a condition of human labour existing in it. I questioned one such group in a brickyard in South Staffordshire as to how many ot them could read, and found that only one out of 20 was so qualified and, out of the whole number, she only had been tcr a place of worship on the Sunday previously, the whole of them being partially employed on Sundays as well as week days." The inspector introduces a master brickmaker of Tipton to tell his own story. He has made many efforts to dispense with the labour of women and children in clay works, but has found insuperable obstacles and he would welcome a law limiting the hours of labour and affording to children opportunity for education. He Nrrites-" Those who carry away the bricks from the moulders aro mostly girls from nine to twelve years old. On an average they carry 10 lbs. of clay, and a mould weighing 4 lb. (14 lb. at each journey), say 2000 times a day, seven yards each journey carrying the mould back the seven yards also 2000 times so that they each remcvc, in one day of ten hours' work, 28,0001b. or 12 tons, seven yards, and 80001b. seven yards total 36,000 lb., or over 16 tons in the day. Moreover, the bricks when 'reared,' 'gormed.'or 'piled,' and when 'hacked,' or walled up,' all require moving three times over, and in one instance arc carried quite seven yards. But this work is shared in by all that work for that particular moulding table. The moulder, who is usually a woman from 20 to 3:) years old, and the two clay-carriers, who generally are from 10 to 16 years old, assist so that the portion of work performed by the carrier-away may be taken at one remove, or one-fourth of the same 28,0001b., for seven yards, which added to the It) tons, makes up a total of 28 tons carried each day by a child nine to twelve years of age." He goes on to show that those who carry clay to the moulders, called clay! carriers, say a girl of ten years old," carry in the aims or on the head dU i I). 01 clay ZM journeys of 40 yards, and with the work of removing the bricks seven yards, carry more than six and a half tons of clay fully 47 yards.and walk 14 miles in the day. The elder clay-carriers, 14 or 16 years old, carry CO Ib. weight for 5J yards 300 times a day — 8 tons in all and. with the walk to and from home, have to walk 22 miles daily. It is unnecessary to go through the whole list. The writer says—" As a rule, not one in ten of the women and children has been taught to read and write, nor have above one-half of this small proportion ever en- tered a school. In their poverty and need their parents have sent out these little tiny hands to carry clay and set down bricks all day long, from six a.m. to six -p.m., all the week through plodding with clay-loaded heads and arms, to and fro. over hot drying stones, barefooted aud ragged. The other girls and women have for the most part been recruited from these young toilers, labour- ing year after year at clay-carrying or brick-piling, till qualified by experience to take the more lucrative and generally coveted post of bricknioulders. In many cases I have found that the young children belong to widows, some of them of deceased miners some having neither father nor mother, but finding a home with some of those kindly nffectionate working people whose rough but ten- der acts of hospitality and sympathy are the best redeem- ingfeatureoftheworkingclas.ses. Improvidence, drunk- ness, indolence, and last, but not least of these terrible evils, trade strikes and lock out!, each contributes its sad quota of recruits. Such parents are the first to send their little children out to work in brickyards when they ought to be learning something useful at'school. Ignorant, un- taught, and unheedful of education, they pass through life, looking upon the few 'seliol;trs I among them with an "hnost hbathen awe. I have known parents in receipt of £ 2, A.3, and t4 a week send their children out to work at clay works, at a few shillings per week hung in rags, while the parents themselves rioted at home in luxuries and drink. On the other hand I have seen, and I say it with pride, two or three little gii-Is working hard, anxious for over-time, always cheerful, always at their post, striv- ing like the good angels that they were, to win an honest crust for a poor kind sickly mother or grandmother. I must not overlook the demoralising results accruing from the mixed employment of the sexes. A flippancy and familiarity of manners with hoys and men grow daily on the young girls. Then the want of respect and delicacy towards females exhibits itself in every act, word, or look for the lads grow so precocious, and the girls so coarse in their language and manners, from close compan- ionship at work, that in most cases the modesty of female life gradually becomes a by-word instead of reality, and they sing unblushingly before all, while at work, the most disgusting song, till oftentimes stopped short by the en- trance of the master or foreman. The over-time work is still more objectionable, because boys and girls, men and woman, are not then so much under the watchful eye of the master, nor looked upon by the eye ol day."

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