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Home > Family Histories > Occupations & Trades > Chain Runner

Chain Runner

or Chainman, Chainer, Runner, Clipper

Chain Runner

Runner attending to the chain haulage of hutches at Niddry Castle Oil Works, 1958 (LVSAV 1998.039)


Chain runners were in charge of "rakes" or trains of hutches being transported on haulage roads underground and to and from the retorts at the crude oil works.

The chain runner accompanied hutches during transport, fastened and unfastened hutches to the haulage chains, ensured that they did not come off the rails and signalled to the haulage engineman to start and stop the haulage operation. (See also pithead runners).

Wages & Working Hours

According to The Board of Trade Census of Wages conducted in 1886, chain runners working underground earned an average weekly wage of 25s 2d. Most underground workers, with the exception of miners and drawers, worked between 54 and 60 hours per week. Runners employed at crude oil works earned on average 22s 2d per week and worked a 13 shift fortnight.

In 1925, the Report of a Court of Investigation Concerning the Wages Position in the Scottish Shale Oil Industry, records that an average 5.77 day week was worked by underground workers with around 7.5 hours per day spent underground. Average weekly earnings for boys under 18 years of age working underground were 26s 10d, youths aged between 18 and 21 earned 31s 6d and men earned £2 13s 0d. No specifc data is available for runners employed at crude oil works, however the average weekly wage for men employed in the oil works was £2 15s 3d and 16s 11d for boys under 18. Men employed at crude oil works worked an average of 6.67 days per week with many working 7 days per week.


"I started in Roman Camps in 1925, where I was working at the pithead. I was then sent out to Newliston Mine to drive the ponies, which I did for a while. I then went on to the chain running, which was pushing in the empty hutches, and taking out the full hutches from the drawers, and sending them to the hill and them putting the empties on. I went from there to the drawing where I was filling the hutches and drawing them from the faceman. The faceman hawked the stuff and I had to fill the hutches, but I found out that I wasn't strong enough for the job at that time so I went back to chain running. I was very nimble at that time and the chain running job just suited me. I worked away at this for many years". JT, Chain Runner, Newliston No 29 Mine, circa 1927

Additional Resources

Accident Reports

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