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A Recognised Collection of National Importance

Home > Family Histories > Occupations & Trades > Cooper


also Apprentice Cooper, Foreman Cooper

Broxburn Oil Company Ltd coopers holding the tools of their trade taken in front of a wall of barrels, circa 1880R11-00029 Coopers from Broxburn Oil Company Ltd holding the tools of their trade, circa 1880 A cooper constructed and repaired barrels from wooden staves and iron rings which were used to transport the different oils produced by the oil refinery. Coopering was a qualified and skilled trade that took many years to learn. An apprenticeship would usually start between the ages of 14 and 16 and last for 5 years. Once the apprenticeship was served the cooper would normally stay in this trade for the rest of their working life.

Wages & Working Hours

The average weekly wage of a cooper in 1886 was 31s 2d and the working hours were normally 57 hours over 6 days (Board of Trade Census of Wages).


"I started in the cooperage, and my gaffer then was Rab Brown, so Rab says "Come on, I've got a job for you painting barrels". I was only a wee smout at the time. Rab says, "Will you be able to reach the top of the barrels, with that paintbrush". So anyhow, I started there, painting the top of the barrels …....to show up the stencilling, you had a stencil brush, and you used to stencil it all with the name and they then filled them and then you stencilled the other end with how many gallons were in them and one thing and another." HF, Pumpherston Refinery, circa 1932

Additional Resources

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