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Home > Family Histories > Occupations & Trades > Shale Miner's Drawer

Shale Miner's Drawer

Shale miner's drawer filling hutch Drawer filling a hutch with shale, circa 1929

Generally, drawers were employed by shale miners or facemen rather than directly by oil companies. They were paid by the day but had to fill and draw a certain number of hutches in that time.

For some (often those with family connections in the shale mines) being a drawer was their first job in mining, others might start off at the pit bottom working as a pony driver or by attaching and detaching hutches from haulage chains. After working for several years as a Drawer they would normally progress to the position of miner / faceman with their own team of men working for them.

Wages & Working Hours

The Board of Trade Census of Wages of 1886, records that the average weekly wage of a shale miner's drawer was 25s 3d. The report states that "Nearly all miners and drawers worked about 46 to 49.5 hours per week, reckoned from bank to bank. Some worked 60 hours in 1885, but since then their hours of labour have been reduced to 48."

In 1925, the Report of a Court of Investigation Concerning the Wages Position in the Scottish Shale Oil Industry, records that an average 5.46 day week was worked with around 7.5 hours per day spent underground. Average weekly earnings were £2 15s 0d.

By 1958, an Agreement Between the Scottish Shale Oil Companies and the National Union of Shale Miners & Oil Workers records that drawers earned a minimum of 32s 6d per shift although, as piece workers, their actual earnings were normally considerably higher. They worked an average of 40.5 hours per week over an 11 day fortnight.

Snippets

Shale miner's drawer filling hutchDrawer filling a hutch with shale, circa 1929

"I started when I was 14 years old at the face, with my father. I just left school and went down and I was working at the face filling hutches as a drawer. When I started first I was boring holes at the face, and then I started filling, as I got older I started drawing, and that's all I was doing for my 4 ½ years. It was a miner's job. But I just went straight down the mine, went down in a cage, at Newbridge. It wasn't a mine, it was a pit, so I went down, and I was at the face all the time with my father till I started drawing the hutches. Drawing the hutches from there right to the top of the brae, and they went from there to the pit bottom, and they went from the bottom up to the hill, up to the surface, we called it the hill, the surface, then it was taken away in waggons to the - I think it was Pumpherston Oil Works, then, where the big refinery was. Oh, it was a good bit, about two miles from the pit bottom to the face, maybe a wee bit more". JK, Drawer, Ingliston Pit, 1922-1927

Shale miner's drawer filling hutch Drawer guiding shale from shaker conveyor into hutches, circa 1950

"I started in the drawing, filling hutches for four years and I was a spare drawer come faceman. If the drawer was off I was sent in to do his job or the faceman's job if he was off. I did about 6 months of that and then I got put on to a place of my own. I had my own place at 24 years of age. I was there from 1942 – 5, that is when it closed down and I went from there to Westwood". HB, Drawer and Shale Miner, Roman Camp No 6 Mine, 1942-1945

"Aye, that was my first job as a miner's drawer - I think I wouldn't have been much more than 17 years of age.........it would be about - anything to 20 hutches a day, depending on the length we had to draw the hutch to the gathering point. The empty hutch tared about 5 - 6 cwt, and when the full load went over the weights it would be about 25 cwt. You'd to take that 6 or 7 cwt. off and that was the amount of shale you filled. It would be about a ton". AB, Drawer, Polbeth No 26 Mine

Additional Resources

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