Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter XXIV

[back to menu for this book]


Tuesday. January 8th, 1850

Before dealing with the Lumpers, or those who discharge the timber and other ships—in contradiction to the Stevedores, or those who stow the cargoes of vessels—I will give the following report of a meeting held yesterday afternoon among the Ballast-heavers wives. It is the wife and children who are the real sufferers from the intemperance of the working man; and being anxious to give the public some idea of the amount of misery entailed upon these poor creatures by the compulsory and induced drunkenness of the husbands, I requested as many as could leave their homes to meet me at the British and Foreign School, in Shakespeare-walk, Shadwell. The meeting consisted of the wives of ballast-heavers and coal-whippers. The wives of the coal-whippers had come there to contrast their present state with their past, with the view of showing the misery which they had endured when their husbands were under the same thraldom to the publican as the ballast-heavers are now. and the comparative happiness which they have experienced since they have been freed from it. They had attended unsolicited, in the hope, by making their statements public, of getting for the ballast- heavers the same freedom from the control of the publican which the coal-whippers had obtained.
The meeting consisted of the wives of ballast-heavers and coal-whippers. Thirty-one were present. Of the thirty-one, nine were the wives of coal-whippers; the remainder, twenty-two, the wives of ballast-heavers. Many others, who had expressed a desire to attend, were prevented by family cares and arrangements; but small as the meeting was comparatively, it afforded a very fair representation of the circumstances and characters of their husbands. For instance, those who were coalwhippers’ wives appeared comfortable and “well-to-do.” They wore warm gowns, had on winter bonnets, and clean, tidy caps underneath; the ballast-heavers’ wives, on the contrary, were mostly ragged, dejected, and anxious-looking.
An endeavour was made to ascertain, in the first instance, how many children each person had. This was done by questioning them separately; and from the answers it appeared that all had families. Eight had one child each, the rest varied from two to eight, and one woman stated that she had twelve children, all of whom were living, but that only four now resided with her and her husband. Five had infants in their arms; and several had children sick, either at home or in some hospital.
In the next place, the ballast-heavers’ wives were asked whether their husbands worked under publicans. “All of them,” was the reply, “work under publicans;” and, said one, “worse luck for us”—a sentiment that was very warmly concurred in by all the rest.
    This fact having been specifically ascertained from each woman, the Metropolitan Correspondent of The Morning Chronicle proceeded to inquire from them separately how much their husbands earned, and how much of their earnings was spent at the publicans’ houses through which they obtained work, or where they were paid.
“My husband,” said the first woman, “works under a publican. and I know that he earns now 12s. or 13s. a week, but he brings home to me only half-a-crown, and sometimes not that much. He spends all the rest at the public-house, where he gets his jobs; and often comes home drunk.”
“My husband,” exclaimed the second, “will sometimes get from 24s. to 28s. a week, but I never see anything the likes o’that money from him. He spends it at the publican’s. And when he has earned 24s., he will sometimes bring home only 2s. or 2s. 6d. We are badly off, you may be sure, when the money goes in this way. But my husband cannot help spending it, for he is obliged to get his jobs at the public-house.”
“Last week,” interposed another, “we had not one penny coming into our house; and the week before—which was Christmas week— my husband got two jobs, which would come, he told me, to 8s. or 9s., if he had brought it all home; but he only brought me 1s. This was all the money I had to keep me and my five children for the whole week; and I’m sure I don’t know how we got through. This is all owing to the public-house; and when we go to fetch our husbands at eleven or twelve at night, they shut us out and say they are not there, though we know very well they are inside in a hack place. My husband has been kept in that back place many a time till two or three in the morning—then he has been turned out, and come home to his family drunk, without sixpence in his pocket, though the same day he has received 8s. or 9s. at the same public-house.”
“They go to the public-house,” added another woman, “to get jobs, and to curry favour they spend their money there, because if they did not spend their money they would get never a job. The men who drink the greatest quantity of money will get the most jobs. This leaves their families and their wives miserable, and I am sure me and my poor family are miserable through it.”
“My man,” said another, “earned 11s. last week. He brought home 5s. out of it, and that at two o clock on the Sunday morning, when he was quite drunk. He had spent all the remainder at the publican’s who paid him. I have two children, and this 5s. was all we had to keep us the week round, and pay rent besides.”
“But this,” interposed a quiet elderly woman, “is the beginning of the tenth week, in all of which my husband has had only four jobs. Those four jobs for the ten weeks just make it is. 3½d. a week, that I have received from him, and we stand in 2s. 6d. a week rent. I am sure I don’t know how we get along. But our publicans are very civil, for my husband works for two. They lay down the money for him when he comes to be paid; still, if he does not drink a good part of it away, we know very well he will get no more work.”
“It is very little,” said a female, with an infant in her arms. “that my husband earns; and of what little he does earn he does not fetch much to me. He got one job last week, heaving 45 tons. and he fetched me home 1s. 6d. for it. I was then in lodgings at 1s. 6d. a week, but I could not afford them, and now we are in lodgings at 9d. This week he has no work yet. In Christmas week my man told me he earned 25s., and I believe he did, but he only fetched home between 8s. and 9s. on Saturday. I had myself and child and husband to keep out of that. My husband works for a publican, and it was at his house he spent the money. One day last week this publican said to him, when he asked for a job, ‘I cannot give you a job, for there is nothing against you upon the slate but 1s.;’ and so he got none there. He works for another public-house, and he went there; but the publican would not give him a job unless he spent all he earned. My infant is six weeks old to-day, and this woman by me (appealing to the female next to her) knows well it is the truth that I tell—that for two nights in last week my child and myself were obliged to go to bed breadless. We had nothing neither of those days. It was the same one night in the week before Christmas, though my husband received that same night 8s.; but all was spent at the public-house. On Christmas night we could not get any supper. We had no money, and I took the gown off my back and pawned it for 2s., to provide something for us to eat. I have nothing else to say but this—that whatever my husband earns I get little or nothing of it. for it goes to the public-house where he gets his jobs.”
Another ballast-heaver’s wife, also with an infant in her arms. said—”We have seven children. This in my arms is the seventh. My husband has frequently earned from 10s. to 15s. a week during the last year; but sometimes he has been idle for a week or a fortnight together. I reckon he brings home, as nearly as he can, all that he earns, but of course he has a score with the publican. The publican has the best part of all he earns; and whatever he earns, I believe the publican gets, one week with another, full 10s. a week out of it. We have to live the best way we can out of what little that remains. Very often we have been without food a whole day, and have not had much chance of any the next day. unless we pledged everything that we had to get it.”
“Some weeks,” said a middle-aged woman, “my husband gets 25s., but then he may have no work the week after. He brings home all he gets; but out of the 25s. at least 5s. goes to the publican for whom he works, and he is obliged to take beer to have the work. My husband is very good, however. Sometimes, if he takes it into his head, he will spend the whole of his earnings at his master’s house; but sometimes he will spend none. One week with another, I dare say he brings home clear 10s.; but one week with another the public-house gets as much out of him—that is  10s. a week. He would bring all his money home, if it were not for the publican, where he gets his jobs, and where he is paid.”
“I do not know what my husband gets,” said the next. “He never tells me where he goes; and for that reason I do not know how much he earns; but I do know, and I have known it a good while. that he is obliged to spend at the public-house where the jobs are given one-fifth of what is due to him. He often comes home drunk; and sometimes when he is in that way he ill-treats me. He never ill-treats me except he is drunk. I believe he brings home all he can; for if he did not, we should all starve. We have eight children and ourselves; so that we have had hard times of it often. My husband works for any place where he can get work; but it is mostly under the publicans.”
“I know what my husband can do for his family pretty well,” added another. “He brings home for them 7s. a week, one week with another; but for this he does £1’s worth of work, and he is compelled to spend the rest where he gets the work. If he did not he would not get another job. One publican where he went to to-day for a job told him, ‘I shall give you no more work.’ My husband asked why? ‘Because,’ he said, ‘you went the other day to an office-man’ (meaning that he had supplied information to this journal). My husband said he had, for he had a family to keep. Wel1,’ said the publican, ‘you shall have no more work from me for doing that;’ and he has had no work to-day through it. I really think that my man earns, one week with another, £1, for he works hard when he has it to do, and I am sure he would bring it all home if he had not to spend it for the score. He must pay the score and a shilling besides. This makes it so that if he earns 6s. we will say, he fetches home only 2s. 6d., and no more. May be. that sometimes it will reach 3s., but then the next day he will come to me for a shilling back again, to treat the ganger, so that the foreman may give him another job.”
An infirm woman, approaching fifty years of age, who spoke in a tone of sorrowful resignation, said—"We have had very little money coming in of late. My husband has been very bad for ten weeks back. He throws up blood. I suppose he has strained himself too much. All the money I have had for six weeks to keep us both has been 8s. If he was earning money he would bring it to me."
Another Woman: "Not without the publican’s allowance, I am sure."
   The First Woman: "No; the publican’s allowance would be taken off; but the publicans. you see, must have a little. I do not know how much it is, but they must have something if they give us their jobs. I do not know how much my husband earns, for he never told me."
This woman was here asked if her husband ever came home drunk?
“Yes,” she replied, “many a time he comes home drunk; but he must have the drink to get the jobs.”
“My husband,” proceeded the next, “earns 3s. 6d., and sometimes 4s. a day, but he never brings anything like that home to his family. He cannot, because he pays so much to the publican; and out of what he does bring I have often to give him 1s. to seek out another job. He comes home drunk very often; when he is drunk he is very violent; but when he is sober there is not a quieter husband anywhere.”
“My husband,” said a woman who was miserably dressed, “does not tell me what he earns; but when he is in work he brings me, in general, 10s. or 12s. the week. He works for a publican, and I know very well that more than he gives me he gives to the publican. Still, when he has it he gives it me. Indeed, he must; for we have six children, which makes eight of us altogether. He comes home drunk three times a week. According as he has a job he must have drink. He cannot get jobs without getting drunk upon them, so it’s of no use thinking any more about it.”
“My man is a very good husband,” was the observation of the next female. “He gets one job, and sometimes two in a week, but he is obliged to spend half of what he earns in the public-house where the work is given. Sometimes I have from him 3s., some­times 5s., sometimes 7s. a week; several times it has been 10s., but some weeks he does not get any work at all. I should say we have 6s. a week coming in the year round. That is very little with our family, but we are obliged to be content with it.”
“Last week,” said another, “I had just 5s. 6d., and the week before, which was Christmas week, I had 7s. 8d. from my husband. He generally tells me what he gets; and I know, from what he told me, that in both weeks he earned more than double what he gave me. All the rest he was obliged to spend. He feeds the publicans as well as other folks out of his wages. By ‘other folks’ I mean his family.”
A number of other women having made statements confirmatory of the above— “Do you think,” the meeting was asked, “your husbands would be sober as well as industrious men if they could be got away from the public-house system of employment and payment of wages?”
"God Almighty bless you,” exclaimed one woman, “they would love us and their families all the better for it! We should all he much the better for it!"
“And so say all of us,” was the next and perfectly unanimous exclamation.
“If we could see that day,” said one who had spoken before, “their families would have little in the world to complain of.”
Another added, “The night-houses ought to be closed. That would be one good thing.”
“They have been many a bitter cup to me,” said one who, from her dress, appeared to be in mourning.
Some inquiries were then made as to whether these poor women were ill-treated by their husbands when they came home in a state of intoxication. There was a good deal of hesitation before any answers could be obtained. At last one woman said her husband certainly did beat her, “of course—but then,” she added, “he did not know what he was doing.” “I,” said another, “should not know what it was to have an angry word with my husband if he were always sober. He is a quiet man—very, when the drink is out of him; but we have many words together when he is tipsy, and she stopped without completing the sentence.
    Several others gave similar testimony; and many declared that it was the public-house system which led their husbands to drink.
One woman here said that the foremen of gangs, as well as the publican. helped to reduce the ballast-heavers’ earnings; for they gave work to men who took lodgings from them, though they did not occupy them, and through such persons men with families had no chance. In fact, the taking of the lodgings was, it was said. just a way of giving the foreman so much money for work, because in many cases the men did not live at the lodgings at all.
This was confirmed by another woman, who spoke with great warmth upon the subject. She said that married men, who could not afford to spend with the publican and lodge with the foreman in the manner pointed out, would be sure to have no work. Other men went straight from one job to another, while her own husband. and other women’s husbands, had been three and four weeks with­out lifting a shovelful of ballast. She considered this very hard on men who had families.
    A question was here asked, whether any women were present whose husbands, in order to obtain work, were obliged to pay for lodgings which they did not use?
One immediately rose and said—”They do it regular at a publican s in Wapping; and I know that the men who have paid for them have had six jobs together, when my husband has had none for weeks together.” “There are now,” added another, “fourteen at that very place who never lodge there though they are paying for lodgings.”
They were next asked, who had suffered from want, owing to their husband’s drinking their earnings, as described, at the public- houses in question?
“Starvation has been my lot,” said one; “and mine,” added another. “My children,” said a third, “have often gone to bed at night without breaking their fast the whole length of the day.” And mine, said one, “have many a time gone without a bit or a sup of anything all the day, through their father working for the publican” “I cannot,” exclaimed the next, “afford my children a ha’porth of milk a day. My husband does not seem to work for them.” “Many a time,” said one, who appeared to be very much moved, “have I put my four children to bed, when the only meal they have had the whole day has been 1lb. of bread, but it’s of no use opening my mouth.” “I,” said the last, “have been in London 27 years, and during that time, I can safely say that I have never taken myself a second glass of spirits or anything else; but in that time I have suffered the martyrdom of 40 years—all through my husband and the public-house. I have two children who bring me in, one 2s. 6d. and the other 6s. 6d. a week, which is all we have, for my husband gets nearly nothing. If he could bring his earnings home, instead of spending them at the public-house, we should be very comfortable.”
These questions led to one concerning the late-hour system at the public-houses frequented by ballast-heavers. “I often go for my husband,” said one, "at one or two o’clock in the morning. after I know he has been paid, but they have kept him in a back apartment away from me till I have threatened to smash the windows if they did not let him out. I threatened to smash the windows because my children were wanting the money for bread that he was spending there. If our husbands were inclined to come home sober there is little chance, for they have cards and bagatelle to keep them till they become heady, and when they are become heady, there is nothing left for their families—then the publicans kick our poor men out and lock the doors.”
This statement was confirmed; and after several other persons had described their sufferings.
The coalwhippers’ wives were asked whether or not their condi­tion and that of their families had been improved since the system of carrying on the trade had been altered by the Legislature.
The answer was a most decided affirmative. Their husbands, they said, used to spend all, or very nearly all, their earnings, with the publicans; but now, when they got a good ship they brought home the greatest part of their earnings, which was sufficient to make their families comfortable. Their husbands had become quite dif­ferent men. They used to ill-treat them when they were paid at the public-house—very much so, because of the drink; but now they were very much altered, because they had become sober men from what they were. None were now distressed to provide for their families, and if there were plenty of work, they would be quite happy. The improvement, one woman said, must have been very great, otherwise there would not have been so many insti­tutions and benefit societies, pension societies, and schools for their children.
This declaration was very warmly applauded by the ballast- heavers’ wives. They declared that similar measures would produce similar benefits in their case, and that they hoped the day might soon come when they should be secure in the enjoyment of them.
   So terminated the proceedings.
This meeting took place at three in the afternoon, and at seven another was held in the same rooms, at which upwards of 1,500 labouring men were present. The report of the latter meeting will be given in this Journal tomorrow.
The “Lumpers” are, if possible, in a more degraded state than the ballast-heavers. They are not, it is true, under the same amount of oppression from the publican; but still they are so besotted with the drink which they are tempted to obtain from the publicans who employ them, as to look upon the man who tricks them out of their earnings rather as a friend than an enemy. The lumpers make, during six months in the year, as much as 24s., and during the other six months they have nothing to do. Of the 24s. that they earn in their busy time, 20s., it will be seen, is spent in the public- house. One master lumper, who is a publican, employs as many’ as 100 men. This information I have, not only from the men them­selves, but from the managers of the Commercial Docks, where the greater number of lumpers are engaged. The 100 men in the publican’s employ, as will be seen from the evidence of the wives, spend upon an average £1 a week in the house, taking generally but 4s. home to their wives and families—so that no less a sum than £100 a week is squandered in the publican- contractor’s house by the working men in drink. There is not only a pay-night, but two “draw-nights” are appointed in each week, as a means of inveigling the men to their master’s tap-room; and indeed the same system, which gives the greatest drunkard the best chance of work, prevails among the lumpers as among the ballast-heavers. The effect of this is, that the lumpers are the most drunken, debased, and poverty-striken of all the classes of labouring men that I have yet seen—for, earning more than the ballast-heavers, they of course have more to spend in the public-house. I made a point of looking more minutely into the state of these men on the Sunday, for I have found that on that day it is easy to tell the habits of men by their external appearance. The greater part that I saw were either intoxicated, or else reeking of liquor, as early as eleven o’clock on the Sunday morning. One foreman was decently dressed, it was true; but then he was sent to me, I was credibly informed, by the master publican, who had heard of my previous investigations, to give me a false impression as to the state of the labourers. The rest of the men that I saw were unwashed and unshaven, even up to five and six in the afternoon of that day. Their clothes were the same tattered and greasy garments that I had seen them in, the day before—indeed the wives of the lumpers appeared to be alone alive to the degradation of their husbands. At one house that I visited late on the Sunday’ evening, I found two of the children in one corner of the small close room, on the bare boards, covered with a piece of old carpet, and four more boys and girls stowed away at the top and bottom of the one bed in which the rest of the family slept. Dirty wet clothes were hanging to dry on lines across the room—and the face of the wife, who was alone, in all her squalid misery, was black and gashed with cuts and bruises.
Not a step I took but I was dogged by some foreman or other. in the hopes of putting me on a wrong scent. I had arranged with the men on Saturday morning to have a meeting with them on that night after their labour; but on going to the appointed place I found not one labouring man there, and I learnt the next day that the publican had purposely deferred paying them till a late hour, so that they might have no chance of meeting me.
On Monday morning, while at the office of the superintendent of the Commercial Docks Company, one of the lumpers staggered drunk into the room, intent upon making some insolent demand or other.
That this drunkenness with all its attendant vices is not the fault of the lumpers, but the necessary consequence of the system under which they are employed, no man who has seen the marked difference between the coal-whippers and that class of labourers who will “work out of the public-house,” can for a moment doubt. The sins of the labouring man, so far as I have seen, are, in this instance, most indisputably the sins of his immediate employer. If he is drunken, it is his master who makes him so; if he is poor— his house bare—~his wife ragged—his children half clothed, half fed, and wholly uneducated, it is mainly because his master tricks him out of his earnings at the public-house.
Let me now give a description of the Lumpers’ labour, and then of their earnings.
The timber trade is divided, by the custom of the trade, into two classes, called timber and deals. By “timber” is meant what is brought in uncut logs; this is American red pine, yellow pine, elm, ash, oak, and birch. The teak trade is more recent, and seems to be an exception to the classification I have mentioned; it is generally described as teak; mahogany and dye woods again are not styled timber. The “deals” are all sawn ready for the car­penter’s or joiner’s use. At the Custom-house, the distinctions are “hewn” and “sawn” woods; that is, timber and deals. On timber there is now a duty of 1s. per load (a load being 50 cubic feet), and on deals of 2s. The deals are sawn in Canada, where immense steam-mills have been erected for the purpose. The advantage to the trader in having this process effected in Canada rather than in England seems to be this: the deals brought over (prepared as I have described), of different lengths, varying from six feet to 20. while three inches is a usual thickness, are ready for the workman’s purpose, and no refuse matter forms a part of them. Were the pine brought in logs, the bark and the unevenness of the tree would add to the freight for what was only valueless. Timber and deals require about the same time for their discharge. The largest vessels in this trade that enter the port of London are to be found in the West India South Dock, formerly the City Canal. On one occasion in this dock a vessel of 800 tons, containing 24,000 deals and ends, was discharged in twenty-six working hours, forty-five men being employed. I am informed that twenty men would dis­charge a ship of 600 tons, of timber and deals, in seven days; forty men will do it in four days. In order to become acquainted with the system of Lumping I went on board a vessel in the river. where a gang of twenty men were at work. She was a vessel of 600 tons, from Quebec. She lay alongside the Flora, a Norwegian vessel, the first timber ship that had reached the port of London since the change in the navigation-laws had come into operation. The Flora’s cargo was 900 pieces of timber, which would be dis­charged by her crew, as the lumpers are only employed in British vessels. The vessel that I visited, and which lay next to the Flora. had her hold and the between-decks (which might be 38 yards in length) packed closely with deals. She held between 17,000 and 18,000 deals. She was being lightened in the river before going into dock. Twenty men were at work; two barges were moored alongside close to two port-holes in the stern of the ship. There were three men in each barge, who received and packed the deals into the barge as they were thrust out of the port-holes. The larger deals were carried along by two men as soon as a sufficient clear­ance had been made to enable them to run along—at first bent half double. The two men who carried the deals ran along in a sort of jog-trot motion, keeping time, so that the motion relieved the pressure of the weight. The men all said, “It’s easier to run than to walk with the deals.” The shorter deals (ends) were carried one by each man, who trotted on in the same measured step. Each man, or each two men employed, delivered his or their “deal” to one especial man in the barge, so that a constant communication from the ship to the barge was kept up, and the work went on without hitch or stoppage. This same vessel, on a former occasion. was discharged in thirty-six hours, which shows (as there were between 17,000 and 18,000 carryings and deliverings of the deals) how rapidly the work is conducted. The "timber" is all dragged from the hold or the between-decks of the ship by machines. The lumpers "bouse" it from its place in the ship by means of winches. tackles, and “dogs” which latter are iron links to lay hold of the log. Three of these winches and tackles are stationed at equal distances on each side of a large ship, and thus, with the aid of crowbars, the several pieces of timber are dragged along the hold. and then dropped gently into the water (either in the docks or the river), and floated in rafts to its destination. All “timber” is floated. as a rule. Sometimes, when the ship is discharged in dock, timber or deals are let down a slide on to a platform, and so carried to the pile or the waggon. Contractors are employed by the ship- owners in the West India Dock, as they will do some ships cheaper by £10 than the company could afford to do it. The shipowners hear the expense of discharging the ship.
The following statement of one of the working men was given most unwillingly; indeed it was only by a series of cross-questionings that any approximation to the truth could be extracted from him. He was evidently in fear of losing his work, and the tavern to which I had gone to take his statement was filled with foremen watching and intimidating him. He said:— “I am a working lumper, or labourer at discharging timber and deal ships. I have been sixteen years at the work. I should think that there are more than two hundred men in Deptford who are constantly engaged at the work. There are a great many more working lumpers living at Limehouse, Poplar, and Blackwall. These do the work principally of the West India Docks; and when the work is slack there, and brisk at the Commercial, East Country. or Grand Surrey Canal Docks, the men cross the water and get a job on the Surrey side of the river. In the summer a great many Irish labourers seek for work as lumpers. They come over from Ireland in the Cork boats. I should say there are altogether up­wards of 500 regular working lumpers, but in the summer there are at least 200 more, owing to the number of Irish who come to England to look for work at that time of year. The wages of the regular lumpers are not less when the Irishmen come over in the summer, nor do the men get a less quantity of work to do. There are more timber and deal ships arriving at that season, so more hands are required to discharge them. The ships begin to arrive in July. and they continue coming in till January; after that time they lay up till March, when they sail for the foreign ports. Between January and July the regular working lumpers have little or nothing to do. During that time there are scarcely any timber or deal ships coming in. and the working lumpers then try to fall in with anything they can—either ballasting a ship, or carrying a few deals to load a timber-carriage, or doing a little ‘tide-work.’ Between July and January the work is very brisk. We are generally employed every day for those six months. Sometimes we lose a day (after lightening a ship in the river) while the vessel is going into dock. We call it lightening a ship when she is laden too heavy and draws too much water to enter the docks. In such a case we generally begin discharging the timber or deals in the river, either off Deptford or Blackwall. according as the ship may be for the docks on the Middlesex or Surrey side. In the river we discharge the deals into lighters, whereas, when the ship is in dock, we generally discharge along a stage on to the shore. Timber we put overboard in both cases, and leave it for the raftsmen to put together into rafts and float into the timber-ponds of the different docks. The deals we merely land. It is our duty to put them ashore, and nothing more. After that the deal porters take them and sort and pile them. They sort the white from the yellow deals, and each kind into different lengths, and then arrange them in piles all along the side of the dock. Our usual time of working is from six to six in the summertime, and from daylight to dark in the winter. We always work under a foreman. There are two foremen lumpers to almost every ship that we discharge, and they engage the men, who work in gangs under them. Each gang consists of from four to twelve men, according as the size of the ship is large, or she is wanted to be discharged quickly. I have known as many as thirty lumpers engaged in discharging one ship; she was 1,000 tons, and wanted to he got out quick, so that she might make another voy­age before the winter set in abroad. The foreman and men are employed by the master lumper. Some of the master lumpers are publicans; some others keep chandlers’ shops; and others do noth­ing else, that I know of. The master pays the working men 3s. 6d. a day, and the foreman 1s. extra. We are settled with every Saturday night. We have two draw-nights in each week—that is, the master advances either a part or the whole of our earnings if we please, on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I work under a publican. My master has only gone into the public line very recently. I don’t think he’s been at it for more than eighteen months. He has been a master lumper, I should say, for these ten or twelve years past. I worked under him before he had a public-house. Then he paid every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights, at the same house as he is now the proprietor of. The master lumpers always pay the men they employ at the public-house, whether they are publicans or not. My master employs, I should say, in the spring season. from 80 to 100 hands regularly, and most of these meet at his house every Tuesday and Thursday night, and all on Saturday night, either to be settled with in full, or have a part of their wages advanced. We are usually paid at seven in the evening. I have been paid as late as three o’clock on a Sunday morning, but that was some years ago, and I was all that time in the public-house. We go straight to the public-house after we have done our work. At this time of the year we knock off work at dark—that is, at five [I am informed at the Commercial Docks that the usual hour is four] o’clock, and we remain at our master’s until pay time—that is seven o’clock. This we do for three nights in the week certain, and after our work on other nights we mostly meet at our master’s public-house. The men generally draw on a Tuesday from 2s. to 4s., and on a Thursday night the same sum is advanced to them. The men are not forced to spend anything in the house. Each man has a little beer while the master is getting ready to pay him on the draw-nights, and he generally remains in the house some time after he has received his money, according as he thinks proper. On a draw-night, in the brisk season, many out of the 100 he employs will stop drinking till ten o’clock. Some go away home immediately after they have drawn their money. At least half stop for some time—that is till nine o’clock. Some sit there and spend all they draw. All the beer that the lumpers have on board ship, while at their work, is supplied by the master. He supplies any quantity that is wanted. The reason why he keeps the public-house is to have the right of supplying the beer to the men. He wouldn’t, of course, like to see us take beer from any other public-house than his. If we did, he would give us the ‘sack.’ Every master lumper works out of a public-house, and the men must have their beer from the house that he works out of, and if they don’t, why they aint wanted. We generally take about two pots per man a day with us from the house when we go to our work of a morning. On a Saturday night we mostly stop longer than on the draw-nights. Upon an average the working lumpers, I should say, spend about 2s. a day in the season in the public-house. [It will be seen here­after, that the lumpers’ wives whom I saw declare that the men spend, generally, 20s. out of the 24s.] After a hard week’s work I think they have generally about 8s. or 9s. out of the £1 4s. that they earn in the busiest time of the year. I myself have taken home as little as 5s. [According to this statement, assuming that there are 100 hands—many say there are more—regularly at work out of this public-house in the spring season, and spending each, upon an average, from 12s. to 20s., or say 16s. a week, this will give 1,600s., or £80 a week, squandered in beer.] I should say, taking all the year round, the men make 10s. 6d. a week. For at least four months in the year there is no work at all, and for two months more it is very slack. I am a married man with one child. When I am in full work I take home 5s. a week at the least. My wife and child has to suffer for it all.”
The next I saw was one who had volunteered to speak out, so that, by comparing the following statement with the foregoing. we may be able to come to some notion of the truth. The man’s statement was as follows:—
    “I have worked as a journeyman lumper seventeen years. When I first began that work I was paid 3s. 6d. a day, being employed two days and a half or three days in a week the year through. The young hands are generally knocked about and sent from one ship to another, humbugged about, and obliged to wait and wait. never getting anything for the time they have to wait. In a timber ship this is the way the work is carried on to lump her (unload her). Well, say a ship is 1,000 tons burthen; suppose her cargo is timber and with a deck load of yellow wood pine, the heaviest cargo that comes to London on deck. I’ll tell you the truth if I lose my work. I don’t care a fig. I can’t be worse. That man you just seen hasn’t told you the whole truth. He’s afeard. He works out of a public-house, and daren’t speak. The ships come up, and eight or nine master lumpers go aboard, and the captain may say, ‘The cheapest man’s to have her. One man will say, ‘I’ve done this ship before;’ and he’ll get the ship because he knows how to tip some proper party, and he tips five bob or half a sovereign. Suppose this man gets the ship; he’s a master man, and he goes to a foreman, and he says, ‘Get me a gang together,’ and the foreman gets a gang together, and he must get a good set if the work’s to be done quick. The master lumper has all the pull; the foreman doesn’t get much—only his shilling a day extra. Oft enough he gets the best hands at first, and when a quantity that may be wanted is got off he puts on cheaper hands—new Irish Grecians, some people calls them, or others. Any new hands is the same. I never show these men how to work. They ruin our trade, and are ruining it more and more; they’ll work for nothing. Each man gets 3s., the master paying the waterage. In August, September, and October, work is the best. Then we get 4s. and a pint of beer. They give us 4s. 2d., but we must pay the twopence for a pint of beer—that lies in a man’s option it’s said: but if a man doesn’t do so he’s thought scaly. If we don’t have our beer,
we’re done. The master lumpers who are not publicans pay at public-houses, and have sometimes to borrow the money of the publicans to pay the men, before they get their money from the shipowner. I shall lose my work, maybe, and have to go to the Mount—that is, you see, a place between the Commercial Dock and the Dog and Duck, where we walk looking out for a job-­because I speak this way to you. If jobs don’t come, there’s the workhouse. Lots come from Ireland, and go to work, knowing nothing about it. But they’ll work for anything, and so get on. [This he repeated frequently.] I am a married man with a family. but don’t say how many, or I should be more a marked man. I wish I could write as slick as you. I’d do only head work then, and work no more. I have spent 25s. a week in drink. I ought to have as good a suit as you, when I get work as a foreman, which I do sometimes. Last week I got 20s., and took home 3s. I’m afraid to speak, I should lose my work. [This he said over and over again.] I must spend my money in drink some way, or I can’t get on in any work; there’s stoppages and bothers. I was told I couldn’t get paid last Saturday night, for fear I should have anything to do with telling you or anybody the truth. I didn’t get all my money until Sunday, and it was all gone on Sunday night. You under­stand; if a man gives offence, next morning he’s told ‘You’re not wanted, there’s a hand short of what we expected to want—you understand.’ In less than three years a publican that contracts may make his fortune. Where these men sell a pint to a neighbour they sell three pots to a lumper. It’s compulsion, as you may say—and it’s no compulsion. A contractor, on a tidy job, will get his £4 profit—sometimes £10 or £15 on a good job; and he keeps moving on that way; no matter how our kids starves. Aye, and more than that, I’ve known contractors have £50 for a ship, and has done it for £16. I went on board the— for Mr.—. He wanted to employ me as foreman, at 4s. a day, but he wanted me to pay waterage, and I refused. I have had 6s. a day as foreman. An average lumper will get 4s. a day when he is at work. I was threatened to be flung out of the windows if I came to any meeting with you. When I’m out of work, the old woman has to keep me. She works at gowns, or anything. How she lives God only knows!”
The following is the statement of one who appeared to me to be both a truthful and a just man. His wife was a superior woman, and being present at his home—where the information was ob­tained—she acted as a check upon him, even if he had been disposed to lean either to master or workman. The man’s house was comfortably furnished, evidently owing to the greater prudence of his wife, for I have found it is a rule that when the wife is cleanly and thrifty, the husband is always a higher class man:— “I have been a lumper nine years. Prices are not so good now as when I first knew the business. We got 4s. 6d. a day then; that is, the old hands did. In a year after it fell to 4s. Work was slack, and so employers could get men to work at their own prices. Three or four years back prices fell to 3s. 6d. a day.” My informant then repeated what I had formerly heard, attributing this further de­crease to the great influx of Irish labourers, owing to the distress in Ireland, and their willingness to work for any wages whatever, which enables employers to get the old hands on easier terms. ‘The lumpers,” my informant continued, “are employed prin­cipally in timber and deal ships, but will undertake any work to which their employer chooses to set them. The corn-ships are all discharged by the fellowship porters; excepting the vessels in the South-west India Dock (formerly the City Canal), where the ser­vants of the company are employed; but they must then have one of the regularly appointed meters. There is far too much drinking among us. One man I know had 14s. to receive for wages the other week, but he went on ‘on tick’ at the public-house, had noth­ing to take on Saturday night, and was 5s. in debt. It is a great disadvantage in our business that work is so uncertain. Last Christmas twelvemonth, all that I earned the week before Christmas was 6d. I have now 15s. in pawn, and as we have no club nor anything of that kind, if I was to be sick there’s only the parish. In a slack time I have sold Christmas carols or anything.”
I will now give the statement of one of the foremen who was sent to me intoxicated by the publican-contractor, to persuade me that the system under which the working men are employed and paid is a beneficial and a just one to the labourer. The inconsistencies in the statement the reader will easily detect. He said:— “I am the foreman of a gang of lumpers. The gangs vary in number according to the size of the vessel to be laden. They vary from eight to 26. When the gang exceeds 10 men, two foremen are employed, as the work is carried on on both sides of the ship at the same time. I work under a publican, who contracts with the shipowner to do the work of unlading the vessel by the lump; that is, so much for the entire job, without any reference to weight or measurement. I engage the men employed, anybody I please— and they are paid by the contractor. At this time of the year, when work cannot be carried on longer than from half-past seven in the morning until towards five in the evening, each man is paid 3s. 6d. for his day’s work: he is paid that sum in money. He is not required to spend any of that money; nor would any man have a worse chance of work who didn’t spend anything in drink at the house of the contractor. He hasn’t been a publican long— about a year. We take a pot of beer a man, or twelve pots for every ten men—more usually from the house of the contractor. I consider that we are not obliged to do this. It is very seldom that any gang of men has a full week’s work. I calculate that they are not employed above three days in the week, take the average of the year: that gives an average earning of 10s. 6d. per week. For the next three months there will be hardly anything doing in the timber- ships, on account of the ice in the St. Lawrence and the Baltic. During this slack time the men go off to any job. They may pick up a little tide-work; that is, to assist in taking a ship from a wet dock into a dry one, or any arrangement of that kind. We have no sick fund among us—no benefit club, no society of any kind. When a man’s fairly beat out, his fellow workmen may subscribe a trifle for him. Drunkenness is too common among us, but I don’t know that the system of working under publicans has much to do with it. My employer would as soon see his men take their money home. Many of the men are in great distress; their families are hard put to it; they are the people that have to suffer for it. The foreman, by agreement with his employer, has so much a day over what the men have, but no per centage, and nothing to do with the paying of the lumpers. I dare say from 700 to 1,000 men are employed as lumpers in timber ships, when work is good; lumpers work only in timber ships. There are a far greater number of men in the trade than there used to be, on account of the num­ber of labouring men that have come over from Ireland lately. These Irishmen, when they first go to lumping, are very awkward about it, and don’t soon get handy. Before they came in such lots. wages were better. They have been 4s. 6d. a day to men that knew their work. For the last three years and more wages have been no higher than 3s. 6d. a day. Of course the Irishmen, when first set to work, weren’t worth so much as the old hands, but they were employed, and so wages fell down to their level. There is only one publican among the contractors for lumping. There are four prin­cipal contractors, and several small ones. I don’t know the exact number. They all pay the men and the foremen alike. My employer will not allow any lumper to run up drink scores at his house to be worked out afterwards. There are too many men in the lumping business. There is no system of giving a gang of men their turn. We employ those we consider best to do the work.”
I next saw two lumpers’ wives. The husband of one had been fourteen years, and the other ten years, at the business. They both worked under a master who is a publican. One said, “My husband is such a strange man that he never tells me what he does get.” The husband of the other, who is a foreman, according to the wife’s statement, occasionally gets 5s. and sometimes 4s. 6d. a day. The first woman said, “It is a very bad principle for a man to have work out of a public-house; it makes a man spend a shilling where otherwise he would not.” The wife of the one whose husband was a foreman said, “I have had many a bitter bruise for the last fifteen years, and all through the drink. Sometimes he stops till after twelve or one o’clock. I have not had anything to eat today— not a taste of anything, or even a bit of fire. On draw-nights he usually comes home about ten o’clock, and I call that a very good hour for a lumper, for draw-nights are very bad nights; the men then generally spend at the public-house three parts of what they earn. On pay-night the men generally stop till the public-house is closed, and then some of them doesn’t bring a penny home, but comes home in debt. When the men are in work they may go trust for anything they want. Those that drink the hardest get the most work; they are the most looked upon. If the men was to bring all they earn home—aye, or even one-third of it—it would make the family very comfortable, as there would be a few more blankets and sheets on the bed—yes, and good shoes to their wives’ and children’s feet. Mine are two odd ones,” added the woman, thrust­ing out her feet; “our dog stole this one, and brought it in in his mouth. The men, when they are in full work, earn 24s. per week, and they bring home upon an average 4s. out of that sum. Ah, that’s about it, and there is a fourth part of them don’t do that-­the rest goes for what the publicans please to stick up to them.” “1 know if mine brought home more than he does,” said the other, “I and the children would have some flannel petticoats. I have got one thin one, but a puff of wind would blow that away. They won’t take it in pawn, or it would have gone long ago.” The second woman added, “I have not got anything that would get me a penny, else it would have been in pawn to fetch me over today. When my husband beats me it is when I am in bed; but when I am not in bed I can fly from him. I know of one woman who is in the union now. Her husband always made his 24s. a week in the spring, but he brought only a shilling or two home to her at the week’s end. He was almost always drunk, and then he would knock her down and jump upon her, and leave her for dead. When he was sober he was a good quiet sort of a man. He worked out of a public-house, and that is only a part of what the women have to suffer through their husbands being entrapped by the publican into his house. The woman I speak of has gone into the union to get away from the man’s ill-treatment, and to have something nourish­ing to keep her, for it was very little she got at home, poor thing! She is suffering in the union now. She is very bad indeed.” “I have not seen my husband,” said the other one, “since last Thursday evening. He has gone away, and has not left me a farthing piece. I have taken my aprons on and pawned them for 9d., and that is all gone now. I had out of the 9d. I got 14lbs. of coal—that is 2d.—and a ¾d. candle, and a farthing bundle of wood; that is 3d. altogether. Then I had a three-ha’porth of bread and half a quartern of butter, and a ha’porth of tea, and a ha’porth of sugar. and a quarter of a pound of bacon l½d., beside a ha’porth of onions, and a pennyworth of potatoes—that’s all; and I think I laid my money out very well; and that has been all I have had since last Thursday, and now it’s Sunday. Today I have had nothing at all. I don’t know where my husband is gone, for the publican won’t let me know. If I go and ask at the public-house they only laugh at me. Indeed, whenever a wife goes after her husband at the public-house to fetch him home, she is sent miles out of the way for a lark, so as to keep him there drinking. On the Saturday night the publican keeps the men there till the house is closed, and many of them stays there drinking far into the Sunday morning in spite of the law. Take the generality of the lumpers’ wives, they are very badly off indeed.” One of the women produced a bundle of pawn-tickets of things belonging to herself and her landlord. She told me that she had been obliged to make away with the blankets. sheets, and fire-irons of the lodgings that she occupied in order to live. She had kept the door shut all day (she said), for fear the landlord should come in, and missing the property, send her to Maidstone gaol.
To show the temptations that beset the poor, I give the state­ment of a woman known to all her neighbours as a very thrifty housewife, and an active, industrious woman. Her children’s, her own, and her husband’s clothing, scant and old as it was, all showed great care-taking; her home was very tidy. A few years back, a little after Christmas, she and her husband (now a lumper, but then pursuing a different calling) had been out all day, penni­less, and returned to their room a little before dusk, without hav­ing earned a farthing. The wife was then suckling her first child. which was two months old. She felt very faint, and the only thing in the house on which she thought it possible to raise a penny was a glass tumbler—”that very tumbler,” she continued, “which you see on the table. Everything but that had gone to the pawn-shop. Well, it cost 5~d., and I went to— and tried to sell it for 2d. I couldn’t sell it at all, as the dealer had too many of such things. I then went to a neighbour and said, ‘Mrs. B— , for God’s sake lend me 2d. on this glass, for we’re starving.’ ‘Mrs.—' said she, ‘I’m sure you should have 3d., but I haven’t 3d., nor a halfpenny.’ Well, when I’d gone back it was dark, and my husband had gone to bed, such as it was—for we had neither blankets nor sheets left to cover us—as the best way to forget he was hungry and cold. We hadn’t a bit of fire nor candle, but there was a bit of light came from the lamp in the street through the window. I sat down by the fire, that wasn’t in, to suckle my child - poor little Bill! he’s a fine lad now—and I found I had hardly any milk; and what would become of the child? All at once a thought came into my head, and I said to myself, ‘Yes, I’ll cut my own throat, and then little Bill’s’—and I determined I would. Then I said to myself, ‘No, I won’t; for if I can cut my own throat, I know I can’t cut the child’s; so it’ll be little use, I’ll go to the waterworks, and jump in with him in my arms. I got up to do it, and then another thought came on me, and I laid down the child on that chair, and I shook my husband and said, ‘You villain, I’ll cut your throat, I will,’ and he jumped up and seized hold of me, and then I felt how bad I’d been; but one’s passion must have some vent, so I seized that very kettle you see there by the spout—the gas rather lighted it—and I smashed it on the floor; it was the first thing that came to hand—and broke a bole in it that cost me 2½d. to get mended. After that I felt calmed a bit, and began to see how wicked I’d been, and I fell down on my knees and cried like a child, for I was thankful to God I’d been preserved. Then I went to bed and prayed never to feel the like again.” This statement was made with perfect simplicity; it came out incidentally, and the poor woman had no reason to believe that it would be printed.