Ann David

Ann David was born c.1829 in South Pembrokeshire. Born into poverty, very little is known about Ann and her family, although she is documented in a Royal Commission into colliery working conditions as a 13 year old ‘Haulier of Skips’ at Kilgetty Colliery. She is described as having ‘little religious knowledge; could not read; very pale’.

What is clear is that necessity forced Ann and her sister Mary to work underground. In ‘Living and Working in the Pembrokeshire Coalfield’, John Harry explains: ‘The poverty and dreadful conditions that people had to face left parents with little choice but to send their children, many under six years old, to the depths of the earth to work like moles.’

While the grueling workload was shared between both sexes, working class women and girls were further disadvantaged by pay inequality. For those who picked culm, boys earned 3s. 6d. per week, while girls received just 2s. Furthermore, many of the women’s tasks were later performed by ‘pit ponies’ and so they found themselves redundant in the most desperate of situations.

In 1842, the Royal Commission into the working conditions in mines reported that poor children had very little opportunity to improve their social situations (as they had little or no access to education) and were at risk of serious lung damage or other health problems. The presence of gas and risk of injury or fatality was also a constant threat. This is encapsulated in the commissioner’s appraisal of Ann David’s family: ‘Her sister Mary, 16 years old, was very intelligent; but she had only worked below three months, as the father (a collier) was laid aside with shortness of breath, and the mother had been dead six months’.

The commission also found that pit owners were often unsympathetic towards their employees: ‘Mr. Owen did not believe there was any necessity to limit the age of children entering the mines as they were not asked to work more than ten hours either at night or during the day…’

Ann David’s own words most effectively describe her ordeal, the level of social injustice and a personal sense of hopelessness:

‘(I) was 10 years old when first taken to work below ground. Sister and I haul the skips from the men where the women wind; it is a good bit away…We work from six in the morning til seven or eight at night…The time is long and the work is very hard indeed; sad, tiring sort and I feel very glad when over… (I) earn 7s (35p) in the fortnight…Never got hurt below, though we pull down hill. Would much like to work above ground. Was taught to read before working, but now forgotten it altogether. Can knit and sew a little…’

Little else is known of Ann David, although between 1839 and 1841, more than 125 colliery workers were killed in Pembrokeshire in accidents including drowning, suffocation and burning.

Categories: Agriculture | Survivors | Uncategorized

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