Barrack Children Orphans

David Dale’s Mill in Low Blantyre’s Village also had children in his labour force known as Barrack Children. These were orphans between the ages of six and twelve who had been adopted from the parish authorities by the Manager of Blantyre Works. Ironically, some of them were children of parents who had died in Milling accidents.

Blantyre-Mills-1903The mill owner had to undertake to clothe them, provide them with a good education, living quarters and attend to their health and spiritual needs. Times were hard, the world was grey and people had to cope. The children were however thankful for this care. This was a way to avoid “the poor house” early Victorian institutions. By the early 1800s, it was recorded that of the 295 workers at the mill, 60 of them were Barracks children, a statistic which due to minimum or little wage, i’m sure would have seen the business thrive financially. Some of the children would have worked in return for being cared for, clothed and housed. Although we may consider the long working day and their environment as harsh, the workers and the Barrack Children considered themselves fortunate to live and work at Blantyre Mills.

The long working day meant that there was very little time for personal pursuits. Saturday was considered a relatively short working day as they only worked nine hours. Sunday, of course, being the Sabbath and keenly observed, meant that the Barrack Children had little time to play the usual children’s games. The first school at the Work’s Village was in two rooms on the ground floor of Shuttle Row. The children attended this school after work between 8.00pm and 10.00pm. Pictured Shuttle Row, Blantyre Mills in 1903, decades before it was saved and transformed into David Livingstone Centre. Around the time this picture was taken the mill company went into liquidation and the buildings in this area started to go into decline.

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