Alexander Dean

Alexander Dean was born in Dundee in 1806. Dean, an overlooker at Duntruin Mill, was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 29th June, 1832.

Primary Sources

(1) Alexander Dean was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 29th June, 1832.

Question: What are the ages of the females at your factory?

Answer: From twelve to fourteen.

Question: What effect has this long standing on the females?

Answer: The girls become knock-knee'd and bow-legged.

Question: Has it at all affected you?

Answer: Yes, I am very much knock-knee'd.

Question: Is there anybody in your neighbourhood that is strikingly deformed?

Answer: One man that is working now at a mill near Brachin, about twenty miles from Dundee, and who is about thirty years of age, does not stand above four feet six inches high, and had he grown to his proper height I think he would have been about five feet eight, or five feet nine. He has been in the mills since he was five years old, and he is reduced to that state that he slides about upon a stool to do his work.

Question: Anybody else?

Answer: Saunders Crabb. His body is twisted in one direction, and his shoulders in another; the body is twisted backwards and forwards, and his legs are so bowed that he mostly sits upon his heels.

Question: Is it known that this deformity has come upon him since he has worked in the mills?

Answer: Unquestionably; every one that knows him knows that.

Question: Are the hands principally young ones at Duntruin Mill?

Answer: Yes, there are a great number of them below twelve.

Question: Where do they come from?

Answer: Some from the poor-houses in Edinburgh.

Question: Were they sent young?

Answer: Yes; I know some that were engaged at three and four years.

Question: It has been stated that considerable preparation has been usually made in mills previously to the expected visits of strangers and others coming for the purpose of inspecting them. Do you believe that anything of that kind occurs in your district.

Answer: It is always the case. In May I received an order, when the Board of Health was going about visiting the mills, and they wanted to see if the system would have any great effect upon this plague that was raging, and I was given orders that day to get the mill cleaned; and every gentleman or lady that comes to the mill is always kept ignorant by this blindfolding plan.

Question: Would the cruel beatings cease during any such visits?

Answer: Undoubtedly; everything is made to make the thing appear more bright than it is.

Question: Do you think the hands, especially the younger ones, are more liable to accidents after they get fatigued and drowsy.

Answer: Yes, I had one young girl under my charge at Dundee and towards evening she was drowsy and sleepy; and her thumb came into contact with the machinery. I was about three or four yards from her when I heard the snap, and by the time I came up to her, her thumb was away from her hand. She held her hand out to me with her thumb gone, the same as if it had been cut with a razor.