James McNish

James McNish first obtained employment in the textile industry at the age of seven. McNish eventually became a manager of a textile factory in Glasgow. McNish was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 15th June, 1832.

Primary Sources

(1) James McNish was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 15th June, 1832.

Question: What proportion of the spinners do you think are children or young persons?

Answer: There are 1,100 spinners, and each of those spinners employs three individuals under the age of eighteen, and there are a number of young persons employed in others parts of the works.

Question: Making in the whole, what?

Answer: About 4,000 under eighteen, engaged in spinning alone. There are more than two females to one male.

Question: State the hours of labour that the children are required to work in the mill?

Answer: Twelve hours a day, and nine on Saturday.

Question: Do you know, from your observation and experience, the individuals at forty years of age are discharged as not being able any longer to perform their work with sufficient activity?

Answer: Out of 1,600 men in factories in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire, there were not more than ten that were forty-five years of age, and they consisted of men who had been long in the employment of an individual master, and who, different to other masters, kept them on. When they come to the age of forty their eyesight fails, and their constitution is so bad they cannot produce the quantity that is required by their employers. A given quantity is required, and they turned off, and young men employed.

Question: Is there a difference in the quality of the goods manufactured, when the hands are over tired.

Answer: Yes, there is one particular fault, in what we call bad pieceings, and those have to be broken, and the piecers have to follow up the machinery to break those bad ends; and when they do not follow up the machinery to break them, and those bad ends go on, they hurt the price of the yarn, and reduce its value in the market.

Question: From your observations, should you say that the children become crippled in their limbs?

Answer: Yes, I have seen various instances of their being crippled, and their limbs growing crooked. I know that the girls have frequently bad legs, with running sores; in fact, I may say so of factory people in general.