A Day in the Life of a Shoe Factory Worker
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From Hugh Peden's web page. Written by his father William Peden.

In Scotland the school age was compulsory from 5 to 14 years, after 14 years in my town, there was no school for advanced education; had there been one, I could not have afforded it.

But at 14 years it was considered that one had received sufficient education to go to work in the shoe factories which were the main source of employment. I started work at the age of 13 years, having obtained what was then called a labour certificate from the school board. This was granted by the board after satisfying themselves that the applicant was not an out and out moron and that the proceeds from his labour would be a help at home. There was also a further stipulation that on reviewing the certificate, one must attend evening classes for two years and any breach of these conditions meant a return to day school, so the rules were generally strictly observed.

Now lets have a look at those shoe factories, where fathers, mothers and sometimes the whole family worked, from the age of fourteen upwards.

The work day started at 6 a.m.; just think of having to get up and light the fire on a cold winter morning, grab a cup of tea and perhaps a piece of toast, and dash off to the factory and be on time when the horn or siren blasted off.

On entering the factory there was a large board on which were hung brass dice, similar to dog tags in appearance and like them also, each one was numbered, the numbers designating the different employees.

Underneath this was a black tin box; a deed box, which had a slot in the lid. On entering one would take off his numbered check from the board and deposit it in the box. About two minutes grace would be allowed after the whistle blew, then the doors would be locked, the numbers of remaining checks left on the board would be taken. Fifteen minutes later the doors would open again and the tardy ones could deposit their checks, but would be docked fifteen minutes for being late. The same procedure would become effective for the next fifteen minutes, with a 30 minute penalty, if later than that one had to go home.

The working hours were from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., then home for breakfast, back to work from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., for lunch, then from 2 p.m. until six o'clock.

Note how the work day was broken up, so that the maximum of energy was drained out of the employees body and transferred to the employer in the form of shillings and pence. Due to long hours, low wages, unsanitary conditions and poor food, many children and grown ups alike contracted T.B. and died.

When I first started work; for five and a half days, 55 hours, received the generous wage of four shillings with the added incentive, if my production or usefulness warranted it, of getting and increase of sixpence every six months.