The rest of the data in Table 5 is demographic evidence that the workforce in Galashiels was changing as the town grew in size to cope with an expanding population.  It shows a considerable increase over the thirty years in the number employed by retail outlets: grocers, bakers, butchers, tailors and dressmakers; reflecting the prosperity of the town and growth of consumer spending.  The number of boot/shoemakers had not changed to the same extent; the simplistic view might be taken that boots and shoes were a longer-lasting commodity unlike tailoring or dressmaking reacting to fashion as it changed in the late 1880s. More straight forward and to be expected was the growth in the number of skilled artisans – masons, joiners and carpenters - increasing threefold by 1881 to meet the structural demands of an expanding urban town. 

Table 5 also provides evidence of the changes that occurred in the structure of the workforce through implentation of local government legislation.  The Public Health (Scotland) Act 1867 gave local authorities the power to provide fresh water supplies and improve sanitation and it can be seen that the number of plumbers increased from 2 in 1851 to 24 by 1881 (migrants providing 17 of them.)  Health and vaccination, also covered by the Act, required more doctors and chemists in Galashiels, the number rising from 3 to 14 by 1881.  The level of law and order for a town with a rapidly increasing population is reflected by 5 policemen in 1851 but rising to 12 in 1881; notably, all were migrants. 

The Education Act of 1872 made education compulsory for five to thirteen year olds and it can be seen in Table 5 this resulted in a three-fold increase in the number of scholars and a four-fold rise in the number of teachers.  In 1881 only 11 of the 42 teachers were born in Galashiels and 15 designated as ‘Teacher Pupil’ (aged from 13 to 31 years).  An analysis of scholars in 1851 showed 21 were ‘four years or under’ and 34 were ‘14 years or older’; in 1881, 40 were ‘four years or under’ and there were 75 ‘14 years or older’.  The school-leaving age of 13 was not changed until the 1883 Act raised it to 14, so it is noteworthy that 75 scholars (41 boys and 34 girls) were still at school in 1881 despite being over the age of 13.  Equally noteworthy is the fact that 47 of the 75 were from migrant families, and it may be argued that the enterprising spirit of their parents in migrating to improve their well-being was still in evidence by allowing their children to continue their education beyond the statutory school-leaving age.

 

Woollen-Textile Workers

 

It can be reaily identified from the data in the 1851 and 1881 Censuses that the dynamics for the growth and prosperity of Galashiels derived from its woollen-textile cloth industry, demonstrated by the expansion in the number of mills and the increasing number of people they employed.  In 1851 there were 1364 woollen-textile workers accounting for 51.5 per cent of those employed in the town. The number increasing by 170 per cent in 1881 when 3672 millworkers were now 54.4 per cent of the working population. 

The Census Enumerators’ Returns for 1881 show 73 per cent of those working in the Galashiels woollen industry had specified occupations.  However, 27 per cent were shown as ‘millworker’, and an assumption is made that their employment was as assistants or general labourers in the various process of weaving, spinning, dyeing or scouring.  The 995 listed as ‘millworker’ consisted of 617 males which included 23 boys aged 13 and also 10 over 65 years (oldest 81); also, 378 females included 9 girls of 13 years and 2 women over 65 (oldest 76).  It has to be borne in mind that the school-leaving age was not raised to 14 until 1883.  

There were two significant changes in the mill workforce during the thirty year period.  First, nearly half employed in 1881 were women and girls, 47 per cent compared with just 28.9 per cent in 1851.  They had quickly adapted to operating the powerloom and by 1881 over 70 per cent of the powerloom weavers were female and their cheaper weekly pay rate of 15s (75p) compared with males 22s (110p)(6) made their employment an attractive proposition for the millowners.

The second change during the thirty years was in the weaving process and this was revolutionary: the powerloom replaced the handloom and virtually swept away a craft that had its origins in the domestic workshop.   There were 542 handloom weavers (534 males, 8 females) and 7 powerloom weavers (4 males, 3 females) listed in 1851.  These figures provide evidence of the scale of the Galashiels woollen-textile trade in 1851 and indicate the likely number of handlooms in operation.

 

 

 

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