Population and employment

Table 5        

In 1851, 2645 (44.7 per cent) of the Galashiels population were listed as having employed occupations, a ratio of 70 males to 30 females (1857 males, 788 females); the youngest employed was aged six (a message boy) and the oldest a widow aged 84 (lodginghouse keeper).  Without ‘an employed occupation’ were 3274 (55.3 per cent) and included 1988 under-14 years of age and 805 wives.  The social spectrum ranged from 15 proprietors of land/houses and 20 annuitants (including six gentlewomen) to 52 paupers.

Thirty years later the proportion employed or without a ‘stated occupation’ had changed very little even though the population had increased by almost 160 per cent.  The significant change, however, was in the number of females in the workplace.  With employed occupations were 44.1 per cent (6768), a ratio of 63 males to 37 females (4265 males, 2503 females); 96 workers were under-14 with 62 in the woollen-textile mills, including a girl aged 11.  ‘Without stated occupations’ were 8562 (55.9 per cent), including 5293 under-14s and 2090 wives.  In contrast to 27 with independent means there were 35 inmates in the Combination Poorhouse which was established under the provisions of the Poor Law (Scotland) Amendment Act 1845 to serve the parishes of Galashiels, Bowden, Melrose, Selkirk, and Yarrow.  The inmates consisted of 23 males aged from 84 to an infant under 1 year; 12 females aged from 95 to 5 years of age.

Table 5 shows an analysis of the working population not employed in textiles, indicating both labouring and domestic work as major categories of employment in both decennial periods.  In 1851, 92 labourers worked in agriculture whilst the other labouring jobs were building 24, railways 18 and road maintenance 12. However in 1881, just 24 labourers were in agricultural work but 73 in building; whilst only one railway labourer was listed there were another 63 railway employees designated as porters, engine cleaners, surfacemen, clerks, signalmen and shunters.  Domestic work entailed being part of a household in 1851 (see Table 4).  In 1881 there were 120 ‘live-in’ servants (including 4 males: hostler, boots, post boy and a domestic general) but a major change showed that the remaining 211 worked as domestic generals in posts within the wider community.

Occupations, other than Woollen-Textile Workers.

Labourers *179**357
Domestic Servants154331
Joiners/Carpenters     49156
Plumbers   224
Ministers of Religion711
In Apprenticeship110133

*Includes 93 Agricultural labourers.    **Includes 25 Agricultural labourers.

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 tken 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.

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