South Yorkshire Mining Students – The Treatment of Pit Ponies

March 1907

Mexborough and Swinton Times March 2nd 1907.

South Yorkshire Mining Students
The Treatment of Pit Ponies

A general meeting of the South Yorkshire Mining Students Association was held at the Ship Hotel on Saturday evening. Mr Hugh Ross, vice president occupied the chair and he was supported by Mr J.H. Barraclough, Rotherham; Mr M Watson, Wath on Dearne, Mr W H Cook, Mexborough; Mr S Kynaston hon secretary; Mr B Hadfiels hon secretary etc

Pit Ponies

A paper on “Pit ponies: work, food, and general treatment,” was next read, by Mr E. Feeney, of Denaby main. At the outset, he said that when the human coal bearer was no longer able to meet the demands, the pony was requisitioned, and in many instances it was feared its masters were now not merely thoughtless, but heartless, and treated their long-suffering and generally willing friend in a most cruel and shameful manner.

The dumb toiler at one time was often made to suffer untold agonies. Maybe it was taken down the mine at too early an age, whilst on occasion it was too old to accustom itself to the unnatural conditions found below ground, the result being can untimely death, the pony breaking down under the strain. During recent years many improvements had been affected; the conditions of the stables were better; the ponies generally were better cared for, and the food better, whilst cases of wanton cruelty were not so common.

Still there was room for improvement, and though the day might come when as a result of the progress of invention, underground haulage would be done almost entirely by mechanical appliances. It had yet to be remembered that in the coal mines there were thousands of ponies at work daily. To what extent the managers and owners of the colliery’s were responsible by reason of their failing to pay attention to the manner of treatment to which the ponies were subjected, it would serve no useful purpose to discuss at that meeting, but it would be hard indeed to realise that any manager or owner would not do all that reasonably could be done to preserve the health of the ponies.

As regarded the work of pit ponies, he said that as a rule the ponies were somewhat below average size. And they did not, as a rule, get as much work out of them as ponies on the surface. The best results were obtained from horse labour when that resistance to the trains were equal both ways. If the roads were muddy, or the tubs insufficiently greased, or the rails badly late, or the roads not kept clean, a large portion of the energy exerted by the horse was lost in overcoming the extra friction so caused. Of course, there were other things which diminished the value of a horses energy. Such as an irregular floor or a badly ventilated roadway.

Mr Nicholas Ward had calculated the tractive force of a horse at 120lbs., When travelling at the rate of from 2 to 3 miles an hour, he estimated that it would continue such work for 10 hours. From experiments made at different collieries it appeared that one fourth of the effect was obtained from horses working underground. He might say that the useful performance of a horse underground was to convey about 45 tonnes at 1 mph, though no rules or calculations of that sort could apply generally.

Referring to the food, the lecturer spoke as to the superiority of the horse, and the necessity of the regulation of the diet to suit labourer and conditions under which the work was performed. In a high-temperature, as often existed in mines, it tended to maintain the heat of the body, and not so much nourishment was required. Alluding to the treatment of pit ponies, Mr Feeney said that at some collieries in South Wales no horses were stabled underground. That was where the number was small, and the horse was there brought to the surface at the end of the day’s work. Such a thing, however was impracticable in the large South Yorkshire collieries.

He went on to deal with the stable accommodation, and the disadvantages of horse labour, particularly referring to the cost of keeping horses during idle days, and temporary stoppages and delays in the working of the mine.

In conclusion the lecturer referred to the brutality practised in mines, and mentioned that in their Yorkshire coalfield there had been in existence for the past eight years a society called the Yorkshire Society for the Encouragement of Humane Treatment and Kindness to Pit ponies, which had done much to elevate and improve manliness in pony drivers. The Countess Fitzwilliam was the president, and there were 32 collieries associated with the movement.