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Child labour in Bell Island mines
Interview with Charles Bown (transcript and audio)

This is a Partnered Project of the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site. Produced in partnership Margaret Hawco and the 1998 Heritage Fairs.

Child labour in Bell Island mines

These excerpts are from a display by Margaret Hawco, a grade 5 student at the 1998 Heritage Fair in St. John's, Newfoundland. The fair was sponsored by the C.R.B. Foundation, Montreal.

During the early 1900's boys worked with the mining companies. Although they didn't work underground, they spent long 10 hour shifts working above the ground. Their job was to separate the rocks from the ore as it went along on the belt. They also made sure that the horses were fed and groomed. Another job was to get water for the men.

The boys began work as young as ten years old. Often it was because they needed to help their families. They quit school as early as grade three. A lot of men were left with no education and no way to learn new jobs after the mines were closed.

Mr. Bown began working in the mine on Bell Island on January 17,1938. He worked there for twenty-eight years. While there he worked as a trammer first, then a welder who repaired equipment in the mines.

A trammer was also called a "signalman" because his job was to ride in front of the tram, which was going down into the mine. He wore a very bright light on his helmet so he could see if there were any obstructions on the tracks ahead of them.

Mr. Bown is now retired and living on Bell Island.

© 1998, Margaret Hawco

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