Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breaking Stones for Road-Mending and the Stone Project

I went to a very interesting talk in Maxton, Scotland on Monday evening by Jake Harvey, emeritus Professor and former head of Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, about the international Stone Project.

He talked for well over an hour, with interesting slides and videos, about quarrying and stone working techniques, sculptors and stone workers, sculptures, and exhibitions.

For me, one of the most astonishing views was that of a female quarry worker in Peenya Quarry, India, breaking up stone using a 15kg (33 lbs) hammer. She must have tremendous strength and I wonder if her back aches too ? She has no protection from chips on splinters, not for her bare arms, feet and ankles, or her head, particularly not for her eyes. I suspect her sari is pretty thin and chips could easily fly through thin cloth. I also wondered if she had ever hit her feet, a blow from that hammer would surely break foot bones.

When Jake said she was breaking stone for road repairs, I immediately thought of the women described in the poor registers (for example, Widow Davidson of Jedburgh, Scotland, aged 45, who 'breaks down stones into sand, and makes about 3d a day'), and in the poorhouse at Jedburgh engaged in breaking stones.

There's more about Widow Davidson of Jedburgh in our publications, Jedburgh Parish (1852-1874) and Jedburgh Parish (1875-1893).

I wonder how Widow Davidson was attired, whether she had any protection, and whether she did the work at home or in a quarry, and whether she was supervised. I haven't managed to find any detailed descriptions of this type of work.

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