While mines and quarries in and around Glasgow, and further afield, continued to supply raw materials such as limestone, sandstone and slate to meet the demands of urban and industrial growth in the city, 1830-1914 was primarily the age of coal and iron. By 1870 the west of Scotland, including Glasgow, was producing eighty per cent of Scotland's coal and all of Scotland's malleable ironworks were situated in the west. From 1862 shale was extracted and refined commercially to produce oil for lighting Glasgow homes.
Exhaustion of the exposed coal and blackband iron seams, coupled with technical advances over this period, made extraction of these minerals far more capital intensive. Despite technological advances, the extractive industries still remained heavily dependent on a large workforce. With the advent of the 1842 Mines Act and the withdrawal of women and children from underground work in mines demand for labour was addressed through recruitment of newly arrived Irish, Highland and Lithuanian immigrants. The period saw the growth of the large coal and iron concerns such as William Dixon and William Bairds & Co which, with interests abroad and in banking, were able to invest more substantially than many small concerns which went out of business. By the 1870s many of these concerns had moved entirely into coal rather than enter the emerging steel industry.
A decline in wages in the 1870s, 1890s and from 1902 to 1909, the loss of mineworkers' job control and the harsh tactics of west of Scotland mine owners, saw a growth in mining trade unionism. This culminated in the formation of the county and district unions, the Mining Federation of Great Britain (1889) and the Scottish Miners Federation (1894). First in 1894 and then in 1912, hostility erupted in Scottish and then British coal strikes.
Mining, particularly in the once rich coalfields of Lanarkshire, was in long term decline from 1914 onwards as markets contracted and the industries failed to compete with better directed, organised and more modern competitors.
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