Voices in the Coalshed: Butty System
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Voices in the Coalshed: Butty System

Fancy a Butty?

What do you think of when you hear the word butty? Maybe like me, your first thought is a bacon butty? Or any kind of sandwich with a hot filling. In Wales the word means a man’s male friend or a man he works with. It has always fascinated me how one word can be used for many different reasons. You may or may not know that Butty was also a word that was used to describe sub-contracting in the mining industry.


In larger pits, a “buttyman” would be allocated a section of seam by the colliery manager and he would employ a number of boys and men to help him extract the coal, often using his own equipment. The buttyman was paid a fee by the colliery owner for each ton of coal sent to the surface. The buttyman would then pay the men a day rate. Just like today when a  business or a person undertakes work for a company that is part of a larger project or zero hour contacts. This contract system in mining was widespread throughout British coalfields during the 1920s and 1930s and called the Butty System. The butty system was gradually replaced by an arrangement where the piece work earnings were shared out equally, this was sometimes called the share-out system.



Volunteer Tracey, who researched and wrote this article , volunteers from home and attends project meeting remotely. You don’t need to live in Yorkshire to be able to volunteer at the National Coal Mining Museum. If you would like to join Voices in the Coal Shed, please get in touch with voicesinthecoalshed@gmail.com or volunteer@ncm.org.uk


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