The Church in Scotland
A Tour of Wigtownshire
Ghosts in my Past
Counties, Countries, and other...
Geography of Wigtownshire
Origins of the People
Castle of St. John
Ghost of Galdenoch
Death and the IGI
Old Parish Records [OPR]
The Rover of Loch Ryan
Farm Servant vs Ag Lab
What can a Professional Genealogist do?
What Makes a Good Researcher
The Museum, Newton Stewart
Farm Servants and Agricultural Laborers
|by Crawford MacKeand
|Which is which? And is there a difference? Yes, there is quite an
important difference, and while the main points here are from C.S. Orwin's
book "The History of Farming in England", I have a few data examples
saying that the same terminology and practices applied in Galloway.
Firstly, an agricultural laborer is not a farm servant & vice-versa.
In the 1851 Census, my family members in Sorbie, Wigtownshire were
||Servant in Dairy
The Farm Servant was just a little further up in the pecking order. Maybe
quite a lot further if you were at the bottom! If single, he "lived-in"
and bed and board were part of the contract for hire, and if married, he
was provided with a house or a cottage, with possibly some grazing rights
or strip of land to use and some provisions for the family. Cash wages
were maybe less than 40% of total income. Hiring could be a continuation
of existing employment or a new contract established at a "hiring fair",
and was normally for a one year period, or at least six months.
The worker looking for a new post, and the farmer looking for a new hire
attended one of the many "hiring fairs" where men and women advertised
their availability for work; men in their trade by a traditional "badge",
a piece of whipcord for a horseman, plait of straw for a thatcher, crook
for a shepherd etc. Women were often hired in a hall set aside for the
purpose, men on the streets.
In some areas the Farm Servant was also known as a "confined man" and this
was a desirable status to be aimed at. He, almost always he, was skilled
typically in horse or other livestock care (mine seem to have been
horsemen) and was therefore employed continuously year round.
The Agricultural Laborer on the other hand was paid day wages, hired on a
short term as and when work was needed, and therefore much more
characteristic of arable farming, for planting, hoeing, reaping etc. He or
she was given no accomodation, often operated as part of a gang under a
contractor, and received only wages. In the example above, it is clear
that youngsters, who could still live at home with parents or other close
family, would get a start, some experience, and maybe some training as
agricultural laborers. In the fullness of time, the usual pattern was that
a boy would finally obtain the coveted "Farm Servant" position, and when a
house became available would marry a girl, and so the cycle of life
This system prevailed well into the 20th Century and could only be
superseded by a modern mobile society able to "commute" to work. For
the period most of us are interested in, census distinction between
the two "grades" of employee may help clarify who was where & when.
Greenville, Delaware USA, Feb 2002