Robert ARCHIBALD was a collier born in Liberton in 1704.
Robert married Janet BENNETT. Their baptized their children in first Libberton, then Inveresk and later in Newtown.
Liberton is about 4 miles SW of Musselburgh. Inveresk is on the southern outskirts of Musselburgh. Newton is 2 miles south again.
In April 1725, a group of colliers 'belonging to Mr Biggar' petitioned the Kirk Session of Newton Parish to have a loft or gallery built inside the church for them. The Kirk Session agreed to it but asked that the colliers get consent from the Heritors. In 1732 their request was granted. A new church was built in 1742 and another loft built in 1747. Access to this new loft was by a staircase built on the outside the church.
To celebrate these events, two boards (one for 1732 and another for 1747) were put up in the church bearing the names of the petitioning colliers. Robert and his brothers Thomas and Hendry are listed on the 1747 board. Thomas and James BENNETT ware listed on the 1732 board. Were they relations of Robert's wife Janet BENNETT?
Under a law of 1606, life as a collier was effectively slave labour. Each miner was bound to his employer for life or until he was traded to another coal or salt mine. If another employer was found employing the miner elsewhere then the employer would be fined £100, the miner returned to his original employer, "held as thieves" and "punished in their bodies". While it would appear that the next generation could avoid this fate, in practice the miners would sell their children into bondage when young for some additional money. This practise was known as 'arling'. The laws were partially repealed in 1775 due to a labour shortage; the conditions of work did not attract new blood into the workforce. The revised law ended the lifelong element, but did require the existing miners or newly apprenticed (or arled) miners to serve out many years of work before being free. It wasn't until 1799 that this form of bondage was ended altogether. Robert ARCHIBALD and his sons would have worked their whole life under these terms.
Robert died in 1750 and was buried in the Old Kirkyard, which is situated in Millerhill, Dalkeith. .