A meat-and-potatoes, four-decade, family sit-down, beginning in 1840 and set in a mining town near Glasgow. Dauntless Kate, impregnated at sixteen by a philandering Balfour of the mine-owning Balfours, has been dismissed from her position as housekeeper by upright minister Galbraith because of parish talk and his own wandering eye. Kate storms off with her ten-year-old son Jack to marry, eventually, miner Findlay. From here on it's mainly a matter of disposing of the Findlay offspring as well as Findlay's own by-blow, a lad of engineering smarts. Fortunately bastard Jack possesses the Balfour nose, so Grandfather Balfour claims his own to the extent of providing schooling for Jack's career as ships-master. And in spite of hard times and miners' rumbles, the children hit pay dirt one way or another: one son becomes a militant journalist; another in America designs steam engines; one daughter pioneers in New Zealand; another opts for single bliss as a doctor; and the ween marries--of all people--the son of old Balfour in a capital/labor match. After Findlay dies, Galbraith (of course he'd turn up-think about it) performs a Findlay/Balfour christening. First in a trilogy--safe and so-so for all those family dynasty hands.