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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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of. — I think I am correct in sayinjg it not only applies Lalham,
to us, but having miners on inquests is studiously avoided.

33173. That is the impression you have gotv at all events? 5 Dec., 1907.

33174. You are acquainted with Section 15» which
provides that inquiries may be made in addition to the
coroner's inquest, an inquiry by the Secretary of State ?—

33175. Is there any complaint in your district that those
sections have not been put into effect where they might
have been put into effect ? — Of course we have accepted
the ruling of the people concerned.

33176. Can you mention any C8we ? I do not think you
can, if you ask me. — No, I could not suggest that any
verdict at an inquest had not been brought in according
to the facts of the case.

33177. And that the facts had been pretty well brought
out as the inquest, at much as they could probably be
got out ? — No, we do not think that.

33178. Can you mention any case in which an inquiry
would have carried it further tiian the coroner's inquest ?
— We think some people would have been censured.

33179. I am coming to that. The object of the inquiry
is not to censure people : that you leave to the coroner :
the object is to find out the cause of the accident. — ^We say
that by a jury who have not a general knowledge of mining
there are many things which have not been brought out.

33180. (Mr. Ratdiffe Mis.) I did not know that there
was such a scramble to get on juries. I have aenerally
found people anxious to keep off them. Do you find men
are anxious to be on coroner's juries ? — I have never felt
that way.

33181. Particularly anxious to be on or off ? — If the
police have come and have asked me I have made every
sacrifice, but it is well known they never come when there
is an accident.

33182. I believe it is about Is. they get for attendance ?
— I have never had Is. I have been foreman of the jury
when selected and I have never had a shilling.

33183. Do you think a miner would care to lose a day
by attending on a jury ? — We do not think they would
lose a day.

33184. Would somebody pay them ?— No. We think
in a colliery district there are men on the night shift who
are at home and who would serve if they had been asked.

33185. They are at work in the night, and would serve
on the coroner's jury in the day-time. Why do you want
them on the jury ? You can call them as witnesses. You
can call any man who has some special knowledge as a
witness, or he can give information to persons to put
questions. Why do you want them on the jury ? I am
assuming the object of the coroner's jury is to find out the
cause of death, secondly, whether anybody is to blame
for it ?— Yes.

33186. Why do you want the men on the jury ? — ^To
find out when and whether there has been any dilatory
method in the management.

33187. If they have any information they can give it
as witnesses ?— These people can intentionally do Siat ?

33188. Any person in a mine. A miner who knows
something special about it can give evidence ? — He is not

33189. He may be called 7 - Who would call him ?

33190. If the coroner got information that there was
a man who knew something about it, he would be called ? —
That does not take place. The people who give evidence
are left with the colliery people.

33191. You say they are left with the colliery people, but
my experience is that the policeman who helps the coroner
and his warrant officer gets all the evidence he can from
everybody, and brings it before tiie coroner to be called^
not the colliery people ? — I am afraid that is not so.

33192. Have you found that coroners refuse to call
people who might volunteer as witnesses ? — No. The
coroner simply comes on the scene and the officer has, of
course, the nearest relative and the man nearest to him
when he was killed, or the men who have helped to get
him out, and the fireman.

33193. They are all called ?— Yes.

33194. Will you explain why you want the miners to
be on the jury ? — That there may be a closer investigation.

33196. Do you think there would be ?-— Yes.

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Mr. W, 33196. Do yoa think the investigations are not suffi-

LtUham. ciently complete for the purpose of ascertaining the cause

of death and whether anybody is to blame ? Those are

5 Dec., 1907. the only two things the coroner has to do ? — We think
that there have b^n instances where at least you could
have lodged a case of manslaughter and so on. There have
been many lax things in connection with the whole cir-
cumstances, and it would have been of very great value
if men who had known the work had been at the place.

33197. Mr. Cunynghame has pointed out the object of
the coroner's inquiry is limited, first of all to ascertaining
how the man came to his death, and secondly, is anybody
to blame for it ? — Yes.

33198. Those are the only two things the coroner has
to inquire about. Do you think upon those two points
that there is not sufficient investigation before coroners'
juries ? — It comes to our knowledge that there has been
a juror who has had to ask what a prop is. The jury
have not known what is meant bv a tree, they have
asked, when you say you set a tree, what you mean. They
had an idea it was like a tree for apples to grow on, and if
the son that fell on him was the soil of the ground. They
show absolute ignorance.

33199. In a colliery district is it not rather exceptional
to find anybody so absolutely ignorant of colliery matters
as that ? Many of the shopkeepers have probably worked
in a mine in their earlier days ? — There may be some
instances, but not many.

33200. In your district it is not so ? — Yes.

33201. With regard to inspection after an accident,
you think things should be left as they are ? — Yes.

33202. That is the law now. Have you the Act of
Parliament before you ? Section 35, Sub-section 2, says :
Where loss of life or serious personal injury has imme-
diately resulted from an explosion or accident, the place
where the explosion or accident occurred shall be left as
it was immediately after the explosion or accident, until
the expiration of at least three days after the sending
of such notice as aforesaid of such explosion or accident,
or until the visit of the place by an inspector, whichever
first happens." That is to say, the law requires matters
to be left exactly as they are until the inspector comes ?
— We say they are not left.

33203. That is a violation of the Act of Parliament.

(Mr, SmiUie,) Is there not " unless " something ?

(Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) Unless compliance with this
enactment would tend to increase or continue a danger
or would impede the working of the mine." It could not
be left under those circumstances.

(Mr. SmiUie.) It is easy to say it should not be left.

(Mr, Ratdiffe Ellis.) That is an evasion. At present
that is the law of the land. You would not ask that
things should be left exactly as they were if it was
going to cause danger of fire ?

(Witness.) No.

33204. You do not want it to go on burning ? — No,
but if there was an absence of timber and men had been
calling out for timber for three weeks and there had not
been any timber sent down, I do not think as soon as ever
this accident occurred that loads of timber should be
taken to the pit and sawn up and sent down and got ready
by the time the inspector comes. In two or three days
the whole thing is changed. I am bound to say that is so.

33205. Supposing that the place was dangerous and
there was a danger of a further fall, would you wish that
it should remain as it is, the danger increasing and the
place coming down ? — That is not what I am asking.

33206. Assuming this rule was honestly carried out>
is there anything more that you want ? — No, only that
if it was known the management did that and the people
who did it were prosecuted, then they would not do it

33207. Then it goes on to say : ** Every owner, agent
or manager who fails to act in compliance with this section
shall be guilty of an offence against this Act." That is to
say, he is liable to be prosecuted if he alters the conditions
unless it should be necessary to prevent any further
danger. I do not understand you to wish anything
further than this enactment, but you say it is not carried
out ? — Yes.

33208. And there are cases where the rule has been
violated and nobody has been prosecuted ? — Yes.

33209. Do you think the inspector has been deceived
in liiose cases ? — I think so.

33210. Do you not know that in practice the first
question the inspector asks is: Is this now in the

condition it was when the accident happened ? " Do you
know that ? — Yes.

33211. Do you think he is deceived ? — am sure he
has been.

33212. It is unfortunate ? — I have known the timber
sent down and have seen it sent down.

(Mr. SmiUie.) He is sure it has been done.

33213. (Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) I should not think that
they were so innocent as to be so imposed upon. With
regard to the safety catehes, have you heard that at
times the safety catehes come into action when they are
not wanted and cause accidents ? — I could not say that
I have.

33214. Have you hoard of an appliance by which the
engine can be stopped in case the speed is not diminished
when it comes to a certain point in the pit to prevent
over- winding ? — To stop the engine instead of cutting
off at the top.

33215. By which the engine is stopped. You have
not heard of that ? — No.

33216. Do you think safety catehes can be applied
satisfactorily to steel conducting guides ? — I am afraid
I am not an expert in that.

33217. I suppose that when you say you wish safety
catehes should be made compulsory, that is subject to
their not causing a greater danger than they are intended
to prevent ? — Quite right.

33218. You have said nothing about the rope. Do
you not think the tension of the rope is more important
than safety catehes ? — Is that a suggestion there should
be a stronger rope ?

33219. No, that the rope should be carefully taken
care of, the capping and the rope itself ? — I am not com-
plaining that is not so.

33220. If the rope is satisfactory and the capping is
satisfactory, you do not want safety catches. It is only
in case of Uie failure of the rope ? — Yes, when the rope
is broken.

33221. Do you know people of considerable eminence
say that they would prefer the rope should be properly
looked after rather than have safety catches, because they
are apt to come into action when not wanted and so cause
danger ? You have not heard that view ? — No. We
have advocated it, because it is about the only place where
a man cannot take care of himself, and if there is anything
in the ingenuity of man the question of cost should not
come into it.

33222. I agree every care should be taken to prevent
accidents in the shaft, but the question is whether safety
catehes are the proper way to do it ? — All I have heard
against it has always been the question of cost, and we
think that life should be more important, not, as you
suggest, that they would act when it was unnecessary.

33223. If they did come into action when they were not
wanted, the effect might be very disastrous ? — That is
so, but I have never heard that argument offered against
it. The argument offered against it is the question of

33224. With regard to unskilled labour in the mine,
what is the sort of labour you refer to ? What does the
person do who is unskilled ? — That is what we find. He
is set on to load, perhaps he has been on a farm all his
life or at some other industry, and knows nothing about
mining. He comes into the pit to load. That is unskilled

33225. The rule is that a man must not get coal unless
he has been working two years at the face ? — That is not
the application of it. I will tell you the practical application
of it is this. If he is put with some more people and there
is one among that number who has had two years' training
it is all right.

33226. I want to know when is a man going to learn
to become a coal-getter except by working at the coal
face with a coal-getter as a loader or a drawer ? — We
suggest that there are many things in a pit, that there is
a natural training. A man who has not gone into the pit
until half way thjrough his life is not a proper person to be

33227. A man must learn somehow or other in the pita
You say he is too old to learn if over 18 ? — Over 21. I
would make it 21.

33228. You would provide that no man should be
allowed to work in a pit who was not in a pit before 21
years of age ? — I think so.


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33229. Does the collier employ hia own drawer or loader ?
— No, he could not take him to the pit.

•^3230. Does he pay hia drawer ?— Yes.

33231. This unskilled labourer is the servant of the
collier ? — Yes.

33232. What has the management to do with that ? —
The management has this to do with it : as soon as that
man has been in the pit a month or two we say that he is
set to work, and that he is as least incompetent.

33233. The collier takes this unskilled man in as a
drawer ? — Yes, in many instances. The collier is not
favourable to taking an agricultural labourer in.

33231. Who does take him in ? The drawer is paid by
the collier and this is a drawer and loader, who is the
collier's servant? — ^Yes. What usually takes place, if
there is labour wanted, is the manager at the pit top
puts one on and tells him that next morning so-and-so
wants a loader.

33235. The loader is not employed by the management
at all, but by the collier, and paid by the collier ? — So
much per ton for loading.

33236. He is the coUier's servant ? — Yes.

33237. Therefore, the collier takes in these unskilled
people ? — Occasionally.

33238. It must be the collier, because they are his ser-
vants. Does he take them because there is no skilled
labour available ? — ^He does not want skilled labour.
He wants to use them until moved up from the class of
loader to another.

33239. Why does he not take one of them ?— He would.

33240. If there was one ? — Perhaps so.

33241. If there was not one, would you deprive the
collier of his work because he must have a drawer to help
him in his work ? Would you make the collier idle because

JP'ou would not allow him to take a man to help him as a
oader 7 — It is not necessary to take in loaders. They
are usually loaders before they come up to 21.

33242. We are talking about unskilled labour. You
tell me that it is not the management who take men into
the pit, but the collier. I suppose he takes them in because
there are no other people available for the purpose ?

{Mr, SmUlie.) The manager says: "Come out to-
morrow ; so-and-so wants a loader," and the management
engages an unskilled person and sends him down.

{Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis,) The witness says the collier could
not work unless he had a drawer or a loader and, therefore,
if he has not a loader he would not work himself. There
is a scarcity of them. If I am not right I want to know
what you say. There is a scarcity of loaders amongst the
people who work in the pit and, therefore, the collier gets
a man who works outside the pit. He may be recom-
mended by the management.

( Witness,) He could not get him down unless the manage-
ment gave him consent.

33243. Is it not this : either the collier must take this
man down or not work at all. It is at his own option ? —
He must either have a loader or load himself.

33244. He would get less money if he loaded himself ?
— ^There are not many that like loading.

33245. It is not the management that employ the
anskilled men, but the colliers, because skilled men are not
available, and they employ them rather than be idle
themselves ? — I do not think they would be idle.

33246. However, that is the position ? — ^Yes.

33247. With regard to fines, were there ever fines in
your district ? — ^Yes.

33248. Do you have fines now ? — Yes.

33249. At the request of the men ? — No.

33250. You cannot fine a man unless he is willing to
be fined? — ^No, and they do not fine them imtil they
have got their consent because of the Truck Act, but they
say : " You have done so and so ; we shall give you
notice, or else you can have a fine," and the man says :
" I shaU submit to a fine."

33251. Have you not known cases where the man has
been threatened with prosecution and dismissal, and he
asks to be fined rather than prosecuted or dismissed ? —
It may be offered to him, and he selects it.

33252. There may be cases in which he asks to be
fined rather than prosecuted ? — ^Yes. I should think
he always would.

33253. In your view it is not a satisfactory way of
maintaining discipline. A man ought to be prosecuted
or dismissed ? — Yes.

33254. That is your view ? — Yes ; we say he ought to
be prosecuted. I am not so sore he ought to be dismissed,
because that is not the law. I know the employer has
the choice of either, but we think prosecution would be
more effective to discipline than stopping a man's money.

33255. Fining will cost him more if he is taken before
the magistrate ? — It costs more, but besides that there
is the publicity of it, which would make it a good while
before he commits the offence again, and, further than that,
it would be a warning to the other men in the pit.

33256. {Mr, SmiUie.) Your district is the Staffordshire
Inspection District, No 9 District, it is called, I think ? —

33257. The geographical area is not so large as many
other districts ? — ^No.

33258. It is pretty thickly populated with miners.
I mean the Staffordshire ^Imes Inspection District ? —

33259. 55,000, nearly 56,000 miners under the inspector
there — ^mine workers, I mean ? — Yes.

33260. A very large proportion of the lads in the mining
districts will in all probability go to the pits ? — Yes.

33261. We may put it 70 per cent, or 80 pef cent., I
daresay ? — ^Not miners' lads.

33262. Of the lads in a mining district ? — I must say
that there is a very strong objection on the part of the
miner for his lad to go in the pit.

33263. I am speaking of the lads in the village. 70 per
cent, or 80 per cenl of the lads in a mining village go to tl^
pits to work ? — Yes.

33264. You have had experience on the County Coimcil,
I thmk ?— Yes.

33265. And with the Education Board of your district ?

33266. Do you think it would be a very reasonable
thing to give lads, who in all probability would find their
way into the pit, some information in their school days
as to the dangers likely to be faced underground ? — Yes,
I should think so.

33267. At the present time the lads are sent into the
pits absolutely isnorant of the surroundings, of ^e nature
of gases, or the dangers which may be fac^ underground ?
— So far as the schools are concerned in the county.

33268. Except for the information they get from the
parents. I mean so far as their education at school is
concerned, there is no attempt to give them information
of that kind ?— No.

Mr. W,

5 Dec., 1907.

Do you think it might be useful so far as safety
and also so far as general information is concerned, if lads
were taught in the last two or three years of school life
something about the nature of gases, ventilation and
geology, or anything to give them a knowledge of the
dangers by which a mine is surrounded ?— I should think so
from my personal knowledge.

33270. You think it might lead to - reater safety under-
ground ? — Yes, and it would prevent what now exists —
the boys ignoring mining life and wanting to get away
from it.

33271. It may perhaps lead to discipline, too ? — Yes.

33272. A lad who is absolutely ignorant "of the great
danger of explosive gas or other dangers underground
is more likely to play with things than he would if he
actually knew the dangers ? — That is so.

33273. Do you remember the time when the Coal Mines
Act provided that a lad could go down a pit at 12 years
old, but on the surface he could not be employed until
he was 13 ?— Yes.

33274. Thousands of lads were working underground at
the age of 12, where they would not be employed on the
surface ? — That is so.

33275. That was objected to very strongly by the
miners ? — Yes.

33276. They thought in view of the greater danger
underground the age should be higher than on the sur-
face ?— Yes. What usually takes place is that a lad for
a week or a month is employed on the surface, and then
graduates into the pit.

Digitized by




Mr, W. 33277. When he is hardened ?— When it was like that

LaJlham, it was the other way about.

-rJI \ot\n 33278. The persons who desired to have the assistance
5 Dec., 1907. qI ^^ i^ds would have preferred having them on the sur-

face, but they could get them underground earlier under

the old Act T—Yes.

33279. Kow we have an anomaly of the same kind —
where the Act provides for certain hours that lads and
girls must work on the surface 7 — Yes.

33280. A lad of 13 or 14 underground may be employed
eight or nine hours without a break at all ? — That is so.

33281. There is no provision made in the Act for any
care to be taken that he must have a break ? — I have
pointed that out.

33282. You think some provision should be made for
the protection of young persons underground, quite as
much as on the surface ? — Yes.

33283. Probably more so than on the surface ? — Yes,
more so.

33284. Are the mines in StafiFordshire generally— I
know you will be able to speak for the whole district —
considered large, to employ a large number of men ? —

33285. Is the average small or large ? — I should think
it is small for employing.

33286. The average is small as compared with South
Wales or other districts ? — Yes.

. 33287. Would it average 120 or 125 ? Would the
average number employed per mine be over 100 or 120 ?
— In our Shropshire coalfield ?

33288. Staffordshire as well ?-~More than that. The
Staffordshire collieries are much bigger than ours. They
Ave a bigger output, 1,200 or 1,400 tons a day, where we
do not keep up to 100.

33289. That would mean the employment of thousands
of persons underground in collieries of that kind ? — Yes.

33290. The average number employed in each pit would
be less than 100 ?— Yes.

33291. Based on an average of 100 ? — Yes, taking the

33292. In Staffordshire (you may be able to give the
information I have not got), are there about 400 pits
in the whole No. 9 district, which is included in the mines
inspection — Staffordshire, Wallsall and Hereford — are
there 400 mines do you think ? — I should think so.

33293. You put it roughly there are 400 ?— Yes.

33204. Have you ever been appointed examiner,
or did you say that in your districts you never had had
examinations ? — No.

33295. Have you ever examined a mine for any pur-
pose, with regard to an accident or anything of that kind ?
Have yx>u ever made a thorough examination of a mine
itself ? — No, not in that sense.

33296. Have you ever been a fireman yourself ? — Yes.

33297. You have been employed as a fireman for a
period ? — A very short period. I was assistant to my
father, say, when I was 20 or 21 — when he was away I took
his place.

33298. In answer to the Chairman you said you thought
your present Staffordshire district might be reasonably
j^ell served with six inspectors ? — Yes.

33299. That is the chief inspector, if you have one dis-
trict, two of the present assistant inspectors, and an
additional three practical miners appointed for that
purpose ? — Yes.

33300. You would be willing that those practical miners,
if they are to be appointed for that purpose, should be
qualified to the extent of holding a certificate of compe-
tency ? Have you thought that part of it out ? — I should
object to them being appointed unless they had shown
some efficiency.

33301. It has been suggested that they may hold a
first-class certificate', as many practical miners are study-
ing and have first-class certificates. You have no objec-
tion to that being one of the qualifications ? — No.

33302. Provided they had sufficient practical experi-
ence to prove that they could do the work T — I should not
consider they would come under that. Supposing it was

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 124 of 177)