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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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capable of drawingup a certain amount of air 7 — Machinery
will not draw the atmosphere from small places. It must
have place.

34448. Take a coUiery with a comparatively small area
in the return airway, a colliery that never uses it for a
travelling road : if you increase the size of that do you
mean to tell nxe that does not interfere with your ventilation
arrangements in the coUiery. I am not dealing with a new
colliery which you can arrange as you wish, but one you
suggest altering 7 — ^It interferes, but I say in the right
way. If you enlarge your return, you enlarge your

34449. Not unless the machinery is sufficiently strong 7
— Even with that

34450. Not unless the machinery is sufficiently strong
to deal with the bigger area 7 — ^Yes.

Mr, Evan

12 Dec, 1907



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Mr, Evan 34451. If yon have a lot of air forced through a big

Thomas. aperture and it oomee out through a small one, the ventila-

tion must he good. Hie draught is good. If you enlarge

12 Dec, 1007 the plaoe out of which it oomee it does not oome so quickly.

{Mr. SmiUie,) Your fan will go.

34462. (Mr, F. L. Davis.) With r^ard to winding
apparatus, the ropes and guides are examined, you agree.
You wotdd like them to l^ examined before the men are
let down in the morning 7 — Yes.

34453. Immediately before I mean? — ^Yes.

34455. When did this accident happen when the men
were 40 minutes in the shaft ? What time of day was it ?
— It was New Tredegar, when they were winding up in the

34456. If they had been examined just before the men
went down you suggest that they might have seen there
was something wrong 7 — ^I am suggesting that it should be
done at both ends, before lowering and before raising.

34457. Before they begin to raise them as well as before
they begin to lower them ? — Yes.

34458. With regard to shot-firing, you think it should
be done between shifts 7 — ^Yes.

34459. Is it not generally done between shifts 7 —
It is done between shifts in some of the largest collieries
in our districts, but in others it is not

34460. In most of them, is it not, in nearly every one,
if not in every one 7 — ^This tdiot I referred to wliioh happened
in Rhymney was done during a shift.

34461. Was that a large colliery 7 — ^No, the New DuSryn
Rhymney ColUery.

34462. Generally speaking the shots are fired between
shifts in South Wales 7 — I l^lieve they are.

34463. In the roads 7 — ^Yes, I believe that is the rule
under the Powell Dufiryn Elliott Collieries.

34464. You said it would affect places where the shots
had to be fired in the coal 7^^o doubt. Take the
anthracite district in South Wales.

34465. Outside the anthracite district, there is very
little shot-firing in the coal in your experience 7 — Very

34466. Practically none in the coal 7 — ^Practically none
in the steam coaL

34467. (Mr, Cunynghame.) You say there should be one
distance of systematic timbering through the whole
oountry. Is that systematic timbering on roadways and
also working places 7 — Yes.

34468. What should those distances be 7— That is a
question to be decided.

34469. What is your opinion in regaid to that. Supposing
you were asked to name a distance for the whole Kbigdom,
what would it be for roadways and working places
respectively 7 — Nothing more than 6 ft.

34470. 6 ft. as a maximum 7— Yes.

34471. 6 ft. would not be enough in some places 7 —
No. it would not be close enough.

34472. Then you could not have one distance for all
England. If you had 6 ft. for England and 4 ft. for other
places, it would not be the same ? — I am suggesting that
anything below that would depend upon the condition
of the mine, and in many places certainly the distance
would foe bound to be reduced according to the conditions
of the place.

34473. You are aware that 6 ft. is already the law for
spragging 7 — ^Yes.

34474. You would make it ^ko for the roadways 7—

34475. Are there not many foadways where there are
no props for some distances 7 — ^Yes.

34476. Would you prop all those 7 — Certainly.

34477. Would that not be a source of danger preventing
you seeing the condition of the roof if timbered right
across 7 — If they were timbered you would not want to
see the roof.

34478. If you have a quantity of beams close together
across, I mean 7 — ^Then it would be safe.

34479. I have seen roadways where there are long
spaces without timber. Do you mean that the whole of
those are unsafe 7 — ^No. You suggested in your question
that if the roof was timbered you could not see the roof,
and I said there was no necessity to see it.

34480. There are places down the stretches of roadway
where there is no timber 7 — Yes.

34481. Would you timber all those 7— Yes.

34482. Every one 7 — Every one.

34483. Not every plaoe at present untimbered is
unsafe 7 — I do not go to that extent.

34484. Why timber it if not unsafe 7 — Because we have
seen this in our experience : places that we thought were
perfectlv safe become dangerous, and fatal accidents have
occurred. Those safe places to-day may be unsafe

34485. Still, although you think those places safe you
would timber them 7 — Yes.

34486. You said also you would give the man at the
working place absolute discretion to. decide how much
timber to put up 7 — ^In his working place.

34487. Supposing he put too little, would you then say
he would have the right to put too little timber even
though the manager thought he was not putting enough 7
^^He could not put too litQe if a certain maximum distance
was fixed.

34488. If the maximum distance was 6 ft. and the seam
was rather crumbly it might be right to put it up much
closer in certain places 7 — Yes.

34489. Supposing he did not put it close enough, would
you give him entire responsibility and exempt the manager
altogether 7 — ^No, if the manager told him to stand timber
closer than 6 ft. certainly he uiould do it.

34490. Then you would not be giving him the entire
responsibility and discretion to decide 7 — I said that a
workman should have full discretion to stand timber
where he thought it was necessary.

34491. If he does not do it you cannot get rid of the fact
you are making the man the judge and not the management.
Do you not tlunk that is a difficulty 7 Would you not be
relieving the management of their proper responsibility
in other words 7 — In what way 7

34492. By making the man the sole judge 7—1 do not
say that the man should be the sole judge.

34493t You said he should have absohito discretion to
decide 7 — I said he should have absolute discretion to
decide to stand timbers where he thought they were
necessary. At present he has not.

34494. {Mr. SmiUie,) And be bound in addition to put
them Bp where the manager or a competent penon says
he must put them 7 — ^Yes.

34405. It is only giving the workman the right to put
up timbers when he thi^u necessary 7 — Yes.


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Friday, 13//i December, 1907.

Lo&D MoNKSWBLL (Chairman,)

Sib Lindsay Wood, Bart,
H. H. S. CuNYNOHAMB, Esq., C.B.
Wm. Abraham, Esq., m.p. (Rhondda.)
F. L. Davis, Esq.

Thomas Batouffe Ellis, E.:q.
BoBBBT Smilub, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq. {Secretary).

Mb. Evan Thomas, re-oalled and further oxammed.

34496. (Mr, SmiUie,) Before we finished yesterday you
were dealing with l^e question of systematic timbering ?

54497. And you were of opinion very strongly that there
should be something like uniformity throughout the
eountry as to the distances between props or supports ? —

34498. You recognised fully, however, that it might
perhaps be necessary to m«ke certain rules according to
the nature of the strata ? — Certainly ; I took all that in.

I 34499. What you have in your mind is that after long
' experience there is no roof which should be left without
timbering ; you think that all roofs should be timbered*
no matter how good they are ? — That is so.

34500. You are fully conversant with the spragging
rule, the rule which makes it compulsory that spragging
should be done wh^^ there is six feet on the cutting ? —

34501. That is compulsory all over the coalfields,
independently of the nature of the coal ? — ^Yes.

34502. Sometimes spragging in done in coal where
there is not tiie slightest likelihood of the coaJ falling
down ? — ^Thaf is so.

34503. But it is thought to be safest to make sure, and
to malro the sx>ragging imiversal ? — ^Yes.

34504. You would apply the same principle to roofs ?
— I should apply the same principle to roofs.

34505. In all mines ?— Yes.

34506. There is a very large proportion of accidents
from falls taking place in collieries vmere the roof is con*
sidered to be very good ? — ^Yes.

34507. And that to some extent may arise from the fact
that the roof is thought to be so good that there is no
timbering done ? — That is so,

34508. In collieries working on the longwall system
there is always what is known to miners as a creep or crush
continually going on.

34509. And what may be considered a very strong roof
and a very good roof to-day might be in a dangerous
condition to-morrow ? — ^That is so.

34510. If the principle which you aim at waa carried
out, you would perhaps leave the details to be thought
out by some joint committee of workmen and employers
as to the distances between props — if the principle of
systematic timbering were carried out ? — ^Yes, if the
principle is adopted.

34511. You know the Section of the Act of Parliament
dealinc with the employment of boys and women above
ground. Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act deal \vith the em-
ployment of young persons and women about the surface,
and provide that there must be an interval for rest and
food allowed during the shift? — ^Yes.

34512. You are aware that the same provision does not
apply to the emplo3rment of young persons underground ?
—That is so.

Mr, Evan

34513. There is no, provision made in the Act of Parlia-
ment ? — ^That is so.

34514. So that lads of tender years may be employed
continuously for a whole eight hours* shift underground 13 j)^ iQ(fj
without any rest for food, and so on ? — That is possible, "

so far as the law is concerned.

34515. Is there anvthing in the nature of the employ-
ment underground which ^ould enable young boys to go
on without food any more than on the surface ?— No. It
would be the other way about, I should think.

34516. You would think that if there la any need for
the protection of lads above ground there should be some
provision made for the protection of lads imderground,
too ? — ^Most decidedly.

34517. And if an Act of Parlinment providing for an
eight-hour day was carried out, there would be more
necessity than ever that protection should be given to
young persons ? — ^Yee.

34518. Would vou suggest to the Commission that some 1 1
provision should be made in any new legislation to provide M
for a rest for lads underground during the shift ? — ^I should \ I
think so.

34519. You are very strong on the point that one of the
qualifications necessary for colliery managers and mines
inspectors is practical exj^erience 7 — Yes.

34520. And so far as practicable a part of that practical
experience should be gained at the workmg face ? — ^Yes.

34521. You think that that, perhaps, is the best part of
the education of a mining engineer or a mines inspector —
experience which would be gained at the workiog face ? —
Yes ; no doubt that would bo the base of all his experience.

34522. Would you tell us at what age lads are allowed
to start at the coal face in Wales ? Is there anything to
prohibit them starting at 14 years of age ? — ^Nothing.
There is nothing to prevent them starting after 13 years
of age if they have passed their standards.

34523. So far as the Mines Act is concerned there is
nothing to prevent them ? — ^No.

34524. And it is a pretty common thing perhaps for
them to start with their father at the working face 7 — Yes.

34525. It was suggested yesterday that in view of the
fact that lads did not start at the coal face until they were
18 year old, they would not have so much time then to
get experience at the coal face, if we were to insist upon
that. It is not the case that they do not start until they
are 18 years old ; thousands of lads start at 13 and 14
years of age to work at the coal face 7 — ^Yes, the majority
of them.

34526. The majority of them, so far as South Wales is
concerned, start at that age 7 — ^Yes.

34527. So that that need not be taken aa a diiUculty,
that there would not be time afterwards for them to get
their experience 7 — ^Not at all.

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Mr Evan 34528. Do you think that some provision should be
Thomas. made in the Education Act for giving some knowledge of

mining, mine gases, and the danger of mines, to lads in a

13 Dec. 1907 mining district before they go underground at all? — ^I

think some instruction ought to be given to lads at the

elementary schools in coUiery districts, especially with
reference to the use of the lamp and the nature of gas, and
how to test it.

34529. I suppose we may take it that 75 per cent, to
80 per cent, of the lads in a mining district are likely to
find their way underground ? — ^Yes.

34530. In view of that, it would be a wise precaution to
give them some knowledge at the elementary school as to
the use of a safety lamp, the nature of gases, and generally
.the dangers by which they are surrounded ? — Yes, no

34531. And it would not be at all a bad thing if they were
instructed in the Mines Act and the Special Rules before
they went down, would it ? — ^No. not at alL

34532. I suppose that it is a fact not one half of the
miners understand fully all the Rules that they are supposed
to obey ? — I am afraid that is the fact.

34533. I suppose we might take it that a veiy large pro-
portion of the officials of collieries do not understand at all
times fully all the Rules they are supposed to T — Very

34534. And it might tend, and probably would tend, to
greater safety and greater discipline if the lads had some
knowledge of mining in Uie way which you indicate before
they went underground at all ? — Yes. It would awaken
an interest in their minds with regard to the calling that they
were going to be engaged in.

A 34535. Would you, or your miners, be in favour of pro-
f visions being made at the collieries for enabling workmen to
^ wash and change their clothes before going home after
I coming up from the shift ? — Well, I think in time the
I miners would adapt themselves to that system if the system
\ was establie^ed. Perhaps they would have some little pre-
judice at the beginning, but in time I believe they would
come round to it.

34536. Perhaps I might put it in this way : would you
younelf from your own experience in an important mining
district be in favour of such a course being taken ? — Yes.

34537. It would rather encourage the workmen in that
direction ? — Certainly.

34538. I suppose we may take it that all the Welsh
miners have not bath-rooms at home ? — ^No, unfortunately,
they have not.

34539. A very small proportion of them have bath-
rooms ? — Yes.

34540. And in most cases the houses, while fairly good
for miners' houses, are rather limited with regard to giving
them very much opportunity of waahing thoroughly at
home : there is not very much provision for thorough
cleansing at home 7 — ^There is not.

34541. It must be done under rather restricted condi-
tions where it is done 7 — ^Yes.

34542. And from the health point of view it would be just
as well that provision should be made for leaving pit clothes
at the pit, to be dried there 7 — ^Yes, no doubt.

34543. There would certainly be less trouble at home 7

34544. You are of opinion that in time the miners of this
country would adapt themselves to that 7 — I think they

34545. And if once established you do not think there is
any likelihood of their going back to the old state of things 7
— I do not think so.

34546. You gave us some information yesterday about
coroners' inquests. You are not altogether satisfied wilii
the present system, I think 7 — ^No, not altogether satisfied.

34547. It is left largely in the power of the coroner at the
present time to make an inquest either a thorough exami-
nation or to stultify it very largely 7 — Yes : I believe he
has absolute power in his own court.

34548. And while I suppose in your experience some
coroners have done everything in their power to bring out
all the facta and to give all opportunities for bringing out the
facts, yet in other cases they ao not act in the same way 7 —


34549. Do you know any coroners in South Wales who
set themselves pretty much against giving opportunities to
the representatives of the men of taking part in the court 7-
I should not like to mention any particular name.

34550. We do not want you ^ ftienfcion any names, but if
it is true that some of the coroners in South Wales are not
so ready to give opportunities as others, I should like to
know, without asking you to specify any particular coro-
ner. — ^No doubt that is the fact.

34551. You know of that of your own knowledge 7 — Yes.

34552. You have taken part in a considerable number of
coroners' inquests yourself 7 — Yes. I think that I have
had an opportunity of appearing before most of the coroners
in South Wales from time to time.

34553. I think you were appointed as one of two repre-
sentatives on behalf of the South Wales miners, to attend
the McLaren inquest 7 — ^Yes.

34554. It occurred in your district — Yes, in my own
immediate district.

34555. That was at Abertysswg 7 — Yes.

34556. I think on that occasion there was a fairly full
enquiry made, at least 7 — Yes.

34557. You had an opportunity of going down the pit to
make an examination of the place where die explosion was
supposed to have originated 7 — Yes.

34558. You went down with the manager 7 — With the
manager, and with you.

34559. The workings were supposed to be free from dan-
ger, and clear of explosive gas on the day that we went
down : they had been examined that morning, I think it
was said 7 — Yes, I think so : it was supposed to be so.

34560. Did you reach the point at Amos's Barry heading
at which the explosion was supposed to have taken place 7-
You did not reach the point which was your objective, I
think 7 — No ; we failed to reach the furthest point, the
actual point that we were in search of.

34561. What was the cause of your failure to reach that 7
— ^An accumulation of gas.

34562. I suppose you did not discover the extent of it.
You turned out of it immediately you found that there was
any gas 7 — Yes : only we could gather from the point at
which we entered into it what the extent would be by look-
ing at the map of the workings, and there was bound to be a
very considerable body there.

34563. You considered that there was almost 60 yards of
roadway fuU of gas there 7 — ^Yes.

34564. You remember, I suppose, what was thought to
be the cause of the original accumulation of gas there. A
very large fall had taken place 7 — A very large fall had
taken place in the part called Amos's Barry.

34565. Amos's Barry, along the working face 7 — Yes.

34566. Now, men were engaged, instead of clearing away
the fall, in going along the coal face to reOpen the coal
face 7 — Yes, to work round the fall.

34567. And at Amos's Barry that was the intake of the
air course 7 — ^That was the intake part.

34568. And round on what is called Death's Heading, on
the other side, was the outake from that side ? — Yes, and
Morgan's Heading.

34569. And Morgan's Heading, as a matter of fact, and
Talybont Heading 7— Yes.

34570. I suppose there would be less danger in men work-
ing on the coal in the intake than at Talybont — at the out-
let 7— Yes.

34571. Was it not believed that there was a very large
accumulation of gas where that fall had taken place, and it
was known that gas was being given off every day from
there 7 — ^Yes.

34572. The workmen were started at the return end of
that fall where the gas had been given off — they started
to work through 7 — Yes : men were working there the
night the explosion took place.

34573. You formed the opinion that in all probability
that was the cause of the explosion 7 — Yes, in all likeli-

34574. I think it was proved in court that the Inspector
of Mines had called the attention of the manager on more
than one occasion in writing to the state of the ventilation
in that mine prior to the explosion 7 — Yes, on several

34575. The Assistant Inspector of Mines had been there
on two occasions at least, and had examined the workings
and the return airway 7 — Yes.

34576. And at some of the working faces he found a cap
on the lamp 7 — Yes : that was on the actual morning
before the explosion — the last visit.

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34577. On the day on whioh the explosion really took
plaoe ? — ^He was there in the morning, and the ezploeion
took place that night, about 11.30.

34578. And he found gas in some of the working places
on that morning 7 — ^He found a cap there in the actual
working face, from one-eighth of an inch to half an inch.

34579. And for some hundreds of yards a cap was
shown continuously along the whole of the return airway ?
— Yes.

34580. And the air going from that pit, McLaren No. 1»
went up an upcast shaft and aired anotiier pit up to the
upcast — it ventilated the other pit where the upcast shaft
was ? — Yes.

34581. The air going from that return airway went
into another seam and ventilated it ?— Yes: the air that
ventilated the No. 1 went into the No. 2 pit, and ventilated
that, and No. 2 was the upcast.

34582. The fan was on No. 2 pit, and it was the upcast
shaft ?— Yes.

34583. Was it not admitted that on the night of the
explosion the revolutions of the fan at No. 2 pit had been
reduced, and the speed of the fan had been reduced for
20 minutes before the explosion took place ?— Yes : that
was the fact stated at the Inquest.

34534. That was admitted. There were 15 men fatally
injured, and about 16 more or less seriously injured 7 —
Sixteen men lost their lives.

34585. There were about the same number injured ? —

(Cfuiirman.) I do not quite understand what your
object is, Mr. Smillie, because the whole of this matter was
gone into, and a report has been issued in the form of a
Blue-book. What is the object in taking the witness
through this ; do you propose to bring out any new facts
or to show that the inquiry was not properly conducted ?

{Mr. SmiUie.) On two or three occasions the miners
have requested the Home Secretary to order a second

{Chairman.) You wish to show that the inquiry was
not exhaustive 7

{Mr, SmilUe.) I want to give at least our reasons here
for asking the Home Office to do that.

{Chairman.) Your object is to show that you are not
satisfied with the report in the Blue-book ; and you suggest
that the report in the Blue-book ought to have been
supplemented, as I understand 7

34586. {Mr. SmilUe.) I suppose you formed the opinion
that there had been gross carelessness in connection with
the management of this colliery 7 — ^That would be the
natural inference to be drawn from the facts ascertained,
especially with regard to putting men to work at the out-
take end of the accumulation of gas.

34587. You being, present at the inquest, heard the
evidence of some mining engineers who stated that in
their opinion the men should be allowed to work under
the conditions that they were working there 7 — ^Yes :
thev stated that there was no danger in one-eighth of an
inch of a cap.

34588. You were fireman yourself for some years 7— Yes-

34589. Do you think that it is safe for workmen to work in'
an atmosphere which shows a cap on a lamp of one-eighth
of an inch 7 — No, I do not think it is safe, for this reason :
when one-eighth of an inch of a cap appears on the flame
that is a clear indication that you are within the range of
danger, and should anything at that moment happen to

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 135 of 177)