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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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the ventilating apparatus, then the danger inmiediately
increases ; you have no margin there between the line of
safety and the line of danger.

34590. You think that in all cases where a cap of that
nature is shown on a safety-lamp it is time for the men
to be withdrawn until the ventilation is improved 7 —
Most decidedly.

34591. In this case the men were allowed to work away
in face of the warning of the Mines Inspector that the
ventilation was not as it should be 7 — Yes, the men were
allowed to work in No. 2 after the inspector recommended
their withdrawal.

34592. There was no prosecution of any person in con-
nection with that, so far as you ever heani ? — No.

34593. From the information which you and the other
miners' representatives secured at that inquest, and your
desire that the matter should be gone into more fully
again with an independent tribunal, you were a party to
approaching the Home Secretary to ask for a new
inquiry 7— Yes



34594. You think in a case of this kind a coroner's ^^^ Evan
jury, and even a coroner himself, may not be in the most Thomas.
independent position to go thoroughly into a question of

an explosion of this nature : I will put it that generally 13 Dec, 1907

the local circumstances make it impossible for them to

be as independent as a court appointed or a person
appointed by the Home Secretary would be 7— No doubt
that is so.

34595. That was one of your reasons for asking that a
further inquiry should take place 7 — Yes : and we felt
very strongly that the Home Office should have taken
steps to further consider the opinion given by the mining
experts with regard to gas and that that should be refuted.

34596. One thing which made it more than ever
necessary that there should have been another inquiry
was the conflicting evidence of mining experts, some of
whom said that a cap on the lampwas not dangerous and
others said it was dangerous 7— -Yes.

34597. In view of the opinion expressed by mining ex-
perts of very high standing, could you tell us wnether or not
any of the mines in Wales at the present time are being
worked under circimi stances such as were found in the
McLaren colliery 7 — ^I do not think they are. The slightest
indication of gas is looked upon as a sufficient reason not to
allow the men to work there.

34598. So that it is generally considered to be necessary
to withdraw the men where a cap is shown on the lamp 7 —
Yes : and I think these experts themselves do not carry out
in practice what they stated in evidence.

34599. You do not think that they themselves would
have allowed the state of things which was there present to
continue 7 — ^No.

34600. Then it must have been that that opinion as given
by them in that case was given in order to screen or save
some person. — ^That is a conclusion which we must arrive
at.

34601. Have you a very large proportion of unskilled
vtrorkmen in the mines in Wales 7 — ^Yes, no doubt

34602. Persons who have not previously had any experi-
ence of undergrcund working 7 — Yes.

34603. Do you think that the employment of such
labourers is a source of danger to themselves and generally
to the other workmen 7 — Yes, there is no doubt about it.

34604. Even when it is \mder proper supervision it is still
a danger 7 — Yes.

34605. But it becomes more so when it is npt properly
supervised by skilled persons 7 — ^Yes.

34606. Is it the case that sometimes unskilled persons
who may not have been many weeks in the pit are sent into
some of the roads to put away rubbish in old goafs, and bye-
roads 7 — ^That is generally the work that they are put to do.

34607. And that is really a dangerous work to perform , is
it not 7 — ^The work is performed in dangerous places ; the
work itself would not be dangerous.

34608. That is what I mean. I mean sometimes the
very fact that they are putting this debris or stuff away into
old ends and by-places might form a danger of itself 7 — ^Yes.

34609. Because that is where you are likely to have an
accumulation of gas if there is gas about 7 — Yes.

34610. And an unskilled person who has do knowledge of
gas or lamps might be working under most unsafe conditions
not only for himself but for the whole of the men in the
mine 7 — ^That is quite possible.

34611. And have no knowledge of it himself 7 — Yes.

34612. So that you think it should be necessary under
circumstances such as those that such persons if employed
at all should be continually under the supervision of a
skilled person 7 — Yes, I should think so.

34613. (Chairman.) There are one or two questions
which I should like to ask you with regard to this McLaren
explosion. What I understand you to say is this ; that you
find fault with the verdict of the jury. You do not suggest
that all the circumstances were not fully gone into, bu*>what
you say is that the jury did not properly appreciate the ex-
pert evidence, or, at all events, they were deceived by the
expert evidence that was brought before them, and, coa«e-
quently, did not bring in a verdict which would have
resulted in a prosecution, as they ought to have done 7— ^
do not think I ought to go to the extent of finding
fault with the coroner's jury's verdict, but what we
felt about it was this, that a fiuther inquiry ought
to have been made by the Home Office with regard to the
circun^tances attending the explosion itself, and also the

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Mr, Evan
Thomcu,

13 Dec., 1907



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coroner's inquiry : that something should be done to turn
back the expressed opinions of the experts at the coroner's
inquiry.

34614. You think there ought to have been a further in-
quiry with a view of getting further expert evidence to con-
tradict the expert evidence which was given before the
coroner ? — Yes.

34615. But the Home Office has at its disposal any
amount of expert evidence which could be given to them
without any official inquiry of any sort or kind : the Home
Office might) upon reading this expert evidence always ask
the mine inspectors for their evidence, and ask for mining
engineers' evidence, and they might go into the evidence
themselves perfectly well without having any further in-
quiry. Therefore as I understand it, the objection which
you bring with regard to the McLaren accident is this, that
the Home Office ought, having regard to the facts of the
case, all of which were broughl out before a coroner's jury,
to have come to the conclusion that someone was to blame,
and to have ordered a prosecution. That is, as I under-
stand, the objection which you raise. The Home Office had
before them, according to Mr. Martin's report, the whole of
the evidence with regard to this matter, they had every
single fact before them on which l^ey could form an opinion
as to whether or not a prosecution of the officials, or of any
official, was desirable. They had all the facts ; there is no
dispute about that ? — ^Yes, I believe they had all the facts.

34616. What you object to is that the evidence was
brought forward, as you think, with a view to shielding the
officials, and you think, that if you had further expert
evidence it would have contradicted the expert evidence
which was brought before the coroner, as I understand ? —
Yes, the expert evidence gave a certain interpretation to the
facts which were ascertained, and certainly we should say
that that interpretation was not the correct interpretation
to be placed upon those facts.

{Mr, SmiUie.) Our chief point was this, that if it could be
taken for granted that the conditions under which this
colliery was being worked previous to the explosion wer«
satisfactory, then all other colliery managers in Wales and
elsewhere would be entitled to work their collieries when it
was clearly proved that air in the return airways and the
workicg f aoes shewed a cap on the safety lamp. We felt
that we could not allow a state of things of tiiat kind to
oontinue.

34617. {Chairman.) But I ask the witness whether he
does not acknowledge, so far as I understand— certainly Mr.
Martin acknowledged it in the fullest manner — ^that all the
circumstances of the case were fully brought out before the
coroner. Would it have furthered your case to have had a
second inquiry ? What more could have come out at the
second inquiry than came out at the first inquiry ; what
facts could have been brought out ? — I have admitted that
I think all the facts were brought out» but then there was a
certain interpretation placed upon those facts at the
coroner's inquiry, and certainly we thought it was the duty
of the Home Office to make a further inquiry especially
into that interpretation.

34618. That is, I daresay, where the Home Office may
have felt a difficulty, because their own inspector said to
them* ** I have all the facts before me." That inspector
was not in the least bound by the opinion of any expert
witness : he could form his own opinion on the evidence and
advise the Home Office. So that I understand the quarrel
which you have with the Home Office is not so much that
they did not have a second inquiry as that they were badly
advised by Mr. Martin, the inspector, and that he ought to
have told them that on the evidence which was brought
before the coroner they ought to have come to the con-
clusion that the mine was not properly worked, and that in
future men should always be withdrawn on the appearance
of any cap such as was shewn ?

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) But the matter is much more
serious than that, in our view. This is a case where the
inspector himaelf had recommended that the men should be
withdrawn.

{Chmrman.) I quite understand that, but then my point
IS that the whole of tiie facts were before the inspector and
the Home Office.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Yes, so far as the cause of death
was concerned. We say it is laid dovvTi, as Mr. Pickering
pointed out yesterday, that the coroner finds out the cause
of death, and when he is satisfied as to the cause of death
his business ends, and he makes no inquiry into the matter
which caused the death. In this case one of the most
important points was the incompetency of the man who



managed the mine and his r^^al to carry out the recom-
mendation of the inspector ^d the fact that there was a
man under whom he was trained — a great mining engineer-
giving it as his expert opinion that a cap of so much height
on a lamp was not dangerous. There was a further fact
proving that part of our case which has been brought out for
the first time publicly here this morning, which could not be
brought out at the coroner's inquest.

{Chairman.) WTiat fact T

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) The fact that these two men witli
this manager in his own oollierv after the explosion went
into a body of at least 60 yards of gas.

{Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) That was after the accident

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Yes, after the explosion.

{Chairman.) That might be a reason for a further inves-
tigation.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Certainly, it is a very strong
reason. It is a question of the incompetency of the mana-
ger, and there is no reprimand of that manager to-day or
anything done with regard to his certificate so far as we
know. We went to the Home Office and proved to them
from their o\m Blue-books of the Report of a Commission of
some years' standing, that any cap on a lamp was to be con-
sidered dangerous. We wanted them to refute that at
once — to bring it to the knowledge of the mining world that
the opinion was a wrong one, and that it was not sale for
any manager to be allowed to manage a colliery when that
was the state of things.

{Chairman.) Yes, but then the Home Secretary or the
Mines Inspector always have done that without a second
inquiry. How would a second inquiry have further eluci-
dated the fact that a cap on a lamp was dangerous ?

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) The second inquiry would be held
by different men who would condemn that opinion.

{Mr. Fatdiffe EUis.) If it did not, I suppose it would
be no use.

{Chairman.) I quite understand the strong feeling that
there is on the subject^ but my only point is what good
could you have got out of a second inquiry, because every
one of these facts was before the Home Secretary and
before the Inspector, and it was perfectly open to the
Home Seoretanr or the inspector to make any report they
pleased upon tAe proceedings at the coroner's inquiry, or,
if the Home Secretary hod thought it desirable, he mighty
notwit^tanding the verdict of the coroner's jury, have
ordered a prosecution.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) It is not a question of prosecution
with us.

{Chairman.) This is a very important matter, and I do
not want it to be considered mat the matter is being
shirked in any way. You are rather in the position of a
man giving evidence on behalf of your side.

{Mr, Wm. Abraham.) We feel it very strongly that the
Home Office did not do what we considered they ought to
have done.

{Chairman.) The reply of the Home Office waa as
follows : " Sir, I am directed by the Secretary of State to
f say that he has considered carefully the representations
made to him by the deputation from the Miners' Federa-
tion which he received on the 12th instant, and has in the
light of them reviewed the whole case of the explosion in
September last at the McLaren colliery, Abertysswg. He
has also transmitted the important statements which were
laid before him to Mr. Martin, H.M. Inspector of Mines
for the district, who has recentiy visited the colliery and
is giving the case special attention. Having regard to the
fact that the inquiry before the coroner waa very careful
and thorough, jmd in view of the detailed discussion of
the evidence given thereat, to be found in the reports made
to the Secretary of State by Mr. 8. T. Evans, K.C., M.P.,
and Mr. Martin, which will be published, Mr. Akers-
Douglas is satisfied that no re-opening of this case would
lead to different conclusions or to any substantial addition
to the knowledge available for future giiidanoe." I suppose
'* different conclusions " would be the words whioh you
would object to ; you would say that possibly if there was
a. second inquiry a different conclusion might hare been
arrived at ?



{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Yes, distinctly.

{Chairman.) But you would hardly suggest that a
second inquiry would have added to the knowledge avail-
able for future guidance, because all that knowledge was
already in the possession of the Home Office iuid the Mines
Inspector, surely ?



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{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) It would add to the knowledge
of tbe Home Office, at any rate, this, that here was a man
who^ alter tiie explosion had ocourred, led these two men
to a body of gas 60 yards long.

{Chairman.) That is a somewhat different point.

{Mr» Wm. Abraham.) That is why we feel so strongly
that the Bien are flowed to be managed by incompetent
persons.

{Chairman.) Then your point would be that inde-
pendently of investigation into the cause of the explosion,
vou would suggest that a further investigation ought to
be held with a view of showing, from a state of facts which
occurred subsequently to the explosion, that the manager
was an incompetent person ?

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Yes.

34619. {Mr. Baicliffe EUia.) I should like to ask the
witness a question upon that. Of course, you know that
the object of this Commission is to make any recommenda-
tion which occurrs to the Commissioners as reasonable
for the more safe working of mines ; that is the great object
of this Commission T — Yes.

34620. You suggest, as I understand, that it ought to
be obligatory upon the Home Office to appoint an inquiry
under Section 45 whenever they are asked to do so by the
workmen ? — Yes.

34621. And that, you say, would be conducive to safety.
The main reason which you give for that, as I understand,
is that with regard to this accident to which you refer in
South Wales the coroYier's jury did not come to the con-
clusion which you think it ought to have come to. Is that
so, or did you agree with the verdict of the jury ? — So
far as the verdict goes, I do agree with it, although it
might go a little further. I do not exactly remember the
terms of it now.

34622. You do not suggest, as I understand, that all
the facts connected with the explosion, that is to say,
preceding the explosion (I will deal with those which,
happened afterwards) were not brought out ; I am
speaking first of the facts ; the expert opinion we will
come to in a moment ? — I have admitted that all the
facts were brought out.

34623. What you complain of, I suppose, is that the
owners, who are ffenerally the persons who do these dread-
ful* things, misled the jury by bringing expert evidence,
and drew improper conclusions upon those facts ? — Yes,
we complain of that expert evidence.

34624. I suppose thoy axe entitled to have expert
evidence ; an owner or a manager who is put in peril is
entitled to be heard at these coroner's inquests ; you
would not object to that ? — Not in the slightest ; certainly
not.

34625. And he is entitled to bring such evidence as he
may think will justify his position"? — Yes.

34626. Do you suppose that this expert evidence misled
the inspector as well as the jury ? — ^No, it did not mislead
the inspector in the slightest degree.

34627. He knew all about it ?— Yes.

34628. You are aware that it is quite competent for an
inspector to prosecute a manager whether the jury
exculpate on whether they do not exculpate him, if in the
view of the inspector he has committed any offence ? — Yes.

34629. So that I do not see, so far as the coroner's jury
is concerned, that there is anything to complain of widfk
reference to that. Your complaint is that the inspector
did not prosecute the manager 7 — ^No.

34630. Then what is your objection ? — Prosecution is
not my end in view : I am not pleading for prosecution ;
what I am pleading for is that the proper interpretation
should be placed upon the facts ascertained, and not the
interpretation given at the coroner's inquest.

34631. But I understood Mr. Abraham to say just now
that this incompetent manager was still managing mines ?
—Yes.

34632. It was your complaint that his certificate was
not cancelled.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) We have not said that.

{Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) You said a short time ago that
this man who led these men into the gas is still manager
of a mine.

(Mr. Wm. Abraham,) Yes.

34633.— (Ifr. Ratcliffe EUis.) Then you do not complain
ih&t he was not prosecuted ? — That is not my complaint
at all ; I have notliing to do with prosecution.



34634. I want to get it in the Notes that so far as the ik Mr. Evan
prosecution was concerned, the inspector was quite at 11 Thomas.

liberty to do that wiUiout any further inquiry at all ? — ^I n

suppose that he was. fS Dec., 1907

34635. Well, you know that he was, under the Act of
Parliament. Then it is suggested that after the explosion
this manager took men into gas. You say that he did
that ?— -Yes.

34636. That was nothing to do with the deaths of the
persons, but that was another offence or indiscretion,
whatever it may be, on the part of the manager ?

{Mr. SmilUe.) 1 do not think he was to blame for that.

{Mr, Eatdiffe EUis.) But Mr. Abraham said a short
time ago that this man after the deaths took these men
into gas.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Yes.

{Mr. Eatdiffe EUis.) Now Mr. Smillie says he does not
think he was to blame for it.

{Mr. SmiUie.) We do not say he was incompetent
because he did that, but we put &at in in order to prove
the state of the mine even after the accident.

{Mr. Wm. AbraJtam.) It does not prove that he was
competent, at any rate.

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) We want to see where the present
administrative powers of the Home Office are defective.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Quite so,

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Then he did not do anything wrong
in taking them into gas. It was probably necessary 7

{Wit7i€S8.) I think it was under the impression that the
place was clear, and he simply walked into it.

34637. How long after the accident was it 7 — A few
days afterwards : I could not tell exactly how many
days.

34638. It was in the course of the exploring 7 — Two days
after the explosion.

34639. But he was exploring the pit and trying to get
it right again 7 — ^Yes.

34640. So far as the manager was concerned in this
offence which he committed, it was an offence which you
committed and Mr. SmiUie committed at the same time 7
— Quite so.

34641. So tliat you do not blame him for that 7

{Mr. SmiUie.) But we were not responsible for the
management.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) They were being taken down to
see a safe pit, and yet they went into a body of 60 yards
of gas.

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) You do not blame the manager
for going into the gas 7

{Witness.) No ; I believe he did it quite accidentally.

34642. What facts, for instance, do you expect would
come out if you had an inquiry; more than came out before
the coroner's jury 7 — That fact could be brought out. It
could not be brought out at the coroner's inquiry.

34643. But that fact would be this, I suppose, that
after the accident there was a considerable amount of gas
in this pit 7 — Yes.

34644. Was the inspector with you at the time you
made this inspection 7 — ^Not that day.

34645. But did he know about this; did you com-
municate this fact to Mr. Martin 7 — ^I did not.

34646. Why not 7 — ^It was not my business.

34647. Whose business is it, then 7-^The manager's.

34648. Have you no responsibility 7 You went down
in the interests of the men, I suppose 7 — ^Yes.

34649. And have you no responsibility, if you fiind
things which you consider dangerous, to communicate
that fact ? — Responsibility to the men. I reported the
fact to the men.

34650. But is it not your duty to communicate that
fact to the inspector if you consider it very material 7 —
Well, no. If I were simply down the mine, examining on
my own responsibility, I would, but the manager and Mr.
Smillie were there.

34651. But, surely, when you go down there representing
a large body of men it is a much more serious responsibility
than ii you go simply to represent yourself 7 — ^I reported
the matter to the men because they were Investigating
the pit with a view of satisfying themselves with regard
to the state of the pit before restarting work.

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i/r. Evan
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13 Dec, 1907



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34652. Did you make a report to the men ? — Yes.

34653. That would be sent to the inspector, inasmuch
as you had a complaint to make under Rule 38 ? — ^Not of
necessity.

34654. Absolutely of necessity ? — ^But I was not
examining under Rule 38.

34655. Was anybody examining under Rule 38 ? — ^Yes,
I believe the men did.

34656. And they saw a« much as you did ? — I do not
know.

{Mr. Batcliffe EUis.) I understood Mr. Smillie to say a
moment ago that whilst they were in this gas the men
came round who were examining for the men.

{Mr. Smillie.) No ; when we ccune bcusk out of that
part we met them.

i^ 34667. {Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) If you had thought fit you
could have communicated to the inspector this state of
things ? — ^I could, certainly,

34658. And you did not think it worth while to do so ?
— ^No ; that is not the proper interpretation to be placed
upon my act.

34659. Well, you did not do so ? — ^I did not do so.

34660. That being so, what more could you have got
out of the inquiry. Supposing the Home Office had given
an inquiry, what more do you expect would come out of
it than tbe knowledge which you had, and which you
could have communicated to the inspector if you had
wished to do so ? — Shall I put it in my own way ?

34661. Certainly. — ^There is certain evidence given at
the coroner's inquiry ; that evidence is on record, and so
far as the public is concerned, that evidence is accepted,
that one-eighth or a quarter, or even half an inch, of
a cap is not dangerous. What we wished to see
was that certain evic&nce should be given at an inquiry
by the Home Office that would refute that evidence,
lliere is another fact : Mr. S. T. Evans himself in his
report states that he is not satisfied with regard to the
wisdom or otherwise of allowing men to work at the return
end of that accumulation of gas. They knew there was
accumulation of gas there, and they placed men to work
at the return end of that accumulation of gas, and any-



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 136 of 177)