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Great Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on Mines.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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a worse evil than the cure, as far as that is oonoemed. /
I believe there is a natural tendency at work which will J
cure it.

35746. There is a serious loss of life from falls of roof 7 —
Yes. There are a number of men who rush themselves
into danger by their eagerness to make money ; if tiieir
tub was not full they would lose it, and the end of their
shift would come. Let me supplement that by saying,
speaking for the Durham custom, if there were more
deputies, by a closer attendance at every place, tiiat risk
of the men would be obviated.

35747. I understood the districts were made bigger
than the deputies could attend to in places 7 — I would not
like to give universal condemnation or censure or fault-
finding, but there arc places where deputies say they have
too many men to look after.

35748. That, from the employers' point of view, is the
question of cost 7 — Yes.

35749. Do you consider if districts were made less, or
there were more men to attend to them, that much of this
loss would be obviated 7 — I do not think the cost would
be much greater, if any.

35750. With reference to workmen's inspection, you
make it pretty generally in Durham under the rule 7 —
I am sorry to say, speaking for myself, I do not think the
men put it into operation as much as they ought to do.
They do not take sufficient advantage of the Act

35751. In nt) case have you objection from your colliory
people 7 — Not the slightest.



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36752. You have said in your judgm^it, so far as you
know, there is no man who would take advantage of it ? —
No.

35753. At any time your men can put that rule in force
and make an inspection ? — Yes. I was an inspector
myself for a long time under the Act of 1872, and I never
kiiew a man and have never known one since interfered
witlL

35754. We have hfid evidence given here that if this
Rule was broadened and you were not confined to
the men immediately in tnat pit, you might have more
inspeotion. What is your view ? — 1 speak only from
my own experience in Durham. I do not think it would be
expedient in every pit. There are always men competent
to inspect, and these men would be selected by their fellow
men in that colliery. If you brought a man from a
neighbouring colliery ho would be under the same terror,
because the other employers might turn him off.

35765. Supposing you broadened that Rule so that the

Icheckweighman might inspect ? — I mentioned if he had
been a workman, not " who are."
35756. The checkweighmen usually have been ? — Yes.

35757. You could not see any reason why the men should
be debarred from appointing t^eir checkweighman ? —
Wh^i we discussed the Mines Regulation Act we asked for
men who are or have been miners

35758. They i^ways have regard to a man's up-to-date
knowledge, and a checkweighman would have that,
because he is in touch with everything ? — Yes.

36759. (Mr. Baidige EUis.) The object of this inspection
under this General Rule is to satisfy the men that the place
is safe ? — Yes.

35760. Do you not think that they would be more likely
to be satisfied by two of their number who were going to
work under the same risks, than by outsiders ? — ^The
outsiders generally chosen to do that would be the check-
weighmen.

35761. Do you not think a man would be much more
likely to be satisfied if the man who made the inspection
was one who worked with him under the same conditions ?
— Are you speaking of the construction of the Act as it
is?

35762. The object of this inspection is not the same as
Government inspection ? — No.

35763^ It is to satisfy the men that the places are safe.
Do you not think they would be much more likely to be
satisfied ? — ^No : I think the men, with very rare exceptions,
have perfect confidence in the checkweighman. He has
been, except on very rare occasions, a miner, and they
look upon hJTn as being a leading man and a man they can
trust thoroughly. He has nearly always been a man
who has worked in the colliery himself.

35764. Will yoa look at it from the owners' point of
view. The checkweighman has a good deal to do with
matters that are not connected with safety ? — Certainly.

35765. You ought to have some r^ard in enforcing an
inspection) which is not a Government inspection, upon an
owner. Do you think they would be more likely to be
satisfied by an inspection by two of their number rather
than by a man who has other objects to serve than mere
questions of safety T — Of course, when you speak of other
objects, human nature is human nature, but I could never
see why an employer should have a serious objection to a
checkweighman inspecting a pit. I never could see it.
Of course workmen,as well as other people have no monopoly
of all the virtues or vices, but, generally speaking, I do not
think there is any reason for being afraia of them. That
was the idea I had when we asked for it to be put in the
Act, and that is the idea I have yet.

35766. (Mr. SuniUie.) You are strongly in favour of
taking out those words ** who are practical miners," and
extending it to those who are or have been practical
miners ? — ^Yes.

35767. In a district of 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 miners
with, perhaps, six or seven collieries, and the men closely
congregated together, might it not bo an advantage if
two specially able and well-known men were appointed
for the whole district to make periodical examinations,
and, perhaps, to do nothing else ? — In that case they would
be Government employt^. They would be the class of
men we suggest as inferior inspectors.

35768. Under Rule 38, if you are entitled to appoint
persons. who were or had been, you could appoint them
from one colliery whether or not they were working at a
colliery. You cotdd appoint two miners' agents who had



been miners to make a periodical ezamjnatioii 7 — ^To be
only employed in g(»ng round the various pits m that
gromid.

35769. To devote pjart of their time to that, and part
to the work of the Miners' Association ? — 8o far as I am
concerned, I would sooner let it lie with the choice of tbe
men who are or have been minars.

35770. To appoint men from their own particular pit
or any other pit ? — It would fie witii them as to the con-
struction they put upon it.

35771. It has been put that men workisig in a pit have
the best chance to know that pit and would make a fuller
examination. Under the Act they are not entitled to
visit any other part but their own working place in their
working time ? — ^You are not speaking of monthly inspec-
tion ?

35772. No: a person may be employed in a mine in
Durham and not know an; part of the mine except the
particular section in which he works ? — ^In Durham the
'' caviling '* system makes a man go all over the colliery.

35773. Every three moniihs they change a man from
one part of the pit to the other, and that gives him a fuller
knowledge of the pit ? — ^What would be of use in a case of
explosions would be this, and I have had something to do
with five or six of them. There should be an arrangement
by which every man should travel the whole colliery once
in every three months imder the guidance of an official,
so that if an explosion took place he would not have to .
depend upon the official, but he would know the mine
himself, lliat is rather apart from the qnestkni.

35774. Would it not be a good thing that everybody
employed on the ground shot^d be instructed as to the
return airways and the escape shaft T — ^Yes.

35775. Is it not a fact that at the present time man^
miners in the other counties do not know how to find their
way about the mine in the event of anything taking
place ? — I do not know.

35776. Lives might be lost because of their ignorance ?
— Taking ova own experience, there are very few coal
getters who have been a year or two in the colliery who
do not know the whole of the colliery. I do not speak
of t^e returns, but I speak of the general working places
because the " caviling '* system every three montiis spreads
the men about, and gives a man knowledge of the con-
struction ol the collieiy itself.

35777. That gives them an advantage ui Durham
t^at respect which is not acquired in many other parts.
In other parts it is the case that a man may work praetioatiy
all his life in one part of a ooUiery without changing. That
is so in some parts ? — ^They get a general knowledge of
the colliery by conversation with their fellow workmen.

35778. In answer to Sir Lindsay Wood you said that
there are some mines in Durham, I think it was one of Ilia
mines, I do not remember the name, which might take
two men a fortnight to inspect ? — ^To inspect it properly.

35779. To make a thorough examination ol it T — I
speak now of Murton colliery where there are 2,400 or
2,600 workmen.

35780. A fortnight would amount to nearly 96 hours
if working eight hours a day ? — ^Yes.

35781. Under your Special Rules the d^uty is required
to make his examinatk>n two hours before tihe hewers start
their work ? — Yes.

36782. The deputies are expected to make a fuU exam-
ination in iheir own particular district of the roof and sides

and all l^e roadways leading to and from ? — ^From l^e

stations.

35783. In addition to all the faces ?— Yes.

35784. In a coUiery such as this, which would take a
fortnight, how may deputies are there employed ?— There
is a very large number, I could not tell you how many.

35786. There would be 40 or 60 perhaps ?— No, far
more than that.

35786. Supposing there were 40 or 50 in a colliery of
that kind, if it takes two men a fortnight, and I have no
doubt it would, to make a thorough examination it would
take 48 deputies, devoting their whole time and doing
nothing else, to make their morning examination ? — Yes.

35787. The Special Rule says two hours ?->It must be
inspection wiUun two hours, but he may not have two
hours.

56 A



I



Mr. J.

Wilson,

M.P,

Jan.,I90S.



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Mr J,

Wilson,

M.P,

22Jan.,1908.



35788. Do you think in a fiery district such as Durham
is, that it is safe to have an examination made two hours
before a workman goes in ? — ^They do not make their
examination every two hours.

35789. Under the Special Rules they may make an
examination of some places ? — Yes.

35790. I want to deal with the Special Rules as they
are, because they would (dlow the tiling to be made in
two hours. Do you think it safe that a place should be
examined two hours before a hewer goes down T — For
gas, do yon mean 7

36791. Yes, for gas or anythmg else ?— I think some-
thing must have taken place if the deputy found gas
two hours before the men went in, if it accumulated
sufficiently to make it dangerous. Something must have
taken place with the ventilation* and it must have been
a gassy mine to exude so.

35792. I think your system is what is known as pillar
and stall 7 — ^We have three systems in the virgin coal :
we have the longwall, ihe pillar and stall, the board and
wall, which is a peculiarity of Durham. It is a board
and a stall pretty much, but rather a narrower place.

35793. The longwall flfystem where it is worked to any
extent usually has a continuous creep on? — It is pillared
up.

35794. There is creeping ? — Yes, in all mmes.

35795. Especially in longwall as compared with pillar
and stall 7 — Yes because the coal is all taken out It is
sure to be so.

35796. There might be a serious breakage in the roof
within two hours ? — Not between the pillar and the face.

35797. Why ?— The pillarers put in the pack walls. The
cavity is filled by stones taken from the face or brought
some distance.

35798. A break usually takes place at the face right at the
coal head. Are you not aware of that J — No, not the
break. It would be if it broke the timber down. There
might be exceptions, but I do not think you will find that
very often.

35799. May we take it that 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of
the lads in Durham mining centres will find their way to
the pit ? — Do you mean the lads employed about the pit 7

35800. I mean the lads who live about the pits ? — You
mean whose fathers are miners ?

35801. Yes.— I think you may safely say that there is
nothing else for them to do.

35802. I suppose I may take it that it would be well if
some knowledge from Uie dangers from gas in mining, and
some knowle<^e of ventilation were given to the lads
before they went down the mine ? — I am Chairman of the
Durham County Council, and I know this, that there are

ining classes wherever they will adopt them, and there
would be more if they were adopted to teach boys purely
. mining.

35803. For lads under 14 >^Any lads who like to go.

35804. Lads under 14 who are attending day-school are
not likely to attend evening classes 5 — No.

35805. Do you think it would be time well spent during
the last two or three years of a lad*s attending school to give
him some knowledge of chemistry and mining 7t — Yes.

35806. And perhaps a knowledge of the Special Rules.
He would be expected to know them ? — Yes.

35807. So far as you know, the Government or the
Education Department have not made any provision for
that at present 7 — I know that. I think if some instruc-
tion were given at some period of the day when these young
lads are intended for miners, it would be money well spent.
There are the technical schools, the secondaiv schools, and
evening classes, but that is after they leave the elementary
schools.

35808. There is no doubt that there is a cc^nsiderable
danger to lads who are underground for the first time
unless they are closely under the supervision of a skilled
person, because of ignorance, they may perhaps go into
danger ? — ^They do not go anywhere where a knowledge
of chemistry or mining generally is required. They are
generally put into some place where they are under super-
vision, and where they come into connection with some
other boys older than themselves. So far as chemistry is
concerned and the science of mining, it is unnecessary for
them at that particular time, but it is necessary later on.

35809. What do you say with regard to a knowledge of
the Special Rules and Coal Mines Regulation Act 7 — That
would be all right. I do not see that it would do any harm.



MINUT£S OF EVIDENCE :

35810. Your lads do n^^ Jo directly to the coal face in
Durham 7 — ^No.



35811. They do day- wage or on-cost work first 7— Yes.
they are knocking about generally, keeping doors or
incidental work until they go up for drivers, and other
kinds of work.

35812. In large counties, where they go generally directly
to the coal face, there is all the more need for them having
some knowledge of gases and ventilation 7 — Yes, I should
think so.

35813. You would not have any serious objection to the
third grade of inspectors which you propose holding a first-
class certificate 7 — No.

35814. Providing it carries with it practical experience 7
— Certainly ; that implies he would have the second if he
had the first. The greater always includes the less. He
would be more quailed. I would make it a sine qua non
that he must have practical experience.

35815. Other things being equal, theoretical knowledge
and everything, the miner with the practical experience
would be the tetter man of the two 7 — Yes, he is bound to
be.

35816. I daresay there is sufficient intelligence and push
now amongst the miners generally to secure a first-class
certificated man to supply a third grade of inspectors 7 —
I know you could supply a coip many times over in
Durham, and I am sure you will find the same thing in
other counties generally.

35817. On the question of fines, supposing it came to
your knowledge now that in Durham there was a systematic
and very extensive system of fining, the fact that you are
in ignorance of it as Secretary of the Durham Miners
would make it all the more necessary that it should not be
so 7 — ^We should try and stop it.

35818. I find that Mr. Bain put it here. He gives the
case of eight collieries, and he is dealing reaUy with fines
imposed by the managers; he gives eight collieries in
which there were 341 fines in one year 7 — ^These are things
that neither my colleague nor I, nor any official could have
any cognisance of. If a man is caught in anything that is
wrong and the manager says, " Instead of turning you of!
I will fine you," and he accepts the fine without giving us
notice of it, we do not know anything about it. I am
speaking of our knowledge and supervision of things ;
we are against fining.

35819. It is rather a serious matter that this is going on,
and as a matter of fact it has been kept away from your
knowledge ? — When a man submits to it without reporting
to the officials of the colliery, that is our officials, and
m^kes that arrangement, we cannot know an3rthing
about it.

35820. The fact that it has not become public proves
that it has not the deterrent effect it would have if there
had been a prosecution in court 7 — ^There are too many.
There would not have been 341 in court.

35821. (Mr, Ratdiffe Ellis.) A list of fines has to be kept
for the inspector to see 7 — Yes. I think I understand your
question. In your opinion the 341 are not enough to
prevent men breaking the Special Rules. Do you ask me
if there were 341 in a law court, would that have a better
effect 7 If so, I believe it would.

35822-3. {Mr. Smillie.) Yes, that is my point. If those
had received the publicity of a law court prosecution you
would have known all about it ? — Yes. Eight collieries,
341 cases, you say.

35824. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) They may not be breaches
of the Rules 7 — No, they may be something else.

(iff. Smillie.) Mr. Bain put it that they are all breaches.

{Chairman.) We do not know how many of those are
fines by agreement, and how many are fines inflicted by
the management.

{Mr. Smillie.) He only gave 95 prosecutions.

{Chairman.) It is clear the great majority of fines are
fines inflicted voluntarily.

(Mr. SmiUie.) Yes.

{Witness.) That is at the rate of about 45 for a colliery.

35825. At one colliery there were 108, at another 37. at
another 63, and then 1 see 18, 11, 45, 48, and one large
colliery he says does not fine at all, but always prosecutes,
proving that what he is dealing with is fines at the coUiery.
I daresay you would not be prepared to pass a law placing
it in the hands of a mines inspector to fine a manager for a
breach of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 7 — He is fined
now, is he not 7



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35^26. You seem in one of your answers to the Chairman
and Mr. £llis to disagree with ^Ir. Bain, but I think you
agree with him. Mr. Bain had stated that the men would
prefer being fined by the manager, and you disagreed with
that. Mr. Bain meant the indlviduab who were caught
would prefer to be fined by the manager ? — If you speak
of the men collectively, they would not.

35827. The Durham miners as a whole do not believe in
the fining system ? — Not for violation of Special Kules or
the Act of Parhament.

35828. The individual who is caught would naturally
prefer to be fined ? — It is in this way: he is told by the
manager, " If you will accept a fine you may stop on, but
if not I will dismiss you," and he takes the lesser of the two
evils in his opinion.

35829. If you are to have discipline, and where the lives
of the men are concerned, you ought to have it, you think
prosecution before a magistrate is the beet method of
securing it ? — Yes, I think it is. It has the best deterring
effect.

35830. You have not been asked whether you think
there should be certificates after an examination for
deputies. Do you think it would be wise that deputies
should have a certificate ? — I think it would be a benefit
all round.

35831. As a general rule you have no fault to find with
the class of men who are generally deputies for Durham ?
—No.

35832. You have known deputies who are thoroughly
skilled practical men who could not have passed a theoreti-
cal examination ? — I have known some of the best managers
in the mines of Durham who, before the Act came into
force, could not have passed an examination in anything.

35833. That did not prevent Parliament passing that
law ?— No.

35834. Is the position of a deputy most important so
far a8 the question of safety is concerned ? — Yes.

35835. Would you go the length of saying it is more
important from the safety point of view than even that of
the general manager of the colliery ? — Yes ; the general
manager gives general instructions as to what he wants
done specially, but the general safety of that flat is under
the deputy.

35836. The deputies are generally there in the morning
before the manager puts in an appearance ? — He comes
in at two o'clock in the morning and the other one comes
in about nine.

35837. In view of the fact that we have so many intelli-
gent practical miners who hold first and second-class
certificates, there would be no difficulty in getting sufiicient
deputies with the necessary qualifications who could prove
by examination that they were fit ? — ^They could prove
it by a scientific examination.

35838. It might not be required to be so stiff as the first
or second class 7 — It takes a man with a lot of adaptability
to make a deputy.

35839. Upon the deputy depends the safety of that mine ?
—Of that flat.

35840. Is your deputy responsible for seeing that the
material is got out of his particular district ? — The coals ?

35841. Yes.— No.

35842. He is not in any way responsible ? — ^No.

35843. Is he responsible for the roads being kept in
order ? — Yes, the tram roads.

35844. Supposing a tram or a train of trams, if you have
them ? — They go single tubs.

35845. Supposing a single tub goes off the road, and he
has gone out to assist, he has to repair the road, if required ?
— ^He would have his hammer or axe and nails with him.
They generally carry them about with them.

35846. As a matter of fact, under your Special Rules
there are 14 rules applicable to his duties ? — Yes.

35847. Those rules apply to looking after ventilation,
all the doors and tramroa<is and other things in his district,
in addition to timbering work ? — ^In his district. He has
done with the ventilation after it gets into the return
airway. It may be in his district when it has left him.

35848. You could not give any idea as to the number of
men which a deputy may have under his charge ? — It
varies according to the stone. Some men follow 18 or 20,
some 10 or 12. It depends upon a variety of circumstances.

35849. Your deputies generally who are also timbermen,
must be skilled timbormen and miners before they know
how to put up timber 7 — A manager knowing what he has
to depend on should pick the best men.



35850. A thoroughly skilled deputy with practical
experience and knowledge would be as good a timberman
as you yourself would have been 7 — Better.

35851. Although sometimes you would have preferred to
put up your own prop, because you know where it is
convenient 7 — Yes.

35852. That is not because the deputy is not a thoroughly
skilled man 7 — ^No.

35853. You are favourable to the deputies still being
kept responsible for the timbering 7 — Yes.

35854. Always leaving the miner responsible when the
deputy is not there 7 — ^That is the Special Rule, you will
find.

35855. You have no fault to find with your engine- winders
in Durham 7 — No. I could not tell you of any. I could
not even hint at any fault to find with the engine-binders.

35856. You have given as your own personal guarantee
from your knowledge of engine-winders as a class that
they are a very estimable and intelligent class of men 7 —
That is my unhesitating opinion.

35857. Have you thought over the question of whether
it might be well that there should be certificates to prove
their competency 7 — Yes.

35858. Are you favourable to that 7 — I have thought
so much about that that for over 15 years I have
tried to get a Bill through the House of Commons, and I
am going to ballot next Wednesday for it again.

35859. Your long experience justifies you in saying that
engine-winders should hold certificates of competency 7
— ^I think they ought to have them.

35860. Do you say they should be confiend so far as
possible to their own particular engine and their own



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