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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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engine-room, and that other duties outside of their engine-
room should be taken off thorn 7 — I cannot imagine an
engine-winder going out of the engine-room at all when his
engine is working.

35861. Well, while it is standing 7 — If there is no need
f<5r him to be there. Take a week-end when the pit is off.
There may be something an engineman could do, and he
might be asked by the engineer to do it, but that will be
when there is not any demand for the engine to do anything.

35862. You would not think it wise, where there are two
adjacent collieries and men underground in both, to leave
one engine -winder in charge of both engines 7 — It depends
upon how far they are off, and whether they go to either
engine to come to the bank. There must be an engine-
winder there while people are in the mine.

35863. If two engines were so far away from each other
there might be a difficulty in distinguishing the sounds
of the signal bells 7 — It is not left to him ; there is a banks-
man at the bank.

35864. At some mine there is no banksman 7 — ^There
is still a man there.

35865. The law does not provide that there must be a
banksman 7 — I think you will invariably find that there

35866. I invariably find that there is not 7 — I do not
speak of Scotland. I could not understand if an engine
is a long way off taking them away and you might expect
some raps from the pit he belonged to, especially. I
thought your question was put generally ; a man having
an engine standing and not being required for hours,
whether, if requir^ by the engineer to do something
out of the engine-house, he should do it. Well, that is
a matter of arrangement, and could be taken in hand by
the engineer.

35867. That is not the point 7 — Taking two engines at
distances, I cannot see

35868. You are not in favour of the engine-winder
having charge of his own engine, to wind men and materials,
and also a haulage -engine in the same engine-house 7 —
Not while the winding-engine is at work.

35869. During the time a man might be in the shaft
the bell might ring to stop the haulage engine 7 — If anythuig
happened to the hauling down the pit, and it depended
on getting it stopped, and a rap came, he could not leave
the winding-engine.

35870. It would be well to have the winding-engine and
nothing but the winding-engine 7 — Yes.

35871. With regard to coroners* inquests, you have
little or nothing to complain of in Durham 7 — Nothing.

35872. You have, from your own experience, heard of
cases where coroners have not treated you with much

Mr. J.




Digitized by



Mr, J. oourtefliy 7 — I think I could tell you of instances, but not
WiUont m our own county. I have no personal complaint, but
M.P, rather appreciation of the freedom t^ey allow.

QQ T lOAii 36873-4. Section 48, Clause 8, gives ihe power to the
/SIJ an.,i w». Biajority of the workmen to appoint, by an order in
writing, a representative to attend an inquest. Supposing
a coroner interprets it that the majority of the workmen
individually must sign that authorisation, that might be
verv difficult to get done sometimes ? — It would be
diMcult at all times if an inquest came on in a hurry.

35875. That construction could be placed upon that
clause, and has been placed upon it ? — Yes.

35876. A coroner has objected to a person appearing
wb^re ho has not had the authorisation of the majority
of the workmen ? — I have never known a single case of a
coroner in Durham asking for an order. I was at the
Altofts explosion, and I know there that the coroner
demanded a certificate from the representatives of the
men before he would allow them there. He asked for
the certificate.

t 35877. A certificate signed by the majority of the
workmen, did he say ? — No, signed by the relatives.

35878. If that is really the construction placed on the
present clause, is it not necessary that a change should
take place ? — Substituting something else for the majority
of wo kmen.

35879. An order in writing of the majority of the work-
men. It should be sufficient if a coroner had information
that at a meeting of the workmen a person was appointed
by the majority ? — Still, the coroner would require some
guarantee in writing, not verbal, that this man was

35880. Supposing he had a certificate in writing byl^he
person who presided at the meeting, would that do ? —
Perhaps the meaning is the majority of the meeting. It
does not say that.

35881. Coroners have held that it is the majority of
the workmen in writing ? — Yes. .

35882. That might prevent a person getting it. Have
you any difficulty in Durham \iith regard to unskilled
persons being employed ? — No, we have not any. The
only instance I can remember was one we had the other
day, but he was working under the care of a skilled work-

' man.

35883. You have not had two unskilled persons working
at the face together ? — No.

35884. Might I ask your opinion as to whether the
employment of an unskilled person is as safe as the em-
ployment of a skilled person ? — There is only one answer
to that question, and that is No, he would not be :
he could not.

35885. I suppose being unskilled, a want of knowledge
of the English language would be a serious drawback to
the safety of a person ? — He would have some difficulty
in making himself understood, especially to a Scotsman,

35886-94. And by any Britisher, I suppose, I might
take it T—Yes.

35895. {Dr. Haldane,) We have had complaints from
other districts that the under-officials in some of the mines
are not very capable, and that they are badly paid, and
paid less than men working at the race P — I really cannot
tell at all

35896. I wanted to ask you for information about the
Durham district. Does such a thing ever happen ? —
I do not know anything about the payment of the officials.
I do not know their wages, neither can I, so far as I am
concerned, give any objection to the capability of any
official in the Durham coalfield.

f. 35897. You cannot tell whether the deputies are paid
f badly 7 — The deputies' wages would be now about 7s. a
I day, with free house and coal.

\ 35898. They are never less than that, but they may be
• J less than a coal hewer ? — ^No, they are always more.

» 35899. Do you say that as a general rule ? — ^There is
! a fixed average 'wage for deputies, plus percentage, and
the deputy's basis wage is 6d. a day hi^er than a coaJ
• getter's wage.

' 35900. That is the custom ? — Yes. My colleague has
jubt handed to me a list of the wages. For the deputies
the basis wage is 6id. above the coal-getter's, plus per-
I centage.


35901. The oompIa/H^ k they do not get the best man ?
— I have said sometiiii^ a man has a cousin. To speak
of things generally, I have no complaint, and I have not
heard of any. There may be cases that do not come
within my luiowledge.

35902. Do you think, as a general rule, that the men in
the Durham district have fair facilities for getting them-
selves clean when th^ get home ? Have tk^ room in
their houses ? — ^They have the facilities th^ forefathers
had, but they were not a dirty class. I believe the bath
might be attached to every house with advantage to all.

35903. They are not just now ? — Some of the houses
are very small, far too small, and against that we make
complaint. In Durham tliere has been a gradual reforma-
tion ever since the Local Government Act was brought
into operation, and the new houses the owners are buildmg
are very much larger, and no fault can be found witli tliem.
At one new colliery they have put a bath to every house.
I would suggest that, from an employer's point of view,
as a matter of economy. The men would be far more
vigorous if they could be bathed, but the convenience
for washing in a small house is not great. It cannot
greater facilities should be given.

35904. Would it not be a more expensive thing in
general to provide baths in houses than at the pit-head ? —
In building a new house it would take a very small place
to make a bathroom. There is one thing the colliery
owners have in Durham : they are not much troubled with
ground rent. Under our system, which is a free house
and coal for the workmen, with the exception of
rent for those who cannot get free houses, with very
rare exceptions the owner could attach to his houses some
small bathroom. That is my idea from the point of view
of cleanliness, vigour and economy, and I beheye in it

35905. One difficulty with regard to the baths is the
water supply ? — Our county is covered with ordinary
water companies.

35906. Is it possible to get soft water ? — ^I think so.
The water we get for our home consumption is a very
soft class of water. There may be collieries where it is
pumped out of the mine, from the feeder, and it may be
harder in its component parts, but speaking of the general
water supply of Durham gathered from the hiSs into
reservoirs it is soft.

35907. {Sir Lindsay Wood,) You are speaking of the
western part of the county. In the eastern part of the
county the water is, generally speaking, hard ? — ^The
Sunderland Water Company has suppli^ at Winaate.
When I spoke of the softness of the water I was specking
of the western side. It comes down to Durham and a little
on the east side of it.

35908. There is often a scarcity of water in the west of
Durham district, more than in the eastern distriot ? — Zsk
droughty times, you mean 7

35909. Yes ? — Scarceness of water would arise anywhere
whether there was a bath supplied to everyone or not in
droughty times.

35910. (Mr, Smillie,) Is there a large proportion of
your workmen in Durham who travel any distances by
train to their work ? — I only know one place, but I should
like to reserve the correctness of my answer. That is
from South Shields to Marsden.

35911. How many miles, roughly, is that 7 — ^About
three miles.

35912. If tliere were any places in Durham or elsewhere
where the miner was required to trayel 10 or 12 miles to
his work, that would make a considerable difierenoe as
regards the necesaity of washing at the pit ?• — You are
asking me something the worlunen in Durham never
dream of.

35913. In our district many men travel 10 miles by
train, and they are working wet in the pit ? — We do
not. Our houses are generally congregated about the

35914. Where men have to travel 10 miles in wet pit-
clothes, it is very uncomfortable ? — You might take half
a mile or three-quarters of a mile as the average distance.
In the case I have quoted from South Shields to Marsden
that is not the ordinary distance. I do not know of any
other place.

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Mr. John Johnson, M.P., called and examined.

85915. {Ghairman.) I believe you are Member of Parlia-
ment for Qateihead 7— Yee.

35916. You have heard what Mr. Wilson has been
saying ? — ^Yes.

35917. If you disagree with him in anything we shall
be glad to hear, or if you wish to amplify his evidenoe or
give any other evidence of your own upon the points
touched upon, we should like you to ? — I agree with all
Mr. Wilson has said. I have listened very closely to all
that has been said, and I think I may say " Am'en " to
all that has beon said. If there is any other queetion
you wish to ask me I shall be pleased to answer it.

85918. I do not know whether there are any points
which were not dealt with by Mr. Wilson which you
would Kke to mention to the Commission ? — ^No, there
IS notomg.

35919. {Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) You heard my questions
to Mr. Wilson and you agree with his answers to them ? —
Yes, I do.

35920. Mr. Wilson said with reference to certificates
for engine- winders that he had brought in a Bill from time
to time in the House of Commons for the purpose of
granting these certificates ? — ^Yes.

85921. Yon are aware, in connection ' with the Bill,
at one Session it was referred to a Select Committee ? —

35922. The Committee did not report in favour of the
necessity for such a BiB ?— -No,

35923. The migine- winders at present, I think everybody
agrees, are a very excellent class of men ? — Yes.

35924. There are occasional accidents which happen —
but very ocoasional, fortunately — by the engine- winders 7

Are you not aware that those accidents are
usually tbe resolt, not ci inoompetenoe or want of skill,
but ei^er from want of care or some temporary loss of
memory ?— They arise from various causes.

35926. Do you tidink that a certificate would cure that ?
— I think you would get better trained men» and if you
had a man who had a certificate you would know uiat
that man was competent.

35927. Yes, bat a certificate would not prevent careless-
ness or this occasional loss of memory ? — ^No, certainly it
would not prevent accidents altogether, but it would be
an indication that you had a competent man. He is,
on the face of the certificate, competent.

35928. As a matter of fact now, the fact that there are
practically no accidents happening as the result of want
of skiH does not look as if the absence of a certificate is a
matter of much consequence ? — If you have a man who has
served his time and who has got a certificate, there is a
comx>etent man when you want him. You have not a
man coming to the place who may not have served his
time. A man may not have had experience, but someone
says, " I think he is a good man." If he has a certificate
you know that he has had the training and experience.

35929. In case it was made obligatory, would you be
prepared to go as far as this, and say that no man should
be entitled to wind men who had not a certificate, in case
any difficulty arose in getting a man with a certificate to
wind, but that it should be comx>etent for the Home Office
to permit men to wind who had not got certificates ? — I
do not follow that. I think you can find plenty of men.

35930. Supposing there is some difference or dispute,
and the men say, we wfll not wind except upon certain
conditions.'* Would you provide that the Home Office,
on proper inquiry, might prevent access being refused to
these mines, except by men who had certificates ? — ^You
put it to me if there happened to be a dispute by the
persons who were certificated persons, and the diispute
came to a crisis, would I put another man in there. I
would be disposed to advise other people not to do it.

35931. Supposing the Home Office were authorised
ander certain ccmditions to permit winding by an uncertifi-
cated man, do you thirJt that would be reasonable ? — No,
beeause you want the men in the place to have confidence
in the man. I went to an inquiry not long ago at one of
our places where there had been a little mishap. There
was a quick-moving engine which pulled the cage up on
pulleys. The man had never had an accident before, and
there was a little fear about the matter, but the men said,
'* We have confidence in this man ; it is simply for the

moment an accident, a lapse of memory, or some other Mr. J,
thing " ; but if you were putting an incompetent man Johnson,
without a certificate to wind them, they would demur, If.P.

because their lives are very valuable commodities. —

35932. At the present time all these men are admittedly 22 Jan^90a
veiy competent men. There is not one with a certificate ;

therefore I ^o not see it would follow in future that no man
could be competent unless he had got that certificate ? —
We want to strengthen that competency. If now they are
very careful, and we make no complaint with regard to
them, we want to make assurance doubly sure by having
an attestation of competency expressed in the certificate,
saying that the man has sufficient experience, and therefore
that he is a competent man. That would give greater
confidence to the men.

35933. (Mr. SmiUie,) Do you agree with Mr. Wilson
as to the advisability of having certificates for deputies ? —
Yes. Mr. Wilson did not put it to the extent of having a
manager*s certificate.

35934. A certificate proving that they have the theoreti-
cal knowledge which is necessary, you agree with ? — Yes.

35935. You would apply the same thing to competent
persons under the Explosives Act as shot-firers and people
who handle explosives ? — People who handle explosives
are only responsible for the explosives. They are not
reepcMisible for the ventilation and general overseership
of the mine. They are shot-firers whose only business is to
look after the batteries in firing the shots. The deputy has
general supervision of the fiat or district and the ventila-
tion, and therefore he is responsible. The fireman is only
responsible for the efficient manipulation of the shot&

35936. In recent years there has been an mcrease in the
number and nature of the explosives ? — Yes.

35937. The high explosives or permitted explosives are
admittedly in many cases more dangerous than the old
powder ? — ^That may be.

35938. Tliey are ignited by detonators which are highly
dangerous ? — Yes.

35939. It would not be safe to put into the hands of an
incompetent person who had no skill, detonators and
explosives 7 — No, that would be a matter of experience
and management. It would be for the management to find
out whether they thought a man could do it, and in that
case every man would have to have a training. He would
have to nave a training before you could find tnat out.
You must have a start, and everybody at the beginning
would not be so competent as they would after years of

35940. If you were told that in many cases, in a number
of cases at least, persons who were in receipt of compensa-
tion had been started as shot-firers and persons to handle
explosives as an easy job, not because of any skill they hcul,
would you consider that a comjietent man 7 — ^No.
decidedly not.

35941. Can you tell us whether there are any or many
of your collieries in Durham which are specially supplied
with safety catches 7 — That I could not answer ; there
are some, but I could not teU you them.

35942. Have you any in your mind just now 7 — No.

35943. Do you know whether or not there are any of your
engines in which there is any regulator which would stop
the engme in the event of anything going wrong with the
engine 7 — I only know one, but there may be more. I was
in an engine-house recently, and they explained to me —
it was a new engine — ^that there was a process by which
the engine automatically shut off the steam and applied
the brake.

35944. Do you know if that was called Bertram's
Visor 7 — I do^ not know the name, but it is one of our
latest pits.

35945. If there is anything which could be attached to
every engine which would prevent overwinding in the
event of anything going wrong with the engine, do you
think it would be wise to have it applied 7 — ^Yes, I think
it would be very wise indeed. I understand there is one
in respect of electrical engines, but I did not understand
that it was so with regard to steam engines until this
was explained to me a few months ago.

3594 G. {Chairman.) Do you wish to add an3rthing 7—
No, there is nothing, except this. I agree with what Mr.
Wilson said with respect to ambulance and certificates.
I may say that in Durham I happen to be on the Board of

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Mr. J. Examination, and we had this question up at our

Johruon, Board, and we suggested to the Home Office that men

M,P, going in for manager^s certificates should have some

preference, by so many marks, if they were competent in

23 Jan.,1008. ambulance work, say 10 or 12 marks, as the case may be.

I think it would be a very good thing, too, for a deputy

as well, because the manager is only at the face sometimes,
but the deputy is always there.

35947. It is more important, in your opinion, that the
deputy should know about ambulance work than the
manager ? — Yes, I think it would be important In my
judgment, the deputy should know something about it, at
all events. I think it would be a good thing to get them
to recommend it.

35948. (Mr, Cunynghame,) I have only just heard that
you are on the Examination Board, and therefore I should
like to ask you a question upon that. It has been suggested
in some districts that the certificates are got more easily
than in others. If you fail in one place you can go off and
get a certificate somewhere el8e ? — So I have heard.

35949. Would you be in favour of a workable scheme
for making the certificates as uniform as possible ? — ^I think
I should. I am informed that the Newcastle district is a
very hard district.

35950. I have heard that some districts are harder than
others ? — ^Yes.

35951. Bo you think that some imxnrovement might be
obtained by the following scheme which I will outline. If
a paper were set a certain number of times a year and were
uniform through the whole of England, and that were set
by a Board of Examiners appointed by all the Boards in the
Kingdom, and you took care that there was always some-
body on the Examination Board to set the question,
who represented the words and customs of the district,
so that the paper would be fair for the district, and that
were supplemented by a satisfactory oral examination
with the object of giving the men who did not express
themselves quite so well on paper a chance of showing
what they Imow — do you think a scheme of that sort
would work well ? — I think it would be well to have some
uniformity. I think there is a great deal in the present
test of having the man before you.

35952. It is not suggested you should not have the man
before you, but only that a part of the examination should
be a uniform paper set all over England, so that you could
see the thing is uniform for everybody.

(Mr, SmiUie.) Why leave Scotland out of it ?

(Mr. Cunynghame.) 1 mean including Scotland.

(Witness.) I think that there should not be different
grades of examination in different districts. I think the
examination should be as uniform as possible, unless there
may be in certain districts certain specialities.

35953. It would be necessary to call a thing by one name
in South Wales which you would call by another name in
another district, and care would have to be taken not to
make an examination unfair from that pointof view. Other-
wise, as a mem her of the Examination Board, you do not see
any difficulty in the method adopted at South Kensington,
where the papers are sent out in sealed envelopes at a
certain hour on a certain evening, and the examiners of
a certain district could open them, distribute them, and
send the answers, which would be sealed up. By doing
that at the same hour on the same day no one can
communicate with anybody else ? — It would be a good
thing, because they often get to know the questions.

35954. I do not say I adopt the scheme, but I think
there is something in it. There would be a Board of
Examiners appointed by the Examining Boards in the

(Mr, Ratcliffe Ellis,) Would the papers go back to be
marked in London ?

(Mr. Cunynghame.) They would go to the Board of
Examiners. There would be a chairman, but certain
questions would be answered by certain men. They
would be distributed as they distribute them at South

(Witness.) They would be marked here ?

35955. They would come to a central authority 7 —
They would mark the district and take into con-
sideration the candidates and their age. They are
really examined, as a matter of fa«t, by experts, four or
five specially appointed to allocate the marks and report
to the Board their findings.

(Mr, SmiUie.) That is the present system.

35956. (Mr. Cunynghame.) The papers should go down
from London. At present they are made by the examiners
in the district ? — ^Yes.

35957. (Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) These come down to
Lancashire and then they are opened. The candidates are
there, and these papers are submitted to the candidates,
and they write up the answers to the questions ? — Yes.

35958. Are those questions sent back with their answers
to the Centre, and the value of the answers given ? Are
the marks given there, or are they marked by the examiners
in each particular locality ? — Are you speaking of what
ought to be done ?

35959. Yes. — ^I say there should be a certain specialist
in each district. Newcastle and its district may have

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 148 of 177)