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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 155 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 155 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Yes. . '

36690. In the absence of those qualifications you find
the great reason why there are so many accidents 7 —
That is so.

36691. {Sir Lindaay Wood.) I think you said you would
advocate that the mines should be inspected every three
months 7 — By a Government inspector.

36692. Either by the head inspector or assistant inspector
or the third class inspector — the workman inspector 7 —
I do not object to the latter ; but over all the others, apart
from the inspection that now takes place, I would suggest
that an independent Government inspector should make
his visit about once every three months.

36693. You think there should be three classes of
inspectors, the head inspector, the assistant inspector,
and a third class inspector, paid by the Government 7 —

36694. And one of those three should inspect the mine
every three months 7 — Yes. They may a5 so oftener
than that, but at least once in three montiis.


Digitized by




Mr. T.

23 Jan., 1908.

366d5. Would that not do away with the necessity of
the inspection under Rule 38 ?— It has never been in
operation in our district.

36696. But would it ? — It would.

36697. If the mine is inspected every three months
there would be hardly any necessity for the men to inspect
it, if it is done by the Government T — Quite so.

36698. You say the reason this is not carried out in your
district is that the men who would have to make the
inspection might be discharged or punished in some way
1^ the management ? — That is so.

36699. That you said you found from practical ex-
perience ? — Yes.

36700. Have you had any cases of the owners punishing
anybody for inspecting the mine in that way 7 — No
inspection has taken place ; we have always been afraid
to do that.

36701. How do you get the practical experience ? —
Working in the tiiick coal seam from a boy of 12 years
of age until I was appointed to the Miners' Association ;
I say we have been afraid to put that into operation.

36702. * You have found it difficult. You could not have
practical experience without doing it 7 — I mean practical
experience in the coal Working, not in reference to in-

36703. You said you had practical experience, or rather
you formed your opinion from practical experience, that
the men would be pimished by the owners ? — That is a
wrong impression. I meant from practical^ experience of
the mine it would be inadvisable, where there was a risk of
being victimised, to put that Rule into operation in the
Black Country when I worked in the pits, and the same
would apply to-day, no doubt, in our district. Thoy are
not large pits. The difficulty is this : out of 20 or 40 men
where are you going to get two to volunteer and run a
risk of being discharged.

36704. Are you aware that the witnesses we had yester-
day said there was no evidence in their district of any
men being victimised in consequence of it T — Perhaps they
are placed differently to us.

36705. Yours is rather a particular district altogether ?

36706. You thought horse haulage was more dangerous
than mechanical haulage ; that also must be applicable
to your district only ? — Yes, more so than anywhere else,
I should think. We have a great number of accidents from
horse haulage.

36707. {Mr. Enoch Edtvaris still a certain amount which they
must produce 7 — ^That is' so.

36799. The pressure is quite as much on them as where
men are paid by the ton 7 — Yes, or more.

36800. The butty man will make sure that there is some
person in charge to see that these men do their work 7 —
That is so.

36801. That does not prove that if miners were paid
day's wage instead of by the ton, or stint work, that tiieir
employment would not be safer than it is now 7 I mean,
do you think pressure, either by having stint, or a certain
amount put out, or paid by the ton, makes men run more
risk Uian they otherwise would 7 — I do, and it increases
the number of accidents, undoubtedly, from my experience .

36802. Day's wage men, such as roadsmen and firemen,
are paid by the shift 7 — Yes.

36803. There is not always the rush on them that there
is on men working at the coal face, or ripping 7 — No.

36804. You gave Mr. Johnstone a very high character
as a mines inspector. You have no fault to find with him 7
— No, the only thing is, he cannot give sufficient time to
the Black Country.

36805. You do not know whether he has or has not
been a practical working miner 7 You are not aware of
that yourself 7 — No.

36806. I suppose you are aware that he has been a
colliery manager 7 — No, I have never known him till this
last few monies, till he came into our district, but he has
left no stone unturned in fishing out all the information
he can with regard to our dangerous thick coal seam.

36807. Mr. Johnstone, as far as you are aware, has high
qualifications, and is desirous of doing right, but is it your
opinion that it would have added to his usefulness if he had
had his present qualifications with the addition of a few
years' practical experience at the coal 7 — Yes.

36808. That is really what we mean 7— That is what
we are suffering from.

36809. No fault is found generally with the present
mines inspectors in the country ? — No.

36810. The feeling amongst your men is that if they had
an additional qualification, having had practical experience

would improve 7 — Improve and reduce the vast

number of accidents. I am certain of that.

36811. Do you think a practical miner, a man who had
a long practical experience in aU classes of mining work,
face work and other work, and also scientific attainments
and education, would be the best class of man for an
inspector 7 — I do, especiaDy in the thick coal. If you
put a thin coal man into a thick coal pit he is absolutely
useless ; he knows nothing at all about it.

36812. Sometimes a man who has had his whole
experience in a thick coal seam would not be as useful
in a thin coal seam 7 — A thick coal man san work in any

coal seam in the country, b^^use he has the knowledge
of cutting and ripping and holing the same as a thin ooal
man woidd.

36813. The nature of the roof, whether a thick or a thin
seam, wUl, to a very great extent, increase or lessen the
number of accidents 7 — Yes.

36814. Most of the roof is very treacherous, as miners
call it 7— Yes.

36815. It does not give much warning 7 There may be
some accidents then if the roof is good 7 — Yes. In a thick
coal seam we have no strictly permanent roof. We have to
keep climbing up till we have the coal out. Sometimes
we cannot get the top section. That comes all together,
the rock comes in hundreds and thousands of tons at a
time and buries it.

36816. If you are correct in saying that the butty men
at your collieries, where the butty system is still in force,
appoint competent persons under this Act to be firemen,
you are aware that that is not according to the Act of
Parliament 7 — I say it is in contravention of the Act,
and has been for years.

36817. Is Mr. Johnstone aware of that 7 — I should think
he is, but I have not discussed it with him. His pre-
decessor was aware of it. I do not now how you would
construe it yourself. I considered it was a con^avention,
but no action has been taken in the matter.

36818. If the butty man has the appointment and the
payment and the right to dismiss those men, he will have
a considerable power over them 7 — Yes, certainly, and
that is where the evil comes in.

36819. Thev are not as likely to pay the same close
attention to aanger as they would if, instead of the butty
man, the appointment was by the manager of the mine 7
— I may say that the men look up to the butty man as
their master ; they do not look upon the chief of the firm
as their master. They look up to the butty man because
the butty man pays their wages.

36820. He really is their master 7 — Yes, he has the power
to set them on, discharge them, and he pays them.

36821. Have you many unskilled persons going into the
mines 7 I mean those who have grown up unskilled 7 —

36822. In the mines of Staffordshire 7— Yes. The
butty S3rstem tends to that ; it tends to encourage them
in preferenne to practical men.

36823. Cheap labour is one of the things they are anxious
to have ? — Yes, and it is very dangerous in a thick coal

36824. A large number of unskilled persons going into
your specially dangerous seams is a danger to themselves 7
— And to those around them.

36825. Do you know whether or not the high death
rate from accidents is in any way due to the emplo3rment
of unskilled persons 7 Have you any figures with regard
to that ? Is the proportion of persons injured or killed
larger among unskilled workers ? — The proportion of
deaths and permanent accidents is considerably greater
under the butty system than under the ordinary system
of working, and has been for a considerable number of

36826. That, in itself, is very important 7— Yes.

36827. (Dr. Haldane.) In the same seams ? — In the same
seams, working under the same conditions.

36828. (Mr, Smillie,) That is very important. Can you
give any information on the other question 7 Have you
given it sufficiently close study to enable you to say
whether the proportion of accidents is greater with un-
skilled persons than with skilled miners 7 In a general
way you would say it must be so, but you do not know
from figures 7 — No, I have no direct evidence to prove
that. From interviews with our men and constant
meetings they are always attributing certain accidents
to the introduction of unskilled labour. Men are put
into positions who have had no practical experience, and
they are put over those who have had experience. ^^

36829. If I put it to you that there was more danger ^ I
arising from an unskilled man driving a new Great Wester n
engine to Carlis le than a skilled man, you would agree ^
with me that tKat was so ? — Yes.

36830. But you have no statistics to prove that it is
so ?— No.

36831. What class of unskilled labour is it that goes
into the mines 7 Are they agricultural labourers 7 —
No, practically all classes, more or less, from various
industries, especially when wages are high.

Digitized by




36832. There is *a larger increase then than at other
times ? — Yes.

36833. Do your boys, on leaving school and entering
the mine, start at the coal face or on day work ? — ^They
all start on day work. The boys commence first of ail
minding doors and different things like that. They do
not get to the coal face sometimes till they are 25 or 26.

36834. You have no lads allowed to work at the coal
face ? — No.

36835. Do you think it would be an advantage, so far
as safety is concerned, to give lads likely to go into the
mines to work some knowledge of mine gas ? — I do.

36836. And the dangers of mining, and the Special Rules
and the Coal Mines Regulation Act, before they go in ? —

36837. That might be done at school ?— Yes.

36838. Nothing of that kind is done so far as you know
at the present time ? — No.

36839. You think it would be an advantage ? — It would
be, but we have no mining village ; we are interwoven
with other industries. We have not a village what I call
a mining village. There is none of that taught. We have
mining classes for young men from 18 to 30.

36840. For grown-up persons ? — Yes, and very useful
they are.

36841. What class of houses have your men 7 Do
they live usually in the employers' houses or are they
owned by private individuals ? — They are owned by
private individuals, particularly.

36842; You have not a very large proportion of work-
men living in houses belonging to the colliery ? — No ;
there may be a few, but very few indeed.

36843. Generally the houses are good, roomy houses ?
— Yes, nice cottages. It is not like being in Scotland.
Y'ou would not find a row of houses for colliers in our
Black Country. They are mixed with various kinds of

r 36844. Have you given any consideration to the question
of washing at the collieries ? Would it be an advantage
if the miners could have an opportunity for washing at
the collieries and leaving their pit clothes there and going
home in their ordinary clothes ^ — I do not think it is

> necessary in our district.

[ 36845. There is plenty of convenience at home for
[ washing ? — Yes, and they do not have to walk great
[ distances ; most live fairly close to the pit.

36846. You have not any great number who travel
by train or who travel a considerable distance ? — No.

36847. Have you very much wet work ? — Yes, there
is a lot of wet work in the Black Country.

36848. Where the men are working wet and come out
of the pit drenched with water is there any arrangement
for changing their clothes ? — No ; they have to go home.

36849. Is it not a very considerable disadvantage to
them, especially in cold weather, to walk a mile or so in
that condition ? — Yes, it is ; but it has been in existence
ever since I can remember. I have had to do it for years .

36850. The miners get so well used to it that they do
not take any notice of it ? — No.

36851. {Mr, Enoch Edtoards,) I should like to be clear
about one statement you have made here. When Mr.
SmiUie asked you what proportion of these men were
working under butties, you said one-fourth. Do you
mean one-fourth of South Staffordshire or the Black
Country itself ? — Not South Staffordshire.

36852. You said there are about 7,000 in the Black
Country ? — I am talking about the men who are covered
with the compensation scheme. We cover 7,000 or a
little over. The butty system prevails in one-fourth of
the whole.

36853. There are less than 2,000 men and boys employed
by butties ? — Yes ; it would be running on to 2,000. I
am not sure about the figures. I have not troubled to
bring the exact figures.

36854. {Chairman,) Is the number going up or down ?
— It varies. Some months there is an increase and others
a decrease. It ebbs and flows. There may be 100 men
at this pit in January, and in December it may be reduced
to 75.

36855.' It appUes to certain pits. How long wiU those
pits continue to work under the butty system ? Are they
leased under the butty system for a number of years ? —

36856. Or tiU the amount of coal has been got out ? —
TiU the seams have been extracted.

36857. It will go on till the seams have been extracted 7

36858. How long do you suppose it will go on ? Will
there be fresh butty leases made ? — They transfer them.
As they work one place out they go to another.

(Mr. Enoch Edwards.) A particular firm prefers to work
their coal by contract butties. That is what I take it.

36859. {Chairman.) A particular firm does it ? — Yes.
I cannot see that it is any advantage to the firm. I think
it is a loss myself. It is a dear- beloved system they have
had, and they stick to it.

36860. If things go on as they have gone on, the butty
system will be very much in the same position in 10 years
time as it is now. There will not be much decrease ? — No.

36861. Nor, perhaps, for the next 20 years. Do you
think it will last 20 years ? — I do. They keep working
the different seams. Most of our pits are broken mines.
One butty wiU work in its maiden state, and 20 years after
another butty in its broken state.

Mr. T.

23 Jan., 1908.

You do not see a prospect of it coming to an end
until 20 years or more ? — No.

36863. Or it being seriously diminished ? — No.

36864. {Dr. Haldane,) Is not the broken coal getting
exhausted — that is, the thick coal ? — No.

36865. Is not the broken coal near the surface ? — ^No.
It will not be exhausted for a great number of years.

36866. {Mr, Ratcliffe Ellis.) In the case where the
owner of the mine and the owner of the plant chooses to
let both mines and plant to a lessee, reserving a royalty
by way of rent calculated upon the quantity of mineral
gotten, do you see any objection to that ? — The only
objection is that it introduces very much unskilled labour,
because this arises from coUiers as welL They save a few
pounds and they take these places on, and are the very
people where most accidents take place.

36867. That is no fault of the system. Usually a man
who works a colliery takes a lease from the mine or the
colliery owner, and spends his money in sinking the pit
and establishing the plant, and makes his profit. If a man
is in that position and is tired of working it himself, and
wants to let it to somebody else, he finds somebody else to
work it, and they give him, by way of rent, a certain sum
calculated on the coal he gets, to remunerate the owner
for the royalty and interest on the plant and depreciation.
I understand that is one part of the butty system.

36868. {Chairm£Ln.) You include that system of working
under the butty system ? — Yes.

36869. {Mr, Ratcliffe Ellis,) Do you see any objection
to that ? A lessee who is working this mine is the owner,
and is bound to carry out the regulations of the Coal Mines
Act. If he does not, he ought to be made to do it. The
system does not seem to me to me prejudicial ? — I see no
oDJection to the system you have quoted ; it does obtain
in various parts. More attention is wanted with regard
to the supervision of the mines but that does not alter
the principle.

36870. The second system is this : Where the man who
is working, and is the responsible man, says to some
person, '' You take this district and get the coal, and find
your timber, or do not find your timber, cither giVe me so
much and make what profit you can, or I wiU^ve you so
much and take the balance for my profit ? '* — That is the
butty system.

36871. The objection to that is the person who is the
contractor is made responsible for the mine by the arrange-
ment, and does not take his responsibility sufficiently
seriously, because he is too anxious to get coal 7 — That
is so.

36872. WTiy should not he be made to do that 7— It is
brought about through the want of periodical inspection by
somebody in authority.

36873. What is wanted is a greater supervision of some-
body to see that the Coal Mines Regulation Act is carried
out ? — That is so. If you do that you will reduce accidents.

36874. It is not the system which is wrong so much 7

(Mr, Wm, Abraham.) The system itself is rotten alto-

(Witness.) Yes.

36875. (Dr, Haldane,) You say, I think, that most of
the mines are shallow and pretty cool 7 — Yes.

Digitized by




Mr, T. 36876. There are very deep mines also in your district ?

MansdL — Only two, Hamstead and Sandwell. We are not

including those on the butty system.

93 Jan.,190<». 36877. I am not thinking of the butty systMn. I was
thiiUdng of it in connection \^ith the worm disease. There
are deep mines ? — Yes. Sandwell and Hamstead are the
only two.

36878. There are more going down to the thick coal
where it is deep beyond the boundary fault ? — Yes.

36879. In these mines, at any rate, there is a tempera-
ture which might be dangerous so far as the worm disease
is concerned ? — Yes

36880. Have you had much complaint about bad
ventilation in your district ? — We suffer constantly from

36881. Black damp ?— Yes. That is the principal gas
found in our mines. That is due to bad ventilation in most

36882. There is a great deal of black damp ?— Yes.

36883. And a great deal of danger from heating of the
coal ?— Yes.

36884. And poisoning ? — Gob fires.
36886. Gob stink ?— Yes,

36886. Great attention is required to be given to the
ventilation in the interests of safety ? — Yes.

36887. Is it a common thing for men to be working in
air which will scarcely keep a light burning in it ? — ^I have
worked in it hundreds of hours myseLF — black damp.
There are very few of our small pits that are free from it
any day of the year.

36888. Do you think it is necessary to have a standard
of ventilation to prevent such things ? — It is rather
difficult ; if you raise the ventilation you are going to create
gob fires on account of the broken state of the mine. You
cannot get ventilation too high, because it creates gob fires.

36889. I think that is a matter that is very doubtful.
It is the practice in your district to stop the ventilation on
Sundays often ? — No, where there are gob fires.

36890. With the idea of stopping gob fires ? — Yes.

36891. Is there any evidence that it did stop the gob
fires, or do any good whatever ? — The experience I have
had is it has damped it down. It has allowed us to get
into the workings again.

36892. You stop the ventilation ? — For three days or a

36893. Are you sure it was not due to other causes ?
You are aware the amount of gas and smoke in the mine
depends largely on changes in the b€u:ometer ? — Yes.

36894. If you stop a day or two the barometer may have
gone the other way ? — Yes.

36895. And the whole place be dear ? — The idea we
have in damping places is to introduce black damp to kill
the fire.

36896. To prevent any air getting^ at it T — Yes,

36897. Black damp is caused by the chemical change in
the coal itself. You are aware a good deal of trouble arises
from men working in black damp ? — Yes, and that
increases the danger, esi)eciaUy in the thick coal opening.

They have no chance to ^^t the roof ^ or 6 yards high,
where the damp is prevalent, to see whether it is safe or
not. They run a risk in filling up the coal that is dowo.
Many accidents are caused Uke that.

36898. Why cannot they get at the roof — because of the
damp ? — Perhaps you cannot understand it.

36899. I know them T — Our place is as big as this
10 yards square and 10 yards high. Suppose our section
was 5 yards high. If you have black damp all the way
round it is impossible to take your light to test this coaL

36900. The black damp is at the roof ?— Yes.

36901. And not on the floor when it is full ?— When the
place is full of black damp.

36902. You cannot get in at all with a light ? — No, very
often we cannot. In the more shallow mines I have had
experience of having to run out with my clothes under
my arm, and also my comrades. The black damp has
driven us out quick through a change in the atmosphere.

36903. Through a change in the barometric pressure ? —

36904. Although naked lights are used in all the mines
in your district tibiere is still a great need for looking after
the ventilation 7 — ^Yes ; it is a very difficult thing to do.

36905. There is no trouble from fire-damp, but a great
deal of trouble from black damp and gob stinks ? - -Ye8.
That is owing to the broken state of the mines.

36906. (Mr, Batcliffe Mis,) Is not the difficulty about
the butty system that the places are so small, they are very
httle collieries, very small places indeed, and plaiced in the
hands of the men who have risen from the ranks and have
not capital to carry the thing out ? — Yes. They vary in
area and the coal they get.

36907. The practical working miner does not shine as a
manager ?— No.

36908. {Chairman.) There are these two systems of
butty working. What proportion are worked under the
first svstem, which seems not to be so dangerous as the
second system, shall we say ? — ^I have hardly got the
question you have submitted.

36909. Mr. Ellis has put it to you that there are two
ways of working under the butty system 7— Yea.

36910. I do not think I need repeat what he said upon
that point 7 — ^No.

36911. What proportion of mines in the Black Country
worked under tne butty system are worked under one
system, and what proportion are worked under the other,
under the system that is more dangerous, or the system
which is comparatively speaking less dangerous 7 — ^I
should think it would be quite ei^t-tenths.

36912. Under the second system ?— Under the butty

36913. Under the real butty system ?— Yea.

36914. The unmitigated butty system, we may call it 7
— Yes.

36915. About that 7— I am not certain about the
figures ; I simply give that from my present knowledge of
the area.

36916. It is to tlie best of your knowledge and belief 7
— Yes.

Digitized by





Wednesday y 5th February, 1908.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 155 of 177)