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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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he is required to do ? — We have not taken any steps,
because it is common knowledge to the Government
inspectors themselves that this is not done.

21056. That is going rather a long way ? — No.

21057. Have you communicated with the inspectors ?

21058. Then you have done nothing ? — In that respect
we have not done an3rthing.

21059. You have sat down and left this state of things.
I want to read to you another passage. But tell me,
first of all, what is a roadsman T — ^He looks after the roads
and examines the chains and other things.

21060. Will you look at Rule 47: "The roadsmen,
in their different divisions and shifts, if more than one,
shall, at least daily, make careful inspection of the whole
roadways from the pit-bottom throughout the mine where
men are to work or pass, and shall keep the same free from
all obstruction, and of the height and width necessary for
proper passage and for ventilation." Have you allowed
that rule to l^ a dead letter 7 — Not that I am aware of.

21061. Have you done anything to see that the roadsmen
keep the roadways free from obstruction and of the height
and width necessary for proper passage and ventilation ?
— You must understand that it is difficult to prove when
these rules are violated.

21062. Do you not think that you should be a little more
careful in telling the Commission that these duties are
neglected in this wholesale way ? — We know it is. I am
only telling you what I know.

21063. Can you put before the Commission any evidence
of any colliery in which this state of things exists t Why
did you not communicate with the inspectors if you had
known these rules were being systematically broken for
years 7 — Simply because the inspectors knew as well as
we did.

21064. That may or may not be an answer, but still
you did not think it worth while to do it 7 — ^We did not
do it.

21065. Did you make any communication to the managers
of these different collieries where this had been neglected ?
— I never got instructions to do so from the men, and it
may be pointed out that the men themselves are very


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dilatory in taking up a position to give me instructional
even assuming I am their agent to make complaints of
that kind.

21066. You know that the inspectors are always ready
to receive any complaints, anonymous complaints, and
they immediately make enquiry into them ? — I have made
complaints to the inspectors when I have found danger
exist, and they have heen immediately attended to.

21067. In this particular case, which you consider a
great source of danger, you have not made any report either
anonymously or directly to the inspector, calling attention
to the breaches of these rules ? — I have not had instructions
to do so.

21068. Now with reference to timbering, some of your
colliers think, and a good many people agree with them,
that the collier is the man who can best look after his own
safety with regard to the timbering ? — ^That is quite a
oommon impression.

21069. In your own view is not that so, that the collier
is the best qualified to protect himself from falls of roof,
by putting Mb own timber up ? — Provided he is a trained

21070. I suppose these old men you speak of are trained ?

21071. Where did they get their training ? — By ex-
perience in the mine.

21072. That is the way everybody gets it. If a man is
not allowed to work more than two years at the face alone,
he gets it during that two years ? — Yes.

21073. Do you suggest that a collier should not do his
own timbering, but that it should be done by somebody
else t — I have suggested that it should be done by some-
body else with a view to reducing the number of accidents.

21074. The deputy, or whoever the official is who is
going to put the timber up, cannot always be there ? —
That is so.

21075. Supposing the collier wants some timber put up,
is he to stop till the fireman puts the timber up ? — No,
he should be at least directed to look after his own safety,
provided there is any danger.

21076. What would be the objection of your old colliers
to anybody else doing the timbering 7 — Because they think
they can do it better themselves.

21077. Safer ?— They would have that impression, no

21078. You know Mr. Hancock, of Nottingham ? —

21079. He was asked this question with regard to
timbering at Q. 20,397 : " With regard to timbering do you
suggest that it should be the duty of some mine official
to go round to the working places constantly with a view
to looking after the timbering, advising a man as to what
he should do with regard to the timbering, at all events,
if an inexperienced man ? — No, I do not know that I
suggest that ; in fact it is to some extent done now with
regard to all the men." You know in his district the men
do the timbering ? — ^The same as others.

21080. Except Northumberland and Durham ? — Yes.

21081. Have you noticed the statistics from falls of roof 7
It IS only in the working places that the collier does timber-
ing. The timbering is done by the roadsmen in the road 7
— By brushers and repairers in the road.

21082. In the Midland District, taking the five years
ending 1900, there is a death rate per 1,000 persons em-

doyed underground of '68 as compared with Northumber-
_jbnd and Durham and the Newcastle districts, where the
timbering is done by officials, of '65 and '75, so that in the
Midland district where the timbering is done in the way
that your old colliers think it should be done, by the collier,
the death rate is lower than in Newcastle and Durham,
i where the timbering is done by the deputy 7— Yes.


21083. So that it is not all in the favour of safety 7
It might have been on the roof.

21084. I daresay there are reasons, but still it is so 7 —
Have you any information as to the character of the roof
comparatively in the districts you have quoted 7

21085. It may be that has something to do with it, but
still it is a matter of fact where the timbering is done in
that way it shows the smallest percentage of any place in
the Kingdom. I notice in your Bill with reference to
timbering that you do not make that suggfestion that any-
body else should do it 7 — Ne.

21086. What you suggest is to amend Rule 22 as
follows : " Where the timbering of the working place is
done by the workmen employed therein, suitable timber
shall be provided at the worKing place by the owner of
the mine, and the distance between the sprags or holing
props where they are required shall not exceed six feet,
or such less distance as may be ordered by the owner,
agent, or manager." All you suggest in your Bill with
reference to timbering is that instead of the management
leaving the timber at the gate-end or pass-by, and the
collier or his drawer taking his timber from that point to
the working place, that the management should take the
timber to the working place 7 — ^That is what is suggested
in the Bill.

21087. That is a question of wages, is it not 7 It is
relieving the drawer and collier of something he has had
to do now, and included in his tonnage rate 7 — That may
be so if it is a long way to bring the timber.

21088. That is a question which would affect wages 7 —
It would have a very slight effect on wages under ordinary

21089. That is all you say in your Bill as to the re-
formation as to timb^ing. Now as to haulage accidents,
you suggest that there should be sufficient room for passage
in the travelling roads 7— Yes.

21090. Is there usually room now if it was kept clear 7 —
No, not that I know of. There may be a road here and
there vrith room.

21091. \Have vou the Special Rules there 7 Rule 47
says : " llie roadsmen, in their divisions and shifts, if more
than one, shall, at least daily, make careful inspection
of the whole roadways from the pit-bottom throughout
the mine where men are to work or pass, and shall keep
the same free from all obstruction, and of the height and
width necessary for proper passage and for ventilation."
What more do you want than that 7 — Proper passage of
what 7

21092. Who passes there 7—1 suggest a sufficiently
wide road that a man can pass between the hutches and
l^e side of the road.

21093. What is the meaning of this : " of the height
and width necessary for proper passage ** 7 — It may be
for proper passage of the trams only, and ventilation.

21094. Will you just look a little before that : " Where
men are to work or pass " — men, not trams 7 — That does
not define that the road is to be sufficiently wide to give a
space of two feet.

21095. It says it must be sufficiently wide for men to
pass, because, on reference to the roadways where men are

to pass or work 7 — If you interpret that to mean that,

that roadway is to be sufficiently wide for men to pass the
hutches as they are being hauled.

21096. That is the rule 7— We have not been able to get
that. I do not think it has ever been interpreted to mean

21097. There is insufficient room now 7 — As a rule.

21098. You have no complaint about manholes except
that they should be whitewashed to show where thev are,
and kept clear 7 — We have had complaints about manholsi,
but we have had these remedied wh^n our attention has
been drawn to them. Sometimes they are filled with dirt.

21099. That is contrary to the Act of Parliament 7~
Yes. We get that put right when complaint haa been

21100. The inspector would get that put right directly
they tell him. With reference to runaway trams you want
some system by which, as far as practicable, if the trams
run away, somebody should be responsible. Everyone
wants to have that 7 — That is so.

21101. With reference to enginemen, while the man is
winding he must be at his engine 7 — Yes.

21102. In your Special Rules he is required to make a
general supervision. Special Rule 22 says: *'He shall
see that the engines and boilers are always in good working
condition, that the pumps and whole machinery and
gearing connected with his engine are in a safe and effective
state." You do not object to that. That does not
necessarily take him away from the engine when the
engine is at work 7 — ^That is so.

21103. Do you think that that ought to be deputed to
somebody else 7 — ^If his attention is to be constantly
engaged in winding it should be deputed to somebody else.

7 A

Mr. J. Weir.

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Mr. J. Weir. 21104. You think if he has to do the winding he ought
tc do nothing else ? — ^If he is constantly employed at
winding, as in some collieries they are, it must be done by
someone else.

21105. Do you know that a Select Committee of the
House of Commons sat to consider the provisions of a Bill
introduced to give engine-winders certificates ? — ^No, I
have not seen anything about that.

21106. You do not know that they reported that it was
not necessary ? — ^No, I have not heaid any information
about that.

21107. Will you tell me why you think that enginemen
should have a certificate ? — ^Because it would be a
guarantee of his efficiency.

21108. What do you consider the qualifications of an
engineman ? — ^To know his work, to understand the
mechanism of his engine and steam boilers, and what not.

21109. I suggest those are the least. You can ascertain
that by the examination. Is not nerve a qualification ? —
You cannot get that by examination.

21110. Is not that one of the principal qualifications for
an engineman ? — A steady engineman, a man with nerve
and resource.

21111. And character ?— Yes.

21112. Those things ycu cannot get by examination ? —
Probably not. You could learn it by examination, but you
could not give him a certificate of that.

21113. There is no class of men who do their work better
than the enginemen 7 — As a rule I have no fault to find
with them in our district.

21114. As to these unskilled workmen, are you alluding
to these foreigners, these Poles ? — Those, among others.
The statistics do not allude to Poles, because there is not a
Pole among these.

2111.5. These men are working on the roads ? — ^I cannot
tell you,

21116. With reference to a collier^ he must have some
training, according to the Act of Parliament, whatever it
may mean. There is nc statutory regulation with regard
to a man who works on the loads as to what his qualifica-
tions should be, as there is in the case of a collier ? — I did
not follow you,

21117. There is no statutory regulation as to the qualifi-
cation of any workmen down below except the collier.
The collier must not work unless ho has been two years at
the face alone ? — I see the point now.

21118. There is no statutory qualification required ? —
No, unless an under- manager.

21119. You must select competent people to do the work
of inspection, but working on the roads and getting stufi
out of a mine does not require any special qualification ? —

21 120. You are aware it is suggested if the hours of labour
underground are limited a great many more people will
be required for that kind of work ? — ^It is suggested.

21121. Where sae they to come from ? — I do not know
that they are required. It is a matter for experience yet
to know.

21122. Do you suggest that there should be some quali-
fication required for a person who works in a mine other
than the collier and inspector and officials ? — Do you
mean about the two years ?

21123. I am not alluding to the collier now, but to any
other person engaged in the mine other than the officials ?
— Some qualification should be imposed upon them before
they get promoted to another position. We have never
imposed anything of the kind.

21124. I do not know what yottr complaint is about
unskilled labour. It does not apply to the collier ? — ^The
only complaint we make about unskilled labour is where
any danger arises from its employment.

21125. Where is it ? What labour is it you consider
now ?— We are frequently told that the men who do not
speak the language cannot understand the orders given.

21126. That is the Poles ?— Yes.

21127. With regard to the people who can sneak a
language which is understood, you would not exclude them
from any class of labour ?— We are not seeking to exclude

21128. The source of danger from imskilled labour is
people who cannot understand the language ? — ^That is

said to be a source of danger. We have not any Poles in i
Fife. I

21129. It is confined to the emplo3nnent of these Poles. ;
Have you had a translation of the Special Rules into their >'
language in Scotland ? — ^I understand they have had them, j

21130. Where is that ?— They are not in our district, \
because we have no Poles at alL I

21131. They must be on the other side ? — ^You will have
that from other witnesses.

21132. I do not know whether you agree with Mr.
Ronaldson who gave evidence as to the want of care on the
part of the men. Did you see what he said about that 7—
I do not know that I have seen that particular part of his
evidence. I have dipped into some parts of his evidence,
but I have not that part in my mind.

21133. He gives a quotation from his report (Q. 5013) :
" It is obvious that in order to prevent accidents, so far as
it is possible to do so, carefully-considered regulations have
to be laid down, but it is equally obvious that, unless these
regulations are complied with by the workmen and enforced
by the officials, the desired object will not be attained. Year
after year disregard of the residations is the direct cause of
a large number of preventable accidents. There is a spirit
cf defiance against discipline at work among many of the
miners, which is very much to be regretted, and to this I
attribute many of those lamentable accidents which never
ought to have occurred. To trace the origin of this state of
matters one has to go to the homes in which these miners
were reared as children. It will be foimd, I believe, that as
children they have not been taught there the duty of
obedience and of subjection to proper discipline. The
consequence is that they grow up with the impression that
they are their own masters, and they become impatient of
restraint. When they enter the mines they cany these
ideas with them, and when they are met there with
restraints imposed upon theii free actions by the stringent
regulations, there is a constant confiict between theii undis-
ciplined wills and the wills of those whose bounden duty it
is to see that the regulations are enforced." — ^That descrip-
tion does not apply to the Fife miners.

21134. {Mr, Smillie,) How do you know ? — Because I
have been going in and out among theuL

21135. {Mr. Batcliffe EUia.) You do not agree with that ?
— I do not agree with him ; it does not apply to any miners
I have come in contact with.

21136. {Dr. HcUdane.) I should like to ask your views
about improved sanitation in mines which you refer to at
the end of your statement. What steps would you
suggest ? — ^That is in reference to preventing the intro-
duction of the miners* worm disease.

21137. Do you think there is much need for con-
veniences imdergroimd, for instance ? — ^In mines where
there is the possibility of this disease being introduced, I
think there is, because we are getting foreign workmen
amongst us now, and it may be developed before we know
much about it, and if there were conveniences put into the
mines it would very much help to prevent any envelopment
of the disease.

21138. Is the woiking face usually fairly dry in the Fife
mines ? — In some places it is wet, and in some places it is
fairly dry.

21139. There are places where it is wet 7— Yes.

21140. And fairly warm ? — Our temperature does not
go high yet, but we are getting into a condition of things
with deeper mines which will bring about this state of

21141. As a rule in the deep mines in England the work-
ing face is dry, so that there is less danger of miners' worm
disease at any rate. I do not know whether that is proved
so in Fife ? — ^We have never got nervous over this matter
in Fife. We do not think there is any immediate danger.

21142. You have never gone into it very specially then ?

21143. There is a matter you have not mentioned in your
statement. Have you considered whether it is desirable
to provide means of washing for the men when they come
up from the pit, and of changing their clothes and leaving
their working clothes at the pit-head ? — ^I think it would
be an excellent arrangement if it comld be carried out.

21144. I suppose you have heard from description of
the arrangements that are made in foreign countries f — I
have seen them there. I have seen them in Belgium, where
they have baths. I think it is an excellent arrangement



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21145. Do you think there ia any great feeling among
miners in Scotland in favour of that, or has it been con-
sidered ? — I do not say that I could form an opinion as to
the feeling existing in regard to the matter at alL My
belief is that if this were introduced, by-and-by the men
would get soeduoat ed, that the men would like to go through
it the same as elsewhere. You cannot get any new thing
introduced right off the reel, so to speal^ ent^usiasticallv,
but if it was introduced, I think before many years it would
be largely accepted as being a good thing by the men.

21146. Have you any idea what the wives of the men
think on the subject ? I think they must be troubled by
their husbands coming home and making a mess ? —

I have not consulted t£e wives, but if I had, I am certain
they would be of one opinion.

21147. {Mr, Ratdiffe EUts.) It is a question of whether
it is better to have a bath at home or at tiie mine ? — I would
prefer them to have it at the mine — that is my personal
view and keep the home as clean as possible.

21148. {Dr. HcMane,) It must make an awful mess,
men coming home in their working clothes ? — At one of
our collieries we erected baths in the colliery village, which
have been taken advantage of, not largely, but it is a training
ground for that sort of thing.

21149. Are they plunge baths ? — ^No, shower baths and
ordinary hot water baths. ,

21150. The shower baths are the quickest and the
cheapest and the most effectual, I think. With regard to
certificates for engine-men, which I think you are rather
in favour of, do engine-drivers on railways undergo any
examination f — I am not aware of how they are dealt
with. I know they undergo tests for their eyesight.

21151. I do not think there is an examination, but I
am not sure ? — I do not know of any.

21152. That is an equally responsible position ?

{Mr. BatcHffe Ellis.) I think there is an examination by
the company.

21153. {Dr. Haidane.) 1 was wondering if the companies
have an examination. I know they have for signalmen f —
These eye-tests are very important for both engine-men and

21154. {Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) You do not mean an
examination by the employer ; you mean an examination
by the Board of Trade when you speak of an examination f
— ^That is so.

21155. {Dr. Haidane.) It comes to the same thing in
the end. I want to know, as a matter of fact, do you think
they institute some test in the way of examination before
allowing them to drive engines ? — I do not think they
institute the test in the manner we indicate — ^what we want
for engine-men. I do not know of any in fact. I could
not venture to give an opinion upon the point.

21156. I think there is some examination held for
signalmen on the railways which is in some ways like an
engine-man in a colliery ? — The company examines them
as to their efficiency, and as to their being able to read a
code of signals — which is a very elaborate one, too, some*

21157. {Chairman.) Looking at your Bill, I do not see
under Clause 7 that there is anything to show that you
want any different class of assistant inspectors from the
class which are now appointed. Do you wish that these
assistant inspectors appointed by the Government should
have a different examination from the present assistant
inspectors — that there should be a sort of third class — or
would you be content with having many more assistant
inspectors of the same class, and paid the same salary ? —
My view is, that these men should be drawn from the
practical men.

21158. They are, mostly. Most assistant inspectors
have been fairly practical men and know, something about
mines, at all events ? — I understand they must have
done or they would not be in the position.

21169. You seem to think, without it being necessary
to put anything in an Act of Parliament, that it would be
a good thing if the Home Secretary, more than he does at
present, appointed as assistant inspectors men of practical
experience ? — That is so.

2116Ql Would you have more distnct inspectors than
you have at present ? — ^No, I have no idea of changing
the district inspectorate. We want a larger staff.

21161. Instead of having two assistant inspectors, as
all of them have now — and one or two have three — ^you
think .that every chief inspector should have four of ^ve
or even six assistants ? — ^That is so. ' hi"! i^. .


21162. In that case, I am afraid the promotion would be Mr. J. Weir
much slower. You would still promote your assistant
inspectors to district inspector, and as there are so many
more men waiting to be inspectors, they would not get
made inspectors so early ? — That is, district inspector?

21163. Yes. If you had an enormous addition, or a
very large addition, three times as many assistant inspec-
tors, the assistant inspectors would have less chance of
becoming inspectors at a reasonably early stage. There
would be a block in the promotion ? — ^That undoubtedly
would be so.

21164. That would have to be got over somehow, I
suppose. With regard to the other kind of inspectors —
these itinerant inspectors, as Mr. Ellis has called them —
they should be appointed by the workmen. You consider
it would be best to have a certain number of men more or
less permanently employed, and that these examiners
should not be constantly changed, sometimes one set of men
and sometimes anotlier set, but you think it would be as
well that the Borne men should be appointed to be

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 16 of 177)