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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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21449. With reference to these Poles, I see in the In-
spector's report that he speaks rather well of them. I am
referring to the evidence of Mr. Ronaldson : **(Q^)1 believe
there are a large number of foreigners who are working
in your districts, are there not ? — {A.) There are a good
number of Polish workmen. (Q.) Do you think that they
have any bad influence on the mines ? — (A.) Not at all
I have watched for years the conduct of those men ; they
are far more amenable to discipline than our own men.
It is the universal testimony of the managers that these
men are much more amenable to discipline, and that they
will do what they are told. If they know that they are
obliged to to a thing they will do it, and they are a striking
contrast to a good many of our own workmen in that
respect. I have only so far come across one case of a
trifling accident, apparently, where one of those foreign
workmen was the cause of another man meeting with an
injury." Then the next question was : " Do you consider
that the presence of those Poles has a good influence in
the mine ? — (-4) I do not know whether I can go to that
length, but they certainly are much more reasonable in
carrying out the instructions than our own men, and I do
not think their presence can be proved to be in the
slightest way a menace to the lives and limbs of the
rest of the workmen." That is the opinion of Mr.
Ronaldson ? — I disagree with that.

21450. What evidence have you except your own
opinion ? — I have no evidence that I could prove except
my own opinion.

21451. How came you to hold that opinion ? — I do not
think in the first place it is commonsense to expect that
a man who has never seen a coal-pit, and who does not
know about the dangers of coalmining, can safely be sent
down into a fiery mine with another man who, to put it at
the best, has an imperfect knowledge of mining.

21452. That would not weigh against the opinion of the
man who has watched these matters ? — I do not see how
he could. He only goes round once a year. How can he
watch discipline as affecting workmen ? I do not under-
stand what he means.

21453. He says : " I have watched for years the conduct
of these men " ? — How could he ? I think he must be
making a mistake.

21454. Whether or not he is making a mistake do you
not think that the view of a man who has been watching
them for years is certainly as reliable as your opinion
without any evidence in support of it T — My daily life is
to a greater extent among them than his.

21455. Are these men in the Union ? — ^Yes.

21456. But they work for less money T — They do not
if we can prevent it.

21457. You say they do manage in some way ? — ^Where
there is a regular standard rate fixed we take care that
they do not work lower than that if we can find it out.

21458. Your objection is purely on the ground of safety ?
— Absolutely.

21459. Is there a single accident which you can trace
to the employment of these men ? — I could not say that I
could prove it, but the managers themselves have come to
that conclusion. I can point to a colliery in the Blantyre
district, Craighead Colliery.

21460. If you have not a case you can prove I do not
think we ought to take the names you mention ? — There
is another, Cadzow Colliery. That is within 200 yards of
where I live. The manager dismissed every Pole in his
employment and for some years has not employed one,
and that was on the ground that he believed them to be
a danger to safety.

21461. What manager was that T — Mr. Mac Vie, of

21462. Do you think that that gentleman could say
something about these Poles ? — Ye.<i, and there is another
I would specify, one of Messrs. William Baird and Company's
managers, Mr. Miller, of Craighead Colliery, Blantyre.
He also has reduced th* number of Poles. There used to

be 50 per cent, of the men Polish miners, but now I think
there are not more than 5 per cent.

21463. With reference to the Special Rules, did I under-
stand you to say that you thought the miner would carry
out the rules better t1 he had a voice in the making of
them ? — Yes.

21464. What voice in making them do you propose to
give to the miner who has to carry out these rules ? — He
should get proper notice when the rules are under considera-
tion, so that he could discuss them either through his
trade organisation or

21465. I can understand the trade organisation would
do it, but so far as the miner is concerned I want to know
how it would affect his observing the rules or not, because
he would have no voice in the making of the rules ? — By
attending a meeting of his fellow-workmen at which the
matter would be fully discussed, and if they had any
objections they would raise them there.

21466. He would get information as to what the rules
were by attending a discussion by his representative ? —
Yes, through some medium, I think.

21467. Why cannot the representative give him that
information now 7 — ^They are posted up before the repre-
sentatives know anything about them.

21468. These Special Rules have been established for
years ? — They are established now.

21469. Do you take pains now to instruct the men in
these rules ? — Unfortunately, like other people, our lives
are pretty much taken up with other matters.

21470. How do you propose that he should get the
information which he cannot get now — I will not say does
not ? — If they had the information before the Rules were
carried into law it would create a discussion, to begin with.
Through that discussion he would go minutely into the
matter, and it would be on his memory, and he may be in
a better position to observe the Rules.

21471. That cannot apply to the Rules existing now 7 —

21472. You do not propose to take any steps to encourage
him to carry out these rules ? — ^We always advise him to
be very careful and to carry out the rules.

21473. Do you explain to them what the rules are ? —
Yes, generally their attention is drawn to them when an
accident takes place.

21474. I do not see what disadvantage the workmen
would be under if the representatives explained to them
the effect of these rules, and I do not see why the repre-
sentatives carmot do that now 7 — They can as the occasion

21475. With reference to making new rules, how do you
propose exactly the proceeding should be 7 Supposing
the owner considers that there is a necessity for a new rule
and wishes to propose one under the Act, what has he to
do 7 — Supposing he proposed that, I do not see anything
to hinder him also making it public to his men, if it is
going to be in the interests of safety. I do not see how the
men could object if it is workable.

21476. Do you suggest he should have the sanction
of the men before he proposes the rule, or that they should
have an opportunity of objecting to it afterwards 7 — If a
dispute arose I should think it might be settled by the
Govenmient inspector.

21477. Do you suffsest, because we may possibly agree
to that, that he shoiJa have the men's sanction before he
proposes a rule, or that the men should have the right to
object before it is established 7 — I do not see the distinction
very clearly.

21478. Supposing you say before an employer proposes
a rule that he must have the men's sanction to it 7 — He
might propose the rule.

21479. Would this meet with your views, that the
owner should be entitled to propose a rule as he can now,
send it up to the Home Office, but before it is established
and becomes law that they should advertise this rule
inviting any person interested, either workmen or anybody
else interested, to make an objection to it, and then that
the Home Office should consider the objections, and if
they thought that they were such as should require to be
considered, that they should then refer the matter to
arbitration 7 — Yes, that would go a long way to meet our
views on the matter.

21480. You think if that was done the men would be
encouraged to carry out the rules more than they are now 7
— Yes, I think it would have that effect.


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21481. With regard to the winding enginemen, do I
understand yon to say that in cases of dispute where
the winding engineman had refused to work that the
employer was not to he allowed to get any other
winding engineman to get access to his pit ? —
No, I did not suggest that*. I only suggested that he
should not be allowed to get anybody except a skilled man.

21482. What is he to do when there is a dispute and his
own men refuse him access to his own nit ? Is he to give
them their terms, oi is the place to be orowned out rather
than allow some man who has not a certificate to do it ? —
That is his look out.

21483. Is the place to be drowned out until he settles
the terms with the trades organisation ? — On the other
hand the men would have no object in stopping work —
I mean the miner who is not a party to the quarrel.

21484. The coal owners should not allow, according to
the Bill brought into Parliament, and should be under
serious penalty for allowing anybody to wind up and
down the pit who had not got a certificate 7 — ^That is so.

21485. If he has a dispute with a limited number of
persons who have certificates, is he to have no means of
access except by giving them their own terms ? — He could
easily get out of the difficulty. Part of his staff might be
qualifi^ as enginemen and doing other work at the colliery.


21486. You have heard the difficulty about only select-
people they will teach. It is no use having a certificate

[ess the owner is prevented having access to his pit
except by a man who has got a certificate 7 — That is so.

21487. If there is a limit put on the people allowed to
get certificates and those who have certificates will not
work, he must have his pit drowned out or agree to their
terms 7 — That is the point as to whether the engine
keepers, through the trades organisation, should have a
right to put down a limit.

21488. I am looking for safety. This pit might be
drowned out and anybody necessarily down below to look
after safety and keep it in condition might be injured, and
still the owner is not allowed to wind people up and down
that pit unless they have a certificate, and if he cannot
anange with a man who has a certificate the whole place
must be destroyed 7 — ^I think that is an extraordinary
view to take of the subject.

21489. I want to put it to you if that is not the fact,
and that would be the result 7 — ^I do not admit that the
engine keepers have a right to restrict the number of men
to get certificates.

21490. How would you provide that they shall be made
to teach a man 7 If you can suggest how that can be
done I think it would be of great use. You cannot make
them teach them 7 — ^I think the employers oould do it
invariably just now. I do not know of any difficulty in
that direction which they have ever had. There are
none which I have heard of in Scotland.

21491. However, that would be a serious state of things 7
— ^Provided the engine keepers had power to limit the
number of men to be trained enginemen I think it would

21492. Do you know at collieries there are men, who
are not trained men, who are capable of winding in an
emergency 7 — ^Partly capable I should say.

21493. You would prevent the owner employing those
men 7 — Unless they had qualified.

21494. Although he has a class of men whom he can
employ in an emergency as you call it, when his own men
will not work, you woiUd prevent him emplo3ring them for
this purpose 7 — ^I do not think the men's lives should be
handed into their care if they are not practical men.

21495. Now I want to ask you about prosecutions and
fining. Accoiding to the law of Scotland the Procurator
Fiscal decides whether a man is to be prosecuted 7 — Yes.

21496. The owner cannot prosecute 7 — ^No.

21497. The inspector cannot prosecute 7 — No, unless
through l^e Procurator Fiscal.

21498. I do not think you disagreed as to this, that for
trivial offences if a workman agrees to pay a fine rather
than go to tSie trouble of going to the sheriff and give it to
some charitable object, that he might do so 7 — We no not
believe in that system.

21499. What would happen where there is a breach of
the Act and discipline has been broken 7 — ^Would you
insist upon a prosecution in every case 7 — ^It might reduce
the number of breaobes of the Act if the man was prosecuted
rather than fined.


21500. You think they ought to be prosecuted in every Mr. D.
case 7 — ^I do. Qibmowr.

21501. (Mr. F, L. Davis,) On the question of timbering n Jii^igo?

you think if men were specially told off to do the timbering

instead of the coal getter that there would be fewer acoi-

dents 7—1 think so.

21502. Mr. Ellis put it to the last witness, do you 1

to know this is done in Northumberland and
I have heard so.

21503. And that the accidents from falls of roof and
sides are higher in some cases there than they are where
the coal getter does his own timbering in our districts 7 —
That may be on accoimt of the difference in the strata.

21504.— There may be something in that, but at any
rate that is the case there. What would you suggest,
that there should be a divided responsibility between the
man appointed to do the timbering and the coal getter,
or that the man appointed should do the whole thing 7 —
The timbering should be done by men specially employed
for that work, while at the same time the miner, if he
noticed a bad stone in his place, would attend to that ;
while being generally freed from the work of timbering he
would be expected to watch for any special circumstances
which might arise, and attend to it.

21505. You must have more than one man in each
district to look after the timbering 7 — A sufficient number,
to do it properly.

21506. One man could not be in every place at the
same time 7 — ^No.

21507. It would mean employing more men 7 — Yes,
it would take a certain niunber of men in each pit to do
the work at present done by the miner.

21508. Do you not think the coal-getter should be the
man responsible for the safety of his place, and also that he
is the best man to look after it 7 — As a man with practical
knowledge of coal-mining, I should say almost thefintaim
of the miner is to get as much coal as he can, and that he I
takes risks. As we say in Scotland, he is afraid to lose his
ben, afraid of not keeping his tub filled with his fellow I
workmen, and because of being pressed to make a wage he ^
neglects timbering.

21509. Take such a man : what would his attitude be
to the men appointed to do the timbering for h\m 7 If it
interfered with his work he would want him to slack off 7 —
I think that could be done without any interference with
the miner's work.

21510. Supposing something considerable had to be done
in the way of timbering— you say you would leave it to the
coal-getter to put up a stone or something of that sort —
he would have to wait for this man to come round 7 —
They are generally ready for a rest : a miner is almost at
any time, if he can take it.

21511. He does not work eight hours 7 — He does as a

21512. (Dr. Haldane.) He would take a rest at his own
expense 7— He would probably be ready to take a rest,
and be glad to have an excuse to do it.

21513. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) If an eight hours bank to
bank day were compulsonr, he would have less oppor-
tunity of taking a rest 7— fie is glad to have an occasion
of that kind as an excuse.

21514. {Dr. Haldane.) You are strongly in favour of
facilities being provided at the mine for workmen to wash
and change their clothing when they reach the surface.
Have you seen the arrangements which have been made for
this purpose in foreign countries 7 - I have heard of them,
but 1 have not seen them.

21515. Do vou know what they are exactly 7—1 have a
general knowledge of them.

21516. Have you thought out in detail how an arrange-
ment of that sort could best be made, and how the baths
or shower baths could be arranged 7— No, I have not given
it much thought.

21517. You have not seen how they manage it at
gasworks. They have arrangements at some gasworks 7
— ^No, I have not seen them.

21518. Do you think the men would be distinctly in
favour of these arrangements 7— They have expressed
themselves as being in favour of them.

21519. It has been discussed in your district 7— Not veiy
much, I should say, but generally they are in favour of
something of the kind being done. It ha« not been much

21520. You put it there on the ground partly, at least.

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Mr. D. of health. Is it really on the ground of health that you
Gihnaur, think these facilities are desirable, or is it on the ground
"^'loAT ^^ general comfort and decency ? — I think it is more on
^"^ 19 07 those grounds than on the ground of health.

21521. You are not aware of any very distinct reason
on the ground of health for this ? — ^No, I am not.

21622. Do you think it is undesirable the colliers should

fo about the streets all black as they do at present?—
think it would be better for everybody concerned if they
got back home from their work in something like decency.
At present their homes in Scotland are as a rule very much
worse than they are in other parts of the country. There
are not the same facilities for cleanliness.

21523. Do you know whether their wives complain of
that ?— They have beon brought up to it.

21524. We ought to have some evidence from some of the
wives, I think, on this subject. You are also in favour
of underground conveniences. Have you seen any mess
from this cause in the mines from want of conveniences ?
— Yes. I have worked as a miner myself, and you cannot
go to a place that has a convenience. There is a terrible
mess where workmen go to.

21525. Old roads ?— Yes. There is absolutely no
convenience that I know of in any pit — at least in any pits
that I have been in.

21526. In the case of men working at the face, they
always use the goaf ? — ^Yes.

21527. That would not cause any nuisance or trouble.
There is plenty of coal dust ? — I did not understand you.
They generally go into an old road that has been used.

21528. At the working face do not they go into the
waste ? I am not sure what it is called in Scotland —
the goaf ? — In the workings I have been in there are no
open spaces except old roads to go into. The roof is
allowed to come in.

21529. Is it stoop and room, or long- wall workings ? —

21530. There is no space ? — ^It is what they call the
cundy. It would be unbearable there ; we could not work,
it would be too close to the face.

21531. There ia usually plenty of coal dust to cover
things up ? — That is not done.

21532. That is not done in Scotland 7— No.

21533. In consequence of that the same places have to
be used again and again ? — Yes, that is the rule.

21534. In that case it is bound to get very nasty ? —

21535. Do you think it would be desirable to have
conveniences that were regularly emptied at places of
that sort ? — ^I certainly think that would be much better.

21536. Are they provided in any Scottish mines that
you know of ? — None that I know of.

21537. These Poles who come to Scotland have never
worked underground before ? — The majority have not.
We have no definite proof of that. I should take it that
it is admitted even by the employers who take them on
that the majority have not worked in mines before.

21538. In that case they are not at all likely to be
affected ? — ^There is less danger of that.

21539. No Italians come to Scotland 7 — None that I
know of. Certainly there are none in Lanarkshire.

21540. Have you ever heari of Comishmen coming to
Scotland ? — ^Not many.

21541. I want to be clear about the appointment of this
suggested new class of inspectors. You propose that they
should be appointed by the men. Do you mean that,
not that they should be appointed by the Home Office —
naid by the Home Office, but appointed by the men 7 —
That point has not been much discussed with us, although
I am informed that is the law in France. The workmen
select in certain districts the inspector by vote every third

21542. Do you think that is a suitable way of finding
out who the best men are 7 — French people tell us it has
been very satisfactory, and so far as I know the employers
have no objection to raise to that course.

21543. (Mr, RakUffe EUia.) In France there is no
objection 7 — ^Not so far as I know. That is the only place
where the system has been tried that I know of.

21544. Still the choice would be very limited by the
conditions as to possession of a certificate 7 — Yes. We
do not ask that it should be open to any workman to be
appointed, only qualified men who can pass the examination.

21545. That would be rather an anomalous thing to
have an appointment made by men in any district and the
salary paid by the Government. I do not think there is
any precedent for such a mode of appointment, is there 7
— Except in France ; that is the only place.

21546. I mean in England 7 — No, there is no place that
I know of where there is anything of that kind.

21547. (Mr, Smillie.) In dealing with the figures of fatal
accidents from falls at the face, the question was put to
you were you aware that the fatal accidents from faUs at
the working face in Durham, were higher where the special
timbering was done by the men appointed by the employer,
than it was in the Midlands. You stated that you had not
gone into the matter very much, but the figures prove
that the number of accidents is higher at the face in Durham,
where the timbering is done by special men, than it is in
Nottingham and Derbyshire and other Midland counties
where it is done by the workmen. Your answer was that
would depend upon the nature of the workings 7 — Yes.

21548. Would you be surprised to know that in Scotland
where it is done by the workmen, the number of accidents
is considerably higher than even it is in Durham 7 — That
is bearing out what I say ; it may be because of the nature
of the strata.

21549. You cannot say that the number of accidents
depends upon whether it is done by the workmen or
persons specially appointed for the purpose. I find
Scotland stands considerably higher even than Durham.
74 fatal accidents took place in 1905 at the face, where
114,000 persons were employed, as against 41 in Durham
where 93,000 persons were employed. That would rather
argue in favour, if you compare Scotland with Durham,
of the timbering being done by special men 7 — ^Yes, from
the figures.

21550. Dr. Haldane put a question to you in which he
is deeply interested, and so am I, about we health of the
workmen and providing baths. You said that you
advocated those more for the comfort of the workmen
than from a health point of view. Is it not the case that
a large number of Scottish miners travel a considerable
distance by train to and from their work P That is ao.

. 21551. And a very large number of them in Lanarkshire,
because of the collieries being shallow, work in very wet
workings 7— Yes.

21552. Is it the case that some of them before they are
10 minutes at work in the morning are wet through 7 —
Yes, there are cases of that kind.

21553. And very often they have to travel 10 or 15
miles home 7 — Yes.

21554. Must not that be a very serious thing so far as
their health is concerned in bringing rheumatism and
asthma 7 — I should think so. I was dealing with the
general question, not with special instances.

21555. That might be taken into consideration in
determining whether it would be a good thing to have
baths 7— Yes.

21556. You know the homes of the Scottish miners
very well 7 — Yes.

21557. Often a miner with his family may be situated in
a house with one apartment 7 — Yes. There are a good
many people situated like that.

21558. 14 ft. square, and where the sleeping, cleaning
and cooking must take place in the one apartment 7 —

21559. And two or three sets of pit clothes are round the
fire drying overnight for the next morning 7 — ^Yes.

21560. It would be a good thing if they could be removed
at the pit bank and dried there, and the men go home clean
and tidy 7 — ^We condemn that system. We think that i

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