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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 23 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 23 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that you made 7 — As a rule the inspector finds out that the
firemen can do the thing in the time pre6crit)ed. There
was one case which occurs to me just now where, I think,
there had to be a little curtailment to enable them to do it.

21806. Except in one case the inspector has inquired
into it and come to the conclusion that the districts are not
too large ? — Yes.

21807. In that one complaint, in the case where he
thought it was too large, what happened then 7 — It was
put right.

21808. You think that the fireman should have a cer-
tificate of competency. What is the exanunation to be 7
Ought he to have a second-class certificate, or ought there
to be some special examination ? — I think that a special
examination should be set for a man undertaking special

21809. Why should not a second-class certificate be
sufficient7 Why should there be a special examination 7 —
I think that would be quite satisfactory.

21810. Not a special examination 7^There is one little
difficulty with me in the second-class certificate. I hardh^
think that the practical experience is commensurate with
duties of that kind.

21811. He must have five years' practical experience in a
mine 7 — I am speaking from what I know of some who hold
these ; in the mine they have veiy little practical experience
o( coal getting or workuig at the face.

21812. They do not want experience in coal getting for
insx>ecting 7 — They are none the worse for it.

21813. They are hardly any the better for it 7— Yes, they
would be better for it.

21814. Do you think for the position of fireman that a
man ought to be better qualified than for the position of
under-manager 7 — He ought to be equaL

21815. The second-class you would give him would give
him that 7 — Yes ; I would net have any serious objection.

21816. The wages range from 5s. 4d. to 6s. fid. a day 7—

21817. What do you suggest it ought to be 7 — It is
rather a delicate matter for me to suggest the wage, but, I
think, in a responsible position that they should at least
have the wage that is recognised as being paid to the work-
ing miner at the face who, while work may be hard, has less

21818. A working man at the face has the chance of only
working two or three days a week and the fireman works
every day 7— Yes.

21819. At the week's end, although there is a less wage
for the fireman, he may have more wages in his pocket 7 —
But he has given the service for it.

21820. Do you think that the fireman should have the
same daily wage as the colliei when the fireman is woiking
every day and the collier taking the risk of only working
two or three days a week 7—1 <£> not think it right that a
man should accept serious responsibilities unless he is
fairly well paid.

21821. You do not think 6s. 6d. a day is enough. Do
you know if there is any difficulty in getting this class of
man at 6s. 6d. a day 7— There seems to be no difficulty in
getting them.

21822. Where you have no complaint to make of the
competency of a man in a colliery is that the wage there 7 —
Where the recognised wages are paid we hardly ever have a

21823. What is the recognised wage 7— 6s. 6d.

21824. Where 6s. 6d. is paid you never have any com-
plaints 7 — ^I cannot remember any just now.

21825. You look upon 6e. fid. as more like the wage than
5s. 4d. 7— It seems to command a better class of man.

21826. As to the Special Rules : do ycu think that the
miners' representatives should be consulted 7 — ^I think so.

21827. In what way 7 Have you any scheme in your
mind as to how that could be carried out 7 — I have no
scheme in my mind, but I think that where a change is
desirable that those who represent the men should be con-
sulted before the thing is established.


21828. I agree, but the question is the time exactly when Mr. Peter
they should be consulted. At the present time the owner Mutr.

is bound under the Act of Parliament when he estabUshes a

colliery to propose Special Rules 7 — Yes. 12 June 1 907

21829. He is entitled at any time after the establishment
of these rules to propose amendments to those rules 7 —

21830. Do you suggest that he should not be entitled to
propose an amendment without the men's consent 7 — ^I
think that he should be consulted and that the men should
be consulted, and then that it should be left in the hands of
the Home Secretary and his advisers.

21831. Would this suit you : supposingthe owner is left
at liberty to propose a new rule to the Heme Office and
before establishing the rule and making it binding on any-
body the Home Office should advertise this rule as pro-
posed by the owner, and then the men or any person inter-
ested should have an opportunity of objecting to it, and
their objections considered, and if they cannot be met that
the matter should be referred to arbitration 7 — ^I believe
that would meet the case to a large extent.

21832. To what extent would it not meet the case 7— It
seems to me to be fairly reasonable.

21833. You do not want anything that is not fairly
reasonable 7— No.

21834. Now with regard to timbering ; do the men do
the timbering themselves 7 — ^Yes.

21835. I dare say they think they can do it better than
anybody else. Is tiiat so 7 — I expect they know their needs
quite welL

21836. Is not the collier himself the best man to do the
timbering : he is constantly in the place and on the watch,
and he sees when timbering is wanted and puts it up. Is
he not the to do it 7 — ^There are other elements to
be considered.

21837. I am not forgetting those, but from the point of
view of safety is he not the best man to do it 7 — I admit

21838. It takes some of the time he would use in getting
coal to put this timber up 7 — Yes.

21839. Do you want him to have all his time to get coal



and somebody else to put the timber up 7 — If it could be

reasonably arranged, 1


reasonably arranged, I think, it would work better for

21840. You have already told me that you think the
collier is the best man tc do it, and cculd do it most con-
sistently with safety 7 — Yes, but the other man, if appointed,
is supposed to have a knowledge equal to the miner who is

21841. Do you think there are many people who have the
same knowledge of timbering as an old miner accustomed to
do it all his life 7 — ^It is not an old miner in every case.

21842. Take the generality of miners, a man who has had
two years at the face is pretty well up to this. Supposing
there is a man appointed to do the timbering he would
have to be appointed for a number of places 7 — That is so.

21843. Supposing a collier finds some timbering wants
putting up, is he to stop his work and wait till this man
comes to put the timber up 7— We quite recognise that
there would be a little difficulty in that respect, but whether
it would be greater than the danger that accrues from the
present condition of things is the point.

21844. Why does danger accrue now if the best man to
put up the timber is the collier 7 — That bring? me to the
point I wish to get at: no matter how you impress on
miners the need for safety, they are paid for piecework just
now, and the anxiety to get the wage sometimes overcomes
the feeling that they should stay from getting coal and prop
their places and make them more secure.

21845. Do you suggest if that obligation ^diich the coal
worker is now paid for is transferred to the manaffoment,
that there should be a reduction in his wages 7 — ^In the coal-
getter's wage 7

21846. Yes 7 — ^That would be a matter of arrangement.
What is present to my mind is, if it could be adopted, a
day wage for the coal-getter.

21847. That is altering the whole system of parent.
Do you suggest if the corner is to be relieved of this duty
because he wants more time to get coal, that he would be
content in return for the greater safety to part with a pro-
portion of his wages towaids paying the man to do the work
he at present does 7 — ^I am not prepared to answer that.

21848. That wants a good deal of oonsideratkm 7— Yes.

Digitized by




Mr.T^Uf ' 21849. The wbole subject wants & good deal of considera-
Muif. tkm ?— Yes.

21d60. Now with regaid to foreign labour: your obleo-

12 June 1907 tion, I understand, is tiiat a man oannct understand what

is said to him if he cannot speak Scotch, or whatever they

talk in these mines ? — ^That is really the main objection.

21851. I suppose that some Poles can speak English ? —
A few.

21862. Can they speak as much English as the Germans
you mentioned ? — I have come across individuals amongst
them who oould. I would not like to say the proportion,
but in my experience you get one in ten or a dozen who can
act as interpreter.

21863. When a man comes to be sufficiently acquainted
with the language to understand what is said to him, your
objection would vanish ? — ^Yes.

21864. Are they good workmen ? — Some of them are
veiy good workmen ; oliiers are not. They are brought
over and learn by experience.

21855. Do you agree with the views of Mr. Ronaldson
that they are very good men, amenable to discipline and
very satisfactory ?— I can hardly go tbe length of Mr.
Ronaldson. I believe that they obey orders so far as they
understand them fairly well.

21856. With regard to haulage, would you be glad
to see some arrangement by which it could be made safer 7

21857. And that some expedient should be adopted for
preventing tubs running away, and if they do that they
should be rendered less dangerous ? — ^Yes.

21858. {Mr, Enoch Edwards,) I want to ask you first
of all about this question of firemen and firemen s certifi-
cates. Mr. Ellis has been suggesting to you that the
second-class certificate might cover a fireman 7 — ^Yes.

21859. When you came here this morning was that what
was in your mind — a second-class certificate ? — ^No ; I was
thinking about the nature of the certificate. I had it
generally in my mind that they should have a certificate
of some kind, indicating their ability for the post.

21860. That is to say, the general manager who is re-
sponsible for the pit has a first-class certificate ? — ^Yes.

21861. His under-manager has a second-class certificate 7

21862. There is no provision made to test the capacity of
firemen 7 — ^That is so.

21863. In that sense you think this man should in some
way pass an examination to qualify him for his duties as
a &eman 7 — ^That is what was in my mind.

21864. The position of a fireman in your County would
hardly be as onerous and dangerous as in fiery districts 7 —
It is not as onerous as in Lanarkshire ; the elements are not
so pronounced with us : we have few mines where they
use safety lamps, but th^ naked light is very common and
of course the black damp. The ventilation and the roof
and sides are practically the main duties of the firemen.

21865. Is the coal got mostly by blasting ? — Generally.

21868. Do the firemen fire shots ? — ^n some collieries
there are appointed shot-firers. In most cases the men
fire their own shots.

21867. That is where they use naked lights 7— Yes.

• 21868. Is that rather the explanation of this low wage,
because the duties are not so onerous ? — I ratiier thkik
that it will be an element in it.

21869. That would be a lower wage than they pay in
Lanarkshire 7 — I oould not say how they pay in Lanark-
shire, but I anticipate it will.

21870. It is an unusual thing. Perhaps you have not
had much experience beyond Ayrshire. It is an unusual
thing to pay firemen a less wage than a collier 7 — It is a
very common thing to pay a fireman a less wage than a

21871. With you 7— Yes.

21872. You said that there was no difficulty in filling
these places 7— That is so.

21873. There would be greater difficulty if you had to
submit to examination 7 — ^Yes, that gees with it.

21874. Is there any reason to think that these firemen
are not competent 7 — ^The attraction for the place is this,
that they have a little experience down below and the
duties not being onerous they are glad to set this steady
wage without having the Qualifications that, generally
speaking, we think they snould have for a fireman s

21875. If the mines were gassy, dry and dusty—— 7
— They would be dangerous.

21876. And you would require a better class of firemen 7
— That is so.

21877. With regard to the fines that have been im-
posed, do I understand you to say that they are imposed
in Ayrshire in the colliery office 7 — Yes, that is so,

21878. You have no fixed degrees of fines 7— No fixed

21879. They are fixed as cases arise ?— They are just
the whim of the moment.

21880. Who fixes them 7— The manager.

21881. He does not delegate that work to others, but
does it himself 7 — ^Not that I am aware of.

21882. And the man is expected to pay it, whatever it
is 7 — It is generally deducted from his pay in the office.

21883. Of course it is paid then 7— Yes.

21884. There is not so much difficulty about it then,
is there 7 Is he a consenting party to it 7— In most eases
it has be?n consented to.

21885. What would happen if he did not consent 7 — ^He
would be dismissed probably.

21836. ( Mr, Ratcliffe EUia) How do you know that 7—
It is the alternative usually.

( Mr. Enoch Edwards.) You know from experience what
would happen in Ayrshire.

21887. (Ghairman) Supposing he said " I would rather
be prosecuted '* 7 — They would dismiss him.

21888. He would not be allowed to say ** 1 would rather
be prosecuted " If he said " I will not pay the fine," and
if that was because he would rather be prosecuted, or for
any other reason, he would be dismissed 7 — So far as it
comes within the scope of my knowledge, I do not think
he has had the idternative of prosecution.

2! 889. If he says *' I do not think I am guilty and I
wiU not pay the fine," he would be dismissed 1 — ^That
is so.

21890. Supposing he said " I want the case tried in a
Court of Law : I want you to prove my guilt '* : do you
think notwithstanding that he expressed his willingness
to let the matter be settled by a Court of Law, still Uie
management would dismiss him 7 That is your belief 7 —
I am inclined to think that.

21891. You do not know of a case where a man has said
** I do not believe I am guilty : I want my case tried in a
Court of Law " 7 — ^No case has come before me.

21892. {Mr Enoch Edwards.) 'There are a number of
fines imposed in your district 7 — ^That is so.

21893. Your men object to fines I take it 7— They do.

21894. They would prefer, if there is a case, that they
should be prosecuted in a court 7 — ^That is the general

21895. Are there many prosecutions in court now 7 —
I have not taken a note of the number ; they generally
appear in our inspector's report.

21896. In the inspector's report which I have before me
you form one quarter of the whole area, and there have
been 103 prosecutions during the year, 14 against managers
or officials and 89 against workmen, so that so far as
discipline and carelessness are concerned they are a very
fair proportion — the managers are as bad as the workmen 7
— I think we have a fair proportion in Ayrshire. • ^

21897. There are 14 officials and 89 workmen. Have
you any knowledgd at all, or have you ever heard of a case
of a manager being guUtv of a breach and the inspector
going to the office and asking him to pay a fine in the same
way as a workman is askei 7 — I have never heard of that.

21898. He would be taken before the court 7— That is so.

21899. They are supposed to do that 7— They are
supposed to do that.

21900. Generally speaking, you say jrour Society en-
courages men in everyway open to you to observe discipline 7
— That is so.

21901. They realise that it is to the interest of the men ?

21902. It is also essential to their safety that discipline
should be observed 7 — ^Ycs.

21903. Although it mav appear harsh and arbitrary
that it should be observed, you agree with that 7 - ^ Yes.

Digitized by




21904. When you said you defended members summoned
for breaches of rules you did it only when you had a belief
that the man was innocent ? — ^They asserted their innocence.

21906. Has your Society in Ayrshire ever been driven
by the men to the defence of an action when your Society
believed it ought not to have been 7 — ^No ; we have had
frequently members of our Society who have been prose-
cuted, and before coming to the court they admitted their
guilt and we had nothing to do with it. Sometimes they
asked that they might nave a lawyer to plead an ex-
tenuating circumstance, but we never condone their
conduct or help them.

21906. You would pay for a lawyer after a man confessed
he was guilty ? — If he said " There is a certain thing I

•^ J would like someone to put before the Bench " we have
gone th<^ length of saying " We will allow a miCh to put
that before the Bench for you."

21907. You pay the lawyer ? — ^Yes, but he pays his
own fine.

21908. You realise that it would be rather a serious
state of things if there were a shadow of truth in the
suggestion that the unions of the country defended men
guilty of deliberate breaches of the law which endangered
the safety of the mine ? — We have never done so.

21909. With reference to the question of workmen's
inspection : you said that they had not resorted to it much
in Ayrshire ? — ^That is so.

21910. Not more than once or twice so far as you know.
Do you suppose it arises out of sheer carelessness and
indifference ? — GreneraUy, but the fear also operates.
Since we began to get our men all gathered into a union
we have not tried to enforce that, ft has been frequently
talked of taking advantage of it, but we have always had
before our mind^s eye that the fear would continue to
operate more or less and we have not taken any steps
to have it done.

21911. You are well organised ? — ^Yes.

21912. You are members of the Scotch Miners' Federa-
tion ? — Yes.

21913. Do you think to-day that if a mine was thought
to be d ngerous and gassy and your "^ ociety agreed to
appoint two men, that there is a colliery owner in Ayrshire
who would o\ ject to it at all ? — I do not think they would
obje t to the appointing of he men but what lies behind
it is this : if the men happen to report adversely to the
managers there is the idea that the manager would take
some covert way in the future

21914. Supposing they reported honestly what they saw.
UsuaJly they are accomjmnied by the under-manager ? —

21915. So that the under-mnnager would have the same
knowledge and be cognisant of it, too 7 — ^Ycs.

, 21916. Do you suggest in these days if the men went
down and found gas in a place not reported by the fir man
and the under manager with them, and it is pa^mt to all
three, and that they reported that fact in a book, that
the management would take advantage of them for it ? —
Certainly that feeling obtains.

21917. Do your men think there is the ground for it now
that there was 20 or 30 years ago ? — Of late years we have

' not seriously considered it^ but the reasons why we think
that the liberty should be enlarged in any new legislation
is because everything of that kind would be set aside
by allowing independent men of experience to do that

21918. So that if there is any ground for that in these
days your union is not- yet altogether omnipotent ? — ^Not

21919. With regard to the special ndes ; have there
been any special rules adopted in Ayrshire since you have
been agent ? — I really could not say as to the dates. I
have been 16 or 18 years in this position. I am not sure
as to the dates of the special rules.

21920. Since that time have the inspectors ever spoken
to you about the special rules ? — ^Never.

21921. {Mr, Eatdiffe EUia.) There have been special
rules during his time ? — The timbering rules, but we never
were consulted.

21922. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do you suggest that the
workmen should be consulted about and be a party to the
rules the workmen are expected to observe before they
are adopted ? — That is so.

21923. When you were asked the distance the inspeotor
had to travel you were familiar with the area of thecuatrict
he has to inspect 7 — ^This particular place 7

21924. You know the character of the oountry inolndsd
in it 7— Yea.

21925. You have some idea of the distance they have
to travel 7— Yes.

21926. In getting to collieries from your place what are
the railway facilities like generally 7 Are there such
things as express trains, or do you have to change at
stations, I mean go by slow trains and wait 7 — In the bulk
of our collieries they have to change in nearly every
instance. Take for instance going from Glasgow to most
of our collieries in the south of Ayrshire, they have to
change at ELilmarnock or Ayr, and it perhaps takes an
hour from Glasgow to either of these places by express
train. More or less they have to wait half-an-hour or one
hour for tJie train again. According to tlie colliery being
visited, it takes anydiing from half an hour to one hour to
get to the colliery again, f^om, say, Glasgow as a centre
it might take, roughly speaking, two or two and a half hours
to get to the colliery, and the same to get back again.

21927. A good deal of the inspectors* time is spent in
travelling to and fro 7 - That is so.

21928. You think that if there are more districts and
more inspectors that a lot of time would be saved 7 — Ym,
if they were nearer the centre.

21929. In the case of the old man which Mr. Ellis has
asked you questions upon, did he work in the pit 40 years 7

21930. During that time he had seen the inspector
three times 7 — ^That is his statement.

21931. You were asked if he had worked continuously
or whether he was shifted about, and your reply was that
he had been shifted about 7 — I expect he would be more
or less in that district, but in different pits.

21932. It may be possible that he worked at one pit
and that the inspector visited the pit once a year and did
not go into the neighbourhood where this man was work-
ing 7 — ^That is possible,

21933. The inspectors admit that they do not examine
collieries but that they take samples, so that a man may
not see an inspector during the whole of his lifetime 7 —
That is quite possible.

21934. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Are there within your know-
ledge any inspections made by workmen under rule 38 7-^
No, except that case I have cited of the old man many
years ago, no case has come within my knowledge.

21935. That is 30 years ago 7— Yes.

21936. And the fear has been so great ever since that
they have never made an inspection 7 — We have never
cared to do it.

21937. Do you not think that there may be another
reason besides the fear of being harshly treated by the
management 7 Do you not think it is possible that it is
the hard work which prevents them from doing it 7 — ^The
hard work involved in the inspection 7

1^1938. Yes 7—1 do not think so. I think so far as that
is concerned, if we could feel assured that nothing in the
nature of after consequences would take place there would
be no difficulty in getting the inspection. It is not con-
sidered very hard work as a rule, making the inspection.
The man at the face is working harder than he would be
if he was making an inspection.

21939. Do you think you have a very strong case in
stating this fear that exists : one case you mentioned 30
yean ago, and they have never tried any inspection since 7
— There may have been cases but they are not xvresent to
my mind where they have tried it since. The general
feeling is that it would be difficult to get men to do it for
that reason.

21940. With regard to the firemen ; you stated in your
opinion that a large number of the men were incompetentt
—That is my belief,

21941. And that the management got these men because
they were cheaper 7 — ^That is so.

21942. Do you seriously suggest that the manager who
is responsible if anything happens will purposely engage
an incompetent man as a fireman 7 — ^They rely upon the
comparative safety of the mine and the fact that they are
comparatively free from fire-damp.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 23 of 177)