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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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— ^Yes.

22049. You know the Scottish miner fairly well 7 — Yes.

22050. Does your experience lead you to think that
there is a very considerable want of discipline amongst
the Scottish miners as compared with other miners in the
country 7 — ^No, I cannot say it does.

22051. Do you think the Scottish miner is a fairly well
trained person, not only in mining but in manners, as
manners amongst miners go 7 — So far as I have been able
to judge they compare favourably in all respects with other
miners or other workmen.

22052. In intelligence and discipline, so far as their work
underground is concerned 7 — Yes.

22053. I understand that you have had your attention
called to the evidence given by the mines inspector in
which he charges the Scottish miners with not being
amenable to discipline 7 — That refers to Mr. Ronaldson.

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2205i. ThatdoesnotextendtoMidandEastLothian?—


22065. Mr. McLaren is the chief inspector for the Mid
and East Lothian District ? — Yes.

22056. Do you know if it is a common thing for the
Miners' Association of Scotland to defend miners charged
with a breach of the Coal Mines Regulation Act T— No,
we do not do it in our district ; at least I have never known
of it being done.

22057. In your district ?— In our district.

22058. Are you aware whether it is a common thing
in other districts ? — ^No. If any miner approached us and
requested that we should protect him when he has been
prosecuted for any breach of the Special Rules we usually
investigate the case, and if we find in our opinion that
he has been guilty of a breach of a Rule we do not protect
himataU. We tell him he is entitled to be prosecuted.

22059. If you were of opinion that a person charged
with a breach of the CJoal Mines Regulation Act was dearly
not guilty of it, and he was a member of your Association,
you would not think that it was at all encouraging want
of discipline to defend him in a case of that kmd ? —
We defended a case recently, and I was present in court
where the man was charged with a breach of a rule in going
into a pony trip. The man explained to me that he was in
the lie» and there was a full trip and an empty trip and
another pony trip being sent away, and he had to jump in
to save being jambed, and immediately he leaped in the
pony trip was taken off and the man was charged with a
breach of the rule, and he had to do this to prevent himself
being jambed. He got off, and it was held that he had only
done that to save himself, and that it was not a breach of
the rule.

22060. You defended in that case, and you felt justified
/j^ in defending in a case of that kind ?— Yes.

22061. I notice you are of opinion that an additional
staff of mines inspectors is required if we are to have a
thorough inspection of the mines ? — I think it is requisite
that the staff should be increased.

22062. Do you know to what extent inspection is carried
on at the present time ? — Is there at the present time any
systematic inspection of mines carried out in Scotland ? —
M> far as I am aware there is not. It is rather this : I feel
when an accident takes place at a mine that they make an
inspection of the parts where especially the accident has
occurred, but I do not think that there is any systematic
form of inspection.

22063. Was your 30 odd years underground spent
chiefly in one or two collieries ? — No, I was in several
collieries. I was in the shale works apart from the coal

22064. Do you remember how many ins ectors you have
seen underground in your experience T— So far as my
memory serves me I have only seen an inspector in the
mine three times during all my experience.

22065. If a thorough inspection of the mine was being
made during the time you were working there, you would
have had a very gooa chance of seeing the inspector ?
— Yes.

22066. Was a thorough inspection being made, as far as
you know, upon those occasions when you have seen the
inspeotor, or was he there because of an accident ? —
Just because of an accident.

22067. On all three occasions ?— Yes.

22068. You never remember an inspection of a mine
being made which you were working at ? — ^No.

22069. Your impression now is that the inspectors' duties,
when they are inspecting, are chiefly concerned with acci-
dents that have taken place 7 — ^That is my impression.

22070. If their attention is called to any special danger
you have no fault to find with their inspection ? — ^No. I
think any time I have had occasion to call Mr. McLaren's
attention to anything he has given attention to it very

22071. You do not think that the present method of
inspection is satisfactory 7 — ^No.

22072. Chiefly because of the inability of the present
staff of inspectors to inspect the mines 7 — Yes.

22073. You propose that there shall be a considerable
increase to the present staff of inspectors 7 — ^Yes.

22074. Could you suggest to the Commission how many
inspectors would be required, or how many men under
ordinary conditions would be sufficient for an inspector to

as many \i

devote his whole time to the work 7 — ^With regard to the Mr. Bobert
present staff — I am speaking for the East of Scotland Brown.

district, where we have three inspectors — I should think

they should be trebled to make an inspection, say, once 12 June 1907

every four months.

22075-6. You would require three times
inspectors for the East of Scotland division 7 — ^Yes.

22077. The present inspection is not an inspection,
but a sampling of the mines. Would you mean an
inspection every four months to be the present kind of
inspection 7 — I have it from Mr. McLaren's report that
they have inspected every mine in his district at least (mce.
He 3a3rB that it is an inspection. All I want is inspection,
too. If he can do it once a year I want it done once
every four months.

22078. (Chairman.) You are satisfied with the inspection
as carried out by Mr. McLaren ; you are satisfied that the
inspection he has made is the kind of inspection you desire 7
— It all depends how he may define an inspection against
my definition.

22079. What is your definition 7 — My definition is that
the whole of the mine should be inspected in every part. I
do not know whether Mr. McLaren's definition goes that
length or not. If it does then I agree with treble the

22080. If he and his assistants only make a partial in-
spection, you want more than three times the number of
inspectors 7 — Yes, if only a partial inspection, but he does
not state so.

22081. {Mr. SmiUie.) It is admitted by the inspectors
that generally they only sample the collieries 7 — ^Yes.

22082. They feel they are not supposed to make a
thorough examination of all collieries. That would change
your views as to the number 7 — Certainly. I have his
report and he states that they have made an examination
of every mine during the twelve months, and some of the
principal mines more so. I take it that was an inspection,
but if it is only inspecting part, then it would take more
than treble to make an examination every four months
such as, I think, ought to be done.

22083. You have mines in which there are a considerable
number of men employed 7 — Yes.

22084. There are 500 in some cases 7— We have one
colliery within six miles of Edinburgh in which, I think,
there are over 1,000 men employed. It belongs to the
Lothian Coal Company.

22085. Supposing the inspector was called to inspect
where a fatal accident had taken place, and went straight
there and came up again after an examination of that pkMe,
you would not call that an inspection according to your
definition of what an inspection should be 7 — No.

22080. If that is one of the inspections Mr. McLaren
refers to, that is not an inspection according to your view 7

22087. Would you still think if three inspectors at the
present time have only managed for the first time, I think,
for years, to reach all the mines under their jurisdiction and
make a cursory examination of most of them, that three
times the number would not be able to carry out an inspec-
tion every four months 7 — ^No, they could not overtake the

22088. Do you think a thorough inspection of all mines
is necessary every four months at least 7 — ^Yes. | K*^

22089. Do you suggest that the staff of inspectors should
be increased in order to enable them to do that 7 — ^Yes.

22090. Is there any particular class of men you think
should be appointed as assistant inspectors for that duty 7 —
I think that the men should have theoretical and practical
knowledge combined It would be a great benefit in that
direction, and that they should have the practical experience
to enable them to make a thorough inspection.

22091. Will you define " practical experience " T Would
that be covered by a person being a surveyor and down the
colliery surveying once or twice a week for five years 7 —

22092. That is not what you mean by practical ex-
perience 7 — ^No.

22093. You mean practical experience either as a working
miner or as a fireman or roadsman, or some other class of
workman in the mine 7— What I mean hy practical ex-
perience is that a man should have the experience by which
he would gain some knowledge ad to the nature of the roof
and the coal to be worked, so as to be able to suggest im-
provements even in the working of the seams and other
things to obviate accidents.


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Mr, Robert 22004. Tou are aware, at the present time, a person

Brmon. titting for a manager's certificate or an nnder-manager's

oertjfioate must haye had five years' experience underground

12 June 1907 —Yes.

22095. Are you aware that persons who have never had
any experience of working underground are eligible for that
examination ? — I have known that men would put in their
five years, and they have been in the pit during that period
of time, but they have not had any practical experience, so
far as I would define practical experience as a miner.

22096. Survejring daily two or three times a week covers
that, and enables them to take their certificates ? — Yes,
and sometimes measuring up.

(Mr. Ratdiffe EUia.) I do not agree with that view.

22097. (Mr. SmUUe,) Do you want a new grade of
assistant inspectors ?— With regard to the experience that
they gain now it has been within my knowledge that the
custom in our district is that a young man will be engaged
by a company ; he will be five years there and will be down
surveying, and they will utilise him to measure the places of
the working man, and working forward in a colliery, keeping
time, and other things, and putting in his five years, but
that IS not the experience I want. I want the same
experience as I have had, to dig coal and to work at the coal
face, practical experience, so that he will know something of
the nature of the roof end the coal with a view to knowing
the best means for safety in the production of the coal

22098. You think that the Government should appoint a
suffic'ent number of that class of inspectors to enable those
examinations, which you have suggested, to be made ? —

22090. Do you consider that they would be in the in-
terests of safety underground ?— Yes.

22100. You are of opinion that mines inspection, although
it has not be^i adequate, has tended to greater safety
underground ? — ^I thiiuc it has.

22101. If it were removed, the probability is that the
danger would be increased ? — ^Yes.

22102. You believe that additional inspection would tend
to still greater safety ? — ^Yes.

22103. Inspection by men under General Rule 38 you are
anxious shouui be so altered as to read that the men should
have the right to appoint inspectors who were or had been
practical working miners ? — ^x es.

22104. That would satisfy you T—Yea.

22105. That rule is not much taken advantage of at the
present tfane ?— No.

22106. You believe that it would be more taken advan-
tage of if the men had the right to appoint persons who had
been practioal working miners 7 — ^Yes, I think it would.

22107. I notice that you are in favour of the officials who
do the inspection on behalf of the company underground,
that is the firemen, passing an examination as to com-
petency before being employ^ as firemen ? — ^Yes.

22108. May we take it that in your opinion the fireman
Is one of the most important positions about a mine ? —

22109. The safety of the workmen is in the hands of the
fireman to quite as great an extent^ if not a greater extent,
than the manager 7 — ^Yes. I think the fireman making an
inspection in t^ morning is in the most important position
with regard to the curtailment of accidents taking place,
even more so than the mines inspector in the higher grade.

22110. A careful examination of the mine in the morning
by a competent fireman tends to greater safety than in-
spection by Government inspectors ? — Yes.

22111. And the best class of man should be secured for
that who has a thorough practical and theoretical know-
ledge of their duties 7 — Yes.

22112. Have you any idea as to whether or not the dis-
tricts which firemen have at the present time are too large
for them to thoroughly make an examination of 7 — Yes,
they have too large an area to cover in the morning to
make a thorough examination of the roofs and sides of the
travelling roads and the working places.

22113. Was it your own experience that the general
examination in the morning by the fireman is an examina-
tion of the faces only, and not of all the roads leading to and
from the faces 7 — My own opinion is simply this, and I am
speaking of non-fiery districts, that it was simply going
round with a piece of chalk in their handa and putting the
date of the day of the month on the coal face.




22114. But not making a thorough examination 7 — No.

22115. I notice that you want some provision whereby
men employed as firemen cannot be removed or dismissod
from their emplo3rment by the manager before full enquiry
has been made on behalf of the Home Office to show that t
the dismissal was justified. Why do you make such a
proposal as that 7 — We wish to place the inspector in as
independent a position as possible, so that ho will have a ^
real inspection and make a proper report.

22116. That is the fireman 7 — ^Yes, the fireman inspector.

22117. You want to place the fireman in an independent
position in order that he can give an honest report on the
condition of matters as he finds them 7 — Yes.

22118. Have you any reasiMi to beUeve that is not done
at the present time 7 — ^We have had several complaints
from the men that it has been reported to them tlubt the
ventilation was all right, and the men, of course, in their
own judgment, came to the conclusion that it was not as it
should be to work in, and they \^ould stop working and
could not get up the shaft because the report of the fibreman
certified that the ventilation was good.

22119. Is it your opinion at the present time that many
of the firemen are afraid to give a true report because of the
danger of losing their position 7 — ^That is the feeling pre-
vailing in the mining (ustricts, that if the fireman gives a
true report that was a means of stopping the colliery iot a
day it would be uncomfortable for him.

22120. That is the general feeling 7— Yes.

22121. With regard to the Special Rules you think that y
in the drafting of Special Rules the workmen should have [
a voice 7 — Yes.

22122. Is that because the Special Rules are supposed to
be for the safety of the workmen 7 — ^Yes. I think that he
has even a greater interest than any other party in seeing
that proper Special Rules are drafted for his own guidance
and for carrying out the work.

22123. In the interest of safety and general comfort
underground 7— Yes.

22124. You think representatives of employers and
workmen should meet together and discuss new rules before
they are established 7— Yes.

22125. Do you think if that were done and the employers'
and workmen's representatives ultimately agreed on the
rules, that they would be more likely to be carried out than
if the workman had no voice in tne drafting of them at
all 7 — ^I think it would have a tendency in that direction.

22126. Do you, as a miners' agent, impress upon the
workmen the necessity of carrying out the Special Rules
and the Goal Mines Regulation Act 7 — Yes : whenever an
opportunity arises for doing so I always impress upon them

to observe the Special Rules in the interests of safety. - i. \>

22127. You say where it is practicable that special meD^yift '
should be appointed for propping or timbering. Do you \
mean them to do the timbering or supervise the timbering
being done by the workmen at the face 7 — Either that,

or both.

22128. Would you have one system applicable to all the
mines, or would you leave it open to have one or the other
S3rstem, either that the employer appointed men to do the
propping or men to supervise the doing of tiie propping 7 —
In my own experience circumstances vary so much that I
would leave it an open question as to how it could be
carried out in a practical form. I understand in longwall
workings where there may be a bad roof and a dai^ger to
work, there may be section walls, and men to supervise that
section and to see to the roof and instruct the men to do it,
and give general directions for the safety of the men.

22129. If any new mining legislation was established
which took a part of the work at present performed by the
miner off his shoulders and placed it on the shoulders of
the men employed by the employer, the probability is
that there would be a re-arrangement of prices. That has
been the general experience of the mining community 7 —
Yes ; if there is a change in the nature of the work there
is a change in the rates.

22130. You, as a leader, would not object to a re-
arrangement taking place providing that the cause of the
re-arrangement was the safety of the workmen 7 — No.
We are dealing with re-arrangements every day.

22131. It would not be lessening the miners' wages.
Supposing the propping was taken by the employer and
an equivalent price taken off for the propping, it would
not lessen the miner's wages ; he would be enabled to
produce rather more coal 7— It would simply be a matt«r
of adjustment.

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22132. That would be a matter for the workmen and
the employer ? — ^Ye9.

22133. It is sometimes said by miners that men working
at the ooal face are best able to do Uieir own propping,

^ because of their special knowledge of the working place.
That is the general feeling of the miner, is it not ? — As
a rule the miner prides himself on his own quahfioations,
and thinks he knows best. Sometimes they are so sure
of that they are too confident.

22134. And very often they are so confident that they
wait until a stone falls on them ? — ^Yes.

22135. Would the same experience not be gained by a
man specially appointed to supervise the timbering, or do
the timbering himself 7 Would not he have more experience
ultimately than the man working at the coal face 7 — Yes,
if specially appointed for that purpose, but there is another
factor ; miners as a rule work at piece rates, and they will
sometimes run risks through being in the face of danger
continually. I have seen it in longwall workings where
a considerable width is on either side of the ro^ where
the ooal is put into the hutch. Taking it down away from
the far-away end of the place they will allow the props to
remain unset until they get all the coal down, so thiat it
will make it easier work, whereas if the props were put up
there is more difficulty in getting the coal down. If there
was a man to see the props were put up he would insist
upon it being done at the present time.

22136. You propose to abolish piecework and pay
coal getters by the day 7 — Yes.

22137. Are you of opinion that that would lessen con*
siderably the number of accidents from falls of roof and
sides 7 — ^That is so.

22138. Are you of opinion that would do more them
an3rthing which legislation can do to prevent accidents 7 —
I think it would prevent quite a number of accidents at
the coal face, and in our district some 68 per cent, of fatal
accidents take place at the working face by falls of roof
and sides.

22139. Many of the accidents which take place now at
the working face are really the result of anxiety on the part
of men to produce the day's work 7 — Yes, and to keep
pace with their neighbour.

22140. (Chairman.) Do you speak for your Federation
when you suggest that piecework should be done away
with, or is it only your^wn opinion 7 — I understand that
it is the opinion of the Scottish Federation.

22141. It is the opinion of the Scottish Federation, and
you are speaking for the Federation when you say that 7

i\ir 22142. (Mr, SmtUie,) You are in favour of every pre-
' caution being taken which experience can dictate so far as

haulage is concerned, to prevent haulage accidents 7 —


22143. You think where any method of preventing
accidents has proved a success, that that should be in-
corporated in an Act of Parliament and should be made
compulsory ? — Yes.

22144. With regard to certificates for engine -winders,
do you think it would be an additional precaution in the
interests of safety that engine-winders should have a
certificate of competency 7— Yes, I think iheiy should.

22145. Of course you have no fault to find with the
general body of engine-winders in the country ; they are
a steady, competent class of men 7 — I think also that there
should be two winding enginemen on every engine when
men are being raised or lowered in the shaft.

22146. Many men may be in the shaft in your largest
colliery at the same time ascending and descending 7 —
We may have 96 men on the two cages. I think I am
right in saying it can be 48 on one cage, and if raising and
lowering at the same time when the s^t is changing, there
may be 96 men in the shaft.

22M7. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Are there two decks 7— Yes ;
they draw 12 hutches of coal in one cage at Lady Victoria.

2214S. (Mr. SmiUie.) Do you know if there is any
mechanical appliance to stop the engine in the event of
anything going wrong witii the engine-winder 7 — I do not
think there is.

22149. You would be favourable to the compulsory
adoption of any method which had been proved successful
in stopping the engine in the event of anything going wrong
with the engine-winder 7 — I think any approved method
for safety should be adopted by compulsion.


22150. Yon thmk that it will be moi« necessary Mr. Bobsrl
in the future than in the past that two winding enginemen Browru

should be in the engine-house when men are raised or

lowered, because of Uie increased number of men on the 12 Jane 1907

cage now 7 — ^Yes, and the depth of the shaft, and the me '

of the engines ; anything may go wrong with the enginemen
while these men are in the shaft

22151. (Mr. lUUdiffe EUis.) You have not been working
down below for many yean 7 — ^Not for sixteen years.

22152. You have from time to time occasion to go down
the mines now 7 — ^I a m never down now .

22153. Your information as to the present state of
things is from what you are told 7 — ^Yee.

22154. An inspector spoke very strongly of the want of
discipline among the men. You do not agree with that
altogether ; you think, from your experience of this place
compared with other places, it is neither better nor worse
than it is elsewhere 7 — Quite so.

22155. With regard to Government inspection, do you
think there is any one class of mine which it is less neoessary
to inspect than another 7 — ^No» I think every mine should
be iospected thoroughly.

22156. You do not think there is .any difference between
one and the other 7 — ^No.

22157. Your view of an inspection is the examination
of every part of a mine where the men are at work 7 — ^Yes ;
and also in other parts of the mine, where men may not b«
at work, such as airways and aircourses.

22158. Take the mine you are speaking of, where 1,000
mei^ are employed underground. Have you any idea of
the area of die workings that would have to be inspected

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 25 of 177)