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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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he gets that certificate ? — Yes.

22270. In making your computation about the increased
number of inspectors, had you in your mind the Federation's
Mines Regulation Bill ? — I have had the Bill in my mind,
but I think 10,000 is too big a number under certain cir-
cumstances for a man to undertake.

22271. If more districts arc created, the present inspec-
tors will be able to give more time to inspection and not
have so much travelling ? — Yes.

22272. You think it would be an advantage if there were
more inspectors* districts created ? — If there were more
inspectors appointed, then, of course, they would be situate
in the areas suitable, and they would have a shorter travel-
ling distance to get to the mines.

22273. Is it necessary, do you think, that the assistant
inspectors should undergo the same examination for their
position as the present inspectors do ? — Are you speaking
of general inspectors T

22274. General inspectors. — I think they should have
the same examination to pass.

22275. You do not favour the suggestion that there
should be another class of inspector created, or of a more
practical type, who could be in the colliery and get round
the colliery ? — I understand our inspectors are drawn
largely at the present time from the ranks of the employ^
with & first-class certificate. If they had had so many
years' real practical experience at the working face it would
quality them still better for that duty.

22276. For any increase in the number of inspectors
you would require the same hjAh standard of examination ?
— Well, there might be graoes — first, second, and third.

22277. Whatever practical knowledge he may have, you
agree he should have a thorough theoretical knowledge ? —

22278. It has been suggested by many witnesses that
there should be created a class of assistant inspectors at
a lessened salary, to get round these collieries. You do
not suggest that P — No.

22279. (Mr. F. L. Davis,) Your suggestion of abolishing
piece work and paying day wage would entail curtailing
the coal-getter's earnings, would it not 7 — Not to the same
extent as it would have done some years ago. My ex-
perience is that there are more men being employed by the
day than ever there were before. The introduction of coal-
cutting machinery and contracting is prevailing to such a
large ext«nt that there are more men paid by day than
there used to be a few years ago.

22280. Mr. Edwards put it that it is a new suggestion to
the Commission, and it is surprising to me, judging from our
part of the country ; do you suggest that colliers, men
working at the face, would earn as much, generally speaking,
at day work as piece work ? — It would depend upon what
they had per piece or per day.

22281. I am talking about things as they are at the pres-
ent time ? — Some may earn more and some less. It works
out as an average.

22282. You are proposing to penalise the good workman.
The man who works well by piece work is to be penalised
for the sake of his fellow-men who are not such good work-
men ? — It is in the interest of safety I make the suggestion.
I hold, in all practical work, if miners were paid by the day
there would be fewer accidents. I must admit I have run a
risk because I was on piece work, to get my quantity out,
which I would not have run if I had known my day^s wage
was right at the end of it.

22283. I agree with you, that putting men on day wage
instead of piece work would do more for safety than any
legislation. I am inclined to agree, because a great many
of the collieries would be shut up and there would not be
half as many accidents as at the present time ? — I do not
dispute anything of that nature. It is well known what a
man can produce in any seam. He is set what he is capable
of doing, and I am sure the managers will look after those
in their employ to see that they are looked after as well as

22284. Before you settle a price list on a new seam, is it
the custom to work on day work ? — It has been done in
some instances.

22286. Is there not a great difference in the earnings of
the men once the price is fixed (Mid it is piece work, com-
pared with day work ? — ^Not much» in my experience. In
a new mine it is different. There may be some inducement

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to tftke care that the beftt oonditionft are made when they
come to piece-work. If a 83rBtem wae adopted to be paid
by the day, there would be no inducement to hang anything

22286. {Dr. Haldane.) Your contention was that the
employment is more regular with a day wage than piece-
work ? — ^Yes.

22287. Although the wage per shift is less, yet the total
earnings will balance in the year 7 — ^We look upon shift
men as being the best paid men at the end of the time.
They have steady employment.

22288. Your day's wage men ? — Yes ; we call it paid on
shift in our district.

22289. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) Do you suggest that the work
in your district is not regular ? It must be so if you put it
in that way. You do not get full work 7— Many things
happen during the day to prevent the miner getting full

22290. There are some districts I know where work is not
so regular as others. Take a district where the work is
regular ; then your point does not apply 7 — ^It would not
apply where a man is getting full work. I admit by piece
he earns more money as a rule, while others, again, working
by the piece, those below the average, do not earn as much
as those paid by the day.

22291. I am much impressed by your evidence here with
regard to the working men's inspection under Rule 38, and
the firemen, that the men are alttM to do the workmen's
inspection under Bule 38 because of their employers, and
that the firemen are afraid to give a true report. Do you
consider that the Scotchman is a more nervous gentleman
than the Englishman 7 — It is owing to the lack of nervous-
ness. They are so cautious they will not run the risk.

22292. It strikes me that you are givins a bad character
to your own countrymen. A man is paid wages for doing
certain work, and yet he is afraid to do his duty 7 — I say
they are afraid to do their duty.

22293. Is there any other thing he is afraid of besides
inspection and making a true report 7 — I do not think he is
afraid of the work. He is afraid of the result if he gave a
correct report and threw the pit idle for a few days.

22294. I suppose it is the case if a mine manager appoints
an incapable fireman, and this man is afraid to do his duty,
still the manager is responsible 7 — He is responsible.

22295. It is hardly reasonable for people to expect a
manager will appoint incompetent men and afraid to do
their duty, because he remains responsible aU the time 7 —
Various things can be done for which a manager is respons-
ible and it never comes to be investigated, and the men are
suffering all the time. I have known men working with the
ventilation such as they should not have worked in. If a
report had been made of it the pit would have been idle.
If the man had reported it he might not make another

22296. My experience is that the manager would be only
too glad to know, ho that he should not take imdue risks.
You have never known of a Scotchman being too nervous
to take his wage in case the money was bad 7 — No.

{Mr. F. L. Davis.) It is surprising, the fear of these men
to do their duty. We have not heard of it from any other

22297. (Mr. Smiait.yYo\k will hear it from South
Wales before we have finished 7 — ^I was at an enquiry in
Wales about two years ago, where a fireman was in the
witness-box who could not sign his name, and had to admit
that the manager had to sign his report given verbally by
him. An explosion had taken place, and the manager
employed that man.

22298. (Dr. Haldane.) You spoke just now of the ventila-
tion being bad in some mines and not put right. What
was in tioe air, firedamp or black damp 7 — ^The want of
pure air. It was workable ; your light would still bum,
but the miner knew it was not proper to be there.

22299. He felt something wrong with the air 7— Yes.

22300. Do you suppose that was black damp 7 — ^Yes.

22301. It was not the heating of the coal, or anything
of that sort, which is worse 7 — No.

22302. Do you think that is a fairly common thing in
districts you are acquainted with, having too much black
damp in the air 7 — Yes, and I have seen several complaints
as to the want of fresh air to clear away powder smoke.
Tliey blast with ordinary powder in our districts, and the
men complain they are working continuously in the powder
smoke, and can hardly see what they are doing.

22303. You think the firemen often do not do thair duty Mr. Eohwt
in reporting that 7 — I do not think Uiey do. Brown.

22304. Are you aware there is no very defmite standard '

with regard to ventilation except with respect to firedamp W June 1907
in the air 7 — ^Yes.

22305. You are of opinion that there are many other
things besides fire damp to consider in the air 7— Yes. We
have what we call white damp. The lamps bums very
well, and the miners term it " white damp,*' while it ta
killing you all the time.

Is that always associated with heating of the
coal 7 — Yes, and where there is a lot of blasting going on.

22307. You call that " white damp *' too 7— It is called
by some oxide.

22308. Yes, it is exactly the same thing, carbon monox-
ide. You have seen many cases of that 7^1 have worked
in it myself. We were driving a stone drift and our lamps
burned, and we were unaware that it was going for us, and
when we came to the fresh air we fell.

22309. You fell when you got to the fresh air. That is
characteristic of carbon monoxide. I am not sure whether
you were asked about provisions for chancing clothes and
washing 7 — I did not make any suggestion m that way.

22310. Have you considered the question of the desir-
ability of providing means for changing pit clothes and wash-
ing at the pit-head 7 — I think that it would be a very good
provision if that could be accomplished.

22311. You are clearly of opinion that it is desirable T<^
Yes, it would be a great improvement to the homes of the

22312. Have you ever seen that system carried out in
any mines you have visited 7 — The only place I saw it was
in the States. We practised it to a small extent in a UtUe
pit I was in.

22313. That was a coal pit 7— Yes. It was not so muoh
a custom established as that the working was wet^ It
would enable us to get changed before going into the ookL

22314. Are you aware it is the practice in the metalli-
ferous mines in this country to provide a place for washing
and leaving the pit clothes to dry 7— Yes. If I may state
this, that matter was stated when we met our employers at
the Conciliation Board in dealing with ankylostomiwiis,
and I think the ehairman gave his opinion that he was
favourable to some such system being adopted.

22315. No colliery has started it yet 7*— I am not aware
of it ; it may be with a few individualB. They may shift
at the pit-head. That is all.

22316. Are you of opinion when the workings are dry
that it is desirable to leave the dirty clothes and not bring
them home 7 — ^It would be a splendid institution if we had

22317. Do you suppose that the miners would be willing
to pay something towards the cost if it was established 7 —
Our men are not against contributing to anvthing of that
nature where we see the benefits. We ha ve.been discussing
where the men have agreed to pay a penny a fortnight for
an infirmary, which doubled the contribution from what it
used to be, but knowing it was beneficial they did not
mind. They are not against doing a (^ing when it is
properly put before them. Scotchmen are not very bad
when things are put before them.

22318. You have had no experience of foreigpaers 7—
Yes, we have a number near here at Newbattle Cofliety,

22319. Poles 7— Yes*

22320. They have come here 7—1 believe there will be
150 or 200 Poles employed in the Lothian Ck)al Conq^Any's

22321. How dki they come here 7^-On6 or two got
located there and they seemed to call for the others to

22322. Have you seen much of them personally T Do
you know many of them 7 — I have had some experience
through a number of them being injured, and, for their
numbers, more get injured than our own people.

22323. Do you attribute that to their not knowing the
language 7 — Either that or not being practical miners when
they are engaged.

22324. Being unskilled 7 — ^Yes. My opinion ia that
some are very good workmen, those who have be^i miners
before, but there are a numbe*r who have not be^i in a
mine until they came here.

22325. Apart from their knowledge of the work, do you
think they are fairly respectable men on the whole 7 — ^We

11 A

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Mr. Bohert have two clASseg. There deems to be one class a little more

Brown, respectable than the others, but there are a number of rows

at Newton Grange, and a number taken to Court for fighting

12 June 1907 and brawling. Tliey seem to have a great regarid for

Scotch after 5iey come here.

22326. (Mr. F. L, Davis.) Do they brawl amongst
themselves 7 — ^Mostly amongst themselves.

22327. {Dr, Haldane.) There is no disagreement with the
miners or anybody else here ? — ^Very Uttle. They keep
mostly amongst themselves. If they quarrel they usually
take weapons to settle the difference, and that makes it

22328. Do they all learn to speak English before they
are here very long ? — ^No, unfortunately I have had 10 or
12 deputations at our offices within the last two months,
and only once one of the'men could make me aware of what
he wanted. I have to give them a letter to the delegate
who knows what they are talking about.

22329. {Mr. Batdiffe EUia.) They are not much use,
then, on a deputation 7 — They come and do their best, but
they cannot make one understand what they want.

22330. {Dr. Haldane.) Supposing a fireman told them
anything underground, they would often not understand 7
— ^No. I will give you a case that happened at New battle
Colliery, where we had a Scotchman living at Dalkeith
who was accompanied by one of the workmen to repair
a road, and a fall took place and covered up the Scotchman.
This foreigner ran off and passed two or three squads of
men and they did not understand what was wrong, and
this man was lying there for 2J hcurs before they could
set relief. He would have been better with a dog beside

22331. Are you of opinion it is a danger to employ men
like that 7—1 think it is.

22332. {Mr. Smillie.) In what way is the manager held
responsible for the misdeeds of the fireman 7 It mw been
said that the manager is held responsible for the misdeeds
or mistakes of firemen, and I thint you agreed that was so.
I want to know where a manager was held responsible for
the wrong-doing of a fireman he has appointed 7 — I
understand that the fireman, being employed under the
Statute, the manager may be responsible for damages at
Common Law or under the Employers' Liability Act.

22333. That is what you meant 7— Yes.

{Mr. Saldtffe Ellis.) I mean this : under Section 50 of the
Act, and there is a similar prorision with regard to the
Special Rules, the owner, agent or manager are responsible
for every contravention of the rule by anybody, and can
only relieve themselves by showing that they have to the
best of their power used reasonable means to enforce the
regulations. If it is shown that they have appointed an
incompetent person they would not be relieved of their

22334. {Mr. SmiUie.) Supposing a fireman gets a hint
from a manager — ^that is common in Scotland — that he is
not to mark in the book anything that is wrons at the coal
face and anything takes place as the result of his wrong-
doing, is not the fireman prosecuted for that 7 — In that case
it is the fireman.

22335. Would not the manager bring the Report Book
to the Court if he was charged, and piove that it was the
fireman who bad signed the Report Book " Coirect " 7—

22336. {Mr. EakUffe EUis.) Do you know any manager
whom ycu think would do that, give a hint to the fireman
to make an incorrect repoit and let the fireman be sum-
moned and the manager escape at the expense of the
fiieman 7—1 have not known anyone so foolish as to let
that be known.

22337. {Mr. SmiUie.) As a matter of fact fixemeo are
charged again and again with breaches of the Coal Mines
Regulation Act 7 — ^Yes, sometimes at the instigation of the
inspector of mines.

22338. The manager is not charged at all 7— No.

22339. Mr. Ellis put it, did you know any case in which
an engine-winder was suddenly taken ill, and you said no.
Have you read Mr. McLaren's evidence at 0. 3325 7— No.

22340. Have you known of cases of enginemen dying
suddenly 7 He says : " I have known two cases in my
district where that happened : they were small engines at
a winding shaft. If that takes place at a small engine
it might take place m a large engine 7— That is possible.

22341. That is at least two cases in your district where
that has taken place. Ycu were asked whether or not you
knew that there was a ]arge number of your firemen whose

districts were too large, and ycu said a considerable number
of them were. Are ycu aware that Mi. McLaren at
Q. 3388 was asked: *' You say in your opinion there are
toD few firemen or deputies to imdertake the work at ihe
piesent time which ycu think they should undertake 7 "
and his answer was : — (.4.) " Yes, I think the duties are too
large and the appointments too few " 7 — ^Yes.

22342 And in the second place that theie is a necessity
for an increased number of firemen being appointed 7
The Polish workmen in your district come from the West
of Scotland generally 7 — ^I could not say where they come

22343. The reason I am putting this, it wiU be apparent
to you, is that it has been stated repeatedly that Poles
come from Russia and Poland, and tbat 95 per cent, or
96 per cent, of them have not been miners, ana have never
seen a mine till they come heie. You stated in answer to
Mr. Davis or Dr. Haldane that these who are experienced
miners aie very good workmen 7 — Yes.

22344. Do you mean those who have got their experience
in Scotland and then come to your district, or before tile
came to Scotland at all 7 — I am dealing with those whom
our men tell me are miners before they reach our district
I do not know where they get their experience, but I
understood that they had been miners before they left
their own country.

22345. You are not aware that in the country from
which the majority, nearly the whole of them, come, there is
no mining at all 7 — ^I know that.

22346. Many of those men you speak of as being good
miners may have come from the West of Scotland to your
district 7 — It is quite possible.

22347. Do you think there is a large proportion of them
charged with offences before the Sheriff 7 — ^There has been
a number of cases from Newton Grange taken to Edinburgh
and charged before the Sheriff.

22348. I do not mean ordinary offences 7 — ^No. My
information is that there is not a very large number of
these men working at the coal face ; I mean only of those
who are. A large number are emploved by others.
Contractors will take them on to lift the debris after it is
taken down. They are working with a shovel more than
with anything else. ^^

22349. They do not interfere with the native here unless
interfered with 7 — They seem to keep to themselves very

22350. {Chairman.) You say the firemen are not as a
rule drawn from the best men, and you suggest that they
should be paid higher wages to begin with 7 — ^I would not
say from tne best workmen.

22351. Ycu>need not be a good workman to be a good
fireman 7 — ^I wish to put it tlmt they are not drawn nrom
the best practical workmen who have experience of the

22352. You also mean they are not the best persons to
attend to such duties as a fireman has to 7 — ^I think not.

22353. Do you suggest that they should be paid higher
wages 7 — ^If they were drawn from the better source they
would command a higher wage.

22354. If bound to oe certificated would they oonunand \ (
a higher wage then, do you think 7 — ^I think so. 1 1

22355. I suppose it would be mere difficult for a manager,
if he dismissed a fireman because he gave what he chose to
call an incorrect report which was not in point of fact
incorrect, to dismiss a man if he was a certificated man
in a certain position than an ordinary workman 7— Yes,
and 1 think if the Home Office held a veto against the
fireman's dismissal we should be insured upon having a
true report.

22356. That it should be illegal to dismiss him 7 — ^That
they could not dismiss the fireman without giving good

22357. That a fiieman should be aole to appeal against
any dismissal, and that the manager would have to appear
in court, if neoessaiy, to justify his dismissal 7— Yes.

22358. That is your theory 7— Yes.

22359. That ought not to be the case with any ordinary
woikman. He should be able to dismiss him at his will

and pleasure just as a workman oculd dismiss himself 7


22360. You think, as regards the fireman, that it ought
to be one-sided, that a fireman ought to be able to say
" I shall go whenever I choose, at a week, or at the ordinary
notice," but the management, as long as they kept him

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in his position of &emA]i, ought not to be allowed to send
him away. Suppc sing they want to send him away, they
cannot do so. You mean to say that a fireman, once
appointed a fiieman» could net be dismissed from his
position of fireman. He could not be relegated to a hewer
again ? — I think he should have a right of appeal. He has
a responsiole position to see to the safety of the men, and
in performing his duties he can give offence to the managers,
and if he thought it would leduce the output he might not
do so. I want him to oe in the same position as a sanitary
inspector, and where he gives offence the Local Government
Board hdds a veto there.

22361. I do not mean that a manager should not be
allowed to dismiss, but should not put him to any other
work, for instance, send him back to be a hewer. For
instance, he could not say, ** I know some other man who
ought to be made a fireman, I will not dismiss you, but
send you back again to be a hewer.'* Could he not do
that T — I think &at would open the door to the same
system which prevails now.

22362. Because when he was a hewer he might be dis-
missed as an ordinary hewer ? — I think once a man holds
a certificate to be a fireman and gets a situation from a
manager, that manager ought not to have the power to
dinmigR him without the consent of some other power.

22363. Not only no power to dismiss, but no power to
change his occupation ? — No, that would be the same as
dism^sal, in my opinion.

22364. (Mr. Batclifft EUla.) Would you suggest that the
fireman should dismiss the manager 7 — ^No, I would not put
anything so ridiculous before anybody.

22361. (Dr. Haldnne.) You want to put the fireman
in the same position as a medical ofiicer of health, who
has a right of appeal to the Local Government Board 7 —

22366. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) Is not that where they pay
a part of his expenses 7 — ^They pay a small part of his fee.

22367. Would you suggest that the Home OfBce should
pay a part of the firemen's expenses 7 — I would not object
to them paying a small amount to get a right of veto.

22368. Would you also require that we should not
dismiss the manager 7 — ^Whenever the manager commits
a fault those who employ him will dismiss him.

(Mr. Ratcli^e Ellis.) Those pec pie employ the fireman.

22369. (Chairman.) Mr. Illlis suggests, if he was a Mr. Robert
certificated man, one mode of dealing with him might be Brown.
that his certificate might be taken away. That might be

a penalty for doing his duty badly. If his duties were 12 June 1907

not properly performed he might lose his certificate 7 —

I am not thinking aoout a man being dismissed for not
performing his duties properly. My theory is, that they
would be dimissed for doing it properly.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 27 of 177)