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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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22370. Mr Ellis suggests that there might be some/
safeguard in appointing a man as fireman who was certifi-\
cated because, if he misbehaved himself, perhaps his certifi- \
cate might be taken away. Ycu would have a greater hold (
upon him than an ordinary man 7 — A case might occur i
wnere a man was justified in being removed. I am not
against a man being punished for committing an offence.

22371. I was only asking you with regard to the
certificate. With regard to the duties of fireman it has
been suggested that too many duties are put upon the
fireman, and it is desirable that ho should only be con-
cerned with matters connected with the health and safety
of miners, and should not be permitted to be employed
in any way merely affecting the pecuniary working of
the mine, that the Manager should not be able to look
to his pecuniary interest as regards the working of the
mine to see that the man attended properly to the trams
or loaded up properlv% and that nothins that does not
concern directly or indirectly the health and safety of
the men should be the duty of the fireman 7 — ^The practice
in our district is that the fireman makes an inspection
in the morning and is engaged part of the day on the
roadways doing repairing, and then he will take a run
through the faces before the men quit. I want the fireman
to make a proper inspection in the morning and look to his
district as fiieman inspecting the places during the day.

22372. He should not do anything but inspect the
places 7 — I think it would be conducive to safety if tied
down to inspecting properly.

22373. Do ycu consider it would be advisable or not
that a fireman should be also a man who supervises the
setting cf timber, or would you have another man 7— Part
of that duty might devolve on the fireman. It would
depend upon circumstances.

,22374. If a fireman was a good timbeiman there is no
reason why be should not be also timbcrman as well as
fireman 7 — It would also depend upon the extent of the
area that he had to cover.

Mr. MiOHAXL Ebllt, called and examined.

22375. (Mr. StniUie.) Are ycu a practical working
miner 7 — Yes.

22376. How long have you been working in the pits ?
I should say over 39 years.

22377. Your experience is not confined to Lanarkshire ;
you have been in other mines besides the Lanarkshire
mines 7 — ^Yes, I have been in Mid Lothian a short time
and in America for a short time, in the coal mines.

22378. You have worked in quite a number of collieries
in Lanarkshire 7 — ^Yes, and visited a number, not as a
workman, but as a representative of the Lanarkshire
Miners' Association.

22379. There is no seam worked in Lanarkshire in which
you have not been employed or that you do not know,
either from visiting or working in it 7 — ^I do not think theie
is. I know of none that I have not seen or worked in.

22380. Are ycu acquainted with the different kinds of
mining, stoop and room, and longwall working 7 — ^Yes.

22381. You have worked at both kinds 7'Yes, I worked
a short time at longwall, but most of my time has been
stooping, and in stoop and room.

22382. You have worked in seams of varied thickness 7

22383. From the thickest of our seams, 7 or 8 ft thick,
down to the thin seams 7 — ^Yes.

22384. So that it may be taken you have a thorough
experience of inining 7 — I think so.

22385. I suppose your experience has given you a
knowledge of what the duties of the various officials, the
firemen, the roadsmen, the manager and others, are about
the mines 7 — ^Yes.

22386. Are you a member of the Executive Committee
of the Lanarkshire Miners Union 7 — I am.

22387. And have been for a considerable number of j^^ Michael
years 7 — ^Yes, for about 10 years, I should say. Kelly

22388. While at the same time you have been a working ^
miner 7 — Yes.

22389. Do you think that the districts for which firemen

are responsible generally in our County at the present time ^ .
are too large 7-— Some of them are undoubtedly very very /xT^'
large, too large for a fireman to efficiently do his duties. \^
There are others I have experienced very small, where the
fireman can easily do his duties and do them effectively,
but a great many districts are undoubtedly very large in
which a fireman has practically to run round.

22390. The size of the districts varies 7— Yes.

22391. Has it been your experience that the firemen's
duties are confined to looking after ventilation and the
safety of the men at the face, or have they sometimes other \J
duties to perform 7 — ^They have invariably to do that, and
also to locui after the driver and drawers, and to see that the
work in what we call the cleek is carried on.

22392. In addition to their duties of examining the places
in the morning and generally looking after the ventUatian
and safety of the mine at the worlmig face, they almost
invariably are expected to look after the pony drivers and
the getting of the coals out from the men's faces 7 — ^That is

22393. That is sometimes considered by the manage-
ment a very inportant part of the fireman's work 7—
Very often.

22394. Firemen are sometimes held responsible for getting
the hutches out 7 — ^Yes. If the output is short for a day or
two the firemen generally gets a wigging as to why more
stuff has not been taken out.


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Mr. Michael 22395. If the output in the section does not oome up

Kelly, to the ordinary- amount fault is found with the fireman

by the overman ? — ^Ye» ; unless satisfactory reason is

12 June 1907 given fault is found with them.

22396. Are they very often engaged in laying down
roadways ? — Yes.

22397. And lifting roads ?— Yes.

22398. And redding falls T-^Yes ; heaps of these things.

22399. Do you think it would tend to greater safety if
the time of the fireman was entirely devoted to the ven-
tilation and the propping of the working faces ? — Un-
doubtedly I do.

22400. I suppose you will admit that some accidents,
fatal and others, arise from either carelessuess on the part
of the miners or anxiety to get away their coals 7 — Anxiety
more than carelessness, I should say, and the amount of
duties firemen have to perform cause accidents as well. I
do not know that I know of an accident occurring through
sheer carelessness, but accidents occur in the hurry and
excitement of work which requires to be done carefully,
and that causes them.

22401. Do you know whether or not the very best class
of men are always chosen as firemen, I mean from the
practical point of view, and the point of view of thorough
knowledge of the duties ? — ^No, I know that they are not.
I have known of men filling the position of firemen who had
no experience whatever of work in a coal mine. I have
known a man come from the surface and before he was
three months in the coal pit he got the position of fireman,
and he had never previously been down the coal pit.

22402. Was that in what we call a fiery mine, a close
lamp mine, or a naked light pit ? — ^I do not remember
whether before the explosion which took place at Cadzow
Colliery safety lamps were used or not, but that is the
colliery I have in mind, and in which a man got employ-
ment as a fireman who had been a confectioner by trade
and lived where I Uved m3rself . I knew him from a boy*
and he got a position in that colliery before he had left
his trade as a confectioner three months. Before he had
been three months in the coal mine be was a fireman.

22403. Whether or not that was a naked light colliery
at that time, it has been a close light colliery for many
yean 7 — ^Yes.

22404. Because of a very serious explosion that took
place 7 — ^Yes. I do not remember whether this man was
a fireman in the colliery previous to the explosion or since.

2dl05. Has it been your experience that firemen some-
times were appointed not so much because of their com-
petency or qualifications as because of favour on the part
of the overman and manager 7 — There is a great deal of
that done.

22406. Are there some collieries in Lanarkshire in which
the fijremen are very carefully trained by the employer,
beginning as pony driver, then roadsman and up to the
grade of fireman 7 — There are some such collieries.

22407. No fault can be found with these men, because
they are thoroughly experienced 7 — Yes.

22408. Although often they have not worked at the
face 7 — Often tliv have not worked at the face, but they
have been through all the grades, ^at we call shift work,
oncost wwk.

22409. Do you think that it would be an additional
precaution in the appointment of a fireman if there was
an examination and a certificate of competency 7 — Un-
doubtedly. I think a fireman holds a very responsible
and onerous position, and that he should be a competent



22410. So far as the safety of the mine is concerned, you
would consider the fireman at least equal to the manager
so far as the responsibility is concerned 7 — ^Yes.

22411. Your employment is at present in what is called
the fiery district and a close-lamp coDiery 7 — Yes.

22412. Can you tell us from memory how often you have
seen the Government Mines Inspector examining col-
lieries 7 — I never in my lifetime as a miner recollect seeing
a mines inspector in the part of the pit where I worked.

22413. You have never seen a mines inspector examining
your place as part of the examination of a colliery 7 —

22414. That ftppUe« to your whole 35 years* experience
underground 7 — ^lliirty-nine. Of course the mines inraeotor
has visited the coltiery I have worked in many times, but he
has never come to the part of the pit I was working in.

22415. Why do mines inspectors visit collieries 7>'
Invariably after an accident.

22416. If their attention is called to any danger, they at
once pay a visit 7 — Yes.

22417. How long have you worked in the colliery you
are at present employed in, Earnock 7—1 should say 17

22418. Continuously 7 — Continuously, without a break.
I worked some years previous to that.

22419. You have been there 17 years without a break 7

22420. Have you known of any general inspection
taking place in that colliery during that time by the mines ^
inspector 7 — No.

22421. An inspecticm may have taken place on a day
that you were not there 7— That is so.

22422. You might have heard of it, supposing you had
not seen one 7 — ^Yes.

22^3. You have not heard of an inspection taking
place 7 — ^Not a general inspecti<m. I know an inspector
has been there several times.

22424. That is a very well-managed colliery 7 — A very >/
well-managed colliery, generally speaking.

22425. So far as ventilation and other matters are con-
cerned, it is looked upon as a model colliery, practically 7

22426. There might not be so much occasion there for
mines inspection as there is in other parts of Lanarkshire 7
— That is so.

22427. The usual method of inspection by the mines
inspector, if an accident takes place, is that he goes
down to the place at which the accident has tc^on
place, makes enquiries and goes right to the pit
bottom^ain 7 — ^That is so.

22428. If mines inspection was properly carried out

there would require to be a considerable increase in the « •

number of inspectors 7 — ^Yes. v ..t «

22429. There is a question which none of our witnesses L ^
have dealt with yet, and that is the question of shot-firing. V;*
Are you aware that there are very strict rules regarding C
shot-firing in fiery mines 7— Yea.

22430. In the Explosives Order and Coal Mines Begu-
lation Act there are very strict rules 7 — Yes.

22431. It is understood in a close-lamp colliery that
there should be sufficient shot-firers appointed for firing
shots, specially competent persons. Are you aware that
is so 7 — Yes, I am aware that is so. The rule invariably
is that the fireman are told oif to do the shot-firing.

22432. He nlight, of course, be the competent person
under the Act 7 — Yes.

22433. That would be all right 7— Yes, in addition to
their other duties.

22434. Earnock was a well-managed colliery, you say 7
— ^Yes.

22435. May we take it what is applicable to Earnock
might reasonably be applied to a worse-managed colliery 7
— Yes.

22436. It is not worse in any respects, so far as you
know 7 — Certainly not. In a good many respects con-
siderably better.

22437. Is there a very considerable amount of blasting
at Earnock 7 — Yes.

22438. Who stems the shot 7

(itf r. Rakliffe EUia) Are you speaking of the face 7

22439. (Mr. SmiUie.) The face 7— The minors.

22440. They bore their own holes and stem their own J
shots 7 — ^Yes.

22441. Who carries the detonator 7 — The miner is
served with it at the lamp station by the fireman in the
mornings. He asks " How many shots have you to-day."
and he may say one, two, three, or four, as the case may be,
and give him as many detonators as he will have shots
that day, and he carries them to the face with him.

22442. It is a high explosive tiiat ia used there 7 — Yes.

22443. What is the method of firing shots 7 — By elec-

22444. What steps lead to the firing of the shot 7 The
fireman is the shot-tirer ; what action does he take usually 7
— As a rule they have stated hours for going round, twice
in Uie day for shot-firing» between 7 and 9, and veiy

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probably 12 till 2, and he takes the round of his district ;
ho goes round the faces and shouts in to the miners he is
passing " Let me have a shot ; are you ready?'* Sometimes
they go in. Invariably the fireman goes in with his cable
and connects his cable with the wire atttached to the
detonator, and uncoils his cable and soes round the end
of the stoop and puts his battery on the other end of the
cable and fires the shot. But instances have occurred
where firemen have not done that, but have shouted to
the miner at the face to take one end of the cable and
attach it to the shot while he was attaching the battery
to the other end of the cable, and fatal accidents have
occurred because of that. I have known of three fatal
accidents occurring in that way, and one permanent
injury ; the man lost his hand, practically all of his

22445. In the Eamoch Colliery you remember that ? —

22446. Three fatal accidents, and one man permanently
disabled. Is that during the last 10 years ? — Yes.

22447. That is one of the best managed collieries in
Lanarkshire ? — ^Yes.

22448. You have no idea at the present time what takes
place in the worst managed collieries in Lanarkshire ;
from personal experience you do not know ? — No. I have
been making enquiries as to the method of shot-firing where
safety lamps are in use, and where they are fired hy elec-
tricity, ana it is the same ae I have described ; the fireman
serves out the detonators to the miners in the morning at
the lamp station and they carry them to the face.

22449. The fireman is a competent person for shot-
firing ? — ^Yes*

22450. Those firemen, in addition to being shot-firers,
have the ordinary duties of firemen, ordinary examina-
tions to make, and they have to look after ventilation, and
sometimes when they are shot-firing, may they not be
called away to look after the hutches ? — They are.

22451. They are sometimes called away even when
engaged on duties as shot-firers ? — ^That is so.

It i»

To do what ? — ^To look after the drivers where
something may go wrong on the road. The driver runs
to the fireman to get some assistance to put hutches on
the rails, and for the time being he has to attend to the

22453. Is not the output usually looked upon as the
most important thing ?— Yes. It is no good carrying on
the pit ; in fact they will not carry on the pit if the out-
put is going back. The output is the thing to carry on the
pit for.

22464. That is the chief thing ?— Yes.

22455. As a member of the Executive Committee of the
Lanarkshire Miners* Federation you have heard from time
to time complaints as to the condition of the mines in
various parts of the county ?— I have.

22456. Are you aware that some time ago the Lanark-
<• CL shire miners decided to permit any branch of the Union

^ to appohit examiners under Rule 38 of the Mines Act T

22457. And that is now being largely taken advantage
of ? — There wre a considerable number of branches who
have tfiJcen advantage of it.

22458. Should I be right in saying that it has led to a
considerable improvement in the condition of some of the
mines ? — We have heard so.

22459. You have heard that reported ? — ^Yes.

22460. You have heard that officially reported from the
miners* officials at the colliery ? — Yes.

22461. There is nothing to prevent the miners at any
mine in Lanarkshire appointing inspectors to make the
inspection under Rule 38 ; so far as payment is concerned,
that is guaranteed ?— Yes, we guarantee the payment.

22462. The report comes to the Executive Committee
as to the condition in which the mine is found ? — Yes.

22463. Has there been any case in which fault has been
found by the inspectors with the condition of the mine ? —
Yes, several.

22464. And the attention of the mines inspector has
been called to those 7— That is so.

22465. You do not know at the present time whether
immediate attention has been given to them by the in-
spector ? — I have not heard.

(Chairman,) How long have they been appointed 7


(Mr. SmiUie.) For the last 12 months ahnoat^.
12 months since we agreed to this.

22466. Do you remember a threatened strike at Deoh
mont Colliery ?— Yos.

22467. I suppose^ou know that colliery weU 7 — Yob.

22468. You are aware that it is a dose-lamp district 7

22469. In what is known as the fiery zone of Lanark-
shire 7 — Yes,

22470. Do you remember what the dispute was about ?
— The dispute was about the introduction of an improved

22471. An improved safety lamp 7 — Yes, which would
be a great advantage over the lamps previously used in
the colliery, both from the point of view of safety, the
company alleged, and also a better light for the workmen
while at work.

22472. Is it a pretty general thing for the workmen to
pay a penny per dav for the use of safety lamps at the
collieries in Lanarkshire 7 - Some of them do, and some
get free lamps.

22473. It is fairly general that there is a charge made
of a penny a day 7 — Yes.

22474. For the use of lamp, oil and wick 7 — Yes.

(Chairman,) Do they not get the extra 2d. a ton for
working with the lamps 7

(Mr. SmiUie.) In a naked light district, if they are
forced because of danger to adopt safety lamps, they
usually claim a penny per ton for a thick seam 4 or 5 or
6 ft., and 2d. a ton for 2 ft. to 2| ft., and they almost
invariably get it.

(Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) They have not to buy their candle 7

22475. (Mr. SmiUie.) No ; it means about the same
thing to the workmen. At Dechmont Colliery, where this
strike was threatened, the workmen never have paid any- ^
thing for the use of their lamps 7 — No charge whatever
has been made.

22476. The employers introduced an improved lamp 7

22477. The general manager himself said it was an
improved lamp 7 — That is so.

22478. That was proved to the Executive, that it was
an improved lamp so far as the safety of the mine was
concerned? — ^The workmen in the colliery admitted that
it was.

22479. They admitted it was a better light, at least 7

22480. Did the employer wish to charge a certain amount ^
per day for the use of that 7 — Yes.

22481. And the men refused to pay 7 — Yes.

22482. We were brought to the verge of a stoppage of
300 or 400 men about it 7 — We were.

22483. Do you remember the negotiation between the .
officials of the Union and the management, which ulti- ,
mately prevented the strike, and we prevailed upon the
management not to make the charge 7 — We endeavoured
all we could, but we avoided a rupture by withdrawing ,
the improved lamp. -

22484. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) He withdrew the lamp and ^
gave the men the old lamp 7 — ^Yes, without any charge, ^

as formerly.

22485. (Mr. SmiUie.) The dispute ultimately came to
this, that one farthing per day would have been accepted
by the company for the use of the lamp 7 — ^He would nave
taken the smallest fee providing the workmen had agreed
to pay.

22486. The workmen declined to pay anything, having
paid nothing previously 7 — Yes.

22487. The safer and better lamp was withdrawn 7 —

22488. That colliery is worked now with a lamp less
safe than the lamp introduced 7 — ^Yes.

22489. In Eamook Colliery there is a considerable
amount of mechanical haulage ? — Yes.

22490. You do not know whether or not there has been
any serious accident arising in connection with haulage 7 —
There was one serious accident with a haulage incline
heading. Precautions have been taken since. It was due
to the breaking of a coupling. A tram of hutches, about
28 or 30, were going down a steep incline and a ooUpling

Mr, Michael

12 June 1907



Digitized by







Mr. Michael broke near the end. The chain man standB on the last

Kelly, hutch down the brae, and when the coupling broke there

was only one hutch left on the tram then, and it rebounded

12 June 1907 with such force that it broke his knee and permanently

lamed him. Since that accident the company have intro-
duced a safety chain which, in addition t^ the rope attached
to the hutches, is attached to the last hutch and put on
underneath the hutch ; it will probably take half of the
number of hutches which is running in the tram, so that if a
coupling broke in any of the hutches of the safety chain
there are sufficient hutches on to prevent a rebound. If a
coupling broke further on in tho tram where the safety
chain was attached, then the brake was in contact, and it
was sufficiently strong to hold. No accident has occurred
since they introduced the safety chain.

22491. Suppose the safety chain goes the whole length of
28 trams, from the first tram right back to the rope, that
would prevent a rebound of the hutches, or the hutches
running away in the case of a coupling breaking ? — ^Yee.

22492. Or a rebound to cause this injury 7 — A rebound
cannot take place with that safety arrangement, because
the weight is sufficiently heavy to prevent it.

22493. Are you aware that a considerable number of
accidents have taken place by reason of the breaking of
couplings, or draw bars — generally, not in your colliery ? —
Yes, generally.

22494. Do you think that it should be made compulsory
by Act of Parliament that that wise precaution should be
taken? — ^It should. I am of opinion that the runaway
points should be compulsory. A good many managers
have taken that precaution and have runaway points, but
others have not taken that piecaution. I was called up a
fortnight ago to Quarter Sessions in Edinburgh to give
evidence in a case of a very serious accident that occurred
because of the want of runaway points.

22495. Runaway points would have prevented that
accident probably ? — ^They would have prevented it ; as a
matter of fact I was informed that the management has put
on the runaway points since the accident occurred.

22496. If they were compulsory they would have had
them on before ? — Yes.

22497. I want to deal with a not very savoury point,
as to which you are well qualified to give evidence, and
that is the condition of the mines in Lanarkshire. Are they
kept in a clean sanitary condition ? — ^No, they are not
clean, and there is no keeping of them at all.

22498. Is there any attempt made to' keep them in a
clean and sanitary condition ? — ^None whatever.

22499. Am I correct in saying that you have seen in
some of the mines, roadways where you could scarcely walk
along for filth — ^human excrement ? — ^Yes, many times.

22600. For a distance of 20, 30 or 40 yards ?— Yes.

22501. The men use the bye-roads or disused roads for
the purpose and no attempt is made to cover up the ex-
crement ? — ^None whatever. I have known men sick and
vomit several times with the stench and smell which was
carried in from these things at times. Men have had to go

22502. It is not an uncommon thing for the men to be

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