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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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drinking the water which may be passing through those
very places sometimes? — Some may do it. It is not com-
mon, oeoause a largo numoer of miners now carry water
from the surface in pails, but there are many who have
travelled a considerable distiuice from where they live to the
colliery where they work who do not do that, and they have
to resort to whatever they can get to quench their thirst.

22503. It is not an uncommon thing for some of the
collieries to be infested with rats. There are hundreds and
thousands of rats in some ?— Collieries are practically in-
fested with rats now. As a matter of fact at the Eamock
Colliery they employed a professional rat-catcher for some
time to get rid of them.

22604. Do the rats in the pit sometimes give rise to a
terrible state of matter which makes it almost impossible
for the workmen to pass and re-pass ? — ^Yes, terrible.

22605. Is that one of tho conditions where, if ankylos-
tomiasis broke out, the temperature being favourable, a
spread of that disease is bound to bo rapid ? — I should
fancy so.

, I 92506. As far as you know, there is no colliery in Lanark-
• I shire where there is any attempt made to put any place at
1 the service of the workmen ? — I have never heaid of any
« I attempt being made anywhere.

22507. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUie,) You say that you have
visited many collieries in Lanarkshire ? — Yes.


22508. In what capacity ? — As a representative of the
Lanarkshire miners.

22509. Under Rule 38 ?— No.

22510. In what capacity ? — ^We have had disputes about
rates or drawing conditions between the workmen and the
management. In order to thoroughly ascertain the con-
ditions of employment, as to whether claims of our members
were just or excessive, our Executive invariably send one or
two of their members to visit the colliery in dispute, or the
part in dispute, and examine the working conditions and
report to the Executive, so that they would be in a better
position to decide as to the merits of the men's claims

2251 1. You do that by permission of the management ? —

^' 22512. Have you visited Baird's Collieries under Mr.
Forgie's management ? — Yes.

22513. Have you ever inspected under Rule 38 ? — I

22514. Which colliery ?-7£arnock Colliery, some years

22515. That is where you were working yourself ? — ^Yes.

22516. Have you inspected more than once ? — Only once.

22517. In company with another miner ? — ^Yes.

22518. One who worked at the pit ?— Yes.

22519. How long did it take to do the work of inspection ?
We did it in one day ; it was only one seam.

22520. What time would it take to make the same
inspection of every pit ? — I should say it would take two
men, if they visited the whole mine, at least a week.

22521. What sort of a report did you make ? — The seam
that I and the man who accompanied me visited was the
seam I happened to work in at the time, and we reported
that we found everything correct. The occasion which
led up to this inspection was a breakdown in the fan at
the colliery at the time, and there was a rumour spread'
amongst the workmen that certain parts of the mine were
fiery and that they were working under great danger, and
this alarmed the men considerably, so that it resulted in
a number of men being appointed to inspect the colliery.
The colliery was laid idle on a given day to permit of this
inspection, just to allay the fears.

22522. You and another man inspected your part, and
other men other parts of the colliery ? — ^Yes.

22523. I suppose nobody conld do that better than
you men who worked there ? — I am not prepared to admit

22524. Could anybody do it better than you ? — ^I do
not know that anybody could do it better, but certainly
they could do it as well.

22525. Did you find any reprisals were made by the
management for making this inspection ? — ^No.

22526. The management made no objection ? — No.

22527. You have not found yourself any worse than
anybody else ? — No ; as a matter of fact the manager was
very pleased that the inspection took place, because he
was aware of the fear that the men were working under
at the time, and he was also aware that there were no
grounds for those fears, so that he was very pleased that
this inspection took place.

22528. That inspection really had the effect of satisfying
the men that these rumomrs were unfounded ? — ^Yes.

22529. With that object do you not think the men
would be more satisfied by an inspection by their own
members, by somebody working in the pit, than an out-
sider ? — ^No, I do not think they would.

22530. Were they satisfied after your inspection ? —
They were.

22531. Everybody went to work again ?— Yes.

22532. As far as the result w^as concerned it could not
have been more satisfactory whoever examined it ? — ^Not
upon that occeision ?

22533. Do you think that there is a reasonable ground
for a fear tliat if workmen engaged in a colliery other than
the one they inspect, or some other colliery, if they had
to make an unfavourable report, that they would suffer
for it ? — Yes, there are grounds for fear.

22534. There is fear ?— Yes, and grounds for it.

22535. Have you known anybody who has suffered
from making an unfavourable report ? — ^These are matters

* you cannot directly prove, becaiise it is so easy to find
excuses and reasons for dismissing workmen.

Digitized by





22536. With reference to timbering, do you propose
that timbering in the working places, which is now the duty
of the collier or hewer, should now be traiisf erred to
somebody else ? — ^I do.

22537. Do you think there is anybody more comx>etent
to do it than the collier himself ? — ^Yes. I do not say that
the miner is incompetent and cannot do it ; he can do it ;
but just now that is not what he is paid for. He is paid
for getting coal, and he intends putting timber in its place,
but it is put off and put off until too late.

^ 22538. I understand that exactly, but the rate he is
paid includes the work of timbering ?— Yes ; in theory
\ that is so.

22539. Although the miner can do it, yet he wants as
much time as he can get to get coal, and neglects this
work for safety 7 — ^Yes.

22540. You want to giVb him more time for getting coal
and put the duty of timbering on somebody else ? — Not
exactly. If the djity of securing the working places is
put on the owners, it would be a matter of readjusting

22541. I understand that. You agree if the timbering
was put upon the owners it would be necessary to adjust
the field rates ?~Yes.

22542. So that the miner, being relieved from that work,
would have less field rate ? — ^Precisely so.

22543. You think it would conduce to safety if that
change were made ? — ^I am absolutely certain.

22544. The ground of your belief is because the miner
is tempted to put off doing it in order to get coal, and it
is often too late, and then the mischief comes ? — Yes, that
is so.

22245. With reference to shot-firing, have you any
suggestions to make in addition to the present regulation
with reference to shot-firing ? — I think the best solution
of the shot-firing business would be that everywhere where
safety lamps are used shot-firing should only take place
during the night time.

22546. Or when the men are not at work ? — Yes. At
Dixon's Coltiery, at Blantyre, since the big explosion about
30 years ago that system of shot-firing has been in operation
That is a colliery including four pits. Some of the seams
are large seams and no shots are fired while the men are
at work, and an accident has never occurred during the
last 30 years in that colliery.

22547. Your view is that where lamx)6 are used and not
naked lights, the shot-firing should be done between the
working shifts ? — ^Yes.

22548. You said, if I understood you aright, that the
present practice at your pit is that the detonators are
given to the collier ? — I do not refer to the colliery where
I work. I say that is the general rule.

22649. At the colliery you work what is the rule ? —
That is the rule.

22550. To give the detonators to the collier ? — Yes.

22551. Do you know the regulation in the Explosives
Order ?— I do.

22552. That detonators shall not be used or taken for
purposes of use into any mine unless the following con-
ditions are observed. ''Detonators shall be under the
control of the owner, agent, or manager of the mine, or
some person specially appointed in writing by the owner,
agent, or manager for the purpose, and shall be issued
only to shot-firers or other persons specially authorised
by the owner, agent, or manager in writing." That
obligation is not carried out ? — According to my reading
of it it is not carried out.

22653. Are colliers instructed to fire their own shots ?
The shots are fired by the firemen ? — ^Yes.

j 22554. What is the object of giving the detonator to the
' collier ? — ^To save time. If a miner charges and stems
his own shot and has everything ready, the shot-firer,
who is invariaby the fireman, has only to run round.

22555. That does not seem to be in accordance with
this regulation ? — ^You can take it from me that it is the
invariable method.

22556. There is another thing: "Where the charge
is fired by an electrical apparatus the shot-firer shall not
use a cable for the purpose which is less than 20 yards in
length. He shall himself couple up the cable to the
charge and shall do so before coupling the cable to the
firing apparatus." In the particular case you mention
that regulation was not observed 7— No.


M5e7— This is I \

of the sort \

22557. The fireman who asked the oolUer in that case
to couple up his cable with the shot-^did you know that
fireman pretty well 7 — ^Yes.

22558. How long had he been a fireman 7— He had been
a fireman for years.

22559. Did you know him before he was a fireman 7 —
No, I do not think I did. He was a fireman when I knew
him first.

22560. You do not know what rank he had been drawn
from 7 — ^No.

22561. (Mr. Enoch Edwards,) He was not the con-
fectioner 7 — No.

22662. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUis,) That fireman, you suppose,
was a competent man 7 — I do not know. I would not put
him down as an incompetent man.

22563. He was careless upon that occasion 7 — I do not
know that it was carelessness, either. The man had too
much work to do.

22564. Because the man had too much to do was the
reason this mishap took place ? — ^Yea

22565. Can you give me the name of the confectioner
who was a fireman afterwards 7 — I do not remember his
Christian name, but Walker was his surname.

22566. How long is it since this took place 7—1
long over 20 years ago.

22567. You have not known anything
during the last 20 years 7— No, but I heard of a case
probably six or seven years ago. I have no Imowledge
of it. I know of a case of a policeman who became a

22568. Do you think it would be an advantage if there
was a regulation that there should be no shoto fired in
the haulage roads unless under the immediate direction
of the manager 7 — Very seldom, if ever, are there shots
fired in the haulage roads, and when they are it is usually
between the shifts.

22569. Whether between the shifts or not, do you think
the manager ought to authorise the firing of shots in the
haulage roads 7 — Certainly.

22570. Do you think there should be any further
regulation than exists with regard to the stemming of
the shot 7 — ^I do.

22571. You think they might be detailed a httle more 7
— Yes.

22572. So as to secure that the shot is properly stemmed T
— Yes.

22573. Do you think that there should be any further
regulation with regard to the drilling 7 — No, I think that
is i)erfectly safe.

22574. The stemming ought to be more provided for 7

22675. Can you suggest in what way you think there
should be an addition 7 — ^I think the authorised shot-
firer should be the stommer — ^the person to stem the hole —
and not the miner.

22576. That is often the case in England, but apparently
not the case in this country I—That is the reason they
serve them to the miner, so that they may get every
thing ready.

22577. With reference to the haulage, you think anything
that would conduce to preventing tubs running away,
or minimising the mischief when they do run away, would *
be a very desirable improvement 7 — Runaway points, in ^
my opinion, are a very necessary precaution to take, and

I think mine-owners should be compelled by law to provide
some such precaution.

22578. (Mr, Enoch Edwarda,) What class of men are
the firemen generally drawn irom, and what are they
before they become firemen 7 — Some of them do a Uttle
driving, and some of them get on as roadsmen.

22579. What do you mean by " driving " 7— Pony
driving — ^tramming, I believe you call it.

22580. And some of them roadsmen 7 — Yes.

22581. The policeman you referred to might have
belonged to a fire brigade before 7 — I do not know what
he belonged to.

22582. I mean that would be a sort of qualification for
a fireman. You do not think there is much of that, after
all, in Scotland, where they appoint a man so thoroughly
inexperienced 7 — ^There is not much of that.

22683. Is the colliery you work at a fairly average
well-managed colliery 7 — ^It is.


Mr, Michael

12 June 1907

Digitized by




Mr, Micha^

12 Jane 1007

22584. Would it be correct to say that the firing of these
Bhote in the method they are now fired by the fireman is
done with the knowledge of the manager in that colliery ?
— ^The method is known to the manager.

22585. The manager knows what is going on ? — Yes.
Of course a manager would never anticipate that a fireman
would ever ask the miner to take one end of the cable and
couple it on to his shot. The fireman who was guilty of
that was dismissed by him at once.

22586. So that is not done at your colliery ? — No. I
have only instanced the four aAcidents that occurred
because of that being done.

22587. But not recently ? — No. A number of Poles are
employed in that colliery, and I was told that the Poles,
who were so very very anxious to please the fireman, when
they heard him shouting ran out and met him and took one
end of the cable. They tt was, I believe, who voluntarily
did this themselves before ever a fireman thought of
allowing a miner to do it.

22588. You do not suggest that they do that sort of
thing at your colliery now ! — ^No ; but the method lends
itself to its being done. It may be done any time because
of the present method of the detonators being served to the

22589. So far as you know it is not practised in that form
at your colliery ? — It is not.

22600. But the method of handing these things to the
colliers lends itself to it 1 — ^Yes.

22601. I understand the reason why you say that is be-
oaoae the district is too big ?^Yes.

22592. You think it could be met by the appointment of
an additional fireman ? — ^Yes.

22593. Is this colliery a gassy colliery ? — No.
22504. You use lamps ?— Yes.

22595. And only permitted explosives ?— Permitted

22606. You have considerable knowledge of other
collieries besides where you work. What is your ex-
perience as to the scarcity of firemen at these collieries ?
Are there more collieries where there is a lack of firemen
and they cannot do the work ? — That is to say an in-
sufficient number. It is a common complaint of firemen
that their district is too big and their work is too heavy.

22597. Can you tell us what is the qualification for a
fireman ? — I do not know that there is any qualification
more than a desire to get such a job.

22608. There is no standard set up ? — ^No standard.

22500. So that it is quite open to appoint anyone as
fireman ? — Yes.

Does the manager appoint them ? — I am not
aware whether the overman or manager appoints them. I
should be inclined to think it would be the manager.

22601. It would be more likely to be the manager ! —
Yes, but I do not know from my own knowledge.

22602. Would you think that the manager was not
oanying out his duty if he appointed someone who was not
qualified ?— I would, indeed.

22608. The fireman is more in direct touch with all the
elements of safety in a pit than anyone else in it ? — ^That
is so.

22604. With reference to timbering, I gather you have
had long experience in pits in Scotland and elsewhere, and
i you think that if the company undertook to do the tim-
(bering it would lead to greater safety ? — Undoubtedly.

22005. Do you thfaik it would be practically possible for a
collier, say, you and your mates, to work on a place by
contract and the company find men to do the timbering ? —

22606. Is it necessary at times that a prop should be
set rather hastily ?— That is so.

22607. Would you suggest that in every working place
the company should keep a man to set timber ?— That
would not be necessary.

22608. We are a bit anxious to get the practical side of
this, and we want you to tell us how we can do it, if it is a
good thing. Are you aware of the methods of timbering
in the North of England ? — ^I have been informed that the
miners are not ask^ to do the timbering in the North of

22609. The deputies'do'it ?— Yes. As a matter of fact
we know a number of North of England miners who come
down here cannot do it, and they know nothing at all
about itta - .

22610. But in the absence of the deputy the men^ought
to timber for themselves ?— *Yes. j

22611. You think that would be practical in Scotland ? —
Yes. Just now in the bigger seams where stooping is
inv(4ved» more often than otherwise the timbers at the
disposal of the men do not fit, they are too long. The
fioors and the roofs are gradually getting nearer to each
other, and posts that would be of a proper length to-day
would probably be three or four inches too long to-morrow.
The miners' great difficulty is in failing to get timber the
proper length, particuUkrly for the stoop.

22612. Do you work the coal longwall ? - No, stoop
and room.

22613. You are not confusing spragging coal with tim-
bering ? — No. Some of the seams are worked longwaO.

22614. And the sprags would have to be set by the men
working longwall ? — Yes.

22615. What you are referring to ia the timbering in the
roof ? — ^Yes, in the roof. *"

22616. {Chairman,) Have you a first or second-class
certificate ? — No certificate whatever.

22617. Have many of your mates in the mine working
with you certificates 7 — ^Yes, a considerable number of
miners now have first and second-class certificates.

22618. {Mr. Enoch Edvxxrds,) I suppose you have never
sat for one ? — I have never sat for one. |

22619. {Dr. Haldane.) Do you think it woukl be quite
practicable in Scotland for the jcompany to do the tim-
bering ? Would there not arise delays m the work from
no one being present to set the timber at the right time ? —
I do not think there would be many dela3rs. As a matter of
fact if a miner felt there was a necessity for a prop being
put up, and there was ndt a man to put it up, he would put
n up. One of the things I have noticed, in a number of
pits in Lanarkshire, is that the overman or mani^^ who
generally accompanies him invariably in almost every
place they go in have to complain of the miners not having
their places properly timbered, and certainly not in accord-
ance with the timbering rules. As a matter of fact, mana-
gers cannot a£ford to enforce the timbering rules, because
the men tell them they are not paid for it, the rates are so
small, and so on. Only one instance have I noticed where a
manager has sent a workman home for want of having his
place wooded and spragged because there were no props for
him. He told the manager there were no props^ and the
manager said, " Well you will go home — ^you have no right
to be thei*e, supposing you have no props,*' and the manager
told the overman never to let this occur again ; and he told
the miner, "Next time I get you in this way I will prosecute
you." In all the other cases they warn the men, and the
men say, " Well, we are going to put them up, but we have
not time just now, we are too busy getting the hutches.*'

22620. {Mr. Ralcliffe EUis.) If a man*s place is not
properly timbered, in accordance with the Act of Parlia-
ment and the Rules, he is not allowed to stop there ?-^
Quite so.

(Dr. Haldane.) With regard to the question
of sanitation in Lanarkshire, are the mines you referred
to as being dirty also hot or warm ? — Some of them are
very warm.

22622. Warm so as to make you sweat ? — ^Yes, without
working at all some of them nu^e you sweat.

22623. Are any of them wet as well ?— Yes, wet and hot.

22624. What district are you referring to now ? — I sm
referring to the Blantyre District and the Bumbank Dis-
trict. There are some of the mines there very hot.

22625. Deep mines, I suppose ? — ^Well, ordinary.

22626. Would they be 600 yards deep ? - *No, about
200 yards.

22627. And still very hot ?— Yes.

1^28. How is it they are so hot ?— I think it is coming
out of the waste workings ; some of it is due to steam.
The haulage underground is worked by steam, and some
of the heat is caused by steam.

22629. Do the steam pipes come down the downoaat
shaft and warm the air that is going into the mine ? —
Some of the steam pipes are carried from the bottom along
the main intake roads.

(Mr, F, L, Davis.) Are the boilers underground
or on the surface ? — ^The boilers would be on the sttriaoe.
It is the steam pipe.

22631. (Dr. Haldane.) You think that is one of the
main causes of the heat in these shallow mines ? — ^Yes.

Digitized by




22632. Generally a shallow mine k not hot ?— I know
that. One of the causes is that the heat comes out of the
mineral somehow when the drift closes and the men are
endeavouring to get the coal closed in by the drift — ^ond in
some cases the coal is so hot that you can scarcely hold it
in your hand.

22633. That is working stoop and room ? — Yes.

22634. I quite understand in that way you get mines
that are both hot and damp ? — Yes.

22635. I think you have worked in America for a
time ? — Yes, for a short time.

22636. In the mines at which you worked had they
any facilities for washing at the surface at the pithead, and
changing their clothes ? — ^No.

22637. You have never seen that system carried out ^
— ^No ; but at all the other works — ironworks and steel-
works~-in America, they have the means of washing.

22638. Are you of opinion that it would be desirable to
have arrangements of that sort at the top of each pit ? —
Yes, it wot^ be very vevy desirable, and a great improve-

22639. You think that the men would be in favour of
it T— Yes.

22640. Of course it causes some delay in getting home
and there is something against it, perhaps, from that point
of view ? — Yes, but it has the advantages that you are
going clean into your own home, and you are not taking
tilth with you as you do at present.

22641. You think from that point of view it would be
desirable 7 — Yes, very very desirable. A considerable
number of the coal-owners in Lanarkshire have a large
number of their workmen housed in their own houses, and
the sanitary conditions are very very much below what
they are with respect to other property. The sanitary
oonditioBS about the miners* homes are very primitive

22642. Yoa mean there are not proper conveniences 7
—None — ^no proper conveniences.

22643. No water-closets, for instance 7 — No.

22644. Have they just out-of-door arrangements 7 —
YeSy common ashpits.

22645. No proper drains 7 - No.

22646. Are there means for regularly taking away the
stuff from these ash-pita 7— ^ust when the heap gets so
large that the structure for holding it is getting eongested
and sometimes a few weeks elapse before the removal

22647. lliat is hardly a matter for this Commission ; it
would be a question for the Medieal Officer of Health 7 —
You see the relation between the two. Where conveniences
are so very verv bad for the miners at their homes it
necessitates much more of that being done in the coal mine
than would be done if proper facilities were given.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 29 of 177)