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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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Special Rules, although they have not the men's consent,
tney can be enforced. It is admitted the men can
object, but it is a haphazard way for them to object,
and I think the rules should have the endorsement of a
joint-committee. In regard to cages, I think the present
law is dangerous and loose. There is no rule whereby
they must have iron bars on each side of the cage,
or a door to prevent men falling out. In hydraiuic
lifte they have bars which will go together like a sponge,
and I think they should have such bars on cages so that
they could be closed, and the men could not fall out.
We have accidents every year through men falling out
of the cages.

22849. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) Do you know of cases where
an accident has occurred and men may have been able to
jump out, but have been prevented from doing so because
of the bars P — I do not know of a case. My experience
arises fi-om men falling out. Then there is no prevention
of over- winding. The rule says the speed shall not be
more than three miles an hour. I do not think that is
adequate, I think we should have a law making the
adoption of preventative measures compulsory. In
regard to the managers, I think the present law is
loose. A man can now sit for his certificate if he can
show he has had five yeai*s* practical experience in a
mine. That is interpreted very loosely. A man enters
a mine say at 13 ; he is a pony driver or a general on-cost
worker, and he may never have worked at the face in his
life — ^but according to that he can sit and become quali-
fied. I do not think it is fair to the men to have a man
to dismiss and pay them who has no real knowledge as a
practical miner. I think he should have had fom* or five
years' practical experience as a working miner at the
face. Fuither, in General Rule 39 you have a provision
that no pei-son can be employed at the face imless he
has two years* experience under a practical miner.
That is a very loose rule. One man cannot be allowed to
work alone at the faee — two unskilled men can work.
We think that should be altered, and that no man
or men should be allowed to have charge unless
he or they have been trained for a certain number
of years under a practical working miner. Under
the present law a man cannot sit for an examination
unless he pays £2 for the First Class Certificate
and £1 for the Second Class Cei-tificate. I do not think
the State are so veiy hard up as to exact those fees from
a working miner. Oftentimes a man has a family, and
thei'e is great pinch in providing the £2. I think that
should be removed in both cases.

22S50. {Chairman.) It is worth the £2 to him ?— If
you made it obligatory that he should pay £2 if he
passed and got nis parchment, he would be getting
value for his money ; but for a man to pay £2, and have
the woiTy of the examination and not pass, is too

22851. {Dr. Haldane.) The examiner has to read his
papers ? — But he is paid for that.

22852. Out of the fees ?— That may be. Then with
reference to the investigation of mining accidente, I
should like to suggest an improvement. I think the
Procurator Fiscal, who manages the inquiry, should
not be a practising lawyer who may be doing private
business with the employer. We find where that is the
case they are very keen sometimes to prevent us putting
nasty questions. I suggest that the l^rocurator Fiscal
who manages the inquiry should not be a man engaged
in private practice and acting for the employers. i\ir-
ther, we think there should be a verbatim report of the
inquiiy, and that the representatives of the deceased
should get a free copy of that report. This would all
tend to make managers pull up, if they felt there would
be a thorough inquiry and report. If they were to be
thoroughly exposed when they neglected theii* business,
those things would be very useful.

Then, again, there is no proper sanitation just now in
the mines — ^none whatever. A man cannot even get a
drink of water. The employer is under no obligation to


Mr. John

13 June 1907

Digitized by




Mr. John supply it, but a very little expense, I believe a hal^nny

Wilson, a ton, would provide the putting of a half -inch pipe all

round the mine which would enable a supply of water to

13'Junel907 be obtained.

Further, with regard to human refuse, it is really very
shameful. A man goes in some 50 yards from the face
and performs a natural function, and it is left lying
there. Proper facilities should be provided. A trench
could be dug and a pail put into it, and there should be
one of those in the shale workings at every upset
close to the face, which should be removed regularly.
In my judgment, it would be infinitely better for the
men than to have the ventilation beating on this refuse
and the microbes polluting the atmospnere. I do not
believe the water and the natural facilities would involve
a cost of more than a farthing or halfpenny a ton, and,
in my judgment, it would very greatly improve the
healthy condition of the working miners. I hope that
this Commission will at least give some attention to that
very simple precaution, because there is none just now.
It is simply disgi-aceful. In many cases the men cannot
get a drink of water. There is a small trench and the
water gathers, and the men ai"e supposed to drink that
when it settles. It trickles along the pavement and
comes from places where no man should be allowed to
drink it from. I hope some precaution will be taken to
alter the present disgraceful condition of things.

22853. (Dr. Hcddane.) Do not the men take water
down with them ? — They may, but that, of coui-se, is
very inconvenient very ouen.

22854. You could not have a tap everywhei-e ? — ^I did
not say that — you would have it in the lye.

22855. (Mr. Smillie.) When you said that under
General Rule 38 the workmen should be compelled to
make an examination, did you mean that you had passed
a resolution to that effect ? — I must admit that we have
not come to a resolution upon that. I am speaking from
my eimerience that it shoiud be compulsory on the men
to make the examination.

22856. You would not put it that the miners are of
that opinion? — I certainly would not say I have a
mandate from the men to state that one point here.

22857. What you have said this morning with that
exception represents the views of the Federation P — I am

speaking for the shale miners primarily. I did not
have a mandate in regai'd to tnis matter about the
water ; but I think the general body of the miners would
be in favour of that if you gave it to them, and would
thank you very much.

22858. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) How long ago is it since
you worked in a mine ? — I have not worked in a mine for
21 years.

22859. For how long did you work in a mine P — From
the age of 13, 1 think, until I was 24i — shale and coa.
and iron.

22860. About 111 yeai-s P— That is so.

22801. (Dr, Haldane.) Is the work in a shale mine
dirty work, and do the men get black P — The men's
faces are cleaner than when working in coal. The
powder smoke, though thick, does not black the face like
coal dust.

22862. There is not so much black dust about as thei^
is in a coal mine ? — No.

22863. We have had some evidence with respect to the
desirability of providing baths at the surface. That
would not be such an important matter in a shale mine
as in a coal mine ? — I do not know that I have a man-
date to make the suggestion, but I certainly think if
there were facilities for men washing themselves when
leaving work, and being able to leave their pit clothes
there, it would be a great improvement.

There is another matter : — Under the present law the
employers are not bound to supply an ambulance wagon f /
— they are boimd to supply stretchers and splints — ^tol i
take a man to the infirmary. We had a bad case last
year, where a man was badly inj\u*ed and died within
three hours ; but he was kept lying on the pit bank for
two hours before they obtained an ambulance wagon.
Now that may have been a case where if they could
have got him away quicker his life would have been
saved. I think it should be compulsory on the employers
to liave an ambulance at every colliery so as to remove
men under such circumstances — I do not mean every
single pit but every colliery. I may say that the
Miner's Federation have adopted that suggestion. I do
not know whether it has been mentioned, but they have
passed a resolution in favom* of it.

Mb. Richard McPhee, called and examined.

Mr. Richard



Statement op Witness.

22863a. I have had 26 years' experience of mines, 14
years as manager, 3 years as an overman, and the balance
as fireman, roadsmau, and oncost man. I am at present
manager at Bothwell Park Colliery, owned by William
Baird & Co., Limiterl, where nearly 6j)0 m en and boys
are employed; 180 o f that number are Poles. The
output of coal is :5i/,000 tons per annum, and is got
from four seams, with bad roofs compared with roofs in
the other coUieries of Lanarkshire. The haulage is
mechanical throughout, with compressed air as the
motive-power, and ropes are carried up to within an
average distance of 70 yards from the face. I have had
11 J years' experience of Poles, and for the last 5 years
the average number employed would amount to 180. I
have foimd some of them equally as good as the British
workmen under ordiuary conditions, and aU of them
more amenable to the discipline of the mine. While
socially some ai'e not all that could be desired, others
are good citizens and are very thrifty, many of them
having bank accounts to their credit. They were first in-
troduced to this country in a labour dispute at an ironworks
in Ayrehire, many of tnem since then finding their way to
the mines, they m turn bringing othera. When a new
Pole goes to work along with an experienced Pole he
does not as a rule get an equal share of the money, but
is paid what he is worth. In that respect they are not
worse than the British are, as they (the British) take a
novice or a boy down with them, and claim full ben of
hutches and pay the novice and the boy their value,
which may be anything from Is. 6d. to 2s. 6d. less than
the value of their share, and the man who employs them
pockets this which makes hisearninesa long way above the
current wage. We have Poles working in the same place
and in neighbouring places at the same rates as British
workmen. We have not had a single accident to British
workmen through Poles not knowing the rules and

regulations. We have the rules printed in Polish and
posted up, also liave cii-cidated copies to those who
could read them. For the past five years we have had
only two fatal accidents — one of these was caused by the
deceased wilfully pulling the cap wires from a borehole
tliat was charged with saxonite and stemmed. The
charge exploded, and he was killed instantaneously. The
other was caused by a fireman going in too quickly to a
road head after firing a shot, when a stone that was
loosened by the shot fell on top of him. There were
eight accidents to British workmen reported to the
inspector of mines, and three to foreign workmen.

22864. [Chairman.] You have had 26 years' experience
of mines, 14 years a manager and the balance as over-
man, fireman, roadsman and oncost man. What does
an oncost man do ? — Ordinaiy repairing work.

22865. There are 600 men and boys employed in your
colliery, and 180 of that number are Poles. Tou have
had 114 years' experience of Poles, and for the last five
years the average employed would amount to 180. You
have found some of them equally as good as the British
workman, and all of them more amenable to the
discipline of the mine. We have been told that amongst
themselves they are extremely quaiTclsome. Is that so P
— We do not find that.

22866. You have no difficulty with them, either
among themselves or in theii* relations with other
workmen ? — No.

22867. As regards discipline, they are more easily
managed than the Scottish men ? — Yes, that is so.

22868. They were first introduced in consequence of a
labour dispute, and they brought in others. When a
Pole goes to work along with an experienced Pole, he
does not as a rule get an equal share of the money. He
does not get the ordinary wage of a miner, but merely
what he is worth ? — Yes.

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22869. In course of time, when they get skilled, they
get the same wages and belong to Trade Unions ? — Yes ;
&om the very start, I should mention, they become
Trade Unionists. >

{Dr Haldane,) How is it they work at a lower wage ?

22870. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) That is contract work ?—
They are paid accoi'ding to their ability.

22871. {Chairman.) They are paid in the same way in
the British mines. A noYice or boy is taken down with
minei*s and paid anything that his work is worth. You
have not had a single accident to British workmen
thix)ugh Poles not knowing the rules and regulations.
How do you see that the Poles comply with these rules
and regulations if they do not know the language ? How
can you make them understand what they have to do
and not to do? — They ai'e educated from first going
into the mine. We post up the rules in Polish, and
also circulate copies amongst the Poles who can

22872. You find they mostly can read their own
language ? — Not most of them ; a good few can.

22873. They tell the others?— Yes. When the Pole
oomes to the country he is taken in hand by an
experienced Pole who has been employed in the mine
for some time, and educated into the method of working,
and the rules at the same time.

22874. Do you find that satisfactoi'y ?— Yes.

22875. You have had no difficulty in working with
these 180 Poles ? — Not the slightest, any more than we
have with the other men.

22876. You say for the past five years that you have
only liad two fatal accidents. Do you mean caused by
Poles? — No, two British workmen. We have had no
fatal accidents with the Poles.

22877. Only two fatal accidents? — Yes, in the five
years for an output of 1,085,000 tons.

22878. One of these was caused by the deceased —
would that be the Pole ? — wilfully pulling the cap wires
from a borehole ? — No, he was an Irishman named Dan
Lynch, a thoroughly experienced man, who was making
a manhole on a haulage road, and he had bored a hole,
and he charged it with saxonit«

22879. We need not enquire into that, because it has
nothing to do with the Poles. Of the reported accidents
in five years there were eight to Britisn workmen and
three to foreign workmen. That is such a small
number you can hardly ^t an average. You employ
600 men and boys. That is something over 400 British
men and boys and 180 Poles. Therefore, it is very
much the ordinary proportion you would expect? —

22880. The accidents are pretty much in proportion to
the numbers ? — The percentage is 30 to British work-
men and 25 to Poles.

22881. (Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) You have two Poles
here ? — Yes.

22882. Have they been in this country long ? — The
eldest of the Poles has been in the country for eight

22883. Has he worked during that time under you

22884. How long has the other been here ? — ^He has
been in the coimtry seven years.

22885. And worked all that time under you ? — He has
been employed for three years as a drawer-off in the pit
top, and the remaining four years as an underground

22886. (Chairmun.) Do they understand the English
language? — The elder fellow does, and the other as
much as is needed.

22887. (Mr. Smillie.) You say the average number
of workmen you have had during the last 10 years is
180 ? — During the last five years. The five years before
that it would be much less.

22888. Is it a fact you have fewer now than at any
time for the five yeai's ? — No. That census was taken
on the 17th May, and we have rather less this month
than last, probably by six.

22889. Do you post up the Special Rules and the
Coal Mines Regulation Act in the Polish language ? —
No, in Lictwish.

22890. Are not the men you refer to as Poles,
Lithuanians ? — They may be.

22891. Do they belong to Poland 7 — They are com •
monly called Poles.

22892. Do they belong to Poland ?— Most of them.

22893. Are you sure of that ? — ^I would not like to say
that every man belongs to Poland.

22894. Is it not the fact that the large majority of the
workmen are Lithuanians ? — Yes, but there is very little

22895. They have a different language? — They have
the same books.

22896. Have you found a very strong feeling among
the foreign workmen : if you ctdl them Poles they say
they are not Polish men, they are Lithuanians, and have
a language and literature of their own of which they ai-e
proud ? — I have not found a Pole take objection to being
called a Pole, except a Grerman, who resented it very

22897. These men are members of our Trade Unions,
and we are now printing our rules in their language, but
it is not in Polisn. It is in the Polish language that you
have those rules posted at the colliery? — It is in

22898. And all the workmen who read and
write understand that ? — Yes.

Mr. Richard


What proportion of those 180 understand
English? Do any of them? — There will be a

22900. You have agents holding morning meetings at
your collieries very often ? — Yes. ^

22901. Would I be correct in saying that 75 per cent,
of those men do not underatand the speeches delivei-ed
to them ? — I do not think so.

22902. I would be wrong if I said so ?— There is S
method of si)eaking to these men. The speeches that
are made by the miners' leaders may not be understood
by the Poles, but when it comes to our officials to deal
with them in a sort of pigeon English we have no
difficulty in getting them to imderstand.

22903. It has created almost a new language ? — I do
not know if pigeon English is looked upon as a
new thin^. It is as old as pigeon Scotch, or something
of that kmd.

22904. The foreign workmen usually work in com-
panies ; they do not mix up so much. The managers
usually endeavour to have them in sections by them-
selves ? — We make no arrangement for that j we have
Poles working with British workmen.

22905. I think in Bairds* colliery generally. Doyou
know what takes place at Craighe^ and Priory. Tha.t
is done in some of Bairds* collieries ? — We have sections
confined to Poles, but not for the express purpose of
isolating them.

22906. Do you find those very good men, willing to
obey all orders, and carry out the law so far as possible P

22907. You have no fault to find with them at all P—

22908. (Chairman.) What are their names?— That
one is William Yorksin, of 72, Bothwell Park Rows.

22909. Is that what you call them P — That is the name
that passes through the books.

22910. What is the name of the other one? — Joe
Ymities, of 62, Bothwell Park Rows.


Mr. William Yosxsiir, called and examined.

22911. (Dr. Ealdane.) You have been eight years in
Scotland?— Yes.

22912. Did you ever work in a mine in any other
countiy ? — Yes, on a farm.

22918. You came straight from there to Scotland?

22914. What was it that brought vou to Scotland; j£^ William
you had friends here ? — No, just myself, single. Yorhsin

22915. How did you know where to come to P — There

are some people who send letters for us to come.

22916. Did any of your friends in your own home
work in the mines in Westphalia, in Prussia ? — No.

13 A

Digitized by




Mr. WiUiam

1 3 June 1907

22917. They never go there?— No.

22918. In Westphalia, in Grermany ? — No ; no places.
It is the first time they came to Scotland.

22919. They came to Scotland H— They came to Scot-

22920. Do the men from the same part of the country

fo also to the mines in Westphalia, in Grermany? —

22921. Some go? — Some go.

22922. There are a great many there. I have seen
many of your countrymen there. I think they are in
Westphalia. Can you speak German P — No.

{Mr. McPhee.) We have a number of Poles from
Westphalia, and some have been employed in coal mines
in Poland.

( Dr. Haldane.) In Cracow.

(Mr. Smillie.) The majority are agricultural labourers.

{Mr. McPhee.) We have some from the mines in

22923. {Dr. Haldane.) Do you like Scotland?

{WiinesM.) Well enough. It is a fine country. We
like Scotland.

22924. The wages are good on the whole? — Fine
wages. Five, six, seven, eight, or more different works
to go to.

22925. Do you think your countrymen are happy
here ? — Yes.

2292G. You would rather not go back ? Would you
rather stay here than go back ? — For pay ?

22927. Would you like to go back to your own
country again P — Who said it ?

(Mr. McPhee .) This man has a wife and family in

(Dr. Haldane.) Are they not coming over ?

(Mr. McPhee.) No, she refuses to leave the country
They are a passing population. Nearly 30 left our
district last Tuesday for Canada, some to be employed
in the mines and some on the railway.

(Mr. Smillie.) A large number of our foreign workmen
Save gone to America during the past. They come from
Poland here, stay a short time, and then go to America.

(Mr. McPhee.) Yes.

(Mr. SmiUie.) Do you know whether compensation is
paid to those men just as freely as to British workmen ?

(Mr. McPhee.) In our colliery ?

(Mr. Smillie.) Generally.

{Mr. McPliee.) In our colliery, certainly.

(Mr. Smillie.) Have you known the Scottish Mine-
ownere* Association refuse to pay the widow of a foreign
workman who is killed, on the ground that she was not
here and was not a naturalised British subject ?

(Mr. McPhee.) I do not know that. know there is
a great amount of malingering. There is a higher per-
centage among the foreign workmen than the English
workmen, and for the least injury they look for

(Mr. Smillie.) In things of that kind they are very
well able to look after themselves ?

{Mr. MePhee.) Very well. That is the main difficulty
we have in dealing with them ; they demand an exorbi-
tant price when it comes to digging coal, or any other
class of work.

(Mr. Smillie.) You find some of the men are very
sharp and clever ?

(Mr. McPhee.) Some who have been 18 months in the
country can speak fiuently. Usuallv when you get a
man of that stamp he does not stay long.

(Dr. Haldane.) Do you come from German territory ?

(Mr. Tmities.) I come from Russian country.

{Mr. Smillie.) All your countrymen are from Russian
Poland ?

(Mr. Ymities.) Yes, all the same. It is the same
country. There is a different set.

(Mr. Smillie.) You have more freedom here than you
do at home ?

(Mr. Ymitiet.) Yes.

(Mr. Smillie.) A good many of your countrymen
come here in order to avoid serving in the army ; they
do not want to serve in the Russian Ai-my ?

( Mr. Ymities.) No, they do not like to go soldiers.

(Mr. McPhee.) I think the Germans are the worst,
they come away more to save conscription.

Mr. James Bkown, called and examined.

Mr. James 22928. (Mr. Smillie.) You have • had considerable
Brown. experience as an underground worker ? — Yes, 29 years.

22929. You are President of the Ayrshire Miners'
Association, and have been for a number of years. I
think you are now an agent or collector for the Ayrshire
Miners* Association ? — ^i es.

22930. You worked continuously underground for 29
years ? — Yes.

22931. Has your experience been confined to Ayrshire ?
— Except once or twice in Lanarkshire, once at Hamilton
and once near Old Flemington.

22932. You have worked in other collieries outside ? —

22933. You imderstand fairly well general mining as
applied to Scotland ? — I ought to.

22934. Do you know by sight all the mines inspectors
for the West of Scotland, from seeing them inspecting
the mines? — I never happen to see any in the mines
except Mr. Mottram. I know the Chief Inspector.

22936. Mr. Ronaldson ?— Yes.

22936. During that 29 years have you met Mr. Mottram
or any other inspectors making inspections underground ?
— Only once that I remember.

22937. In the whole of your experience ? — Yes.

22938. You have been a miner during the time of a
considerable number of inspectors. There has been a

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 32 of 177)