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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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sequence ?— It might. That danger ought to be avoided
by taking away the power from the manager to inflict

23500. They have no power unless the men agree, but
it has been suggested if the men do not agree they have
the whip hand, because they can dismiss them P — Yes,
that is so.


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23501. Do you think that is so, or do the men always
agree to fines P — There is that danger, and the men,
recognising there is that danger, are apt to agree to a

23502-3. Even though a man may consider that he is
wrongfully accused and fined, stiU he thinks it worth
while to pay a fine leather than insist upon being brought
into court ? — Yes, there is that danger.

23504. Do YOU faTOur coal-cutting machines, or not ?
Do you think as regards the safety of the mine the
machines are an advantage or not ? — I think that there is
more daneer attached to getting coal by machinery than
by the old method.

23505. Have you any statistics which would show
whether or not it is more dangerous in practice P — No, I
am simply giving you my own opinion.

23506. Do you think that there is more danger from
falls of roof and sides P — There is more danger, par-
ticularly from falls of roof.

23507. There has been evidence to show that unless
you are very careful there is much more coal dust and
much finer coal dust by the machine than by the ordi-
nary way, and that might be objectionable from the
point of view of safety ? — Yes.

23508. If coal-cutting machines are to supersede in
future to a great extent the ordinary methods of hewing,
great precautions will probably have to be taken P —
Greater precautions than we have been accustomed to
up to the present time.

23509. You say you did not take the position of a fire-
man because of that 2s. a day less. Were you certain as
a hewer of constant employment P — I had to run my
risk, of course, but I found that on the average I could
earn more money.

23510-1. Not quite 2s. a day more, but something more f
—Yes, about the sum I have said.

23SVZ. Supposing they had offered you wages which
wonld have given you rather more than you would have got
as a hewer, would it have crossed your mind that it might
be disadvantageous to vou to become a fireman, because
you might have been dismissed or get into disgrace if



you reported unfavourably of the mineP — That is Mr. WiUiam
another one of the difficulties. Adamaon.

23513. Then it did cross your mind P — Yes. 13 Tune 1907

23514. You yourself say that you would have felt that
it was a possible state of things that you might have got
into dismvour by giving a report which you considered
true and which the manager might have thought was a
biassed report P — Yes.

23515. Supposing these firemen's duties were confined,
as you think they ought to be. to looking after the
saiety of the men, do you think in that case the
managers would be likely to obtain better men as fire-
men ttian they do at present ? — Yes.

23516. At present I understand you hold the theory,
whether it is a just one or not, that the employer is
influenced in appointing firemen by his ability to look
after the management of the mine, I mean the trams,
and so on : a manager when he now appoints a fireman
has regard not only to his capability of attending to the
safety of the men, but also his capacity as a kind of
assistant manager P — Yes, I have alrea'ly said I favour
the firemen having to undergo an examination and a
certain test, and if that view is to be given effect to in
the future, the managers' choice wiU be limited to the
men who have imdergone that examination and passed
it successfully.

23517. You consider that there would not be very
much in the objection if men were obliged to pass this
examination, and if the choice of the managers was
restricted in the way you suggest, as regards the ques-
tion of getting good men as Bremen. i ou think that
would be settled sufficiently, and that as regards the
question of 'getting good men, it would not matter what
the duties of the firemen were P-^— If that view was given
effect to, it would lead to the wages of the men being

23518. And you would get better men. As regards
safety, do you think it is extremely desirable that the
fireman's duties should be confined to looking after the
safety of the men P — Yes, I think they should be entirely
confined to looking after the safety of the men.

Mr. W1LLI1.M Wbbb, called and examined.


23519. {Mr. Smillie.) Are you secretary and agent of
the Stirlingshire Miners* Association P — Yes.

23520. Have you had considerable experience as an
underground worker.^ — I have bad about 20 years*
experience underground.

23521. Has your experience as a miner been confined
to cc«l mines f — Not solely.

23522. Did you work in mines in Cornwall P — Yes, for
a short time, about 3 years as a lad.

23523. You had 17 years' continuous employment
underground P — ^20 years in coal mines.

23524. You know all classes of mining work very well P

23525. How long is it since you gave up being a miner P
-13 years.

23526. Are you down the pit occasionally nowP —

23527. Making examinations in connection with
disputes P — Yes.

23528. With regard to the question of general inspec-
tion of mines by the Government inspectors, do you
think the present inspection is sufficient or effective P —
I think the present inspection is altogether inadequate
to meet the requirements in any satisfactory manner.

23529. I suppose you will agree that the present
inspectors are perfectly capable of making an inspection
if they had sufficient time to do so ? — Yes, I have not a
word to say against them.

23530. But you are of opinion that it is a physical
impossibility that they can undertake the inspection,
which you, at least, would like to see undertaken ? — That
is it.

23531. They do visit the mines occasionally ? — Occa-
sionally they do.

23532. In the event of a fatal accident taking place,
or an explosion, or if their attention is called to any
threaten^ or apparent danger, they at once visit the
mineP — They are on the scene at once, as soon as

23533. In the event of an accident they usually visit jf r. WiUiam

the place where the accident takes place only P — Only.

23534. In the event of their attention being called to
a danger or want of ventilation, they visit the portion of
the pit to which their attention is caUed P — That is my

23535. Or if an inspector was informed by letter either
anonymously, or by the agent of the miners, that the
whole of the colliery was in a bad state, he would, in all
probability, make a thorough inspection of the colliery P —
We should expect it to be done.

23536. Have you known such a thing to be done ? —
Yes, I have known recently where a colliery was
thoroughly inspected on the ground you state.

23537. Your chief complaint at the present time is
really that the inspectors nave not the time to devote to
the matter P — That is it.

23538. That is provided you are right in thinking
there should be a thorough examination of the mine ? —

23539. I suppose your experience, as a miner and as a
miners' agent, leads vou to the conclusion that the mere
sampling of a mine, by going to one particular part of it,
is not the best method of finding out whether or not the
Mines Act is being earned out thoroughly P — That is
my opinion.

23540. Are you of opinion that inspection by Govern-
ment inspectors has tended to greater safety under-
ground ? — I am inclined to think so on the whole.

23541. You think an inspection of that kind would
still further increase the safety P — I do.

23542. You are of opinion that there should be an
increase in the nuniber of inspectors P — Yes.

23543. Do you think it would be a wise provision to
draw them from the ranks of practical mining men who
had practical experience as underground workers ? — As
I have said, I have not the least fault to find with the
present inspectors — 1 believe they perfoim their duty
accor Ung to the time they have at their disposal, but I
certainly would be in favour of drawing them from what
we call our practical working miners.



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Mr. WiRiam 23544. Other thmes being equal do jou think it would
be an additional qualification n they bad experience of
under^^round working ? — Yes.

23545. Tou think they should have all the scientific
and technical knowledge possible P — Yes.

28546. But it would be an additional qualification if
they had the experience of being practical working
miners P — Yes.



23547. Do you think that the present method of
appointing the firemen, that is, that the manager shall
appoint a person, is altogether unsatisfactory P — I do.

23548. Is it your opinion, and the opinion of the
miners in Scotland generally, so far as you know, that
tbe best men are not at all times chosen for that
position P — That is my information and that is my
experience as well.

23549. Has it been your experience that a really
competent person who was sufficiently strong-minded
and capable of carrying out the Mines Act is not likely
to be kept for any lengthened period P — I know a
gentleman such as you mention, and he had a stix)ng
will of his own and desired to sign the book according
to his judgment, and he was called in question for doing
so and had to leave the colliery in consequence.

23550. Called in question by whom ? — By the

23551. (Mr. BatcUffe Ellis.) Was he discharged ?—
He had to leave the colliery, and it was attributed to
this, that he signed the book that there was danger.

23552. Was he discharged P — It was called in ques-
tion, and immediately afterwards he had to leave the
colliery, and he attributed it to his action in signing the

23553. Did he leave of his own accord P — I can
scarcely say.

23554. (Mr. Smillie.) Was he discharged P— WeU.
there are two ways of discharging a man, you can give a
man a place where he cannot earn a livelihood, and he
must live you know.

23555. CMr. BatcUffe Ellis.) What was done in that
case P — He said he had his place so much interfered
with by the manager that he left.

23556. (Mr. Smillie.) Is it possible for a mines'
manager to make the position of a fireman so unbearable
that he is obliged to leave P — Yes, and firemen have also
told me they have signed the book with the pen. which
from their conscience they were opposed to, that all
things were right, when in their very heart thev knew it
waA not so, but on account of the position they were
placed in they did it.

23557. You are now speaking of what fireman have
told you P — Yes.

23558. In addition to that, you know it is common
talk amongst firemen and miners generally that the
position of firemen at many colleries is this : that they
must do exactly what the manager teUs them in regard

s^ to signing the Dook P — ^I think so in many instances.

23559. If the law provided that firemen must hold a
certificate of competency, which has been secured by
examination, do you think that that would improve the
status of fire :u en P — I think it would improve it greatly,
and I woidd be in favour of fii-emen being altogether
independent of the workmen and altogether independent
of the manager.

23560. Even supposing they have a certificate, if it is
still in the power of the manager to dismiss them, you
think they will not be as free as they otherwise should
be P — That is my opinion ; they will be still tied to a
certain extent.

23561. Is it the opinion that the ordinary report-book
which a fireman signs in Scotland, is all printed matter
with the exception of the name of the fireman, or almost
all printed matter P — We are given to understand it
is 80.

23562. Have you seen a report-book P— I have not.

23563. You cannot speak to that P — I cannot.

23564. Do you think a second-class certificate —
that is a second-class mine manager's certificate — would
be sufficient proof of qualification for a fireman? — I
think it would be an improvement on what it is now.

23565. Are you prepared to give an o|inion as to
whether it would be sufficient ? — I do not care to give nn
opinion upon that.

23566. What is a fireman supposed to do at a moxning
inspection P — He is supposed to go round to all the
working places. In my opinion the area he has to cover \ /
is far too great for the time at his disposal. It is just ^
a hurrying round.

23567. He is supposed to examine all the working
places P — All the working places.

23568. Is he supposed by that examination to find out
whetiier or not there is any danger from the roof being
in a bad condition P — Yes.

23569. In the whole of the working places P — Yes, in
the whole of the working places.

23570. He is also supposed to ascertain whether or
not there are dangerous accumulations of gas, either
explosive or any other kind P — Yes.

23571. Is it the faces only, or is it his duty to examine
all the roadways leading to and from the faces where
men have to travel P — That id his duty.

23572. Do you think that the districts, so far as you
know them from your own personal experience, are of
such a nature as to enable a fireman within two hours
in the morning to complete his statutory duties P — ^I
have to qualify my statement to a certain extent ; we
have collieries where I think the fireman is quite able
in the time of two hours to cover it, but we have other
collieiies where it is almost impossible for him to do it
properly in that time.

23573. There are actually pita in Scotland where the
Mines Act is being carried out P — Yes.

23574. Some of the firemen have districts where thev
can make a thorough examination P — Yes, small

23575. But there are districte in which a fireman may
have 50 or 70 men under his jurisdiction P — So much so
that he has to change his clothes when he comes back
after his inspection, he has been that heated up and

23576. And that inspection might have been an
examination of the faces alone, without the roadways at
all P— Quite so.

23577. You do not consider that is a safe method of
doing business P — Far from satisfactory.

23578. In some of the roadways leading to and from
the face, which the fireman does not necessarily have to
travel, there may be an accumulation of gas which would
be dangerous P — Yes. Oftentimes the fireman takes a
short roiad to go to a certain place.

23579. You are not blaming him now, but yon are
stating his district is too large ? — ^Too large.

23580. And the only method of getting rid of that is O

to resign his position P — Yes. ft >

23561. Under the present circumstances there would ^

not be much difficulty in getting someone else to take
his place I suppose P — That is just it.

23582. Do you know whether the miners in Stirling-
shire or Lanarkshire, where you have had morev^
experience, have ever been consulted in the framing of
Special Bules P — I do not know of their being conauned.

23583. You agree that the miners who go under-
ground every day should have some little say in the
framing of rules for their own safety P — Yes, they should
have some knowledge of what they think is requisite m
the framing of Special Rules, and, whether right or
wrong, if they are framed after consultation with them
or their representatives, it would have a tendency for
them to be more certain of them.

23584. I suppose you are paiticularly anxious, as a
miners' representative, that the miners should carry out
all rules which have been framed for their safety P —

23585. Do you find that the office-bearers of the
Minera* Federation in Scotland are equally anxious with
yourself upon that matter? — Yes: and we have gone
the length of refusing to support a man in a court of
law who has been found guilty of breaking rules.

23586. You decline to defend persons who are charged
with breaches of the Mines Act ? — Yes.

23587. Of course you would be prepared to defend
any man who was a member of your Union if you were
convinced he was not guilty P — Yes.

23588. There are a far larger number of accidente
underground from faUa of roof and sides tha^i from aoy
other cause ?- "



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239^. Do yoti think there ootdd be ftdes which, if
carried out, would prehrent a considerable number of
accidents which at present take place ? — I do think so.

29590. Do yon think tha.t the miners or t.ieir repre-
senrtatiyes, beoanse of their experience, are quite as able
as the mine-owner and the managers to draft Special
ftules for the safety of the workmen ? — I do.

23591. And you think they should be consulted in the
drafting of the Special Bnles ?—l do.

2.^92. K that were done do you think both on the
part of the men and their representatives there would be
a greater tendency to observe the rules and see that
they were carried out at the collieries P — I think there
irould be that tendency.

23593. There would be a more earnest effort made
than there is at the present time to enforce the carrying
out of rules in which the men have no voice ? — Yes. 1
believe the men would stick to them more, knowing their
own representatives had taken pai*t in framing them.

23594. I suppose the miners sometimes carrr resolu-
tio&« at mass meetings and conferences, and special
^orts are taken to see that those resolutions are carried
out?— Yes.

28595. Do yon think it would be possible to take the
same course with resi)ect to Special Bnles which have
been mutually adopteid for the safety of life anr^ limb P
— Well, of course, that is a big question, but I think
something could be done in that direction.

23596. A considerable number of accidents take place
in travelling roads' where there is haulage P — Yes.

23597. I suppose it constitutes a serious danger to
have a haulage road at the same time as a travelling
rosid? — Yes, that is one of our greatest dangers, I

23598. Have you wt^rked in collieries were the ordinary
travelling road by which the men travel to and from the
face was also nse'l as a mechanical haulage r.>ad ?— Yes,
I have, and escape! a very serious accident.

23599. Many accidents have arisen from that ? — Yes.

23600. I daresay you have run very serious risks
yourself on more than (»ne occasion? — Yes, on more
than one occasion, in stepping into the manhole.

23601. That might be because of the breaking of a
rope or the breaking of a coupling P — Yes, a coupling

2'^6()2. In a g«^neral way you would be favourable to
incorporating m the Mines Regulaticm Act, or any
Special Rules, all well-establishH improvements to
prevent haulage accidents or accidents on haulage
roads P — Yes.

And where a haulage road is used, in a'ldition
to being used as a travelling road, that is where a travel-
ling road is not provide«i specially, are you of opinion
that there should be sufficient room lietween the rails
and the side for the men to travel ? — I am. Manholes
to me are tiot sufficient to secure the safety of the

23604. You would not advocate the taking away of the
manholes — they should be still continued P — Yes.

23605. Do you think they should be whitewashed once
a month ? — i es, and then you would be able to see them

23606. There is sometimes a difficulty, if a man is
being chased by a train of hutches which have broken
away, in ascertainiug where the manhole is ? -Yes, and
there is this : that oftentimes he rutis into danger under
the circumstances instead of going away from it.

23607. If there were manholes along all tlie haulage
roads do you think that would tend to greater security ?

23608. Are you in favour of fttrther alterations in the
method of timbering, or as to who should do the timber-
ing? — That is a question in respect of vhich there are
two sides. Ordinarily you would say that the man who
extracts the coal and knows the natm^ of the roof
would be tho best man to do the tim>)eTing, but so long
as the present system is in force I think the best way
would be to have competent men to timber.

23609. I suppose a number of accidents at the coal
face arise from the system of piecework ? — Yes, I can
speak on that matter from my own experience. Just
before I left the coUiery I happened to he filling a hutch,
and knew perfectly weU that the roof was i ad. It
required to have a tree put to it, but I was so anxious


to fill my hutch and get my next tufn that I thought it
might remain, but before I finished the stone came
down and I was off for several weeks in consequence of
it. I ran the risk because I was anxious that my turn
should not go past. 1 thought if I could secure my
turn I would do it.

23610. As to the theory that the man working at the
coal face is the best judge of the nature of the roof, and
where the tree should be put, that is merely because the
man at the coal face has nad considerable experience of
the nature of the roof there ? — Yes.

23611. And is watching it from hour to hour, or day to
day?— Yes.

23612. But if there was a special person appointed for
a section of 10, 15 or 20 places whose statutory duty or
special duty would be to timber or to supervise the
timbering, would he not also gain the same experience
and perhaps more ? — Undoubtedly he would.

23613. With the additional advantf^ that he would
not require to care about the next turn, or about the
wages ? — Yes, that would not distr *b him.

23614. His chief duty would be, whether he was the
fireman or whatever official he was, to see that either the
places were timbered by himself or that the miner
timbered the places P — Yes.

23615. He would have power to pi-event a person
working away at th^ face if there was apparent danger P
— Yes.

23616. Have you made up your mind as to which of
those systems you would prefer P — Yes. I would prefer
a competent man appointed for that purpose to do the

23617. In the event of his absence a man would still
be required to put up a prop for his own safety P —


23618. Do you think if that were generally adopted,
so far as the Scotch mines are concerned, it would
prevent a considerable number of accidents which at
present take place ? — It is my honest opinion it

23619. And you give that from your own experience

as a working miner ? — Yes, my own experience. -^

23620. {Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) You say you know a case
where the fireman at the instance of the manager, made
a false and incorrect report in his book ? — What I stated
was that a fireman had told me that because he signed
the book that a certain section was not safe, and a
certain number of men had to go home,, the manager
called him in question for doing so, and of course, after-
wai'ds, knowing his position was such, and it was
impossible for mm perhaps to get a start aeain, he often-
times signed the book by the pen which his very
conscience was opposed to for the sake of keeping the

23621. That he made an incorrect report ? — Yes.

23622. How long ago is that? — About 15 months


23623. Is there any objection to giving the name of
the colliery where it took place T — WeD, if 1 should be
compelled, of course, I womd do so.

23624. You may have been misinformed? — True, I
may have been misinformed.

23625. Will you communicate with the secretary the
name of the colliery where this took place, and then
inquiry may be made from the manager to
hear his version of the matter ? — I will do so 'd it is

23626. The man told you? — Yes, the man told me
that because he himself signed that it was dangerous,
the men could not work, ana on account of that he had
to leave the colliery shortly afterwards. Of oourse he
attributed it to signing that it was dangerous.

23627. (Chairman.) Is that the same case P I thought
you told us just now he was not dismissed, but he
thought it prudent on his own behalf to leave P — Well,
I told you there were two ways to dismiss a man.

23628. {Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) Is there any difficulty in
having that man brought before the Commission P — ^I
cannot say. If you desii-e it, and I come in contact

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 37 of 177)