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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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(Mr. SmiUie.) Mr. Ellis is of opinion tliat you need not

24748. {Dr. Haldane.) Do you know any case in which
the wages of firemen, taking the average of the year, are lees
than the ordinary wages of a man working at the face in
your district ? — Less ?

24749. Yes.— No.

24750. That does not happen in your district ? — ^The
basis, to begin with, is larger.

2476 L A man never loses money, as it were, by becoming
a deputy in a mine ? — ^No. He cannot very well lose money
by becoming a deputy if he commences at a pit where they
are working regularly.

24762. {Mr. SmiUie.) Is it not the case that many
hey^ers are earning 3s. or 4fi. more than the nominal wage of
the deputy ? — ^Yes, but I am speaking of off-handed men.
If he refers to piecemen, there are men who get considerably
more than deputies.

{Mr. SmiUie.) There are hewers at the face getting lOs.
or lis. a day at the present time.

24763. {Dr. Haldane.) It is important that a deputy
should have plenty of practical experience at the face. I
suppose we are all agreed about that ? — ^Yes.

247«54. Supposing a man has obtained plenty of practical
experience at the face, is he not likely to lose money by
becoming a deputy ? — I should not say that.

24765. You w6uld not say that he would, 6n the whole 7


24756. On the whole he has steady employment as a ^
deputy ? — He has regular employment.

24767. Which he can always rely upon 7 — ^Yes.

24758. Although he may not make so much at certain
times aa the man at the face, yet it is a better post ? — ^Thero
are some men whose qualifications as ooal-getters, as piece-
men, enable them while hewing coal to make considerably
more than they can get by deputy work.

24769. {Mr. SmtUie.) The real point is this. Does the
wage paid to deputies at present encourage the best class of
men at the coal face to leave the coal ^e and beocme
dexmties ? — ^No, it does not.

24760. {Chairman.) You say that an average of four
deputies is killed by drawing timber in the course of the
year. I see in 1904 that there were as many as nine,
although in 1905 there were only two. How many deputies
would there be to every 1,000 men working underground
in the county of Durham ? — I could not say.

24761. About how many — 1 in 1,000, do you suppose ?
How many deputies altogether are there in the county of
Durham ?— Slightly upwards of 2,000.

24762. That is about 1 in 50. Out of 2,000 deputies you
say there is an average of deaths from falls of roof of four ;
that is to say, one-fifth per cent. That is 2 per 1,000 killed
by this particular operation every year 7— Yes.



Mr. Sabiubl Cotjlthakd, called and examined.

Mr Samuel ^763- {Chairman.) You have been requested to g^ive
Coulthard. ©vid^^^ce on behalf of the ' Northumberland Deputies*
Mutual Aid Association 7 — ^Yes.

24764. {Mr. SmiUie.) Are you at present a deputy in the
county of Northumberland ? — ^Until this day I thiii I am.
It ma.y be as well to state that I have now been appointed
Permanent Secretary of the Association, and I am just
beginning work this week.

24765. Up to now you have been employed as a deputy
underground 7 — ^Yes, and have been for 31 years.

24766. You have had a very long experience as a
deputy 7 — ^Yes.

24767. You have had experience prior to that of other
classes of work underground 7 — ^Yes.

24768. It may be taken that you have a fairly good
knowledge of underground work 7 — ^Yes.

24769. Is it confined entirely to Northumberland 7— It
is confined entirely to Northumberland.

24770 What colliery 7— Seghill.

24771. You have spent 31 years as a deputy at Seghill
Colliery 7— Yes.

24772. Is that a fairly large colliery 7— Yes, 700 or 800
men and boys.

24773. What is the depth of it 7 — One seam 50, another
70, and another 90 fathoms.

24774. You work three seams 7— Yes.

24775. What is the method of working, long^all, stoop
and room, or pillar and stall 7 — We have a great deal of
long\*'all conches behind following the coal. In board and
wall there are a considerable number of places where the
seam is 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 6 inches thick, and that
same seam is coming back broken, and we work out the

24776. That is because of the thickness it is not con-
venient to work longwall ? — On account of the thickness
it is difiicult to work longwall.

24777. You speak, however, not for Seghill Colliery,
or yourself, but for the Northumberland deputies 7 — ^I am
here as the representative of the Northumberland deputies.

24778. As their general secretary you have a fairly
good knowledge of the state of matters all over the county 7
— ^Yes, I am very well versed in it.

24779. As far as you know, is there any complaint as to
the extent of the districts which the deputies have at the
present time, or have had to look after 7 — ^Yes, we have had
occasional complaints respecting the over^iressure.

24780. Of work?— Yes. We have had to deal with it on
many occasions, and have had it put before the Northum-
berland coal owners. We think that there is a little too
much exaction.

24781. May I take it that the statutory duties of the
deputy as laid down by the Act of Parliament are to
examine the workings under their charge in the morning,
and all the roads leading to and from the workings on which
persons may travel, and to look after the ventilation gimer-
ally, and, if necessary, make a second examination during
the day, and to generally look aftei^he safety of the men 7
That is considered their statutory duty 7 — ^Yes.

24782. When you say that you have complained of over-
pressure, do I take it that is because yoiir districts have
been too large to carry out your statutory duties, or duties
outside of what your statutory duties were 7 — Perhaps it is
as much outside of statutory duties, but which the law
specifies for as well as the unwritten law.

24783. Your complaint generally has been that in
addition to what you understood were your statutory
duties, looking after the safety of the workmen as far as
ventilation and timbering were concerned, other duties
outside your statutory duties have been imposed upon you7
— Yes.

24784. What duties 7 — Bringing a man away from his
working face where he has to look after the men entrusted
to his charge, coming out on the main road to do woiIl at



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wheels, cpming oatside his dat to the wheel outside. We
have occasionally fotmd that kind of thing, and found
redress when we have put it before the management.

24785« Were you sometimes called upou, in the event of
a train of tubs coming off the rails, to assist in putting them
on I — Oftentimes we have had to do that.

24786. In the event of a fall taking place outside your
cBstriot, have you been called out, in your experience, to
assist in clearing it away ? — ^IVIany a time.

24787. That, of course, was in addition to your ordinary
duties ? — ^Yes. I consider that a case of emergency.

24788. Have you experienced, or do you know from per-
aonal knowledge, that deputies are sometimes held to some
extent responsible for seeing that the material is taken out
of the various sections T — That is so.

24789. That is considered an important matter, the
getting out of the material ? — A very important matter.

24790. Tho^ are your duties, and tho9e i^re the com-
plaints that have been made. Do you consider that the
deputy in a colliery, and especially in a fiery mine, ia the
most important person about the colliery so far as the
safety of the men is concerned ? — ^I consider after 31 years*
experience that the deputy holds a very unique position
in a mine ; certainly he is a most responsible person. We
have gone over the special Act of Parliament and have not
discovered in the duties of any other official away from
the manager more " shalls " and " shall nots " than are set
down to a deputy. We feel that we are considered to be
very responsible indeed.

24791. In your evidence you say " That when a deputy
has made repeated complaints to the management re-
specting his work, he, considering it too much and finds no
redress, should an accident occur, the responsibility of such
accident be borne by the manageinent as the case may be."
Is the responsibility for an accident of that kind not borne
by the management T Is it borne by the deputy T — Often
at inquests we have had deputies brought to task severely
in connection with their duties. Our fear is that it is a
growing danger to-day, and that it may come to that.
When a man is brought out of his district which he controls
we think that there should be some person relegated to
accept this responaibUity.

24792. You have made repeated oomplainte ? — ^Ye9.

24793. You are of opinion according to this, and you
are speaking for the deputies, that in the event of your not
being able to accomplish reasonably the work designed to
you, and should any dispute take place between yourself
and the management, that the management should not
lu^v^ power to dismiaa you, but that you should have an
appeal to the Inspector of Mines who should arbitrate
between the management and yourself as to whether you
were in the right ? — Yes.

24794. Is that the general opinion of deputies t — That
is the general opinion of deputies in Northumberland.

24795.«With regard to shot- firing, is that done at the
present time bv deputies or competent persons specially
appointed T — ^Until within a very recent date we had not
much shot-fixing by battery in NorthumberlancL The
collier in most cases fired his own shots, but within the last
18 months they have beigun to introduce the battery, and
the shots are being fired with the battery by the deputy.

24796. Is it a common thing for persons outside the
deputy to be appointed lor that purpose ? — At a number
of QollierieB in Northumberland the management have
appointed a class of men, apart entirely from the deputies
to fire shots.

24797. That is the competent person under the Act ? —

24798. In many cases the deputy is appointed as a com-
petent person 7 — Yea, and the whole responsibility of shot-
firing ia thrown on the deputies.

24799. You are of opinion that an additional responsi-
bpity should not be placed on the deputy t — Yes, for this
reason ; we are introducing shot- firing by battery on the
deputies. He is not taken from his work as specified in
the General Rule, and therefore the shot- firing is an
additional burden to his already laborious work.

24800. If the district in which deputies are responsible
were divided into two districts, would the deputies still
object to being competent persons to do shot -firing under
the Act if their districts were lessened ? — I should think
that would take away considerably the objection. A con-
scientious man feels that he has too much put on him by
the introduction of shot-firing by battery.

24801. They do not object to doing shot-firing in f>ddition
to their other work provided they are able to undertake it
without dancjer to them'ielves ? — Generally speaking they
would consider it would be most effectually done, and with
less danger, if it was relegated to a person outi^de of the
deputy altogether, but I think it would lessen the difficulty
if there wore a re-arrangement of districts so that a man
could assume the responsibility for the work and take less
part in it, only the owner says that the deputy is the proper
person to fire the shots.

24S02. A deputy might have a^ district with ten shots a
day to be fired. Would it be possible to appoint aperson
to fire those and have no other duties to do T — We find
that is a difficulty.

24803. You would not suggest that an employer should
require a person to do that alone T — ^No ; economical
reasons could be given why he should not.

24804. Where there is in two or three districts combined
sufficient work for shot-firers you think that it"'would be
better if it was put on a person to do that and nothing else
but that ? — Decidedly so.

24805. Would that be suitable for the men at the face 7
— It would be very suitable for the men at the face ; that
would be an important point in regard to production.

24806. Then you say: "That no person (for any
cause whatever) have power to call a deputy away \
from the district over which he is in charge except the \
person in charge of the mine for the time being and then
only in cases of extreme urgency ; also that no deputy be
employed at any other kind of work that would fix him
to one position so as to prevent him having his Hberty at
any moment while in charge of a district however hniited
it may be in area or with a small number of men to follow. *"
Are there any persons at the present time in the mines of
Northumberland entitled to call a deputy away from his
ordinary work to go to something else with the exception
of the manager or under-managcr ? — Our greatest com-
plaint in that respect is this : outside of the district, the
flat inside which we consider it our duty to attend, if a boy
has tubs off he invariably sends direct for the deputy ;
half-a-dozen times during a shift a deputy has to be goiiag
300 or 400 yards from the face outaide of his station for
the purpose of lif tiokg on the tub. In many oases it makes
it quite impossible for him to get to his men to do what
he feels he ought to do ?

24807. Does that apply to Seghill ?— All over ; that is
more or less the practice.

24808. That is the position all over the county generally ?
— Yes. In the back, it would be the back overman. We
consider if he sent in for us to come out, that he is the
responsible man in charge at the moment, and when he
calls us away from our duties the responsibility .f ould rest
upon him, but when a boy of 16 or 16 a9ks us to go out
because the work is stopped, we think that it is a difficult
thing indeed and that we ought not to be running in and
out of the district

24809. You are bound by law e^t the present time to

obey the orders of the under-manager or the manager ?


24810. You are bound by law at the present time to
attend to the claims of the pony-driver or anyone else who
may ask you to assist in putting on a tram. What would
be the result il you did not do so ?— Notice.

24811. Do you think that complaint woul4 be make to
the overman that you refused to go out ? — Yea.

24812^ It might lead to your receiving notice if you did
not go out to carry on that work ? — ^In oases it has.

Mr. Samuel

26 June 1907

24813. It has done so in cases 7 — ^Yea.

24814. Are you quite sure of that t— Y^, I have had to
deal with cases where the management have requested
men to go.

24815. Do you think that deputies should hold a cer- j
tificate of con^petency ?— Yes, I think there should be some \ j
form of examination. I do not think that deputies, 1 v
generally apeaking. would object to some form of exam-
ination. I

24816. Do you think that the deputies of Northumber-
land generally are a competent and good class of men ?

\ think generally speaking they are.

24817. Do you think it might improve the class and
assist the manager in selection 2 it was necessary and made
compulsory that they should hold a certificate of com-
petency ?— I think generally speakinc that would bo

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2(5 June 1907

Mr. Samu el 24818. Would it be in the direction of greater safety if
Coulthard. | that were done ? — Yea, the trend would be in that direction.
You could have very strong men indeed who would make
good deputies, and perhaps in other ways would be the
means of lessening the possibility of accidents, and with
very little scholastic attainment, perhaps not being able
to pass an examination. A man of strong physique and
strong judgment would make a good deputy apart from
the more examination.

24819. The danger would be that there might be a good
man who could not pass the examination and consequently
could not qualify ? — ^I am certain of that.



24820. In the event of anything of that kind being done,
the present deputies would in aU probability continue their
position, or get a certificate of service. There are a great
m%Dj well qualified people now in the mines of Nortli-
umSerland who hold first-class or second-class oertificates
at the working face ? — Both colliers and deputies.

24821. Do you think that the deputies as a whole
object to some form of examination for competency 7 —
Some would feel that they would have to pass an out-of-
the-way examination, that is to say, there is a timidity
about the matter. It would not be an examination any-
thing approaching that necessary for an inspector of a
mine. I suppose it would be more in harmony with his
duties ; it would be a knowledge of gas and timbering, and
things of that kind.

24822. Do the deputies do the timbering, or the work-
men themselves ? — The deputies generally do the

24823. Do the workmen at the face put up any ? — If a
deputy has provided the material the man is responsible.

24824. Do the deputies draw the timber ? — ^We have
created a new set of men to some extent in Northumber-
land. A number of collieries employ a man to draw
timber apart from the deputies.

24826. In longwall workings ? — Yes.

24826. And where they take it out, the pillars ? — Yes.

24827. Do you think it is a dangerous employment ? —
Yes, it is a most hazardous occupation at times.

24828. Would you say as an experienced man that it
is safe to draw timber in the longwall face or at pillars
where there is the noise of men filling coals and shovelling
out coals at the face ? — No, it is very unsafe.

24829. In drawing timber you require to have, as near
as you can get it, a^lute silence ? — Yes, you do.

24830. In order to know when your roof is about to come
down ? — Yes.

24831. It would be better you think if the timber was
drawn at night, at least, between shifts, when there is no
other additional noise ? — ^Yes. The majority of deputies
in Northumberland would say *' Yes " to that.

24832. Have you had any accident from drawing of
timber ? — Yes, but speaking generally for Northumberland
we have been pretty free from accidents. I believe we have
a greater ratio of accidents in proportion to the men em-
ployed, but we are fairly exempt from fatal accidents to
deputies. I would like to say this: One of the things
that we put before our owners is that under the present
circumstances deputies themselves have to draw the timber,
and the Northumberland coalowners are anxious to keep
it within their duties. At some collieries they employ a
special man, but we think it increases the danger, because
before the man commences to do the most hazardous part
of his employment, he has been eight hours in the pit, and
he is lees physically fitted to do it.

24833. Do you mean the deputies ? — Yes ; that is one
of the reasons we have been strongly in favour in North-
umberland of there being drawers appointed to do the
drawing of timber at night.

24834. A special class of man appointed ? — ^Yes.

24836. {Mr, F. L. Davis.) Do the deputies draw the
timber at the end of the shift ? — ^In a number of cases in

24836. Just at the close of the shift ?— Yes ; in North-
umberland there are collieries where they draw during the
day. If a pit was done at five o'clock, the deputy would go
to the man's place and tell him he wanted to start
about three, and the pit would be done in that way.. At a
colliery alongside of us it is so unless it was a case of
destruction of property. If he could t«ke the timber out
with safety it woidd be a saving and he would commence

at onoe to draw it, but if it could stand without danger,
another deputy would join him and the two would take
it out.

24837. You think it is not desirable that people should
work eight hours and then begin a hazardous job like that.
You are strongly against that ? — ^Yes, we are strongly
against that.

24838. You said that complaints of too much work on
the part of the deputies were only occasional ? — ^Yes ; I
could not make a sweeping statement that it was general.

24839. In the pit where you were working was there too
much work 7 — Sometimes. I have had reasons to com-
plain to the management, and sometimes it has gone on
a few weeks, and sometimes they have relieved us a little
by taking a few men off us more or less.

24840. They have fallen in with your views ? — ^Yes, in
some instances they have.

24841. Do you suggest that the Mines Inspector should
be the arbitrator between the management and the deputy ?
— ^Yes.

24842. In short, cases of too much work, or anything of
that kind, do you think the Inspector would like to have
that responaibUity put upon him ? — ^We have weighed this
matter and considered it carefully as a joint committee.
Going back five or six months, we considered in
Northumberland that the owners were too exacting, and
we gave considerable evidence to them, and there were a
number of reasons why we thought they should relax, and
we have asked for arbitration both as to the wages and
responsibility ; but they have refused arbitration, and we
felt a little grieved.

24843. The owners have refused arbitration ? — Yes,
they have refused arbitration. We think the Government
Ini^ctor would be the best person to appecJ to when it is
a question of whether the deputies under the Act have a
knowledge of the duty assigned to them, and where he feels
he cannot carry it out with satisfaction to himself, feeling
satisfied that he is doing his level best to lessen accidents
with the men employed.

24844. Have you thought how it would work out ?
Supposing the Lispector took your view that you were
right and the manager was to continue employing you,
with lessened duties, we will say. Or supposing the manager
said somebody was not a capable man and the Inspector
said he was, and an accident happened, do you think that
the manager ought to be reheved from his responsibility ?
— That would l^ a matter for consideration, I should say.

24846. He has no voice in it ; he is over-ruled by the
Inspector, and he has to keep the deputy on whom he does
not think is capable, and an accident happens. In such
a case as that is he to be relieved from responsibility ? —
It may be a side of the question we have not looked at, but
we think that the evidence of the deputy and the evidence
of the Inspector ought to be considered and to be |Bt against
the evidence of the manager in a case of that kind, but I
agree that it is a very difficult point.

24846. You can conceive difficulties might arise T — ^Yes,
We have had accidents even with the most skilled men
where it would be on the part of the manager himself an
outrage on commonsense and reason to say that he was

24847. I quite understand that ?— I see the force of your
position. In that case it would place the Government
Inspector in a very difficult position.

24848. It would put the whole responsibility on him 7
— Yes, it would, to determine it, but he would have the
evidence of the deputy On one side, and he would practically
stand as an arbitrator between them, and that would be
very strong evidence that the management was at fault.

24849. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis,) In cases where you have
been overworked yourself in your district you have applied
to the management for assistanoe of some kind, and you
have got it 7 — ^In many cases I have.

24860. The time you are invited to go on the road, was
in cases of emergency, you say 7— ^Yes.

24861. A fall of a roof 7— Blocking the way.

24862. That would always happen 7— That does occur
more or less. That is in relation to having to go out at the
call of boys and leaving our duties. That is a ground of
complaint, and has been more or less. In some instances
we have got consideration from the management, and they
have stopped it.

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24B53. That amounta to ibiB : it is suppoeed to be a part
of your duty to see that the traffic arrangements in the road
are kept clear ? — Yes.

24854. A message comes to you at the faoe to say that
there is a block in the road ? — ^Yes.

24855. You are required to go out and see that it is
removed. That takes you from your proper duties of
inspection at the face. You think that you should be

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 46 of 177)