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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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partner) to interfere with his engine, nor may he instruct
a non-member with regard to the working of his engine."
The Wigan, Bolton and District Colliery £nginemen*8
Mutual Protection Association says in its rules : " No
member of this Association shall be allowed to instruct any
person in the business of engine- winding so long as there
are competent persons of respectable characters who are
out of employment, and who are members of this Associa-
tion ; but if there are no members out of employment^
then the Committee shall have power to confer with the
management of collieries with a view to the next best
person to be learned or instructed. It shall be optional for
a member to instruct his son, if he deem it necessary, for
the purpose of making him a competent winder only, but
a member's son shall not have the preference of a vacant
situation before a member of this Association. If it be
proved on the testimony of two witnesses that this rule
has been violated by any member (after the issue of these
rules), such defaulting member will be expelled from this
Association." Then the rules of the Engiuemen, Boiler-
men and Firemen's Amalgamated Association of Great
Britain and Ireland say : " If any engineman, boilerman
or fireman be asked to teach a man the business of an
engineman, boilerman or fireman, he must first acquaint
the president or secretary of the lodge he belongs to before
he takes any further steps, and they will instruct him how
to proceed. If any member, after bavins received such
instructions, be taken advantage of, he shall receive his
current rate of wages for three months, after which time
his case shaU be reconsidered by the Ajssociation, i.e., he
shall receive out-of-work pay from his own lodge, and the
remainder from the Association." These are specimens
of the rules. I put it to you if there is to be this limitation
upon the persons who are to be taught to wind, and a
person is not to get a certificate of proficiency unless he is
taught, and the men cannot be now, except by a person
who has a certificate of competency, it would place your
Association in charge of the gate, as you very properly
term it, of the mine, and prevent the owner getting into
his own mine except by your sanction ? — I admit it.

25953. Do you remember in the year 1895 a difficulty
arose at the Wigan Coal and Iron Company's collieries ? I
rather think you came down at the time ? — I did.

25954. Did you say at that time that the Association
were to have the option of saying who should be* taught ?
— Yes.

25955. That is what you say to-day T — Yes, as the regu-
lation of things is to-day we still say so.

^5956. (Mr. Smillie.) If the Government took up your
position and had an examination, that would change it.
You have been doing what you want the Government to
do 7 — In some districts in a very objectionable way.
They have to give evidence of some fitness and some
preliminary qualifications and submit to certain regulations
which may seem to be out of propriety. We desire the
Government to lay down a general line outside of the
societies, and that would do away with the preference
of enginemen's sons and brothers.

25957. {Mr. RcUcliffe EUis.) I quite agree with you to do
anything possible to secure competency of an engine-winder,
which is a very responsible position. If the Government
adopted a principle of examination, would you be prepared
to say that these restrictions would not be pressed as to the
persons who should be taught ? If you do not feel justified
in saying that, I will not press it ? — Will you repeat the

25958. Supposing the Government decided to have an A
examination for engine-men as to their competency, would 1
you be prepared to say that the rple of your Association,
which requires that you shall have the option of saying
who shall be taught, might be altered so as to enable
persons to be taught who were approved by the examina-
tion of the Home Office ? — My private opinion is that if
such a regulation was drafted by the Government, it would / |
be imperative on our part to change our regulations. I do / l <

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not know whether there are not certain matters in them
that our people might not seek to retain, but the general
aspect and reading would be done away with.

25959. (Mr, Wm. Abraham.) As I understand your
position, you are here to advocate that competent men
only should be allowed to work these engines ?— -Yes.

25960. That is your object, and not that they should be
members of your association ? — No.

26961. Your first object is that this should be so in order
to save lives and limbs ? — That is so.

25962. If the Home Office undertook to make i
(ompuhory that none but competent men should be
employed in winding engines at collieries, you would
trust your society or other members, as other unions do,
without having these rules as they are now ? — Yes. I
would not like to be misunderstood, and there is one thing
I should like to m^ition. As it has been observed here,
a man might satisfy a committee of inquiry of the Home
Office as to his fitness in many respects, but it has often
been seen that after a trial his nerve was not such as made
him a fit winding man. We might know a man from our
j ractical knowledge, from every-day touch with him, that
he was a man that could not be a winding man. What I
want to point out is this : it is a fact in the practice of
t*?:ch!ng men to wind, where there are three men, one of
the men has been sometimes really incapable of teaching.
He could not admit of any embarrassment at all or any
interruption outside, anything that took his mind from his
work. We have men who cannot do anything in the way
of teaching. It is as much as they can do to manage their
work. We think neither the Government nor our society
should force such a man, who can do his work without
embarrassment, to be interfered with. We think so far
as protecting him from embarrassment is concerned that
might even come from a Home Office Committee. We
would try to construct something to protect a man in
such circumstances.

25963. Two examinations have been spoken of. Mr.
Ellis was good enough to say one is a« important as the
other. What is the first examination you lay down as a
rule. Is it a ph3r8ical one or the ability of a man at his
engine 7 — The first is that this 24th Rule provides that he
shall be 22 years of age. We say that the man is 22. So.
far a» we are able, we do not ask any doctor's certificate
or examination, but we are assured that the man's hearing
is good and his eyesight is good. We are assured that he
has a good moral character, and that he is a steady man.
That is one point we make. What he has been employed
at previously, and if a man can give evidence that he has
been employed as a stoker, or attended boilers, or been
otherwise employed at engines for a period of three years,
we accept that as a satisfactory condition, and if we are
satisfied on those other matters we give a certificate or
permit, such as you have, and he commences then to
learn. The second stage is from report. If the men under
whom he has learnt and the manager are agreed that he is
A competent man, they make a report to us and we sign
another certificate.

250C4. You think as a practical man that it is necessary
that a man should have a certificate to prove that he has
passed a satisfactory examination, and in that examination
proved himself to be a competent engineman before he is
employed ? — Yes, we do.

25965. What would you examine him on, to start with.
Take the two stages : the preliminary one, the man's
acquaintance with boilers, and so forth, before he be-
comes a winder. What do you consider the qualifications
to be ? — In the first place we should claim that the man
should have a correct knowledge of the keeping of the
boilers under safe and proper conditions, and that he
should know the construction of his engine and hot only
as to the movement of the handles to produce a certain
motion, but as to what really takes effect in the piston,
what produces the movement. I do not mean of a close
theoretical kind, but such a one that the man knows in
himself what is taking place and what power he has caused
to operate.

25966. In your opinion is that not necessary in order
to find out the intention of the rule already in existence.
Rule 80 here says : " The engineman, or some competent
person appointed by the engineer, with the consent of the
manajfer, shall once a day thoroughly examine his engine,
rope rolls and flanges or horns, the ropes upon the rolls
or drums, the brake, and the signal bell or indicator
phowing the position of the cage in the shaft, and shall
immediately report any defect he may observe to the
engineer, foreman enginewright, or other authorised
person for the time beiog appointed by the manager."

Before a man is able to do that he ought to be able, in Mr. W. B.
your opinion, to prove by examination that he is com- Charlton.

petent ? — I think that is so. I think the man ought to ^ i^qo*"

know sufficient to enable him to determine whether those ^ J"ly»jiy^'-
things are right or wrong that he has been examining.
His competency is left with the opinion of the engineer.

25967. I will come to that now. You want another
authority not interested simply in the mine and seeing
that the man produces so much coal, some independent
authority, independent of the employer, the owner and
the workmen ? — That is it.

25968. Some authority to ascertain that this man,
before he is employed in that important position, is a
competent person ? — That is so, to discharge the duties
that are incumbent on him by this rule.

?6969. Take an engineer employed in a ship : he has to
have a certificate ? — He has.

25970. As a rule he has as many persons under his care
as you as winding enginemen have ? — Yes.

26971. Winding enginemen have as many men's lives
in their charge as any engineer employed anywhere ? —
I should think so. That isproved by what I refer to in my
statement : '* Sir Lindsay Wood told us in 1897 that there
were 650,000 persons employed underground in the mines,
and he estimated that the cages would make 200,000,000
journeys per year " — that is made by the winders.

26972. All you want and all you consider essentially
necessary is that these men should be thoroughly com-
petent, approved by an independent authority not con-
nected with the mine at all ? — That is just what we want.

26973. You know of several cases where lives have been
lost because men were not kept at the keeps, when men
were allowed to descend and ascend the shaft ? — Yes.

26974. Do you think that should be put a stop to ? —
Here is a case that took place on August 11th, 1906, at
Boldon Colliery in Durham : the Jury returned this verdict :
" We find the three men were accidently killed through the
overwinding of the cage by mistake of the engineman. We
entirely exonerate the engineman from blame owing to the
fact that he was working an engine entirely different from
the type he had been accustomed to work. We are of
opinion that the provisions of the Mines Act had been
carried out there, out think that the lives of at least two
of the men might have been saved if detaching hooks and
keeps had been used."

26975. You have given in evidence instances of several
lives being lost because men were allowed to ascend and
descend with nobody at the keep ? — Yes.

26976. In your opinion that ought not to be allowed ? —
We think that.

26977. In your opinion, as a practical engineer, in the
ordinary state of things men should not be allowed to be
at the handles more than eight hours a day ? — Yes.

26978. But in order not to prevent the working of the
colliery, you are making provision to keep the handles
going ? — Yes. I may sav in relation to the hours, I have
already said that in Durnam we have an arrangement for
eight hours per day for men and this is what obtains. We
really divide the 24 hours into seven, eight, and nine hours.
The practice has commended itself to the men. In the
busiest shift we have seven hours ; that is during the part
that is all coal drawing and men changing, that is from
six to one. The next shift we have only half full time and
half incidentals, and that is eight hours, and then the nine-
hour shift, that is changing men and waiting on men and
casuals, nine hours. So that even with eight hours we
have deemed it necessary to institute in Durham uni-
versally seven hours for the busiest part of the day, and it
is a custom that commends itself to the employers as well
as to ourselves. We cannot exert for a longer period that
control and attention and manipulation of the engine over
12 hours.

26979. In your opinion a short shift for a winder is
essential in tne interests of the safety of the mine ? — We
believe so.

25980. With regard to the question of a man being
alone, supposing there was one man in three or four
districts, it would be possible to keep a boy to pay a visit
to various places now and then and see that nothing was
wrong ? — Yes.

25981. So that you need not keep a boy even at each
place ? — No.

26982. Where the safety of life is at stake the employ-
ment of a boy probably should not be considered too much
to provide ? — No.

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Mr, W, B, 26983. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) Do you think that a boy

Charlton, walking about in three or four different districts to see that

_ ' — 1-^^ the men employed there are all right be made the crux of this business.
In the Rules of your Society you have made special
provision to satisfy yourself that these engine-winders are
capable men 7 — Yes.

26025. As a condition of membership of your Society
you must be a capable engine-winder and imderstand the
business 7 — Yes.

26026. There is no reason except that he should be a
capable man 7 — That is alL

26027. I understood you to say that 97 per cent, of
them were members of your Union 7 — ^Yes, of enginemen
in Durham in our Union.

26028. At any time in the history of your Society, has
there been any other object except that these men eliould
be thoroughly competent as engine-winders 7 — I know of

26029. It is suggested here that you are rather seeking
to be managers of the colliery. Is there anything in that 7

26030. Has there been anything in it from the first,
except that these men should be competent engine-winders?
— I do not know of anything.

26031. When Mr Ellis put the question to you that you
claimed the right to say no, you meant there, that so far
as your Society was concerned, the man must be capable
who was doing his work, and if he is not you say no, and
it is on those grounds and those grounds alone 7 — Yes.

26032. (Mr. Batdiffe EUis.) I should like that made
clear. If he is a competent man you still claim the right
to say no 7 — Yes, if he is a competent man we claim the
right to say no ; as a trade union we do.

26033. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) You will resign your
Rules in favour of any properly constituted body, such as
the Home Office, if they will carry out the same ftmctions
as you carry out 7 — Yes, but still I say that our Society
would construct such Rules as would protect a man from
being compelled to teach another if that man felt that he
was not able to teach.


Mr. W. B.

9 JuiyTl^O?.

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Mr. W. B.


9 JuiyTwO?.

26034. I underBtood you to say in reference to those,
that there were men upon whom this condition of things
produced a kind of embarrassment ? — Yes.

26035. That is to say, he is a capable engine-winder, but
it requires all his attention and nerve to do his work rather
Uian be interfered with by anybody else ? — Yes.

26036. He would not be teaching a man to drive an
engine at a busy time when he was drawing coal and men ?

26037. Then why is there the embarrassment ? There
are. men who are capable engine winders but not capable of
teaching, for the reason that they become nervous if their
attention is drawn away from their particular work ? — Yes.

26038. It is not because they object to the person ? — No,
it is because the men are afraid.

26039. I understood you to say that the employers in
the North had told your people that you are responsible if
you have in charge a man you have trained ; if anything
goes wrong, you at the engine are responsible, and not the
manager ? — Yes.

26040. Because of that you think you have a right to
object to a man ? — Yes ; it came about like this. The
employers in the North said * ' Well, but cannot you do
away with this restriction ; cannot you do away with this
regulation of your apprentices, and teach whom we nomi-
nate " ? and we said " V'ery well, we will, provided you
will give us a writing of exemption from liability." Tney
said, " We will do that ; we will write out a statement that
the man would be exempt from liability in the event
of an accident when the apprentice is doing winding.''
When we had the next conference the exemption was read
out, but it only exempted us from liability of fines in case
of damages and breakages, and we asked, *' What about
the exemption from what might come to us from a coroner's
enquiry in the case of death or injury " ? That exemption
did!^ not relieve us from such a liability, and because it did
not relieve us from that liability we refused to have it,
and Mr. Cooper was consulted and said what the law
imposed upon a winder nobody could take off. If anybody
was killed while an apprentice was doing the winding^
the man in charge would be responsible and liable.

26041. It is because of that you claim your right to say
no ? — That is it.

26042. {Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) With regard to the Rule of
the St. Helens Association, " A member who teaches
anyone the business of an engineman, unless be is his son
or brother, or the son of another member of the Association,
will be fined not more than forty shillings." Notwith-
standing that Rule you still say it is on the ground of
safety that the Rule is made ? — I confess that there are
claims made by Trade Union societies that cannot claim
very strong justification, and that is one of the strongest
reasons that we should ask some other authority to under-
take to manage this regulation.

26043. {Mr, Enoch Edwards.) If another authority takes
this up on behalf of the Government, that is what you
wish ?— Yes.

26044. Because in some way these men have to be
trained for the work ? — Yes.

26045. With regard to hours, you have a system of three
shifts of winders at the surface ? — Yes.

26046. You have not that below yet ?— No.

26047. The hours are much longer below ? — Yes.

26048. In these three shifts you have arranged it that
the busy shift should be sev^i hours, the other eight, and
the other nine ? — Yes.

26049. In practice you said if the man who should come
on the second shift is iU and does not come, you intimate
to the manager, and the third man would come on, and you
two would work 12 hours ? — Or following what we do,
eight in and eight out.

26050. Supposing a man is out through serious illness
three months, what would you do ? — I have known a
period of three months worked at that rate.

26051. You put in abeyance your eight hours system ?
— No.

26052. Two men do it? — ^No. Where there are competent
men in the colUeir I should think generally a man is in-
stalled to fill up the vacancy where a long period is lOcely
to occur ; but if, for instance, a man's partner is only ill
a day or two, or incidentally off a shift, or going away,
then a man is not in -tailed.

1-9. You suggest you only temporarily cany on
with two of you ? — Yes.

26060. You referred to a man being in a pit alone. You
referred to enginemen and boilermen underground ? — Yes.

26061. There is no reference to the ordinary working
pitman ? — No.

26062. Is it common for your man to be in a pit him-
self ? — No. There are isolated cases, I think. There is
a time when water has to be got out, and at week-ends

26063. It would happen at week-ends ?~Yes.

26064. You suggested the working during shifts, and
you have men in the pit all the 24 hours. I gathered you
had that. On Sundays and week-ends you suggest the
man would be sent to his pump himself ? — Yes.

26065. That is not a practice, to send a man by himself ?
— At week-ends overmen, officials, go into the pit^ and
horse-keepers and repairers.

26066. He would go in with them ?— He might, but he
might continue long after the others had come out. The
winder may have other duties than winding, and may be
kept there for the sake of other duties about the pit.

26067. Uiiderground, I mean. You are not referring
to the winder on the top being kept. It is the person
being kept in the mine alone. This can only happen at
week-ends, and then the men may look after the horses,
and the men who make an inspection of the pit on Sundays
like other days. They do not leave the pit to look after
itself ? — It appears they leave it with this man only.
This man is asked to attend to two engines 500 yards apart
in the mine, with no one in the mine but himself at week-
ends, and if it is possible in this instance then it may be
possible to a wider extent.

26068. So far as I know, from my early boyhood I
remember being a companion to a man who worked at a
pit alone, and the practice was that a man would not be
sent in a pit without some attendant ; even the fireman
who goes round the working places, would have some one
in the pit with him. That was the custom in the Midlands,
at any rate ? — Before I became a winder I was employed
as pumping-engineman at one of the Durham collieries,
and I have had a lad of 14 or 15 with me the whole of the
time, but in this case they send no one.

26069. Is that typical of the custom ? — No, I say that
is a very isolated case.

26070. {Mr. SmiUie,) You are aware that this Com-
mission has to enquire into the cause of accidents to miners
and mine workers generally ? — Yes.

26071. You stated, in answer to Mr. Davis, that you
had in some cases two or three landings from which coal
was drawn in some pits ? — Yes, including the bottom.

26072. This is what is generally called mid-shaft ? —

26073. Have you any keeps in any of those mid-shaft
landings ? — Yes.

26074. Do you approve of keeps in mid-shaft landings*
as an engine winder ? — Yes.

26075. Are they not a cause of very serious danger to
men who are being lowered down the shaft ? — No, I do
not think so. I think if they are balanced to move clear
they have the opposite effect. If mid-shaft keeps could
come out automatically clear instead of falling in, there
would not be a danger.

26076. When the cages were being worked in the shaft,
would there at aU times require to be onsetters at all the
landings to make sure the keeps were in the proper position?
— Yes, while the men were getting in and out.

26077. Have you known any serious accidents, either
in your own experience, or have you heard of any, in the
mining districts of the country, which have taken place
by the keeps being placed at mid-shaft, the engine winder
lowering his cage with men on it, not being aware that the
keeps were in ? — I have not. I have an instance here.
This is a mid-shaft accident as Bedside, where the man
signalled himself away, and got into the cage, and the
engineman was too quick for hun, and he died.

26078. Were the keeps not there ?— -No, there would
not be keeps in here.

26079. You have been dealing with two kinds of keeps.
You have mentioned another kind now, which wovQd
automatically be out of position when put into position
by some person for that purpose ? — Yes.

26080. In a case of that kind the onsetter, wiien he
wanted the cage to stop at mid-shaft^ would put in th«
keeps ?— Yes.

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20081. Ib there any method of signalling to the engine-
man to let him know whether the keeps are in at the
mid-shaft ?— I know of none.

Mr, If. B.


2, An engine winder might be lowering to a lower
part, and those keeps might be put in ? — It would be the
duty of the attendant at the top ; if he had men to get out
he would name a seam there are mea to get out at, say, the
first seam down the shaft, and he would have a signal to

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 57 of 177)