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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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They have one half of the time the clock is going, to be
on duty.

26281. You thoroughly overhaul your engine once a
week, or your mate does it once a fortnight, and you do it
once a fortnight : that is once a week the engine is over-
hauled 7 — In these days we have coupled engines, and a
man says, " You have this, and I will have that." They
take the responsibility of keeping them up to the mark,
and there is a competition to try to get them one as good
as another. It cannot be neglected for a week. There is
something to be done every day on those engines. They
have to be wiped down* and the glands touched up. There
is something about an engine to be done if there is no coal
winding in the 24 hours.

26282. Do you stop in the middle of the day during the
shift ? — In some collieries. At B. Evans and Co.'s colliery
in my district they have two half hours for meals. It runs
in ten and a half with the meals. In some collieries they
wind from six to three, and they have a clear half hour for
meals. At some collieries they wind from six till three and
never stop. In the case of our Lancashire collieries, where
our men are situated like that we have a system that they
send a relief man to wind for half an hour, and in some
places they give two hours relief for meals out of the
twelve each day. We have not much to grumble about
on that score. The great bone of contention is the lenffth
of the shift itself.

26283. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) .Will you explain what
paragraph 13 in your statement means, that employers
make tempting offers when men attempt by combination
to obtain 8 hours ? — ^That is in reference to the question
I have just mentioned, when the men take it into their
heads if the employers cannot see their way to get eight
hours voluntarily they would force it out of thein, and
they gave notice in 1899.

26284. What do you mean by employers making offers 7
— ^The employers on that particular occasion, when the
notice was almost up, made offers to the men which were
equivalent to a very good increase in wages, and other

26285. It was not a question of wages that you struck
about ? — ^No, but they made this offer, and made it tempting
to the men.

26286. They made an offer of an increase in wages, and
you accepted it 7 — Some of the men accepted it.

26287. You were satisfied with your hours 7 — Not
generally. We did not accept it ; the men accepted it in
this manner. You know how the army is when the general
is routed ; when one large firm gave way it was circulated
that they had collapsed, and they all gave way, and every-
body went for making the best bargain.

26288. They employed other men and gave them more
wages 7 — No, employed the same men.

26289. I was right before. You struck for yourselves,
but you accepted more wages and went on with the others 7
— I would not put it " accepted." The men were com-
pelled to accept more wages.

26290. You struck for shorter hours, they gave you
more money instead of shorter hours, and you went on 7 —
That is so.

26291. Can you tell the Ck>mmi8sion in brief why the
Lancashire men work such long hours — enginemen and
everybody 7 — It seems to me to be custom.


You could not tell us why 7 — I could not tell you Mr. T.

why Lancashire miners work exceptionally long hours. Watson,

There is every encouragement given to do it, and there are g j ' — : ^^

places where they work long hours, and it is in consequenoo «^ uly, i w;7.

of not being able to get their work out.
checkweighman for seven years.

I have been a

In answer to Mr. Abraham you said that the
men begin to go down at 4.60. Is that correct 7 — Yes, that
is taking place at the colliery in the village where I am
living to-day.

26294. They continue going down until 6 o'clock? —
They continue going down until 6 o'clock as a rule. There
are men living not five minutes' walk off the pit going
in at 4.30 in the morning.

26295. That is not through any pressure of the colliery
owners 7 — ^No, they are not altogether to blame for this ;
the miners are to blame in some respects.

26296. In those pits could they let the men down in
one hour 7 — For 14 years this used to be the custom,
prior to the 1893 strike, a soul never went down before
5.15, and they finished at 3.40 pjn. We blew a whistle,
and there was not another box of coal wound and all the
men there came out at four o'clock in the afternoon.
But they have extended the time at both ends until it
has become almost 12 hours a day.

26297. What time do you set them aU out 7— We used to
have them out at four o'clock.

26298. What time is it now 7 — Sometimes five, even alter
that, when the men are out.

26299. How do they regulate the boys under 16 7 —
'lliey have to come under the 54 hours' Rule, and they
do not let them work on Saturdays. They make them
play on Saturdays.

26300. Six to six is more than 10 hours 7— They are
not the first down and they are the first up at night. It
is human nature at that age to always go in last and coma
out first. The fathers are more to blame than the sons
in that respect. I always find a lot of lads to let down at
the last and a lot to pull up at the first.

26301. I understood you to say as an estimate that
there were about 5,000 engine- winders 7 — ^That is a rough
estimate as to the number.

26302. There are twice that number of engine-winders
capable of winding 7 — Quite that. There is a tremendous
number of engine- winders doing other classes of work —
men who have gradually drifted into it.

26303. There is no soarcity of winding enginemen 7 —
No, there is no fear of that. If this lot were pensioned
off to-morrow with a full income, and they chucked up
the colliery, another staff could be sent in at once.

26304. Are the other men fully competent to wind 7 —
Which men do you mean 7

26305. You say there are twice the number 7 — I should
think twice the number in existence that have been windeia
and drifted to other work, such as locomotive driving or
enginemen, or gone down as colliers when times are good,
and other men who have been hanging about engines
who have been capable for years and years graduiJly
getting proficient ; and my contention is that they could
restart uie whole of the collieries in a very short time with
a complete set of men, if it was required.

26306. {Mr. Raicliffe EUia.) Are all these men to have
certificates 7 — If a man shows his qualification and he has
had the necessary experience.

26307. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) I was coming to that,
whether in your judgment these men should all have
certificates. You admit they are competent men now.
By that rule of competency you would give them certifi-
cates of service to start with 7 — That is so.


). When they gave certificates for coal mines all
the first managers got certificates for service and not by
examination. You would do the same thing, I suppose T
— Exactly so.

26309. After that a man should have a certificate by
examination 7 — ^That is so.

26310. Have you formed any idea why the Government |
Inspectors are opposed to enginemen having certificates 7
That they are not colliery owners or managers 7 — The i /
only idea I can form is thib : they seem to look upon the I W
matter in the same spirit that it has been put this '
afternoon, that it would create a scarci^ of men or a
monopoly, and I believe the Government Inspectors have .
slight]^ overlooked the appearance of the thing in the i

24 A

Digitized by




9 July. 1907.

Mr. T. manner we Bee it They do not see it out of the same
Watson. eyes. I do not think there is anything to be apprehensive
;"",.v^« about.

26311. I do not remember a single inspector assenting
bo the proposition that it would be a good thing to have
certificates. You do not know any real reason excepi
that they may have that in their mind ? — ^That is so.

26312. (Mr. SmiUie.) Do you agree that the present
engine-winders generally in this country are a very capable
and competent class of men, with very good characters 1
— Yes, that is so. I think Mx. Ellis, before the Select
Committee in 1901, proved by the number of accidents
reported and dealt with that they must be a most exceed-
ingly capable class of men, and we admit that to-day.

26313. Might that not be the reason why the Inspectors
of Mines express the opinion generally tiiat there is no
occasion for any further restriction with regard to certi-
ficates ? — I could not say what is the opinion of the In-
spectors of Mines, but we know that it is natural that the
more safeguards you can put round a man to be assured
that he has the ability, the more chance you have of being
sure of having a man that is capable, and this is only an
additional safeguard.

26314. Will you agree that the nature of the employ-
ment will naturally draw to it, or should draw to it, the
most intelligent and steady class of workmen ? — That
is so. It has done so far. Young men as a rule, with an
ambition for something above ordinary labour, have an
inclination to get at the engines.

26315. nrhere is a serious responsibility at all times on
the shoulders of the winding engineman ? — ^That is so ;
there is an extreme responsibility, and more than words
can describe. No one understands it better than those
who have to work at the engines themselves.

26316. The nature of the machinery in winding engines
has changed very much during the past 25 years ?— Very
much, and the depth of the shaft is very different.

26317. We have come from what is known as the single
link engine to the couple engine now ? — ^That is so, and
there is a much higher speed.

26318. The depths of the shafts have increased very
much lately ?— That is so.

26319. The amount of material wound has increased
very largely ? — ^Yes, the tonnage has increased.

26320. The size of the drums and the speed of the
engines haa increased ? — ^Yes.

26321. I think we may take it that an engine-winder
who 25 years ago might be winding seven hours out of 10
employed on the day shift will be winding the whole time
now ? — ^That is so, with the exception of meal times.
There is another feature about the increased size of the
engines. Where they used to wind three or four men up,
or six, they are win(h'ng 30 or 40 men, and if there is ever
a calamity through men being fatigued it will be more
•erious than it would have been in olden times.

26322. You are favourable to making compulsory by
law any precaution which could be proved to be a pre-
ventive of overwinding in the event of anything going wrong
suddenly with the engine- winders T — Everytning would
be a safeguard, but there is nothing absolutely complete.
It would have a tendency in that direction. Anything
that has a tendency to prevent sacrifice of life in conse-
quence of people in charge falling sick or dying, is a move
in the right direction, and should be appreciated.

26323. What do you mean by 5,000 engine-winders.
Is that 5,000 members of existing engine-winders' associa-
tions T — ^We have different classes of men in our Associa-
tion, which consists of winders and other classes, and we
have not them scheduled according to the nature of the
work they follow.

26324. Do you suggest that there are 5,000 competent
engine-winders ? — In our Association, the Federation of
Great Britain, which I represent, it will be getting on for
14,000 or 15,000 men, but there are 6,000 engine- winders
out of the total.

26325. Do you suggest that Mr. EUis admits in a general
way that those 5,000 men are particularly intelligent and
steady men ? — Yes, I think Mr. Ellis is prepared to recog-
nise that they are a good class of men, and men of great
responsibility, and who have exercised great caution in
carrying out their duties.

{Mr. Batch ffe Ellis.) I quite agree with that.

26326. {Mr. SfnilUc) You suggest that the mines
inspectors have also the same opinion ? — Yes.

26327. And the mine-owners of this country ? — ^We are
prepared to give them credit for their appreciation in
admitting that these are a good and cautious class of

26328. You would further suggest that those 5,000
engine-winders, from their experience in engine-winding
and safety of the men, are in the best position to-day in
this country for giving an opinion as to the conditions
under which they should work ? — Yes, that is so.

26329. Are they unanimous, or practically unanimous,
in expressing the opinion that there should be a limitation
of the hours of labour to eight hours for engine-winders ? —
That is the unanimous opinion, and it has been passed by
our local branches, our Annual Conference of the districts,
and brought before our National Federation and re-affirmed
and brought on to the Trades Union Congress, and from
there included in the Mines Act Amendment Bill for the
last 20 years, to my knowledge, saying that it ought to be
done by law.

26330. Further, they are unanimously of* opinion that
there should be a certificate of competency after an exami-
nation ? — That is so.

26331. On those two pointe those men who have had
the most experience of the thing, and who are admitted
to be intelligent, steady, capable workmen, are unanimous ?
— Yes, that is so ; there is a unanimity of opinion on these
particular points.

26332. You are of opinion that these men are in the best
position to judge ? — They are.

26333. The opinion of 5,000 intelligent men should
have great weight in the country and with Parliament ? —
Yes. Then we have the opinion of our miners' agents.
I know both in Lancashire and other places that they have
always felt that eight hours was quite sufficient for that
particular class of men.

26334. This opinion has been come to by the engine -
winders, not so much from any risk of danger which they
as workmen themselves undergo, but the risk of danger to
the men whose lives are in their hands ? — That is so.

26335. They are particularly anxious that they should
be in the best position to look after the safety of these men
at all times ? — Yes.

26336. Is there any real desire on the part of the engine-
winders' organisation, so far as you know, in proposing
certificates, to limit the number of people, or do they want
to make sure that the people who are appointed are really
competent ? — ^The desire is to be sure that they are reaUy
competent, but there has never been one expression of
opinion in the direction of trying to make a comer of the
business and bring about a scarcity.

26337. An engine-winder for the time being at the
handle of an engine is held absolutely responsible for the
lowering and raising of men, and the refusal to lower and
raise people under certain conditions ? — ^That is so.

26338. It has been suggested by Mr. Ellis if you had
your own way, the way the Association provides for, that
there might come a time when, during a dispute, you might
refuse to allow the mineowner to descend ms pit ? — Yes.

26339. And if you had a certificate of competency, that
that might limit the number capable of taking that work.
May I put it to you at the present time the managers in this
country must hold a certificate of competency ? — ^That
is so.

26340. Has the mine manager at each colliery absolute
power as to who shall ride up and down the shaft ? — He has
the control as to who shall ride up and down the shaft.

26341. He has full control, and can refuse to allow
the mine owner the right to go up and down ? — That is so.

26342. Supposing the mine managers of this country
some fine morning made up their minds that they would go
on strike generally all over the country, have they not the
power of preventing the miners going, or even the mino-
owner, getting up and down his own pit ?— Just the

26343. You do not think that such a thing is likely ?—
No. May I say this with regard to that : it is within the
province of the mine managers to combine and agree
not to manage the pits until they get certain concessions,
which you might consider exaggerated, and they might
make it that the pits could not he worked in consequence
of having no certificated managers. That is just as
probable as the enginemen combining under certain con-
ditions and bringing the pits to a standstill.

26344. There is a limited number of mine managers T —

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26345. Probably not anything like 5,000, or half that
number ? — There are a good few now ; I think they are
increasing. I think there are many mine managers,
enough to start the mines over again now.

26346. I suppose no owner would be entitled to toll the
manager that he must take some young man and learn him
the duties of mine manager 7 — ^Their practice is to claim
some voice as to who they learn, and some go so far as to
wEuit a premium from the people they are instructing. It
is common for a man to pay a premium on entering an
engineer's office, even in surveying or mining engineering.

26347. Supposing it were ultimately considered a wise
course for the Government to pass an eight-hours' day for
engine-winders, it would not seriously interfere with the
coal industry in this country ? — I do not think it would.
So far as we are looking forward to it, that is a kind of a
bogey. It would be a step in the direction of giving us
assurance that there was one independent authority to
say in addition to the management that this individual is
capable of doing this work.

26348. I am dealing with the shortening of the hours of
labour now. Eighty-five per cent, of the engine-winders
in this country to-day are working what is called the

12-hour shift, the 10 hours and the 14 hours 7 — I do not
think that there is quite 85 x>er cent. ; put it at 70 per cent.

26349. Supposing the Government passed a measure
making an eight-hours' day the maximum for engine-
winders, it would not seriously interfere with the coal
trade of the country — ^I mean by the shortening of the
hours 7 — It could not, because at the most, assuming
that the whole country was working twelve hours at this
minute, and they converted all into eight, it would only
want a third more enginemen to fill the vacancies, and we
know that we have double the enginemen.

26350. The cost on the output would be infinitesimal 7 —
You have two enginemen at collieries each giving 1,200
or 1,400 tons a day, and the extra cost sprecMl over that
1,200 or 1,400 tons would moan a day's wage for another

26351. You and the organised engine- winders are of
opinion that it would or might limit the risk to the work-
men working underground 7 — That is so ; it would limit
the risk, and everyone would feel in a better and more
reliable condition, and I believe that the miners would
feel more confident than they do now when they know
that a man has been on duty for 14 hours. /


9 Jui^l907.


Wednesday, lOtli July, 1907.

Sir LiKDSAT Wood, Bart.

Wm. Abraham, Esq., m.p. (Rhondda).

P. L. Davis, Esq.

Enoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.

Thomas Ratoliffb Ellis, Esq.


Lord MoNKSWBLL {Glmxnnavk),

John Scott Haldane, Esq., r.B.s.
Robert Smilue, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq.

Mn Daniel Alexander Wilbbrforob Robertson, called and examined.


Statement of Witness.

26352. (1) ExamtTuUion System. — I have been ap-
pointed by the New South Wales Government to give
evidence before the Ck)mmis8ion on their behalf on the
-disparity of conditions which exists between Great
Britain and that State in respect to the granting and
recognition of certificates of competency as colliery
managers. Some correspondence passed between the
Governments of the two countries in 1903, emd a copy
of this was handed in by Mr. Delevingne (see Question

(2) I am also prepared, if the Commission wish, to
answer any questionB on the following notes which I have
made on other matters within the Commission's terms
of reference : —

Dust Question,— -ExploBihiiity of coal dust either by
shot-firing or local gas explosion is proved beyond doubt.
Danger area may, therefore, be indefinitely extended
beyond the vicinity of initiation- by the presence of coal

I approve of watering in the vicinity of a shot, but
having regard to the disastrous effect on roof, sides and
floor of many mines' and the doubtful efiidency of the
most practical method, compulsory watering is not

It Is useless to water on a main road while other com-
jnunications are dusty.

In deep, dry mines the temperature is so high that it
IS not feasible to lay dust effectively. There is always
sufficient dust on timber and crevices of coal which on
concussion would carry forward an explosion. Often
sufficient from face, tubs, and from screens to carry on
explosion. Dust taking part in explosion is only the
-finest and impalpable.

Analyses of dust at the Kembla explosion thought to 3/^ j) j^ ^
be fine ; on analysis found to be identical with coal Rob^uan,
in situ. Therefore, dust actually a factor must have —

been finer, such as carried in the air of best- watered 10 July, 1907.
mines. Explosion at Kembla jumped long distances 11 ~7^
of wet and damp roads and died out in the dustiest M ^-*^
parts. Same at Femie, Canada. Zones of watering, '
therefore, must be much longer than generally supposed
to be effective.

Accidents on Haulage Hoods. — Better provision should^
be made in the way of travelling roads to obviate the
necessity for worsen walking on steep inclines or
haulage roads, particularly where main and tail system
in use and in proximity to dangerous machinery.

Standard Method of Testing for Firedamp.— All
ordinary inspections by officials should be made by
lamps burning mineral oil, which wiU readily indicate
1 per cent., while colza oil alone will not show clearly
less than 3 per cent. Unless where mineral oil should
be inadmissible on account of dust, the miner's lamp
also should consume mineral oil. It would then be
possible to establish a standard height of cap or per-
centage of gas permissible in the working face, travelling '
roads and other parts of the mine, the importance of
which cannot be over-estimated.

Safety Lamps. — Should be made compulsory wherever I J
explosive gas is known to be given off. Accidents [
involving loss of life are frequently occurring in mines
giving off a little gas and thought to be safe mines, where
the contingent dangers are either ignored or not suffi-
ciently appreciated. Neither owners, managers or
workmen should be permitted to perpetuate a system
fraught with danger to life and property and a reflection
upon mining men of the present day.

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Mr. D. A. W,


10 July, 1907


Safety lamps should also, in view of disastrous fires,
involving loss of life, be made oompulsoiy in mines
(coal mines, at all events), not naturally wet or damp.

26363. (Chairman,) I understand that you are Chairman
of the Board for Appointing Examiners in New South Wales.
How long have you held that position ? — About one year.

26364. "What has been your previous experience or your
previous occupation ? — I have had 36 years' experience
of mining and the management of mines.

26366. Thirty-siz years ?— About 30 in the management
of mines.

26366. How long have you hdd a first-dass manager's
certificate ? — About 30 years.

26367. You are a member of the Metropolitan Coal
Company, limited, of Sydney 7 — I am general manager.

26368. You have been appointed by the New South
Wales Government to give evidence before the Commission
on their behalf on the disparity of conditions which exists
between Great Britain and that State in respect to the
granting and recognition of certificates of competency as
colliery managers ? — Yes.

26369. You state here in your pricia what the kind of
examination is and what the subjects are for which people
examine for first-class certificates in Sydney. We should
like to know how you consider your examinations com-
pare with ours 7 — I consider that our examinations are
veiy much on a par with the examinations in the British
mining districts.

26360. In the various districts in England there is a
very considerable disparity in the examinations. Some
districts are said to give first-class certificates on much
less knowledge than o&ers 7 — I have heard it said so.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 61 of 177)