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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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Is time set apart for giving the lads any instruction in
those matters ?— In GlamorjEanshire we make it part and


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Mr, Henry

10 July, 1907

parcel of the syllabus in the 5th or 6th Standard, I mean
that standard before the boys go to work. We go a step
farther and have made a promise to all the teachers
qualified to give such instruction, that in cases of pro-
motion they shall receive preference.

27038. You have no Government grant for that ? —
Yes, it comes in under what we call general object lessons.
They are permitted to give a certain number of general
object lessons in the year, and we hold that six should
bear on mining matters. We recommend that lessons on
the following subjects should be given : — ** (a) Coal, and
how it is formed. (6) Coalmine gases and how they become
dangerous, (r) The safety lamp and how to use it.
(d) How a colliery is ventilated, (e) How the coal is
worked in the mine. (/) Rules framed for the miner's
safety.** That is referred to in the Report of the tours of
mining students under the Glamorgan County Council.

27039. Do you think these lessons once a year would be
of very much advantage ? Do you think that educational
authorities should insist on that being a part of the training
of miners* children and that there should be at least two
lessons a week ? Do you think that would be a wise
course ? — No, you would get the teachers up in arms.
You have to move very delicately to prevent obstruction
on the part of the teachers. If they give six lessons in the
year in this direction and give a boy a certificate, not on
examination, but if he intelligently reproduces the sub-
stance of the lessons given. When he goes to look for work
if he has this certificate and is able to say, " I know about
the safety lamp. I know about the Special Rules as used
underground,** I think it would be an advantage.

27040. Where the Government makes up its mind in
the interests of a large industrial body in this country to
do anything, do you think that we should pay any attention
to whether the teachers get up in arms or not. Is it a
good thing to teach the children something about the
employment they are going to in the interests of safety ?
— I hold it is more important that a boy should learn
something about the safety lamp than the length of the
Thames or the depth of the Mississippi.

27041. (Dr, Haidane.) Is it practicable ? T do not
think there is any doubt about it being desirable ? — It is
practicable as far as those six lessons are concerned, but if
you made it compulsory twice a week, it would have to
take the place of some other subject. Now it can be woven
in as part of science and the teachers are delighted with
it ; but if you thrust it upon them and said, " This is part
and parcel of the school curriculum,** they would say,
•' What subject are we to drop ? **

27042. (Mr. SmiUie.) It does not work out in that way,
because in the board schools under our School Board, of
which I was a member for 18 years, we introduced it,
and there was one hour's teaching every Friday on mines
and gas in mines aud their nature, and the teachers were
delighted, and the mines inspector examined 120 boys
once a year — from 120 to 150— and prizes were given.
It was the principle I was referring to, because I think
sufficient attention has not been paid to the subject up
to the present time ? — I agrea

27043. With regard to the cap on the lamp, from your
experience in Wales amongst mines* managers, do the

managers consider a cap shown on an ordinary saiety oc
examiner's lamp dangerous ? — Yes. I think, ganimlly,
it is recognised that immediately a cap is seen the men
should go out.

27044. Has that been the general expression of opinion
amongst Welsh mine managers ? — That I would not like
to say ; but last week a man was found by an official
working in a place where a blue cap presented itself and
was ordiered out ; he was blamed for not having gone out
earUer, since there were signs of firedamp present.

27045. Supposing you got a cap a quarter of an inch
long, would it bo considered dangerous ? — I believe any
sign of cap at all on an ordinary safety lamp shows danger.

27046. {Dr, HMane,) Have you ever gone round testing
the air yourself at the end of a split ? — Yes.

27047. In any of the Rhondda Valley collieries did you
ever find a colliery where there was not a blue cap on the
flame at the end of the split 7 — I would not say that I did,
but that does not remove the point I am aiming at, that
the air should be measured there and the blue cap recorded.
I believe the fact that thev are bound to record that blue
cap will make it seldom found in the future. If better
attention were paid, I believe the cap would not be seen
so often.

27048. (Mr. SmiOie.) You said " Yes *' in answer to my
question, "Did the managers of mines in South Wales
beh'eve generally that a cap was dangerous ? ** — I know
men are sent out if a blue cap does appear.

27049. Are you aware that an explosion took place at
MaoLaren Colliery at Abertysswg ? — Yes.

27050. And that the mines inspector gave evidence that
he had called twice and tested the air, cuid called tiie atten-
tion of the mine manager to a dangerous cap for 500 yards
in the aircourse ? — Yes-

27051. Are you aware that three managen gave evidence
at the inquest and all stated that a cap in the lamp was
not at all dangerous, and that Hiej would not withdraw
the men 7 — That was at the inqueat.

27052. If three skilled men who are at present managers
in Wales give an opinion that they would not with(£aw
the men where a oap was shown on the lamp, do you still
hold that colliery managers in South Wales think a oap is
dangerous ? — The men are sent out when a oap does

27053. Those three colliery managers said they would
not ? — It was a question of opinion as to what really
constituted a danger.

27054. The Government has that Report in which it
is stated that those managers would not withdraw the men
where the cap was shown ? — Yes.

27055. Even when the mines inspector instructed them
that there was danger ? — As a result of that enquiry it is
assumed, wherever a cap presents itself, that it is a proof
of inadequate ventilation. The whole question came about
80 the result of that enquiry, and to-day it is acknowledged
that a blue cap is a sign of inadequate ventilation. Before
that it was not recognised as such.

Mr. Tbomas HiroHBS, called and examined.

Mr. Thomas 27066. (Chairman.) You are a collier in North Wales ?
Hughes. — ^Yes.

27069. Where at ?— At Bersham Colliery.

27060-3. Do you wish to say something to the Commission
about propping ? — Yes, and a little bit more.

27064. (Mr. Balcliffe EUis.) WUl you say what you want
to say ? — In the first place we thoroughly believe that the
time has arrived — and it ought to have been before — that
we ought to have had a chief inspector residing in Wales,
and that he should be a Welshman.

27066. (Mr. SmiUie,) In North Wales ?— Yes.

27066. (Mr. Raicliffe EUis,) Your present inspector is Mr.
Hall ?— Yes.

27067. Mr. Matthew, the assistant inspector, is a
Welshman ? — Yes ; but Mr. Hall is the responsible person,
and he lives in another county.

27068. You think that vou ought to have a chief in-
spector for North Wales, who ought to be a Welshman ? —
Yes, residing in North Wales.

27069. That he should be a Welshman and speak Welsh ?

27070. What is your next suggestion 7— In drawing up
the Special Rules we think that we ought to have the
privilege of co-operating with the employers in drawing out
Special Rules, because it affects both parties and is some-
thing similar.

27071. What is your next point 7 — With regard to prop-
ping. We believe that in every seam that is over 4 feet
all straps should be set, and not single props.

27072. What do you say should be done 7— Set the straps
instead of single props acting — small bars.

27073. Two proxw underneath, and a bar at the top 7—


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S7074. So that the roof should not be dependent on the
prop but a biSr, and these props to support the bar ? — Yes.

27076. Do you think that should be done ? — Yes, in every
seam of cOal that is over 4 feet.

27076. What is the next point ? — Spragging is general
through our district, but they do not send or make sprags
for us. We have to make our own.

27077. That is a question rather of the management ? —

27078. You have to sprag according to the Act of
Parliament ? — We have to make them as well.

27079. Do you object to making them ? — Yes, unless we
are paid for them.

27080. That is a question of wages rather than a questioli
of safety. The sprags have to be put in ; but your objec-
tion is that you hisbve to make them ? — It bears very much
on safely.

27081. You say that the employers ought to supply them
to you, or pay you for making them ? — ^Yes.

27082. What is the next point ?— The next is the pack-
ing. The packs are not properly made up, because they are
not paid for.

27083. You are required to do packing, which you are
not paid for ? — That is the reason that the roads are so
bad in 150 yards along the face, where the whole of the
accidents happen in the mine.

27084. Is it part of your arrangement now that you have
to do packing ? — No.

27086. Do you do the packing ? — ^Yes.

27086. Why do you do it ? — It is a part of our contract
to put all our dirt that is ccming from the coal on top or
underneath, and not to do any more.

27087. Are you required to do more than that ? — It
will be safer for the men and the boys if there were proper

27088. It would be safer if the packing was not left to the
collier : but either the collier was paid for dointf something
more than he docs, or somebody else did it ? — Yes. I think
that there should be proper packing, and if there was it
would be safer for the boys.

27089. It is not properly packed ? — No. He is not paid
for it.

27090. Your complaint is that at present it is not
properly packed ? — Yes.

27091. If some addition was made to the collier's wages
he would pack it properly ? — ^Yes.

27092. What is the next point ? — In regard to haulage,
we feel that a great many accidents happen in our district
through the roof, being too low for the trammers. Wc
have many trammers in our district, and there are no
handles or anything to defend their hands, and that the
coal catches them.

27093. On the wagons ?— Yes.

27094. You think there ought to be a guard ? — I think
there ought to be some handle with them so that they can
take their hand off the top.

27095. To protect the hand where the roof is low ? — Yes.

27096. What is the next thing ? — There is nothing else.

27097. Is that all ?— Yes.

27098. (Mr, Enoch Edwards.) Your district has about
10,000 men ?— Yes, between 10,000 and 12,000, top and

27099. You are in what they call the Liverpool district
of inspection ? — Yes.

27100. Does the assistant reside in Wales ? — No, he
resides in Cheshire.

27101 . You think there is sufficient work for a responsible
insi)ector in North Wales alone ? — Yes.

27102. There are 10,000 men there, and it has always
formed part of the Liverpool district. I suppose they
undertake the quarries there, too ?

(Mr. Hatdiffe EUis.) Yes.

27103. (Mr. Enoch Eduxirds.) Youi point is that it should
be made a district of itself for a chief inspector who can
speak Welsh ? — Yes.

27104. What do you mean by about 4 feet thick ?
Have you had much experience of mines outside North
Wales ?— Yes.

27106. You suggest, where the coal is 4 feet thick.

Over 4

that all the timber should be up to the face ?-
feet thick.

27106. First of all, do you work lotigwall ?— Yes.

27107. Is the roof of such a nature that it is necessary
to carry props and bars along the face ? — Yes.

27108. Are you aware in many seams in the country
that is not necessary at all ? It is not ncces-ary to timber
clean up to the face ? — Yes.

27100. You suggest hero that it should be madj com-
pulsory ? — We are compelled under our rules to do it,
whether we want to or not.

27110. There is considerable labour in setting timber
bars and legs ? — Yes. In all the seams over 4 ft. we era
taking the tuba along the face in longwall work. This
systematic timbering causes a lot of trouble, and is not so

27111. Your point is that bar.s should be made com-
pulsory'. That involves a contract ? — Yes.

27112. Your contract will include the setting of these
timbers — I mean your present contract ? — ^No.

27113. You are paid extra for it ? — When wc set bars
we are paid for it.

27114. You are not paid for props ? — No.

27115. If you are putting bars on top of props you will
be paid for it ? — Yes.

271 1 6. For props alone you are not paid ? — No.

27117. Do you think it much safer to set bar.^ ? — Ye9.

27118. That is not the general experience m the country.
From your experience, as applied to your scam, that should
be so ? — Where you are working the seam at 5 ft. you
cannot see the slips. It is not so visible.

27119. Except in practice they do not do it. You have
been at it a great many years ? — Yes.

27120. There have been i:ipecial Rules drafted several
times ? — Yes.

27121. Have they ever asked your Union about it or
your officials ? — No. '

27122. Ti)oy have never consulted you at all ? — ^No, only
they set a notice up, if any individual has an objection.

27.23. They never meet you in conferenoe to discuss
thorn ?— No. "

27124. That is rather the fault of the inspector ? — We
met on the General Rules once or twice in my experience.

2712,5. The inspector would be the person responsible

: or getting a joint meeting of you and the employers. You

think in any Special Rules that are drawn up the nivn

should be consulted with the owners ? — Yes, and take

p irt in it before they are signed.

27126. Mr. Kllis raises no objection to that as far as I
can see. With regard to the cjuestion of lids to timber,
you have to make your own in the pit ? — Yes.

27127. It would be easier to make them on the top ? —

27128. You would have better tools there to make them
with ? — Yes, and more time to set them. Wh n he has
to make them and set them it takes his earnings away.

27129. It is a question of whether they have the proper
appliances to make them or leave you to make them.
You think they could be mode better at the top. You
ask while they nave to send in timber under the rules tliat
they should also send in lids properly shaped ? — Yes.

27130. I gather that vou do not pvck your W( rking face
along ? — T consider on the side it should be packed U^ make
the road tafe, that is 50 yards from the face. That is
where the accidents happen from falls from side and top.

27131. largely, where rcu work longivall by contract,
they haVe an inclusive priee which includes ripping the
top and packing. The workmen are responsibti for the
packing ? — They are only responsible as far as the dirt on
the face. There might be some under the coal or in the
coal. They are not responsible to go back into the waste
to pack.

27132. You are referring to your custom in Wales ? —

27133. As they clean the coal they are supposed to pack
the waste in longwall work ? — Yes.

27134. The nearer you can bring it up to the face the
better ?— Yes.

27135. Have you much difficulty with these low roads ?
You say that the roads are very low. Do they ever rip
the roads at all to make them a proper height ? — Yes.

27 A

Mr, Thcmaa

10 July, 1007

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Mr. Thomas 27136. In time they get low ?— Yes.

Hughts. 27137. The lads and hauliers ^th their hands on the

10 July, 1907 top get trapped?— Yes.

— 27138. Do you have many boys with their fingers cut ? —


27139. You think that should be obviated by handles
just below the top ? — ^Yes.

27140. What do you actually do with regard to the
packing. You say the packing is not properly done ? —

27141. Will you tell us how it is done ?— It is not properly
packed up to the roof, the dirt is not thrown into the waUs.
They make the walls here and do not give half a yard from
the top. That is giving the road the chance of weighing in.

27142. Who is to blame for not doing that. On whom
do you put the blame for that, is it the collier ? Does
he not do what he ought to do, or does not the management
do it ? — I cannot say.

27143. I understood from you that the price you are
paid includes throwing the dirt back into the wall and
filling up, but not a tight packing ? — Yes, it is in the coal
on top or under the coal ; we put that in the pack. When
that is not sufficient, and that is the general rule, the pack
is left ha^f made. We advocate that the mine ought to
be properly packed for the safety of the men.

27144. (Mr. SmUlie.) There is not sufficient stuff now
to pack it ? — ^No, we think it should b • properly packed,
whether he should do it for nothing or be paid for it.

27145. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Your point is that there is
not enou^ dirt and stuff for you to properly pack ? — Not
as a rule.

27146. They do not send any in to you ?— Yes, at

27147. But it is not sufficient ?— No.

27148. (Mr. Wm. Abraham,) There is no more payment
in your contract for packing than simply throwing the dirt
in working the coal into the gob ? — lliat \a alL

27149. ^our complaint is that there is not sufficient care
being taken to fill the place up ? — Our opinion is, if places
were properly packed that the roads would be much safer
for the lads 7

27160. And there would be no room for gas to lurk in
either ? — I do not know about that. As a rule we are
keeping six, or seven, or eight yards on the waste. If you
move gas from here it will be there.

27151. Have you any gas there ? — Yes, occasionally.

27152. A road well packed would be a safeguard against
an accumulation of gas ? — Yes.

27153. As well as extra safety for the top ? — Yes.

27154. Your complaint is that the packing is not being
done sufficiently well to give you that protection from a
fall of roof or from an accumulation of gas ? — Yes, also that
the coals would be better, too.

27155. That is a question of management. It is a
question of safety that we are here upon. What point
from the working face do you get your timber ? — As a rule
they come in. In a great number of instances we have
them from the next shunt to the face or flat, as we call it
in North Wales, or pass-bye. The roads are too low to
put the props on the top of the tubs, and we have to go to
the pass-bye for them.

27156. Have you to carry sprags T—We are making the
sprags from our^timber. If we have old ones we cut new
ones to make the sprags.

27157. I do not understand what you mean ? — We are
making the sprags out of old props, and if we have not
old props we have to make sprags out of new ones.

27158. Have you to carry that timber to make the
sprags from the pass-bye ?— Yes, in many instances, but
where they can come in they send them in.

27169. Is it a question of payment for puttmg up, or is
it a question of the necessity of flats, or is it a question as
regards safety 7 — It is a question of safety, and safety

27160. You think, in order to give you the required
safety, that you could have flats put up and not props T—

27161. (Mr. Smillie.) Let us get at the question of the
flats. You say in the workings at 4 ft. high you take your
tub along the face right up Sie longwall ? — Yes.

27162. That will leave a space between your props and
the coal face of, perhaps, 3 ft. ? — No, it will leave 1 ft.
to half a yard. «

27163. Can you take up a tub in one flat ?— No, here are
the two props, and the bars will be 6 ft. (indicating).

27164. That is your present position without the bars.
If you take your tub along the coal face just now and you
are only setting props there will be a space between the
props and the coal face 7 — Yes.

27166. You propose that the bars should be over the
top of the tub, so that a stone cannot fall down as it can
now 7 — ^Yes.

27166. Where the roof is bad it might be necessary to
put the end of the bar over the coal and a prop in at the
other end 7 — We generally have that privilege by a manager
or a fireman. You must have a bar here or else it would
be dangerous. He would not aUow us to put the bars
systematically in about 3 ft. to one another along the wall
because he has to pay for it, but our experience is that it
would be much safer, and we are arguing for safety.

27167. What is your present systematic timbering 7 —
6 ft. from each other.

27168. That is the distance the props are 7 — Yes.

27169. The men are of opinion if it were made corn*
pulsory to have bars over 3 or 4 ft. that that would tend
to greater safety 7 — Yes.

27170. Because sometimes a stone falls out from a slip
without giving warning 7 — Yes.

27171. In the space between the props and the coal
face 7 — ^Yes.

27172. Of course it would be only a question of arrange-
ment for payment for putting up those bars if it were
made compulsory to have the bars 7 — Yes.

27173. Why in seams over 4 ft. 7 You might have
just as bad a roof in 3 ft. as in 4 ft. 7 — ^Yes.

27174. Why do you propose in over 4 ft. 7 — ^It would be
impossible to set a bar in 4 ft., and take the tub there,
because it would be too low.

27175. You do not take the tubs up the face 7— Yes.

27176. Not in the 3 ft. 7— In 4 ft. and 3 ft. 6.

27177. You might have some 2A ft. Why not have the
bars there 7 You do not take the tubs up the face 7 —
It would be too low for the bars.

27178. It has to be done now in many cases. Where
the roof is bad bars have to be put in over the top of the
coal head and one end of the bar put in there and the other
end of the prop put to it. That has to be done in thin
seams. You would not object to that being done in any
place where the roof is bad 7 — ^No, but 1 am speaking now
for my own district alone.

27179. Are all the seams in your district over 4 ft. 7
— Only a few seams ; as a rule they are 5 and 6 and 7 ft.

27180. They are nearly all over 4 ft. 7— Yes.

27181. Are your main roads at the present time
sufficiently high 7 — No.

27182. Do you rip them 7— Yes.

27183. Does the miner do his own ripping 7 — Yes.

27184. The man who has charge of the place 7— Yes.

27185. That is a separate price 7— That is a contract.

27186. Is he not expected to pack his place with what
oomes out of the ripping 7 — Yes.

27187. Is there not sufficient with the ripping to pack
the place 7 — Yes.

27188. Do you suggest that rubbish should be sent in, .
or that the places should be packed partly with timber 7 /
— Our argument is that the mine ousht to be bettor
packed, because we think that it would be safer for the
boys and the men.

27189. In order to prevent the roof coming down. You
think it would not, if properly packed, come down as far
as it does just now 7 — Yes.

27190. You do not care what the method is as long
it is properly packed 7 — We have the method, but it is not
carried out.


lOt J

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Tuesday, 16th July, 1907.


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

F. L. Davis, Esq.

Thomas Ratcliffb Ellis, Esq.

Lord MoNKSWELL (Chairman).

Robert Smillie, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq. {Secretary).

Mr. William Gbhtfiths, called and examined


Statement op Witness.

27191. (1) Lamps, — I believe that if the double gauze
lamps could be so constructed as to give proper and
sufficient light in the ordinary air currents underground,
and with the heat of the underground workings, they
should be generally adopted in preference to single
gauze lamps.

(2) Accidents, — I believe that the present regulations
as to shot firing, if strictly adhered to, are sufficient ;
but as an additional precaution I would suggest that
all holes should be charged by a competent official
appointed by the colliery company. Accidents arising
from falb could be minimised by a more regular atten-
dance of men at their work. I also think that there

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 69 of 177)