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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1413

Oh yes, dispite all the explosions, roof falls, floodings, and stuff falling down the shaft, there were some rules. Not, I should add, of the safety kind, but rules drawn up by the Colliers themselves. There are several sheets of such rules in exsistance, some of a religious nature, some including all kinds of superstitions, and a few like the one's below, with suitable punishments for the transgresser. Most mine owners, provided beer for the men when they came up from their shift, not the strong stuff mind, but well appreciated by the men. As reflected in the rules.


1. - That every man labouring in the pit, shall serve as pourer out of the ale in his turn, or forfeit one days ale. Every person shall be served with his proper or equal portion, or forfeit a half-pint of ale.

2. - Any person belonging to the pit's company swearing, telling wilful lies, laying wagers, or using improper language, shall forfeit half-a-pint of ale.

3.- That any person labouring in the pit's company, challenging to fight, shall forfeit one days ale, and if, with two witness'es is found guilty of fighting, shall forfeit one weeks ale.

4.- That every person labouring in the pit's company shall attend the reading of the Scriptures at the apointed time, or forfeit one days ale.

5.- That every person in the said pit's company who can read the Scriptures, shall read a portion at dinner time alternately, or forfeit one days ale.

6.- That every person belonging to to the pit's company, shall attend while Prayer is being offered up, or forfeit one days ale.

7.- That anyone found sleping while Prayer is being offered up. shall forfeit one days ale.

8.- That anyone not keeping silence, after being desired to do so three times, shall forfeit a pint of ale.

9.- That any member challenging another on the pit bank shall forfeit Sixpence, and for fighting, One Shilling.

10.- That any man or boy working in said pit shall, on recieving an accident, make, or cause it to be made known to the Charter Master, or his deputy.

11.- That any man labouring at the said pit should have a child die, everyone paying full club money shall contribute Sixpence each to aid in burying the same. That should a single man, contributing thus, have a father or mother, sister or brother die, the latter being unmarried, he shall be entitled to receive for either of them. That should a mans wife die, everyone thus contributing shall pay one Shilling each to assist in burying the said wife. That should a man die through illnes or accident received at the pit, his widow shall be entitled to Six Shillings per week, for six months.

12.- That any man or boy labouring at the said pit, being on the fund through illness or accident, when he becmes able to walk to the pit, he must do so. All these rules shall be observed and kept, whenever the pit's company shall meet, the whole, or in part.

N.B- The boys to be allowed the same privileges as the men in case of illness or accident caused at the said pit, in propotion to their contribution money.


Not bad really, for what were concidered by many outsiders to be a drunken bunch of savages. They had a better system of payments for accidents, than most of the owners, including the Rev George Barrs and his family. I bet many a miner forfeited his beer though, when he swore after hurting himself at the coalface. Still, he could pray during his dinner time that it didn't happen to often.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 1, 2011 at 11:00 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1413

Just an addition to the topic, concerning payments for accidents or death in a mine. The owners very rarely paid anything at all, the excuse being that the miners were well covered by their own scheme. Labour of course was cheap, and there were always plenty of men out of work. John Robinson, 31, who worked at Mr Norths, Rowley Hall Colliery, had the misfortune, along with another miner, of being buried beneath about 30 tons of falling coal. His crushed and mutilated corpse was dug out by his workmates, put onto a cart, and delivered back to his by now, grieving widow and four children. At least for the next few months, the family wouldn't starve thanks to the payout from the miners little fund. Mr North however, no doubt  not wishing to starve as well, made a few adjustments to the dead mans wages, and sent it to the poor widow. The "adjustments", consisted of a deduction for the 3 hours he hadn't worked to complete the full shift, even though he hadn't left the mine. ( difficult when buried under that lot )  A second deduction, for the candles he had drawn from the stores at the start of the shift, and which had not been returned unused to the Candle Box. I bet if the miners could have found them, they would have known exactly which box to shove them in. Following a few nasty remarks in the local press, Mr North relented, and cancelled the charge for the candles. How very noble and generous of him. Mind you, in comparison with some other mine owners, he was quite a paragon of virtue. He claimed he never had the Beer watered down, as did the others. This was possibly true, given that he only bought the cheapest anyway, and that had already been watered down by the seller. Thankfully, when Parliament finally got around to it, compensation for injuries became the norm, and the old miners little welfare funds all died out. And not before time either.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 6, 2012 at 4:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1413

Now I've said before, that the regions Miners were a supersitious bunch. It's either that, or they were looking for any excuse to skive off a days work. A few of the old saying or myths have some sense to them, but others are old wives tales.

(1) If you had a dream about having a broken foot, it was reckoned to be a sure sign of danger. This is a really good excuse for lying in bed of a Monday morning, after all, who could prove, that you hadn't dreamed of painfully limping your way back from the Pit. Or for that matter, of being carried home lifeless on an old handcart.


(2) If you mete a woman at the rising of ye Sun, turn again from ye pit, --------- a sure signe of deathe.  A very old saying this one, and on a par with the old sailors belief, that having a woman aboard the ship was a harbinger of doom. It apparently didn't count, if it was the wife, unless you met her while she was returning from a heavy night on the tiles.In which case, it was she, who was in mortal danger.


(3) To dream of a fire is a sure sign of danger. Now this must have been a tough one to resist, for the poor miner who had just got up in the wee small hours on a freezing cold morning to plod off to work. He did of course, have to pass a few Beer houses on the way, all open, and all with a welcoming warm fire.


(4) To see a bright light in ye mine, is a sure sign to flee away. And, I would have added, as fast as your legs will carry you. This was the precurser to a fire ball, or a massive explosion of gas, that put paid to many a miners all too short life span. Nothing to do with the Devil, this really was the fire from hell.


(5) When foule smells be aboute ye pit, a sure sign that the imps bin anneare. Sulpher Gas, Firedamp, call it what you will, it had nothing to do with the supernatural. The early miners though, having little in the way of education, and not understanding, used, and passed on these signs, as a warning to the less experienced. The more foolhardy amongst them, ignored it, and paid the price.


(6) If Gabriels Hounds bin aboute, do no work that day. This saying, eludes to the many strange noises heard in mines, and coming up the shafts. It was of course, the shifting and settling of the disturbed coal and rock, but was also a forewarning of a disasterous cave in. Wooden pit props, when under extreme pressure, make noises that could easily be mistaken for a pack of yapping puppies. Most of the early miners, dispite pleas from the mine owner, would down tools and leave work on hearing " Gabriel's Hounds ". As far as they were concerned, if the owner wanted coal that day, he would have to dig it out himself.


(7) To charme away ghosts and ye like, take a Bible and a Key, hold both in ye right hand, say the Lord's Prayer, and they will speedily get far away. Superstition again, this time backed up with a bit of religious gobbledgook. The early preachers either didn't know what was happening down the mine, or more likely, earned a few bob by conducting underground ghost hunting parties. There were some strange happenings, like the candles, which left overnight would disappear, and strange scuffling noises would be heard. All down to Rats, yes, even deep underground, there were big fat long tailed rats.


(8) Do no work if ye cross the pathe of a cross-eyed woman. This, apparently, was the worst thing a miner could encounter, on the way to,or from, the pit. It was believed, that she could see both into the future, and into the past, and if met on the way to work, was leading the miner to a dreadful fate.


(9) Take heed when ye hear the  howl of a dog. The sound was believed to be an omen of doom, the call meaning a death in the family, or of the miner who heard it. Precautions were neccessary, and the miner would take off his left boot, spit on the sole, put it on the ground upside down, put his foot on the spit mark, and put his boot back on. It doesn't say what he did, if the howling continued.


(10) If a Robin is seen, perched on ye pump handle, turn away and do no work that day. Working underground, was always concidered to be an unlucky place. It was, after all, not the natural habitat of humans. The Robin represented the natural world, and the pump handle was made by man, from Iron. To go underground that day would mean that the miner had to take things, like his Iron Pike, from the natural, into the un-natural world below. A bad sign was the Robin, and I shall take due note, next time the ones in our garden, decide to perch on my spade or fork.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 10, 2012 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1413

On a more serious note, there were regulations and rules put in place, over many years, to try and cut down on some of the dreadful losses of life. Explosions of gas being the main cause. George Stepenson invented a safety lamp in the North East, which was improved on by Sir Humphy Davy, and between them, they became the standard for lamps used underground. They were however, far from as safe as the inventors claimed. Several men were killed in an explosion in a Pit near Newcastle, and it was suspected, a safety lamp was responsible for a large loss of life in South Wales. If you combine human nature, with any form of safety gear, the human element will always find a way of circumventing the system. For a start, the lamps gave out very little light, and four would be required to equal the light from a single candle. A single filling of oil, would last about 16 hours, and in some mines, the men were required to pay for the oil used, Candles were cheaper. It beggers belief, that men would put their lives at risk for a few pennies, but risk it they did, and at an enormous cost at times. The early lamps used glass and a wire gauze to contain the flame, and when gas was detected, the flame increased, and changed colour, thus giving the men a warning. The problem with these early lamps, was thet could, and were, easily opened by the miners. Now you may ask, why would a miner unscrew a safety lamp? To remove the gauze and get more light, was one answer, the other was to enable the miner to light his pipe. It seems to have been the belief, that accidents happen to others, and I/we, are immune. A look through the immensely long list of dead miners will disprove this theory at first glance. For many small mine owners, the expense of the lamps was a major concern, and they only ever kept a bare minimun at the pit; two underground, and two on the surface. As long as an inspection, before work commenced, had shown the area was free of gas, the miners reverted to candles. If gas built up during the shift, it usually snffed out a few candles, sometimes the men had time to escape, but there wern't many who could outrun the speed of an explosion.


The inspections were entrusted to either a manager, deputy, or a Doggie,( foreman ) and again, human nature being what it is, many only gave the inspections lip service. Miners were paid on the amount of Coal extracted, and wasted time meant lower production, and less pay. To disregard the rules was sheer lunacy, and a great many owners, turned a blind eye to practices that would today would see then locked up on a manslaughter charge. Two men, at the Willingsworth mine near Bilston, Staffordshire, failed to return to the surface after the shift finished. They had been working in an area away from the rest of the miners, an area that should have been regulary inspected by the Doggie, but hadn't been. It later transpired, after both the bodies had been recovered, that they hadn't appeared for breakfast, and had been dead for at least 9 hours, suffocated by Fire Damp. In Pargeter and Darby's Five Ways Colliery, Dudley Wood, Cradley Heath, Staffordshire, 4 men, Joseph Warwick, Joseph Griffiths, Isaac and Joseph Webster, had ben killed in an explosion in 1850, because the Doggie had failed miserably to carry out the regulation gas inspections. To make it even worse, his son was of those who died.10 other men on the shift had been lucky, the coal face they were working on, was in a roadway, at an angle to the blast, and they all got out. The same mine, now under the ownership of George Dudley in 1851, had an even worse disaster, when 9 men all died from the idleness of the Doggie in carrying out the inspections for gas. He had told another miner to check the other side of the coal face, something he should not have done, and the miner took with him a man with a candle, because he couldn't see properly. 6 miners were kiled on the spot, the others died later from horrendous injuries. The Doggie was among the dead. Septimus Blakeway, an supposedly experienced miner, was the Doggie at the Bunns Lane Colliery, Kates Hill, Dudley in 1851. At 6.20am, with the small shift of 5 miners just starting to load coal, there was an explosion which seriously injured Charles Carter,26. Charles had recently arrived in the district from Paulton, Somerset, with his young wife, seeking work. Taken to his home, in Bishop Street, Kates Hill, his wife must have been horrified at his injuries. He died three days later. At his Inquest, the Coroner lambasted Blakeway for the level of incompetence he had displayed, and for the total lack of care of human life. Out of work forever in any mine, Septimus Blakeway spent the rest of life, until he died in 1882, as a plate layer on the railways. These are not just isolated incidents, the circumstances were to be played out across all the mining regions of the British Isles. Not always the fault of the owners, and not always the fault of the miners, for a man had to earn a living, or face a slow death through starvation.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 4, 2014 at 3:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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