Mexborough and Swinton Times August 2 1895
Important Colliery Prosecution from Denaby Main
Charles Holmes, miner, Conisborough, was charged with an offence under the regulation of mines act, section 101, with having neglected to set the requisite number of sprags or props his working place, at Denaby, on the 13th July, and so endangering his own and his fellow workmen’s lives.
Mr. Hickmott prosecuted, and defendant was defended by Mr. Gichard.
After explaining the provisions of the 101st rule, Mr. Hickmott went on to open the case. It appeared that on the day in question a deputy named Wright went into defendant’s working place, in which he and a miner named Astberry were at work.
The defendant was engaged in holing. When the deputy called him out and told him he was not safe. Defendant said “I think I am,” whereupon Wright pointed out to him that there was a distance of 7ft. 4in. between the nearest sprags.
Defendant then alleged that it was not all connected, but the deputy told him there was no solid coal there at all and insisted upon having a sprag set. Defendant’s workmen, Astberry, therefore set a sprag, and the deputy went away. Later in the day he came back, and saw that the sprag had been withdrawn and taken from the place, leaving a large mass of coal suspended, which was liable to come down at any moment.
On the Monday following the under manager, Mr Soar, visited the place, and in the presence of defendants measured the coal. After the defendant, with others, waited upon Mr Chambers and asked to have the effect overlooked but were told it was much too serious for that.
It was clear from the evidence of Soar that the defendant was in danger as he was holing 6ft deep. On the occasion of the interview with the manager Holmes offered to pay all costs, and also a penalty, if the charge could be withdrawn but his request was not acceded to. The company had no option but to prosecute.
William Wright,, deputy manager, was called, and said he visited the defendant’s working place, as described, at 12 o’clock in July 13th. He said to him: “You are in danger.” Defendant came out and said: “I am not.” Witness and pointed out to him the distance he had holed without a sprag being set. Defendant then alleged that there was a quantity of solid coal between. Witness pointed out to him that he was wrong, and that the coal at that point was holed. There was a depth under the web of 5ft. 6in.
Witness immediately reported the matter to Mr. Soar, and also gave Holmes instructions to set a sprag at the proper point, stopping to see it set.
The defendant brought a deputation on Tuesday, and argued the matter with Mr. Chambers, in the presence of witness and Soar. He again maintained that there was solid coal there, but when witness contradicted him he exclaimed: “If that’s so, I am done,” and asked Mr. Chambers to let him off, but the gentleman declined.
By Mr. Gichard (in cross examination): it was 12 o’clock when he reached defendant’s working place. It was untrue that he talked to the defendant for five minutes before he called his attention to the lack of sprags. The measurement of 7ft. 4in. was at the place where defendant alleged fast coal was. It was true that there was a different web. The whole point of the dispute was whether the coal was holed or not. Mr. Soar had not taken his measurements obliquely, but in a straight line. The sprags were in a straight line with one another. He did not tell Holmes that he didn’t know whether to report him or not, as he was not decided whether the place was dangerous. Holmes had told him that he had taken the sprags down in order that Mr. Soar might see the place exactly as it was when Wright saw it.
The chairman: Did you put it back again?
Witness: No. It is not my duty to sprag
Mr. Gichard: Did you put up a notice board? Witness: no.
By Mr. Gichard: I did say that I had already intended to prosecute Holmes that it wouldn’t look well to put the sprag. There were plenty of men whom would have set sprags in Holmes’s absence. There were some datallers who worked on the Sunday night. He did not want to meddle with it again. He didn’t think it was right for Holmes to interfere. It was his duty to put up a notice board when he found a dangerous place. There would be two deputies between Saturday and Monday who would pass that place. It was also his duty to enter any dangerous place in his report book, which would be seen by the deputies who would follow him. This he had not done. It would be possible for me hundred deputies to pass the place and see nothing wrong. The place was not reported as dangerous between Saturday and Monday. It was not their practice to examine working places when coal was not being drawn, but it was his to notify the existence of a dangerous spot.