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rous, that we might conclude from the frequent mutilations of 'the miners that the whole population is engaged in a campaign.' A Shropshire surgeon had as many as 500 cases, in round numbers, from accidents in one year.
Including explosions, we found that in the Northern collieries the list of fatal accidents from the end of last century (close of 1799) up to the year 1840, contained no less than 1464 deaths. Adding 16 other deaths from a local register, we have the total number of lives lost from the close of 1799 to March, 1841, as 1480. We doubt not the number is really greater, since no authorized list had been made, and we could only glean from the results of private inquiry.*
With reference to casualties of all kinds, we have made a calculation, which leads us to think that, from all the coal districts. of the country, above 10,000 persons are annually (either temporarily or permanently) thrown upon their respective parishes for relief, or for the subsistence of themselves or families. If space had permitted, we should have presented some details and descriptions of particular accidents of a very destructive character. A list of the principal colliery explosions during seven years, ending 1852 (compiled by Mr. J. K. Blackwell), exhibits the number of fatal cases as 1099. Since 1852, some dreadful accidents have occurred. The newspapers have recently reported the explosion at the Cymmer colliery in South Wales, and therefore we shall not repeat the details.
The whole evidence at the inquest tended to display gross and culpable carelessness of the lives of the men committed to the charge of the managers. A verdict against these managers followed as a matter of course; but they have yet to take their trial at the assizes, when, we are privately informed, there is some likelihood of their getting off-not from legal deficiencies, but from other causes. We shall await the result with anxiety. It is the first instance in which a full trial and evidence have been allowed. Reading the whole of this evidence, and observing the course of cross-examination, we must say we think the owner of the mine quite as culpable as his servants. He, however, has escaped even censure.
A source of danger and death we can but briefly notice, is the breaking-in of accumulated waters from old workings into neighbouring pits. In the month in which we now write (October), a terrible illustration of this danger has occurred at a colliery two miles from Wrexham. The Bryn Mally mines are very
A pamphlet, by a working miner, professing to give a record of every fatal accident in Durham and Northumbrian pits, between 1756 and 1843, reckons the total number as 1760 violent deaths, of which 1491 were caused by explosions.
Inundations in Coal-pits.
extensive, and employ between 200 and 300 colliers, and about 200 men were in the levels at the time of the accident. There are several old workings and shafts connected with the mine, and these are separated by a partition, which is intended to keep out the foul air. A portion of the partition-walls gave way while the colliers were at work, and instantly a tremendous rush of water followed into the workings where the men were employed. They ran in every direction, and most of them succeeded in escaping to a higher level, and so emerged from the mine before the water had risen two or three yards. From this level the men saw several ponies (25 were in the mine) struggling in the waters and finally sinking. Soon it was discovered that fifteen men were missing, and thirteen at least have perished, eight leaving wives and families. The water continued to rise, until at the pit's mouth there was a depth of 30 yards of water from the surface of the working-level into which it had burst. The immense volume of water may be conjectured, when we state that the working-levels broken in upon occupy an area of six acres. The clearing has proceeded at the rate of 120 tons an hour. This water appears to have been accumulating for the last 50 years. The chief engineer fell down the shaft, having been knocked off the platform by the breaking of the chain, and was killed. At the inquest, a verdict of accidental death has been returned, coupled with an opinion that the chain was unsafe, and that the deceased should have examined it. While we write, the bodies of three men and a boy have been recovered, and the water has been nearly extracted. It is considered that these individuals positively threw away their lives, as they were warned of the irruption of the water, but continued their occupation some minutes, and when they did repair to the place of outlet found themselves cut off by the rising waters.
Hitherto it has been supposed that only the annals of war could exhibit an assemblage of deaths and accidents. We have, however, some reason to think that if a true record of all the deaths and injuries received in coal-mines in Britain were before us, we should be astonished to find that they are nearly as numerous as those of an ordinary war or an extraordinary battle. Our own country stands highest in the mortality of coal-mine accidents, as the following deductions from published Government returns show :
If to the actual and immediate deaths we add the accidents to the limbs, and the slowly deteriorating causes of disease, we find that coal-miners deserve much sympathy, and demand increased attention. Mr. Herbert Mackworth, one of the Government Inspectors of Mines, has, in a highly praiseworthy manner, devoted considerable attention to the diseases and deaths of miners. In a valuable paper, that gentleman has shown that a great deterioration in the health, and abbreviation of the life, of coalminers is constantly taking place. A table of mortality of colliers and miners at Merthyr Tydvil (in Wales), formed upon returns to the Registrar-General, brings to light the fact that the noxious influences at work upon the miners are sufficient to treble the destruction of life between the ages of 10 and 25. The ratio is still higher at the commencement, proving how immediately destructive to the constitution at an early age such causes are. Another table exhibits the proportions dying from different diseases, including the number dying during a visitation of the cholera (a most fatal one at Merthyr), and it appears that the deaths from cholera were only about one-third of the deaths amongst equal numbers of miners. It also appears that, between the ages of 15 and 25, one-third of the deaths occur from diseases of the respiratory organs, and that more than one-third of the miners meet with violent death.
Moreover, in another table of the after-lifetime of males in England, and of colliers and miners (in ironstone mines) in Merthyr Tydvil, at different ages, we observe the following results: Men who attain the age of 25 will, on an average, live 27.86 years in Merthyr, if their occupation be that of collier or miner. But the mean after-lifetime in England generally for men aged 25 is 36.60.
It will be asked-what has been done by Government for the colliers? We answer, in brief,-Several Parliamentary Committees (some of the House of Lords) have sat, and heard, and printed evidence from scientific men on the fertile and complicated subject of accidents in mines; but scarcely any of these proceedings have issued in practical benefit to the miners, for easily conceivable reasons. The most practical and serviceable thing ever done by the Government was, to issue a Commission of several gentlemen, actually to visit and sojourn around the chief British collieries, and to report on the whole, though their main object was to inquire into the employment of females and young children underground. A great body of
*On the Discases of Miners; a paper read before the Society of Arts, April 4, 1855. We strongly recommend all persons interested in miners to peruse this
Proceedings of Government.
evidence was thus obtained, and the Appendices to the Reports of the Children's Employment Commissioners contain a mass of details on these subjects, and on the physical condition of the colliers, of the greatest value, as all interested in the subject have acknowledged. Upon this Commission was founded the well-known Act of Parliament (15 and 16 Vict., cap. 99), excluding all females, and children under ten years of age, from underground labour. That Act has worked as well as any Act could do.
The only other practical result of Government inquiries (and this, too, is obviously attributable to the labours of the gentlemen above alluded to), is the passing, after great opposition from some quarters, of the Act for the Inspection of Coal Mines. This Act was amended on 19th August, 1855 (18th and 19th Vict., cap. 8), and in its present form is certainly valuable, though not by any means perfect. By it inspectors are appointed, owners must produce to them plans of mines, notice of accidents must be given to the Secretary of State, and above all, special rules are to be made for the management of every colliery, with the approval of the Secretary of State.
Much more private effort for the benefit of the colliers has been brought to bear on Government than they will ever know. We are thankful to obtain this Act, and therefore we will not quarrel with some objectionable details or deficiencies. Much credit is due to Sir George Grey, and not much to sundry coalowners and their agents.
A Report of the Inspectors of Coal Mines has appeared since the above was written. It is the first made by the whole twelve Inspectors now appointed. From the absence of a harmonious. plan, it is not easy to consult; we glean, however, the following particulars from its pages:
In the collieries of Durham, Northumberland, and Cumberland, since the passing of the Coal Mines Inspection Act in 1851, there have been 741 accidents terminating in death. Of these, 134 have been occasioned by explosions of fire-damp, 126 by accidents in the shafts, 234 by falls of stone and coal, and 230 by 'sundries.' We may well marvel at the sundries. In the district of Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales, we find the number of lives lost to have been 299 in the year 1854, and 199 in the year 1855; the number of accidents being 178 and 165 in those years respectively.
The most elaborate and valuable Report is that of Mr. Mackworth for a portion of the South Wales district, and it is the more valuable as the Inspector adds to the details of his own district three tabular views of the accidents and deaths in all
the British collieries for four years-viz., 1851 to 1854 inclusive. From these tables a succinct statement might be drawn up, but we have only room for the following particulars :
In 1851, the number of colliers employed in the district of Northumberland, Durham, and Cumberland was, according to the census, 42,437. The whole number of colliers for Great Britain in the same year was 216,217. From the Mining Records, just published, we learn that the total number of collieries in the United Kingdom is 2397. The pits are far more numerous. England contains 1704 collieries.
Taking the year 1854 by itself, we observe that the fatal accidents (or the number of deaths from accidents) was, for the Northern district, 125, being at the rate of 77 deaths for every million of tons of coals produced. In Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales the number of deaths for 1854 was 299, being at the rate of 271 for every million of tons of coals; and this is the highest rate of the whole districts of inspection, while that of the Northern district is the lowest.
The total of deaths for Great Britain for 1854, was 1045, being at the rate of 16.2 for every million of tons of coals.
We recommend all who are interested in this topic to study Mr. Mackworth's Report; and we are glad to find our own views supported by his experience and his detailed statements. He appears to have spoken without restraint on behalf of the colliers.
It appears, from Mr. Hunt's inquiries, in the new number of the Mining Records, that, in the year 1854, the number of men and women of all ages employed in connexion with the collieries of Great Britain was no less than 219,995 (of which number 1290 were females). As part of this large mass of labourers, we find that Durham employs 28,265, and Northumberland 10,536, Lancashire employs 28,834, and Yorkshire 21,030.
We have now reached our limits, and can only express an earnest hope that what we have written will contribute towards attracting increased attention to a large body of our labouring population, who, by their places of occupation and modes of life, have been, until of late years, almost removed from the field of observation. We entreat our readers to remember that we have been writing of the concerns and interests, lives and deaths of very nearly two hundred and twenty thousand of our fellowcreatures and fellow-subjects. For ourselves, we have laboured hard and long in behalf of these long-forgotten persons, and not altogether in vain. We must now commend their interests, physical and moral, to all who may have an opportunity of furthering them.