Strontian Mines Inquest

by John Dye



26 August 1851

NOTE 1: Donald Cameron, woodman, was very upset

Re-examined after the accident & while we were in the act of removing the body of Duncan Cameron, Donald Cameron Woodman came to where we were. He was much agitated and was evidently very sorry ¼..Pages missing

unknown contributor

NOTE 2: This miner giving evidence had moved to a mine away from one managed by Mr Barrat, since being trapped in a fall

props in the workings go and ?? the removal of the Bunnings(?) which are left in the mine for this purpose. The last day on which I wrought on these mines a large fall of stone and stuff took place in the immediate neighbourhood of where I was at work. Indeed at my very heels. Six men were engaged at the place and two of them were enclosed, but were relieved by the removal of the stuff. I became on consequence of this little (?) afraid of the mines & never went back. James Floyd was then foreman. No life was lost. I have since wrought on my own account with 4 others at another lead mine in the neighbourhood of that managed by Mr Barrat. I wrought some time also for about three months in the Carsphairn lead mines. They are different & in my opinion better than the Strontian mine. I don't know the open cast where Cameron met his death. This is truth.

11 August 1851

NOTE 3: The mines owned by Sir James Riddell had been basically unsafe for a number of years and Duncan Cameron was in no way to blame for his own death said another miner

I have frequently complained to Sir James Milles Riddell, the proprietor of the Mines that the workings were unsafe and that the precautions used for the preservation of the lives of the workmen were insufficient -

I understand that others of the workmen have made similar complaints to him - This insufficiency arises from the want of proper props in the workings & in the removal by Mr Barrat of the Middlings or partitions left by the former Company for supporting the workings - a feeling of this nature given expression to by almost all the workmen has existed for the last three years and a number of men left the work altogether in consequence, as they said, of the insecurity of the Mines - I knew this myself but I had either to submit to work there or starve - Necessity with me had no law - The other mines in which I had wrought are worked in a different, safer, principle & more attention paid to the security of the lives of the workmen.

Duncan Cameron, deceased, was a tall well-proportioned healthy young man about 33 years of age - he was in perfect health the time the stone fell - I cannot write from illness.

26 August 1851

NOTE 4: Because of the "piece-work" method of payment, it was not normal practice for workmen to secure the mines unless paid to do so

It is not the practice in mining so far as I have learnt it for workmen to secure the Mines unless on recovering payment for doing so - This applies to places at which jobs may be taken by workmen as well as to the Mines generally -

The Stone before alluded to was not in our measurement - It was above our measurement - a corner of it may have been at the edge of the lodge which we were to remove by blasting - There were two stopes in the job, an upper and a lower - The lower stope was about 6 feet in depth and 12 feet long - we wrought this up and made the two stopes into one and the breast plum so as to carry both at once -

The Stone was immediately above the high stope and we wrought at the lower stope in bringing it up before we began to work at the high or upper one - I cannot exactly say whether the higher stope made the stone more loose - It had not the effect of strengthening it anything - I never put any wood to fix this stone - we examined it pretty often with the candle and struck it with an hammer.

Props would have done it no good as they would have been removed by the shots from the blast - Floyd never warned me that the stone was dangerous - far from it - he always said to me the stone was secure enough and laughed when I told him that it was dangerous.

I desired Donald Cameron one day about a week before the accident to take or get the stone taken down. I told him that it was dangerous. This occurred at the place. He told us to take it down ourselves - I didn't say to him that it was not in our job as he was perfectly aware of it. I told him that I would perhaps put a piece of timber against it to keep it up till we got past it. He gave me no answer. My opinion is that the whole stone was entirely above our ground & while we wrought we did not cut the ground from end to end of the stone. The blasts which we fired did not strike the stone, but whether they did so or not they would have the effect of loosening the stone more.

It was our intention to remove the stone ourselves before we had proceeded much further with the work for our own security - & whether we got an allowance for it or not. The stone was not part of the lode or vein, it was on the hanger wall, there was no ore in the stone. I spoke to Duncan Cameron deceased about the stone & he concurred with us that it was dangerous and should be taken down by the Managers. The taking of the stone down would have been an easy matter but as we would require to wheel it a considerable distance the time involved in its execution would have been very considerable.

The stone should have been removed before we began work at all - that was quite visible to every person. Donald Cameron erected a 'stool' considerably above where we were to work to prevent the "deads" or rubbish falling upon us from the old workings. This stool was all above the stone in question. I don't think the stone was more exposed on the day the accident occurred than it was when we began work, tho' our operations naturally tended to make it more loose. I have not wrought there since and the state and position of the stone remains still to be seen.

We did not complain to Mr Barrat at all, I seldom spoke to him, he was very careless about me & the former jobs which I had did not pay more than 10d or 1/- per day. If I had made good wages at the former jobs or if I had any prospect of making good wages at the one in question I would have removed the stone myself at my own expense, but the motive of the Manager is to take as much work out of the workmen as they can at as small a cost as possible. They would have no objection to allow us remove this stone had it cost them anything for doing so - this is truth and I can't write.

The above are extracts from papers in the case against James Floyd, Superintendent of the lead mines at Strontian, for the culpable homicide of Duncan Cameron, a miner, killed in the mine.