Strontian Mines Inquest

by John Dye


He confirmed he was a shareholder in the Strontian Mining Company, together with Sir James Riddell and a number of English shareholders and that Floyd was one of the overseers responsible for safety underground and for awarding blasting contracts

Compeared James Barrat, Manager of the Strontian Lead Mines and residing at Strontian in the parish of Ardnamurchan and the Shire of Argyll who says:

I am 40 years of age. These mines are wrought by a Company called the Strontian Mining Company. The shareholders are all resident in England except Sir James Milles Riddel & myself. James Floyd is overseer under me of the workings underground, and it is part of his duty to see that the mines are properly secured against accident. Donald Cameron is also an overseer under me subject to my directions. Floyd has no control over him, they are each responsible for the due performance of their respective duties: Floyd sets Jobs of blasting to the miners after consulting with me as to the price to be allowed.

On 7 July last Floyd told me that he had let a Job of blasting to Alexander MacPhee, Alexander Lowrie, Duncan Cameron and Alexander MacMaster and I booked it. The following is an exact copy of the entry I made at the time: 'July 1851 - 7 - A stope to the East of the whin dyke at level of top of the hopper, to carry the East end of the ground 6 feet wide, by 4 men taken at £2/10/- open Cub. fathom by Alexander MacMaster a n (?) Alexander MacPhee ch(?) Alexander Lowrie Duncan Cameron Sawyer' The entry is in my handwriting. I think I spoke to Floyd about this Job on the previous Saturday and the price he was to allow. He had general instructions from me not to exceed £2/10/- per fathom for that description of ground.

I understood the men entered upon the Job on the day on which it was taken but I was not underground to see.

Having let the fatal contract, he departed for a shareholders' meeting at Kendal only to return three days before the accident

I left for England on the 11 July and was absent about 3 weeks. I was attending the annual meeting of Shareholders which was held at Kendal. I returned on the Friday before the accident occurred at the Strontian Mine. I heard no complaint regarding the Job from the day I entered the nature and extent of it in the book till after Duncan Cameron's death. I heard nothing about a loose stone or anything of the insecurity of their workings. I consider that place most secure & had not the most remote idea that there was any danger.

He heard about it from the police constable and immediately sent for Floyd

On Thursday 7th August 1851, Duncan MacGregor, Police Constable, told me about 6 pm that an accident had occurred at the mine. I went to see what was wrong. I sent Floyd to see if he knew if there was anything wrong about the ground or if there was any danger. He said no & that he understood Cameron and Lowrie had gone home as they had refused to work at the price allowed. He changed his dress and went to the Mine.

Barrat and Floyd went up to see Lowrie, who said that he had himself only to blame

I went up also, I saw Lowrie, he told me he was very much hurt, and that he did not blame me for the accident which had happened, that he had himself only to blame. He told me that Duncan Cameron was killed. I was considerably agitated & cannot remember our Exact conversation.

It is a rule in Mining that parties in taking a job are bound to secure the place themselves or give up the Job. Sometimes they also represent to the Manager if it exceeds their skill or the expense is too great for themselves to bear. This is the understanding in Mining. From the description of the stone which fell and killed Cameron I can satisfy it should have been removed by themselves and it would have come in under the measurement and they would have been paid for it.

Signed James Barrat