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IT is not very long since a very fearful
accident in a Welsh colliery that had been
imperfectly ventilated, prompted some comments
in Household Words, on the necessity
of defining clearly and sharply the responsibility
of mine-owners and overseers.* While I
write this, the public mind is distressed with
details of another accidentthe most appalling
in its character that mind can conceive
by which more than one hundred and
seventy men were consumed in a burning
furnace, by the sudden spread of fire
over the coal of an English pit. The pit in
which this accident occurred is said to have
been well ventilated; for the seam of coal
worked in it, and in other pits of the same
district, was known to be fiery. There had
been one previous explosion in this colliery,
which has been two years in use; but that
killed only two or three persons. In a pit a
mile or two distant sunk into the same coal,
seventy-three persons were killed ten years
ago. In another pit, closely adjoining,
seventy-five persons were killed seven years
ago. In another pit, five or six miles distant,
sunk into the same coal, fifty persons were
killed; all these deaths being the results of
explosion. Thus, there have been in ten
years three hundred and seventy men in the
prime of life, upon whose labour and whose
love no one knows how many women and
children were dependent for support, destroyed
as we might almost sayupon a
single spot of ground. We shall soon be
shuddering to look at coal within our grates,
when it burns blood-red.

*See page 301 of the fourteenth volume.

The men working in this coal have not
been using safety-lamps, but open candles. It
is quite within the power of an owner or an
overlooker to command and enforce the use of
Davy lamps. It is quite within the power
of an owner to cause the gauzes of the
Davy lamps to be locked on. This is often
done. Any objection to the lamps on the
part of the men has only to be over-ruled by
a strict order. If the light they give be insufficient
we have never heard other objections
surely a not very costly increase of the power
of the lamp, or a slight expenditure of wit for
the overcoming of any other cause of defect,
would end that difficulty, and raise the
illuminating power to a point beyond that
of a dip-candle. It is unjust to make the
men responsible for the grave error of habitually
working with the naked candle. The
poor fellows are not there to teach, but to be
taught by, their masters.

I do not think they are less teachable than
other menthan their charter-masters, for
exampleor than even the greater number
of owners of the mines in which they work.
They accept things as they find them, as all men
are apt to do; they do not love change less than
their employers. I speak as their friend, because
I know them. There is, after all, only
half truth in the impression about civilisation
among miners which the most humorous of
our English artists has expressed by showing
one of them indignant with his wife, because
she has given the milk to the child when she
ought to have gi'e'd it to the bull-pup; or
two of them thus discoursing of a gentleman
who passes:

"Who's that?"

"A stranger."

" 'Eave 'arf a brick at him."

The hundred and seventy men for whom
mothers, wives, and children are now
mourning at Lundhill were not of this
stamp. The truth about the colliers is not
very flattering; but, it is worth while that it
should be known fairly by a public that is
often asked to look on them as answerable
for their own calamities.

It has been part of my own fortune
in life to spend four years in intimate
association with the colliers and colliers'
families of a large mining district. Seeing
them habitually in their pleasure and
their pain, entrusted by them with many
of their little secrets, I have had them for
my employers, my friends, and my servants.
It happens, also, that I have been on equally
close terms of acquaintance with the working
people of a district purely agricultural,
and I am very well convinced that the men
working underground have more wit than
the men who work on the earth's surface.
There is the same material of character in
both. There are traces of the divine hand of
the Creator in us all. Whether we look
upward or downward in society, if we will
only see each other rightly, we can come to