Strontian Mines Inquest

by John Dye

CHAPTER FIVE
DUNCAN MACPHERSON, WHO WAS WORKING CLOSE TO CAMERON AND LOWRIE WHEN THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED, GIVES EVIDENCE

He had worked at Strontian mines occasionally for over ten years, sometimes as a blaster, but more recently because of injury, on a daily paid basis wheeling barrows

1 August 1851

Compeared Duncan MacPherson, Miner and Crofter residing at Anaheilt aforsaid, who says:

I am 60 years of age. I have wrought occasionally as a miner at Strontian for the last 10 or 12 years. I wrought about 14 or fifteen weeks at the lead mines at Tyndrum about 8 years ago. I only wrought as a blaster in the Strontian Mines for about a fortnight after Mr Barrett came to manage, I got my thumb broke and was unable to hold the jumper.

I have been employed underground and in the surface as I am ordered for this last three years. I was paid by day's wages and when underground my employment was in wheeling barrows and driving waggons.

On the day in question he was working close to Cameron and Lowrie

On Thursday last, 7th August 1851, I was employed wheeling stuff in a level about 20 or 22 fathoms from the surface. Duncan Cameron & Alexander Lowrie were employed blasting on a level 10 or 12 fathoms below the place where I was at work. I saw their lights and heard the noise of their hammers while they were at work.

He heard the crash as the stone fell and the screams afterwards

About 5 pm of that day I heard a noise as of a stone falling, the sound of which was a loud as a blast and immediately afterwards I heard a screaming of voices. The noise and the sound of the voice proceeded from the place where Cameron & Lowrie was engaged at work, and then I heard Lowrie cry to me to come down to him with a light, that a stone had fallen on them which had killed Duncan Cameron and hurt him. I did not hear Cameron's voice tho' I heard something like groans.

By the announcement I got a little stupefied and not being very well acquainted with the descent I could not find my way downstairs. I recovered a little & immediately informed Lowrie of the difficulty I experienced in getting down. He directed me and with instructions how to find the ladders and I made my way down as quietly as possible.

When he got there, Cameron was dead

I found Lowrie standing or sitting at bottom. He pointed out to me the spot where Cameron was lying and after removing three or four stones which I could lift easily I saw the back of Duncan Cameron's shoulder. I shouted to Cameron but got no answer and I was satisfied that he was dead. I lighted two other candles and examined the position of the body. A large stone or flag which I could not move was pressing ....

[Section missing ....]

.... or Mr Barrat's, I feeling that

He complains that since the new management took over five years ago, dangerous work practices were introduced

The mines are not in a safe state to be wrought has existed among all the workmen since the middlings or partitions left by the old company were taken away by the instruction of the manager & that I myself have seen places where I would not like to work. Mr Barrat is here about 5 years and these middlings which had been left as supports were begun to be taken away soon after he came here. Floyds has been here about 2 years.

I saw Duncan Cameron about an hour before the accident. My light had gone out and on calling him he came with a light to where I was. He was then in perfect health, I got the light from him and he went away towards his work. I also saw him before he went to work. His shift on that day when he told me that if he could get anything else to do he would not work at the mines. He said this while he and I walked from our own houses to the mines. He seemed disinclined for the work that day. He did not assign any reason, I did not remark it in particular because I am in the habit of hearing often such statements from the workmen. I am of opinion that this feeling arose from the insufficiency of the mines or the manner in which they were managed, not because the nature of the work. I cannot write.

Signed Wm Robertson J.P. 26 August 1851