The direct involvement of the State with private mines and quarries began when, under the provisions of the Mines Act of 1842, inspectors of mines were appointed to regulate employment conditions in mines. From 1850 they also inspected the construction and safety of coal mines, and this was extended to ironstone mines in 1860, metaliferous mines in 1872, slate mines in 1882 and open quarries in 1894.
Responsibility for Mines Inspectorate passed from the Home Office to the Mines Department in 1920 and the Ministry of Fuel and Power in 1942. The Mines and Quarries Act of 1908 established statutory controls on the industry. Should any reader be aware of the current state of regulation I should be grateful to be advised of same.
Due to the nature of the industry, with many private mine owners, developments in safety methods and devices was 'ad hoc' and not subject to a co-ordinated approach. Structured central safety bodies were not in place and it was left to such people as companies that manufactured mining equipment to develop these when they could see that it would obtain for them a marketing edge on their competitors.
However, there was also an opportunity for individuals to contribute to this constant effort to improve safety, and one such individual was Henry Rees Davies upon which this article is based.
Background of Henry Rees Davies
Henry Rees Davies was born in 1863 at Llanarth, Cardiganshire. He came to live at 18 Martin Street, Fochriw with his parents, who had left the rural life in West Wales to seek employment in the Dowlais area, and was recorded on the 1881 census as being 18 years of age. His parents spent the rest of their lives at Fochriw.
He probably moved to Fochriw after the school leaving age of 14 since he is not recorded on the Fochriw School Register. His next recorded habitation was at 4 Danygraig Terrace, Ynyshir from where, on 24 April 1889, he moved to 9 Fountain Street, Ferndale, Rhondda and bought the house for £210 in March 1920. He then moved to 42 Fountain Street and on to 51 Fountain Street on 4 March 1901. On 24 November 1922, he had bought and moved into 6 Rhondda Road and sometime during 1924 he bought and moved in to 17 Lawn Terrace, Treforest.
Records indicate that during 1892, when he was 29 years of age, he was employed as an airwayman at either Ferndale No5 or No8 pit. He then commenced work on Tuesday 27 July 1897 at the age of 34, as an electrician at No5 Pit, Tylorstown, and in his diary he entered
"I fervently pray to God to guide and bless me in all my actions and to give me the goodwill of my fellow men. May wisdom and ingenuity be always with me is my humble prayer. Amen''.
Improvements to Miners Safely Lamps
For centuries, the method of illumination of coal mine workings did not change from that of a naked flame which, in itself, was the cause of many explosions and subsequent loss of life.