I had this one in a couple of days ago from Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, who continues his dogged research into local mining history, and the relationship between those above ground and those whose labours they depended upon beneath them.
Peter was uncomfortable to no small degree with the reporting and documentation (some of it recent) of the Wimblebury Pit Accident in which two men died in 1927; and during his research into that incident, he came upon the role of Captain T.V. Peake, who seems to be a company man through and through.
Peter is keen to expand his knowledge of the Captain, and requests anyone that has any information please join in the debate. We both realise this is a huge and possibly controversial subject, but like Harrison, Peake casts an interesting shadow over the mining history, and it would be interesting to shed some light upon the darkness.
My thanks to Peter for yet another great article. Fantastic stuff.
Captain T.V. Peake: A man with a short memory?
In the article concerning the 1927 Wimblebury Pit cage disaster, it was the General Manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries, Captain T.V. Peake, who spoke to the Lichfield Mercury stating that the affair was a pure accident, due probably to the admission of steam to the engine when the cage was within about 5 feet from the bottom. An official of the Colliery Company also stated that none of the men were in a critical condition. ‘A slight over wind caused the accident,’ he said ‘work procceded immediately afterwards.’
Jack Harrison, in his book the King of Norton Canes, actually has the Captain present at the time of the accident, and afterwards encouraging the men to descend the shaft. Jack also says that the Inspector’s report instructed that no men should travel the shaft until a period of six months had elapsed.
In trying to find out a little about the Captain, it seems that at times he seems to have a short memory!
In June 1932 he was elected to Hednesford Council, not having previously taking part in political work. He had considerable business experience, and was contenting himself with advocating economy combined with efficiency. He was past President of the National Colliery Mangers Association and had been a resident of the area for 30 years. Amongst many things he has been in command of the local Territorials, on committee of the Hednesford Accident Home, President of the Colliery Cricket Team, and Chairman of the Hednesford War Memorial Committee. He had become General Manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries succeeding Col R.S.Williamson.
By 1936 he had become Managing Director of the Company, and living at The Grange, Rawnsley, and in 1940 Commander of the Cannock Battalion of the Home Guard and a Director at William Harrison Ltd.
But it is the last part of this report of the Lichfield Mercury, for the 20th of October 1933, that is interesting,
WHERE ARE THE SUPERMEN…WHO COULD RUN AMALGAMATION SCHEMES?
‘Bad Day for Workmen’ says Mr T. V. Peake.
At a meeting in Birmingham on Monday Captain T.V. Peake, General manager of the Cannock and Rugeley Collieries, Hednesford was elected President of the South Staffordshire and Warwickshire Institute of Mining Engineers, and where, he asked, were they to find the supermen lo run the amalgamations.
Many of them were wondering what was going to happen with Part II. of The Coal Mines Act respecting amalgamations, said Captain Peake. It appeared that if the Railway and Canals Commission approved of a scheme brought forward they would have to do as they were told, and he was afraid it would be a bad day for many workmen who were bound to he thrown out of employment if amalgamation was forced.
Personally he thought the time was not ripe for amalgamations. If they were to have these large amalgamations it was a great question as to whether they had the supermen to run them, and then the next step to amalgamation was nationalisation, which had been tried In many ways and had never shown good results.
The cost of production was coming coming down, but he was convinced it could come down still further.
Machine mining was only in its infancy, but the methods and machinery were being improved every day. To his mind the greatest difficulty with all machine mining was to get the coal filled on to the conveyor belt.
Speaking of Acts of Parliament, Capt Peake said there was one which had done good work for the miners, and that was the outcome of the Welfare Levy which had produced the pithead baths.
That was the finest thing that had been done for the men for many years. He only wished the whole of the fund could be used for that purpose so that every pit could be provided with baths at once.
At one of his company’s pits three to one of the men voted against pithead baths, but the company carried on and built them, and within the first six weeks they had 80 per cent of the men using the baths.
Some of the most bitter opponents had told him how much they and their wives appreciated the benefits derived from them.
In his address, Captain Peake said many important questions were from time to time discussed by the Institute, and he suggested that at present the question of overwind control gear, to prevent the cage hitting the bottom, was a matter that should be discussed, because the provision of such gear, if a law was passed making it compulsory, would be quite a serious expenditure for many collieries. The question of lighting was also important, and it was bound to be brought forward before long, as the two years’ grace had nearly expired. When the Mines Department recommendations were published he considered they should be fully discussed at their meetings, together with to matters relating to mines legislation.
He became president, said Capt. Peake, when the industry was in about as bad a position as it had ever been. They were beginning lo see signs of improvement in other industries, and there were slight signs that their own exports were increasing, which would help their districts more than anything else.