John Masterton (1878-1933)

John Masterton (1878-1933)

HM Inspector of Mines

John Masterton was a mining engineer, and became HM Divisional Inspector of Mines for Scotland. He attended and investigated some of the mining disasters and accidents in a period when this was a high risk occupation. For example, he is featured in reports of disasters and accidents in Mary, Lochore 1908; Prestongrange 1910; East Plean 1922; Redding 1923; Auchinraith 1930; Bowhill 1931; and Auchengeich 1931. Tragically, one of the victims of a mining accident was his younger brother, William Fernie Masterton, who was killed in 1907 at the age of 17 in Bankton Colliery, Tranent. John had just been made the Government's Inspector of Mines some six months before that.

John named his eldest son William Fernie Masterton, who also studied mining engineering, graduating with first class honours from Edinburgh University in June 1933. In a strange symmetry, John died suddenly 3 months later at the age of 55.


John Masterton was the first child of David Scott Masterton and Mary Gardner Graham. They belong to the large group of Mastertons from around the Forfar area. A fuller genealogy of the extended family of John Masterton can be found at this link. .

The Edinburgh Gazette

The Right Honourable Herbert John Gladstone, one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, has appointed John Masterton, Esq., to be an Assistant Inspector of Mines, under the Coal Mines Regulation Acts, 1887 to 1905, and has directed him to act also as an Inspector for the purposes of the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Acts, 1872 and 1875, and of the Quarries Act, 1894; and has further appointed him to be an Inspector of Factories and Workshops for the purposes of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901.

Whitehall, November 7, 1906.

The Edinburgh Gazette
Number 11881
13 November 1906

The Home Secretary has appointed Mr John Masterton, at present employed at Tranent, to be H.M. Assistant Inspector of Coal and Metalliferous Mines, Quarries, and Factories. Mr Masterton, who has for the past two years been mining lecturer to Haddington County Mining Classes, received his practical training at the collieries of Messrs John Nimmo & Sons (Limited), Slamannan, and at Hamilton Palace Collieries, Bothwell. He was afterwards under manager at Forth Collieries, Prestonpans, and manager of Saline and Rosebank Collieries, Fifeshire. At the Mining College, Mr Masterton passed through the full mining engineering course, gaining the school diploma and winning certificates in most of the Science and Art and the Scottish Education Departments science subjects.

The Scotsman
21st November, 1906

Cardiff Assistant Inspector of Mines.

MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.) I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if Mr. John Masterton, Longrigg schoolhouse, Scotland has been appointed as an assistant inspector of mines for the Cardiff district; and, if so, does Mr. Masterton speak the Welsh language, as a majority of miners employed within the area of the Cardiff district are Welsh speaking miners.

COLONEL HERBERT (Monmouthshire, S.) I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Mr. John Masterton, of Longriggend, Scotland, who has been appointed assistant inspector of mines for the Cardiff district of South Wales, has any knowledge of the Welsh language; whether he has any practical experience of coal mining in the South Wales coalfield; whether he will state the number of candidates for the appointment who possess both the above qualifications; and whether, having regard to the fact that Welsh is the only language spoken by a considerable number of the miners in the Cardiff district, he will reconsider his decision in regard to this appointment.

MR. GLADSTONE The gentleman named in the Questions was first in the recent competitive examination for two vacancies in the inspectorate, but, as I have already informed my hon. friend the Member for Rhondda, the question who is to be assigned to fill the vacancy in the Cardiff district is still under my consideration. In any case he will be a Welsh-speaking inspector.

HC Deb 22 November 1906 vol 165 cc1012-3 1012
22nd November, 1906

Yesterday afternoon, while William Masterton, a youth of about seventeen years of age, was ascending Bankton shaft, accompanied by Mr Nimmo, jun., he suddenly fell from the cage down the Jewal pitbottom, a distance of about forty fathoms. A lad named Scott had just arrived at the bottom with a hutch of coals from the workings when the body fell almost at his feet on the plates. Death was instantaneous. Masterton was younger brother to Mr Masterton; who was appointed, from Tranent, Government Inspector of Mines some six months ago. His parents live at Longrigg Schoolhouse, Longriggend.

The Scotsman
5th April, 1907

A HEAVY fall of coal occurred about noon yesterday at the extremity of the Jewel seam workings of the Prestongrange Pit of the Summerlee and Mossend Company at Prestongrange, and three Musselburgh miners were entombed, ultimately being extricated with great difficulty. The colliery manager, Mr John Halliday, at once telephoned for medical assistance. Dr Horsburgh, Musselburgh, and Dr H McNaughton (locum for Dr McEwan, Prestonpans) were early forward, and an ambulance was held in readiness at the pithead. The rescue party was led by Mr Halliday, who had the assistance of Mr John Masterton, His Majesty's Inspector of Mines, who happened to be at the colliery on other business when the accident occurred. The three men caught by the fall were:- Robert Macfarlane (married), residing at 35 High Street, Musselburgh; Samuel Campbell (married), 92 Market Street, Musselburgh; and Thomas Gorman, a young unmarried man, living at 3 Mitchell Street, Musselburgh.
None of them was completely buried, and all retained consciousness, and were able to converse as rescue work proceeded. A pit inspector who was behind the fall was able to get out another way. With all speed consistent with safety, the rescue work was conducted, and at 2.30 Macfarlane was brought to the bank. His injuries, as ascertained by the medical men on the pithead, were a crushed hand and an injured back. He was lifted on an ambulance, and taken to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. News of the accident spread, and brought a large crowd of men and women to the neighbourhood of the colliery, and throughout the afternoon intense excitement prevailed. The two doctors went down the pit, to be ready to render first aid to the men.
It was not till after half-past five o'clock that Campbell was got clear. He was found doubled up with his chest resting upon his knees, and it was ascertained that he had suffered severely from shock. Dr Horsburgh came up in the cargo with him, and had him placed on an ambulance for the Infirmary. A relay of horses was thoughtfully provided at Musselburgh. It was ascertained that Gorman had his legs pinned down by a large lump of rock. He kept up bravely, and at seven o'clock the mass was cleared off him, and he was brought to the surface. Both his legs were broken. He was placed on the ambulance, and taken to Edinburgh, the medical men accompanying him up the shaft. The greatest care was bestowed on the injured men by the officials, who worked without respite for seven hours, and also by the medical men. Gorman died in the Infirmary this morning. He was about 25 years of age.

The Scotsman
7th October, 1910

MASTERTON.- At 72 St. Leonard's Road, Ayr, on 20th inst., the wife of JOHN MASTERTON (H.M. Inspector of Mines), a son.

The Scotsman
23rd September, 1912



AT their general meeting in the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, on Saturday, the members of the Mining Institute of Scotland devoted a considerable part of their time to a discussion on Mr Henry Rowan’s paper on “Underground Fires,” delivered at a previous sitting of the Institute. Mr James Hamilton, president, occupied the chair, and the discussion was inaugurated by Mr John Masterton, Ayr, Inspector of Mines, who said that while he agreed with much stated by the reader of the paper, he did not agree that the apparent cause of fires in mines was the grinding of the overhead strata upon the pillars of coal which were left in to support the roof, thus generating heat. What did happen, he thought, was that when pillars of coal were crushed by the subsiding strata a much greater surface was exposed to the limited amount of the air sucking through the “waste” or wrought-out areas, and if the coal was one which absorbed oxygen rapidly, it did so, and heat was generated. On the other hand, if the coal was one in which finely dissiminated pyrites changed chemically, the same result followed, and it was only a matter of time until a fire occurred. He believed that stowing up the wrought-out places by hydraulic agency was a much better method than stowing by hand and shovel, and the hydraulic system would prevent a great deal of the movement in the strata. Referring to the use of birds underground to detect the presence of dangerous gases, Mr Masterton said he would like to know if Mr Rowan had ever known a case where the men became effected at a stage where the birds showed no ill-effects. That had occurred at Cadder, but he thought the reason in that case was that the men were in a state of excitement.


Mr G. L. Kerr, Glasgow, raised the point of the effectiveness of water in extinguishing fires either below or above ground. He had doubts as to whether it was wise to use water in a very large fire, and he should like to know whether the great heat did not separate two constituents of the water, so that instead of extinguishing the flame it really added fuel to the fire, for it seemed to him in a large fire water had often very little effect.

Mr A. H. Steele, Glasgow, Mines Inspector, said in reference to the queries of the two previous speakers, that where there was a great heat water formed what was known as “water-gas,” which in itself was explosive. He thought that at Cadder they had a case of water-gas. In regard to the question as to whether men might be affected before the birds, he believed that the Cadder experience was due to excitement on the men’s part. But there was another point which had to be taken into consideration; a bird might be sitting in the bottom of its cage, where the air was comparatively pure, while at the level of a man’s head the gas might be present. This showed a necessity for specially constructed cages in which the birds could be kept up to a proper level.

The discussion was adjourned until a future meeting.

Mr John Watson’s paper on “The Testing of Fans” was discussed, and Mr Willoughby M. Dunn submitted a paper of “The Electric Winding Plant at South Kenmuir Colliery.” He advocated that electricity could be used as safely and with no greater cost than steam winding. Mr Henry Briggs exhibited three slides showing gas and fuel caps.

The Scotsman
13th October, 1913, page 5

The annual social meeting of students in the Ayrshire mining classes was held at Kilmarnock on Saturday evening, when there was a large attendance from all parts of the county. Mr John Cuthbertson, county technical organiser, presided, and among those present were Professor Burns, of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and Mr John Masterton, H.M. Assistant Inspector of Mines both of whom addressed the students. Professor Burns said it was necessary for them as students to study certain text books and get up a great deal of what might be called dead material, because after all the man who wrote a text book was merely erecting a tombstone. Problems once solved were dead, but what they had to look to was the fact that they might be able to begin where their predecessors left off. The great satisfaction lay in adding to the store of knowledge, so that those who followed might begin a step further towards the goal. Mr Masterton referred to recent legislation regarding mining, remarking that during the last year and a half they had had many difficulties to face in adapting the conditions to the new requirements, and there had been some unpleasantness, but he was sure they would soon adapt themselves to the new order of things, and would then wonder what all the trouble had been about. Before the new Act came into force the Mines Inspectors were looked upon as advisers and friends. They were that still, although now they had to demand more, and he trusted that by and by the friendly spirit would again become more apparent than perhaps was at present.

The Scotsman
29th December, 1913

SHERIFF-SUBSTITUTE DEAN LESLIE and a jury held inquiries at Stirling yesterday into three fatal accidents, two of which had reference to accidents in mines and the other to part of an outhouse falling upon a man who was preparing to demolish it. During the hearing of the first of the colliery cases, Mr Masterton, H.M. Inspector of Mines, put a question as to the filling up of a cavity in the roof of a working which had collapsed. The Sheriff said such questions were unnecessary, and were merely delaying the jury; the stone fell on the man, and that was all that was wanted. The whole thing was a farce; all that they could find was that the man was dead. Before the next case was opened, Mr Masterton said there was something more to be considered than the question of a stone falling on a man or a man being drowned by an inrush of water; there was the question of negligence, and it was in connection with that that he appeared there. The Sheriff - You know that the jury never has full information, and are not qualified to deal with technical questions. Mr Masterton - I must say I have never been treated anywhere, in ten years, as I have been in this Court. The case concerned the death of James McIntyre Steel, coal-cutting machineman, 33 Anderson Terrace, Longcroft, who was drowned by an inrush of water in the Livingstone Pit, Banknock. The evidence showed that the roads were being driven forward towards an old working when the machine cut into the dook, and there was a burst of water, which overwhelmed Steel, and caused the other men to run for their lives. The accident, it was stated, was due to the plans being incorrect, the officials having calculated that there was still 50 feet of coal between the cutting machine and the old working. The roads being driven were 28 feet out of alignment for the old workings. In all three cases the jury returned formal verdicts.

The Scotsman
22nd December, 1916

MASTERTON.- At 86 Morningside Drive, Edinburgh, on 19th inst., the wife of JOHN MASTERTON (H.M. Inspector of Mines), a son.

The Scotsman
21st May, 1918

PROFESSOR J. S. HALDANE M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., of Oxford, delivered an address on Saturday night under the auspices of the Mining Department of the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, when he spoke on the "Physiology of Breathing." There was a large audience in the Examination Hall of George Heriot's School, presided over by Councillor W. Bruce Lindsay, who was accompanied on the platform by Professor T. Hudson Beare, Principal Laurie, Heriot-Watt College; Professor Briggs, the Rev. William Main, Mr John Masterton, H.M. Inspector of Mines, and others.

The Scotsman
27th December, 1921

MINING INSTITUTE OF SCOTLAND - A meeting of the Mining Institute of Scotland was held on Saturday in the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh - Mr Robert McLaren, M.P., president, in the chair. The following office-bearers were nominated for election at the next annual meeting, to be held in April:- President, Mr Wallace Thorneycroft, East Plean House, Plean, Stirlingshire; vice-presidents - Mr J. Balfour Sneddon, Oakbank, Mid-Calder, and Mr William H. Telfer, Birkenshaw, Uddingston, W.; Councillors - Samuel Agnew, Bardykes Colliery, Newton Hallside, Glasgow; James Boyd, Viewfield, Kilsyth; John Gibson, Fairview, Irvine Road, Kilmarnock; James F. Gibson, M.C., Holmview, Airdrie; John Masterton, 15 Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh; Jas. Noble, Greenfield Colliery, Burnbank, Lanarkshire; Wm Davidson, 196 St Vincent Street, Glasgow. The paper on "Measurements of Air Velocities and the Testing of Anemometers," by Mr James Cooper, Edinburgh, was then discussed by the meeting. A communication in connection with the matter was read from Mr John Wilson, who said he thought that in many cases air measurements in mines had become a farce. The anemometer, he considered, was still the best method, and steps should be taken to maintain the anemometer in trustworthy order. Mr Joseph Parker's paper on "The Operation of Fans in Parallel," was also discussed. Mr W. Braxenall read a paper on "Pipe Friction and Pump Efficiency," in which he described a number of experiments carried out to find the cost of pumping worked out in terms of actual horse-power for the turbine 3-throw ram, and differential ram types of pump.

The Scotsman
13th February, 1922


The opening of the holiday season in the colliery district around Stirling was tragically marred yesterday afternoon by an accident at Plean Colliery, whereby 12 men lost their lives. The district has been remarkably free from accidents, and the present is the worst since the Dunipace disaster of a quarter of a century ago.
The village of Plean is situated on the Edinburgh Road, about three miles south of Bannockburn, and has a population of about 1500. The pit in which the accident occurred is situated on the high ground above the village, and belongs to the Plean Colliery Company, of which Mr Wallace Thorneycroft is managing director. It is known as No. 4 pit.
Between one and two o'clock yesterday afternoon it was reported that an explosion had occurred, and immediately large crowds made their way in the direction of the pit. Safety lamps are in use in the colliery. At the time of the explosion sixty men were engaged at work in the section, and all were got out with the exception of twelve, whose bodies were eventually recovered. The list of those who lost their lives is as follows:-
William Munnoch, Forfar's Buildings, Bannockburn; married, with family of five.
David Munnoch (single), Douglas Street, Bannockburn; a brother of William Munnoch.
James McGowan, The Haugh, Bannockburn.
Bernard McCann, Murrayfield, Bannockburn; married,
John Barlow, Bannockburn; single
William Lennie, Newlands, Bannockburn; maried with family of six.
James Wilson, New Road, St Ninians; married, with family of five.
James Bryden (single), Bentheads, Bannockburn.
John Hunter, Standburn Cottage, Whins of Milton, near Bannockburn.
Alexander Henderson, 29 Red Row, East Plean.
James Jarvie (single) Larbert.
Daniel Forsyth (single), Muirhouse Road, Bannockburn.

Forsyth and Barlow were the only supports of widowed mothers. Lennie had a son who, but for illness, would have been working on the same shift. In addition to those killed, William McCallum and Edward McCafferty, both of Plean, were gassed, and sustained leg injuries. They were, however, able to proceed home.


As the news of the occurrence spread in the district, crowds of anxious men and women made their way to the pithead. Rescue parties were summoned, and were soon on the spot from the neighbouring colliery of the Alloa Coal Company and from Larbert and Coatbridge. Following the explosion, a fall had taken place in one of the roadways, and it was two hours before the first of the bodies were brought up. These were the two Munnochs, McGowan and McCann.
Of the twelve men killed all but four belonged to Bannockburn, and all were men highly respected in the village, and skilled miners. Lennie was a contractor, and several of the men were working under him.


The usual number of men employed in the colliery is about 300 on the day shift, and had an accident taken place earlier or later than it did, the death-roll might have been even heavier. No trouble was experienced in getting at the first of the bodies, but the rescuers found much difficulty in reaching bodies further in, owing to the bad air and frequent falls from the roof. Fresh parties of volunteers relieved their comrades at intervals, and, as the bodies were brought out they were carried to a temporary mortuary through crowds who stood in the heavy rain with heads reverently uncovered. The sixth body was brought to the surface about 7.45 P.M. three more were got about 8.30; and the remaining three about ten o'clock.
During the evening Mr Thorneycroft, who was at Lochgelly when he received the tidings of the disaster, descended the pit along with Mr Masterton, H.M. Inspector of Mines. Mr G.R. Archibald, Procurator-Fiscal, Stirling, also visited the colliery in the course of the evening.


In conversation with a representative of The Scotsman, Michael McCafferty, one of the injured, gave the following account of his experience:-"We were working at the coal face, when we heard a dull sound, which was followed immediately by our lights going out. My neighbour (McCann) asked me what had happened, and I told him I thought it was gas that had gone off. We immediately made for the air way, and when we got there we met two or three other men, one of whom had by this time got a light. Four of the men went with the light up the "air way," but my chum would not accompany them, as he wanted to see about his father. I knew there were other men working in the lyes, so I said I would go with him and see about them. We only got about half-way, when we were forced to turn back owing to the after damp. We tried it again, and had got into the road a good distance, when we heard somebody moaning. We both shouted, but got no answer, so we proceeded to where we thought the sound came from, and found a man lying face downwards. He proved to be Willie McCallum. We dragged him out to where there was better air, but were unable to get him any further. By this time the under-manager and some other men came in, and they asked how many more men there were inside. I told him there were at least two, so they went to see about getting them out, afterwards sending a man back to see how we were. I don't remember what I came up against. I was taken up in a bogey, and on reaching the top fainted.

The Scotsman
14th July, 1922

Link to Scottish Mining's web-page




FIGURES bearing on the coal output nationally are now provided weekly and quarterly by the Mines Department of the Board of Trade; but people of a statistical turn of mind who delight in details have still to wait for the issue of the annual reports by H.M. Inspector of Mines for information in the respective counties. The report for 1924 by Mr J. Masterton, Chief Inspector for the Scotland Division of the mining area of Great Britain, is just issued. The report contains elaborate tables dealing with output and the persons employed during the year. In the following table the output of the number of persons employed in each county in Scotland is given for the sake of comparison for the pre-war year 1913 and for 1924.

1913. 1924.
Tons Persons Tons Persons
Coal only. Employed. Coal only. Employed.
Ayr 4,193,776 15,225 3,856,199 14,560
Clackmannan 342,546 1,264 456,349 1,523
Dumbarton 518,025 2,433 453,186 2,285
Edinburgh 3,203,680 11,713 3,232,661 12,855
Fife & Kinross 9,680,208 29,322 7,949,305 30,341
Haddington 1,117,020 3,629 1,079,573 3,983
Lanark 17,486,267 60,084 13,902,126 57,308
Linlithgow 2,057,324 10,205 1,816,411 10,456
Renfrew 212,173 1,359 121,868 601
Stirling 3,038,851 10,747 2,658,635 11,776
Other areas 606,646 1,568 663,968 1,918

The Scotsman
25th September, 1925

Webmaster's note: 1913 would prove to be the year of peak production from the Scottish coalfield


THE number of persons employed in the mining industry in Scotland in 1931 was 91,338, a decrease, compared with 1930, of 9056.
The total output of coal, the principal mineral, was 29,072,361 tons, a decrease of 2,586,326 tons.
There were 132 persons killed and 439 injured in accidents during the year, a decrease of 25 persons killed and 53 injured.

These and other interesting facts regarding the mining industry are narrated by Mr J. Masterton, O.B.E., Divisional Inspector of Mines in Scotland, in his report for the year ended 31st December last.

Mr Masterton reports that there were 408 mines in his list at the end of December, but, as has happened in other years recently, some were non-producing, others were producing only for periods definitely arranged ahead, whilst in the remainder full time was not obtainable except in the case of a few with special quality coal or special markets. There are, he states, more collieries in Scotland than are necessary for the available trade, and this would still be true even should a substantial addition to present output be required, because collieries which are worked "intensively," as most of them now are, have always districts in reserve and ready for rapid expansion.


Financial stress compelled the abandonment of the Mount Vernon group of collieries in Lower Lanarkshire, and of the others elsewhere under the same control. So far as the Mount Vernon group is concerned, their closure from exhaustion was only a few years distant, but the effect of their stoppage has not been confined to these abandoned pits, and other collieries adjoining them have had to be abandoned as well, because of the extra water growth to be pumped when the water rose and spread towards them.

This closing of collieries, Mr Masterton adds, is sure to continue, the body of water spreading further eastward in the Lanarkshire basin, unless it be arrested by pumping schemes worked jointly by the colliery owners who are likely to be affected.

The Scottish shale oil industry during last year, the report states, passed through one of the most severe trials it has been its lot to face. In spite of the efforts of those in the industry to carry on, the severe competition from imported petroleum products which are sent into this country at very low prices has resulted in a further contraction of the industry. Several mines and works have been closed, and a considerable number of workmen have been displaced. This has taken place even although their chemists and mining engineers are recognised the world over as being among the foremost in their business.


The average total number of persons employed in and about the mines producing the several minerals under the Coal Mines Acts was 91,338, as against 100,394 so employed in 1930, a decrease of 9056 persons in the industry. The average total number employed below ground was 69,612, and above ground 21,725; the relative figures for 1930 were 76,796 and 23,598. The decreases occurred in every county, but in all of the counties except Lanarkshire and West Lothian (Linlithgow) they may be looked upon as temporary.

The total output of coal, fireclay, ironstone, oil shale, and other minerals was 31,525,243 tons, a decrease from 1930 of 2,924,909 tons. The total output of coal, the principal mineral, was 29,072,361 tons, a decrease of 2,586,326 tons. The straits in which the oil shale industry finds itself are reflected in the total output of oil shale, this figure for 1931 being 1,732,746 tons, a decrease of 287,764 tons. The decrease in the output of higher grade fireclays and ganister in the counties of Ayr, Dumbarton, Linlithgow, and Stirling indicates a continuance of the depression in iron and steel with idle furnaces for which linings are not at present necessary, both at home and abroad.

The output of coal per shift per person employed below and above ground at coal mines was 23.92 cwts., as compared with 23.44 cwts. in 1930. Coal-cutting machines were in use at 226 of the 408 mines at work. There were 1522 machines of all kinds, and all but 53 of them were electrically driven. The percentage of the total output of all minerals won by machine was 61.3, and the percentage of coal alone was 66.4, a rise of 0.5 per cent. on all minerals machine-cut, and of 0.4 per cent. on coal alone.


There were 132 persons killed in 115 separate accidents, and 439 persons injured, a few of them in the same accidents in which persons were killed, but most of them in the 412 separate accidents notified. This is a decrease of 25 persons killed and 53 persons injured, as compared with 1930.

In the part of his report dealing with underground haulage accidents, Mr Masterton points out that, if large roads with good footing were always provided, and if, in these roads, the safety devices known to mine managers were always fitted and their use constantly insisted upon, the casualties to haulage workers would be smaller in number.

Mr Masterton states that he is gravely concerned at the repeated ignitions from coal-cutter picks taking place during ordinary operations, for they can occur with compressed air and with electrically driven machines alike. Some years ago it was believed that special pick point steel might be made which would lessen the chance of ignition, but it was proved at the Safety in Mines Research Board Station that variations from plain steel made little difference.

The only practical remedy which he knows is the production of an inert atmosphere at the point where the picks are cutting under the holing. The Safety in Mines Research Board are experimenting as to this. He is hopeful of success, so that the chances of serious explosion may be brought under control, for unless this source of ignition can be controlled gas will in gassy seams be lit under the holing, will lick up the front of the face, and some day flash back uinto fallen wastes where there are likely to be bodies of gas undetected because out of the direct range of the ventilation, and out of normal reach.

The matter of better lighting underground, Mr Masterton says, has been before the colliery owners, agents, and managers for some time, but, so far, there is no widespread improvement.

The Scotsman
21st September, 1932
page 8


Mr William F. Masterton, Edinburgh, who has been awarded a senior scholarship in engineering value £250, is the eldest son of Mr John Masterton, H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines for Scotland. He will graduate B.Sc. to-day with first class honours in the Department of Mining, University of Edinburgh. His practical experience has been obtained with the Lothian Coal Co. (Ltd.) The scholarship will enable him to spend a year in investigating the methods of mining in Britain and on the Continent. For the session now closing, Mr Masterton has been president of both the University Engineering Society and of the East of Scotland Mining Students' Society. This is the third important scholarship carried off by Edinburgh mining graduates within four months, the others being the Mavor & Coulson Travelling Studentship of £300, and a Vans Dunlop Scholarship of £100.

The Scotsman
30th June, 1933


Fewer Persons Employed


THE Secretary for Mines announces the publication of Mr John Masterton’s report on the inspection of mines, under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, in Scotland during 1932.

The total output of minerals during the year was approximately 31 million tons, including nearly 29 million tons of coal; compared with 1931 there was a reduction of half a million tons, divided equally between coal and oil shale. The average number of persons employed fell from 91,300 to 85,400.


The Scottish shale oil industry has, the report states, continued to fight its battle against very severe world competition. Unlike the coal industry, where the market is not large enough for the possible output, there is a market for all the petroleum products which all the oil shale mines and works are capable of producing. So far as sulphate of ammonia is concerned, the shale oil industry is in much the same position as the coal industry, due to the fact that the world cannot consume the possible production. With all the possible economies, readjustments, and improvements in refining, competition from natural oils remains too strong for the poorer oil shales, along with the severe reduction in price of sulphate of ammonia. The price of this product to-day is about one-third that of pre-war.

With regard to the scheme for spreading available employment in the shale fields it is stated that the number of additional men who have been re-employed is 898, or an addition of 33 per cent, to the number who were in employment last year.

The scheme means that with the increase in wages and the men working three weeks and idle on the fourth, the lower paid men are actually receiving a little more money than hitherto, while the higher paid are losing a little, but the great benefit is that a large number of the men who have been re-employed are now only drawing unemployment benefit or transitional payment for one week out of four and are having an opportunity of earning a decent wage, and what is most important of all is that they are filling in their day usefully instead of hanging about in enforced idleness. The men who have been in constant employment have the great satisfaction of seeing many re-employed on the same conditions as themselves. There have been many difficulties in adjusting details, but the scheme has met with an excellent reception throughout the shale oil industry, and a loyal effort has been made by all concerned to ensure it.


Coal-cutting machines were in use at 201 mines. There were 1365 machines of all kinds, which, with the exception of 41, were electrically driven. As in the past year, fewer machines are being used, the reduction being 145 driven electrically and 12 driven by compressed air. The quantity of mineral cut by electrical power has shown a definite increase on the preceding year, pointing to the fact that the machines were being used more nearly to the maximum capacity. The average number of tons of mineral cut by each electrical machine was 14,815 in 1932, as compared with 12,780 in 1931. Corresponding figures for compressed air machines are in sharp contrast with those for machines driven by electricity, and they show a reduction on output per machine from 10,494 tons in 1931 to 9781 tons in 1932.

The percentage proportion of the total output of coal won by machines continues to increase, and was 69.3 in 1932, as compared with 66.4 in the preceding year.


There were 129 persons killed in 119 separate accidents, and there were 438 persons injured, a few of them in the same accidents in which persons were killed, but most of them in the 407 separate accidents notified. There is a decrease of three persons killed and one person injured as compared with 1931.

There were 60 persons killed as the result of falls of roof and side, and 156 seriously injured during 1932. This is a decrease of five persons killed and two persons injured on the figures for 1931.

Twenty-eight per cent. of all the accidents reported were fatal, and out of 41 accidents at the working face, 21 occurred to persons of more than 40 years of age.

The fatal accidents have been classified to indicate the primary cause, showing that:- (1) 50 per cent. were due to defective practice; (2) 10 per cent. were due to neglect by officials; (3) 16.7 per cent. were due to neglect by workment; (4) 23.3 per cent. were due to unavoidable causes.


In commenting upon accidents from falls of ground, Mr Masterton points out that coal is mined in Scotland to a large extent from thin seams in measures which have already been disturbed and fractured by the extraction of thicker seams without regard to the conditions under which the thinner seams would have to be worked at a later date. This necessitates special attention to the methods of development and lay-out in order to secure safe conditions both at the working faces and on roadways, and while the wide variation in the details of the problem prevents him from treating the subject from a “roof control” point of view, Mr Masterton discusses the general causes of accidents and makes recommendation for their reduction. He again advocates the use of steel arches on roadways, and of steel props and straps at the working face, and is able to report a further extension in the use of such steel supports.


There were four fatal accidents by explosives in 1932, an increase of one over the previous year, and 47 non-fatal accidents injuring 50 persons as against the 45 accidents injuring 45 persons.

Modern conditions under which mining is done to a definite time-table have their influence on the use of explosives. The brushings in conveyor sections in thin seams are often taken to enable ten feet by eight feet arched-girders to be set, and the short time available for brushing and packing strains the energies of a considerable squad of men. The tendency is for the brusher to use very heavy explosive charges in all cases instead of applying his skill and experience in each individual case. Many instances occur where the roof intended to be blasted down actually falls when the supports are withdrawn showing that the brusher’s judgment was seriously at fault.

The use of explosives on machine faces also requires critical examination with a view to getting correct charges and reducing the number of shots fired. In many cases the hole borer drills holes at stated intervals on the face, either before or after undercutting. One finds on some occasions that shots are fired, when only a thin band of coal has to be broken down and the work to be done is negligible, even for the smallest cartridge available. As in the brushings, accidents have occurred to men who are preparing to fire shots in coal, due to the coal actually falling on them, showing that proper inspection and personal judgment were lacking.

The use of capped fuses is extending throughout the division, and they are giving every satisfaction. Their use obviates the risk of accident which is present when the fuse is being inserted and crimped to the detonator, and the joint has the added advantage that it is waterproof.


The danger from underground fires in mines where seams are not liable to spontaneous combustion is likely to be overlooked, but fires caused by naked lights, which break out some hours after the last person has left the district, are not uncommon under these conditions. An instance occurred at Lochside Mine, Fifeshire, on October 14, on an intake airway, and was not discovered until two and a half hours after the last person had travelled the roadway. The investigation raised the question of the efficiency of “non-inflammable” brattice cloth. It appears that woven jute cloth is treated with a solution, and that after a comparatively short time the cloth loses its non-inflammable properties.

The brattice cloth in general use has a very open tecture, and is not suitable for the primary purpose for which it is supplied. In many cases screens are erected with several thicknesses of brattice, making them expensive, very heavy, and liable to damage from traffic. A much lighter screen of really impervious cloth at a slightly increased price would be more effective from the point of view of ventilation and more economical. If buyers would insist on getting an impervious, non-inflammable brattice cloth, the manufacturers would produce it, making a general improvement in the ventilation of the working places and minimising the risks of fire.


In his general remarks Mr Masterton reports some activity in the search for better underground lighting in the safety lamp mines. Particulars are given of the number of safety lamps, the horse-power of electrical plant, the quantity of explosives used, and of recent developments in the matter of pithead baths.

During 1932 pithead baths were completed and put into service at Northfield, Douglas, Loanhead (Ramsay), Whitrigg, Bothwell Castle 3-4 and East Plean 5 Collieries, as well as extensions to the existing baths at Devon and Loganlea Collieries. All the new baths, except the installation at Loanhead (Ramsay) Colliery, are equipped with canteens at the cost of the District Welfare Fund.

Mr Masterton also describes the position in regard to first-aid work and rescue organisation, safety propaganda, and the training of boys. He reports a further decrease in the number of horses employed, but commends the general condition of those that remain at work.

Copies of the Report, price 1s., or post free 1s. 2d., may be obtained from H.M. Stationery Office, 120 George Street, Edinburgh.

The Scotsman
12th July, 1933

MASTERTON. At 94 Craighouse Road, Edinburgh, suddenly, on 21st September, JOHN MASTERTON, O.B.E., H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines, beloved husband of Jean L. W. Masterton. Funeral arrangements later.

The Scotsman
22nd September, 1933


The death has occurred in Edinburgh of Mr John Masterton, O.B.E., His Majesty's Divisional Inspector of Mines. Mr Masterton, a native of Longriggend, where his father was schoolmaster of many years, began his duties in Ayrshire, and after some time was transferred to Edinburgh. He was promoted to the position of Senior Inspector of Mines at the beginning of the war, and later he was appointed to the Divisional Inspectorship, a position he held for over ten years. Mr Masterton's active interest in all mining affairs was reflected in his election this year to the vice-presidency of the Mining Institute of Scotland. Mr Masterton, who was in his 55th year, is survived by his wife, three sons, and a daughter.

The Scotsman
23rd September, 1933


The funeral of Mr John Masterton, O.B.E., who for the past twelve years was H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines for Scotland, took place to Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh, yesterday, and was attended by representatives from the various interests of the mining industry, including the Secretary for Mines, Mr Ernest Brown, M.P.

The Mines Department was represented by the Assistant Under-Secretary, Mr Fudge. Others who attended were Sir Henry Walker, Mr F. H. Wymme, Mr T. Greenland Davies, and Mr E. H. Fraser. The Inspectors who constituted Mr Masterton's staff were also present at the funeral. Amongst the many well-known coalowners present were Mr Hood and Mr Mungo Mackie, of the Lothian Coal Co. (Ltd.); Mr C.C. Reid, of the Fife Coal Co. (Ltd.); Mr D. Mowat, of the Lanark coalowners; and Mr Borland, representing Ayrshire. Mr Crighton and Mr Balfour Sneddon, of Scottish Oils (Ltd.), also attended. The workmen of the mining industry were represented by Mr Wm. Adamson and Mr Andrew Clarke. The Federated Institute of Mining Engineers was represented by Mr Alex. Anderson, Motherwell; and Mr Robert Brown, Harthill, and Mr T. Brown, honorary secretary, were present on behalf of the Mining Institute of Scotland. The mining side of University life was represented by Professor Briggs, of Edinburgh, and Professor Bryan, of Glasgow. Mr Waugh, Procurator-Fiscal of Dunfermline, and Mr J. Adair, Procurator-Fiscal of Edinburgh, were also present.

The Scotsman
26th September, 1933

An engagement is announced between Nigel Gordon Steere, M.B., Ch.B., younger son of Mr and Mrs G.M. Steere, Estcourt, Natal, and Mary Graham Masterton, M.B., Ch.B., only daughter of the late Mr John Masterton, O.B.E., and of Mrs Masterton, 94 Craighouse Road, Edinburgh.

The Scotsman
9th January, 1934


A marriage has been arranged and will shortly take place betweeen Major William Fernie Masterton, R.E., and of the Kailan Mining Administration, Tientsin, North China, son of the late Mr John Masterton, O.B.E., and of Mrs Masterton, 94 Myreside Road, Edinburgh, and Isabella Agnes, daughter of the late Mr Alexander Berry and of Mrs Berry, 37 Townsend Place, Kirkcaldy.

The Scotsman
1st September, 1945

MASTERTON - BERRY.- At St Cuthbert's Memorial Chapel, EDINBURGH, on 25th September 1945, by the Rev. David Reid, M.A., Kirkcaldy, Major WILLIAM FERNIE MASTERTON, R.E., and of the Kailan Mining Administration, Tientsin, North China, son of the late Mr John Masterton, O.B.E., and of Mrs J. Masterton, 94 Myreside Road, Edinburgh, to ISABELLA AGNES, daughter of the late Mr ALEXANDER BERRY and of Mrs A.S. BERRY, 37 Townsend Place, Kirkcaldy.

The Scotsman
26th September, 1945

MASTERTON.- At SONGSHAN, Hopei Province, North China, on 1st June 1947, to ISABELLA AGNESS (nee Berry), wife of WILLIAM F. MASTERTON, Kailan Mining Administration, a daughter (Louise Elizabeth.)

The Scotsman
7th June, 1947