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lecturing, teaching, advising, for everyone in He formed many warm friendships among Irvine sought counsel of its “living oracle," the higher class of Italian priests, and often and the house of this dissenting minister was spoke to me in after years of the joy it gave a kind of priestly confessional for all who him to find so much Christian fellowship with were in trouble. All counted on his tender them. He could understand, he said, how sympathy, and all confided in his insight and Leighton often left the Presbytery to get his wisdom. No one was more entirely loved heart refreshed in a monastery like La and trusted, and probably he knew more Trappe. At times, he even went so far as to family secrets than the most approved family join in services which would have made some solicitor. A bachelor, living with a devoted of his brethren stare and gasp. On one occasister, yet women of all kinds, married and sion, e.g. driving with his sister into a town, single, brought their burden of cares to him, they met a procession marching to the shrine for he was a natural-born priest, without a of their patron saint, headed by the priests, shadow of the “craft.” Trust came to him: and chanting one of the old Latin hymns. he never sought it. He was at home in the Whereupon he ordered the carriage to stop, human heart; but he never seemed to probe and jumped out and joined them, singing it. He did not handle cases of conscience in with his deep musical bass the grand old his pulpit, yet people brought their doubts strain, as probably no one else was able to and scruples to get direction from him, and do. He was passionately fond of music, espeI doubt not that he helped them, for his cially of the ancient ecclesiastical chants heart felt with them. So the years passed and plain-songs, and would sit at his chamber amid the love and the honour of all who organ dreaming over them far into the night. knew him, till, in 1871, he was laid down by I doubt not it was this feeling-essentially an attack of pleurisy and effusion, which artistic, not religious—which led him, as the brought him nigh the brink of the grave. procession came up with banners flying and For many days his life was despaired of, and boy-voices piping the hymn which he had the only hope rested on a very delicate and probably often sung to himself, to take his critical operation. Happily it was successful place in the throng, and give a more musical so far, and he lived for a good many years as well as a more spiritual voice to its sacred after, but his work as minister of Irvine was song. He could not help himself. He was ended. Henceforth he only preached occa- like Saul among the prophets, and must needs sionally at distant intervals, mostly for sing with them, only he was the real prophet, friends. His many admirers cheerfully made and the procession were probably rather a lot up a purse to provide for his remaining of Sauls. And yet, who knows? years, and he left Scotland to seek a milder Of all the books which I often hoped he air in Italy.
might be persuaded to write, the one which Robertson's artistic instincts had always latterly I urged most strongly on him was a craved for that land of sunshine and beauty, work on Religious Art, and there were times and now they could be gratified to the full. when I fancied he might be got to do it. I Ere long his health in a great measure was tried hard to persuade him to prepare a couple restored, so far at least that he could make a of lectures on the subject for the Philosophical home in Florence in spite of the Tramontana. Institution of Edinburgh, which, even if they For Florence was more to him than Rome, were not written out, might by means of the and ere long he pervaded the Tuscan capital reporter be made the nucleus of a more comalmost as he had done Irvine. At least, few plete work in due time. For without preEnglish-speaking folk went there who did tending myself to have any knowledge on not see it through his eyes, for he had studied the subject, or to say whether his ideas were and knew its treasures as only Ruskin among sound or not, it was clear that he had living men had done. Its architecture, its on the subject, very many, and full of interest paintings, its sculpture, the lives of its great and of beauty. He had seen and pondered men, the story of its rise and decay, its reli- and sought the meaning of Florentine art as gious life and its common life, both past and no one I ever met had done, and he had compresent—he soon became familiar with all, pared it with the current of Italian literature and discoursed of them by the hour as one and history from Giotto and Dante down to who loved them, and brought all the wealth of Raphael and Vasari. The colours, the faces, a vivid imagination to illustrate them. And the postures of almost every picture were love them he did, in spite of his staunch familiar to him, and he traced a meaning Presbyterian Protestantism which remained through them all
, and an historical relation to for all that as staunch as ever to the end. the spiritual decay of the people. I cannot help regretting that he was not per- If possible, there were always some ladies at mitted to give us his deliberate thoughts on those meetings—mostly young and beautiful the subject, as he promised me often to do. —and he would make the prettiest speeches They might be right, or they might be wrong, to them, which yet had none of the impertibut I am convinced they would have been nence of compliments. Women he honoured helpful and suggestive. Like many another with a kind of chivalrous courtesy, which scheme, however, they were talked of, and that they repaid with an absolute confidence; but was all. It is a fatal gift, that gift of brilliant when they had youth and beauty, he gave conversation, for it spoils much needed work, the reins to fancy, and to the play of quaint if it gives much passing enjoyment.
and graceful humour. So his latter days Robertson spent several winters in Italy, passed among his books and friends, in soliand became so fond of it that his friends tude often and yet never alone, for the trees here began to fear he would settle there for and the brooks and the whispering winds good. But he was a genuine Scot, after all, were a living fellowship to him, and he had and his “heart untravelled ” brought him always his chamber-organ to discourse with home by-and-by. One of his wealthy ad- in those grand old hymns, which lifted up mirers, the late Dr. Young, of Kelly, offered his soul to a higher world than this. À him the life-lease of an old country house purer, simpler, nobler nature, or one more near West Calder, in the “shale” neighbour- richly endowed with all that goes to make a hood, but fairly well away from the smoke beautiful life, in all my pilgrimage I have of paraffin. There was a pleasant old garden never happened to meet. Dr. John Brown, and some fine trees, and the mansion, which Norman McLeod, Daniel Macnee, all the had long stood empty, soon became bright world knows them, and will be ready to beand cheery when he set up there his Lares lieve that they were choice friends and et Penates
, and gathered his friends about goodly company. Yet an evening with Wilhim. One began to hope that life had still liam Robertson was a joy to me at least as something worth looking forward to now memorable as any I had with them, and a that he was back among us, and within easy sermon from him was more wonderful than call by rail. Now and then he was -per-aught I ever heard or read. Yet of this man suaded to come into Edinburgh, and we had there is no record, save in the loving memory bright little symposia with Dr. John Brown, of his friends. As I ventured to say elseand Sir Daniel Macnee, and Sir Douglas where, he is like James among the Apostles, Maclagan, and Professor Blackie, and what who wrote nothing at all, and said nothing other elements of culture and faculty London we know, and yet was one of the chosen has not drawn away from the northern me- three who were with the Master that day tropolis. Occasionally Robertson was even when His glory was revealed, and that night persuaded to preach one of those strangely when His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, beautiful discourses which were so unlike the even unto death. ordinary sermon that regular sermon-lovers I had not met my friend for some time, knew not what to make of them, or whether for my life was very busy and also somewhat to
approve or condemn. They had very little burdened at that time, and I had no idea doctrine, almost as little exhortation; but that he was suffering from any illness. But with a central nucleus of clear' thought, sur- one day in that sadly memorable June an rounded by a nimbus of varying, many-tinted old friend called and told me he had been to poetry, they lifted one up into regions where see him in Bridge of Allan, whither he had sermons rarely go. But he could not often gone to be with a sister who resided there, yield to the entreaty of friends for such and that he had found him very low, and, as he service. His health could not bear the feared, near the end. I wrote immediately to strain. It was only too clear that his work- say that I would go out on the Monday-it ing day was done. What he liked best was was then Saturday—and I hoped he would be to gather a few of us on a summer day round able to see me also. On the Monday mornhis table, and to saunter about the grounds, ing I got a note to say that he had passed and to hold large discourse which “wan-away shortly after my letter arrived. I had dered at its own sweet will.” There he exer- hoped once more to hold his hand and to cised a generous hospitality-too generous, I hear his voice; and I cannot describe the used to think, for his means were limited, sense of choking that came over me when I and he never knew the value of money, read that he was no more—yet he is for everyet neither did he become the slave of debt. more!
A COLLIERY EXPLOSION.
BY PROFESSOR THORPE, F.R.S. "SHE'S
HE'S fired !” Of all the cries which a sense of sudden
peril wrings from men there is surely none more awful than this. Try to realise what it means. In the language of the colliery, it means that the pitman, whose trained ear enables him to identify and localise each one of that curious medley of sounds to be met with in a mine, has heard the dull thud which he knows full well will be followed in a few seconds by a blast of scorching flame and the rush of ignited dust, by darkness and the suffocating after-damp, and, it may be, death. A resolute man, strong in his power of helpfulness, may feel the calmness which is born of hope if he realises that his courage or his skill or his physical strength may save him from impending danger. The cry of “Breakers ahead!” loses half its terror to the seaman who knows that his ship is good and true, and that her crew are smart and active. Seamanship and willing service may keep him off the rocks. But what glimmer of hope is there for the poor wretch who does his race for dear life in utter darkness, and, as he staggers along the uneven roadway, knows that he is matched against time and the rush of the deadly after-damp? Frequently, however, the men are struck down without a note of warning; they are found close to their tools, and with their lamps hanging
near, often in attitudes which indicate that the wave of stupefySearching for Fire-damp. ing gas had come upon them unawares, and that they had
passed into the "silent land” without a struggle, and in the twinkling of an eye. Sometimes the men are imprisoned behind a fall of the roof, such as almost invariably follows from a violent explosion, when the timbering is blown down for hundreds of yards along the roads, and they sit there without the hope of succour, waiting for death in the darkness of their tomb. What lengthened agony men in such a situation suffer we can but dimly realise. Of all “messages from the deep" of which history has any record, there is none more touching in its simple pathos than that found scratched with a rusty brattice nail on the bottom of his tin-can, in which an entombed miner takes farewell of his wife and bids her kiss the little ones whose faces he was never more to see. *
But it is not to be supposed that explosions are the chief causes of casualties in collieries. During the ten years prior to 1885, 11,165 men and boys met their deaths in coal-pits ; of these 2,562 were killed by explosions. The greater number of the casualties are due to falls of the roof and sides, and to accidents in the roadways and shafts. Without doubt, much of this waste of human life is preventable, for, in the opinion of those well qualified to judge, it is in great part due to carelessness and to the lack of early training. The Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into accidents in coal-mines, in their report of last spring made a number of recommendations which, it is to be hoped, will do much towards lessening the
* This incident happened on the occasion of the Seaham explosion in 1880, by which 164 men and boys were killed. In dying the man clasped the tin bottle so tightly under his right arm that it escaped the notice of the explorers, and it was the wife herself who discovered it when the body was brought to the surface.
Preparing for the Blast.
does its work insidiously, and at other times by sudden onslaught, and which can only be successfully met by unceasing vigilance, a trained intelligence, and scientific knowledge.
The causes of colliery explosions have seemed at times inscrutable, but, thanks to the labours of the Royal Commissioners, whose report has already been referred to, and to the work of mining engineers and colliery managers in this country and on the continent, we are gradually dispelling the mystery. It is the purpose of this paper to explain what we now know concerning the origin, in general, of these catastrophes, and to indicate how we may hope, in the light of this knowledge, to lessen the frequency of their occurrence.
In the course of the chemical changes accompanying the transformation of vegetable matter into coal there
is produced, in greater or less abundance Waiting for the Blast.
-depending upon conditions which we need
not here go into—a gaseous compound of number of accidents of this carbon and hydrogen, commonly known class. What seems to be required is a as marsh gas. It is so named because it more constant inspection of the working is to be met with in marshy places as a places; the maintenance, in places conve- product of the decay of vegetable matter in nient to the workmen, of an ample supply contact with water. This gas was thought of timber for propping up the roof; the by the older chemists to be identical with proper training of the miner as to the best the inflammable airformed by the solumode of rotecting his working-place; the tion of certain metals, as, for example, iron exercise of greater care on his part in watch or zinc, in the common acids. The two gases ing the roof, sides, and face ; the introduc- were shown to be distinct by the Italian tion of arrangements with the workmen physicist Volta and by our countryman John which will make it their interest 'not to Dalton, who pointed out that in the act of avoid the labour of putting up the necessary burning or by explosion with air marsh gas timber, &c., for their proper protection; and forms carbonic acid in addition to water, the employment of special workmen to look whereas hydrogen—the gas evolved on the after the timbering and the main-ways, and solution of metals—under the same condithe drawing of the timber from the disused tions gives rise to water only. working-places. There is no question also however, resembles hydrogen in being much that many of the accidents which are classed lighter than air, and in being colourless, together as “miscellaneous” might be ob- tasteless, and odourless. When it is mixed viated by improved discipline, and by the with air in due proportion the mixture, if exercise of greater care on the part of those heated by contact with a flame or in other who are employed on the engine-planes and ways to a sufficiently high temperature, other roadways.
gives rise to an explosion, the violence of But as regards casualties from explosions, which depends upon the amount of the adthe case is somewhat different. We have mixed air. The most violent explosion is here to do with an enemy which is always, given with an admixture of from nine to so to say, on our flank, which sometimes ten volumes of air, but air containing only
one-twentieth of its volume of marsh gas is and fifty fathoms deep. Moreover, the old still highly explosive.
workings did not extend to any considerable Every gas which has the power of combin- distance from the shafts. In fact, in the ing with oxygen to form a flame, or, in other early days of coal-getting, the miners were words, which is capable of burning in the more hindered by water and choke-damp air, needs to have its temperature raised to than by explosive gas. Choke-damp must, a certain point before it will ignite. There indeed, have been a sore trouble, if we may are certain gases which take fire spontane- judge from the old-fashioned method of bring ously when they come in contact with the ing round asphyxiated colliers. The remedy, air; this means that their ignition tempera- we are told, “was to dig a hole in the earth ture is the ordinary temperature of the air. and lay them on their bellies with their There are other gases which will ignite at mouths in it; if that fail they tun them full the temperature of boiling water. Hydrogen of good ale; but if that fail they conclude ignites at a low red heat; marsh gas, on the them desperate.” other hand, requires a much higher tem- It was only towards the beginning of the perature to bring about its ignition--a red- last century that fire-damp became really hot poker, which instantly determines the formidable, and as the pits increased in depth explosive combination of a mixture of hydro- the evil became more and more seriously felt. gen and air, may be thrust with impunity It was quickly recognised that the best method into a mixture of marsh gas and air." This of dealing with the gas was to sweep it out peculiarity of marsh gas has an important of the workings by a vigorous air-current; bearing upon the theory of the safety lamp. but this, in the early days of coal-getting,
Now the fire-damp of the coal-miner con- was not always practicable. The old proverb sists mainly of marsh gas associated with that “a prudent miner minds the wind," more or less carbonic acid, or choke-damp, had its origin in the days when the ventiand nitrogen gas.
It should be noted that lation of the mines was solely dependent on relatively small quantities of the last-named the difference between the temperatures of gases greatly affect both the explosive the air in the pit and above ground. When violence of the fire-damp and the amount of the atmosphere was stagnant, or when the air determining the explosive limit. There workings were at too great a distance from the are certain other conditions which modify shaft, the only method of preventing the accuthe violence of the explosion by influencing mulation of the gas was to fire it from time to the temperature of the flame and the increase time. The "fireman,” covered with sackcloth of pressure at the moment of chemical change, saturated with water, crept along the ground, but as their consideration hardly affects the inch by inch, towards the spot where the firegeneral question it is unnecessary to dwell damp lurked, holding out before him a long upon them now,
pole carrying a couple of lighted candles. Coal has been worked in this country since These he cautiously pushed towards the the time of the Normans; but it was only in roof, and as the gas ignited he pressed his the beginning of the seventeenth century that face to the earth to escape the scorching explosions in collieries appear to have been flame. As the pits were deepened and the heard of. Even then they were seldom fatal. workings extended, this method, at all times One which occurred at Mostyn, on the Dee, dangerous, became at length impracticable, in 1676, and which killed a man and blew and many collieries had to be abandoned off the winding-drum at the top of the pit, owing to the impossibility of working in was apparently so novel an event as to be them with naked lamps or candles. About thought worthy of description in the "Philo- the middle of the eighteenth century an sophical Transactions of the Royal Society.” ingenious mine-manager named Spedding
This comparative infrequency of explo- invented the steel-mili, in which a disc of sions in the early workings is readily ac- steel is caused to revolve rapidly against a counted for by the mode in which coal was piece of flint. It was by the feeble radiance got at that time. The pits were very shallow; of the shower of sparks thus caused that the indeed, at the beginning of the eighteenth work of the miner could alone be carried on century no pit had reached a greater depth in a so-called "fiery” pit. The action of than sixty fathoms; commonly they were the instrument was, however, very uncernot more than from twenty to thirty fathoms tain, and many ignitions of gas were tracedeep. To-day some of our pits are half a able to its use. mile in depth; the Ashton Moss pit at Auden- The atmosphere of every coal-mine proshaw, for example, is close upon four hundred bably contains more or less marsh gas,