Young & others v. Fernie & others (4), 1864

type: Companies - litigation

The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply and Sanitary Improvement, 22nd March 1864
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Selected extracts including statements for the defence.

Friday 22nd April 1864

Mr. Ebenezer Waugh Fernie, examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

I am one of the defendants in this action. I have for a long time been connected with the business of the manganese mines in this country and abroad. I am not a chemist or a scientific man. The retorts that we have are horizontal, flat on the bottom, D-shaped, whereas those which are used in Scotland are vertical as to tube, charged at the top and discharged at the bottom. They beat only the underside of the retort, but these are heated all round, I understand.

The original intention of the Mineral Oil Company was to make crude oil, the same as the make in South Wales. We had no intention of refining. Mr. Jones took a licence from Mr. Young in February, 1862, but it was done without my knowledge. It was through him we first heard of the vertical retorts. Before I commenced this manufacture I made experiments in a rough way; but they satisfied my mind. After the third or fourth experiment it was evident that the particular sandstone we were working upon was very much injured by the least sign of red. Subsequent experiments at Berkhampstead induced me to use the tubes. I came to the conclusion as to the proper time at which decomposition took place, by taking some curly cannel, binding it with wire, and hanging it before the fire in a Dutch oven and roasting it. In 3 or 4 hours decomposition took place. The gas was eliminated so strongly and drawn into the fire, that it invariably took fire after 4 or 5 hours, so that I could never complete the experiment. That was probably 500° or 600°. No elaborate instructions have been given to my workmen. The rule is, that no sign of redness is to be allowed to be visible anywhere.

We had for a time 24 vertical retorts similar to those used by Mr. Young. They were erected in 1861, and worked the same as the horizontal retorts, but the oil mostly condensed inside and ran away, and then we tried a higher heat, and that would not do, and then one of the workmen there offered to take charge of them and work them a few days as he said they were worked in Scotland, and that made us a material which was utterly valueless. They have now gone to Scotland to be used in my works there. When the experiments were made with those retorts in the earlier stages, we began with 4 cwt., and the whole 24 were at work by the end of November; and we consumed, if I recollect right, 10 cwt. a day in each, but the results were unsatisfactory. If I got one or two retorts at the right heat there was sure to be one or the other at a wrong best; we could not get a uniform temperature. Upon comparison of the products and upon the trials of those retorts with the products of the horizontal retorts at black heat, the result was manifestly in favour of the horizontal retorts.

We sold a considerable quantity of oil made by the vertical retorts before we discontinued them. We used as much as 1813 tons of mineral from first to last, but I cannot recollect now what the exact yield of that was. We have refined our oils according to Mr. Young's specification so far as using acids and alkalis—everybody does it; but I could not sell any oil that was made simply by that process

My process is different in many respects to what he describes. Paraffin is produced with our help. From the distillation of the coal it must be there. We have extracted our own except from petroleum and shale. We have extracted perhaps 8 or 9 tons from coal. I do not think it comes to 25 tons even from petroleum. The paraffin has been usually allowed to go away with the grease without extracting it, and in all probability in a large manufactory it is very difficult to prevent mixture sometimes. It never was our object, to produce paraffin until now, when the demand for grease has gone or rather very much reduced. We were obliged to refine because we could not sell the crude oil. Our refining establishment is at Saltney.

I have tried many kinds of mineral for the production of this oil. We have found some shales which are very good, but I have found no coal which yields a profitable result but the Leeswood in that small circle of miles. Whatever we are to call Boghead, that yields a profitable result. I have tried Wigan coal and a good many other kinds; I can scarcely tell you the names of them. I have never found any that yield a profitable result except those which I have mentioned. I am not a geologist, but I should certainly not call the Boghead a coal. What I am now calling coal—that is, curly and these cannels- as far as in experience goes requires a great deal more care in the manufacture than Boghad. You can take liberties with Boghead which you cannot take with coal, in the way of temperature; but the process is the same in all cases. There seem to be great varieties of the Boghead ; we have had two sorts of it—one yields rather less and the other considerably more than Leeswood curly. The rule of low temperature is applicable to all the minerals that I have ever tried and all I have ever heard of, I never heard of Mr. Cox until he was examined here.

Cross-examined by Mr. BOVILL:

I have been a manganese miner all my life. I was winding up two railways in America immediately before entering upon this oil-making business. I first became acquainted with Mr. Jones at the time the Clydesdale case was going on. I think he told me in February or March, 1861, that he had a licence from Mr. Young. Mr. Jones was very anxious that we should agree with Mr.Young, and so were we, and we unde took to see Mr. Young or his partner I think to ascertain if some agreement could not be made; but he did not succeed.

We first used curly at Leeswood, and we tried shales when we had not curly enough. I do not know that we ever ceased working curly more or less. There was a contract with the two Joneses, the owners of Leeswood, on the 3rd of January, 1862, for 5000 or 8000 tons of shale. The 8000 tons of shale were never delivered; I think we had 2500 tons of it. We did not exercise the option given us by the agreement of requiring cannel instead of shale. It appears from the recital which you have read from the subsequent agreement of March 25, 1862, that I exercised the option of requiring cannel in place of shale after only 508 tons 19 cwt. had been delivered; but I do not recollect anything about it.

The shale answered perfectly. It is in the contract 5s. per ton, and the quality that was at first delivered was cheaper than the cannel. The quality fell off extremely. Jones declared that the miners had substituted ironstone for shale; and I dare say we may have exercised our discretion then to recover the money advanced, and to claim cannel instead of it. The option was given in case the shale should turn out to be worthless. There was an agreement made with Mr. Gillespie at the commencement of this suit to exchange evidence. (The agreement was handed in, and marked as an exhibit)

The first experiment that I tried was at the request of the Ebbw Vale Company in 1860. While Jones was in negotiation for his licence, I made two agreements with him, both dated Feb. 25, 1861. (The agreements were put in, and marked) I do not know what day he got his licence, but I think our agreement was concluded long before we heard that he had applied for a licence. The date of the licence was Feb. 23, and the agreement was Feb. 25, 1861. I have no doubt, if the rough drafts were seen, it would be found that they were a month or six weeks earlier. I did not know until some time in March that he had applied for a licence, or got one.

We applied for a licence upon our own terms, through our solicitor. We afterwards put up the retorts we had bought of Jones, and they are working now. Those are horizontal retorts, which were cast in Northamptonshire, I believe, by a gas engineer, although I do not know what his name was. His name is on the retorts. I know that Mr. Scott was the engineer who put up Mr. Young's retorts. I knew he did a great deal of work for Mr. Young when I ordered retorts of him. There were some of Mr. Scott's labourers who were acquainted with the mode of putting up Mr. Young's furnaces. You must ask Mr. Scott whether they were sent to put up the retorts because they had been employed at Mr. Young's.

When Vary returned from Scotland from seeing Mr. Meldrum, he said that when he mentioned that he was in communication with me, Mr. Meldrum told him that if he knew he had come from me, he would not have let him set foot in the works. That he was the first, and he should be the last. That closed the matter as far as Mr. Meldrum was concerned, for, of course, we could have no communication with him. We were very anxious to be on friendly terms with him. I did not state that I had no intention of evading Mr. Young's licence; the solicitor was still in negotiation with Mr. Johnson. We had still hopes of coming to some amicable conclusion, and taking the licence. Finding it was useless, the whole negotiation went off. Jones sent a telegram to Mr. Meldrum: "Have you seen Vary. There is not the slightest intention on my part or my friends to evade your patent." I have heard of it since this case came on for the first time; it is dated the 25th of March, 1861. I know nothing about it. I was so resolute on the subject, that had there been a licence taken, I should have left the concern if there had been a royalty to pay.

The 24 vertical retorts which I had from Scott were all got to work about Christmas Day, or just before, in 1861. They were all torn down in the autumn following; they were thrown out of work certainly in October, 1862. They were first of all thrown out of work in February, 1862. Then they were altered, and some set to work again. They were never at work regularly after February, 1862. They were at work irregularly till October; then they stopped entirely, and were thrown down; they were removed some time last year, and thrown into the iron-yard. I dare say the outside was 40 gallons of oil from a ton of coal distilled by them. I used a small quantity of Torbaneill. We have had the Broxbourne shale, and some from Airdrie, but they were only small casks full.

The Torbanehill was treated the same as coal; but the object was to see whether, with vertical retorts, we could work the Torbanehill better than the coal. The lower the temperature, decidedly the better for the process; but you can work at a higher temperature without injuring your product, as you do with the coal. Certainly for the distillation of Boghead a high temperature is not required; if you chose to economize your plant, and dry the stuff quicker, you can work at a higher temperature without so much injury, as you can coal. When the charge of the Leeswood curly comes out, the door is eased, and a shovel of lighted coals put in, in order to light the gas. There is always some gas condensed on the door, which is the mouth of the retort, which blazes away. Of course, the coal passing through that generally takes up some drops of tar as it passes down and blazes away. If you do not do that the coal is perfectly black. The retorts vary in size; we sometimes work flown, some times 7 cwt., and sometimes 5 cwt.

With regard to the references to books that you see in my affidavit, the bill was filed against me, and I was compelled to file an answer to the best of my information; but those answers were got up for me by my professional man. When my answer was prepared the things were laid before me to refer to; and when I say that I have not read any of them, I mean that I did not study them. I suppose I looked at them. I swore my affidavit in which I quoted Dr. Antisell's book without reading the book through. The quotations were made for me. We can give the workmen no thermometer, but practically they are to keep at black best. If it got up to a red heat, then they were to reduce it to black heat by opening the door, or having dampers put on. I discard the vertical retorts altogether. I have heard of oil being put upon a fire when it is getting too hot, but it does not general damp it. I never heard of its being too hot. It must be done wilfully. I have a thermometer which registers up to 612°. I have gone as high as 500' or 600°. In my answer I say, I believe I have no means of knowing what the exact temperature is; all I know is, it is not red. That was the fact. I have no means now. I am not a scientific man. Dr. Taylor and Dr. Miller say the heat at which we worked was from 700' to 760°; but I believe that cool can all be decomposed.

We have sold a little paraffin. We have not been in the habit of selling it ever since our works were established. I think that last year some few tons were sent away. I do not know whether that was the first time; there may have been a small quantity in the year before. I had not sold any paraffin made from coal before my answer was put in. We made a good deal from petroleum.

Re-examined by Sir F. KELLY:

Our works were put up originally for Oil and grease. We never contemplated extracting paraffin but for the reason I have before given. We shall have to extract the paraffin hereafter. It is impossible for me to obtain any other oil than that which contains paraffin. In making either burning oil or lubricating oil, the paraffin must be extracted as nearly as possible. I have not gone into the subject sufficiently to say whether, it we could make our oil without obtaining any paraffin, it would be more to our interest to do so; but I have hitherto thought so.

The extracts referred to in my answer and affidavit in support of it were sent down to me in the country by my solicitor. It was after I had prepared my answer that I looked more fully into Dr. Antisell's book. I do not know who wrote that book. I have found throughout our operations that at the lowest temperature that will produce the oil at a black heat, something short of even low red heat is the most profitable heat for producing these oils. I was willing to receive a licence from Mr. Young under his patent, at nominal royalties, in January, 1861. My associates, who are Quakers, would even have given a royalty or a trifle.

By the COURT: When Mr. Young heard I considered his patent bad, he would not have anything more to do with me.

By Sir F. KELLY: If they had paid anything considerable in the way of royalty I should not have stopped in the firm. We offered to give all the information we had, and the reason why we thought the patent bad. The specific gravity of our oil varies according to the material we use from "865 to '900. From Boghead it ought to be much lower than that. The agreement with Mr. Gillespie was not made until after this suit had been commenced. I understand it has not been acted on at all. Mr. Perry was recalled, and identified the specimens and samples which he had produced on a former occasion.

Saturday 23rd April 1864

Sir F. KELLY stated that he did not intend to trouble the court with any further evidence on behalf of the defendants.

Mr. GROVE: There are some matters which, although it strikes me they will not much have impressed your honour's mind. still, as they are on record. and as they are entirely denied by the plaintiffs, they must be contradicted; and it is only for that purpose that I will call a few witnesses.

W. Williams, Esq, examined by Mr. GROVE.

About 26 years ago, I was the managing partner of the Pentwyn and Golynos Iron- Works. I am a magistrate for the county of Monmouthshire. The late Mr. Samuel Rogers was employed by me and my partner to erect coke and tar ovens; and during the time they were erecting I was constantly there, every other day at all events. There were twelve ovens altogether. We got the heat as high as we could, because we wanted the coke good. It was always red. Our object was to make coal tar and coke; and the instruction to the workmen were that the coke was to be made as good as we could make it. High heat produces the best cake. The tar was similar to that which has generally been used in Wales for trams. The Pentwyn works, the Vartey works, the Nantyglo works, and the Brynmawr works, all made tar similar to ours. When the coke was not so good as I wished it to be, I instructed them to heat it higher. It was important to get good coke for the blast furnaces. The ovens at Abersychau were on the same principle as those at Golynos, and the product was the same. At the Blama works and the Clydock works the ovens and the product were the same when I knew them from '24 years ago up to 18 years ago. I know Mr. Rogers for about 35 years up to7 years ago. I am not aware that he ever produced anything else than coal tar.

Cross-examined by Mr. MACKESON: The lower part of the oven was always red. There has only been one kind of tar-oven used in our works during the 26 years I was manager. It is about 6 or 8 feet long and 5 feet wide; it was heated by a grate at first, but it was afterwards altered to an oven. Tar was a second consideration with us—coke was our main object. We were so ignorant in Wales that we always thought a high heat was best for the tar; but since I have heard from scientific men that it is not, I must take it for granted that I was wrong. Gas tar could also be used for lubricating wheels. We had 120 ovens for making coke in which no tar was made at all. The double ovens were made expressly for making tar as well as coke. The receiver was as close to the oven as that gentleman is to me.

Mr. Frederick Charles Sage, examined by Mr. HINDMARCH.

I am at present an analytical chemist, residing at Wolverhampton. I was formerly at the Abersychan works in Monmouthshire; they were the property of the Ebbw Vale Company. I was there from May, 1853, to ay, 1860. For the first two years I was employed as an analytical chemist, and after that furnace manager also. Their ovens were used for the production of coal tar and coke. We always used a very high heat. The tar sank in water. It was used for grossing trams and for greasing some of the cog— wheels of the rolling-mills, and also can varnish to cover the roofs of build ings. They used the Rock vein and other coal. I never saw any cannel there. I am now acquainted with Young's paraflin oil, and what we pro duced was altogether a different substance and sank in water.

Cross-examined by Sir F. KELLY : The operations carried on were for the purpose of making coal tar, which was used as a substitute for grease.

From The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply and Sanitary Improvement, 22nd March 1864