My Dinas grandfather became an economic migrant to London when his colour blindness put an end to his ambition in the merchant navy. In London he joined the fire service, where his daughter spectacularly survived a fall down the pole in Borough fire station, and where he saved lives and laid down the law on the subject of nightwear for the girls in the family. He knew too much about the horror of burns and he knew that it was often the little girls that suffered – so no flouncy, silky nighties for us.
Dinas’s County Echo, wonderfully transcribed by Ann and John Hughes for the years 1894-1900 reminds us of the many tragedies in the village he had left behind.
22nd February 1894 : A sad burning fatality occurred to the infant daughter of Mr and Mrs James Evans of Brynhenllan. It appears that on Thursday Febraury 8th the mother left the house for a short while to feed the fowls but before leaving she took the precaution to put the baby in the chair which she fastened to the leg of the table. During her absence her two year old child caught hold of his father’s scarf, and this coming in contact with the fire, ignited and it is supposed the little mite in throwing the buying scarf away, set fire to the little child in the chair. Her clothes instantly took fire and the child so severely burnt that it died the following day. The little girl was but nine months old.
31st May 1894 : A little girl, aged eight years, daughter of Mr James Bowen, Butcher, Brynhanllan, narrowly escaped being burnt to death on Thurday last. It appears that Mrs Bowen had gone to Fishguard as usual to the market, leaving the children at home and that whilst one of them was in the act of putting water in the boiler, her dress caught fire. When she discovered herself on fire she ran to the garden to an elder sister who had a blanket in her hands at the time and had the presence of mind to wrap it round the buring child and thus succeeded in extinguishing the fire but not before the little girl was severely burnt about her face and right arm.
28th December 1899 : We have this week the painful duty of recording the death of little Lizzie Reynolds, the ten-year-old daughter of Mr John Reynolds and Mrs E Reynolds, Cwmyregwlys The case is a particularly sad one. It seems that the deceased had been on the beach early on Thursday morning with her parents. The child hastened home to prepare herself to accompany her mother, as was her wont. A little later, Mr John Griffiths, while on his way home, heard faint moans coming from Mr Reynold’s house. He went inside to ascertain the cause and was horrified to see the girl (Lizzie) in a dreadful state – her clothes burnt and her body and upper part of her legs as black as charcoal from the effects of the fire……The little girl died early on Friday morning, and to say that her death cast a gloom would quite inadequately express the people’s sympathy.
An inquest was held on Saturday touching the death of the little girl. There are two theories to account for the sad incident, one being that her clothes became ignited while lifting the kettle off the fire; and the other, that they caught fire while lacing her boots preparatory to going out. Which of these two theories is the true one will remain a mystery as there was no one in the house when the accident took place.