Sheffield Independent – Monday 26 June 1899
The Fatal Paraffin Lamp Explosion at Denaby.
A Juryman Criticises The Coroner.
At the Montagu Cottage Hospital. Mexboro’ on Saturday, Mr. D. Wightman, coroner, held an inquest on the body of Sarah Palmer, aged 66. a widow, who had sustained serious burns by a lamp explosion.
Hannah Elizabeth, wife of James Beal, miner, Denaby, daughter of deceased, said her mother had lived with her for several years. About a quarter to three on Thursday morning; witness heard an explosion. She was in bed asleep at the time. On opening her eyes she saw her mother, in her nightdress, on fire. The lamp had exploded. It was standing on the drawers. She had lit it when she went to bed; it had burnt for two hours and tbree quarters.
Coroner said he had held hundreds of inquests, and generally found such explosions when lamps were being filled, or by reason of their being overturned. He could not understand the present occurrence.
The witness said she could not explain it, except that the lamp was not far from the bedroom door, and that there would be a strong draught when the door was opened by her mother.
Forman said he placed a lit candle in the same position, and found the draught nearly blew it out. Coroner said that must be the explanation.
The witness said her mother was attended by Dr. Twigg, who advised that she should be removed to the hospital at Mexboro’, and she died there.
Coroner: Was she insured?
Witness: Yes, in the Refuge and Royal Friendly Society. She had been insured for years. It was her mother’s wish so there should be money to bury her with.
The Coroner: She was quite right.
Foreman (Mr. Biggs) asked if the daughter’s hand, which was wrapped up, had been injured by the fire, and the witness answered in the affirmative, stating that she tried to put out the flames which enveloped her mother. She could not drag her mother’s nightdress off because her arms were fat, and the sleeves were tight. She then screamed out to her husband, who was asleep downstairs.
The Foreman: It was a wonder you did not get on fire.
Witness: I had a cotton dress on.
Coroner: And no paraffin on it.
The jury returned a verdict to the effect that death w.-is due to the explosion of a paraffin lamp.
One of the jurymen (Mr. J. Parkes) drew the Coroner s attention to the fact that he had arrived late, adding that he thought he ought to be fined, and that the jurymen should be paid more for waiting.
Coroner: If you lived in Sheffield you would get a shilling less. (Laughter)
The juryman: I thorn you should be fined, sir.
The Coroner said the jurymen might be in a worse place than that hospital committee room. (Laughter.)
The juryman further repeated has statement, also saying that the coroner fined jurymen if they were late.
Coroner: I have only fined four in 18 years. And that was not because they forgot the inquests, but because they said point blank that, they would not come. We are all human, and liable to forget. But when a man says, “I shan’t come.”‘ I have either got to make him come, or it’s about the end of all things. I am quite sure you would copy his example in a minute. (Laughter)
The juryman: Well, I think you should be fined.
Coroner (rising): Well I leave you to discuss it. (Laughter.)