Unavailing Heroism – Efforts at Conisbro’ Fire – The Story at the Inquest.

November 1909

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 02 November 1909

Unavailing Heroism.
Efforts at Conisbro’ Fire.
The Story at the Inquest.

The only, and therefore the more, pleasing features of the sad story told at the inquest yesterday at the Red Lion Hotel, Conisborough, relative to the servant girl victim of the disastrous early Sunday morning fire which devastated the Conisborough Star Inn, were the tributes paid to the heroism of Mr. Henry Elliott (the licensee), the Conisborough Fire Brigade, and the police, all of whom had worked splendidly, but in vain, to save the girl who perished.

Mr. C. Rayner was the foreman of the jury, and at the outset the Coroner, Mr. F. E. Nicholson, Doncaster, explained that he had received a doctor’s certificate intimating that Mr. Elliott, in consequence of the injuries he had received at the fire was unable to attend, therefore, though was the first to assist after the discovery of the fire, they would have to do without him.

At the outset Levi Mountford, glass blower, of 3, Melton Street, Mexborough, father of the deceased, Margaret Evelyn, aged 14, said: “I should just like to remark here that I thank Mr. Elliott for his efforts to save my daughter’s life.”

The Coroner: am very pleased to hear it.

Continuing his evidence of identification, the father said he last saw his daughter alive at home at eight o’clock on Saturday night. She was a strong girl and was then in good health. She had been working at the Star Inn for six months, along with her sister. Emily, who had worked there for longer period.

Floretta Elliott, wife of the licensee the Scar Hotel, told of the sensational events of the tragic night. She had, she said, one girl, aged 9, who slept with witness and her husband on Sunday night. The deceased and her sister were domestic servants, and slept in, an attic. Witness was the last to go to bed about quarter to eleven on Saturday night. The house was closed at ten o’clock. Everything was all right when she locked up. About 2.30 a.m. she woke up, hearing something fall. She thought to herself, ‘‘There’s someone in the house,” and called her husband’s attention it. He got up and went downstairs. When he opened the door at the bottom of the stairs he was confronted with rush of smoke. He shouted out, “All of you come downstairs.” Witness had got out of bed, and she shouted to the servants, “Come out of the attic.” She, with her little girl, then went through the billiard-room —the rooms were all full of smoke —and down the stone steps into tire yard behind. They all got out but Maggie, whom they could not find. They could not see anyone owing to the lights having gone out. The Fire Brigade was summoned, and was there in a few minutes Witness was outside when the girl was found. They were all in their night attire.

The Coroner, referring to the deceased: “She must have gone downstairs, and opened the door and gone into the flames and smoke?” —“Yes, sir.”

“If she had gone your way she would have been saved?!’—Yes, sir.

Have you had any signs of fire before ?—Yes, we had. It was only chimney.

Captain Jones, commander of the Conisborough hire Brigade, and one of the jury, here remarked that he had known five six fires there during the last 25 years. He added that the door was closed when the girl was found. She was dead, in a half-standing, half-kneeling position.

Captain Jones, to witness: Mr. Elliott had been to that door previously, and had shut it?—Yes.

Answering further questions, witness spoke of the dense smoke, the darkness and confusion that prevailed after the alarm was given.

Police-constable Lund said he was on duty in West Street, about 2.45 on Sunday morning, when a man named Robert Wray came up and summoned him to the fire. He, with Police-constable Ransome, went to the place. When they got there they found the last witness in her night attire, without boots, walking about in the road. Witness asked her whether there was anyone in the house, and she said, “Yes, Maggie.” Ransome ran round to the rear of the house, and witness tried to enter by the front door. Twice he got to the bar window, and had to return because of the dense smoke. He could not see anything, and the glass of the windows was cracking. When the flames had subsided, a fireman, W. Harrison, went in search of the girl, and he found her against the closed door, quite dead. She had been right in the midst of all the heat of the fire. The body was got out about quarter-past three, and at four o’clock all danger was over. Mr. Elliott had been searching practically all the time for the girl, and did everything he possibly could to save her. His hair, eyebrows, and moustache were singed, but the girl’s hair was not. Her face was burnt a little. She was probably scalded by heated water, caused by the water which the brigade sent through the front door passing through the flames. That probably accounted for the girl only being slightly burned. The door was not open

The Coroner: What do ‘you think was the cause of death? Witness: I am not sure, but I believe she was suffocated. Captain Jones said he received the call about twenty minutes three. He took a hand-pump, but, finding that was no use, he had the brigade summoned at once. Proceeding, he told how’ the firemen worked with wet handkerchiefs over their faces, and how impossible it was to get at the girl until the flames were subdued. He paid a high compliment to his firemen. Witness had no doubt that the fire originated at the beam.

William Harrison, motor-man, living in West Street, Conisborough, described how, when on duty with the brigade, of which he was a member, found the deceased. They played with the hose through the broken window. Witness, who had heard that the girl Maggie was missing, went in at the back door, and upstairs in all the rooms. The smoke was very thick. He then came down, and went through the cellar kitchen door into the house. On opening the door found the deceased holding the door, with her back towards him. , She was her night attire, and was quite dead. He took the body out through the front door.

Answering questions, witness said it was impossible to get through the front door, and that they had to go to the back.

The Coroner said it was a very unfortunate case, and that there was no doubt the unfortunate girl was suffocated by the smoke. Great credit was due to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott for the attempt they made to save her, but there was no doubt that in the dense mass of smoke she was overcome and suffocated. There was also very great credit due to the fire brigade and the police. The Captain of the brigade, and Superintendent Hicks, of Doncaster, representing the police, acknowledged, and said the expression would be conveyed to their men.

The jury brought in verdict of “Accidental death,” adding a rider that praise was due to Mr. Elliott, the fire brigade, and the police.