The Disastrous Fire at Scarborough

’Twas in the year of 1898, and on the 8th of June,
A mother and six children met with a cruel doom
In one of the most fearful fires for some years past
And as the spectators gazed upon them they stood aghast

The fire broke out in a hairdresser’s, in the town of Scarborough,
And as the fire spread it filled the people’s hearts with sorrow;
But the police and the fire brigade were soon on the ground,
Then the hose and reel were quickly sent round.

Oh! it was horrible to see the flames leaping up all around,
While amongst the spectators the silence was profound,
As they saw a men climb out to the parapet high,
Resolved to save his life, or in the attempt to die!

And he gave one half frantic leap, with his heart full of woe,
And came down upon the roof of a public-house 20 feet below;
But, alas! he slipped and fell through the skylight,
And received cuts and bruises: oh, what a horrible sight!

He was the tenant of the premises, Mr Brookes,
And for his wife and family he enquires, with anxious looks,
But no one could tell him, it did appear,
And when told so adown his cheeks flowed many a tear.

He had been sleeping by himself on the second floor,
When suddenly alarmed, he thought he’d make sure,
And try to escape from the burning pile with his life,
And try and save his family and his wife.

The fire brigade played on the first door with greet speed,
But the flames had very inflammable fuel upon which to feed,
So that the fire spread with awful rapidity,
And in twenty minutes the building was doomed to the fourth storey.

The firemen wrought with might and main,
But still the fire did on them gain,
That it was two hours before they could reach the second floor,
The heat being so intense they could scarcely it endure.

And inside all the time a woman and six children were there,
And when the firemen saw them, in amazement they did stare;
The sight that met their eyes made them for to start
Oh, Heaven! the sight was sufficient to rend the strongest heart.

For there was Mrs Brookes stretched dead on the floor,
Who had fallen in trying her escape for to procure.
She was lying with one arm over her ten months old child,
And her cries for help, no doubt, were frantic and wild;
And part of her arm was burned off as it lay above
The child she was trying to shield, which shows a mother’s love.

For the baby’s flesh was partly uninjured by the flames,
Which shows that the loving mother had endured great pains;
It, however, met its death by suffocation,
And as the spectators gazed thereon, it filled their hearts with consternation.

The firemen acted heroically, without any dread,
And when they entered the back premises they found the six children dead;
But Mr Brookes, ’tis said, is still alive,
And I hope for many years he will survive.

Oh, Heaven! it is cruel to perish by fire,
Therefore let us be watchful before to our beds we retire,
And see that everything is in safe order before we fall asleep,
And pray that God o’er us in the night watch will keep.

Fatal Fire at Scarborough

During the early hours of yesterday morning a shop and house in Queen-street, Scarborough, occupied by Mr. J. Brooks, hairdresser and fancy dealer, and his family, were destroyed by fire, and Mrs Brooks and her six children were burned to death. The fire was the most terrible known in this part of the country for some years. The shop was stocked with a large assortment of bamboo goods and fireworks, and in about three hours the whole premises were gutted. The fire was first discovered by a gentleman who was passing along Queen-street and who noticed the flames through the shop shutters. He at once gave the alarm, and the fire bell was rung. In the meantime Chief Constable Pattison and a number of police set off with a hand reel, but before they arrived the ground floor and the first storey were enveloped in flames. Shortly after the fire was discovered a man was observed on the roof of a hotel adjoining, and it was ascertained that this was Mr. Brooks, who appeared quite dazed. He had jumped a distance of from 15ft. to 20ft., cutting and injuring himself rather severely. By the time he reached the street the fire brigade were pouring water on the premises, but so fiercely was the fire burning that it was impossible to save the building. Mr. Eden, a draper, next door, and his wife and family were got out safely, and in the confusion a report prevailed that there were no other persons  in Mr. Brooks’s house. Mr. Brooks was so much injured that he seemed quite unable to give any account of what had happened, and it was not until two hours later, when the firemen were able to obtain access to the bed-room on the second storey, that the terrible truth was learned. Mrs. Brooks and her 16 months old child were found lying on the floor burned to death, The mother had evidently attempted to reach the window when she was overcome by the great heat and smoke. She was charred almost beyond recognition, but she still had hold of her child. In the back bed-room five other children were found dead. The eldest, a girl of 14, had evidently attempted to escape for she was lying on the floor. The other children were in bed. Their faces had a peaceful appearance, and the had evidently been suffocated while asleep.

The names and ages of the victims are:- Jane Brooks, 42; Mary Ellen, 12; Mildred, 11; Darzell, eight; Douglas, five; Elsie, three; and Ida, 18 months. The coroner has fixed the inquest on the bodies of the victims for this evening.

Mr. Brooks was taken by the coroner’s officer last night to the mortuary to view the bodies. He says that when he returned home about a quarter to 12 on Tuesday night he was smoking a cigar. The only entrance to the premises is by the shop door, and in passing through the shop he threw the cigar end on to a glass counter, from which he now thinks it must have rolled and set alight to some papers. His mind is quite a blank as to most of the incidents which preceded and followed his escape, and he is unable to say how he got onto the roof.

The Chief Constable states that he has never seen a building burn so rapidly. Had it been known that there were lives to be saved and attempt would have been made, but in his opinion no fire-escape on earth could have saved the family. They could not fix the ladders against the burning building, and the heat and fumes of the sulphur would have made it impossible to reach the children. He himself was almost suffocated in searching for the bodies.

The Times, 9th June 1898

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Comments (1) »

  1. mary nightingale
    In the year 2013, on the 18th day of July at 10:36 am

    fantastic writing of a sad event

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