Court, Frederick John – 1912

9th May 1912 – Mamhilad Burning Fatality

Inquest at Abersychan – Coroner’s Remarks and Jury’s Recommendation

Mr M Roberts Jones, coroner, conducted an inquest at the Abersychan Police Station on Saturday afternoon in the body of Frederick John Court the two year old son of Mr & Mrs Oswald Charles Court, of Mamhilad near Pontypool.

The evidence of the father showed that before proceeding to work on Wednesday morning, he left a few matches on the table in the house for his wife to light the fire. Deceased was in bed at the time, as also were his two daughter aged ten and six years. His wife had gone out to the back, and while she was there the little boy came downstairs in his flannelette nightdress and shirt, which caught fire as the result of his playing with the matches. Witness‘s wife heard their son crying. she immediately came in from the back of the house and found him in flames. She called in a neighbour and both did their best to extinguish the flames as quickly as possible. Witness’s wife sent for him and a doctor was also summoned. The latter could not arrive until some time had elapsed. The child was then taken to the Pontypool and District Hospital where he died about 5.15 on the following morning. The child was burnt from his little legs up to his neck. Witness was satisfied that death was caused by shock following burns.

In reply to the coroner witness said his wife would have lighted the fire as soon as she came from the back which would not have been very long after witness left the matches on the table. It happened to be the last box of matches in the house and witness took the box and some of the matches to have a smoke going down the road, leaving a few on the table for his wife.

Neither witness nor his wife had, previously to this fatality had seen their child playing with matches. Witness’s wife did not expect the child downstairs so early.

The Coroner stated that the mother was present and prepared to give evidence but she was terribly upset, he asked if the jury required her to give evidence.

The foreman Mr Thomas Smith intimated to the Coroner that they did not think it was necessary to call upon the mother to undergo the ordeal of giving evidence.

Miss Ritchie, Matron of the Pontypool and District Hospital stated that the child was admitted to the institution about 6 o’clock on the Wednesday evening suffering from shock as a result from burns on three parts of the whole body.

The child never seemed as if he would recover and died at 5.15 the following morning. Death was due to shock following burns.

P S Mitchell, Abersychan said the parents were respectable people. He did not think there was anyone to blame. In summing up the coroner remarked that it was a simple but sad and sorrowful tale.

He supposed parents continued to dress their children in flannelette garments because they were more comfortable and perhaps cheaper. It seemed to be a popular article. In spite of the recommendation of juries parents would use it and now and then they had to pay the penalty in consequence.

If the matches had not been put on the table then child would not apparently, in this instance would not have been burnt, but it appears that the mother intended to light the fire almost at once and she was not aware of the fact that the child would come downstairs at so early a time in the morning.

The father had also stated in evidence that it was usual for the children to be inclined to play with matches, if the matches had been put on the mantle piece however the fatality perhaps may not have occurred.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death due to shock following burns.” And recommended once more that parents should be warned against the use of flannelette clothing for their children.

The Coroner remarked that the Press had done a good deal of good before now in calling attention to that point.


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