Gay, Lilian

Gay, Lilian               1915 November 19th

Fatal Flannelette – Girl in Flames at Local Hotel

Another mishap with a fatal ending, attributed to the inflammability of flannelette, was inquired into at an inquest at the Infirmary on Tuesday evening, when the City Coroner (Mr S Buchanan Smith) and a jury, of which Mr C H Pike was foreman, investigated the circumstances which led up to the death of Miss Lilian Gay, a housemaid and waitress at the Red Lion Hotel.

Thomas Stanley, of Southampton, stated that his step-daughter, Lilian Gay, was 18 years of age, and left Southampton on October 18th to go into service at the Red Lion Hotel. She had always enjoyed splendid health.

Edith Mary Jewell, bookkeeper at the Red Lion Hotel, stated that on the previous Thursday she was sitting in the private office sewing, by a gas fire, when Lilian Gay came in to lay the table for lunch. The table was in the centre of the room, but Miss Gay went to a cupboard next to the stove to get some mats, and turning sharply, her dress caught fire from the gas stove. The girl, who was wearing a flannelette petticoat, ran out of the room, and witness shouted to her that she was on fire. Witness followed her and caught her up by the kitchen door but she wrenched herself away and went to the scullery. Mr Thomas, the proprietor of the hotel and some members of the staff hearing screams came to the scullery and wrapped a rug round her. The flames were put out in a few seconds. Witness at once telephoned to Dr Luckham who came at once and attended to the girl and ordered her removal to the Infirmary.

The Coroner : Was there any guard on the gas stove? No.

Have you ever seen a guard in existence? Yes, there is one there now.

Have you ever seen a guard on the stove before? No.

Replying to the foreman the witness said she did not think Miss Gay ran out of the office to the kitchen because of the pain of burning but because she was frightened.

Charles Thomas, proprietor of the Red Lion Hotel, stated that he was in the bar when he heard loud screams, which appeared to be coming from the kitchen. He ran to the kitchen and saw Miss Gay in flames ; and picking up a mat, with the assistance of others, he put the girl on the ground and extinguished the flames. The doctor came and ordered her removal to the Infirmary, and witness took her and the doctor to the Infirmary in his car.

Replying to a juror, Mr Thomas said the stove as a small one – about a foot or fourteen inches wide.

The Assistant House Surgeon stated that when the girl was brought in between two and three o’clock she was suffering from burns on the legs and lower part of the body. She was in great pain and was suffering very badly from shock. On Monday morning she was much better, and on Monday night when he saw her she was sleeping quietly, but he was informed by the nurse that her pulse was subnormal and that she was delirious during the evening. She died at about half-past two on Tuesday morning, from collapse due to shock caused by the accident.

The Coroner, in addressing the jury, said there was no doubt that the accident was due to the girl wearing flannelette. If people would only give up wearing flannelette he did not think there would be half the deaths there were from burning ; it flared up in no time.

A juror remarked that he thought the proprietor should be asked to put a guard on the stove.

PS Cutler explained that the table was quite a good distance from the stove, and that it was in going to the cupboard that the girl got close to the stove.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, several jurors expressing the opinion that the stove should be guarded.

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