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Scandalous Conduct at a Fire.

A little girl named Mary Ann Ryan, aged eleven, daughter of a fruit-picker at St. Raid’s Cray, Kent, appears to have lost her life, and that in a most shocking manner, through the heartless conduct, cowardice, or callousness of those among whom she was unfortunately cast. From the evidence taken at the inquest it appeared that the fruit-pickers employed at the Home Farm, St. Paul’s Cray, slept in a number of huts of wood and straw thatched. The mother of deceased occupied one of the huts with deceased and two other of her chddren, and after being asleep about two hours was awoke by an old woman calling out that the place was in flames. The terrified mother succeeded in bringing out two of her children safely, but the flames had then obtained such a hold of the huts that she could not enter and rescue deceased. She says she asked a man named William Cleverley, who occupied the adjoining hut, to save her child, but he was on his knees packing his clothes, and took no notice of her appeal. Cleverley denied that he heard the mother appeal to him, and did not know the child was there until after the fire. Mr. 11. Allen, farmer, of Pelham Court, Farningham, said he was at his father’s house, at Ruxley, and, hearing of the fire, ran to the spot, and had he been there a moment or two earlier he could have saved the child’s life. When he got there a number of men were looking at the fire, and paid no attention to the mother’s cries for help. He raked about the burning embers with his hand, his brother pouring water on the embers, and grasped the body, but the child was then dead. He brought the body out of the hut. It was stated that the whole of the huts, 70 feet long, where destroyed in 12 minutes. The mother said a man in the huts, after smoking, put his pipe in his boot, and she afterwards found the pip j where the fire broke out. Mr. Venson, the employer of the hands, said there were orders that the field hands should have no candles in the huts, but it was impossible to enforce regulations amongst that class of people. The body of the child was dreadfully burned. The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from shock to the system through burning, and that the five wps accidental.

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Scandalous Conduct at a Fire. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 7, 11 October 1879

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