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To the Editor.

Sib, —As I was placed at a considerable disadvantage while giving my evidence at the inquest yesterday, perhaps you will be kind enough to allow me spare in your valuable paper to explain a thing or two about that ‘ ‘ mysterious ” coal box. Nobody in Ashburton was better pleased than I was when I heard from Sergeant Felton that an inquiry was to be held touching the destruction by fire of Oookson’s buildings, for since I discovered the fire in the passage over Mr Hodder’s shop about seven weeks ago, and extinguished it, thus saving a probable loss of over LBO,OOO worth of property, I have tried my very best to find some clue to the perpetrators of so diabolical a deed, and I rejoiced in the hope that Cookson’s fire might assist me in my endeavors; but, alas I yesterday my hopes were all blasted, and as soon as I got into the witness-box, I found out that the jury were “sitting” on me instead of Cookson’s fire, or, at anyrate, some of the witnesses were apparently trying to induce them 'to do so. Of course I knew nothing ofjwhat had been said respecting the finding of the “ blazing ” box until I was put in the box, and the Coroner read over Elston’s evidence. So far as this paper burning in my coal box is concerned, I quite agree with the Coroner that a satisfactory explanation about its catching fire should be given, only I want the truth. I saw by reading the evidence that I was very excited when Elston called my attention to the burning paper. I don't think it is a very unusual thing for people to get excited when their houses are on fire, and they are anxious to save all they can. The fire had been raging about an hour when Elston made this wonderful discovery Cookson’s was completely gutted, the side of Alcorn’s'iwas in full, blaze, and the

corner of my gallery had just caught. During this hour dozens of men, some of whom were assisting me to remove my goods, and others engaged in handing up buckets of water over the roof of my studio, had been passing and re-passing this box, containing a little coal dust, two or three small pieces of wood, and a few scraps of paper, without noticing the blaze. The thing is simply absurd, for it must be apparent to anybody having a grain of sense that nothing but the sparks could have set it on fire ; but then the witness Dolman, who holds the responsible position of fire inspector for the borough, stated on oath that there were no sparks flying about. But the jury knew better, for one of them (Mr Quill) had to keep all his windows closed, he fearing some would get in and destroy his hotel. The witness, St. Hill, stated that the box had “ undoubtedly ” been set fire to, “ because it was so hot that he could not bear to put his hand on it. ” There is nothing peculiar about that, considering that the heat was so great in my gallery as to destroy about 150 square feet of glass, besides scorching ’ all my screens and curtains to quite a brown color. I think it is needless for me to say any more about this matter, as I think the above explanation is quite sufficient to exonerate me from any blame in the matter of the box catching fire. —I am, etc., Geo. F. Henry. Dec. 7.

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Bibliographic details

THE RECENT FIRE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 503, 8 December 1881

Word Count

THE RECENT FIRE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 503, 8 December 1881

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