Sad Burning Fatality at the Waterside!

Starrett of Derryview Terrace…

“On Friday a very sad burning fatality occurred at the Waterside, resulting in the death of a little girl eight years old, daughter of Samuel and Ellen Starrett, of Derryview-terrace, Waterside, lately of Rosemount…”

Born in Marlborough Park, Londonderry in January of 1886 she is second daughter and third child of nine born to Samuel Starrett and Ellen Beattie.  Her name is May Louisa Starrett and she is my 1st cousin 2x removed; her mother and my great grandmother were siblings.

“…Mr. Starrett is employed as a machinist in the Journal Office, which necessitates him being at work all night.  After he had gone to bed on Friday morning his wife had occasion to go to Rosemount to see some friends, and left the children downstairs in the kitchen, where there was a fire burning in the range.  The little girl, it appears (who was in her night-dress), reached forward either to close or open the damper of the range, when the nigh-dress caught on fire.  The screams of the child awoke the father, who hurried downstairs, and with all haste extinguished the flames, getting very badly burned himself about the arms and face in his efforts.”

On 23 Aug 1882 in Christ Church Church of Ireland Londonderry Samuel Starrett and Ellen Beattie were joined in wedlock by Rev. Francis Lewis Riggs.  Their union was witnessed by Joseph Edward Woods and Mary Anne Beattie, the bride’s sister.


“The child had an inside flannel wrapper on at the time, and this becoming ignited as well as the night-dress the poor child was horribly burned from the toes to the head.  Dr. M’Caul was sent for, and did all he could to alleviate the child’s sufferings, but the injury was of such a serious nature that it gradually sank, and died in great agony a couple or three hours after the accident.  Great sympathy is felt for the parents, who are naturally much distressed about the accident, and are very highly respected in the neighbourhood.”

After their marriage Samuel and Ellen initially lived in Marlborough Terrace where their first six children were born.  By 1895 and the birth of their seventh child the family was living in Derryview Terrace.


The Inquest…

“On Saturday morning an inquest was held at Derryview-terrace, the residence of the deceased’s father, before Mr. Thomas Lindsay, Coroner, and the following jury: –

James Irwin (foreman), Denis Bradley, Robert M’Cullagh, Henry Doherty, Edward Logue, John Archibald, Patrick Brolly, Joseph Gormley, Patrick Harkin, Samuel C. Donnell, John Donnell, and Thomas Watts.

Head-Constable Funston and Sergeant O’Hagan were also present.

Ellen Starrett, mother of the deceased, May Louisa Starrett, said about a quarter to eight the previous morning she went to Rosemount.  She left three of the children in the kitchen all right and the eldest, Daisy, in bed with her father.  The deceased was in the kitchen with Samuel, the oldest boy, and the baby.  When she came back at ten minutes to nine o’clock the deceased was burned black.  She was not dead then.  Witness had been in Derry four times before she died.  Dr. M’Caul had been sent for and was present when the deceased died.  Her little brother tried to get assistance, but could not get the passage door open.  Deceased’s nails were burned off her fingers she was so long burning.  When witness came home her husband met her at the door and told her what had occurred.  He was burned about the face and arms.”

Deceased’s father was too ill to be examined.


Samuel Starrett jun., a very intelligent boy, who was in the kitchen at the time of the unfortunate occurrence, was not sworn, but stated the deceased was in the kitchen, and in reaching over to pull out the damper in the range her nigh-dress took fire.  Witness made to run upstairs to tell his father but could not get the passage door open.  When he did manage to get the door open and call to his father the deceased was in flames.  His father on coming down caught the deceased in his arms and put out the flames.  Witness brought down some blankets, which were put round the deceased.

Mrs. M’Closkey, a neighbor, deposed to being called in and finding the deceased badly burned.  Witness applied lard to the burns but the child expired about two o’clock.

Dr. M’Caul, who was called into see deceased, said about ten o’clock the previous day he saw her.  He found her hands, and almost the entire body, badly burned.  It took him nearly two hours to dress the burns.  The deceased died about two o’clock, the cause of death being shock to the nervous system, consequent on severe burns.

The jury returned a verdict accordingly.”  Published in the Derry Journal 22 Jan 1894

Three days before her eighth birthday, May Louisa died from a fatal burn in the kitchen of her family home in the presence of her father and brother Samuel.

Sadly, many of Samuel & Ellen’s children did not live into adult hood; those however, are stories for another day.

“Deaths:  Starrett – January 19, at her father’s residence, 1, Derryview-terrace, Waterside, Londonderry, May Louise, second daughter of Samuel Starrett, aged 8 years.  Her remains will be removed for interment in Glendermott Burying ground this (Monday) evening, 22nd inst., at half-past two o’clock.”

May She Rest In Peace!

About CJ Murdoch

Looking For "Dead People"! My Journey Back In Time - Tracing my ancestors and researching the counties, cities and towns where they resided. Taking a “Glimpse” into their lives and stories and the times in which they lived; all in an effort to learn about their “Dash”! “I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning – to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the second with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.” I have always been interested in researching my family tree and “hanging out” in cemeteries. Like most of us... I didn't ask enough questions when elderly family were still living. Oh, what I would give for 24 hours and a camera with my ancestors… just to sit and listen! I'm researching many family lines, including: Murdoch, Wilson, Berry, Love, Scott, Beattie/Beatty, Hendren, Sweeney, Robinson and Elvin; just to name a few. My families are predominantly from counties Antrim, Donegal and Londonderry. However, it seems that many of them, both maternal and paternal lines, originally hailed from Co. Donegal. I was born and raised in Northern Ireland and now live in Ottawa, Canada, making frequent trips back home to visit with my family. Of course those visits also include treks to the many burial grounds of my ancestors. My most recent trip back home was during the summer of 2019! Looking forward to August of 2020 when I will return. If you are interested in help tracing your ancestors I’d love to hear from you!
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21 Responses to Sad Burning Fatality at the Waterside!

  1. Frances Gobin says:

    Well done Colleen…… have definitely been inspiring me to finish my stories. I’m finishing my 3rd full story This gives me inspiration to write a little blog story for Rachel McBride my first cousin 2xR………I have the coroner’s report – she got tangled in the bedding on her parents’ bed and died at 7 days old.
    Frances Gobin

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      Thanks Frances, I just wish I had more time to write – over 5400 ancestors plus! 🙂 That’s horrible for your baby cousin. I believe, even though their lives were short, that we should still write about them! ❤


  2. Su Leslie says:

    Colleen, this is such a tragic story. Terrible for the family as a whole, but so awful for the little boy Samuel to have witnessed such a thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      It is Su! 😦 Samuel was only 11 when his sister died. I can’t imagine what it might have been like for him. I doubt that they believed in therapy then either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Su Leslie says:

        I can’t either. She died such a horrible death and that must have impacted on Samuel terribly. I did read somewhere recently that there’s some evidence that the “old way” of just getting on with life is sometimes more beneficial than therapy. I think the argument was that therapy forces people to focus on and relive an event or problem, keeping it centre-stage. The alternative means that it tends to be overlaid with new memories and experiences which put it in perspective and allows people to move on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • CJ Murdoch says:

        I’ve read something similar Su. I agree to a point with the “old way” – I still think, that even if we get on with life; it may surface at some point later in life. I also believe that some tend to us “modern day” therapy as a crutch instead of a stepping stone! 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Su Leslie says:

        I think you’re right. So many whole families suffered when men came back from wars with shell-shock/PTSD. I think therapy there is probably invaluable. But I suspect that therapy can also easily become a crutch. We can know so much about what happened in of our ancestors’ lives, but not how it affected them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy says:

    This is just dreadful. They say that burns are so painful, and this poor child lingered for hours before she finally died.

    Was anyone found criminally responsible for her death? I imagine the family suffered enough without being charged with criminal neglect, but the idea of leaving a fire going with three young children unattended while the father slept upstairs (with another child??) seems quite irresponsible in today’s world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      No one was ever found criminally responsible Amy. The Inquest result was, “The deceased died about two o’clock, the cause of death being shock to the nervous system, consequent on severe burns. The jury returned a verdict accordingly.” I don’t think it was unusual for a parent (mom or dad) to have one or more children sleeping in the same bed in the late 1800s – early 1900s. Big families and small houses. I agree that the family would have suffered enough – sadly, many more young deaths “haunted” the family. Thankfully they were deaths of natural causes. As always – thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jean Lane says:

    CJ my parents friends Victor and Violet Starrett lived in Derry View and I stayed in the house in the 1960’s for a brief holiday. Is it possible Victor was a descendant of this family? I will never forget the view of the city as you stepped out the front door it was spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      Hi Jean, I’m not sure at this point. I do know that Victor is a recurring Christian name in all of my maternal family lines. I also know that Victor lived in 3 Derryview in 1957, which is probably the house that you visited. Do you happen to know Victor’s fathers name? If you would like to contact me via email please do at: . Thanks for getting in touch. Colleen


  5. Pingback: A Death Notice and a Sign! | TWISTED LIMBS & CROOKED BRANCHES

  6. Frank Herrick says:

    Just found your website, Very Very well done!
    My grandmother’s family (Mary McCaffery) also hail from Derry. I have recently received a copy of her birth certificate, born February 26th, 1878 at 65 Creggan Road.
    Tragically, my wife’s family also records a accidental death due to burns, a young girl who was outside, her dress caught fire. This occurred in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Thank you for all the excellent work you have done, filling in the “dash” make all of this worth doing.
    Yours truly,
    Frank J. Herrick
    Kansas City, MO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      Hi Frank, thank you for the lovely compliment. I do love doing what I do. It’s unfortunate that my real work gets in the way! 🙂 Hopefully my time will be freed up to write more soon. All the best, Colleen

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Manus Bradley says:

    Hi, CJ, I found that very interesting and sad. I am descended from the child called Daisy, she is my great grandmother through my mother. Daisy whose real name was Rebecca, believe it or not, married Patrick McLaughlin, and had a large family. I am a descendent of Daisy’s son Jim, James and his daughter Lily, Elizabeth McLaughlin. They all lived in the Waterside and Newbuildings. I live in Montreal now but really love finding out about the family tree.
    Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      Good morning Manus, it’s really great to hear from you. I do have your Daisy in my tree as I follow all my family lines, not just my direct line. If I have it right your Lily (Elizabeth) McLaughlin is my 3rd cousin. If you’re interested, and would like to contact me by email; I can send you PDF files of our family. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing from you again. Colleen aka C.J.


      • Manus Bradley says:

        Hi Colleen,

        Thanks for getting back to me so soon. So we are “far out friends” as my mother would say! I would indeed be interested in the family tree. I have a little bit but not a lot. This story about the child’s death wasn’t known, it may have been too painful for Daisy to talk about.

        I’m sure you know that Ellen, the youngest girl in Samuel Starret and Ellen Beattie was romantically involved with the celebrated War Poet, Francis Ledwidge, whilst stationed at Ebrington Barracks during WWI. My uncle George McLaughlin has been working on that link. There are some letters in existence from their brief romance that are being used in some exhibit to commemorate the centenary of his death in the war. George used to keep in touch with Ellen’s son, Tommy Maguire or McQuire ( not sure if the spelling) who ran an antiques and collectibles shop on Carlisle Road in Derry until his death a few years ago. Maybe you know all this.

        Please do send me the family tree. It may surprise the Starrett side of the family to know that Daisy’s great grandson (myself) is a Roman Catholic Priest! She of course converted to Catholicism when she married Patrick McLaughlin as was the norm in those days. She was known for her piety and broad minded and tolerant attitude. When I first began my ministry at St Eugene’s Cathedral they still had altar cloths that “Mrs McLaughlin” had embroidered in use 40+ years after her death and I was delighted to see them never having met her. She died in August 1960.

        My grandfather, Jim, used to say that some of his ancestors were German Protestant’s who fled persecution for their faith. It seemed like a story he may have heard from his mother Daisy and I’ve always wondered if there may be something in it. In the early 1700’s Palatinate Germans fled persecution and some came to Ireland and took up agriculture and of course flax growing and linen weaving. Maybe the family trees may give up a Palatinate surname. Just a hunch!

        My email address is

        I’d love to hear more.



        Liked by 1 person

      • CJ Murdoch says:

        Well Manus… you have certainly provided some information I had no idea about! 🙂 I’ll send you much more details via email in the next day or so. I’ve just spent the day cooking and baking (snow seems to do that to me) and I’m back to work tomorrow. Definitely looking forward to learning and sharing more. Cheers Colleen


  8. Manus Bradley says:

    Hi Colleen,
    It’s been a while since I was in touch via this site. If you ever get a chance to send me the Starret/Beattie family tree I’d reall love to see it.



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