Picture this: three little children playing outside at Tregeseal. Imagine the spring sunshine, the usual childish boasts and claims - and that sense of limitless possibility and freedom, the peculiar quality of those moments in early childhood when no grown-ups are about.
The children venture into a shed. Perhaps there’s been a sudden shower, or the wind has turned chilly. Perhaps some long-buried resentment is brought into life. Perhaps there’s a bit of squabbling – who knows? What we do know is that the oldest of the lads (still not of school age) has some matches, and the shed is full of furze.
Driven by fleeting malice, or mischief, or simple lack of thought as to consequences, the lad with the matches lights the furze. Then he walks out of the shed and shuts the door, leaving the two younger children – his little sister and his playmate, the son of a “poor widow”- inside.
Don’t be too hard on the lad. Remember he’s only four. And as soon as he starts to think about what he’s done, about what will be happening in the closed shed – perhaps with some sense that, as eldest, he should have known better - he panics, cries, and his mother comes. His father probably would be there as well, but he’s lame – lost a foot in America. Rescuers struggle through the “blinding smoke and flame”.
The children are brought out, and seemingly survive – there is certainly no inquest.
But “shortly afterwards” there will be a fire in a “mowhay”, this one (just to even up the gender balance) the work of a “little girl”. It’s these matches to blame, some say – you can buy them everywhere. The things should surely be banned before large-scale damage occurs, with fuel piles set alight to create a blaze. Lucifer matches - the very work of the Devil? Nobody says as much aloud, but some will doubtless be thinking it.
Cornishman May 1st 1884 page 6