Saturday, 9th November, 1850
Fearful Explosion And Loss Of Life At Seacombe
Between seven and eight o'clock on Wednesday evening last a dreadful explosion of naphtha, attended with fatal consequences, occurred in Mersey Street, Higher Seacombe, Cheshire. The house in which the melancholy occurrence took place is used as a Roman Catholic School and reading room in connection with St. Alban's Chapel, Liscard, and is under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Lennon.
It appears that on the evening in question, previous to the commencement of the duties of the school, Mr. Johnson, the schoolmaster, and six of the scholars, were in the front room, on the ground floor. The master was engaged in pouring some naphtha into a lamp from a tin can, containing about half a gallon; and a lad named John Crossie, about ten years of age, was holding a candle by his side. Never having before filled the lamp Mr. >>
Johnson was ignorant of the quantity required, and before he was aware, the inflammable liquid ran over, and, coming in contact with the lighted candle, which was held by the boy Crossie, ignited. An instantaneous report, like that of a cannon, was heard, followed by a most tremendous crash, occasioned by the falling of the partition wall, about twelve feet long and nine feet high, which was forced with such violence against the opposite side of the lobby, that several deep indentations were made in the plaster work. In some places large portions of the wall removed, without being shattered, and forced against the wall forming the other side of the lobby. In the reading room, immediately above the scene of the explosion, were fourteen persons, one of whom was in the act of reading aloud an article from the Morning Chronicle. On hearing the report, and the noise which followed, they thought that the arches on which the houses were built, had given way, and a rush instantly took place to the door and window, through which a safe exit was made. Mathew Riley, who lived in the house, got out of the window, and the first person he saw was the lad Crossie, who was enveloped in flames, but his features could not be recognised. Riley immediately clung round the lad, and rolled with him on the floor until the flames were extinguished. The poor little fellow died between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday morning. Mr Johnson, and three lads are lying in a dangerous state, and little hopes are entertained of their ultimate recovery.