COUTTS, ELIZABETH nee JAMIESON
On Tuesday the 29th March 1910, Elizabeth Coutts (49), and her 14 year old daughter Isabella, were doing the washing in the old wash house at their home in Normanby (near the present asparagus depot in Browne Street). The wash house was constructed in the old bush whare style and was about five yards from their house. They had a fire going as was usual for those days, and as was Elizabeth's habit, the embers were not doused when they had finished
That night a strong gale blew, and tall trees near the wash house caused the wind to blow down the chimney and scatter embers along the floor. At about 2.15 am, a neighbour, Charles Davies noticed a glare through his bedroom window. He went out and found the Coutts' house ablaze. He made his way over, and was there only ten minutes when the whole house collapsed. There was not a soul about at the time, and Charles searched around calling out. He aroused some of the neighbours, and one, Cyril Gane went to inform the police.
When Constable Clouston arrived, the house was completely destroyed, and the debris was burning very fiercely. The wind was blowing particularly hard. After two and half hours work of pouring water on to the fire, Constable Clouston and a neighbour John Holmes, recovered two bodies, which were taken to the Normanby Hotel.
At the inquest held on the Thursday morning, it was stated that Elizabeth Coutts had been a confirmed invalid for at least three years, and could only get around on crutches or in an invalid's chair. She was usually a cheerful woman, of temperate habits and bore an excellent character. Isabella was the only child home that night, and was described as a good girl who gave every attention to her mother. William Coutts, Elizabeth's husband was away in hospital at the time.
After a short retirement, the jury brought in the following verdict: - "That the deceased, Elizabeth and Isabella Coutts came to their death by the burning of their residence on the morning of March 30. In our opinion, no blame is attachable to anyone." The jury donated their pay, totalling 24s, towards the funeral expenses.
Elizabeth and Isabella Coutts are buried together at the Waihi cemetery, Normanby.
Inquest "Hawera Star" 31 March 1910
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