Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Advice on fires from Milton, 1896

Mataura Historical Society produce a wonderful newsletter each month.It is among my personal favourites as I compile Keeping in Touch for the NZ Federation of Historical Societies. Spotted in their latest issue, this gem from the 19th century:

The Mataura Borough Council recently wrote to the authorities of other small boroughs for advice as to (the) best scheme to adopt for fire-prevention purposes. The(y) received among others this reply from Milton:

"Your memo, re fire-prevention, was duly received. I regret I can give you no information. Here there is no brigade, water supply or appliances. We are what might be termed a happy-go-lucky people and trust in Providence. From fire we have escaped scot-free; but I expect that a day of reckoning will come, when there will be a shaking up of the dry bones, should enough energy, enterprise and money be left. We had a fire engine once. Goodness knows where it came from, where it went to, and if it were paid for. For many months afterwards, half a dozen men and boys worked as a brigade. Practice was retarded for some time owing to the inability to procure a hose. After we did that, together with a score of buckets nicely painted in red with the letters 'FB', we were stumped owing to the absence of water. We could find none nearer than the river, and that was too far away from any building to be of much use. It proved such a dry and heartless business that the men took to drink, and the brigade burst up. Afterwards the hose was lost, the buckets were appropriated and the engine was taken away by some 'cove' to prevent it from falling to pieces. It is now doing duty as a meat safe in one of our back streets. My advice to you is to insure well, and don't bother."

Southland Standard, February 1896

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