Fire consumes new widow and family

Lying on the ground in the Parkes Cemetery, NSW is this busy headstone, with more than one tale to tell. Image: Sharyn Moodie

It was a tragedy when Sophia  Quinn and her five children lost their father, a part owner of the Parkes flour mill, in January 1895.

So when Mrs Quinn, the children and her sister were burned alive in August, the newspapers’ elequent responses were heart-rending.

Mrs Quinn’s brother George Perry and a youth named Cook were sleeping in the wooden nine-bedroomed building close to McGee and Quinn’s flour mill, on Billabong Creek a few miles from town.

“George Perry was aroused from his slumbers between 2.30 and 3 this (Saturday) morning by hearing what he believes to have been the crackling noise of fire.

“ He jumped up, rushed out of his room (which was situated at the rear of those occupied by the others) to find the latter rooms a mass of flames. He endeavored to burst open the glass door in front, but the remorseless flames beat him back.

“No sound reached his ears from those within, and it is surmised the whole of the occupants of these rooms were stifled by the smoke and then beyond all human aid.

 “He then went and roused up Cook, and also communicated with his parents, who lived nearby. By this time the whole place was a seething mass of flames.

“The writer was amongst those earliest on the scene — a few minutes after 3 o’clock — and the terrible scene will not readily fade from memory.

 “The grief-stricken mother, brother, and sister were standing hard by powerless to do anything, as they watched the licking flames, that had robbed them of those near and dear, rushing onward.’’

The reporter goes on to describe seeing the gaze of the youngest child through the debris.  ‘burnt to a cinder’ , and details the positions of the bodies in the house. A map was also produced detailing where in the house each body was found.

It was ascertained that one of the children had been unwell and that the fire started in a bedroom.

Beyond that, no-one ever found out what happened.

Mr Quinn had died after returning home from an operation in Sydney to treat some type of internal pain.

Parkes, NSW, Australia

Source: National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954) Tuesday 16 April 1895 p 2

Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXII, Issue 7257, 17 April 1895

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

4 thoughts on “Fire consumes new widow and family

  1. The Eliza Victoria Perry (nee Cole) is my 2nd great-grandaunt, Sophia and Elaine being her daughters. This is such a tragic story and I have always wanted to have this headstone fixed


      1. Im not sure to be honest, it wouldn’t be cheap to have it repaired properly I imagine. I would probably have to check with the local Council about what permission I’d need to get it done too


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: