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A tragic death in fancy dress

One of my hobbies is researching my family history - not something I would usually post about on this website, but my research has uncovered something horrifying that happened to the daughter of my great aunt in 1938.

The seven year old was killed in a tragic accident, the cause of which still occasionally makes the headlines eighty one years later.

Muriel Devine was writing a letter to her mother, my great aunt, when she dropped her pencil. She was dressed in a fancy dress costume at the time. As she went to pick up the pencil, the headdress she was wearing caught a flame from the fire, and soon her whole dress was also alight. Muriel died the following day.

Sadly children's fancy dress costumes even in 2019 are not classed as clothing but as a toy and do not therefore need to meet the same fire retardancy standards as normal clothing.

Every year, particularly around Hallowe'en, we hear stories in the news of children seriously injured when their costume catches fire.

One high profile example from a few years ago was the daughter of Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman, whose costume caught fire causing significant burns.

I call on the Government to change the laws on fancy dress costumes, so that they become clothing rather than toys, and therefore need to meet stricter regulations. Do it now, so that by this October, people dressing up as ghosts and witches do so more safely. This would not have saved poor Muriel all those years ago, but it could save other lives now.

Advice to parents on this important subject can be found on the ROSPA website at https://www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/product/halloween-costumes/ .

Completely separately, other research into my family history has found that, just nine years after the very first railway fatality, one of my ancestors was killed walking down a railway line in Whiston. This, yet again is sometimes still an issue 180 years later.

It seems that sometimes, we don't necessarily learn from history, or from accidents.

Further details on the above incidents are available on my family history blog

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