I posted this today on THOW FB without knowing that the lady in the story; ‘Maureen’ had recently passed away. And for this reason I would like us all to remember those poor children and all those years of sorrow Maureen had to endure.
R.I.P Maureen, Denise, Susanne, Lisa and Tony – Together again.
For all those of you who were there in Friar Park in 1977, you will of course remember the tragic fire on School Road;
Tragedy struck the estate on 21 December 1977 when a house at 36 School Road caught fire.
“The fire took place while firefighters were on strike, and the Auxiliary Fire Service had to deal with the emergency call.
The occupant of the house, 31-year-old Mrs Maureen Brazier, managed to escape the fire, but her four children Denise (aged 12), Suzanne (aged 10), Lisa (aged 6) and Tony (aged 4) were trapped inside and burnt to death.
Mrs Brazier was rehoused at another council property nearby and the house was demolished, leaving a gap in the middle of the terrace where it once stood”.
But sadly it was back in the news …on 27 Oct 2002
As the Fire Brigades Union agreed to suspend its first planned strikes in favour of fresh pay talks, Maureen Brazier pleaded with fire fighters to reach a final, unambiguous agreement.
“Before you go on strike, think of the lives you are putting at risk. It could happen to another mother. Some mother could lose her children like I lost mine.”
Mrs Brazier, 56, had to watch as her house burnt down during the 1977 strike. Instead of fully-equipped fire engines to help to rescue Denise, 12, Suzanne, 10, six-year-old Lisa and Tony, four, there were only the Army’s Green Goddesses, manned by hastily-trained troops.
“When I heard they were going on strike again it just cut me to pieces knowing someone else has got to go through what I went through – that it could happen again,” she said.
“They should sort out their pay rise another way. They shouldn’t take it out on the public, on people’s lives.”
Mrs Brazier spoke as she laid flowers at the grave of her children – as she has done every week for 25 years.
She tidied around the grave where all four children are buried together in their home town of Wednesbury in the West Midlands.
She rearranged the toy frog and mouse that she had left on a previous visit, tidied the chrysanthemums in their vases and ensured that the proper flowers were on the headstone:
“Only white on the stone – it never changes.”
She added quietly: “Every Saturday I have been coming here. When they closed the cemetery because of a strike I just climbed the wall – asthma or no asthma.
“I have to be with my children. Twenty-five years on and I still can’t get over it. I never will. Not until the day I die.”
The tragedy struck on December 21, 1977.
At the family home, presents were scattered around the Christmas tree.
That year, Denise, the eldest, had started secondary school.
Tony, the youngest and quietest child, had started primary school.
Suzanne was proving the liveliest challenge of the lot for the young mother.
By about 8am, Arthur Bowen, Mrs Brazier’s common-law husband, had left for his builder’s job. No one knows how the blaze started.
It was thought at the time that the Christmas lights in the living room may have somehow sparked the flames which spread rapidly.
Lisa went downstairs and then ran up screaming to her mother that the house was on fire.
When Mrs Brazier ran down, she says, “all I could see was flames and black smoke coming out of the living room”.
Somehow, she made it through the front door and rushed to a neighbour to raise the alarm. Then she went back inside to her children.
Through the smoke, she saw them sheltering in one of the bedrooms. She was unable to reach them and had to leap out through another bedroom window, breaking her ankle and collar bone in the process.
“I shouted up to the children, but they never made it.”
The Green Goddesses arrived. The soldiers tried desperately to save the children.
Afterwards, Brigadier Harold Hopkinson, the local commander, said: “This is the type of incident we’ve all been dreading.
“It has shaken my men, who did their duty to the best of their ability.” He added: “I doubt if anyone could have done better.”
Mrs Brazier is less sure. “They tried their hardest – I know they did,” she said. “But they didn’t have all the proper equipment like the fire engines had, did they?
“They haven’t got all the equipment now.” She continued: “I do think that if the firemen had been there, I’d probably have all my children with me today.
That thought has always been in my mind.”
Today’s 12-year-olds, kicking a football outside, know why there is a space in School Road.
Their parents – many of them former playmates of Mrs Brazier’s children – have told them why.
In her “new” house, nearby, the photographs of four children with 1970s haircuts occupy pride of place in Mrs Brazier’s front room.
“You never forget them,” she said.
In a kitchen drawer she has a yellowing newspaper cutting describing the fire. She also keeps Denise’s spectacles which were later found.
Sometimes old friends of the children will notice Mrs Brazier by the grave and come over for a chat.
“Seeing all those others grow up, I wonder whether mine would be married with kids of their own by now. I would have been a granny by now.”
Mrs Brazier was too grief-stricken to return to her office cleaning job. Nor did she have any more children.
“I couldn’t face it. I was too upset. It did for me, that fire.”
Despite fresh hope of a deal the threat of a walkout remains. Mrs Brazier knows that if talks fail, strikes could still take place between December 16 and 24 – covering the 25th anniversary of her children’s deaths.
She looked down at the grave and, as her voice trailed away, whispered: “I hope they don’t go on strike that week – not the week it happened.”
“Oh that was very, very sad to read that.
Replies on THOW – FB to date:
John Chance; …I remember this, the children are buried at heath lane cemetery , terrible tragedy.
Brumbabe Albion; … Maureen herself passed away a few weeks ago.
Catherine Maddox; … So sad.
Jan Hurp; … So,so sad…..Rememeber it well and often look @ ‘The Gap’ left in more ways than one,when I visit my Sister in Carrisbrooke Road X
Dennis Brian Blades; … My friend lived close to them, very sad day.
Brogan ‘Brogiebum’ Jay Darby; … Oh that is so upsetting, I remember my mum telling me about that and how horrifying it was to hear that it happened to those poor children and so heart breaking for Maureen.
I had no idea she had passed away a few weeks ago, she is reunited with her beloved children now, no more pain.
The History Of Wednesbury; …I have only just heard that Maureen passed away too …. And then I saw your reply Brumbabe. So sad. I didn’t know or I wouldn’t have brought that story up like that.
Chris Silvester; … I remember so sad
Wendy Smith; … A real tragedy hope they all rest in peace together.
Lucinda Joesbury; … What an awful tragedy RIP Maureen
Claire Rolfe; …Must have been awfull
Paul Timo Timmins; … So sad. . R.I.P Maureen and her chidren . .reunited in heaven xxxxx
Cassie Edwards; … Heartbreaking!
Ju Les; … I remember that day,I was standing with my dad waiting for the bus to go to work opposite st Francis church.it rocked friar park at the time. Maureen always kept the childrens grave so beautiful,she always looked a broken lady. God bless her Rip at last reunited with your babies. This was a terrible tragedy.Rip children now with their loving mom.x
Pete Hicken; … Heartbreaking.
Michele Robinson; … I lived around the corner and can remember that day, so sad x
Jackie Goldy; … I remember it well very sad
Michelle Moore; … Now her pain has ended she is with her babies so very sad
Lisa Smith; … I was only 10 at the time but remember all the children so well. I don’t think I will ever forget that day x
Vaughan Melia; …I remember it I was on my milk round going down friar park rd when the goddesses turned up sad day. R.I.P the four kids and their mom Maureen
Sheila Harrison; … I can also remember their father was a broken man. RIP Maureen.x
Yvonne Worton; … Rest in peace Morsey xxx
Yvonne Melia Garman; … So sad xx
Janet Brunt; … I remember this tragedy so well it was heart breaking and now at last maureen is united in spirit with her children all r.i.p
Carol Gordon; … I worked with Maureen for a while in the 1980’s, such a lovely woman, she showed me the ropes as it was my first job.
So sad to hear she passed away but at last shes reunited with her children. RIP my old friend xx
Steve Wwfc Cox; … RIP such a sad story… makes you wonder how Maureen carried on for so long carrying that burden around with her xxx
Katherine Hickman; … I remember it like yesterday didnt know about maureen god bless rip x
Glenda Davies; ... RIP together again x
Sharon Barnes; … Remember it well, most of the residents all pulled together to help, until help arrived.
Gavin Williams; … RIP Maureen
Chip Wilson; … I was little but I heard about it, but was not allowed to talk about it, I suppose we were taught respect, very very sad
Joanne Smith; … God bless u Maureen u were a fabulous lady who lived for the other kids around you, I always saw u every Saturday up the cemertary. Hope you will now find peace with your children in heaven. You will never ever be forgot for your courage and determination to live life even with so much heart ache luv u forever and a day FRIAR PARK will never be the same xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Tracey Poole; …R.I.P Maureen reunited with ur children , lots of great happy memories I will cherrish forever x
Tracey Jones; … Rip. Maureen you and the children will never be forgotten , reunited at last , so sad xxx
Rose Nightingale; … god bless maureen reunited with your children forever xxxxx
Joanne Smith; … She was a very determined lady who never gave up on life, even with such tragic loss of her children, she was such an inspiration to everyone who new her and her family xxx
Lynn Dicken; … R.I.P Maureen a wonderful woman and a great neighbour going to be missed so much hope you’re partying up there with your children and your mom and dad and my mom till we meet again god bless you xxxxxx
The History Of Wednesbury; … Maureen Brazier who Passed away suddenly, at home, on September 10, 2013. She will be sadly missed by all her Family and Friends. The Funeral Service will take place on Thursday, October 3, 2013, at 10.40am, at St Francis’ Church, Wednesbury, followed by Burial at Heath Lane Cemetery at 11.30am.
Jo Rowley; … RIP Maureen reunited with your babies god bless you all xxxxx
Rachael Norris; … I remember this also, Lisa was in my class at J.E.C. R.I.P Maureen reunited with your babies.
Sue Currier; … I remember these children well. I used to take the little ones over the park with my friend Lesley morris. ( I think they were her cousin ). they were all beautiful children. the day of the fire was heartbreaking. I could not believe those lovely children were gone. Maureen must of been one strong lady as I would have wanted to join my children the same day. I could not have carried on. sad to hear she has now passed away. hope she has been reunited with her babies and can now hold them in your arms once again . sue Hindley x
David Turner; … lisa was in my class at jec ,,we were the same age i remember it well ,,,, they have photgraphs of the kids on the headstone ,,, rip ..x
Joannee Blakee; ... R.i.p Maureen xxxxx
Sheila Emms; … Rip bles u al X
Ann Davis; …R.I.P MaureenI’m sure your children are waiting for you with all the hugs and kisses you have missed out on x x
Lynn Dicken; … Lisa was the same age as me and her birthday is on the same day as mine xx may you all R.I.P xxx
Tracey Sheldon; … I walk pass the children’s grave when I visit my dads for 26 yrs now and my dad also cried when he heard the news of those children loosing there lives so sad tragically taken. r.i. P Maureen reunited with your children x x x x
Jean Warhurst-freeman; … we had just moved in to carrisbrooke road, when the phone man told me that kids had been burnt to death in school road .I did not know were that was at the time , but there relation is good friends of ours ,god bless you all .together again .R.I.P.
Chris Baxter; … i have tears
Karen Porter; … I remember it well also. I think this is a fitting tribute and Maureen would want the story to carry on and be heard so this doesn’t happen again. RIP Maureen
Angie Cooper; … Will never forget that day as it was my 15th birthday, Maureen always had a chat with my mom usually outside the chip shop or launderette in school road, she was a lovely woman and for that to happen to her was so tragic it still makes me cry now. R.I.P Maureen you are with your precious kids now xxxxxxx
Angela Cooke; … Maureen was a lovely lady. And so were her children i remember that day like it was yesterday rip now with your babies xx
Lesley Glear; … Let us all pray that some of the strikers will read this very sad account of a mothers loss. Rest in peace dear children. Xxx
The History Of Wednesbury; … When I first heard that Maureen had died such a short while back I had a serious think about whether to delete this post for awhile, as it is such a sensitive subject on its own, without the added sorrow of Maureen’s passing.
By the time i had decided what I would do, I saw all these replies and you had all answered my worries.
IT WAS STAYING!
As a tribute to Maureen and all that she lost. R.I.P Maureen, reunited with her children.