Billy Liddell’s family in gas drama

Monday, January 9 – 1939
Fife families saved from gas-filled homes
Courageous action by two Dunfermline men averted a tragedy when gas from a fractured outside main filled their homes early yesterday morning, threatening the lives of their families.

Both men collapsed after strenuous rescue efforts. Eleven people were affected by gas, and all but two had to receive oxygen treatment.

The alarming affair occurred at a new block of houses at the junction of Townhill road and Kent Street, at Kingseathill. The houses involved were 252 Townhill Road, occupied by Mr. Harry Stalker and his family, comprising Mrs. Stalker, twin daughters Jean and Nan (16), Jessie (12), and Ian (2); and No. 250, occupied by Mr. James Liddell, his wife, and three sons – Thomas (15), Campbell (12) an Allister (3).

“It was touch and go,” said Mr. Stalker to a “Courier and Advertiser” reporter.
“We felt an unormal smell on Sunday evening, but I did not think it was gas. Later Mrs. Stalker and the baby became sick. However, we thought it was perhaps illness, and went to bed.

“About two o’clock I began to feel ill, and when I found my legs giving way I realised it was gas. I went to the scullery and threw open the window. Then I managed to struggle to the bedroom where the girls were sleeping.

“They shouted that there was something wrong, and when I opened the door they collapsed. I pulled Jean to the stairway. I went downstairs to the Liddells to see if they were all right and to get help.

“Apparently they had not been so hardly affected as we had been. Then I made to go up the stairs again, but I collapsed. Jean had gone back to help my wife and the baby. Nan, who had managed to reach the scullery, was not so badly affected as the rest of us.”

The Liddell family when roused felt sick, but were able to move about. Mr. Liddell dashed upstairs to help in the rescue work. After doing what he could he ran with his son Tommy and telephoned the police.

On the way back he collapsed, and had to be helped home. Meanwhile Mrs. Liddell also rendered assistance and summoned other help.

Neighbours were roused by the police to make sure they were safe. The help of Dunfermline Fire Brigade was sought, and on their arrival, under Firemaster W.H. Muir, they administered oxygen to all except Mrs. Liddell and her son Allister.

While several of those affected were sick and confined to bed in the early part of the day, they were able to get up later.

The source of the gas was a fractured main in Kent Street. The gas had collected and had been carried by the wind towards the house. Workmen made repairs later in the day.

On Sunday Mr. Stalker noticed that the canary in the living-room was lying in the bottom of the cage. After shifting it to another part of the house it revived, and was unharmed after the accident.

Mr. Liddell is a miner at Muircockhall Colliery. One of his sons, William (Billy Dunlop), is a footballer with Liverpool F.C., and is an apprentice chartered accountant. Mr. Stalker is a shoemaker with Townhill Industrial Co-Operative Society.
(Dundee Courier, 10-01-1939)

Billy Liddell

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