On January 4th 1922, the scene in the Harrison household on 24 Brook Street was probably very similar to many others. William Harrison and his wife were both at home with their two young children, three year old George and eighteen month old Catherine. The fire was roaring and the kettle was boiling up some water, perhaps for warm drinks or bathing water. Whatever the intention was for the water, it seemed fate had a different use for it.
Standing on a stool by the fire, wee George grabbed at the kettle which was sitting on top of the fireguard and gave it a pull. Whether he lost his balance or was just playing around, we will never know. What we do know, is that the fireguard was supporting the boiling kettle and as George took a tumble, so did the kettle. In a split second, George was on the floor screaming in shock, alongside his sister Catherine.
Rushing to the aid of their children, William and his wife were horrified to see that, whilst the boiling water hadn’t touched George, it had instead scalded the back of baby Catherine. Wasting no time, William summoned a taxi to take himself, his wife and daughter to Dundee Royal Infirmary whilst he made arrangements for someone to look after a very upset, but largely unscathed George. With three of the Harrison clan now in the taxi, anxiety levels were at an all-time high.
Undoubtedly, poor Catherine would have been wailing in agony and terror as her horrified and panicked parents tried their best to soothe her. The taxi driver was more than aware that time was of the essence, but driving conditions were not at their best that evening. With mere minutes to go until their arrival at the Infirmary, they turned into Constitution Road from Ward Road and collided with a tramcar heading into the town centre in the opposite direction.
William Harrison and his wife were catapulted from their seats with their daughter held between them. They flew into the windscreen of the taxi, smashing it as well as the side windows before falling onto the dashboard. Miraculously, by holding their daughter tightly between them, they shielded her from any of the impact of the smash – most definitely saving her life. Thankfully there were nearby motorists who stopped and took the Harrisons the rest of the short distance to the Infirmary.
The taxi driver escaped unscathed but probably traumatised from the entire event and, despite many of their cuts needing stitches, William Harrison and his wife lived to tell the tale. You’ll also hopefully be glad to know that after a spell in hospital where she was closely monitored, Catherine also lived to tell the tale. We bet the Harrisons kept the kids well away from the fireplace from then on, especially cheeky wee George!
The taxi itself was smashed up a bit, but it was still able to be driven to the garage for repairs. As for the tramcar; well it barely had a scratch on it – they don’t make things like they used to. Thankfully, everyone survived. This time.
– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.