A survivor of a Huddersfield town centre fire tragedy which claimed 49 lives has died at the age of 90.
Florrie Walsh was 14 and working at H Booth and Son’s five-storey clothing factory on John William Street when fire broke out on the morning of October 31, 1941.
Mrs Walsh, who was 12 days from her 91st birthday when she died on March 6, very rarely spoke about the fire, which began when an employee put a smoker’s pipe in a raincoat pocket, unaware the pipe was still smouldering.
In 2012, when a plaque was unveiled near to the site of the factory, Mrs Walsh revealed how she had managed to escape from the building, which was full of wood and had only one staircase.
She said: “I had only been there six months to the day when the fire happened.
“There were no alarms. Foreman George Thurkill came over and shouted ‘Fire, get out’. When we got to the bottom of the steps outside, the building started to blow up. We were the last to walk out of that door alive.
“I was so lucky and I firmly believe Mr Thurkill saved my life.”
She later added: “The staircase was all wood. It seemed as though something blew up.”
Mrs Walsh, who was close to tears during the interview, said people ran for their lives.
“We left everything behind. We went down the steps. Then we just stood there outside. After a few minutes something seemed to blow up. We flew across the road. Some went towards the George, we went under the bridge.”
Mrs Walsh’s son Steven, of Almondbury, said his mum had been working as a sewing machinist at H Booth’s at the time of the tragedy. Many of those who died were women and teenagers.
“She was working on the top floor. When it caught fire the foreman helped her and others to get down the stairs and out.”
Mrs Walsh didn’t like to speak about what happened and what she had seen, said her son.
“Me and my sister Maureen used to say that there couldn’t have been a single day that passed when mum wouldn’t have thought about it. Some people died by jumping out of the windows and dozens of workers were trapped on upper floors with no fire escape.
“She didn’t want to talk about it and we never pushed her because she got too upset. There were people who died who were 14 years old.
“When you read about what happened it gives you and idea of the size of the tragedy. She didn’t want to talk about it, just like those who returned from the trenches in war.”
A funeral service for Mrs Walsh will take place on April 3 at Huddersfield crematorium.
Mrs Walsh, formerly of Waterloo and Dalton, leaves two children, five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Her husband, Terry, died in 1985.