The advertising cover is for Burrill’s Warehouse, Oatlands, Tasmania, J. Burrill, Importer of Draperu, ronmongery, and Fancy Goods. It is addressed to Thos. Lyons Esq., C/o Tattersall, Hobart. The two red 1d pictorial Tasmania stamps have the OATLANDS/ JY 1/03/ TASMANIA postmark and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
Thomas Lyons has already been the subject of another paper which also was filed in the category ‘Tattersall’s’ at this website, and will not be dealt with again. James Burrill was born in 1859 at Oatlands, Tasmania and he was the second son of James Burrill senior and Jane Fleming. James Burrill junior married Annie Salmon in Oatlands in 1881 and they had 5 children, Arthur George born 1882, Edith May born 1883, Katie born 1885, Maud born 1887 and Hilda Mary born 1889. He became a general merchant with a head office at Oatlands as well as store at Humphrey Street, New Norfolk. He sold drapery, clothing, suits made to order, guns, ironmongery, ammunition, boots and produce. The Burrill’s Warehouse building at New Norfolk stands to-day, but as a private residence. This store is shown ca. 1913 as Figure 2.
James Burrill is seen in a photo which was taken as a season ticket for admission to the Tasmanian International Exhibition of 1894-95 (Figure 3).
‘The Mercury’ (Hobart) Monday, 21 September 1914, page 4 headed an article as FIRE AT OATLANDS/ DRAPERY STORE AND DWELLING DESTROYED/ NARROW ESCAPE OF OTHER BUILDINGS: Mr. J. Burrill’s drapery store and dwelling at Oatlands were destroyed by fire on Saturday night. The business part of the building comprised shop and showrooms, and the residential part six rooms. It was built of stone, and roofed with iron. The fire broke out about 8.30 p.m. and all the inmates were away at the time.
The flames spread very rapidly and the building soon completely enveloped. A large number of people gathered, and by carrying water from neighbouring dwellings endeavored to check the fire, but were unsuccessful. The heat was so great that it was impossible to save any of the contents of the shop and the dwelling. The fire is supposed to have started in the showroom, but its origin is a mystery as the shop was closed at 1 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. The storerooms at the back of the building were kept saturated with water and saved from destruction. A grocery store belonging to Mr. Burrill which was separated from the main building by a cart entrance was saved.
The dwelling house of Mr. A. Jillett containing 10 or 12 rooms adjoining Mr. Burrill’s premises was in great danger, the woodwork around the spouting catching fire. As a precaution the contents of the whole of the contents were removed to the street. Fortunately, the home was composed of stone and roofed with iron and thereby escaped destruction.
Only the walls of Mr. Burrill’s premises were left standing, except the front portion, which has since fallen in. The loss is estimated about £1,000. The amount of the insurance at present is not known.
The Mercury (Hobart) 12 March, 1915, page 3, some six months after the fire, reported ‘THE OATLANDS FIRE/ EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST’ opened on 10 March to determine the cause of the fire at James Birrell’s property at High Street, Oatlands. It appeared there was opposition to his assignment of the property to a Melbourne firm, but his Tasmanian creditors declared him insolvent. The building and contents were insured for £3,250. There was no evidence presented that there had been a break-in and the front and back doors were shut.
Witnesses remarked that the fire spread very quickly and the class of goods in the shop were the possible cause for this, but Sergeant Rooke had never asked the witnesses if they smelt kerosene or petrol burning. Mr. Birrell had a witness who stated he was in the company of Birrell at the time of the fire in the Oatlands Hotel. There were inconsistences in Birrell’s declaration, particularly in regards to his stock, the insurance company was suspicious, and was endeavoring to evade its liability. Birrell’s next door neighbour noticed a smell like linoleum smouldering and 30 minutes later a fire broke out. The case was closed for the night after many witnesses were called with information which might be deleterious to Mr. Birrell’s case. Alas I could not find any evidence for the continuation of the case!