However, the story of Alice Matilda Gavin is the most heartbreaking I've come across so far and one that I could never have imagined.
Alice Matilda was born on 12th October 1863 in Waterside, Dalmellington and her parents were Alexander Gavin and Matilda Bulkeley from Toxteth, Liverpool. Alice was their only daughter with six brothers. One can only imagine how special she was to her parents.
In the 1881 census Alice is 17 years old and living at home, having left school. Also living with the family was her aunt, Maria Bulkeley who was a music teacher. They lived together with her brothers, Alfred and Frederick, in the Cashier's House at Waterside, three miles downstream from the village of Dalmellington where the ironworks were situated.
Alice enjoyed singing and I'm sure the family must have owned a piano in their house in Waterside. Perhaps Maria would play for Alice and together they would enjoy each other's company and entertain the family in the evening with new songs, while her father, Alexander, played his violin. Alice's talent for singing must have been widely known as she was invited to perform at an amateur concert in Ayr on Saturday 12th April, 1884. I'm sure, with her mother and her aunt, Alice must have been excited when deciding on her dress and preparing to take the journey to Ayr.
However, tragedy struck and the excitement and joy of performing came to a dramatic end as while Alice was performing on stage she stood too close to the footlights, perhaps candles or gas, causing her dress to catch fire. Attempts were made to rescue Alice and put out the fire but her dress quickly burned engulfing Alice in flames.
Alice suffered for twenty days before dying from 2nd degree burns and thrombosis (blood clot) on the 3rd May 1884 at her home in Waterside. I'm sure today the outcome of Alice's injuries would be very different but in 1884 risk of infection was higher and treatments would be different.
Alice's brother Alfred studied to become a doctor, later practicing medicine at his Harley Street in London. Perhaps his memory of his sister's suffering when he was as an 11 year old boy influenced his choice of career in later life.