It is only now, some twenty years after the event that I can bring myself to record the terrible events of that grim November night. Recently I found myself stranded at Southampton station having missed my last connection to London. I booked into a rather shabby hotel nearby fully intending to depart for London first thing in the morning. I could not have suspected that a late night conversation over a single malt would alter my plans so dramatically.
The owner of the hotel called Three Roods was a rather rough looking chap called Henry Diggins. I could see from his sunken eyes and the burst blood vessels in his face that he had too much of a liking for the drink. He was not the kind of man with whom I would normally engage in any deep conversation. So when he casually mentioned that he had been a pupil at Dauntless College in the nearby village of Romsey I was amazed and it was with genuine surprise that I explained that I too had been a boarder there and we exchanged memories like the survivors of some grisly accident bound together by shared trauma.
Diggins, it transpired was some years younger than I and when he remarked that he was the pupil who had stayed over on the Christmas holidays at the time of the Great Fire I was greatly intrigued to hear his story and he only too keen for the telling of it.