Inquest hears of Geordie Tuft’s last words

Geordie Tuft.
Geordie Tuft.

Broadcast personality Geordie Tuft sprayed cooking oil on his open fire to help it light, a witness at his fire death inquest said.

Mr Tuft, 77, had attended hospital emergency departments in the past after setting himself alight. He died from probable burns in the accidental blaze in March this year, the coroner said.

The farmer became a regular on the late Gerry Anderson’s BBC Radio Ulster programme with his country wisdom.

The fiercely independent former council worker refused offers of help from doctors and social services despite living on his own and falling several times.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan said: “He was so independent it appears to me he mistook people’s genuine concerns for him as fussing, with the result that he seems to have refused all offers of help.”

The fire service had fitted smoke alarms at his dilapidated thatched cottage near Loughbrickland after a previous fire but noticed later he had removed them and again replaced them, retired officer Roy Crozier said.

Mr Tuft, who was divorced and with a son, died at his house on the Legananny Road. His friend John Walker had just left the house after bringing him fire wood and some food. He went to get more supplies, but by the time he returned the fire service was already in attendance.

When crews extinguished the blaze they found him half-lying on a charred bed in his bedroom, his body badly burned from the flames.

Mr Tuft regularly used cooking oil to help light his open fire in the living room, Mr Walker said. He suffered bad burns to his legs in 2012 and less serious harm the following year when his trouser leg caught fire. He smoked 30 cigarettes a day, his doctor said.

Mr Walker spent a couple of hours a week with him, saying: “I miss him. He depended on me for everything.”

He recalled leaving his house for the last time. “Geordie followed me out of the kitchen to the hall. He called to me: ‘Hey boy, don’t be long till you are back,’ and those were the last words I heard.”