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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


On March 28, 1960, a fire on Glasgow's Cheapside Street killed 19 firemen in the greatest loss of life in the U.K. fire service since World War II.

Fourteen members of the Glasgow Fire Brigade and five members of the Glasgow Salvage Corps perished when walls collapsed at a bonded warehouse for whiskey and rum.

Photos: STV
They were:

  • Fireman John Allen – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Christopher Boyle – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Sub Officer James Calder – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Gordon Chapman – Strathclyde Fire Brigade
  • Fireman William Crockett – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Archibald Darroch – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Daniel Davidson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Alfred Dickinson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Alexander Grassie – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Salvageman Gordon McMillan – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman Ian McMillan – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman George McIntyre – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Sub Officer John McPherson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Leading Salvageman James McLellan – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman Edward McMillan – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Salvageman James Mungall – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Superintendent Edward Murray – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Salvageman William Oliver – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman William Watson – Glasgow Fire Service

  • According to Wikipedia:

    Fire broke out in a bonded warehouse owned by Arbuckle, Smith and Company.

    The Glasgow Fire Service was initially alerted by a 999 call at 7.15pm from the foreman of the Eldorado Ice Cream Company which was near the whisky bond.

    He reported smoke coming from a second floor window of the warehouse.

    In response two pumps from West Station with Sub Officer James Calder in charge was sent, along with a Turntable Ladder from Central Station.

    Also responding initially was the Fire Boat 'St Mungo' and a Salvage Tender and crew of the Glasgow Salvage Corps.

    The first fire crews arrived at 7.21pm and after a quick reconnaissance three more pumps were requested to attend.

    Crews were informed by civilians that smoke and flame had been seen on the Warroch Street side of the building and additional crews and equipment were sent to investigate.

    Assistant Firemaster Swanson had now arrived on the scene and having been fully appraised of the situation increased the number of pumps (fire engines) to eight.

    This message was sent at 7.49pm and seconds after it was transmitted a major explosion blew out the walls of the premises virtually destroying it.

    The warehouse contained over a million gallons of whisky and rum under one roof.

    This burned out of control for several hours, as off-duty firefighters from Glasgow and fire brigades from the surrounding areas were called in to assist.

    In total of 30 pumping appliances, 5 Turntable Ladders and 4 support vehicles were sent to the scene from around the area.

    Witnesses reported seeing bright blue flames leaping 40 feet into the sky, with the glow visible across the entire city.

    Neighbouring buildings, including a tobacco warehouse, an ice cream factory and the Harland and Wolff engine works, were engulfed.

    At the height of the blaze, 450 firefighters from the Greater Clyde valley were involved in fighting the fire, which took a week to extinguish.

    Catriona Fox lost her father in the blaze.

    She recalled the tragedy in a Scottish newspaper:

    My Dad, Eddie, was a fireman with the Glasgow Salvage Corps.

    I was actually born and brought up at the fire station on Albion Street and lived there with my brother, who was 15.

    Hearing the alarm bell go was a common occurrence and I had grown used to watching my dad and the other firemen head off to a blaze.

    On March 28, 1960, we'd just finished our tea when the bell went off.

    I watched Dad put a tender hand on Mum's shoulder and tell her reassuringly that he wouldn't be long.

    That was the last time I ever saw him.....

    By 8pm we hadn't heard any news, so we phoned the duty room, but they couldn't tell us anything.

    We switched on the TV and were shocked when a newsflash said there had been a massive explosion within minutes of the firefighters arriving at the scene, blowing the building apart.

    A number of firemen were believed to be buried in the masonry.

    As soon as we heard the news, all the families congregated in the courtyard, supporting one another and waiting anxiously for more information.

    At 10pm the firemen returned with grim faces, bearing the terrible news that five of the men from the station, along with 14 other firemen, had been killed.

    My dad was one of them.

    I was a Daddy's girl, and it was unbearable.

    It was also painful to see the effect it had on my mum.

    After that night she almost seemed to lose the will to live.

    She was tormented by nightmares until the day she died 26 years later.

    After the tragedy, we moved away from the fire house and things were never the same.

    Not a day goes by when I don't think about my dad and that awful night.

    Every time I hear a fire siren the painful memories come flooding back.

    Firefighters do the most horrendous of jobs.

    My Dad went out to work one night and never came back, so I know only too well the dangers they face.

    My dad used to tell my mum that she would be better off financially when he was dead.

    Sadly, he was right.

    I wouldn't discourage anyone from being in the fire service as we need our firefighters.

    In fact, my older brother was a retained fireman and continued after our dad's death.

    Firefighters are all heroes and I think that should be reflected in their wages.

    Marking the 50th anniversary, Brian Sweeney, chief officer of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, which today protects Glasgow, said:

    "Historically, Glasgow needed an outstanding fire service because it was a very dangerous place in which to fight fires. Post-war Glasgow contained heavy industry, crowded tenements and one of the world's great industrial and trading rivers, lined with warehouses and ships loaded with flammable cargoes. All these factors earned Glasgow the title 'tinderbox city'. The city's firefighters knew the challenges, knew the risks." [BBC]

    Fireman James Dunlop won the George Medal:

    “We were all in position when the explosion occurred. It was like all hell was let loose. I had put a man on the turntable ladder but rather than evacuate my position I got the chap down. I got a pat on the head from the Queen for that. The whisky barrels were falling out of the building and bursting into flames. It was like bombs going off.” [Herald Scotland]

    Dunlop also said:

    "It was a very sudden and unexpected explosion that took us by surprise. It took us a few moments to realise that it had occurred. To me it wasn't scary after that. There was a determination to beat this fire. We put things aside and got on with the job."[BBC]

    Driver Bob Scouller of the Glasgow Salvage Corps:

     "The buildings seemed to make me sort of shiver a wee bit. I said to myself ‘I’m going back.’ I turned and I started to walk back up, and as I came near the turntable ladder there were four firemen. They were trying to get into a grill in a window and were hammering away with their little axes. They said: ‘Driver, could you get us an axe?’ ... The four of them were buried right in front of my eyes. There was nothing I could do. They were all gone.” [Herald Scotland]