Firefighter Heritage Trail

Wed 01st May 2013

Glasgow has a distinguished and dramatic firefighting history. Over the years, as a major port and industrial and commercial centre, the City has seen devastating and tragic fires.

Some of those fires claimed the lives of firefighters who fought gallantly to contain the destruction. To honour Glasgow’s fallen firefighters, the Firefighters’ Heritage Trail has been created to tell the stories of some of the people and places that have played an important part in the history of firefighting in Glasgow.

12 memorial plaques have been set into the ground to mark the sites where firefighters lost their lives. In addition, we have identified several further sites of special interest relating to the history of the fire service in Glasgow. We have produced leaflets that include a map for those who wish to follow the trail and a full website is being developed to enable a virtual tour of the heritage trail.

To complement the trail and fully involve the communities within Glasgow, Impact Arts have been working with community groups to create artwork that interprets and illustrates some of the sites where firefighters lost their lives. A film encompassing the projects in action, the sites involved and interviews with retired fire fighters will allbe available to tie all the projects together and provide another facet to the community interpretation.

This event today showcases some of the projects and creates an opportunity for everyone to come together to share and celebrate their hard work and creative pieces. Older people from Govan, youth from across Glasgow and school children from Maryhill have all taken part in these projects along with artists and retired firefighters.

The website will contain all of these projects and the film pieces as well as extensive records of Glasgow’ firefighting history, archive press reports, video footage and personal testimonies. Pages for this community project are ready to be populated and will be publicly available on the website, over the next few weeks.

Creation of the Trail is being made possible thanks to the award of £54,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The application for the grant was made by a Heritage Committee set up by Strathclyde Fire & Rescue and the SFR Retired Employees’ Association.


Theatre Royal, Hope Street

3 November 1969. Sub Officer Archie McLay died in a fire in the theatre, which at that time was STV Studios.

A group of young people, taking part in a wider programme of learning and activities to help support them become ready for formal learning or employment with 16+ Learning Choices, engaged with artists and explored the fire at the Theatre Royal on Hope Street. The group met with a Community Engagement staff and worked with artists to explore the events surrounding this fire and life in Glasgow during 1969.The group worked hard to make colourful commemorative banners to illustrate the site and event. These banners illustrate imagery from the fire service and the STV studios. The participants were full of ideas and worked hard to make great finished artwork. This group finished the project by spending the day at Kilbirnie Community Safety Centre where they worked with firefightersundertaking practical exercises in full uniform, learning about fire safety, teamwork and the role of a firefighter.

Kilbirnie Street

25 August 1972. Seven firemen – Divisional Officer Andrew P Quinn, Leading Fireman Alastair Crofts, Firemen Iain R Bermingham, Allan Finlay, William Hooper, Duncan A McMillan and James W Rook – die in Sher Brothers warehouse fire.

The Quarriers Inclusion team aims to support all children and young people to increase their confidence and skills by having their voices heard, which in turn will hopefully increase the opportunities they are offered in life. A group of young people from this project focused on the events of the Kilbirnie Street tragedy and explored this fire and life in the fire service with retired firefighters. The group of young men were particularly interested in the role of the firefighter and expressed interest in finding a route to become a firefighter. The group listened intently to stories about the history of the fire service as well as the development of the city over the decades. The group leader said to one of the retired employees; ‘I could listen to your stories all day’.The group worked with artists following a video of contemporary photographic public artwork across the world and then created a photo collage which was printed onto a large banner. The collage uses artwork and photographs from the Kilbirnie Street fire and will be displayed permanentlyon the M74 bridge support at Kilbirnie Street with the assistance and co-operation of Transport Scotland. This group plan to visit Uaill Training Centre; Scottish Fire and Rescue Centre’s state of the art facility which recreates a town setting for fire crews to where practice tackling burning buildings, road accidents and train crashes.

Maryhill Road/Great Western Road

18 November 1972. Sub Officer Adrian McGill died in a fire on a Maryhill Road tenement which then spread to Great Western Road.


Oakgrove Primary School is situated in Maryhill and is the closest primary school to the location of the fire that took place on Maryhill Road. Primary 5 pupils visited the site and researched the project using their own initiative and with the goal of making a filmed oral history interview with a retired firefighter who attended this fire. The class began with an interactive session with community engagement staff to explore current fire safety information. They then worked with an artist to take part in story-telling, role play and creating artwork to explore themes and images in relation to the project. The class looked at photographs from the fire and firefighters uniform through history. During these sessions the pupils formed questions they would like to ask the retired fire fighter while being filmed. The class made an excellent job of interviewing the retired firefighter and learning about fire safety as well as this tragedy at which took place almost 30 years ago.


Pacific Quay

December 1 1960. Station Officer Douglas Mearns dies after being overcome by fumes while fighting fire in German cargo ship MV Pagensand.

Impact Arts’ Craft Café project provides a creative solution to reducing isolation and loneliness amongst older people. It offers members a safe, social and creative environment where they can learn new skills, renew networks and reconnect with their communities. A large group of members explored the fire that took place in their local area in 1960. Members worked with artists and retired firefighters to experiment with visual and written art creating artwork relating to the event. Most members said this was an emotional project as they explored the history around that time, the events surrounding this fire and reminisced about their own lives during this period. Elizabeth a member of the group said; ‘It is so important that local history is preserved so it’s been interesting working with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.

Graham Square

24 December 1927. Four firemen – James Conn, Morrison Dunbar, Harry W McKellar and David Jeffrey – die in warehouse fire at rear of Graham Square.

Impact Arts are working with a group of young people on a project called Home: a furniture design and recycling project where young people aged 16-19 work with joinery and design tutors learning about the design, production, enterprise and retail skills, as a means to gain opportunities to move into employment, training or education. This group met with retired firefighters and were filmed making an interview where they explored the fire at Graham Square. The group then went on an ‘inspiration’ trip to the Greenock Fire Museum and Heritage Centre, then the Linwood workshop where fire vintage appliances and historical artifacts are maintained, preserved and stored. The group spent hours exploring both venues, trying on uniforms from past eras and looking for inspiration for their artwork. After much research and ideas the group agreed to form large letters that would read HERO with each letter in memory of each of the four officers who died in the process of undertaking heroic actions to save the lives of others.This project has a deep concept and meaning to the young people involved and they have spent weeks carefully designing and making the shapes whilst learning about the techniques involved. This group will also be spending time at Kilbirnie Community Safety Centre where they will work with firefighters undertaking practical exercises in full uniform, learning about fire safety, teamwork and the role of a firefighter.

Project 6

This project consiststs of film pieces involving all groups and retired employees. Films have been made to capture the interviews, oral history, archive footage, archive photographs and work in progress of the groups making their pieces and researching the fires. These films should compliment and contrast the old and the new imagery and capture the interaction between people of all ages from across the city as they interact with retired firefighters and their local heritage. These films capture a wide audience and demonstrate the possibilities of community engagement and heritage exploration; they will be available on the website and are capable of being accessed though the QR code on the heritage trail leaflet, with the aim of bringing an additional element for those taking part on the trail using their mobile phones or those viewing the trail remotely.

The Heritage event we discussed is from 11.00-2.00 on Wed 8th May @ Glasgow City Chambers. The event will be located within the Banqueting Halls. Entrance via Glasgow City Chambers main reception.


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