Cheapside Street whisky bond fire
The Cheapside Street whisky bond fire in Glasgow on 28 March 1960 was Britain's worst peacetime fire services disaster. The fire at a whisky bond killed 19 servicemen. This fire was overshadowed only by a similar fire in James Watt Street (also in Glasgow) on 19 November 1968, when 22 people lost their lives.
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 thirty pumping appliances, five Turntable Ladders and four support vehicles were sent to the scene from around the area.
Witnesses reported seeing bright blue flames leaping forty 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.
The incident remains Britain's worst peacetime fire services disaster. The 'Summerland' disaster in Douglas, Isle Of Man in 1973 when fire destroyed an indoor leisure centre resulted in 50 deaths.
The Arbuckle, Smith and Co. warehouse contained over a million gallons of whisky held in 21,000 wooden casks., and 30,000 gallons of rum. As the temperature of the fire increased, some of these casks ruptured, causing a massive BLEVE explosion that caused the front and rear walls of the building to burst outwards causing large quantities of masonry to collapse into the street. This collapse instantly killed three firemen in Cheapside Street as well as 11 firemen and five salvagemen who were battling the blaze from the rear of the building in Warrach Street.
Firefighters and salvagemen killed
The following is a list of the fire fighters/salvagemen killed on 28 March 1960 during this event:
- Fireman John Allen – Glasgow Fire Service
- Fireman Christopher Boyle – Glasgow Fire Service
- Sub Officer James Calder – Glasgow Fire Service
- Fireman Gordon Chapman – Glasgow Fire Service
- 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
Awards for bravery
The men who were killed were buried in the rubble, but were later laid to rest in the fire service tomb in Glasgow Necropolis. A memorial service is held on 28 March each year, with representatives of the fire service and Glasgow City Council present. Memorial services and other observations were held in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.
- Catriona Fox (2002). "Dad never came home". Archive. Sunday Post/Govan Fire brigade. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Glasgow Story (2009). "Ceremony to mark Cheapside fire". Archive. Glasgow story. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Jeremy Watson (2004). "Past tragedies pave the way for improvements in fire safety". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- "Ceremony to mark Cheapside fire". BBC News. 28 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Scotland Herald, (2003). "Night 19 firemen died in explosion event CHEAPSIDE FIRE DISASTER, Glasgow DATE MARCH 28, 1960". The Herald. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- SFRS (2014). "SFRS remembers Glasgow's fallen firefighters". Archive. Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Retrieved 2015-01-13.
- "Last Words". 31 October 2014. BBC Radio 4. Missing or empty
- "Cheapside Street fire marked 50 years on". BBC News. 28 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- Kilbirnie Street fire, 1972