ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING AND SEMINAR
15TH to 16th OCTOBER 2010
at DUBLIN FIRE BRIGADE MUSEUM
The Network’s 2010 Annual General Meeting and Seminar event was hosted by Dublin Fire Brigade Museum, which is located at the DFB Training Centre in the O’Brien Institute, Marino, Dublin.
A range of interesting speakers gave presentations on a variety of topics, whilst we also treated to a excellent display of preserved fire appliances from all over the Republic, assembled by members of the Fire Service Trust.
SPEAKER: Las Fallon, Dublin Fire Brigade Museum
Las welcomed everybody to the meeting which was being held in the Conference Room of the O’Brien Institute, a former boys school in the Marino district of Dublin which now served as the DFB Training Centre, also housing the Museum. The former chapel on site had been converted into a superb conference venue, quite unlike any the Network had visited before. After telling how the Museum had been opened in 2008, Las then showed delegates around the collection. The Museum portrays the history of the Dublin Fire Brigade, through various troubled periods, to the present day, also covering the various smaller brigades which were absorbed through boundary changes. Among the many fascinating exhibits ranged over two floors, were an original watchroom console, uniformed mannequins, helmets, and models, including a superb large-scale version of a Clayton telescopic fire escape.
Las’s passion for, and knowledge of the collection, was self-evident and he seemed to have an in-depth story about each and every exhibit, bringing them to life in a way which was a credit to his curatorial skills.
SPEAKER: Michael Corcoran, National Transport Museum of Ireland
Michael gave a fascinating presentation on the development of Irish fire engines from the 18th century. The talk was illustrated with a wealth of wonderful archive images, showing every possible kind of vehicle. These amply demonstrated the ingenuity of some brigades, such as the mounting of a horse-drawn turntable ladder onto a motor chassis. There were shots of vehicles from many brigades across the country, as well as the various military fire services which were once prevalent. A feature of Irish fire brigades in recent history has been the influx of English fire engines beginning a second life across the water, and several of these were featured. Michael told of a good number of vehicles which had survived into preservation.
SPEAKER: Martin Thompson, The Fire Service Trust
Martin gave an enlightening illustrated talk on the history of fire appliance preservation in the Republic, beginning with the Dublin Bay Rally in 1986. The first true Irish fire engine rally was at West Meath four years later which was reported to have been well attended – hardly surprising as it was held at a distillery. The Fire Service Trust was formed in 1999 and, with members spread right across the country, organising events can be difficult. The group hosts a very successful website, including an image gallery of some 2000 photos, which receives an amazing 5000 hits per day ! The Trust also enjoys an excellent relationship with every fire service in Ireland. Martin ended his talk with the story of a 1950 Commer appliance recently donated to the Trust and shortly to be restored for the second time. Delegates were also treated to a gathering of preserved appliances by members of FST on the drill yard.
SPEAKER: Dora Murphy, Conservation Department, National Museum of Ireland
Filling what has become the Seminar’s “regular” conservation spot, Dora ran through the principles of conserving mainly uniform items in a very logical and understandable manner. Beginning with the necessity to stabilise objects, Dora then discussed the importance of preventative techniques to safeguard their condition. As well as the more expected issues, such as careful handling and suitable storage, we learned about the dangers of “dead space” in galleries, where insects and other deadly pests can thrive. Good practice in display technique, such as lighting levels, labelling and rotation of exhibits was covered. The five enemies of conservation were considered to be dirt, dust, people, pests and light. Some excellent case histories were also described, including one of Dora’s most important projects, the conservation of a tunic worn by the Republican Michael Collins.
SPEAKER: Michael Kernan, The Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh
Michael gave an illustrated presentation on his 2009 Winston Churchill Fellowship tour of fire museums in the USA. The theme of the tour was to study “the display, archiving and presentation of fire heritage” across that country. The trip took in several dedicated fire museums, two non-fire museums and three volunteer fire departments. Michael compared display techniques and the organisation of various museum groups with British practice, and was amazed to find that the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society had some 5000 members ! Michael was equally surprised to find a British steam fire engine, formerly of Rugby Fire Brigade, at one museum. As a result of this study trip, Michael will now represent FHNUK at the 2010 conference of the USA Fire Museums Network.
SATURDAY EVENING EVENT
After a full day at the O’Brien Institute, delegates and partners gathered at the New Arlington Hotel in Dublin’s famous Temple Bar district for dinner and a superb evening of traditional Irish entertainment, featuring folk music and dancing, which went on into the small hours.
SUNDAY STUDY VISITS
Delegates were taken by coach to the Headquarters of the Dublin Civil Defence at Wolfe Tone Quay, in the shadow of the famous Guinness brewery, where Asst. Civil Defence Officer Bill Powderly gave a very interesting presentation on the work of the service. There are five distinct Civil Defence roles, namely Auxiliary Fire Service, Casualty, Rescue, Warden and Welfare services, in many ways similar to those of the UK Civil Defence and AFS which were disbanded in 1968. There are approximately 300 volunteers in Greater Dublin. The AFS acts as back-up to the professional fire service, chiefly at grass and forest fires, floods and major emergencies. Rescue Service personnel are trained in collapsed building operations and mountain rescue. Volunteers can join from age 17 and carry on until age 65.
After the presentation, delegates went outside to inspect the vehicle fleet, all in distinct blue and white livery, and including many former DFB pumps and ambulances. A newly renovated Bedford Green Goddess was of particular interest.
The next visit was to the National Transport Museum, where delegates again met up with Michael Corcoran for a tour of this amazing facility in the grounds of Howth Castle. An amazing total of 111 vehicles were either displayed or stored in the Museum, many still awaiting restoration and – due to the numbers – presenting some challenges to the photographers in the party. As well as some superb tramcars and commercial vehicles of all kinds, there was a good selection of fire appliances to be seen, from horse-drawn manuals up to 1980s water tenders, including five turntable ladders, mostly from the Dublin area. Michael also gave us privileged access to the workshops where vehicles under restoration could be examined, the highlight here being a 1921 Leyland FE2 pump, originally from Rathmines Fire Brigade which is being prepared for a special event next year. Although some of the restoration projects in the Museum appeared daunting, Michael and his team of volunteers were congratulated on saving so many unique Irish vehicles from the scrapyard.
After a terrific lunch at “firemen’s pub” McTurcaill’s Bar on Tara Street, Dublin, delegates enjoyed a brief visit to the adjacent DFB Headquarters fire station, following which the weekend was over.