AGM 2012

20th to 21st OCTOBER 2012


For its 2012 Annual General Meeting and Seminar, the Network chose Edinburgh, the birthplace of municipal firefighting in Britain.

Delegates were welcomed to the Headquarters of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service and the Museum of Fire by DCFO David Mallin who also gave an update on anticipated changes to fire and rescue services in Scotland from 2013. A reply was given by FHNUK Chairman, Alan House.

SPEAKER: Ian McMurtrie MBE (Asst. Firemaster (retd) and Hon. Curator, Museum of Fire) :
“History of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade”

Ian gave a fascinating account of the development of fire brigades in Edinburgh, beginning with the “muck men” who were ordered to proceed to fires with their “creels” full of dung with which to extinguish the flames. Following the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824, the city appointed 24yo James Braidwood to organise the UK’s first municipal fire service. The Brigade was synonymous with progress, including the development of limousine fire engines in the 1930s and the birth of the Institution of Fire Engineers, whose badge was based on the original EFB one. We learned that Ian’s great grandfather had been a member of the Volunteer Fire Brigade at Stockbridge. The Museum of Fire was created thanks to the dedication of Firemaster Frank Rushbrook and Ian.

SPEAKER: Dennis Scott (Scottish Fire Heritage Group :
“James Braidwood and the Aberdeen Fire Engine Establishment”

Dennis told the story of firefighting in Aberdeen, which began with members of the Shore Porters Society being used to fight fires. After the Edinburgh fire of 1824, the Aberdeen Fire Engine Establishment was formed, with support and guidance from James Braidwood.
An interesting story concerned the “bodysnatchers” whose unsavoury activities led to rioting and the destruction by fire in 1831 of the anatomical theatre, the result of which was the passing of the Anatomical Act to regulate such research.

SPEAKER: Alan House (Trustee and Archivist, FMT) :
“The Firefighters Memorial Trust”

Alan gave an overview of his work as Archivist for the Trust, describing the criteria used for inclusion on the database and on the Firefighters’ Memorial in London. Originally intended for WWII casualties only, the memorial now lists some 2,400 names. However, gap-filling research is still needed and Network members can help with this. There are currently no military firefighters and very few industrial ones listed. The Trust also wishes to compile a record of all local fire service memorials in the UK. As well as the memorial outside St.Paul’s Cathedral, the Trust is responsible for the chapel at the Fire Service College, the Roll of Honour and bell (also at FSC) and an additional memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. The Trust (referred to by Alan as “guardians of tradition,”) also organises the annual Memorial Service at St.Paul’s.

SPEAKER: Nigel Crompton (Nigel Crompton Associates) :
“It’s in the Family”

Nigel provided a fascinating insight into his work with family history, relating this to delegates’ own collections and explaining how fire museums and archives have a role to play. Log books, personnel records, annual reports and occurrence books can all assist in tracing an individual’s personal career history. He showed a series of interesting images of personnel of various local authority and industrial brigades, and gave examples of some of the research carried out by his organisation. Nigel also revealed that the Government has announced a £17m “pot” for WWI commemorations from 2014. Grants will be available for the restoration of war memorials.

SPEAKER : Hamish Coghill :
“Edinburgh Old Town”

Local historian Hamish told the story of Edinburgh, which began an amazing 450 million years ago with a volcanic eruption. The city’s configuration, from the Castle to the Royal Mile, Grassmarket area and Princes Street, results from this geological past. Hamish went on to describe early building construction, how stone houses came about following serious fires, and the original definition of a “tenement.” In the 18th Century, the “New Town” was developed to the north, by architects such as Robert Adam. Hamish also related many famous Edinburgh stories, such as the real Jekyll and Hyde and Greyfriars Bobby.


After the Seminar and AGM, delegates were taken by preserved bus (kindly supplied by Martin Denman of the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust) to Bainfield Bowling Club for the Network Dinner, with superb entertainment by Scottish folk due The Wherries.

During the evening, Ian McMurtrie (Museum of Fire) was presented by Alan House with an inscribed whisky decanter and glasses from Fire Heritage Network UK, to mark a lifetime’s contribution to fire heritage.


On Sunday, delegates were taken by the preserved bus to the Royal Mile, where they were met by a volunteer guide from the Museum of Fire for a walking tour of the old town. The tour included a visit to the James Braidwood statue, where a wreath (kindly supplied by Nigel Crompton Associates) was laid by Alan House on behalf of the Network. The statue, sited close to Edinburgh’s first fire station, is a particularly magnificent example of the sculptor’s art and can be said to honour all British firefighters.

After the tour, delegates were taken to the Ocean Terminal leisure and shopping complex, Leith, where they were able to inspect the preserved Royal vessel, HMY Britannia.

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