ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING AND SEMINAR
18th-19th OCTOBER 2014
at MERSEYSIDE FIRE and RESCUE SERVICE TRAINING and DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY
STORRINGTON AVE, CROXTETH, LIVERPOOL
Delegates were welcomed to Merseyside FRS TDA by Simon Ryan QVRM RD GIFireE, Head of Strategic Support and a Trustee of the Heritage and Education Centre. Simon is also an active historian in his own right, responsible for the compilation of the Museum’s impressive digital picture archive as well as much of the historical data in the collection. A particular feature was the information on former firefighters, which had been painstakingly put together over a period of time from various records.
Simon treated delegates to a picture gallery of former Merseyside area topics, including original images of the fire station site we were on.
SPEAKER: Danny Murphy BEM, Trustee and Voluntary Manager, Merseyside FRS Heritage and Education Centre :
“Introduction to Merseyside FRS Heritage and Education Centre”
Danny is well-known to many colleagues due to his tireless work in setting up the original Merseyside Fire Museum, and later the current operation, along with a supportive band of volunteers. Danny had served in Bootle Fire Brigade before retiring on ill-health but now works virtually seven days a week in the Museum.
Danny regaled us with tales from local fire brigade history and described the various fund-raising and promotional activities carried out by the group. He spoke of his passion for the subject, and of the efforts put in by all to preserve our heritage. “Without us, it would all disappear” is Danny’s philosophy.
SPEAKER: Phill Gregson, Wheelwright :
“The Restoration of Wooden Spoked Wheels”
Phill is a time-served wheelwright based in Churchtown, Southport. He is a Master Wheelwright and a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights. Coming from a long line of wheelwrights, Phill gave a fascinating presentation on the art of the wheelwright, the construction of a typical wheel and the types of timber used. Of interest was the increasing scarcity of English elm, oak and ash, due to various tree diseases. French oak and USA ash are being increasingly used. To ensure perfection, Phill prefers to make his own handtools such as spokeshaves.
After talking about his recent Churchill Fellowship trip to the USA, with slides, Phill gave many useful tips to delegates who had wooden manual pumps, ladders and escapes in their collections. These included monitoring humidity, particularly when embarking on a repaint (below 10% humidity before application of paint), the best paints to use (oil-based), and priming/painting techniques. A useful piece of advice was to keep a vessel of water under wooden appliances to assist with humidity.
Current projects included “The Duchess,” an 1893 Merryweather manual, also a Liverpool FB wooden wheeled escape, both for the MFRSHEC collection.
SPEAKER: Bob Bonner, Secretary FHNUK :
“Still Alive – and Kicking ?”
Bob gave a light-hearted dissertation on the first ten years of the Network’s existence, updating the title of his original 2004 presentation – “Stayin’ Alive” – which had looked at sustainability issues. Examining the theme of whether the Network had “made a difference,” Bob reviewed some of the issues with which we had been involved over ten years, such as fighting closure threats to various museums (not all of which were saved).
He also looked at the various networking activities which had taken place and reflected on how the whole movement was better for the existence of FHNUK. With tongue-in-cheek, Bob drew on yet more Beegees song-title material to sum up the Network’s influence on the sector, concluding that we “Should be Dancing.”
After enjoying an excellent buffet lunch provided by Merseyside FRS, delegates moved outside to inspect the Brigade’s training facilities and a selection of “New Dimensions” appliances and equipment.
SPEAKER: Carl Bell :
“The new FHNUK Website”
Carl has been working with the EC since early this year to produce a brand new website for the Network, and started his presentation by announcing that the new site had “gone live” just five minutes earlier. Delegates were shown an up-to-the-minute live link to the new site, with explanations and rationale of the various features, which were vastly different from what had gone before. Many new features were included, such as information to help researchers, expanded member’s details, Facebook section and so on, some of which were still under construction.
It was now vital that members co-operated with Carl and Pat (Website Manager) by sending as much detail and information about their groups or museums as possible. The recent “Collection Overview” returns were directly linked to this project and it was hoped to include far more detail about what each member-group did or provided than ever before. Images for the (changing) picture gallery on the home page were urgently required, to boost those which have already been put on.
The EC has listened, the Website Manager and Carl have worked hard to implement all the changes and produce the new layout, it now needs YOU to make this work for the future.
SPEAKER: Simon Ryan QVRM RD GIFireE :
“Back Home : the history and repatriation of a 1931 turntable ladder”
Simon gave a fascinating presentation concerning KF 6683 – a 1931 Leyland LTB1/Metz turntable ladder formerly of Liverpool City Fire Service. Following its working life (well illustrated by Simon), the appliance had served as a training vehicle and was eventually passed (via Dennis Bros) to the Metz Museum in Karlsruhe, Germany. By a fluke, a (very) young Bob Bonner had actually photographed the machine, complete with Surrey CC trade plates, taking part in the local Gosport, Hants, Carnival in 1963, prior to being shipped from the south coast to its new home in the Museum.
After spending some years in the Metz Museum, the appliance moved to other locations in Germany and, after hearing that it was possibly still in existence, in private hands, the Merseyside Museum crew became determined to track it down. This is where “good networking” came into play and, through a German contact provided by Greater Manchester FS Museum, the appliance was found, in the hands of a Doktor Jaegar in the Black Forest area.
A team from Bridle Road visited the doctor and the machine was found to be in very good – and almost original – condition, complete with LFB crests and original tax disks. A deal was agreed and all that remained was to return the Leyland to Merseyside. Thanks to the assistance of German State Railways, the TL finally arrived, on a transporter, at the Museum site this year and restoration is already under way.
The whole amazing story is one of excellent networking and teamwork, and a fantastic result all round.
SPEAKER: Stephen Heaver :
“The Fire Museum of Maryland, USA”
Steve told the history of American fire apparatus, from the earliest manual pumps, through the exhibits in the Museum, which is located near to Baltimore. The city has been a centre of fire engineering industry right up to the 1960s, with famous names such as Charles Holloway being prominent.
Steve’s talk included images of some of the fantastic and impressive equipment used in the United States over many years, including close-ups and explanations of the amazing decorative detail often applied. Some brigades actually spent more on the decoration, gold lining etc. than the original cost of the appliance ! The Museum is fortunate to hold a strong collection of hand- and horse-drawn equipment.
We were then treated to a pictorial tour of the Maryland Museum which Steve manages, and which is very impressive. Steve told how some original fire station (not always referred to as a “firehouse”) doors had been rescued and re-installed in the museum as a major feature.
A particular love of Steve’s is the famous Ahrens-Fox marque and he owns a wonderful 1928 example, originally purchased by his father, Steve Senior, who also set up the Museum.
EVENING SOCIAL EVENT
Delegates and their partners were taken by coach back to MFRS TDA for the annual Network dinner, conjoured up by Brigade chefs and featuring local specialities such as “Scouse.” This was followed by the cutting (and eating) of a fantastic 10th Anniversary Network cake, beautifully decorated by the daughter-in-law of Phil Consadine, who had done a brilliant job.
After dining, members were treated to an evening of great music from Lancashire male/female duo “Lyric” whose range of material was superb and really finished the day off with a swing.
SUNDAY STUDY VISITS
On Sunday, delegates travelled to Bridle Road, Bootle, for the highlight of our weekend, a visit to the MFRS Heritage and Education Centre (or “Merseyside Fire Museum” as many still unofficially refer to it). The Museum has been open since 2011 and is undoubtedly one of the best of its kind. As well as a superb collection of full-size appliances, the Museum also has galleries featuring different uniforms, equipment, memorabilia from the various stations, personnel and incidents associated with the present and former brigades which in 1974 became Merseyside.
A re-created Victorian fire station, and shop fronts add flavour, whilst a focal point is the beautiful Roll of Honour commemorating the many local firefighters who lost their lives during World War II activity.
The Museum, which is shortly to be extended, is clearly a labour of love for Danny and his colleagues, and their efforts and dedication show in every corner.
After leaving the Museum, delegates and partners assembled at the Pier Head, Liverpool, to embark on a River Cruise aboard one of the famous Mersey Ferries, as immortalised in the Gerry and the Pacemakers song of the 1960s. Although the river looked worryingly “choppy” as we queued to board the “Royal Iris” alongside MFRS’s river rescue station, fears were soon allayed as we enjoyed a great tour of the Mersey estuary, with its incredible views of the famous Liverpool waterfront.