Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 16:24 UK

Cheapside Street fire marked 50 years on

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The fire on Cheapside Street was the worst peacetime tragedy in the history of the British Fire Service

A series of events have been held to mark the 50th anniversary of the deaths of 14 firefighters and five salvage corps members in a blaze in Glasgow.

The Cheapside Street fire was the worst peacetime tragedy in the history of the British fire service.

The men died in an explosion as they fought a blaze at a whisky warehouse.

Cheapside veterans attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Glasgow's Necropolis, followed by a service at Glasgow Cathedral.

A two-minute silence was also held at George Square at 1600 BST.

At the service, Brian Sweeney, chief officer at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, paid tribute to the firefighters.

'Tinderbox city'

He said: "Historically, Glasgow needed an outstanding fire service because it was a very dangerous place in which to fight fires.

"Post-war Glasgow contained heavy industry, crowded tenements and one of the world's great industrial and trading rivers, lined with warehouses and ships loaded with flammable cargoes.

"All these factors earned Glasgow the title 'tinderbox city'.

"The city's firefighters knew the challenges, knew the risks. But who could predict the tragedy that was to take place on this day 50 years ago?"

Now I'm older I feel it even more deeply, the sad loss of colleagues and people I was fond of
James Dunlop

The fire itself took almost 11 hours to put out, but it was a devastating explosion that caused the loss of life.

Shortly after the first crews arrived, the centre section of the warehouse blew out on to Cheapside Street and Warroch Street.

Rubble from the 60 foot-high (18m) walls claimed the lives of 19 men.

The members of Glasgow Fire Service who died were James Calder, John McPherson, John Allan, Christopher Boyle, Gordon Chapman, William Crocket, Archibald Darroch, Daniel Davidson, Alfred Dickinson, Alexander Grassie, George McIntyre, Edward McMillan, Ian McMillan and William Watson.

The Glasgow Salvage Corps members were Edward Murray, James McLellan, Gordon McMillan, James Mungall and William Oliver.

Lessons learnt

James Dunlop, one of the firefighters who survived the fire, paid his respects at the memorial while wearing the George Medal for bravery he was awarded for rescuing a colleague who had been blown off a turntable platform above the fire.

Mr Dunlop, 79, said: "It was a very sudden and unexpected explosion that took us by surprise. It took us a few moments to realise that it had occurred.

"To me it wasn't scary after that. There was a determination to beat this fire.

"We put things aside and got on with the job."

He added: "It doesn't get any easier, even 50 years later. Now I'm older I feel it even more deeply, the sad loss of colleagues and people I was fond of - our team."

Cheapside fire memorial
Survivors and relatives of the victims visited the memorial

Steve Singleton, of Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, attended the service to pay his respects to his uncle, Alfred Dickinson.

Mr Singleton said: "Alfred was only 31 when he died and he'd only been in Glasgow for just about a year.

"It was such a young age to die that I just felt wanted to pay my family's respects, so I made the trip."

After the service, Mr Sweeney said the disaster had inspired changes to building legislation and regulations.

"We learned lessons. It takes a tragedy, a disaster, before people look at the circumstances surrounding it and undertake never to let it happen again."

A special programme - The Night Glasgow Burned: The Cheapside Tragedy - will be shown at 1705 BST on Sunday 28 March on BBC 1 Scotland.



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Anniversary of fire tragedy marked
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