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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:58 pm 
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This is a transcript from my talk on the history of a fire service in Warrenpoint at the Warrenpoint Historical Group on Tuesday 4th October 2016:


The first record of some sort of fire fighting in Warrenpoint was a small mention in a local paper 140 years ago detailing the acquisition by the local council of a hand cart and small pump for “the purposes of extinguishing fires”. This was used by the town council to assist in putting out fires until the Newry brigade could be summoned, its main use however was to dampen down the streets in summer (to keep the dust down) However, it was not until around 1916, that another small notice appeared in the local press stating that a “proper” volunteer fire brigade was to be formed,

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it read "It will consist of twelve men and a captain, and will be equipped with excellent apparatus" It went on to mention that Mr Crawford’s suggestion, that "Mr Edward Bradley be appointed captain" was accepted by the town council.

Over the next 20 years or so the fire service basically worked from the town hall and was “manned” by the street sweepers and council workers and would have been summoned by the public going to the town hall and pressing the “Fire Bell” at the front door (still there to this day) and then a runner (usually an assistant to the town clerk) would have then ran to knock the doors of the crew to call them to action.

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There are a few stories about that early service and I shall recall one of them:

“The Captain burst into the office and ordered the town clerks assistant (a young man called Joe Savage) to call out the men. He had released them to do a spot of street cleaning as the complaints from the rate-payers were numerous, some of them questioning the Captain’s legitimacy. But the Captain considered his Brigade was ready for their first big test.

When he gave the order the clerk knew it was an easy job. Unfortunately, it was also the men’s dinner hour. He advised the clerk to go smartly as the fire was in a garage and obviously could be dangerous. Visualising a blackened street, he set off at a gallop. he knew the men lived in the Council Houses. Arriving out of breath, he banged on the door of the first man’s house who was the first lieutenant. he delivered the message was as much gravity as he could command. Imagine his horror when he said, “I will be down when I finish my dinner.”

He was speechless, at the same time he was seized with an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh, but instead dashed to the next house in the same block and repeated the call to arms to the second man. He asked me what did his mate say, knowing that he would call there first. Noticing how pale the clerk was, he told him. “I will wait for him then.” So this was the result of the intensive training, the beautiful uniforms and the neglected streets. What could he do? How could he tell the Captain?

he took his time on the way back, hoping he could have misheard and that the Firemen would pass him at the double. Wishful thinking. he arrived back simply because he had to.
The first thing he saw was the Captain pushing the handcart full of hoses. He had got the outbreak under control himself. he asked me where his men were. I told him as gently as I could. He swore an army oath, but quickly remembered his own training and promised to put them on “jankers.” He still could not see, this wasn’t the brigade of Guards---------------it was the Brigade of Dullards.

At some point after this it seems that small brigade was disbanded and another set up beside the then Imperial hotel in Thomas street

In 1922 the brigade wanted their own handcart – and this slide shows a transcript of an article taken from the Newry Reporter in March 1922

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In 1926 it seems our aforementioned firemen still were not very co-operative as this slide shows that they did not show up for training

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In 1936 pay for a fireman for turning out was 5 shillings and then 2 shillings sixpence per hour (for up to 5 hours) dropping to 1 shilling sixpence after that during the day and 7 shillings for turning out at night (hourly rate remaining the same) . The officer in charge however would have 10 shillings for both turning out and per hour dropping to 7 shillings’ sixpence after 5 hours

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I’ve marked the outline of the station in the first of the two old photos above and the station remained here until the outbreak of the 2nd world war when it was moved to a location now occupied by the launderette in Charlotte street

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At this point I should mention The late James Heather who lived in Seaview he was the Captain of both Newry and Warrenpoint Brigades in the early days. And indeed who received the Police Medal in 1930 for 39 years of Exemplary Service distinguished by Special Merit and Ability


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This fire report from 1941 is signed by Mr Heather who would have been 73 years old at the time as Mr Heather who served in both Newry and Warrenpoint died on the 21st January, 1958, in the Alexian Bros in Warrenpoint, at the ripe old age of 90 - and over 60 years of this was spent in Service of the Fire Department.

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The local brigade of course continued on and was active during the 2nd world war, during which time the Woman’s Auxiliary Fire Service took over the role of fire-fighters and indeed remained in service for many years after alongside their male colleagues , the following photos feature the WAFS over the years both at training and around the “new” station in Warrenpoint in the later years

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In December 1947 the then national fire service was wound up, and in Northern Ireland was replaced by 4 local fire authority’s one for each region (Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern) this is the letter sent out to the retained (part time) members advising them of the change and mentions that if anyone did not wish to continue under the new authority they could notify the establishment officers accordingly through the chain of command.

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In 1953 Warrenpoint’s current station was opened and here are some photos from the opening below

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On his arrival at Warrenpoint, Mr. Maginness was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Fire Authority, Alderman D. J. Christie (from Coleraine), Mr. J. Finlay from Portadown and vice-chairman of Warrenpoint Urban Council. Mr. D. A. West.

Mr Maginness had a few words to say about the men. He said: "They had undergone the necessary training in their own time and were doing the work voluntary. This was something that was greatly appreciated by the Fire Authority."

He also congratulated the Architects and Builders who were responsible for the construction of the Station and especially the arrangement of 3 Bay Appliance Rooms and provision for Recreation and accommodation for cooking and, of course offices.

In the 50’s and 60’s the service continued to serve the area and attended many varied incidents not least of all a house fire in Killowen that turned out to be owned by the family of the late Ian Paisley who lived there for many years and the incident log book for that time shows that my great uncle Billy McCabe attended that in his taxi.


These next few show the crews out at Moygannon doing pump tests, a practice that continues to this day

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Displays at festivals were a regular thing and the local crews would put on various displays of fire fighting and as these older photos show this was definitely before the health and safety bods took over

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Over the years the appliances tended not to change very often, in fact the 2 of the pumps supplied to the station in 1953 as new were still in active service up until the late 70’s and early 80’s these 3 photos show the various types in use (not to mention in the first one the distinct lack of houses on the bridal!

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After an extensive bit of research I was able to find out that two of those engines, namely the Dennis F12 pump escape and the old 4x4 landrover are still out there – the L4P landrover was last seen still working as a factory fire engine at a biscuit factory in England – the Dennis pump escape was found in a barn in Scotland only 2 years ago and is almost a story in itself, however that one is basically the “one that got away”

There now follows a random selection of pictures:

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The modern fire service is constantly evolving and I am sure the old hands of yesteryear look on and wonder what it would have been like had they had the equipment and facilities available now, these few pictures show a few of the incidents that the crews have attended over the last few years and also some the types of equipment and training that goes on

High capacity pump training Warrenpoint docks:

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Auction House (old legion hall) fire:

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The dangers of putting water on a chip pan fire

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Flooding at Warrenpoint enterprise Centre

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Lorry accident Warrenpoint square

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RTC Casualty extraction training Warrenpoint

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I have a couple more to fill in but that's most of it.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:02 pm 
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An excellent talk Brian and a very enjoyable night. Well researched topic. Many thanks


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:20 pm 
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I hear the talk went well. Well done sorry I didn't get to it.

Did you happen to mention anything about the fire service and there side line. The Flower Fund and the amount of money raised in the 80's by a number of very good firemen in their spare time? I believe their efforts should be noted and maybe doc might still remember roughly how much they gather, I know in was well up in the thousands


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 9:52 am 
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Very informative article!!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 10:23 am 
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Sorry I missed it Brian - down the country with work, unfortunately...


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:04 am 
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Great piece of work, Brian.

Can you confirm the opening date
of the current Station?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:53 am 
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dabarry wrote:
Great piece of work, Brian.

Can you confirm the opening date
of the current Station?


Wednesday 11th August 1953


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:57 am 
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Thanks, Brian.

Always had it in my head
it was the Summer of '51.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:57 am 
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dude wrote:
I hear the talk went well. Well done sorry I didn't get to it.

Did you happen to mention anything about the fire service and there side line. The Flower Fund and the amount of money raised in the 80's by a number of very good firemen in their spare time? I believe their efforts should be noted and maybe doc might still remember roughly how much they gather, I know in was well up in the thousands


No, mainly as if i had mentioned all the stuff that went on down there i'd still be talking :rotfl: I could only go over what would fit into an hour or so and left a lot out, including quite a few articles and photographs that are on the forum itself in this very section (where most of the information came from anyway) but yes they do deserve a mention and if I see Sean i'll ask him


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