Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Glasgow Live
Glasgow Live
Lee Dalgetty

Remembering the tragic Glasgow fire that killed seven firemen

When the Sher Brothers warehouse on Kilbirnie Street went up in flames in 1972, no one could have known it would result in one of the highest losses of life for the British Fire Service the country has seen.

The tragedy came at a time when the city was still reeling from two major disasters that had taken place only the previous year. The Ibrox Disaster and the Clarkston Toll explosion both incurred heavy death tolls and it seemed as if tragic events were becoming frighteningly common.

On the same day of the Kilbirnie Street fire, four young boys drowned in the Clyde when their home-made rafts overturned.

Just after 11am on August 25, 1972, an employee discovered the blaze in the stockroom of the warehouse. The fire service was immediately on the scene, where all staff had evacuated the burning building.

Queens Park and West Marine Fire Station dispatched two more engines, and firemen got to work on attempting to protect stock from fire and smoke damage. Crews searched the building for the source of the flames, through thick smoke and a crowded layout.

Just before midday, the conditions were deteriorating and Divisional Officer Quinn ordered all men to exit the building. Fireman James Rook, not hearing the order, went further up in the building to assist in the attic.

After a sudden stock collapse, Rook was trapped. A rescue party was soon sent in to assist, but was pulled out due to exhaustion.

Officer Quinn was unwilling to leave Rook, and sent in a second rescue attempt. With six men donned with breathing apparatus inside the building, a rapid and intense eruption of flames ripped through the first floor.

The structure collapsed - and while a further rescue attempt was made, it became clear that no survivors would be found. By mid afternoon the fire was under control, and the bodies could be retrieved.

The last body, that of Fireman Rook, was found at 6pm.

Sign up to our Glasgow Live nostalgia newsletters for more local history and heritage content straight to your inbox

The Aberdeen Press & Journal told readers the following day: "All that remained of the Sher Brothers warehouse was four bare walls and a pile of rubble.

"Only a few whisps of grey smoke still billowed from the warehouse as grimy and sweat-soaked firemen rolled up their hoses and began leaving the place where seven of their friends and comrades had died."

The tragedy is one of a string of fires that hit Glasgow, with one of the most devastating being the Cheapside Street whisky bond fire of 1960. Known as Britain’s worst peacetime fire disaster, the blaze killed 14 fire servicemen and 5 salvage corps workmen.

In 1968, a fatal factory fire on James Watt Street saw 22 employees lose their lives. Around 100 firemen attended the blaze, which reinforced Glasgow’s reputation for horrific fires in the 30 years after the Second World War.

The city’s fires may have come from poor building standards, and older nineteenth century buildings that were crammed in. In recent years, two Glasgow nightclubs were destroyed by fire in 2004 - as well as the Art School fire of 2014.

Glasgow has proved its resilience in overcoming disasters, and the brave fire service who has battled the blazes over the years will be remembered.

A memorial for those lost in the Kilbirnie Street Fire sits in the Glasgow Necropolis. Engraved on it are the names of Andrew Quinn (47), Alistair Crofts (31), Iain Bermingham (29), Allan Finlay (20), William Hooper (44), Duncan McMillan (25), and James Rook (29).

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.