Firefighting in Cork

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (Autumn 2004), Letters, Letters, Volume 12



—I am researching the story of fires, firefighting and firefighters in Cork city over the centuries, and I wonder if some among your readers may be able to help me over a few hurdles. During the greater part of the nineteenth century, private fire brigades known as ‘fire engine establishments’ were maintained by a number of insurance companies. Because working the manual fire pumps was such a labour-intensive (and apparently back-breaking) business, twenty men at a time were required for even the smaller pumps, with twenty standing by as reliefs, frequently recruited on the spot for this work. These volunteers were issued with small metal discs (like a coin) known as ‘tickets’. The ticket entitled the bearer to some remuneration for his services on its production at the office of the issuing insurance company, the ticket being engraved with the name of the company. Later, Cork Corporation issued similar discs to volunteers recruited at the fire scene. I am hoping that someone may possess an example of such a disc, possibly without knowing what it actually is. (All I require is a photograph of one that I can take with a digital camera.)

The second part of my query concerns the period of the Emergency (1939–45), when the Auxiliary Fire Service was established as a back-up to the regular fire brigade in time of war. In Cork city, AFS sub-stations were opened at Victoria Road, Glasheen Road, Turner’s Cross, St Luke’s, Gurranebraher, Wolfe Tone Street and Lower Glanmire Road. While a number of ‘official’ photographs of the era are available, what I seek are photos with a more ‘personal’ touch, showing the personnel (men and women), appliances and, particularly, stations of the time. Such privately taken snaps, no matter how ‘amateurish’ they might seem to the owner, are of great importance. They would be required on loan for only a day or two.
Finally, I would like very much to speak with any members who served with Cork City AFS units during the Emergency, as their experiences during this important (and, sadly, largely undocumented) part of our recent social history deserve to be recorded.

—Yours etc.,
Co. Cork


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