The Miraculous Escape of Robert Allan, the Fireman

’Twas in the year of 1888, and on October the fourteenth day,
That a fire broke out in a warehouse, and for hours blazed away;
And the warehouse, now destroyed, was occupied by the Messrs R. Wylie, Hill & Co.,
Situated in Buchanan Street, in the City of Glasgow.

The flames burst forth about three o’clock in the afternoon,
And intimation of the outbreak spread very soon;
And in the spectators’ faces were depicted fear and consternation;
While the news flew like lightning to the Fire Brigade Station.

And when the Brigade reached the scene of the fire,
The merciless flames were ascending higher and higher,
Raging furiously in all the floors above the street,
And within twenty minutes the structure was destroyed by the burning heat.

Then the roof fell in, pushing out the front wall,
And the loud crash thereof frightened the spectators one and all,
Because it shook the neighbouring buildings to their foundation,
And caused throughout the City a great sensation.

And several men were injured by the falling wall ,
And as the bystanders gazed thereon, it did their hearts appal;
But the poor fellows bore up bravely, without uttering a moan,
And with all possible speed they were conveyed home.

The firemen tried to play upon the building where the fire originated,
But, alas! their efforts were unfortunately frustrated,
Because they were working the hose pipes in a building occupied by Messrs Smith & Brown,
But the roof was fired, and amongst them it came crashing down.

And miraculously they escaped except one fireman,
The hero of the fire, named Robert Allan,
Who was carried with the debris down to the street floor,
And what he suffered must have been hard to endure.

He travelled to the fire in Buchanan Street,
On the first machine that was ordered, very fleet,
Along with Charles Smith and Dan. Ritchie,
And proceeded to Brown & Smith’s buildings that were burning furiously.

And in the third floor of the building he took his stand
Most manfully, without fear, with the hose in his hand,
And played on the fire through a window in the gable
With all his might, the hero, as long as he was able.

And he remained there for about a quarter of an hour,
While from his hose upon the building the water did pour,
When, without the least warning, the floor gave way,
And down he went with it: oh, horror! and dismay!

And with the debris and flooring he got jammed,
But Charlie Smith and Dan. Ritchie quickly planned
To lower down a rope to him, without any doubt,
So, with a long pull and a strong pull, he was dragged out.

He thought he was jammed in for a very long time,
For, instead of being only two hours jammed, he thought ’twas months nine,
But the brave hero kept up his spirits without any dread
Then he was taken home in a cab, and put to bed.

Oh, kind Christians! think of Robert Allan, the heroic man
For he certainly is a hero, deny it who can?
Because, although he was jammed, and in the midst of the flame,
He tells the world fearlessly he felt no pain.

The reason why, good people, he felt no pain
Is because he put his trust in God, to me it seems plain,
And in conclusion, I most earnestly pray,
That we will all put our trust in God, night and day.

And I hope that Robert Allan will do the same,
Because He saved him from being burnt while in the flame;
And all that trust in God will do well,
And be sure to escape the pains of hell.

At the meeting of Glasgow Town Council yesterday, Councillor Walter Wilson made reference to the great fire of the previous day in Buchanan Street. He had, he said, received, complaints from a number of shopkeepers respecting the very dangerous emission of sparks from the funnels of the fire-engines. In particular, Messrs Stewart & McDonald had complained to him that from this source their warehouse had been nearly set on fire. He noticed that the Council were passing a recommendation to have new fire engines, and when that was being done, he thought an endeavour should be made to have them of an improved type, which would not emit so many sparks. Bailie Dickson said that in the exigencies of a fire such as took place on Sunday, a great deal must be left to the option of the superintendent of fire. It was very difficult in the circumstances in which he was placed to keep everything in its proper place. He did not think that the conplaint had any foundation in fact, as he understood, that the complaint was very much that the warehouse of Messrs Stewart & McDonald had been injured at all. Considering the extent of the fire, and the danger to which the warehouse was exposed, he thought it bad been very little injured, and that there was little reason to complain. They were very much indebted indeed to the Fire Brigade for the great exertions that they had made at the risk of their lives. As for the engines, they were about as perfect as could be procured; but if anything could be done to mitigate the matter complained of, it would be accomplished. Bailie Thomson said that, as one of the Magistrates who happened to be present for the first two hours when the fire was at ita greatest height, he could  testify that there was no such danger as had been stated by Messrs Stewart & McDonald. No doubt the engines were emitting sparks, but they were all falling on the street and outer edge of the pavement. In regard to the remarks of Councillor Dickson he could testify to the extraordinary diligence with which the Firemen, had worked at the fire at the risk of their lives. He could not but express a feeling of admiration in regard to several men of the Brigade, and several connected with the slater trade of the city, especially a master slater named Wardrop, and some of his employés. These men went down into the cellar, and were for an hour and a half at the imminent risk of their lives trying to rescue the poor fireman Robert Allan. If any men ever deserved the Victoria Cross for bravery, these men were Mr Wardrop and Lieutenant Muir of the brigade. (Applause.) Councillor Mechan remarked that the type of fire engines they possessed had been in use for the past thirty years, and no fire had ever been occasioned by the sparks from them. The Lord Provost said they must bear in mind that, while there might be a certain amount of danger from spark coming from the engine, on the other hand, every possible means must be taken to get the engine at once into working order, as there was a far greater risk by the burning embers being carried away from the building. After further discussion as to the possibility of effecting the imprisonment of the sparks by a wire cage attached to the funnel, the matter was dropped on the Watching and Lighting committee agreeing to look into the matter.

The Scotsman, 16th October 1888

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