The Clepington Catastrophe

’TWAS on a Monday morning, and in the year of 1884,
That a fire broke out in Bailie Bradford’s store,
Which contained bales of jute and large quantities of waste,
Which the brave firemen ran to extinguish in great haste.

They left their wives that morning without any dread,
Never thinking, at the burning pile, they would be killed dead
By the falling of the rickety and insecure walls;
When I think of it, kind Christians, my heart it appals!

Because it has caused widows and their families to shed briny tears,
For there hasn’t been such a destructive fire for many years;
Whereby four brave firemen have perished in the fire,
And for better fathers or husbands no family could desire.

’Twas about five o’clock in the morning the fire did break out,
While one of the workmen was inspecting the premises round about–
Luckily before any one had begun their work for the day–
So he instantly gave the alarm without delay.

At that time only a few persons were gathered on the spot,
But in a few minutes some hundreds were got,
Who came flying in all directions, and in great dismay;
So they help’d to put out the fire without delay.

But the spreading flames, within the second flats, soon began to appear,
Which filled the spectators’ hearts with sympathy and fear,
Lest any one should lose their life in the merciless fire,
When they saw it bursting out and ascending higher and higher.

Captain Ramsay, of the Dundee Fire Brigade, was the first to arrive,
And under his directions the men seemed all alive,
For they did their work heroically, with all their might and main,
In the midst of blinding smoke and the burning flame.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known,
The words, Fire! Fire! from every mouth were blown;
And a cry of despair rang out on the morning air,
When they saw the burning pile with its red fiery glare.

While a dense cloud of smoke seemed to darken the sky,
And the red glaring flame ascended up on high,
Which made the scene appear weird-like around;
While from the spectators was heard a murmuring sound.

But the brave firemen did their duty manfully to the last,
And plied the water on the burning pile, copiously and fast;
But in a moment, without warning, the front wall gave way,
Which filled the people’s hearts with horror and dismay:

Because four brave firemen were killed instantaneously on the spot,
Which by the spectators will never be forgot;
While the Fire Fiend laughingly did hiss and roar,
As he viewed their mangled bodies. with the debris covered o’er.

But in the midst of dust and fire they did their duty well,
Aye! in the midst of a shower of bricks falling on them pell-mell,
Until they were compelled to let the water-hose go;
While the blood from their bruised heads and arms did flow.

But brave James Fyffe held on to the hose until the last,
And when found in the debris, the people stood aghast.
When they saw him lying dead, with the hose in his hand,
Their tears for him they couldn’t check nor yet command.

Oh, heaven! I must confess it was no joke
To see them struggling in the midst of suffocating smoke,
Each man struggling hard, no doubt, to save his life,
When he thought of his dear children and his wife.

But still the merciless flame shot up higher and higher;
Oh, God! it is terrible and cruel to perish by fire;
Alas! it was saddening and fearful to behold,
When I think of it, kind Christians, it makes my blood run cold.

What makes the death of Fyffe the more distressing,
He was going to be the groomsman at his sister’s bridal dressing,
Who was going to be married the next day;
But, alas! the brave hero’s life was taken away.

But accidents will happen by land and by sea,
Therefore, to save ourselves from accidents, we needn’t try to flee,
For whatsoever God has ordained will come to pass;
For instance, ye may be killed by a stone or a piece of glass.

I hope the Lord will provide for the widows in their distress,
For they are to be pitied, I really must confess;
And I hope the public of Dundee will lend them a helping hand;
To help the widows and the fatherless is God’s command.

Destructive Fire in Dundee

Four Firemen Killed and Several Injured

Estimated Damage £12,000

One of the most destructive fires with which Dundee has been visited for many years occurred yesterday morning at Clepington Waste Works, belonging to ex-Bailie Bradford. The destruction of the works is terribly complete, and accompanied as it has been with the almost instantaneous death of four firemen, and the injury and the remarkably narrow escape of others by the falling of a wall, the calamity has created a great sensation in the town. The works, with the other buildings and sheds connected with them, cover an extensive area in the north-east part of the town. The principal buildings consist of the waste works, which were four storeys in height, 110 feet in length, and 55 feet in breadth. The ground and second floors were occupied with carding and cleaning machinery, while the third and fourth floors were used for packing and storage purposes, and contained an enormous quantity of flax and jute tow waste. Shortly before six o’clock one of the workmen discovered that fire had broken out in the second flat, and with the assistance of several persons who were at hand, the hose of the works was brought into use; but although the men exerted themselves energetically, the fire increased, and they were compelled to retreat from the building. Shortly afterwards the fire brigade arrived, and the operations carried on for the extinguishing of the fire were under the direction of Captain Ramsay. In a short time large volumes of water were being poured on the burning building from different points. As the strength of the fire seemed to exist in the second floor, particular attention was directed to it. Ladders were placed against the wall reaching to the windows, and by means of these firemen were enabled to introduce jets of water into the burning flat. For about an hour and a half the firemen worked vigorously, and it appeared then that the fire was being rapidly subdued. About this time it is supposed that part of the building internally had given way, and the support of the roof having thus been disturbed, the roof itself was seen to partially subside, and the next moment the front wall of the northern half of the waste works was thrown out, and fell into the street, followed by masses of bales and machinery. When the wall fell a number of firemen were busily engaged in front of it, and as far as known four of the men were instantly killed by the falling of the masonry and the contents of the upper floor of the building, while several others, who were more or less injured, fortunately escaped with their lives. Captain Ramsay himself had a narrow escape. He was standing at the corner of the north gable of the works at the time the front wall fell out, and he just got clear when the spot where he stood was covered with a mass of stone and lime. Some of the firemen escaped almost by a miracle, as a considerable number of them were engaged in the vicinity of the wall that fell.

The names of the men who were killed, are:- David Shepherd, slater, Bell Street, 35 years of age, in the employment of Mr D. Hutchinson, and leaves a widow and six of a family; James Fyfe, slater, Lindsay Street, son of William Fyfe, slater, Lindsay Street – he was 24 years of age and unmarried; George Crammond, plumber, in the employment of Mr Ballingall at Pleasance Brewery — he was 34 years of age and leaves a widow and four of a family; and George Martin, slater, Victoria Road, 21 years of age and unmarried.

About half-past seven o’clock the second half of the waste works caught fire, and about nine o’ clock the whole front wall of that portion as well as the south gable, fell out into the thoroughfare, but fortunately no one was injured.

After the walls had given way, a large number of workmen in the employment of the Police Commission were summoned to remove the ruins, and to recover the bodies of the unfortunate firemen. About two o’clock in the afternoon one of the bodies was recovered. The search for the other bodies was going on.

The waste works are reduced to a mass of ruins, the only walls remaining being the north gable and the east wall, but they are so rent and otherwise damaged that they will have to be taken down. The estimated loss caused by the fire is stated at £12,000, which is only partially covered by insurance with the Standard Office. A considerable number of workpeople will be thrown out of employment by the calamity.

DUNDEE, midnight.— The result of the search operations up to a late hour last night was the recovery of the bodies of Fyfe and Martin, both of which were terribly mangled. The operations had to be suspended for a time in the afternoon, until dangerous portions of standing masonry were removed. They were afterwards resumed to be continued during the whole night. The damage is estimated at from £10,000 to £12,000, and the loss is only covered by insurance to the extent of a little over £3000.

The Scotsman, 12th February 1884

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Comments (2) »

  1. Rumwold Leigh
    In the year 2013, on the 6th day of October at 10:27 pm

    My favourite McGonagall. it has all his worst characteristics, and clearly he was completely unaware of what they were. No one could be that ludicrous if they tried.

  2. Anthony Webb
    In the year 2015, on the 19th day of April at 11:09 pm

    A man from whom no disaster was safe!

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