Fire Brigade

A HISTORY

OF

BELFAST FIRE BRIGADE

By Bill Broadhurst and Harry Welsh

Fire Brigade

Bill Broadhurst retired on 24th October 2003 from the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade while Harry Welsh officially retired on the 1st June 2003. Initially they became friends during their service together on White Watch at Central Fire Station Chichester street Belfast, when they discussed the history of the Belfast Brigade and where it could be found. Shortly afterwards as a search began it quickly became apparent that all or most of the records kept by the brigade had been destroyed or re-cycled during the Second World War to assist with paper shortages.

The first part of their journey took them to The Linenhall Library in Belfast renound for its historical archives, and at first not knowing exactly what they were seeking their search seemed to be one of folly. It was only as they became more familiar with the services provided by the library that they began to put together the first snippets of references to the fire brigade from different sources such as. The Water Service, The Police Service, Early leglislation, Old maps and Newspapers.

An approach was then made to the Belfast City Hall and through the help and assistance of the Town Clerk's office were they given complete access to the various Committee minute books. The main source being that of the Police Committee under which the Fire Brigade had operated. Starting now to acquire and put together a mass of information which they would invariabily share with others within the brigade, they were encouraged to compile a book about the history of the brigade. Stepping once again into a world of which they had no prior knowledge, they sought assistance from Michael Longley of the Arts Council for Northern Ireland who directed them in this field. e.g. To confirm anything which could be said, there had be at least two different sources. Also to seek help from the Public Records held in the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland. They should never rush at anything to do with history and be prepared for days which would frustrate and appear to have been a waste of time.

It has to be said that never once in all their time together gathering information did they ever encounter anyone who did not seem interested in their quest for knowledge, nor did anyone appear to be unhelpful. Indeed they were constantly encouraged by those they came into contact with through; The Belfast City Hall, The Public Record Office for Northern Ireland, The Ulster Museum, The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, The Belfast Telegraph and Belfast News-Letter newspapers, The Public libraries, past and serving members of the fire service.

Over the years of research it was noticeable that the initial sources of records contained in the folds of the Old Police Minute books, a puzzlement which transpired to be the slivers from clerks sharpening their quill pens, and as both Harry and Bill had started by writing and recording their information with more and more coming their way they had to move onto typewriters and photocopiers. Never did they foresee the revolution in computers and discs onto which most of their information is now stored. Their records together with all the photographs, scrap books and books which survived have now been placed in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, alongside the Police Committee Minute books from the Belfast City Hall.

The history of the Belfast Fire Brigade has now been compiled to the best of their ability and a Book entitled "THE FLAMING TRUTH, a history of the Belfast Fire Brigade" has been published by Flaming Publications and printed by The Priory Press, Holywood, Co.Down after assistance with the costs were granted by the Belfast City Council.

Fire Brigade

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Bill Broadhurst (left) and Harry Welsh (right).

Fire Brigade

BELFAST INDEX

Notable Dates through History.
Belfast Chief Fire Officers.
Photographic History Belfast Fire Brigade.
Fires in Belfast.
Published Book "A History of Belfast Fire Brigade".
Northern Ireland Fire Authority.
Lisburn Fire Brigade.
Northern Ireland Fire Services Historical Society.
Bangor Fire Brigade.
Carrickfergus Fire Brigade.