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BANGOR INDEX

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A brief history
by
Bill Broadhurst and Harry Welsh

Bangor is a growing town on the southern side of Belfast Lough approximately twelve miles east of Belfast.
It has a population of approximately 40,000 and there is a wide range of shops and leisure facilities for local people and the many thousands of others who visit the town each year. In addition to being one of the largest seaside towns in Northern Ireland, there are several large industrial complexes, good road and rail communications and a modern marina for sailing enthusiasts.

In December 1904 the Bangor Urban District Council met and decided to go ahead with preparations to provide a fire brigade for the town, and Samuel T. Coulter was appointed as Chief Officer of the new Bangor fire brigade which was officially inaugurated on 1 January 1905.

Coulter was able to negotiate the purchase of an old hand-drawn hose cart from the Belfast Corporation at a cost of £1 and he was invited to attend a few drill sessions at Belfast to learn about firefighting techniques. With an establishment of eight firemen having been recruited the hand pulled fire engine along with other necessary equipment essential for firefighting was kept at the Town Hall Yard.

            BANGOR URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL
                        FIRE BRIGADE 1905 
Chief Fire Officer Samuel Coulter (Seated Centre)

At the beginning of 1919, two motor cars were obtained for use by the brigade to convey firemen to incidents. Much of the equipment previously stored on the handcart was placed in one of the cars as the other was also used as an ambulance. This development meant that in effect, there was now a motorised fire brigade and ambulance service in Bangor. A shed was provided for storing the vehicles when not in use. Following the Partition of Ireland, a period of civil disturbances took place and in 1922, a strict curfew was enforced throughout Northern Ireland from 2300 hours to 0500 hours each night. On 9 July 1922, members of the Bangor Fire Brigade were travelling to a fire at Ballyholme Windmill during the hours of curfew when their vehicle was fired on by a police patrol, mistaking them for terrorists. The crew members were badly shocked, although fortunately no-one was injured. However, as a result of this incident, a bell was fitted to the Brigade motor vehicles to alert everyone that they were attending an emergency call.


During the early years of the twentieth century, the development of the petrol internal combustion engine revolutionised fire engine manufacture. Self-propelled motor fire engines became increasingly available and a few local councils, such as Limavady and Newry had purchased one for their fire brigades. The Belfast Fire Brigade purchased an entire fleet of these between 1911 and 1913 and was the first fire brigade in the British Isles to become entirely motorised.
Bangor Council finally agreed to purchase a new Dennis motor fire engine, complete with escape ladder, at a cost of £1624.10.0.
It was delivered to the town on 21 November 1924 along with additional equipment for the fire engine, including 600 feet of delivery hose with new uniforms for the firemen being purchased during 1925.

     Bangor fire crew with 
Dennis Motor Pump Escape 
                 c1925. -----------Chief Fire Oficer
 Samuel Coulter


By 1938, it was becoming clear that there was a strong possibility that war might break out in Europe and local fire brigades were asked to make preparations in case this happened. Legislation was introduced to make provisions for dealing with air raids and councils would be fully involved in drafting air raid precautions schemes.It was recognized that in times of attack, assistance would be required from brigades some distance away from the target area, probably Belfast, and one of the chief concerns was the incompatibility of equipment between fire brigades. When this was considered at Bangor, it was discovered that the equipment used there was fully compatible with that used in Belfast and full integration was therefore possible. A unit of the Auxiliary Fire Service was established at Bangor during 1939 and training was provided by members of the Bangor Fire Brigade.

The Auxiliary Fire Service did not have to wait long before going into action as Bangor was one of the first towns in Northern Ireland to be visited by the German air force. The first attack on Bangor took place about seven o’clock in the morning of 13 September 1940, when a lone German aircraft after attacking shipping in the approaches to the Lough, dropped a number of incendiaries on the town. These fell mostly in the area of Main Street, most without causing serious damage. However, the roof of a furniture store adjacent to the Auction Mart in Main Street was set on fire, but was quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, supported by the Auxiliary Fire Service.

 Bangor Auxiliary Fire Service Crews
     with three trailer pumps c1941-------Chief fire Officer
   John Halliday

  Bangor and Donaghadee 
National Fire Service Crews 
               c1941

With the establishment of the National Fire Service (Northern Ireland) in 1942 Bangor fire brigade along with all fire brigades in Northern Ireland was Nationalised. Most Bangor firemen chose not to become members of the newly established NFS, Chief Officer Halliday himself chosing to retire because of ill health. They did however agree to continue in service until alternative arrangements could be made to maintain fire cover and a whole-time NFS in Bangor could be established. The Bangor section was subsequently provided with an Escape Carrying Unit and an Auxiliary Towing Vehicle complete with Beresford Trailer Pump. Six additional trailer pumps were also provided. In addition to the station in Central Avenue, new fire stations were established at Abbey Street, Park Drive, Prospect Road, Princetown Road and Thornlea Gardens.
By May 1943, there were 43 firemen and three firewomen based at Bangor

               Bangor National Fire Service
Auxiliary Towing Vehicle with trailer pump and crew
                                    1943


With the end of the war, the threat of air raids on the United Kingdom was removed and the government decided to take steps to return control of fire services to local councils.Bangor fire station was situated within the area of the Southern Fire Authority, (One of the four newly established Authorities in Northern Ireland) with its headquarters in Portadown and Chief Officer Thomas Browne in overall command. Bangor Retained section was still using the appliances issued to them during the time of the National Fire Service, one Escape Carrying Unit and an Auxiliary Towing Vehicle with trailer pump. The station was situated at Abbey Street and the crew met on Sunday mornings from 0900 hours to 1230 hours for weekly drills.

  Fire Station Castle Street Bangor
and appliances FZ 9277 and GZ 265
                       1946.

Despite the enthusiasm of the fire crews, some of the new fire authorities soon began to have difficulties with regard to administering their areas, particularly with regard to charging each other for mutual assistance. To resolve these and other issues, it was decided to reduce the number of fire authorities and in 1950, the Northern, Western and Southern Fire Authorities were amalgamated to form the Northern Ireland Fire Authority under Fire Force Commander George Murphy.

On 10 October 1952, the Auxiliary Towing Vehicle was replaced by a brand new Dennis F8 Ulster pump, the first to be issued as part of the Northern Ireland Fire Authority's standardisation programme. The fire engine, registration number KZ 7106, was delivered in 1952 and served at Bangor until its replacement in 1975.
(KZ7106 was given over to The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra, County Down, and is on display in the excellent vintage fire vehicle section)

  Dennis F8 (Ulster) KZ 7106
   being officially received at
FFHQ Lisburn by FFC Murphy----------The Bangor Dennis F12. KZ 9310

In 1953 a Dennis F12 pump escape appliance registration number KZ9310 completed Bangors appliance compliment giving service until its replacement in 1974.


Below is a photograph taken in March 1957 of the Bangor fire crews with Section Leader Joe Thompson in charge. Section Leader Thompson had joined the Bangor fire brigade in 1940 serving with the Auxiliary and National Fire Service, and was the first Section Leader appointed to Bangor retained section. He served for thirty seven years before retiring in 1977.

         Bangor Fire crew 1957
With Section Leader Joe Thompson

Members of the Bangor crew present for a photograph in 1957.
(Sitting from left) Fm. B.Baird, LFm. J.Johnston, LFm. F.Milsopp, Section/Leader. J.Thompson, LFm. J.McConachie, LFm. G.McCann, Fm. D.Murray
(Standing From left) Fm. J.Johnston, Fm. M.Waddell, Fm. E.Savage, Fm. C.Thompson, Fm. W.Dury Fm. S.Vaughan Fm. J.McCauley Fm. T.Beattie.
(Absent from the photograph were) Fm. T.McDowell, Fm. R.Emerson Fm. D.Scott.

One of the most spectacular fires to take place during this period occurred at 0415 hours on the morning of 1 December 1965, when a maintenance engineer Joe Carlin, at Bangor Bus station noticed a glow in the sky that seemed to be coming from the direction of Main Street. He raised the alarm and when the first fire crew from Bangor station arrived at the scene soon after, they found a fierce fire raging in a three-storey block of shops at Upper Main Street. The shops included Simon & Co, Drapers and the Singing Kettle restaurant, a popular venue for local shoppers. The fire had already burned through the roof and all hope was lost for saving the building. Instead, efforts concentrated in preventing the fire from spreading to adjoining shops and at the height of the blaze, firemen from Bangor, Newtownards and Donaghadee successfully managed to do this, using ten water jets to bring the fire under control. Firefighting work continued for over twelve hours before the last crew left for station. A newspaper article at the time reported that the loss of two of the oldest established businesses in the town ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Upper Main Street Bangor
     1st December 1965-----------------------------Upper Main Street Bangor
     1st December 1965


Prior to the amalgamation of the Belfast Fire Brigade and the Northern Ireland Fire Authority in 1973, a Civil Service Commission was required to appoint a Chief Fire Officer for the new brigade. The man chosen was George Morrison, then serving as Fire Force Commander of the Northern Ireland Fire Authority. His father and grandfather had served with the Belfast Fire Brigade and he had himself served as a part-time fireman in the Auxiliary Fire Service in Belfast and Bangor before joining the Northern Ireland Fire Authority in 1951.

Chief Fire Officer
George Morrison----------Bangor NFS Fireman
   George Morrison


The troubles had began in 1969 and as civil unrest continued, street rioting gave way to incendiary and bomb attacks on business premises, creating new dangers for firemen throughout the Province, with the town of Bangor not being spared on many occasions.

As the campaign of civil disturbances continued to intensify on 30 March 1974, terrorists carried out a major incendiary bomb attack on the main shopping centre in Bangor. It turned out to be one of the most destructive incidents of this type to occur anywhere in Northern Ireland throughout the entire period of civil unrest. It began around five o’clock in the evening with a telephone warning that fifteen incendiary devices were due to explode in half an hour. Immediate efforts were made to evacuate the area, but during this, one policeman was badly hurt and removed to hospital when a device exploded in his face. Another policeman was blown off his feet and slightly concussed by an explosion in Woolworths and a woman was cut by flying debris. Many buildings in Main Street were set alight, including the Co-operative, Woolworths and Wellworths department stores, Stewart Millar’s newsagents, Hazlett’s electrical shop and Ivan Bell’s woolshop also targeted.

Main Street Bangor
  30th March 1974---------Main Street Bangor
  30th March 1974

The Mayor of North Down Councillor Jack Preston commented after witnessing the devastation; It was with great sadness and much anger that I, with many of you, witnessed the widespread havoc wrought to the heart of our business center in Main Street, last Saturday afternoon. I am appalled at this senseless destruction of property, the loss of livelihood and the injuries inflicted on our citizens. It is sad, when one realizes the tremendous efforts put in by us all to make this the happy, peaceful and prosperous community that it is…I would like on your behalf to express our thanks and admiration to the members of the fire service…for the splendid work they preformed, at times at very great personal risk, in minimizing, to some extent, what could well have been a complete disaster.


On 3 July 1987 at 1042 hours, the fire brigade received a call to a fire at Clandeboye Shopping Centre, Bangor. When the first crew arrived from Bangor station, they found a severe fire developing in a store room at the rear of one of the main retail stores in the complex. The fire developed very quickly due to lack of a sprinkler system and fire-resisting compartments in the structure and soon engulfed a major part of the complex.

Clandeboye Shopping Centre
            3rd July 1987

The fire became one of the greatest single losses in the history of the fire service in Northern Ireland, with an eventual bill of over £10 million. At the height of the fire, eighteen fire engines were brought to the scene from Bangor, Newtownards, Donaghadee, Holywood, Castlereagh, Knock, Whitla, Lisburn and Ballynahinch and two Assistant Chief Fire Officers took command of the incident.


Work began on the new Bangor Fire Station and Divisional Headquarters sited at Newtownards Road Bangor, adjacent to the ring road, on 2 August 1989 and was completed on 5 March 1991, at a total cost of £1.79 million. The fire station became operational on 16 March 1991 at 0900 hours with four watches of eight personnel. The divisional headquarters office accommodation was brought into use following the change in divisional boundaries brought about by the addition of a sixth administrative division, F Division, on 3 June 1991. Bangor became the headquarters of B Division and the new fire station and divisional headquarters were officially opened on 30 September 1991 by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Peter Brooke, MP.

    Official opening 
30th September 1991

NEWTOWNARDS ROAD FIRE STATION
                         BANGOR

BANGOR FIRE ENGINES

HandCart From 1905 To 1919
Motor Car From 1919 To 1924
Motor Car From 1919 To 1924
Dennis PE From 1924 To 1943
Austin FZ 9277 ATV From 1943 To 1952
GZ 265 ECU From 1943 To 1953
Dennis KZ 7106 P From 1952 To 1975
Dennis KZ 9310 PE From 1953 To 1974
Landrover IIA 2872 L4P From 1975 To 1991
Dodge GIA 9433 WrL From 1974 To 1993
Dennis JDZ 4918 WrL From 1991 To 2000
Dennis NDZ 2497 WrL From 1993 To date
Volvo EKZ 2829 WrL From 2000 To date

In 2005 to celebrate 100 years of the Fire Service within Bangor the North Down Borough Council held a Civic Dinner on Thursday 17th February 2005 in the Town Hall, The Castle, Bangor. Among the guests of the Mayor of North Down Alderman Mrs Valerie Kinghan were past and present members of the Bangor and district fire brigade.

   North Down
Borough Council
       Crest------------          Some Ex members of Bangor AFS,
     Bangor NFS and Bangor Retained Service
who attended the Civic Reception 17/2/2005