is a busy industrial City with a population of approximately 28,000, situated
on the River Lagan about twelve miles south west of the city of Belfast. Largely established by Sir
Fulke Conway it was named Lisnagarvey after a fort in the locality. During the 1641 uprising, Lisnagarvey
was attacked on 28th November by insurgent forces and during the battle, the town was set on fire.
Despite this, the defending forces managed to drive off the insurgents but the town was almost completely
The town was renamed Lisburn after again being almost destroyed, this time accidentally
by "The Great Fire" which started on Sunday 20th April 1707.
The oldest existing buildings in the city
at the present time were built after this date, including Christ Church Cathedral, the Assembly Rooms of 1708
and Friends School built in 1774. The administrative headquarters of the Northern Ireland Fire Authority
was established in Lisburn in 1950 and the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade continues to have its headquarters
and central control room located there today.
The first steps towards the establishment of a fire service for Lisburn were taken by the Town Commissioners
in 1828, following the introduction of a local improvement act to look after the watching lighting and
cleansing of the town initially provided Firefighting provisions at Lisburn.
Following the enactment of the 1854 Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, a total of fifteen Town Commissioners
were appointed in Lisburn during 1874 and included in their duties was the management of the town's water service,
markets, cleaning and lighting, parks, cemeteries and fire brigade. The Town Commissioners in 1875 decided to reorganise
the fire brigade and employ a Superintendent to be responsible for the maintenance of the fire engines, hose and standpipes.
He in turn would recruit and train firemen to have a knowledge of firefighting and the town water supply system.
The Commissioners received a letter from Mr William John Knox offering himself as
the Superintendent of the Fire Brigade setting out rules and general orders for carrying out the object
of the brigade. He was appointed to the position in July 1875 with an annual salary of thirty pounds. Nine
firemen were also appointed; They were named as R Charters, Richard Murray, Robert Bailey, Thomas Harding,
Thomas Wright, Burley, Samuel, Hewitt and Richard Knox, the son of the Superintendent.
Unfortunately Superintendent Wm Knox served only three years before his death, his place being taken by his son
Richard Knox, who was appointed to the position in December 1878.
On March 1879, Sir Richard Wallace presented to the fire brigade committee a new manual fire engine
named 'William John Knox' after the first Superintendent.
Superintendent Richard Knox resigned in June 1897 and William Megran, who had been a fireman in the Lisburn Brigade
for several years filled his place. His title was changed to Captain of the Fire Brigade, and Benjamin Leonard
was appointed as the Vice-Captain.
In October 1884 a new fire station, with a house attached for the Superintendent, was opened at Railway Street in the grounds of the Court House.
On 10 January 1910 a fire occurred resulting in the deaths of an entire family of six. The Fegan family
consisting of Father, Mother and four children aged eight, six, four and two respectively were all lost.
The fire was discovered by Sergeant Torrens and another constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary while on patrol at 3.40am.
In his report to the Fire Brigade Committee Captain Megran stated:
"I had everything done that was possible for
men to do, but unfortunately we were too late to be able to save any of the inmates."
"I believe they
were dead before the Police got there."
During 1920 the riots which covered most of Ireland, the town of Lisburn also suffered very badly after Inspector Swanzy of
the Royal Irish Constabulary was murdered in the town by the IRA. Many large fires were started especially in the
Longstone, Chapel Hill and Bow Street areas. At the height of the riots the fire brigade under Captain Megran was
stretched to the limit, and assistance had to be requested from Belfast. Included among the many fires which took
place were, the Hibernian Hall, the Parochial Hall, the Comrades Club Market Square, Dan Mooney's Public House Chapel hill,
the County Down Arms Hotel and Donaghy's Boot Factory. On 23 August 1920 the destruction increased as the day continued. By
nightfall the situation was completely out of control and the scene was described in a press report at the time.
night there was no cessation of the now familiar scenes of burning and looting. The heavens were brilliantly illuminated, lighting up the
country for miles around. Chapel Hill was like an inferno and it was feared nothing could save the long stretch of buildings forming
the hill and its continuation Longstone Street.'
Vernor McAfee was appointed Captain of the Lisburn Fire Brigade on 26th March 1936, with Samuel
McCabe as his Vice-Captain. The brigade strength in 1936 now was: Captain, Vice Captain and seven
firemen who were John Orr, William Clarke, Edward Murphy, Alexander Gowdy, RJ McAllister, Hugh Stephenson
and Hugh McCucheon.
Lisburn Fire Brigade received their new Motor fire engine DZ 6866 after an order was placed through Issac Agnew Ltd Belfast
for a Dennis engine at a cost of £1183.15.0d. John Kelly from Windsor Terrace Lisburn was employed as a driver for the new engine.
On 8th May 1941 at a special meeting of the Lisburn Urban District Council the Chairman Mr D Barbour who
had visited Belfast after the Blitz on May 4th gave a vivid account of the Lisburn AFS who had been sent into the
city during a heavy air raid.
He had been impressed by the Lisburn units who in his words were'.......
"One of the finest units in Northern Ireland."
When the war ended in 1945, steps were taken to return fire services to local control and it was
decided that a number of fire authorities, with local council representation would be set up,
to administer all fire services in Northern Ireland. The Lisburn brigade was to become part of the
Southern Fire Authority with its Headquarters in Shillington Street Portadown under Chief Officer T.J Browne.
In 1950 the Northern, Western, and Southern fire authorities were amalgamated into one brigade to
form the Northern Ireland Fire Authority with it's administrative headquarters in Lisburn under Fire Force Commander George Murphy.
The new fire station in Antrim Street Lisburn was a one storey, three bay
station with office and lecture room facilities. It was officially opened by the Minister of Home
Affairs, W.B.Maginnis on 20th October 1950.
Due to lack of space for training at the fire station in Antrim Street, the Lisburn fire crews regularly
made their way to the Fire Force Headquarters in Castle Street, where a training tower had been
constructed in 1952. The siren for calling out the Lisburn fire crews was fitted to the top of the tower and operated
from the control room.
As the period of civil unrest continued into the 1970's terrorist bombers attacked the Lisburn
station area on many occasions. One such incident was at the Woodburn House Hotel, Suffolk Dunmurry on 9th November 1971.
At about eight o'clock in the evening a fifty pound bomb fitted with an anti-handling device exploded. Fire
soon spread throughout the building, and despite the efforts of the Lisburn
personnel, assisted by crews from Belfast, the hotel was completely destroyed.
On 16th November 1978, appliances from Lisburn and Cadogan Station in Belfast attended an incident
just inside Lisburn stations' area at the Bass Charrington Brewery on the Glen Road Belfast. Upon the Lisburn crews
arrival they found that a terrorist bomb had exploded in a spirit warehouse with a serious fire
developing. After calling for assistance, crews were making their way into the building with water
jets when a second device detonated injuring many firefighters.
Sub.Officer Wesley Orr BEM, who had been leading the crews into the fire suffered the most serious injuries
which resulted in his death shortly after being conveyed to hospital.
A new Wholtime/Retained fire station was built at Prince William Rd. Lisburn replacing the Antrim St. station.
It became fully operational on 4th April 1992 and alongside the existing Retained crew was a Wholetime compliment of 32,
consisting of 8 personnel on each of the four watches. (Red, White, Blue and Green.)
The new fire station in Prince William Road also housed the brigade's emergency standby control room.
Should the main control room situated at the Brigade H.Q. building in Seymour Street become unsuitable
in the event of a major failure, a fallback mobilising system can be manned and operated by control staff.
Lisburn in the year 2002 was granted City status to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
with this honour given to it's citizens and with the awarding of
the "Freedom Of The City" to the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade on 6th March 2004,
Bill Broadhurst and Harry Welsh supported by the LISBURN CITY COUNCIL
have published a book on the history of the Lisburn fire brigade entitled; "OUT OF THE FIRE"
Published in 2004.
Printed by Priory Press Hollywood Co.Down.
Priced at £7.99p.