Monday, 13 July 2015

From our Photographic collection.....Merryweather Steam Fire Engine

By Museum Volunteer Pat Harvey.

This is a photograph of the Merryweather Steam Fire Engine which arrived in St Andrews in 1901. It was given to the town by Major Donald Lindsay Carnegie who lived in Playfair Terrace and died in 1911. A demonstration of the new Pump was held at the Bruce Embankment on the 1st of June 1901. Dignitaries such as Dean of Guild Linskill, Fire Brigade Convenor, Provost Ritchie Welch and Major Carnegie were part of a very large crowd.

The steam Fire Engine was horse-drawn. The two black horses, stabled at the Wm. Johnston’s Livery Stables in Market Street, were also used at funerals. The firemen had to sit or stand on the machine and had to sit or stand on the machine and had to hang on. When the horses were speeding to a fire, accidents could happen and men were injured.

At a fire, steam was used to make the pump work. A remarkably heavy pressure of water was produced. It had to be fed with the coal and there always had to be water in the boiler. On one occasion the Town Council decided to kill two birds with one stone by giving a fire fighting demonstration at the Bruce Embankment, at the same time spraying the recently constructed putting green with salt water pumped from the burn to kill the worms on the green!

The fire engine was kept in the Fire Station at the back of Holy Trinity Church (now public conveniences). It served St Andrews and East Fife until 1920.

This fire engine seems very primitive to us today, but it was a big improvement on what had gone before. Originally fire had been fought with fire bucket. In 1834 St Andrews Town Council bought an 8 Man Manual Pump, second hand. It had to be man handled to a fire. It had no means of using horsepower. In 1864 money was raised to buy a new fire engine. It was an 8 Man Manual Pump, but with improvements- water tank canvas instead of heavy wood, drawn by horses, equipment included four 6ft ladders and it had a plentiful supply of buckets.

When the Merryweather Fire Engine was made redundant in 1921, it was put in the Town Stone in Abbey Court. It was damaged when on loan to students for the Charities Procession in 1949. The boiler fire was lit, without water and the steam pipes were damaged. Later it was moved to the Fire Service workshop at Methie where it was brought back to its former glory.

It went on show at various events and was the centre piece at a Vintage Vehicle rally at Craigtoun Park in 1991.

I understand that at a later date Fife Fire and Rescue Service gave it to Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service Museum in Greenock, on permanent loan. While in their care, they were transporting it to an event when it fell off the vehicle which was carrying it and was smashed, falling on one of its big wheels. Ian Grant, Wheelwright and Carpenter, Pitscottie, made a new wheel for it and restores the engine as far as possible.

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