Libraries and Archive - Dublin Fire Brigade Ambulance Log book, Easter 1916

EASTER WEEK 1916

PDF file of the original log book

The chief officer’s report for 1916 showed that the brigade received 145 calls to normal fires, a reduction of 76 on the previous year. This figure, however, did not include the calls to 93 fires, 41 in day time and 51 at night, attended during the week of the Easter Rising. Of the ordinary fires tackled that year, loss was estimated at £41,200 whereas the 196 establishments destroyed during the Rising had a direct loss estimate of over £2,500,000. This figure is exclusive of the direct business loss during the last eight days of April. The locations destroyed by fires, looters or bombardment by the military were given as: 68,900 square yards in the O’Connell Street [Sackville Street] area; 29,140 in Linenhall; 1,020 in Lower Bridge Street; 225 in Mount Street; 135 in Stephens Green – a total of 99,420 square yards of the most prosperous areas of the city destroyed. (1) The fire engines were practically on continuous duty for six days dealing with this ravaging of the city centre, often under fire or held at gun point by the military, the crews carrying on their professional duties in probably the brigade’s finest week. In addition to their perilous duties the firemen carried out an incredible amount of ambulance work. Over a period of eight days each ambulance attended an average of fifty calls daily, picking up wounded, injured or dead, many times actually under fire from both snipers and the military. Bullets damaged each of the ambulances on several occasions, and in one incident a horse was shot dead. On another occasion a civilian engaged in assisting a fireman to place a stretcher carrying a seriously injured woman into an ambulance was shot and severely wounded. …. In addition to this work crews had to crawl over piles of debris into dangerous areas to remove invalids or injured people trapped in their homes. With only three ambulances available there were hundreds of cases that the brigade could not attend during this terrible period. (2)

During the week most of the brigade’s work was carried out under gunfire and several firemen were hit and injured. More than once operations had to be suspended at a particular incident as the firemen retreated to the nearest cover.

On the afternoon of Easter Monday [24 April] a fire broke out in the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park [p. 161 of D.F.B. Log Book]. At Queen Street Bridge the Tara Street section of the brigade was held up at a barricade and the Republican officers present compelled the crew to return to their station. The crew from Thomas Street station, however, who had taken a different route, was able to reach the scene of the fire and saved the Magazine by working right through to midnight. (3)

Next morning [Tuesday] a major fire at 32 Sackville Street [Dunn and Co., hatters] was fought, to be followed in the evening by three fires in the same street. …… these early fires were caused by looters who had ransacked the premises. By Wednesday the looting and the firing had extended to more of Sackville Street and into Henry Street where firemen were actually accosted by looters as they tried to tackle the growing flames. More fires occurred as the intensity of the fighting grew worse and, because all of Sackville Street was now under gunfire, the brigade ceased to attend fires within that street. Similarly, the brigade was prevented from attacking a large blaze in Clanwilliam Place owing to the fact that the military were shelling houses in the immediate vicinity. (4)

On Thursday a number of fires broke out in Harcourt Street. These were quickly extinguished in spite of bouts of sniper fire in the area. A bomb exploded at the rear of the Linenhall Barracks and started a fire in the theatre, a temporary structure which survived from the Civic Exhibition held a few years before. The brigade was unable to attend this fire because of conditions prevailing in that part of the city and, despite the actions of the resident caretaker and thirty-two clerks, the barracks was completely burned down and the fire extended to five adjacent houses and stores. (5)

Just after noon on the same day an urgent call came from Lower Abbey Street where a huge fire was raging, but because this area, so close to the General Post Office, was under continuous rifle fire and bombardment by both field guns and the gunboat Helga on the Liffey, the brigade could not attend. It was this blaze that consequently started the major conflagration which wrought such havoc in the Sackville Street area. Within some twenty minutes of a street barricade consisting of boxes, timber, bicycles and rolls of paper being shelled by the army, buildings on both sides of the street were alight. The printing works on the north side was soon alight and the flames spread into Sackville Place and Sackville Street. This destruction gave a clear line of fire for the guns of Helga which was moored midstream opposite the Custom House firing at the General Post Office, the headquarters of the rebel forces. (6)

The fires on both sides of the barricade spread into Wynn’s Hotel through Hoyte’s corner and then into Hamilton Long chemist shop until an inferno raged from Eden Quay right through to Abbey Street and out to the south side of Sackville Street. As night fell over the troubled city the destructive flames extended to the Imperial Hotel, Cleary’s warehouse and shop, the new bakery of Joseph Downes and on to the restaurant in North Earl Street. Every building from the south side of North Earl Street back to Eden Quay was on fire, and the fire brigade could not respond. The ambulance crews, however, made speedy forays into the area to remove seriously injured civilians in spite of objections from the military. (7)

In the early hours of Friday morning Thomas Street fire station turned out to deal with a major blaze at the corner of Bridge Street and Ushers Quay and prevented the spread of the fire to other premises. Four houses and a barricade consisting of a city tram were destroyed in the flames. The brigade was now becoming active again, turning out to tackle the flames in the Eden Quay area some hours later and preventing the spread eastwards. Again working from Cathedral Place the firemen attacked the blaze in the Downes bakery and Hickey’s restaurant. This dangerous work saved many premises on the north side of Earl Street, but by evening new fires had broken out on the south side of the street. By 6 pm the General Post Office, which had been continuously shelled for a number of hours, was now a mass of flames as was the newly opened Coliseum Theatre, and both buildings were eventually totally destroyed. (8)

The fire brigade was officially informed by the army commander on Saturday at 3.40 pm that all active military operations had ceased, and that the firemen might now attempt to extinguish the fires that were still blazing in both the Sackville Street and Church Street areas. Every available fireman was immediately turned out. Within a short period of time excellent progress was being reported when without warning several shots were fired from the direction of Upper Abbey Street, the bullets hitting a wall close to where a fire crew was working. Immediately afterwards more firing came from the Aston Quay side of the river, six bullets penetrating the side of one of the brigade’s aerial ladders. (9)

The men were returned to their stations, their fire engines abandoned, and the fires were allowed to continue unchecked. But that evening, even Jervis Street Hospital was threatened by fire, the whole brigade turned out, repossessed their appliances, and , backed up by additional engines from the Guinness Brewery and Powers Distillery [p.183 of D.F.B. log book], they fought the flames. Crews worked throughout the night and continued in relays for the next week, cooling the smouldering ruins that a few days earlier had been the shopping and business centre of the city of Dublin. (10)

One of the most spectacular fires was at Hampton Leedom in Henry Street on the Saturday some time after 10 pm. It was reported as an awe-inspiring sight as multicoloured flames from the oil stores shot skywards and oil barrels exploded. As if in some infernal region, the fire crews were surrounded by the gaunt blackened walls of the buildings and struggled in vain under a vast miasma of flames. It seemed a fitting end to a week of sombre glory. (11)

Names of Officers & Firemen referred to in D.F.B. Log Book:

Chief [Thomas Purcell], Lieutenant [Deputy Chief, John] Myers, McDonagh, Kavanagh, Williams, Barry, Lynch, O’Hara, Power, Gunning, Redmond, Reilly, Markey, Kane, Giffney, Collins, Byrne, Lancaster.

Source:

(1) Tom Geraghty & Trevor Whitehead, The Dublin Fire Brigade, (Dublin City Council 2004). p 148

(2) Idem.

(3) Idem. p. 150, Para. 3 & 4.

(4) Idem. Para. 5.

(5) Idem. Para. 6

(6) Idem. p. 151. Para. 2

(7) Idem. Para. 3.

(8) Idem. Para. 4.

(9) Idem. Para. 5.

(10) Idem. P. 252. Para. 2.

(11) Idem. Para. 3.


FIRES DUE TO REBELLION

(Extract from Chief Fire Officer’s Annual Report for the year 1916)


ENTRY

April 24TH

Easter Monday

3:58 p.m.

Phoenix Park. – in one section of magazine, 120 x 45, containing large quantity of ammunition, extinguished by one jet from Motor engine working 8 hours, buildings saved, but most of the ammunition in that section destroyed.


10.06 p.m.

31 Sackville Street: - Extinguished fire in “Cable” boot shop (previously looted), by one jet from hydrant.


11.59 p.m.

18 Sackville Street:- Extinguished fire in basement of “True Form” boot shop (looted) by a jet from hydrant.


April 25th

Tuesday

11.56 a.m.

32 Sackville Street: - Extinguished fire in rear of Dunne’s hat shop (previously looted).


4.11 p.m.

5, 6, 7 Upr. Sackville Street: - Extinguished fire in Lawrence’s fancy goods warehouse with 6 jets from hydrants, three augmented by motors. The place was being looted and in complete disorder, two persons trapped in an upper room by fire and taken down by fire escape proved to be looters. Withdrew after four hours’ work leaving men with hose until 12.29 p.m. next day, half of the premises being then saved.


26th.

Wednesday

12.59 p.m.

47 Henry Street – Extinguished fire in Williams & Co.’s store at rear of shop by a jet from hydrant, building saved but stock looted; 5 men breaking away when firemen arrived.


5.14 p.m.

Called again to same building, and saved it.


6.59 p.m.

North Wall – Jute fire on Quay side, Shipping Co.’s watchman kept fire under by a line of hose, did not attend.


8.07 p.m.

8 Sackville Street – H. E. Taffe, outfitter, did not attend (within the firing lines), house burned down, but fire did not extend.


8.40 p.m.

1 and 2 Clanwilliam Place – Did not attend as the houses were being shelled by military.


27th

Thursday

5.07 a.m.

Harcourt Street – Extinguished fire in shop of four storied building by two jets from hydrants, stairs and part roof destroyed.


9.30 a.m.

Linenhall Barracks – In use as Army Pay Department. The resident caretaker reported by phone that 32 clerks were besieged and had previously extinguished two outbreaks of fire by means of the fire hose within the premises. A bomb had just then been exploded in rear of the building, and a big fire had started in the theatre a temporary structure from previous exhibition. Could not attend under the conditions prevailing in that section of the city. The barracks were burned down, and fire, which lasted two days and nights unchecked, extended to and burned the extensive adjoining oil and drug stores of Hugh Moore and Alexander Ltd., also Leckie and Co.’s printing works, and three other business houses in Bolton Street.


12.32 p.m.

Abbey Street Lr.- As this, the G.P. . district, was then under continuous fire and being shelled by field guns and mortars we could not approach it, consequently, this was really the commencement of the conflagration which wrought such havoc on the Sackville Street Area.


In twenty minutes the fire, which originated in a street barricade of paper stock and bicycles, had extended to both sides of the thoroughfare, through a printing office on north side into Sackville Place, and through Wynne’s Hotel on the south into Harbour Court, gradually spreading by Hoyte’s Corner to the D.B.C. building and by Hamilton and Long’s stores to Eden Quay. At 7.20 p.m. the “May Oatway” detector in Scott’s, 2 Lower Sackville Street, indicated in our Station that fire had reached that point. During the night fire extended to Hotel and Clery’s Warehouse, and caught the new bakery and restaurant of Sir Joseph Downes in Earl Street.


28th

Friday

3.05 a.m.

Usher’s Quay – Turned out the Thomas Street Section with Motor Engine to an outbreak in Lower Bridge Street and Usher’s Quay corner, and working with two gets for 8 hours, stopped the spread of fire in this area. Four houses on Quay together with a tram car and street barrier were destroyed, and the roofs of four others in Bridge Street damaged.


5.50 a.m.

I turned out with Tara Street Station t Eden Quay and Lower Abbey Street, and working 5 lines of hose stopped fire at Marlboro’ Street end before it reached City of Dublin offices. Also working from Cathedral Place through rooms above Hickey’s and under cover of that building the fire was extinguished in Downe’s shop, prevented from crossing or extending in Earl Street, this stopping its further progress for that time. Sniping was going on and we returned to Station at 9.30 a.m.


6.40 a.m.

Buckingham Street Station attended and extinguished a fire in 96 Harcourt Street by one jet from hydrant, returning at 9 a.m.


1.16 p.m.

Henry Street – Fire reported in rear of Arnott’s, Henry Street. As district was being shelled did not attend. Workshop, stable and garage destroyed.


3 p.m.

In the evening fires again started on south side of North Earl Street, in that part of the block north of Clery’s which was left safe in the morning, and crossing by the street barrier of household furniture, caught Tyler’s boot shop on N. W. Corner of Earl Street, extending easterly next day through Rowe’s drapery to Sheridan’s and Nagle’s licensed premises.


6 p.m.

Sackville Street. West Side – The General Post and Telegraph Offices which were being shelled, got alight and burned during the night, also Coliseum Theatre and other property adjoining. “May Oatway” automatic detectors recorded in our station at 8.30 p.m. the spread of fire to Eason’s warehouse.




29th

Saturday

3.40 p.m.

Received message from Commander of Troops in Dublin that active military operations had ceased and that I might now make an effort to stop the fires which were then going in Sackville Street, Abbey Street Middle, and Henry Street. Turned out with whole available force and got to work with 4 lines of hose off 2 Motor Engines on O’Connell Bridge taking water from river and four other lines off hydrants, also 2 aerial ladders. The G.P.O., Hotel Metropole, Coliseum Theatre, and other adjoining houses were then burned. Eason’s and Thom’s on the north side, and five houses on south side in Abbey Street from Elvery’s Corner, were burning.

After half an hour’s work making excellent progress towards stopping the fire, several shots were fired from the direction of Upper Abbey Street, the bullets hitting the wall near where some firemen were working, immediately afterwards a number of shots came from the Aston’s Quay direction, hitting one engine, six bullets going through the steel tubes and sides of the ladder on top.

Called off the men and sent them back to Stations, having to abandon our engines and some other appliances, and allow the fires to go ahead unchecked.


5.30 p.m.

Earl Street – Received message that Hickey’s warehouse had caught, four men in charge of Lieutenant Myers attended, and working one line of hose extinguished the fire with slight damage.


8 p.m.

Henry Street – Received message from Jervis Street Hospital that showers of sparks were falling on the hospital from fires extending in that direction, the condition becoming serious for the patients. Turned out with the whole force again, also asked for and obtained the assistance of men and apparatus from Guinness’s Brewery and Power’s Distillery, the fires having meantime extended along both sides of Abbey Street and Henry Street. Recovered our Engines and got fully to work stopping the fires in every direction during the whole of the night until 8 a.m. on Sunday when Brigade returned to quarters. For six days afterwards frequent attention was given in cooling down smouldering fires in the ruins.


April 30th

Sunday

6.25 p.m.

Marrowbone Lane Distillery – Extinguished some hay which had ignited beneath a vat by one jet from hydrant.



Chief Fire Officer, Thomas Purcell