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

The Firemen


‘In 1892 a vacancy for the role of brigade chief came for which there were 44 applicants. The 3-hour written exam was sat by 29 candidates, out of which 25 candidates were called for interview. Finally 5 candidates were short listed for election by the council. Thomas Purcell, a civil engineer and voluntary fireman, came out on top gaining 31 votes out of 53 and was ‘chosen to command the Dublin Fire Brigade… Over the next twenty-five years he proved to be the most inspiring, innovative and forward-looking chief in the brigade’s history. He was born in Kilkenny in 1851 and qualified as a civil engineer. For twelve years he had sole management for the contracts and works of an engineering contractor, and for two years prior to his Dublin appointment he was manager of the Shannon Foundry and Engineering Works of Limerick. He was a volunteer fireman and the members of Dublin Corporation were obviously impressed by his performance in the written examination. He was also clearly a brave man because in 1876 he was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, an award not lightly given. Purcell had carried out a daring rescue of a woman from a fierce house fire and his citation was the following: “In testimony to the intrepid and valuable services rendered in the preservation of life at a fire at Messrs. Hennessy’s, drapers, Kilkenny on December 19th 1875”.’ (1)

The brigade staff in 1892 consisted of one chief, three officers and forty-two firemen.’ D.F.B. had only two steam fire engines. A third was purchased the following year. (2) Under Chief Thomas Purcell’s remit a new city ambulance service was introduced in 1899 whose crew were trained in first aid. It received 537 calls in its first year and 660 in 1900. A second ambulance was commissioned in 1901. Motor fire engines (the first of which was designed by T. Purcell) were introduced from 1909 followed by motor-driven ambulances.

On the night of 16 November 1916 Chief Purcell suffered serious injuries following a very bad accident in the line of duty involving a runaway horse and “gross carelessness and culpable negligence” on the part of Fireman Francis Redmond. He was taken to Vincent’s Hospital suffering from injuries to the head, leg and body. Despite all that he was able to resume duty in early January 1917, continuing on until his retirement the following October at age 66 on a pension of £468 per annum. He must have had the constitution of the runaway horse since he lived for another thirty years. (3)

‘No memorial of any kind appears to have been presented to him from either the staff of the brigade or from Dublin Corporation.’ (4)

‘Purcell thanked the waterworks committee members for their assistance and courtesy.

I derived the greatest pleasure in initiating and completing the several improvements which ensured the successful working of the Brigade. I thank the staff for its loyalty and willingness on all occasions, and I am glad conditions generally for its members have improved. I leave the service much better than when I entered it.’ (5)

(1) Tom Geraghty & Trevor Whitehead, The Dublin Fire Brigade, (Dublin City Council 2004), pp 86-87.

(2) Idem. pp 93-94.

(3) Idem. p 156

(4) Idem. p 158

(5) Idem. p. 158.


Lieutenant John Myers was appointed Chief of D.F.B. in February 1918, replacing Thomas Purcell whose deputy he had been since 1897. The committee also recommended an immediate salary increase from £450 to £500 for the post. (1) Myers pushed for complete motorisation of the brigade throughout his career but had only limited success. (2)

In his nine year period as head of Dublin Fire Brigade John Myers had to contend with internal wrangling within the brigade and Dublin Corporation involving pay cuts, staff shortages and insufficient equipment to meet the increase in the number in fires.

‘Chief Fire Officer John Myers died suddenly on 19 March 1927. He was the chief who had finally overseen full motorisation. He had led the brigade through some of its most trying years, and unfortunately both he and his staff had been victims of much neglect by the employers. There was no corporation to honour his untimely passing but the commissioners did express sympathy to his relatives.’ (3)

(1) Tom Geraghty & Trevor Whitehead, The Dublin Fire Brigade, (Dublin City Council 2004), p. 159.

(2) Idem, P.160.

(3) Idem, p. 187

Taken from DCC REPORTS Vol. II 1910
Fire Department Personnel Record



Salary on appointment or Wages

Increments Dates & Amounts of Increases

Present Salary or Wages


Years in Service

Cheverons with 1s. per week included.

Thomas P. Purcell

Mar. 7, 1892

£300, rising by annual increments of £25 to £500

Increase of £52 under Boundaries Act, 1900



Over 18

John J. Myers

April 5, 1897

£150, rising by annual increments of £5 to £200

Oct. 2, 1899 – Salary re-fixed at £200, rising by annual increments of £10 to £250. July 6, 1903 – salary increased by £30 p. an. 1907 – Salary increased by £100, by increments of £20 per an.

£360 rising to £400

Assistant Superintendent

Patrick Barry

Sept. 5, 1887


1888, 2s.; 1889, 1s.; 1890, 3s.; 1893, 1s. 6d.; 1894, 1s.; 1895, 1s.; 1897, 2s.6d. Wages increased by Council-1990, 2s. 6d., 1907, 2s 6d.

£1. 18. 6

Foreman C.

Over 22


Robert O’Hara

Mar. 12, 1889

£0. 19. 0

1890, 4s.; 1891, 1s.; 1892, 1s.;1893, 1s. 6d.; 1894, 1s.; 1898, 2s 6d. Wages increased by Council – 1900, 2s 6d.; 1907, 2s 6d.

£1. 15. 0


Over 21

John Kavanagh

May 19, 1894

£1. 2. 6

1895, 1s.; 1897, 1s.; 1898, 1s.; 1899, 1s. Wages increased by Council – 1900. 2s.; 1901, 3s.; 1907, 2s. 6d.

£1. 15. 0


Over 16

James Williams

Feb. 17, 1903

£1. 2. 6

1904, 1s. 6d: 1905, 1s.; 1906, 1s.; 1907, 2s.; 1908, 1s. 6d. Wages increased by Council – 1907, 2s. 6.

£1. 15. 0


Over 7

Christopher McDonagh

June 24, 1903

£1. 2. 6

1904, 1s. 6d.; 1905, 1s., 1s.; 1906, 1s.; 1907, 2s.; 1908, 1s. 6d. Wages increased by Council – 1907, 2s 6d.

£1. 16. 0


Over 7

Joseph Lynch

June 21, 1897

£1. 2. 6

1898. 1s,; 1899, 1s.; 1900, 1s. 6d.; 1901, 2s.; 1902, 1s. 6d. Wages increased by Council – 1907, 2s. 6.

£1. 15. 0


Over 13

Thomas Giffney

May 21, 1904

£1. 2. 6

1905, 1s. 6d.; 1906, 1s.; 1907, 1s.; 1908, 2s. 1909, 1s. 6d. Wages increased by Council – 1907, 2s. 6d.

£1. 12. 0


Over 6

John Power

Nov. 26, 1907

£1. 2. 6

1908, 1s. 6d.; 1909, 1s. Wages increased by Council – 1907, 2s. 6.

£1. 7. 6

Motor Driver

Over 2

John Markey

July 12, 1908

£1. 5. 0

1910, 1s. 6d.

£1. 6. 6


Over 2