Cheapside Street whisky bond fire

The Cheapside Street whisky bond fire in Glasgow on 28 March 1960 was Britain's worst peacetime fire services disaster. The fire at a whisky bond killed 14 fire service and 5 salvage corps personnel. This fire was overshadowed only by a similar fire in James Watt Street (also in Glasgow) on 19 November 1968, when 22 people died.


On the evening of 28 March 1960 a fire broke out in a bonded warehouse owned by Arbuckle, Smith and Company in Cheapside Street, Anderston, Glasgow.

The Glasgow Fire Service was initially alerted by a 999 call at 7:15 pm from the foreman of the Eldorado Ice Cream Company which was near the whisky bond. He reported smoke coming from a second floor window of the warehouse. In response two pumps from West Station with Sub Officer James Calder in charge was sent, along with a turntable ladder from Central Station. Also responding initially was the fire boat St Mungo and a salvage tender and crew from the Glasgow Salvage Corps.

The first fire crews arrived at 7:21 pm and after a quick reconnaissance three more pumps were requested to attend. Crews were informed by civilians that smoke and flame had been seen on the Warroch Street side of the building and additional crews and equipment were sent to investigate. Assistant Firemaster Swanson had now arrived on the scene and having been fully apprised of the situation increased the number of pumps (fire engines) to eight. This message was sent at 7:49 pm and seconds after it was transmitted a large explosion blew out the walls of the premises virtually destroying it. By 8:12 pm Firemaster Chadwick assumed command and upgraded the incident to twenty pumps. At its peak thirty pumps, five turntable ladders and various special vehicles attended this incident.[1]

The warehouse contained over 1,000,000 imperial gallons (4,500,000 l; 1,200,000 US gal) of whisky and rum under one roof. This burned out of control for several hours, as off-duty firefighters from Glasgow and fire brigades from the surrounding areas were called in to assist. In total, 30 pumping appliances, five turntable ladders and four support vehicles were sent to the scene from around the area.

Witnesses reported seeing bright blue flames leaping 40 feet (12 metres) into the sky, with the glow visible across the entire city. Neighbouring buildings, including a tobacco warehouse, an ice cream factory and the Harland and Wolff engine works, were engulfed.[2]

At the height of the blaze, 450 firefighters[3] from the Greater Glasgow area were involved in fighting the fire, which took a week to extinguish.

The incident remains Britain's worst peacetime fire services disaster.[4][5]


The Arbuckle, Smith and Co. warehouse contained over a million gallons of whisky held in 21,000 wooden casks,[6] and 30,000 gallons of rum. As the temperature of the fire increased, some of these casks ruptured, causing a massive boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion (BLEVE) that burst the front and rear walls of the building outwards causing large quantities of masonry to collapse into the street. This collapse instantly killed three firemen in Cheapside Street as well as 11 firemen and five salvagemen who were battling the blaze from the rear of the building in Warrach Street. The recovery of the bodies in Wardoch Street was not completed until 10.20 am on March 31.

Firefighters and salvagemen killed

The following is a list of the fire fighters/salvagemen who lost their lives in the line of duty on 28 March 1960 during this event:[7]

  • Fireman John Allan – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Christopher Boyle – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Sub Officer James Calder – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Gordon Chapman – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman William Crockett – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Archibald Darroch – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Daniel Davidson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Alfred Dickinson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman Alexander Grassie – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Salvageman Gordon McMillan – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman Ian McMillan – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Fireman George McIntyre – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Sub Officer John McPherson – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Leading Salvageman James McLellan – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman Edward McMillan – Glasgow Fire Service
  • Salvageman James Mungall – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Superintendent Edward Murray – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Salvageman William Oliver – Glasgow Salvage Corps
  • Fireman William Watson – Glasgow Fire Service

Awards for bravery[8]

  • Fireman James Dunlop (24 January 1929 – 28 September 2014) was awarded the George Medal.[9]
  • Station Officer Peter McGill who later retired as the Deputy Firemaster of Glasgow Fire Service in 1975 was awarded the George Medal
  • Fireman John Nicholson was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry
  • Sub Officer Charles Neeson was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry
  • Fireman George Alexander was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry
  • Fireman William Watters was awarded the Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct

Memorial services

The men who were killed were buried in the rubble, but were later laid to rest in the fire service tomb in Glasgow Necropolis. A memorial service is held on 28 March each year, with representatives of the fire service and Glasgow City Council present. Memorial services and other observations were held in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.[10]

The reverse side of the monument remembers those firefighters lost in the Kilbirnie Street fire in 1972.


  1. Lockyear, Arthur (2011). Warriors in fire boots : a tribute to the valour of firefighters. Jeremy Mills. ISBN 9781906600532. OCLC 1062151773.
  2. Catriona Fox (2002). "Dad never came home". Archive. Sunday Post/Govan Fire brigade. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  3. Glasgow Story (2009). "Ceremony to mark Cheapside fire". Archive. Glasgow story. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  4. Jeremy Watson (2004). "Past tragedies pave the way for improvements in fire safety". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  5. "Ceremony to mark Cheapside fire". BBC News. 28 March 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  6. Scotland Herald (2003). "Night 19 firemen died in explosion event CHEAPSIDE FIRE DISASTER, Glasgow DATE MARCH 28, 1960". The Herald. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  7. SFRS (2014). "SFRS remembers Glasgow's fallen firefighters". Archive. Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  8. Steven, Campbell (1975). Proud record : the story of the Glasgow Fire Service. Glasgow Fire Service. OCLC 25387192.
  9. "Jack Bruce, Gough Whitlam, Efua Dorkenoo, James Dunlop". Last Words. 31 October 2014. BBC Radio 4.
  10. "Cheapside Street fire marked 50 years on". BBC News. 28 March 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2010.

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