Forres Fire Brigade's engine and crew in 1938.
A LOCAL historian has been researching Forres’ first fire engine,
gifted to the town in 1930.
Franny Duncan, of Forres Heritage Trust (FHT), was intrigued when he discovered a picture of the truck in a cutting from the Forres Gazette.
“A fire at the Plasmon highlighted the lack of equipment just a year earlier,” he said. “The town councillors were up-in-arms because Altyre Estate had one but Forres didn’t.
“Sir Alexander Grant didn’t make the gift until he was sure the town council were serious about buying one - when he was sure they were, he did!”
Franny found a story in the ‘Gazette’ headlined ‘Fire at Plasmon Mills’, dated January 9, 1929, which gave an account of hundreds witnessing the main buildings and modern machinery owned by Plasmon Oats being destroyed.
“It was a humiliating spectacle as the Mill Dam runs under the buildings,” said the report. “There was a copious flow of water at the Fireman’s feet, but they could not use a gallon of it.
“They connected their hose to the main at the new houses, but the water did not rise more than a few feet, the jet was such as would not have been effective in a garden plot, and the men who carried the hose threw it down, abashed by the derisive comments from the crow.”
The article described the mill blazing furiously for an hour, lighting up the whole countryside until the roof fell in leaving nothing but bare walls.
“As we go to press, efforts are being made to save the premises adjoining, which contains the packing machinery, the Altyre Fire Engine having been brought to the scene,” added the reporter.
“The buildings are owned by Plasmon Oats Ltd - their loss will deprive a considerable number of men and women of employment.”
Franny was moved by the tone of the article: “I would’ve felt the same as the public of Forres,” he said. “Better fire fighting equipment was desperately needed.
“They had been using an antiquated hand cart up until then.”
More than two years later, on June 11, 1930, the ‘Gazette’ reported a much-needed gift from local philanthropist Sir Alexander Grant.
“When a fire occurred, it was humiliating to see the brigade men running for lengths of hose and placing them on a barrow,” said the report. “The hose invariably leaked, or it was too short.
“The fire at the Plasmon Mills aroused the townspeople to a sense of their danger, and there was an approval of the Council’s decision to inquire into the cost of an engine.
“Sir Alexander saw that the Council were in earnest, and then it was he decided to anticipate the findings of the committee, and supply at his own expense what would have entailed a considerable increase on the rates.
“The Provost said the engine would be delivered within two months and it would be necessary to provide a place for it, also additional lengths of hose.”
The donation was characteristic of Sir Alexander Grant, who also bought Forres House and grounds for the townspeople, which became Grant Park.
“On July 15, 1931 there was a story in the Gazette about a fire at Aberlour Orphanage,” added Franny, who carried out his research at the Local Heritage Centre in Elgin and Forres Library.
“The Forres Fire Brigade were reported as prompt in their arrival on the new open engine! A fire truck was a fantastic donation and an important part of Sir Grant’s story.”
(Forres Gazette, 13/10/2015. http://www.forres-gazette.co.uk/Features/Memory-Lane/Fire-engine-was-a-welcome-gift-to-Forres-13102015.htm )