2 Pump Retained.


  Shore Street, THURSO. (Shed)    1 Pump station.
22/9/1954 Millbank Road, THURSO.                                                  Photo
1966 Station extended



1939 Mr J Barnetson
1954 Section Leader John Robson
1969 Station Officer W. Mackay
1978 Station Officer Donald MacKay
? to 31/1/1992 Station Officer L Gray
1/2/1992 to ? Station Officer Alistair T Sinclair
2001 Station Officer Donald MacKay (Despy MacKay)



1930's Hand Cart (ladder, hoses and buckets)
1930's Converted Humber saloon
? Lanchester
1942 STU
1969 WrE and WrT


  First Second Area Reserve
1965 Nov ASK701C ?  
1990 EST458X PST106S  
1998 K269MST C765XST  
2000 K269MST J369FAS  
2003 V559JST V558JST L323SAS
2013 June 28 SA13AOK WX11BLN L323SAS?


ASK701C Bedford TK/HCB WrE
PST106S Dodge K1113/CFE WrL
EST458X Dodge G13c/Fulton and Wylie WrL
C765XST Dodge G13/Fulton and Wylie WrL
J369FAS Mercedes1120/Fulton and Wylie WrL
K269MST Mercedes 1124F/Carmichael WrL
L323SAS Mercedes 310D/HIFB LFA
V558JST Dennis Sabre ML/HIFB. WrL
V559JST Dennis Sabre ML/HIFB WrL
WX11BLN Volvo FLL290/W H Bence WrL
SA13AOK Volvo FLL290/Angloco WrL



? to 1941 Thurso Fire Brigade
1941 to 1948 National Fire Service
1948 to 1975 Northern Area Fire Brigade
1975 to 1983 Northern Fire Brigade
1983 to 2005 Highland and Islands Fire Brigade
2005 to 2013 Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service
1/4/2013 Scottish Fire and Rescue Service




Thurso's First Fire Engine

Thurso Town Council agreed to purchase from Merryweather Ltd, London, a trailer fire engine with output capacity of 300 gallons of water per minute at a price of £560. It was also decided to purchase 1200 feet of hose additional to serve the whole town. This will be Thurso's first fire engine.
(Daily Record 6/7/1939)

The Northern Fire Area Administration Scheme Order, 1948

  Equipment Retained
  1 Towing Vehicle 1 Leading Fireman
  1 Large Trailer pump 5 Firemen


With the new brigade structure introduced in the summer of 2003 the 3 Divisions were re-organised into 2 Commands North and South, Thurso was put into North Command. Call signs remained the same.

Thurso had a call sign of C1 in The Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, this was changed to S20, the new National Call Sign, when the Control at Inverness closed on 6/12/2016 and moved to Dundee.



The new fire station at Millbank Road, Thurso, is to be officially opened by Provost John Sinclair at 5-30 p.m. next Wednesday, September 22.
The Northern Area Fire Committee will meet in Thurso prior to the ceremony.
(The Caithness Courier, Wednesday, September 15, 1954. Page 3.)



Provost John Sinclair who used to be convener of the Town Council’s Fire Committee in the days before Area Fire Committees, will open Thurso’s new fire station in Millbank Road at 5-30 p.m. today (Wednesday). Tain’s new fire station is to be opened tomorrow.
Both fire stations have been similarly designed on modern lines. They have offices, muster rooms, shower rooms and other accommodation.
The stations will be the second and third stations to be opened in the committee’s area since the war. The first one opened was at Stornoway.


Others are planned for Inverness, Fort William and Kyle, the biggest one being in the Highland capital.
An announcement is expected to be made soon on when work can start on the Inverness fire station.
(The Caithness Courier, Wednesday, September 22, 1954. Page 3.)



Provost John Sinclair was presented with a Fireman’s Axe after opening the new Fire Station at Millbank Road, Thurso, last Wednesday afternoon. But the Fire Service still owes Provost Sinclair a pair of shoes.
A war time blanket store in Thurso Town Hall caught fire in 1940. The local fire brigade, of which Provost Sinclair was convener, saved the hall.
“We had no uniforms,” recalled Provost Sinclair on Wednesday, “and I destroyed a pair of shoes that day.” Amid laughter, the Provost added “I’ve never been paid for them yet.”
It was then that Treasurer W. J. Mackay, Inverness, chairman of the Northern Area Fire Committee, stepped forward and presented Provost Sinclair with a fireman’s axe.
Treasurer Mackay, who presided at the opening ceremony, said that the fire services in the Northern Area had greatly improved during the past few years and added “You can have the utmost faith in your Fire Brigade in Thurso.”
Speaking as a former convener of the Town Council’s pre war Fire Committee, Provost Sinclair recalled the days when “the hand barrow on iron wheels had to be man handled to the scene of the fire.”
Round about 1937, the Council obtained a “Merryweather” pump and soon, afterwards they purchased a second hand car, which was adapted as a trailer.
Congratulating Section Leader John Robson and his crew, Provost Sinclair said that the Thurso Brigade, by their prompt and able service, could hold their own with any Brigade in the area.
The new Fire Station, which was built by Messrs J. and G. B. Mackay, Bettyhill, comprises an appliance room, store room, muster room, office and hose drying room. The toilet facilities include a spray bath.
The former fire station in Shore Street is to be cleared for building purposes.
(The Caithness Courier, Wednesday, September 29, 1954. Page 3.)


The Seven Men of Thurso

There’s nothing like a good fire – so long as it’s in the grate. But when the dancing flames leap beyond the confines of the hearth we are apt to curse the prehistoric genius who struck two stones together and produced the first spark.
Fortunately, the men of the Fire Brigade spend a number of hours every week training themselves for the moment when a careless spark becomes a smouldering lick of flame, and when a crackling blaze, and finally a roaring inferno which consumes public and private property and life itself.
The seven members of Thurso Fire Brigade have an operational area extending 80 west of Thurso to Hope Lodge, 15 miles south Scarfskerry, and south to Oldhall on the Watten Road. It includes the town of Thurso, the villages of Halkirk and Castletown, and the host of small communities which make up this most northerly fire “beat” in Scotland.


When your house goes on fire, it’s nice to know who’s coming to put out the flames. In case you are not already acquainted, the men whose praises were sung at last Wednesday’s Fire Station ceremony are Section Leader John Robson, Leading Fireman Tom Cook, and Firemen William J. Sinclair, James Gardiner, Alex Sinclair, William Mackay and George Stout.
Although major conflagrations have been mercifully few and far between in their area, the Thurso Brigade have seen enough action to earn the description: “Experienced crew.”
While chimney fires constitute the majority of their calls, the wailing siren has brought them from workbench, bar and bed to fight fires more fierce in their intensity, more voracious in their elemental fury – and, sometimes more tragic in their consequence.
Less than six months ago, alarm bells rang in the firemen’s homes at 3-40 a.m. A disused stable in Lover’s Lane had caught fire and 75,000 combustible gallons of petrol and paraffin stored a few yards away was in danger of providing sleeping Thursonians with the rudest awakening since the “big wind” of January, 1952. Within seven minutes of the alarm being raised, the crew were pumping 500 gallon s of water a minute onto the blazing building that once housed “Wordle’s” horses. By 4-50 a.m., the fire was under control. The nearest petrol tank was blistered with the heat – but that was all.
A month earlier the Thurso firefighters made a 21 mile dash to help the Wick Brigade quell an outbreak which gutted a row of shops in Bridge Street. Heavy damage was caused, homes were threatened – but there was no loss of life.
But sometimes there is no “happy ending.” The fire at Dale Cottage, Westerdale, on October 28, 1952, was such an occasion. Called out at 4-50 in the morning, Section Leader (then Leading Fireman) Robson and his men raced through Halkirk in a vain bid to rescue the elderly occupants of the ill-fated cottage. The poignant entry in the Thurso Brigade’s “Occurrence Book” tells the sad story. It reads: “Tenants of cottage, Mr and Mrs William Davidson, fatally burned. Charred remains recovered from debris.”
The Thurso Fire Brigade, of course, do not confine themselves to their own area. They are quick to assist other Brigades, or to deal with outbreaks when the “local” firefighters are already out on a job. The next call is to Dunnet for a four hour fight with another heath fire.


The log book records a lorry on fire at the Bank of Scotland, a butcher’s van ablaze in Sinclair Street. Both reports end triumphantly: “Fire under control.”
But there is no concealing the chagrin with which Leading Fireman Barry recorded the outcome of a Sunday morning dash to Holborn Head quarries in November, 1944.
The Thurso Brigade’s occurrence book records the will o’ the wisp nature of their duties. Here we find them battling a heath fire at Warth Hill, three miles from John O’ Groats – for eight hours. A few days later, a chimney fire at Mina Villa was extinguished in 55 minutes. Before the week is out, a motor lorry loaded with waste paper catches fire at Scrabster Bridge.
On the principle “least said, easiest mended” ex-Dean of Guild Barry recorded: “False alarm, Home Guard burning rubbish.”
The bright red Austin tender, with its 30 foot extension ladder and 15 foot ladder, makes many a trip to nearby Scrabster Harbour to cope with fires aboard trawlers and other craft. Bunker fires require a special technique and, in extreme cases, breathing apparatus is brought along.
Sometimes instead of pumping water into vessels, the Brigade are called to pump water out of boats brought into harbour in a sinking condition.


Other “special services” include the filling of static water tanks at Hoy and, more recently, the provision of a suitable depth of water for Stan Bond’s “death dive” in Sir George’s Park during Gala Week.
Within the next four weeks, a new £2,000 Bedford tender is to be delivered to the new Fire Station in Millbank Road. It will be fitted with a “first aid” hose pipe pumping from a portable 150 gallon tank. By bringing water with them, the firemen will be able to deal with small fires all the more quickly. In the case larger fires, the 150 gallons will provide speedy “first aid” while the major equipment is being set up.
Some day you might be in need of the Fire Brigade. This is what you should do. Run – not walk – to the nearest telephone. You do not have to pay for an emergency call. When the operator asks for your number, state: “Fire.” The telephonist immediately operates the remote control switch which sets off the alarm bells in the firemen’s homes, and – if during the normal “waking” hours – the siren at the Riverside.


The telephone operator will then ask for details. You should give the exact location of the fire. A brief description of the nature of the outbreak is useful to the Brigade, but the most important thing to remember is to give the correct address.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family and neighbours will be doing everything possible to salvage valuables and prevent the spread of the flames – and you can safely leave the rest to Thurso Fire Brigade.
(The Caithness Courier, Wednesday, September 29, 1954. Page 4.)



Caithness Craftsmen Complimented 

<PHOTO> Fire Station with two Bedford appliances jutting out the bays (Pump Escape and Water Tender).
Caithness contractors have done a most creditable job in the construction of a £6000 extension to the Thurso Station of the Northern Fire Brigade.
The extension houses the two fire engines, one of which the Thurso unit took delivery in March. In addition to the new part, the entire fire station has been redecorated and a steel frame asbestos roof fitted.
The mason work and steelwork were executed by the main contractors, Messrs Geddes Brothers, Mey.
Mr Angus Munro, 49 Princes Street, Thurso, carried out the joiner work, while the plumbing and electrical installations were the work of Mr William Jack, contractor, Scarfskerry.
Messrs Steven and Mulraine, Wick, performed the tiling and plastering, and the painters and decorators were Messrs Coghill and Youngson, Thurso.
At the invitation of the Northern Fire Area Joint Committee, the members of Thurso Town Council have visited the extension, the design and construction of which greatly impressed.
(Possibly newspaper 1966?, can’t remember.)



<PHOTO> Yesterday's Fire Brigade. A National Fire Service crew pictured during the last war. They are, from left to right (back row) A. Macdonald, R. Macgregor, R. Manson, W. Geddes, J. Gardiner. (front row) S. Campbell, J. Robson, W. Barrie (leading fireman), W. J. Sinclair and J. Macgregor.
<PHOTO> Today's fire brigade attending a recent chimney fire in Thurso.
The recent spate of fires in the Thurso area prompted us to take a closer look at one of our most essential services - THE FIRE BRIGADE.
Thurso fire station is the headquarters for the topmost division of the Northern Fire Brigade.
This division includes the Shetland and Orkney isles, Caithness and the part of Sutherland north of a line from Lairg to Kylesku.
Dotted over this area are seven retained and twenty two volunteer stations.
Thurso fire station, in Millbank Road, was built in 1955 and extended in 1966. It houses two appliances - a water tender and water tender escape.
Each machine holds 400 gallons of water and their pumps deliver 500 gallons per minute at 100 lbs per square inch pressure.
Each contains a portable featherweight pump with an output of 300 gallons at the same pressure, plus full breathing apparatus, foam equipment and searchlights.
The water tender escape boasts a fifty foot wheeled escape and the water tender also possesses oxygen resuscitation apparatus.
Built off the actual station, are an office, a muster room, breathing apparatus room, lecture cum recreation room, stores and showers.


Fourteen retained men man the Thurso station - Station Officer W. Mackay, Sub Officer D. Mackay, Leading Firemen W. Macdonald and L. Gray, Firemen T. Davidson, W. Ross, S. Wares, C. Stevens, D. Henderson, W. Sutherland, J. Mowat, D. Malcolm, G. Mackay and C. Johnston. Also stationed at Thurso are two full time officers - Divisional Officer J. Simpson and Station Officer D. Grant, the division's training officer.
Divisional Officer Simpson said that the station's roll could be raised to twenty men. He prefers to have firemen join before they reach their early thirties, thus giving the maximum in experience and length of service. retiral age is 60.
The town's firemen, he went on, trained every Thursday evening and some members attended Gullane training school courses.
Twice a year they are trained to cope with the type of fire they might encounter at Dounreay, by firemaster Mr J. Thomson.
Firemen are also responsible for the area's fire hydrants.
Part time firemen receive a retaining fee every quarter plus a turn out fee. The full turn out fee is only paid to those who man the outgoing appliance. Once the engine has left the station - on an average this is within two minutes of the alarm being raised - the firemen on standby are paid a smaller sum. A gratuity scheme has recently been started.
District officer Simpson pointed out that the Northern Area Fire Brigade was one of the cheapest run in Britain.
And, in his opinion, the public were receiving "the best value for money."
When someone needs the services of the Fore Brigade and dials 999, their call is put through to the Northern Area headquarters in Inverness. Headquarters then call up the appropriate station by means of a remote control system which sets off the fire siren and bells in the firemen's homes.
The yearly average for turnouts by the fire brigade is between fifty and sixty - but last month, the town's firemen attended sixteen fires.
"We have been very fortunate that in the last few years there has only been one fatality," said Mr Simpson. He thought that the most noteworthy outbreaks during his seven years in Thurso were at Castlehill, Castletown, and the double fire at a wood yard in Thurso and the town's gasworks.
The Divisional Officer, who for 16 years before coming to Thurso, was stationed in central Scotland, said that he gained certain satisfaction from working with retained men rather than full time firemen.
"Perhaps the fact that the retained firemen is coping with his full time job and is still willing to be called out to a fire day and night has something to do with it," he explained.
The only problem that a full time station do not have to contend with was the question of availability.
Often part time firemen may be working out of town and so be unable to answer the alarm.
But, explained Mr Simpson, "Although each station is an individual unit, fundamentally it is the Northern Area Fire Brigade and covers or assists another brigade as required."


He also spoke of Wick's new fire station being built at Martha Terrace.
"Wick has waited a long, long time for a fire station and when it is completed it will be the finest station outwith Inverness, in the Northern Area Fire Brigade," he said.
The new station will contain a drill tower, a hose washing and testing strip and other refinements.
At present Wick fire brigade are operating from Miller Street.
The northern division's representative on the Northern Fire Area Joint Committee, Bailie W. Smith, Thurso, has made great efforts to get Wick its new station.
Bailie Smith was a member of Thurso fire brigade from 1946 to 1948.
Retained stations within the northern area compete every year for the Squad Drill shield and the Stornoway Cup, awarded to the winners of a quiz on fire fighting.
Eight teams are entered each year.
Thurso teams of four years ago were the first to bring off the double.


When one sees Thurso's immaculate fire station with it's two gleaming engines, it is hard to see imagine the equipment used by the Town Council workers over thirty years ago - a hand cart containing a ladder, hoses and buckets.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Auxiliary Fire Service was formed and the Council purchased three pumps which were operated by Mr J. Barnetson and his crew.
The Unit's transport then consisted of a converted Humber saloon, later it was a Lanchester that had once belonged to the Duke of Portland.
Full time crews from Aberdeen were then stationed in Thurso and two auxiliary firemen assisted them each night - at the rate of 1s 6d an hour.
By 1942 the National Fire Service had been formed and Thurso received a standard towing unit. Our photograph shows an N.F.S. war time crew.
A year after the 1947 Fire Services Act became law, the Northern Fire brigade came into being.
Thurso's firemen were originally housed at the Riverside. They then moved to premises, which they built themselves, at Shore Street, where there is now a car park, before their present station was erected in Millbank Road.
(Caithness Courier, April 16, 1969.)



If you know of any mistakes in this or have any additional information please let me know.


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