1837 to 1920



1837 to ?

Yard behind Town Hall, Constitution Street, LEITH.

1877 to 1920

Junction Place, LEITH.




1837 to ?

Master of Engines

1875 to May 1909

Firemaster James Brown

May 1909 to May 1919

Firemaster John Young

July 1919 to Nov 1920

Firemaster John Guthrie




1910                                Halley
1911           WS113        Halley Fire Engine (Preserved in Lothian and Borders Fire Museum in Laurieston Place, 2007)
1920                                2 Halley Fire Engines



The second Halley Fire Engine built was delivered to Leith Fire Brigade on the 13th October 1910

Leith Fire Brigade amalgamated with Edinburgh Fire Brigade on the 2nd of November 1920. The Firemaster became a Senior District Officer in Edinburgh Fire Brigade and one station Officer and fifteen Firemen were transferred.



The earliest record. of a Municipal Fire Brigade in Leith is contained in the General Fire Regulations for the Fire Engine Department of the town of Leith, dated 1837.
The following extracts from the above regulations make most interesting reading:

“The Commissioners of Police, having provided two first rate engines with complete apparatus for protection of the community, the Committee for Fire Engines earnestly recommend that the following regulations be attended. to:
1.             The engine being lodged in a yard behind the Town Hall, Constitution Street, it is requested that on the appearance of a fire, immediate notice should be sent to the Police Office, stating as distinctly as possible where the fire is.
2.             On getting notice of a fire, the Superintendent of Police, or officer on duty, while he will instantly dispatch a Police Officer to ascertain the truth of such a report, will also send notice to the Master of Engines, and he will take care that ready access to the engines may be ensured, and that no hindrance is in the way of the Fireman.
3.             On the alarm of a fire, early notice shall be sent from the Police Office to the Provost or Chief Magistrate, also the Sheriff, the Conveners, and Members of the Fire Committee, the Manager of the Gas Works, the Officers of the Water Company.
4.             A correct list of all fire cocks to be kept in the Police Station.
5.             The Master of Engines is held responsible, and must give particular attention, and see that the engines, with the hose, conductors, and screws, are all in perfect order for service on a moments warning.
6.             When the engines are on actual service, the Master of Engines will take his orders from the Senior Magistrate who may be present, or, in absence from the Sheriff or Convener, or any Member of the Fire Committee.
7.             As nothing contributes more to increase a fire than giving access to the air, it is recommended that every means be used to exclude air by shutting all doors and windows in the premises.
8.             For the purpose of practising the firemen in working the engine, a drill should be made once every two months from 1st April to 1st October, and once every three months from 1st October to 1st April.
9.             If, unfortunately, any of the firemen, while engaged at extinguishing a fire, should be hurt or disabled, application will be made to get him the same allowance from the general Fire fund in Edinburgh as the firemen there get, and every person coming under this description must have his case distinctly stated and attested by the Master of Engines, the Superintendent of Police, and a respectable medical gentleman.
10.           As much of the efficiency of the Fire Establishment will depend on men of sober habits, the Master of Engines is particularly required to engage no person who is addicted to drunkenness, or of bad character.



                Master of Engines               per annum             £ 6.            0.           0.
                Captains                                per annum             £ 3.          10.           0.
                Sergeants                              per annum             £ 2.          10.           0.
                Hosemen                               per annum             £ 1.          15.           0.
                1st Pioneers                          per annum             £ 1.          15.           0.
                2nd Pioneers                         per annum             £ 1.          10.           0.
                Shaftsman                             per annum             £ 0.          15.           0.


                Master of Engines                                               £ 0.          2.             6.
                Captains                                                                £ 0.          2.             0.
                All Others                                                              £ 0.          1.             0.

                Master of Engines                                               £ 0.          4.
                Captains                                                                £ 0.          4.             0.
                All Others                                                              £ 0.          2.             0.

                Master of’ Engines                                              £ 0.          2.             6.
                Captains                                                                £ 0.          2.             0.
                All Others                                                              £ 0.          1.             6.

Note: The first person who arrives at the Engine House to receive 2/- in addition to this pay.
The Pioneer No.1 who arrives first at the fire shall also receive 2/- in addition to his pay.
No pay to be allowed for any of the men turning out in consequence of a false alarm, unless such an alarm is given by a police officer.”


In 1875, Firemaster James Brown took up his appointment as full time Firemaster of Leith. The term Firemaster now replacing Master of Engines.
Note: The title "Firemaster" first appeared in an Edinburgh Corporation Act of 1703.
In 1877 the Fire Brigade moved into their new quarters at Junction Place, or as it was known in Leith “Fire Brigade Street”. Firemaster Brown taking up residence in the flat provided above the station. He continued to serve in this capacity until his retiral in May 1909. It is interesting to note that at a Leith Town Council Meeting, Firemaster Brown was voted a gratuity of £200, and a letter of commendation was sent congratulating him on his sterling service.
Applications for the vacant position of Firemaster were received by Leith Town Council, After careful consideration, the position was given to Leith’s Assistant Firemaster, Mr. John Young. The application received from J. Urquhart of the London County Council Fire Brigade was laid. on the table.
Mr. Young’s appointment paid a wage of £2. 12. 0d. per week, and. occupancy of the Firemaster’s flat above the Fire Station in Junction Place.
Prior to Mr. Young taking up tenancy, it was decided. to install electric light in the flat, at an estimated. cost of £12.
Mr. Young continued to serve as Firemaster until May, 1919, when he tendered. his resignation.
In July 1919, a short list of applicants for the vacancy of the post of Firemaster was drawn up. This consisted of the following applicants —John Guthrie (Glasgow); John Manson (Edinburgh); William J. Paterson (Glasgow). After a division in the committee, Mr. John Guthrie was duly elected Firemaster.
On the 29th July, 1919, Mr. Guthrie took up his post as Firemaster, at a salary of £250, rising to £350, per annum with free house, coal, light, uniform, and boots.
Leith was the scene of many large fires, and the following account relates to an incident in a bonded warehouse, of which there were, and still remain, a very large number in the area :-


Mitchell Street


On the l4th August, 1901, a fire call was received to the above address.
Both Leith and Edinburgh responded to this very high fire risk, and on arrival found the third floor well alight and fire spreading rapidly throughout the building.
With a major fire confronting the Brigades, it was decided to protect the adjoining tenements to prevent fire spread.
Shortly after arrival, the roof of the bonded warehouse collapsed., and burning spirits began to run down the street. To quote ‘The Scotsman’ “a few people were burned by the ‘River of Fire”.
The fire was under the command of Firemaster Pordage, as at that time Firemaster Brown of Leith was on holiday.
Estimated. Loss £30,000


Edinburgh Fire Brigade Order, 2nd November, 1920.
On the coming into force of the above Act on this date, 2nd November, the City boundaries will be extended to take in the Burgh of Leith, the Districts of Cramond, Corstorphine, Colinton, Slateford, Longstone, Liberton, Gilmerton, Newton and Straiton in the County of Midlothian.
The Leith Fire Brigade will be incorporated with the City Fire Brigade from this date.
The Firemaster of Leith, Mr. John Guthrie, will rank as Senior District Officer, and take charge of the Leith Fire Station and District, and take up seniority after the Third Officer.
The Station Officer of Leith, Mr. James Fisher, will rank as Station Officer of’ the Leith Station, and take up seniority as the Senior Station Officer.
The Firemen of the Leith Fire Brigade will take seniority with the Edinburgh Firemen according to their service. The staff at Leith Station will in future be -

1 District Officer
1 Station Officer
11 Firemen

The Leith Motor Engines will be designated Nos. 7 and 8 Motor Engines respectively.

(From the Opening Programme for McDonald Road Fire Station, EDINBURGH. 17/6/1966.)



See also Lothian & Borders Fire Brigade station 50 McDonald Road.



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


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