The most disastrous fire that has occurred in Greenock since the great outbreak in Harvie Lane twenty years ago took place last night in the East end of the town, and, in addition to the vast destruction of property there falls, unfortunately, to be recorded loss of life and injury to a number of onlookers.

The scene of the fire was at the head of Baker Street, a locality not only thickly populated, but surrounded by several important industrial concerns, including Ardgowan Distillery, Messrs Rankin & Blackmore’s engineering works, Poynter’s chemical works, and Messrs Scott & Co.’s foundry.

Shortly after six o'clock intimation was received at the Police Office that fire had broken in the extensive stores of the Ardgowan Distillery Company in Baker Street. This building it may be noted, was formally known as Patten's sugar refinery. It was seven storeys high and was one of the most substantial of the kind in Greenock.


With their usual promptitude the Fire Brigade, under Firemaster Taylor, were off for the scene of the outbreak. The bluejackets of the Benbow displayed no less alacrity and quickly joined Mr. Taylor's force in tackling the burning.

Residenters in Lynedoch and Antigua Streets were early alarmed by observing dense columns of smoke issuing though the roof of the stores, which were stocked full of whisky in casks. Flames suddenly burst through the roof of the building, and in an incredibly short time a great blaze was in progress, completely enveloping the upper flat. Rising to a considerable height, the flames were seen from many parts of the town, and hundreds of people soon were congregated on the different vantage spots, especially on the Lynedoch Street Station road and the slopes of Wellington Park. Hundreds more who were in the street to watch the march past of the Volunteers hurried eastward and thronged the ways leading to the fire.

Looking to what the stores contained and to the fact that the flames had secured a firm hold, it was early evident that the stores were doomed, and consequently the firemen and bluejackets directed all their energies to prevent the fire spreading to adjacent properties. In the face of the excessive heat, which was felt as far away as the Wellpark, the task set the fireman was a difficult and tiring one, but this notwithstanding they worked at close quarters, pouring plentiful supplies of water on the threatened properties


With a fire of such extensive proportions raging in the vicinity the residenters at the west end of Ingleston Street and corner of Baker Street naturally became alarmed, and began to remove their furniture from homes into Scott Street and the immediate locality. By this time the fire was burning fiercely in the heart of the store and as flat after flat fell flames leapt up into the air, throwing off burning embers which were carried by a north-westerly wind, happily not of great strength, over the house tops and down to the foot of Cartsburn. The liquor was pouring out from stores and ran down the street, which, with the whisky aflame presented a singular spectacle. Crowds of people were in Baker Street at the time and the rush of the fiery brook caused something of a stampede.

Unfortunately the furniture laid out in the streets became ignited, which was an added terror to the night's excitement. Men and women, half clad, might have been seen rushing hither and tither with articles of furniture. About forty families in this neighbourhood took leave of their homes, and many pathetic scenes were witnessed as little children ran here and there looking for their parents, and equally anxious mothers bustled about with tearful faces looking for missing little ones.

Towards nightfall the scene was lurid in the extreme, the flames lighting up the entire district. Viewed from the river the spectacle was one seldom seen in this part of the Clyde, and as the flames increased in volume the sky was brilliantly lit up. Thousands from all quarters of the town and neighbourhood gathered all round the area, but excellent order was kept by a large staff of police, both day and night men being on duty.



After the fire had been raging for fully a couple of hours the stone walls collapsed inwards with a tremendous crash, causing an upheaval of fire, which now attacked the buildings immediately below the stores. With much persistence the brigade men and bluejackets strove to combat this fresh outbreak, but the fire, fed with combustible material, made headway, and rendered the situation more alarming than ever, especially the tenants in Ingleston Street. Till after midnight the fire continued to blaze in the part, but the firemen and those co-operating with them had succeeded in preventing the tenements and the distillery itself being attacked.








A constant stream of lukewarm whiskey was pouring down the gutter in Baker Street, but up till nine o'clock the stream was of no great dimension, and there appeared to be little danger of the conflagration being spread from this source. At the time mentioned there was a crowd of several hundreds stretching across the thoroughfare immediately below Ingleston Street. Blue-jackets, police, and marines assisted to keep back the crowd. Floor after floor of the burning building had gone, and the spirits must have accumulated in great quantities in the lower part of the building. The rending of the walls by the fierce heat suddenly allowed the blazing fluid in an immense volume. A sense of unparalleled excitement and confusion followed. The burning torrent poured down Baker Street several inches in depth, and with the flames mounting into the air to a distance of about seven feet the crowd saw the imminent danger not a moment too soon. There was an instant stampede of panic stricken men, women and children for safety.

Although closely pursued by the blazing wave, fortunately no person in the crowd was caught. Several elderly people who lagged behind were helped by their neighbours, and escaped from a terrible death with some difficulty. Luckily the torrent of fire had to a great extent spent it's self before reaching the lower part of the thoroughfare, but in the wild confusion which prevailed and in view of the number of women and young children in the crowd, it was remarkable that accidents of a serious nature did not occur in the panic stricken rush from the danger of the situation. It was literally a race for life.

The furniture taken outside from the houses in Ingleston Street had of course to be abandoned, and although the greater part of it had been removed to various places of safety, a number of articles were caught in the wall of flame and quickly reduced to ashes at some distance below the railway bridge at the lower end of Baker Street there was a considerable quantity of wood work around a building in course of erection, and this was in great danger of becoming ignited and thus starting a new conflagration in the crowded part of the town. Blue-jackets and marines, however set to work, and speedily demolished the structure, the latter using there bayonets to effective purpose. The danger was averted, and the excitement of the crowd subsided.

Port Glasgow Fire Brigade arrived at the fire shortly after ten o'clock, and rendered valuable service.







In addition to the burning strand which descended Baker Street, the flaming liquor in large volume found its way into the burn or stream connection with the line of falls from the Cut, which serves several works on the route eastwards, amount these being Messrs Scott & Co.'s foundry, near St Andrew Square, and Deerpark Grain Mills, tenanted by Messes Robert Muir & Sons, millers and grain merchants, which front East Stewart Street and Springkell Street, and which are owned by Messrs Thos. A. Blair, 32 Finnart Street.

This mill was destined to be the scene of the greatest calamity of an awful night. On its way down stream the flames ignited the finishing shop of the foundry, but the burning there was noticed in time, and promptly extinguished. at other parts where the burn was crossed by planking , the caught fire, and further alarming consequences were only averted by men drenching the burning wood work with water drawn in buckets from the burn.

Sudden and terrible in its consequences was the outbreak at the mill. The real cause is not yet known beyond doubt. Probably the accumulation of gas generated by the burning sprit flowing under the mill exploded, or more probably flower dust, heated by the stream, became affected by  spontaneous combustion . Whatever the cause, the whole side of the building was blown in to Springkell Street the debris covering the thoroughfare to the other side and tho the depth of some feet. This happened just at ten minutes past ten.

At that time people in crowds were flocking excitedly to witness the phenomenon of the flaming waters then rushing down Baker Street. It is computed that over three hundred were in the vicinity of the mill when the wall was blown out, and


Following the explosion the mill took fire. No time was lost in tackling this latest catastrophe. So firemen were drafted from the distillery, and in an incredibly short time a large force of bluejackets about one hundred strong swung round Charing Cross at the double. The gallant lads were in the thick of it in an instance, and right well did they prove themselves handy men.

The flames rapidly burst through the roof, and great showers of sparks shot up into the air, having a pretty effect, if one had been in the mood to admire it, as they halted in their upward course, and fell back into the blaze in a spray.

The large tenement which stands back off St Andrew Street and abuts on the mill was in imminent danger of taking fire, and in their panic the tenants tore out and in with their furniture. Beds were pushed through sky-lights, and fell three storeys to the ground. Soon the side walk was piled up out to Rue End Street with furniture, bedding, pots, and pans, everything.

The greatest confusion and bewilderment prevailed. Wild rumours were afloat as to the numbers killed by the explosion, and women and children ran about crying sorely, some through anxiety for friends, others because of they knew not what. Hysteria was everywhere, except among the brave firemen and bluejackets.

All that is set down above happened almost in an instant, but no sooner had the shock to the onlookers than willing hands, soon to be augmented by fresh arrivals from the Benbow already spoken of, were hard at work rescuing those buried under the wrecked wall.


it proved to be, for soon a charred body was brought out. Then three persons more dead than alive were got, and soon the ambulance waggons were on their melanchony errand to the Infirmary, the too frequent sight of it adding to the excitement and apprehension of those on the fringe of the crowd who were left for want of definite information to fear the worst.

Where all the rescuers worked with a determination and self-forgetfulness that is beyond all praise it seems almost invidious to single out any for special mention: yet, if only as a sample of the grand work that was being done, it may be permissible to refer to four gallant tars, who, in spite of the withering heat now coming from the burning mill - a heat which made most of those within a wide radius turn away their heads - tore away at the rubbish of stone and lime to succour the suffering.

In less that an hour and a half nine or ten wounded were lying in the Infirmary, and the doctors and nurses were unceasing in their labours to alleviate the pain of the unfortunate ones. Some of them were so shockingly injured that human skill was of little avail, and within a short time after admission two died.

Meanwhile at the scene of the explosion and in the vicinity sights unprecedented in the towns history were being witnessed. Marines with fixed bayonets stood guard over the household furnishings, not that any attempt at looting was noticed, but just as a precautionary measure. With the butt end of their rifle they kept the surging crowd off the pavement, and prevented the goods from being trampled underfoot.

Standing in St Andrew Square, one was compelled for the moment to forget the awfulness of the conflagration in contemplation of the grandeur of the scene. On the high ground above the remains of the distillery store still sent great tongues of flame towards the sky, to the left the sparks were rising in grand profusion above the burning mill, down the street poured the burning whiskey, while overhead the heavens shone with a brilliancy which dimmed and revived as the flames fell away or burst forth with renewed energy with the encouragement of a fresh puff of wind. The night had become very dark after sunset, and the effect of the blazes was all the more striking, and gave a gave a ghostly appearance to the people hurrying about St Andrew Square or huddling on the top of their belongings.

Great lengths of hose stretched everywhere across the square and along Rue End Street. To prevent damaging these the cars had to be stop, and for a long time the service was suspended in part of the East end, there being a long line of cars standing beside the Victoria Harbour.








Outside the Infirmary much excitement prevailed as the ambulance waggon made it's journeys to and from the institution. In all eight cases were admitted -

A man named Richardson, residing at 2 East Blackhall Street, compound fracture of right leg and other injuries.

A boy, name unknown, both thighs broken.

John Buchanan, 6 Carnock Street, injuries to head, back, and shoulder : his wife and little daughter, injuries to head and body.

Agnes Cummings, 6 years, 12 Springkell Street, left leg torn off below knee.

Mrs. Gordon, severe burns on leg and body, and

A man, name unknown, scalp wounds.

The two first named - Richardson and the boy - died shortly after being brought to the Infirmary.

Soon after the explosion the dead body of a boy, identified as that of John Crawford, 22 Arthur Street, was picked out of the debris, and further search led to the finding of four more bodies - Christine Buchanan, four years, 6 Carnock Street : Archibald Nicol, fifteen years, 3 Orchard Street : David Collins, eight years, 9 John Street : Wm. Sloan, sixteen years, 30 Ingleston Street : and Agnes Dunlop or Purcell, fifty years, 1 East Blackhall Street. The remains were taken to the Police Mortuary in Dalrymple Street.

The scene in Springkell Street during the gruesome work of searching for the bodies was a peculiarly saddening one. Some hundreds of people thronged around to watch the searchers in their painful duty.







The store was completely gutted, and burning whisky ran all along the line of viaducts, to the sea, setting fire to the aluminium works, Messrs Scott & Co.'s finishing shop, Messrs Muir & Sons (grain mills), the one story building at 1 Rue End Street, and slightly burning the piling at Scott & Co.'s new fitting out basin.

The damage to the distillery store is estimated at £60,000, and at other places (combined) £10,000, making in all a total of £70,000.

About 800,000 gallons of whisky were destroyed.

The firemen ran great risks in their work, and their efforts to save the large new store in Ingleston Street were beyond all praise. Over twenty times they were chased from the roof due to the fierceness of the flames, but the men doggedly held to their purpose, and succeeded in saving this building. Had it been involved in the conflagration the results would have been fearful to contemplate, as the great quantity of whisky which would have escaped would certainly have spread over a large portion of the East end, carrying fire with it. Firemaster Taylor, who personally superintended the operations, had the assistance of the bluejackets and Port Glasgow Fire Brigade.

At the outbreak, too, the wind was carrying the flames towards the houses and thickly inhabited properties down the street, but providentially it veered to the opposite quarter or else many more lives would have been placed in jeopardy.






East of Springkell Street alarm and consternation were general. Coming out from behind Messrs Scott & Co.'s foundry, the burn, swollen by the fiery liquid, rushed by the Cartsburn Sugar Refinary, down the Stanners, and through Scott & Co.'s shipbuilding yard to the sea. The inhabitants in John Street and Arthur Street, not to speak of the Stanners, carried out their belongings to the street. Happily only one building caught fire. The was the old one storey house forming No. 1 Rue End Street, which bridges the burn as it flows under the street. These were gutted. Across in Messrs Scott's yard there was a time of some anxiety. The burn carried the whisky in about the piling of the new fitting out dock under construction there. A staff of workmen were on hand, and they kept hose plying. By this means the timber was kept from burning, and all danger was averted there.

When it became evident that all risk in the neighbourhood of St Andrew Square was past, the tenants in the houses became reassured, and commenced to carry their belongings inside again, and by half-past two in the morning the streets, with the exception of Springkell Street, where the gruesome work of searching for the dead was being prosecuted, and of East Stewart Street, where the firemen still plied their hose on the smouldering ruins, were all cleared and comparatively quiet.

The large staff of police deserve much praise for the manner in which they carried out their trying duties.


(The Greenock Telegraph & Clyde Shipping Gazette, Saturday 13th June, 1903. Page 3.)










2 Sketchs


This forenoon the ruins in Baker Street were still smouldering and at some parts the fire was still aflame. Firemen were in close attendance pouring water on the smoking debris. The portions of the walls remaining look rather dangerous but spectators are not allowed to approach for fear of the masonry work collapsing.




Baker Street shows vivid signs of the disaster. The roadway is washed bare of earth, and the metal appears bleached and white.

Round in St Andrew Square, into Springkell and East Stewart Streets a large crowd is congregated watching the firemen at their work of keeping in hand the smouldering ruins, and taking steps to prevent accidents from falling masonry. It is a bleak and depressing sight, the horror of the sight seeming to have left a deep impression on all.

The building is a complete wreck, and look round shows how narrow the escape of the other premises which huddle round it has been The streets have been well cleared of wreckage.






But for the strenuous and long continued exertion of the firemen who were detailed to the duty of preventing the outbreak from spreading beyond the blazing whisky store, the disaster serious was would have been dwarfed into insignificance by the catastrophe which was certain to have resulted had the fire spread to the large building adjoining the seat of the outbreak. Had this occurred only a miracle could have prevented the conflagration making a sweep of almost the entire East end the town. Till eight o’clock the Firemen were playing a steady stream of water on the roofs of the adjoining building from the extreme northend, but it was seen that this was unlikely to have the desired effect, and accordingly efforts were made to carry the hose along the top of the arch of the roof in order to get a stream of water more directly on the part threatened. The heat at this part of the building must have been terrific; even at the corner of Scott Street, it was nearly impossible at this time to face the intense heat for more than a few moments. Time and again the firemen were driven back and the work of passing the hose, still in full play, to the man who had gained the top of the roof was one of extreme difficulty and danger. Once or twice he seemed in imminent danger of being swept from his precarious position by the force of the current; but ultimately, as already stated, the efforts to prevent this building from sharing in the general conflagration were successful, and the worst of the critical point of the outbreak was thus over.




On inquiry at the Infirmary this morning we learn that the condition of the injured is satisfactory, and that no further fatalities are anticipated. There are now five patients in the institution out of the eight admissions. Of these one man, who was suffering from scalp wounds, was able to go home, and there were, as already reported, two deaths.

The boy who died in the Infirmary has now been identified as Charles Munro Young, eight years of age, and residing at 8 Brisbane Street.




Much sympathy is extended to Mr. John Buchanan, 6 Carnock Street, in the affliction which has befallen himself and family. Along with his wife and two little children, Mr. Buchanan (who is foreman carpenter with Messrs. Hapit & Co., and oldest son of Mr. James Buchanan engineer at Garvel Dock) left his house early in the evening for the purpose of seeing the fire. They went up to Wellington Park, and came round by Ratho Street While on their way home they passed the Deerpark Grain Mills, just as the explosion took place. His daughter Chrissie, five years, was killed, his youngest child, Mary, three years, was badly bruised about the face and body while his wife and himself sustained severe injuries about the head, back and body. All the injured were removed to the Infirmary.


A valuable horse belonging to Mr. Alex Laird & Son, contractor, was killed when the explosion at the flour mills took place.


The stores – Patten’s Sugar Refinery – were built about fifty years ago by Mr. Kirk, father of Mr. Robert Kirk, builder, Campbell Street.







There is perhaps no tough job the British bluejacket is called upon to tackle which he carries through with more gusto than in assisting in putting out of a fire on shore, and this is more remarkable as , far from the bonds of sea discipline being imposed, they are perhaps drawn tighter at such times. But the tar shares with less handy mortals a craving to fill the centre of the stage in the great drama of life, and it is very certain that no one else outside the official ranks of the Fire Brigade gets much chance of doing so at a fire if the sailor is present. On blue water it is different; and when the dread tocsin crashes into the silence even the stoutest heart of oak may be forgiven if his place for just a moment before he gets into grips with his most dreaded foe. The most prosaic of mariners is endowed with some touch of imagination, and, if he should fail in fighting the flames, he realises, as few can more vividly, that he may be roasted to death, or drowned, or mayhap die by inches from starvation or thirst in open boat ir raft of planks, while the tropic sun scorches him into fevered delirium, or the great grey combers of the Atlantic freeze the marrow in his bones as they break over his frail refuge. Such are the ever present horrors at sea ; but when from the big dark ironclad lying off shore, a landing party is piped to fall in, and when with hawser and hookrope, and bits of chain, and many an appliance unbeknownst to landsmen, he tumbles tempestuously into the launch, and pulls lustily, or is fussily steamed into the shore, then he is going to have a time after his own heart. This was the sight that might have greeted the eyes of anyone standing on the deck of H. M. S. Ajax just after a keen sighted sentry from her bridge had described the outbreak of fire at Overton Paper Mill, and sent a rescue party who were actually there first. But fortunately as it happened for the lives of many imperiled in last night’s fire, to say nothing of the property, the guardship which is usually swinging at her moorings at the Tail-of-the-Bank is lying alongside the quay wall at the James Watt Dock, and so in the very shortest possible time a contingent from her crew was on the way to the fire. I cannot pretend to tell the gallant deeds which were done, nor in speaking of the sailors have I any intention of minimising the equally gallant feats of the firemen; but I shall carry no more exhilarating recollection of last night’s scenes than the lithe figures of the Benbows standing out in the glare of that furious conflagration. What a treat it was to watch them! They seemed to know no fear! They were as active as a kitten, resourceful as a hunted fox, and with wits as nimble as their hands or feet. When a height was to be reached and no rope was at hand, they formed a ladder of their bodies, and up an upper yardman goes like a monkey. One would not imagine, however, that it was as much a treat to command those lads in navy blue. The way they have is the Navy, of choosing the most dangerous position it is possible to go to must be a somewhat of a nuisance to those responsible for the safety of the ship’s crew. I was right in the thick of the onlookers who were early at the fire, when the tramp of disciplined men at the double apprised us of the coming of aid from the Benbow. A smothered cheer, and the head of the leading section of fours pushed the way through the crowd, and before those who had been unceremoniously elbowed aside had time to pull themselves together again the handy men were hard at it. But the fire fiend was in heart last night, and it was not to be easily subdued. Drenched with the water that was pouring just above their heads, blinded by smoke, and perpiring at every pore by their own efforts and in the full blaze of the fierce heat, the men-o’-warsmen vie with the brigade in desperate work. The long light tongues of flame leap and sway from one roof to another, the sweet June night is lurid as the pit of Tophet, and the heat is that of a blast furnace. It looked as if the whole street must go down before it. Then came news of the explosion at Muir’s mill. Away we rush, and came upon that other fearful sight just in time to see another detachment of bluejackets, with that absolutely ferocious haste which is the handmaid of a perfect discipline, hurl themselves into the work of rescue. It was grand, and if ever any attempt is made to take away out port guard, as I have heard it whispered, I hope, in the interests of so splendid a succor as this, it will be strenuously resisted. And so the fight wears on until the bugle again rings out the sea call, and the Benbows, alert as ever, march off, no doubt to grumbles like sailors after having worked like heroes. There can be little doubt that the successive outbreaks left our local Fire Brigade, splendid as was all their work, seriously handicapped, and, had the efforts of the sailors and firemen not been successful in saving the big property at the distillery, who knows how much of the East-end of Greenock would have gone ablaze, as the Dellingburn and Cartsburn connect with it, as well as the water from the Cut. So I conclude with; “Well fought, Benbows!”

(The Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Saturday, June 13, 1903. Page 2.)








The first of four illustrations which appear in this morning’s issue shows the distillery buildings as seen in the early morning of Saturday. The gap in the wall is where the streams of burning liquid flowed out, and, reaching Baker Street, which is shown in the next picture, chased the spectators from the scene, hundreds running for their lives before the fiery torrent. Number three sketch shows the ruins of the flour mill, corner of Springkell and East Stewart Streets, looking towards the harbour. This sketch is from a photograph taken, through the kindness of a working man, from his window opposite. The family had vacated the house driven out by the intense heat and sense of danger. The last picture of the series shows the ruins in East Stewart Street, looking south or up the street. These, in addition to the two sketches published on Saturday, give a very vivid impression of the ravages of this fire.

(Greenock Telegraph Monday, 15 June, 1903. Page 3.)














During the weekend the calamitous Fires in the East-end formed the chief topic of conversation among all classes in the community. Yesterday the ruins of the distillery store in Baker Street, and the flour mill in Springkell and East Stewarts Streets were visited by large crowds from all parts of the town, and even the outside district. At different times most of the members of the Corporation and other prominent citizens visited the scene. The shock caused by the first news of the disaster had but slightly abated, and the onlookers discussed the sad details with expressions of sorrow for the bereaved and injured. Experiences were exchanged, and these went to show how wide was the alarm and consternation which prevailed during the night of the disasters. Numerous cases were told of parents making frantic search for missing little ones, who in their fright had wandered into the West-end of the town, and who were kindly taken charge of by residenters there, and kept till communication was made with their parents. Quite a number of women and children, who had left their homes for fear of the fire, were housed at the Central Police Station.

In all the churches yesterday sympathetic reference was made to the loss of life and suffering caused by the disaster on Friday night.

After a brief rest on Saturday night, the slaters engaged at the demolition of the dangerous portions of masonry at the stores resumed work early yesterday morning, and by the evening they had successfully completed  their risky operations. Throughout yesterday Mr Taylor had his men at work with the hose on the smoking ruins in Baker Street and also at the mills.

The cause of the original outbreak at the distillery has not yet been ascertained, and it is doubtful if ever it will be.

Today firemen are still on duty at the store and the mill, keeping the hose plying on the smouldering ruins. There are still large crowds of spectators round about.

The damage to buildings an stock in both places is fully covered by insurance. The loss altogether is estimated between £70,000 and £80,000.

Interviewed this forenoon by one of our representatives, Mr John Muir, of the Deerpark Grain Mills, says he cannot accept the theory of the explosion being caused by the flour dust. His opinion is that it was due to the fumes of gas from the burning whisky ascending from the stream into the third floor of the mill in such quantity as to cause the explosion. He further adds that no flour has been ground in the mill for some years.

Notwithstanding the terrific explosion, the safe in the mill was found intact this morning.

A large quantity of water from the mill was this forenoon running down East Stewart Street into Rue End Street, but Mr MacAllister the water engineer, took early measures to have the water cut off from the Cut.





On inquiry at the Infirmary today, we were informed that Mary Buchanan was able to leave the institution on Saturday. Her father and mother are still under treatment, but they along with the little girl Cummings, who had her foot torn off, are progressing as well as can be expected.

It should be stated that the resident medical staff and attendants have been most courteous and obliging in supplying information to the press, and thereby relieving the anxiety of the relatives and friends of the injured, as well as of the general public.



The following paragraphs appeared in our late editions on Saturday :-


Firemaster Taylor today gives the cause of the explosion at the grain mill. The burning whisky as it flowed along the aqueduct accumulated in  the water wheel house at the mill, and gave off vapour which filled the mill. This mingled with the dust from the grain and becoming ignited, exploded like a great charge of gunpowder, wrecking the roof and upper part of the wall in Springkell Street, the debris of which enveloped the crowd, and did the appalling damage recorded.




One of the most remarkable and at the same time most perilous, phases of the fire was seen in one of the hillside burns which runs to the sea in the immediate neighbourhood of Baker Street. A large quantity of the blazing liquor had found it’s way into this gulley. Owing to the flow of water being limited at that time of night there was only a small runnel in the bed of the stream. When the burning spirit got it’s way down this it had little to contend with, and it soon became a moving streak of fire. In their progress the flames caught the palings and wooden bridges in their course, and for a time it seemed to the onlooker as if in this way the flames might lay hold of properties in comparatively distant and quite unexpected places. The impending danger -  for such it really was – was happily averted by some one turning on the full supply of water from the Cut, thus overwhelming and neutralising the power of the burning liquid.




William Richardson, engineer, 9 East Blackhall Street

Agnes Dunlop or Purcell, 50 years, 1 East Blackhall Street

Archibald Nicol, 14 years, 3 Orchard Street

William Sloan, 16 years, 30 Ingleston Street

David Collins, 8 years, 9 John Street

Charles Buchanan, 5 years, 6 Carnock Street

Charles Munro Young, 8 years, 8 Brisbane Street




John Buchanan, carpenter, 6 Carnock Street

Mrs John Buchanan and daughter, same address

Agnes Cummings, 6 years, 12 Springkell Street

A number of others also received injuries, but not of such a nature as to necessitate their detention in the Infirmary.




Mr George Robertson, manager of the Distillery, seen today by our representatives, speaks in high terms of the work of the firemen and all those who co-operated with them. While the fire raged sparks were carried onto the large store in Ingleston Street. The snow boards were ignited, and melted the lead in the gutters. Fortunately this was observed and water was poured on the building. Had this store gone the conflagration would have been a most disastrous one for the East-end of the town, as the enormous quantity of two million gallons of spirits is stocked there.

Mr Townsend, managing director of the Distillery Company, was present throughout the night. The distillery employees were all on duty, and did good work in saving the larger buildings.

During the progress of the fire the district was visited by Provost Anderson, who took an anxious interest in all that was going on, and stood by lending his assistance in directing the work of recovering the dead and injured.

Other members of the Corporation present were Bailie M’Millan, convener of Fire Brigade Committee, Bailie M’Callum, ex Bailie McInnes, Councillor Bennett, as well as Mr Colin MacCulloch (Town Clerk), and Mr A. J. Turnbull, Master of Works.

Today, Mr Postdown, secretary and superintendent of the Salvage Corps, is on the ground.

Superintendent Christie was on the scene all night directing the large staff of police.

It is expected that some of the insurance officials will arrive in town today.

As a spectacular display, the fire at the distillery could not have been better planned had it been arranged as part of a fete. Round the huge natural amphitheatre formed by the high ground at Wellington Bowling Green and grounds, Lynedoch Street Station, High Dellingburn Street, Lynedoch Street, and all the streets, even into the West end, dense masses of people stood watching the flames leaping and dancing high in the air.

Those closer to the building had many occasions for catching their breath. Firemen, made to appear diminutive because of the great heights they daringly scaled, could be seen advancing to extinguish fresh outbreaks and retreating before the intense heat. Sometimes they were in positions of imminent peril.

The bluejackets had their full share of danger. One bold Jack advanced to a ticklish point to tear down a burning window, and unable to return by the way he came some half dozen of his companions reached him on the “living ladder” principle, and he managed to crawl to a place of safety. During this trying operation, as indeed, on many similar ones, the firemen had to ply the hose on the men to keep them from being scorched by the great heat on the roofs.

Some sketches of the ruins will be found on our fourth page today.




4-30 p.m. – There is little new to report in connection with the fires. Springkell Street, the scene of the fatal explosion, is thronged with people, who seem to be attracted by morbid curiosity rather than apprehension of a renewal of the outbreak. This is not to be expected, for the mill is nothing but a blackened ruin, on which a squad of firemen, who seem to have stood their exertions well, are pouring streams of water.

Baker’s brae presents an animated appearance with large numbers of people, dressed and out for the afternoon, ascending, and descending the steep slope, coming and going between the two points of the disaster. A big crowd stands round the entrance to the distillery , but there is little or nothing of interest to reward their patient waiting. A great deal of smoke continues to issue from the ruined store, which, with it’s four or five pinnacles of masonry standing out from the debris presents a striking appearance. Flames spurt out here and there from the smouldering stuff, but there is no chance of danger, a copious stream of water being kept on the place.

A squad of slaters are busy demolishing the dangerous looking bits of the walls, and firemen move about attending to the hose and sprays. A feeling of quietness and desolation pervades the scene, in striking contrast to the appearance of the grounds of the distillery less than twelve hours ago.

The ruins will in all probability continue to smoulder and smoke for a day or two yet.




The following telegram, addressed to the editor of the “Greenock Telegraph,” was received this afternoon:-

“Kindly let me offer my heartfelt sympathy with the bereaved friends of those who perished in last night’s awful calamity. Also with the injured.

                                                                                                “James Reid”


(The Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Monday, 15 June, 1903. Page 2.)




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


 MAIN INDEX                         STRATHCLYDE INDEX                         GREENOCK INDEX