Maryhill Road Fire – Glasgow, 18th November 1972
In 1972, as a 19-year-old Recruit Fireman with only a few months “under my belt” I was to witness a fire that took the life of a family friend, Alice “Trixi” Mulgrew and unbelievably the 8th Glasgow Fire Service fireman killed on duty in the space of only 11 weeks – Sub Officer Adrian McGill.
The “Maryhill Road Fire” was one of those defining moments in a fire brigade’s history that although never to make national news, was to prove to be an incident demanding levels of effort and courage beyond what would be considered “normal day-to-day” requirements of a Glasgow fireman.
For many Glaswegians the events of that crisp winter afternoon in 1972 are as vivid today as they were thirty-six years ago, they certainly are for me.
The History of the Building
Maryhill Road was and still remains one of the main arterial routes into the City of Glasgow since the 1700’s. The growth of the area was principally due to industry and communities springing up along its route, which in turn required increasing numbers of buildings for housing down its entire length. The inhabitants of Maryhill were principally working classes; many descended from immigrant Irish labourers or Highland Scots brought in to work on the fields, in the mills, or in later years to construct the Forth & Clyde Canal. Generation after generation of families and owners lived and worked in these buildings, many standing well over a hundred years and most with the minimum of on-going maintenance.
Scheduled for demolition during Glasgow’s sweeping reconstruction period of the late 1960’s & early 1970’s, the whole area of St Georges Cross, located at the city end of Maryhill Road somehow managed to survive the town planners and bulldozers, even though many of the buildings were below the then accepted standard of adequate living conditions.
Description of Surrounding Area & Layout of Building
The part of Maryhill Road where the incident took place was close to the busy 5-road junction of St Georges Cross, one of the city’s main “West End” intersections. This junction was formed by Maryhill Road, Gt. Western Rd, New City Road and St George’s Rd (intersected itself into 2 parts by St George’s Cross).
The range of buildings where the fire occurred was originally constructed in 1842, forming a “V” shaped section of the St. George’s Cross junction. In 1875, structural alterations extended the frontages of the shops forming the ground floor on Maryhill Road out beyond the original building line. Subsequent post-fire investigations were to reveal that the Victorian construction methods and materials used not only created difficult fire fighting conditions, but the later 1875 alterations also aided the spread of fire with catastrophic consequences.