The Cheapside Street Disaster - March 28th - 1960

Messrs Arbuckle Smith Before The Fire The Cheapside Area Before The Disaster

That address may not ring a bell in the minds of the younger generation, unless they have family or friends linked to the Glasgow Fire Service or the Glasgow Salvage Corps of the 1960’s.

For Glasgow’s older generation however, the street name is synonymous with one particular day in Glasgow’s history. In fact, March 28, 1960, is deeply etched in many a Glaswegian's memory.

At approximately 7.15pm, on that day, a 999 call was made by George Pinkstone, who was working nearby, stating he could see smoke coming from the second storey of a building at 83 Cheapside Street. This turned out to be the premises of a Messrs Arbuckle Smith and Co Ltd, within which was stored some one million gallons of proof whisky and a further 31,100 gallons of rum, both in vats and barrels.

In under three minutes from receipt of the call to the Area Control Room, the first appliances from Glasgow’s West and Central Fire Stations reached the scene.

Meanwhile, the Fire Boat St. Mungo was making its way from the Marine Fire Station at Yorkhill Quay to supply water lifted from the Clyde to the fire appliances if it was required

The St. Mungo could draw water from the River Clyde at the rate of 32 tons per minute using its two, 3000 gallon per minute, four-stage turbine pumps, driven by Rustman Paxman diesel engines. At the height of the inferno, some 31 lines of hose were used, supplying the fire appliances at the scene.

Nobody could begin to imagine the chain of events that would now unfold over the next 12 hours and beyond