Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire: campaigners fight closure threat

Lauriston Place Station officer Jeff Douce and Sub Officer Ray Brunton in the fire museum on the first day of opening following the refurbishment to the building. Picture: Neil Hanna

Lauriston Place Station officer Jeff Douce and Sub Officer Ray Brunton in the fire museum on the first day of opening following the refurbishment to the building. Picture: Neil Hanna

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A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire, which faces the axe under cost-cutting moves.

The museum – which celebrates the Capital’s role as home of the first municipal fire brigade in Europe – is based at the former fire station at Lauriston.

The Fire Service Museum. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Fire Service Museum. Picture: Neil Hanna

Fire bosses want to sell off the site as part of the rationalisation plans following the move to a single Scotland-wide fire service.

The museum displays a unique collection of vintage fire engines and fire-fighting equipment from 1426 to the present day and charts the history of the Edinburgh brigade founded by pioneer James Braidwood in 1824.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) insists the collection will be preserved and relocated, but volunteers who run the museum fear for its future.

George Gray, a volunteer guide and retired part-time office-in-charge at Linlithgow Fire Station, said the museum had received no financial support from the SFRS, which had also allowed its accreditation with Museums and Galleries Scotland to lapse and failed to pursue recognition as a collection of national significance, which would have given it access to lottery funding.

There is so much potential for the place, but unless we do something now we will lose it.

Keith Richardson

Mr Gray said the museum – which is funded by donations from visitors – was a place of pilgrimage for firefighters from all over the world but was not widely known here.

“It’s better known in fire service circles around the world than it is to the citizens of Edinburgh,” he said.

“We don’t publicise it much because the volunteers couldn’t cope if we got hundreds of people coming in.”

The museum does attract more than 1000 visitors a day on the annual Doors Open Days weekends, when extra help is brought in.

James Braidwood, who created Edinburgh's first municipal fire brigade. Picture: David Moir

James Braidwood, who created Edinburgh's first municipal fire brigade. Picture: David Moir

The rest of the time, seven volunteers try to keep it open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, for guided tours.

A petition to save the museum has attracted more than 2000 signatures. It calls for the Lauriston building – built in 1900 as the Central Fire Engine Station of Edinburgh Fire Brigade – to be developed as a world-class Scottish National Museum of Fire.

Former firefighter Keith Richardson, who is also involved in the campaign, said the Lauriston building offered lots of scope. “You could expand it into something a lot bigger and better and make it into something special. You could even have a themed restaurant.

“There is so much potential for the place, but unless we do something now we will lose it.”

The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

The SFRS insisted it was committed to finding the museum a new home.

Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, chair of the SFRS heritage committee, said: “The Museum of Fire will continue and the contents of the museum will be protected and relocated in Edinburgh. We are currently in the process of considering our assets and examining opportunities to secure a new and prominent place where they can continue to be exhibited, preserved and enjoyed by the public and past and present members of the fire and rescue community.

“The heritage and history of fire and rescue in Scotland is of extreme importance to the Service. This has been reiterated on many occasions by the Chief Officer.”

The petition can be viewed online at www.change.org

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com

The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna