Family of fire pioneer voices anger over museum closure

Vanessa Braidwood during a visit to the musuem. Picture; Neil Hanna

Vanessa Braidwood during a visit to the musuem. Picture; Neil Hanna

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RELATIVES of James Braidwood, the man who founded the world’s first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh, today condemned the decision to close the city museum which honours his memory.

Vanessa Braidwood, great-great-granddaughter of the fire pioneer, said the closure of the Museum of Fire at Lauriston Place was “shocking” and “a total disregard of history”.

James Braidwood established the Edinburgh fire brigade in 1824 and the museum included many artefacts dating back to that time.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) announced a few weeks ago it was selling the former Central Fire Station, where the museum was based, to Edinburgh University and would hand over the premises at the start of next year.

But at short notice the SFRS decided the museum would shut its doors for the last time on Friday last week with handover to the university scheduled for next month.

The exhibits – including a unique collection of vintage fire engines – are due to go into storage in Falkirk ahead of being relocated to a revamped area of McDonald Road fire station off Leith Walk.

Campaigners fighting to keep the museum at Lauriston Place appealed in vain to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to intervene and halt the sale of what is the last example of an original Victorian fire station in the UK.

Ms Braidwood said: “I’m really sad. I cannot believe the disregard for history.

“And to close it just like that is terrible. They could have had a ceremony or something.

“It makes you wonder if the exhibits will ever come out of storage again.

“Will people ever be able to enjoy learning about this important part of Edinburgh’s history again?”

And another Braidwood descendant, Murray Braidwood-Webster, 70, who lives in Clermiston, said he was “very angry” at the closure.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon did nothing to help. She did nothing whatsoever. She has been a total let-down.

“I’m very proud of my connection and I’ve been to the museum numerous times. It was a wonderful place, with the stables and everything.

“The fire brigade said they needed the money because of government cutbacks. They could have sold the upstairs to the university – they didn’t need to sell the bit where the museum was downstairs.”

Lothian Tory MSP Gordon Lindhurst said he was shocked at the suddenness of the closure and warned the storage of artefacts in Falkirk must not become permanent.

He added: “I feel for the volunteers who have put so much of their own efforts into running the museum, only to see it shut down so quickly, without the opportunity for any ceremony to mark the event.

“I hope the SFRS will now properly engage with the volunteers to ensure the move to McDonald Road takes place with as much effort as that taken to close Lauriston Place.

“We must avoid a situation where a temporary facility becomes a permanent one, and I will be pressing the SFRS on this point.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com