During the Second World War,
Glasgow, with its shipyards and cargo handling capabilities,
became a prime target for enemy aircraft. With the shipyards
out of action and the port destroyed this could have seriously
affected the war effort.
an even greater burden on Glasgow Fire Brigade. To help
counter this threat, an agreement was reached between the
Scottish Home Department and the Clyde Navigation Trust,
to form a Marine Division of the Fire Brigade, which was
to be based at Yorkhill Quay. Two
fireboats specially designed for use on both river and estuary
, were commissioned. Each boat had twin screws and were
equipped with four heavy Leyland pumps.
In the 1950’s The
River Clyde was one of the busiest shipbuilding centres
in the world. Shipping companies were replacing war loses
with new tonnage and many of the contracts were placed with
the Clydeside yards. John Browns, Fairfields , Barclay
Curle, Stephen’s of Linthouse and many others benefited
from the shipbuilding boom.
There was now only
one fireboat in operation, the other having been withdrawn
in 1951 and subsequently scrapped. A replacement was now
planned and the order to build the new fireboat was placed
with the Renfrew shipbuilding firm of Hugh McLean &
The vessel to
be named St.Mungo was launched on 21st May 1959
by Mrs Galpern wife of the Lord Provost. The new Fireboat
slid down the ways to the tune of ‘The
Skye Boat Song’ played by two members
of the Glasgow Fire Service pipe band.
St. Mungo was powered by two eight cylinder Glenifer diesel
engines rated at 160BHP at 900rpm giving the vessel a service
speed of 9 knots. A further 2 knots could be achieved by
engaging all four engines and turning the deck monitors
The fire fighting
and salvage equipment consisted of two independent 4 stage
turbine pumps, each driven by a Paxman 12 cylinder diesel
engine developing 400BHP
at 1,000rpm, each pump had having a capacity of 2,800 gallons
per minute on fire fighting duties and 3,000 gpm for salvage
duties. The pumps served the six monitors, two of which
were located on the foredeck and the other four on a platform
aft of the wheelhouse. Four five way deliveries were fitted
on the deck (two on either side fore and aft) which meant
that up to 20 feeds could be taken to supply water to shore
based appliances. In order to avoid confusion, a system
of tallies was used to identify which individual delivery
was providing water to which appliance.
This system however
failed on one occasion during a multi pump fire, when a
redundant delivery with no marking was connected into the
inlet of the Canteen Unit. It was only after some of the
personnel began to feel unwell that it was discovered that
the water feeding the Canteen Unit had come directly from
the St Mungo.
was provided by a 27hp diesel engine driving a 4kw generator;
this was also coupled to a 350gpm fire pump, which provided
water for foam generators. A six-inch suction coupling enabled
the St.Mungo to be used for marine salvage work. The main
suction inlets for the fire pumps were located on the bottom
of the vessel on both the port and starboard sides. The
inlets could be flushed from inside the strum boxes using
high-pressure water jets. The aim of this operation was
to prevent the inlets from becoming choked. On many occasions
small eels or elvers were found to be in residence in the
The engines were
controlled by means of telegraph from the wheelhouse, this
was replaced in November 1972 to enable full control from
Many of the personnel
of the Marine as it was known, had been at sea before joining
the Fire Brigade and most of those sea faring firemen had
their roots in the highlands and islands of Scotland. I
remember on several occasions being detached to the Fireboat
only to find they spoke a language totally foreign to me.
By the mid seventies,
shipbuilding on the Clyde was in decline. Many yards had
closed, perhaps as a result of cheaper building costs in
the Far East and a failure to invest in new shipbuilding
techniques and practises. The Port of Glasgow had also seen
a reduction in tonnage being unloaded. Queens Dock, Princes
Dock, Terminus Quay Plantation Quay and others had all closed.
St. Mungo was now seen as an unnecessary and costly facility.
After regionalization in 1975 the new Strathclyde Fire Brigade
decided that there was no need for a fireboat and the St.Mungo
was put up for sale. The Marine Fire Station at Yorkhill
Quay was closed and the personnel transferred to A7 West.
The St.Mungo was moved to a lay up berth at the Broomielaw
near the King George V Bridge. In 1978 she was bought by
Offshore Workboats Limited who stripped her of many of her
deck fittings and converted her for a new role as an offshore
tender. The last reported sighting of the St.Mungo was in
Dundee near to the Frigate H.M.S.Unicorn.
The passing of
the St.Mungo closed a chapter on marine fire fighting on
the River Clyde. Harbour tugs fitted with fire fighting
platforms and large capacity dual-purpose monitors now
provide this facility.