1949 Springwell Crescent Fire


screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-12-05-43A bricklayer, Frank Dunsmuir (27), was the hero of a fire which broke out in the early hours in the morning of Wednesday 28th December 1949 in his father’s home at 29 Springwell Crescent Blantyre.

The house, which still exists today is a four-apartment upstairs dwelling, that time in the county council housing scheme. The occupier was Mr Hugh Dunsmuir, a 61-year-old retired miner , and also living there was his wife, his son , Frank ; a married daughter, Mrs Mary Penman; and two grandchildren, 11 year-old May Lloyd and 15-year old John Fullarton.

All of the occupants of the house were sleeping in adjoining bedrooms when the raging fire, which almost gutted the entire house, broke out in the living-room, and they had to escape in their night attire.

Frank Dunsmuir was awakened by the smell of smoke. When he got out of bed and went to the door of the livingroom he was met by a burst of smoke and flames. He immediately raised the alarm.

By this time the flames had secured such a strong hold on the house that the occupants had to move quickly to reach safety. Frank, with some difficulty, managed to get to his father, who has been in ill-health for some time taking him downstairs, then returned to the bedroom occupied by his mother. Shielding his mother from the flames with his own body, he made haste towards the door and she was removed to safety outside.

Despite the fact that the house and stairwell by this time was well alight, he went upstairs again to get his married sister , Mrs Penman, to safety, but when he entered the bedroom occupied by her he was almost overcome by smoke and could not hear anything when he called for her. The room was filled with smoke, so much the walls inside could not be seen.  He put his arm through a glass window to make an outlet for some of the smoke, his arm immediately bleeding being badly cut.

As onlookers poured out into the street and called the fire brigade, Frank heard from below that his sister was already safe, and had been rescued from another room. With the smoke clearing enough from the room temporarily, he saw his way back to the stairwell and made his way outside to safety, burned and bleeding.

The fire brigade managed to prevent the flames from spreading to the other three houses in the block. The six people who had been living in the burned-out house were left with only their night attire but neighbours and the community of Springwells came to their assistance that night, providing them with food and shelter.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c)

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