Sommerville Oil Works Fire

On Tuesday 22nd July 1913, fire filled the air at the bottom of Forrest Street, with plumes of smoke and flame that could be seen from High Blantyre.

That afternoon, the former oil refining works belonging to Messrs William Sommerville and Sons and situated at the bottom of Forrest Street. Blantyre, was destroyed by fire.

The works had been closed for the holidays, and a boy, who was the only person in charge, had left everything intact when he locked up the premises at the dinner hour. During the lad’s absence smoke was observed issuing from the building, followed shortly afterwards by growing flames.

The Bellshill and Cambuslang divisions of the Lanarkshire, County Fire Brigade were summoned to the scene, but were considerably hampered by the fact that the water had to be brought from the hydrants in the main street, fully a quarter of a mile distant at Glasgow Road.

Two rows of workmen’s houses sat adjacent to the oil works, and the occupants of these dwellings which were immediately threatened removed their furniture on to the street in fear of losing their homes. Working with two engines and a tender the firemen stretched superhuman efforts to confine the fire to the works, which owing to the flammable nature of the material in the stores, was a task of mach difficulty.

With the exception of two of the dwelling houses which were damaged more by water than by fire, the brigade succeeded in restricting the fire. The estimate was determined at several thousand pounds, a figure of around half a million pounds in todays money.

The oil works is pictured from above at the bottom of Forrest Street in 1950. The picture is a good indication of how close the workmen’s houses were to the refinery.

Leave a Reply