Destructive Fire at Linlithgow Oil Works, 1899

type: Safety - fires

The Falkirk Herald
Unique Code:
Source date:
Related places:
Related people:

Destructive Fire at Linlithgow Oil Works

Five Men Injured - Plant and Property Damaged

Shortly after ten o'clock on Saturday night an alarming fire broke out at the works of the Linlithgow Oil Company, which are situated on the Champfleurie estate, some distance to the east of Linlithgow. The fire originated in the paraffin sheds, an important department of the works.

Owing to the inflammable nature of the material treated in these premises, it was seen to be practically impossible to do anything towards extinguishing the flames. The alarm horn had brought large numbers of the employees from their homes at Bridgend and Champfleurie, and strenuous efforts were put forth to check the spread of the fire. The saving of the paraffin shed being hopeless, Mr Beveridge, the manager, directed the men engaged at the hose to concentrate their efforts in saving of the adjoining buildings. In this they were successful, and fortunately there was little or no wind blowing at the time, and rain was falling. Immediately adjoining the paraffin sheds – which are in themselves extensive – are the premises containing freezing machine and other plant used for cooling the paraffin and another house in which there was a large quantity of candles.

Had the outbreak spread to those apartments the consequences would have been still more serious, and it would have been impossible to have saved what is perhaps the most important department of all, viz., the refinery. As it was the greatest apprehension prevailed, and with the aid of the works' hose and a plentiful supply of water everything was done to confine the fire to the one particular area where it originated.

About half an hour after the outbreak a number of workmen were employed in breaking up a connection between the candle-house and paraffin departments, and while doing so the scaffolding and a number of steam pipes, together with the gable of an adjoining building collapsed and fell with a crash upon five of the workmen, whose names are David Smart, Terence Heggie, Mark Lothian, Alex Orr, and Charles Heggie. These men were more or less seriously injured. In the case of Smart it was found that he had sustained a severe fracture of the skull, and his right leg was broken. Smart and Terrence Heggie were buried in the debris, and the latter had his head cut and bruised, and he sustained severe internal injuries. Lothian was crushed about the legs, and Orr and Charles Heggie were injured about the hands, which were badly lacerated, and in their case it is feared that some of the fingers may have to be amputated. Dr Mackenzie, the works' surgeon, was in attendance on the injured men immediately after the accident. The last named two were removed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Owing to the inflammable nature of the products manufactured in the premises, it was found that nothing could be done to extinguish the flames, so that the fire practically burned itself out five hours after the outbreak was discovered. Very considerable damage has been done, amounting, it is thought to over £2000. It is believed to be covered by insurance. It is feared that the whole of the refining portion of the works will require to be stopped for some time to permit of the paraffin sheds being reconstructed. The cause of the outbreak is unknown.

The works were established some 15 years ago. Another account states that Mr Beveridge, the manager of the works, while making his usual visit to the works on Saturday night, called at the paraffin sheds about nine o'clock, and found everything in order. About half past ten he was visiting on the north side of the works, when he observed smoke rising from the vicinity of the paraffin sheds. At first Mr Beveridge thought it might be steam blowing off, but a few minutes afterwards he noticed flames rising, and apprehending that fire had broken out, he sounded the fire horn, and thereafter proceeded with all haste to the paraffin sheds, which he found ablaze. By this time the roof had fallen in, and the whole place was in flames. Large numbers of the workmen had assembled in response to the alarm, and Mr Beveridge arranged the men with the fire-hose around the building, and by this prompt action, they succeeded in confining the fire to the paraffin sheds. The whole building, however, with the plant and products therein, was completely destroyed. So far, no information can be obtained as to how or in what way the fire had originated. The damage has been estimated at about £2000, and is covered by insurance. The outbreak and the destruction it has occasioned has been generally regretted, but, at the same time, there is reason to feel thankful that the consequences were not worse, as they might have been had the fire spread to other departments.

ONE FATALITY. One sad sequence of the fire has been the death of David Smart, retort foreman, who succumbed to his injuries on Monday night. As stated above, Smart was one of the men injured by the collapse of a gangway and gable while was the fire was raging furiously. The deceased, who was a native of Fifeshire, had sustained a severe fracture across the vault of the skull by being struck by falling brick. So serious had been his injuries that from the first little hope was entertained of his recovery. He leaves a widow and six of a family. Two of the other men, Alex Orr and Charles Heggie, have had – the one a finger and the other part of the fingers of one of the hands amputated. Dr Mackenzie, the works surgeon, has been in constant attendance on the injured, who are going on satisfactorily. It is needless to say that the occurrence has occasioned much regret and sympathy in the whole district. Owing to the circumstances, and particularly as a mark of sympathy for the family and relatives of the deceased David Smart, the entertainment which was to have been given in Kingscavil Church has been postponed to Friday, 26th curt. The funeral of David Smart took place to Linlithgow Cemetery on Thursday, and was attended by the manager and officials and the employees generally. There were also a number of mourning coaches. As the cortege wended its way to the cemetery manifestations of sympathy and sorrow were general.

The Falkirk Herald, 20th May 1899