Fire at Linlinlithgow Oil Works

type: Safety - fires

Linlithgowshire Gazette
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As a sequel to the disastrous tire which recently occurred at the paraffin sheds of the Linlithgow Oil Works, a public inquiry under the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act was held before Sheriff-Substitute and a jury in the Sheriff Court-House on Wednesday. The inquiry was connection with the death of David Smart, retort foreman, who met with fatal injuries while attending at the extinguishing of the fire which occurred at the Linlithgow Oil Works on the night of the 13th May, and by which the paraffin sheds were destroyed. As reported in our columns at the time, Smart met his death by the collapse of a gangway of platform, he having been struck on the head with some bricks, and had his skull fractured and his leg broken.

The first witness was Mr Beveridge, the works manager, who described the situation in the paraffin sheds, and the operations carried out for the extinguishing of the fire the night in question. He was on the west side, and under it were section of pipes. An oil tank was quite close by, and when the fire occurred he did all he could to prevent the fire extending to those tanks. When the fire occurred he was at the north side the works, and once ordered the fire horn to blown. It was an understood thing in the works that firemen, on hearing that horn, were supposed to turn out. The foremen were just the works fire brigade, they had a printed rule to that effect. The fire spread rapidly, and in a very short time the shed was practically doomed, and what he tried was to confine the fire within the four walls. He never observed the gangway burning, but no doubt it would be saturated with oil, and would burn very quickly. They got one line of hose into order at the north side corner. He left to get a second line prepared, and it was while he was away doing this that the gangway in question collapsed. There was great heat, which had expanded the wall and twisted the line of shafting connected with the gable. That of course would account for its falling. He observed this, and warned the men standing about before he left to get the second line of hose into order to keep away from the gable, but by the time got back it had collapsed. His opinion was that Smart had just rushed in without thinking and without knowing the danger, with the view of rendering what assistance he could, and that had only been there a minute or two when the wall gave way, inflicting upon him injuries to which had succumbed on the following Monday.

The other witnesses examined wore Terrence Heggie, oversman; John Todd, labourer; Mark Lothian, retortman; and David Johnston, retortman, the latter being brother-in-law of the deceased. At the conclusion of the evidence, the Sheriff said that David Smart and the men who were working with him the night of this fire might have been mistaken in trying to save this gangway, but if they were mistaken, they were mistaken loyally in doing their utmost save their masters’ property, unless, as Mr Beveridge, the manager, had said, it was as much Smart’s duty to answer the fire alarm as to be at his work at six o’clock the next morning. If that was not so, they had no jurisdiction in holding this inquiry, because they had only jurisdiction of inquiry into accidents happening to those in following their employment. Mr Beveridge, however, said that hearing the horn Smart considered it as much his duty to obey that horn it would have been to attend his work next morning. This of course was to some extent contradicted the evidence of Terrence Heggie, but Mr Beveridge had said that it was in accordance with the printed rules, and therefore they must take it that was following his employment.

The jury found that death was due to a fracture of the skull due to a quantity of bricks falling upon deceased from the gable gangway when it collapsed on the night the fire.

Linlithgowshire Gazette - 10th June 1899