Old Alyth Fire Engine gets a new home

Alyth’s old horse-drawn fire engine has gained a new home thanks to a grant from ADT’s Community Projects Fund.

Classic Restorations Ltd on Pittnacree Street have been the custodians of the original horse-drawn Burgh of Alyth Community Fire Engine for many many years, but it was stored out of the way where nobody could view it.  The £800 grant has enabled Classic Restorations to instal a special “carcoon” – a see-through protective air chamber – in an area of their workshops where it can be easily viewed by residents upon request.

The air chamber will prevent further deterioration of the fire engine until a full restoration plan and costings can be put together.  The air chamber has a small electric fan running at the rear which keeps filtered air moving around the object being stored in it.  Classic Restorations already store a number of classic cars in this way.  Eventually, after restoration, the fire engine would be available for use as a display at future events in the town.  

Graeme Johnstone of Classic Restorations said: “This project will help save part of the town’s heritage from total loss. We do not want to lose the fire engine to a museum in Perth or Dundee. This historical piece of fire-fighting equipment should be kept in the town and available for the community to use and see at local events.  The carcoon will stop further deterioration of the fire engine by preventing any dust/dirt build-up on the engine, and more importantly to prevent moisture affecting the wood and causing it to decay further. 

“If somebody wants to see the fire engine then they can call us on 01828 633293 and as long as social distancing is observed then there’s no problem, the shed is well ventilated and the fire engine is at the door,” he added.

The fire engine was built in 1854 by an Aberdeen shipbuilder and was supplied to David Smith & Sons Jute Mill in Alyth by their insurance company.  The machine was used by the jute mill workers to fight fires in Alyth before there was a dedicated fire-fighting crew.  The last recollection of the fire engine being used was by a man called William White, known locally as London Bill.  It was used when the Post Office went on fire, but the fire engine was of little effect because the fire was in a two-storey building and the pump had no pressure. 

The jute mill closed in 1950 and the fire engine was put into storage. It was found again when Forfar Carpets acquired the building in 1964. The fire engine had been damaged so George Ferguson joiners repaired it.  About 1970 it was re-sprayed so the current paint is not original. The fire engine was frequently loaned out to local fire stations for open days (Perth, Dundee, Arbroath etc.), but the owners insisted that the machine must always be housed in Alyth.  The carpet factory closed and Classic Restorations (Scotland) Ltd owner, Charles Palmer, purchased the building for storage of vehicles being restored. The fire engine was still in the building when Charles acquired it and has been stored there ever since.

If you have a local project that would be of benefit to Alyth and its community, look out for the next round of our Community Projects Fund opening in the autumn.  More details here: https://lovealyth.org.uk/projects/alyth-community-projects-fund/

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