A Sad Day For The Preservation Group
Destruction On The M8
Saturday July 17th is a date Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Preservation Group will always remember.
After a successful day at the second Paisley Festival of Fire on that day in 2010, our 110-year-old Merryweather Gem Steam Fire Pump was being transported on a trailer back to its temporary home at the Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Training Centre in Glasgow.
During the trip, the towing vehicle and trailer jacknifed and the trailer overturned, dislodging the Steam Fire Pump, which ended up in a tangle of brass, iron and wood in the centre lane of the busy M8 motorway.
Thankfully, no one was injured, but damage to the Merryweather Gem was substantial and everyone at the scene feared we had lost an irreplaceable item of Scottish Fire Service History.
After Strathclyde Police and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Fleet Services attended the scene, the shattered remains of the pump were lifted by the recovery team and taken to Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Workshops in Glasgow.
The Full Extent Of The Damage
Is It Lost Forever?
After several meetings, involving long in depth discussions about the future of the Gem Pump and after several visits by specialist trade representatives to view the damaged steamer, the consensus of many people was that this was indeed a lost cause.
That feeling was also reflected by the museums we contacted, our insurance company and even other preservation groups were of the view that such a huge restoration job was simply not viable. All the recommendations we received suggested that we should simply just scrap this now sad and battered steam pump.
The Group however, were determined that this suggested outcome was not going to be the fate of the Merryweather Gem and a few weeks later, a glimmer of hope did indeed appear on the horizon.
Ian Grant, of Fife Wheelwrights, travelled to Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Workshops to view and give an appraisal of the Pumps future
Despite all the preceding negative comments by others, Ian was of a much different opinion and informed the group that it could be done. The fact that this was job was to become the biggest restoration job on a fire appliance such as this did not daunt Ian in the slightest. Ian was confident that the job was indeed viable and he was equally confident that his team could do the old steamer (or the Old Lady as described by Ian), justice and return it back to its condition prior to the accident.
Ian’s first job was to make a new rear carriage wheel, which would then get the pump mobile again, allowing him to transport it to his premises in Pitscottie.
Ian manufactured the new wheel in under three days and travelled back to the Glasgow workshops. The new wheel fitted perfectly. The tangled wreck of the Merryweather Gem was then loaded on to Ian’s trailer and transported through to Pitscottie where the restoration work could really begin.
So Many Said It Was Not Possible
Ian and his team worked on this mammoth restoration for some eight weeks, and during that time, members of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Heritage Trust visited Ian’s premises to see how the work was progressing. They were in awe at the standard of Ian¹s work and knew then that this “fine old lady” would soon be returned back to pristine condition.
Time passed and on Monday February 28 2011, the restored and fabulous looking Merryweather Gem returned to Glasgow
It was wondrous to see Ian drive in to the workshops yard with the Gem on his trailer. There for its return, on a beautiful sunny day, were members of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Heritage Trust, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and many general onlookers. Such was the interest shown in the fate of the Steamer, that the media was also present
After interviews and many pictures being taken, the Gem was carefully unloaded and moved back into its home in the training centre.
It Was Indeed Possible
After much debate, it has been decided the Merryweather Gem will make just a few outings to specially selected events in the future. It was also recommended that if the proposed Museum of Fire in Greenock gets the go ahead, then that would make an ideal permanent home for this wonderful piece of Scottish Fire Service History.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Heritage Trust wish to express their thanks for the many messages of support received after the steamer incident last year, through to its return home in February. We would also like to thank Ian Grant and his team for the fantastic craftsmanship they carried out on the Gem and for bringing back to life this magnificent example of a Merryweather “Gem” Steam Fire Pump.