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The History of Edinburgh Fire Brigade
The Oldest Municipal Brigade in Britain by Alexander Reid

I'd like to thank the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service for letting us provide a copy of their 150th anniversary brochure on the History of Edinburgh Fire Brigade. You can visit their web site at

Here is the Foreword by the Firemaster...

This booklet is published to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the establishment of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade, thought to be the oldest Municipal Fire Brigade in the world.

In those far-off days of 1824, fire was a frequent visitor in the highly congested areas of the old part of the City. In the early part of the nineteenth century many of Edinburgh's citizens lived in the high multi-storeyed "lands" and outbreaks of fire spread with alarming rapidity exacting a heavy toll in life and property. The existing- and very primitive-fire-fighting arrangements were often found to be quite inadequate and, following a series of disastrous fires, the City Fathers decided that the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their citizens should rest with the Council. Thus was formed the City Fire Brigade under the command and guidance of James Braidwood, a young man of courage and vision who laid foundations and principles which are respected and admired to the present day.

This booklet compares the fire-fighting services which have existed throughout Britain since Roman times and in tracing the history of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade it highlights the technical advances which have been so necessary to keep abreast of developments in building, commerce and industry. The history of the Brigade is also of course the history of Edinburgh and there were many incidents which are now part of our City's tradition; the bravery of young John Geddes in the "Heave Awa" Close; the sordid activities of Burke and Hare; the muck creels carried by the early Council Firemen and the fights which often broke out between the rival Insurance Brigades. These and many more make up the history of our Brigade and our City.

Uncontrolled fire is today - as it was in 1824 - still one of man's greatest enemies; one which takes its annual toll of life and causes very high economic loss to the community. Now as then it is important that every member of our community plays his or her part in reducing this very serious hazard. The high ideals and spirit of inventiveness established by James Braidwood have been continued and expanded over the years and today the South-Eastern Fire Brigade, successor to the Edinburgh Fire Brigade, is justly proud of the position it holds.

Whilst technical advances in appliances and equipment are a necessary part of any Fire Brigade, it is the men who man the appliances and use this equipment who are most important. It is to these officers and men of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade, who throughout the years have contributed so much to the safety of the community, that we pay tribute in this booklet for their dedication, loyalty and devoted service.

The proceeds from the sale of this booklet will be donated to the fire Services National Benevolent Fund- a Fund set up to alleviate suffering and hardship of those firemen, and their families, who became casualties in the service of the community. The Fund was founded during the Second World War period and the then Commandant of the Auxiliary Fire Service in Edinburgh, Sir Andrew Murray, was appointed its President. I would therefore thank all purchasers of the booklet for their donation to a most worthy cause .

James Anderson, F.I.FIRE.E., (Firemaster)

You can download the brochure as a pdf file here! (5.1Mb)

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