this week, Evening Times reporter Alex Wattie witnessed the moment when seven brave Glasgow firefighters died in the Kilbirnie Street fire.
It happened on Friday, August 25, 1972 and the tragedy will be marked tonight with a commemorative lecture and on Saturday by a service at the Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral. Alex's story, filed back to the office in double-quick time, began: "Seven firemen were killed today when a roof collapsed on them as they fought a blaze in a warehouse at Kingston, Glasgow."
He talks to RUSSELL LEADBETTER about his memories of that day.
I WAS in the Evening Times office in Mitchell Lane. It was the afternoon and I suppose I was thinking about the end of my shift.
A colleague who was listening to the police and fire radios got word of a fire at the Sher warehouse in Kilbirnie Street.
I set out in our radio car – it was a car in which you could 'phone' a story back to the office.
It was a fairly short distance to the South Side, along Eglinton Street.
We arrived at Kilbirnie Street. The car had to park some way away, and I ran towards the blaze.
It was a four-storey warehouse. Sher Brothers, a textile warehouse. I'd seen it often, because I live on the South Side, and passed it most nights on the way home.
It was well alight, and there was a lot of smoke. It was obviously a serious fire, though there were not a lot of flames visible outside. I found out fairly rapidly that all the warehouse staff had been evacuated.
The owner was sitting with his head in his hands in a fire service caravan, saying he had lost everything, but there were no casualties as far as I knew.
So at that time it was a blaze, and it was going to destroy a warehouse. That was it – another Glasgow fire. I went back to the radio car and filed as much as I knew back to the office, then went back to the scene.
I vividly remember, as I watched flames licking along the roof, that that was when the fire broke through.
Less than a minute after that, the whole roof collapsed.
One floor collapsed inwards into the building, and the building imploded.
There were a lot of flames and an awful lot of smoke, but again, that seemed to be it. I rang the office and dictated over another couple of sentences.
My thoughts at this point were that this was a spectacular fire but that there had been no loss of life.
It was a good story for the Evening Times but I didn't think it had the "legs" to carry it over into the national morning papers.
Five minutes after that – it can be no more than that – I was standing keeping an eye on what was happening when a little chap, who had also been watching, nudged me.
He must have identified me as a reporter.
He pointed to the veteran fireman in charge of the board which kept details of the firemen who were issued with breathing apparatus – a time when it was issued, and a time when it must be handed back.
The spectator pointed out the fire brigade officer to me and said: "That man is in shock."
I looked, and yes, the man was in shock, and that was when it occurred to me that something very serious had happened.
There were obviously firemen missing.
Men had been issued with breathing apparatus but had not returned it within the allotted time. And that time had run out.
Five minutes after that we learned that seven firemen were inside the building. There was very little hope that they had survived. It had happened very quickly.
I was able to report to the office, with authority, that seven firemen had died. I rejigged the story very quickly from the radio car. By that time the Deputy Firemaster, Peter McGill, had arrived.
He climbed up a ladder and very solemnly looked down into the building.
He looked at the scene very slowly, then he came back down, and he held a short press conference, at which he confirmed the basic facts.
There were questions from reporters about "tinderbox city" the name many had given to Glasgow in view of the number of fires there.
The Cheapside Street fire had happened only 12 years earlier.
Halfway through the press conference, I had to run back to the radio car and get Mr McGill's opening remarks into the paper. By the time I got back, it was over.
It was then, I suppose, that the horror hit me.
Wives from the fire station – at that time they lived quite near the station – had arrived, with the fire service chaplain.
It had all happened very quickly. The entire sequence, from me sitting in the newsroom to the end, would be between 45 minutes and an hour. That was all. It happened so very, very quickly.
I HAD no names at that time of the seven firemen who died.
I did not know until afterwards, but I had seen seven men die when the building collapsed. I think that it why the incident has remained so vividly with me over 40 years. It isn't often that reporters witness something on this scale.
I have seen a Russian Mig-29 jet crash at the Paris Air Show, in 1989, but that memory has not remained with me as much as Kilbirnie Street has.
And it happened in Glasgow, too, of course, which just brought it home more.
n Tonight's lecture is at Bute Hall, Glasgow University at 7.15pm