Fireman William Rourke died of a heart attack at a fire in Saltcoats on the 29th July, 1955.




Fireman William Rourke, 29 Boydstone Road, Ardrossan, collapsed and died yesterday during a fire which destroyed part of Pringle’s garage and a school block in Saltcoats. The fire began in the garage and was discovered about 3 p.m. Soon the tarred roof of the building was ablaze. Thirteen cars, including 3 taxis, were destroyed, but the garage staff and volunteer drivers saved many other cars and two ambulances.

Ardrossan Fire Brigade assisted, by appliances and men from Kilmarnock and Irvine, sprayed the roof of the buildings in Kyleshill School (which adjoins the garage) with water to prevent the flames from spreading and they successfully dealt with an outbreak in the roof of the block nearest the garage. A block containing nine rooms, which was further away, also caught fire, however, and this building was destroyed.

The fireman who died was operating a pump when he complained of feeling unwell and collapsed.

(Picture on page 9)

(The Glasgow Herald, Saturday, July 30, 1955. Page 7.)



<PHOTO> The ruins of part of a garage which, along with a school block, was destroyed by fire yesterday in Saltcoats. A fireman collapsed and died during the blaze. Thirteen motor cars were burnt out.

(The Glasgow Herald, Saturday, July 30, 1955. Page 9.)





Pringle’s garage and Kyleshill School Gutted




<PHOTO> The school blaze.

<PHOTO> The gutted garage.

On Friday afternoon the burgh of Saltcoats experienced one of the most disastrous outbreaks of fire in the history of the town. It resulted in the major portion of a garage being burned out, with the loss of eleven cars and two motor lorries, the gutting of the main building of Kyleshill School, and the death of a fireman in the ambulance on the way to hospital, after having been overcome by illness.

The outbreak originated in the garage of Messrs Pringle in Glencairn Street and when the local fire brigade arrived on the scene, they found that the flames had secured a firm hold. Reinforcements were at once called for and before the firemen found it possible to relax their efforts the brigades of Irvine and Kilmarnock were giving their Ardrossan comrades much needed assistance in their arduous task.

14 Vehicles Salvaged – 13 Burned Out

When the fire was discovered tremendous efforts were made by Mr Smith, the manager of Messrs Pringle’s, and a number of willing helpers to salvage the cars garaged in the firm’s premises and although their efforts in this direction resulted in fourteen vehicles being removed to safety, no fewer than eleven cars and two motor lorries were burned out. Amongst the vehicles salvaged was the ambulance in which later in the afternoon a fireman, who had been overcome by illness, was conveyed to hospital.

The flames burned fiercely and dense volumes of heavy black smoke rose high into the air and were observed over a wide radius. Soon it became apparent that it would be impossible to save the major part of the garage premises but fortunately the part facing Raise Street did not become affected owing no doubt to the fact that the breeze was carrying the flames and pieces of burning material in the opposite direction. The adjoining bakery of Mr M. Elliot had a miraculous escape from damage.

When the fire in Messrs Pringle’s premises was at its worse one of the local firemen, William Rourke, who resided at 29 Boydston Road, Ardrossan, was overcome by illness. He was at once placed in the ambulance and was being taken to hospital but he died on the journey.

Fire Spreads to Kyleshill School.

After a long and strenuous battle the firemen were beginning to see the results of their efforts on Messrs Pringle’s premises when volumes of smoke were observed issuing from the roof of the main part of Kyleshill School, comprising nine classrooms which, while the school was in session housed some 500 pupils. Soon it was observed that the interior of the building was a perfect inferno. Firemen smashed the school windows in order to allow them to play their hoses effectively. Flames shot through the windows high into the air and the heavy smoke soon affected the eyes of anyone of the large crowd which had gathered who ventured too near. An occasional rumble indicated that the interior of the school was gradually collapsing and soon all that was left standing were the sturdy stone walls.

The County Council Clerk of Works for the area, Mr Borland, stood in the playground, a forlorn figure gazing on the rapid consuming of an important building in which he had more than a passing interest, and there was nothing he could do to assist the firemen in their work.

Soon it was evident that the main building, which was erected by Stevenson School Board in 1885 was doomed but fortunately the firemen succeeded in saving the part of the school premises which was added at a later date and which up to the summer holidays had housed the qualifying pupils.

Included in the large crowd which had been drawn to the scene of the fire were many former pupils of Kyleshill and elderly women standing around were in tears as they witnessed the flames steadily and relentlessly reduce to ashes the school in which they had spent many happy days of their early life.

Dwelling Houses Threatened.

For a time the dwelling houses in Nineyard Street, facing the school, gave the firemen some little concern. There was danger in the burning material being carried by the breeze in this direction and as a precaution the roofs of the houses had a number of hoses playing on them for a time. Houses in Raise Street and Glencairn Street also received the attention of the firemen. As a precautionary measure it was deemed advisable to ask the tenants of two houses, Kerelaw Cottages, which lie in a hollow between the garage and the school to evacuate themselves. The tenants Mr and Mrs J. McDonald and Mr and Mrs J. McLellan, spent the afternoon in the vicinity of the fire and in the early evening they were given the all clear and were able to return to their homes which fortunately escaped damage.

While the fire in the school was at its height one of the firemen was temporarily overcome but after a few minutes in the fresh air was able to rejoin his mates. By 6 o’clock all danger so far as the garage was concerned was over but it was an hour later before any relaxation of effort could be thought of as regards Kyleshill School.

Until a late hour on Friday night and also all day on Saturday and Sunday the scene of the fire drew large crowds of interested spectators but they were prevented by the police from approaching the shell of what for seventy years had been Kyleshill School.

The Man Who Died

<PHOTO> of William Rourke

Photo is of Mr William Rourke, aged 29, who was overcome by illness while attending the pumps, and who died in the ambulance on his way to hospital. Divisional Officer Mr H. Hume informed the Press that sometime before he collapsed, Rourke had complained to bystanders of a headache. He belonged to Saltcoats and is survived by his widow who before her marriage four years ago was Miss Betty McNay and for a time was a member of the staff at Springvale Nursery School. To her the sympathy of the entire community has gone out in the hour of her tragic bereavement. It is a pathetic circumstance that in June, 1937, Mrs Rourke’s father was killed in an explosion at Ardeer Factory.

The late Mr Rourke was a permanent member of the Ardrossan section of the Fire Brigade. He possessed a genial personality and was popular with all his workmates.





Many Outward Expressions of Sympathy


Amid many outward expressions of sympathy and regret the funeral of Mr William Rourke took place to Ardrossan Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon. Outside the deceased’s home in Boydston Road a large crowd of neighbours and friends had gathered to take their last farewell of a young man who was admired for his quiet and sincere bearing and who was popular with all with whom he came into contact.

The oak coffin was carried from the house to the hearse by six of the deceased’s workmates who flanked the coffin on its last stage to the cemetery. The coffin was covered with a mass of floral tributes. In front of the hearse marched fifty firemen under Station Officer Watters and carrying with them their floral tribute composed of white and red flowers and fashioned in the shape of a fireman’s helmet.

The Fire Service was represented by Mr McKay, firemaster of the area. Div Officer Hume and Station Officer Hughes of Ayr. The mourners included representatives of Masonic Lodge No. 441 (Saltcoats), of which the deceased was an honoured member. All along the route to the cemetery little groups of men and women had assembled and as the cortege passed, they stood in silence and with bowed heads as a mark of respect to one with whom many of them were on friendly terms. There was also a large gathering of the public at the cemetery gate.

Service at the house was conducted by the Rev. Donald Currie, who also officiated at the graveside.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr William McLean, Glasgow Street.




Sir, – I would like, through the medium of your columns, to express on behalf of my Company and myself, our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Fire Services, Police, members of the public and the proprietors of the Olympic Café for all the help given to us during the recent serious outbreak of fire at our Glencairn Street premises.

Yours etc.

H. R. Smith, Manager, Pringle’s Motor Garage Ltd.

(Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday, August, 5, 1955. Page 5.)




ROURKE – Suddenly at Saltcoats on, 29th July, 1955, William Barr, aged 29 years of 29 Boydston Road, Ardrossan, beloved husband of Elizabeth McNay.

(Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday, August, 5, 1955. Page 1.)


 The memorial at Hamilton HQ shows the date as 19th July 1955.