• Belfast Between The Wars

BELFAST CURFEW FIRE: PUBLIC-HOUSE BURNED OUT, FIRE BRIGADE’S FINE WORK

Belfast Telegraph, Thursday 24th April 1924


Fire destroyed the greater portion of the “Morning Star” public-house premises, Pottinger’s Entry, Belfast, the property of Mr. M. Conway, at an early hour this morning, and but for the courage and daring of the members of the Fire Brigade a much more serious burning would have to be recorded.


Pottinger’s Entry, one of the narrow passages that run from High Street to Ann Street, is about the most difficult place in the city from which to fight a fire, by reason of its extremely narrow thoroughfare, and yet an hour and a half sufficed in which to suppress a blaze that had already reached the roof before the fire-fighters got the first alarm.


Shortly after two o’clock a police patrol going along High Street noticed a glare in the Ann Street end of Pottinger’s Entry, and hurrying to the place, found the “Morning Star” interior a mass of flame which lit up brilliantly the elaborately decorated plate-glass windows of the bar, with frontages both to the entry and to the little cul de sac off it known as Pottinger’s Court.


A nearby telephone was used to acquaint the Central Fire Station, where the alarm went at 2.12 a.m. The signal was given to other city stations, and in a few moments machines from Chichester Street were in Ann Street and High Street and firemen disappeared into a tunnel of smoke dragging hose after them, whilst others sought out hydrants. Meanwhile from Shankill Road, Whitla Street, and Ardoyne came auxiliary corps, their machines waking the echoes in the Curfew-silent streets of the city.


SMALL CROWD WATCH BLAZE


A few folks, who apparently gathered from nowhere, watched the efforts of the brigade from each end of the entry. All that could be seen was the dull glare of flame in a dense atmosphere of smoke and little bits of brass uniform moving here and there. Up in the air high above the houses rose a fury of sparks and flame and smoke, while the crashing debris suggested the difficulty of the men’s task. In less than an hour the fire was conquered, and as the smoke cloud faded away the magnificent work accomplished by the brigade became apparent.


The bar premises next to Pottinger’s Court have a higher ceiling than the portion next to Ann Street, thus making two sections, as it were, of the bar. The portion next to Pottinger’s Entry was gutted but the firemen stopped its lateral progress and saved the other end.


The fire, which apparently originated in the bar, burnt its way at the inner side through the ceiling, and here reached a series of upper rooms, through which the flames blazed their way to the roof. When the firemen arrived they found a stairway on the side furthest from the fire undamaged, though thick with smoke. Up this in the dark the men crept, and, getting above the origin of the fire, got the hose to work on the very heart of the flames. Others got lines of hose to the roof of Rea’s Garage, which bounds Pottinger’s Court, and kept the fire from getting any further that way.


FIREMAN SLIGHTLY HURT


Heedless of the showers of falling slates, the ground staff kept to their posts, and luckily, there was but one slight accident, Fireman David Nelson, of Shankill Station, getting cut over the eye with a slate. A comrade wrapped his handkerchief over the wound, and the fireman continued on duty as if nothing happened.


A considerable amount of stock was lost in the fire, and the water, which poured from the building as the result of the firemen’s attack, would have served for what the initiated know as a “shandy”.


A visit to the premises this morning showed that the Morning Star has set until such time as shop fitters and builders restore things to normal. The interior of the shop – one of the finest bars in the city centre- next Pottinger’s Entry – is a mass of debris. An upper floor which fell, almost in a solid mass, lies in the bar with the remains of a couple of bedsteads on top, though it is understood nobody slept on the premises. The plate-glass windows are wholly out on one side, and on the other have been shivered into masses of splinters still holding in place. The lower end of the bar seems little damaged, except by water, and above this there are stock rooms also untouched, the floor still higher up being, curiously enough, more damaged by the spread of the fire along the roof.


The main body of firemen returned to stations at 3-57 a.m. and the usual salvage corps remained on duty during the night.


To read more about the Morning Star click here.


To view a selection of old photographs of Pottinger's Entry click here.