About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Koo-Wee-Rup Fire Brigade - the early years

The Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of December 2, 1943 reported on a Public Meeting held at the Memorial Hall on November 26 to establish a local Fire Brigade. Brigades could only be established at the request of the local Council and as such it was Cr Leslie Cochrane who chaired the meeting. Mr A. McPherson, the Chief Officer of the Country Fire Brigades’ Board was also present. He had visited the town previously and considered it a suitable location for a Brigade and the Cranbourne Shire Council had agreed and made the necessary arrangements for the establishment of one.  As both the Council and the Country Fire Brigades’ Board agreed then all that remained was to get the personnel. McPherson suggested that Koo-Wee-Rup establish an A class Brigade which consisted of four Officers and eleven firemen. Under normal circumstance the Board would spend over £1,000 in setting up a Brigade, however due to the War many appliances were unavailable.

McPherson also talked of the social activities enjoyed by members of brigades at the annual demonstrations and that these demonstrations would be resumed after the return of 1,850 men at present in the fighting services. Koo-Wee-Rup established a competition team in 1950. Given that fighting fires can be dangerous, McPherson also said that the Board could grant up to £500 to the dependents of a fireman killed on duty. The Board would also give an annual allowance of £20 to the Brigade and the Council would also give an annual sum.

Volunteers were then called for and thirteen men answered the call and elected their own leaders. The first Captain was the alliteratively named Loyal Leslie Lackman; the Lieutenant was Cyril Isbister; the Foreman was William Mahoney; Secretary Samuel Lewis and other members were Kenneth Cochrane, John Sauer, Edward Holley, Thomas Perkins, William Winters, Albert Rushton, Thomas English and reserves were D. Johnson and L. Plowright. Johnson and Plowright were both under 18 years of age, which is why they were placed on the reserve list, according to the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun report. Lackman’s time as Captain was short lived as a report in the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of May 4, 1944 said that Captain Lackman was farewelled by the members of the Brigade on April 28 as he had been transferred from the district by his employee, the State Rivers & Water Supply Commission. The report went on to say that in the short time he had been in Koo-Wee-Rup he had exhibited keen sportsmanship and had became a citizen the district could ill afford to lose. Soon after he left Koo-Wee-Rup, Loyal Lackman passed away suddenly on June 2, 1944 at Cobram at the age of 52.

At the meeting held on May 8, 1944 Cyril Isbister was elected as Captain and Clarence Raymond ‘Dick’ Florance elected Lieutenant. In July 1947, Dick Florance started his long reign as Captain, holding the position until October 1972, when John Duff took on the role. Captain Duff held the position until he passed away suddenly on September 13, 1979. Lieutenant Keith Ridgway was then elected as the new Captain. Captain Ridgway served in the role until his retirement in December 1993 and Lieutenant Lindsay Black was elected. Captain Black finished his tenure in May 2002 when Michael Duff was elected.

A temporary fire station was to be established until the permanent building could be erected which opened in Rossiter Road in September 1947. The present Station Street building (which was expanded in 1984) was officially opened October 2, 1959.

This photo partially shows the Rossiter Road fire station as well as the bell tower.

The Ladies Auxiliary was formed on November 14, 1956 with Mrs Claire Howarth elected as President.  The other Office bearers were Mrs Connie Grundy, Mrs Tobe Florance and Miss Janice Duff. The Auxiliary still supports the Brigade with fund raising and other activities.

Sources: Notes supplied by Mrs May Ridgway; Koo Wee Rup Fire Brigade Ladies Auxiliary: a brief history; Koo-Wee-Rup Sun.

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