Remembering the heroic Paisley firefighter who died in the line of duty 125 years ago

The headstone of James Mair
The headstone of James Mair -Credit:Mike McCallum

Almost 125 years ago one Paisley firefighter made the ultimate sacrifice as he attempted to calm a raging inferno.

James Mair was a well travelled man serving as a soldier in Tel el-Kebir, north-east of Cairo, for six years. Upon returning to Scotland the family man retrained as a slater.

In a bid to earn more money to provide for his wife and five children, he joined the Paisley Fire Brigade and the 35-year-old was a well-liked face around the town.

Six months into his time as fireman, he was alerted to a blaze at the Ferguslie Fireclay Works. The crew were quick on the scene and immediately started to get the flames under control.

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All seemed to be going well until the north wall fell outwards onto James standing below. The father-of-five was rushed to hospital for treatment, however, he sadly succumbed to the head injury he suffered on June 29, 1899.

A red plaque was unveiled in his memory
A red plaque was unveiled in his memory -Credit:Roddy Scott

Many lined the streets as a procession of a horse-drawn fire engine made its way to St George's Parish Church Hall for the public service. James was buried in Hawkhead Cemetery where a headstone dedicated to firefighter still remains.

The dedication reads: "In memory of Comrade James Mair who lost his life at a fire 29th June 1899 aged 35."

On the day of his funeral, James' helmet was used as a collection pot for funds to support his widow and children. The family were given his helmet and axe as a mark of respect.

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The Paisley Daily Express published a poem dedicated to the hero on July 4, 1899. The silver helmet of the firefighter is now displayed in the Greenock Heritage Centre.

In 2019, generations of his family from the US gathered outside a line of shops where the fire took place as a red plaque dedicated to the firefighter was unveiled during a ceremony.