The Loch Long Hotel Fire at Tighness  -  Friday September 16th 1955  > 

(Helensburgh and Garelochhead Times, September 21, 1955. Page 3)
Henderson's Hotel Tighness, Arrochar (renamed to Loch Long Hotel).

What is believed to be one of the most calamitous fires ever recorded in this part of the County, in which four people-a woman and three men-lost their lives, occurred at Tighness, Arrochar, in the early hours of last Friday. The Loch Long Hotel, belonging to Miss Sheena MacFarlane, was completely gutted and all that remained of the building after the fire was extinguished were the blackened walls and a three foot deep heap of debris lying inside.

Loch Long Hotel, Tighness, Arrochar before the fire


The four people who lost their lives were: -

Mr James McSherry and his wife, Maisie

Mr John King (24), of Rockhampton, Gloucestershire

and Mr N. J. Cook (30), of Twickenham, London.





Personal ParticularsLoch Long Hotel, Arrochar after the fire in 1955

Mr and Mrs McSherry resided in the hotel, where she was employed as Book-keeper, and he was an electrician with Messrs. Marples, Ridgway and Partners at the Hydro Electric Scheme now under construction at Cairndow. They had been in Arrochar district for six years or so.

Mr Cook and Mr King had been in the area for some months and residing in the hotel while they were engaged along with two colleagues in survey work on behalf of the Air Survey Company, London.

The two dead men had been planning to travel home for a holiday by the morning train from Arrochar.


Alarm Raised

The outbreak was discovered by a Mrs Murray who woke up to find her room full of thick smoke. She immediately wakened Miss MacFarlane and between them they raised the alarm and endeavoured to warn everyone in the hotel. It was impossible to reach the telephone in the hotel because of the heat and a call for the fire brigade was telephoned from a neighbouring house.

The alarm was received at 4-30 a.m. and the Arrochar voluntary fire brigade was at the scene of the outbreak in eight minutes. Mr Rio Cordiner, who was in charge, said that they had two lines of hose playing on the fire within a few minutes but he realised there was nothing they could do to save the building.

Mr Cordiner and his local fire brigade are to be complimented on their valiant effort and strenuous endeavour.


Like A Flaming TorchLoch Long Hotel, Arrochar after the fire in 1955

The whole interior, Mr Cordiner said, was like a great flaming torch, the floor of the upper storey had fallen before his arrival and shortly thereafter the roof fell in. Additional help was given to the local unit by the Forestry Commission's fighting team which arrived with their fire engine shortly after the siren had been sounded.

Fire brigades from Helensburgh, Alexandria, Dumbarton and Clydebank raced to the scene, the Helensburgh brigade actually arriving within half an hour of the call being received, but the whole building by then was alight from end to end and completely beyond saving.

Owing to depleted water supplies, following on the protracted drought, when the village was completely without a supply for many weeks, the brigades which had arrived ran out hoses to Loch Long and obtained a sufficient supply from there to ultimately extinguish the flames.

All four who died are believed to have been suffocated by smoke. Because of flames and smoke, rescuers could not reach their bedrooms which were on the upper floor. Their bodies were afterwards found at the ground floor level.


Villagers Assist in Rescue Work

There were 11 or 12 people in the hotel which had 12 bedrooms, and when the alarm was raised some of the guests escaped by leaping from top floor windows at the back of the building; others were helped to safety by villagers who had hurried to the scene when they heard the siren, a ladder being placed to bedroom windows in some cases to assist.
Fortunately, there were no injuries to those who escaped by jumping or scrambling down rhone pipes, but most of them lost practically all their possessions.

It has been concluded that the outbreak originated in the lounge, but it has not been possible to determine the cause.


A Possible CauseLoch Long Hotel, Arrochar after the fire in 1955

What may have had some connection was the fact that the nearby garage, owned by Mr McTavish had been broken into that morning and a number of tools stolen. Whether the burglar had afterwards broken into the hotel and been the cause of the fire is not, of course, known, but the possibility could not be overlooked.

This tragic happening has cast quite a cloud over the district where Mr and Mrs McSherry were well known and very much respected. Although the other two who lost their lives were only a short time in the area they appear to have been of a friendly, sociable nature and had made quite a number of friends.

Considerable sympathy is felt for Miss McFarlane for the ordeal through which she has passed and at the loss of her home and business of which she was very proud and endeavoured to conduct as a friendly, homely establishment.


Newspaper clipping of Loch Long Hotel fire, Arrochar 1955


This image was taken from a newspaper clipping kept by the late James Wishart. James was a retained firefighter stationed in Dumbarton. He was in attendance at The Loch Long Hotel fire in 1955 and it is him pictured in this image.

James was called out to the incident by the then telephone bell system which was in use at the time in the firemen's homes. They then had to drive to the fire station. James's son, Alan, a retired Dumbarton Road Traffic Patrol Officer, recalls his father being away for a couple of days and returning home absolutely shattered.




Please also see  Hotels In Arrochar