Garelochhead Times, September 21, 1955. Page 3)
DREADFUL FIRE DISASTER AT ARROCHAR
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.
The four people who lost their lives were: -
Mr James McSherry and his
Mr John King (24), of
and Mr N. J. Cook (30), of
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,
The two dead men had been
planning to travel home for a holiday by the morning train from
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
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 Torch
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
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 Cause
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.
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
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