Alfred J. Hutson and the Burning of Cork
Alfred J Hutson, The Fireman's Rest and the Burning of Cork
Alfred J. Hutson brought the burning of Cork to an
Anyone who looks at history for any length of time cannot fail to be struck
by how often irony and black humour appears. Whilst one group of ex-British
Army servicemen were busy trying to turn our city into cinders on the night
of 11th December 1920, another group led by a Londoner and including some other
ex-British Army men were struggling desperately to fight the infernos. Thanks
to these men, no lives were lost and the damage to the city was contained.
The man in charge was Alfred J Hutson, and a singular person he appears
to have been. He was 71 at the time of the fires, and whilst nursing an injured
hip, he played a full part in the operation, sustaining a further injury, as
well as being shot at during 27 straight hours fighting the fires.
Hutson had taken the job of Superintendent in 1891, moving over from Sussex
with his wife and family (most of whom, slightly disturbingly, had "J"
as a middle initial). His predecessor had been demoted for incompetence, a charming
old-world custom which has somehow been overlooked by today's City Council.
The famous hut from the 'old' Pana.
As part of the improvements he made to the business of fighting fire in the
city, he extended a system of secondary fire stations each equipped with a reel
of hose and a ladder mounted on a cart. The well-known "Hut" which
stood on St. Patrick's Street until 2002 was the last-remaining element
of this system, although Corkonians will remember it as the place where you
could get the timetable for the buses, or report lost property.
The building, which was pre-fabricated by Walter MacFarlane & Co., of Glasgow,
dated to 1892 and originally stood near where the Capitol Cinema is/was.
It was moved in 1904 to near The Statue and was shared between the tram company
(by day) and the firemen (by night). The firemen referred to it as a "Rest".
It moved again in 2002 and currently languishes in a depot, awaiting further
Hutson must have been something of a workaholic, leading the Brigade until 1927
(aged 78) and dying in Cork in 1933. It would be a fitting tribute to him
and the families of the three Cork firemen who have died in the service of our
City to have it restored as a small museum."