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Looking to the Future and the Past (1947)

It is that time of year when we begin looking to the next year to plan our events and activities. It may seem early to be looking towards 2023 but in order for the Museum to undertake any exhibition upgrades (potentially apply for grant funding for those upgrades) and prepare a schedule of events for the year we need to start looking at the calendar now.

Over the course of August and into September our team will finalise almost all of our events and the projects on the agenda for the Heritage Team (that is any centenary work or new station builds that require historic research by our team for Fire and Rescue NSW whom the Museum is the official heritage partner to).

While we look towards 2023, we still have a full calendar of events for the remainder of this year so make sure you check it out and pick which events you are going to attend!

One thing you won’t want to miss is our latest temporary exhibition: ‘A Portrait of Australia’ is now open at the Museum of Fire!

Discover the remarkable stories of ordinary Australians in this photography exhibition celebrating the bush, the outback, the coast and the people who live there.

‘A Portrait of Australia’ will be running from now until the 28th November 2022. Entry to the exhibition is free with Museum entry.

Along the Birdsville Track – near Birdsville, QLD by Colin Beard

This is a great exhibition, and it has been curated by our team thanks to the support of the National Museum of Australia and Australian Geographic. It is great that the Museum is able to present this excellent photographic exhibition to the public. It has travelled around Australia, and we are proud to have it on show at our museum now!

This exhibition opened the week the Museum was forced to close due to the flood evacuation and I’m so pleased that our team were able to overcome many obstacles to get it up. Thankfully these floods receded much quicker than in the past and the Museum suffered little damage compared to the previous flooding events. I’m really pleased to say that it is back to business as usual once again!

As I sat down to write this blog, I was distracted by reading the blog our Heritage Team put together last week on Chief Officer Frank Jackson. This blog had received almost 100 hits within the first few hours it was posted so I decided to re-read it and hoped it might inspire me for what I should write today.

I’ve mentioned it before, but as CEO, I don’t get to have as much fun writing and researching historical stories like I did in the past when I was the Senior Heritage and Research officer. This obviously comes with the change in my role within the organisation, but I do enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and deep diving into history every now and then.

Chief Officer William Beare (Museum of Fire Collection)

Inspired by last week’s blog which was motivated by the team’s desire to recognise 100 years since Chief Officer Jackson entered the top job, my fun fact I wanted to share is today that it was 75 years ago this year that Chief Officer William Beare retired on 31 December 1947.

After joining the brigade in 1900 he entered the permanent ranks four years later and worked his way up to become Chief Officer in 1944. While in his role as Chief Officer Beare helped to shape the future of rural firefighting as a member of the bushfire committee that would eventually see the creation of a separate NSW Brigade focused on battling fire in the bush. Beare also oversaw the biggest station closure program in the brigade’s history. This came on the back of World War Two and was the result of modern technology. Due to advances in firefighting appliances (mainly that they were now motorised) response times to fires had significantly decreased so where many stations were in a concentrated area, they were able to be consolidated. This mainly occurred within Sydney city and Newcastle.

Across the state, 75 years ago, six new fire districts were created with the extension of the Fire Brigades Act. These were Bombala, Culcairn/Henty, Wyong, The Entrance, Terrigal and Braxton/Greta. Brigades were established in all six locations however most did not begin operating until the next year. Having said that several were already operating by the time the Act was extended. One of these was Finley which became operational in mid-1946.

Finley Fire Station in 1983 (MOF Collection)

In Sydney, Circular Quay Fire Station had to be moved to make way for the new railway that was to be installed in the city. A temporary Fire Station was completed in Miller’s Point and occupied by the Brigade on 29 December. At the same time the Brigade’s name was changed to “The Rocks Fire Brigade” which remains the case today. This temporary station was used until 1962 when a new station was opened.

Circular Quay Fire Station after it ceased operation but before it was demolished, 1954

With the recent conclusion of World War Two the Commonwealth Government found itself no longer in need of 25 Mack Fire Engines and so these were absorbed into the equipment of the NSWFB. At the same time 42 La France fire engines were to be transferred to the NSW Forestry Commission. Today one of the La France’s are maintained as part of the Museum’s extensive appliance collection today! To read more about the La France check out the blog from our team:

A collection of 1942 Mack Appliances at the NSWFB Training College (also pictured 1929 Magirus Ladders)

What did the rest of world look like in 1947? While the world tried to put the previous war years behind them another war was beginning, the Cold War as the USA attempted to combat Communism at home. There was still much instability across Europe with the Communist party coming to power in Poland and the Greek Civil War still underway.

In the UK Princess Elizabeth was engaged and married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, later Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. At the United Nations General Assembly, the plan to partition Palestine was passed.

Meanwhile in Australia the Government assumed control of Qantas, workers were granted a 40-hour working week and Australia joined the International Monetary Fund. Heard Island and McDonald Island in Antarctica were also transferred from British to Australian control. So, I guess you could say that compared to the war years that had just transpired it was a pretty quiet year on the Homefront!

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and the Heritage Team will be back next week with another great story to share with you from the Museum’s archives!

- Story by Museum of Fire CEO, Belinda McMartin

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