The Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824 broke out on 15th November of that year and raged over the next four days and nights. It’s thought to have been started by a candle someone forgot to blow out when they left their business premises late in the afternoon. Thirteen people died, hundreds had to flee their homes and great swathes of the Old Town were devastated. Of the 13 who died, three were killed by falling masonry.
This drawing of the Great Fire is by someone called W. Turner, a view ‘taken’ (which we said even before we had the ability to take a photo) while the fire was still raging. It was reproduced and sold by Robertson & Ballantine’s Lithographic Printers, whose premises were at Greenside Place and not affected by the fire. A black and white print cost 2 shillings, a coloured one 4 shillings.
If you’d like to see more drawings of the Great Fire and much more, check out Edinburgh’s Capital Collections.
One of the good things to come out of the horror of the fire was the establishment of the modern fire service. The man at the helm was James Braidwood, who was 24 years old at the time. He is known now as the father of modern firefighting and there’s a statue to his memory in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square. When I visited not long after it was put there, I met a firefighter from the New York Fire Department, who had come specially to make a pilgrimage to James Braidwood’s native city. He was deeply moved by seeing the statue.
My novel One Sweet Moment is a love story, a coming-of-age story and a love letter to old Edinburgh. It’s dramatic highpoint is the Great Fire of 1824, preceded by the state visit to Scotland in 1822 by George IV. It’s available as a paperback and ebook and soon, I hope, as an audiobook. As a Glaswegian who loves both the Dear Green Place and Edinburgh – it’s not always a given! – One Sweet Moment is very dear to my heart. You can read the first chapter here.
If you’d like to know more about the Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824, here’s an article I wrote about it based on the research I did for my novels. The article was first published in the Scots Magazine.