Watson Street Fire Glasgow 1905

 Glasgow’s  Forgotten  Disaster  of  the  Hidden People  in Our  Society

                            Like  Grenfell  Tower  of 2017,  the Watson Street  fire  was  a  failure  in  social  housing


The  events of  the   horrific  fire at Grenfell  Tower, Kensington are embedded in all our minds, lives lost, families shattered,  numbed  grief  and  utter despair.

An  earlier fire  in 1905 matches  some elements of   what  was  revealed  from  Grenfell  Tower  and  the  same displaced  people  were amongst  its  victims.

The  Watson  Street  fire  was one of Glasgow’s  most  dreadful  disasters  on Sunday  19 November 1905,  like Grenfell  there was  a large loss of  life  of  poor  people,  the   ‘hidden people’  in our society.  


The  1905 event is a not a prominent feature of the Glasgow story.  It  only features   briefly  in  web pages about the  City and in a short  booklet  written  by  the  historian  William Cross, FSA Scot,  in 2005 ( at the time of the 100th anniversary).


The destruction of property in 1905  amounted to a pitiful £500 – but the loss of life was  high,  39 individuals died of  suffocation  from  smoke and flames and a  further 24 were seriously injured.


There is no memorial to those who perished at Watson Street, it is Glasgow’s forgotten disaster.


The  Grenfell  Tower fire  of 2017 makes  a  strange, terrifying  parallel to Watson Street. 

The BBC have produced a radio programme  comparing  the two fires.


The  programme was first aired on 20 July, 2017,  Radio 4  at  9am and repeated at 21.30pm.  You may still be able to link!


Copies of the booklet " Death in a Lodging House : The Story of the Watson Street Fire of 1905" are available from the Author  William Cross, FSA Scot.   Paper  copies. £5.00 ( inc UK p&p )  / £11.00 elsewhere Europe/ROW). e-mail  the Author please for details.   Contact / Cheques/ POs  to  William Cross at 58 Sutton Road, Newport, Gwent,NP19 7JF. UK. Email below. LIMITED STOCK You can also order the book on Amazon.uk and Amazon.com

Contact William Cross by e-mail




The Scotsman Newspaper featured the story of the Watson Street fire in an article in 2006. Click on link.


Soon half-clothed men started staggering out of the building, shivering in the cold. Firemen struggling to reach those trapped inside had to battle up the single stairway, pushing their way through the throng of panic-stricken men flooding towards the one exit. The fire had started on the fourth floor, just below the attic where yet more men slept

Newport  Author  helps  BBC radio  programme  about the  Grenfell Tower  &  Watson St  Fires

 William Cross says   “ Just like ordinary  people  were stirred up to try to help the victims of Grenfell Tower, in the days  following  the Glasgow  fire in 1905  folk from South Wales ( and across the country)  sent parcels and money to  the  Glasgow victims. One Newport  lady sent 2/6 to a  hero of the night named  Jack  Finlay, who saved many lives.  Jack also received invitations of marriage. ”



Spare a  thought also  for  the  victims of  Colney Hatch Asylum Fire of 1903