A fire ripping through a building in the dark of a winter night is not only destructive, but terrifying. For many of the men trapped in a Glasgow lodging house in November 1905 it was not only terrifying, but deadly.
All the casualties were men. They were inmates of a “ model ”Lodging House at 39, Watson Street – situated a stone-throw from Glasgow Cross in a street connecting the Gallowgate and Graeme Street. Originally built as a warehouse the massive stone building had been rearranged by the landlord William Nichol, a local Glasgow Councillor. The building comprised four flats with an attic and basement. Each floor had a stair landing and the entire building was lined with wood. There were large rooms converted into dormitories. Each room was roughly 40 feet square fitted with cubicles in the style of the steerage compartments on emigrant ships. The cubicles were also made of wood and were about 7 feet x 7 feet with a doorway of about 4 feet. A mattress and blanket were provided. The cost for the night was between 4d and 6d.
The day before had been dark and foggy. Saturdays nights in Glasgow were for 'getting fou and unca happy' for many men. One man, In the early hours of Sunday morning just before 6 am the fire started. There were over 200 men asleep in the building. Panic, uncertainty, death and injury followed, 39 men were burned alive or died of smoke inhalation.
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