John Jamieson Buist
John Jamieson Buist lost his life in the line of duty on the 13th April 1962. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 13th April 2023.
Divisional Fire Officer John Jamieson Buist died at a fire at Grants Jute Warehouse, Dundee after being trapped alongside two colleagues when the blaze ripped through the building. John was buried by debris, and his colleagues William Joiner and Harry Anderson were cut off, when a massive 35 ft tier of bales collapsed and fell from the upper tiers of the building.
Firefighters Joiner and Anderson were able to get free by finding a rescue party that wrenched a section of the corrugated iron wall apart that allowed them to escape only once they had removed their breathing apparatus. They alerted their rescuers that John was trapped under two tons of jute.
Reports from the time speak of a “nightmare battle” inside the warehouse, which contained 2,000 tons of bound jute which barred the way, much of it smouldering and difficult to extinguish. The firefighters and rescue parties were handicapped by acrid fumes, stifling heat and water pouring from the roof sprinklers. The bales glowed red and orange at a dozen places, threatening to burst open and crush the firefighters, or swelled to twice their weight with the water absorbed. Rescuers used planks of wood to shore up the bales as barrowloads of heavy, sodden jute were wheeled out the way.
For two hours teams of firefighters attempted to mount a rescue operation among the burning piles of jute, with workmen said to have been physically restrained from trying to help. Searchlights were rigged up by a local doctor, Dr Courtenay Wade, who had hurried from his bath to offer assistance and paused only to don a Firefighter’s helmet before joining the rescue party, carrying a satchel of medical equipment.
But this effort ended in tragedy when John’s body was found among the wreckage.
He was one of the best-known members of Angus Fire Service, a native of Fife. He lived with his wife, a former firefighter, and young son at the Northern Fire Station. He was 53 and had 30 years’ service.
At the funeral, there was a turnout of 500 individuals to pay their final tributes, spilling out into the vestibule so that the doors could not be closed. The parading firemen were in full dress uniform, and the sub officer in charge stood at the salute. During the ceremony Reverend Macdonald said:
“John Jarnieson Buist lost his life in the early hours of the morning of Friday, April 13, responding to the call of duty, using his abilities and experience for others, striving to serve and to help at his post. The end came unexpectedly and suddenly. What a shock; what a loss. Gone from our earthly fellowship is a man of strong character, of great courage and determination, a man with a keen sense of duty. He was a man many were proud to know and glad to have as a friend. This afternoon we mourn his passing. But we don’t just mourn. We remember him with proud thanksgiving. We shall not forget”
The unveiling of the Red Plaque for John occurred at Blackness Road Fire Station in Dundee accompanied by the Red Plaque for Firefighter William Carnegie, whose unfortunate death occurred just a few months later. The memorial was to honour the two men, who both served with the Angus Area Fire Brigade.
The ceremony included speeches from FBU senior officials and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service senior officers, Ron Buist, son of John Buist with an FBU piper and Lord Provost, Bill Campbell, on behalf of Dundee City Council.
John Buist’s son Ron Buist said:
“It’s nice to see courageous men acknowledged in what they’ve done and it will be a great source of pride for me that there are plaques here in the town that he made his home and also that he is remembered on the national memorial just outside St Paul’s Cathedral.”
“It’s a means of recognising the sacrifice that my father made 60 years ago when he was really just doing his job, and also the sacrifice that Bill (William) Carnegie made.”
Seona Hart FBU Regional Treasurer said:
“John Buist and William Carnegie lost their lives while serving and protecting the people of Dundee. The Red Plaques we have unveiled today will ensure the memory of their sacrifice lives on. Both firefighters died while attending fires in the local area, and both left behind loving families and a bereaved community. As firefighters we will never forget those who have died in the line of duty, and with these plaques they now have their place in public memory as part of the history of the city.”
Tam McFarlane, FBU National Officer added:
“Every Red Plaque represents a firefighter who lost their life in the line of duty. There are now over 80 of these memorials representing almost 200 fallen firefighters across the UK, reminding us of our shared history. Each unveiling ceremony is a moving tribute to firefighters who sacrificed their lives, as well as to their families and colleagues.
“Today we have come together as a community to remember the enormous bravery and sacrifice of John Buist and William Carnegie. We will ensure they are never forgotten.”
Below are memories added by those who knew John Jamieson Buist or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for John Jamieson Buist that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
Please help support our Firefighters with the Firefighters 100 Lottery, a weekly online lottery created to support firefighters, their bereaved families and to honour the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters killed in the line of duty. With your help we can have schemes such as the Red Plaque Project for memorials to those lives lost.
Learn about the history of the Red Plaque Project and discover other Firefighters that have also received Red Plaques.
Photo credits: Craig Maclean