John Johnson Hunt
John Johnson Hunt lost his life in the line of duty on the 5th July 1909. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 24th October 2022.
John, a superintendent, was aged 65 when he was fighting a fire that was tearing through the Brooklands Hotel in Sale. But part of the roof collapsed on him leaving him buried under hot debris. He suffered serious burns and died from pneumonia triggered by his injuries.
The high regard with which he was held was reflected by the numbers who turned out for his funeral. The Sale Guardian of July 14th that year, reported:
“Most impressive scenes were witnessed at the funeral at Brooklands Cemetery. Probably never in the history of Sale has so large a concourse assembled on a like occasion; all along the route to the cemetery the footpaths were thickly lines and there were thousands in the cemetery grounds. At St Paul’s in Sale, the council offices, and public buildings flags were flown at half-mast and the manifestation of genuine sorrow was universal.”
John was an experienced and well-respected firefighter, having had a 40-year fire service career in both Manchester and then Sale, and received several awards. He had trained several company in-house fire brigades and advised on the establishment of a new brigade. His career was also marked by bravery and near-misses. One instance in 1885 involved him saving a fellow firefighter’s life by crawling along a sixth-floor parapet in dense smoke, an incident which saw him receive several awards and have a song written for him. He rose through the ranks until being appointed as Brigade Engineer in September 1878, Assistant Steam Engineer in May 1880 and finally Senior Engineer in July 1892, a post specially created for him “on account of his experience and exceptional ability”.
The plaque was unveiled at the site of the incident, which is now an office building owned by Bruntwood, on Friday 24 October. A wreath was laid at John’s grave in Brooklands Cemetery following the unveiling.
Fifty members of John’s family were at the ceremony to unveil the plaque. They included his great grandson, Geoff Price from Standish, Wigan. He said:
“It was very poignant. But we were all very proud. It is almost 120 years ago that he achieved this reputation but this plaque will prolong his legacy, and many others will learn about him. The family also attended a ceremony at his graveside. One of my cousins who lives in Kentucky in America came to the unveiling.”
Ed Burrows, Fire Brigades Union regional secretary for the North West, said:
“Firefighters in Sale are committed to making sure that every one of their number who has given their life is remembered. Mr Hunt set an example to every firefighter with his bravery throughout his career. He was an extraordinarily brave man. This plaque will help ensure that the community knows what he did and what he sacrificed. It is important that history is remembered in the spaces it was lived.”
Today, John is fondly remembered by his family, former colleagues, and brothers and sisters in the FBU. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the site of the incident which is now Marsland House in Sale.
Below are memories added by those who knew John Johnson Hunt or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for John Johnson Hunt that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Mark Waugh