David ‘Lexie’ Alexander Wylie lost his life in the line of duty on the 21th November 1971, alongside his colleague Leonard McCartney. Their Red Plaque was unveiled on the 20th November 2022.
Lexie was fighting a fire in the Melville Hotel on Foyle Street, Derry/Londonderry, when the building collapsed on him and his colleague Leonard. A message sent to the fire service control room shortly after said “no action for rescue is possible as all upper floors collapsed without warning” and that “all five floors and attics severely damaged by fire… Leading Fireman McCartney and Leading Fireman Wylie were last seen in the ground floor corridor at the front of the building”. The radio message then tragically reported: “No action for rescue is possible as all upper floors collapsed without warning: army engineers standing by to assist recovery.” It took 17 hours for the bodies to be located and removed from the rubble of Melville Hotel.
Leading Fireman Lexie Wylie was 35 years old and had been in the fire service for 14 years, also serving at Northland Road Fire Station. He lived with his mother and sister at their family home in Galliagh.
At the memorial, Leonard’s son Robert McCartney said he felt overwhelming pride that his father’s sacrifice was recognised with the erection of a memorial plaque. He stated that his father and Lexie were courageous and brave men who were part of a service which seldom received the praise or attention it should. The unveiling of the commemorative plaque at the scene was a poignant moment for both families after such a long time. His father’s death turned his own life “upside-down” as a nine-year-old boy.
“I feel a sense of pride for us, for firefighters serving and past. They give of themselves to protect society and there are very few professions that do so much and get so little response for what they on a daily basis. It’s true; when everyone else is running away from the fire they are running into it,”
“The Fire Brigades’ Union has never allowed these men to be forgotten or any other firefighter who made the ultimate sacrifice. The plaque means that lots of people in the city will appreciate that the scene is not just a shopping centre (Foyleside) but the scene of a tragedy.”
Jim Quinn, FBU Executive Council member for Northern Ireland, said:
“Leonard McCartney and Lexie Wylie were firefighters who did everything they could do to serve their communities for years. They fought fires and carried out rescues during a very dangerous period in our country. They carried out their duties with real bravery and lost their lives in a huge and tragic incident. It is absolutely vital that we remember them and their contributions across their time in the fire and rescue service. This plaque will go a long way to ensuring that that happens.”
Today, Lexie is fondly remembered by his friends, family, and brothers and sisters in the FBU. His and Leonard’s Red Plaque was unveiled at the location where the incident took place in Derry.
Below are memories added by those who knew Lexie Wylie or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Lexie Wylie that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Gavin Brown