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Chapter Six

The rhythm of normal business was dramatically interupted in March 1907 when a major fire destroyed Nicks & Co’s saw mill. The fire spread to some of the timber in the yard, which soon became one great mass of flames that lit up the whole neighbourhood. The local fire brigades set up four hoses spraying water from the city mains, and the Salamander fire-float pumped water from the canal. These combined efforts brought the fire under control in about three hours, but pumping continued for a further four hours until the fire was fully extinguished. Two further fires in the neighbouring timber yards on the following days led to suspicion that all three had been started deliberately, and a young man later confessed that he was responsible, saying that he had just wanted to see the fire-float at work! Although the damage was serious, the mill was soon rebuilt on the same site, and the business returned to normal. In later years an auxiliary fire service would be stationed at the yard permanently . Change of Management :In the later years of his life, just like Mr Nicks before him Albert Buchanan no longer took much part in local politics, but he was vice-president of the Conservative Club and a director of the company that ran it. He also served on the Gloucester Pilotage and Harbour Boards and as a Severn Commissioner. However, his health deteriorated after he sustained a stroke, and not long after a second seizure, he died in April 1913 . By this time, accountant John Barnett had become the moving spirit of the firm and had been president of the Bristol Channel Timber Importer’s Association in 1912 . He was assisted by Albert Buchanan’s two sons, Ernest and Lawrence, at what was a very critical time. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914  : War had a serious effect on the timber trade because much of the traffic from the Baltic was cut off. The partners were soon in financial difficulties, but the firm survived thanks to help from Frank Croxford, managing director of Price Walker & Co, the principal timber merchants in Gloucester. It seems that Croxford was happy for Nicks & Co to continue to supply smaller customers while Price Walkers concentrated on the larger businesses. The photo of the workforce taken in 1916 clearly shows the “ missing age group” with 14 to 17 year olds in front of the 40 plus year olds at the rear the younger being mini versions of the older in tie and cap ! 18 to 40 year olds being away at the front .

On one of her first outings she assisted the city fire brigade at a fire that started in Nick's saw mill and spread rapidly to nearby timber stacks. It took seven hours to bring that blaze under control, then just a few hours later another inferno struck - this time in Joseph Griggs’ timber yard.Again Salamander contributed sterling service, as the Gloucester Journal reported. “The fire float shook and shuddered with her tremendous exertions and tongues of fire shot three or four feet out from her funnel.”  The fire at Griggs was barely extinguished before smoke was seen rising from Price Walker's, which tested Salamander's abilities once more.Police investigating the coincidence of three fires in as many days shortly afterwards arrested an employee at one of the yards, who admitted he'd started the blazes because he wanted to see Salamander in action.  He was sentenced to six months and on release provided with an assisted passage to Canada. Salamander remained in operation until 1955, having served the city well for half a century

On one of her first outings she assisted the city fire brigade at a fire that started in Nick's saw mill and spread rapidly to nearby timber stacks. It took seven hours to bring that blaze under control, then just a few hours later another inferno struck - this time in Joseph Griggs’ timber yard.

Again Salamander contributed sterling service, as the Gloucester Journal reported. “The fire float shook and shuddered with her tremendous exertions and tongues of fire shot three or four feet out from her funnel.”  The fire at Griggs was barely extinguished before smoke was seen rising from Price Walker's, which tested Salamander's abilities once more.

Police investigating the coincidence of three fires in as many days shortly afterwards arrested an employee at one of the yards, who admitted he'd started the blazes because he wanted to see Salamander in action.  He was sentenced to six months and on release provided with an assisted passage to Canada. Salamander remained in operation until 1955, having served the city well for half a century

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