A SALTCOATS woman has unearthed an incredible film reel of a ‘perfect inferno’ 65 years later.

Jessie Stevenson knew her father, Daniel Strachan, had captured the moment went Pringle’s Garage and Kyleshill Schoolhouse on Glencairn Street were engulfed in flames on July 29, 1955, and lockdown has proven to be the perfect time for her to uncover the historic treasure.

The 70-year-old said: “At that time my dad was just getting in to photography.

“He got word and could see the smoke.

“He jumped on his bicycle and got down there early in the fire and took his cine camera with him.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

The fire began in the garage and was discovered around 3pm. Soon the tarred roof of the building was ablaze.

Ardrossan Fire Brigade were assisted by appliances and men from Kilmarnock and Irvine.

Together they sprayed the roof of the buildings in Kyleshill School, adjoining the garage, to prevent the flames from spreading and they successfully dealt with an outbreak in the roof nearest the garage, but a block further away caught fire and the building was destroyed.

Fireman William Rourke, aged just 29, who lived on Boydstone Road, Ardrossan, collapsed and died in an ambulance during the fire.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Jessie said: “My father believed that the man in the white shirt, who was led away, was the fireman who died later that day from a heart attack.

“By the end of the film, it’s like a war scene. The metal bits of roof are against the skyline. It’s so murky because of the smoke.”

A total of 13 vehicles were burned out in the blaze, a report at the time reads: “The flames burned fiercely and dense volumes of heavy black smoke rose high into the air.”

As the Kyleshill school building which housed 500 pupils caught fire, the report states: “The interior of the building was a perfect inferno.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

“Included in the large crowd which had been drawn to the scene of the fire were many former pupils of Kyleshill and elderly women standing around were in tears as they witnessed the flames steadily and relentlessly reduce to ashes the school in which they had spent many happy days of their early life.”

Jessie’s father had originally purchased the camera to document marches by the local Orange Order, but he became an enthusiastic documenter of Saltcoats life.

She said: “There’s film of Sunshine Corner, the Salvation Army would go down there. Kids are singing songs.

“Down at Saltcoats beach there’s hardly an inch of sand with people on it.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Jessie feels like she has been greedy with the footage but thinks now is the time to share her father’s work.

Together with her brothers and sisters, she is deciding how best to preserve the family’s precious cinematic heirlooms.

She said: “I feel like people need to see. It’s just amazing.

“It’s been in the family all that time, it was rarely brought out.”

Jessie cannot believe the coincidence that the coronavirus lockdown lead her to re-discover the old film reels on the 65th anniversary of the fire.

She said: “It must have been meant”

Jessie has turned a room in her house into a miniature cinema, with the windows blacked out and an old projector set up. Carefully, as lockdown restrictions have eased, she has invited family to come and view the long-lost gem.

Have you uncovered any hidden treasures under lockdown?

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: