18th October 1957

Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire

The Stocks Hotel fire of 1957 was the second serious blaze on Sark that year. The first had been a pub, the Pavillion, which had burned down four months earlier. While the damage to the pub had arguably been more serious, the fact that someone had been killed at the hotel had brought things into sharp focus.

Stocks Hotel Fire

The victim of the Stocks Hotel fire was its manageress, Abagail Quigley, who had gone into its annex to rescue a dog. She was rescued herself but died at 10.30 – three hours after the fire had broken out. The dog was killed, too.

Until that point, Sark still had no fire service. Around 40 islanders helped to douse the fire but, in light of two tragedies coming so soon after one another, the decision was made to establish a dedicated fire fighting service right away.

Unusual accommodations

Naturally, on Sark, compromises would need to be made when establishing a fire service. Not even the ambulance is allowed an engine on this island where the only vehicles are tractors, so there was no chance of the fire engines being self-powered.

The island invested in a pair of old buses, fixed towing points to the front by which they could be connected to a tractor and retrofitted each with a 2700 litre tank for water. There were no sirens on the engines – just hand bells – but hopefully the sound of the approaching tractor would be sufficient to warn anyone of their approach in such peaceful surroundings.

According to the official history of Sark’s fire service (PDF), the island’s switchboard operators initially called around all of the volunteers to tell them they were needed. When sufficient had arrived at the fire engine, they set off and left a note pinned up outside the fire station telling anyone else who arrived where the fire was.

When the island’s telephone switchboard was automated, the task of calling the volunteers fell to the lighthouse keepers instead. Now, like other British fire services, they are alerted by a call to 999.


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Other events that occured in October

Guernsey Post Office was established 1st
Guernsey switched to Reichsmarks 2nd
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt 3rd
Sark voted for democracy 4th
Guernsey lifeboat saved a Swedish schooner 5th
Jeeves actor died in Guernsey 6th
Sarnia Theatre celebrated its most successful year 7th
The Story of Adele H opened in cinemas 8th
Howards’ Way came to Guernsey 9th
Guernsey Ladies’ College opened 10th
A Trislander ate itself between Jersey and Guernsey 11th
The Channel Islands’ king set sail for England 12th
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died 13th
Footballer Matt Le Tissier was born 14th
Island FM brings commercial radio to Guernsey 15th
Channel Television saw off a rival broadcaster 16th
The first mines were dug on Sark 17th
Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire 18th
Elizabeth College’s foundation stone was laid 19th
Hitler ordered the Channel Islands’ fortification 20th
Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise 21st
The desalination plant opened 22nd
Sir Charles Hayward buys Jethou for £91,000 23rd
Guernsey Monopoly board game went on sale 24th
Dame Sibyl Hathaway chose her Desert Island Discs 25th
GUNS founder Charles Machon died 26th
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born 27th
A man “disappeared” from a Guernsey ferry 28th
Express & Star bought Guernsey Press 29th
The first lighthouses were built on the Casquets 30th
States of Guernsey voted to lower the voting age 31st