Ryde’s firemen, including Captain Buckett, were galled by the doctors well-intentioned but mistaken appreciation – and even more so that the Superintendent had not shared his five pounds – but insisted on it funding a extravagant item bearing words he had allowed to germinate to enhance his profit and public reputation.
Relations between the fire brigade and police became increasingly frosty.
By New Year 1883 the matter emerged publicly in a series of letters in the IW Observer following a series of incidents where the police had been slow to summon the brigade, with the aftermath causing both public and council to question the efficiency of the firemen, not the police. Fireman Robert Mundell, a High Street carpenter, contested - Our captain is not the man to screen any person shirking his duty, and it is hurtful to us who risk our own lives to save others, to have this slur cast upon us. So let the police do their duty and we will do ours.
Reflecting on a fire in Pier Street an anonymous writer submitted - I think the police and their superintendent deserve a rap on the knuckles. In the case of the fire at the Eagle Hotel the alarm was given to Mr Buckett by a policeman who, instead of helping Buckett to get out the hose and reel, or Mrs Buckett (who dressed herself and went out directly) to call up the other firemen, ran to the police station to rouse the superintendent and the other policemen on duty. These too did not go to Buckett’s assistance but flocked to the hotel and when Buckett and his men got there, no less than seven policemen (including the superintendent) had taken possession of the place.
I cannot help thinking that the superintendent of the police acted at this and at the previous fire in John Street in complete misapprehension of his duty, and with a mean desire to take credit at the expense of the men who legitimately earned it – the firemen! Let the police remember that they are not to act in opposition to, but in concert with, the firemen. If the police are so well able to leave their respective beats, as it seems they are, the least they could have done would have been to have given Buckett a helping hand in getting out the hose or rousing his men, and not to rush off and then utter the silly taunt – ‘Oh we got there first’.
Like a great many others who have suddenly risen from a subordinate position, and stimulated, doubtless by a few silly people who made a ridiculous fuss about his ‘saving’ (!) a cats life, the superintendent of police now manifests a great deal more zeal than discretion, and it is mainly his fault that a feeling exists between the members of the police force and the members of the fire brigade, decidedly inimical to the efficient action of either in case of fire.
When another anonymous writer submitted a letter in support of the police, the original writer followed up with - With regard to making mountains out of molehills, the molehill consisted, I may inform GLW, in saving a cat’s life, and the mountain was the ridiculous diploma and the presentation of a clock. How many men have risked their lives for others, and lived lives of self-denial, without one-tenth of the praise which was lavished on this trumpery cat incident? Sir, if, when five pounds was given me for this wonderful act of bravery, I had given it up and received instead a clock for my own special delectation, I should have preferred to have shared the money as the captain of the fire brigade did his amongst the men.