Leading Fireman Dave Corney of Ryde Fire Station, passed away on 3 January 2015.

 

Dave joined the IW County Fire Brigade to serve at Ryde in 1960. It didn't take long for him to get a taste for the potential scale of the job as one the first fires he attended was the substantial conflagration that destroyed the town's Theatre Royal on 19 May 1961. 

Footage of the Theatre Royal fire and aftermath, courtesy of //www.imagefilms.net.

Dave's daughter Beverley, kindly supplied with me with some more details of his life and service.

His primary employment was that of builder for Langdon's and he also collected the newspapers from the early ferry and distributed them around the shops. During one such early excursion he came across a meandering bunch of youngsters seeking directions and transport to the festival at Afton Down; not being one to leave the youths feeling unwelcome on the Island, Dave piled them into his vehicle and took them direct to Freshwater. He enjoyed motor transport and especially motorcycles. Building one from scratch in the front room of his home went well until it was time to ride the machine on the open road, for which the window had to be removed.

In 1965 he was one of five Ryde firemen who appeared in an article accompanied by a group photograph in the County Press. The Press article began 'Holidaymakers arriving at Ryde Pier Head on Saturday afternoon had what they thought was a grandstand view of a fire on the pier as firemen fought a blaze only a few yards from where the Portsmouth boats berth.' 

In fact what they were witnessing was a fire service drill competition for Island teams organised by the British Rail Board. In the 1960's the railways Pier Head firefighting party were highly successful in events nationwide and were national champions in the earlier part of the decade. On this occasion the Board wished to see their men pitched against teams from the County Brigade, the Post Office and various local works brigades.

The five-man trailer-pump competition was won by Dave alongside four of his Ryde colleagues and it was they who the County Press selected to feature in the published photograph (below). 

When Dave was promoted to Leading Fireman he was often involved in planning training drills, some being quite elaborate. One he created in cahoots with the management of the railway, was so convincing that his colleagues were under the impression they were attending a genuine rail crash at St John's. 

Like all members of the fire and rescue services Dave suffered his low points. One ghastly and emotionally straining event involved a vehicle collision in which six persons died, one of whom was a relative. On another occasion being despatched to a reported vehicle collision at Smallbrook railway bridge Dave and his crew were stumped to arrive at the identified point but find no obvious sign of a vehicle.  Fortunately someone looked up. The car had taken the bridge at such speed that it had launched itself high in to the top of a nearby tree and stayed there.

As Dave's fire service career neared its end one final incident was to close his lengthy period of service. This was the massive fire at the Dibbens furniture store on the corner of Park Road and Monkton Street on the snow-laden night of 6 February 1986. It was to be Dave's last fire and he retired soon after.

 

One of the many images available of the Dibbens fire.

I (Damon Corr) didn't join until ten years after Dave's retirement and therefore didn't have the opportunity to work with him. As a young member of Ryde Fire Station I did have the pleasure of meeting him just once when distributing bottles of brandy and food hampers to veteran firemen in the run up to Christmas, probably 1996 or 97. He invited Leading Firefighter Perkis and myself into his home in St Thomas's Street and I had never before seen such a glittering collection of fire service memorabilia. He proudly pointed out various items in his cabinets and I only wish I'd had more time to listen to his tales.

Dave was clearly a man for whom the fire service was far more than just a job and in retirement he purchased a decommissioned fire engine which he cared for with every bit of the professionalism he'd have given to a engine on the run.   

Sadly Dave passed away on 3 January 2015 aged 83.  

 

Rest in peace Leading Fireman Corney.