Fireman William Joseph Smith of Newport Fire Brigade passed away on 8 January 1931 aged 88.

 

Sadly very little can be defined of William's younger life although a County Press report suggests he was Newport born and bred. In 1886 he was noted as one of the first Newport firemen to be trained in First Aid by St John Ambulance. By this time William was noted as a foreman of the brigade.

It is apparent that William's service in the brigade would have exceeded the approximate thirty years he completed until New Year 1893. In late 1892 bad feeling was brewing between the town's firemen and the Council following the latter's publication of revised scales of pay that increased the pay of the officers by a percentage substantially greater than that awarded to the men. Whilst William wasn't one of the signatories of the letter of complaint submitted to the Council, he was one of those implicated by it.

The letter, written by three of William's colleagues threatened mass resignation of all the firemen in the event that their concerns weren't considered. The Council, in its wisdom, elected to call the firemen's bluff and allowed time to pass until they effectively sacked themselves when no mitigation was offered by the date of their threatened resignations. In the meantime the Council had hastily recruited a new brigade of unpaid volunteers. The day the Newport Volunteer Fire Brigade was first fielded became the same day that William and all of his colleagues ended their service. It was a terrible end to the service of those who had courageously given so much and only a few months earlier had been highly praised for their bravery and determination during a potentially catastrophic blaze in the High Street.

William was by no means idle without his brigade work. As a skilled tinsmith, whitesmith and fitter he was always busy and employed by Albert Midlane at his ironmongery for over 45 years.

After the death of his wife William spent his autumn years at Pan Foundry, the residence of his son W.C. Smith and it was here that he passed away due to heart failure on Thursday 8 January 1931. In eulogy the County Press remarked on William as one of Newport's oldest and most respected citizens. 

 

Rest in peace Fireman Smith.