Many of you may be aware of the journalist, columnist and sports writer Bob Shields who worked for Scotlands largest selling newspaper the Daily Record, or perhaps have seen his face in the photos of the sports pages. Bob worked there for many years before his retirement a year or two ago and his assignments took him all over the place as he covered various news stories or sports events.
One of his assignments that left a mark on him was when he flew to New York to cover the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. With New York in chaos, the Twin Towers reduced to heaps of rubble; over two and a half thousand innocent people reported dead or missing; heartbreaking final mobile calls to their wives and husbands as the people knew they were about to die being aired on television; and the sight of hundreds of distraught people walking about with photos of their loved ones, desperately clinging to the hope that they were still alive, days after the Towers collapsed, all led to a very strong feeling of unreality in the city.
This strange atmosphere affected Bob and other journalists there to cover the story. One thing that did stick in Bob’s mind was the courage, the camaraderie, and the indefatigability of the firefighters of New York as they worked day and night to dig members of the public and indeed their own colleagues out of the rubble and debris, and somehow give hope to those who waited for loved ones to be found.
As we all know American fire stations are called Firehouses and in their off duty time the NY firefighters had regular pubs where they used to congregate and where Bob used to go to for the latest information on how things were progressing. Bob was struck by the esteem these firefighters were held in by the American public, with examples such as sharp suited businessmen coming into the pub, going up to the bar, laying down one or two hundred dollars with the instructions to “get the firefighters a steak” or “get these guys a drink on me” then walking out again not wanting any thanks, just grateful to be able to contribute in their own small way to the ongoing efforts.
When Bob retired in 2009 it had long been an ambition of his to be a pub owner and that ambition came true when he opened his first ever pub on 15th July 2010 in the old railway tavern in the centre of Ayr across the road from Ayr train station. For Bob there was only one name he wanted to call it – “The Firehouse”. Bob had previously set about gathering Fire Brigade memorabilia off the internet, from New York and from some firefighter friends in order to give the Firehouse a unique atmosphere and a character of its own; probably being the first pub to be totally Fire Brigade themed in Scotland.
In the Firehouse Bob had a host of fire service memorabilia including a collection of dividing and collecting breechings, branches, old fire alarms, plaques and shields (no pun intended) from various Fire Services including SFR, old SFB station names, old photos of horses and steamers and a few photos of actual fires, a couple of which feature Joe Doolan in the HP cage with Craig Stevenson operating it at a fire in Nile Court in Ayr in August 1998. He has made a special feature in the middle of the spacious pub of 4 sections of two middle ladders (10.5m ladders) lashed together and secured to two pillars with lengths of hose intertwined through the rounds, fire helmets suspended from the rounds including one from the USA and fire boots featuring also. It stands there like some modern art sculpture and is very effective.
Bob is continually on the lookout for more memorabilia and would love to get the front of an old condemned fire engine to mount on his wall, as if bursting through. On the day we popped down with some REA members we met Bobby Cummings, the RDS Watch Commander from Ayr who brought along some photos for the REA and also some memorabilia for Bob’s pub. Bobby retires later this year and now has the option of holding his BNO in the Firehouse.
It was our intention to have lunch there to check out the menu for this article and we were not disappointed. With lunches priced at £5.95 for two courses the cost is very reasonable indeed and the menu is wide and varied with a selection to suit most palates; a range of starters and a host of main meals ranging from pasta, grills, salads, chicken, fish etc and finishing off with sweets.
Each one of us had a different choice and each one of us agreed that it was expertly cooked, good portion size and very good value. Of course the speciality is the Firehouse pizza with Bob having the only wood fired pizza oven in Ayr; the rest are all gas-fired or electrical. This pizza oven stands in the lounge itself, just across from the bar so the customers can see their own pizzas being cooked. It’s like a stone igloo and looks very authentic, again adding to the atmosphere of the place.
There’s also a range of teas and coffees and a chill compartment with real ice cream should you be popping in for a non-alcoholic lunch or coffee break. Bob also does small functions on request and as a tribute to us all, every Wednesday night he has a 999 evening with live music, promotions, cocktails and his special pizzas for £3.99 – but if you are a firefighter, police officer, paramedic, coastguard, doctor, lifeboat personnel or mountain rescue then all pizzas are available for the sum of 99.9 pence!
He had also offered to do an all-you can-eat pizza night for our Tunnel to Towers fundraiser, which will be ticket only and should be an excellent evening to get together – details to follow.
If you are going to Ayr for a day visit why not have lunch at the Firehouse? If you are near retiring why not hold your BNO at the Firehouse?
If you live in Ayr why not make it your pub of choice? Pop in for coffee, lunch or evening dinner and bump into some old friends and colleagues or have your birthday party, anniversary party etc in there for a nice change of atmosphere. You can contact Bob on 01292 611905 or pop into the Firehouse at the corner of Smith Street and Kyle Street in Ayr and see for yourself.
Mention the REA to Bob for a warm reception and enjoy yourself.