Fireman Jack Neville Presland

Dorking Fire Brigade
Dorking Fire Brigade

We received an e mail from Rose Scrivens.   “We visited your Museum on Friday 1st August and inquired about your archive  photos for the fire service in which my husbands grand father had served. We were delighted that you had him in a photo with the horse drawn engine. He was Jack Neville Presland,  born  1878,  Dorking Surrey.  He married Ethel Maude Freestone  in  1906,  Dorking.  Jack was also a carpenter by trade & lived at “Mauville” Ridgeway Rd,  (The two houses there were built by two of Jacks brothers).   Jack did not serve in the 1st World War as he was, at that time the only fireman who was able to work the steam pump on the horse drawn fire engine.   The 1901 census has Jack  living with his  parents & siblings at  6  Hart Rd, Dorking. As I don’t have the death for Jack Presland I will have to find out & let you know. We enjoyed our visit to your museum & thank the staff for taking such an interest in our quest.   Many thanks from Rose Scrivens” Our archivist, Maureen Shettle was especially excited.   “Dear All,   This is an amazing coincidence as its Jack Presland’s items of memorabilia that I’m about to deposit at the Museum. They belong to my father (now 88) and they were given to him by Jack’s son when Jack  died in 1968. At that time my father was the officer in charge at Dorking Fire Station and he remembers Jack well although he must have retired during the war. Apparently he often used to call into the station for a cup of tea and a yarn for years afterwards.”   The following is a transcript of a newspaper cutting relating to his brother Orliff (named Oliver in the report).

Surrey Mirror 17 April 1914

Betchworth Parish Church was the scene of a fireman’s wedding on Saturday. The bridegroom Mr Oliver Wilfred Presland, third son of Mr and Mrs Edward Presland of Hart Road, Dorking, has been a member of the Dorking Fire Brigade for eleven years and as a compliment his brother firemen attended the ceremony in uniform with their manual. The bride was Miss Annie Louisa Toms, daughter of Mr and Mrs George Toms of Lime Works Cottages, Betchworth and as she entered the church attired in cream voile, the firemen lined up on either side. The Vicar, the Rev T G Longley, performed the ceremony. Mr Harold Croucher being best man. On leaving the church the newly married couple passed under a triumphal arch formed by the firemen with crossed axes and they were then conveyed to the bride’s home on the fire engine accompanied by Chief Officer Whaley and the bridegroom’s brother, Fireman J N Presland. The happy couple afterwards left to spend the honeymoon at Darlington.

Registered as Orliff W Presland. Also Orliff in 1911 census  The following transcript is a report of his retirement from (we think) the Dorking Advertiser in 1941

40 Years a Fireman; Presentation to Second Officer Presland; Memories of the Old Dorking Brigade

Mr J N Presland, Second Officer of the Dorking Fire Brigade has completed 40 years service in that Brigade. To celebrate that notable achievement and to show their affection for Mr Presland as a Brigade officer and as a man, Dorking firemen assembled at the Fire Station on Wednesday evening to present to him an inscribed cigarette case and lighter combined for which members of the retained Brigade and of the AFS had subscribed.

Mr H S Woodward (Chairman of the Urban Council’s Fire Brigade Committee) made the presentation describing it as a pleasant and proud task, proud because during Mr Presland’s association with the Brigade, it had grown into a very efficient service, second to none in Surrey.

“You of the AFS,” said Mr Woodward, “are the first line of defence.” Referring to the bravery of the fire services throughout the country during the early months of the intensified aerial war, he proceeded. “I was standing in Nower Road that evening of the London dock fire. I thought if Hitler follows that up now, he can set the whole of London alight. By some good fortune, plus the bravery of the fire service, we know how little of London was hurt and how it was finally saved. That was a turning point in the fight for Britain.”

Mr Woodward thanked the firemen for the loyal service they had given to the Chief Officer and to him as Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee. Coming to the presentation to Second Officer Presland, Mr Woodward described that officer as a “great townsman.” He had done 40 years continuous service in a humble but efficient Brigade. That was a wonderful record in a small town – to stand by the Brigade through thick and thin, through criticisms, through its humble days to the day when the Brigade had grown into a very efficient organisation, and Mr Presland could say “I helped to build this structure.” Members of the Brigade knew Mr Presland’s worth as a fireman. To the public, Mr Presland had been a loyal servant and one of the most efficient fire officers in Surrey. He had gained distinction as an ambulance man also. He had been the backbone of the retained Brigade since it superseded the old volunteer Brigade 20 years ago. That retained Brigade, by its efficiency and loyalty had given fire protection at a cost of only 2s per head of the population per year. Mr Presland had been very thorough in his training of AFS men and the presentation now being made to him was a mark of appreciation for that training and a mark of the esteem which all members of the Brigade had for the Second Officer.

The firemen sang heartily “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” and cheered when the presentation was made. Mr Presland surprised by the gift, expressed his thanks feelingly. He proceeded to give some delightful and amusing reminiscences of the old Fire Brigade, particularly when horses were used and the appliances consisted of a steamer, two manuals, a hose cart and a truck. This, last named with which the firemen had to run, was used for fires in the town. When they had to take the steamer or the manual to a fire, they had to wait for horses. First, they used horses kept at “The Three Tuns,” then horses supplied by Messrs Meakins. But Messrs Meakins got a motor lorry so the Brigade had to use two dust cart horses. When the fire alarm sounded, one of the dust carts might be in Horsham Road and the other in the High street. The dustmen dumped the refuse in the road and ran with the horses to the Fire Station. The harness and reins were not easy to adjust. Once when the driver of the steamer wanted to turn from West Street into Vincent’s Lane he pulled the reins. One horse turned but the other pulled along Westcott Road.

In one street it was the custom for the householders to put their dustbins in front of their houses on the day the dustmen were calling. Going up this street to a fire one day, the horses tried to stop at each dustbin. When going to a fire at Ockley, the horses “jibbed” and the firemen had to go out onto Holmwood Common and catch two more horses. A racehorse was borrowed on one occasion to draw the hosecart to a Leatherhead fire. The driver said afterwards that he had a difficult job to keep the horse’s front feet out its collar [sic] as it galloped.

Mr Presland mentioned that he had served under six Chief Officers- Messrs Shearburn, Roe, Whaley, McMillan, Tamplin, and Horsford – there being six months prior to the appointment of Mr Horsford when he was left in charge of the Brigade. During the first eighteen years of his service it was a purely voluntary Brigade. Indeed, being a fireman was a hobby then and those joining had to buy even their own fire boots. Since the Brigade became a retained Brigade, the Council had looked after them very well. Mr Presland ended with a word of welcome to the meeting that evening to Third Officer Rose, who, he said, had served with him for nearly the whole of the forty years since he joined the Brigade.

Mr H D Jeffries (Deputy Clerk to the Council) attended on behalf of the Clerk (Mr Leslie J V Piper) who is indisposed. Reading a letter sent by Mr Piper to Mr Presland, Mr Jeffries said the high opinion of Mr Presland which was expressed therein was held by the whole town. Mr Piper wrote in his letter, “I have heard with great interest of the presentation which is to be made to you tonight to mark the 40th anniversary of your association with the Dorking Fire Brigade and feel that I cannot let such an association pass without adding my personal congratulations. It is a far cry to the days of the horse drawn steam pumps of 40 year ago. If, when you joined the old voluntary brigade, anyone had told you that in 1941, the Brigade would have had a fire service manned and equipped as it is today, you could not possibly have believed them. The capacity of the Dorking fire service to meet the demands and strains of these wartime days, has I know, filled many Dorking people with admiration and pride, and your contribution to the service is one of which you may be justly proud. I hope that your association with the Brigade will continue not only until the war is over, but for many years in the quieter days of peace to which we are all looking forward.”

The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to Mr Woodward and Mr Jeffries, proposed by Chief Officer Horsford and seconded by Sub-Officer Hills.

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