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Vivien's History - The Christening

Demonstrations were arranged by Captain Horace Friend and Alderman Ollard (Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee) for Dennis and Leyland fire engines to be put through their paces in Wisbech during March 1932. The Committee considered the merits and cost of each before recommending that the Leyland fire engine be purchased at a cost of £1,500 and be lettered “Borough of Wisbech Fire Brigade” and have the full armorial bearings of the Borough emblazoned thereon, the Council also agreeing the engine should be named in honour of the Mayoress.

On Monday July 4th 1932 long before the 7.15pm christening ceremony a huge interested crowd had assembled on the Market Place to watch the preliminaries. The new Leyland motor fire engine headed the procession, and was followed by the pumps, engine and other equipment, and finally the old manual engine dated 1815 driven by a fireman in his uniform of the period. The inclusion of this relic showed to perfection the great advance made in fire fighting during the past century.

A bottle of champagne was suspended by a silken ribbon from the fire escape, and the Mayoress (Mrs J. W. A. Wilson) standing on the running board cut the ribbon allowing the bottle to crash onto an iron wheel placed in front of the radiator and graciously bestowed her name “Vivien” on one of the most up-to-date fire engines in the district. Splashes of the “sauciest of all liquors” sprayed the brightly painted engine and gave forth an aroma which whetted the average individuals palate to a great degree. The Mayoress said “there were many ways of handing one’s name to posterity, but very few could give it to a fire engine, might God speed it in all its uses.

The Mayor (Dr J. W. A. Wilson) described it as almost an historic occasion and had no hesitation in saying there was not within 40 to 50 miles a better fire engine than they possessed in Wisbech. The Mayoress then rang the fire bell as a signal for the new fire engine to proceed to the Town Hall, where a demonstration of its capabilities was given. While on the South Brink the two pumps with the old steamer were placed. Four jets were fixed on the new engine and tremendous volumes of water were thrown to a huge height. On the other side of the river the pumps and old steamer were tested to their utmost, but their efforts were feeble compared with “Vivien”.


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