A SOLITARY fireman’s helmet lay on the altar of Glasgow Cathedral as one by one the names of those who were killed in one of the city’s worst fires were read aloud.

With a poignant minute’s silence following, it gave those gathered a moment to reflect on the loss of life as the 50th anniversary of the Kilbirnie Street blaze was commemorated.

Moments earlier firefighter Derek Roden had walked in silence to the altar carrying a replica of the helmet similar to what would have been worn by his late grandfather William Hooper who perished in the 1972 fire.

Read more: Glasgow's Kilbirnie Street fire victims remembered 50 years on

He was among seven people who died during a fire at Sher Brothers cash and carry on August 25, 1962.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Crew Commander Roden, based at Glasgow’s Castlemilk Community Fire Station, bowed as he placed the helmet on the altar.

HeraldScotland: Firefighters gathered at a wreath laying ceremony at Glasgow NecropolisFirefighters gathered at a wreath laying ceremony at Glasgow Necropolis

Mr Roden said he was proud to take the honour and to represent the family.

Mr Hooper was 43 when he died and his daughter Elaine, who is Derek’s mum, was just 18-years-old.

Mr Roden said: “I’ve seen photos of my grandfather and I know he was a keen piano player. They used to have parties and have everyone round to their house. He was very sociable.

“He was 43 when he passed, and I look at photos of him, I’ve just turned 40 this year and here I am almost at his age – the same as him.”

HeraldScotland: It was an emotional day for firefighter Derek RodenIt was an emotional day for firefighter Derek Roden

His grandfather and six other men from the former Glasgow Fire Service lost their lives on August 25, 1972 at the Kilbirnie Street fire. They were: Divisional Officer Andrew Quinn, Leading Firefighter Alistair Crofts and Firefighters Iain Bermingham, Allan Finlay, Duncan McMillan and James Rook.

While tackling the fire, as firefighters tried to exit the building, firefighter James Rook became trapped by stock that had fallen on top of him. Divisional Officer Andrew Quinn led a team of volunteers to try to find and rescue him.

Read more: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to close its doors for two months

Unfortunately, as the search party entered the building the fire ignited the hardwood ceilings on the first floor, causing a massive 'flashover' leading to their deaths.

HeraldScotland: Heads bowed in tribute at Glasgow NecropolisHeads bowed in tribute at Glasgow Necropolis

Also attending the service was by Humza Yousaf MSP Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, SFRS Interim Chief Officer Ross Haggart, SFRS Board Chair Dr Kirsty Darwent and the Lord Provost of Glasgow Jacqueline McLaren.

South Station call handler Ann Running, formerly Reilly, will never forget the day the alert came in as they lost five men.

Mrs Running, 71, who attended yesterday’s service, said: “I had this terrible feeling after it that it was somehow my fault. I had sent the crew there and some of them never came back. Even now I can remember my mother talking me round that weekend and I dreaded going in for my first shift after it, but the crew came and sat with me.
“We didn’t say much we just got on with the job. I had been passed the names of those who died during that day. We had calls coming in from all over including Australia and Canada to ask if relatives had been involved, but we couldn’t say anything at the time.
“I call my former colleagues my ‘Anam Cara’ which is Gaelic for soulfriend. Sadly we have lost people over the years, but there was always a bond.”

SFRS Interim Chief Officer Ross Haggart said: “As we reach this 50th anniversary of the Kilbirnie Street tragedy, our thoughts remain very firmly with the families who lost their loved ones. These seven firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice as they worked to protect their community.

“The sacrifice made by these incredibly brave firefighters at the Kilbirnie Street fire will never be forgotten. Their spirit lives on in each and every one of our firefighters today who approach their role with that same commitment and unwavering dedication to save lives and protect communities.”

Rev Mark E Johnstone, minister of Glasgow Cathedral said it was a time to take stock and to take heart of a sacrifice that was given by many, "A sacrifice that was above and beyond the call of duty."

He said: “It is right that we look back in order to travel forward safely and that is what we do today. If these stones could speak they would perhaps weep with us, they would laugh with us. They would shed tears with us because spaces like this become the custodians of all that is important to us.”

Most Rev. William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow, said it was a time to remember the bravery, courage and heroism of the men who died.

Earlier families gathered for a wreath laying service at the firefighters’ memorial in Glasgow Necropolis. The names were added to a memorial which had been erected in memory of 19 people who died in the Cheapside Street fire in 1960.

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was amongst those who attended the service, saying afterwards: "I am grateful to be able to pay tribute at the 50th anniversary of the Kilbirnie Street fire to the brave officers who lost their lives that day and to acknowledge the devastating impact it has had on their families.
"It is a moment to remember their sacrifice, and also to recognise the dedication to duty shown by the thousands of firefighters across Scotland who continue to risk their lives to protect us."

On Sunday, August 28 a red plaque will be unveiled as part of a national Red Plaque Scheme run by the Fire Brigades Union and funded through the Firefighters 100 Lottery, aiming to commemorate firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The unveiling will take place at the site of the fire at 1.30pm. Members of the public are welcome to attend.