Captain Sir Eyre
Massey Shaw KCB (17 January 1828 – 25 August
1908) was the first Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade
(now renamed the London Fire Brigade), and the Superintendent of its
predecessor, the London Fire Engine Establishment, from 1861 to
1891. He introduced modern firefighting methods to the Brigade, and
increased the number of stations.
1 Early career
2 Metropolitan Fire Brigade
3 Cultural influence and legacy
5 External links
Shaw was born in Ballymore, County Cork, Ireland and was educated
first at a school in Queenstown and then at Trinity College,
Dublin. Shaw considered joining the Church but decided on a career
in the Army and gained a commission in the North Cork Rifles, a
militia regiment of the
British Army (later the 9th Battalion, King's
Royal Rifle Corps) from 1854 to 1860, reaching the rank of captain.
He resigned from the Army on being appointed Chief Constable of
Belfast Borough Police in June 1860, in charge of both the police and
the fire brigade. In September 1861, following the death of the
then head, James Braidwood, in the line of duty while fighting a
massive fire in Tooley Street, Shaw was engaged as head of the London
Fire Engine Establishment.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade
In 1865, Parliament passed the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act, placing
responsibility for fire protection in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade
(combining the former London Fire Engine Establishment and the Society
for the Protection of Life from Fire), to be supervised by the
Metropolitan Board of Works. Shaw headed the new brigade.
Shaw was an influential thinker on firefighting, publishing at least
one book on the subject. He is noted for his introduction of uniforms
and the famous brass helmets (c. 1868), and for introducing a ranking
system. He also introduced the use of the electrical telegraph for
communication between stations (c. 1867), and stand pipes and
As London grew during the late 19th century, Shaw expanded the number
of fire stations. In 1861, the LFEE had comprised 17 land and two
river stations and 129 men; when he retired 30 years later, the
brigade's estate comprised 55 land and four river stations, 127 street
escape and hose-cart stations, 675 personnel and 131 horses. Sloping
floors in fire stations allowed engines to move out more easily ('on
the run', a term still used today). Under his leadership, he also
procured steam fire engines, contacting the main manufacturers,
Merryweather & Sons and Shand Mason, and working with them to
develop an engine which could be pulled by two horses and produce
several jets at high pressure (on average, 300 gallons of water per
Shaw was a well-known socialite (which led to his immortalisation in
operetta, see below) and a personal friend of the Prince of Wales
(later Edward VII). A firefighting outfit was always kept ready at
Charing Cross Fire Station in case the Royal heir chose to
When the Fire Brigade was taken over by the
London County Council
London County Council in
1889, he disagreed with the administration and resigned in 1891. He
was knighted by
Queen Victoria on his last day of service. Shaw died
Folkestone on 25 August 1908.
Cultural influence and legacy
Shaw issues a report into the fire-readiness of the London music halls
Shaw is best remembered today as the "Captain Shaw" to whom the Fairy
Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's
Iolanthe addresses herself, wondering
if his "brigade with cold cascade" could quench her great love. Shaw
was present in the stalls at the first night of
Iolanthe in 1882, and
Alice Barnett, playing the Fairy Queen, addressed herself directly to
him. Legend has it that he stood up and took a bow.
In 1886, Shaw was later named in an adultery lawsuit involving Lady
Colin Campbell who was sitting next to Shaw at the
(source Anne Jordan biographer LCC).
In addition, a historic fireboat, named the Massey Shaw, still exists,
and was recently renovated. Built in 1935, it made several trips to
Dunkirk during the evacuation of British troops from France in
Winchester House, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Fire brigade in
Southwark, which also included a residence for Shaw, later became
London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade Museum (now closed); an
English Heritage Blue
plaque still adorns the building and states that Shaw lived there.
^ Newmann, Kate (2012). "Eyre Massey Shaw". The Dictionary of Ulster
Biography. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
^ Austin Macauley Publishers (ISBN 978-1-78455-541-2)
Archived 25 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b c d e "Sir Eyre Massey Shaw". Obituaries. The Times (38735).
London. 26 August 1908. col B, p. 11.
^ Fire Brigade history at www.firebrigadehistory.netfirms.com Archived
4 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
^ History at www.aovq74.dsl.pipex.com Archived 9 May 2008 at the
^ a b c "Sir Eyre Massey Shaw".
Massey Shaw Educational Trust.
Retrieved 14 July 2017.
^ "Telegraph". London Fire Journal. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
^ a b "
London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade Museum, Winchester House". London buses:
and now London's Museums. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
^ "Chief Officer Captain Shaw". London Fire Brigade. 2012. Retrieved
30 September 2012.
^ "Massey Shaw". Association of
Dunkirk Little Ships. 2012. Retrieved
30 September 2012.
^ "Shaw, Sir Eyre Massey (1830–1908)". English Heritage. 2012.
Retrieved 30 September 2012.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Captain Eyre Massey Shaw.
Works by or about Eyre
Massey Shaw at Internet Archive
The Fireboat Massey Shaw
Massey Shaw at Find a Grave