The Dublin Whiskey Fire of 1875

Aug 23, 2022 0 comments

On June 18, 1875, a fire broke out on Chamber Street in the Liberties neighborhood of Dublin, Ireland. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown, but the first building to catch fire was the Laurence Malone's bonded storehouse, where 5,000 barrels (amounting to more than one million liters) of whiskey and other spirits were being stored.

The fire spread quickly, and as the flames reached the wooden casks holding the liquor, they burst open, sending a burning river of whiskey flowing through the narrow streets. The blazing booze caught fire to everything it touched.

Dublin Whiskey Fire 1875.

The Dublin Whiskey Fire as depicted by The Illustrated London News.

People were first alerted to the fire by the squealing of pigs from a nearby pen. This early warning contributed to a surprisingly rapid evacuation of the area that was later commended by members of the emergency services as well as the mayor.

Meanwhile, crowds gathered along the streams of flowing alcohol, which had become 2 feet wide, 6 inches deep and stretched more than 400 meters down one side of Mill Street. They began scooping up the liquors as it flowed past them with pots and pans. Some even took off their hats and boots to collect the whiskey. Others cupped their hands and drank straight from the streets.

Unknown to the men, the whisky was undiluted and therefore much higher proof than it would be at bottling time. Dozens of people fell ill from alcohol poisoning.

“Eight men were carried in a comatose state to Meath Hospital; twelve to Jervis Street Hospital; three to Stevens' Hospital; and one young man to Mercer's Hospital. And even these numbers do not represent the entire of the persons put hors de combat by the drink,” reported The Irish Times.

Dublin Whiskey Fire 1875.

People drinking whiskey pouring into the street after a fire in a distillery, Dublin, June 18, 1875, Ireland. Illustration from L'Illustration, Journal Universel

In all, 13 people died that day, but none of the deceased perished in the flames, nor did they die of smoke inhalation—each died from drinking too much.

The fire was eventually put out by pouring a mixture of sand and gravel over the flaming liquid. They could not have used water, as the whiskey would have floated to the top like petrol does, and spread the fire throughout the city. When they had run out of sand, they used horse manure to create blockades to prevent the whiskey from flowing and causing more damage. As the burning whiskey met the damp manure it was soaked up and the fire slowly began to subside.

The infamous Whiskey Fire is still remembered to this day. In 2014, a new blend of craft whiskey was launched called 'Flaming Pig', named after the squeals of fleeing pigs said to have first alerted residents to the fire.

# The Great Whiskey Fire of Dublin, 1875, Rare Irish Stuff
# The night a river of whiskey ran through the streets of Dublin, Irish Times


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