ON THIS DAY: 6th May 1942 THE FIRE AT LARKIN’S BAKERY
At approximately 1am on Wednesday May 6th 1942, postman Willie John Kelly woke up from his residence at 82 Lower Main Street, to smell a fire burning next door in Larkin’s Bakery. Frank Larkin, son of the former Town Clerk, John G. Larkin, had opened the bakery nine years previously, three doors up from the former bakery of his granduncle John Ward, supplying bread and flour to shops and homes throughout the county.
Upon noticing the fire, Willie John Kelly immediately went to the Garda Barracks a few doors down the street and it wasn’t long before the local fire brigade were on the scene, under the supervision of Town Surveyor Mr. C.V. McLaughlin. However, they were unable to contain the raging fire, so a call was put through to the Derry fire brigade who arrived to assist the efforts. Utilising the water of the nearby River Swilly, the combined brigades, with the assistance of many local residents, were finally able to quell the fire and stop it spreading further to adjoining premises.
The Derry Journal from May 8th 1942 tells us that “the fire had a firm grip on the plant, ovens and stores in the premises, from which flames and smoke were issuing in dense quantity” and that “a large quantity of bread, ready for the morning despatch, was destroyed, as well as a big supply of flour, sugar, salt, and other commodities”. The report reserves special praise for the efforts of the combined fire brigades and also the local residents “who quickly gathered in large numbers, assisted the fire fighters in their difficult work”.