BFD History

Fifty able-bodied men volunteered for the Goose Neck, as membership was considered a social honour. These men included Abram Bradley (Livery Keeper), Matthew Whitham (Baker), Duncan McKay (McKay and Smith, Saddle and Harness makers), Henry Yardington (Real Estate), James McMichael (photographer), Hugh Spencer (Spencer and Sons Brewery), George S. Wilkes (Iron Founder, Merchant and Miller), Calvin Houghton (Calvin and Houghton, leather manufacturer), William Matthews (auctioneer), William Leeming (Leeming and Paterson Confectionary and Cigar Factory) and Joseph Shuttleworth (Insurance and General Ticket Agent). It can be assumed that the reason why the men developed a fire company was to protect their businesses from devastating fires. By creating the volunteer organization, the men were not only looking out for the community, but were also turning the commercial and industrial districts into more appealing locations for a business to locate.

The Goose Neck’s first Constitution in 1842 listed the fines that the members imposed on themselves to fund the organization. These offences included interrupting others as they spoke, non-attendance at roll-call, ringing the bell (false alarm), and wearing a dirty uniform.  The Goose Neck’s lone piece of apparatus was a box and nozzle with a set of wheels and brakes. The wooden box held the water used to combat the fires. The fire service gained its name from the nozzle, which resembled a goose’s neck. This apparatus had no motorized parts; it had to be filled with pails of water and dragged to its destination by the men who operated it. Although this piece of apparatus greatly improved the departments efficiency, as it enabled the men to carry a large quantity of water, destructive fires continued to occur. Brantford was turning into an industrial centre, and many wooden buildings were built for businesses in the downtown core. The materials that the buildings were composed of, along with the lack of water mains, were the main causes for the devastating fires. In 1849, to increase the brigade’s efficiency, firefighter Duncan McKay and Ignatius Cockshutt dug a well on the north side of Colborne Street. The well enabled the apparatus to be filled quickly with  water when needed.