Victorian-era fire helmet gets new home

The Sidney Fire Department is welcoming a piece of history into their fire hall.

Fire chief Brett Mikkelsen said that about two weeks ago, Anne and Alan Stafford had popped in and said they had an old fire helmet that could use a new home. When they dropped it off two weeks later, he thanked them by giving them a tour of the fire hall.

The brass helmet, called a Merryweather, were introduced in 1868 and used up until the end of the Second World War, when it was discovered that they were dangerous in the presence of electricity. The leather lining of the helmet is somewhat worn, and very tight — almost child-sized.

Anne said they thought the Sidney fire department would be interested because it was so old, “and I don’t think the kids are that interested in it. I mean, where else but the fire department, eh?”

Alan was stationed outside of Nottingham, England, at RAF Langar, a Royal Air Force base doing what he said was “just office work, nothing exciting.” The base was also used by the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Alan’s job kept the couple in England from 1959-1963. At some point they went antiquing in London, and while they did not find what they were originally after, they picked up this helmet and have had it ever since.

The couple, who live in Sidney, laughed as Mikkelsen insisted that a plaque be made in recognition of their gift.

“We were just going to drop it off,” said Anne.

Mikkelsen said it was important to him to recognize their gift “because we take this very seriously and we’ll look after it for, long after I’m gone for sure.”

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