Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Historic Bell Removed From Station 16
Early this morning work began on removing the 1500 lb bronze bell from the tower at Fire Station 16 in downtown Salisbury. This bell was forged in 1914 at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore Maryland. McShane Bell Foundry has been in business for 146 years and is the last remaining bell foundry in the United States. The bell is being returned to McShane for restoration and will be placed on display at the new Station 16/Headquarters on Cypress Street.
The restoration process will be done at the foundry in Glen Burnie Maryland and should take between 6 and 8 weeks.
It has been a long time since the bell actually sounded an alarm for the volunteers. Air horns, plectrons (home monitors) and pagers have replaced the the bell as an alert system. The function of the bell in recent history was that of honoring deceased members of the department during their funeral. As I understand it, the bell will continue to serve in this capacity at it's new home.
At one time the tolling of the bell for a departed member was quite an undertaking. The general plan was for the bell to begin to toll when the funeral procession left the funeral home and stopped tolling when the the procession arrived at the cemetery. The trick was this---the bell must toll once for each year of the members life, starting and stopping at precise moments. This meant that prior to the funeral someone needed to drive the route several times to try and figure out how long it took to make the trip, then divide that by the members age and thats how many seconds between tolls the bell had to be rung. It took two people to make it work, one with a watch, and one to ring the bell by hand. The bell ringers were notified by radio when to start the tolling and with any luck the last toll would be on cue at the arrival to the cemetery.
Due to the difficulty in making this work properly I an told the policy has now changed. The accepted toll with-in the fire service for a deceased member is 5-5-5-5, and that has now been adopted by the SFD.
The last such honor was for Firefighter Michael McMullen, who died in the line of duty in Iraq serving our country in the Maryland Army National Guard. Sgt. McMullen was thus honored by the tolling of this bell two years ago on January 20th 2006.
5-5-5-5 Sgt McMullen. You are not forgotten.