My thanks go to Richard Devereux who provided this photo of his grandfather, Bill, enjoying a cigarette in the ruins of Salonika in the aftermath of the Great Fire, having done his bit to help.
Richard is a Bristol based poet who has been widely published in anthologies and magazines and has kindly given permission for his poem on the fire to be published here on the centenary.
The Great Fire
A careless Turkish housewife caused The Fire.
While frying aubergines for lunch one day,
she popped outside to natter to her mate.
The pan caught light, the flames leapt higher and higher;
a mighty conflagration underway –
all efforts to extinguish it – too late.
Fanned by the Vardar breeze, the fire swept through
the neighbourhoods of Turks and Greeks and Jews.
The soldiers gazed in awe at the glow and smoke …
were sent on trucks to give what help they could.
‘All hands to the pumps!’ but the Fire Brigade had none
that worked. Bill did what he could. He helped a bloke
load onto a cart his few pathetic goods.
In the photograph, Bill’s having a fag. Job done!
The poem is taken from Bill, a book which tells the story of Bill Devereux’s life through a collection of poems. You may recall that the book was given a mention back in March on World Poetry Day.