Glasgow School of Art honours firefighters

Students perform a guard of honour for the Scottish Fire Brigade. Picture: John Devlin
Students perform a guard of honour for the Scottish Fire Brigade. Picture: John Devlin
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THE GLASGOW School of Art has presented its top prize to firefighters who saved the Mackintosh building from destruction, and a student who lost all his work in the blaze.

The Newbery Medal, named after Francis (Fra) Newbery who commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh to design the famous building, is given to the highest-performing student.

Picture: John Devlin

Picture: John Devlin

An honorary medal was given to the Fire and Rescue Service at the art school’s graduation ceremony yesterday.

A total of 102 students received their fine art degrees in the morning along with architecture graduates and others throughout the day, numbering about 500 in total.

Crews prevented the May fire from destroying more than 
10 per cent of the structure and 30 per cent of the contents.

Newbery Medal winner Alex Kuusik lost his entire installation but had taken a photo of it before the outbreak of the fire.

His paintings were based on Han Holbein’s Dance of Death woodcuts and were described by an art critic as “an impressive conceptual entertainment”.

The photo of his lost art is part of the degree show currently at the city’s McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street.

Craig Rider, one of the firefighters who attended the blaze, received the medal on behalf of the fire service, with the inscription: “Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, 23rd May 2014 – Guardians of The Mackintosh.”

Professor Tom Inns, director of the art school, said: “Every year at our graduation ceremony, we award one Newbery Medal to the highest-performing student.

“This year, for the very first time, we will award an honorary Newbery Medal. This is to honour the bravest act for which the Glasgow School of Art will always be thankful.”

The fire service have been repeatedly thanked for their efforts, from an anonymous “thank you” note in Mackintosh style around a firefighter statue at Glasgow Central Station, to a cheering guard of honour when crews left the school a week after the blaze struck.

Chief officer Alasdair Hay said: “To be awarded the Newbery Medal is a great honour and I would like to thank Glasgow School of Art for their kind recognition of our crews.

“Much has been said about the tremendous efforts, courage and professionalism of the firefighters who prevented the loss of the Mackintosh.

“Today is a great occasion marking the culmination of students’ hard work over their courses. We are delighted to be able to share in their big day and wish each and every one of the new graduates the very best in their careers.”

Repairs to the Mackintosh could cost as much as £35 million and take up to four years.


• Glasgow School of Art fire crews’ bravery revealed