Vanity Fair (UK), September 29, 1904

[A recruit for the London Fire Brigade was rejected by Captain Hamilton, with the remark, “You are too stout, my man.”]

I should like to be a hero,
 I should like to fight the flames,
I could long to join the firemen
 In their philanthropic games,
I should love to wear a helmet,
 In the place of my top-hat—
 But I’m much too fat.

I can see myself, while thousands
 Cheered my efforts with a will,
Saving damsels from destruction
 On a fourth floor window-sill.
Any blaze, howe’er terrific,
 I could quench beyond a doubt—
 But I’m much too stout.

For the Fire Brigade wants workers
 Who are lean, and move with grace:
Any prodigy of Peckham
 They’d consider out of place.
My heart is of the stoutest,
 But I fear I shall not do—
 For I’m stout, too.





“THE LONDON FIRE BRIGADE. Greater care is being exercised in the selection of suitable men for the London Fire Brigade, and several who would have been engaged a year or two ago are now rejected as unfit. Only the other day a candidate who had passed the preliminary tests of strength, etc., was rejected by Captain Hamilton with the remark, “You are too stout for a fireman. As a matter of fact I am too stout myself.” The candidate resented the assertion and told the chief officer he was capable of jumping over the head of any man then in the drill class.” (Aberdeen Journal, September 24, 1904)


John Dawson