It was a fire that indelibly marked the public’s memory as it gutted an Angus landmark 30 years ago.
The Regal Cinema in Forfar opened in 1932 and served as the town picture house until changing tastes put the 900-seater in mothballs.
Its “tinderbox” interior ignited on a Saturday teatime in the biggest fire to be seen in a generation, and the largest in Forfar until the former Wellbrae Primary School was destroyed in a night-time fireball last year.
Six fire tenders and 35 firemen from Forfar, Dundee, Kirriemuir and Brechin attended the scene, and more than 800 gallons of water a minute were directed on to the flames.
Former Tayside watch manager Alan Shepherd remembers it as the biggest fire he had worked at in 32 years and 9,000 call-outs with the fire service.
Mr Shepherd, now a crew commander at Aberdeen International Airport, had been a driver for six years and the fire was his first call as a pump operator.
“You had firefighters with hoses on top of the roof which nowadays wouldn’t be allowed, firefighters in the building, and people on watch at ground level as there was a chimney stack right above them.
“The Kirrie firefighters entered through the first-floor windows at the cafeteria.
“There were teams in breathing apparatus in the front door, they were nearly killed by a gas cylinder that hit the deck beside two of them.
“I had a hydrant at the top of Coutties Wynd feeding my pump, one at Stan Christie’s, and one at the Wo Kee.
“That’s how much water I was drawing in.”
The first Forfar crews realised there was no chance of containing the fire and feared it would move on from the cinema’s dry timbers.
“At first it was trying to save the building and then it was a containment job,” Mr Shepherd added.
“We were even talking about the houses down the lane, the East & Old church, Coutties Wynd, as you had embers in the air.
“Early on, there were off-duty guys from Dundee who were manning pumps in their shorts, or at the hydrants.
“That let you have a firefighter dressed for the job to get into it.
“Even the ones that didn’t make the pumps grabbed their kit and ran along, as I did.
“One Forfar crew appeared at the station and, having missed the fire engines, decided to take the rescue unit without telling control.”
A former favourite
No evidence remains of the former East High Street favourite, apart from the rebuilt home of M&Co and local memories.
The Regal was opened by Provost Hanick in 1932 and added bingo as demand for cinema declined.
The picture house shut its doors in 1983 after the final show, the fantasy epic Krull.
Hundreds of Forfarians stood on the street and watched as the roof collapsed and the walls bulged and cracked dangerously once the fire took hold.
The Co-op building next door and its 15 staff – who were preparing to go home – had to be evacuated but the 18-inch gap between the buildings was maintained.
An on-site inspection was held with the police, fire brigade and Angus District Council engineers.
Dundee contractor Trojan Metals started demolishing from back to front, cutting away the metal across the roof before knocking in the walls, which began at the start of August.