Girvan man was responsible for stopping Eton fire

Erik Knussen pictured at his home in Girvan this week.
Erik Knussen pictured at his home in Girvan this week.

A Girvan resident has told the remarkable story of how he averted a potential disaster at Britain’s most famous private school.

Erik Knussen was playing the tuba as part of a Scottish National Orchestra at Eton College in 1966 when a fire broke out near to where he was playing.

He told the Gazette about what happened: “We were doing a tour of the south. One concert was at Eton College and I was the manager of the Scottish National Orchestra.

“There were 95 musicians playing away and I was playing at the edge of the platform.

“Suddenly I smelt burning. I continued playing but then I could see smoke coming through and I thought “nuts to this”. Unheard of, I put my instrument down and went off the platform.

“Underneath the platform around the back, which was all wooden, there were two large cardboard boxes full of other boxes and papers that had been set alight and were burning rapidly.

“I was able to get underneath the platform and pull the pieces of wood out and then I ran looking for fire extinguishers but I couldn’t find one.

“I knocked the door of the music master and of course he knew where to find one.”

Erik says at the time there wasn’t much coverage about the incident.

“I think they might have been trying to dampen down the incident as they wouldn’t want people knowing boys from Eton had done this though I could be quite wrong!

“It was mentioned in the Daily Mail and funnily enough the Singapore Times covered it.”

Erik jokes that he might have altered history with current Prime Minister David Cameron having attended Eton.

“That occurred to me last week when I heard about Government ministers who had gone to Eton. I should get a handout from them all!”