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James Steps Down From Fire Service After 43 Years

One of Scotland’s longest serving firefighters has hung up his helmet for the final time after dedicating more than four decades of his life to protecting his home community.

Watch Commander James Hawthorn, 64, served the Dumfries and Galloway town of Whithorn as an on call firefighter for 43 years, three months and 22 days.

James joined Dumfries and Galloway Fire Brigade in March 1981, two years after his dad, Billy, called time on his own 28 year on call career.

The grandad-of-two, whose brother also served as an on call firefighter, doubles up as a joiner and funeral director within his hometown.

James’s community contribution was recently celebrated during a special event held at Whithorn Community Fire Station.

Reflecting on his fire service journey, James said: “My dad was an ironmonger and used to be alerted to an emergency by a bell which was located within the town. There were a lot more fires in those days.

“I’d often see the fire engine driving past but I didn’t really know much about the inner workings of the job.

“My dad served for 28 years and enjoyed the job. He retired in 1979 and I joined two years later. I think he would be proud that I was able to carry on the mantle.”

James’s sense of community service was instilled from an early age, but it was the bond between his fellow firefighters which he savoured the most.

He said: “One of the most enjoyable things about the job has been the camaraderie between colleagues at different stations.

“We all work together and support each other. There is always banter between the stations and we’d always come back to the station after an incident and discuss things as a group.

“The community service is also very rewarding and, in small towns like Whithorn, everyone knows and understands the role you play.

“A lot has changed over the years, but it’s still a good job and is very rewarding.”

Station Commander Derek Milligan said: “On call firefighters like James are integral members of their community and their dedication cannot go unnoticed.

“I would like to wish James a long and happy retirement and sincerely thank him for all he has done for the Service and his wider community.”

The SFRS currently has vacancies for on call firefighters in communities across Scotland.

For more on the requirements of the role and for current openings, visit our website