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One of Scotland’s longest serving firefighters retires after more than four decades protecting the community


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

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

James joined Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service in March 1981, two years after his father, Billy, retired after 28 years of service.

He is a grandfather of two whose brother was also a firefighter and currently works as a carpenter and funeral director in his hometown.

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

Reflecting on his fire service, James said: “My dad was a hardware merchant and used to ring a bell in town to alert him to emergencies. There were a lot more fires in those days.

“I often saw a fire truck drive by, but I really knew little about the details of the job.

“My dad served for 28 years and enjoyed the work. He retired in 1979, and I joined two years later. I think he would be proud that I got to carry on his legacy.”

From a young age, James was taught to serve the community, but what he valued most was the bond he formed with his fellow firefighters.

He said: “One of the best things about this job is the camaraderie between colleagues in different roles.

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

“Community work 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 that brings a lot of satisfaction.”

Station Commander Derek Milligan said: “On-duty 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 the wider community.”

SFRS currently has vacancies for On Duty Firefighters in various locations across Scotland.

More information about job requirements and current job offers can be found on our website