Fireman Jim to hang up his uniform after more than 40 years of service

A retained fireman is hanging up his uniform after more than 40 years of service.

Jim Moar, 63 will have his last shift at Lerwick Fire Station on Tuesday – after signing up as bright-eyed 18-year-old in October 1971.

The watch manager, who has an MBE for his dedication, said a lot has changed since he joined.

He has many happy memories, and given the chance, would do it all over again.

Lerwick born and bred, Jim grew up in Burgess Street, and as youngster would play down at the dock, near the fire station.

He had cousins in the fire service and would go and play with the boxing gloves.

Signing up was much more straightforward back then, he said.

“If you were interested in joining they would basically go back and speak to the guys that were in it..if you were ok then you got in.

“It did help that the guy that was in charge at the time was a cousin of mine.”

Jim was the 13th member and now there are about 20 making a full contingent because of the shift work.

“When I joined nobody was on night shifts, they were all just working in Lerwick during the day and available nearly all the time,” he said.

Working at the station now was like “chalk and cheese” compared to his early years, it required a lot of commitment he said, with firefighters having weeks of training to complete early on.

“When I was in, for a start you were called out with a siren, one of the old-fashioned war sirens, which was mounted on the top of the House of David in St Olaf Street and then everybody had a bell in their house for at night.

“I think the siren went from seven in the morning until probably 10 at night and then the bells took over in the house.

“It was a huge bell so you had to get up and have something standing by to jam it with before it woke the whole house.”

There were three fire engines when he joined too; there was an old Bedford, a Green Goddess, painted red and an old pump escape.

“Now this is classed as a two-pump station, the third one you see is a training machine. Six is a full crew but you can go with four,” said Jim.

The station averages about 100 incidents a year, and for Jim the huge fire at the Queen’s Hotel is one that really sticks in his mind.

Jim Moar, third from left with fellow Lerwick firemen in the 1970s.
Jim Moar, third from left with fellow Lerwick firemen in the 1970s.

“The fire was through the roof and that’s the only time I’ve ever seen, ken you see it in pictures and cartoons, some of the guests had tied sheets together and lowered them out of the window.

“I’ve never seen that before or since.

“They didn’t actually use them but they did have them tied together at the back window and they would’ve come down to the sea as well.

“It would’ve been late 70s, early 80s.”

Lerwick was the only retained station at the start of his service followed by Brae with the arrival of work at Sullom Voe. Now all stations are retained.

Technology had moved on a great deal in four decades, and smoke detectors had come as “a major improvement”, he said though it was worrying to find people had taken the batteries out of them when they were called out to blazes.

Many firefighters have come and gone during that time and Jim said a massive part of the job was the camaraderie.

“You’re a team and being part of it, it’s something that’s necesarry. Somebody has to do it and I’m certainly glad I did it.”

But now felt like the right time to leave the service he said, and he will also be retiring from his role as  branch manager at Hay & Co Buildbase at Christmas.

He’s taken up golf recently and plans to be playing a bit more to get his handicap down.

“It doesn’t feel like 45 years,” he smiled.


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