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Scotland’s longest serving firefighter retires after more than half a century



Watch Commander Dave Farries QFSM, 70, first joined South Eastern Fire Brigade in Edinburgh as a junior fireman on 19 August 1968.

It was the start of an incredible career which has seen him dedicate his life to helping to keep local communities safe in the capital and throughout the east of Scotland.

Dave’s over half-century of public service has included lengthy spells as a firefighter, instructor and investigator and he was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal (QFSM) in 2014.

In his later years he has worked as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s (SFRS) Heritage Officer and has been integral in the opening of the new Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage in Edinburgh, where he will continue as a volunteer. 

He formally retires on Friday, 18 August which will mark 55 full years’ service. The grandfather of three, who lives in Currie, Edinburgh with wife Michelle said: “It is like cutting off an arm. I’m taking a big part of me right out and it’s away.

“I’ve loved my career and the opportunities I’ve had through the fire service. While I will still be connected through volunteering with the museum, it is still a big part of my life which is completely changing. Many people thought I would just go on until I dropped and I probably could have but I thought better of it. I’ll be 71 in a few weeks and now is the time to go.”

The SFRS held a retiral ceremony in Dave’s honour at the recently-opened museum, where he was presented with his retiral certificate by Chief Officer Ross Haggart in front of family, friends and colleagues past and present.

Chief Officer Haggart said: “Dave epitomises what it means to be a firefighter. He has selflessly dedicated his life to help and serve others. He has had a profound and positive influence in teaching and developing other firefighters during his long career.

“Dave’s legacy on our service will always remain. We are grateful for his tireless commitment and the huge amount of personal time he has given to keep our heritage alive.”

A personal tribute was also paid by Dave’s son, also David, who followed his father into Service and is currently Assistant Chief Officer and Director of Service Delivery with SFRS. David paid tribute to his dad’s lasting legacy and presented him with an inscribed firefighter statuette.

David said: “My father lives the values of the fire service, day in day out. He is unreservedly and unapologetically a ‘company man’ who eats, sleeps and breathes fire brigade.

“He’s a man who is respectful and respected, not only for what he’s seen but for what he’s done and how he’s done it.”

Dave grew up in Hawick in the Scottish Borders before moving to Edinburgh in 1968. He has worked in the majority of the city’s community fire stations as well as various departments within the Service before moving into fire investigation.

Rugby is another of Dave’s great passions and he has helped to run the Lothian and Borders, Scottish and British Fire Service Brigade Rugby teams while also devoting his time to supporting a number of charities. And his charitable work turns festive every year in December when he dons the red suit of Father Christmas to visit a local nursery school.

Dave was a volunteer at the old fire museum at Lauriston Place in Edinburgh, where he spent several years discovering and preserving a treasure trove of fire service artefacts.

Dave said: “I always said I wasn’t going to pack it in until the new museum opened. I needed to be in uniform to make sure I got my tuppence worth in. Now it is up and running, it is a good time to call it a day.”

Dave Farries Sighthill White Watch

“It’ll be strange not wearing my uniform after I officially retire. I always have my uniform on at work. It’s like a second skin. I will miss that I am no longer an official member of the Service.”

Away from Edinburgh, Dave has also worked on an outreach exhibition of fire service artefacts in Ceres in Fife where he’s been asked to do talks and he’s keen to engage with the public along with heritage volunteers. 

With a lifetime of stories to regale, a wealth of knowledge and experience combined with a passion – he’s an enthusiastic storyteller.

Dave said: “You are educating people. Many people know very little about the fire service history here in Scotland. I see my job now as spreading the word.”

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