An East Linton firefighter has stepped down after 16 years with the town’s fire and rescue unit.
James Woodward’s former colleagues wished him the best of luck in the future after he hung up his tunic and helmet for the final time.
Now 52 years old, he left Knox Academy in Haddington aspiring to be a baker. He was taken on by the family bakery William Smith Bakers but then James realised his dream job did not give him enough money to make ends meet and so he decided to become a painter and decorator.
He joined James Sandy & Son, a family painting and decorating company in East Linton, and worked alongside the man who would eventually become his watch manager at the fire service, Murray Stewart. It was there Mr Stewart convinced him to join. Nonetheless, Mr Woodward carried on working to obtain his painting and decorating apprenticeship at Telford College in 2000.
To this day, the pair still work alongside each other at James Sandy & Son.
However, with the fire station being retained 24 hours a day for emergencies, it became “harder and harder” for him to continue working in the service, leading to his difficult decision to give it up.
In addition to the strenuous working hours, Mr Woodward’s decision to retire was also influenced by wanting to spend more time with his fiancé, Helen. The couple have moved in together and are hoping to get married some time in the new year.
Watch manager Mr Stewart, who leads the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service unit, said: “Over the past 16 years James was always among the first to respond whenever there was an emergency.
“He has played a huge part in building a great team here and I know he really enjoyed every aspect of the job and the camaraderie that came with it.
“Being a retained firefighter is all about protecting the community and James has certainly served the town well.
“The first aid aspect was something he was always particularly interested in and he also served as one of our drivers, which is obviously an essential role in getting crews to emergencies.
“Eventually the time comes when people do move on and everyone at the unit would like to wish James all the best for what comes next.”
Mr Stewart added that, after a decade-and-a-half, Mr Woodward remained one of the unit’s most respected and admired members, but when it came to describing himself, the retiring firefighter was modest about his contribution.
Mr Woodward said: “I always do a job to the best of my abilities.
“I keep an eye on the younger members and make sure everything is right – that includes safety and behaviour.”