Firefighting minister retires after 36 years on parish pump

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Angus Adamson has protected his ­community from ­emergencies and comforted them in their time of need.

Angus Adamson 1, by James Williamson

Photo credit: James Williamson /

A minister who has spent almost four decades on the frontline as a retained firefighter has hung up his helmet.

Rev Angus Adamson has kept the Isle of Arran community safe from a range of different emergencies including floods and road traffic accidents since 1981.

The 55-year-old was moved to follow in his dad Robert’s footsteps and join the Service after the horror of watching his neighbour’s beloved 300-year-old home burn down as a child.

“I was only ten, but it stayed with me,” explained Angus.

“We were wakened that morning by my neighbour, Bertie Black, calling for help.

“The Blacks had been at Rowan Park for over 300 years and they lost everything. Fire extinguishers made no impression.

“Three hundred years of family heirlooms and history, gone in smoke.”

“You don’t forget that feeling of utter helplessness in the face of fire,” Angus added.

“Joining the Service was inevitable. That was more than enough motivation to make sure I joined as soon as I was able to at 19.”

The mechanic turned clergyman at St Bride’s, Brodick brought his incredible tenure to a close on New Year’s Eve.

He said: “It’s been an honour and a huge privilege, but simply it’s time to move over and let someone younger enjoy the privilege I’ve had.

“It has always been such a boost to be able to switch off from the pressures and expectations of being parish minister to some 3000 souls, and for three hours each Tuesday drill night just to be one of the crew.

“I’ll miss that. And, like my father, the first volunteer leader at Corriecravie before me, 55 is the right time to go, not least as genetics catch up with me.

“He too needed two knee replacements. And no, on my part, that hasn’t been caused by spending too much time on them praying, but too many years like him as a mechanic kneeling on cold concrete floors and crawling under vehicles at breakdowns soaked to the skin and lugging gearboxes about.”

Angus Adamson 2, by James Williamson

The dad-of-two hopes his retirement from the frontline will allow him more time to spend with his wife Susan and their rescue terrier, Dougie.

But he also has an eye on a major passion project: rebuilding the fallen Rowan Park house, after he purchased the derelict site 20 years ago.

He said: “It remains to this day a demolished ruin but, one day, I hope to rebuild her from the dust.”

Being so involved on Arran means Angus is required not only as a firefighter, but as a minister serving his community through sermons, weddings and funerals, and offering spiritual support to families.

This included the burial of Police Scotland constable Tony Collins. The Arran native was one of ten people who tragically lost their lives in November 2013 when a force helicopter crashed into the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow.

“That was difficult, yes,” Angus recalled. “Tony’s mum and dad are both members of my congregation and while I didn’t know him so well personally, I’ve known his wife Lucy since she was young. It was very tragic.

“I was coming back from my son’s graduation in Aberdeen the night the news came through.

“I remember hearing the news about the helicopter and I don’t know what it was, call it instinct, but I just knew there would be someone from Arran involved.

“I came off the boat the next morning and went to see his mum and dad straight away.”

Angus Adamson 20 years service award

Last year, Angus (pictured left receiving his medal for 20 years service from former deputy firemaster David Kennedy) also led the funeral of his long-standing crew manager, Alan Johnston, who died of cancer aged just 53.

“Alan wasn’t just the good, he was the very best,” Angus said.

“The crew has been through the mill with that. I was privileged to be able to take Alan’s funeral and be there for everyone.

“It’s a different way of serving, but something that has been very much part of my duties over the years.

“Every funeral is important, of course, especially being a native of the island. My connection with most families goes back generations.”

Angus’s pastoral responsibilities haven’t always been tinged by tragedy, however.

“The first wedding I conducted after I was ordained was for a colleague, firefighter Lee Popplewell and his wife Kirsty,” he explained.

“Their son Jack was the first baby I baptised, and I have baptised all five of their children. In fact on Christmas Eve five years ago I baptised their triplets, along the two children of our crew manager.

“The joke that night was I might need a length of hose to do the job lot of all five at the same time!”

He added: “These are special moments.”

During his three-and-half-decade service, one infamous call to a remote farm house in 1992 sticks out for Angus – after he almost lost his foot in a freak accident.

“Cutting away a dangerous roof beam in the dark, the axe I was wielding glanced off the steel and went right through my foot,” Angus remembered. “I didn’t look as they pulled my wellie off.

“I was bundled into the back of a van for the 12-mile trip to hospital in Lamlash. I lived to tell the tale and the foot, despite my best efforts to have it otherwise, is still attached to the end of my leg.”

Angus Adamson 3, by James Williamson

After taking the cloth in 2006, Angus moved a few miles across the island to Brodick, where he had to bust some pastoral stereotypes.

“I’m not so sure some of the younger crew, who didn’t know me so well then, thought it was such a great idea having the minister in the crew,” Angus recalled.

“But very soon I think they became aware I’m maybe not the conventional or stereotypical image of the kill-joy parson.”

James Scott, Local Senior Officer for East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire, praised Angus’s commitment to keeping his community safe.

He said: “Angus's commitment and contribution to the safety of the community of Arran is immeasurable.

"The number of people that have benefited from Angus's support, both professionally in his role as a firefighter and spiritually in his role as a minister, is outstanding. He has been a credit to himself, his community, and the whole Scottish Fire and Rescue Service."

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer Alasdair Hay added: “Retained firefighters like Angus Adamson show that anyone can make a difference.

“Angus and nearly 7,000 others like him are living proof that heroes take many forms and that fills me with greatest pride.

“All it takes is the commitment and dedication to save life and prevent risk to keep communities from harm.

“I would encourage others to broaden their horizons, learn new skills and serve at the very heart of their community by becoming a retained firefighter.”

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