ROBIN HOOD’S BAY: Firefighters retire after 67 years’ combined service

John Collinson, David Duncalfe and Andrew Flintoft have retired from Robin Hood's Bay retained fire station
John Collinson, David Duncalfe and Andrew Flintoft have retired from Robin Hood's Bay retained fire station

A trio of Robin Hood’s Bay firefighters retired last week, including one who had served on the fire brigade for 40 years.

Crew manager John Collinson, watch manager David Duncalfe and firefighter Andrew Flintoft hung up their helmets for the final time last Thursday.

Mr Collinson, of Fylingthorpe, is believed to be only the second firefighter in the whole of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to achieve 40 years of service.

“After 40 years I thought that was a pretty good effort really,” he said. “I could have kept going but if your officers don’t retire, your younger lads don’t move up the chain and it ends up as a bit of a stalemate. You’ve got to move on so the others can move up.

“I will miss it a lot, but it’s like everything else and there comes a time when you think it’s time to move on.”

As a retained firefighter, Mr Collinson has undertaken his duties while simultaneously operating a business. Despite working a full-time role in the building trade, he has been consistently on call for four decades, leaving building jobs, family celebrations and social gatherings at a moment’s notice.

Mr Collinson said joined the North Riding Fire Brigade in January 1973, aged just 18. During the next 40 years he witnessed many changes, not least the redrawing of the county borders, which led to the creation of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service during the 1990s.

“I was working for my father and one of the locals retired from the fire station, shortly after I had turned 18,” said Mr Collinson. “I was talking to him in the pub one night and he said ‘you ought to join’. I thought about it for a day or two before joining, and I’ve been here ever since.”

He remembers one of his first call outs as a blaze at the Falcon Inn, and said: “All my gear I had on was that big I couldn’t keep my helmet on. Every time I bent over it slipped off.”

Retiring alongside Mr Collinson, David Duncalfe had been a firefighter for 18 years and had been watch manager - in charge of the station - for the last four years. He is also a self-employed builder, while Andrew Flintoft is a local farmer and is retiring after nine years of service.

For a retained fire crew in a small community, the crew often found themselves helping out members of the community who they knew personally, and Mr Collinson said this may have been one of the reasons he remained with the crew for so long. “You are helping your local community,” he said. “It’s like when the services were on strioke, we wouldn’t go out of our own area. We looked after our village and we didn’t go on strike because we didn’t think it right when you live in such a tight community.”

However, the closely-knit community also led to some of the toughest moments he experienced in the service. He explained: “It’s mainly road traffic accidents that are worst really. We have had one or two where there has been fatalities and you have known them. It’s not very nice at all and it hits you hard.”

After four decades of service, Mr Collinson finished by saying he would miss the fire service, but added that he was looking forward to spending days away, without having to be on call.