Residents of Goathill Road, Stornoway, were baffled by a big display of flashing blue lights and sirens on Saturday evening around 7.15pm.
And people out and about in Stornoway town centre slightly later were treated to a similar display as a cavalcade of fire engines and vehicles with a police escort did a circuit of the town.
But no one can have been as surprised as Stornoway Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager John Campbell. This display was the total surprise element of his retirement event after just over 41 years with the fire service.
He emerged blinking with amazement from his home in Goathill Road to find his entire view blocked by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service vehicles and his colleagues – and relatives – flooding in through the gate.
After the surprise tour of the town, they returned to the recently modernised fire station in Robertson Road where the accommodation for the fire engines was full of tables, chairs and hundreds of guests and well-wishers from Lewis, the rest of the Hebrides and far beyond.
Leading off a series of tributes, Western Isles Area Manager for the fire service, Iain Macleod said the huge turn-out was a reflection of the way John Campbell was regarded for his work with the fire service, the people of Stornoway and the wider community. John Campbell started out as a retained firefighter at the Ness Station, he recalled.
Iain Macleod also recalled various incidents to which John had been called-out, pointing out that there were sad emergency incidents where the service was unable to help those involved to survive. To have coped with the pressure and trauma of service over more than 40 years was “really an amazing achievement.”
Mr Macleod said that his own mother-in-law was involved in an accident ten years ago and she puts her survival down to the intervention of fire service crews under the comment of John Campbell which enabled her to get to life-saving treatment in Glasgow.
There were a series of presentations to John Campbell – but he had earlier requested that instead of presents, well-wishers donate to the Family Support Trust of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, which offers all sorts of financial and other support to firefighters and their families.
Crew Manager Ian Murray described John Campbell as an “absolute legend.” He said he was honoured to have been asked to make a presentation for John. He described how a month ago, on a Tuesday night in the training room, John had dropped “the bombshell” that he would be retiring. He spoke of John’s hard-work and dedication over the years. He had “always put the crew and the station first.”
Congratulations from area manager Iain Macleod