Retained Larbert firefighter Ian Aitken bids station farewell after 34 years

A long-serving retained firefighter has called it a day after three decades of being on call to help the Larbert community at all hours of the day and night.

By Fiona Dobie
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 12:30 pm

Watch commander Ian Aitken was piped out of the Lorne Road station on Monday evening as he retired from his firefighting duties after almost 34 years in the job.

The father-of-two has shown huge commitment and dedication to the fire service and his local community since joining in 1988.

Ian, 62, said: “I worked with the NHS for 40-odd years.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

The Aitken family

“As a 19-year-old I went to join the auxilliary fire service at the hospital.

"I started there in 1979 and when that was shutting up shop around 1988 I was asked if I wanted to take up an opportunity at the local authority station as they were called.

"I started as a retained firefighter at Larbert with what was then Central Region on October 10, 1988.

"The day I started was my son’s first birthday.”

Crew commander, Gordon Aitken with his dad, retiring watch commander Ian Aitken.

During his career, Ian worked for the NHS for 42 years, latterly as a general manager, and retired from there three years ago.

He has continued with the fire service as a retained firefighter since then, but has decided now is the time to retire from that role too and enjoy a different phase in his life.

Speaking about his time as a retained firefighter he said: “I’ve absolutely loved it.

"I have been blessed with reasonably good health that’s allowed me to do it for so long.

Ian Aitken retired after 34 years this week. Pictured with David Lockhart and Willie Pollard. Pic: Michael Gillen.

“It’s been a fantastic role, very enjoyable and extremely rewarding. It’s a privilege to be able to do that for your local community.

“Larbert probably has around 500 to 600 calls a year.

“I obviously wouldn’t go to them all, being retained, but if I went to roughly half of them that’s around 15-16,000 calls I would have attended over the 34 years.

“Of course, that’s incidents and doesn’t count the community activities we used to do such as galas, fetes, school visits etc. They were fun.

Ian Aitken with former members of the Larbert crew.

"I’m not sad to go, I will miss the service and the people, but it’s time for a change.

“One of the biggest challenges is the commitment. I just took it for granted and that’s not right.

"It affected the family when the pager went off in the middle of the night. It could affect family plans whenever the pager was to go off.

"The time is right to give more focus to family life.

"In particular with my wife, Phyllis, who has been there all the time supporting me doing this.

"I’m looking forward to spending more time with the family. It’s time to let some of the younger team get on with the arduous tasks.

Ian with the current Larbert crew.

"I still hope to do some community work, but more mentally challenging and not as physical.”

Read More

Read More
Falkirk Council: Work to demolish Municipal Buildings to get underway

Ian explained one of the aspects of the job he enjoyed most.

"Every time I went out it was something different,” he said.

“You may be at similar incidents – a fire, a road traffic collision or flooding – but they were always different.

“The fire service is a fantastic service to work for with the equipment and the training they give you. They prepare you to deal with so many situations.

“Personally it’s been really satisfying in that respect as I have got skills I never thought I would have.

“There’s great friendships and camaraderie, not just within the station but across the entire service.”

He said the creation of one Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in 2013, when the regions merged, had also opened doors and opportunities.

"When the old central region fire service ceased to be our specialist appliance was then travelling to incidents all over Scotland,” he explained.

"It went to the Glasgow School of Art Fire, Peebles High School fire, Dunfermline high school fire, it’s been in Dundee and Montrose.

"It’s been all over the country and that’s been invaluable. It’s been an enjoyable and eye opening experience letting us see how others work.”

Following Ian’s retiral, the Aitken family will still be represented at Larbert fire station as his son Gordon followed him into the

service around ten years ago.

He’s currently crew commander at the station.

Ian, who has been local to Larbert since he was six years old, added: “The

station is just down the road and my son is there.

"Of course I’ll continue to give support and guidance to him.”

There’s one thing about this latest retirement that Ian will find strange and will miss.

He said: “I’ve carried a pager for 42 years as we had to carry one in the auxilliary service too.

"It will be different without it.

"I think I’ll not miss having to strategically place it in the house where it only wakes me up.

"There will be room in my pockets now for things other than the pager.

"I will miss it, there’s no doubt I’ll miss it as it’s been part of my life for so long.”

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.